The Faith Factor
by Erin
Chapter 4

Buffy looked at me, all curious. "Why do you want to know about Adam?"

"Oh, I was just thinking about him, and what he's doing to the vamps around here." Well, that part wasn't a lie, at least.

She nodded. "Well, he was some sort of demon/human/machine hybrid that the Initiative created. Only, now he's completely out of control." She sighed. "I only fought him once before, but he's tough. Really tough."

"You couldn't take him down?"

"Nope. He acted like he didn't even notice I was there... I've never fought anything like that before," she admitted.

"But he's got a weakness or something, right? I mean, everyone has a weakness."

She just shrugged. "If he does, we don't know it."

That wasn't exactly what I wanted to hear, right then.

Once again, I have to ask:

What the fuck was I doing?

I knew that what that goddamn vamp said was right -- or, at least, it was right. I didn't enjoy Slaying because of any righteous thrill, or smug knowledge that I was doing the 'right thing.' I loved it because it was excitement, a challenge. Winning and losing. And until B came along, I was all about winning.

She beat me. She was the only one to put me down.

I looked over to where she slept, red and black blankets pulled up around her shoulders. We had come back to my place, and made love until we fell asleep. Well, until she fell asleep; I had too much on my mind, and even Buffy couldn't really quiet the thoughts I was having.

So I got up, pulled on a sweatshirt and some boxers, and just sat, staring into space.

I thought about that chick in the alley outside the Bronze. The one I saved from being vamped. That look in her eyes, when she thanked me -- it had been a long time since the last time I saw it. When you're going around killing people for the Mayor, they just don't give you that same look. The look they gave was fear; fear was almost as good, to be honest. But gratitude, their honest get-down-on-their-knees thankfulness that you are who you are and you decided to save their lives -- that was something else entirely.

I decided I liked it.

But did I like it enough?

"Faith?" I heard B's soft, sleepy voice from the direction of the bed. "Everything ok?"

"Yeah. Yeah, everything's fine. Just couldn't sleep."

"Ok..." Her voice was drifting off now. "Love you..."

"I love you too."

Ah hell. I really did love her. But, shit, that 'second best' comment really tore at me, just like that fuckin' vamp knew it would. I wasn't built to be second best, not to anyone. Not even Buffy.

"You mind if I borrow a pair of jeans?" B was getting ready for class, and I was laying in bed, half-asleep. It took me a long time to get to sleep last night and I was still pretty wiped.

"Go for it," I said, opening an eyelid carefully. "You'll need a belt." Even though I liked my jeans tight, B was a size or two smaller than me, and they'd be a little baggy on her.

"Thanks." She finished getting dressed, pulling on her socks and shoes.

"You should just leave some of your clothes over here," I said, before I even realized what the hell I was saying.

She looked over at me, kinda surprised. "You wouldn't mind?"

Would I mind, ah hell. I wouldn't mind if she brought all her clothes, and stayed with me for the rest of my fuckin' life. "Nah. I mean, if you don't."

B just smiled, and leaned over to give me a kiss. "I don't." She grabbed her jacket. "I've got classes all day; want to meet me tonight, at the dorm? We can grab some dinner or something."

"Sounds like a plan," I mumbled, and went back to sleep.

I had to find something better to do with my afternoons, I decided. Daytime TV was really starting to piss me off, and you can only play video games for so long before you start craving the real thing. So around dusk I cut through the graveyard on my way to the campus to meet with B.

I had tried my best to avoid thinking about all the crap that had been going through my mind lately; so, of course, life threw me a curve.

"Well, if it isn't our favorite Slayer." Of course, just my luck.

"Just fuck off, Vinnie, before I dust your ass," I snarled. My hand clenched around the stake in my pocket.

He just looked amused. Pushed off of the tombstone he was leaning on, and came walking over. "You think about my offer?"

"Why the fuck would I want to do that?"

"You disappoint me. I thought for sure you were a winner. Instead it looks like you're just as happy trotting after your little bitch in heat."

I grabbed him, shoving the point of my stake against his chest. "No one fucking talks about her like that," I said, gritting my teeth. I raised my stake to shove it into his chest, and he didn't even blink.

"You're not going to do that."

"Why the hell not?" I said, and just as I was ready to shove the stake into his chest, I felt it.

It was like getting hit by a truck, if a truck was the size of someone's fist. It sent me flying to the left several feet, and I crashed against a tombstone, shoulder first. Fuck, that hurt! Not even B ever hit me that hard.

I stumbled to my feet and saw Vinnie standing next to some bizarro demon/machine thing which could only be Adam. The sucker must've stood about six and a half feet tall, with muscles which could put Arnie to shame. He just looked at me, his head cocked to the side a little, like a dog. Or a robot.

"You are Faith. The extra Slayer."

"Just a Slayer, asshole, there's nothing extra about me."

