by Erin
Chapter 1

I was staring at nothing really, just the dust floating around in the back of this crap cargo truck, and no one, not even the driver, knew that I was the cargo. I was just sitting there. And thinking. Always way too much thinking.

We were moving at a pretty good clip, and at that rate I figured Sunnydale would be history in no time, left behind just like Boston, another place I had screwed up.

No more Sunnydale, and no more Buffy.

Goddamn good intentions. I could have been on an airplane by now, watching some crappy in-flight movie. But at least I would have been gone. Nope, I had to go make all the wrong choices one more time. I get a little bit of gratitude, and all of a sudden I fall in love with the whole "Super Friends" mentality. Pretty pathetic when you think about it.

So this isn't First Class; then again, I never got First Class. Only Buffy ever got First Class. All Faith gets is the back of some truck.

Story of my life, really.

The truck slowed down now, coming to a stop. This wasn't good. I knew we were on a highway, and it took something pretty serious to get traffic to come to a dead stop. About the only thing that did were accidents. And roadblocks.

I crept to the front of the truck bed, peering out through the dusty wood slats. Sure enough, about a hundred yards up the road, Sunnydale's finest. Shit. Trust the SPD to start growing a brain just as I'm trying to leave town. Jagoffs.

I opened the back of the truck just enough to squeeze through; luckily, the truck was in the slowest lane, closest to the side of the road. I latched the back of the truck and jumped smoothly down to the asphalt. Keeping low, I backed off the road, seeking cover in the tall weeds and brush. The brown, brittle grass crunched under my boots, but I knew there was no way they'd hear me from there.

So, roads were blocked. Time to switch to Plan B. Problem was, I had no clue what Plan B was. And if I was gonna be hiking it, I was gonna need something more than the clothes on my back. Looks like it was back to Sunnydale for me.

Goddamn place is like a black hole.

As I walked through the woods just outside town, I tried to think of what I could do to get myself back on my feet. I could steal a bunch of hiking crap and foot it out of town, but that didn't really have the appeal that one might think. The highways were out, and I bet that the airports, bus terminals, and train stations would be out too. Which left hanging out in Sunnydale until the heat was off, and the SPD lost interest in their little dragnet.

But what to do in the meantime? I've never been one for waiting around.

I found myself wandering one of Sunnydale's many graveyards. Christ, I think they have more dead people in this city than alive. It was getting on toward dark, and the sun had just set for the day. I knew that Buffy was going to start patrolling soon, so I wanted to be away from the graveyards and into downtown before then.

That's when I saw him sneaking out of his little crypt.

"William the Bloody," I said, leaning casually against the wall of his crypt. "This must be my lucky day."

He looked me up and down, and said in that punk British accent of his, "You must be Faith."

"Currently, yeah," I said.

"I heard that the Slayer and all her little Slayerettes had their shorts in a bunch because of you," Spike said, amused. "So tell me, luv, exactly why is this your lucky day? I heard Buffy sent you packing."

"Because," I said, walking up to him and placing a hand on his chest. "I feel like beating the crap out of someone, and guess what? You'll do."

He lost his smile immediately. "Now, Faith," he said, holding up his hands, "You don't want to do that, I mean, I can help you so much more unbeaten, you know what I mean?"

"No, I don't," I replied, enjoying myself. "Why would I possibly need your help?"

"Uh, because." He was inching nervously away, trying not to let me notice. "Because, I can help you get revenge on the Slayer."

"Sorry, Billy," I told him. "Been there, done that, not interested. Revenge is just a big pain in the ass, you know? I'm much more a direct action kinda gal."

"Ok, well, I can tell you where she lives. Bet you didn't know that, did you?"

I raised an eyebrow. I didn't know that, other than the fact I knew she lived on campus somewhere. "Ok, so tell."

"Oh, no," he said, regaining some of his smugness. "Not until you promise you're not going to beat me up. Old Spike's no fool."

"Ok, I promise."

"Nice we could come to an understanding." He stuck his hands in his pockets, pulling out a pack of cigarettes and a lighter. "She lives with the little witch in room 214, Stevenson Hall."

"Cool, thanks," I said, stepping up to him. "Now I'm going to beat the crap out of you."

He dropped his cigarette and stared at me blankly.

"After all I've done, you think a broken promise to a vampire is going to bother me?" I actually laughed out loud.

"Ok, fair enough," he said to me slowly. "But there's another reason why you shouldn't beat me up."

"Do tell."

"I'm a very fast runner!" With that, he took off. I cursed and ran after him, but the damn rat knew exactly what holes to hide into, and I couldn't stick around and look for him. I had places to go, and Slayers to see.

