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
Crimson and Clover
Ahhh though I don't hardly know her/I think I could love her/Crimson and Clover
Now here she comes walkin' over/and I've been waitin' to show her/Crimson and Clover, over and over
Yeeeah, My, my such a sweet thing/I want to do everything/what a beautiful feelin'/Crimson and Clover, over and over
(T James, arr. Joan Jett)
The next day the young nurse sitting at the reception desk in the neurological trauma ward at Sunnydale General was astonished to see her sole patient stumbling towards her in her hospital gown, the thick orthopaedic stockings deadening any sound her feet made on the hard linoleum. She was leaning slightly on the wall for support but she was definitely walking under her own steam. Hitting the alarm switch to summon a doctor, she leapt out from behind the desk and hurried to her patient to provide a supportive arm. "Ms Spencer what, how, when , you're walking."
Faith's happy grin contrasted sharply with the dreary institutional gown and her pale appearance. "Yeah I am. B, uh Buffy, the blonde um "
The nurse, having heard the rumours started by the afternoon shift smirked at her, "I know who you mean sweetie. Your, ah, "friend" hmmm?"
Faith smirked back, "yeeeah my friend. She helped me walk for the first time yesterday. But right now what I could really use is, uh, the can, where the hell is it? With all that crap you guys've pumped into me, my back teeth are floatin' and no way am I using that f-, ah, bedpan."
The nurse laughed and helped her to the patient's bathroom then politely waited outside in case of emergency. An agonised, drawn out wail of "Ohhh fuuuck!" followed by a deep groan caused her to knock on the door in alarm, but an anguished cry of "No, no, don't fuckin' come in, I'm OK, I'm OK", kept her outside. She did hurry back across to the reception area though, when the duty resident came out of the lift with an enquiring expression on her face and in her tone. "OK Laura, what's the problem?"
"No real problem Doctor," said the nurse a bit breathlessly, "in fact I think it's a miracle. It's Ms Spencer, she, ah, she got out of bed and walked to Reception. She's currently in the bathroom, um urinating and I think it's a bit painful. I, I forgot to warn her about having the catheter out and the effect of urine on the abrasions caused by the removal."
The doctor's mouth fell open in shock. "That's impossible, there's no way, given the " Her denials were cut short by the sound of the flush from the bathroom and a much more relaxed looking Slayer opening the door and gingerly and slowly walking out. She greeted the two awestruck women with a shaky grin and "Goddamn but that hurt, but shit it feels better now, I nearly cracked the bowl."
The resident's professionalism reasserted itself however when the young brunette then demanded a large plate of pancakes for breakfast.
"I wish I could comply Ms Spencer but that's impossible", she replied crisply.
Faith's grin faded, "but I'm starving here. If I don't get some real food soon I'll be .."
The doctor curtly cut her off. "If you ate real food now, you'd risk a nasty blockage in your bowel and at the very least a bad attack of constipation. I take it you didn't have a bowel movement?"
Faith looked blank for a second, "Oh ya mean a dump? Nah, nothing happening there at all."
The doctor smiled then. "No and there won't be until your system wakes up properly and that means cooked fruit, Jell-O, possibly some cereal and maybe even a laxative or an enema if ." She stopped at Faith's look of horror, "Ok maybe not an enema just now. But you get my point? If you don't have full bowel function within say, the next 12 hours or so, we may need to look at more drastic measures than just diet."
Faith's shoulders sagged in defeat. "Yeah, yeah, OK, but then how about a shower and a razor? I had a look under these stockings and I got legs like a fuckin' chimp!"
The doctor laughed sympathetically. "That I can do. I'll make you a deal, let me do a full examination of you now and I'll get Nurse Malone here to organise a shower for you after breakfast."
Faith's cautious nod received another chuckle, and turning down an offer of help, she made her way slowly back to her room.
Faith took the chance to take a long appreciative look at the young resident while she conducted the examination. Her name badge said she was Dr Fiona Cordwell and Faith had to admit that for a doctor she looked pretty good, with a tall, tight, tanned body, long dark hair in a ponytail and a strong, handsome face with high cheekbones. Suddenly that view was overlaid with the image of another woman. One who was blonde and deceptively small, with clear, bright eyes and a killer smile that always took her breath away, and she suddenly wondered who the hell she was kidding.
