DISCLAIMER: Buffy the Vampire Slayer & Angel the syndicated series and all other characters who have appeared in both shows are the sole property of Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy & UPN. All other characters, the story idea and the story itself are the sole property of the author. This story cannot be sold or used for profit in any way. Copies of this story may be made for private use only and must include all disclaimers and copyright notices. All song lyrics are used without permission and for my own amusement. There is no intention to profit from them in this work or to defraud the composers and publishers.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: All works remain the © copyright of the original author. These may not be republished without the author's consent.
Thanks for all their help must go to three wonderfully talented women who I am honoured to consider friends: Michele, whose magical work "Complement" turns all who read it into abject Fuffy 'shippers and inspired me to write. Carola, who writes so many things so well, gave me great advice and then was kind enough to tell me this wasn't all bad and insisted I write some more. And finally Amanda who was the first to read this and say she liked it, and whose wonderful "Back to the Beginning" made me so mad I had to write to her and tell her so. It's funny how friendships start.
SPOILERS: Series 3 and 4, (What do you mean you haven't seen them yet?)
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

Would She Make of Me
By Kevin

Chapter Seven

Lying in her bed that morning after Buffy left, Faith had never been so confused. On the one hand she had never felt safer or more content. On the other, the woman who had tried to kill her, who she wanted to hate and whose life she had tried to make a misery was the sole cause of her safety and contentment. Even the anger that had served her so well in the past wasn't there. She just couldn't feel anger at Buffy Summers any more. Christ knows she tried. The problem was, the more she tried, the more the other feelings, feelings she'd tried to suppress, came flooding back. What was even worse was that one girl, simply wanting to hold her hand and then kissing her goodbye, had quickly and effectively dampened her permanent rage at herself.

Of course the rest of the world could still go and fuck itself. She hadn't really needed The Boss's generous supply of crystal meth to maintain that particular feeling, though the speed had done a wicked job of sharpening that and everything else up. For a while it had made her feel capable of anything, even killing that old professor, one of the few things she'd done that still gave her nightmares. His death was the only one she honestly felt ashamed about. He was an innocent who had had no idea of the level of shit he was in. To make matters worse, she had realised later that killing him had only been a test of her loyalty, set by Dicky boy. She had been used again and it rankled.

She deeply regretted killing Finch but that had been a pure accident, though again she did feel some shame, this time for trying to pass the blame onto B, that had been stupid. She should have known no one would believe her.

While she was with the Boss stuff like this hadn't bothered her. He kept telling her everything she did was right and the white powder had helped make everything she did seem so logical. But funnily enough, now she came to think about it, after her enforced cold turkey she didn't miss the speed at all even with all the soul searching she found herself doing. With her Slayer senses the world seemed to be in sharp enough focus already and since that strange blood thing with B, those had strengthened even more. Colours seemed clearer, sounds and, surprisingly, scents more distinct. She could even smell the Obsession the ward nurse was wearing at reception, through the closed door of her room. And then there was the bundle of feelings and thoughts in her head, the ones that weren't hers. She knew instinctively that they must be B's, because some of them were too like her own to be anyone else's.

She'd dreamt the night before about fighting and feeling horny afterwards and with her new insight she realised that must have been Buffy's fight and need. She snickered, "Oooh B you bad girl, so you do get the hungry-hornys then. You're just like me after all Blondie, I knew that low fat yoghurt didn't really get down and dirty enough for you. I just wish you'd told me, we coulda had so much fun."

Feeling some unaccustomed guilt she then concentrated on Buffy. She had to know if it was all real or, as was more likely, just Buffy's nasty, fucked up game. Seconds later she pulled back her thoughts, shocked to the core. Then she smiled. She felt like singing and weeping all at once. It was real. It wasn't a trap or a mindfuck, Buffy really didn't want to kill her. She also now knew the other slayer actually felt a fierce, possessive, unconditional protectiveness of her Faith. That anyone, but especially Buffy could feel that way instead of homicidal about her made her feel like dancing.

The dark eyes suddenly went very round, "Her Faith? Uh, uh, no way. Oh no, I'm no-ones Faith, not hers, not fuckin' anybody's."

As the reflexive denials danced through her mind an old, bitter memory followed them that still burned like the battery acid her crackhead mother had once tried to drip onto her back to see if it would make pretty patterns.

