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Meant To Be
One: The New World

By Hellmouthguy




"We broke rule number three," Faith said.

"We totally broke rule number three," Buffy said. "We broke it and then smashed it into tiny little pieces. I hated rule number three anyway."

"So now we don't have a rule number three?" Faith said. "The rules go like, one, two, four?"

"I'm thinking we might need to make a rule against giving each other fully-clothed orgasms," Buffy said. "That can be the new rule number three."

"Fully-clothed orgasms do kind of make a mockery of our laws, don't they?" Faith said. "It's like we're Bonnie and Clyde, runnin' around and shootin' up the town and giving each other fully-clothed orgasms. People gotta lock their doors. No one's safe."

"Yeah. So, rule three," Buffy said. "No giving each other fully-clothed orgasms. Damn it. I didn't even get to have one. I hate the law."

It was Friday night, and they were in the Bronze. The Bronze was the local dance club, and according to Buffy and Willow and Xander, it was the only game in town. But Faith wasn't too impressed by it when she went there with Buffy after dinner at Buffy's house (Joyce made chicken this time, although she hinted to Buffy that there was still plenty of meat loaf left) and they met up with Willow and Xander and sat on a plush purple couch and drank coffee and listened to the folk band on stage. The Bronze had been converted from an old warehouse, and it still looked like it: it was a big, dark, shabby industrial-looking room with bare, concrete walls. Ancient light fixtures hung from the high ceiling, and a metal staircase led to a second level fashioned from a series of grates welded together and riveted into the walls to form a walkway encircling the room. The big, fake chandelier, the colored lights, the improvised stage and the little tables and chairs and plush couches here and there did their best to divert attention away from the fact that the place was a dump. They didn't quite succeed, but the Bronze was the only real option in Sunnydale and that meant it was usually packed anyway.

"I'm thinking after the cemetery we maybe need to figure some way not to go all crazy for each other when we're out slaying," Faith said.

"We didn't break any rules other than number three," Buffy said. "But that one sucked anyway. Rule number three was like Prohibition. It never really had the support of the people."

"Came close to breaking some other rules too. Found a hell of a lot of loopholes. A lot of legal gray areas," Faith said. "And then there's my favorite bruise." Faith smiled, and touched the mark on her neck. She'd had it for two days now, and unfortunately it was starting to fade; Faith was the Slayer and Slayers healed fast. The mark was still big but it had gone from red to purple after a day and then had started getting lighter. But Faith had already decided that once it faded away she was going to ask Buffy to bite her again.

She looked out at the crowd. The Bronze was a dump, but it had a serviceable dance floor, at least, and a solid number of hot guys. Faith was happy she still thought guys were hot; she had been starting to think she had somehow become a lesbian. Faith thought Buffy was beautiful and she wouldn't have kicked Willow out of bed either, but it was nice that guys could still rev her engine. It was reassuring, somehow.

But she still wanted Buffy to bite her again.

"We're so good at finding loopholes and legal gray areas," Buffy said. "We should be lawyers. Do you think Willow and Xander bought our explanation for the bruise?" She looked around to make sure no one was watching, and gave Faith a quick kiss.

"Thinking Xander did," Faith said. "It's dark in here, hard to see my neck too good, so it kinda looks a little like a vamp maybe took a chunk out of me. Not sure if Will's buyin' it though. Girl's perceptive. Think your Mom bought it?"

"Yeah," Buffy said. "The idea that I could've given it to you just wouldn't occur to her. You could've worn a bandage, you know."

"Didn't want to cover it up," Faith said. "I like it. Guess I could just say I got jumped by a hardcore pervo lesbian."

"You so wish I was a lesbian," Buffy said, and giggled. "Pervo."

"You so wish I wished it," Faith said, giggling back.

"Wish you wished what?" Xander said, as he and Willow suddenly appeared out of the crush of laughing, sweating, shouting, drinking kids, and came back to the couch carrying their refills. Buffy and Faith had lost track of them: the place was so crowded and there were so many scents all intermingling that it was difficult for them to follow individual scents unless they were really concentrating. Xander handed a latte to Buffy and a cappuccino to Faith.

"Uh..." Faith said. "Wish I wished...vamps...uh...weren't...bad."

"It's...um...Slayer stuff," Buffy said.

Willow nearly burst out laughing. Buffy and Faith were the worst actresses in the entire world. It was actually really entertaining, watching Faith sitting there with the gigantic blatant hickey on her neck that Buffy had obviously given her, trying to spin her lame lies. But Willow understood that Buffy didn't want anyone to know about her and Faith just yet, and even though Willow had already figured it out she felt obligated to at least try to keep Xander off the trail.

"Slayer stuff?" Xander said, and sat down with Willow on the little couch next to them. Willow sat next to Faith. Willow was wearing a skirt and a blouse and high heeled shoes, and gold hoop earrings, and even some makeup. Faith noticed her legs. She didn't go out of her way to look at them. She just noticed them. Willow looked good in the skirt and the heels, with the makeup and the earrings. Willow's style had seemed kind of little girly to Faith when she'd seen her before but tonight she was dressed to the nines, and so were Buffy and Xander. Buffy was wearing a sexy little miniskirt with a tight tube top and open-toed slingback heels and Faith had been having trouble taking her eyes off her. Faith wished she had some decent outfits. She was wearing jeans and a blouse. The outfit was serviceable, but that was it. Even worse, her money was getting low; she had about three-hundred dollars left but half of that would have to go to the motel tomorrow to pay for another week.

"So hey, Buffy says you're all like, aikido girl, Faith," Willow said, changing the subject. "She said you have all kinds of cool moves."

"Yeah, I'm gonna train B up a little," Faith said. "I'm gonna have her goin' all Jackie Chan on vamp's asses."

The folk band, an anemic-looking girl with blonde dreadlocks who wore a dress that looked like a shapeless sack and two guys with glasses who looked like rocket scientists, were finally done. Faith had been wondering how the hell all those people had been dancing to them anyway. Especially the hot guys. How could it be fun for hot guys to dance to folk music? Dancing to folk music, you never got to have girls like her wiggling their butts at you...

The band packed up their gear and got off the stage to polite applause. Faith was hoping for a DJ to spin some fast tunes; she wanted to dance. But no such luck. The stage was empty now and the crowd was talking. What kind of dance club didn't have tunes you could dance to? Faith figured it was the Hellmouth. The Bronze was just the kind of dance club a Hellmouth would have.

"Steven Segal, actually," Xander said. Willow smiled; she knew Xander was easily distracted. "Segal does aikido. Jackie Chan does this sort of combination kung fu kickboxing thing with a lot of acrobatics and using whatever's in the room and just general weirdness thrown in."

"First hoop, now martial arts, Xan Man?" Faith said. "When I first met you I thought you were like a Trekkie. Turns out you're full of surprises."

Faith thought that definitely went for Xander's clothes too. She hadn't figured Xander for a clotheshorse but he was dressed up...after a fashion, and in his own unique way. He was wearing some kind of fifties get-up consisting of an untucked black short-sleeved shirt with a powder blue center panel climbing straight up the middle to the long, open, pointed collar, which was also done in contrasting black and powder blue, along with a pair of baggy black polyester pants with red flames embroidered on the pockets for God only knew what reason, and black and white leather shoes. Faith thought the look might have worked on James Dean, but a lot of things worked on guys like James Dean and Xander wasn't James Dean. He looked like Fonzie's goofy cousin from New Jersey. Faith was a Southie girl and she decided she'd need to add fifties hipster outfits to the long list of things, including goths, that she had never developed an appreciation for.

She wondered when he was going to get around to asking her out. She knew he would eventually; all guys did, eventually. And Faith knew that guys who looked like Xander--okay, but nothing special--wanted posters of her on their damn walls. She was their dream girl. Foxy guys like Evan were usually cooler and politer about it because they knew they could get girls, but guys like Xander were always a little more desperate, and insistent She'd rejected about a million guys like Xander over the years. Xander was nicer than all those guys but Faith knew guys all wanted the same thing from her and at the end of the day Xander wouldn't be any different. She hadn't caught him checking her out much, but Faith figured he was just being slick about it. Still, she liked him and she was glad Evan would give her an excuse for rejecting him that wouldn't hurt his feelings.

Faith thought Xander looked goofy but she thought Willow looked like a cute little ripe strawberry. Willow crossed her legs, and Faith couldn't help but notice even though she was really trying not to. Willow's legs weren't muscular like Buffy's but Willow had a little more weight on her and her legs were curvier and her hips were wider; it was a different look than Buffy's but Faith liked it fine. And Willow was wearing sexy black stockings too, and Faith wasn't complaining about them either.

Faith sighed. Life had been a lot simpler before she became a damn lesbian, or bi, or whatever the hell she was...

She looked out at the dance floor, and tried to concentrate on hot guys. She knew it was Willow's scent that was attracting her. She didn't love it as much as Buffy's but she sure did like it a whole lot.

She sat squished between Buffy and Willow on the tiny plush couch, and resigned herself to the fact that she was the chocolate syrup in a peanut butter and fluff sandwich.

"So okay, I want to get back to this jelly business," Xander said. "It's not that I don't like being jelly, it's just that I wasn't consulted. I should be consulted about these things."
"Well you're not trading with me," Buffy said. "Jelly doesn't go with chocolate syrup."

Worst actresses in the entire world, Willow thought, and smiled to herself.

Buffy was happy. Willow liked seeing Buffy happy.

It had been a long time...

"I should be whatever goes best with what Willow is anyway," Xander said. "But I like chocolate better with peanut butter. I don't even like jelly. Whenever I have peanut butter sandwiches I don't put jelly on them."

"I'd trade but jelly doesn't go good with marshmallow fluff," Faith said.

"I still think we should have a fifth thing, that way one of them can always rotate," Xander said.

"I think we should go back to talking about Luke not shooting first," Buffy said.

Onstage, three fat guys hauled in a drum kit and a keyboard.

Come on, Faith thought, as she watched the stage. Throw me a bone here.

Another band came out on stage. They were four girls who looked like they had just rolled out of bed and who glared at the crowd like they wanted to tell everyone in the room to fuck off. They smoked cigarettes even though Faith had seen a no smoking sign on her way in. They wore slutty outfits.

"Um...who are they?" Willow said.

"My Mom wouldn't approve of them at all," Buffy said. "I think she'd give them a speech about morals. And possibly make them eat meat loaf."

As Willow and Xander stared up at the stage, Faith put her hand on Buffy's knee, and slowly moved it up her skirt.

Buffy giggled, and took her hand away.

"Someone's a bad girl," Buffy whispered in Faith's ear.

"I need a spanking, lover," Faith whispered back. "I think you're gonna need to spank my little ass or I might keep acting up. Fair warning."

Onstage, the tall, pretty girl with the sneer and the cleavage and the black hair done up in a pageboy and the guitar slung over her shoulder swaggered up to the microphone, drinking a beer. Faith liked the way her boobs jiggled.

Fuck, Faith thought.

"They look...um...kinda skanky," Willow said.

"'Trouble'?" Xander said, squinting at the name emblazoned on the band's drum kit. "Well that sounds vaguely menacing."

"Yeah, so we're Trouble and I just woke up because I'm fucking hung over, Sunnydale," the lead singer said, in a British accent. "Jesus Christ I'm hung over. Hey I have an idea boys and girls let's all FUCKING ROCK."

The British accent sounded just like Rebecca's to Faith's ears. Faith thought the girl even looked like Rebecca too. She was tall and pretty with the same kind of nose, even a similar hairstyle. She was younger than Rebecca, maybe in her mid-twenties; she could have been Rebecca's niece. The girl was like a sexy, slutty, rock 'n roll Rebecca. Faith knew Rebecca completely wouldn't approve of the girl. She'd probably forbid her to do things a lot. She knew Rebecca would sure as hell forbid that outfit.

The girl got a fast, catchy guitar riff going, and the unapologetically slutty Asian girl with the dyed red hair and the green boa around her neck started pounding away on the drums and the obvious lesbian bassist girl with the nose ring and the crewcut started plucking and the dainty little keyboardist girl with the long, blonde hair wearing the short-shorts and the babydoll tee-shirt started tickling the keys and suddenly there was an actual beat Faith could dance to in the damn club for the first time all night, a kind of trippy, feverish pop-rock that got her toes tapping and kicked her engine straight into drive.

"Well what are you fucking waiting for, Sunnydale?" the lead singer shouted, glaring at the crowd as the drums and the bass started getting into some serious beats per minute. "Get on that fucking dance floor! Seriously, don't make me tell you again. This song's called 'Men Fucking Suck'. I think it's catchy." And then she started playing in earnest, and she wailed like a banshee and danced around like a crack-addled gypsy, and there was a stampede for the dance floor.

"That's our cue, B," Faith said, or thought she said: the music was so loud Faith couldn't even hear herself speaking.

"What?" Buffy said, as Faith grabbed her arm and whisked her onto the dance floor quicker than you could say marshmallow fluff.

Half an hour into their set Trouble started up on a medley of disco covers.

"Yeah that's right, I like disco. You got a problem with that Sunnydale? And don't even think about getting off that fucking dance floor," the lead singer had growled, giving the crowd one last good glare, before launching into a fast, sleazy cover of 'I Will Survive' that moved Faith and Buffy to the next level of butt-shaking. The band followed that with 'Never Can Say Goodbye', 'No More Tears', and 'Last Dance', and now they were starting in on what sounded like a drastically speeded-up version of The Stones' 'Miss You'. "Can someone be a darling and get me another beer please?" the lead singer said, before jumping in.

"Rule number six," Faith said into Buffy's ear, as she and Buffy danced around each other at approximately the speed of sound. They had energy to burn. Dancing wasn't as good as fucking and fucking wasn't as good as killing, but dancing was still a whole hell of a lot better than not dancing.

"What's rule number six?" Buffy said, into Faith's ear. They had to talk into each other's ears to hear each other over the music.

"We're allowed to grab each other's butts while we dance," Faith said.

"Sounds like a plan," Buffy said, laughing, as Faith grabbed her butt.

Willow and Xander, dancing much more slowly, watched Buffy and Faith.

"That's...some serious dancing," Xander said, into Willow's ear. "It's dirty dancing."

"It's, um, a Slayer thing," Willow said into his ear, and spun Xander around so Buffy and Faith were out of view.

"I guess...but..." Xander started to say, when Willow took his hands, and placed them on her butt.

"You were saying something, sweetie?" Willow said.

"I can't remember for the life of me," Xander said, and kissed her.

Willow smiled. Xander was easily distracted.

The band was taking a break and Buffy and Faith were back on the couch. Willow had volunteered to get their refills, and had made Xander come with her.

Faith had her hand on Buffy's knee again, and she was telling her all the things she wanted to do to her. Buffy was giggling.

"You're such a bad girl," Buffy said. "What am I gonna do with you?"

"Might have to give me a spanking," Faith said. "Only way I'll learn."

"Spank that perfect little butt?" Buffy said. "I'd rather kiss it."

"I wanna lick your pussy, honey," Faith said.

"Violates rule number two."

"I wanna lie down with you."

"We can do that. How about we have a sleepover this weekend. Willow sleeps over all the time when we're studying together and stuff, how about you come over tomorrow night and stay over my house?"

"In your bed?"

"Um...no, pervo. Not with my Mom there. But we can secretly lie down and cuddle and stuff when she's distracted."

"Okay. I wanna take off all your clothes and kiss your whole body."

"Violates rule number one."

"I wanna give you a foot massage."

"A foot massage?"



"I wanna paint your nails."

"We can do that during the sleepover. And I'll do your hair. We can hang out and be all girly. Will and I paint each other's nails and stuff sometimes."

"Not anymore," Faith said. "Now they're mine to paint."

Buffy giggled. "Okay, baby," she said. "My nails are all yours."

"I wanna kneel down in front of you and lick your pussy right now," Faith said. "I want you to hold me by my hair while I'm doing it and I want everyone here to see me doing it."

"Wrong on so many levels," Buffy said.