"You were an accident, activated upon the death of the Slayer Kendra, who was also an accident." He spoke in a monotone, like he was reading all this from the goddamn encyclopedia or something. Slayer, The. "After arriving in Sunnydale you turned renegade and took orders from former Mayor Wilkins. You fought with your counterpart, who put you in a coma with acute neural trauma and severe lacerations."

I glared at Vinnie. "You feed him all that?"

He just shrugged. "Some of it. You'd be surprised how many records the Initiative had about this town." He walked toward me, totally cool like I didn't just try to kill him. "Adam knows everything the Initiative does. They'll never catch him. Neither can Buffy."

"Don't be too sure about that." My voice sounded hollow, even to myself. I was never too convincing a liar.

Vinnie chuckled. "Adam can make sure that you're the only Slayer in Sunnydale, if you get my meaning. No being second best, no having to live in the other Slayer's shadow. I know how much that gets to you, Faith. I know how much it drives you nuts."

My jaw hurt from me clenching my teeth so hard. "I can't. I won't."

"Why, because you think you love her?" He laughed. "I remember you, Faith, and your revolving bedroom door. She's just another fuck to you, and that's all you are to her. Experienced. I bet you give a good ride." My fists were clenched now, but I still didn't make a move. Not with Adam standing there a few feet away. "It will never last between you two, anyway. How long do you think she'll be able to put up with your shit, huh?"

I just shook my head. Somewhere in my head, that voice tried to tell me that he was right. How many times have I tried to push Buffy away? Did I really think our hormones would be enough to hold us together, with all the shit that has gone down between us?

"Listen, you don't have to do anything. That's the beauty of it. Just bring her here, and we'll do the rest. You'll be the Slayer here, just like you always wanted. The only Slayer. The Chosen One. Sunnydale will be your town, like it was supposed to be."

I didn't answer, I just closed my eyes. I heard movement, and I hoped it was Adam coming up to rip my head from my shoulders. Put me out of my fucking misery. But when I opened my eyes, both of them were gone.

"Are you feeling ok?" B asked me, all concerned about my welfare. Damn her.

"Yeah, I'm fine." I picked at my fries, not really hungry. I met up with B at her dorm, and she wanted to go to this burger place for dinner, so here we were.

She frowned. "You don't look ok. Did anything happen this afternoon?"

I looked at her, and gave her a half-smile. "Nah, everything's cool. I'm just not hungry. I ate a big lunch."

She seemed to accept that; either that, or she decided it would be best to change the subject. "Will was pretty freaked out about her date tonight." She giggled. "She and Tara look really cute together."


"Maybe we could all go out to dinner together some night? I'd like to get to know Tara better."


She cocked an eyebrow at me. "Are you sure you're ok? Do you even want to go on patrol tonight?"

I stiffened a little, and looked at her. "Yeah. I'm fine. Five by five."

"Okay." She grabbed her wallet, and left a twenty on the table. "Ready when you are."

We walked through the graveyard, the same one where I met Vinnie earlier. I suggested it.

Okay, Faith. Time to find out what you're made of.

"You hear something?" B asked, looking around at the shadows.

"Not sure," I said, feeling that prickling on the back of my neck, like there's a knife headed right for it.

"Well, well. If it isn't the Slayer twins." I recognized Vinnie's voice immediately. I should, by now. I looked around and three vampires came out of the shadows, surrounding us.

I measured up all three vamps. Besides Vinnie, there was some biker looking creep who dressed like a Hell's Angel wannabe, and a young punk who looked like he used to be on Sunnydale High's football team. Geez, they must really be scraping the bottom of vamp material since the boss left.

"Wow, that's really clever," Buffy said, sarcastically. "But if you wanted to fight us, you should have brought a few more guys. We won't even break a sweat with you."

Vinnie just laughed. "We don't need more guys. Not when we have these." He and the other two vampires pulled guns from their jackets, and leveled them at us.

Guns, hell. Those suckers were fuckin' hand cannons. At least, that's what it looked like from the barrel end.

Vinnie smiled, all smug and shit. "I don't care what Slayer powers you have, they won't stop a bullet."

He was right. I don't know why more vamps didn't think of it, to be honest.

"I have to thank you, Faith. You did a great job bringing the Slayer here. Guess you decided to be on the winning side after all."

Oh, shit.

Buffy just looked at me...hurt, confused, betrayed...I don't have enough words to describe that look. She stared at me, like she couldn't believe he was telling the truth, but also couldn't believe he was lying.

It almost killed me. That's when I knew.

"Guess again, asshole," I snarled, and launched myself at the nearest vamp, Mr. Hell's Angel. I led with my stake, which buried itself in his chest, turning him into dust in a second.

I have to give B credit; as soon as I moved, she ducked out of the way and shots fired wildly over her head. She aimed a leg sweep at Vinnie, and brought him to the turf.