She hadn't wanted to be anyone's Faith since the day she'd turned thirteen and she had accidentally found out why her father had always stopped her mother from doing anything that would permanently mark her. Her loving father had always planned to sell her and his standing customer didn't want used goods.

The buyer had been Martha Riordan, a powerful Southside madam who catered to rich chickenhawks who couldn't do their own hunting. That transaction had been the final, soul destroying betrayal in a long list, leaving her with a bone-deep hatred for the man and women who had done it and the world that let it happen. The heat of this hatred sustained her when she had run from her home and lost herself in the Zone instead of meekly going along with her asshole father like he thought she would.

Over the months until she literally ran into Imogen, her first Watcher, her shadowy existence in Boston's Combat Zone was made safer and lots simpler by just making a habit out of hating everybody and using them before they used her. In the Zone everyone wanted to use you, eventually. It was a state of mind that had been far too easy to go back to in Sunnydale when the shit hit the fan.

But now everything had changed. She had read enough of Buffy's feelings to know that finally someone didn't want to use her. Someone wanted to protect and help her just because it was her who needed it. Faith was also clear on one other thing. The older Slayer would help her whether she wanted it or not. She felt a momentary flare of resentment at B that quickly burned out under the weight of the new-found feelings of security and, she realised with amazement, the start of happiness. She hadn't felt happy in so long, she'd forgotten what it was like. Faith suddenly decided that she liked it and wanted to keep it. If letting Buffy help her was the price, "well", she thought with a wicked grin, "I suppose I've put up with worse things than a beautiful blonde wanting to nurse me. I wonder if she does bed baths and manicures."

Another thought struck her then. "If I can read B, she can read me. Yeah she must be able to, she came back and kissed me goodbye before when, when I..." Faith couldn't even finish that thought in her own head, 'when I wanted her to'. "Oh shit. Oh fuck. No secrets now B, I know the real you and now you know me..." Again the thought spluttered out, "what if B really does know me now and decides to change her mind? What if...." A nurse and doctor coming into her room derailed her spiralling train of thought, the nurse carrying the makings of a sponge bath and a fresh bowl of the same Jell-O crap that she had puked straight back up again earlier. God, she hated hospitals.

As the nurse organised her bath and the doctor tested muscle tone and reflexes and finally removed the catheter, IV and EEG and ECG cables, Faith's mind cycled back to her first question of the morning; why was Buffy doing all this? Even the effort of finally keeping down some Jell-O at lunchtime (all the while wishing it was a nice blood rare steak) through a simple refusal to let it back up couldn't stop her obsessive thinking. It also failed to kill the dawning hope that it was more than just guilt and duty driving the other girl. "I wish she was here now", thought the dark Slayer longingly, and then she mentally smacked herself upside the head for her weakness.

In his hi-tech cell deep under Sunnydale University, Hostile 17 was asking himself the same question tormenting the bed-ridden brunette. Two soldiers keying open his cell door and dragging him out, interrupted his musings. He'd found early on that fighting back gave him an agonising headache so he just let them march him to a small office along the corridor. He was secured wrist and ankle to a metal chair in front of a large desk and then the two soldiers took up station either side of the door. Hostile 17 relaxed. He recognised the setup and realised that the only thing wanted from him this time was information. He'd just sat back to wait for his interrogator when the door opened and an elegant if severe looking brunette walked in and sat in the chair behind the desk, facing him.

Maggie Walsh was in a good mood. She knew deep in her gut that the final answers she was seeking were in this room. The abstract of the case notes she'd just received from the private clinic in LA had made fascinating reading and even Riley Finn's initial failure to get any information on this friend the Summers girl was visiting in hospital had been revealing. Whatever had put her in hospital had been no accident, going by the amount of security around her.

Looking at the oddly cocky looking, platinum blonde thing sitting in front of her, she knew that Buffy Summers' secret was about to be hers. First things first though.

"Agent Finn? Any problems with our guest?"

Riley stood to attention. "No ma'am. The HST was most co-operative."

"Good. Good. All right lets get started. Hostile 17," she was interrupted by the prisoner.

"Oi you stuck-up bint, I've got me a name yanno" he protested in a faint East London accent.

Maggie sighed and motioned Finn back. "Fine, you have a name, what is it?"


"Thank you". Then she continued on in a pleasant conversational tone, "Now if you ever refer to me as anything other than ma'am again, I'll have the nice agent here break both your legs. Is that clear?"

"Yeah it's clear" muttered Spike.