"I want you to bite me again," Faith said.

"Maybe," Buffy said. "But only if you're good."

"I'm not gonna be good," Faith said, and giggled, and snarled a little. "Not unless you spank my little ass."

Buffy remembered what Giles had said, about Faith's mother.

"We'll see," Buffy said.

"You better spank me," Faith said. "If you don't I might spank you."

Buffy kissed Faith's neck, where the mark was. She dragged her teeth over it. The Slayer was there, inside her; Buffy called her up, let her out of her cage for just a moment, and let Faith hear her snarl. She knew that's what Faith wanted right now.

She took Faith's hair in her hand, and gave it a little yank. She knew Faith wanted that, too. She heard Faith moan.

She looked Faith in the eyes, and smiled, and showed her teeth to her.

"I don't think that would ever happen," Buffy said. "Do you?"

"No," Faith said, and smiled.

Buffy giggled, and kissed her.

Dinner at Buffy's house the next night was meat loaf again and Buffy had said, "the war continues". Faith had rubbed it in a little by making sure to constantly let Joyce know how much she liked the meat loaf. While caressing Buffy's knee under the table. Buffy had just smiled the whole time, refusing to rise to the bait as Faith lavished praise upon the meat loaf and cleaned her plate and had seconds. And she let Faith keep her hand on her knee.

They were in Buffy's bedroom now, in their nightgowns. They'd had to spend some time with Joyce watching a movie she'd rented for the occasion, some 1970's remake of Dracula starring a guy with feathered hair. Buffy kept pointing out how the movie got vampires wrong, and that cool vampires never had feathered hair, and Joyce kept telling her to shush, and they ate popcorn. Joyce still made Faith uncomfortable. Faith liked Joyce, and she understood that Joyce was trying to be nice to her, but for some reason it almost felt like too much, somehow. Faith had no idea why she felt that way but she always made sure to hide it, because Joyce was never anything but classy and generous and nice, the kind of Mom Faith wished she'd had. Joyce sat with Buffy and Faith on the couch, and they all watched the movie together, and Joyce talked about how much fun it was to be hanging out with "her girls".

But now Joyce was safely downstairs talking on the phone to her next door neighbor about what book they should read next in the book club and Faith's patience had finally been rewarded: Faith was with Buffy in her bedroom now listening to CD's and talking about guys they wanted to bang--at least, Faith knew she was, but she was ninety-nine point nine-nine-nine-nine-nine percent sure Buffy was faking--and Buffy sat on the edge of the bed, and Faith knelt in front of her, giving her a foot massage. Faith was exactly where she wanted to be.

"That feels good, baby," Buffy said, and stroked her hair. "It feels like, amazingly good. I think I'm gonna need you to do this a lot for me."

Faith had spent a good twenty minutes on Buffy's right foot and now she was working on the left. She knelt on the floor in front of Buffy and held her foot in her lap, and massaged it with both hands. Faith had never given a foot massage before, and she'd used the right foot for practice, learning what Buffy liked, how much pressure, and where to put it; where to rub hard, where to gently caress. Faith thought Buffy had pretty feet. They were pale, with high arches and long, powerful toes. Her feet were soft and pedicured and her toes had black toenail polish. Faith had painted them, along with Buffy's fingernails, an hour earlier.

"Whenever you want, lover," Faith said. "I'll do it every day if you want."

"You're really good at it," Buffy said. "I didn't know how sore my feet were until you started showing me how much better they could feel. The only problem is that it's, um, making me really, really horny. So, that's enough."

"But you're ruining my whole secret plan to seduce you," Faith said, and giggled, as Buffy lifted her up, and kissed her.

"What about my secret plan to do your hair?" Buffy said. "I think I want to give you hair like Ava Gardner in my poster over there. You already look like her and you have the same type of hair."

"You think I look like Ava Gardner?" Faith said, and looked at the poster. Ava was a sexy girl back in the day. Faith could see why Buffy liked her. And she had the most beautiful, smoldering eyes...

"It's your eyes, baby," Buffy said, and laid Faith down on the bed, and kissed her. "You have the prettiest eyes."

Buffy watched Faith sleep.

Faith slept curled up on Buffy's breasts. Faith had Ava Gardner hair now.

Buffy knew they couldn't stay like this. It was one in the morning, and Buffy knew her mother would be coming to check on them. And Buffy had taken her nightgown off--Faith had proposed that it wasn't a violation of rule number one as long as Buffy was under the covers and Faith couldn't actually see her body, and even though Buffy thought that particular legal argument wouldn't really stand up to scrutiny she knew Faith liked sleeping curled up on her breasts, so she allowed it. But Faith needed to be in the spare room.

Buffy let her senses reach out. Her mother wasn't on this floor yet; she was probably downstairs in the living room, on the couch watching the late movie. Her mother liked the late movies on Saturday night. Lots of Bogie and Bacall. Buffy liked Bacall too.

But her mother would be coming up soon, and she would check on them...

Faith was warm. She made Buffy feel warm. The warm feeling in her stomach--the one she got when she was with Faith--was there again now. Buffy moved her nose to Faith's neck, below her ear, where her scent was always strong. The mark she'd left on Faith was almost gone now; there was just a hint of pink there, and even the bite marks had disappeared.

Buffy knew she'd have to make a choice, soon.

But how could she be with a girl if she didn't like girls? If she stayed with Faith, wouldn't she always miss guys?

Buffy knew she wasn't gay. She told herself, every day.

"Things were easier before you got here, baby," Buffy whispered. "You've got me all spun around."

She kissed Faith's hair. It was perfect Ava Gardner hair.

"I don't know what to do about you," Buffy said.

She got up, put her nightgown back on, and carried Faith to the spare room. It was down the hall from her bedroom and situated between her room and her mother's. It was a little smaller than Buffy's bedroom, but not by much, and Buffy's mother sometimes used it as a sewing room and sometimes as a storage room for pieces she was evaluating for the gallery. But there was a good-sized bed in the room, and a desk, and a closet. Willow used the room whenever she was helping Buffy cram for a big test into the wee hours of the weekend and it was simpler for her to just sleep over rather than go home.

Currently the room was being used for storage, and there were canvases leaning against the walls and a few African masks on the desk: a peacock, a tiger and something that looked like a yellow demon with red horns and a unibrow. But Buffy always made Giles look over any new artwork her mother brought home now, and he had assured her the week before that it wasn't an actual demon.

Buffy laid Faith down on the bed, put the covers over her, and gave her a kiss goodnight. She watched her sleep for a moment.

"It was easier before you," Buffy whispered. "But I didn't smile as much, baby. You make me smile."

Buffy lay awake in her room, in the dark. She couldn't sleep. She looked toward the window. The moon was shining in; it was nearly full now. She'd killed plenty of vampires recently; she and Faith had gone on a tear, the last few days. She wasn't restless. But she still couldn't sleep...

Her mother had come up to check on her, just like Buffy knew she would, an hour before, on her way up to bed. "I like Faith," Joyce had said.

Buffy looked at the moon. The moon looked back at her.

A pebble hit the window.

Buffy jumped out of bed, her senses reaching out...


She ran to her window. He was standing in the front yard. Faith was asleep, but Buffy knew she only had seconds...

She opened the window, and Angel watched her as she edged onto the roof and leaped out into the front yard in her nightgown, somersaulting forward through the air, and landing gracefully and silently as a cat, right in front of him.

Time was, he would've just gone into her room through the window.

But that was before Angelus...Angelus had entered her room through the window once.

After that, Angel had decided he would never do it again.

Buffy had someone else's scent on her...a girl's scent.

"Nice," Angel said. "Triple somersault, stuck the landing. You ready to do this? They should be there soon. Might be a good idea to put some clothes on."

Buffy had no idea what he was talking about but it was the least of her problems right now.

"You have to go, now," Buffy said. "I'll meet you at the end of the street."

"What?" Angel said. He was wearing a black silk shirt opened to the chest, tight black pants that Buffy knew hugged his butt perfectly, the very expensive black Gucci shoes he had bought for himself when he had treated Buffy to a shoe-shopping spree on her seventeenth birthday and she had felt bad because he had bought her eleven pairs of shoes and hadn't bought any for himself, and his long, lightweight black silk trenchcoat with the deep inside pockets that were good for holding weapons. His hair was perfect as always. He was smiling, and he still had the sexiest, most beautiful smile Buffy had ever seen on anyone, ever. He looked good enough to eat. But he smelled like roadkill.

The smell shocked Buffy, for a moment; she'd been with Faith's scent, so close to it, almost every day for a week. Angel's smell hit her like she'd suddenly been tossed in a garbage dumpster. Had he always smelled that way? Like rotten meat, like a carcass?

Like a vampire.

"There's a Slayer sleeping in my house and she's gonna smell you here any second and I can guarantee she won't care how hot you look," Buffy said. "I'll meet you at the end of the street in fifteen minutes. Go."

He looked at her, for a moment, in the moonlight; it reflected silver in his dark eyes. He was calm, almost serene. Controlled. He always was. Things never seemed to get to him.

Buffy knew he could smell Faith's scent on her.

"Okay," he said, and walked away like he was taking a stroll, and disappeared into the darkness.

Five minutes later, Buffy watched Faith sleep. Buffy was dressed and she had her stake and she was ready to go; she had remembered now why Angel was here. He'd told her a few days before that he was going to need her help tonight for a few hours; something about demons, and a ritual that needed the Slayer, she hadn't really been listening.

Buffy knew her mother would be driving down in the morning to that antique flea market in Thousand Oaks that she liked to visit on Sundays; it was a long drive and she always left by seven and didn't get back until late. She and Faith would have the house to themselves tomorrow. But she knew her mother would come to her room to check on her before she went out, and she'd worry when she wasn't there...and Faith would want to know where she went too...

Buffy went to the desk, and got a pen and a pad of paper.

Angel stood on the corner, leaning against a tree, looking up at the moon. He stood very still.

Buffy had a girl's scent on her, when he saw her in the yard. It smelled like peaches. It wasn't Willow. Willow smelled like strawberries.

He knew it was this new Slayer Buffy had talked about.

A dog rooted through some garbage cans four blocks away. The sound was jarring. It ruined the moment. Angel had enjoyed the silence; enjoyed looking up at the moon, and being centered within himself.

Life was a series of moments. He tried to see it that way, now; it helped take his mind off things. The past, the future...they were concepts. Abstractions. A way of looking at things. They didn't exist...only the moment existed. He lived for the moment...tried to be a good person, in each moment.

In the past he had killed thirteen-thousand, two-hundred and six people. In the past he had tried to kill Buffy. He had hurt her friends.

And he had done a terrible thing, that had scarred Buffy...maybe forever.

In the future Angelus might escape again. His control might slip someday, and Angelus might escape again.

Angel tried not to think about the past, or the future. Just the moment.

Buffy had seemed annoyed to see him. It wasn't just because she was worried that new Slayer would sense him. It was something else.

Every single time he had seen Buffy before, there was always a light, in her eyes...a light that was there just for him.

It hadn't been there, tonight.

He thought that was probably a good thing.

The street was silent, and still warm. The moon was big and bright and almost full. Angel leaned against the tree, and looked up at the moon, and let his senses reach out. There was no one coming, anywhere within at least six blocks of him. He wondered if Buffy would come. She'd said she would.

He waited.

A few minutes later, he smelled her, and the other scent she carried with her. The other scent wasn't as strong, now; Buffy had changed her clothes. But it was still there. Peaches...and a hint of muskiness.

He waited. He looked up at the moon. He didn't look at her. He didn't want her to see his eyes...

Get it together, he thought. You're two-hundred and seventy-one years old. Three-hundred and fifty-nine, if you count the hell dimension. She's a schoolgirl. Stop acting like a boy with a crush. You're not a boy.

You're not even a man...

He centered himself, as best he could. Thought about this moment, not any of the ones that had come before. The look in her eyes in the front yard was the past. It didn't exist.

He knew he was lying to himself. The past existed. Those thirteen-thousand, two-hundred and six people had existed. Until he snuffed them out.

"Okay, so demons, right?" Buffy said, as she approached him. He cleared his thoughts, and looked at her.

She looked different, for some reason.

"Yeah," he said. "Kree'shon demons. They're performing a ritual this morning that needs the Slayer."

"Sure," Buffy said. "I mean, I've always been all about helping out evil demons...oh wait, I haven't. Pretty sure I've always been all about killing them. I'm not killing these guys why?"

"The Kree'shon are a warrior race," Angel said. "They live to kill, but they respect strength, they respect a good fighter. A few hundred years ago a bunch of them got trapped in an interdimensional rift and landed here. They're a bunch of feuding clans now, but in a couple of hours they're going to anoint a new ruler who will unite the clans. That ruler needs the strongest warrior in this world to witness his installation."

"The strongest warrior in the world?"

"The Slayer. You."

"You want me to stand around and pose for pictures while some demon king guy gets his crown? Am I handling the catering too?"

"You need to acknowledge that he's a strong warrior, that you've tasted his heart and it's fierce and proud, that you respect his strength."

"Please tell me I don't have to actually taste his heart. I just had to deal with my Mom's meat loaf ."

Angel smiled.

"You just gotta say the words," Angel said. "I'll coach you. Joyce's meat loaf isn't bad. Better than my mother's sausage rolls."

They started walking. They used to hold hands, when they walked. They didn't now. Angel noticed Buffy wasn't standing as close to him as she usually did. The scent came to him again...peaches. With a hint of muskiness underneath.

"Remember when you used to kill demons?" Buffy said.

"The Kree'shon are a special case," Angel said. "They don't hunt humans, they consider them weak and it's against their code to hunt the weak. They only hunt when they can get a good fight. They hunt demons and vampires."

"So they're good guy demons?" Buffy said.

"No," Angel said. "They're warriors. They go where the battle is."

"You said a bunch. How many of them are there?"

"A little more than four-hundred, in six different clans. They operate out of the Middle East and Africa. They came out here for you."

"And why should I give a shit about this?"

"The guy about to take power is a traditionalist. He won't allow the clans to hunt humans. The guys opposing him would."

"Thought you said they think humans are weak."

"Humans are weak but they taste good. Human flesh is a delicacy among some of the clans."

Buffy stopped walking.

"They eat people?" she said. "You want me to help out a bunch of demon guys who eat people?"

"No," he said. "I want you to help out the ones who don't want to eat people. And they don't eat people all the time. Mostly they eat animals, and other demons. People are like caviar to them. They eat people only on special occasions. Birthdays and weddings. But this new guy will put a stop to that."

"Or I could just put a stop to them," Buffy said.

"Four-hundred more where they came from," Angel said. "So we have a new Slayer now."

"You knew we would, once you and your pals killed Kendra," Buffy said.

They walked on in silence for a moment.

"Sorry," Buffy said. "Cheap shot."

"Forget it," Angel said.

Faith rolled over and opened her eyes. The room was dark. She didn't smell Buffy. For a moment she had no idea where she was. Then she realized she must be in the spare room. It smelled like Willow, a little.

Her underwear felt weird, when she rolled over. It was crinkly.

She rolled over again. Her underwear crinkled again. Faith was certain it wasn't supposed to do that.

"What the hell?" she said. There was something in her underwear.

She looked. There was a folded-up piece of paper. In her underwear.

"What the hell?" she said, again. She took the paper out of her underwear, and unfolded it. She brought it to the desk and turned on the desk lamp.

It was a note from Buffy.

It read:

Hey baby,

I had to take off for a few hours and I didn't want you to worry, so I left this note. In your panties! How cool is that??? I didn't want my Mom to see the note if she wakes up before you and comes in to check on you, so I had to hide it somewhere she could never find it but you definitely would, so I hid it in my favorite place!!! I got a tip from my bartender I have to follow up, strictly reconnoitering (sp?) I'll be back in the morning. I left my Mom a note on the kitchen table with this total lie about how I actually just left ten minutes before she woke up to pick up some magic thing from a tomb somewhere for one of Willow's spells, so back me up. My Mom's going to this antique show really early, she leaves at seven and stays out all day. When I get back we'll have the house to ourselves! Go back to sleep baby. I'll be back for cuddles and kisses!



