The Faith Factor
by Erin
Chapter 7

"So," Joyce said, breaking the five-minute silence. It felt more like five hours, but the clock on the living room wall said differently. I was starting to wonder if it was broken.

I kept my mouth shut, and watched the looks that B and her mom were giving each other. Every so often Joyce would get that look in her eyes when she was watching B, that "oh, my poor baby" kinda look. And then she'd glance at me, and she was all ice queen again.

"So," B echoed back. "I'd kinda like to talk this out, mom. Maybe get things resolved."

"What makes you think they can be resolved?" Joyce asked, her voice quiet.

I winced; damn, this wasn't going to be pretty.

It seemed to hurt B, too. "What is this about? Is this about Faith, or the fact that I'm dating a girl?"

"Both," Joyce shot back immediately. "I could probably get used to the lesbian thing--"

"I'm not a lesbian, mom--"

"--god knows I've had to get used to some pretty strange things in your life. But why her?" Okay, I'm still here, in the room. "Why someone who has done so much to hurt you, to hurt all of us?"

"First of all, dating a girl is nothing compared to some of the weirdness that has come in and out of my life since we moved here, since before we moved here," Buffy said, her voice calm. Yeah, her voice was calm, but I saw the way she was gripping the arms of that chair. Any minute she was going to turn them into toothpicks. "Second, I trust Faith. I trust her with my life."

Joyce glanced at me. "Do you trust her with all our lives?"

"Yes." B didn't even hesitate. I loved her for it.

"Well, that makes one of us," Joyce said.

"Two of us, actually." I couldn't help it, I just had to say something.

"Since I've been told the decision really isn't up to me," Joyce gave me a pointed look again, "I don't know what else there is to talk about."

She was pulling out the trump card, now. Motherly guilt. Bet she still thought she could get between us, if she showed B all that strict disapproval.

B was quiet for a long time, long enough for my heart to stop beating, I think. Finally, she looked up. "I'm sorry you feel that way, mom." She got up, letting go of the chair's arms, which had developed small cracks. B held out her hand to me, and I reached out and took it. I was no dummy.

Then we left.

I guess I won; I mean, B chose me over her mom, right? So why didn't winning jazz me like it usually did?

It only took one look at B to answer that question.

"She'll come around," I said, with a hell of a lot more confidence than I felt. "She loves you. She won't stay mad at you for long." Me, on the other hand, she could stay mad at. But I didn't say that out loud.

She didn't look convinced. "My mom has a long memory. You don't know how long it took her to trust me again after I ran away."

Actually, I did. I was around during that time. Out loud, though, I said, "She's still your mom. She stuck with you through the Slayer thing, even though it had to be pretty wicked strange for her. She just needs time to deal."

B gave me a weird look. "How come you're defending her, after what she said about you?"

I didn't even look at her, I just kept walking. "Personally, I don't give a rat's ass about her. But she's important to you. That's all that counts."

I felt Buffy's hand on my arm, and I stopped and looked at her. She didn't say anything, she just pulled me in for a hug. Her skin was cold, way colder than the night air; that confrontation with her mom really cost her.

"I guess I need to put this behind me, and focus on tomorrow," she said, her voice muffled against my leather jacket. I nodded, my cheek rubbing against the top of her head. The smell surrounded me, some expensive conditioner she used that was like twenty bucks a bottle or some shit. It was my second favorite smell in the world.

"C'mon," I said, breaking the hug but leaving an arm wrapped around her waist. "Big day tomorrow. We'd better go home and get some sleep."

"Home," she whispered, so quiet I wasn't even sure if she said it, slayer hearing and all. Louder, she said, "That sounds like a good idea."

Ah, the life of a Slayer. Twelve hours ago I was laying in a nice, comfortable bed, the most beautiful woman in the world wrapped around me, sleeping peacefully.

Now, I'm hiding under some really thorny bushes, flat against the cold, wet dirt. I looked out across the moonlit graveyard and saw B standing there out in the open by the graves, dressed like me with the brown-haired wig and everything.

It was showtime.

We'd been in our positions for about an hour already, since a little before sunset. I glanced up into the tree which hung above the bushes I was hiding in, and I could just barely see where I'd left my bow. Damn California trees, way too bare for me to be hiding up there in the branches; I'd have been spotted in a flat second. That's why I was down here, laying face first in the dirt and mud. Scratched, and cold, and grimy.

I was pissed.

I had just felt some mud ooze into the waistband of my black jeans -- good call avoiding the leather pants tonight -- and I was starting to get seriously icked out when I spotted a tall figure stride out of the shadows, heading right for Buffy.