I caught up with Buffy outside her dorm; actually 'caught up with' are probably the wrong words for it. I really hid in the bushes while she and Riley, Corn-Fed-All-American-Boy, said their good nights to one another.

It wasn't the prettiest picture; Beefstick was so apologetic, almost brooding. He probably told her that we screwed last night. Buffy was really distant, she almost looked like she was in shock. What can I say, twenty four hours in my body will do that to a person. Too bad she can't imagine what it's like living here full time.

"So, I'll talk to you tomorrow," Beefstick was saying.

"Yeah," Buffy replied, her voice so soft I almost couldn't hear it. Beefstick was doomed, and he didn't even know it yet. I could have told him that Buffy doesn't like to share. Neither do I, that's why I slept with him.

See, I love Buffy. Funny-ass way of showing it, I know. But I do. It's like the candle and moth thing, you know? I just keep getting drawn to her. But she didn't want me, she wanted Angel. And that drove me nuts.

It wasn't until I looked at Buffy that I realized I needed some questions answered. Call it stupid, call it idiotic, whatever, but I needed to talk to her again. Find out if my life, and near-death, was worth anything after all.

So I waited for Beefstick to take a hike, and I followed Buffy on her patrol. Problem was, she was always better at the intuitive thing than I was. She knew I was there. About halfway through her first graveyard sweep, she pulled a stake out of her pocket, and said, "Ok, whoever's out there can come out now. I don't have time for this."

"What, no puns?" I asked, stepping out of the bushes. "I'm disappointed, B." Probably not the brightest thing to do, but I can't help making smart-ass remarks. It's in my nature.

"Faith." Her eyes narrowed when she saw me, so different than the polite concern a couple days ago. "Why did you come back? Did you miss sleeping with my boyfriend?"

"Beefstick? Nah, he was ok for a one-nighter, but not my type, you know?" I thought I saw hatred right then in those gorgeous eyes of hers, but I knew she wouldn't make the first move. She'd wait for me to do it.

"So why are you still here?" She never took her eyes off me. Just the way I like it.

"I had a couple of questions. Figured you were the best one to answer them." Always best to be up-front, I've discovered. Hell, I've got nothing more to hide.

"Why the hell would I help you?"

I don't know, why the hell should she help me? There was no good reason for it, but I knew she would; it's just the type of person she is, she helps people. Even people she hates. I just smiled that same knowing smile, the one that never let on exactly what I didn't know. "You will. You can't help it, it's who you are. I got to know you pretty well this past couple days, B. Too bad you can't say the same about me."

She looked at me, really looked at me; like she was sizing me up or something. "What makes you think I can't?"

"You think you know me? You don't know shit about me, girlfriend." I was pissed, now; got right up in her face with it. "Hell, twenty four hours as me? You're lucky you survived."

She didn't back down, I'll give her that. "I know you're all alone. I know you're scared, that you think everyone's out to get you. That you've been dealt a bad hand and you have no choice but to play it."

Ok, so maybe she did know shit about me. I didn't want to let her know it, though. "That's just the way it is, B. You play with what you're dealt. You got dealt a PTA mom, with a nice middle-class household and a college education. I got dealt an alcoholic who beat me and spent our food money on booze and drugs." My voice broke then, goddammit. I hate remembering what my childhood was like; it comes back to me enough when I'm asleep, I don't need it when I'm awake too. "No college, no home, no family, no friends, no future. That's just the way it is."

"You have friends," she told me. Her voice was quiet, and that anger wasn't in her eyes anymore. I wish she wouldn't do this to me. I can take her anger a lot better than her pity.

"Who, you?" I kept my voice scornful, letting her know exactly what I thought about that. "I'm not stupid. There's no way you'd be my friend after all the things I've done to you." I made sure of that, at least, I thought I had.

"You're wrong, Faith. I've been here all along. All you need to do is come back."

"Don't do this to me. Don't fucking do this to me!" I kept shaking my head. I had screwed up my life so much that I thought I would never get another chance with Buffy, and here she was offering it to me on a silver platter. It's all so much easier when we hate each other. I'm familiar with hate, I know how to deal with it.

"Do what?"

"I don't need your pity!"

"It's not pity, Faith. I care about you. I always have."

That rocked me. I looked in her eyes then, and she was telling the truth. I wasn't being played, she was telling me the goddamn truth. And of course, I only had one answer: "You're crazy."

"Yeah, I probably am." She smiled at me. I liked it, it always got to me.

I couldn't stop shaking my head. "Why are you doing this to yourself?" Why are you doing this to me?