The professor smiled coldly. "Glad to hear it. Now I want you to answer some questions for me. You said something when you first got here to another HST" She looked through a file, "ah here it is. 'I always worried what would happen when that bitch got some funding'. I assume the quote is accurate, ah, Spike."

The blond vampire looked a bit chagrined as he realised that his cell was bugged. "Yeah it's accurate. So what?"

Maggie smiled at him again. "Well I know you weren't referring to me when you said it as I doubt you knew I even existed, so who precisely were you referring to?"

A look of low cunning crept over Spike's features. "What's it worth to tell you?"

The woman's smile got a fraction colder. "How does your miserable existence sound? You tell me what I want to know now and you get to survive, possibly even leave here."

Spike took one look at her face and decided she wasn't bluffing. After 126 years of feeding on humans, like any good hunter he'd gotten to know his prey pretty well and he knew that this woman would kill him out of hand if he pissed her off. Since he wanted another 126 years of happy meals on legs and because the thought of that stuck up bitch Summers being owned by this lot appealed to him, he decided to tell her exactly what she wanted to know. "The bitch's name is Buffy Summers..." He stopped at the look of surprised triumph on his interrogator's face. She waved at him to carry on. "She's the Slayer, 'the one chosen above all others to fight the evil yadda, yadda, yadda' for all the good it'll do ya. Cos let me warn ya, she's bloody dangerous, even for a Slayer. I've killed 2 others so I should know." The last was said with a definite sense of pride.

Maggie slumped back in her chair. "The Slayer! She's a myth, a legend out of some old book, you're lying."

Spike looked panicked. "No, No! I'm tellin' the truth. Buffy-Fuckin-Summers is the bloody Slayer. Look I'm a vampire, I should know and I got no reason to lie to you, at least not about this. I 'ate the li'le tight arsed bitch."

"The Slayer," repeated Maggie softly. Then she turned to Riley Finn who was standing there with a look of complete confusion on his face. He'd never seen her so lost for words. "Agent Finn will you and your colleague please escort our guest back to his cell and then return here. We'll decide what to do with him later."

As he was hustled to his feet, a brief thought of escape crossed Spike's mind but the remembered pain from last time changed it for him. He then turned to the Professor. "Remember you said you might let me go" he whined.

Maggie just looked at him as the two soldiers hurried the vampire out of the room.

When Riley Finn returned to the office a few minutes later, he found Maggie Walsh still sitting in the same position with the same astonished smile. His concern made him a bit blunter than protocol allowed. "OK Professor, what's happening? What's a Slayer, why do I think it starts with a Capital "S", how does this affect Buffy Summers, why is she so important and why are you losin' it all of a sudden?"

Maggie shook her head to clear it and stood up. "Come with me," she snapped, "and I'll show you how much the Slayer means."

She then stood and walked out of the room, while Riley collected the files and then followed her to an elevator at the end of the corridor.

They both stood silently as they travelled quickly back up to the surface and Prof. Walsh's faculty office.

As soon as the elevator doors slid open, and leaving her subordinate to pull the fake section of wall across to hide them, Maggie went immediately to her bookshelf, pulled down a very old, very large volume and quickly found the page she wanted. She then called Riley over. "Here's why she is so important. This book is 500 years old. It's a copy of one written centuries earlier than that and it's about The Slayer." Then she started to quote.

"'In every generation there is a Chosen One. She alone will stand against the vampires, the demons and the forces of darkness. She is the Slayer. Into each generation a Slayer is born, one girl in all the world, a Chosen One, one born with the strength and skill to hunt the vampires, to stop the spread of their evil.' She is very special Riley and more than important. Now do you understand why she defeated you and Forrest so easily? You were right, she is born to fight." Her expression grew sombre. "Poor, poor, girl. This book is a compendium of legends Agent, legends about a mystical superhuman female warrior known as The Slayer. Can you guess how they all end Riley?"

The young soldier shook his head blankly.

"The Slayer always dies, she's always young and alone when she does and it's usually at the hands of the monsters she was forced to fight. All these legends have another common theme as well. The Slayer never has a choice. She has to fight, whether she wants to or not and she always knows she's going to die doing it. Until we encountered Buffy Summers and read her patient file from the clinic in LA, I'd always thought that that's what these stories were, just legends and wish fulfilment like Superman or those other comic book heroes you and Forrest continually read about. Now I know differently. It turns out she was committed for claiming she could see vampires and demons and that they were trying to kill her."