He looked as bad-ass as ever, walking up until he stood about 10 feet away from B. He cocked his head to the side, and his voice carried easily to where I was laying.

"You are not Faith." He didn't sound at all surprised.

B stripped off the brown wig and sneered at him. "Figure that out on your own, huh? Good boy."

"It was an obvious ruse," Adam replied in that same dull, monotone voice of his. "You tried to use my interest in Faith to bring me here alone, so you could fight me. I had hoped that you would be smarter. More of a challenge."

"What makes you think I won't be?" Buffy asked, still putting on the arrogant act. At least, I think it was an act.

"Because you will not live through the night," he said. And right when he said this, the ground started to erupt all around her. Dirt and grass went flyin' into the air, as these huge, goddamn holes appeared everywhere. I was so freakin' surprised I couldn't move, and I could see that B was pretty surprised too.

Vampires. Goddamn vampires were bursting out of every grave in the area; must've been about thirty of 'em. They surrounded B almost instantly, and I could see Adam standing there, totally calm and shit, just waiting for her to die.

A pretty wicked smart little trap, I'll give him that.

Too bad for him we had our own wicked smart little trap, too.

"Now, guys!" B yelled, and she shoulder-rolled behind a gravestone, coming up with a fierce double-headed axe that she had stashed there out of sight. It only took a couple of seconds after B gave the signal before the troops put phase one into action.

Holy water balloons. Ohhhh yeah.

I saw Giles, Red, Xander, Tara, and even Anya jump up from the various bushes and shit they were hiding behind. They chucked those goddamn water balloons for everything they were worth, plastering vamp after vamp with holy water. I could feel a wicked grin break out on my face when I saw at least a dozen vamps smoking and sizzling like bacon.

Man, the looks on their faces -- not to mention Adam's face -- were fucking priceless.

Didn't take long for the vamps to dive for cover, and they totally forgot about B. They were too busy going after Giles and the rest. I heard Xander yell something, and the last water balloons were chucked, and the holy water-filled super soakers came out. I could feel my hands clenching into fists; I was just itching to get into the action, but I knew if I moved at the wrong time, the plan was blown. Still, this lying-in-wait thing was really just not my speed.

Meanwhile, B was circling Adam carefully, trying to get him into position while the gang cleaned up on the vamps. The vamps were trying to close, trying to get near enough to take some of 'em out, but those damn super soakers have a pretty wicked range. Red and Tara clasped hands, and I could hear 'em chanting something just seconds before a beam of what looked like sunlight streaked out of their palms, setting any vamps it touched on fire. Giles picked up a crossbow and was busy dusting any vamps that the holy water and sunlight didn't burn to death. I would've helped, but I had my own shit to do.

B was having a hell of a time getting Adam into position; he didn't look too happy that we were polishing off his army, and he was taking swipes at B any chance he got. He had his skewer thing out, and B was dodging like crazy. He lunged at her, and B threw herself to the side. It caught her jacket and tore it; if she'd been a half-second later, it would have torn her. I almost leapt out of the bushes right then and there, headed for his throat. I didn't, though. Adam's last lunge had taken him further into the clearing, and now he had his back to me. There was only one thing I could do that would make a difference, and it was time for me to be doing it. It was time for me to make like a sniper.

I scrambled back out from under the bushes and stood up, my heart hammering hard inside my chest. I was ready to climb the tree and get to my bow, but something stopped me. Someone, actually.

Riley "Beefstick" Finn.

He stood a few feet away, dressed in those commando fatigues that he and all of his repressed homosexual buddies loved so much. But what stopped me wasn't really Beefstick, it was the blaster rifle he was holding, pointed right at me.

Damn, I was really starting to hate people who point guns at me.

"Faith," he hissed at me. Don't ask me how, it's not like 'Faith' has any s'es or anything. He managed, though. "Looks like the odds are a little more even now, doesn't it?"

"Look," I said. "I do not have time for this. You want to throw down, we can do it whenever you want. But for now, get the fuck outta here." I took a step toward the tree, and he raised his rifle.

"You think I'm letting you go? Forget it. I'm taking you down. Now."

"Shit! Would you listen to me?" I said, getting really kinda nervous now. "B is out there facing down Adam. Now if I don't do what I gotta do, she's in a world of hurt. Do you get that?"

Nothing. He still just kept looking at me like I was slime, his Clark Kent jaw set like it was wired shut. Hell, I knew he hated me, but this was really not the time or the place. I could hear a couple of blows being exchanged out there, where B and Adam were. We were running out of time; she couldn't dodge forever, and nothing she could possibly do was going to put the hurt on him.