I saw that Jock was trying to get a bead on her, and I was on him fast. I buried my stake in his back, grabbing his gun away from him with my right hand. He dissolved into dust, and I aimed the gun in Vinnie's direction.

"I think you'll want to drop that," he growled, holding Buffy in front of him, gun pressed against her temple. "One shot won't kill me, but it will most certainly kill her."

I glared at him, gun leveled at his face.

"You disappoint me. I thought for sure you knew which side to bet on this time. Guess you're just a big loser after all." He dug the gun hard into the side of B's face. "I said, drop it."

I looked into B's eyes; she was scared, but it was more for me than for her. I looked away; I had to, or else I'd never be able to do this. "Okay," I said, and ejected the clip. Time seemed to slow down in that weird way it does, right when you know you're gonna die; the clip tumbled down, end over end, until it landed on the grass with a dull thud.

Vinnie smiled at me, and pointed his gun right at my chest. "Like I said. Just a big, fuckin' loser."

"I'm not the one with a bullet in my brain," I said, and fired the one round I knew was still in the chamber.

Vinnie's head snapped back, and I heard the sharp crack of another gun firing. Buffy whipped a stake out of her sleeve, dodged around Vinnie and buried it in his back. A second later, he was dust.

What a relief, I thought, and then I wondered why my legs weren't holding me up anymore. I dropped down to the turf, noticing with a hell of a shock that my chest was covered with blood. B ran over to me, holding me. I knew she was saying something, but I couldn't figure out what. My ears didn't seem to be working, or some shit like that.

"I love you, Buffy," I heard myself say, my words echoing inside my head. I wanted her to know it, to know that I didn't betray her. Not really.

I got tired all of a sudden. After that, I don't remember a whole hell of a lot.

You didn't think the story ended here, did you? Fuck, I got knifed, fell two stories down to the bed of a junk truck and pulled out of it. Eventually.

The first thing I noticed was someone holding my hand. Buffy, definitely. I got to know those hands pretty well. She was talking to someone, from the sounds of it.

"No way. I am not leaving her."

"Buffy, be reasonable. You have to go home, get some sleep." That voice, I knew I heard it before...

"Forget it, mom." Oh yeah. "I need to be here when she wakes up."

"I know you feel responsible for her, honey, but you have to think of yourself now."

"You don't get it. She saved my life, mom, and she almost died doing it. Besides, I wouldn't leave her now anyway."

"I know she's a friend of yours, but--"

"We're more than friends, mom." Oh, this was getting good.

"Excuse me?"

"We love each other. We're in love with each other. If you can't deal with that right now, then it's probably best you leave. I'm not leaving her."

There was a long silence then. I can only imagine the looks. "We'll talk about this later." A couple seconds later, I heard the door close.

Now, if only I could get my voice to work. "Buffy?" It was hoarse, but not bad.

I heard a stifled sob, and I felt her hand brush across my face. I opened my eyes, just to have to shut them a second later from the brightness.

"I'm here, Faith. I'm here..." I felt her lips on the back of my hand, and I tried opening my eyes again. It worked a little better this time, and it only took me a few seconds to focus on Buffy.

God, she looked like hell. Dark circles under her eyes, tear stained cheeks, the whole bit. She was wearing the same clothes, too, which had big dried bloodstains all over. Crap. Those were actually my clothes that she had borrowed. Oh well.

"How many months was I out this time?" I asked, my voice still shaky.

B smiled at me, her eyes filling up with tears. "Two days. They had you in surgery for about four hours, from the time I brought you in."

"How bad is it?"

She licked her lips. "I don't know if--"

"Please, B, I want to know." I looked at her, hoping my eyes would tell her what I couldn't.

"The docs said the bullet ricocheted off your ribs and tore through your lung; it missed your heart by less than an inch. But they were able to get all the pieces out, and patched you up pretty good. With the amount of blood you lost, they didn't think you'd make it--" Her voice broke, and she took a deep breath before continuing. "I knew you would, though. Slayer chicks are just too tough to put down for long."

"Tell me about it," I said, giving her a weak grin. "So when can I get the hell out of here?"

Chapter 5

It wasn't long after that when B left, at my urging, to go tell the docs that I was awake and see when I could get the fuck out of here. She also left to go get some rest, a shower, and a clean change of clothes. That was at my urging, too.

The doc came in and checked me over; he was a short, pudgy guy who looked like he hadn't gotten laid in about a year. He called me "Ms. Summers" about four times before I actually got that he was talking to me. Smooth, Faith. Better not ever have to go into Witness Protection.

He seemed really happy at my progress; he was surprised, actually. I wasn't. Of course, I knew that I was a Slayer, and he didn't. He said I could be out in two days if I continued to improve and promised to do some lame-ass breathing exercises, to "extend the capacity of my damaged lung." Yeah, well, in a few days no one, including a doctor, would be able to tell that I had been shot.

