The Faith Factor
by Erin
Chapter 1

"Down!" Buffy yelled at me, and I dropped like a stone, kicking the vamp behind me in his kneecap. I felt a satisfying crunch under the heel of my boot, and the vamp howled.

"YEAH! Take that, you fuckin' bloodsucker!" I yelled, and followed it up with a kick to his face. The vamp went down and I was on 'em in a second, driving the stake home. I rose and dusted off my jacket; B had already taken care of hers.

"Ooh, yeah! That really gets the juices flowing," I said. I was bouncing up and down, trying to work off the excess adrenaline. "What's the matter, B, you sick? You only got two that time."

"I figured I'd let you have most of them, since you so obviously needed the practice," B replied, throwing me a wink. She's such a crack-up.

"You know, I really missed this, B. Just you and me, the Chosen Two. Wicked cool."

B smiled at me, and wrapped her arms around my waist. "Yeah, I missed it too. I missed you."

I didn't answer, just leaned in for a quick kiss. Throwing my arm around her shoulder, I said, "So, what's the plan for the rest of the night?"

I tried to keep my voice casual, but B saw right through me, as usual. "I bet I know why you're asking," she said, a sly smile on her face.

"Slaying always gets me wicked hungry."

"Among other things," she said, chuckling. She had me there. "My mom gets back in town tomorrow morning, so all we have to do is clean up."

"Yeah," I said, my voice somewhat wistful. "Too bad, cuz..." I stopped, deciding it would be best if I just shut the hell up before I made a fool of myself.

"Because why?" Trust her to ask.

"Ah, nothing."

She stopped and looked at me. "Please tell me."

I shrugged. "It's just...I really kinda liked hangin', and, ya know, eating, and watching TV...and stuff." God, what a dope. I can't even tell her that I liked living with her.

And since when did that happen? I've always been more of a 'my space' kinda gal; even when I had boyfriends I never liked living with 'em. Always such a pain in the ass trying to share your space with someone else. But with B, it just didn't seem that way.

She didn't laugh or anything. She just smiled, and said, "I know. I feel the same way." We started walking again, crossing through the cemetery on our way home.

"So, those vamps seem a little tougher than usual?" I asked, hoping to change the subject.

B nodded. "Yeah, Adam's been putting some bad thoughts in their heads. It's almost like he's making them fearless."

"Whatever." I shrugged. "Just means they'll learn otherwise. After all, we're the Chosen Two, right?"

"Right." She smiled up at me, and I felt my insides turn to mush. Pissed me off. I don't do the love thing, at least, I hadn't done it until now.

Maybe I should recap for those just joining us. Buffy loves me. And I love her. End of recap.

So I was waiting upstairs, pacing back and forth while B was downstairs with her mom, "explaining the situation." I had nothing against Joyce; she was actually a pretty spunky chick for someone's mom. Hell, she stood up to me even though for all she knew I would have killed her without a second thought.

Would I have? Hell, maybe. I was so fucked up at that point, I couldn't see past hurting Buffy anyway I could. But it wasn't part of the plan. I was just gonna hold her for a bit, really mess with her to get to B. But she still did a pretty good job of standing up to me.

Ah, hell. I never could handle suspense. I opened the door a crack, listening carefully.

"...telling you mom, she's a lot different now."

"Is she? How can you tell? She's dangerous, Buffy. She doesn't see any problem in hurting people to get what she wants."

Hmm. Fair enough. In my defense, though, I also don't go out of my way to hurt anyone...anymore.

"She's really making an effort this time. You know, mom, I probably made at least as many mistakes as she did. If I had been a better friend, none of this would have happened."

"People don't change, Buffy, not just like that."

"It wasn't just like that, mom. It really took some trust. But I believe her, and so do Willow and Giles."

I heard Joyce sigh. "Ok, honey, I believe you think she's sincere. But I'd like to talk to her, just the two of us."

Oh crap.

"I think I can arrange that."

I eased the door closed, and parked myself on B's bed, flipping through some magazine. Wasn't long after that I heard the door open, and B came in.

"Ok, I think I've got my mom talked down."

"You've got a big 'but' there, somewhere."

She had to think about that for a second before she got it. "Yeah, well, she wants to talk to you alone."

I tossed the magazine back on B's desk and stood up. "I can do alone. I've been doing it for a long time now." I wasn't scared really, just uncomfortable. But I wasn't weak or anything, I could pull my shit together.