"Like I said, I care about you. Back when we were slaying together, things were really good, you know? It was a lot of fun, and you did drive me nuts sometimes, but it was nuts in a good way. Good nuts." She leaned back heavily against a gravestone. "I miss it. Before you came, the only thing I had was duty. You helped me see that there was something to live for in being a Slayer besides averting the next apocalypse. When... you left...a part of me did, too. If I can get that back, if I can get you back, I will."

I had nothing to say. No smart-ass comments, no biting words chosen to drive her away. Nothing.

"So what happened, Faith? How come you went to the Mayor?"

This, at least, I had an answer for. I had practiced this speech, rehearsed it. I knew it by heart, better than I knew myself.

"You always treated me like second-best. Second best Slayer to you, second best friend to Willow, even second best...whatever to Angel. He got your love, Willow got your friendship, and you got to be the hero." I made sure to say that nice and slow.

"And then...then I make one mistake. One! So I killed a guy that shouldn't have been killed, by accident. You were there. So was it 'our' mistake? Was it 'our' problem?" I turned angrily, striding a few feet away to look out across the moonlit graveyard.

"No, of course not! It was 'my' mistake. 'My' problem. 'Faith, you killed a man!' 'Faith, you have to deal with this!' The minute I proved that I wasn't as good as you, that I couldn't be as good as you, you bailed on me."

"I tried to get you help--"

"You tried to get me help!" I yelled, really angry now, turning around to stare at the blond slayer. "Do you know how alone that made me feel? Why I felt that it was all coming down on my head? You never supported me. You never stood beside me. You walked ahead of me, barely looking behind to see if I was following you, like a good little lap dog."

She looked like I had hit her; it tore me up, but I couldn't stop. It hurt me to be hurting her, but I deserved the pain. So did she. "So I went to the Mayor. Figured a little petty revenge was in order against you and the Scooby Squad. Figured, once I got that out of the way I could move on, take that freighter and get the hell outa Dodge. But I actually liked what I was doing with the Mayor. For once, just once, there was someone who didn't treat me like second best. He was wicked psycho, but he cared about me." I laughed harshly at myself. "Like anyone but a psycho would care about me. But you wanted to know why I went to the Mayor? Because he treated me like a fucking person, not a child."

"You're right," she said to me, her voice quiet. "I'm sorry, Faith. I don't ever want to make those mistakes again." She paused, fighting to get the words to come out. I knew how that was. "You know, it was hard for me, after I thought I lost Angel. It was hard for me to trust people. You were one of the few people I let in that close. Despite my best efforts, I liked you. Heck, I even looked up to you." She smiled at me again, and I got that trapped feeling. The one that tells me my heart isn't mine anymore, part of it belongs to her. "Please don't shut me out, like last time. I don't think I could take that again."

She really knew how to take the wind out of my sails. All that beautiful anger that I had worked up was gone, and I was too tired to even try to bring it up again. "So, what does that mean?"

"It means I want us to be friends again," Buffy told me. "We've really hurt each other, and I don't want to do it anymore. I don't think you do, either."

"You think we have any choice?" I was trying to resist this for everything I was worth, I really was. But I wasn't putting up more than a token protest at this point, and she knew it. It had all beaten me down; the police, the Mayor's death, the killing, losing people I cared about. I didn't have the energy to fight her anymore.

"I think we do. What about you? Are you willing to give it a shot?"

The psychologists from my old High School back home always said I had "trust issues." I never liked letting people in close; all it was was setting myself up for disappointment. But I knew that by doing that I was setting myself up for loneliness.

What'll it be, Faith? Possible disappointment, or certain loneliness?

She had me. "Yeah."

Chapter 2

We both sat around that old graveyard for a minute, not knowing exactly what to say. Finally, she spoke up.

"So how come you came back?"

I shrugged; it suddenly didn't seem all that important anymore. "Police put up some roadblocks, I would have had to lay low here for a few days anyway. Besides, I had a couple of questions."

"Like what?"

"Like, what happened to Angel?"

Buffy gave me a look, like she didn't trust why I was asking, but I guess she decided to answer. "He's gone."

"Dead?" I kept my voice casual; truth was, I didn't give a rat's ass whether boy-toy was dead or not. But Buffy probably wouldn't like it if I were all excited at the prospect.

"No. I saved him. He drained me, almost to death, but the blood saved him."

"So, what--"

"He just...left. After Graduation. Told me beforehand that he was leaving. That he couldn't take it anymore."

I just smiled and shook my head. "He really is a piece of work. Takes a pair to leave a chick who just risked her life to save yours."