I heard a faint crackling sound coming from Corn-fed's headset. After a second, he said, "This is Alpha 4, this sector is clear. Repeat, this sector is clear. No sign of hostiles." What the hell?

He just sneered at me, and said, "Guess I should take you out first. And then I can go out there, and Buffy and I can take down Adam. Like a team. Like we were supposed to be, before you came along."

Yeah, like Beefstick would last even a second against Adam. Stubborn fucking son of a bitch, why couldn't he just leave us the hell alone?

Just then I heard B's voice, strained, almost frightened. "Faith! Come on..."

"Screw this," I said, and jumped up to grab the lowest branch on the tree. Of course, right after I did, Beefstick lit me up.

All that goddamn electricity hit me, and it felt like every nerve in my body was on fire, all at once. I totally lost my grip on the tree branch, and dimly felt my body hit the ground. Soldier-boy was really gonna pay for that.

He tried to blast me again, but I rolled and got to my feet. Sorta. I mean, my knees weren't holding me up too well, and my legs felt all tingly like they were asleep. I just hoped it wore off quick, because I knew he wasn't gonna give me a breather.

"Okay, fun's over," I snarled, and half jumped, half lunged at the asshole, doubling him over with a quick punch to the solar plexus. I grabbed the rifle out of his hand and hit him upside the head with it, feeling his cheekbone crunch beautifully.

"Not so tough without your toy now, are ya!" I yelled, and kicked at his face. He dodged, my kick just glancing off his arm. He turned and swung at me with some black, baton-looking thing that he pulled out of nowhere. I ducked, but I still felt it smack into the side of my head. I blinked, and felt blood -- my blood, goddammit! -- trickling down my face.

He struck at me again, and I grabbed his arm, stopping it dead in mid-swing. I bent his arm back, wrenching away his baton. I punched it into his stomach, doubling him over, and brought it down across the back of his shoulders. He dropped to the ground like a pole-axed ox.

"Stay down!" I snarled, and ran to the tree, jumping up to catch a branch. B was counting on me to be up there, and there was no way I was gonna let her down.

I pulled myself up about halfway when I felt a couple of big hands wrap themselves around my boot, pulling me out of the tree. I scrambled to hold on to the tree branch, but the goddamn mud was everywhere now, keeping me from getting a good grip. I hit the ground hard, and felt Beefstick's hands wrap around my throat.

His weight pressed down on me hard, but I'd fought off bigger than him. I smacked him hard, right in the broken cheek, and he rolled off me, making nice little retching sounds. I yelled something -- hell, I don't even know what it was -- and picked him up by his commando vest, throwing him as hard as I could. He flew for a good ten, fifteen feet before he touched ground, and that was only because a tree trunk got in the way. He smacked right into it, and I heard a crunching sound which was probably a rib or two.

I took a step toward him, and he scrambled back, groaning from the pain. He threw me a look that would have killed me on the spot, if that were possible; blood ran down his face, and I could see one of his eyes swelling shut pretty nicely.

"Bitch," he mumbled, and stumbled into a run. I so wished I could go after him, but I had taken way too long on him already, and the thought of B out there alone with Adam scared the hell out of me.

I dropped the blaster, and scrambled up the tree lightning fast, grabbing my bow. I had a really sweet view of the clearing where B and Adam were fighting, and I could see that she was definitely getting the worst of it.

She was trying to hold him at bay by swinging the axe, but it was just way too slow. Every so often he'd close and land a punch on her and she'd go flying, hitting dirt and stone with bone-crushing force. Every time she got up, she got up a little slower, too. She had avoided his skewer-thingy for the most part; she had blood running down her arm from what looked like a pretty wicked puncture, but at least it was only her arm. For the moment, anyway.

Okay, time to even those odds.

I grabbed one of the special arrows that Xander made for me, and pushed the button on the timer to activate the ten-second delay.

I nocked the arrow, drew, and held it there, fully knowing that I'd be dead if I held it just a little too long. I had to wait, I had to get the best shot possible, because I was only getting one chance with this. And if I fucked it up, B was dead. And there was no way in hell I was gonna let that happen.

Buffy swung the axe at him, and Adam grabbed it, ripping the axe out of Buffy's hands and throwing it to the side. It threw her off-balance, and Adam pulled his left arm back to use his skewer. Never gonna be a better time.

I let the arrow fly, and it buried itself deep into his lower back. A lot lower than I was aiming for, but the modified arrow flew like shit. Adam stopped his thrust, like he was surprised that someone had shot him. He turned to look at me, all puzzled and shit; B saw the arrow sticking out of his back and she took that moment to dive over some headstones.