As it happened she certainly wasn't fooling the resident who had heard the rumours about Ms Faith Spencer and the pretty little blonde who always held Faith's hand while she visited and kissed her goodbye when she left. She was also fully aware of being checked out, and looking up from her manipulation of Faith's right ankle grinned evilly at her patient, asking with mock innocence, "well, do I match up to your girlfriend?"
For the second time in living memory Faith blushed. "Hey, she isn't my girlfriend," she protested unconvincingly, then to get her own back and change the subject she forced a smirk, "but it's just you got a lot goin' on under that white coat Doc and it's all good, be a shame if it was goin' ta waste. Ya getting ya ashes hauled by anybody then?"
Fiona Cordwell blushed in turn and then laughed. "No and that is none of your business. OK let's make another deal. I won't bug you about your pretty ah friend, and how you're recovering so fast, if you don't bug me about my dysfunctional love-life."
Faith's smirk broadened into a grin, "all work and no play..." Then she realised what else the doctor had said and her grin became a bit frozen while her voice lost a bit of warmth as well. "Yeah well, anyway, you gotta deal, Doc."
"Okay" replied Cordwell, "deal", 'but it's not going to stop me wondering' she finished silently.
Fiona Cordwell was as good as her word. After a breakfast where Faith forced down a bowl of the ubiquitous Jell-O, some cooked fruit and even some shredded wheat, she was supplied with towels, soap and shampoo and shown to a shower where she spent 35 blissful minutes washing off the last 12 months. Emerging pink and clean into the bathroom she found a fresh gown and robe and a note from Dr Cordwell informing her that a hospital beautician was waiting in a consulting room next door.
By the time Faith got back to her room, and collapsed onto her bed, she had been waxed, plucked, tweezered, polished, exfoliated, moiturised, manicured, pedicured and had her hair trimmed and styled. The beautician had gone all out, she told Faith, "because the doctor says you gotta look good for that cute girlfriend of yours." Faith was too stunned to argue and submitted to a process that left her completely exhausted. A TV in her room was then provided on request and that's how Buffy and Joyce found her an hour later, curled up on her bed, looking very young and vulnerable, cuddling her toy puppy and watching a rerun of Jerry Springer.
Joyce's first shock of the day had been Buffy unexpectedly appearing at the front door some time after midnight complaining that her dorm room had been taken over by two witches as a practice area and asking if she could stay the rest of night in her old room. Over breakfast she had bullied Joyce into driving her to the hospital, ignoring her protests about opening the gallery, and then had simply assumed Joyce would be coming in to see Faith with her when they did get there.
Her second and much greater shock was at the smile that lit up Faith's face and the answering smile from her daughter when after reaching the ward, Buffy knocked on the door frame and walked into Faith's room. Faith's smile brightened even further as Buffy moved to perch on the bed and to Joyce's stunned amazement took Faith's proffered hand in her own. To Joyce's eye the action appeared to be something the two girls did totally without thinking and that shocked her even more. It also started her wondering about the exact nature of the relationship between the two Slayers. If she didn't know how much both young women liked guys and of the pain between them, she'd have sworn they'd fallen for each other. The soft involuntary smiles the girls shared as they stared into each other's eyes only strengthened that obviously mistaken impression. "It must just be a Slayer thing," she thought a bit hopefully.
Feeling somewhat ignored Joyce coughed noisily to get Buffy's attention. Her daughter glanced up guiltily, without, Joyce noted, letting go of Faith's hand, and hurriedly beckoned the older woman over to the bed and the chair by it.
Faith looked at Joyce defensively, her smile fading. Buffy, feeling her mood changing, squeezed her hand for reassurance, and said brightly, "you remember Mom don't you Fai'? She wanted to come and see you and get reacquainted before you come home. She's sorta your Mom too now thanks to the nice judge we saw." Buffy hurried on as she could feel Faith close off a little more, "Fai' she knows about our history, all of it" Faith winced and started to withdraw her hand. Buffy refused to let her go and blurted out "She doesn't blame anybody for what happened. Trust me Fai' she just wants to help me make it right."
