CHAPTER SEVEN - BYE BYE LOVE?
This was amazing. She was lying next to Willow and watched the pretty redhead sleep. At some point she edged closer put an arm around her, just to notice the other girl snuggling into her and resting her head on her chest. A few minutes later, the wicca began to stir and opened her eyes.
"Morning," she mumbled sleepy, but cheery.
"Hey," Faith smiled and held her redhead tighter, observing how Willow used the fortunate opportunity and position to yawn into her chest.
Faith brushed some hair out of Will's face to be able to see a little bit more of her. At the moment it looked as if the redhead was about to fall asleep again; nuzzling Faith's chest, her eyes were drifting shut and stayed that way for a long time, just to open again briefly and repeat the act several times.
The slayer let her rest, but busied her herself with occasional kisses to the witch's head and forehead.
"Okay…'m up," Willow finally announced her awake state. Faith's caresses made it almost impossible to sleep any more. In a good way, of course. The redhead raised her head to look at her partner. Seeing the amused smirk, she had to ask. "What?"
"You're simply too cute when you're waking up…," Faith explained and scrunched her eyebrows, "or in any other stage of sleeping actually," she added and earned a little kiss from soft lips.
Willow leaned back and grinned mischievously, "Seems to me…you're growing soft…," she poked Faith chest challengingly with her index finger.
Turned soft a long time ago, Faith thought. "Hm…I think I know who's responsible for this," she wiggled her eyebrows suggestively.
"Oh, yeah?" Willow asked coyly.
"Oh, yeah!" Faith replied and attacked Willow, pinning her to the bed. "But I'm not toooo soft, am I?" she asked, her eyes demonstrating that she demanded a (for her) acceptable answer.
Willow still grinned, "You can prove your degree of softness-slash-non-softness to me, if you wanna…," she suggested with a smirk.
Faith apparently liked that plan and bent down to kiss the redhead thoroughly. Her possessive hands claimed everything that came within reach – hair, arms, face, puppies; her lips kissed and nibbled sloppy trails across neck and face, of course paying some special attention to the earlobes as well.
Until this point, the redhead held her arms around the slayer's waist and simply enjoyed the caresses.
Gently breaking the witch's hold on her, Faith's body slid lower as her hands grazed Willow's flanks and thighs and her lips slowly but surely edged closer to the spot they wanted to be.
Stopping briefly at Willow's tummy, she blew light kisses on it, making the skin and Willow herself jump from the ticklish sensation.
The lack of ravage-y-ness provoked the redhead into a, "Softie," that was followed by almost uncontrollable giggles.
"Now you're in trouble!" incited, Faith ignored the belly and slid further down. Just one millisecond later and she would have reached her goal. Mocking Willow had just ruined her chance of getting any more gentle treatment.
But before she could show Willow what you could get yourself into calling a might-mighty slayer 'Softie', a fuzzy feeling overcame her. Just as if all that what was just happening here, wasn't really happening.
And she seemed to be right. The next moment she was standing in a dark room, no sound, no illumination, nothing. Except for the soundless slideshow that broke loose without warning, almost blinded her in its brightness.
Two blurred figures, a male and a female one; she couldn't tell but she was certain that she hadn't seen them before.
The deputy mayor lying lifelessly on the ground, presumably dead.
Herself running, panicked and disoriented.
Her bags, being thrown out of a house.
Broken shards of glass on the ground. Blood on its edges.
A hospital room. A figure that hid its face under the hood of a sweater.
The inside of a wagon train. A sign saying, "… 48 miles"
Vampires pursuing someone who seemed unaware of them.
A broken, bloody bottleneck in her own hand. Blood clinging to her hand.
Willow, unconscious and bleeding severely.
Faith awoke with a start. Though it was still dark, she knew exactly where she was. In her motel room. In her bed. And she wasn't alone.
Quickly she turned on her side to face the girl beside her. She was relieved to see Willow here, since it was proof that it all had been just a bad dream. The second part, at least. A really bad dream.
Just as much as she was relieved, she was also scared. Dreams like that are never to be taking lightly…especially when you are a slayer – a species that is prone to have prophetic dreams from time to time.
Until this point they had never happened to her. That was still Buffy's specialty. But what on earth told her that this dream – despite the unlikeliness – could not be prophetic in some way? There is always a first.
Faith was torn between hoping it was only a dream and fearing the worst. If this really had been a prophetic dream…then she had to do something. Soon.
Get away from her.
But she didn't know how to do it and most importantly – if she would have the strength to do it. It was of little use to deny her fondness of the pretty redheaded girl. This was obvious – how else would she justify her own behavior if there hadn't been at least one tiny little shimmer of affection involved?
Normally she didn't treat her sex partners this gentle and courteous. With others, even with her so called 'exes', it had always been hard and fast, and all parties concerned had been mostly concerned with their own pleasure. A mutual 'get down and dirty' without thinking too much about it.
But with Willow it seemed to be different. Maybe because she was one of the Scoobies. Faith suddenly realized that she had now slept with half of them. And it…she felt weird. Screwing half the half the town suddenly seemed less freaky than having sex with half the Scoobie Gang. And it wasn't like she hadn't thought about the rest of them this way. Even Giles. For a very brief moment.
She ignored the thought as Willow stirred almost unnoticeably. But the redhead didn't wake up, she just pulled the covers up to her chin and mumbled something that Faith couldn't make out and that was accompanied by occasional smiles.
Faith's heart melted. She couldn't just do that to her, could she? Just up and leave her?
She could just see the scenario this could lead to. Willow's wasn't like Xander; he would probably deal in the long run, he would get over his acting weird around her. Willow on the other hand…she seemed so fragile now, lying here right next to her, sleeping and sleep-talking. And although Faith knew that the little redhead was stronger than she looked – she was certain that she wouldn't have handled her almost staking of the deputy mayor half as good without Willow – she feared the consequences of what they had done and especially those of what she was more and more deciding to do.
Would Willow run off to Buffy and tell what evil Faith did to her? Well, if she did then the blonde would come to beat her black and blue. Not that Faith couldn't take her fellow slayer, but she didn't even know if she would try to do that if it came to the showdown.
She reached out and brushed a strand of red hair behind the witch's ear, let her fingers linger just a little longer than necessary.
Yeah, Faith would have to deal with the consequences, once they came upon. But everything was better than being responsible for Willow getting hurt or even worse…in the future. Ending this here was for the better. She could handle being loathed and despised by the Scoobs for the rest of her life, as long as Willow was safe.
She pulled her hand back and closed her eyes. Trying to get some sleep. No, not sleep…she was too agitated for that…she just wanted to wait for the sun to rise so that she could leave without having to fear that some monster crept into the room and hurt Willow after all.
Staying here and telling Willow that it couldn't work...not an option. She was too much of a coward for that.
Faith opened her eyes when she felt that it was light out. Even though the curtains were drawn, the early morning sun made itself known.
She hadn't really slept since she had woken up from her nightmare, had just tried to pass the time somehow. Now she snuck her way out of bed, careful not to disturb Willow.
The slayer rummaged through her dresser, looking for a clean pair of trousers and a top.
She turned to the bed to make sure that the redhead was still sleeping.
Willow was lying on her back now, still, fast asleep. The covers had slipped down to her waist, leaving her upper body exposed. Confronted with this sight, it took a lot of strength out of Faith to not to wake the redhead and ravage her here and now.
The dark-haired girl put on her clothes quickly, stealing a glance at the sleeping beauty in her bed every now and then. This time not only to make sure that she was asleep, but also because she liked what she saw and thought that this was probably the last time she would see the other girl like this.
She licked her bottom lip before she bit it, went into the bathroom and closed the door. She just washed her face and brushed her teeth. She wanted to shower, but was too afraid that the noise would wake Willow; the creaking water-pipe was bad enough as it was. She didn't bother to put on make-up, just brushed over her hair a couple of times and stepped into the bigger room.
She put on leather boots and leather jacket and got ready to leave. Throughout the whole process she still wondered if she was doing the right thing. A battle was going on inside her mind, as if there were two little Faith's sitting on her shoulders, telling her what to do.
Coward, coward, coward, one Faith taunted her. You've always been a coward. One little dream and you're on the run. Oh, wait…I know what this is…you're using that dream as amake-believe, aren't you? The really fluffy, cozy relationship stuff scares you. You're afraid to let anyone get close to you. again. Afraid that anyone might get a chance to get to know the real you, care about you, might even love you. And even worse – that you returnedthose feelings.
Of course the other Faith had to contribute her opinion to this conversation. Or maybe she's just wise enough to stop, this one countered, talking more to the little Faith on the opposite shoulder than to the real one, who was about to put her hand on the doorknob. She knows of her talent to screw things up. Hurting people and getting hurt in return.
Faith looked at Willow one last time, maybe one time too much. She let go of the doorknob and slowly inched towards the bed, as the voices bantered on, trying to get her on their side.
Get back in there, be close to her, love her, you'll like it. This was just a dream. Don't just leave her here alone in your room.
Get out of here, before something happens that you make a mistake.will regret forever. Prophetic dream much?
Faith stopped maybe two feet away from the redhead, sighing softly. Her hands reached out and pulled the bed sheets higher, covering Willow's upper body again. The redhead stirred, but didn't wake up – Faith was only partly relieved about this.
She turned around, too afraid that she might not be able to fight the urge to lie down beside Willow and hold her close.
She practically ran out of the room, away from Willow, away from possible happiness.
That's gonna have consequences, you know, one of the voices says. Nobody knew which one.
It was not long after Faith's exit that Willow started to wake up. With a smirk, she rolled onto her side, expecting to see Faith there as soon as she opened her eyes.
She did so...and frowned. The bed beside her was empty, the sheets were crumbled, and still warm, Willow realized as she touched them.
Willow thought that Faith maybe just went to the bathroom. But seeing that the bathroom door was open and hearing not the slightest sound except for her own breathing, she noticed that the slayer was gone. And had left her here.
Willow slowly made her way out of the bed and wrapped the blanket around her, holding on to it tightly. She felt cold, left alone in Faith's dingy and cheap motel room. Sunrays that began to sneak into the room through the still closed curtains underlined its desolateappearance.
She felt cold, left alone in Faith's dingy and cheap motel room. Sunrays that began to sneak into the room through the still closed curtains underlined its desolateappearance.
The carpet was worn and dirty, the paint on the walls was chipped, peeling off in some spots, the furniture – which consisted of the bed, the small table the TV was on and the drawer were surface of the drawer was scratched, light rings gracedthe yellowish-brown surface, the remains of too hot coffee mugs that had been standing on it for too long,one handle on the middle drawer was missing, nobody had bothered to replace it.
She felt sorry for Faith, wondered how the Slayer could live here. The only word to describe this room might be 'nightmare'. Willow was surprised at how much different the room appeared the night before, so much warmer, lovelier. What difference daylight can make.
No, that's not it. What made it different is that Faith was here with me.
The girls' clothes were still strewn all over the room. But not only them, also several magazines and various comics. Okay, she was kind of messy. Her mother would psychoanalyze that a normal teenager behavior.
Willow frowned at that thought, but the comics brought a smile to her face, lifted her mood somewhat. And suddenly hope sparkedin her, hope that Faith had maybe just went out to get breakfast or something like that.
Willow picked up her clothes and, passing Faith's improvised punching bag - pillows duct-taped to the door jamb - went into the bathroom. She looked at herself in the cracked mirror and was half-shocked, half-fascinated by what she saw there. The whole area around her neck and collar bones was basically covered with hickeys. Guess I'll have to wear a turtleneck for the rest of the...year...Willow grinned at that thought.
She opened the blanket and looked down at her body. Whoa, there also.
Several spots on her body, those that Faith had touched with her mouth for more than a millisecond, showed a nice shade of red or blue.
Gym class is going to be interesting...If someone asks I'll tell them it's a form of...insert possible not-too-unnerving disease here...hickeykum hornyum hunterum...?
She put on her clothes and brushed her hair with Faith's brush that she found on the small rack next to the mirror.
Afterwards she decided to make some coffee while she waited for the Slayer's hopeful return.
She took the time the coffee needed to brew to bring some order into Faith's home. The redhead made the bed, put Faith's clothes on one pile and collected the various magazines and comics.
Then she filled herself a coffee cup and waited. And waited.
Three cups of coffee later – it was hard to tell how much time went by since Faith apparently didn't have a clock – Willow made her way to the bathroom again, giving up.
Washing out the coffee mug, she thought about how last night might just have been another one-night-stand for the slayer. One more imaginary notch in her bed-post. Although she truly hoped that it wasn't so, she couldn't help feeling used.
Willow exited the motel room with a strange feeling, as if she was being watched. She looked around, but nobody seemed to be there.
She didn't see Faith standing behind a corner and the tears that had been running down her cheeks.
CHAPTER EIGHT - TRUE LIES
Faith waited until she felt that Willow was gone and wouldn't return any time soon. Only then she left her hiding spot, which was only thirty feet away from her room, at the corner of the motel wing opposite of hers, to head back to her room.
The tears hadn't stopped; Faith was far too troubled for that to happen. Maybe letting Willow wake up alone in her room hadn't been the best choice of action, but she simply couldn't walk over to the redhead and tell her face to face that this between them couldn't … shouldn't work. No, not couldn't walk up to – wouldn't. She didn't want to see those beautiful green eyes cry because of her. She knew that she couldn't keep them from crying, but, dammit, she didn't want to be there to witness it.
She just hoped that Willow would get over it eventually.
When she reached her motel room, she noticed Willow's cleaning-aria with a little smile, but with a sad frown as well – wondering why Little Red had done this. To distract herself? As a sign that she cared? Or that she felt home in her room? No…'distract herself' was most likely the right guess, passing the time until Faith would come back…or not.
Faith knew that it had been like that somehow. She had to wait for almost an hour, before Willow had finally left her room.
As she walked into the bathroom, she noticed the newest gush of tears that were wetting her cheeks. She didn't bother to wipe them away, as she stood in front of the cracked mirror and looked at her own reflection. She looked pale, weary; last night's make-up that she hadn't taken off, now painted her face. In connection with her sallow lips – caught in a struggle of trying to keep from quivering and smiling tensely – it gave her the appearance of a woeful clown.
She brought her hand to her lips, touched them gingerly. If she concentrated hard enough, she could still feel the sensation of Willow kissing her – and even more important, the sensation of herself kissing the redhead, almost everywhere.
The cut and the bruise had disappeared overnight and Faith thought that, despite from inherited slayer healing, Willow's tender caresses had had a healing effect. Caresses that she would never feel again, neither from fingers nor from lips.
It's for the better, Faith tried to tell herself again and again.
Pulling her clothes off, she got ready for her long-awaited shower. And maybe washing away the memories – something that she knew was (luckily) almost impossible to do – was also on her agenda.
Willow stepped out of the shower and grabbed a bathrobe and a towel for her hair. When she had come home she had felt the need to take a shower, though she didn't know why.
Okay, there had been the effects of the three cups of coffee; she knew why Buffy always kept an eye on her when it comes to that. The shakiness was definitely not something she was terribly fond of. That's why her shower had been particularly cold. But apart from that she couldn't name another reason.
Walking out into the hall, heading towards the living room, she felt lonely. Being alone in the house had often bothered her, but today it hurt especially. She thought about heading over to Xander or calling Buffy, but at the same time she didn't feel up for it. She needed to get her thoughts sorted without any seemingly ineffectual questions about how her night had been. Plus she new that at least the blonde would call her later on.
Somewhere on her way she started to pick up old newspapers from the coffee table in the living room and throw the away. Afterwards she folded up the blanket she had thrown on the couch carelessly the day before. She also thought that a smallish-big house cleaning was overdue. Was this a side-effect of the being dumped by Faith, a side-effect of the 'Used-Willow syndrome' maybe?
No…Faith didn't use me…there has to be some other explanation…
The rest of the day, Willow spent waiting for any sign, any reaction from Faith. She sat by the telephone for hours – waiting for that one phone call, from Faith, that would explain where the slayer had been when she had woken up, why she had to wake up alone.
When the phone rang she nearly jumped up six feet that was how engrossed she was in her thoughts. It was Buffy, of course, just like Faith had said. She told her that she was going to call a meeting for tomorrow before class, followed by some incomprehensible stuff about the evil doings of the Mayor.
The blonde herself wasn't too clear about it herself, said that she and Giles...and Wesley – just because he was in charge – would go talk to Finch later today and give the rest of the Scoobies the info in tomorrow's meeting.
Willow asked her if she should come too, but Buffy just told her to simply hang out, "spend time with Oz or something".
Sure, "spend time with Oz" who's about 200 miles north from here, touring with the Dingoes and is supposed to get back on Tuesday...Great, I thought Buffy knew about that…A-And I can't believe that this is the first time I thought about him since yesterday. Not surprising, when you're entire brain is occupied with...her. I wasn't even this one-track-minded when I first fell in love with him. Am I in love with him? Was I ever? But I'm in love with Faith. Great, she who scampers off in the middle of the night, just to... I don't know why …
The phone rang again and Willow almost let it drop this time, she snatched it up so quickly.
"Faith?" she called into the mouthpiece, hopeful that it was the slayer and that she would put her mind at ease.
"Uh, no, it's Oz," the man replied a little confused.
"Oh, h-hi, Oz," she stammered, nervous and embarrassed.
"Yeah, I just wanted to let you know that we won't be home before Sunday or Monday next week. The club that we played in booked us for five or more nights. Depends on the crowd."
"Well, t-that's great, Oz. I'm really h-happy for you."
"Hey, are you really okay?" he noticed her jumpy voice.
"Yeah, sure, it's just..." she faltered, deciding whether to tell him about her little...incident(s) right now or not, "...it's just been kinda hectic in the last few days, that's all. Patrolling and things."
"Alright. Look, I gotta go. My cell's dying. See you next week."
"Right, okay," she said, not sure if he still heard her or not.
As she put down the phone she started to realize what had made her stay with Faith last night. At least she had had the feeling that Faith might care for her. Care. That was something this telephone call had lacked dramatically. No "I love you", no "I miss you", nothing, except for that "are you okay?" after her nervous stammering.
It was not that she blamed him for all of this. He was not one to express his feelings and thoughts that often and open. Some people might conceive him as cold, emotionless, but she knew better than this. He cared for her, more than he could express with words or things he did.
But still she would love to hear those words some time, those sweet words of interest. Faith had said those last night. Well, not exactly "I love you" and things like that, she had a more...intense way of expressing herself. Let's not get into detail here, Willow thought and blushed.
I just hope I can catch her tomorrow and talk to her.
Tomorrow came sooner than expected. Willow got up extra early so that she could talk to Faith before the Scoobie meeting. She sat in the library, all alone, not even Giles or Wesley were there yet. Surprisingly Xander was the first to arrive, though you could see that he's not really awake yet.
Willow was rather thankful for this. At least this way she could avoid any talks about weekend activities and suspicious stammering while thinking of a convincing lie.
The redhead pretended to read something and her best friend – who sat down opposite from her – almost nodded off with his chin cradled in his palms.
The watchers entered the library about ten minutes after Xander. Giles and Wesley were talking animatedly among themselves and almost missed the two teenagers sitting at the big wooden table.
"Ah, Willow, Xander, excellent. I didn't expect to see you two quite so early," the remark was mainly directed at Xander who normally showed up late for Scoobie meetings.
"Hi, Giles. Wesley," Willow greeted them both and Xander accompanied her with an acknowledging grunt.
"Hello," Wesley replied haltingly. He still has problems with the fact that Faith and especially Buffy had such a close contact with 'civilians' and that said people knew all about the goings-on in the demon world.
Willow realized that her brilliant plan of catching Faith before the actual meeting had failed. With most of the others already present she wouldn't find a possibility to talk to her alone without drawing any suspicion towards them.
The door opened again and Buffy comes in, closely followed by Faith. Buffy greeted them all and Faith waved a hand in the general direction of the foursome near by the table, but to no one in particular. Certainly not to a little redheaded bundle of nerves that was busy trying to get in eye-contact with Faith without anyone else noticing it.
She failed. More precisely, Faith simply seemed to ignore her as she walked to the table and plopped down in the chair next to Xander. The boy was far too tired to be realizing who just sat down beside him. Buffy sat down next to Willow, opposite from Faith.
"Good, now we're all here," Giles started and got interrupted by Willow.
"Wait, isn't Cordelia coming, too?" she didn't really care if Cordelia was coming or not, she just wanted to buy some time, maybe, to find a way to talk to Faith.
Faith looked up at Willow's question and immediately averted her eyes and when she saw the redhead looking at her.
Willow felt hurt.
"I couldn't reach her yesterday," Buffy explained. "We'll fill her in on the details later."
"Right, let's proceed," Giles continued and explained to Willow, Faith and Xander what he, Wesley and Buffy had found out when they were talking to Finch yesterday.
He explained about the upcoming Ascension, that the Mayor was practically impervious to harm and that he had Sunnydale built over a hundred years ago so that the demons would always have enough food, keep them in his good graces.
They learned that the ritual, which made him impervious to harm, had taken place not three hours after Buffy, Willow and Faith had met Finch in the alley. Now someone might think that it would have been better to rush into City Hall and stop the Mayor before could complete his ritual. But he wasn't stupid – Finch had told Buffy that several dozen vampires, armed to the teeth, were guarding City Hall at that very moment, making sure that the ritual could be completed undisturbed. Even two slayers at full strength would have been no match for them.
Richard Wilkins III wasn't the Mayor of Sunnydale for nothing.
The Scoobies took this and all the smaller details in with a sense of wonder and trepidation.
They also got to know that Finch would be working as a sort of secret-agent for them from now on, delivering information whenever he found out something new.
At one point a very busy Cordelia (speaking of...) interrupted them, asking Giles for a copy of Freud and Jung for her psychology class.
She said hello to Wesley, almost burning him with her brilliant smile and intense stare.
When he found out that Cordelia was still a student, he released the hand he was shaking for what felt like ten minutes or longer with an embarrassed, "Well, uh...". Buffy couldn't suppress a light giggle.