"Ok." She wrapped her arms around my waist. "Hey. I love you."

I smiled back at her. "I love you too. You didn't happen to tell your mom..."

"Are you kidding? One bombshell at a time, please."

So I went downstairs to face the lioness in her den; only it wasn't a den, it was a living room, and she was watching me like a hawk.

"Faith." She nodded to an empty chair, on the other side of the coffee table from her. Whether that was for her protection or mine, I wouldn't have placed bets.

"Joyce." I sat down, resisting the impulse to plant my boots on her coffee table. Not the way to impress the girlfriend's mother, especially not one that you held hostage.

"My daughter tells me that you and she have worked things out."

Oh boy, she had no idea. I just smiled, and said, "Yeah, we have. B--uh, Buffy's been really great about that."


Huh? "Why her, why me, why what?"

"Why are you trying to work things out? Don't you just want to kill us all and get over it?"

Ouch. Well, I suppose I deserved that, to a point. "No, I don't. I'd much rather have Buffy as a friend than go through life knowing I had hurt her again."

"How do I know you're telling the truth?"

I shrugged. "You don't."

"I'll tell you what the problem is," Joyce said, really milking it now. "The problem is that you gladly hurt people if they don't give you what you want."

"I don't do that anymore." Ok, I admit I deserve some of this, but I hate people who ride my ass. She was starting to piss me off now.

"So who's to say that the next time Buffy or some of her friends tell you no, that you won't turn homicidal again?"

"Because," I said, teeth really clenched now, "I won't. I don't want to hurt them."

"Until you get in an argument and you feel they've 'abandoned' you."

"Listen!" I yelled, bolting out of my chair. I had had about enough. "You have no fucking idea what you're talking about. Everyone made mistakes back then, including me, including Buffy. How do you think your 'can-do-no-wrong' daughter put me in a coma, huh? She stuck a goddamn knife in my gut. She came after me to kill me and feed me to her vamp boyfriend. So don't tell me about homicidal, cuz I know it from both ends!"

I stared at her hard, saw that she was really uncomfortable now. I caught the slightest glance she threw over my shoulder, and I looked to see Buffy standing at the bottom of the stairs.

Oh, god. She had a sickened look on her face, and I knew it was because I had put it there. She turned and ran up the stairs.

"Shit!" I ran after her, catching the bedroom door just as she was about to close it. She walked over, sat on her bed, and covered her face with her hands.

I stood there for the longest time watching her, wanting to take a step forward and put my arm around her, but I couldn't. I couldn't get my legs to move, I just stood there, hands clenched. "Shit," I said again, "I'm sorry, Buffy, I'm really, really sorry. I didn't want to ever go back to that stuff again, but it's just... sometimes I'm just stupid."

"You're not stupid." She was all sniffly, and her voice was breaking. "It's not your fault. I just feel really guilty about that whole thing. I still have nightmares...about hurting you, about us fighting. I hate it, I hate that we ever felt that way about each other..."

I finally got my feet to move, and I sat down next to her and hugged her, feeling wicked awful about bringing it up. We had promised each other clean slates, and here I was dredging up some piss-poor ancient history. "Hey, it's ok. What's done is done. If you can forgive me for the Angel thing, then I can forgive you for that tiny little coma you put me in, ok?" And as long as I can keep my fuckin' mouth shut, we don't have to even think about it again.

She seemed to chuckle a little at that. "Ok."

"Great. I don't think it would be a good idea if your mom and I talk to each other again today, though."

She nodded. "Yeah, I'm really sorry for the kind of stuff she was putting you through."

"She's got some reason to be suspicious, hey? She might have gone a little overboard, though..." I mumbled.

Buffy blew her nose and stood up, grabbing her bag. "I'll just say goodbye, and then we can go back to the dorm."

Didn't take long before B and I were walking back to campus. Joyce and I didn't say two words to each other when we left. Fine by me; I knew we'd have to have it out again soon, if only when Buffy told her mom about us. Hmm. Speaking of which...

"Will you...I mean, are you going to be telling your mom about us?"

"I thought I'd practice first on Willow and Giles...maybe Xander too if he ever emerges from his hole." We hadn't seen or heard from Xander since the meeting a couple of days ago, when we told him I was still in town. Either he didn't want to deal, or his girlfriend found out about us screwing. From what B tells me, she's the vengeful type.

