Road to Redemption (Series #2) - a Faith Series (takes the place of season 5 of BtVS)

By: Monet

EPISODE TWO: Living in the In-Between

"Hey, Xander," Anya said with a grin on her face. She leaned in and kissed him hard and deep on his mouth, forcing him back into his room and closing the door behind them with a tap of her foot.

Faith couldn't believe what she was seeing, so she just stood there frozen. She had waited too long. Of course Anya had to come show up and take what she had lost.

The thought made Faith grip the handle of the duffel bag tightly, knuckles turning white. She stood there against the wall, not knowing what to do, what she was feeling.

It was more than new to her, and she hated it.

She shook her head then ran back to where she had come from.

She burst out of the dorm, wanting to scream and hit something. She slammed her bag on the ground and kicked it away - far.

One guy ducked his head to keep from getting hit.

"Fuck it, fuck it!" she cried. It was her own mistake, and she knew it would be. Why did she think that he'd be around for her? Wait for her? Not when he had this entire life here in Sunnydale. Not when he could have someone so much better than her.

Problem was she just couldn't see anyone else who could love him more than her. But it didn't matter. Not with him anymore. She had ruined it; she had waited too long; she had pushed him too far away.

"What are you doing here?" came a voice from behind her.

She turned, seeing Willow standing there with a blond girl whom Faith remembered as Tara. Her face hardened, wishing they hadn't seen her like this. "I was just leavin'," she said, realizing a few tears had fallen from her face. She quickly wiped them away.

"Why? Aren't you here to keep hurting Xander?"

"Willow," Tara whispered, putting a hand on Willow's arm.

Faith glared at Willow, but knew the redhead would react in the way she did. "Look, I'm gettin' outta your hair so just back off."

Willow actually walked over to block Faith's way, her face still scrunched up in anger. She sure was a lot more confident than Faith had remembered her. "No. Not until I get a-a few words out. 'Cause Xander is Mr. Sad Face and I kinda don't like him like that. He somehow learned to love you a lot, and even if I don't agree with him falling in love with someone who wanted to kill all of us at one time, I can't tell Xander who he can and can't love. I'm not really one to talk," she threw in, glancing at Tara and knowing their situation wasn't exactly canon. "But I just KNEW that falling for you would lead to him getting hurt. I don't know how but you proved me right."

"I know I did," Faith answered.

"And you're proud of that, aren't you?"

"Honey," Tara called, joining her lover at her side. She looked back at Faith, using a much more civil tone than Willow. "Willow's just. she's just confused, like Xander is. He doesn't seem to understand why you. s-stopped loving him."

"I didn't," Faith replied, simply. "I never said I stopped."

"Oh." Tara looked over at Willow. "Um, then w-why did you.?"

Faith sighed, not wanting to explain to these two why. She wasn't even sure why. not really. At least not without using the word she despised using in front of everyone. But there was no other explanation. "'Cause I was scared."

Tara's face softened more, giving Willow's hand a squeeze when she saw something other than anger flicker in the redhead at that statement. It must've taken Willow by surprise. "F-Faith, it's okay to be scared. Believe me, we know what it's like to be scared of loving someone."

"It wasn't just from lovin' him," Faith went on, gesturing with her hands. "I was scared 'cause of what I. I mean, what I could've become again. I knew what I did here." She pointed to the ground in front of her to indicate all of Sunnydale. "I know I fucked it up here. I didn't wanna go that way, and I regret everything I did here. I'm tryin' to be better, I swear to it." She shook her head, the memories of the fight against Relin's gang returning to her full force. "But. I almost went there again all 'cause. I thought they'd hurt him. No, I thought they'd killed him."

"You thought some people killed Xander?" Willow asked, surprised. "Xander never told me he . well, he got killed."

"He didn't," Faith answered with the obvious. "They just got me thinking they did."

"So they could get to you," Tara concluded quietly.

Faith could only nod.

"And you got. angry."

Faith met the witches' gazes. "But angry on me ain't a pretty sight. And I wasn't angry - I was in a fucking rage." She shook her head again, unclenching the fists she didn't realize she formed. "Never thought anything could get me that mad." She could still remember the feeling of bones breaking in her hands, the sound of screams of grown men in her ears, the smell of blood not of her own.

"Oh." Willow glanced at the ground, in realization. "I-I didn't know. I mean, Xander didn't tell me about all that. He mentioned stuff about Ethan." She looked at Faith. "I didn't know."

Faith shrugged. "Guess it doesn't matter anyway."

"It kinda does." Willow saw Tara's movement of eyebrows. "I mean, it really does. It means. you didn't just go off hurting people. You actually."

"Had a reason?" Faith asked. "And that makes it better?"

Tara smiled shyly. "It doesn't make it b-better. It just gives it. um, meaning. It proves that you do care about X-Xander."

"Yeah, well, like I said, it doesn't matter. I mean, he's moved on and I pretty much blew it." She made a dismissive gesture with her hand and began to move away to retrieve her bag. "I'll see ya'."

"Moved on?" Willow asked, taking a step forward. "What do you mean?"

"I saw him. With that Anya chick, his ex. She probably treated him better than I ever could."