"Can we talk about something else?" Buffy asked. She looked like she was still pretty shaken up about the whole thing.

"Sure." I could've pressed her on it; hell, eight months ago I would have pressed her on it. But now it just didn't seem worth it.

"Do you need a place to stay?" Classic Buffy, all right, always wondering about my welfare.

"Nah, I got it covered." Classic Faith, never wanting any of it.

"The police are going to be watching your place." She was really worried now. It made me a little uncomfortable. "You can stay at my place tonight."

I was about to say no, but then I got this mental image of Buffy telling Red that I was going to be crashing at their place, and I couldn't resist. "Ok, I'm cool with that."

So I was sitting there on Buffy's bed, flipping through the latest issue of one of her chick mags. The look on Red's face was priceless when Buffy brought me inside and told her I was staying the night. So Red dragged Buffy out into the hallway, that same frozen grin on her face the whole time. It cheered me up a whole hell of a lot, to be honest.

Of course, she probably didn't realize I could hear them through the door. Slayer hearing, can't get enough of it.

"Are you crazy?" This was from Red, of course. "You want her to stay in the same room with us? She's probably just waiting for us to go to sleep, and then..." I could just picture the little stabbing motions she was making right now. What a crack up.

"Look, Will, Faith and I have come to an understanding. I don't want this whole thing going on any longer, and she doesn't either. We've both made some serious mistakes. Trust has to begin somewhere." I shook my head. I couldn't believe Buffy was sticking up for me against her best friend.

"Could it begin somewhere a little less lethal? Like...trusting her not to cheat at miniature golf?" Yeah, as if I'd need to cheat to beat them.

"Will... Ok, if you're not comfortable with it, Faith and I can go stay somewhere else."

"No... Ok. But can we at least take turns keeping watch on her?... Is that a no?"

The door opened, and Buffy and Willow walked back in. Buffy smiled at me like nothing was wrong, but Willow kept shuffling sideways, like she didn't want to turn her back. I would have bet fifty bucks right then and there that she wasn't going to get any sleep.

"I coulda told you from the beginning that he was going to get caught." I pointed at the small TV screen, which was running the credits for some "Matlock" rerun.

"Oh yeah? Why was that?" Buffy asked me. B, Willow and I were kicked back in her dorm room watching a little TV. And by that, I mean a little TV, the thing probably only had a 9" screen.

"Because, all that planning and shit... That's no way to get away with murder. To get away with offing someone, ya just gotta go in there, and WHAM! get it done." I tried to ignore Red's wide-eyed look, but it was getting harder and harder. Keeping a straight face, I said, "It's even better when you can get 'em while they're asleep. That way, there's no noise and no witnesses."

Red made some kind of startled, strangled noise. I looked over at her, all cool and shit, and said, "You ok, Red?"

Buffy just sat there grinning. "Faith..." she said to me, in that "you've been a bad girl" tone of hers.

I figured it was time to let the poor girl off the hook. "It's ok, Red, I was just kiddin' ya."

"Um, yeah," she said, still looking at me like I held her head on a spike.

"So, who wants to go to sleep?" I said, stifling a yawn. "I'm exhausted." I curled up on the floor with the pillow and blanket Buffy gave me, and went right to sleep. Who says there's no rest for the wicked?

The next morning, Red left early to go meet her girlfriend. Oh, and I woulda won my fifty bucks, too.

Buffy just shook her head when Willow left. "I don't think she got much sleep last night, and you didn't help matters any," she said, poking me in the stomach.

"Yeah, well, not my fault she's skittish."

"When she gets over to Tara's, the first thing she's probably going to do is take a nap."

I laughed. "Oh yeah, like those two get much sleep when they're together."

"What do you mean?" Buffy actually looked confused.

"Oh, come on B, don't tell me you don't see it." I kept looking at her, but she kept staring at me like she didn't know what the hell I was talking about.

"What are you talking about?"

Oh, this was too much. "You mean they're not..." I figured a visual aid was in order at this point, so I tried a hand gesture.

"Ok, I can do without seeing that," Buffy said. "As far as I know, no. I...I never thought about Will...are you sure?"

I shrugged. "Pretty sure. I mean, you haven't seen the way they look at each other?"

"Haven't really had the opportunity. Not that it's a big deal, though. I mean, it would be great if Will found someone. It was hard on her when Oz left."

"Oh yeah, hey I'm certainly not one to pass judgement..." Just then, someone knocked on the dorm room door. Buffy waved me behind the door, checking to make sure I was out of sight before she opened it.

"Oh, Riley, hi! What are you doing here?" She stood in front of the doorway, blocking Beefstick from coming in.