He was very befuddled about Cordelia's flirtatious behavior, and finally told her that he was "here to watch...girls," which evoked a little grin from Faith, "...uh...Buffy and Faith, to be specific." Some of the parties seated around the table raised their eyebrows; Wesley obviously didn't realize that this addition didn't make his explanation sound any less kinky.
"My. She's cheeky, isn't she?" he exclaimed as Cordelia finally exited the library.
"Uh, first word 'jail', second word 'bait'," Faith teased him despite herself.
"Well, uh, where were we?" Wesley asked obviously flustered.
Buffy looked at her watch. "Hopefully done. Class starts in five minutes."
And all of a sudden Faith looked panicked, all cockiness was gone. Looking around, she was definitely looking for the fastest way out. She knew Willow was most likely looking for a one-on-one…bad phrasing…
But she couldn't do this. Confront Willow. She was still…her. And her most inner self was cowardly as one possibly can be. Hard to believe, huh? Running and avoiding – that's what she was good at. She had run from and avoided a lot of things already. And this? Maybe she hadn't had a prophetic dream…but it seemed to serve her well as an excuse. Because truth be told - it scared her. Not only that something bad might happen if she and Willow…Perhaps the prospect of experiencing something good scared her even more.
Giles closed the meeting and before Willow could even do something about it, Faith made a hasty exit, mumbling something about "thing I gotta do".
Buffy grabbed Xander by his arm and half dragged him out of the library to their first class of the day. "Will, you coming?" she shouted over her shoulder to Willow who was still sitting at the table staring apathetically at the chair that had been occupied by Faith just a minute ago.
The week passed by. Willow often happened to run into Faith. As long as some of the others are there with him, Faith stayed, although she never spoke to Willow directly. Faith deliberately avoided one-on-one situation, claiming she has somewhere important to be and things like that.
Faith was an expert in making herself scarce if she wanted to, needed to.
Willow was not an expert in keeping her emotions under control.
She was getting more and more desperate. She sobbed herself into sleep every night, sometimes she even slipped out of class or Scoobie meetings and ran to the restrooms to cry.
She didn't really participate in class; conversations with her friends became more or less monosyllabic. She drew a lot of worried attention to her but nobody asked her about her behavior.
Faith continued her life as usual: slaying, maybe going to a club here and now to dance, just not to the Bronze, 'cuz she might run into Willow there…though she felt that the redhead probably didn't feel like partying.
The slayer herself didn't either, but for her it was one way to stop thinking, at least for a while. The other way…well, she brought someone home with her twice. But it hadn't satisfied her, not physically, not mentally. She felt cold inside. She doubted more and more that dumping Willow and ignoring her like this had been the right decision.
But she had to fight to stay strong, to not to give into her feelings and let Willow come close again. For Willow's own sake.
Thursday night rolled around and Faith was lying on her stomach on the bed, absent-mindedly watching TV, some black-and-white movie that she didn't know the name of and didn't really care about. Her legs were dangling lazily in the air. She thought about going to a club again.
There was a knock on the door. Faith rolled around in that unique way that only Faith inhabited, got up and walked to open the door.
Willow stood outside, distressed for obvious reasons. She had come to Faith's apartment every night, hoping to catch Faith. But Faith had never been here then. Until today.
"What?" Faith asked in an even voice, trying to not let emotions of any kind show.
"I...um..." Willow faltered. She felt cold, uncomfortable under Faith's trying-to-be-convincingly-uninterested stare, "I just wanted to..." her fingered were entwined, twitching. Suddenly she didn't know what exactly she wanted there. "H-How are you?"
The slayer shrugged. "Never better," she lied and they both knew it. "Five by Five, you know?" she trademarked. "Why?"
Willow sighed. If she was going to have this conversation with Faith, it definitely shouldn't be in passing. "Can I come in?"
Faith hesitated for a minute…before she realized that this dreaded confrontation had to happen at some point. "Yeah," the brunette replied and it was barely more than a whisper. She stepped aside to let the other girl enter.
Faith turned off the TV and faced the redhead who was still hovering near the door, unsure of what to do now that she was back in Faith's motel room. The room she had spent some of the happiest hours of her life, but also some of the loneliest.
And even now that Faith was here she couldn't shake that atmosphere of coldness that lived in the room, as if someone had sucked all life out of it.
Willow noticed Faith's outfit. Leather boots, skin-tight black leather pants, a largely transparent, long-sleeved shirt in the same color that only really covered her chest area. She had done her hair up, only a few strands were framing her face. Dark but not too heavy make-up completed her apparel.
Dressed to kill, was the first association that sprung to Willow's mind.
Pressed silence filled the room; none of them really knew what to say and how.
Faith had crossed her arms over her chest and desperately tried to avoid any eye contact with Willow, afraid of what she might see in those big green orbs. Desperation, love, hope, pain. Faith knew she wouldn't be able to control herself if she looked at her. She'd either grab her and kiss her senseless just to make any pain that Willow might feel go away, or she'd lash out, angry and frustrated, causing Willow some real pain - physically.
Which brings us back to hurt. The thing Faith was desperately trying to avoid, but was apparently failing poorly.
Willow was still standing by the door, leaving about five meters room between her and the younger girl, who had backed away almost to the other end of the room. The redhead had wrapped her arms around herself, shielding herself from the coldness of the room. She dragged in a long breath of air and let it leave her lungs in a soft and slow sigh.. She was mentally preparing herself for the conversation to come.
"Faith...," she started, still unsure of what she was going to say. She faltered.
"Look, Will, I know what you wanna say." Faith took advantage of Willow's hesitation. "And I'm sorry if it meant more for you. But it was just a one-time deal." She closed her eyes and shook her head at her own lie. "Nothing more to it."
"Two times...," Willow said softly, so softly that no ordinary human being would have heard it. But Faith had.
"Hm?" she still asked, her own body willing her to really look at Willow for the first time since she had entered her room. She took in the light brown coat that covered a faded blue jeans and a green turtleneck pullover.
And then she saw it, them – her eyes, glistening with unshed tears, lips that were pressed together tightly. Willow was obviously trying to be strong. She didn't want to break down crying in front of Faith and make this situation even more uncomfortable.
"Two times," Willow willed herself to keep her voice from shaking. "It was two times, and you can't tell me that it didn't mean anything to you."
"It didn't. Y-you're reading far too much into this," Faith was surprised at her own stammer, covered it by looking at a suddenly very interesting spot on the far wall.
"You wouldn't have asked me if I wanted to do this, if you really didn't care," her voice started shaking, she couldn't stop it in time. "You wouldn't have given me the stakes, the holy water and the cross and..."
"I just wanted to keep you save!" Faith blurted out the plausible explanation for her behavior. And it was true. The last thing that she wanted was putting Willow in danger. After all, that is why she had made this decision for both of them in the first place.
"And what about that mocha?" Willow whipped out the joker, the thing that Faith couldn't shrug off with a simple explanation. "Huh? In the middle of the night you – injured and probably hurting – you went to a coffee place to buy me a mocha. You wouldn't have done it if you really didn't care about me."
God, at least the Xan-Man wasn't that whiny, Faith stopped herself from saying this out loud, No need to cause problems between those two.
"I...ugh..." Faith groaned. Willow had backed her into a dead end. She couldn't get out of this situation without paving right over Willow's feelings. She was going to have to hurt her.
She was suppressing the urge to hit something, because usually that was what she did when she was threatened or cornered, she lashed out, mostly beating up her counterpart in the process. In this case words would have to do.
"Will, I...uh...it really doesn't matter you think this was. If everyone I've ever slept with came crawling back later pleading for more...I can't even count how many people would be standing there beside you right now."
Oh, that's great, make yourself look like the über-slut! Yeah, makes you wonder why Willow was ever interested in you, or still is. She should be disgusted by this.
"When I'm horny I'll take everything that's convenient, you know. And that's what you were – a convenience..."
Faith stared at Willow, marveling at the fact that the redhead was still standing there and that the tears hadn't come yet.
Even I would have run off crying if someone called me a 'convenience'.
Willow took it in. Not believing her ears…but somehow still knowing that what she just heard was true. And she had a feeling that she knew exactly what Faith was planning. The other tried to look it, but she didn't really sound as if she really meant what she was saying.
What she didn't know was if she could handle Faith openly telling her that it was over.
"You know the drill. I see, I want, I take," she demonstrated it with her fingers, counting one-two-three. She added a fourth finger. "I forget. Understand?"
And now they did come, the long-awaited and equally feared tears. Willow had reached her limit of handling the situation. She pawed at her tears with her right hand. One more nudge from Faith and this would be over, Willow would be running and they both knew it.
"Now, go screw your little werewolf. At least now you have an idea how it works," Faith said this without looking at Willow. "I'm done with you."
Willow was glad that she hadn't taken off her coat when she had come in because she didn't want to stay in this room any longer than necessary. "Well, at least you wanted me," she got out between sobs as she opened the door and started running.
Faith let out a ragged sigh. Now that Willow was gone she had no need to hold back her own tears.
She hadn't quite wanted it to be like this. She actually had wanted to reason with Willow, but this – this was just awful. She at least wanted to maintain that friendship that was forming between them, back then before it became intimate. She had just been naive to think so. Now Willow would probably never wanna speak to her again. Can't really blame her.
She walked to the door to close it. And only now she noticed it – it must have escaped her notice before – it was dark out. Not even stars or the moon illuminated the night.
„Shit!" Faith cursed and slammed her fist against the wall. Hard enough to let any pictures drop from the wall – if there had been any pictures on her wall to begin with...
She slid down the wall. If Willow got hurt now...or killed...it would be her fault for all eternity. She wanted to run after her, but her body wouldn't let her. She sat there, as if glued to the ground. She was exhausted – emotionally – and let her tears run free, not caring if anyone, who might just happen to walk past the still open door, saw her like this.
CHAPTER NINE - TOO LATE TO APOLOGIZE?
One day had passed since Willow had fled from Faith's motel room and into the dark night.
Faith had sat fixed to the ground – for how long she couldn't say. And she didn't care. She had sat until she had run out of tears.
And with the last bit of strength she could muster, she had dragged herself up, finally closed the door to the outside world and trudged over to the big, uncomfortable and unbearably lonely motel bed.
The bed where she and Willow…
She had been so exhausted that sleep hadn't overcome her for a horrendously long time. And not sleeping unfortunately meant more time to think. Time to replay what had happened over and over in her head.
The thing that had happened just now, everything that had happened in the last five days, and what had happened…that night.
A big mistake, some minor mistakes that lead up to that big one, and one…no, two things that presented two of the few non-mistakes in her life. That much she had realized by now.
After finally finding sleep at some point in the morning, she woke up again in the early afternoon hours, as exhausted as she had been when she had crawled into bed.
She felt bad, still. Even worse than before.
She wanted…needed to apologize to Willow. Nothing justified the way she had treated her.
God, the look on Willow's face…the mix between disbelief at Faith's words and hurt because of these words…she'd remember it for the rest of her life.
But there was something she had done that was worse than these words. Rather something she had not done.
She had let her run out in the middle of the night. Had not stopped her, and not told her that…
She knew very well what B would do to her if something happened to Willow and she ever found out that it was Faith's fault. No...You'd probably beat her to it. Some self-inflicted ass-kicking, coming up!
Faith sat up and reached for the watch resting on top of the shelf over the bed. Quarter to four. Willow's classes were over for today. Faith had hung around the school often enough to know the Scoobies' timetables by heart.
Maybe she's home already, Faith hoped and reached for the phone, only to remember…I don't have her number. Dammit! I got B's, Giles', even Wesley's, but not hers. I don't even know where she lives, for God's sake!
Frustrated she put her head in her hands. Think, stupid, think! Where can you find her without having to call one of the others first? The library? Maybe she's helping Giles, or studying…Or the Bronze...although I doubt that she feels much like partying after last night...The Espresso Pump!
It wasn't much, but she hoped she could find Willow in one of these places. Hoped that Willow wouldn't be at home – though that would be the safest place for her, as far as Faith was concerned.
She showered quickly and put her clothes on – simple black jeans, a white tank top and a black denim jacket. Anything leather-y or more provocative seemed seriously inappropriate on a night like this.
Working up courage, convincing herself that she could do this, that she could tell Willow that she was sorry and that…
She exited her room before she got a chance to change her mind.
The library – strike one. The place was abandoned. Not even Giles or Wesley was there… If Willow had been there, she would have been happy about the watchers being gone. But this way…she didn't even have the chance of asking them where Willow might be right now.
Not that she was inclined to do so. Because that might lead to questions about why she wanted to know. And she wasn't willing to answer those right now.
If she was, she would have gone to Buffy's house and had risked the deserved ass-kicking.
The Espresso Pump – strike two. No Willow there either. She even asked the staff if Willow had been here today, 'the little redhead with the Mocha-quirk'. The answer was no.
It was evening by now and she had only one last hope – the Bronze. Even though it was an unlikely whereabout for a broken-hearted girl.
When she entered she immediately saw that something was off. A group of guys was gawking at a twosome that seemed to be arguing near the billiard table. A dark-haired sporty-looking guy and a redheaded girl in a very daring leather outfit.
The guy tried to punch the girl, but she blocked him. He clutched her neck with his other hand and tried to choke her.
Faith rushed at them, her actual mission – finding and apologizing Willow – temporarily forgotten. She needed to save this girl first. This girl that so shouldn't we wearing these clothes – she should have known this would only get her in trouble.
To Faith it clearly looked as if Sporty was threatening Leather Girl. She didn't see how the redhead was beginning to choke the guy and was gaining the upper hand easily.
She yanked the guy off of the other girl and threw him to the floor.
"Back off! You stay the hell away from her!" she growled at him and recognized him as a student from Sunnydale High. He recognized her as well – the chick that hung out with Buffy and her guys in the school cafeteria or the library, even though she didn't even go there.
"Okay! Sure!" he stammered panicked and scrambled away.
Faith turned to make sure the girl was okay, and only now she realized who exactly was standing in front of her.
Willow – in a leather outfit. A leather outfit that so wasn't her. A leather outfit that would even make her blush, wearing it. Leather was cool, but this…was just a little much.
"Willow?" she asked unbelievingly.
The redhead's face brightened. "Do I know you?" she asked smugly as she circled the slayer slowly, eyeing her. Apparently the looks of Faith were to her liking.
"W-Willow, what are we playing here?" Faith replied majorly confused and concerned, asking herself if their fight – more precisely her crushing Willow's feelings – yesterday had driven the redhead to this outfit...and this behavior...
The other girl let the fingertips of her right hand glide over the slayer's body, in a way that would give the brunette some 'good down-low tickle', usually. But not tonight.
Willow shouldn't be doing this. Not here. And not in this outfit. It simply wasn't like her.
When the redhead's fingers made contact with her butt and even made a move to pinch it, Faith grabbed her leather-clad wrists and yanked her hands away from her own body. "Willow, stop! Why are you being like this?"
Confronted with this rejection, the redhead pouted coyly.
"Is this because of what I did yesterday?" Faith asked concerned and the other girl just frowned at this slightly, not comprehending. Faith sighed, "Look...," she started, never letting go of Willow's wrists and the redhead didn't seem to mind, "I'm sorry. F-For what I said yesterday…and what I did…before. And I can't even tell you how much. I should never have treated you this way...I-I know you probably won't believe me, but I didn't mean what I said…". She sighed, "Can you maybe give me another…"
Faith broke off when she saw Xander approaching. She quickly released Willow's wrists.
The redhead turned her head to see what Faith was looking at. "Xander!" she exclaimed thrilled.
The boy acknowledged them both with a nod of his head, though his eyes are mainly focused on Willow's unusual outfit. He faced Faith briefly with raised eyebrows, but she just shrugged and shook her head.
"Will, changing the look not an idle threat with you," he remarked, finding his voice again.
His words wandered through Faith's mind, leaving her with the conclusion that this make-over maybe hadn't been her fault. Well, at least not only her fault. Or was it?
"You're alive," Willow realized with a satisfied smile, which confused the other two even more.
Looking at both of the "brunettes" alternately, an idea seemed to form inside the redhead's head. An idea, whose G-ratedness could easily be questioned, as both Faith and Xander discerned, when they followed her gaze and barely managed to keep from blushing when they caught the other brunette noticing their respective gaze.
But it was not their shared past, which troubled them in this respect and made them feel awkward – though one party might agree and the other began to feel it too, the longer she thought about it, especially bearing in mind recent developments. What bothered them was Willow doing this – this sizing them as if they were prey basically.
Well, 'prey' in Faith's case. With Xander…there seemed to be something else going on between the redhead and him.
Though he didn't seem to be too aware of that as his startled reaction showed, when she approached and put her arm around his waist in a not-too-best-friendly way, nuzzling her head against his shoulder.
Xander seemed as dumbfounded as Faith. But whereas Xander felt pure shock at Willow's behavior and at the all too inquisitive hand moving up and down his back, Faith felt hurt.
Was Willow doing this on purpose? Did she choose Xander to be her rebound guy?
The hurt faded some and was replaced by bewilderment, when Willow, still snuggled up against Xander, turned towards her again, with hunger shining in her eyes.
"I've got an idea," she whispered, only loud enough for Xander – and Faith with her enhanced slayer hearing – to hear. The other hand came up to Xander's chest affectionately, as she looked Faith all over – yet again.
"A-And what's that?" Xander stammered, feeling more uncomfortable with each passing second.
About to answer, the redhead moved her hand higher on Xander's chest and frowned when she felt something…thumping. "You're alive…." With a weirded-out, disgusted look, she yanked her hand and the rest of her body away from him.
"You mentioned that before," he said slowly, startled by her last reaction.
Faith approached the confused-looking girl slowly, carefully contemplating her move. "Willow, are you okay?" she asked worriedly, stopping short of putting a hand on Willow's arm.
"No. Everything's different," this one confessed and looked at her helplessly.
I'm so sorry…, Faith had to fight to keep her emotions at bay. She wanted to take Willow into her arms and comfort her. And tell her again that she was sorry for what she had done. She wouldn't even mind Xander being there while doing so. But then…
"Oh. There you are," Buffy approached them and Faith cringed. There was the blonde that Faith had been afraid of meeting and whose ass-kicking she deserved. "Hey, Faith," she greeted and there was no malevolence in her look.
Only partly relieved, Faith nodded.
"Hey, Buff," Xander uttered, never taking his eyes off Willow and her outfit.
The little slayer looked at Willow casually, addressing Xander and Faith. "Aren't you two gonna introduce me to your...," she recognized her, "Holy God, you're Willow…"
The friendly expression on the redhead's face disappeared, her eyes turned cold. "You..."
Faith noticed this and got an idea, who might be responsible for this…Willow. Apart from her… B?
After seconds of hesitation, Buffy started. "You know what? I, I like the look," she stammered supportingly. "It's, um... it's, it's extreme, but it, it, it looks good, you know, it's a...," short deep inhale of air and confused look towards Faith who was unusually leather-free, "leather thing, and, uh...," she faced Xander, "I said 'extreme' already, right?"
Willow obviously did not like the fact that Xander and her new dark-haired flirt knew the blonde slayer, seemed to be friends with her even. She stepped up to Buffy. "I don't like you."
Not only Buffy was taken aback by this. "Will, I'm sorry about what I said. You know how my foot likes to live in my mouth. But you know... y-you really didn't have to prove anything."
"Why? What happened?" Faith demanded.
Whatever happened…from Willow's reaction, Faith knew it had to be bad. Worse than what she had done even. She didn't even think that this was possible.
But did this mean that Willow had been at school today? That her fears of having let Willow ran off in the middle of the night and having put her in danger had been ill-founded?
Willow didn't give her the time to think about it.
The redhead glared at them all in disgust. She wanted to get away from Buffy and her friends. "Leaving now," she turned to do just that.
"Willow, wait," Faith shouted.
"Gotta say, not lovin' the new you," Xander chimed in.
Buffy was the one who went after her. "Will, stop..." She grasped Willow's arm from behind and turned her around. She couldn't believe the sight she was confronted with next.
"Get off me!" Willow – with the all too familiar grimace of a vampire, distorted features, bared fangs – roared.
Willow shook the slayer off and stalked away, leaving Buffy, Faith and Xander standing there in complete shock and dawning horror.
CHAPTER TEN - DOUBLE TROUBLE
Faith felt as if she was suffocating. Her fears had been justified. Her worst nightmare had become true.
Willow had been killed and she was responsible for it.
No, it hadn't been Buffy, she was sure of this. It was her fault alone.
She had tried to steer Willow away from her to prevent exactly this…and now it had happened.
She had noticed that something was seriously off with Willow, but at this moment had not thought about the possibility that her redhead might be "undead". Seeing Willow alive – even though behaving weirdly – had calmed her inner turmoil somewhat, she had been relieved that the wicca still lived.
The look into Willow's vampire visage made her feel sick; a lump formed in her throat, making it almost impossible to breathe.
"No," it was barely more than a whisper.
Buffy, whose slayer hearing detected it, turned her way, pain and desperation marked her features – matching Faith's.
"What have I done?" the dark slayer asked horrified.
She couldn't stand to be around the remains of the Scoobies any longer, couldn't stand seeing the pain in her eyes and knowing that her behavior was the reason for it.
She took off, pushing people out of her way in her desperate escape from the Bronze.
"Faith?" Xander shouted after her. His voice was shaky.
By the time Faith reached the exit, her tears had started to flow. She didn't care to wipe them off. She just needed to get away.
Willow made her way to the Sunnydale High library. She really didn't know how she had survived this day.
After that disaster with Faith one day ago – We both know she was lying when she said that she didn't care – she had simply wanted to get through this school day, make it to the weekend. The weekend, on which she would…she didn't even know why she was looking forward to it…
She had thought about playing hookie for a few seconds, but decided that this wouldn't help her any. She would only have more to think about it all. Plus the others would wonder what happened to her and she wasn't in the mood to explain these things to them.
Ten minutes after she had arrived at school, however, she had regretted her decision to show up. Snyder wanted to see her in his office during her first break. This was never a good sign; she just wondered what plan the annoying little man had cooked up this time. Of course it was a tutoring job...again. The tutoree this time – Percy West: Sunnydale High jock, basketball star...and arrogant and uncooperative as hell.