Faith nodded and reaffirmed her grip on Buffy's hand. "Yeah B I trust you, now" she said pointedly. Then she turned and locked gazes with Joyce again. "But does Joyce here trust me? I just bet your helpful little Scooby buddies have been killing themselves telling her all about big, bad, evil Faith and what a murdering bitch nutjob I am."
Joyce returned the look levelly and held up her hand to stop Buffy saying anything. "Yes Faith they have. But I remember another girl called Faith too, one who looked a bit like you do now, who laughed and pulled Christmas crackers with me and then said sorry for stealing all my eggnog." Joyce then smiled at the dark Slayer, "I'll admit I didn't know what to expect when I came here, but I've learned to trust Buffy and after seeing you two together, well just call it mother's intuition, but yes Faith I do trust you." she laughed, "except with the eggnog." Joyce then laughed again. "I also have to say you don't look at all like a psychotic killer; more like a pretty, sweet, young girl."
Faith hid her relief and unaccustomed gratitude under a mock pout. "Really? Pretty and sweet?" she grumbled, "I was shootin' for sultry, but pretty and sweet is better than psycho I guess." Then she grinned at Joyce. "Just don't tell anyone I said so, it'll kill my rep."
Joyce grinned back, "your secret's safe with me." Then her face turned serious again. "Faith I'm sorry but I have to know; just how much of what they said about you is true?" She saw Faith's face close off and her daughter's angry expression and hurried on, "I know things have changed, I can see it here between the two of you and I can feel it as well. I know you won't go back to that life if you and Buffy have any say in it, but I do need to know."
Faith turned to look at Buffy who, while still unhappy nodded reassuringly, and then turned back to Joyce. "Mrs S, Joyce," she started hesitantly, "I can guess what they told you, Red and the rest, and it, yeah, most of it'll be true." Joyce just nodded grimly for her to carry on. "I have killed somebody and hurt people, cos for a long time that's all I thought I was good for. That's all anybody ever told me I was good for, even my Watchers. I'm not making excuses here. I know what I did and regret some of it a whole lot." Faith's voice broke a little at this point. "But ya gotta understand, when that guy Finch died, I thought everyone here had bailed on me and, and I got angry and I didn't feel like I had any choices left. If things had been different well lets just say there's a lot of things I wouldn't have done. And now thanks to B," Joyce's face relaxed a bit when she saw the extra squeeze the dark Slayer gave her daughter's hand and the smile that accompanied it, "and you, I've got a chance to get something right for once. Yanno, I've bin runnin' and fightin' my whole life. When I first got here and B, Buffy helped me kill that motherf- um vamp Kakistos I thought, just for a second, I could stop. It all went to hell then, and I kinda lost it when it did, but maybe now I can start again, with you and B. I know all B's friends hate me and I can't blame `em, I tried to kill most of them. Christ, I knew B hated me. When I first woke up and saw her I thought she'd come to finish the job she started. I gotta admit, until B made me see how I was so wrong about me an' her, I planned to kill her once I could stand up. She knew that and still helped me and, and I don't wanna do that anymore. I can't do that anymore, just like I can't change the past but maybe I can live it down a bit yanno? Will you let me try? I promise that whatever happens I don't want to hurt you or Buffy ever again and I'll kill anyone else who tries. I know I owe B and you more than I can ever pay back but this's the best I can do."
Joyce took a long searching look at the earnest, tormented girl focused so intently on her and then glanced at her daughter. Buffy sat there silently holding Faith's hand in a death grip, her face a mask of pride and defiance as tears ran unheeded down her cheeks. Joyce realised then that Buffy thought she might reject Faith after her confession and did the only thing she could think of to reassure her. She slowly reached and picked up Faith's free hand, then stretched across the bed to kiss Faith's pale cheek. With her own smile a bit watery, she then asked her new daughter, "so Faith, do I need to get in pancake mix or waffles for breakfast?"
Joyce barely had time to stand up before she was hit by a blonde whirlwind that pulled her into a bone-crushing hug. Buffy's heartfelt "thanks Mom" came out sounding suspiciously like a sob.