"Oh. Ok."

She smiled and slipped her hand into mine. I got a little tingle every time she touched me; it's either because of Slayer powers, or I'm really getting pathetically mushy about our whole relationship. I choose Slayer powers.

"I'm not trying to hide you, don't worry. I want everyone to know how happy I am. It's just a little complicated."

Ah. I nodded. "Not every day you involve yourself with an ex-homicidal lunatic."

She frowned. "Well, not that so much as the fact that you're a chick."

I laughed; I couldn't help it. "Oh yeah, guess so." The whole sex issue seemed a little silly considering how much else we had overcome to get this far. But it did still matter, I guess. "Eh, doesn't bother me. I've had girlfriends before."

"Yeah? Yeah, I guess you probably did, huh? Did you ever have to worry about coming out?"

"To who? I didn't have anyone else except me." No family, and the few friends I did have, mostly guys, just asked if they could watch. Which they could, sometimes.

We made it back to the dorm, and Red was there reading a book. "Hey guys." She seemed a little down; guess things with Blonde Wicca Chick weren't working out.

"Hey Will. Everything ok?" B dropped her bag and went over to sit by Red. I just parked it on B's bed and kept quiet.

"I dunno. I don't think so. Tara's been avoidance person lately. We used to spend a lot of time together, but now..."

"What happened?"

"I wish I knew. Whenever I try to talk to her, she gets all red and stuttery." Red smiled; just thinking about her Wicca chick was getting her all mushy, you could tell. "We haven't done any spells together in the past couple of days, either. Every time I ask her, she makes up some excuse."

I couldn't believe it. I couldn't believe that Tara would just let Red stew like that, when it was obvious to anyone that Red was head-over-heels for her. I also couldn't believe that Red didn't realize it herself. Well, fuck that. This was getting pretty damn annoying.

I cracked my knuckles and walked over to sit next to Red. If there's one thing I knew, it's girl-on-girl action.

"Do you like her?" I asked.

"Of course I like her, she's a great friend."

I shook my head. "I mean, do you like her?" Nope, baffled look still there. Ok, time to be blunt. "Do you want to do the down and dirty? You know, make the beast? Get goin' on with some hot lesbo action?"

Ok, baffled look became shocked look. "Wha...I...She..."

Buffy cleared her throat. "I think what Faith is trying to say is, do you love her?"

"Love her?" Red squeaked. "I don't--I mean, I do, but I don't... Yeah." She finished, with a sigh. "I mean, I think so."

"Excellent, no worries then," I said, clapping her on the shoulder. "Just go over there and tell her how you feel."

"What?" All this time I didn't think it was possible for a human voice to hit that note. "I can't do that!"

I raised an eyebrow. "Why not? It's pretty damn obvious she feels the same way."

Red just stared at me.

"Look, trust me on this. I know the signs. Hell, I made the signs. You guys have 'shyly cute couple' written all over you. Just go and talk to her. Worse comes to worst, at least you guys will be talking again."

Red seemed to think about that, and she glanced over at Buffy, who nodded back to her. Finally Red nodded and grabbed her jacket. "Yeah, I think I'll do that. Faith...thanks." She smiled at me, and I grinned back at her.

"No problem, Red. Good luck, and don't forget if it feels good on you, it probably does on her too. Light her up like a Christmas tree." I got some personal satisfaction out of the shocked look she gave me before she left.

B just shook her head and smiled. "You're pretty good at that, you know?"

"Good at what, embarrassing Red?"

"That too." She dragged me over to her bed and pulled me down on top of her. She could be pretty butch when she wanted to be. One kiss sent my blood racing. Two kisses, and I was fighting to get rid of all those damn clothes that were in my way, both mine and hers. Three kisses -- and we were interrupted by a knock on the door.

"Shit!" I said, as B and I scrambled for clothing. I pulled my shirt over my head and backed up behind the door. B straightened her clothes and opened the door a crack.

"Riley." Hmm, this could get interesting.

Chapter 2

"Um, hi. Willow said you were getting back today. I know you said you needed to think things out, but you also said you'd call in a couple days,'s been a couple days." The poor boy. You could just tell that Beefstick was jonesing for his Buffy fix.

"Yeah, I want to talk to you...hold on just a sec." Again she shut the door in his face. Harsh.

She turned around to talk to me, but before she could say anything, I said, "Oh no. Sorry B, but there's no way I'm going back in that closet, not on any level." A sudden chilling thought occurred to me. "Unless you're planning on going back to him..."