The arrow in Adam's back exploded, mainly due to the half pound of plastique Xander had packed into the aluminum shaft. The shockwave damn near knocked me out of the tree, and I almost fell out again a second later when one of Adam's arms crashed through the branches next to me. Luckily, Adam wasn't attached to it.

I poked my head out, looking out over the remains of Adam and several nearby headstones which had been pounded flat. Dropping down to the ground, I walked out into the clearing pretty damn carefully. My ears were still ringing a little bit from the explosion.

Adam was laying face-up on the ground, and all that was left was half his torso, one arm, and his head. His legs were laying a few feet away, and several feet away, respectively.

B poked her head up from behind the gravestone where she took cover, and she walked over to pick up her axe. Adam tried to reach for her when she walked up, but it was a pretty fuckin' weak attempt. B just looked at him grimly, and clutched up on that axe of hers. She swung and brought the axe down right on his arm, taking it off the body with one clean slice. Her next shot was for his neck.

I walked up behind her and put my hands on her shoulders, kinda letting her know it was me before I wrapped my arms around her and held her against me. Doesn't pay to startle a Slayer, I know that as well as anyone. I felt her relax, and she dropped the axe.

"'Bout time you showed up," she said with a little smile, leaning back into me. "I was starting to get a little worried about you." She was shaking a little, and I tightened my grip, holding her close.

"Yeah, well, there was a distraction. I'll tell ya about it later." I kinda nuzzled her neck and inhaled deeply. She smelled like sweat, and a little bit of dirt, but mostly she smelled like Buffy. Definitely my favorite smell in the world.

We were alive.

G-man and the crew walked up right then; Red and Tara were kinda leaning on each other, and Xander was limping, one arm thrown across Anya's shoulders for balance. Bet he tried to go hand-to-hand at some point and almost got his butt kicked.

"Well, it would appear that the danger has been neutralized," G-man said in that wicked obvious way of his.

"For now, but he's still got his power source," B replied. "Unless someone knows how to dispose of uranium?" She looked around, but no one seemed like they knew, and they were too tired for smart-ass remarks. "Ok, then, we've just got to take the pieces that are left, and scatter them."

I walked over and grabbed one certain piece by the hair, lifting it up. Pretty gruesome looking, actually; he still had this wide-eyed, puzzled look on his face. Betcha didn't think it would turn out this way, did ya, you cyber-demon asshole. "So we all take a part and meet back at G-man's?" I asked. I already knew exactly what I was going to do with this one.

Chapter 8

I crouched there for a minute, just watching. Straw-blond hair fell down across his forehead, giving him a kind of tousled, little-boy look; he was pretty cute. If you ignored the huge bandage covering half his face, that is.

Broken cheekbones are nasty. An injury like that you have to be careful about; could ruin a person's looks if it doesn't set right.

It hadn't taken me very long to figure out which room belonged to Beefstick, and even less time than that to jimmy the window open. No obvious alarms, so it was all good. They had him so high on painkillers that he never heard me.

I eyed him with appreciation, noting his smooth chest and hard muscles. But that view was ruined too, by the large bandage they used to wrap his ribs.

I wonder how he had explained it to them. Did he say, "Oh, I know I told you guys it was all clear, but then I decided to jump this chick"? Or maybe he told them he ran into a door by accident. A door which then jumped up and pounded the crap out of him. Maybe he just went with the classic, "I fell down the stairs."

Bastard. I could kill him in a flat second. Just snap his neck. Or maybe suffocate him; that wouldn't leave any marks. Buffy'd never know, no one would know. And he'd be off our backs, for good.

At times like this, I always remember those cool "Choose Your Own Adventure" books they had when I was a kid. You know, where they would give you a story and then ask you to choose what you did next, like "Do you talk to the dragon?" or "Do you attack the dragon?"

So guess which one I always chose?

Thing was, whenever I did that it almost always meant a quick and painful end to the story. And this story was just getting to the point where it really meant a whole hell of a lot to me.

So I just shook my head, and climbed out the window. I hope Beefstick appreciated how close to death he came just now; but no, he'd never know, cuz he was just laying there, doped up and sleeping peacefully.

Of course, he'll be a damned sight less peaceful when he rolls over in the morning and sees Adam's severed head in bed with him. I chuckled; I'd give anything to be able to see that. But no, places to go and all that.

You didn't think I was going to let him go without even a warning, did you?

So I ran my "errand", and hustled it back over to G-man's to meet with the others. They were all there, and in various stages of exhaustion, but B still jumped up to meet me when I came in.