"Hi. Um, you...or, well, Faith, actually, um, left this at my place the other night." He handed her something black, looked like the tank top I...Buffy... whoever was wearing a couple of nights ago. "Um, can I come in?"

"Come in?" Buffy squeaked. Yes, squeaked. "Why?"

"Well, I'd kinda like to talk to you about...things."

"We can talk right here. Yes, talk would be good here. Or maybe in the lounge."

"Yeah, well, neither of those places are really private, you know?"

"Um, ok...just give me a minute to get decent..." Buffy closed the door in his face, probably surprising the hell out of him. She motioned me over to the closet, and I just rolled my eyes, gave her my best disgusted look. But I hid all the same; I didn't want to miss this convo.

"Ok, come in," I heard her say.

"Are you ok? I mean, you seem really, I don't know, distracted." Ah, that Beefstick, can't put anything over on him.

"No, I'm fine. What did you want to talk about?"

"I just wanted to see if you were ok. I mean, you seemed really distant last night."

"Yeah. I'm fine. Finer than fine. I'm the finest. Look, I got some stuff to do right now, but we'll talk more later, ok?"

"Um, ok..." The door closed, followed moments later by the closet door opening. I just stood there, arms folded across my chest, giving B my best amused look.


"Trouble in paradise?"

Buffy flushed, though whether it was because she was embarrassed or mad, I couldn't tell. "You should know, you caused it."

"Oh, no, some things you can pin on me, B, and some you can't. Granted, I slept with Beefstick--"


"...and it was the totally wrong thing to do, I'll admit that. I'll even go one step further, and say I'm sorry." I always hated apologizing. Made me feel guilty, and I hate feeling guilty. But in this case, it was true. "But why are you blaming him? I mean, he thought it was you. Everything he did and said was for you. So why the 'tude?"

Buffy chewed her bottom lip like she always did when she was thinking about something really hard. "I don't know. Things have been really weird the past few days, and I guess I'm still processing all of it."

"So, um," it was my turn to be uncomfortable now, "are we, you know, five by five?"

Buffy looked at me and smiled. God, I'd give anything to see another one of those. Pathetic, huh? "Thank you for saying you were sorry. It really means a lot to me."

I shrugged, like it was no big, and tried to blow it off as always. "Yeah, well, you know, it wasn't--"

Buffy silenced me by putting a finger over my lips. "Yeah, it was. And I appreciate it. We are five by five."

I couldn't stop grinning. I must've looked like an idiot.

"So, since it's Saturday, and I don't have classes, what say you and I go over to Giles'?"

I gave her a doubtful look. "I don't think he's going to want to see me."

"Well, he'd better get used to you. They'd all better get used to you. Because I hope you're sticking around for a long time." She threw her arm across my shoulders like we were best buds or something. I gotta admit, when B decides to do something, she does it all the way.

"I'll be here as long as you want me, B."

Chapter 3

Buffy lent me some shades, and we pulled my hair back in a ponytail to give me a different "look" just in case we passed by the cops on our way to see the G-man. Buffy tried to get me to wear one of her pastel numbers, but I just gave her that "over my dead body" look. Pretty soon we were walking through town headed for Giles' place.

"So what are we going to do about the cops?" I asked. "Unless you want me to turn myself in." Yeah, like that was going to happen. I don't care how hard I fell for her, prison just wasn't an option.

Buffy shrugged. "What would be the point? You can do a lot more good as Slayer On Patrol than as Slayer Behind Bars." She hesitated for a second. "Are you... sorry for what happened?"

I dropped my head a little, unable to look her in the eyes. "Yeah, well that guy, the Deputy Mayor? It was like a big accident, you know?"

She nodded, didn't seem upset at all. "I know. Giles told me that it's happened before, with other Slayers. Accidents happen, and it's tragic, but the only thing to do is learn from them, I guess. I'm sorry I freaked, and wasn't there for you like I should have been."

"Nah, it's not your fault, well not totally. I just felt like it was all coming to an end, you know? It was just getting so wicked cool, I mean you and me were like real partners. The Chosen Two. But then, just like every other good thing in my life, I lost it way too fast. I started screwing it up, just like always. Then I figured that if I was going to be evil, I might as well go all the way, you know?"

Buffy stopped me, turned me around to face her. "Listen to me Faith," she said. "It doesn't have to be that way anymore. I've seen you, the real you, and you know what? You're a pretty wicked cool chick." I couldn't help laughing at that. Nice lingo, B. She held on to my arm, and we started walking again. "Tell you what, I'll make you a deal. You think you're screwing something up, you come talk to me about it. And if I think I'm screwing something up, I'll come talk to you. Ok?"