Riley looked a bit ashamed at his reading habits being caught out. "But Professor how, why, she can't be… she's so small and pretty…"

Prof. Walsh overrode his stuttering as she started putting all the information she had together. "The same reason we're here Riley, the dimensional portal under the old high school. She's here to stop or kill anything getting out. We know Sunnydale is a hotspot of HST activity and we know why, that's why we're here after all. Now if we could recruit her, what an asset she could be. Our missions aren't totally dissimilar and we could provide her with the resources she needs to survive a lot longer than she otherwise would. She's a living legend Riley. Just think of the potential data we could get from studying her and her activities."

"You sure she's not a..."

Maggie again interrupted. "No. She's human enough. The myths all agree on that. Although while they describe the Slayer as being much stronger, faster, more resilient and with more acute senses than a normal human being they don't go into how she gets her power. Frankly, I strongly doubt she knows herself. There'll be a metaphysical component involved somewhere, I'm sure, but what it is is anyone's guess. I also strongly doubt anybody could replicate it. This is a process that's been going on unbroken for thousands of years if this book is any guide and I wouldn't want to disrupt it unnecessarily in any way. In the meantime we need to make this girl even more of a priority. If she's working for us there's less chance of her interrupting something by accident and with her skills and experience she'd make a very good operative." The tall brunette shut the book she was still holding and put it down on her desk with a decisive bang.

"Get moving Riley, I want a full collated dossier on Buffy Summers on my desk within two hours. I want her full history, financial and legal records, familial status, everything. Oh and that HST, Spike, I want him given a complete battery of physiological and psychological tests and then let him go. I want to see if there's anything special about him that could have helped him kill two Slayers. Then I want to see what he does after he's out of here. I want him watched and tracked. We can always pick him up again if we need him." Then she added casually, "keep this between us for now. I'll inform the rest of the team when she joins us."

Riley stood for a second. "Um Professor, I'm supposed to be meeting her and her friends at a local club tonight at 2100. Willow Rosenberg seems keen for me to ah, hit on Buffy. Do you want me to pull out?"

Maggie's tone was brusque. "No of course not, it's an ideal chance for you to observe Ms Summers more closely. Attend by all means and if you can attract her interest, that would be a bonus. Remember do not reveal our more professional interest in her. Any offer to Ms Summers will come from me. Also remember that Ms Rosenberg seems to know about what the Summers girl actually is and she may be more useful as an information source. "

"What if she refuses to, um, join us?"

Maggie just smiled at him. "We'll just make her an offer she can't refuse Agent. Now, dismissed. You've got a file to collate and a date to get ready for."

Riley saluted and walked quickly out.

His superior then sunk into her office chair, put her elbows on the desk and put her chin on her clasped hands. The sombre look was back. "And if that doesn't work, well the legends all agree, the Slayer dies just like anyone else."

The Slayer in question sat at a table in the College cafeteria that lunchtime, trying desperately to muster some enthusiasm for her usual salad sandwich. Not only was the bread soggy, the green salad limp and the dressing smelling of too much white vinegar, there also seemed to be something missing. She consoled herself with the thought that at least she was better off than poor Faith having to force down Jell-O and took a bite. Her newly enhanced sense of smell had not betrayed her; there was too much vinegar in the dressing, but she was hungry enough that it didn't matter and took another bite. She was just deciding whether hunger was the better option when Willow, accompanied by a taller, attractive blonde girl dressed even more unfashionably than the redhead, came up to her table. Buffy smiled in greeting, "Hi Will" and looked enquiringly at her companion.

Willow blushed. "Hi Buff, this is Tara. We met this morning at that Wiccan group meeting I mentioned. Tara this is my best friend Buffy that I was telling you about."

With her hair hanging down and covering most of her face, Tara shyly lifted her head slightly and gave Buffy a very quiet "Hi."

Buffy smiled back. "You guys wanna join me and witness the ritual torture of my taste buds? I knew this sandwich was a mistake when I got it but..." suddenly she sniffed the air. "Hmmm that smells better, what is it?" She looked over to the counter and saw one of the counter staff dropping a large tray of cooked burger patties in the warmer. With a hurried "grab a seat guys" she headed quickly over to the counter and got three of the blood rare lumps of minced beef and brought them back to the table. To Willow's shocked amazement she stuffed one in her mouth and started chewing happily while inserting the other two in the remains of her salad sandwich. "Hmmm that's better. I wondered what was missing." She caught sight of Willow's still open mouth and swallowing quickly, demanded "what, did I spill some or something? Have I got blood on my top? You'd tell me right?"