She would have loved to put a spell on him, turning him into a little ringworm or something like that...if she had that kind of power. She wasn't even able to turn poor Amy back into a human being. Plus, Percy disappearing shortly after Willow Rosenberg reluctantly takes on a tutoring job for him might arouse suspicions – especially after that Hansel and Gretel incident. Snyder still knew about her dealing with witchcraft, but probably ignored it just like her mother did.
Now she had even more work to do since Percy apparently expected her to write his paper for him. She would do this – rather than to have to deal with Snyder should Percy flunk history.
It was so weird that everybody expected her to be agreeing to just about everything. Everybody saw her as reliable. Snyder relied on her for tutoring just about anyone; Xander relied on her for taping "Biography" each Friday. As if this guy doesn't have his own VCR…
She was Old Reliable, Old Faithful, Old Yeller, Doormat Person, Homework Gal, whatever.
And then this girl had showed up. What's her name – Anya? Wanted to do a spell? Willow had been interested immediately. For the first time today being pegged as "reliable" didn't bother her. She had been intrigued. Conjuring a necklace from somewhere – not really interesting, but at least it was something.
Of course that spell had ended different than she had hoped. They hadn't conjured up Anya's family heirloom. Instead she had seen horrifying flashes of some demon girl that resembled Anya choking Giles, herself and Xander as vampires, the necklace in question, Buffy staking Xander, herself impaled on the broken wood of a cage, demon girl's necklace smashed, her vampire self falling to the floor, being grabbed by Larry, sitting alone in an empty factory, Oz coming for her, the Master grabbing Buffy.
After that she had refused to try this spell again and had gone home. This Anya girl freaked her out; there was definitely something off about her. She'd rather do Percy's homework than any more spells with her.
She had worked on the Roosevelt paper for about four hours, researching on her laptop and filtering out the most important facts, the essentials. She figured that she might even get this paper done tonight; she just needed to get some books from the library.
She was walking through the library doors and was surprised to see Giles, Buffy and Xander sitting on the steps that led to the stacks.
"What's going on?" she asked curiously. Normally they shouldn't be here on a Friday night. Well, Giles, maybe, but not Buffy and especially not Xander.
They all looked up in surprise and Xander lifted a cross he was holding slightly, as if he wanted to protect himself.
Willow noticed their sad faces and was amazed at the expressions. "Jeez, who died?"
No one replied.
She realized she may have gotten it right. Had her spell-induced vision not just shown her some freaky alternate universe? Or had this Anya-girl still tried another spell that went wrong? Or…oh, God, there were so many things that could have happened. Was it Cordelia? Wesley? Her breath caught in her throat. Joyce…? F-Faith…? She didn't…do something to herself…did she? She panicked almost, "Oh, God! Who died?"
Xander jumped up and thrust his cross in her face, "Back! Get back, demon!"
She didn't cower from it, instead showed deep concern for him. Xander shook the cross, like you might shake a remote controller if it doesn't work properly, and put it back in her face. Buffy and Giles noticed that she was not frightened of the cross, and slowly approached.
"Willow, you're alive?" Buffy asked hopeful.
Willow was puzzled. What was going on here? "Aren't I usually?"
Without further hesitation, Buffy ran to her best friend and hugged her hard and close. "Oh!" She savored the warmth she found in the redhead's body – a warmth that definitely indicated that she wasn't hugging a vampire.
Willow was surprised and let out a little groan from the tightness of the embrace. An instant later, Xander was also hugging her with all his might.
"I love you guys, too," Willow uttered, wondering what had gotten into her friends. The hug eventually got too intense for Willow. "Okay. Oxygen becoming an issue."
Buffy and Xander let go, smiling at her with tears in their eyes. She smiled back, but still didn't know what to make of it all. Okay…smiling. Smiling is good. Means everything is okay…right?
She turned to the watcher, thinking he might tell her something sensible. "Giles, what's going on with these...?"
Before she could finish her sentence, she found herself being warmly embraced again by the normally reserved Watcher.
"Oh! No..." Again she groaned from the tightness of the hug, and Giles quickly released her, a bit embarrassed at his emotional display.
"Oh. Sorry," the man backed away. Willow looked at him with a perplexed expression.
"It's…really nice that you guys missed me...Say, you all didn't happen to do a bunch of drugs, did ya?" she asked with raised eyebrows, semi-serious. Up one minute, down the next…or the other way around. For all she was concerned, her theory wasn't even that illogical.
"Will, we saw you at the Bronze. A vampire," Xander explained.
"I'm not a vampire," Willow seemed almost insulted. Though on second thought, this assumption explained her friends' behavior.
"You are," Buffy went on and got a look from Willow. "I-I mean, y-you, you were."
The blonde turned her confused frown towards Giles. "Giles, planning on jumping in with an explanation any time soon?"
"Well, uh... something...," the watcher was unsure about what to say, "something, um, very strange is happening," he stated, mildly, helplessly gesticulating with his arms.
"Can you believe the Watcher's Council let this guy go?" Xander mocked.
Faith finally came to a halt. Shady Hill cemetery. She didn't know how long she had run. Shady Hill wasn't far away from the Bronze, but she had run in circles, not caring where she ran and who she might run into. But she wasn't surprised to end up here.
She knew that Buffy could have followed her easily, but Faith knew very well that she hadn't.
Buffy and Xander had been glued to the ground in terror of what they had seen. The demon that had taken over their beloved Willow's body.
Faith stood stock still. There was no sound except for her own ragged breathing and the rustling of the leaves on the trees. It was a calm night, but anyone that might by walk by her would notice that Faith was anything but calm. Mortified, desperate, angry – all perfect adjectives to describe her current state.
Oh, God, Willow, I'm so sorry. I'm so...
She looked up at the clouded sky. Her tears had stopped, at least for now. She stared up.
The last 24 hours. The conversation that had went so terribly wrong. She knew that this would haunt her for the rest of her life.
She had never believed in things like God and heaven, but she felt that Willow's soul was still here – probably above.
I wish I could rewind the day and hand it back. I would do everything differently. I would show you how much you mean to me.
She waited for the response that she felt would never come.
She realized very well where exactly she was. In a cemetery, surrounded by graves with names that had no meaning to her. But behind them one could find so many different fates, and so many different people left behind, grieving for a beloved friend, spouse, child, parent.
When it hit her that Willow's loved ones wouldn't even have a grave of hers to visit and mourn at, to keep her memory, she felt even worse than before – which she didn't think was possible.
Buffy and Xander explained to Willow the details of what they had seen in the Bronze, leaving out that Faith had been there also. Willow was surprised at her vampire double's dominatrix-like appearance, all clad in leather and red lace. She would never even think about wearing something like this.
Then Angel came rushing in, explaining to Buffy, Xander and Giles that Willow was dead. After saying a casual 'hi' to Willow he finally got why the others hadn't freaked when he had told them about her death.
He informed them about a cadre of vampires that had invaded the Bronze and saw Vamp Willow as their leader. They decided to stop the vampires right now, hoping that they were still in the holding patterns.
But Willow didn't want them to kill her vampire double. She told the others to go ahead and walked back into the library to retrieve the tranquilizer gun.
She went to the checkout counter and leaned over, but can't reach the gun. She started around it, but an arm reached around from behind and grabbed her. A cold hand clamped over her mouth to prevent her from screaming.
Her own voice said, "Alone at last."
CHAPTER ELEVEN - FOILED PLANS
Evil leather-clad Willow turned Willow around and looked her up and down, particularly noticing her pink sweater.
"Well, look at me," the evil one said doubtfully, "I'm all fuzzy…"
Willow was stunned when she saw herself in the skin-tight leather outfit, black corset and pants, the corset was edged with red cloth at the wrists and...whoops, cleavage !
Befuddled at the sight and at the vampire in general, "What do I want with you?" she caught herself, "Uh..."
Evil Willow replied grimly. "Your little school friend Anya said that you're the one that brought me here. She said that you could get me back to my world," and pouted a little.
"Oh..." Willow finally got what had gone wrong with her and Anya's spell earlier today. "Oh! Oops!" she flinched.
"But I don't know...," Evil Willow smirked wickedly, "I kinda like the idea of the two of us." She turned Willow around again, caressing her shoulders. "We could be quite a team, if you came around to my way of thinking."
My way of thinking...uh, her way of thinking? What's that supposed to mean? Oh...what is she doing with her hands… there...?
"Would that mean we have to snuggle?" Willow asked uncertainly as she felt one of her counterpart's hands glide to her lower back while the other brushed some hair away from her neck.
Whoa, this is just...wrong. Me hitting on...me. Me feeling me up. Now, if I would be alone with me...in the not two-of-me sense...no, brain, don't go there right now...
"What do you say?" the evil one coaxed her. She gave Willow's neck an eager, lengthy lick.
Ugh, yikes!...Okay, at least now I know where I got that neck-licking/nibbling from...Hope she doesn't go for my earlobe next... I gotta stop her!
"Wanna be bad?" Vamp Willow asked enticingly.
"This just can't get more disturbing," Willow uttered mostly to herself.
Evil Willow growled with desire and bared her teeth behind Willow's neck. Willow freaked out and whirled around, stepping back and away from her.
"Ack! Ew!" she flailed her hands in disgust. "No more! You're really starting to freak me out!"
She tried to go around Evil Willow, call the others back here, but the vampire blocked her. Willow snatched Xander's cross from the counter and nervously waved it in Evil Willow's face, who roared and batted her arm away, sending the cross flying. Whoa…bad move…
Vamp Willow grabbed Willow and threw her up and over the counter. Willow landed with a crash, hitting her head hard against the metal filing cabinet. "Ow!" she hissed.
Evil Willow stalked around the counter. "You don't wanna play; I guess I can't force you."
Willow quickly reached under the counter for the tranquilizer gun she had come here for originally.
"Oh, wait," Vamp Willow smiled evilly, "I can."
Willow hectically aimed and fired. The dart hit Evil Willow in her stomach. Stunned, the vampire looked down at the protruding dart, staggered and started to fall. "Bitch...," she moaned and hit the floor.
Willow stared at her other fallen self and slowly got up to check if the vampire was really out of it. She tickled a spot that is extremely ticklish on her own body, figuring the other girl had to be ticklish there as well.
When she got no response she moved over to the phone and quickly typed in the number of Buffy's pager, hoping that the slayer had it with her.
Less than one minute later, the blonde burst through the library doors. "What is it?"
Willow just pointed over to her other self lying behind the counter. Buffy stared on dumbfounded, for the first time having the direct comparison of fuzzy-clad, can't-harm-a-fly Willow and naughtily-leather-clad Willow, the dreaded vampire. Except for sharing the "same" body, those two had absolutely nothing in common – this was very clear to her.
The others needed a bit longer to return to the library. But when they did, the first thing they did was accompanying Buffy in her staring-session.
When the majority of them were done doing so, Angel and Xander dragged Evil Willow by the arms into the book cage.
Giles, however, "It's extraordinary," he mentioned stunned, barely able to take his eyes of the vampire, for purely watcher-y reasons.
"It's horrible!" Willow replied appalled. "That's me as a vampire?" Angel closed the door to the book cage. "I'm so evil and... skanky...And I think I'm kinda gay," she muttered to no one in particular.
Memories of last weekend rushed through the brain. Huh. At least something we have in common...
Buffy tried to reassure her, "Willow, just remember, a vampire's personality has nothing to do with the person it was."
"Well, actually...," Angel started without thinking much about it and got a warning look from Buffy and a scared one from Willow, "That's a good point."
"But, you know, speaking of gay...," Buffy picked up the subject, "you should have seen Faith with your vampire double. I don't even think she realized how she looked at you. – well, before the part with the vampire thing. Well, underneath that confusion, it almost looked as if she has a crush on you." The blonde girl grinned at her silly thought.
"Maybe it was just your leather outfit," Xander chimed in.
"W-Wait, Faith was there?" Willow asked, wondering what the other girl had been doing at the Bronze. Was she looking for me...? Or was she looking for someone she could drag back to her motel room to do...you-know-what? That last thought didn't sit particularly well with Willow.
"Yeah. She ran off when we found out you were...well, dead," Xander laughed nervously and relieved at the same time.
"She seemed horrified," Buffy became pensive, "as if she was responsible for this."
The following conversation was lost on Willow as she though about Faith...again. She wondered what the other girl was doing right now. She must still think I'm dead. Nobody told her yet. I have to go to her, tell her what happened. Oh, God, I just hope she's not doing anything stupid.
Faith slammed the door to her motel room shut. She had run the few blocks from Shady Hill to the motel, anger at herself rising in her.
The slayer hated herself for treating Willow the way she had. She hated herself for not running after Willow and making sure that she got home safe. But most of all she hated herself for not admitting how she felt about Willow.
She shrugged off her jacket and flung it on the bed. She needed to hit something, kick something. Something that wouldn't fight back. She wasn't in the mood for any resistance.
She walked over to her bedside table and kicked it, hard, hard enough to break the wood and make the lamp and telephone come crashing down to the floor. She crushed the telephone with her boot.
Faith remembered her punching bag, or more precisely the doorframe, covered with pillows that were fastened on it with duct tape.
She punched and punched for minutes, getting even more frustrated. She let out a gut-wrenching cry that would have made all undead in Sunnydale's cemeteries jump out of their graves at once.
She heard a hard knocking on the wall on her right.
"Take it down a notch!" her 'neighbor' shouted. "Some of us are trying to..."
"Fuck off! Before I come over there and lend you a hand!" she yelled back.
It barely registered on her mind when she started clawing on the pillows, tearing them apart. Just like the guilt-drenched feelings were tearing at her own heart at the same time.
Explaining to Faith had to wait a little bit longer. Buffy had tried to call – because Willow insisted on it, but the line was dead.
Other than that, the blonde had cooked up a plan on how to stop the cadre of vampires that were still at the Bronze, waiting for their boss to return. A "really bad idea", that was, actually.
The guys had gone off to the Bronze already, to keep an eye on things.
Buffy helped Willow… strip her vampire self from her leather outfit.
Strangely enough, Willow's initial feeling was relief. Oh, thank God; even as a vampire I still have the decency to wear underwear. Even if it's kinda kinky...I mean, the panties, my goodness! Would have been awkward if I...she...weren't wearing anything under it...
Willow quickly discarded her own clothes and put on Evil Willow's skanky and very tight outfit. There were only minimal, almost non-detectable traces of her "hickey-disease" left, which she was thankful for. No explanation on her side needed.
After putting her own fluffy outfit on Vamp Willow, the redhead and the slayer followed the guys to the Bronze.
The group had agreed that Willow would take on Evil Willow's role. She would go into the club defuse the situation as best as possible.
Ignoring the guys' eyes – that seemed to be glued to her outfit, and her in her outfit, something for which she couldn't really blame them – she had entered the Bronze.
Defusing the situation….this of course was easier said than done. The humans and vampires inside seemed to believe that she was her evil self. Just that blonde girl, Anya – what kind of demon is she supposed to be again? – felt that something was off.
"If she's a vampire then I'm the creature from the black lagoon," the light-brown-haired woman had barked.
Before the situation got out of hand, Willow screamed – her ultimate weapon and agreed sign – and Buffy and Angel came running to the rescue. They took on the vampires while Giles and Xander helped the Bronzers escape through the front door.
Anya looked around at the chaos, and decided it was time to skedaddle. She met Willow on her way, though, who didn't fancy Anya getting away so easily. Anya and her stupid spell had brought some of the craziest moments ever upon their lives. Not to mention, had brought on hell. As if their life wasn't complicated enough.
With her and Oz…and her and Faith. Faith, who still thought she was dead, and who was MIA, doing god-knows-what.
Willow grunted as she punched Anya hard, sending her to the floor unconscious. Unfortunately, the punch really hurt her hand as well.
"Ow! Ow! Ow! Happy, but ow!" she got out as Xander reached for her hand and dragged her to the empty stage and to a possible escape way.
But then Evil Willow popped up and blocked their way. How the hell had she found a way out of the book cage?
Easy. That brunette ditz, Cordelia, had showed up at the library, the one she thought she and Xander had killed already. Weird alternate universes...
And just when she had almost convinced the girl – who obviously had no idea who (or what) exactly she was – to let her out of the cage, the brunette had decided, she rather wanted to talk about something…what was it? Some stuff about "boyfriend-stealing".
The vampire had no idea what the other girl was talking about. No, she did. But Xander was her boyfriend, or at least he had been in the other – the real – universe. Had been for a very long time, though time doesn't really play a role in the life of a vampire. No way he was dating Cordelia in this reality…?
Besides…this Xander and her…how could this work, anyway? They were so clearly not-right for each other. And that not only was concerning their so very different clothing style.
But this Cordelia-girl still seemed to have loved him, loved him still, even. And she listened to Cordelia rant. For Devil-knows-how-long. Apparently this girl could talk on and on.
And she…she got bored…and hungry. She needed something to eat.
Actually she had wanted the redhead, the Willow of this reality. Despite the weird clothes…which unfortunately she wore now…she was a nummy treat. Could this be considered self-love? It didn't really matter. Apart from Willow there was also…Xander. She wanted her Xander back. This Xander's heartbeat had almost scared her to…well, "death". This just wasn't right. The poor boy. She needed to do something about his state. And of course there was the other girl, the other brunette. Gorgeous thing. Okay, there was the weird and confusing…babbling…apologizing for what? But nonetheless there was something fascinating about this girl. She had enormous power – she had felt it. Yeah, they could make the ideal team. The four of them. Her, the other Willow, Xander and the brunette. A cool foursome.
The Fanged Four.
So many things the four of them could do. Hot, sexy things. Dangerous things. Fun things, like taking over this town. Making it the way it should be. And not even this blonde girl – this Buffy – could stop them.
But for this to happen, she had needed to get out of that cage. Cordelia would do for a snack – and then she would go looking for the others.
And finally she had had the girl so far to release her from her prison – just needed enough promises that she would never steal Xander again. Or maybe the brunette had just been done talking anyway.
And then the fun had begun…well, almost, anyway. She had chased the gullible girl down the school corridors, finally had her cornered in one of the restrooms. But some weird, stuffy guy had to step in between them and thrust a cross in her face. And showed her a little threatening bottle of holy water on top of that. Whatever. She hadn't been that willing to fight with him, just to get to Cordelia. Last time around the girl hadn't been that yummy, anyway.
So, she had gone to the Bronze, where her newly recruited vampire lackeys held some other nice people hostage. Enough to eat for everyone. And afterwards she could follow through with her plan.
But coming here, she had to realize that something had gone wrong…She had seen the blonde – killing her minions and saving the innocent. Fighting right at her side were that annoying librarian, poor Xander, the other Willow in her outfit and…her puppy? Her puppy vampire, not covered in blisters and bruises, not chained to a wall in a cage, not whimpering in pain. No, now he was fighting on the side of her worst enemy.
She was enraged. What was wrong with this world?
This was just too much. Seeing them all together – except for the brunette one – it was simply unacceptable. Even her plan didn't seem so alluring anymore. Would she really want to spend the rest of her life with people formerly associated with the blonde?
The answer – no. Rather kill them all. Started with the weakest.
The vampire grabbed Xander by his shirt and threw him off of the stage.
"No more snuggles?" Willow asked her other self frightened as she was approached by her.
Evil Willow backhanded her hard, causing her to fall backwards on the floor, hitting her head. The vampire stepped over Willow and grabbed her around the neck, choking her.
Oh, no, should she really go out like this? Choked to death by her own pissed-off vampire double? The vampire that was nothing like her, but still seemed to have things in common with her. And that didn't only mean…
Maybe it was the fluffy clothes that the vampire wore momentarily, but she could see a bit of herself in her. Nothing concerned with looks, but with the…no, soul is the wrong word.
There was something in the vampire…something that she never thought she could, but somehow had always wanted…to some extent. The self-confidence; the will and strength to stand up to people and not be the one treated like a matter of course, someone that simply functioned in the way everyone expected her to, just because it was simply the way it had always been.
The other Willow showed her that she could be different…part of her wanted to be just a little bit more like the other girl, barring that lacking a soul and killing humans bit, of course.
Unfortunately the vampire didn't seem to think of her in the same way. Or she simply had much more pressing…choking…matters going on in her brain. And that was why she put some more strength behind her grip.
Down by the pool tables, Buffy heard Willow's anxious cry. She staked the vampire with whom she had been fighting with a cue and ran to help Willow, smashing said cue into the back of a vampire's head along the way and breaking it, resulting in a sharp makeshift stake.
She ran up onto the stage and was about to shove the stake down hard with into Evil Willow's back, when Willow shouted out to stop her. "BUFFY, NO!" No, she couldn't let "herself" be staked right in front of her eyes.
Buffy reacted instantly, stopping just millimeters before the stake would make contact, and instead grabbed Evil Willow and yanked her roughly away from Willow, restraining her. Angel was finished with his fight also and hopped up onto the stage as well. Evil Willow realized that she was outnumbered. Willow stood up and massaged her neck.
"Nice reflexes," she said to Buffy.
The blonde shrugged, "Well, I work out."
Evil Willow pouted sadly. Great, even that fun spoiled. She wanted to go home…, "This world's no fun," … where everything was fun…barring pointy wooden things.
Willow was surprised by this. "You noticed that, too?" Of course she realized that their vision of an ideal world differed considerably. But both seemed to agree that this world wasn't necessarily it.
CHAPTER TWELVE - IT'S NEVER TOO LATE TO MAKE IT RIGHT
Giles, Xander and Angel checked on Anya, just to make sure that she was still unconscious from Willow's punch. The redhead had decked her astonishingly good; not surprisingly, considering the anger she felt at this situation.
Meanwhile Buffy brought the two Willows to the club's bathroom so that they could change back into their own clothes.
She waited outside but gave the vampire a warning should she try anything stupid, underlining her threat by showing her the improvised stake that she was still holding.
While they changed clothes, Evil Willow couldn't suppress the urge to look at her mortal self every now and then.