P.S.: I peeked at you when I put the note in your underwear. I broke rule number one!

P.P.S.: You look pretty when you sleep. Ava Gardner hair!! I'm an awesome hairstylist!!!!!

Buffy wrote like a girl. She wrote in big, curvy swoops and she did the letter "i" with an open circle above it instead of a dot. There was a lipstick kiss on the note too.

Faith smiled, put the note under her pillow, and went back to sleep.

"How do you even know these guys?" Buffy said.

"I killed a couple of them, awhile back," Angel said. "The Kree'shon respect that. We've kept in touch."

She and Angel were moving through the sewers. The sewers beneath Sunnydale were all linked together in a grid system and unlike sewers on TV or in the movies, or in real life anywhere else in the world as far as Buffy knew, the sewers in Sunnydale were clean and neat. They were dark, and they didn't smell very good, but they were neat and they were dry. The walls and floors were concrete, and there were power lines running along the walls and the ceilings, and lamps about every hundred feet, and the occasional utility closet. The sewers in Sunnydale looked like someone's well-tended, reasonably clean cellar. Buffy thought whoever ran Sunnydale must be a neat freak.

They walked through the sewer together, in the dark. She had been to a lot of sewers with him. More sewers than movies. More sewers than restaurants. More long walks through the sewers than long walks on the beach.

"You always take me to such wonderful places," Buffy said. Her voice echoed.

"Demons don't really appreciate the finer things in life," Angel said.

"I do," Buffy said.

Angel stopped, and looked at her.

Buffy didn't think he smelled so bad, now. Maybe because the sewer smelled worse. Or maybe she was getting used to him again. A shaft of moonlight had slipped through the sewer grate in the ceiling twenty feet above them. His dark eyes caught the moonlight, held it, and reflected it back at her.

"You want to go out tomorrow night?" Angel said. "Back in the day a night out in the sewers was a nice, romantic evening. You modern girls, you expect everything to be all fancy. You probably even want me to buy you dinner."

He smiled. He was beautiful when he smiled.

Buffy found herself smiling back.

"A night out in the sewers was romantic?" Buffy said.

"Well, in France it was, during the French Resistance," Angel said. "I hung out with those guys for awhile. Smuggled guns, shot Nazis, wore a beret and everything. Brought lots of pretty French girls for dates in the sewers. How about I take you to a nice restaurant, anywhere you want to go. I'll watch you eat. I might even eat something myself. A walk on the beach after, and maybe we'll have some wine. No sewers."

One perfect night, he decided. He wanted to give her one perfect night.

"I bet you're lying about the beret," Buffy said. "It would've like, totally messed up your hair."
"I had different hair then," he said. "Parted on the side and slicked back. Shooting Nazis was a good time. I kinda miss shooting Nazis. So how about it?"

"Okay," Buffy said. "Tomorrow night? I'll meet you at your place...say about eight?"

"Maybe I'll even pay for your dinner," Angel said, and smiled.

"You're so paying for my dinner," Buffy said. "I think I want flowers too. And not those flowers you keep at your place."

"You don't like the jasmine flowers?"

"I do, but you have to buy me flowers, not pick them."


"'Cuz I'm a girl," she said, and giggled. "Duh."

"We begin?" a deep, booming voice said.

They turned. The owner of the voice was a green-skinned demon standing at the other end of the tunnel. As it approached them, passing under a lamp, Buffy could see it more clearly, and smell it. Buffy realized the smell in the sewers had actually been the concentrated smell of this demon and lots more like it.

The demon had a series of little green horns sticking out of its forehead which were the only things about it that were little. It was nearly seven feet tall and it wore earrings that Buffy realized were someone's finger bones. It wore a necklace made of bones too. It wore white armor pieces on its shoulders, chest, forearms, groin and knees that Buffy realized were also made of bone. It had yellow eyes with red pupils and a mouth full of rows of big, sharp teeth like a shark. Buffy knew this because it was smiling, and showing them all to her. It carried a very big, curved sword in a scabbard strapped on its shoulder; it looked like a giant scimitar. It had dark hair that grew straight up and out in all directions in chunks. It looked like the Incredible Hulk having a spectacularly bad hair day. For some reason it had a tattoo on its cheek that looked like a band of red flowers.

"Is he one of our Klingons?" Buffy said.

"She's Kree'shon," Angel said.

"She?" Buffy said. "You're kidding me."

"The females all have the tattoos," Angel said.

Buffy had never really considered demons boring before. They were evil, and also smelly, and very slayable, but never boring. But after an hour standing around in a dark, bare concrete room in the sewers watching a room full of demons who all looked like the Incredible Hulk shout out tales of their exploits at the top of their lungs while drinking wine out of huge mugs the size of barrels--or maybe they were just drinking the wine straight out of the barrels--Buffy felt her eyes beginning to cross. She would have felt better if she could kill one of them. The Slayer in her was getting restless...

And the demons weren't even shouting the tales of their exploits in English, either, so Buffy couldn't even listen to the stories. She thought that was rude. They were shouting in their native language, which sounded like a series of grunts and screams and occasional burps. Buffy had giggled the first time she'd heard one of them make the burping sound, but then some of the Kree'shon had growled at her and Angel had quickly taken her aside and explained that the burp meant the equivalent of "amen" in their language and that Buffy had just been blasphemous. That's when Buffy knew it was going to be a long night.

The males were even bigger than the females. The males all looked like the Incredible Hulk's big brother.

After an interminable passage of time during which actual fashion trends could have come and gone one of the demons strode right up to Buffy and screamed at her, while looking at her with his mouth open and all his rows of extremely sharp teeth showing. He might have been laughing, or challenging her.

The Slayer in her didn't like those teeth. The Slayer had teeth of her own. Buffy was tired of the Kree'shon. She was tired of the little looks some of them had given her out of the corners of their eyes. She was tired of how they smelled and she was tired of their stupid shouting. She was tired of standing around the dark, bare concrete room when she wanted to be in bed with her arms around Faith. Mostly, she was tired of being this close to demons and not killing them. The Slayer wanted out. Buffy felt her, scratching.

"Get out of my face," Buffy snarled. And showed the demon her teeth.

"Buffy," Angel said, and tried to pull her aside, as the demon roared at her. Buffy didn't move.

"No Slayer," the demon said, sniffing at her.

"What?" Angel said.

"No Slayer!" the demon screamed, in Angel's face. "Smell wrong! No Slayer!"

"Smell wrong?" Buffy said. "You want to talk about smelling wrong? I'm the only one in here who doesn't smell like ass."

Suddenly all the demons were crowding around her. There were more than twenty of them, and even though Buffy was fairly certain she couldn't take twenty of them, even with Angel by her side and even if she got her hands on one of their swords, she thought about trying. She wanted to. Even though she knew she'd probably die, she wanted to...

She felt her adrenalin pumping. The demons were all around her, sniffing at her, and closing her in. She didn't like them. She didn't like the way they smelled. She heard herself growl...

Angel stepped in front of her.

"What are you talking about?" he said to the demon who had first sniffed at Buffy. "This is the Slayer."

"Wrong smell!" the demon screamed.

One of the other demons suddenly raised its arms and made a high, keening sound like a combination of a shriek and a whistle. This one wore the bone armor but didn't carry a weapon. Buffy noticed it had the flower tattoo on its face, but the tattoo was blue, not red. Its eyes were blue, too; it was the only one with blue eyes.

"High priestess," Angel whispered in Buffy's ear.

The rest of the demons backed away, giving the high priestess room. She approached Buffy, and sniffed at her.

"You are a Slayer," the priestess said. "But there is something...different about you. I cannot discern it, but it is there."

"You don't talk like them," Buffy said. "You're not all 'Hulk smash'."

"I do not know this Hulk of whom you speak, or why she or he should want to smash, but that is immaterial," the priestess said. "I am the Mak'shar. I have the old learning and the new. I know your language and history, Slayer. But you are strange...your scent is strange. It is not quite right. This is a puzzle."

One of the demons--a male wearing a bone circlet around his forehead--swaggered up to the high priestess and said, "Need Slayer! No Slayer, no Kai!"

"Silence," the high priestess said, without bothering to look at him. He bowed his head, and turned away.

"Starting to like you guys a little better," Buffy said. "Good to know a woman's in charge."

"As it should be. Your world would be a better place, if a female was in charge, I think," the high priestess said. "Why have you not taken charge? You are a powerful warrior...the most powerful. Why do you not rule?"

"I hate paperwork," Buffy said.

"Your culture is strange to us. We are warriors, and the strongest and wisest rule among us. That one, he who talks too much, and out of turn--" She looked at the demon who had interrupted. He was still hanging his head. "He is the greatest warrior. And I am the wisest one, the keeper of the knowledge. We rule, together...if he succeeds in his challenge today, and becomes our new Kai. If you are what we need."

"I'm a Slayer," Buffy said. "Wouldn't have bothered coming out if I wasn't. I got places I could be."

Angel hadn't said a word after the high priestess started talking. Buffy could see that the high priestess wasn't too big on men, or interruptions, and Angel had known it. He would've known it. Angel always went in prepared.

"This is a puzzle before us, so let us reason it out together," the high priestess said.

"Okay," Buffy said. "Reason away."

"You are a Slayer, your scent tells me that, but it also tells me you are different. You know of the Slayers besides yourself, the ones who came before? You know the history of your sisters?"

"Some," Buffy said.

"What has happened to you, that is different? What things about you have made you different than the sisters who came before? Think of the things that are common to all Slayers, and then the things that are peculiar to you."

"Well, I'm perky," Buffy said. "Um...I like long walks on the beach...I don't follow the rules much. Not much for the Slayer handbook. I have friends who help me out...the Slayers before me, they were solo acts from what I hear."

Angel put his hands together, and bowed his head at the high priestess.

"You may speak, Angel," the high priestess said. "You are a courteous guest. Some of us could learn from your example," she said, and glared at the demon who had interrupted before. He hung his head again.

"Buffy died, and was brought back to life," Angel said. "When she died a new Slayer was called. There are two Slayers now."

"Oh yeah," Buffy said. "And there's that."

It was like someone shouted "fire" in a crowded theater. All the demons started talking--actually, screaming--amongst themselves. There was wild gesticulating. There was finger pointing. There were fevered accusations. Some of them were tearing out their hair.

The high priestess stood still and silent. She looked at Buffy.

After a moment, the high priestess raised her right hand, without turning around. All the demons behind her immediately fell silent.

"That is the solution," the high priestess said. "But it presents us with a greater puzzle. Which Slayer is the Slayer, when there can be only one?"

"I'd say it's Faith," Buffy said. "I still have all my power but I think the Slayer line goes through Faith now. When I died Kendra became the next Slayer, and then she was killed, and Faith became the Slayer. According to my Watcher if I died again it wouldn't activate a new girl."

"Your Watcher?"

"Smart, British, drinks tea, drives an evil car. Reads a lot. Thinks I'm intractable. Sort of an advisor."

"You are flippant. I have to parse your words to find the meaning. Why do you speak this way?"

"Makes things easier when I joke about stuff, I guess."

"The puzzle remains," the high priestess said, still staring at Buffy. She hadn't taken her blue eyes off her for a second. Buffy could feel the strength in this woman, the wisdom. She felt like she had been granted a royal audience with some sort of monarch. And maybe she had. "The line may go through Faith now but we are not concerned with the workings of the Slayer magics, only their result. We need the greatest warrior; it must be one of the Slayers. But which one? Who is the greatest warrior of this world?"

"Good question," Buffy said. "Could be Faith, she's tough. But if you think you can get her to help with this, that could be a problem. For one thing, I'm pretty sure she'd try to kill you all no matter how much you tried to reason with her. You're demons. And I won't let her walk into a room with twenty demons unless I'm watching her back, I don't care how smart and reasonable you are."

"You know the issues that face the clans?"

"Well I know there's some debate over eating people. You shouldn't, by the way. Faith and I would get angry and you wouldn't like that."

"You have the fire of a Slayer, girl, I'll give you that," the high priestess said, and smiled, showing her many, many sharp teeth. "If you were a male I would have ordered you killed for that comment. It was...presumptuous."

"I bet I'm being intractable too," Buffy said.

"We'll see. If Ve'dron does not become Kai today and the clans go to war, some other claimant may prevail. If so, the clans may begin hunting humans freely. You and Faith are Slayers but you are two. We are more than four hundreds. The Slayer is not just strength, she is cunning, as any great warrior is. Use your cunning. Avoid a needless fight you can't win."

"Trying my best here. You got any ideas?"

"Two. One is, we bring Faith here and the claimants may agree upon one of you. But they would require you and Faith to fight first, to determine who is the greatest warrior."

"No," Buffy said. "What's behind door number two?"

"Door number two is, you fight any claimants who wish it, and force them to admit your greatness."

"Works for me," Buffy said. She looked around at the demons. "Who's up first? I've been wanting to kill something for awhile."

One of the demons--a male, and a pretty big one--swaggered up to Buffy and stood a few feet away with his hands on his hips.

"Gra'chit!" he screamed, and banged his chest with his right fist.

"Buffy," Buffy said.

"Gra'chit kill imposter Slayer," Gra'chit said, and unsheathed his sword. It was a very, very big curved sword. Buffy decided she liked it, and she was going to take it away from him.

"Imposter?" Buffy said.

"Do you accept his challenge?" the high priestess said.

"Fuck yeah," Buffy snarled, and showed Gra'chit her teeth.

"She needs a sword," Angel said. "He has a sword and she doesn't."

"Nah," Buffy said, and smiled. "I'm gonna just use his."

The high priestess stepped away from Buffy, and Angel stepped away with her. The rest of the demons gave them room.

"It would have been wise for her to take a weapon," the high priestess said to Angel. "Gra'chit is formidable."

"Gra'chit's dead in a minute," Angel said.

Gra'chit growled at Buffy, his eyes two little red pinpoints.

"Already bored," Buffy said.

Gra'chit ran at her.

Buffy ducked low under Gra'chit's sword swing and decided to test a theory. She punched him with all her strength in the approximate area of his balls. The bone armor he wore over his groin might as well have been made of construction paper; Buffy's fist smashed straight through it.

The theory was that the male demons had balls, and didn't like being punched in them. The theory proved to be true. Gra'chit gasped and fell to the ground. Buffy stamped down on his sword-hand with her boot, breaking all of his fingers. Gra'chit screamed. Then Buffy took his sword.

"Say goodnight, Gra'chit," Buffy said, and beheaded him with his own sword before he could even manage to get back up to his knees.

"Told you," Angel said to the high priestess.

"Interesting," the high priestess said, and smiled.

"Anybody else?" Buffy said.

Another demon ran at her, screaming. He was another male, not quite as big as Gra'chit, but a little faster by the looks of him. He leaped into the air and came down at Buffy with his sword pointed at her. She dodged him, spun around behind him and beheaded him with Gra'chit's sword before he landed.

"Still waiting for a challenge," Buffy said, pacing the room and snarling at the assembled demons. "I accepted a challenge and still haven't even fucking gotten one."

Another demon ran at her. These demons all seemed to have decent speed for their size but to Buffy they looked like they were moving in slow motion and this one was no exception. They were strong but they were simply too slow to lay a hand on Buffy; even the faster ones were too slow to touch her. They would be a problem in groups but Buffy thought she could kill every single demon in the room if they came at her one at a time. This demon pulled two long, curved knives from scabbards on his belt (the belt and scabbards were made of bone) and came at her, waving them around like a maniac. Buffy dropped to her knees and cut his legs off at the ankles with one stroke of her sword as he lunged forward to take a swipe at her neck with the knives. She rolled out of the way as he screamed and fell, then got up and beheaded him without bothering to look at him.

"I could kill you guys all night," Buffy said. "Anybody else?"

The room was silent. Buffy looked around. She noticed Angel was smiling at her. She could tell he was impressed...he was proud of her.