"What took you so long?" She asked, kissing me soundly. I noticed Xander trying to do the "look but don't look" thing, so I kept the kiss going for a couple extra minutes. Hell, he had been a real trooper tonight, he deserved a thrill.

Finally, I broke for air. "Sorry, took me longer than I thought to get rid of that thing. We got anything to drink around here?"

"Yeah, we kicked demon butt. I say it's Miller time," Xander said, looking around.

Giles answered from the living room where he was slumped in a chair. "There's soda in the refrigerator."

"Hardly the drink of choice for brave warriors returning from battle," Xander complained. Giles just shot him a look. "Soda it is." He grabbed a few sodas from the fridge and began passing them out.

"How awful..." Red's voice was pretty quiet; she and the little witch were sacked out on the couch looking pretty frayed and worn. They looked like B and I did when we'd gone fifteen rounds with the undead; those spells must really be a bitch to cast.

"Ok, I'm not a big fan of Tab either, but it's all Mr. I-Don't-Know-Anything- About-American-Culture has in the fridge," Xander answered, looking at the can with disgust.

"No, I mean, yeah that's gross, but I was talking about Adam."

"What about him, Will?" B asked. I sat down on one of the kitchen stools and pulled her back against me, wrapping my hands around her waist. I didn't really feel like being away from her, right then.

"Well, according to the information that Riley got to us, um, before," she looked over at us in apology, "Adam's brain wasn't really in his head. It was a processor chip in his chest, between his power source and spinal cord."

"Oooookay," B said. She wasn't alone; I didn't know what the hell Red was getting at, either.

"What did happen to Adam's chest?" I asked B quietly.

"Will and Tara sent it to a pocket dimension, or something," B said, shrugging.

"So...?" Xander asked.

"So, we've just gone all 'Johnny Got His Gun' with him," Red answered sadly.

Blank stares all 'round.

"I think you need to reach a little lower for the pop culture references there, Will," Xander said, all puzzled and shit.

"I think what Willow is saying is that Adam remains fully awake and aware, yet he cannot move, cannot feel, cannot hear, or see, or speak. He is trapped," the G-man explained.

"Wow. Heavy," I said. Everyone nodded, serious looks on their faces. "So, who's up for microwave popcorn?"

Ah, the life of a Slayer. Twelve hours ago I was lying in dirt and mud under a bunch of thorny bushes, not knowing whether we would survive the night.

Now, I'm lying in bed, all warm and clean and comfortable, with the most beautiful woman in the world wrapped around me.

What did B call it? Oh yeah, "symmetry."

Adam was dead. With any luck, Beefstick and the Commando Boys would be laying off. So that just left the normal assortment of demons and vampires who were almost constantly trying to kill us.

And it left me. Who was, at one time, Buffy's biggest enemy of all.

I looked down at B's face, so peaceful. Open. Honest. We had been through so much together the past couple of weeks. I'll have to hand it to her, she took all my doubts, all my self-loathing and self-pity, and she weathered all of it. She not only put up with it, she tried to reassure me as much as possible.

Just how did a fucked-up, murdering bitch like me get to have someone like her in my life?

"Whatcha thinkin'?" She murmured, looking up at me sleepily. I didn't realize until right then that I had been staring at her the whole time.

Lie to her, I thought. Lie to her and tell her, 'I was just thinking you're the most gorgeous, sexy woman on Earth.'

"He told me my days were numbered."

B blinked, and drew herself up, looking at me all alarmed and shit. "What? Who?"

I never changed expression, I just kept talking in that same dull voice. "The Mayor. Had a videotape delivered to me not long after I woke up. Told me that once he was dead, there was nothing for me anymore. That I wouldn't have a place in the world...not without him."

B took one of my hands in hers, and kissed it. "I hope you know that's not true."

"I thought it was true at the time. Now..." I shrugged. "I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop, B. It's hard."

She didn't jump to reassure me or anything, she just looked at me, kinda sad. "What can I do to make you believe it?"

"I don't know. Maybe nothing. Maybe I'll get it eventually, maybe it'll get through this thick skull of mine. I just don't know."

We sat there for a while, B looking at me, and me just staring off across the room.

"Do you love me?"

What? The question came totally out of left field, catching me off guard. "Yeah, I mean, of course I love you." What was she thinking, wasn't I telling her that enough? Isn't she happy? God, if I've done something to make her unhappy...

"You know I love you," she said. "And you know that when you wanted to pull away from me, I didn't let you go. Don't you trust me?"