They were interrupted by a loud cough from the bed, "Uh B I don't want to break this up, but I don't think your mom can breathe."
Faith's reward for rescuing Joyce was finding herself engulfed by the same whirlwind in an embrace that made her ribs creak and her pulse rate double as her arms automatically wrapped around the firm, warm, upper body intimately pressed against hers. With her face buried in Buffy's soft hair, her lips temptingly close to the other slayer's pulse point, Faith did the hardest thing she'd ever had to do in her life and pulled back, faking a grin for her new Mom. "Affectionate little thing isn't she?" she wisecracked.
Joyce's laugh broke the moment completely as Buffy disengaged herself and then mock-punched Faith in the arm. "Hey no fair ganging up with Mom." Then her face turned tragic, "it's because I don't give good hug isn't it?"
Joyce spluttered with embarrassment, "Buffy!"
Faith's answering grin was wicked however. "No B" she purred. "You give great hug, best I've ever had." She licked her lips, looked a challenge into Buffy's wide eyes and almost purred "are you as good when you're lyin' down?"
Buffy blushed but met the brunette's gaze with one of equal intensity as she reclaimed Faith's right hand, "Better, but you'll just have to get out of here to find out how much, won't you?"
Joyce, who had gotten alarmed at the decidedly flirtatious nature of this conversation, took this opportunity to break things up. "Faith, Faith," she repeated a little louder to drag Faith's gaze away from her daughter, "have the doctors said when you can be released from here?
Faith's smile slipped a bit. "No but I gotta get out soon. I hate the food, they're gonna try and give me an enema if I don't have a crap by tonight, I can't get any wrestling on the tube and there's a doctor here who's got a real hard-on for how fast I'm recovering. I so don't wanna end up as a lab rat."
This caused Buffy's smile to dim too. Her worry was in her voice when she turned to her mother, "Mom if Fai' is walking can we get her home tomorrow? I'm planning to move back in too." She felt Faith's sudden doubt and squeezed her hand reassuringly. "Fai' if I'm there we can train together, and I've got your back until you're up to speed. Right now, Xander could kick your butt."
"Hey, not in his dirtiest dreams," protested Faith. "I'm not letting the Zeppo anywhere near my butt."
"Be nice," admonished Buffy, "he's my friend, remember? Anyway your butt is safe, from him at least," she smirked. "Me, on the other hand, you gotta worry about."
Hearing Faith's throaty chuckle and seeing Buffy's corresponding flame red blush, Joyce knew it was time for her to put a stop to this whatever it was. It couldn't possibly be flirting but this banter was going a bit too far for her peace of mind. "Nobody is doing anything to anybody's butt," she announced decisively. "What we need to concentrate on stop giggling like that Faith, is getting you out of here. I agree given the ah, advantages you girls have, you'll get better at home just as quickly as here and if they start really looking at you they might get suspicious and come after Buffy as well. I don't want my two girls being dissected in some underground government lab'."
Faith and Buffy both looked away from each other for a moment and gave Joyce a grateful smile.
Joyce smiled warmly back and continued. "Buffy, you head back to your halls of residence and start moving out. I want you back home by tomorrow morning. Then, Faith we'll get you released from here, get you home and start getting properly organised. I'll ring the nearest High School to arrange a makeup test for you just like the one Buffy did last year and ."
Joyce faltered to a halt at the anguished cry of "school! Waddya mean school? No way. Me in school? That is just so whack. I mean I don't need it to fight and "
It was Faith's turn to falter as she saw the identical determined look on the face of mother and daughter. It was Buffy who answered her though.
"Fai' we're serious about this. Let me ask you something, how do ya think I've stayed alive so long?"
Buffy continued despite her mother's wince and Faith's reluctance. "I have a life. I have friends. I went to school." Then she smiled ruefully, "so I burnt one down and blew the other up and there's a Hellmouth under it, and " Faith's grin caused her to pause, "OK so I'm not the perfect student, but you get the picture? I know I broke all the Council's rules having a life outside Slaying and so did Giles when he backed me, but their rules are wrong. We both know they're there just to give the Council more control over us, to keep us isolated so they can say whether we live or die with no-one to bitch at them later. Well, the game's changed. It's our game now and our rules and they'll just have to deal, cos you and I are the only players who matter. So just remember Rule Two, 'a Slayer gets a life'."