Fuck, I got shot.

I almost died.

Oh well, not like it hadn't happened before.

I was sitting there, flipping channels on the TV trying to find something decent to watch. Figures, here I was again watching lame-ass Daytime TV, and I didn't even have my Playstation.

The door opened and Xander walked into the room, holding a stuffed bear.

Yeah, that's what I said. Surprised the hell out of me, too.

"Um, hi," he said, handing me the bear. I took it from him, wondering if it contained anything explosive, he was so nervous giving it to me.


"I heard about what happened, and I wanted to stop by... And you know what they say, 'Say it with a stuffed animal.'"

I raised an eyebrow. "And what is the stuffed animal trying to say?"

"Um, it's right there on his little t-shirt," he pointed, "'Get Well Soon.'"

I smiled, and set the little guy down on the side of the bed. "Thanks."

Things got pretty awkward after that; a few minutes passed, and neither of us said anything. Eventually, Xander mumbled, "I guess I'd better get going..."

As he was heading out the door, I said, "Hey, X-man?" He froze, and turned around to look at me. "I'm...sorry. For everything back then."

He grinned, that goofy, lop-sided grin he has. "Better have 'em check you over for a concussion, Faith...cuz I don't remember any of that." He waved goodbye, and closed the door.

Well, shit. Buffy had some pretty wicked cool friends. I had some pretty wicked cool friends. I liked the sound of that, actually.

"Hey, was that Xander?" B came into the room, looking like she had showered and changed, but...

I made a point of looking at the clock on the wall. "There is no freakin' way you actually got some sleep."

She grinned, a little sheepishly. "Who needs to sleep when you have caffeine?" She asked, sitting down next to me. "Hey, cute bear."

I decided to let her off the hook, seeing as how I started missing her about five minutes after she left. "Yeah, Xander brought it."

"So that was cute!" She picked up the bear and waved one of its little arms at me. "Hi there, Faith," she said in a deep voice, "and how are you to-day?"

I just looked at her.

"I think someone's a little grumpy, Mr. Bear," she said, nodding the bear's head in agreement.

I just kept looking at her.

She grinned, and kept playing with the bear. "So what did Xander want?"

"He wanted to bring that by. Things look like they're going to be five by five."

"Great! Glad to know he's finally come to his senses. Now all we have to do is worry about telling him about us." She licked her lips, kinda nervous now. "Faith, kinda told my mom about us."

I nodded. "I thought that's what I heard, right when I was coming out of it. Things...ok between you two?"

Buffy shrugged; she was pretty sad, it was obvious even to me. "I haven't talked to her yet. She stormed out of here, pretty upset, just before you woke up."

God, what a piece of work I was, ruining Buffy and her mom's relationship. "I wish I was surprised, I really fucked up any chance I had of her liking me. I'm sorry."

B's eyes got all wide. "Faith, you don't have to be sorry. My mom will come around, she's got to learn that I'm happy, and the choices I make aren't always going to be the ones she wants me to make. But too damn bad, they're my choices.

"I love you. And if I had my way, I'd spend the rest of my life with you."

I stared at her. "You don't mean that."

"The hell I don't."

"Ah, c'mon B," I said, looking away to stare at the wall. "You don't want--"

"Faith, shut up," she said, leaning over and kissing me. And I did.

We sat and watched TV for a little while; B held my hand and wouldn't let go. Not like I was trying to get away, or anything.



"You never did ask...why I brought us to the graveyard that night."

She shrugged. "Is it important?"

I looked at her, confused. "Isn't it?"

"You saved my life. That's all I care about." She looked at me steadily the whole time.

I nodded, and didn't say anything for a long time. Finally, I said, "I...I kinda need to tell you."

"Okay," she said softly. She squeezed my hand and waited for me to start.

The whole time I talked to her, my voice was real quiet. I did things I regretted before, hell, I did things I regretted a lot. But now, it was different. I felt ashamed.

"That vamp who was talking to us...his name was Vinnie, and he used to work for the mayor, back when I was...working. He wanted to talk to me, said he worked for Adam now, and...and they wanted me to join them. He said he knew that I enjoyed being on the winning side. He told me Adam was the winning side, that he took you on and you were scared of him.

"He knew I hated the fact that I was always second you...and that I should be the only Slayer here. That Sunnydale should be my town, and I wouldn't have to be second best to you anymore. He told me he and Adam could make it so that..." God, I couldn't go on. I just thought about what would have happened if Vinnie hadn't turned the gun on me, if instead he had shot--

"Shh, it's ok," B said to me, smoothing my hair back. "What happened?"

I forced myself to take a deep breath. "I...I had to prove to myself, to everyone, that I wasn't like that anymore. When we got to the graveyard, I didn't know what I was going to do. But when I saw you there, with that look in your eyes like I betrayed you -- I knew I'd do anything to keep you safe. I'd die to keep you safe."