I looked away, avoiding her eyes. "Of course I trust you. It's me I don't trust."

"I don't know why not. You saved my life. Twice."

I grimaced. "It's not that kind of trust. I always make the wrong choices, especially when it comes to relationships."

"Why do you think that?"

"Just look at my track record--"

B cut me off. "Your track record tells me one thing: you are looking for someone to love you, to understand you. Completely and totally. And most everyone has fallen short. Family, boyfriends, girlfriends, the Mayor...most of them loved you, or pretended to love you, for what you could give them."

She sat up, looking me straight in the eyes, no bullshit, no pretense. "I love you for who you are. Completely and totally. I know the best about you, and I know the worst about you, too. I've seen it all, first hand.

"I understand you, Faith. And you understand me. You're the first person who really has." She leaned over and kissed me tenderly. I never really knew what that felt like before I was with B. She broke the kiss and went into the bathroom, cutting off any argument I was about to make.

I leaned back and stared up at the ceiling. She was right. Damn, she had a way of looking straight into my soul. I used to look there, too, before I started hating the thing that was looking back at me. Maybe it was time for me to start looking again, and trusting what I found.

B took off shortly after that to catch a couple of study sessions on campus. She was gonna invite Red and Tara to dinner with us, too; I know she wanted to get to know Tara better now that she was Red's girl.

So I kissed her goodbye, already having decided on what I was going to be doing this afternoon.

The door chimed a little when I walked into the gallery. I wandered around for a couple of minutes, just looking at all the crap they had up on the walls, and how much cash people were willing to drop for it.

"Hello, may I help--" Joyce cut herself off when she rounded the corner and saw me standing here. "Faith."

"Mrs. Summers." I looked around a little and said, "There somewhere around here we can talk?"

She nodded, and led me back to an office. "What do you want to talk about?"

"Buffy. Look Jo--" I corrected myself immediately. "Mrs. Summers. It's tearing her up that you won't accept us. I know a lot of stuff has happened in the past, and I'm sorry for it. All of it. But I'm not sorry, I won't ever be sorry that I'm in love with your daughter."

I saw her wince a little at that. Tough; she had to get used to hearing it. "It's not that I really mind that Buffy is involved with a girl..."

"I know, it's me," I said, finishing her thought. "If it's any consolation, I didn't believe it either. And I tried not to accept it, I really tried my best to run away from her. But she didn't let me. She knew everything I'd done, everything I was, and she still didn't let me."

I looked Joyce in the eyes, hoping that she saw something there that would let her believe me. "I understand if you don't trust me; shit, most of the time I don't trust me. But I have learned to trust your daughter. I hope you can too."

She stood there, quiet. Thinking. That was good enough for me.

I turned around with a mumbled, "See ya," and walked out of the gallery.

I didn't do it for Joyce, and I sure as hell didn't do it for me. I did it for Buffy. I just hope I got through to her, cuz I hate having these little heart-to-hearts. I know B's mom can be stubborn, but goddammit, so can I.

I sighed. Sometimes I missed the old days. Things were so much simpler when I just beat the crap out of people if they didn't give me what I wanted.

Chapter 9

"Wow, that was so amazing!" Red exclaimed. "You're really good at this!"

Don't get your hopes up, it wasn't even half as much fun as it sounded. Miniature Golf. It was boring as shit when the boss used to drag me out here, and even with the current company it really hadn't gotten all that much more exciting.

"Yeah, nice shot Tara," Buffy said, smiling at the shy witch.

B had asked Red and Tara out to dinner with us, and somehow that morphed into a night of hamburgers -- except Tara, who was a vegetarian; go fig --, frosty chocolate milkshakes, and miniature golf. How I had gotten sucked into this Pleasantville nightmare, I had no idea.

Thing was though, I knew exactly how. I looked over at Buffy, who was lining up to take a shot, her face scrunched up in that look she always got when she was in deep concentration mode. I caught Red giving me this knowing glance, and I realized that I was grinning like a total goof for everyone to see. I shot Red a pretty fierce glare and she just smiled, and pretended she was looking somewhere else.

This 'love' crap was really ruining my rep.

"We need something to make this more interesting," I said smoothly. At B's arched eyebrow, I continued. "Like a wager."

Red's eyebrows came together worriedly. "Um, what kind of wager?"

I leaned against my putter as casually as possible, and said, "Like if I get a hole in one on this next shot, I get to pick the next activity for the evening."

B and Red exchanged glances, but Tara just shrugged. "S-sure, I mean, that sounds fine." Red gave Tara a kind of worried look, like she didn't trust Tara to be able to handle whatever I had planned. Couldn't say I blamed her.