She didn't smile back. The Slayer in her didn't want to smile at Angel.

The Slayer wanted to kill him. She always had.

"Last chance," Buffy said. "Anybody else tired of breathing?"

She looked at all of them. She showed them her teeth. The Slayer wanted to kill the rest. She wanted to kill Angel too. Buffy controlled her.

"Definition of the Slayer?" Buffy said. "She fucking slays."

One of the demons--the one who had interrupted the high priestess before, Buffy recognized him by the bone circlet he wore around his forehead--approached Buffy. He stood in front of her, with his arms out at his sides. He didn't unsheathe his sword.

"This another challenge?" Buffy said.

"No," he said. He touched his left hand to his chest. "Ve'dron," he said.

"Buffy," Buffy said.

Ve'dron looked at her. Buffy looked back at him.

"There will be no more challenges," the high priestess said, and moved beside Ve'dron, and smiled at Buffy. "You killed the other claimants. Ve'dron will be Kai now."

"Slayer," Ve'dron said, and put his hand on Buffy's shoulder, and smiled.

"Yeah," Buffy said. "Guess I'm stuck with it."

"Hi baby," Buffy whispered in Faith's ear, a few hours later.

Faith opened her eyes. The sun was shining in. She rolled over. Buffy was lying next to her, in her nightgown again, holding her in her arms. She smelled beautiful, as always...but Faith smelled soap and shampoo, covering Buffy's scent now. Buffy had showered before she'd gotten in the bed.

"Missed you," Faith said, and yawned. "All done with the recon? Find whatever you were looking for?"

"Nope," Buffy said. "Dead end. Got bored and came home."

Faith nodded. Buffy kissed her.

"Go back to sleep, baby," Buffy said. Faith nodded again, and curled up on Buffy's breasts.

"Broke rule number one," Faith said, as she drifted toward sleep again.

"I'm an outlaw," Buffy said.

"Spank that little bum of yours," Faith muttered.

Then Faith lifted up her head, and looked at Buffy, studying her face.

"What is it?" Buffy said.

"You look different, for some reason," Faith said.

They slept like lazy cats for a few more hours, and when they finally woke up they spent the day kissing and watching movies and listening to CD's and trying to cook. They realized fairly quickly that neither of them could really cook and after a brunch consisting of waffles and Faith's famous grilled cheese sandwiches with bacon and tomato they ordered a couple of pizzas, and chased each other around the house for awhile and had a tickle fight, and then went to a bakery downtown and bought a cake, and then came back and ate it and ordered a couple more pizzas to go with it. The tickle fight had gotten pretty dicey and they nearly broke rule number three, and then Faith gave Buffy another foot massage and they nearly broke rules one and two. Buffy did Faith's hair again.

They were on the couch now, and Faith was lying with her head in Buffy's lap, as Buffy played with her hair. It was Lauren Bacall hair now.

"This has been an awesome day," Buffy said.

"Yeah," Faith said. "Glad there's no rule against lying with my head in your lap."

Buffy looked toward the window. The sun had set; it was getting dark.

"Um...this sucks but...I have to study for a test," Buffy said. "I have this big test tomorrow. I need to study tonight."

"I gotta take off, huh?" Faith said.

"How about I see you tomorrow?" Buffy said. "Wanna hang out with me tomorrow after I get out of school?"

"Okay," Faith said, and sat up.

Buffy felt horrible about the lie; she felt like she was cheating.

"What's wrong?" Faith said.

"Nothing," Buffy said, and kissed her. "You look pretty with the Lauren Bacall hair."

"You like doing my hair, huh?" Faith said. "I'm like your Faith doll."

"You're my Faith doll," Buffy said.

"I can be your Faith doll. Okay, I'll take off, let you study. You'll swing by my place tomorrow?"


Faith stood up, and looked at her again.

"You sure you're okay, girlfriend?" Faith said. "You look all...I don't know. Almost a little sad."

"Only because you're leaving, baby," Buffy said, and stood up. They walked to the door together. "But I'll see you tomorrow."

"Okay," Faith said, and hugged her. "Countin' the minutes." And then she walked out the door, and disappeared into the darkness.

Buffy stood by the door for a long time after that, following Faith's scent, as it slowly faded away...

Buffy felt like she was cheating.

The dinner with Angel was properly romantic. Angel knew how to do romantic. They were in this little hole in the wall French restaurant at the end of an alley downtown that Buffy didn't even know existed; the alley didn't look very welcoming but the restaurant turned out to be fabulous. The place was dark and intimate, without too many tables, and there were candles on the tables and violinists playing in the corner. The waiters were attentive yet unobtrusive and the food was splendid. Buffy had chicken in red wine and Angel had steak and fries. Buffy couldn't believe French restaurants sold French fries until Angel looked into her eyes in the candlelight, took her hand, and said, "French fries." They laughed, and Buffy had Angel order her a plate of French fries to go with her Coq au vin. They held hands after that.

Angel even ate some of his food; he usually didn't eat because vampires didn't need to and also because they apparently had trouble tasting anything except blood. But Angel said he liked French food and he ate a little, and what he didn't finish Buffy finished for him. Especially the French fries; they were scrumptious. Angel ordered an old, very expensive wine and they drank some. Dessert was chocolate mousse and Angel ate a portion of his and Buffy finished it for him. During dessert the violinists came to the table and played them a song; Angel had secretly arranged it while Buffy was in the ladies room. He said it was an old Irish folk song he liked when he was a boy.

Everything was wonderful. The food was wonderful and the restaurant was wonderful and Angel looked wonderful in the candlelight, and he held her hand. He had been true to his word and given her flowers too, when she arrived at his mansion: a beautiful bouquet of yellow roses. Buffy noticed they didn't have thorns; he had cut the thorns off.

"How come yellow?" Buffy had said.

"Maybe because you look pretty in yellow," he had said.

She looked at him, in the candlelight, as they held hands, and drank wine.

She smiled. She didn't feel like she was cheating anymore.

They drove out to a secluded little beach that Buffy had never seen before. For some reason Angel seemed to know the town better than she did. "Got my nose to the ground," he said, when she mentioned it. Angel had apparently bought a car at some point during the past week; Buffy had been amazed when they left his mansion and he took her to the car and opened the door for her. They had always walked everywhere before. It was a big black convertible and Buffy felt just right in it. Angel explained to her that it was a very rare 1967 Plymouth GTX and he had said something about how the original extremely powerful V8 engine had been upgraded with a Chrysler 426 cubic inch Hemi which gave it extra horsepower and that there were only about 700 of these cars in the world, but Buffy didn't know about cars and all she cared about was that it was big and cool and shiny and fast and it was a convertible. The fact that Angel hadn't thought to have a CD player installed put a tiny crimp in the car's awesomeness, but Buffy knew Angel didn't really understand about CD's. The car had a radio though, and Buffy found a hip-hop station and cranked it up, and Angel put the top down and put his arm around her and drove too fast, showing off, as Buffy took off her shoes and hung her feet out the window and laughed with the wind in her hair...

They sat on the beach now, on a blanket, and drank some more wine; Angel had bought another bottle.

"I can't believe they had me boasting about my exploits," Buffy said.

"Part of the ritual," Angel said. "The strongest warrior in the world has to prove it by listing all the enemies he's killed."


They laughed. They had been laughing together all night. Buffy couldn't even remember the last time they'd had a night like this...maybe they never had.

"It was like primal scream therapy except it went on for like an hour and my throat got all scratchy," Buffy said.

"It got kind of awkward when you boasted about killing me," Angel said.

"Well they said all my exploits, in order," Buffy said. "They said not to leave anything out. It did take some explaining though."

"It was fun listening to you trying to explain about me after you had some of their wine," Angel said.

"I got a little tipsy."

"A little? You started talking about my hair. You talked about my hair for like twenty minutes. Actually, you screamed about my hair."

"Just my theory on how you get it to do that. I think the Klingons were really fascinated. They have bad Klingon hair and your hair is so awesome."

"Your theory's wrong. My hair just does this. I don't even know what mousse is. I'm two-hundred and seventy-one. You think I know about mousse?"

"You're cute when you lie. And at least the Klingons didn't like attack you or anything once I started screaming about all my exploits fighting you."

"They don't mind that I was evil for awhile. They don't see the world in those terms. Good and evil aren't important to them. Strength and weakness are."

"And screaming," Buffy said. "Klingons are totally about the screaming."

"Kree'shon," Angel said.

"Klingons," Buffy said.

"Fine," Angel said. "Klingons."

He was existing in the moment. It was a perfect moment...all he could have hoped for. He was with the girl he loved and the light was in her eyes again for him and he had made her smile. And she'd liked the car. He refused to admit to himself that he bought the car just because he knew she would like it. He just needed a car. And he still had that treasure chest full of gold doubloons. If you had a big chest full of pirate treasure, you might as well spend it on something...

He savored the moment.

He braided the yellow roses in Buffy's hair.

At first he was going to buy her a bouquet of red roses. Something had made him choose yellow.

The roses were the color of the sun. He wished he could be with Buffy in the sun. If she stayed with him, she'd be in the dark...she'd have to be in the dark forever. He could never give her children. He could never grow old with her.

He could never make love to her again.

"What are you doing?" Buffy said, and giggled.

"You look pretty with flowers in your hair," Angel said. "Girls used to have flowers in their hair all the time in my day."

They kissed. His lips tasted like wine.

It was a chaste kiss; Angel held back when Buffy tried to make it something more. She didn't understand why. She knew he wanted more...

Angel finished braiding the flowers in her hair. They were a crown of yellow flowers now, around her forehead. She felt like his princess.

He stood up, and held out his hand.

"Walk with me," he said.

They walked, barefoot, along the water for awhile, and he put his arm around her. The moon was huge and almost full and it reflected on the water, and the night was silent and starry, and the smell of the sea was on the wind; for a Slayer it was a feast for the senses.

They stopped, and looked out at the moon together.

She looked up at him. His eyes reflected silver. He was beautiful.

It was a perfect night. A perfect moment...

And then the photographs in the shoebox in her closet came back to her.

She hadn't thought about them for a few days...and now they were back. They always came back.

She knew it was her punishment. She knew she couldn't have a perfect moment like this...she knew she didn't deserve it.

The photographs stole the moment away from her.

"Did you like tonight?" Angel said. "Did you have a good time?"

"Yeah," Buffy said. "It's been a wonderful night, Angel. A perfect night."

"Buffy...you deserve all this and more," Angel said. "You deserve more than I can give you. You should be in the sun."

Angel knew why he had chosen the yellow roses now. He knew what he had to do...he realized that he had known, ever since he came back...ever since he had returned from hell, and known that he didn't deserve to return.

He knew what he had to do. He just didn't know if he had the strength to do it. He had always been weak. His whole life, he had been weak.

The thought of what he had to do stole the moment away from him. He had been living in this one perfect moment, looking out at the moon with the girl he loved, but it was stolen away, and now all he could think of was the moment that would inevitably come, in the future...the moment when he would either have to let her go, or know that he was being selfish...that he was putting his needs above hers. He had never put his needs above hers before. If he ever did, he knew there would never be another good moment for him again after that.

But he didn't know if he was strong enough to let her go.

The Kree'shon were right, he realized. Life is about strength and weakness.

"I want to be with you," Buffy said.

"You deserve to be happy, Buffy," he said, and took her hands in his. "I don't know if...I can give you those things...the things you need."

"Yes you can," she said, and kissed him. "You do."

Angel knew the moment would be coming soon...

Buffy sat in school in the lounge by the candy machines the next day, looking down at the floor, holding yellow roses in her hands.

She was thinking about the photographs, in the shoebox in her closet.

She smelled Willow, coming toward her.

"Platonic love," Willow said, a moment later, standing behind her.

"What?" Buffy said.

Willow pointed at the roses.

"Platonic love," she said.

"Just platonic?" Buffy said.

"Yeah," Willow said. "True love is red roses. Yellow's deep, loving friendship. I know flower symbolism backwards and forwards. Witch thing."

Buffy nodded. Willow sat down next to her.

"Angel," Willow said. "Angel gave you those."

"He braided them in my hair," Buffy said.

"Romantic," Willow said.

"You don't like me with him," Buffy said.

"Nope. Can you blame me?"

"No. After what he did...what Angelus did..."

"That's not what I mean, sweetie," Willow said, and took her hand. "It's just...he doesn't make you smile enough. I wish you could be with someone who made you smile more...who didn't make you cry so much."

"It's not like he and I are dating again, but...we went to do this thing with these demons, to stop them from hunting humans? Long story but anyway...he took me out to eat last night, kind of like to thank me for helping and...kind of like a date too, I guess. We went to this nice restaurant and walked on the beach and drank wine. He gave me these flowers, and braided them in my hair."

"Sounds like a fun date."

Buffy nodded, and looked down at the floor again.

Part of Willow was angry at Buffy. Part of her had been angry since she'd found out...that Angel was back, and Buffy had been keeping it from her.

But Willow never listened to that part of her.

"What's wrong, sweetie?" Willow said. "C'mon, tell me what's wrong. Best friend here, y'know, all, wantin' to be here for you."

"Angel...he's not gonna be the one, is he?" Buffy said. "And he knows it."

"Look, I'm not his biggest fan, Buffy?" Willow said. "But...Angel...I think he's always wanted what's best for you."

"Angel and I...we don't have a future," Buffy said. "We never did."

"No, sweetie," Willow said. "I don't think so."

Buffy looked down at the floor, and broke down in tears.

Willow hugged her.




"The full moon's kinda funny," Faith said, that night. They stood leaning on the beach wall, looking out at the ocean. They had gone out to eat at a sub place after they left Faith's motel room--which they didn't do until they had kissed for an hour--and after they ate they had wandered around, not heading anywhere in particular. The moon was full, and the sky was perfectly clear, and full of stars. There was a warm, gentle breeze off the water and the air smelled like the sea. Faith thought it was as if someone had created this night just for them...as if it was theirs. But there had been something different about Buffy, when they kissed in the motel room. She'd seemed sad, for some reason. She tried to hide it but Faith knew it was there. Buffy hadn't talked much.

They had eventually ended up at the beach. Buffy realized it was the same beach Angel had taken her to.

They looked up at the moon together.

"Funny how?" Buffy said.

"It's like...it knows stuff about me," Faith said. "Like, the night Becca found me? There was a full moon. Then there was another one the night I became the Slayer. And whenever I look up at a full moon now, I'm always thinkin', like, what's next? What else does it know about me that it's like, waiting for the right time to tell me. What other surprises is it waiting to spring?"

"So what do you think?" Buffy said. "What's the moon got up its sleeve for you this time?"

"I'm thinkin' maybe this moon isn't one of mine," Faith said. "I'm thinkin' it's one of yours. I think it knows something about you."

"Like what?" Buffy said.

"I think it knows why you've been all sad today, maybe," Faith said. "I think it wants you to tell me."

"I'm not sad. I'm fine. Just...in a weird mood. Maybe it's the full moon. I'm just kinda...thinking about stuff today."

Faith turned to her, and took her hand.

"You can talk to me about stuff," Faith said. "Even hard stuff. I'm not gonna judge you, Buffy. We all got stuff that's tough to talk about. And you can talk to me...I mean, you ever wanna talk about whatever? I'm here, y'know?"

Buffy kissed her.

"Thanks," Buffy said. "I'm okay."

"Buffy," Faith said. "I'll shut right up if you want, okay? If I'm prying just tell me it's none of my damn business. But...is it your guy? Something happen with your guy?"

"No," Buffy said. "I told you, I'm fine."

"Okay," Faith said. She knew Buffy was lying.

Buffy was the most complicated person Faith had ever met. Faith was sure Buffy was a lesbian, and she was sure Buffy was in love with Willow, and she was sure Buffy also had a guy running around out there somewhere who she was maybe in love with too. Buffy had told her she'd had sex with him once, and that he was her first, but according to her they hadn't had sex since...and Faith had no idea why. Other than the fact she was sure Buffy was a lesbian.