"Faith," Buffy said softly, still stroking my hair. "You're not second best to me. Some things I do better, but there are a heck of a lot of things you do better than me too. The two of us, we're partners. Equals. I wouldn't have it any other way. I don't think that you're second best, and neither do any of our friends. And if some dusted vampire and junk-yard Frankenstein do, then that's their mistake. Because they'll learn it the hard way.

"You know, this whole Adam incident has really taught me two things."

"What's that?" I asked, completely unable to believe my luck. She was right, what she was saying felt right to me. I don't know if it was wishful thinking or whatever, but I felt like I could believe it.

"First, that I am incredibly lucky that you love me, and that I love you."

Shit. I felt myself blush. I never blush.

"Second, that Adam is running scared."

"Huh?" I looked at her like she was nuts. "How do you figure?"

"Because, if we Slayers are so inconsequential to him, why did he bother having his flunkies try to get you to fight on his side? I'll tell you why, because when he was making his little plans, he didn't factor you in.

"One Slayer he figures he may be able to handle. Two Slayers... and now he's in a world of hurt."

I couldn't help grinning at her, and she returned it. I don't know if what she was saying was true, but I couldn't argue with her logic.

The Chosen Two. It meant a lot to me right then. It meant everything to me.

The next couple of days went by pretty fast, and with a couple of exceptions, pretty uneventfully. The doc was pretty astounded by how quick I was healing; he prescribed me some painkillers which I never took. It doesn't pay to be all fuzzy-headed when you're a sitting duck.

Along with Xander's stuffed bear, I also got a bunch of flowers from Giles, and some balloons from Red and Tara. Looks like things went pretty well on their date after all. Just like I predicted, they did make a very cute couple.

Anyway, like I was saying, there was a big exception to all that dull and boring-ness.

I finally made B go to class, since she had probably already missed way too many because of me anyway. I was sitting up, eating my lime jello when the door opened, and who should walk in except Buffy's mom. Ah, shit. And me without my bulletproof vest.

"Joyce," I said, nodding at her. She came in without a word and sat down right next to my bed. Way too close for comfort.


"Buffy's not here," I said, knowing that Joyce had probably planned it that way.

"I know. I came to talk to you."

I didn't say anything, but I knew my expression said, "I'm here, so talk."

"I'll be straight with you, Faith." Well, that makes one of us. "I think you need help. I'm willing to make allowances because of the rough time you've had, but you have some serious problems. You're bad for yourself, and you're bad for Buffy, and I don't want you to see her anymore. If you're honest with yourself about loving Buffy, you'll make the decision which is best for her."

I almost laughed. After what we just faced, did she really think she could get between us? "Sorry to be the one to break this to you, Joyce, but what you want and what you don't want is kinda irrelevant here. It's completely up to Buffy to decide what is bad for her, and to be perfectly honest, you don't know enough about the situation to make that kind of snap judgement.

"Now, if you want my advice, you'd better just accept what Buffy decides and hope she chooses to talk to you about it. Don't think that you can just come here and guilt me into breaking up with her, like you did with deadboy. Because it just ain't gonna happen." I went back to eating my jello, and I heard her get up and leave.

Well, that won't make the inevitable family dinner any easier. But it had to be said. Didn't it?

B came back later that afternoon, and helped me spring myself from that place. I kinda put off telling her about her mom; I wasn't gonna lie to her about it, but I figured we should be somewhere a little more private first.

And I learned that I really needed to practice signing 'Faith Summers.'

Giles drove us to my place in his crappy little car. It was an improvement over his old crappy little car, but only because this one was a few years newer.

B went around the side to get my spare key off the balcony; one of these days I suppose I needed to make a couple of spares. Giles and I were left waiting on the doorstep.

"Thanks for the flowers," I said, lifting the vase. "They're cool."

He smiled at me. "I'm glad you like them." You could tell he still wasn't really comfortable, but it was getting better. And hell, if he was willing to give it a try, I would too.

B opened the front door and we went inside. As soon as we did, though, she started with all the mothering crap.

"Thanks for your help, Giles. Faith, you need to sit or lay down; we're following doctors orders on this, I don't want you going all relapsy."

I rolled my eyes and laid down on the bed. I kinda liked the attention, as long as she didn't totally overdo it. "Only if you lay down here with me," I said, giving her my best smile.

She froze for a second and looked at Giles, who was suddenly very interested in one of my posters. He cleared his throat and said, "Well, I suppose I should leave you two to...recover..."

Buffy nodded. "Yeah, we'll call...later..." And shut the door behind him. She turned to look at me, and I just kept grinning at her.

"Was that really necessary," she said, in that long-suffering way of hers.

"Completely. We've got nothing to hide, B; they'll find out anyway, and if they see how happy we are they won't second-guess it." I patted the bed next to me.