Her vegetarian friend shook her head and looked pointedly at Buffy's plate, "since when did you become carnivorous beastie monster? I've seen Oz eat beef with less um less um...meat than that." and she trailed off darting a sidelong glance at her new friend.

Buffy looked at her plate like it was the first time she'd seen it. "Uh I did go a bit T Rex didn't I? Forget it" and she pushed her plate to one side while absently pulling another piece of meat patty out of her sandwich and munching on it. "What happened at the Wicca group? Learn any good spells?"

Willow looked disgusted while Tara gave what sounded suspiciously like a giggle. "No Buffy we did not learn any good spells. It's not that sort of group, in fact it's just a buncha blessed wannabes going on and on about their next cake stall."

Buffy feigned a shocked look. "Oooooh harsh much, there's my honest, feisty, witchy Willow talking. Hey Tara, was it really that lame or is Wills here doing the exaggeration for effect thing?"

Tara shyly shook her head. "N, n, no, I, I, it was not what I e, e, e, expected either. But they are t,t,trying."

Willow looked sceptical, "yeah very trying. Buff, Tara here has done some real magic, she's promised that we can get together and practice spells and stuff and with you moving back home for awhile, do you have a problem with us, Tara and me I mean, using our room?"

Buffy shot to her feet. "No that's cooler than a cool thing Will. Sorry gotta go, you reminded me I'm bad Miss not-ring-home-person. I've gotta phone and tell Mom and Giles that Faith's awake. And visiting hours start soon and I want to see if I can get Faith walking today. TTFN Will, See ya tonight at the Bronze. Tara, nice to meet you." With that she was gone.

Tara looked at Willow. "I,i,i,is she always like that?"

Willow blushed and shook her head, "no, no she's, she isn't, she's just got a lot on her mind. Come on, lets get something to eat and get rid of this," as she looked distastefully at Buffy's abandoned plate.

Some time later a slightly out of breath Slayer knocked softly on the door of Faith Spencer's room and went quietly in. To her joy Faith was sitting up in bed holding the stuffed puppy, all tubes, cables and machines gone and Buffy caught a small smile on the other girl's face that had lit up when she came in.

"Hey you" she greeted Faith as she went and sat in the chair by the bed. Then it was Buffy's turn to smile delightedly as Faith put the puppy down and tentatively stretched out her hand to take one of Buffy's in her own. She gripped it firmly as she noticed B's smile widen even further and she felt the happiness radiate from the little blonde.

They sat there in comfortable silence for a long while, both peripherally aware of the medical staff coming to the door looking through the window and then leaving them alone again. Their primary attention was focussed on each other and the other girl's sense of peace and comfort as they held hands.

Then Faith gave an uncharacteristic sigh. "When can I get out of here B? I'm goin' nuts from boredom. The only highlight of my day was eating fuckin' Jell-O, for Chrissake. God, I wanted a thick juicy steak." She caught Buffy's open mouthed look, "what, I say something funny?"

Buffy seemed to mentally shake herself and replied a bit shakily, "was this about an hour or two ago?"

Faith looked puzzled, though she had a funny feeling she knew where this was going, "yeah."

Buffy's grip tightened a bit on Faith's hand and she started gently stroking the top of it with her thumb. "Um Fai'."

The dark girl plastered a patient expression on her face, "yeah B?"

"Um have you felt anything strange like feelings or moods or something in your head since we did that oath thing? Cos …" she continued on without giving Faith a chance to even open her mouth, "I have and I think they're yours. I sorta figured it out fully this morning and at lunch I really, really felt this craving for red rare meat and I usually won't touch it and if you do, feel it I mean, not crave lots of bleeding animal flesh that really grosses out your friends when you eat it and it tastes and smells so good..." she stopped at the grin on Faith's face. "I'm babbling aren't I?"

Faith's grin grew even wider. "Yeah and you're so cute when you do, much cuter than Red." Then Faith blushed when she realised what she said. The grin faded a bit. "I feel it too B. I dreamt about you fighting last night. Did you?"

Buffy merely nodded and continued stroking the other girl's hand.

Faith's grin grew positively lascivious "and I dreamt of what you did afterwards too B! I knew you were lying that time in the Bronze. You just wanted a low fat yoghurt huh? Huh? Ye-ah, riiiight. Aww you're even cuter when you blush. Anyway, I gotta tell ya B I could really get to like those dreams," purred the other Slayer.