Buffy was like one of those archaeological digs Faith had seen on the Discovery Channel. The archaeologists would find something in the sand, and they'd have to use little tiny brushes to carefully and methodically and precisely brush away the accumulated sand and sediment, the weight of ages. Eventually the object, the secret, would be revealed, but they knew it was only a tiny piece of the whole, just the beginning of the mystery. Faith felt like an archaeologist, with Buffy. Buffy's sadness today was an ancient object Faith had unearthed. But Faith still had no idea what she had found, or what it meant...

Something had happened. Something had made Buffy sad.

Faith would just have to keep digging.

But carefully...

"You wanna maybe head back to my place and lie down with me for awhile?" Faith said. "I can be all curled up behind you and hugging you and kissing your neck the way you like. You want me to do that, honey?"

"Yeah," Buffy said.

An hour later Faith lay in her bed with Buffy asleep in her arms. She was curled up behind Buffy, and she had kissed the back of Buffy's neck until Buffy had fallen asleep. Buffy liked when Faith kissed her there. They hadn't broken any rules, or even really been tempted to. It had been a different kind of day for them. A soft day, a day for holding hands, and gentle kisses.

Faith held Buffy in her arms in the dark motel room, and breathed in her scent, and thought about things.

She had decided a couple of days before to pay for two more weeks rent instead of one. She knew she wanted to stay with Buffy so she figured she might as well guarantee a roof over her head for as long as she could. Unfortunately it left her with eighteen dollars in her pocket now. And in twelve days she'd have to come up with more money or she'd be bounced onto the street.

She'd decided she would have to start shoplifting; being down to eighteen bucks meant it was time to either beg or steal. One good thing about shoplifting at least was that it meant she could finally have some decent clothes. Sunnydale had a good sized mall and a shopping district downtown with lots of stores and being a Slayer made shoplifting easy. No one could catch her when she ran.

Constantly coming up with the cash to keep up the rent on her motel room from now on would be tougher. Cash meant dealing with people, with security guards. Faith was willing to steal but she wasn't willing to hurt anyone. It was a line she wouldn't cross. Rebecca would be ashamed of her if she hurt someone. Faith wouldn't allow that. She'd go to prison first. She'd starve first.

Faith had no idea what she was going to do...where she was going to go.

The only thing she was certain of, was that she wanted to be with Buffy...

She wondered if Buffy wanted to be with her.

It was a little more than a week later and Faith's money had run out awhile back; she'd been stealing ever since. On the bright side, she had some decent clothes now. But she knew she couldn't keep this up forever. She needed a plan.

One bit of luck was that she'd discovered vampires sometimes had money. So now she mugged them before she dusted them. It had netted her enough cash to pay the room off until the end of the month, but there wasn't much left for food so she stole food too. There were convenience stores and one big supermarket in Sunnydale and even though the security guard at the supermarket was one of those old guys who took pride in his job and was actually alert for shoplifters, he was still an old guy and Faith was the Slayer and she managed to stay off his radar okay. There was an electronic security system at the doors, so instead of smuggling food out Faith just ate it in the store as quick as she could. It didn't leave much time for savoring her food and she wasn't able to eat much without risking getting caught, so she picked food with a lot of protein and calories. Cold cuts were good. Faith could wolf down a one-pound package of Oscar Mayer bologna in about a minute and it gave her more than fourteen-hundred calories.

She laid all her clothes out on the bed in her motel room, and stood in her underwear in front of them, trying to find something pretty to wear. Buffy was coming over and she wanted to look pretty.

Faith had slept over Buffy's house again, the weekend before. This time she had stayed the entire weekend; Buffy had come to her motel room Friday right after school and told Faith she wanted her to stay until Monday morning. Joyce had tried to talk to her a lot while she was there. Faith was still uncomfortable around Joyce, but it was getting a little easier.

Whenever Joyce was distracted or out of the house Buffy had wanted Faith to curl up in bed with her. They kissed, like they always did, but they hadn't broken any rules. They just curled up together in the bed whenever they had a chance, and Buffy pulled Faith's arms around her, and Faith kissed her neck.

Buffy had given Faith a foot massage this time. It was a long, slow, sensuous foot massage, and Buffy had knelt down in front of Faith and looked her in the eyes when she did it, and she had taken her time. "Do you like this, baby?" Buffy had whispered. "Do you like me like this?"

By the end of the foot massage Faith's pussy had been drenched and she felt like a cat in heat and she had told Buffy how much, and in what specific ways, she wanted to have sex with her, and she had used very colorful phrasing to illustrate certain key points. Buffy had just laughed, and kissed her.

It had been a strange weekend. Sometimes Buffy seemed almost deliriously happy, and she would laugh and snuggle up to Faith in the bed, or do Faith's hair, or paint her nails, or massage her back, or kiss her...and other times, especially at night, she would suddenly become sad...

When they went out slaying at night, Buffy always seemed sad, now...or angry. Once, when Buffy had caught a certain scent, she had insisted on going to handle it herself, and told Faith to wait for her. Faith knew the scent was a vampire's scent, and she had no idea why Buffy didn't want her to come with her. Buffy was gone for fifteen minutes, and she had come back with her eyes puffy and red, as if she'd been crying. And then she had torn into every vampire they encountered for the rest of the night, brutally beating them, not giving them the release of the stake until she'd had her fill of hearing them shriek...

There were yellow roses in a vase on Buffy's bureau, when Faith arrived that Friday. But the roses were dying. When Faith asked about them Buffy said her mother had brought home flowers from some flower show she had gone to.

Buffy was an archaeological dig. She was the lost city of Atlantis. She was all six Indiana Jones movies. Faith would just have to keep digging.

Faith thought about things, and tried not to giggle at the ridiculousness of it all. She knew Buffy had a guy. Faith had Evan. She knew Buffy was a lesbian. Faith was...well, Faith thought the jury was still out on what she was. She knew Buffy was in love with Willow. Faith was in love with Evan. But she couldn't see Evan again. And Faith knew Buffy couldn't have Willow, because she was pretty sure Willow was straight. And maybe Buffy was in love with her guy, whoever he was, too. Meanwhile, she and Buffy had spent about ninety-percent of their time since they'd met each other either naked or kissing or both even though they were each in love with someone else and, in Buffy's case, maybe two someone else's.

Christ, Faith thought. We're like some lame-ass corny soap opera. Pretty soon one of us is gonna have an evil twin, or get amnesia.

Thinking about the weirdness of her relationship with Buffy was making Faith's head hurt. She decided to concentrate on finding an outfit instead.

She had three pairs of jeans, two pairs of leather pants, a couple of blouses, three adorable little tops, a few tee-shirts and a sweater. She had Evan's leather coat and her Docs. The leather pants and the adorable tops she had stolen. The wardrobe was better than before but she still didn't exactly have limitless options. Buffy would be there soon, and she wanted to look pretty for her.

"What am I doing?" Faith said.

She had no idea. To the naked eye, it would have appeared that she was dating a girl. Even though she already had a guy. And the girl had a guy too.

Sometimes, Faith was a complete mystery to herself.

She stood in her underwear looking down at her clothes. The leather pants, she decided. And the little pink top. No bra. The pink top was made for going commando and Faith knew her boobs were too. She took her bra off.

"Am I dating a girl?" Faith said, to the empty room.

She looked at the clock. It was almost three. Buffy would be there any minute. Faith ran back into the bathroom and stood in front of the mirror. She fussed with her hair. She wished she had some decent makeup. All she had was the nail polish and lipstick she'd shoplifted from the drugstore down the street. She had one lipstick. Red. If you're going to have just one, that's the one. She put some on. She liked kissing Buffy with lipstick on. It was more girly.

She looked at herself in the mirror.

"What am I doing?" Faith said, again.

If the mirror knew, it wasn't telling.

There was a knock at the door. Faith tuned in to her nose. It was Buffy.

Faith decided to give Buffy a treat. Faith knew she had the best rack in the world. And she knew Buffy appreciated it.

Faith answered the door in nothing but her panties.

"What's up, girlfriend!" Faith said, throwing Buffy her sexiest smile. And she knew it was even sexier with the lipstick.

"Um, breaking rule number one," Buffy said, and breezed by her into the room, giggling, as Faith quickly shut the door. Faith wanted to give Buffy a show, not the whole neighborhood. The local winos were already a little too chatty with her. Buffy was wearing a tight miniskirt and a skimpy little top and platform boots. And makeup, very skillfully applied. Faith thought she looked beautiful. But then she always thought that.

"You broke it first when you peeked at my lil' kitty when you left me that note," Faith said, and sat on the bed with her legs crossed, bouncing her foot up and down over her knee. "Bad girl. Figured I owed you one."

"Yeah, guilty as charged," Buffy said, and sat next to her. "I throw myself on the mercy of the court. Um...you have pretty boobs. Like, super pretty. Like, I think they might be the best boobs ever."

"Hey, thanks girlfriend," Faith said, and kissed her. Then Faith leaned back on her elbows, and opened her legs a little. She wasn't sure what she was doing, or why. But Faith was used to that. She liked going by feel. Letting things play out. Seeing where she ended up. All she knew for sure was that she was enjoying herself...

"Um...but okay, you got me back for breaking the rule, so maybe you should get dressed," Buffy said. "Unless you just wanna go out naked."

"I liked that foot massage," Faith said, twirling her foot around now.

"Thanks," Buffy said. She was blushing a little. "I liked giving it to you. I like making you feel good."

Buffy looked down at the floor.

Faith had been about to ask Buffy to give her breasts a little kiss. She was going to make a game out of it: she was going to refuse to put her clothes on unless Buffy gave her breasts a quick little kiss.

But it felt wrong, now. It felt like taking advantage. Faith could tell Buffy was still sad. It was still there, whatever it was...the thing that had hurt her...

"Okay, honey," Faith said, and kissed Buffy's cheek, and got up and put her clothes on. "So what did you say you wanted to do today? Hit the mall?"

Buffy nodded. She was still looking down at the floor.

Faith knelt down in front of her.

"How do I look?" Faith said. "C'mon hon, you didn't even check out the fab outfit. Got leather pants and everything here. And isn't this top just the cutest little thing?"

"You look awesome, baby," Buffy said, and smiled a little.

"Hmmm. Got like, maybe a third of a smile there," Faith said, and kissed Buffy's knee. "Didn't wanna have to do this B, but I'm gonna have to bring out the big guns now." She moved her hands to Buffy's waist.

"What are you doing?" Buffy said. "What weirdness are you doing now?"

"I know a certain pretty girl who's real ticklish right here," Faith said, and smiled. "Right around her waist. I think she might be about to get tickled."

"I don't think she's about to get tickled," Buffy said, smiling now.

"I think she's definitely about to get tickled," Faith said, and started tickling Buffy's stomach and sides. Buffy screamed with laughter and tried to pull away, and Faith jumped on top of her on the bed and tickled her some more.

"Stop!" Buffy shouted, rolling around and laughing. "Stop, stop. I'll be good. Stop being a goofy pervo."

Faith stopped tickling her, and kissed her.

"I love that smile, honey," Faith said. "Just needed to see that smile."

Buffy nodded, and smiled.

"Is it possible for shoes to be too fabulous?" Buffy said. She was sitting beside Faith two hours later on a leather couch in Nordstrom's. It was a shoe store in the Sunnydale mall that Faith thought looked a lot like the shoe stores she always went to with Rebecca; chic and sleek, sort of art deco, lots of mirrors and open space. Pretty salesgirls who were just the tiniest bit arrogant, but in a darling little way. The floors were white and spotless and gleaming. For some reason there was a girl at a baby grand piano in the corner playing show tunes. Everyone was fabulous. Every toe was pedicured. Everyone carried kickass handbags. No one was a poor homeless girl from Boston.

There weren't too many actual pairs of shoes cluttering up the place, but Faith knew the deal was quality, not quantity, in these kinds of stores and when she and Rebecca shopped in places like this they always came home with something. Within six months after meeting Rebecca Faith had gone from one pair of boots to sixteen pairs of shoes. But those days were gone now and Faith knew she wouldn't be coming home with a new pair of fabulous kicks today. She was down to twenty-one dollars and she was back to the one pair of boots.

"They look nice, B," Faith said, looking down at Buffy's feet as Buffy stretched out in a pair of rather ostentatious gold slingbacks. "You're fab enough to pull 'em off."

"I think I might already have a pair like this though," Buffy said. "It's hard to keep track. So what about you? You haven't tried anything on."

"Think I'm more of a boot girl," Faith said. She looked at the baby grand piano. She looked at the salesgirls. She didn't look at the shoes. No reason to look if she couldn't have a pair. She wanted to get out of there. She wanted to go home. But she didn't have a home...she didn't have anywhere to go.

If she went back to Boston she wouldn't be able to stop herself from seeing Evan, and she couldn't put him in danger again. And she was needed here. If ever there was a place the Slayer needed to be, it was the Hellmouth. But what would she do here? How would she live? She'd had more than two weeks to think about it since they killed Kakistos and she still hadn't come up with an answer... mostly because she'd spent the time thinking about Buffy.

"They have boots," Buffy said. "I don't think they have Docs, but they have some pretty boots. Let me help you pick a pair out."

"That's okay," Faith said. "I'll just, uh, shop vicariously through you." A woman with stylishly long gray hair wearing a business suit and horn-rimmed glasses walked by them, talking into a cell phone. "The problem is script," the woman was saying. "I'm almost through act two and I don't believe Carrie's inner struggle. She's too perfect. I know the writer loves her but I think we cut her and bring in our guy for a polish. Now talk to me about product placement." The woman carried a Louis Vuitton handbag and she held a hardcover book under her arm called War and the Liberal Conscience. The problem with the Hellmouth was that it was in California. Faith was pretty sure she wanted to blow up California.

"But that's no fun," Buffy said with a big, beautiful smile, and put her hand on Faith's shoulder. "I wanna dress you up. I wanna make you my Faith doll. Let me pick out shoes for you. I know you're always wearing boots but you'd look great in heels. Please, baby?"

Buffy seemed happy again now. Faith liked it when Buffy was happy. If being Buffy's Faith doll would keep the streak going...

"Uh...okay," Faith said.

It was like saying abra-kadabra. Suddenly it was raining shoes. It was a shoe monsoon. Buffy streaked through the store like the Tasmanian Devil picking out fabulous shoes for her and within minutes Faith was practically buried. After awhile Buffy finally sat back down next to her on the couch. There were more than a dozen pairs of shoes spread out around them. Faith took off her boots and socks and looked down at her feet, next to Buffy's. Buffy's feet were pretty.

"My feet are ugly," Faith said.

"What are you talking about?" Buffy said. "You have pretty feet. I wouldn't massage ugly feet. And I think we're the same size. You could use a pedicure though. We should go for pedicures together sometime."

"Yeah," Faith said. She couldn't afford a pedicure. She couldn't afford the shoes. She didn't know what the hell she was doing there. She didn't know what she was doing...she didn't have a plan.

"Well? Let's get to it, Cinderella," Buffy said.

Fifteen minutes later Faith had tried on all the shoes and wanted all the shoes and couldn't have any of the shoes and she made herself smile anyway.

"I think you're totally adorable in the open-toe pumps," Buffy said. "Personally if I'm you I'm buying the open-toe pumps. But we can't just ignore these slingbacks. That would be a grave tactical error. And then there's the purple strappy stilettos if you wanna go for the ultra-fab look. And yeah, we both want the Givenchys but my Mom would get annoyed if I mortgaged the house without telling her. Life is hard. We can't have a pony either."

"Those Givenchys kinda rocked my world," Faith said, looking over at them. They were the most exquisite shoes she'd ever seen. She really did feel like Cinderella when she tried them on. They looked like shoes Rebecca would have worn. But she couldn't have them. So she put them out of her mind.

"We need to stop thinking about the Givenchys," Buffy said, and put the Givenchys back in their box. "Thinking about them will only bring us pain."

Faith couldn't afford any of the shoes. The cheapest were fifty dollars.