Little narcissist. Just like Faith, Willow noticed. And concerning the brunette, she had a plan. Right after this was over...she would go to Faith's room - luckily she knew where the slayer lived - and check on her. Just to see if she was okay and tell her that she herself was okay, not dead. She didn't plan beyond that checking-phase. She knew that Faith didn't really mean what she had said last night, but she didn't know if Faith would admit it...even after what she had heard from the others about Faith's reaction upon seeing her today, before and after finding out about her "undead" state. She wanted to let Faith decide where they should go from here.
But first... "Would you stop ogling me! That's really disturbing," Willow commented her as she reached for the fluffy sweater that her vampire self had just discarded seconds before.
"Hey, you're staring at me yourself. How could you have seen me looking otherwise?" Vamp Willow raised her eyebrows and Willow blushed.
"You caught me...," she mumbled. Was she a narcissist too? Or was this just normal behavior? It's not every day that you see yourself standing in front of...well, you.
"No problem. We look good. There's no need to be hiding under...," Evil Willow pointed at Willow's innocent little girl outfit, fuzzy sweater, pink flower-y skirt, white tights, "...that."
"But you don't have to put it in into that either," Willow retorted as she gave the vampire her leather-y bodice back.
"Some people might like it," Evil Willow continued. "You know, like the girl from the Bronze earlier. She seemed like someone who wouldn't mind a little bit of leather," the vampire shrugged.
"What girl?" Willow asked, although she had a feeling about which girl her other self was talking. Had to be...
"You know her. Big, brown eyes, brown hair, lips that are almost too kissable to resist. Plus that body...," the vampire made a grasping movement with her hands.
"You...you felt Faith up!" Willow squealed, shocked at the bluntness of her counterpart.
"'Faith'! Right, that was her name," Evil Willow replied as she wriggled her way into her skin-tight outfit. "Well, no, I didn't...really. But I wanted to," she admitted. Maybe even still.
"Guess we have more in common than I thought," Willow muttered with a hint of sadness.
The vampire looked at her knowingly. "You know...I noticed something...," she approached the other redhead. "You smell like her..." She grinned seductively and looked Willow up and down in a slow moving stare. She carefully reached out to pull down the corner of Willow's sweater. She saw the faint hickey others without vampire vision would not see anymore. She took an unhurried sniff... "Hmm, was that your first time?" The eerie smile returned.
Willow stared at her in shock. If she can smell it, then Angel can probably, too! God, I hope he doesn't' tell...no, he's a gentleman, he won't...I hope! But what if Oz can smell it, too? And Buffy? God, she's out there right now! I hope she doesn't eavesdrop in on this...
"Don't worry. The others wouldn't notice it anymore. Even the pupp- the vampire. Her scent is too faint for that. Right now, they wouldn't notice anything, even if they concentrated really hard. I just caught it because it's...well, my body," the vampire reassured her.
"I-I hope you're right," Willow stammered.
"She seemed hurt when she saw that you were dead, or...you know what I mean. Even more hurt than Xander and...Buffy," she gave Willow a meaningful look. "I think she's in love with you."
Willow's face brightened somewhat, but was also confused about why Faith, in this case, would try so hard to convince her otherwise. "Really?"
"I'm almost sure of it." And noticing Willow's expression, she added, "Looks like those marks on you are a bit older. Did you two do anything since that time?"
Willow knew what 'anything' was referring to and shook her head. "She tried her best to ignore me after...that night."
Not particularly inclined to hear the entire sob-story but still feeling strangely committed to help the other redhead, now that she knew why the brunette had tried to apologize, the vampire said, "Yeah, well, she told me she's sorry for whatever she did. She said she didn't mean it. And that she wanted another chance."
Funny that she believed her vampire double so easily, but she did. "She'll get it," she said determined, her face portraying pure softness.
"Cool, then," the vampire replied. At least one of them would get to have a little more fun with the brunette. She knew what the others were planning out there. Something Willow insisted on, though Buffy and partly the others still had their doubts. A spell to send the vampire back to her world. Finally. She knew that trouble awaited her there. They had been in a big fight, just before she had woken up here. But maybe that fight...and all this here was just a really weird dream. Maybe one of her last victims had been on drugs...
And when she'd wake up...she'd go looking for the brunette. Just in case. Hey, maybe she was a little confused right now, but she still had her vampire urges. And hopes.
The vamp adjusted her leather outfit properly, making sure that it fit right. She glanced at Willow one last time before she looked down at herself again. Willow did the same.
"This is so much better," they said in unison.
They all had made their way to the factory that in-the-end-not-so-Evil Willow first had appeared in this reality. They must have been a pretty weird sight - all seven of them, squeezed into Uncle Rory's convertible, which was still in Xander's possession; Xander behind the wheel, Angel right next to him, sitting between Xander and Vamp Willow, sort of protecting him from her, Buffy sitting right behind the female vampire, stake at the ready, in case the redheaded girl got any funny ideas, Giles sitting between her and Willow, Anya, bound and gagged and still unconscious, sprawled over the laps of all three of them.
Buffy had apparently not overheard their conversation. If she did, she didn't let it show.
After having reached the factory, and giving Anya a rough wake-up call in the form of cold water in her face, Giles and a reluctant Anya set up the spell to send Evil Willow back.
Xander stepped over to the vampire, but cautiously, not getting too close. Angel kept a wary eye on her from behind. "So, um, in your reality, I'm like this bad-ass vampire, huh? People afraid of me?"
Evil Willow just looked at him shortly, at this way too happy and upbeat and...badly dressed version of Xander, then rolled her eyes and turned away. Yeah, her Xander was so much better.
Xander stepped away, gleefully. "Oh, yeah. I'm bad."
Willow and Buffy were observing Vamp Willow as well. They didn't really have much to do concerning the spell. The important ingredients - the sacred sand, the two Willows and Anya - were here. Giles and the evil-evil ex-demon - a vengeance demon, as she had let them know threateningly several times in the last few minutes - could handle the set-up alone.
"I'm not sure about releasing this thing into the wild, Will. It is a demon," Buffy said unsure, not letting the vampire out of her sight.
"I just can't kill her," Willow replied.
"No. Me, neither," though still reluctant, Buffy finally agreed.
"I mean, I know she's not me. We have..." she hesitated for a bit, "...almost...nothing in common, but... still."
"There but for the grace of getting bit," the blonde said understandingly.
Willow was resolute. "We send her back to her world, and she stands a chance. It's the way it should be anyway." She knew her vampire probably wouldn't behave like she expected her to, once she was back in her own world. But...witnessing how her alter ego was killed would be simply unacceptable. If this happened in the other universe...well, at least she wouldn't have to see it.
"Uh, we're about ready here," Giles informed them.
Fluffy-clad Willow nodded and went over to Leather and Lace Girl, wanting to say goodbye.
"Don't you try any tricks now, dear," Giles warned Anya.
"I don't need tricks," Anya retorted sulkily. With contemptuous arrogance she added. "When I get my powers back, you will all grovel before me."
Both Willows rolled their eyes and shook their heads at her simultaneously. The threat was getting old fast. Buffy looked amused, watching the two Willows that for this short moment seemed incredibly alike.
Giles was unimpressed by Anya's latest attempt at intimidating them. "Yes, uh, if you, uh, Willow...s, would like to, uh," he gestured where they should kneel around the symbol on the ground, "complete the circle."
Willow faced her vampire doppelganger for the last time. "Good luck," she said.
"You too," the vampire replied and only Willow knew what she was getting at.
"Thanks," Willow smiled gratefully. "And...try not to kill people," she added, knowing that it probably fell on death...uh, deaf ears.
Willow smiled warmly at her and gave her a big hug. Evil Willow got into the spirit and did some naughty touching. After all it was the last time she would have the opportunity for that...
Willow jumped back. "Hands! Hands!" she squeaked in shock. God, some things never change...
Vamp Willow gave her a naughty, knowing smile.
The two of them walked over to join the circle. They knelt down and Giles started the ritual.
After Vamp Willow was transported back to her reality, the Scoobies released Anya from "custody". She couldn't do any harm and it was no need to keep her around for longer than necessary.
Xander offered to take vampire Angel home in his convertible, with closed top. It was barely morning by now, and despite the sky being cloudy, there was still a relative danger of bursting up in flames. Giles went with them, for no particular reason.
Buffy offered to go with Willow, who herself had opted to walk the back into town...for reasons only Willow knew. And Vamp Willow. But the little witch didn't mind her friend's company for now. Though she somehow still feared that her best friend had detected something and would want to talk about it now, in private. But Buffy seemed happily unaware and rather used their little walk to talked about creepy doppelgangers and that she didn't know how she would handle a situation like this one.
They stopped at a crossroad and Willow told her friend she had somewhere to be. Buffy frowned for a second, seemingly having momentarily forgotten that there was another matter at hand, but then gave her 'okay'. "Okay. I'll call you later," the slayer waved and walked on.
Willow slowly walked in the respective direction, soon passing the Shady Hill cemetery.
She knew what she had to do. Where she wanted to go. Needed to go.
Faith shoved a slip of paper into the back pocket of her jeans. Her hands were bloody, dirtying her pants. Though being injured, covered in little and some bigger cuts, her hands didn't hurt. She was too upset to feel any pain.
Her motel room was a mess. Her punching-bag-door-jamb was literally ripped to pieces. Feathers and pieces of wood lying around everywhere, the plaster on the wall severely damaged.
A duffel bag was sitting on Faith's bed. Various clothes were thrown in it already, stained with blood.
She opened a drawer on her dresser and pulled the last of her few clothes out, putting them in the bag as well.
She had made a decision. She needed to leave Sunnydale, right now. She couldn't stand having to face the Scoobies again. And she couldn't stand having to face Willow. Vampire Willow. Willow without her soul.
Her feelings for Willow were strong. Still. And a little part of her said that it still could be okay. That she could still go and find Willow and try to get back into Willow's good graces and...
A much bigger part, though, said, that she...she couldn't. She wasn't B. She simply couldn't do this... this vampire loving. And it wouldn't be fair to Willow.
It would only be fair of me to kill her, really kill her. She shouldn't have to live like this for all eternity...or for the rest of her undead life... don't know if Buffy has the emotional strength to kill her best friend...even if she's a demon.
A knock on the door brought her out of her thoughts. She thought that it was probably her neighbor whom she had kept awake for hours. "Neighbor", great term. Barely anyone really lived here. Most people only checked in here for a night or even a few hours, stopping by to get some sleep on their stopover in this goddamn town, or looking for a place to... relax some...
Whoever really lived here, permanently, was either some kind of demon...the clever ones preferred to lay low, and this was one of the places to do so, since the manager didn't particularly care, whom he offered a room, as long as the money was right...or one of those underprivileged people, who couldn't afford anything else, didn't know where else to go. What did these "permanent residents" have in common? They were outsiders in this society, and many people preferred to not think about them, denying their existence.
Faith was one of these people. She deserved nothing else. She shouldn't even...denying existence...she shouldn't...Maybe it would have been better, if she had never been born. Just like her mommy had often told her. Faith was beginning to believe she had been right.
Was there anything good she had done in her life? She couldn't name one single thing. There were only bad things. Terribly bad things. People had died because of her. Her mommy, because Faith's sheer existence had ruined her life and had made her search for the one escape she knew - alcohol; her watcher, because she was a sad slayer excuse for a slayer, whose feeble attempts to harm Kakistos had been more laughable than anything, to say the least; and Willow, because...you're a useless, pathetic idiot!
She should just end this. Instead of leaving? Where should she go from here, anyway? She didn't even have a real plan. There were some things she wanted to do before she took off, but she didn't even know how.
Maybe she should simply forget about those and instead...or still do those things and afterwards...? This was weird. Being torn between running off and...the other alternative. No...she wasn't even slayer enough to kill herself. Pathetic, huh? You caused so much pain and death, and are afraid to take your own life?
Yeah, she was pathetic. She would run. Whatever happened after this...even her death at someone else's hand...okay. Coward still doesn't mind her own death...
There was another knock on the door Faith went to open. Right after dealing with her neighbor, manager, or whoever it might be, she would be off.
The one person she didn't expect to see...Willow. Vampire. The redheaded...vampire standing in front of her, dressed in fuzzy Willow-y gear, sweater and pink skirt. The sky was clouded, no sun to be seen.
"Look, vampy, just don't, okay?" was the only thing Faith had to say. Did the vampire have to come here and mock her now? Show her what an idiot she had been? She wasn't wearing these clothes for no reason; probably wanted to show her who exactly she had let get killed.
"Faith, you don't understand," Willow started her explanation, knowing very well that Faith wouldn't believe her right away when she told her that she was not a vampire. There was no reason Faith should believe her. This alternate universe thing was just too freaky to understand. Even for herself, and she had witnessed it. "I'm not what you think I am. I'm not a vampire, I'm Willow - really!" she went on.
"Yeah, yeah, laugh it up," Faith reached behind her for the cross that was lying on the dresser.
She held it into Willow's face. The redhead flinched when she saw Faith's bloody hand.
"See? I knew it," the slayer mistook this reaction as a vampire's shying away from a cross. "You can't trick me."
She left the door open and walked back to her bed, continuing to pack.
"What happened to your hands?" Willow asked but knew that she didn't need an explanation when she saw the room. The holes in the wall, torn pillows, blood-smears.
"Do not pretend that you care," the slayer murmured. "You're not Willow. My Willow is dead and it's all my fault."
Willow's heart hurt when she saw Faith like this. And she knew what the slayer was doing, leaving the place where she thought she has caused so much irreparable pain.
She knew it was Faith's nature to take off when things got out of control. She had done it a few months ago when Buffy and that fake watcher had betrayed her, she had done it after their night together...and she was about to do it again.
"And don't you try anything," Faith warned her. "You'd be dead...for real, before you'd even notice."
Willow touched Faith's arm lightly, tried to soothe her, "Faith, wait..."
Faith decided to go through with her threat. She grabbed Willow, slung her left arm around her from behind, her hand covering Willow's mouth. Her right arms gripped Willow's shoulder.
One yank of her left arm and it would be over. She knew that with enough momentum, she could twist the vampire's neck enough to "kill" her. Unconventional way of killing a vampire, but it worked. She already had experience with it, using it when there was no stake nearby.
And it this case...was it this need to feel Willow close to her one last time? Or was it that she couldn't stand shoving a stake in Willow's heart? It didn't matter. "I'm so sorry," the slayer whispered into the redhead's ear. And it was true.
CHAPTER THIRTEEN - ICH LEGE MEINE KLEINE GROßE WELT IN DEINE SCHÜTZENDEN HÄNDE
"Faith!" Willow's scream was muffled by the slayer's hand over her mouth, "Don't!" So many thoughts were running through her brain in that short moment. Mostly panicked and confused thoughts. One clear one. I love you.
Faith, still keeping Willow in her death grip, about to end the vampire's existence, noticed the other girl's breathing quicken in panic.
She removed her hand from Willow's mouth and spun her around. She stared at her for long seconds…before her trembling fingers sought Willow's pulse point.
Willow simply let it happen. Her shock wore off slowly as she saw Faith's eyes widen in sheer amazement and realization. She could only begin to understand what the slayer must feel right now.
Faith's fingers found a strong and very fast pulse – the result from Willow's near-death-experience. Her hand moved down to the chest where she witnessed the wonderful sensation of Willow's heartbeat.
The vampire had been appalled when she had felt Xander's heartbeat. For her feeling Willow's was the most beautiful thing ever. Her brain was reeling. The vampire. She had seen her. Had seen the vampire face, the teeth. How…
"How...?" She stepped back slowly; her hand covered her mouth as she started sobbing. Only this time it was mainly tears of pure joy; just a hint of shock about her almost murder of real-alive Willow stained this feeling. She remembered how Willow had said she trusted Faith's instincts. 'Not just her slayer instincts, her human instincts'. Had she been happy back then that Willow thought of her as more than just a slayer, she was even more upset now. Her slayer instinct had just failed her terribly.
But Willow held her arms open as an invitation and closed the gap between them. Faith rushed towards her, embracing Willow as tightly as possible without actually hurting her with her slayer strength. Her knees gave in and they both crashed down to the floor.
Faith didn't know what the hell had happened, but right now she didn't really care. All that mattered was that Willow was alive, that she hadn't let her get killed.
Faith infected Willow with her sobs and soon they cried in each other's arms. For minutes. The outside world slipped away, at this very moment it was just the two of them, together again.
Right now Willow wished that she really were a vampire, because Faith was making it incredibly hard for her to breathe, she was holding on to her so tight.
"I'm so sorry," Faith cried into the nape of Willow's neck and shoulder. The same words that she had used when she had held Willow in her death grip but the meaning was so different. Now it was an apology for the last few days. And for the last minute.
"Ssh," Willow's hand glid soothingly over the slayer's back. "It's okay, sweetie." The redhead smiled through her tears. Her latest almost-death was already forgotten.
Everything her friends and her vampire double had told her about Faith showing up at the Bronze came flooding back to her. That she had come to apologize, that she didn't mean what she had said, that she wanted another chance. The hurt and horror in her eyes upon finding out that she…Willow was dead and that it was her fault.
Willow understood very well how this must have been. For her facing her doppelganger had been creepy enough, but for Faith…thinking that she had died because of her…no, she would never want to be in such a situation. That must have been…no, she couldn't even find a word for what Faith must have felt.
It must have been so much more than just despair and…anger, she felt as she took in the room through blurry eyes. Now she also knew why Faith's phone line was dead.
She could feel the other girl's hurt all over. Not the physical one, which she didn't know, if even Faith could feel it right now. But the emotional – definitely.
The brunette still clung to her presumed dead lov—…her frie—...to Willow. She couldn't believe it. Willow…the alive Willow…here in her arms…she didn't know how this was possible, but right now she was too happy to care. She hoped Willow would explain all this to her at some point.
Oh, God, Willow…
She wanted to tell her everything…wanted to apologize over and over, for yesterday…and the days before yesterday. She wanted to tell her how much she meant to her.
But she was too tired… With Willow being here, all that rage, anger, desperation had simply left her body. Along with her strength. All she could do was hold onto the other girl as long as this one let her.
And Willow let her. Waiting until she felt Faith's tears slowing and her sobs ebbing down.
Slowly she disentangled herself from Faith, but not releasing her fully. She simply wanted to look at her.
At first Faith didn't meet her eyes. She tried to wipe her tears away, but Willow grabbed her hand and stopped her. She looked down at her bloody hands and realized why Willow had just done this. Oh, God, she must have smeared blood all over Willow's sweater…
"Let me." Willow cupped the slayer's face with both her hands and wiped the tears off with her thumbs. Then she pressed her forehead against Faith's as both tried to get their breathing back to normal. Faith didn't really know what to do with her hands so she just rested them in between them, almost touching Willow's thighs.
After a few moments, Willow put her arms around her again, pulled them up and moved Faith to sit on the bed. "Come on, let's get you cleaned up," she said tenderly.
Faith nodded. Willow walked into the bathroom to find some towels and a washing cloth. She looked at herself in the mirror and wiped her own face dry with a smile.
Faith's eyes never left Willow. Two minutes ago, she had…she had tried to kill her. That on top of everything else she had done… She feared that an 'I'm sorry' would never be enough. How could it be?
But when Willow came back in…she simply smiled. As if it all didn't matter anymore, had never happened.
She kneeled in front of Faith, put the towel under Faith's hands, covering the denim-clad legs.
Faith flinched when suddenly Willow's hand shot up to her cheek, before, calming down she realized that the redhead had the washcloth in her hand and only wanted to clean her face, which apparently was dirty. Faith enjoyed this treatment as long as it lasted.
Then Willow started to dab at blood and other dirt that clung to the slayer's fingers. Faith watched closely. She knew that Willow was only cleaning her wounds, but it felt as if the redhead was caressing them, she was so gentle.
When the hands were fully cleaned, Willow saw the extent of Faith's injury. She found deeper cuts on some of the knuckles and some splinters. She winced a little. This must be painful. "Where is your first aid kit?"
"Cupboard under the sink," Faith pointed towards the bathroom with her head. Her heart almost sank when Willow had to leave her hands temporarily, though she knew she would be back in a few seconds.
Willow retrieved it and came back. Opening it, she quickly found what she hoped for. "This might hurt," she informed the rather stoic slayer as retrieved a pair of tweezers, sat back down and went to work.
Faith hissed a few times, but stayed quiet otherwise. Willow made sure that she really got all the splinters out right this time. Because once Faith's slayer healing kicked in, new skin would grow over it very quickly and make the removal of possible remaining splinters more complicated...and painful.
After she was done, she took the slayer's hands in her own again, softly caressing the injured flesh. "Do you have iodine ointment or something like that?" she asked. She hadn't seen any, but maybe Faith kept it somewhere else.
"Not at the moment," Faith said, much to her and especially Willow's regret.
"Okay," Willow quickly worked on bandaging Faith's hands provisionally, before bringing the used items into the bathroom. "Come on, I have some at home," she retrieved Faith's discarded jacket and helped Faith putting it on.
Willow made a move to open the door, expecting Faith to follow her. When the slayer stayed put and just stared at her with frightened eyes, she frowned. Was something else wrong? Was Faith also hurt somewhere else? Or…was Faith scared of…going with her, going home with her?
"Faith? What's wrong?" she asked softly and unsure.
"I…," she started and Willow could see new tears threaten to spill, "I…smeared blood all over y-you," she said timidly.
Willow looked down at herself. Only now she saw it. Right over her heart and where Faith's hand had been when the slayer had felt for her pulse. She hadn't even noticed it while looking in the mirror. It had to be on her back as well, and on her neck and face?
"Oh…," was all she said and she could see Faith getting desperate.
"I-I'm sorry," the brunette said and looked like a scared, little child, fearing the wrath of its parent.
"Don't be," Willow smiled and hoped it was reassuring enough. When she noticed Faith relax somewhat, she went into the bathroom to check. Indeed, there was blood. Not much, though. She really hadn't noticed it before. Funny, she had seen it on Faith's face right away; maybe her eyes were just temporarily blind for anything related to not-Faith. She washed her face and neck quickly. The blood on her sweater…she could live with it. It wouldn't be the first time she walked through town with blood on her clothes. It came with the being-friends-with-a-slayer-gig.
She was surprised when she went back out and saw Faith frantically rummaging through the bag she had been packing. Before she could ask what the girl was planning, this one pulled out a dark-brown leather jacket, which appeared to be bloodstain-free…probably thanks to the material and the color.