Faith's expression was openly puzzled and so was her tone. "That's all cool B and go Slayer Power an all, but why should I go to school and make, like, a total dipshit of myself?"
Buffy's indulgent smile had a wicked edge to it. "Because you'll need a High School diploma to earn more than minimum wage when you grow up to be a big girl like me."
Faith's bellow of protest brought a security guard into the room asking what was wrong which reduced the three women to helpless embarrassed laughter.
As he left they sobered quickly. Faith reflexively reclaimed the hand she had released while doubled up laughing and her voice lacked it's normal edge as she made what she knew was a futile attempt to change the other Slayer's mind. "Yeah, yeah OK laugh at the sick Slayer, but B I'm serious, Slaying ain't the safest gig yanno and I'm hardly a pin-up for not taking risks so I ain't likely to last long enough to worry about losing these killer looks let alone "
Faith stopped at the almost painful tightness of Buffy's grip on her hand and the anger she felt coming off the older Slayer.
The deceptive lightness of Buffy's tone didn't fool either Faith or Joyce. "I didn't tell you about Rule One did I? Rule One is 'Don't Die' and that is one rule I'm gonna make sure you keep." Buffy then looked directly into Faith's eyes, "you hear me Fai'? No dying. Not allowed, no how, no way."
Even Faith could tell she was beaten this time. "Jeez B, if it means that much to ya OK, I'll try to stay alive. But shit, school?" She turned her head and looked imploringly at Joyce, "I suck big time with books and crap, you know that. Hell, I even have to take my bra off to count to twelve."
Joyce smiled sympathetically but her tone was firm. "No young lady, you're going to school, so no more arguments. Buffy's told me you always said you were smarter than her, now you can prove it."
Faith looked hopelessly at Buffy who smirked back. "Feeling outnumbered much here girlfriend? Ready to give?"
Faith scowled and then weakly grinned, "yeah, I give, but I get to wear my leathers! If I have to do this at least I'm gonna look good."
"You'll knock 'em dead" agreed her friend. "Now I'd better book. I've got a room to clear and Oh God, Prof Walsh's assignment. If I don't get that done I'll be the dead one. You OK to drop me off, Mom?"
Joyce rose to her feet from her chair. "I suppose it won't make me that much later, so yes I'll drop you off. Faith I'll see you tomorrow." She bent down to pat Faith's hand, "Welcome to the family." Turning to her daughter, she said, "Coming?"
Buffy looked up. "Yeah. Yeah, I'll meet you in the car, I just need to say goodbye to Faith and let her know when I'll be back tonight."
Joyce accepted the thin excuse with good grace and after another pat of Faith's hand left the two Slayers to their farewells.
Buffy took both Faith's hands in hers. "She's incredible isn't she?"
Faith looked confused for a brief moment and then looked down at their joined hands. "Oh Joyce, yeah she is." Then her voice got more uncertain, "B, you really sure about this? I mean I can still go back to the apartment. We don't have, have to do it this way if you ain't."
Buffy released one of Faith's hands and put a slim finger under the younger girl's chin forcing Faith to lift her eyes. "Fai' this is the only way I want to do this. Do you want to go back to the apartment?"
Faith shook her head slowly, unable to drop her gaze like she wanted.
Buffy's tone gentled, "good. Now I gotta go or Mom will start having nasty Mom-type thoughts." Still gently holding Faith's chin with her fingers she bent over and softly kissed the other slayer on the forehead. "Bye Fai', see you tonight, and don't worry, we can deal, we're the Chosen Two remember? Really, what can't we face if we're together? Nothing, except for", Faith's face started to fall, "Mom's oatmeal!"
Faith's laugh was shaky but genuine as she glared at the blonde holding her hand. Feeling she needed to do something to get her own back and unsettle the other slayer, she put her free hand behind the back of Buffy's neck and held her down. At Buffy's enquiring look, she smirked, "It's my turn to kiss you goodbye and to say thanks for the dancing last night. B I felt, I felt everything, during and after" and before Buffy knew what was happening Faith had planted a long, firm kiss directly on her mouth.