"So what's it gonna be?" Buffy said.

Faith had prepared a lie.

"Kinda tempted to buy all of 'em," Faith said. "But okay, I'm gonna level with you, Buffy. Kakistos burned my house down back in Boston, so I had to buy new clothes in a hurry, plus a bus ticket out here, plus I'm paying for that motel now. I have like about three-thousand bucks left, but I need to budget it. I mean, I'd feel real awesome if I bought all these shoes right now, but I need to kinda figure out what I'm gonna do out here first, y'know? I'd better come up with a plan before I spend money on this kind of stuff."

She watched Buffy to gauge her reaction. Buffy smiled.

"Yeah, I get that," Buffy said. "Sorry, I didn't even think of that. But three-thousand won't last long, Faith. We're gonna need to come up with a plan."

"Yeah," Faith said.

"I want to buy you a pair," Buffy said. "I'll buy you a pair."

"B, that's awesome of you, but seriously, don't worry about it," Faith said. "You never know, I might not be able to resist and I might just come back here and buy a few pairs myself tomorrow. Once I figure out my money, maybe get a job or whatever, I promise, we'll go shopping then and you can watch me buy myself a whole bunch of new kicks."

"So let me buy you shoes now and you can pay me back if you want," Buffy said. "Whenever we come up with a plan and get your money situation together or whatever. You can pay me back for them then if you really want to."

"You're a great friend, B," Faith said. "I'm lucky to have you. And I'm cool, okay? You don't have to feel like this is weird for me or whatever, 'cuz it isn't. I'm having fun, I love being here with you. I'm not buying anything right this second, but I will. I'm, y'know, scoping out the place. I'm doing like, shoe recon. So don't worry about me. Just keep making me smile. That's all I want."

"Okay, baby," Buffy said, and kissed her.

Sunnydale had a Bloomingdale's too. Faith stood in front of the mirror by the changing rooms with Buffy. Faith was wearing a long red leather coat, and Buffy stood behind her with her hands on her shoulders, and played with her hair.

"Faith, you look beautiful, baby," Buffy said. "Please buy this. Please?"

When Buffy called her beautiful, Faith felt warm.

"Damn tempting," Faith said. And it was. Faith considered coming back some other time to shoplift it.

"You should totally buy it," Buffy said. "You should buy it right now. It's like the ultimate Faith doll accessory. No Faith doll should be without it. Plus the beach house. But not Ken."

"Maybe I'll come back and buy it some time," Faith said.

The slaying hadn't been going so well. They did great when they were just hanging out. But the slaying...

"I'm telling you, we need a plan!" Faith said.

"What is your problem?" Buffy said. "We've been through this like twenty times! Okay, yeah, there's maybe a dozen or so of them. But we're two Slayers, we can take these guys!"

They'd had dinner at Buffy's house. Pork chops. It was good. Joyce was nice. Everything had gone smoothly all day. Shopping was as fun as it could be without Faith being able to actually afford anything, and Buffy had believed her lie about how she had three grand stashed and was just kinda sorta budgeting it. They'd tried on clothes and Buffy had called her beautiful and made her whole day. Everything was great in the mall and great at dinner with Buffy's Mom after. Joyce seemed to really like her and Faith did her best not to let her see how uncomfortable she was around her. Faith was getting better around Joyce but Joyce still made her a little uncomfortable. Faith wasn't sure why, but she thought it might have something to do with Rebecca.

Still, everything had gone great all day, nice and smooth, no bumps...

But the slaying...

During the days they were great together. But when they hung out at night, especially when they went out slaying, Buffy's mood changed...she was sad, sometimes, and then sometimes she would get angry...angry at the vampires. Faith hunted vampires but she was never really angry at them. They were prey. On the rare occasions when Faith actually gave it any thought, she saw her relationship to the average vampire as something akin to a lion's relationship with a gazelle. The lion didn't kill the gazelles because she hated them; the lion killed them because that's just the way things were supposed to work.

Buffy's anger was becoming a problem. She was taking risks sometimes now, when they went out slaying; she wasn't thinking tactically. She was hurting vampires, even torturing some of them, before she killed them. Faith didn't mind getting her kicks and she loved a good scrap, and she even liked to rub it in a little when she had a vampire down, but when the hunt was over it was over and it was time for the stake. Buffy was passing over opportunities to dust vampires just to drag out the fight sometimes. It wasn't like her. It made her look ugly.

They were crouched behind a tree, watching a crypt in the Fairlawn Cemetery. It was a little before midnight, and a sliver of moon rode high in the sky, flitting between the clouds. The Fairlawn Cemetery was a big cemetery, and it was a dump. The grass grew in brown, weedy patches. There were dense thickets of gnarled old trees, and here and there among them there were chairs and couches set up around the remains of old campfires strewn with joints and whiskey bottles. The crypt they were watching had graffiti all over it. There were beer cans on the lawn all around it, and loud music playing inside.

"Yeah, I know we can take 'em, but c'mon B, use your head!" Faith said. "That crypt's all closed in, if we just run in there they have the advantage!"

Faith noticed Buffy was becoming annoyed. She had the same look on her face as she'd had that night they first met...like she was building to something, and trying to head it off. Buffy took a deep breath.

"Look, they're probably all wasted in there," Buffy said. "This cemetery is non-stop vamp parties, always has been. We go in and take them by surprise, we can stake half of them before they even know we're there."

"Maybe," Faith said. "If they're wasted. "If not it's like fourteen on two in a little tiny space the size of my motel room. I just wish we had a better plan than 'Run in and hope we don't get our butts kicked.'"

"We have a plan," Buffy said. "We take them by surprise. That's the plan! And it would be a great plan if you'd stop bitching and just let us do it!"

"When I was with Becca, we picked our targets. We were careful. We--"

"Rebecca's not here!" Buffy snapped.

Faith looked straight ahead, at the crypt.

"Yeah," Faith said.

"I'm sorry," Buffy said. "I didn't...I didn't mean it like that. It's just, look, this is my town, okay? I've been doing this awhile, I know how everything works here. I know this is the right plan. You just have to trust me."

Faith nodded, still looking straight ahead.

Buffy put her hand on her shoulder.

"Faith, I'm sorry, baby, okay?" Buffy said. "Baby? I'm sorry."

"It's okay, B," Faith said. "Forget it."

The next night, Buffy was giggling. Faith had been making her giggle all day long. Faith always made her giggle. She said the goofiest things...

They were sitting together in Crestview Cemetery now, under a big willow tree, waiting for vampires to happen by. But no vampires were happening by, so Buffy had been listening to Faith's goofy stories instead, and their giggles echoed among the tombstones.

"Yeah, so wherever these guys played, people went missing, right?" Faith said. "It was like, part of their rep, y'know? Like they joked about it. They were like, 'Yeah, Ozzie maybe bit the head off a chicken, but you come to one of our shows, who knows what craziness can go down.' Cops never pinned anything on them, no witnesses. So I'm talkin' to these metal chicks at The Roxy and I'm like, 'But wait, who the hell listens to hair bands anymore?' And they're like, 'Well, the lead guitar guy, he's cute. He totally gets busy with the metal groupie gals.'"

"I didn't think there were any metal groupie gals anymore," Buffy said.

"Me neither, but y'know, my spider-sense was tingling, I just had a feeling, so I'm all, 'Hook me up backstage, girlfriends, sneak me in.' So I hit the vintage clothes stores and find some tramp outfit, y'know, bandana, ripped jeans, like that, couple of fake rub-on tats, and I'm hangin' out around the tour bus that night waiting for the show to end, and I'm rockin' that bandana and the ripped jeans and the suede boots and the Levis jacket with the Kiss patch. So next thing I know, bang, I catch the scent, there's a vamp headin' my way. A minute later out they come, and yup, the guitarist's a vamp, and a fox too. I'm like, okay, groupie gals' got a point. So I bat my lashes at him--he already had like three chicks on his arm--and he's like 'Sure babe, join the party', and we head into the bus. Nice bus too. Rugs, big TV sets, stocked bar, pool tables, waterbeds, the works. Thing is, the guy had his heart set on this real hot blonde, he wanted to get to her first..."

"A real hot blonde, huh?" Buffy said.

"Yeah baby," Faith whispered in her ear, and giggled. She put her arm around Buffy, and pulled her close, and positioned her hand just above Buffy's breasts. "A real hot blonde. I do love the hot blondes."

"Pervo," Buffy said, and laughed. But she didn't try to remove Faith's hand. So Faith kept it there, and moved it down so it rested lightly on top of Buffy's breasts. Buffy blushed.

"So yeah, dude had his heart set on the blonde, and I'm all like, 'C'mon coach, call my number," and he's like, 'Sorry hon, gotta wait your turn.' Thing is there were security guys on the bus with guns, there were a bunch of gals, there were the other band guys, and the bus was fab but it was long not wide, there wasn't like room to maneuver really. All those people, if things went all Die Hard in there people could get hurt. I needed to play it slick, all like undercover. I needed to get into that bedroom with him before he got the girl in there alone. Meanwhile the security guys are eyein' me. I had to think quick."

"So what did you do?" Buffy said.

Faith caressed Buffy's breasts. Buffy blushed again, but she still didn't remove Faith's hand.

"Is this okay, honey?" Faith said, and kissed her.

"Yeah," Buffy said.

"Okay," Faith said. "Well anyway I took my shirt and bra off, showed him my bodacious ta-ta's."

Buffy started giggling again. Faith kissed her. She moved her hand under Buffy's shirt as she kissed her, and slipped it under Buffy's bra, and caressed her breasts again. Buffy moaned, and Faith felt Buffy's nipples hardening under her fingers, as she gently stroked them.

"Your bodacious ta-ta's?" Buffy said, blushing like a fire engine.

"Hell yeah, girlfriend," Faith said. "And I'm all like, 'Dude, you really think you can resist this package? 'Cuz it's first come first served and if you don't step up the cute blondie lead singer guy over there's gonna be gettin' busy with these and you're missin' out.' Blondie lead singer guy's like 'Hell yeah gimme some o' that,' and guitar guy's like 'Shit girl, steer those titties over here.'"

"Bodacious ta-ta's," Buffy said, and giggled again.

"You don't think they're bodacious?" Faith said, and lifted Buffy's shirt, and unhooked her bra, and gave each of her breasts a single, gentle kiss. "C'mon honey, I know you love my ta-ta's."

Buffy kept blushing.

"You're cute when you blush," Faith said. "Plus all the other times."

"Finish the story, ta-ta girl," Buffy said, and put her arm around Faith, and brought her to her breasts. Faith started kissing them.

For a moment Evan came into Faith's head. But he seemed a million miles away, now...an abstraction. The concept of a person, rather than a person. Memories that didn't add up to flesh and blood anymore.

"Yeah, so I'm at the top of the class once he takes a gander at what I'm packin', and into the fab little bedroom we go," Faith said, and caressed Buffy's breasts again, and started kissing her neck now, as Buffy moaned. "He offers me some coke, I politely decline, he jumps on the waterbed and strips and we're off to the races. And I gotta say, guy was hot. I mean, I coulda staked him right that second but the more he took off, the more I wanted to see. So he's like, 'C'mon hon, I show you mine, you show me yours' and I figure what the hell, he's gonna be dead in a minute, might as well give the dude some eye candy first..."

"Oh my God," Buffy said, and giggled into her hand.

"Don't be jealous honey," Faith said, and licked Buffy's neck, from her shoulder to her ear. "You know you're my favorite. So yeah, I'm gettin' naked, I'm sittin' there on the bed in my panties and my socks, my stake's over on the floor in my boot. And then the guy pulls down his boxers and he whips out, I swear to God, the biggest dick in the history of the world."

"Oh my God!" Buffy screamed, her voice bouncing around the cemetery, and started laughing. "Oh my God that's so gross!"

"Didn't look too gross to me," Faith said, and put her hand on Buffy's knee. "Looked kinda good. Painful though. I'm like, 'Dude! What the fuck is that thing? You born with a third leg or what? Keep that damn thing away from me.'"

Buffy leaned back against the tree and started laughing hysterically. Her laughter took flight, in that grim place; it bounded around and kicked up a ruckus among the old rotting tombstones, and rustled through the trees, and finally hung in the black night air like a rainbow after a thunderstorm. It took a long time for the echoes of that laugh to fade away...they lingered, as if the night wanted to hold onto them for awhile.

Faith took Buffy in her arms, and kissed her.

"I love how you laugh," Faith finally said, as she held Buffy in her arms. "It's really pretty, honey. I could listen to that laugh all night."

"You gonna finish this gross story or what, pervo?" Buffy said, still giggling.

Faith kissed Buffy's nose, and smiled.

"Tickles," Buffy said, and giggled again, and wrinkled up her nose, and scratched it.

"Okay," Faith said. "So, big finish, the guy whips out his giant damn baseball bat of a dick, right? And I'm like 'whoa'. And he just laughs and he's all expectin'...y'know...what guys always expect. But even if I wanted to get busy with a damn vamp that frigging thing woulda broke my jaw. So I'm like, 'Hey guess what? Mine's bigger.' And I pull out my stake. Thing is though? Mine wasn't bigger. But it sure was pointier and that's all that mattered. The end."

"Grossest story ever," Buffy said, laughing again. "Big huge gross vampire penis? Gross."

"I don't know...the frigging thing woulda split me in half but it wasn't bad to look at," Faith said. "Dude made me all horny. But I like looking at you better."

"Yeah?" Buffy said.

"Yeah, honey," Faith said, and kissed her again.

It was Saturday night, and Buffy and Faith lay on the bed together in Buffy's room, in only their panties, and kissed.

Joyce was at her book club meeting, and they'd had the house to themselves for awhile. At first they had wondered if they should patrol. But then Faith had laid Buffy down on the bed, and started massaging her shoulders, and kissing her neck...

Faith had slept over again. Buffy had come to her motel room right after school the day before, and told Faith she wanted her to stay for the whole weekend again. When Faith had asked if Joyce had a problem with these sleepovers--between sleeping over on weekends and the dinners at least a couple of days a week, Faith was beginning to feel like maybe she should be paying Joyce rent--Buffy had said, "Nope. My Mom loves when you come over."

So Faith had shrugged her shoulders and packed her bag, like she'd done each of the two previous weekends. Joyce's cooking sure did beat scrounging cold cuts at the supermarket, and hanging with Buffy wasn't so bad either...

Especially right now.

Buffy kissed her way down Faith's body, from her neck, to her breasts, to her stomach, and stopped at her panties. She kissed Faith's pussy, over her panties, and smiled up at her.

They both kept their panties on, because neither of them was ready to go all the way yet.

But they liked coming close...

Buffy lifted Faith's legs over her shoulders, and mounted her like she was about to fuck her. Faith was curled up into a little ball now. Buffy looked her in the eyes, and smiled.

"Flexible," Buffy said.

"Damn, I wish you had a dick right now," Faith said.

They laughed.

They kissed.

Faith caressed Buffy's arms, as Buffy lay atop her. The muscles in Buffy's shoulders and triceps were flexed. Faith knew those arms were strong.

There was a game they liked to play. Faith had come up with it the night before. They weren't ready to go all the way yet and Faith had found a way to turn that negative into a positive...

"Fuck me," Faith said, and smiled.

"No," Buffy said, and smiled back, and started grinding against her. They were both dripping wet, now. Faith grabbed Buffy's ass, and pulled her toward her, matching Buffy's rhythm as she thrusted.

"Please?" Faith said.

"No," Buffy said. "You've been bad, baby. Bad girls can't get fucked. You know that."

"But I'll be good from now on. I'll be a good girl."

"You're gonna have to prove it, baby. If you can prove you can be good, maybe I'll fuck you. Are you gonna prove it for me? Are you gonna be a good girl and do something good for me?"

"Yeah," Faith said.

This was the point of the game. Faith had to come up with something new to do every time, some new way to prove she could be good. But it was tricky, because neither of them wanted to go all the way...