"H-Here," the brunette came walking over on still unsteady feet, "put this on."
Willow's heart melted. Faith still had this scared look in her eyes, but her lips showed a tiny, hopeful smile. It made her definitely not want to decline this offer, though she even would have walked out there without the jacket to cover her up. "Thanks."
God, she had to look weird. In her prink skirt, her white tights, her orange sneakers, her fluffy sweater…and Faith's almost-black and fairly heavy leather jacket, drawn tightly around her. But it felt good, Faith was practically glued to her, even though they weren't even touching at the moment.
On their way, Faith realized that Willow's home was probably only a couple of blocks away from Buffy's. She had walked through these streets several times in the last few months, mostly on patrols, but hadn't known that the redhead lived here.
She spent most of the walk glancing at Willow. Willow that walked by her side, from the look on her face, lost in thoughts. Faith just hoped they weren't bad thoughts.
She would have loved to hold on to Willow's hand, but didn't know if this gesture was really appreciated. Not because other people might see them – the streets were abandoned on this Saturday morning – but because she had hurt the redhead deeply and…even after Willow's gentleness towards her in the last minutes…wasn't sure how Willow felt about her right now. She knew she shouldn't push anything.
Willow caught the slayer's hesitant looks her way and took the other girl's hand gingerly, not wanting to cause her any pain. Faith smiled at her in gratitude.
They reached Willow's house in no time and Willow reluctantly let go of Faith's hand to open the front door. They hung up their jackets before she showed Faith to the living room and went to find her special slayer-first-aid kit under her bed.
As she came back, she saw Faith standing in front of the fireplace, looking down at it.
"I love those," Faith acknowledged Willow's return. "When I was a kid I always wanted to live in a nice house that has a fireplace, you know?" she said slowly and faced Willow.
The redhead was a little unsure of what to make of this statement. It dawned on her that she had no idea how the slayer had lived the first fifteen or sixteen years of her life.
"My watcher...I lived with her after my mom died...," upon talking about her mom, Faith's face was strangely unreadable.
Willow missed this, busy realizing that this is also a thing she hadn't known before. Giles had probably known, maybe even Buffy, but the rest of them didn't have a clue. Not that I really thought of Faith as someone's child before...Poor Faith, everyone she's ever trusted or loved in some way has died.
The redhead started to understand the younger girl's way of thinking. It's no wonder that she has problems to let anyone get close to her. She must be afraid that it'll happen again. And that it might even happen because of her! And thinking of last night is this respect…
She focused on the other girl who seemed lost in her own thoughts at the moment.
"...you know, she had a fire place," the slayer continued. "I sat there very often, long hours, just staring into the fire, watching it burn...," she smiled. "And it's a nice way to keep you warm. Boston winters can be really cold." Now her smile turned into a smirk. "Plus it had a soothing effect on me, which my watcher was very grateful for, I guess. I…seem to be a little wild child, you know."
"Oh, yeah!" Willow gave back, happy to see her slayer's mood lighten.
Faith smiled along with her and continued her thought. "But you know what I wonder? Why do houses in California have fire places? I mean, Giles', the Summers' home...Cordelia's house has probably ten of them... "Willow snickered at this. "I mean, it's not like it gets fricken cold here..."
And the redhead had to admit that she had never really thought about the fireplace-in-Sunny-California-thing. Huh…that is weird…
"...well, except for that Christmas here two months ago. Joyce told me that it was the first time she's ever seen it snow over here...We sat in front of the fireplace, with cups of hot cocoa in our hands and talked for hours." One of my best nights since I've come to Sunnydale.
Willow couldn't hear the last thought, but she could see it shimmering in Faith's eyes. Smiling warmly, she put the first-aid kit down on the table and walked over to Faith. "You know, we can start a fire in there any time you want." Willow grinned. "I might even do it on purpose if you get too wild for my taste, Sparky!"
The slayer raised her eyebrows, astonished at her new nickname.
"But right now we need to take care of your hands. Come here," Willow said and they both sat down on the couch.
As Willow undressed her hands, Faith glanced at the first-aid kit, which was actually a light-blue lunchbox with Snoopy and Woodstock on it. She smiled. "Cute."
"I bought it years ago, from my first pocket money. So, way before I knew about slayers and demons and things like that," Willow explained as she opened the box. "But it was a first-aid kit ever since. Xander and I used to play doctor, you know."
Faith grinned naughtily and earned a slap on her thigh. "Get your mind out of the gutter! We didn't...you know, like you think." Willow defended herself.
Faith grinned even more and Willow grabbed one of her wrists and tried to hide her blush.
"Right. Sorry," Faith tried to stop grinning.
Willow opened the tube containing the iodine ointment. She put some of it on her finger and softly applied to Faith's injured flesh. Faith hissed again and bit her lower lip, but calmed visibly when the cooling effect of the ointment set in.
Afterwards Willow bandaged the hands carefully and fixed the mull with red band-aid. She brought the first-aid kit back to her room and looked through her dresser, finding something for Faith to wear. She can't stay in these clothes forever.
She picked some grey sweat pants and a dark-red Sunnydale High t-shirt. Not very flattering, but it would do. Discarding her bloodstained clothes as well, she slipped into a similar outfit.
When she came back she saw Faith stifling a big yawn. "Sorry. Long night," the slayer smiled fondly at her.
"Yeah," Willow sighed, relieved that said night ended happily after all.
They got rid off Faith's dirty clothes quickly and helped her into the clean ones. Here and there Faith gave a Willow a sexy purr whenever the other girl's hands made contact with her skin and at one point she made a joke about naughty nurses, which resulted in a Willow-smirk.
That's what I love about her, Willow thought about Faith's saucy and playful nature as she brought the clothes into the laundry room. She felt around in the pockets of Faith's pants to make sure that nothing was left in them. In a back pocket she found a folded slip of paper, some blobs and smears of dried blood ruined the otherwise neat appearance.
Willow hesitated for a seconds, thought about whether she should open it or not. Eventually her curiosity got the better of her. She unfolded the small letter – written in Faith's scrawly and unique hand-writing – and started to read.
I really don't know how to say this…so I'm just gonna say it.
What happened to Willow was my fault. I'm responsible for her death.
You probably don't know this, but Willow and I…have been together, at least for one night. The one night you came to my room because Giles and Wesley were in trouble, Willow was in my room with me.
That's why I needed so damn long to get ready. That's why I went to that coffee place after the fight and rushed back to my motel room. I know my behavior that night made you suspicious.
But after that night…I chickened. I…let my brain convince me that it couldn't work, that I'd just go and hurt her if we'd go on with this.
I was scared. Not only of Willow getting hurt, but…of the fact that I…have feelings for her. I'm…not good at this - this touchy-feely-thing…I always screw up.
So I took off. And then pushed her away, ignored her…I did everything possible to make her hate me…I knew it'd be easier for her to get over this, if she hated me.
But she just…Thursday night she came by my room, wanted to talk it all over. And I…I crushed her, on purpose. I just wanted her to leave me alone. I said so many horrible things to her, just to get her off my back.
In the end it worked. And I'll never forget the look on her face... I know she'd seen through me, but she took off. And I finally had what I wanted.
It was the last time I saw her alive. I let her get killed. She ran off in the middle of the night, and I didn't follow her.
Willow was the first person that I might have been able to…that I…that I loved. I loved her. And if I had the chance now…God, I'd do it differently.
And that's why I'm leaving. I can't make it okay, and I can't stand to see Willow like this and know that it happened because I freaked.
If you should find me…I give you the right to kill me, because that's what I deserve. I let Willow get killed because I was a coward.
'I'm sorry' doesn't even come close to what I'm feeling and cannot make up for everything I did.
You have every reason to hate me.
Willow folded the letter back together as tears started to well up in her eyes. Tears of happiness that Faith had confessed her love for her. Something she had hoped for, something her doppelganger had sensed already. She had felt something coming from Faith as well, but somehow…knowing how she really felt, having the evidence right in front of her…it did mean so much to her.
When she walked back into the living room, she found the slayer lying on the couch with eyes closed. But she wasn't sleeping...at least not yet. Faith's eyes opened when she heard the redhead come in. She looked at Willow and immediately recognized the letter she was holding in her hands. Her letter to Buffy, the one her distressed hadn't had an idea of how to get it to the blonde without having to face her again.
She sat up with a start, wincing as her hands scratched along the surface of the couch.
"Willow, I…," she started, feeling that the other girl had probably read it. With others she might have been angry because they were butting in on her privacy. With Willow she was just afraid of the reaction she would get, still unsure about the other girl's feelings after everything that had happened. Maybe she was just being friendly and helpful. First-aiding someone, taking them home…even holding hands…didn't have to mean that there was still hope…
But Willow…sat down beside her and laid the letter on the table. She faced the slayer and gently brushed some hair behind Faith's ear, making sure to catch the slayer's eyes while doing so, observing her reaction. She didn't want to scare the girl. But Faith didn't look scared; there seemed to be only one emotion in her right now – relief. Cupping her cheek, she leaned over and kissed her mouth softly, for the first time since Saturday night...or Sunday morning, whatever. And it still felt so right.
"I love you too," she whispered.
These four little words were all the affirmation Faith needed. She pulled Willow close to her, capturing those sweet lips again.
Willow pushed her down on the couch and settled in beside her. She had buried her hands in the other girl's soft, dark mane. Her tongue nudged the slayer's lips, asking for entrance which was granted instantly. Faith moved her arms to Willow's waist, simply holding her.
There was nothing rushed or hectic about their kisses. They were slow and exploring. A simple getting-to-know-each-other-again. Most of last week's kisses had been frantic, needing, serving one specific purpose.
Faith learned that not every kiss has to lead to sex consequently. Until now those two had been inseparably linked together for her. Kissing sex, 'cuz what the hell are kisses for when they result in...well, nothing?
This was something new to her. Kissing someone just for the purpose of kissing, showing someone that you love them. Faith embraced this new meaning of kissing wholeheartedly.
The kisses eventually became shorter and further between as sleep slowly took over. With her last will to move Willow reached for the blanket on the foot of the couch and covered them both with it. She snuggled closer to Faith and gave her one last kiss on the tip of her nose before she drifted off to a content sleep.
Faith looked at her for a little while longer, thanking whoever was up there that a second chance with Willow had been given to her. She listened to Willow's oh-so-not-vampire heartbeat, the breathing.
She still thought about future happenings, possible hurt – physical or emotional – or even things like death. But she didn't want to run anymore. This…this lovely girl in her arms and the love they held for each other – it was all that mattered. She could do it, could make sure nothing ever happened to Willow and stay with her. She just had to convince herself…over and over. She hoped her crazy life would give her enough time to learn how to handle both concepts.
And whatever would happen at some point in the hopefully far-away-future…she hoped they would come out of it unharmed. But the future was then; the only thing here was the now.
She wrapped her arms tighter around Willow – holding onto the 'now' with everything she had. Willow emitted a muffled groan but didn't wake up. Faith knew that her arms would probably be cramped by the time she woke up again, but nothing in this world would keep her from her goal – to keep Willow safe as best as she could.
CHAPTER FOURTEEN - AWAKENING
Willow slowly woke up when she felt something soft tickling her face. She opened her eyes and could see barely more than brown hair. Thick, beautiful, brown hair…that currently covered an even more beautiful face.
She leaned back a bit to get a better look at the dark-haired girl and to stop her hair from tickling her. But found that she was unable to move away more than a few inches. Faith was still holding her close, almost as if she was holding onto her for dear life. And maybe she was.
The redhead was at least able to move her hands and used this opportunity to brush some of the hair out of the other girl's face. And there she was – Faith, the vampire slayer. Famous, or infamous – depending on your point of view – for her I-don't-care-what-you-think-of-me attitude, her big mouth, her sexual-aggressive nature; the brat, the bad girl, the dark one. A walking provocation.
There were few people who had been given the chance to look behind this hard, cocky facade that she was working so hard to keep up. Too few. Faith was very careful about who she let catch a glimpse of her softer side. 'Careful' being another word for 'afraid'. Letting your guard down meant making yourself vulnerable. And this was something that Faith didn't want to be.
This was just one of the many reasons for why she kept pushing people away. Most of the time.
But Willow was one of those lucky people who got to see that softer side. She could see the little girl under the hard shell. Yes, the little girl. Seeing her here like this – it made it hard to think of her as anything other than that.
Her brows were scrunched together slightly and her mouth was moving soundlessly. She was dreaming. For a second it seemed as if she might be having a nightmare, and Willow was very close to doing something about it, though she didn't know what exactly. But then the lips started to curl and she smirked lightly.
Right then she thought that was possibly the cutest thing she had ever seen. And not only because this was the first time she really noticed the light freckles that were usually buried under make-up.
Willow suddenly felt the weird urge to count those little spots. The number of freckles couldn't compete with her own, she knew that, and it was probably one of the silliest things to do, but Willow figured that it was one way to spend the time until Faith woke up.
At first, she counted them only with her eyes, but after losing count for the third time – mostly because Faith would emit some tiny emotion and she would find herself mooning at her and completely forgetting her agenda over this – she decided to use her fingers. For counting.
She moved her hand and touched the oh-so-soft skin, not managing to suppress the urge to cup Faith's face for a minute. The slayer seemed to react to her touch, moved into her hand a little, but apart from that didn't move.
Still asleep…? Willow grinned and after a while went to follow her original plan.
She started at the forehead and soon after moved on to the bridge of Faith's nose where the majority of the freckles were located. Willow was aware that her fingers probably had a ticklish effect, but, in case she was still asleep, the slayer still showed no sign of waking up.
She finally reached the tip of the nose. So far, she had counted 47 freckles. Just a few more and she would know exactly how many...
Faith's nose started twitching. Faster than the average human being could, Faith reacted, removed one of the hands that was holding Willow close and quickly covered her nose. She sneezed one tiny, soundless sneeze and put her hand back in its original place before the redhead could fall off of the couch. One relaxing sniff later, the slayer slowly opened her eyes.
"Hey," Faith grinned and nudged Willow's nose with her own, "and before you apologize, I've been awake longer than you think."
Knew it… "Who says I wanted to apologize?" Willow returned the grin. "I wanted to say 'Good morning', but..." she craned her neck to get a look at the clock on the wall over the fireplace. Faith clinging to her didn't make this task easy. Nonetheless, she could see that it was a quarter past five pm, "...that would be a lie." She settled back into the slayer's overprotective arms. "You do realize that you have to let go of me sometime, right?" she asked with a smile.
Faith pouted candidly. "Do I hafta...?"
"Can't walk around with a slayer attached to my front or back or...," Willow didn't continue her thought as her fingers traced Faith's collarbone. She didn't make eye contact with the slayer. "What would the others think?"
Faith noticed the mood switch and her heart sank. She hadn't even really thought about that yet. The rest of Team Scooby… "You gonna tell them?" she asked softly, unsure if she herself wanted to hear a positive or a negative answer to that question.
"I don't know...Maybe we should wait," Willow replied and met Faith's eyes tentatively. She was afraid of her reaction, but also of the reaction of the others. After her thing with Xander, telling them might be too soon. And Faith was a girl…not that that should be a problem, but still. And there was Oz to consider in all this. A twinge of guilt flowed through her. "What do you think?"
"Hey, whatever you want," Faith said and caressed Willow's chin with the thumb of her still bandaged hand. "Okay?"
"Okay," Willow replied relieved and snuggled closer to Faith. The slayer kissed her forehead and put her arm back around her.
They simply looked at each other for long moments, enjoying their closeness, before Willow tilted her head to out a tiny kiss on Faith's lips.
It was not much more than a brushing of their lips. But it felt so good, and Faith returned the kiss equally as softly. Softly. So very unlike her…And it was all Willow's fault. Sweet little Willow…
Never before in her life had Faith let anyone get this close to her – emotionally. And saying that this scared her a little was an understatement. As long as I don't screw things up we'll be okay, I guess...I hope. I don't want to hurt her any more. This would be a fresh start for them, and she wanted to do it right.
Willow was more worried about the reactions they would get from the others. She thought about Oz and her betrayal towards him. Not that he is around much...and even when he is... he's never really there for me...Stupid brain! You can't justify all this by blaming him...it's not right.
She broke their lip contact and pressed her forehead against Faith's. The slayer frowned a little, but remained still.
God, how can I ever look him in the eyes again without feeling like the worst criminal ever... Well, the others will maybe accept it after a while...I don't even wanna think about the things that Xander will imagine after he finds out...you just know what he'll think. And Giles will need some new glasses, because you can only clean your glasses ever so often…
She had to grin at that thought and looked at Faith who was smiling back at her, relieved. "Something funny?" the brunette asked.
"Nah. I was just thinking about Giles' glasses," she explained and got a blank expression from Faith. "You'll understand it soon enough, trust me."
"If you say so," Faith replied, trying to think of something that might be funny when it came to his specs.
But Willow moved on to the next topic and Faith thought that it was better to focus on her instead, especially since Willow was tickling her side with her finger now, maybe on purpose, maybe not. "You know what I wanna do right now?"
"Hm...," Faith pretended to seriously mull it over. She had some ideas that could be fun. Her hands were wandering over the redhead's back and she grinned naughtily. "Not sure. You have to tell me...," her left hand reached the hem of Willow's shirt and slipped under it.
Willow's breath hitched slightly and she had to close her eyes. Oh, gosh, what'd you expect, Rosenberg? Early morning slayer horniness...no, afternoon...24/7...yeah, that's it. 24/7 slayer horniness. What have I gotten myself into...? I mean, this feels nice...but I still need to...
"Not that," Willow croaked out and felt bad when she got a pout from Faith. "I, uh...," Willow blushed, "I really need to pee."
"Oh, I'm sorry," Faith shook her head, grinning. She let go off Willow and the redhead slowly sat up.
"No, I am. Stupid body."
"I like your stupid body," Faith replied with a dimpled grin. Willow actually managed to blush a little more. God, this girl really has a one-track-mind...
"But speaking of bodies...I'm kinda hungry. I haven't eaten since yesterday. You must be starved, too." A low grumble from Faith's stomach confirmed her presumption. Hungry and horny, of course. Huh. And without having gone slaying earlier...Go figure, Willow thought.
"Yeah, that'd be great," Faith said and patted her stomach, "and then you have to explain to me what I saw last night."
Willow realized that Faith had still no idea what happened yesterday. "Oh! Of course! But now I really need to...," she got up from the couch and was about to exit the living room when...
"Oh. Hey, hey, c'mere!" Faith indicated with her hand that she should come back.
"Can it wait?" Willow asked as she turned around with a pained expression on her face. She should have told Faith sooner that she needed to go somewhere. It was getting urgent.
But Faith had none of it. "No! It's really important. C'mere."
Reluctantly Willow went back to the couch. Faith tugged on her arm and forced her to kneel down. "How many did you count?" the brunette asked smirking and put her arm around Willow's neck, bringing them together nose-to-nose.
"You're mean," Willow whimpered but grinned nonetheless. "And you interrupted my counting-session."
"Your own fault."
"Huh." Willow frowned. "I guess. Well, we'll just have to repeat that some time."
"But then I get to count yours, too," Faith kissed Willow softly.
"You bet," Willow smiled and disentangled herself from Faith. "But I'm warning you right away. It will take you a couple of hours, probably."
"Don't have a problem with that." And again there was this naughty, sexy grin.
"Yeah, that's what I thought," Willow kissed one of the bandaged hands before she stood up again.
Faith made herself more comfortable on the couch. She gave Willow a light pat on the behind and sent her off to the bathroom. "Now go, before we have a problem in here."
Willow ran off and Faith rolled onto her back. Her hands still hurt a little from holding Willow close for so long. But somehow hurting had never felt so good.
One minute earlier
Oz made his way over to Willow's house. He thought he'd surprise her with an early return from his trip. He walked up the front steps and stopped when he caught a movement out of the corner of his eye.
He smiled, thinking his girlfriend was bustling about the living room.
Through the big front window, he saw Willow getting up from the couch and hurrying out of the living room. Almost frowning, though his face didn't actually allow him to, he noticed that Willow was not alone when a bandaged hand shot up from behind the backrest of the couch.
The couch's back was turned towards the window so he couldn't see who exactly was lying on the couch.
Reluctantly Willow came back to the couch and the hand gently, yet resolutely pulled her into a kneeling position. Now Oz could see barely more than her head. He backed up against the wall of the house so that Willow couldn't see him but he could still look in. He knew something was up.
The unknown person – to Oz's eye it looked as if the arm belonged to a female person - put their arm around Willow's neck and drew her in close, out of Oz's line of sight.
A few seconds later, he saw Willow's smiling head reappear; his mind went blank when he saw Willow kissing the hand softly before she got up.
The hand gave her a pat on the butt and sent her out of the living room.
Oz stood paralyzed. For a couple of minutes, he stared; he wanted to see who the person was. The person…whose hand Willow had been kissing, and possibly more, though he did not have hard proof for this.
When he didn't notice any movement for several moments, he turned around and left.
On the outside he seemed calm, on the inside he was caught between hurting, resignation and anger, an emotion he barely know.
What had he just witnessed? Who was this person, with whom Willow was… And since when was this going on?
Or was he maybe reading too much into it? As much as he wanted to believe that…he had a feeling that he wasn't.
CHAPTER FIFTEEN - FOOD FOR THOUGHT
Twenty minutes later, the two girls were preparing everything they needed for the meal that they still hadn't found a name for. It was too early to have dinner; Giles might call it a belated tea time.
Scottish people would call it an early tea time, because for them 'having tea' means eating dinner..., Willow pondered while preparing some sandwiches,...and, oh, God, talk about useless knowledge!... Well, okay, it might be useful to know that stuff when you're visiting Scotland and are staying with a host family and wonder why they serve their 'tea' at maybe 8 pm when you always thought that Brits drink their 'tea' at 5 pm...But that 5 pm thing might be a myth...I should ask Giles about this...Stop it, Rosenberg! Can you maybe stop thinking for a little...
She put the sandwiches on a platter, while Faith was still working on some omelets. Willow laid out plates and cutleries. Just when she was done she heard a low growl from Faith.