Buffy was spared having to respond by her mother coming back and putting her head in the doorway.
Joyce had only just reached hospital reception when she had had a disturbing thought. "Who the hell is paying for all this?" She retraced her steps and walked back into Faith's room only to find Faith and her daughter pulling away quickly from each other, Buffy's blush in full bloom and a wicked smile plastered all over Faith's face.
Joyce decided she didn't want to know, not now anyway and so pretended to ignore what she knew that in any event was impossible. They just couldn't have been kissing. "Sorry to interrupt," she said dryly, "but I just had a thought, will we be expected to pay your bill when we leave tomorrow?"
Faith's smile was replaced by a slight frown. "Yanno, I have no idea. I guess I just assumed Dicky was covering it, but our girl here has turned him into convenient bite sized chunks so now I just don't know." Then she brightened. "The hospital guys must know or they'd've kicked my ass outta here by now and that cute lady doctor seems to want me to stay. Must be my winnin' personality."
With her composure now restored Buffy decided to interrupt. "Yeah" she drawled, "must be. Whoa, what cute doctor?" she demanded suspiciously.
Faith smirked evilly. "The one who decided I needed a makeover before seeing my pretty little girlfriend. She seemed to think you'd appreciate it". Her voice suddenly had a note of challenge in it, "Well do you?" as she sat up straighter, entire body undulating in a provocatively lazy, catlike stretch.
Buffy wasn't going to get caught this time, not with her mom in the room. "Oh yeah", she purred back. "You look so young and sweet, just like Mom said and I am not your girlfriend," she added with a blush. "Well OK I am your friend now, I hope, and a girl but not, not you know what I mean" she ended lamely. "Mom help me out here" she wailed.
Joyce took pity on her daughter. "Faith, stop teasing. If Buffy blushes any more she'll pop a vein. Now I am leaving to find out exactly who is paying for this and then I'm dropping Buffy back at College. I think it best that we don't let the hospital know you're leaving tomorrow, just yet. I take it it was this cute doctor who was getting curious about your recovery?"
Faith nodded. "Uh-uh. I don't think she's got the juice to do anything, but she might make signing me out harder if she knew."
Five minutes later after another kiss goodbye and a promise to come back that night from Buffy, and a hug and a very funny look from Joyce, Faith lay back down again, a small but delighted smile on her face. She may have forced that kiss on B as a joke, but there was one thing she was completely sure of; at the end, for a very brief moment, Buffy had kissed her back.
While Joyce was confirming that the city was indeed still picking up the bill for Faith's care under their employee insurance scheme, Buffy took the time to look around. The bland, ageing, décor and antiseptic smell reminded her why she hated hospitals. Seeing a candy striper having to use a payphone she also idly concluded that Sunnydale General must really be watching its pennies if it couldn't provide a staff phone.
The trip back to the dorm was quiet. Buffy couldn't get her mind past how soft and full Faith's lips had been, even though the kiss had been hard, and Joyce was trying desperately hard not to think about how close the two Slayers appeared to be. Instead she forced herself to think about something safe like getting Faith into High School. With all the internal dialogue, neither woman felt the need to break the companionable silence that developed until Buffy thanked and kissed her mother goodbye when they arrived at Sunnydale U.
Letting herself into her room she was surprised to find it still dark and Willow still asleep. What also surprised her was seeing a sleeping Tara in the other bed, her bed.
Willow's mood had not been good when she and Tara McLay had entered her dorm room the night before. So disturbed by Buffy's behaviour she hadn't even been able to stay for the Dingos' second set, she had made her excuses to Oz and left the Bronze well before the rest of her friends. She was angry with Riley Finn for being so useless. Buffy had said not one word to him all night and he had seemed quite content just to watch her and not distract her as Willow had hoped. She also realised she was angry with Oz for not protesting more when she left early and with Xander, for not coming up with something more helpful than a frightened look and a helpless shrug when she asked him for suggestions on how to protect Buffy from Faith.