B winced at the look I gave her, and pulled me into a hug. "I love you. I want to be with you. But I care about Riley; I don't want to hurt him. Let's just...see if we can make this as gentle as possible, ok?"

I let out the breath I was holding. "Yeah, ok. You know me, gentle as a kitten." I took a seat at B's desk, leaning back and propping up my feet.

B shook her head a little, and then opened the door. "C'mon in." Riley walked in and gave me a look. "Hello," he said; his voice was pleasant enough, but he had a look on his face like he knew he should hate me, but wasn't sure why. Guess he hadn't placed the face yet.

"Hey." I said, stifling a grin. I'm probably a real bitch for saying this, but I like winning. I like it a lot.

Buffy walked over and sat on her bed. "Riley, I needed a few days to get some things straight in my mind--"

"Are we going to talk about this here, with..." He waved a hand in my direction.

"What I have to say concerns her as much as you or me," Buffy said.

He took a closer look at me now. "Faith." Man, he was bitter. Can't say as I'm surprised, though.

There really must be no justice in this world. Here I was, the person who tried to make B's life miserable by sleeping with her boyfriend, and she falls in love with me. And now here is said boyfriend, as sweet and vanilla a person to ever come out of the hideously dull midwest, about to be dumped.

Well, cry me a fuckin' river. I saw her first.

"Yes, Faith. These past couple of weeks have really shaken things up, made me look at things in my life--"

Riley interrupted her. "Why is she here? I've heard nothing except how she," he pointed at me now, "is a criminally insane psycho killer. And now she's hanging out in your dorm room like she's your best friend? Buffy, what the hell is going on here?"

B was trying her best to get Beefstick calmed down. "Look, Riley, things between Faith and I have been very complicated in the past. It's really not a pretty story, in fact some parts get really ugly. But we're not dwelling on that anymore."

"And what about all the terrible stuff she's done recently?"

"I've forgiven her for that." B's voice was pretty quiet; I could tell this was really hurting her. I wanted to sit next to her, put my arm around her like she did for me when I was hurting, but...

"You've forgiven her, but you can't forgive me."

B shook her head. "It's not a matter of forgiving you. I know you didn't cheat on me, not really."

"Then what's the deal, Buffy?" He glanced at me sideways, and knelt down in front of her, all 'sensitive new age guy' and shit. He wrapped his hands around hers, and I wanted to put my fist through his face. I almost did it, too, but I knew that B didn't want that and I'd be making trouble for myself. So I held off, just barely.

"I can't be with you anymore, Riley." She never looked at him; if I knew B, I'd say she felt too guilty about hurting him.

"Why?" Damn, he was going to be an asshole and press her on it, I was sure of it.

"It's...There's someone else."

"Who?" Riley glanced at me, and I knew he already knew the answer, he just wanted Buffy to have to say it. Fuck that, this interview is over.

"That's it, just give her a break," I said, getting out of my chair and opening the door.

"Who?" He repeated; fuckin' Beefstick just ignored me. Well that's it, I tried to play nice.

"I told you, that's it," I said, grabbing Beefstick and tossing him toward the door like he was a ragdoll. He didn't put up much of a fight; he tried, though. I didn't mind. I just pushed him outside into the hall and shut the door behind me. "Just back off. She's obviously made her choice." I grinned and lowered my voice so not even Slayer hearing could pick it up past a few feet. "Why would she want to bother with a mortal man when she could have a Slayer?" I saw the hatred in his eyes, and my grin widened. I licked my top lip slowly and turned my back on him, going back into the room.

B was still sitting in the same position as before. I walked over to her and put my arm around her shoulders, feeling her relax.

"That wasn't fun," she said softly.

It could have been worse, I thought, but I decided that the story about one of my mom's boyfriends holding her at gunpoint could wait for another time. "Nope," I said, moving to lay down on the bed and pulling her with me. She wrapped her arm around me, and I felt her smile.

"Thanks for being here."

I shrugged one-shouldered, not wanting to disturb her leaning on the other one. "Hell, it's nothing. If it wasn't for me, you wouldn't have had to do that in the first place."

"Yeah, I would have. Riley is sweet and nice and everything, but he's not who I thought he was when I started falling for him." She stopped talking, and I really didn't have anything to say. Didn't take long before her breathing got regular, like she was asleep.