When they had played the game for the first time the night before, Faith had proved she could be good by giving Buffy a full-body massage with scented oil. It was fun because it was risky: they'd done it in Buffy's bedroom while Joyce was home and they could have been caught. Buffy was naked, but the room was dark and Faith couldn't really get a good look, so rule number one wasn't completely broken. It was around midnight when they did it, and Joyce was asleep in her bedroom just down the hall. Faith massaged Buffy's entire body, and she took her time, really working the oil into every single part of her; the massage took an hour, and for every second of that hour they were in danger of being caught. The risk made the game even better. Faith's pussy was dripping the whole time. For her part, Buffy was serene, lying on the bed and purring, as Faith's strong hands found all the little knots of tension and gently undid them, making every part of her tingle. Buffy was so calm, as Faith worked every drop of tension out of her, that Faith almost thought Buffy wanted Joyce to catch her...

This morning, when Joyce had gone to the gallery for a few hours, Faith had proven she could be a good girl by covering Buffy's feet with kisses.

Buffy smiled down at Faith now, thrusting faster. Faith began to moan, and her breathing sped up. Buffy wasn't sure if she could make Faith come just by doing this, but she was willing to give it a try...

"So what are you gonna do for me, baby?" Buffy said. "How are you gonna be my good girl?"

"I'll...make you...a sandwich," Faith whispered, between moans.

Buffy stopped thrusting. "Seriously?" she said.

They looked at each other, and they both suddenly started giggling.

"Yeah," Faith said. "I'm gonna make you a sandwich, come up here and serve it to you with a nice cold drink. Then I'm gonna kneel down in front of you with my head in your lap and smile up at you while you're eating it."

"That's if I let you up," Buffy said, and kissed Faith's ankle, and started gently thrusting again. "I like you like this. I wish I had a dick too right now."

Buffy leaned down and put her mouth to Faith's ear.

"I'd fuck you 'til you couldn't walk straight, baby," Buffy whispered, and kissed Faith's neck.

"Promises, promises. If you don't wanna let me be a good girl you can always spank me for being a bad girl," Faith whispered back.

Buffy remembered what Giles had said, about Faith's mother. She remembered how Faith had cried, when they were practicing wrist locks in the cemetery and Buffy had screwed up the move and Faith had punched her in the face and thought she'd hurt her. She remembered how it took Faith awhile to stop crying...how she had to hold Faith in her arms, and kiss her, and calm her down...

Buffy knew she had to be careful, with Faith.

"I guess I'll let you be a good girl for me," Buffy said, and rolled off of Faith, and let her up.

"Shit," Faith said, and giggled. "I was hoping for the spanking."

"Maybe if you play your cards right," Buffy said. "Roast beef and Swiss with lettuce and mayo and pickles. Now go make me my sandwich, woman."

"Yes, dear," Faith said, and stood up, and walked out of the room.

Sauntering into the dining room on the way to the kitchen wearing nothing but her panties, Faith found herself wondering what the protocol was if Joyce suddenly walked through the door. This isn't what it looks like, Joyce. Seriously. I'm not getting horizontal with your daughter. I'm just, y'know, making her a sandwich. In my panties.

On her way through the dining room, Faith noticed a pile of college brochures on an end table.

She stopped and looked through the pile. They were all out-of-state colleges. Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Duke, Northwestern, Notre Dame, Georgetown, Columbia.

Suddenly, Faith didn't feel like playing the game anymore.

Faith sucked it up and got back to the game. Her heart wasn't really in it, but she made the sandwich and got Buffy's drink and got her game face back on and walked up the stairs. As she climbed the stairs she heard Buffy talking on the phone in her bedroom, speaking low.

"They could have been red," Faith heard Buffy say. "Okay, fine. I look pretty in yellow. Yeah. I loved the yellow roses, baby. I loved how you braided them in my hair."

Faith froze. She felt like she was collapsing in on herself.

She felt the cold thing, in her stomach.

It had been awhile, since she'd felt it. She had almost forgotten it, during these weeks with Buffy.

Buffy was silent for a moment, and then Faith heard her say, "Yeah. I had a great time. I told you it was a perfect night."

Faith realized Buffy couldn't lock onto her scent. Buffy's body was covered with Faith's scent and Faith's scent was all over her bedroom too. Buffy hadn't realized Faith was on the way back up, hadn't detected her yet.

Faith listened.

"I've just...I've been busy. I'm sorry."


"She's okay."


"Yeah, okay. I'll meet you and we'll get the thing. You always take me to such wonderful places. Okay, gotta go. 'Bye."

She heard Buffy hang up the phone. Faith got her game face back on, and hummed the way she imagined devoted wives probably hummed, as she climbed the rest of the way up the stairs and walked down the hall toward Buffy's room. She entered the room with her biggest, sexiest smile on her face.

"I've brought you a sandwich, dear, and your drink," Faith said.

Buffy was sitting on the bed, smiling. Faith thought it was a hell of a smile. But Faith knew it was just as fake as the one she was wearing right now.

"That's awesome, baby," Buffy said, and took the sandwich and the drink from Faith, as Faith knelt down in front of her, and rested her head in her lap, just like she had said she would.

Faith looked up at Buffy, and smiled. Buffy took a quick bite of the sandwich and a sip of the orange juice, and then set them aside.

"I'm sorry baby, but...I have to go out for a few hours," Buffy said, and kissed her.

"Yeah?" Faith said, trying to look surprised and a little disappointed, too... but not suspicious.

"Yeah," Buffy said. "Remember the tip from my bartender? Well I just got off the phone with him and he promises it's gonna pan out tonight. There's some magic doohickey and there's a guy he knows coming into town with info on where to find it. The doohickey's dangerous and I need to retrieve it and get it to Willow so she can figure out what to do with it."

Faith was pretty sure Buffy wouldn't have liked letting someone she had called "a greasy little sleazebag" braid flowers in her hair, so she assumed it was a lie. But she kept right on smiling.

"Okay, so how about I tag along, watch your back?" Faith said, because it was what Buffy would have expected her to say, and also because she was curious to hear how Buffy would get out of it.

"Well...the guy I'm supposed to meet, he's not dangerous," Buffy said. "He's not a vamp or a demon, he's just like...this professor guy who knows a lot about weird old magic doohickeys? But my bartender says he's really like, suspicious and stuff. The guy knows to expect me but I'm supposed to meet him alone. If anyone else shows up he might get spooked and take off, and I can't risk that, I really need the info on this magic doohickey, because there are plenty of bad guys out there who'd love to get their hands on it."

Not bad, Faith thought. The girl's good at lying.

"Okay," Faith said. "I'll like, crank up the VCR while you're gone. You'll just be gone a few hours?"

"Yeah, baby," Buffy said, and kissed her. "Then I'll come back and we can cuddle, okay? Um, if my Mom gets back before me, just like, tell her I'm doing a quick errand for Giles and that it's like, completely not dangerous?"

"Sure," Faith said.

Buffy showered, before she left, even though she had already showered that afternoon. Faith got her clothes back on while Buffy was in the shower, then went downstairs to the living room and turned on the television.

Buffy came downstairs a little later, and apologized and kissed her goodbye, and said she'd be back as soon as she could. Faith said she understood. Buffy walked out the door.

Faith waited thirty seconds after Buffy left, watching her from the window and noting the direction she was heading in. Then she ran up to Buffy's bedroom, put on a pair of Buffy's sneakers, and climbed out her bedroom window.

Following Buffy wasn't as difficult as it could have been because Buffy wasn't expecting to be followed. Faith kept to the rooftops, staying upwind and a good distance back.

Buffy wasn't looking around at all, wasn't really noting her surroundings. She was walking straight down the street. Faith thought she seemed distracted.

Still, Faith knew it would be foolish to underestimate her. In addition to being faster, Faith was pretty sure Buffy was also a better tracker; Buffy had managed to nearly sneak up on her a few times when they were hunting together and she was usually the first one to catch a scent.

After about five minutes, Buffy stopped at the corner at the end of her street by the traffic light. She leaned against the traffic light, and waited.

Faith stayed as far back as she could while still keeping her in sight, but it backfired on her when a black convertible suddenly pulled up to the curb and a man got out of it. The wind had shifted by then and Faith was too far away to catch his scent, or to get much of an idea of what he looked like, either: he was tall, with dark hair, wearing a black trenchcoat, and that was all Faith could see.

And then something strange happened. The man suddenly looked in Faith's direction for a second. She ducked behind a chimney before his eyes scanned the rooftops, and a second later he was looking at Buffy again. It had to be a coincidence, Faith thought. The man hadn't really known she was there, he just happened to look in her direction at that moment. Only a vampire could have known she was there, caught her scent from that distance...

The man talked with Buffy for a minute; they leaned on the hood of his car together. He held her hand.

Faith saw Buffy kiss him.

And they got in the car, and drove away...

Faith sat on the roof, watching the car until it disappeared.

Then she climbed down from the roof, and walked back to Buffy's house, in the dark.

"The Glove of Mini-golf?" Buffy said. They were in Angel's car, driving toward a cemetery across town. The car's top was down, and she'd found the hip-hop station again, and his arm was around her and she had taken off her shoes and she was hanging her feet out the window, and the wind was in her hair...

But it was different, this time.

He hadn't put his arm around her. Buffy had leaned on his shoulder, and taken his arm and put it around her.

Buffy had initiated the kiss as they stood by the car; Angel hadn't really returned it.

And Buffy felt like she was cheating, again.

She just didn't know who she was cheating on...

"Myneghon," Angel said. "Shoots lightning. And a demon's looking for it. Demons annoy me enough already. If he gets that glove and starts shooting lightning, I'm gonna get pissed."

"Tell me about the demon," Buffy said.

"Lagos," Angel said. "Big guy, tough, and he uses weapons. Supposedly an expert with swords. One of the reasons I brought you with me, it'll be good to have the Slayer for backup."

"A Slayer," Buffy said. "Faith's a Slayer too. In fact she's probably the Slayer, since Giles says the line's supposed to go through her now."

Buffy didn't have Faith's scent on her, now. But she smelled like soap. Angel knew she had showered just before she met him.

And he could've sworn he'd caught Faith's scent, when he and Buffy were standing by the car...

"How's Faith doing?" Angel said.

"She's fine," Buffy said.

"Are you two getting along? I remember there was some tension, with you and Kendra."

"Two Slayers together. Probably not supposed to happen. But Faith and I are doing okay."

They were driving down the back roads now, in nearly absolute darkness. There were no streetlights to see by, and when Buffy looked up at the sky even the moon was a waning sliver now, almost gone. She could see tall, dark, looming trees whizzing past on either side of her, and nothing else. The trees looked black. The car's headlights revealed a little of the gray, featureless road ahead of them, and then were swallowed up by the darkness before they could penetrate very far. The air was cold. Buffy brought her feet back into the car, and put her shoes on.

"Is she staying here?" Angel said.

"Yeah," Buffy said, and turned down the radio. "What are the other reasons you brought me with you?"

"This glove is powerful, the bad guys are gonna keep coming after it," Angel said. "It needs to be destroyed. A specific spell is needed to destroy it, the spell is in The Book of Eibon. Giles should have a copy, if not I'll lend you mine. I'd destroy the glove myself but the spell needs a witch. I need you to get this glove to Willow."

"No other reasons, huh?"

"I like being with you."

Buffy smiled.

"Okay," Buffy said. "So first the Klingons, then this Glove of Mini-golf. You're sure keeping busy lately."

"I've wasted a lot of time," Angel said. "So I'm keeping my nose to the ground now. Getting back in the game. Trying to do some good while I'm here."

"Good to have you back," Buffy said.

"How's Willow?" Angel said. "Is she...okay?"

Buffy's smile disappeared.

"Better than she was," Buffy said.

"The bigger they are, yadda yadda yadda," Buffy said. "Also, in this case, the uglier they are."

They were standing in a little crypt in a cemetery on the outskirts of town. It wasn't really a proper cemetery; it was a small lot in a clearing at the end of a little dirt path off the back roads leading into the woods and it had taken them a couple of tries to find it. It seemed to exist solely to house the crypt; there were no tombstones. There wasn't even a gate or any kind of a proper entrance. Just the dirt path off the road, not marked by any sign. The clearing was overgrown with weeds as tall as Buffy's head.

The crypt itself was unremarkable. Buffy had seen a lot of crypts and although the first couple were a little exciting because of the creaky old stone doors and the sarcophagi and the general dark musty eerieness, they'd gotten boring pretty quickly; now they all just looked like stone boxes to Buffy. Big boxes, little boxes...they were all pretty much the same, and this one was no exception. It was on the smaller side, dark and musty; the air was stale. It apparently hadn't been entered in a very long time. It contained four sarcophagi, a big stone crucifix, an unlit torch in a wall sconce, two urns, a tattered old Bible, the Glove of Myneghon, and Lagos, who was lying dead on the floor in front of Buffy because Angel had cut off his head with a battle-axe.

Lagos was tall and thin, with a face like a skull, brown, mottled skin, purple eyes, black lips, long fangs, and horns like a ram. He wore a long purple cape, a look which Buffy didn't think he was pulling off very well. He had come at Buffy with a sword, and he was good with the sword; but Buffy was too fast for him and she dodged him until he was in the perfect position for Angel to behead him with one swing of his battle-axe.

They still had the old moves, Buffy thought, as she looked down at what was left of Lagos. She and Angel still moved around each other in perfect harmony as they fought, anticipating each other's moves without speaking or even having to think about it, watching each other's backs, setting Lagos up, and then knocking him down. When she was with Angel, Buffy felt invincible.

"He didn't smell too good either," Angel said. "Anyway, we got the glove." He brought the glove over to Buffy, and she took it from him, and looked at it. It was a long metal gauntlet with sharp spikes shaped like stylized lightning bolts sticking out from the sides and at each knuckle.

"Don't put it on," Angel said, as he wiped yellow blood off his battle-axe, using Lagos' cape. "Once you put it on it can't be taken off."

"I don't have a single thing in my wardrobe that goes with it anyway," Buffy said, and gave it back to him. "That's a hell of a battle-axe. It's even bigger and shinier than your other battle-axe."

"I'm fond of it," Angel said, as they walked out of the crypt.

They didn't talk much, on the drive back. Buffy had turned the radio on, and looked straight out at the road.

Buffy knew he didn't want to be with her anymore. He hadn't said it, but she knew he'd decided it.

Maybe he was right.

As they got close to her house, Buffy had him stop at the end of the street.

"You want me to drop you here?" Angel said.

"Yeah," Buffy said. "Faith's over the house."

He nodded. He looked at her...she looked out at the street.

"Do I get a kiss goodnight at least?" Buffy said.

"Yeah," Angel said.

They kissed.

His kisses used to crackle through her. She used to get wet, when she kissed him. She didn't, this time. It wasn't just that he was holding back a little.

Buffy wasn't sure what it was. It was strange.

"Good night," Angel said.

"Good night," Buffy said.

She didn't get out of the car. She looked straight ahead, at the deserted street. It had gotten cold. She shivered, a little.

He put his arm around her.

"It was a perfect night, wasn't it?" Buffy said.

"Yeah," Angel said. "It was."

She looked at him.

"Kiss me once more before I go," Buffy said. "Make it a great one."

He kissed her.

It didn't crackle through her.

It was strange...

She looked at him. He looked beautiful...he always did. But Buffy thought Faith was even more beautiful.

And then, for the first time in her life, Buffy understood herself.

When Buffy got home Faith was in her nightgown in the living room watching TV.

"How'd it go?" Faith said.

Buffy held up the Glove of Myneghon.

"Got what I was looking for," Buffy said.

"The hell is that thing?" Faith said.

"The Glove of Mini-golf."

"The Glove of Mini-golf?"

"Mini something. I forget. I'll bring it to Giles and Willow tomorrow and they can destroy it."

"Let me see?"

Buffy tossed the glove to her.

"Don't put it on," Buffy said. "Once you put it on it can't come off."

"What's it do?" Faith said.

"Shoots lightning."