"Is something wrong?" Willow asked.
Faith turned around with two plates in her hands and a small pout on her lips. "This one omelet looks a little scrambled...sorry...," she explained as she put Mr. Omelet and his little friend Scramble on the kitchen table.
Willow touched the slayer's arm, comfortingly. "No problem. And here, look - have you seen my pancakes yet?" she motioned to the plate she had put on the table minutes earlier. "On some days it doesn't matter how much you work on them," she grumbled, "they simply…"
"Oooh, pancookies!" Faith acknowledged the unfortunate attempt at cooking with a laugh. "But, hey, I bet they still taste yummy."
"And nothing's wrong with scrambled eggs either, you know?"
"I think we're the perfect match." Faith kissed Willow on the cheek. "Okay, let's get started before it gets cold."
Willow wasn't surprised when she saw a few minutes later how much Faith actually managed to eat. It was not as bad as she had feared – knowing Buffy for two and a half years had given her a pretty good idea of what a slayer could eat. So the three sandwiches, six pancakes, two donuts, one half of the scrambled eggs she had inhaled by now might only be the beginning – especially since Faith hadn't eaten anything in the last two days.
Right now Faith was eating a bowl of cereal and was listening attentively to the end of Willow's very long explanation, which had already given her insight on why Buffy had wanted to apologize to her.
"So then we went back to the warehouse where I...she showed up in the first place and prepared that spell to sent her back. Anya swore that we will 'grovel before her' once she got her powers back...," Willow uses her left hand to make quote marks. With the other one, she was holding a sandwich. "Not that she ever will. Anyway, and then I hugged me...uh, her...you-know-who-I-mean goodbye, cuz as it turned out she wasn't all that bad...except for that killing people and groping me thing, which is very unpleasant, mind you…"
Faith thought about it and shrugged. Groping Willow didn't seem so weird to her. But how would Faith feel if her vampire double felt her up? Hm, she would probably get off on it…
"And then we sent her back and ex-demon Anya scampered off like a little bunny and... then I came to your place and you know what happened next."
"Yeah," Faith replied. "And sorry for almost killing you," she had a pained expression on her face.
"It's okay. You couldn't know," Willow smiled reassuringly, though rather wanting to forget those seconds of her life. "You couldn't know that there were two Willows..."
Two Willows could have been fun... Faith got carried away by certain fantasies for a second. Finally, she shook her head, "This Anya chick needs some serious ass-kicking, if you ask me."
"It's not really her fault," Willow pacified.
"Still!" Faith tried to get her point across.
"No, don't get in trouble because of me," Willow shook her head vehemently. Somewhat amused, but not sure if Faith was being serious or not.
"I need to protect my girl," Faith sat up straight, thumped her chest and almost managed to choke on her cereal in the process. "It's a thing."
Even more than making sure Faith wouldn't die on her in the next couple of seconds and faintly blushing at the slayer's words, she had to smile about Faith's cute Boston accent when pronouncing the word 'girl'; somehow it seemed, as if that word was made for that accent alone. "A guy thing, maybe. You're not a guy...as far as I remember."
"Well, did you look hard enough?" Faith grinned.
"I think so," Willow replied with a similar expression. "Besides I socked her on the jaw. I'm good," she said nonchalantly and took a bite from her sandwich.
Faith sat wide-eyed for a second; Willow had obviously left that part out in her earlier explanation. "Red! I'm surprised. I didn't know you had it in ya...," she said and patted Willow's knee appreciatively. "Well, okay, from that one night I know that you can hold your own, but still...," she said, before almost regretting it.
They both thought about that one night which had changed their lives somewhat. Faith's almost-killing of Finch – the part Faith regretted having subtly brought up – which somehow lead to Willow and Faith eating ribs in a shabby restaurant which then somehow lead to them ending up in Faith's motel room – or more precisely the slayer's bed – together – the part Faith didn't regret having brought up.
The outside observer would probably have some problems to comprehend what happened between them; even to Willow and Faith it seemed a little crazy. But it was an experience that they wouldn't give up for anything now. Even if the major part of the last week hadn't been all that pleasant. Especially Thursday night.
Silence settled in as they let last week's happenings ran through their heads. It edged on oppressive when Faith started poking at her omelets pensively. Willow felt that she might be thinking about their fight two days ago. Well, not fight, more Faith deliberately paving right over Willow's feelings, just because she was afraid to let the redhead get close to her.
Willow tried to think of something else they could talk about. She remembered something she heard Buffy, Giles and Wesley talk last week.
"So…I heard the Watcher's Council is running some tests on you...," she prodded.
"Oh, yeah," Faith confirmed this, glad that Willow had given her something else to think about. "Next week's the big week," Faith actually seemed thrilled about that. "They're gonna do some physical tests, you know, reflexes and stuff like that. Should be a blast. Just that psych stuff gives me the wiggins."
"It just does. Maybe fear that they diagnose me as more than just a little 'wack'," Faith shrugged.
Willow smiled. True, Faith might have some crazy moments every now and again, but... "Don't worry, I think you're safe. Just don't say 'yes' if they ask you if you ever wanted to be florist."
Faith scrunched her eyebrows in question.
"I read it in one of my parents' books. It apparently means you're crazy. Don't ask me why…," Willow explained and sipped on her cocoa.
"Oh, right, your parents are shrinks, I remember B mentioning it," Faith replied. "But, uh...speaking of, where are they?" She didn't notice anyone tiptoeing around them while they were sleeping on the couch. And she didn't think they would have done that, if Will's parents actually had been there.
Willow just shrugged. "I think they're at a conference somewhere in Asia right now. Actually, I don't really know. Lost track of where they were heading off to years ago."
Faith could hear the hurt in Willow's voice. "They do this often, huh?" she inquired more sensitive. She feared that she had touched a sore spot. "Do you know when they will get back?"
Willow shook her head. "Don't know. But probably not in the next two months."
"Must be pretty lonely, living all by yourself," Faith thought. Even though she was used to it herself, and her own mother was, well… sometimes having someone around you was not a bad thing…
Sure Willow wished that she could have spent more time with her parents in the past. Every child should have some kind of bond to their parents, right? Not in the 'I-want-you-to-be-around-me-24/7-and-butting-in-on-each-and-every-single-one-of-my-activities', cuz that can be annoying as well. But it would be nice if they were at least around sometimes... Mrs. Summers was more like a mom for her than her own was... "I'm used to it," Willow simply replied.
"I know the feeling," Faith shared her sentiment. She looked at Willow and saw her nodding in understanding; her eyes looked sad. Faith reached across the table and took the redhead's hand in hers. With her thumb, she drew small circles on the freckled skin.
Willow managed a little smile. Somehow, Faith just knew how to handle her. Oh, that sounded...wrong...she smirked. Okay, Faith just knew how to…lighten her mood. Better?
Faith's heart leaped when she saw this. Jeez, look at me, spent a couple of days with Will and already I'm all touchy-feely...holding her hand and happy about every single positive sign of emotion...Not that I'm complaining! No, sir!
The ringing telephone interrupted their most recent simply-sit-there-and-beam-at-your-honey-session.
Faith let go off Willow's hand as the redhead got up with the intention to answer it.
"I'll be right back," Willow said and walked into the living room, but not before giving Faith a small kiss. A few seconds later, she answered the phone, "Hello?"
"Hey, Will, it's me," she heard Buffy's voice over the handset. "Just wanted to check how you are." Just like Buffy had promised.
"Super!" Willow spurted out a little too quickly and too loudly. Startled, Faith almost dropped her bowl of cereal, from which she was currently slurping the milk. "I mean...good," she said, less forceful.
"Uh-huh," Buffy drew out her reply. To her, Willow seemed just a little too chipper for someone who had just experienced a Freaky Friday with her vampire double. "So, I guess you don't miss your doppelgänger, huh?"
"No, no doppelgänger missage, Buffy, really not."
Faith perked her ears when she heard whom Willow is talking to.
"Though you gotta admit – she was kinda interesting," Buffy pondered. "I mean the clothes alone. It even made Faith blush, I think," the blonde slayer whispered into the phone, as if she feared that said girl suddenly popped up behind her.
"Yeah…F-Faith blushing is, um...," Willow laughed nervously and looked towards the kitchen, because she really might be in danger of said girl suddenly popping up behind her, "...something you don't see every day..."
Buffy's dark half had heard the comment and slowly came walking into the living room, with her arms behind her back and an innocent grin on her face.
"Actually she's the reason I called," Buffy explained.
"Oh?" Willow asked as Faith walked up behind her.
Faith did this deliberately slow, taking a few seconds to look Willow up and down. Even in sweatpants, that girl looked good.
"Do you know where Faith is?" Buffy wanted to know, oblivious that the girl – in this very moment – was putting her arms around Willow from behind. Faith leaned in closer, of course just to listen in and not just because she felt especially snuggle-needy right now...
"Uh...," Willow hesitated for a second; certain…parts…of Faith's body, which were pressing into her back, didn't make it easy to concentrate, "why?" she decided to dodge the question. Better than lying to her.
"Well, I went to her motel room earlier and she wasn't there. And I looked through the window and... it looked like there's been a fight. Looked pretty bad."
Willow didn't know if Buffy knew she had been at Faith's earlier, and if Buffy hoped get some clue from her about what had happened.
"I'm sure she's okay, Buffy," she tried to calm her best friend with a non-committing answer. At least she didn't have to lie about this one.
"I don't know…The last time I saw her was at the Bronze," Buffy continued. "I told you she didn't look good then either. I'm worried."
"I think you don't have to. You'll most likely run into her somewhere and... and she'll have a logical explanation, you know," Willow replied and covered Faith's hands on her tummy with her left one.
"Yeah," Buffy sighed, "yeah, I guess you're right. Well, I'm getting ready for a patrol in about an hour. Maybe I'll catch her in one of the cemeteries."
"Okay, I'll see you on Monday, Will. Bye."
"Bye, Buff," Willow replied and ended the call. She put the phone down and turned around in Faith's arms.
"Now, why did I blush?" Faith smirked.
"Because of...," Willow put her arms around Faith's neck, "skanky Willow in her skimpy outfit. You know, yesterday, when you met her at the Bronze."
"That was actually...well, her hands were pretty...inquisitive...," Faith flashed her a dimpled grin and demonstrated with a not too gentle hand on Willow's butt.
"Ugh, believe me, I know...,"Willow rolled her eyes, though she really didn't mind Faith's hand doing what Vamp Willow's had done not even 24 hours ago.
"Yeah," Faith replied, faintly amused that the vampire would even grope herself. "So, B's worried about me." It wasn't a question, but the surprise still showed in Faith's eyes.
Willow pressed her forehead against the slayer's. "She worries about you." She confirmed and caressed her cheek. "And so do I."
Faith leaned forward and kissed her lips softly.
After her extensive shower – you gotta make use of unlimited hot water whenever and wherever you can - Faith slipped on her freshly cleaned clothes. Thanks to slayer healing her hands were pretty much healed up already. The right one, the one more severely injured yesterday, still showed several cuts and needed to be taken care of some more, but nonetheless should be back to normal by tomorrow.
She walked back into the living room area. "I'm back," she sing-sang, "and smelling wicked nice." Raspberry shower gel, gotta love it.
Willow came over to her, carrying her lunchbox a.k.a. first aid kit. "Mmm, almost too 'wicked nice' to let you go now...," Willow remarked as she leaned in and sniffed. "But you have somewhere to be," she reminded Faith more resolutely. "So sit down."
Faith pouted playingly but complied.
Willow took her injured hand and dressed it again. "So...where you gonna go after patrol?"
"Should probably go back to my place. You know, start with the clean up...as far as 'cleaning up' is possible..." Willow nodded. It was not the reply that she had really wanted to hear, but Faith had a point. "That place is a mess. I'm totally screwed if the manager finds out. He'll kick me out."
Willow looked up from her work. A thought shot through her brain. Just ask her! Ask her to move in. You wouldn't be alone, she wouldn't be alone. I'm sure she'll...probably say no. Don't crowd her... And, wow, moving fast, brain…
Faith looked at her questioningly, waiting for a reply. I could ask her if I could...no, bad idea...she'd be too polite to say no – even if she felt uncomfortable with me being around her 24/7.
"Well, I could help you with the clean-up, you know, if you want me to," Willow suggested hopefully, deciding to follow another train of thought.
"That's sweet of you, Red, but I think I can handle this one solo. And...," she grinned again, "I'm not so sure that you and me would be doing...much in the way of cleaning up," she winked suggestively.
"You're hopeless," Willow shook her head and continued her task.
"You know that already," Faith countered.
"Yeah, I do," Willow grinned and fixed the bandage with a band-aid.
"Thanks," Faith inspected her hand and gave Willow an appreciative kiss. "So, I should probably be going now." She got up and put on her dark leather jacket. "Gonna catch B at home; you know, before she goes looking for me."
"Hope she'll buy the story about a demon attack," Willow replied and got up as well.
"I think she will – it's not like this'd be something new in Sunnyhell. I just hope B hasn't told Mrs. S. about my room and me gone missing. She'd totally freak," she frowned a little. "It's a mom thing to do, I guess," not letting second thoughts show.
"She is a great mom," Willow said and thought of the many evenings she had spent at Buffy's house and the way Buffy's mom had always treated her.
"Uh-huh. And since I don't wanna be responsible for any unnecessary worry lines on her face..."
"Okay. I'll see you on Monday," Faith touched Willow's arm briefly and walked towards the front door.
"Faith?" Willow called her back. "Be careful, okay?"
Faith was almost moved to tears when she heard the concern in the redhead's voice. She hadn't really gotten the worry-treatment often when she had been younger, so getting it now – and not only from Willow's side, but also from Buffy and probably even Buffy's mom – was unfamiliar to her. But she was starting to like it.
"You know me," Faith kissed Willow again and walked out of the door quickly – before her tear ducts could get any funny ideas.
"That's why I said it," Willow said to herself as she closed the door.
CHAPTER SIXTEEN - THE 'SCENT' OF CHANGE
The phone rang repeatedly, but no one seemed to hear it or seemed to be willing to answer the call. After three more rings, a tape started and soon a voice could be heard.
#Hey, this is Oz speaking. I'm not in right now, so if it's important, leave a message after the beep and I'll call back#
A relatively long message for the otherwise taciturn man, but it was exactly as long as it needed to be to get the point of the whole thing across.
"Hey, Oz…it's me," the distinct voice of a redhead, hesitant and a little shaky, filled the silence of the room. "I-I just wanted to see if you're maybe back already, since it's Sunday now and you said that you'd maybe be back by now, so…"
A figure with a guitar in his hands sat on a desk, staring out of a window. He didn't play the guitar right now; maybe he had done it a minute ago, maybe they were just looking for something to hold onto.
"But…I figure, since it's your machine, you're probably not back yet." There was a pause, before the voice continued, a little bit of apprehension showing, "Call me when you come back? O-Or hopefully I'll see you in school next week…Bye."
The call was disconnected and Oz continued to stare, with no emotion showing on his face.
Willow put down the earpiece with a sigh. This wasn't how she had wanted this call to go. One, she had hoped Oz would be there; two, what she had said just seemed so very redundant and pointless…
And that's even after she had thought about it and practiced it for almost half a day. Ever since she had woken up this morning, alone.
She had figured she should use this opportunity to sort out her situation with Oz somewhat.
It's not like she had wanted to tell him all about it over the phone, she was just wanted to prepare him for the possibility that something might not be quite right at the moment.
Which it wasn't.
She didn't like this. Doing this, going behind his back. He deserved to know about what had happened last week. Not in detail, but he deserved to know that something had changed.
But getting in contact with him hadn't really worked just now, and she didn't know if that made her glad or depressed her more. True, part of her was relieved that he hadn't been there, since she didn't know if she had managed to tell him what she had wanted to tell him, which was…no, she couldn't remember. It was just as if the words she had wanted to use had fled her mind as soon as she had heard Oz's machine pick up. Another part of her was miserable, since now she had to wait longer to get this out of her system.
Did she even want Oz to call her back? She would probably fall apart if he called and inquired what she had wanted in the first place. Her making the first step was easier, since then she knew it would happen now, at a very specific point of time, chosen by her. If he called, it could be in a moment she wasn't prepared to talk to him at all.
Maybe it would be best to not be here when he called…
She looked towards the front door, contemplating her next move. While doing so, her eyes landed on something she had almost forgotten.
Faith's denim jacket. Hanging on the rack, just like it belonged here. And maybe it did.
She didn't know why Faith had chosen the leather jacket when she left her house yesterday to go and meet Buffy. She could as well have taken the other one. Pulling on both of them would have been funny – would have given Buffy some food for thought, about why a girl used to cold Boston winters would feel the need to wear two jackets in a relatively warm night in springtime SUNNYdale.
Naturally she had to think about the slayers' last night patrol and about how she hadn't heard of Faith since yesterday. God, she missed her. Was it normal to miss someone this much after one week? One week of which about seventy per cent didn't even count?
She took Faith's jacket from the rack and walked over to the couch. Cradling it in her arms, she brought her face down to it and took a light sniff.
It smelled a little dusty and of cheap detergent. But underneath was the scent of Faith. It practically smelled of bodily warmth, though it hadn't been worn in over a day. And there was the sweet, yet musky perfume, which she had inhaled first hand – or is that first nose? – last weekend.
Willow smiled. Yeah, that was Faith.
And hopefully the jacket left behind was a sign that the slayer would be back some time in the near future.
Joyce walked to the front door when she heard a knock. She opened it to find the young witch standing on the porch.
"Hi, Mrs. Summers," Willow greeted cheerily.
"Oh, hi, honey," Joyce smiled and motioned for the redhead to come inside. "Did you need something from Buffy? Because she is not here right now."
"Oh." Willow replied as she followed Joyce into the kitchen. "That's okay." Buffy wasn't exactly the reason she had come here; though she didn't mind spending a little time with her best friend. She had just needed to get out of the house; to not be there, in case Oz called and/or to get away from Faith's jacket. Carrying it around for hours and sniffing occasionally definitely qualified her as crazy.
Not that she had done that. But maybe she would have, if she hadn't left.
And 'fleeing' to the Summers' house left her with the opportunity to see if the others really had bought the demon story.
"She and Faith should be back soon. You can help me make dinner, if you want to."
"Faith was here?" Willow asked and tried to keep the tremble out of her voice. Joyce went back to cutting the lettuce.
"Oh, yes, she was, yesterday. And, oh, she almost gave me a heart attack."
"'Heart attack'?" Willow wasn't really surprised when she heard this. After what she and Faith had talked about yesterday, she knew that Joyce could have been worried.
"Well, Buffy stopped by her motel room yesterday, and she told me something about an attack and that Faith was missing. I haven't been that nervous in a long…But then, a couple of hours later she showed...some injuries, but nothing major."
"I'm sure she didn't mean to worry you," Willow ventured, almost feeling sorry for Joyce.
"I know. And I'm probably just too mom-ish...," the blonde smiled and put down the knife. "I wanted her to spend the night; I didn't…don't think she should be in that room, if it really looks as bad as Buffy has said. But…well, you know how Faith is," Joyce's lips tightened briefly, and Willow knew what she meant. Faith was not one to ask for help voluntarily. And if offered – she would not accept it, in most cases. "But I made her promise to come over for dinner."
"Well, that's good," Willow nodded vigorously, happy that Faith had at least agreed to this – she knew that, secretly, Faith enjoyed how Joyce was treating her – and also because that meant she would get to see her again soon.
"Do you want to take over?" Joyce asked and pointed to the lettuce.
"Sure," Willow replied, walked around the counter and took the knife from Joyce.
The blonde squeezed her shoulder affectionately and smiled. Then Buffy's mom went to the stove and looked after the rice and the paprika sauce that were simmering there in peaceful companionship.
"So, where are Buffy and Faith now?" Willow asked after a while.
"Oh, they are at Ripper's...," Joyce noticed her slip and tried to cover it quickly, "...Rupert's! I mean Giles's...Mr. Giles," she laughed nervously in Willow's direction, then turned around again quickly and stirred the sauce vigorously, trying to hide her blush. "They said they would be meeting with a Mr. Finch? Isn't that the name of the Deputy Mayor?" she changed the topic.
Willow had noticed Joyce's slip as well, but decided to ignore it. It was better to answer Joyce's question, anyway. "Uh, yeah, it is. And...," she stopped. Has Buffy told her about the Mayor and the Ascension? She put down her knife. "Mrs. Summers, do you know...about the Mayor?"
"Buffy told me about it," Joyce confirmed. "At first I wouldn't believe her, of course. He seems like a nice man...," she turned towards Willow with her arms crossed and shook her head.
"I know. It's hard to believe."
"Of course, now I understand why he got 98 of the votes in last year's election. He has a deal with the devil."
"Oh...," Willow thought about it. Maybe even literally speaking... "I didn't even think about that until now. But I guess you're right..." Why do I suddenly get the strange urge to research weird election results from all over the world...? Willow shook this thought out of her head. "Anyway, Mr. Finch is working with us now. He's sort of a double Agent/secret Agent for us. Gives us the information we need to eventually defeat the Mayor."
"That's good. Let's just hope that the Mayor doesn't find out about it." Joyce took the turkey baster and opened the door of the stove.
"What do you have in there?" Willow asked and came over.
"Chicken, two of them. You know slayers. You can never have too much food," she trickled some of the drippings over the poultry. "But as long they leave a part of the chicken breasts for me, I'm okay."
"Oh, I love breasts!" the redhead blurted immediately. Joyce faced her and Willow turned a lovely shade of red. She laughed nervously. "...That came out wrong…"
Willow quickly went back to preparing the salad, wishing for the blood to leave her cheeks again any time soon. She couldn't help but wonder if that sentence had always sounded so weird.
A little while later they had set the table, put the salad and some bread already on it, and were sitting in the kitchen, chatting, waiting for Faith and Buffy to come home.
They had talked a little bit about last week. Buffy had told her mom that Willow wasn't feeling good and Joyce now took the opportunity to ask her about it. Willow made up a believable story and Buffy's mom was okay with it, but told her that if she ever needed anyone to talk, she'd be happy to listen.