I just watched her. Wasn't the first time I watched her sleep, and every single time I did, the thoughts were the same. This is too perfect. Of all the people who want Buffy, there's only one person she wants -- me.

I should leave. My mind is screaming at me to leave, but my body won't budge, won't move a muscle. Because I know that I don't want to give this up. I can't.

I must've dozed off or something, because next thing I knew I heard a key in the door. I glanced over at the clock and saw that we were out for a couple of hours. That's ok, B needed it.

Red came in, grinning like she just ate the fuckin' canary. Guess things went pretty well with the Wicca chick. She looked over at us, so mushed out that she didn't even realize Buffy and I were in a clinch.

"Hey Red," I said, and I felt B wake up.

"Hi guys!" She said, obviously excited.

"Hey Will," B replied, rolling off of me and rubbing her eyes. "How'd everything go."

"Great!" She was so goddamn excited she almost squeaked. "Tara and I talked...we're going out to dinner tomorrow night." She looked between Buffy and I, trying to gauge our response. Hell, she should know it by now.

"That's great!" B grabbed her up in a big hug, and I couldn't keep from grinning. Red really was a pretty cool chick, and now that she had Wicca chick to loosen her up I figured we'd get along pretty well. "What are you going to wear?"

Red gasped. "I don't know!" She and B immediately went into "fashion consultant mode", and I just rolled my eyes.

They spent a good half hour trying to decide on Red's outfit for her date; they finally settled on a light sweater and skirt combo. It looked good, in a wholesome sort of way.

The whole time I could see that B's mind was working away, trying to come up with a good way to tell Red about us. It wasn't a pretty sight, and I could tell that if B didn't get it out soon, she was going to start second-guessing telling her at all. And after second-guessing comes what I call 'reality leakage.'

I've seen it before with girlfriends who were closeted, but really didn't want to be. They bring up all sorts of weird topics of conversation, in the hopes that they get their perfect chance to tell family or friends or whoever that they're now dating a girl. Usually they end up chickening out, and just getting a rep for being a freak. It's got to come out somehow, so it usually ends up leaking out around the edges.

It better not go that far, because if it does, I'll have to do something about it.

Luckily, Red saved the day. "Oh! I forgot to tell you before. Riley was looking for you."

Buffy frowned. "He found us." Her eyes shifted, like she was nervous. Hell, she probably was. She'd never done this before. "I told him I couldn't see him any more."

Red just nodded, like she was expecting it.

"To tell the truth, there's someone else," Buffy continued.

Red just nodded again, and had a hard time not grinning this time. I almost laughed. I wonder when the little witch figured it out. "I figured as much...when I came in here and saw you and Faith all snuggled up together."

B blushed, and I choked. "Snuggle? Now wait a goddamn minute, Red, I do not snuggle."

She just kept grinning. "Ok. Cuddled, then."

I mock growled at the little witch, and B burst out laughing. "Down girl." She smiled at Red. "You're the first person we've told... Well, except for Riley. And if you hadn't been preoccupied with a certain blonde witch, then you really would have been the first."

Red just smiled and pulled B into a big hug. "I'm happy for you guys," she said, and looked over at me. I knew she meant it, and I couldn't help smiling in response. Best of all, she seemed to really snap Buffy out of the funk Riley put her in.

"You know, Will, there's something...a favor I want to ask you."

"Anything, Buffy, you know that." Red caught the serious tone of Buffy's voice; made me wish I knew what the hell she was talking about.

"Now that the heat's off of Faith a little bit, I was wondering if there's anything you can do to the police records, you know, work a little of that hacker magic." Oh. That.

"Cracker," Red corrected automatically. She thought for a sec, and then said, "Yeah, I think there is." She hopped up and down like she was excited or something, and sat down and started typing away at her computer. B and I just looked at each other and sat down to watch TV. Red wouldn't even talk to us until she was done.

"Okay," Red said, leaning back and stretching. "The police have been taken care of. I messed with their profile of Faith; I even changed your address, height, weight, race, everything." B got up and went to take a look over Red's shoulder.

I raised an eyebrow. "I don't feel any different."

"You look pretty good for a five foot tall Samoan woman," Buffy said.

"Just to be sure, I modified the status of the case, so that you aren't even wanted for questioning anymore. Oh, and one other thing..." She looked at us like she was so fuckin' pleased with herself she couldn't stand it. "That apartment the Mayor bought for you? I've switched the title from his name to yours."