"Yeah, ok." Goddamn, I thought, shaking my head. What the hell did I do to deserve this?

"So, as far as the police go. I think I can get Will to hack into the police computers, maybe work some of her magic on their files."

I eyed her doubtfully, not wanting to get my hopes up. "You really think that will work?"

"Well, you'll still need to hide out until the heat's off." She giggled. "I always wondered what it would be like to say that. Anyway, once the police think you've skipped town they'll forget all about you. They only ever wanted you for questioning anyway. And we'll see what Will can do about their records."

It wasn't much, but I felt better than I did in a long, long time. Walking down the street with Buffy, I started to get that feeling, like everything was going to be ok after all. I was sure it was a lie. So I just shrugged, and told myself I'd enjoy it while it lasted.

"Ok, so I'll go in and prepare Giles." Buffy and I were standing outside the G-man's place, trying to figure out how not to give him a heart attack.

"Hey, no problem, I'll just wait out here in broad daylight, maybe flag down a passing policeman and ask him what he wants, hey?"

"Ok, you might have a point there, no matter how couched in sarcasm. We'll both go in at once. But try not to panic him, ok?" She took a deep breath, and opened the door and we went inside.

Giles was sitting on his couch, reading a newspaper. He glanced over at us, and said, "Hello, Buffy, nice to see you this morning." And of course immediately did a double-take. I'm telling ya, I've seen deer which looked more comfortable when they were trapped by headlights.

"Giles, it's ok, there's nothing to worry about." Buffy tried to calm him down, but it didn't look like she was doing a very good job.

"Really, because, from where I'm standing it looks like you've just let a dangerous murderer inside my house. I must remember to send a thank you card." He was walking backwards, but where he thought he was going to go I have no idea. I don't think he knew either.

"Giles, look, can I talk to you a minute?" She turned around and smiled at me. "You want to grab yourself a soda and make yourself comfortable?"

I ignored the outraged yelp from the other side of the room, and smiled back. "Sure B, take all the time ya need."

So I was sacked out on the couch, idly flipping channels and swigging a Coke when B and Giles returned from their little talk in the back room.

"Ah, well, Faith, Buffy tells me that you and she have come to ah, an understanding."

I nodded. "Yeah, B's been really great about the whole thing. Um, look Giles, I'm ... sorry about all the trouble I've caused. I know it isn't going to be easy to try to make up for everything, but B and I really want to help each other this time." I stuck my hands in my jacket pockets to keep them from shaking. I hate it, I mean I can stare down vampires and demons who want to rip me limb from limb, but the minute I have to think about my own feelings, much less share 'em, I go all stressy.

No one spoke for a long time after that. Finally, Giles said, "Well, I think what you are doing is admirable. If there's any way I can help, don't hesitate to let me know."

I couldn't believe it. I actually looked between Giles and B, wondering what the catch was. Why the hell should he forgive me that easy?

"What about the Council?" Buffy asked. She sounded scared, but she might have had good reason to be. She had to deal with those jagoffs while I was living it up as her.

"Yes, well, as far as the Council knows Faith has left town, and I have no plans to disabuse them of that assumption."

The phone rang, and Giles walked over to pick it up. After a sec, he held it out to Buffy. "It's your mother." He walked upstairs while Buffy started talking to her mom.

Oh, great. Someone else who I tried to hurt. If they all got together, they could probably throw a pretty wicked party.

"Oh, ok mom. Ok. No problem. Love you too. Bye." Buffy set the phone down. "Mom's going away to Chicago for a few days, and wants us to house-sit."

I grimaced. "Somehow, I don't think she wants us to house-sit."

"Yeah, well..." B frowned. "It's...going to take some convincing on my part to get you both in the same room again. My mom can be a little stubborn."

"Hey, no big deal, huh B? I was actually wondering why the rest of you weren't being stubborn too." I shrugged and looked at the floor, unable to look her in the eyes. I just couldn't accept the fact that she was willing to forgive me, I just had to question it, didn't I? They always told me I never knew when to shut the fuck up.

"Hey," Buffy said in that soft voice of hers. She walked around the couch until she was standing right there in front of me, looking up with those mascara'd eyelashes, her slightly parted lips, her hands holding mine... I swear, my brain almost short-circuited.

"Faith, listen. You and I have really been through some rough things together, both good and bad. We've saved each others' lives, and we've tried to take them, too. That the graveyard, I looked into your eyes and saw something that I didn't ever think I would see again.