After thinking about it shortly the redhead then told her about her problems with Oz, not in detail, though, and she also left out the reason that really had made her think about her relationship with him lately.
Just as Willow had told her about her decision to end her relationship with him, and Joyce, stunned, yet understanding, was about to reply something, the front door opened and two chatting slayers came walking in.
Buffy hung their jackets on the coat rack as Faith walked through the dining room and inspected the table "Four plates? Do we have another guest?" she asked Buffy's mom. Willow's heart leapt when she heard the slayer's voice. One second later, a face peeped around the doorframe of the kitchen and saw Willow. "Oh, Will, hi!" her face lit up visibly. "This is unexpected." She suppressed the urge to run over and take Willow into her arms. Instead, she just stood there, near the kitchen entrance, and looked at Willow...and looked...and looked...
Willow herself didn't do anything else; she had the same goofy expression on her face as Faith did. Joyce's eyes moved from one girl to the other, as if she were watching a tennis match. She opened her mouth to ask something but Buffy interrupted her.
"Four plates?" she asked from the dining room. "Do we have another guest?" She came into the kitchen and almost bumped into Faith. "Oh, Will, hi!" her face lit up, not as much as Faith's had done earlier, but still. "This is unexpected."
The strangely charged atmosphere that had inhibited the room seconds ago was suddenly forgotten. Willow and Joyce just looked at each other and started to laugh. Even Faith couldn't suppress her amused grin. Buffy looked from Willow to Joyce to Faith and back to Willow again, looking majorly confused. She hadn't overhead the earlier – identical –exchange, obviously.
Buffy had gone upstairs to slip into something more fighting-appropriate; she and Faith wanted to go slaying after dinner.
Faith and Willow helped Joyce some more with the preparations. Then Joyce told them to wait in the living room for a couple of minutes and that she could take care of the rest herself.
Willow led the way and Faith followed her, a few seconds later, casually, almost lazily, as if she didn't even want to spend some alone time with Willow. But, of course, once they were out of Joyce's ear- and 'eye'shot, she rushed towards her redhead, who was already sitting in the armchair, waiting for her with a big grin on her face.
"Red, what are you doing here?" Faith almost squeaked un-Faith-like in delight.
"Aren't you happy to see me?" Willow replied in mock seriousness and watched as Faith planted her butt on one of the armrest and halfway threw her legs over Willow's lap. Why she hadn't decided to sit on her lap right away, was a miracle to the grinning redhead.
"Do you really want me to answer that?" Faith grabbed Willow's face and planted a firm kiss on her lips. "Wanted to do this since I got here." She kissed her again. "Hi."
"Hi," Willow smiled and put her arm around Faith's back.
After a few moments, Willow got a hold of the brunette's right hand and inspected it. There was not a trace of her former injuries left.
"Looks great," Willow said.
"Well, yeah, thanks to you," Faith replied and covered Willow's hand, which was still around her right one with her currently free hand. "Can't believe that it's only been a day since I saw you last..."
Only a day was not how Willow would have put it. It had definitely been too long.
"You know, I wanted to call you last night...I even walked straight to a phone booth and stuff, since, you know, my phone is… 'disconnected'," Faith informed her and Willow got a why-didn't-you? expression on her face. "...but then I realized…I didn't have your..."
"Number! Oh, no..." Willow thumped her head against Faith's chest in exasperation. "I'm a dumbass."
"Hey, hey," Faith chastised her, "no one says that about my girl." She grinned. "But if you do need to call yourself that...then you have to call me dumbass, too. I forgot to ask."
"Dumbass," Willow did her this favor.
"Hey!" Faith replied mock-offended. Willow made up for it by kissing Faith again. "And, besides, I had a little something of you with me, anyway. Was all good. Guess I'm not that much of a dumbass…"
Willow looked a bit puzzled. What did Faith have of hers? And why did this thing negate her status as 'dumbass'?
"Your scent's on my jacket," Faith grinned, explaining.
"Oh…," Willow was on the way of getting it, "…oh!" There it was. And suddenly she thought back to her little incident with Faith's other jacket earlier on. "Is that why you…took the leather one and not the denim one yesterday?" she finally understood Faith's ingenious scheme. The denim one wouldn't have had Willow's scent on it.
Weird parallels. Though Willow didn't know if 'your scent's on my jacket' implied more than just 'm slayer senses picked up on it while I was wearing it'. The thought of Faith 'thinking' of her that way, however, was still sweet.
Willow didn't tell Faith that she, indeed, had smelled Faith's jacket. Since she didn't know if Faith really had, this info might just gross her out.
"So, everything okay in your room?" Willow finally asked, voicing another issue on her mind.
"Well, clean-up was successful. But of course there's still the demolished bedside table and the big hole in the wall that's to deal with...," Faith shrugged.
"We'll think of something," Willow said decidedly.
"You and your busy little head, huh?" Faith remarked and tapped Willow's temple.
Willow grinned. "Yeah." But then she got a more serious expression on her face. "And my head's so busy that it spent most of today thinking about..." she sighed, "...I called Oz today. Because, you know, I figured he might be home already."
"Oh?" Faith cringed when she saw the distressed look. "What did he say?"
"Nothing. He didn't answer it. He's probably not back yet."
"I'm sorry," Faith replied, cupping Willow's cheek, and the redhead leaned into her touch. "You...you wanted to tell him, right?" she asked nervously.
"Uh-hm," Willow nodded. "It's not fair - we going around behind his back. Not fair to him...," she took Faith's hands into both of hers. "...not fair to you."
Faith pulled Willow into her arms. "I love you," she whispered into her ear.
Willow returned the hug. "I lo..."
"Okay, guys!" Buffy came running down the stairs. The couple jumped apart quickly, Faith jumping off of Willow and Willow scrambling to her feet. The blonde slayer peeked into the dining room; when she didn't find her friends there she walked into the living room. "Ah, there you are. Ready to eat? I'm starving."
"Hm-mm," the two girls squeaked out and followed the blonde.
CHAPTER SEVENTEEN - A DÉJÀ VU WITH A TWIST
The slayers didn't talk about their meeting with Finch during dinner. Joyce might know about the Mayor's involvement with the dark forces, but Buffy thought that it was better if she was not in on the details, just because she didn't want her to worry too much.
Instead they talked about another thing Joyce had had no clue about until then. Vampire doppelgängers. Joyce listened attentively and almost disbelievingly. 'Strange' didn't even begin to cover what she thought about this situation.
The conversation eventually led Buffy to asking why Faith had reacted in the way she had, when she had seen 'dead' Willow. After a long pause of thinking about it, during which Willow intently poked at her chicken breast, Faith finally made up a rather far-fetched story, about how she had been on patrol Thursday night and had let that one vampire escape…that then might have succeeded in biting someone. A Willow-someone, maybe, because, you know, you never know, maybe there was a reason why Willow had been out late that night…
Buffy just shrugged, accepting the story. Rather unlikely theory, yet still possible.
After dinner, Willow, Faith and Buffy get ready to leave. The slayers slipped on their jackets.
"I'll bring Willow home and...," Buffy decided, "you can go to the Restfield cemetery, see if there's any trouble, and we'll meet there later," she said to Faith.
"No!" Faith said, too loud, too forceful. Buffy looked at her confused. "Sorry. I mean...I...can I come with?"
"Okay...," Buffy replied, wondering about the brunette's behavior. At first funny theories and now this. Faith fumbled her long mane out of her jacket and hoped to hide her blush with that action.
Willow just stood beside Joyce, with a mixture of embarrassment, amazement and delight on her face. Buffy's mom observed this scene with growing suspicion.
They had walked for a few minutes, when Willow started to shiver. It had cooled down significantly since she had showed at Buffy's doorsteps two hours before. Buffy, who was waking on her right side, noticed it. "Are you cold?"
"Just a little," Willow smiled.
"Oh!" Faith tried to pull off her leather jacket quickly, too quickly. She entangled in the sleeves. "Hold on…," Buffy watched amused, as she pulled a little more and eventually succeeded. "There."
She walked behind Willow and helped her into the jacket; Willow's shoulders slumped a bit due to the weight.
"Thanks," Willow smiled over her shoulder. Faith's hand dropped to Willow's back where it lingered a little while as Faith walked up to the redhead's left side again.
Almost immediately, Willow felt the slayer's body heat creep into her skin. She sighed contently and Faith just edged closer, taking her hand, without Buffy noticing it.
Great déjà vu. Willow wouldn't mind wearing Faith's leather jacket for the rest on her life. And Faith didn't mind either. Plus, in both cases, the lending of the jacket had been justified. Right now, Willow was cold, yesterday her sweater had been bloody.
"So, anyway, then Finch gave us some files that might be of interest," Buffy continued Faith's explanation. "Some of it on encrypted disks; I guess that'd be a job for you."
"Oh, that's great!..." Willow said elatedly and then stopped; she looked from one slayer to the other, both stared at her with raised eyebrows "I just sounded way too excited, didn't I?"
Faith squeezed her hand affectionately. "Nah, it's cool," she said. "You should have seen how excited B got when Wimpy...Wesley brought this bag full of battle axes into the library. I thought she was gonna faint right there," Faith teased the blonde.
"You're one to talk, Missy!" Buffy retorted. "Your obsession with knives is abnormal. You should get that checked..."
Faith stuck out her tongue at Buffy, the blonde returned the gesture. Willow just looked back and forth between them and rolled her eyes eventually.
Bringing Willow home took much less time than the redhead and the brunette slayer had anticipated. Reluctantly Willow gave back the leather jacket and the fact that her hands lingered on Faith's longer than necessary when she did so was no coincidence.
Faith looked back at Willow as this one closed the door slowly. A slight wave was all she managed to do. She had wanted to kiss her goodbye or at least hug her. But Buffy might have gotten a little suspicious by the show of affection.
But at least she could feel Willow's warmth on her jacket and smell that unique Willow-smell again. Plus she knew for certain that she would see her redhead tomorrow.
The next day, just before class, the two slayers made their way towards the school. 9 am was not normally a time of day for Faith to be up, but today was different. Today was the day of the psych evaluations – and just thinking about it gave her the wiggins. She had decided to make an early appearance in the library; maybe she could squeeze some info out of Giles or Wesley about those tests.
"How's your hand?" Faith asked her companion as they entered the school. They had gotten into a fight with some vampires on last night's patrol; one of them had nearly gotten the upper hand in a struggle with Buffy and had managed to drag his razor-sharp fingernails across the back of her hand.
Buffy looked down at her haphazard bandage "Hm, itches a little. I'll change the bandage once we get to the library."
"Your mom freak?"
"Nah, she didn't see it yet," Buffy grinned. "And she's seen worse. Remember my Cruciamentum?"
"Cruci-huh?" the brunette asked a little confused.
"That thing where the Council tried to kill me and mom on my eighteenth birthday," the little slayer explained the (true) matter at hand, not without venom in her voice.
"Right, right," Faith remembered Buffy's battered condition and what she had heard about Joyce being held captive. "And sorry I wasn't here for that. I would've thrashed that Travers guy for you. Doesn't matter how old he is." She balled her fist and slammed it into the palm of her other hand.
"You're sweet," Buffy laughed. "But, uh, next time you plan to take off for a couple of days, tell me first, okay? I really could have needed you."
"Word of honor," Faith pledged seriously, "and don't worry. I think I won't take off for a while. Sunny-D is starting to feel like home."
They rounded the corner to the corridor that lead up to the library. "It is?" Buffy asked surprised. She had never heard Faith talk about any place as if it was home. Not even Boston. Or should I say 'Certainly not Boston'?
"Mm-hm," Faith nodded and smirked.
"Good, good," Buffy smiled in her turn. "But you know what I wonder? Now that you know about the Cruciamentum...," the little blonde scrunched her eyebrows, "will they put you through it, too? I mean, it would be kind of meaningless, with you knowing about it and all..."
"Huh. Good question," Faith said, "Well, one year and nine months till then. I guess I'll just jump off that bridge when...if I come to it...," she shrugged.
"Or maybe they'll brainwash you and make you forget that you know about it…When's your psych test thingie? Today? Maybe that's just a ploy for doing exactly that." Buffy grinned nastily.
"Great. Thanks, B. Now I'm even more creeped-out than before…"
They pushed open the library doors and saw Willow sitting at the big wooded table, working concentrated on her laptop. She hadn't heard the slayers come in. Faith gave Buffy a sign to stay back and walked up behind the redhead. She leaned over her shoulder and read "'Demonic influence on the political matters throughout the ages'...Get out! You can find stuff like that on the net!"
Willow let out a startled yelp and turned her head to look at the intruder. "Faith! My God...don't do that...,"
"Sorry. But it was fun," Faith grinned.
"For you, maybe," Willow pouted. "I could think of something that's much more fun for me...," Faith anticipated the move of Willow's hand and quickly pulled away, before Willow's hand could even remotely make contact with any part of her body. Faith straightened up and cleared her throat, moving her eyes at the same time, indicating that they are not alone.
Only now, Willow noticed Buffy, who was standing near the counter. "Oh, like...like..." Willow stuttered out, trying to think of something; but then she saw Buffy's hand. "What happened?"
"Hello to you, too, Will," Buffy greeted and came over to the table.
"You know what, I'm gonna leave you two alone for a bit," Faith said. "Is Giles here already?" she asked Willow.
"Oh, I think he's in Central America right now," Willow informed her. Off Faith's desperately-confused look she added, "Fifth row from the back," she pointed over to the stacks, "Books on Central America."
Faith smirked, "Very funny, h...Will," she patted Willow's shoulder and disappeared into the stacks. Honey?
Buffy shook her head and sat down on the table, feet dangling. "You two seem to be hitting it off lately, huh?"
"What? Hitting it off?" Willow head whipped around to face Buffy. "Oh, no...w-we..."
"Relax, I'm kidding."
"Oh," Willow laughed nervously.
"Seriously, though…is it me or is she growing soft?" Buffy furrowed her brow. "I mean, last night…I swear, that thing with the jacket…"
"You're just sulking because she was faster than you," Willow replied expertly with a wink. True, probably because of her, Faith was growing soft – fast! – but that it had already gotten to the point, where other people noticed it too…? Maybe they should be worried about that.
"Well, anyway, I called her on it while we were patrolling, and she punched my arm for it – to demonstrate that she wasn't a 'softie'. Huh, guess I shouldn't have called her that, really," she rubbed her arm, which actually hurt more than her hand. Slayer-sized punch and all.
Willow noticed the movement. 'Softie'? "See? Told you one of these days your mouth would get you into trouble," she smirked.
She ignored the jab. So, what are you researching?" Buffy asked and looked at the screen.
"Oh, just a thought Mom...your mom brought up yesterday. We talked about the election results from last year and how Wilkins got 98 . Can't be right. And I was about to research similar occurrences in different times and countries."
"Oh, that's interesting. Found out anything so far?"
"Nothing much, I just started. But...," Willow looked at Buffy's hand. The bandage was not blood-drenched, just some small red dots could be seen, but still. "You want me to redress your hand?"
"Cool, thanks, Will," Buffy smiled as Willow got up to retrieve the first-aid kit from behind the counter.
"So, again, what happened?"
"Ah, it's no big, just a stupid vampire who got lucky. You know how it is. Nothing to worry about," Buffy reassured her.
"Regular day at work, then," Willow grinned and cut off the bandage.
Oz walked along the corridor, on his way to the library. After Willow's call yesterday, he had gone over to Devon's, to work with him on new songs. He had hoped that this would take his mind off of what he had seen at Willow's house on Saturday. It hadn't. But it had given him some inspiration for lyrics.
He stopped at the library doors and looked through one of the windows. He saw Willow, sitting in a chair at the table, tending to Buffy's injured hand. Willow was telling her blonde friend something funny and this one was looking at her with a smile.
His eyes zoomed in on Buffy's hand. Injured and in the way of getting redressed. His mind went back to the scene in Willow's living room and the mysterious hand he had seen. A hand which had been kissed by Willow – possibly among other bodily parts. A hand whose owner's identity hadn't gotten revealed back then.
Oz turned around and walked away, his face unreadable. Buffy?
CHAPTER EIGHTEEN - PSYCH OUT
After their second class for the day, the blonde slayer and her best friend walked along one of the corridors of Sunnydale High. They laughed about something that couldn't be heard if you weren't walking right next to them.
Buffy's arm was around Willow's shoulders and this one gesticulated with her arms. When they passed by the library, the door opened and Faith stepped out, accompanying them. Together they walked towards the schoolyard.
Oz observed all this from a safe spot, unnoticed by the girls.
It was 11 AM on the dot and Faith was sitting nervously on a chair in an office in a building about ten minutes away from Sunnydale High. The office was not big, but not small either, a few flowers lessened the sterile feeling of the room a little.
Giles's reassuring words and Willow's encouraging squeeze of her arm when they had parted had helped to set her mind at ease – but not enough for her to not to fear that she would screw up terribly. And B and Will's joking earlier – about Willow's permanently-absentee parents, about them leading a secret life and possibly being involved in the Council's psychiatrical activities – didn't really sit good with her. Because that was not the way she wanted to meet her honey's parents for the first time... I…want to meet my honey's parents? And when did I start calling her 'honey', anyway?
She knew that the 'Rosenbergs-as-Council-shrinks' scenario was less than likely, but still – she couldn't help but "investigate" the shrink's identity a little. His helpful receptionist told her that he was in his 60 and had three sons living in London with his wife. Of course, that could be a web of lies, but Faith had decided to believe her for now – the friendly middle-aged lady seemed trust-worthy enough.
The name on his nameplate read "A.H. Caulfield", at the wall near the window she saw a diploma from Oxford University. Albert H. Caulfield. Graduated Summa Cum Laude. 1972.
Of course that can be fake, too...and maybe the nice lady didn't tell me the truth after all...Faith shook her head, looking for a way to finally get her mind off of that topic.
Looking around some more might help her.
Apart from the desk, the diploma, a couple of chairs and the few little plants there was not really much to be seen in the room. Not even one of those funny cliché couches... Her eyes wandered back to the shrink's desk where she noticed nothing much except for a small lamp and some little sculptures. Modern art, huh? She tilted her head to get a better look at the two forms. One – a tilted cylindrical object with two little cubes on its sides, the other simply two little unequally shaped spheres. Okay, might be my weird brain, but that looks a little bit like...
But before she had time to finish her thought, the door opened and presumably Dr. Caulfield walked in. A rather short, lean man with grey-ish-black hair, full beard and glasses. At least he hasn't got red hair, Faith thought as she sat up straighter in her chair and watched him as he walked over to his chair. He didn't seem to notice her sitting there as he put a thick file down on the desk and sat down. He opened it and smoothed down the top piece of paper with the sleeve of his checkered jacket – even though there was no sign of it being creased. After that, he opened a drawer, pulled out three pencils and put them on the right side of the folder. When he saw that one of them was slightly longer than the other two, he took a pencil sharpener out of the drawer and shortened it. Then he put the little offender next to his companions.
After checking again if the pencils were the same size and lay in the correct position, he straightened the folder one last time before he turned his attention towards Faith, who had observed all this with a critical eye.
He smiled a friendly smile. "Well, Miss Le..."
"Faith's just fine," she interrupted him. Being addressed with her last name always made her feel as if she was 80 years old. Old-Spinster-80, that'd be, probably. But this was just one reason for her preferring not to be called by her last name.
He blinked briefly, maybe a little astonished, before he said, "Very well, 'Faith'." He nodded and picked up the pencil nearest to him. Uh-oh, guess that was mistake numero uno, Faith thought to herself. On second thought, he put the pencil down again and Faith was about to heave a little sigh of relieve, only to now having to notice that he decided on the middle pencil instead and scribbled down something in his folder. "Are there any special relations to your…uh, name?"
Faith shrugged, not even having to lie when she told him, "My mom gave it to me..." Not sure what she had in mind when she did it, though. She looked at him expectantly, thinking she knew what he would ask her next and mentally preparing for questions about the woman she had lived with the first years of her life.
But, to her surprise, he decided on something else. "Do you believe in God?"
Okay, didn't see that coming...no, wait, I did. My fault, anyway. That's what you gotta expect when you're… wearing that name. Or jokes that involve George Michael... "I...uh...well, let's put it this way – I don't really believe in anything I can't see."
"Interesting," he said in his distinct British voice and nodded. He reached out and pushed the two remaining pencils closer together.
Could you stop doing that, please! It's making me all nervous, Faith scrunched her eyebrows as she watched him.
As if he had read her mind, he stopped bothering with the pencils and faced her again. "So, you are 16 years old, yes?"
Faith was not quite sure what she should make of this realization. "And your point being...," she blurted out a little harsher than intended. She cringed slightly.
Caulfield didn't seem to take it the wrong way and explained. "Your life has been very eventful so far..." he said, flipping through her file. "...not many people at your age have a record like this." From his tone, Faith couldn't really tell what exactly he was thinking, though she had a clue.
As long as he didn't voice any pity for her or anything, he could think whatever he wanted, for all she cared.
"There is one part of this file that I find rather interesting," he flipped to the sheet of paper in question and looked at her with his gentle grey eyes, "you seem to be a very bright girl, Faith." She noticed an outline of her academic 'career' in front of him. "Exceptionally good grades, teachers say that you worked hard and diligently, but had problems in collaborating with others. You preferred to keep to yourself...nonetheless or maybe because of that...and despite noticeably many sick days," he looked at her softly and she just knew that he knew the reason behind this, "you were always among the best of your class - for years."
"That was elementary and junior high...," Faith shrugged this, and the empathy from Caulfield, off, "not really hard to be good."
"There were 300 people in your class – you belonged to the best." Confronted with this, Faith sighed. She wished that he wouldn't talk about her school career – she herself wished it would have ended differently. A few years later for example. "You had quite a future ahead of you."
I 'had'? He's talking about this as if I'm dead...but I guess he's right, that ship has sailed off without me. "Yeah, I guess," she couldn't do much else except agree.
"Do you sometimes wish that you could go back to school?"
"Sometimes, sure," no reason to deny this. "But at the moment...I think there're more important things to do for me."
"For example," Faith nodded. For example.