I just stared at Red; I almost couldn't believe my ears. "What?"

"It belongs to you now. I wasn't sure what to put down for your last name, so I put down Summers. We can change it."

I looked at Buffy for a long time and she looked at me right back, smiling. "Faith Summers..." I said. "Nah. I think I like that just fine."

"Ok." Red did some additional tapping away and soon after shut down her computer. Grabbing her jacket, she said, "I'm going over to Tara's. There's a spell we can do that will cloud the police's memory of you, Faith, so that they have to rely on those fake computer records."

I smirked. "You're going over to Tara' cast spells." Yeah, right.

She blushed. "Among other things."

"Don't do anything I wouldn't do," B added. Red just grinned.

"No fear of that, is there?"

Faith Summers. What the fuck was I doing? Damn, girl, when you fall you fall hard. A few days together and you're ready to rent the fuckin' U-Haul.

This isn't me. Since when is this me?

Since B was willing to share her life with me, that's when. It's what I wanted all along, wasn't it? Poor, pitiful Faith. Got no home, got no family, got no friends. Only... Now I have a home, family, and friends. So what the hell is the problem?

I'll tell you what the problem is. The same goddamn thing that comes up every single time I start to get close to someone. That feeling like it's all going to go away, like I'm going to fuck it up like I always do.

"What'cha thinking?" B asks me. She must've noticed I'm not really watching the TV.

"I'll fuck it up, as usual."

"No you won't." It's a familiar speech by now, but one which made me feel a little better every time I hear her say it. "You're stuck with me, because I'm not letting you go. I love you too much."

I smile and shake my head. Un-fucking-believable, what she does to me. "I love you too."

"Glad to hear it. You want to go check out your kinda-new place?"

"Yeah. I think I do."

Chapter 3

Guess whatever spell Red & Tara did worked; either that, or the cops lost interest in me, because there was no one watching my old apartment.

"How do we get in?" B asked me.

"I hid a spare key on the balcony...go ahead and go on up, and I'll meet you at the front door." I ran around the side of the building and climbed the tree that was there, easily making the jump from the tree to the adjoining balcony. I searched under a couple of loose stones and, sure enough, my key was still here.

Normally, balcony doors don't lock from the outside as well as the inside, but this was a little modification the boss made at my request a long time ago. See, when you're out at all hours doing god-only-knows-what, you don't want a whole lot of people seeing you coming and going from your apartment. It's just not a good idea.

I walked through the dark apartment; very little light filtered in from outside, seeing as how it was nighttime and there weren't many streetlights, and it took me a minute for my eyes to adjust. I noticed that all my furniture was still where I had put it. Even the comic book I was reading when Buffy came over that last time was there, laying on the floor. I bent over to pick it up, and brushed off the thick layer of dust.

I shouldn't have come back. Too many bad fuckin' memories here.

I heard a soft knock on the door, and I walked over and opened it.

B stepped inside and looked around. I guess I really should give her the tour, since the last time she was here it wasn't exactly a social call. I rubbed at my stomach, thinking I felt a dull ache there where a scar would be, if I were anyone less than a Slayer.

"It's pretty dark in the lights work?" B asked quietly, like she didn't want to disturb the moment or something.

"I dunno..." I went over and switched on the overhead track lights. They worked; a little too well, actually, damn brightness made me blink a few times before my eyes adjusted.

"I should have known Willow would have thought of the electricity," she said, smiling. "She's very thorough."

"Isn't that stealing, B?" I asked, with a little bit of a hard edge to my voice. I couldn't help it, this place was starting to get to me.

She looked at me a second before she answered. "Yeah, I guess it is, but..." She shrugged. "It's not like being a Slayer leaves a whole lot of time for mundane work. Considering all the good we do, I'm sure that Southern California Edison can spend a few pennies for a good cause."

"Careful, B, you're starting to sound like me." I walked over to one of the leather chairs, the one that the boss liked to sit in when he was visiting.

A sudden thought hit me, and I looked over at the window, the one B and I crashed through during that last fight. The boss had it replaced.

He knew I'd be back. He had confidence in me, in his Faith. And I fucked him over, when it came down to it, I failed him.

But if I hadn't failed, B would be dead. Most everyone in this goddamn town would be dead.

It's never easy, is it? Nothing in my life is ever just goddamn easy.