"You weren't mad, you weren't mean, you were just...Faith. And I figured if you could be just Faith, and I could be just Buffy, then maybe we could be friends and none of that old stuff would matter anymore.

"That's why I'm not being stubborn about the whole thing. I just want it so that none of that old stuff matters, and the only thing that counts is what's happening right now. Does that make sense?"

I swallowed hard, and looked up at the ceiling. For two reasons, one was that I couldn't look into those eyes anymore, and the other was that I thought I was going to cry. Goddammit, I hadn't cried in years, I didn't want to start now. Weakling. Pitiful, pathetic fucking weakling, the minute someone starts to care about you, you fall into the same trap.

Something must've changed in my eyes, like a wall went up or something, because next thing I knew her hands were stroking my face, and she was saying, "Faith, please, please don't shut me out again." And I looked down at her, and her eyes were filling up with tears. She was scared, scared that she was going to lose me.

And that was it. I sank down to the floor, dragging her down with me, buried my face in her shoulder, and cried.

She put her arms around me, and held me like that for god knows how long. When I finally stopped, it felt like someone cut this big iron band that had been tightening across my chest ever since I could remember. I took a deep breath and B, with minimal movement, managed to snag a kleenex from the box on the table and give it to me.

"Wow, you must do this a lot," I said, blowing my nose. Ick.

"Only for my bestest friends," she told me, smiling. "So, do you mind house-sitting with me? I hate to do it alone, and I think Willow is going to need her space if she's going to get any sleep at all."

I grinned. "Yeah, you're probably right. Sure, B, I'd be happy to."

"Terrific!" She actually sounded pretty excited. "We'll swing by my place and pick up some things, and then we'll head over."

"Lead the way."

B was finished with the packing thing, and headed off to use the bathroom one last time before we left. Red didn't seem disappointed at all that we weren't going to be roomies for the next few days; in fact, she seemed downright relieved.

As soon as B left the room, I got up and walked over to where Red sat working on her computer. My sudden moves earned me a couple of cautious looks. "Red, uh, I mean, Willow? Can I talk to you a sec?"

She looked at me suspiciously, kinda looking like she wanted to keep her distance. "Um, sure."

"Cool. Look, I'm really sorry about all the stuff from before. I mean, I was pretty nuts back then, and did a lot of stuff I shouldn't have. I know the things I did hurt you pretty bad, and...I'm sorry." I waited for her answer, but never got one. I looked at her, but she just kept looking at me, kinda surprised now. Oh well, guess I should have kept talking. "I'm really sorry for the holding you at knifepoint thing, and for the hitting you thing. And the kidnapping thing. And Buffy told me that you probably didn't like the screwing Xander thing, either, so I'm sorry for that too.

"I guess what I really want is for another shot. I'll try not to screw this one up like I did the last one." I stopped, and looked at her again. She was chewing her bottom lip like she didn't know what to say. "You know, if you don't say something, I'm just gonna keep talking."

That made her smile, and she looked at me and nodded. "Ok. I can't promise anything, but I'll try."

"Thanks. You're wicked cool, Red." Just then, Buffy came back into the room. What can I say, the chick's got an incredible sense of timing.

"Ready to go?" She asked.

"Let's motor."

We did the bus thing over to B's place; she said that her mom already left for the airport, so we didn't have to worry about that little scene yet. We went in, and Buffy grabbed a note that was taped to the back of the door.

"It's from my mom. 'Thanks for housesitting, I really appreciate it. There should be plenty of food in the fridge for the next few days, if not I left some money for you you-know-where. All the hotel information is on the fridge. Have a good time, love, Mom.' Cool, let's see what's in the fridge."

I started to get that feeling back again, that jealousy which drove me nuts; it kept telling me that I had nothing while Buffy had everything.

"C'mon," Buffy said, grabbing my hand to drag me into the kitchen. "Are you hungry? I can cook...well, sorta. A few things, anyway." She smiled at me and I blinked; I realized that I didn't have nothing after all, I had her.

We sat in front of the TV eating our sandwiches, which was one of the only things that Buffy could "cook". I couldn't complain, though, it beat the hell out of what I was eating the past few days, which was a big nothing since I didn't have any money.

"This is great!" I could tell B was totally excited. "We can run a quick patrol tonight, and then come back here and do the slumber party thing."

"Sounds wicked, B...if I knew what the slumber party thing was."

"You know, the slumber party thing! Eat ice cream, watch movies until late, talk, do each other's hair..." She must've caught my alarmed look. "Ok, we don't have to do each other's hair. But I assume the rest of it is acceptable?"

I smiled and shrugged. "Sure, I guess. Slumber me."