B was a little harder to convince, though. "What do we get if you miss?"

I gave her a winning smile. "If I miss, you get to drag me anywhere you want tonight."

"We're already doing that," B shot back with a grin.

"And, I won't bitch about it," I finished.

"Done," B replied almost instantly.

"Good." I swaggered, yeah swaggered, up to the tee and dropped my ball. I lined up and took a couple practice swings, even going so far as to sight down my putter to see if the shaft curved. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw B roll her eyes and I smiled.

What they all didn't know, what they couldn't know, was that I always got a hole-in-one here. The Boss was a lot of things -- psychotic, devil-worshipping, power-hungry, homicidal -- but the man knew his miniature golf.

I took my shot, and seconds later three pairs of eyes turned toward me in surprise. I blew on my putter like it was a smoking gun.

"I believe that's game," I said, grinning widely.

"Where are we going?" Red asked, all worried and shit. You'd almost think she didn't trust my noble intentions.

"Don't worry, it's only a club," I answered. "Just some music, some dancing, some hangin' out...stuff like that."

"Oh. Like the Bronze?" Red asked hopefully.

I flashed her a grin. "Something like that."

Didn't look like I reassured her much; she still kept picking at the sleeve of her jacket. I had made Red, B, and Tara stop by the dorms to change into something a little more rave-appropriate. But even with the new outfits, Red and Tara still had that air of wholesomeness that a real predator could spot a mile away. You just couldn't cover up that kind of thing with black Docs and eyeshadow.

A couple blocks from the club the two of them shot each other alarmed glances at the fact that you could feel the bass of the music in the sidewalk. A block or so from the club, and they caught their first glimpse of it: the unassuming steel door, the scraggly, tattooed bouncer, the goths and hardcore ravers stumbling in and out.

Their eyes wide, they stared up at the big piece of spray-painted steel over the door which read, "The Succubus."

B leaned close and whispered to me, "Are you sure this is a good idea?"

I flashed her a wicked grin. "This is sure to get those two loosened up. It worked on you, didn't it?"

"Good point," she mumbled.

I tossed a bill at the doorman, herding everyone inside the lion's den.

Red and Tara immediately wigged, their eyes nearly popping out of their heads from the sight of the dancers and various other people in the club. I don't know if it was because of all the leather, or the fact that they had never seen so many nipple piercings in one place before.

The Succubus was just about the same as usual. Hell, a place like this was never really different, it just rotated people and music every so often, like a full blood change. Dirty halogens lighting up the dance floor, dark shadows everywhere else; music which pounded the air, leaking from the club at the seams; and people who had a tendency to wear their fetishes for everyone to see. Kinda like me.

"C'mon," I said, steering them toward a table on the edge of the dance floor. They stumbled over and sat down; Red couldn't stop staring at everyone, and Tara couldn't stop blushing. I swear, if that girl pulled into herself any more, she'd implode.

I grabbed B by the elbow and leaned in close so she could hear me above the music. "I'm going to grab some drinks, see if you can keep Red's girl from having a heart attack, k?"

She smiled and sat next to Tara, using that wanna-be Homecoming Queen charm to start a conversation. Or try to, anyway, considering some Marilyn Manson remix was blasting through the speakers at a volume level roughly equivalent to a jet engine at full throttle.

I got the drinks from the bar, and when I came back I noticed that B had done a bang-up job; she had actually gotten the two witches to start smiling a little. I set down the drinks and dropped into the chair next to B, draping my arm across the back of her seat. The Wiccan Two drank up, either not really noticing the added taste of JD to the Coke, or not caring.

The music switched to a remix of Rob Zombie's "Living Dead Girl", and I jumped to my feet. "I love this song!" I said, looking around the table. "Who wants to dance?"

"Dance?" Red squeaked. "You mean dance, dance-in-public dance? Of course you mean dance-in-public dance, I mean, there's no place around here to dance-in-private dance, at least not that I've seen, but..."

I rolled my eyes and went over to stand behind Tara's chair. Leaning down close, I said in her ear, "You want to dance, don't you? C'mon..." I got her out to the dance floor without any trouble, but it wasn't because she wanted to dance, it was more because she was almost paralyzed with nervousness.

I started moving to the beat, but the blonde witch just kinda stood there, head bowed and her hair covering her face. Apparently more drastic measures were needed, so I got up right behind her and put my hands on her hips. She stiffened, ready to bolt as soon as she could figure out where to run. "Relax," I said in her ear, guiding her with my hands. "Just loosen up and have fun."