B must've gotten some clue that something was wrong, cuz she came up to me and wrapped her arms around my waist. Bad idea.

"It was easy for you, wasn't it?" My voice was hard, almost accusing.

"What do you mean?"

"Coming here, killing me. Killing the boss. Easy choice for you to make."

She let go, stepping back a couple of feet. I missed her already. "If you think that was easy, you're wrong."

I shrugged. "Sure didn't look hard to me."

"Don't do this."

"Don't do what?" I knew exactly fucking what. "I'm just saying it was a pretty easy choice for you to make. I had to choose between two people that I loved. The only two people that I loved." I looked out through the window, imagining that I could still see the broken glass on the floor, the proof of violence.

"You think you're the only person who had to make that choice?"

"As a matter of fact."

"I had to choose between you and Angel."

"Big choice there, the love of your life or the chick you hated with a fiery passion."

"I didn't hate you, Faith; that's the point." I heard her sigh, and she walked up behind me again. Didn't try to hug me, just put her hand on my shoulder. "Even back then, I was falling for you."

What? I turned around and looked at her, but she wasn't playing me. "You can't be serious."

"Dead serious." She looked up at me, her gorgeous hazel eyes never leaving mine. C'mon, try to pull it together, Faith, she's talking. "I loved you back then. At the risk of inflating your ego, I'll just say you were gorgeous, impetuous, wild, confident -- everything I wanted to be, you already were. And you understood me, really understood what it was like to be a Slayer. No one else did, not even Giles."

"Why? Why didn't you tell me?"

She smiled, but not because she was happy; it was more of a self-pity thing, I could recognize it a mile away. "You weren't the only one who was 'fucked up' back then, Faith. It was horrible, to have Angel but not have him, to try to deal with High School, Slaying, SATs, and then the Mayor and the Watchers..." She ran a hand through her hair, steadying herself. Like the whole thing gave her a headache. "But the honest truth of it was that I didn't even recognize it in myself. If you asked me, I would have been able to tell you what lesbians or bisexuals were, but I never, ever thought that what I was feeling for you made me one. I just knew it was... different."

"So, it was a choice between me and Angel, and you chose him." Can't let up on her for a second, can I?

She shook her head. "It was more than that. More than just Angel's life or yours. The Mayor...he wanted to destroy the whole town." She sat down on the edge of the bed, shoulders slumped. "The choice I made wasn't between you or Angel, but at the same time it was the only one I could have made."

I couldn't argue. In her position, wouldn't I have done the same thing? Probably. Maybe. Hell, I don't know. There was some reason why I went back to that church, although I'll be damned if I understand it.

We sat there in silence for a minute. Thinking.

"Sorry," I said, shortly. "About laying all that shit on you."

She shook her head. "It's ok. We never did really talk about it, and we probably should have. I know the Mayor meant a lot to you. I'm sorry."

I shrugged it off. "No big deal."

"It was a big deal. You cared about him."

"Look, I'm not looking to share and grow here, ok?" I said, walking over to the window. "He was fuckin' psycho, and he had to be put down. I know that."

I heard a rustling behind me, and felt her light touch on my shoulders, turning me around to look at her. Ah hell, what now.

"Faith." I loved to hear my name coming from those lips. I suspected that Buffy knew it, too. She knew exactly how to calm me down. "You never did allow yourself to mourn for him. You should, it's not a good idea to hold it in."

I shook my head and kissed her, silencing her, at least for the moment. When I finally backed away, I said, "I'm not like you, B. I can't just share everything and make it all better. I need time to think about it, time to deal with it on my own. You understand?"

She nodded, but she didn't look happy about it. I figured I knew why.

"I won't shut you out, I promise," I said, brushing her hair away from her face. "As soon as I deal, I'll come talk to you about it, ok?" Yeah, she looked a lot happier after that.

"Ok, Faith," she said, and hugged me tightly. I'd be a liar if I said it didn't make me feel a whole hell of a lot better.

After that, things seemed to lighten up a little. I showed B around the place, which wasn't hard to do since it was more or less a studio. There was a nice, big bathroom/dressing area/walk in closet, though, and I was glad to see all my clothes there even if they were a little dusty.

"Mmm. Six pairs of black jeans, four pairs of black leather pants... A remarkably diverse wardrobe you've got here, Faith."

"Real funny there, B. I'll tell ya, those beat the hell out of any of your little pastel numbers anyday." I caught sight of something over by the TV, and laughed. "All right!"