She walked over and laid down, putting her head on my shoulder. "I guess you're right. I just hope my mom sees it the same way."

Uh oh. "I wouldn't bet on it..."

She sat up and looked at me. "Why? What happened?"

"Your mom came to see me this morning, after you left," I sighed. "She wanted me to stop seeing you."

"Damn it!" B swore. She looked really pissed. "When is she going to learn that I'm an adult?" She jumped up and grabbed her jacket.

"Wait a minute," I interrupted, getting up with a small amount of pain and walking over to her. "Far be it from me to keep someone from going off 'half-cocked.' I am, after all, the queen of half-cocked. But do you really want to talk to her right now, now that you're pissed off?"

"Guess not," she said, and dropped her jacket back on the chair. "Guess I should give it a couple of days, huh?" She pulled me back to the bed.

"Now this is more like it," I said, climbing on top of her and kissing her.

I felt her laugh. "Are you sure we should be doing this?"

"Fuck," I said, pulling off her t-shirt. "I'll be six feet under before I stop doing this."

From the sounds she was making, I'll assume she agreed.

Chapter 6

"Gotcha," I said, feinting with a kick, and then at the last minute dropping into a leg sweep which dumped B right on her butt. "You ain't goin' easy on me or anything, are ya?"

B got up, rubbing her tailbone. "Trust me, I'm not going easy on you. You're just getting better. A lot better."

I grinned to myself, bouncing up and down on the balls of my feet. B and I were sparring in my -- our? -- loft; it was nice, and a hell of a lot less lethal than the last time we fought here.

B was right, though; I was getting better. I didn't feel that weird, stretchy feeling in my chest anymore, and my breathing was back to normal. Gotta love Slayer healing; less than two days since I got out of the hospital, and I'm already almost one hundred goddamn percent.

Maybe once I healed up, all those doubts I had about myself and B would disappear too?

Who the hell was I trying to bullshit.

"Guess we should call it a morning... We have that meeting at Giles' to go to, and I'd kinda like to shower. I'd rather not have our friends smell me before they see me." B gave me a quick kiss and went into the bathroom.

Our friends. B was saying stuff like that more often. Our friends, our place, us, we. I'd never really been a part of anything before, unless you count the Watcher's Council, and that was a major clusterfuck. But she always included me, I don't even know if she did it on purpose or not.

When I came back here after getting out of the hospital, we both kinda agreed it would be better for B to move in here, unofficially at least. She wanted to be near me, in case I needed anything, and I wanted to be near her. What a laugh -- big, bad Faith didn't even like sleeping alone anymore. But can you blame me? When you've got B sleeping next to you, anything else is a wicked letdown.

What I tried to tell her was, "Buffy, I think things between us are better than they've ever been. I love you, and I need you. I would be happy beyond words to have you move in here with me. I know it's not much, but it would mean a lot to me." What I actually said was, "You know, you should bring over some of your stuff. That way it won't be such a pain in the ass if you spend the night over here."

She got it -- at least, I think she did. B just smiled at me and said, "I think that's a great idea. I'd love to." And so she dragged over a bunch of her clothes and stuff. Red gave her a little bit of a hard time, but it wasn't like she was spending a whole bunch of her nights at the dorm room, either. The little witch was keeping her plenty busy.

I listened to the sound of the shower running for a couple of minutes before it really sunk in, and then I began to wonder what I was doing out here when she was in there.

This is California after all; gotta do what I can to save water. And if that means showering together, I guess I'll just have to make that sacrifice.

"Okay, so what do we know about Adam?" Buffy asked, looking around the room. The whole Super Friends group was there, sitting around the G-man's living room: Willow and Tara together on the couch, just itching to hold each other's hand, but trying to play it cool in front of everyone; Giles, all business now that he had something demonic to focus on; Anya, sitting near Xander and glaring daggers at me; and Xander, sitting in one of Giles' chairs, uncomfortably aware of Anya and me in the same room. Guess he told her what was what, and now that we were talking again, she was pulling a jealous routine.

As if she had to worry. I sighed. Guess I'd have to straighten that out, too.

"I've got a list of several of the different demon types from which he was constructed," Giles said, holding up a piece of paper. "He has been given extraordinary strength, and above-average speed. He has, of course, the skewers in his arms from the Polgara demon, but that seems to be his primary weapon."

"Aside from his fists," I said, rubbing my arm. Giles nodded at me.

"So he likes to get in close," B said, pacing around now. "Problem is, so do we. But we can't inflict the same damage on him that he can on us."

I shrugged. "Piece of cake, then." They all looked at me like crazy, so I explained. "I seem to remember hearing about the great Slayer Buffy Summers, who once pulled out a fuckin' rocket launcher to finish off some demon or other who couldn't be killed with normal weapons."