"My Mom's not home," Buffy said, and sat on the couch with her.

"Called an hour ago, said she'd be back late. Sounded a little tipsy. I think more goes on at that book club than Joyce is letting on."

"They all drink wine and get wasted."

"They talk about books at all?"

"For like the first hour," Buffy said, and ran her fingers through Faith's hair. "Then they start talking about how men suck and they all get wasted. They did the club here one week, I saw the whole grisly spectacle."

Buffy knelt down in front of her, and rested her head in her lap.

Buffy had a tear in her eye now.

"Hey," Faith said, and took her in her arms. "What's wrong?"

"I'm just...in a weird mood, baby," Buffy said.

Faith didn't really know what to do. She was angry with Buffy...Buffy had lied to her tonight, and she wondered how many other lies there had been. She felt like Buffy had betrayed her. Cheated on her. She'd been thinking about what she should do, how she should be, when Buffy got home. She hadn't been able to decide. But that tear in Buffy's eye decided for her.

Faith held her in her arms.

"Tell me what's wrong, honey," Faith whispered. "Let me make it better."

"Just...kiss me, baby?" Buffy said. "Kiss me, and make it a great one."

Faith kissed her.

Buffy felt it crackling through her...

Faith was a little distant, the rest of that night, and the next day: whenever Buffy wanted to lie down with her, she seemed to find excuses not to. When they started kissing, Faith was always the one who stopped first. Buffy didn't understand it...

She sat at the table Sunday night, and ate the peanut butter and jelly sandwich Joyce had made for her because dinner had been meat loaf and Buffy hadn't eaten much of it. Faith was in the bathroom.

"You didn't have to make this for me," Buffy said.

"I'm your mother," Joyce said. "Of course I did."

Buffy smiled.

"I don't hate your meat loaf," Buffy said.

"Yes, you do," Joyce said, and smiled.

"Faith likes it."

"How is she?"

"She's good. Are you sure I'm not adopted and Faith's not like, your actual long-lost daughter?"

Joyce kissed Buffy's cheek.

"You're my daughter," Joyce said. "No one else could annoy me the way you do."

"I practice," Buffy said. "I come up with like, little routines. Can I ask you something huge and like, you're probably gonna be freaked out but I need to ask you anyway?"

"Sure. You can't get a tattoo and you can't skip your first year of college to find yourself."

"Can I have a pony?"


"Faith's...living in that motel," Buffy said, looking down at the table. "And she doesn't have a job and...she's got money? Like, enough to keep her afloat there for a few months, but..."

"Do you want her to live here?" Joyce said.

"Could she?" Buffy said.

"Yes," Joyce said.

"Well that was easy. How come that was so easy? That was totally easier than all the times I ask you if I can get a tattoo."

"You can't ever get a tattoo. I like Faith. And I don't like her living in that cheap motel, in that lousy neighborhood. And someone should eat my meat loaf."

Buffy got up out of her chair, and hugged her.

"I love you, Mom," Buffy said.

"I know, Buffy," Joyce said. "I love you too. So when are you going to ask her?"

"She's not in trouble yet, she's got money to last awhile. And Faith's... complicated. She's proud. I have to do this just right. She can't feel like..."

Buffy let her senses reach out. Faith was still upstairs.

"She can't feel like it's charity," Buffy said. "If she feels like we're just feeling bad for her she'll bail."

"You should ask her soon," Joyce said. "I don't like her in that motel."

"How come you like her so much?" Buffy said. "I mean...I don't mean that like, you shouldn't like her, I'm psyched that you like her, but...I'm just curious, I guess."

"You know, that's a good question," Joyce said. "I guess...she just seems like a sister for you. Maybe because you're both Slayers, maybe you two have a connection that I can kind of sense. I always wanted you to have a sister, you know. And that's the way she feels to me. Like a little sister for you."

"I always wanted a little sister too. How come I never got one?"

"I don't know. Your father wasn't as far up the ladder at work then as he would be later, and I was staying at home raising you before I went in on the art gallery. We only had your father's income. And I guess...life just...got in the way. By the time we were comfortable enough financially, by the time we'd bought the house in Los Angeles and the art gallery was successful, things between your father and I...well...we had problems."

"You always raised me. I always felt loved, always felt like I wasn't missing anything. Even after he left, I never felt like I was missing anything. You're an awesome Mom. You're the best Mom in the world."

"Thank you. Did you lose another pair of my earrings? Are you preemptively laying the groundwork for another earring confession?"

"No," Buffy said, and giggled. "But I was thinking about asking if I could get a tattoo again."

"Absolutely not," Joyce said.

"Just a little one. A little one on my ankle. It wouldn't even be bad. It would be like, a flower, or maybe some Chinese thing."

"It would just be a little one?" Joyce said. "And you promise it wouldn't be obnoxious?"

Buffy's eyes lit up. "You totally have my word," she said. "Cross my heart, hope to die. It would be the smallest, nicest little thing and you would never even notice it."

Joyce smiled.

"Hmm. Well let me think about that...no," Joyce said.

Buffy looked like someone had put coal in her Christmas stocking. Joyce started laughing, and hugged her.

"I'm sorry honey, I just couldn't resist," Joyce said. "The look on your face was priceless."

"I'm adopted," Buffy said. "I just totally know I'm adopted."

"I'm your real mother, Buffy," Joyce said. "No one else could annoy you the way I do."

"Don't wanna freak you out but we got a little problem here," Faith said.

She was walking through the mall with Buffy two days later. They had just come out of Bloomingdale's and they had been all smiles: Buffy had a big Bloomingdale's bag full of thirty-percent off swag and Faith had managed to swipe a gorgeous little top; she put it on under her sweater. She'd been slick about it too; she'd stolen one of those devices they use to remove the magnetic tags a week before; it was like having the Keys to the City. She figured she was good to go and she felt footloose and fancy free...

But then a security guy followed them out of the store, talking on his walkie-talkie, and Faith noticed two more security guys at the other end of the mall heading in their direction, and Faith knew she had a situation. She couldn't hit them. She couldn't ever hurt an innocent person.

Rebecca would be ashamed of her if she did...

She'd rather get caught and spend time in jail for shoplifting than make Rebecca ashamed of her.

Still, the best plan was to not make Rebecca ashamed of her and to not spend time in jail. So she tried to locate the nearest exit in the few seconds she had before it all went south.

"What? What's wrong? Vamps?" Buffy said, and looked around.

"Not vamps," Faith said. The mall was crowded: it was Saturday afternoon and it was packed with giggling teenagers. Up ahead of them at the intersection there was a big crowd gathered around a couple of sweet Porsches. There was some kind of prize drawing going on; a guy in a bad suit holding a microphone in his hand was talking about twenty lucky winners who would get keys and have a chance to see if their keys started the cars, and there were hundreds of people there, all whooping and hollering and clapping and excited. Faith remembered there was an exit around the corner from the cars, down the hallway on the right. She looked around, casually. There were four security guys now, two behind and two in front. They'd reach her in about twenty seconds. "Okay, confession time," Faith said. "I shoplifted a top and four mall security guys are following us, two in front and two behind."

"What?" Buffy hissed. "Why?"

"How about we talk it out later and right now we get the hell out of here," Faith said. She had to give Buffy credit. Buffy was still walking casually, not turning around, playing it cool.

"I don't frigging believe this," Buffy muttered, her face red. "You got a plan?"

"Yeah. There's an exit around the corner to the right of the cars, at the end of that hall. We run. Ready?"

"Whatever," Buffy said, and they started running.

"Okay, that's far enough," Faith said.

They stopped running. They were at the far end of a softball park and the mall was four blocks back. There was no sign of the security guys. Faith bet they had probably given up before they even made it out of the parking lot. Arresting people was one thing; having to chase them down was another and mall security guys didn't make the kind of money that inspired them to go the extra mile.

"Feel like telling me what the hell you were thinking?" Buffy said.

"I don't know," Faith said. "I just...kinda liked the top."

"Yeah? Well I don't like feeling like a fucking thief!" Buffy screamed. "For all I know they've got me on tape there now, for all I know I can't shop anymore there now! What the hell is wrong with you?"

"They...they don't have you on tape," Faith said. "I made sure not to change in the changing room or anywhere near cameras. And even if there was a camera I missed, I made sure you weren't with me when I put the top on. Worst case they got me on tape, but not you."

"Great," Buffy said, as they started walking. It was after sunset now, and they were due at her house for dinner. "So you're a thief."

"Yeah," Faith said, and just looked straight in front of her, into the gathering darkness, her face red. "Guess I am. Guess I'm a lot of stuff."

They walked on in silence for a moment.

"You're not a thief," Buffy eventually said.

"Wearing the evidence," Faith said. "Under my sweater."

"Okay, you screwed up, okay?" Buffy said. "And...I blew up at you and I'm sorry. You're not a thief. You just made a dumb move."

"Look, I'm gonna...I'm gonna head back to my motel, okay?" Faith said. "I'm...kinda beat. Tell Joyce...I don't know. I'll catch her next time."

"No," Buffy said.

"No? No what?" Faith said.

"I...don't want you to skip out on dinner," Buffy said. "I want you to have dinner with us. Yeah okay, I blew up at you and embarrassed you and I'm sorry. I guess you're a little pissed at me and I know I'm a little pissed at you. But that's all it is. It's something we'll both forget about by tomorrow. I want you to have dinner with me and my Mom. I don't want you back in that motel tonight. I don't like you in there. I want you having dinner with me and then I want us to patrol afterwards like we planned."

"Look, that's nice and all but--" Faith said.

"Okay, I'm getting deja vu here," Buffy said. "Remember our first night? We were both a little pig-headed. How about we skip that part and cut to us both just chilling out and being reasonable this time."

Buffy took her hand.

"Faith," she said. "I'm sorry, okay? I was just pissed, I didn't mean it. I want you to have dinner with me, I don't like you in that motel all alone. Please?"

"Buffy..." Faith said. She couldn't look at her. "I need to be apologizing, not you. I...embarrassed you and almost got you in trouble and I'm sorry."

Buffy gently turned Faith toward her, so she could look at her, and smiled.

"Then make it up to me," she said. "Have dinner with me."

Dinner had been going well. Faith was still a little uncomfortable around Joyce but she was making strides with it and she was pretty sure Joyce hadn't noticed. Things had started out quiet because of what happened at the mall but Buffy had been slowly chipping away at Faith's mood and Faith had allowed it, letting her guard down as the night went on. Dinner was chicken and Joyce made a good chicken, and then they had all laughed when Buffy told the story of Xander and the giant praying mantis lady, and Faith had even gotten Joyce to blush when she mentioned that she thought Giles was cute. Joyce looked like Buffy when she blushed. Faith found herself having a good time.

And then on the way out of the bathroom Faith overheard Joyce talking to Buffy about how Buffy could take off for college out of state after graduation, and Faith could hang around Sunnydale and take over as the Slayer.

"You're going to fill out all those college applications, right?" Faith heard Joyce say.

"Yeah, I'll fill them all out this week," Faith heard Buffy say.

"I think you'll like going away to school, and being somewhere new," Faith heard Joyce say. "It'll be like an adventure. And with Faith here, Sunnydale will be okay."

"Yeah," Faith heard Buffy say.

As Faith stood at the top of the stairs, listening, she knew she really couldn't blame Joyce. It's not like Faith had anything better to do; Buffy had a future and she didn't. That's just the way it was. Buffy was smart and she wasn't. Buffy had a Mom who loved her and she didn't. No reason for Buffy to spend her life shoveling shit against the Hellmouth tide when there was a dumb girl who couldn't do anything but fight and shoplift just hanging around...

"You were quiet tonight," Buffy said.

They were patrolling through a cemetery on the east side of town; Faith didn't remember its name. It looked like all the rest anyway. Still, Faith knew she should probably pay attention. This was going to be her life, after Buffy left her.

There was no moon. The sky was black. The weather was turning cold.

"Dinner was good. Joyce is nice," Faith said. She thought she should probably reach out with her senses, tune into her nose. But she didn't really see a reason to bother. If there were vampires, they'd find her and come at her. And then they'd die or she would. Same as every other day. And then one day one of them would kill her, and then there'd be some other girl, some other Watcher...

"You're still pissed at me," Buffy said.

"I'm not pissed at you," Faith said.

"Then what is it?"

"I'm just...feelin' kinda quiet I guess. Joyce didn't think I was rude, did she? I mean, it's nice of her, having me over. She's a great Mom."

"No. She just thought you were a little shy tonight, that's all."

They stopped in front of a crypt, and sat on two big marble urns.

"Faith, I don't know how many times you want me to say it," Buffy said. "I'm sorry I called you a thief, I just...I lost my temper. I didn't mean it. I don't know what to do to get you to believe me."

"Already told you, I'm not pissed at you," Faith said.

"Then what is it?"

"Nothing. Look...you've shown me around all the cemeteries pretty good, I can take it from here."

"What? What do you mean?"

"I mean y'know, patrolling. You don't have to hold my hand anymore. I can take it from here. Figure from now on, if you wanna patrol or whatever, we can coordinate, like, you do one section of town, I do the other. Kind of a waste of resources, us always being together all the time. I mean, there are probably vamps we could bag that we're missing, people we could save that we're missing by not separating. We'd cover more ground separate."

"What is this?" Buffy said, and stood up. "You don't...you don't want to be with me anymore?"

"I just mean...it's...more efficient," Faith said. "We split up, cover more ground, save more lives maybe."

"Yeah. You know what? I've been saying I'm sorry all frigging day and I'm tired of it," Buffy said, looking away from her, her face red. "I'm not the one who stole that top, I'm not the one who got us into this. So you wanna be pissed at me forever about this? You don't...don't wanna be with me anymore over some little bullshit thing like this? Fine."

"Buffy...c'mon, that's not..." Faith called out, as Buffy stormed away.

"I guess you never really...never really liked me in the first place then," Buffy said, her voice shaky, and walked away.

A moment later Buffy marched right back at her.

"This isn't fair!" Buffy shouted. "It isn't fair how you're...how you're totally holding this over my head like this! I said I was sorry like a hundred times and you won't even talk to me! Why did you even shoplift that stupid fucking thing in the first place?! You've got three-thousand dollars! Why did...?"

Buffy suddenly stopped talking. She looked down at the ground.

Then she walked away from Faith, and sat back down.

"You don't have three-thousand dollars," Buffy said. "Whenever we've gone out to eat lately you've been ordering the cheapest stuff, dollar menu stuff. Every time. I could tell you were hungrier than that. Whenever my Mom's cooked lately you've been eating as much food as my Mom could heap on your plate. Because you're hungry, aren't you? Budgeting your money's one thing, but there's no way you'd let yourself go without eating just to save a few bucks. Your money ran out awhile back, didn't it? I'm an idiot. I should've seen it."

Faith looked out at the cemetery. She saw her life there, stretching out in front of her. She wondered if she'd beat the odds...if she'd make it past nineteen. What was the point anyway?

Always more vampires. Always another girl.

"How much money do you have left?" Buffy said.

"I got money," Faith said.

"Great," Buffy said. "So now you're lying to me too."

"You mean lying on top of stealing?" Faith said.

"And it comes up yet again. There should be a drinking game maybe."

They looked out at the cemetery.

"I took you to all those great fabulous stores and you could never afford to buy a single thing and you kept smiling through it," Buffy said.

"You made me smile," Faith said.

"How much money do you have left?" Buffy said.

"Look, don't worry about me, okay?" Faith said. "I gotta go. From now on we should...we should split up our patrols, take different sections of town. It's just more efficient. We'll save more people."

Faith stood up. She didn't look at Buffy.

"I mean, that's the job, right? That's why we're out here," Faith said. "So y'know, let's do the job. I need to get a feel for the town myself now, you've showed me around enough. I got any questions I'll ask. Look, I'm gonna take off, okay? Nothin' doin' out here tonight. Take it easy, I'll catch ya later."

And Faith walked away...and left Buffy alone, looking out at the cemetery...at her life, stretching out in front of her...

Part 17

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