Tara on the other hand, well she just couldn't find it in herself to be angry with the shy blonde, so different to Buffy and her other friends. Shy as she was, she seemed to generate this calming aura all around her that stopped Willow really letting rip on the males in their group.
Once back in her room they had talked for hours. Tara had surprised the redhead with her grasp of Sunnydale's unique reality. She had then explained that she had always had an ability to read personal auras and that many of the ones she saw in Sunnydale's streets were not at all human. Her next comments had thrown Willow even more.
"Willow? O, O, Oz is your boyfriend isn't he?"
Willow worried where this might be going was a bit defensive, "Yeah, so?"
Tara ducked her head down and peered through her protective fringe at the other girl. Then she rushed it all out; "Well it's just, well, did you know he isn't fully human?" She saw the look of fright on Willow's face and misinterpreted it. "I'm sorry, I've made you a, a, angry, but, but I told you I read auras, and well did you know?" she finished softly.
Willow made a sudden decision she hoped she wouldn't regret. "Yeah I know," she replied just as softly. "I'm sorry; I'm not really angry Tara. I'm sorta tired and scared and I've got trust issues with everyone about this stuff. You can't tell anyone OK, but Oz is, is a werewolf."
Willow didn't get the shocked response she half expected. Tara just nodded calmly, "I sorta thought so. He doesn't feel like a d, demon." Tara then asked a question that had been bugging her since lunch. "And your, your friend um Buffy? She's different too isn't she? It's just she has so much energy and power. It just sort of pours out from her. "
Willow turned shocked eyes to her new friend. "How can you tell that?" She demanded. "Buffy, well OK, you'll guess it anyway, Buffy is human, but like more yanno? Have you ever heard of the Slayer?"
Tara gave her head a puzzled shake.
"You know about demons and vampires OK? That they're real? Well the Slayer is the only human with the power to fight and kill the monsters. The Slayer is always a girl ."
Tara quietly interrupted, "Like Buffy?" she enquired gently.
Willow then threw all caution aside. "Yeah like Buffy. She, she's mucho stronger and faster, like a superhero, but she can die and there's some things she can't do so there's a group of us who were her friends from High School who kinda help her out and watch her back, do recon, stuff like that."
"Wow," said Tara admiringly. "You said recon. You're, like, cool monster-fighter."
"Well we don't make with the punching and kicking thing much, we leave that up to Buffy," admitted Willow sheepishly. "As far as fighting goes, I'd be lucky to bruise their fists with my face. We do like research, non-violent non-fighting type stuff like that."
Willow's face grew concerned. "What with the Oh?'
Tara hid behind her fringe again before admitting, "Face punching. I'm not so good with the whole..."
"Swimming?" queried the redhead.
"Violence. Buts it's okay, really." Tara reassured her. "I'm not really freaked out, much. So, what do we do if we find one? A monster I mean?"
"Run. Flee. Maybe skedaddle," admitted Willow. Then she added, "oh and scream loudly for Buffy."
Tara nodded, then asked another question, "So who's Faith?"
Willow just looked at her helplessly then made a decision she hoped she wouldn't regret.
"Tara you gotta promise this stays in this room. I mean like no on else will know ever, OK?"
Willow took a deep breath, "OK Faith is a Slayer too, but like she's Buffy's bizarro twin yanno? She went over to the dark side and she turned real bad. Like hunt down and kill like a rabid dog bad. It's why she's so dangerous and why we need to stick together against her. She's this sociopath super-bitch who can kill you with a flick of her finger and do it without even thinking twice."
"Sorta like Buffy you mean?" blurted Tara unthinkingly.
"No!" Willow's tone was indignant. "Buffy's not like Faith in any way, well, apart from being able to kill with a finger stuff. Faith's just like, well, she's like this psycho, cleavagey slutbomb walking around going, 'Ooh, check me out. I'm wicked cool. I'm five-by-five, I'm so bad."
Tara looked confused "Five-by-five? Five what by five what?"
"See, that's the thing. No one knows," replied Willow.
Tara now looked genuinely confused. "So why is Buffy helping her instead of, I dunno, tying her up s,s,somewhere?"