Buffy blushed even harder, thankful that at least Faith didn't seem to know whom she had been thinking about at the time. "Yeah, well a girl can't live by low fat yoghurt alone can she?" Then more seriously, "Hiding from each other isn't an option anymore is it? I mean I always sorta knew where you were but this is different. I can feel what you're feeling now." her eyes then widened in amazement, "I can feel how much you like holding hands like this and you can feel how much I like it too. I can feel your fear of this all going away and you can feel the pain that causes me. Don't ever fear that Fai'. I won't leave you this time or ever again. You know I'm telling the truth don't you?"

The dark girl's grip tightened even more on Buffy's hand as she nodded, eyes glistening.

Sensing Faith's discomfort at showing so much vulnerability, Buffy decided to lighten the mood. "I can also feel" and she started to grin, "you absolutely need to get outta here."

Faith laughed a bit shakily. "Yeah you got that right B. The other stuff is between us right? I don't want anyone else to know about this connection or whatever. It might give us an edge. Hey why so happy, what did I say?"

The little blonde's smile got a bit watery, "you said 'give us' Fai'. And you didn't know you said it, it just came out."

Finding her hand still held by the other girl, Faith's first instinct to pull away was defeated, and then she realised she didn't want to pull away anymore. Her voice turned gruff and she dropped her eyes with embarrassment, "Aww don't go all Kumbayaya on me. Cos, well, yanno, it looks like I'm stuck with you at least until I'm fixed up and five by five again so it is us ain't it?"

Buffy wasn't fooled and Faith knew it, but the older Slayer let it go for now. "Yeah it is." Buffy knew also that Faith had caught the double meaning. "Now," she said briskly to give Faith a breather, lets see if we can get you outta this bed. Have you tried yet?"

Gratefully, Faith accepted the abrupt change in topic. "Nah the doc won't let me. Do you want me to try now?"

Buffy's answering grin as she stood up still gently holding Faith's hand was a bit evil. "Yeah, come on lazy bones. You lie in that bed anymore just eating the hospital food and your ass'll be too wide to fit through the door, let alone squeeze into those tight leather pants of yours."

Faith growled in mock outrage. "Well you like `em too B. Well are ya just going to stand there or am I getting some help?"

As Buffy let go the slender callused hand to move to help the other slayer up, she noticed the callous pattern matched her own and she was struck again by how alike they really were. Shaking her head to clear the thought she moved quickly to pull the light, green coverlet off Faith, and then helped her to slowly sit up. While Buffy supported her shoulders from the side, Faith carefully swung her legs to the edge of the bed so that she was sitting and held upright by the older girl's strong hands. Her legs dangled over the side of the mattress with her stocking covered feet nearly touching the floor.

Her head spun for a second and then cleared and she met Buffy's concerned gaze. "I can do this B. I gotta do this or I'll be eating that slop forever and I am so not using that fuckin' bedpan they've given me"

Buffy's expression mirrored her concern. "You sure Fai? You look a bit wobbleish still."

Faith's attempted smile was a bit crooked, "yeah B I'm five by five. Just help me to stand up."

Trusting in Buffy's help Faith got her feet on to the floor and with the blonde's supporting arm around her shoulders, she tried to put some weight onto her legs. Her knees buckled but Buffy's strength kept her from falling. The feel of the warmth of Buffy's skin through her thin surgical gown and on her bare arms, and the deep concern she felt from her companion gave Faith the resolve to try again. Carefully she straightened up and this time was able to stay erect. With Buffy still holding her, she took a tentative step away from the bed and then another. She motioned for Buffy to release her hold and then finally was standing on her own. She tried a step back, her legs started to tremble and suddenly she was falling, only to be caught in a gentle embrace and eased upright. She was so pleased at standing again she failed to note how she was standing in Buffy's tight embrace with her face buried in a fall of fragrant blonde hair against Buffy's neck. They stayed this way for several seconds before realisation hit them both and they pulled away slightly. Buffy spoke first. "Ookay that was pretty good for a first time. Fai, can you walk again if I help?"

A look of sheer stubbornness crossed Faith's face. "Five by five B. Just point me in a direction."

Over the next 30 minutes the dark Slayer learnt to walk again, both with Buffy acting as a crutch and then for a few steps on her own. Eventually Buffy called a halt when Faith started to stumble with fatigue, and helped her back to bed and a longish drink from the ever-present glass of Plasmalyte on the bedside stand.