"All right what?" B said, and followed me over there. "You got a Playstation?"

", I'm gonna need some money, I'm probably way behind on all the games right now." I turned it on and tossed B a controller. "C'mon, we'll play."

"Oh no," she said, looking at the controller like it was some alien device or something. "I don't know how."

"Ah, I'll teach you," I said, starting a game of Tekken. "You'll like it, it's just like Slaying."

"Speaking of which, we should probably run a patrol..."

"Oh no you don't," I said, grabbing her. "C'mon, just a couple of quick games and then we can patrol."

"Okay..." she sighed. This was gonna be fun.

"I still can't believe I got my butt kicked so badly!" Buffy said. We were walking through the graveyard, looking for fresh vamps. "I mean, you haven't practiced in months, I should have done better than that..."

"Yeah, but you just learned," I pointed out. "And besides...I didn't exactly teach you how to use your special attack."

"What?" She said, stopping and glaring at me. "You cheated?"

"I didn't cheat," I said, mock indignation in my voice. "I just strategically withheld information from the enemy. It's a completely valid move in warfare."

"Oh, you are so in trouble for that..." she said, starting to tickle me. Let's get one thing straight, I am not ticklish. I don't know how B manages to do it.

I started to laugh, and then I caught a noise somewhere off to the right. "Shh!" I said, grabbing B's hands to hold them still. She immediately froze, all her Slayer senses on full. Sure enough, there was a vamp, about a hundred feet away. He took one look at us and took off, leaping gravestones at full speed.

"C'mon!" Buffy yelled, running after him. I was only a split-second behind her, and we saw the vamp turn a sharp corner around one of those family crypts, and disappear from sight. By the time Buffy and I got there, we couldn't tell where he ran off to.

"Ok, I'll go this way, you go that way," B said, pointing off down an adjacent trail, "and if we see anything, we'll yell, ok?"

"Sure thing," I said, running down the trail. Didn't take too long before the trail ended in a small clearing with a couple of picnic benches nearby. Who the fuck has a picnic in a graveyard, anyway?

"Faith. It's been a long time." I turned around, looking for the source of the voice. It came from a vamp, medium height, black hair, lame-ass goatee, like he wanted to look like Satan or something. I recognized him.

"Should I have bothered to remember who the fuck you are?" I said, pulling a stake from my jacket. God, what was his name, it was some lame Mafia ripoff, like Vic, or...

"Vinnie. I used to work for the Mayor, just like you." His eyes flicked over me. "So, I see you're back to being the Slayer's lapdog. Looks like the Mayor had a little too much confidence in you, huh?"

"Why don't you just shut the fuck up, deadboy," I said, taking a step toward him.

He held out his hands. "Now, that's no way to talk to a business associate."

"Why the hell would I want to conduct any 'business' with you that didn't end up with you inside a dustbuster, huh?"

He just smiled. "Because. There was one reason why you were with the boss. You don't like to lose." He walked toward me, like he was fearless or some shit like that. "It's all about winning and losing to you. You don't Slay because you're trying to beat some great evil, or defend the innocent. You Slay because you need to be a winner."

He walked around me, knowing I wouldn't hurt him. Knowing I'd listen to him.

"So you chose the Mayor," he continued, "because you thought he would come out on top; and he would have, if the Slayer hadn't kicked your little white ass, proved that you were, and always would be, second best."

Fuck this, no one talked to me like that. I grabbed him, shoved him down on one of the picnic benches. "You don't know when to shut your mouth, do you asshole."

He just kept smiling the whole time, the psycho. "It's all come down to winning and losing again, Faith. This time, it's Adam who is going to be the winner." I rolled my eyes. "Don't believe me? Ask your master, the little Slayer. She's fought him, and he's swatted her like a fly. She's scared of him, and for good reason. She's on the losing side."

He got up and dusted off his clothes. "You can be a winner again, Faith. You don't have to be second best."

"Faith!" I heard Buffy yelling from up the path, and it distracted me. By the time I looked back, the fucking vamp was gone. Didn't take long before B came into the clearing. "Any luck?"

"Nah," I said, glancing around the clearing once more. "Didn't find what I was looking for."

"Yeah, big strikeout for me, too," B said. "C'mon, let's go."

"Sure. Hey B, can I ask you something?"

"Of course."

"What do you know about Adam?"

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