"Buffy has this crazy idea she can save her or something. It's this Slayer schtick, they think they should save everybody, even the ones that aren't worth it. Buffy got guilted into visiting Faith while she was in a coma and now she thinks she owes her something. So since her friends know better, we're trying to protect Buffy from herself."
"Oh," said Tara again. "Oh. So there's no chance B,Buffy is right? OK, " she said quickly at Willow's look and changed the subject. "So helping Buffy, do you help with other stuff like um magic?"
Willow just nodded. "Yeah stuff like magic, but everything I do seems to screw up somehow and I don't have a lotta power, so it's little things, ah moving small stuff or simple scrying spells and wards, baby stuff for a real witch, and no real help to her now," she finished bitterly.
Tara's face showed surprise. "B,but you are powerful. I can see it. You're much more powerful than me. Maybe you just need to practice more with another um witch. I know a lotta spells are easier with two and I can help if you want me to."
Willow's face had lit up at this, "Really? I have power? Wow." Then it fell again. "Then why can't I use it? Like I do these spells and all I get is a headache and a big round ball thingy of nothing or something I kinda don't want at all."
Tara gave a shy smile and her voice was reassuring, "sometimes it's not what you've got it's how you use it." Then she blushed and giggled.
Willow giggled back, "yeah that's what Oz tells me," then she blushed as red as her hair, "not that Oz doesn't, you know, um, well, you know, have something to use" then she blushed even harder and giggled again then sobered. "It's just with the lycanthropy thing an all we have to be careful, yanno? OK quickly change the subject, do you really want to help me?" she finished hopefully.
Tara looked shyly down and nodded. "Yes I do. I don't have your power but I've done some stuff, centering and grounding, stuff like that, that will help. Do you wanna try something now?"
So just after midnight when Buffy came back from the Bronze she found the two wired but exhausted witches engrossed in trying to levitate a pencil and a flower together, leaving no bed available for a hyped-up Slayer. Burning off a little energy on a few vamps on the run back to Revello Drive helped ease her sense of ill-usage, and the morning's visit with Faith had made her a lot happier, if more confused, but there was a definite feeling of revenge in the way she vigorously pulled open the curtains to let the morning sun pour into the room directly on Willow's face. And her voice was positively gleeful when she loudly yelled out "up and at `em ladies" at the top of her voice.
"Faith's moving home tomorrow so I gotta move in tonight, Mom's orders. So let's do something breakfasty at the coffee shop on campus and then we can ring Xander for his muscles and get me all shifted out of here."
Willow just groaned and Tara waking to the noise, pulled her pillow over her head.
Xander also groaned at being woken so early when Willow rang him an hour later. He'd spent the night first with the band winding down after the gig and then watching a Thunderbirds retrospective on cable with Oz in his basement room. To make things worse Oz snored louder than Anya who had stomped off in a huff when Oz came back with them, and from the smell that greeted Xander's delicate nose on arousing, the shapechanger had spent most of the night farting in his sleep.
His sleep induced fog fell away immediately at Willow's news about Faith. Waking Oz he quickly told him what was happening and the three Scoobies resolved to make sure Faith had a greeting party at Revello Drive that would leave her in no doubt about whether she was wanted there.
As he hung up, Xander suddenly smiled. Turning to his temporary roomy his tone was casual as he asked, "Oz my man, does the van have such a thing as a hook up for a PA?"
"Yep" answered Oz carefully, "we use it to promote gigs. We got the idea from the Blues Brothers. Why?"
Xander's smile went a little dreamy. "I have just come up with a cunning plan, a plan so cunning you could stick a tail on it and call it a weasel. I think we should give our dear little Faith some background music for her homecoming, just to let everybody in the neighbourhood know what their new neighbour is really like. Remember that old Talking Heads song from the Seventies, y' know the one I'm talking about?"
Oz's own rare grin started to surface and he slapped Xander's upraised palm. "Oh yeah. Y' know Xander, sometimes you worry me, in fact you worry me most of the time, but this is good. Not quite as good as sinking my teeth into her throat would be, but good."
Xander's answering grin was vicious. "Yeah it is. And this is just the start. By the end of the week, she'll wish she'd never messed with us or our girls."
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