I don't know if my words had an effect or if it was the alcohol, but she started swaying under my touch, and after a minute or so she was moving without any prompting from me whatsoever. She even tossed her hair back, and I could see a small smile forming. I glanced over at Red who had such a look of raw need on her face that it would have almost put my best to shame. She had it bad for the little Wiccan, and at that point she didn't care who knew it.

I pointed an index finger at her and gave her a 'come here' gesture. She came over to us and I slid out of the way so Red could take my place behind her blonde witch. I turned around -- and came face-to-face with B, who slid her arms around my waist and began to dance.

There was a little bit of a rocky start at the beginning, but this evening was turning out damn near perfect. Kind of like the whole big, crazy thing that was my life lately.

B and I were just standing there on the beach, looking out over the ocean. The moon was real low against the horizon, it made the water look like there was a road cutting across it that anyone could walk long as they wanted it bad enough.

By the time we left the club, the two witches had been three sheets, not to mention all over each other, so we had walked 'em home. Rather than head back to my apartment right away, though, we had decided to take a walk on the beach; work out some of the alcohol before we hit the sack. B really didn't want a repeat performance of her last hangover.

"I had a really great time tonight," B said, leaning back against me. My arms were wrapped around her waist, to shield her from the cold wind. Whoever came up with the term "ocean breezes" obviously never came to Sunnydale beach at 3 o'clock in the morning.

"Yeah, me too."

B chuckled. "I think Willow and Tara had a pretty good time, too."

"I knew we could loosen them up," I said, feeling a smug grin coming on.

"You know what I love most about you?" She asked.

I raised an eyebrow. "What's that?"

"The way you walk into a room and change everyone's lives," B replied, smiling. "No one's ever prepared for it, but it happens anyway. Kinda like a..."

"Natural disaster?" I supplied helpfully.

She smirked at me. "I was going to say 'force of nature'."

"And is this a good force of nature, or bad force of nature?"

"Good, of course. Usually it happens to people whose lives really need shaking up. Like mine."

I smiled slightly. "Well, I did such a bang-up job with my own life, why not turn my talent to someone else's?"

"You did a great job with your life. I wouldn't have you any other way," she said quietly.

I bowed my head, resting my cheek against the top of her head. We stood there for a few minutes, just listening to the surf.



"Would you marry me?"

I froze, like I always do whenever I'm scared of fucking things up. Sure, my body wasn't moving, but my heart and mind both were racing around a hundred miles a minute. "I don't think that's legal," I chuckled weakly.

B turned around, her arms slipping around my waist. She looked up at me, her eyes dark in the moonlight. "Yeah, you're probably right." She sounded disappointed, and it hurt. "But would you want to?"

I reached up to stroke her face; my hand was trembling just a little bit, and I think she noticed. "Buffy. You know I'm not that good with the whole caring and sharing thing," I said, smiling sarcastically at myself. "But I do love you. I've loved you since the minute I saw you, since before I saw you, even. Hell, probably ever since I heard the stories about a chick who had such a pair on her that she pulled out a rocket launcher to waste some demon twice her size.

"You saved me. And I don't mean 'saved my life', cuz we've done that plenty of times for each other. I mean you saved me. My soul. Shit, if it weren't for you, I'd probably be dead or in jail by now." I took her hands in mine and kissed them; as someone who up until recently fought and fucked with pretty wild abandon, it was the most gentle thing I've ever done.

I bared my soul to her, and I never meant anything as seriously as I did right then. "B, we are forever. As far as I'm concerned, there is no place I'd rather be, and no one I'd rather be with. And not in a till-death-do-you-part way either. Because after I'm gone, hell won't be able to hold me. I will fight to be by your side no matter where I am, and no one, no one is going to keep me away. I love you, Buffy Summers."

Her eyes filled with tears and she buried her face in my jacket, holding me tightly.

"I love you, Faith Summers."

Buffy and Faith Summers. Now that's a love-hate relationship for the ages. Not everyone can say they've stabbed their girlfriend in the gut and put her into a coma, or stole her body and took it on a joyride, or tried to kill each other time after time and still had it come out a happy ending. Cinder-fuckin'-ella this was not.

Yeah, we'd had a pretty turbulent past, you could say. It was amazing to think that we were together at all, and a goddamn miracle that the two of us could stay together for months, much less years.

But that's a whole other story, isn't it?

Don't make any mistake about it, there are more stories. When it comes down to it, nothing and no one could stand against the Chosen Two. Because what I told her that night was absolutely true.

We are forever.

Back to Chapter 4
Return to the Fanfiction Return to The Chosen Two Return to the Series