They continued to talk for about ten more minutes, mostly about her slaying activities and if and how they had changed her life. They talked about her watchers, and how she felt or had felt about working with them. He didn't inquire about her family life and Faith figured that he probably knew the answers to possible questions. During the whole process, he didn't let go of his pencil once, even though he didn't make any further notes. He just played with the item, letting it wander over his fingers, rolling it between the thumbs and middle fingers of his hands, tapping the eraser on the table. Faith tried to block it out as much as possible. Nervous tick. He should get that looked at, she grinned to herself.
It was around noon and the halls of Sunnydale High were naturally busy.
The young man stored his books in his locker and shut the door soon after. Turning around, he walked into the general direction of the cafeteria. His fourth class of the day had just ended, he had fifth period free.
He stopped briefly when he saw a blonde and a redhead walking in his direction, not yet noticing him.
Something akin to jealousy or simply hurt threatened to show in his eyes for the fraction of a second, but he continued to walk. Not knowing why. Maybe to make his presence known.
Certainly not because he thought just standing in the middle of the hall around and stare ahead of him would seem pretty weird to anyone passing him by.
He didn't care what other thought about him, really.
He kept on walking and eventually the girls noticed him. He observed the redhead's look, which for him came close to a deer caught in headlights.
The blonde looked at him in a normal way, almost neutral, so he thought. She then smiled briefly and waved her hand in greeting, before for a split second touching the redhead's arm and walking down another hall, probably heading for the next class. He could hear her utter something like, "I'll save you a desk," before she disappeared fully.
The two redheads, one male, one female, approached each other. And it all seemed to happen painfully slow.
When they were finally there, Willow had done most of the walking, they didn't really know how to go about this situation. Oz observed the expression on Willow's face closely; he couldn't tell if she could read something in his face, could see that he might knew something is up.
She simply looked upset. Anxious. Regardless of what she might be able to read in his face.
It tore his heart apart.
He couldn't handle to see her suffer. Even if…she again, possibly…probably… was betraying him, and even though he knew should be mad at her, and partly even was…he still felt for her.
But he also wondered why. No, not why did he feel for her? Why did this happen…again. And from what he had seen today and two days ago, he knew it had happened again. Thought he knew. Nothing he had seen had been really explicit, but it was also too explicit to shrug it off as unimportant.
"Hi," he finally stated. Opened his arms as an automatic invite for her.
She didn't reply anything and faltered for a moment, before stepping into his embrace. Hugging him first tentatively, then more firmly.
Despite his confusing thoughts and feelings right now, he enjoyed the embrace nevertheless.
There was something about Willow that simply makes you want to hug her. It's like not having a will of your own.
But then it was Willow, who broke the hold and resumed looking at him. She really wanted to say something more eloquent, but only a soft, "Hey," came out.
When he felt that nothing else would follow this, possibly for a long time, he decided to start
the conversation, which was unusual for him.
But he felt that he needed to do it. Because he wanted to help her. And also because he wanted certainty. And maybe more.
"I got your call…," he stated, and she briefly looked startled, before nodding slowly. "Sorry, we came home late last night. I didn't wanna wake you," he lied.
She didn't have to know that he had been there when she had called. And that he deliberately hadn't called back.
"Oh," Willow replied and looked a little more relieved. Maybe she had wanted to hear something like this. But then the expression changed again and she bit her lips.
"Is everything okay?" he inquired eventually, knowing that it wasn't. But anything like 'So, how was your week?'…he wasn't up for this right now. Though this way he might have gotten Willow to make the first step in explaining this situation to him.
But this way it would also happen, would happen much more likely, since now Willow was basically cornered…thanks to him. Maybe he should not have asked that, he thought briefly.
"I…," she hesitated, stalling by looking about. The hall, still full of people walking by, chatting amicably, laughing, fooling around. Was this the place where a conversation like this should take place? "No," she stated curtly. "It's…I…there's something I have to tell you," her voice croaked, but at least it had managed to at least say something.
"I…," no, she couldn't do this. Not here.
Oz had to fight the urge to take her into his arms again. He himself didn't know how to go on about a situation like this one. The last time around, they hadn't had the talk. Because he had seen it all and she knew he had seen it.
This time he had seen it, but she didn't know that.
She let out a sigh and avoided eye-contact. "Look…there's something I have to tell you," she repeated, "but…can we maybe…go somewhere else? Or meet later…? I don't know, after class, maybe?"
"I could meet you tonight if you want to. At your house?"
"Okay…good," she nodded, still a little more relaxed. Maybe this would buy her some more time to think about how to actually phrase what had happened.
"Okay." He noticed the hall was getting emptier and knew the next class would probably begin soon. "Look, I don't want you to be late," he motioned to the hall Buffy…Buffy…had disappeared into.
"Right," she replied thankful and leaned in to…actually she had wanted to give him a small kiss on the cheek, but in the end found herself unable to do so. It ended up being a light brush of cheek against cheek.
Oz's eyes followed her, as she left for class. "Right…" Had he let her off the hook too easily? No… Now he had affirmation that something was up. And come tonight he would know even more. Probably more than he wanted to.
He turned around and walked towards the exit.
He suddenly didn't feel hungry anymore.
CHAPTER NINETEEN - GET SMART
After their little interview, Caulfield sent Faith off to another room, but not before asking why she had been eyeing the sculptures on his desk every once in a while and what she saw in them, which brought a lovely shade of red to Faith's cheeks.
In the room down the hall, she was greeted by a man in his 30s, with brown hair and blue eyes, a faint Scottish accent. He introduced himself as Mel Bruce. Huh, almost like that comedy guy...just different. Different in a lot of things. More stuffy – on a scale of stuffiness probably somewhere between Wesley and Giles. Wesley being the top of the scale.
He handed her a booklet, a psychological test, about twenty-five pages thick, and motioned her to sit down at a small desk in the barren, small room. She did so and saw three pencils with identical length lying in front of her. You gotta be kidding me... Ignoring it, she opened her booklet and took the pencil nearest to her in her hand. When she looked up, she saw that Mel had settled in behind the other desk across the room. Inwardly he seemed to cringe at her choice of pencil. She gave him a warning look and he quickly averted his eyes, attending to some forms in front of him.
She herself turned her attention towards her "little" booklet and remembered what Mel had told her a couple of minutes ago. Questions with 'True' or 'False' option. No wrong answers possible. Can leave questions unanswered that I can't answer properly. 90 minutes ...She flipped to the first page of questions and began her test.
1. I like mechanics magazines
2. I have a good appetite
- True. Hey, I'm a slayer!
3. I wake up fresh & rested most mornings
Hmm, define 'morning'...Well, I guess it's safe to say - True
4. I think I would like the work of a librarian
Why not? I like to read...even though others might think I've never read more than just blurbs or comic books...And I can keep things organized...if I want to. About to mark the 'True' box she faltered...oh, hey, is this one of those florist questions? Hm, heck, I'll say -- True. One answer won't categorize me as crazy, right...?...Right...?
5. I am easily awakened by noise
- False. I sleep like a rock.
6. I like to read newspaper articles on crime
- True. Sorry, you gotta stay informed.
7. My hands and feet are usually warm enough
8. My daily life is full of things that keep me interested
9. I am about as able to work as I ever was
Uh… - True
10. There seems to be a lump in my throat much of the time
11. A person should try to understand his dreams and be guided by or take warning from them
Hm, from a slayer's perspective... --True. Though I'm still trying to ignore that last one.
12. I enjoy detective or mystery stories
- True. See above, re: I like to read
13. I work under a great deal of tension
Not really - False
14. I have diarrhea once a month or more
- False. And hello-o, none of your business...
15. Once in a while I think of things too bad to talk about
- True. Don't ask...
16. I am sure I get a raw deal from life
Kinda - True. It's getting better, though
17. My father was a good man
How the hell should I know! Don't know him... She left this question unanswered
18. I am very seldom troubled by constipation
19. When I take a new, I like to be tipped off on whom should be gotten next to
Huh? - True...? Something missing in that question? Maybe I should ask…no, really don't wanna
20. My sex life is satisfactory
- True! Oh, wait...when was the last time I had sex – not counting last week's lapses...?...Eight days ago...And I'm not even horny. What is Reddie doin' to me? But I guess we didn't have an opportunity to in the last few days, so...
21. At times I have very much wanted to leave home
I kinda did leave home so... - True
22. At times I have fits of laughing & crying that I cannot control
Not really - False
23. I am troubled by attacks of nausea and vomiting
24. No one seems to understand me
- False. Red does, and Joyce, I think, Buffy even.
25. I would like to be a singer
Another one of those florist questions? Damn, Will should've never told me that. Well, I can't sing, anyway - False
26. I feel that it is certainly best to keep my mouth shut when I'm in trouble
- True. Doesn't necessarily mean that I keep my mouth shut, though...
27. Evil spirits possess me at times
- False. But everything can happen, slayer-life is pretty eventful...
28. When someone does me a wrong I feel I should pay him back if I can, just for the principle of the thing.
Hate to admit it, but - True
29. I am bothered by stomach acid several times a week
30. At times I feel like swearing
Feel like! - True. I'm giving in to it far too often...
31. I have nightmares every few nights
Prophetic dreams, sure - True
32. I find it hard to keep my mind on a task or job
- True. Sometimes
33. I have had very peculiar and strange experiences
Uh... - True...
34. I have a cough most of the time
35. If people had not had it in for me I would have been much more successful
Oh, tough question...guess might be - True
36. I seldom worry about my health
37. I have never been in trouble because of my sex behavior
Hm... - False. If Red finds out about me and Xander...Should I tell her about it? Better she learns it from me than from someone else, right...? Oh, God, why didn't I think about this until now? I should talk to Xander too...
38. During one period when I was a youngster I engaged in petty thievery
- True. Should answer these questions truthfully, right? And they can read it in my record, anyway.
39. At times I feel like smashing things
40. Most any time I would rather sit and daydream than to do anything else
41. I have had periods of days, weeks, or months when I couldn't take care of things because I couldn't "get going"
42. My family does not like the work I have chosen (or the work I intend to choose for my life work)
"Chosen", that's funny. It did choose me...What family? Drunken (dead) mom or absentee-dad? - False
43. My sleep is fitful and disturbed
44. Much of the time my head seems to hurt all over
45. I do not always tell the truth
- True... Little white lies don't hurt.
46. My judgment is better than it ever was
- True. I'm getting better
47. Once a week or oftener I feel suddenly hot all over without apparent cause
48. When I am with people I am bothered by hearing very queer things
49. It would be better if almost all laws were thrown away
- False...not all of them, anyway...
50. My soul sometimes leaves my body
Guess not... - False
51. I am in just as good physical health as most of my friends
- True. Better, even
52. I prefer to pass by school friends, or people I know but have not seen for a long time, unless they speak to me first
53. A minister can cure disease by praying and putting his hand on your head
Hell, no! - False
54. I am liked by most people who know me
Wish I could say 'true'...well, 'most'...Except for Cordy and probably soon Oz...Wesley doesn't like me either, right? But that one's mutual - True
55. I am almost never bothered by pains over the heart or in my chest
56. As a youngster I was suspended from school one or more times for cutting up
57. I am a good mixer
- False. Could be better
58. Everything is turning out just like the prophets of the Bible said it would
I'm not much for the Good Book... - False
59. I have often had to take orders from someone who did not know as much as I did
- True. Wesley...snicker
60. I do not read every editorial in the newspaper everyday
61. I have not lived the right kind of life
Kinda - True
62. Parts of my body often have feeling like burning, tingling, crawling, or like "going to sleep"
63. I have had no difficulty in starting or holding my bowel movement
- True. Ugh, could we stop with this kind of questions, please?
64. I sometimes keep on at a thing until others lose their patience with me
Hehe - True
65. I loved my father
I guess... - False ...is the correct answer
66. I see things or animals or people around me that others do not see
- False. Like what? White mice?
67. I wish I could be as happy as others seem to be
No, I AM happy enough at the moment - False
68. I hardly ever feel pain in the back of the neck
Unless I get bitten by a vampire, maybe... - False
69. I am very strongly attracted by members of my own sex
- True. Especially little cute redheaded ones that can babble themselves silly.
70. I used to like drop-the-handkerchief
Uh… - True. Used to
71. I think many people exaggerate their misfortunes in order to gain the sympathy and help of others
Very - True
72. I am troubled by discomfort in the pit of my stomach every few days or oftener
73. I am an important person
- False...I guess...
74. I have often wished I were a girl. (Or if you are a girl) I have never been sorry that I am a girl
75. I get angry sometimes
She stretched herself and yawned slightly. Looking over at the other desk, she saw that her "guard" had nodded off, chin in one hand, pen – in a poise that looked like as if he was about to write down something – in the other. She looked at the clock on the wall. 75 minutes to go and, she flipped through her booklet, counting, 381 questions to go. Oh, yay...
Seventy minutes and about a hundred neurons later, Faith made her way back to the Sunnydale High campus. She had to wake Mel Brooks...sorry, Bruce...up to hand in her test booklet. He had looked pretty flustered due to the fact that she had caught him snoozing off during office hours. Well, at least some fun to be had.
But the test really got her thinking, mainly about what she should do concerning what happened between her and Xander. Right now, she wished that it had never happened. Would be cool if I could go back to that day and do it over...uh, no, and not do it over. That thing, and everything that happened last week – except for the weekend(s). But since she couldn't do that, she decided on the next best course of action. Need to talk to Will about that, I wanna make this right. Can't build a relationship...she stopped and frowned at the word...on something like that standing between us...
She neared the schoolyard and saw two girls, a blonde and a redhead, sitting on a bench, their backs turned towards her. She came closer and the blonde faced her. Of course Buffy's slayer connection had picked up on Faith being nearby. Willow noticed Buffy's smile a little later and turned her face towards the brunette who walked up to the bench, lifted her legs over the backrest and, settling her feet down on the seating surface, sat her butt down on the rest.
"Hey, there. Already recognized my girls from two miles away," Faith greeted as she patted each girl's shoulder nearest to her.
"So, how was it?" Willow asked her and touched her hand briefly with her fingertips. Faith smiled down at the girl that she somehow considered her girlfriend. Still have to get used to that term...
Briefly she thought she saw something like misery shining in Willow's eyes, but within one blink it was gone. Faith knew she would try to find out if she had been right…as soon as the two of them were alone. But for now…more upbeat mood was in order.
"Pretty okay, actually. Your dad's nice." Off Willow's and especially Buffy's panicked look, she allayed, "Jokin'. No Rosenbergs involved, as far as I could tell...unless...," she grinned mischievously at Willow, "...someone here does color their hair."
Willow laughed nervously – because of Buffy's presence – and thought back to the...well, "conversation" she and Faith had a week ago about that subject. It's been a week ago already? More than a week...She could see in the brunette's eyes that her mind was in the same place as hers.
"Uh...," Buffy interrupted and they snapped out of it. But another thought worked itself into Faith's brain. Suddenly wonderin' if B's a natural blonde...oh, not 'wondering' in that way!...No, just...forget it...
"Right, anyway," Faith turned her attention towards Buffy, "just say what you're really thinking and try to be yourself," she recited the advice that Giles had given her earlier, "then you should be okay." She decided not to tell Buffy about the lovely test. Don't wanna spoil her fun.
Percy approached the threesome, a little bit of apprehension in his step. He first greeted Buffy, the safest of the three girls from his point of view, then Faith, his somewhat-lifesaver-but-only-due-to-the-sole-purpose-of-protecting...the third girl, whom he gave his full attention to. "Hi."
"Oh, hi, listen, I didn't...," Willow started. Truth be told, her mind had been so full of other things that she had forgotten to finish his paper.
"Okay." He didn't even seem to be interested in her excuse. "So, I did the outline for the paper on Roosevelt." He handed her one of the folders he was holding. "Turns out that there are two President Roosevelts. I didn't know exactly which one to do, so I did both." He handed her the second folder. "And I know they're kinda short, but I can flesh them out. Oh, and here's the bibliography." The third folder. "And I can retype that if you want. You just let me know what I did wrong and I'll get on that." He stood about nervously for a few seconds, before he left. On second thought, he returned and put an apple on the pile of folders in Willow's lap before he turned to leave for good.
Willow eyed the folders and the apple with a confused look, Buffy's eyes followed Percy with the same bewildered expression, Faith, up on her backrest, grinned amused.
"Okay..." Buffy started, "what'd I miss?"
"I'm as clueless as you are...," Willow supplied helpfully.
"Well, I know what happened," Faith said and two pairs of eyes with accompanying raised eyebrows turned towards her. "Your friend there had an encounter with Reddie's vampire double."
"Oh...," Willow and Buffy murmured, satisfied with Faith's answer.
"Oh!" the redhead said as she thought about it more. Encounter. Vampire Willow. "What did she do to him?"
"Nothing much," the brunette grinned. "She just choked him a little."
"Oh, God...," Willow put her head in her hands.
Faith put her hand on Willow's back, comforting. "Sorry. I was just being honest."
"Oh, no," Buffy mumbled, "speaking of choking..."
"Ah, Miss Rosenberg and her associates…," Snyder stood in front of them and acknowledged the threesome. "I see your tutoring of Mr. West is panning out as planned," he said, having observed their previous exchange.
"I-It is," Willow replied, her sudden lack of homework still surprising her.
"Keep up the good work," he said and it actually sounded like a compliment. He turned his attention towards Faith. "You – do you know what thing your feet are planted on is for?"
Faith got it and quickly jumped down, squeezed in between Willow and Buffy. "Sorry...sir...," she smiled at him politely.
Buffy looked at her slack-jawed. She suddenly wondered if the shrinks really had performed some sort of brain wash on her. Willow's face showed a similar concern.
"Compliant," he said impressed and walked away.
With Snyder's back turned towards them Faith went back to being her usual self, mumbled something not all too polite, but decided to remain seated in her current spot, anyway.
Buffy looked at her watch. "Oh, no," she grumbled to herself. "Looks like I gotta go. You two be okay without me?" she asked as she got up.
"Oh, absolutely, B," they replied in unison, before Willow, meekly, added an "uffy...," to her sentence.
"Uh-huh...," the blonde remarked slowly, sizing up Weird and Weirder who were still seated on the bench. But at least Willow seemed more cheerful now that during their latest class. Which was a good thing, though she didn't know what had changed suddenly. Okay, she hadn't known what had been up with the glum expression earlier on either. "Bye."
Faith just waived at her, while Willow squeaked out a little "bye" in return. Willow waited till Buffy was gone before she faced Faith fully.
Faith was staring at her as if she was something precious. And maybe she was. To her.
"You should stop that," Willow said with a little smile herself.
"Looking at me like…," Faith returned her smile and Willow chuckled, "well, that. There's a reason Buffy called you 'softie'. Softie!" she grinned.
Faith simply glowered her okay. Buffy had gotten to know her wrath last night and she really didn't mind Willow calling her this. Willow was allowed to call her anything. Even thought that exact word she just said reminded her, in a not too pleasant way, of the nightmare she had had a little over a week ago. Dream Willow had called her 'softie' as well. Coincidence… coincidence! Yeah…that's it. "Fine, I'll try…it's not that easy, you know," the sour expression slowly turned into a smirk.
The loveliest blush ever crept into Willow's cheeks, at least that was Faith's impression. "Okay…and when we're alone, you can look at me like that as much as you want."
Faith got what Willow was implying and nodded. Alone time – googly-eye time. But hopefully that one confession she wanted, needed to make to Willow, wouldn't ruin that.
Willow herself knew that she would feel much better about this overall situation after tonight, her conversation with Oz. She still had to inform Faith about that.
"So, how was it really?" the redhead went back to Faith's psych evaluation. She really longed to know.
Faith grunted. "Well, the shrink was pretty okay. But that test - looooong...456...?...questions about...everything and nothing...," she shook her head with an I'm-over-it grin on her lips.
"Oh, no, they did the MMPI." Willow had heard about that one from her parents. "Sorry. You know, there are much shorter tests out there."
"Thanks, hon, that's exactly what I didn't want to hear," she pouted and poked Willow in the side.
"Ouch, slayer...," Willow rubbed her offended side, "that hurt..."
"Oh, sorry," Faith put her hand over Willow's. A thought came into her mind. "Do you, uh...want me to kiss it better...you know, tonight, maybe...?" she asked with a twinkle in her eyes.
"I'd love you to," Willow said sincerely, "But I don't know if I'll be able to make it. Cuz, you know...," she looked down at Faith's hand still resting on her own, but now both of them were resting in between them, "I ran into Oz today."
Ah, that's why the gloom… "And?"
"Asked him if he could come by my house tonight."
"Oh. What'd he say?" Faith sat so she could face Willow more directly. "Do you think he knows something's up?" she asked in the gentlest voice she could muster.
"I'm not sure," Willow admitted. "It looked as if he might know something."
"D'you think he's seen us?" Won't really matter after tonight, but, still.
"Could be. I just hope he'll understand, you know," her eyes started to well up. "I-I don't want to hurt him..."
"I know, baby," Faith took Willow's hand in both of hers.
"But I need to do this, before he finds out, I mean, really finds out, another way."
"Yeah, I get that," Faith replied, thinking about the confession she herself had to make to Willow soon.
For a short moment, Willow let Faith play 'softie' again. "Look, I should get going. Got two more classes," Willow reluctantly pulled her hand out of Faith's grip. "So..."
"Hey, I'll call you tonight. After patrol. You can tell me how it went, okay?"
"Okay," Willow replied and, after looking around the yard, which was student-free, already, gave Faith a soft kiss before she hurried off.
Faith sat on the bench a little while longer, thinking about that dreaded talk with Willow and about how she could get Xander to talk to her in private.
It was 6 pm and Willow, nervously waiting for Oz to knock on her door, paced the living room of her house. Still she had no idea what she would say to him and how. But she knew that she needed to get this over with. It's bad enough as it is. I don't want him to find out about it three months later...and possibly from someone else...
When she heard the knock on the door, her heart almost stopped beating in her chest. Trying to compose herself, she walked to the front door; she opened it to find, not suprising, Oz standing on her porch, hands in his jacket, his expression unreadable.
"Hey," he said.
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