Faith's expression was tired but happy, and with a shadow of her normal cocky grin, she gleefully crowed to her audience of one. " I did it B. I got on my feet and I fuckin' walked. I'm so outta here, and B?" Faith's grin turned into a shy smile, "thanks. For everything."

Buffy carefully reclaimed Faith's hand and smiled back. "It's been my pleasure to help ma'am", she drawled.

Faith's free hand began plucking at the cover. Nervously she asked the question that had been bugging her since she first woke up. "Why B? Why're you helping me? Why are ya protecting me instead of trying to kill me? I know you're not shittin' me, I know it's real and that makes me feel so...I dunno, safe, cared about, but why? Is it just the oath, guilt?"

Buffy's free hand took Faith's and she looked the younger Slayer directly in the eye. "Fai', I started coming here because Angel nagged and pestered me to and yeah, I did feel guilty. He knows the darkness and he knew you when I wouldn't and he wanted me to see what I refused to see before. I was so angry with you Faith; killing angry by the time I got to your apartment, and then I… and then I stabbed you and something…broke inside. It changed me Faith. I came here for the first time when you came to me in the Slayer dream and told me how to kill Wilkens. I saw you in that bed and I couldn't stay angry knowing what I'd done. But I wouldn't have come back again without Angel's pushing. It frightened me Fai' how alike we really were, how a,angry I got and, and I wanted to just run away from it and you. But I made Angel a promise and I came back. I kept coming back and I sat here and used my brain for once thinking about what had happened. But I only figured out that I really wanted and needed to be here when I had to go to LA for a week to be with my father. I missed you. I missed talking to you cos silence is hard for me yanno? I missed the time getting my head 'round what had happened. Then I came back and started holding your hand and it felt right. It was like something was telling me this was how it could have been before and could be now if I didn't screw up."

Faith still looked confused, "but why the fighting B? Why take me in? You risked your life for me and the Council made you a rogue, just like me. Nobody has ever fought for me like that; I always had to fight my own battles. Nobody thought I was worth fighting for, and it's wicked cool you think so, but I don't know why. I'm a stone killer B, I even murdered an innocent and you don't seem to blame me."

Buffy's smile shyly peeped out. "It's so simple it only took me a year to figure it out. I can't condemn you for killing someone Fai'. After all it's only by good luck that I didn't do it too. How can I judge you, tell you you should be in jail, when I put you in that bed? I'm so happy that you regret what you did to Professor Worth. I can feel it in my head, feel you punishing yourself for it. Yeah it was very wrong but so was stabbing you. I need your help too Fai'. When you were attacked the last time I totally lost it. I, I was literally trying to pull this guys arm off as a, as a message to the Council and I've put at least 6 others in the hospital. Since I hurt you and been sitting with you, I've been getting um angry, angry enough to really hurt someone, whenever you've been attacked. It scared me Fai, but it seems to be part of what I, what we are now and I need you to help me deal. So if you want redemption for killing an innocent, let's find it together here cos you can't make up for what you did sitting in a cell and I can't do it without you. "

Unable to speak, Faith just held Buffy's hands tighter and nodded gratefully. Despite her earlier bravado, the older Slayer's words had struck home and had given her a way to ease the shame she felt for the one stupid act. But she couldn't even begin to process the feelings she had at the idea that Buffy was getting angry enough to kill for her, that she cared that much. She knew that the last person Buffy had felt that way for was Angel and Faith wondered briefly if that had ever occurred to the other Slayer.

"You're the only person like me in the world Fai', the only one who can understand me if I let you, like I'm the only one who can understand you," continued Buffy. "While I sat here I thought back to the good days, like that night where we danced at the Bronze, or Christmas Eve when you came around and I knew I wanted those days again. I love having Willow and Xander as friends, but with you it's different. I could be the real me when I was with you with no holding back, no worries about hurting you accidentally, no having to worry if being with me would get you killed. I could be with someone who totally had my back, and care for someone who knew exactly what it was like to be me."

"This time when I sat here there was no Angel to distract me or call me away, no need to tell lies to you or myself. And now I can't lie to you ever again, irony central huh? You know I care for you now like I should have let myself before. But Fai' I know that to have that connection work with you again, I need to work for it and help you make a life. I defended you because you couldn't do it yourself, that and because you're mine to defend and I had to make you see you needed help too." Faith suddenly looked uncomfortable and Buffy could feel the slight withdrawal.