Our patrol that night was quick and uneventful, meaning: dull. A few new vamps, but mostly it seemed like everything dark and disgusting had decided to hightail it out of town. When I mentioned it, Buffy said it was probably because of Adam.

It didn't take long before we were back at Buffy's pad, ready to begin the slumber party thing.

"This is going to be great. Just two bachelorettes, Buffy Summers and Faith..." Here it comes, I thought. "Um, I don't think I ever learned your last name."

"That's cuz I don't have one." I walked over to the couch and turned on the TV.

Buffy followed me. "Don't have one? Everyone has a last name, well, except for Cher, Prince, and Madonna, but even they have last names, they just don't use them..."

I sat down heavily, eyes still fixed to the TV. "Well, I don't, ok? Last names...last names are for people who have families." End of discussion.

Not for Buffy, obviously. She looked at me, wanting to ask something, I could just tell. Finally I broke down and said, "What?"

"What happened with your family?"

I just shook my head. "Look, this is supposed to be a party, right? So what are we supposed to do now?"

She seemed to accept that, at least for the time being. "Well, now we change into our pajamas and make some killer sundaes."

I laughed, and B gave me a look like I was crazy. Now it was her turn to ask, "What?"

"I don't wear PJ's, B."

She looked at me all puzzled and shit, and asked, "What do you wear-- Oh." Finally it dawned on her, and she closed her mouth. "Um, well I can lend you some sweats or something." Blushing furiously, she ran upstairs to her room.

Still laughing, I just shook my head and followed her.

The evening was a lot of fun, actually. More fun than I thought it would be. We ate ice cream, and B almost had a sexual experience with the hot fudge. I didn't realize she really flipped for that stuff. The movies were ok, a no-brainer Jackie Chan movie and a couple of comedies. We were halfway through the "South Park" movie when I looked over and saw that B was dozin'.

I nudged her. "I can't believe you can sleep through this. It's fuckin' hilarious."

She blinked and yawned. "Guess I'm just really tired. Maybe it's time to hit the sack."

I shrugged and turned off the tv. I started re-arranging the pillows on the couch, and she stopped me. "What are you doing?"

"Um, I'm making up the couch so I can sleep? You really need to work on that observance thing, B."

"Most emphatically not," she said, grabbing my hand. "According to slumber party rules, sleeping must be done in the same room." She dragged me upstairs to her bedroom. "There is a certain protocol to sleeping at slumber parties, and you need to be very careful in following it lest you bring down the wrath of the Slumber Party Gods."

"B, I think I'll be more comfortable on the couch than on the floor."

She gave me a look that was pure "Duh." "You don't sleep on the floor at a Slumber Party. Not unless the bed is already taken." She pulled back the blankets on her Queen-size bed.

Oh no. No way. "I don't think that's a good idea." Yeah, like I'd get a hell of a whole lot of sleep next to her.

"Why not?" I couldn't answer her, not without spilling my guts, which I was most definitely not willing to do. "See? You don't even know why not. C'mon Faith, open up and relax for a change." She jumped into bed and pulled the blankets over her. "Turn off the light, would ya?"

I stood there for a minute, looking at the bed like it was one gigantic pit viper. Oh well. How bad could it possibly be, right? I flipped the lights off, and climbed into bed next to her.

I spent the next half hour tossing and turning. I couldn't sleep, not surrounded by the whole Buffy thing, and every time I moved my sweats kept bunching up. So I spent half my time getting comfortable, and the other half getting uncomfortable.

"If you keep that up, I'm going to need Dramamine." I heard B's voice next to me, and I turned to look at her, bunching up the sweats again.

"Not my fault," I grumbled. "Told ya I wasn't used to wearing this stuff." I growled and tried to pull the ankles of my sweats back down to my ankles, instead of my knees.

Buffy laughed. "If they're bothering you that much, just take them off."

I froze. She couldn't have possibly said what I thought she did. "What?"

She seemed a little flustered; I would have bet money that she was blushing, but I couldn't tell in the dim light. "Um, it's just that I don't want you to be uncomfortable. If you're more comfortable...I mean..."

I sat there for a minute, trying to decide whether to really do it, or just leave and sleep on the couch. Part of me wanted to leave, and not mess up my life with yet another complication, but... "Ok, B, you asked for it. Um, let me know if you're uncomfortable, ok?"


I sat on the edge of the bed, and stripped the sweats and t-shirt off, keeping them close by so I could wear 'em the next morning. I slipped back under the blankets, sighing with relief.

"Better?" Buffy's voice didn't give anything away.

"Yeah, much. Thanks, B."

"Goodnight, Faith."


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