B thought about that for a second. "Yeah, but unlike the Judge, Adam knows what a rocket launcher is, and he probably won't stand still for it."

Xander spoke up. "He's got some computer thing in his chest...can't we use that to attack him?"

Everyone looked at Red now. "Maybe...but we'd have to give him a disk and trick him into reading it," Willow said. "But I can't write a virus unless I know a lot more about his hardware and operating system."

"Can you get that information from the Initiative's computers?" Buffy asked.

"Probably...but the Initiative probably uses C2 security, at a minimum." Red got blank looks from everyone. "That means their network is isolated." More blank looks. "It means I can't just break into their system from outside."

"Can Riley help us get in to their system?" Xander asked.

B and I exchanged looks. "I don't think we can count on Riley's help with this one," Buffy said evenly. "He and the Initiative will be hunting Adam separately."

"Which leaves us with the massive brute force approach," I said, jumping off the breakfast bar I was sitting on. "All we have to do is make sure Adam doesn't see it. He can't see it, he can't dodge it, right?"

"Only one problem," Xander said. "Rocket launchers make a big noise and a big flash before they make the big boom. There's no way you'd be able to keep that a secret."

"So we can't use a rocket launcher," B said, looking around. "Is there anything else we can use?"

I grinned at her. "I think I have an idea."

After a few more minutes of hashing things out, B and Giles left to go stock up on a few weapons, and Xander left with his own laundry list of stuff to rip off from the dupes at the military base. It was only so obvious that Anya didn't want to see him go, and she never stopped glaring daggers at me the whole time. Well, since Red and Tara were researching some spell or other, I figured this would be a good time to get some things straightened out.

I walked over and sat down next to her, watching with some smugness as she moved over to try to get some of her personal space back. I knew all the intimidation tricks, and getting in someone's face is definitely one of them.

"You got a problem with me?" I asked, wicked casual.

"You're after Xander." Direct and to the point. I could get to like this girl, if she stops being such a bitch.

"He told you we slept together, didn't he?"

She nodded, still glaring.

"Well, trust me, I'm not looking for a repeat performance. It was just a quickie, I'm-horny-you're-horny thing, ok? Didn't mean anything, and if I knew how B and her friends felt about casual sex, it wouldn't have happened in the first place. Got it?"

The chick looked confused. "How can anyone have sex with Xander, and not want to have sex with him again?"

Now, see, this is a conversation I like to have; no BS, no beating around the bush. "All I can say is that he must have practiced before boinking you, because when we did it, he was ok, but not great. I've had better."

"Really? Who?"

I shrugged. "Plenty of people. I mean, if Xander is ringing all your bells, that's great, stick with that. He just doesn't do it for me, ya know?"

"Because you have Buffy, right?"

My eyebrows shot up. Two points for perception. "Yeah." No reason to deny it.

"You two are orgasm friends?"

That's an interesting way to put it. "At least. I..." Shit, Faith, you can do this. "I love Buffy. I wouldn't do anything to hurt her, including cheating on her with Xander. Okay?"

She thought about that for a minute before she nodded. "Good," I said, and glanced up just in time to see two pairs of eyes look down wicked fast at a book. I grinned to myself and got up, walking around behind Red and Tara. Leaning down, I said, "See anything interesting?"

Two heads shook.

I just smiled and went over to turn on the TV.

"Ohh yeah, baby, it's been too long." I ran my hand over the smooth surface, feeling the lethal tension just waiting to be released. She fit in my hand perfectly, like we were made for each other. Hell, who knows? We probably were.

"Faith, if you're done having a religious experience with your new toy..." Buffy said, smiling.

I looked up, tearing my eyes away from the gorgeous, black compound bow that Giles and Buffy picked up as part of their shopping trip. "Sure, sorry B. But the experience I was having wasn't religious."

That got a grin from B, but Giles cleared his throat. "Well, we're all familiar with the plan of attack. The only question that remains is, how do we implement it?"

"We have to lure out Adam, right?" Red asked. "How do we do that?"

"By giving him something that he wants," I said. "Me."

B shook her head. "No way. Besides, Faith, if the plan is going to work, you've got to be hiding when Adam comes out. I'll need to be the one out there."

"He'll know it's a trick," Red pointed out. "He's not stupid."

"But he thinks we are..." I thought for a sec, twirling a broadhead arrow between my fingers. "When you're trying to pull a con, the best thing to do is to feint, let the mark catch you goofing up on a smaller con, so the big one doesn't get noticed. It's a great way to get someone to underestimate you."

"Do I even want to know how you know all this?" B shook her head, smiling. "So he's going to assume it's an ambush, unless we give him another trick to figure out."

I grinned and nodded. I was juiced now, all the pieces were clicking into place. "You know, B, you'd look good as a brunette."

"She should have been back by now," I mumbled, pacing the floor.