"You know I won't take no for an answer this time Faith. Just as I know you don't really want to say it. You took that oath for your own reasons, but I know now you'll honour it cos it's the right thing to do. Cos you want to. I can feel it Fai', you want it back too. Our Slayer connection I mean. We're the Chosen Two, girlfriend and it's time we let ourselves find out what that really means. Please Fai," Buffy held Faith's hands together between her own and looked straight at her again, smiling, a single tear slowly making its way down her face, "please let me in so we can start again and do it right this time."

For the first time in a long, long while Faith felt her own eyes start to tear up as well. As she looked directly back into the limpid gaze of the woman who had tried so hard to kill and then protect her, she found her throat had closed too much to allow her to speak. So she simply smiled and nodded and, gently freeing a hand wiped the tear off the golden cheek in front of her with a soft stroke of her thumb. She coughed once and tried again, her soft smile nothing like her normal sardonic smirk. For a second she looked like the still innocent girl she could have been. "OK B, you win. I never could beat that smile of yours. I feel it too B. Do you know how I figured out those new feelings in my head were yours? It was cos they were too like mine to be anyone else's." She paused, scenting someone at the door, "aww shit, the nurse is here with more fuckin' Jell-O."

She was interrupted by a firm knock and a nurse came in on cue bearing a covered bowl. She looked pointedly at the still clasped hands of the young women and looked away.

Faith laughed out loud for the first time since she woke and waggled her eyebrows at Buffy. "See I told ya B, giving me flowers and holding hands, it is makin' people talk about us."

The nurse just looked embarrassed, but Buffy smiled at her reassuringly, "She's more like a sister to me than anything else." Ignoring Faith's spluttered exclamations Buffy stood and then bent down to the other Chosen, "I'd better go, if this afternoon is anything to go by watching you eat could be pretty gross. I've gotta go to work soon anyway."

Faith grinned resignedly and nodded.

Buffy continued, "I'm going to the Bronze afterwards with the gang, want me to say anything to them for you?"

Faith used their still joined hands to pull the other girl closer. "Nah I can say anything I need to when I see them. Are you gonna dance?" she asked hopefully.

"Yeeeah?" replied Buffy.

"Then save a couple for me," Faith begged wistfully. "I'll just be lying here thinking about you, I mean, you guys enjoying yourselves yanno?"

Buffy leaned further down and softly kissed Faith's cheek in farewell, then she whispered, "they'll all be for you, Fai'." Buffy then spoke more loudly for the nurse's benefit, "yeah well thinking about it is all you're gonna do until you're outta here, so listen to the nice nurse and the doctors and you'll be dancing soon too. Bye Fai', see ya tomorrow."

Finally and reluctantly letting go of Faith's hand, Buffy left her Slaying partner to the nurse's tender care. As she walked away from the room, keen hearing picked up the nurse teasingly saying "she seems awful friendly for a sister." Faith's defensive reply was lost as she went through the fire door and down the stairs.

Later that night at the Bronze, Buffy spent all of 5 minutes with the other Scoobies, Willow's new friend Tara McLay and Riley Finn who also seemed to be there at Willow's invitation, before heading off to dance. For the rest of the night she danced with her eyes closed, no matter what the Dingoes or the DJ played. She gave herself totally to the music and the beat knowing that Faith was dancing with her and that she too was feeling the music, the heat generated by a hard night's Slaying and the power they alone could create, just like on a certain night months before.

Buffy had left a very frustrated group back at the table. None of them could keep up with her as she let the Slayer power loose once more on the dance floor. Restrained by the others' presence, the Scoobies couldn't discuss Faith's awakening like they wanted to. Riley just watched Buffy fixedly, totally forgetting his boss's instructions and Willow's. He was completely lost in admiration of the energy surrounding the young Co-ed. Willow on the other hand watched with totally different feelings reflected on her face. She'd only seen her friend dance like this once before, when Faith had been dancing with her. Buffy looked wild and almost primitive, ignoring all attempts by guys and some girls to dance with her, completely lost in her own world. Suddenly Willow shivered, feeling almost afraid for the Buffy she knew because she too remembered what had happened after the last time the two Slayers danced like this. She turned to Xander and the worry on his face mirrored her own.

Her tone matched her expression when she finally spoke. "We are in so much trouble."

Part 8

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