Red looked up from the book she was reading. She and Tara were sitting a little closer together, getting a little more daring with the whole PDA thing. "It takes a little while to get to Willy's and back. I'm sure she's ok."

I grunted and kept pacing. I should have gone with her, but we didn't want to make it too obvious. The trick is in making it just obvious enough.

Seconds later, the door opened, and B walked in. Goddamn, looking at her, I could hardly breathe. She was wearing stuff that I would normally wear: boots, tight black leather pants, black tube top and black denim jacket. The only difference was that she had a brown-haired wig covering her hair; a wig which she took off as soon as she got through the door.

I was gonna keep my cool, but I couldn't help it. I jumped into her arms as soon as the door closed, and gave her a nice, long kiss.

"I should be greeted like this more often," she whispered to me after breaking the kiss.

"I missed you," I told her, huskily. We heard a small cough, and looked over to where Red was clearing her throat. Not that she gave a rat's ass what we were doing, but she pointed at Giles and Xander, whose eyebrows had reached their hairlines.

"Uh oh," Buffy said to me, in a low voice. "Now we've done it."

"I couldn't help myself," I told her. "In that outfit, you're wicked sexy."

"Guess I should hang onto it, then." She grinned at me, and winked. Turning to the two guys, she said, "I guess it's kinda obvious that Faith and I are a little bit more than friends."

Giles seemed to snap out of the haze he was in. "Ah, yes. Well, I'm sure everything is...good. Can I get anyone a drink?" And he beat a hasty exit to the kitchen.

Xander just stared at us. B frowned, all worried for the guy. "Are you ok, Xander? Does this bother you?" I snickered. I coulda told her he was ok, considering all the blood left his brain in a rush.

His jaw worked for a minute before any sound came out. "Two beautiful, leather-wearing, strong, gorgeous -- did I mention leather-wearing? -- Slayers french kissing right in front of me. You know, I can't tell if it's bothering me or not. Could you do it again, so I can make sure?"

I shrugged. "Sure," I said, and put my arms around B.

B, in turn, almost jumped out of her skin. "Xander! Faith!" She gave us both a glare that was completely unconvincing.

I just shrugged again. "Shit, wouldn't be the first time I let a guy watch," I said. That got a whole hell of a lot of shocked looks from everyone, Xander included.

"Ok, that's enough," Anya said, dropping the magazine she was reading. "C'mon Xander, let's go back to your basement."

"Yeah, that's a good idea, Anya," Xander said, still in a daze. "We need to go stuff. You stuff."

Anya looked pleasantly surprised. "That's the second time today. I should let him watch you guys kiss more often," she said, and dragged him out of the house.

"So," I said, casual as all hell. "How did it go over at Willy's?"

B looked at me, and blinked a couple of times. "Oh, it went fine; I found one of Adam's vamp goons, told him I was Faith and that I was sorry our last meeting went bad. Told him to let Adam know that I could deliver him Buffy, and to meet me tomorrow night at the cemetery."

"Great." I grinned. "Did he fall for it?"

"Not really," B said. "He kept looking at me, like he recognized me as Buffy. But he didn't say anything."

"So Adam will think the trick is an ambush by Buffy?" Tara asked, her voice so quiet it barely carried to the other side of the room. Gonna have to work on loosening that girl up.

I nodded. "That's the plan."

"You know," Buffy began, facing the group, "no one should feel like they have to come with us. This is going to be pretty dangerous, and if anyone feels like they shouldn't risk their lives, that's cool."

Red looked at Tara, and the witch girl just slid her hand into Red's. Guess that was her answer. Red looked at B and said, "We're with you, Buffy. We want to help fight the big, nasty evil. You'll need our help."

"She's right, Buffy." Giles nodded. "Not helping you is not an option worth considering."

B grinned; I smiled, too. It was nice having friends to watch your back. "I love you guys," B said, getting all misty-eyed and shit.

"Ah hell," I said, blinking. "If this is turning into the caring circle, I'm going home."

Red and Tara got up from the couch. "Guess we'd better go back, before it gets late. Big day tomorrow." They said their goodbyes, and took off.

B looked at me, sliding her arms around my waist. "Tomorrow's going to be pretty dangerous, huh?"

I shrugged, holding her close. "Could be."

She was going to say something, and stopped to lick her lips; I barely held back from doing it for her. "It's not too late; I'd kinda like for us to visit with my mom. Try to get things straightened out before tomorrow."

Woah. Didn't see that coming. "Now, I don't want you to be all getting your affairs in order here, B. Cuz you ain't going anywhere tomorrow, ya know?"

"I know." B nodded. "But I want to get past that. Go into the fight tomorrow with a clear head."

I couldn't argue with that, but I didn't know how much would actually get resolved. "Okay, I'm game."

Back to chapter 1Forward to chapter 7
Return to the Fanfiction Return to The Chosen Two Return to the Series