"Anya?" Willow exchanged a confused look with Tara. "Anya's back?"

Faith turned back to face them. "You didn't know?"

Willow shook her head. "And I just saw Xander not ten minutes ago."

"But. she was there. And they kissed and shit." Faith blinked in confusion.

"Xander didn't say a thing about Anya. He just kept talking about. well, you." Willow glanced up at the dormitory of Xander's. "I'm just a little surprised that she's here. I mean, she kinda just took off when Xander broke up with her." Her eyebrows suddenly drew together.

Faith wasn't sure what the look meant, but she didn't have to wonder much longer when Tara glanced at her lover.

"Wh-what is it, honey?" the blond witch asked.

"I don't know. it's like the energies just changed." She looked back up at the building. "Like some other force just came through or something."

"Boy, what kind of shit are you into, Red?" Faith asked, but worriedly looked in the direction Willow was looking at. "Is Xander in trouble?"

Tara began to frown. "I-I feel it, too. It's like. a growing power or-or something." She looked back at the two girls. "I don't like it."

Faith's jaw tensed. "I sure as hell ain't liking it either." She glanced back at the side door she had come from. Taking two long strides, she jerked the door open, breaking the mechanism that locked it without a card, and went inside, bounding up the stairs three at a time. She could hear Willow and Tara following behind but they had just reached the stairs by the time Faith was at the hallway where Xander's dorm was.

Three guys were hanging right outside his door, chuckling and nudging at each other. She came up to them, glancing at the door.

"Someone's getting an afternoon tickle," one of them said. He looked at Faith. "You waiting in line? Looks like new kid Harris does have good taste in women. Hey, if he's busy, you can hop right on over to my room. I don't have class for another hour."

She looked him up and down. "Right. Like you'd last a minute." She looked back at the door, ignoring his defeated look and his friends' laughter. She heard something crash to the ground from within the room. "Xander." She grabbed the knob.

"It's locked. Harris likes his privacy," the second guy remarked.

Suddenly, the door exploded open, knocking not only Faith and four guys against the opposite wall but Tara and Willow who had almost reached their destination. Splinters of wood rained down on them as they all slumped to the ground.

Xander crawled out of the room, a bit of relief on his face. "Just missed," he mumbled but quickly got to his feet and stared back into the room.

"Xander?" Faith called, as she got to her feet, able to handle the impact better than the other three guys. She automatically looked him over for injuries of any kind, some part of her just soaking in the fact he was right there, within touching distance.

Xander turned around at the sound of his name. His eyes widened at whom he saw. "Faith?" But a noise behind him made the reunion cut short. He stood in front of Faith as Anya appeared in the doorway. "Anya, let's talk this over - a little on the quieter side? And without the sonic boom lightning?"

"What's going on?" Faith asked, staring at the figure in the doorway. Lightning sparked from her fingers and the girl's face was wrinkled and harsh looking. "That's Anya, the Ex?"

"That's Anya, the Demon."

Faith narrowed her dark eyes. "Get these guys outta here. I'll handle her."

"I don't think so, Faith."

"YOU," Anya spat, her voice raspy and accusing as she glared at Faith. "I smell him on you. You're the reason he's not taking me back."

"Leave her out of this," Xander demanded. He stepped closer to her then realized her hands charging up. He turned and slammed himself into Faith just as Anya let out another bolt of lightning aimed at their heads.

They could feel the energy crackling right above them, damaging the wall.

"What the hell?" Faith cried, looking up from behind Xander's body. "Oh, shit, she's gonna do it again!" She knew she could get Xander out of there on time. But the other three guys hadn't regained consciousness.

"Incindere!" came a voice from the right of them.

A small wall of fire erupted between Anya and them. She growled and backed away.

Tara stood there with her hand out as Willow finally got to her own feet. Her eyes were focused on the fire she obviously created.

"Well that's pretty fucking handy," Faith commented getting to her feet and helping Xander. She nudged the three guys awake. "If you guys don't want your asses electrocuted, then you better wake up."

One of them stirred, followed by the other two.

"Huh, that worked," Xander observed. But he quickly got back to the task at hand. "We better go." He instinctively grabbed her hand and led them in the direction of Willow and Tara. "I'm pretty sure she wants me and not them. Hm, lucky me."

"What's going on?" Willow cried just as the fire alarm went off.

"I don't know," Xander answered. "It's Anya. She's all demon again."

A bolt shot across the hall, barely missing the backs of their feet.

"GO!" Faith cried, nudging them all in front of her. They hit the stair way and she grabbed the door and slammed it just as another bolt hit it, nearly knocking it off its hinges. "Shit." She hopped over the railing, landing a flight down gracefully and was there to open the door for the others, ushering them out.

They got to the outside and began running.

Faith fell a step behind, not knowing where they wanted to go.

"The car!" Xander cried, pointing in the direction of a parking lot. The fire alarms continued to go off, making ambling students stop and look.

"I caused the fire alarm to go off," Tara said, a bit shamefully.

"But you also saved our asses," Faith said as they hit the pavement and after snatching up her bag. She glanced behind them, glad they covered a lot of ground before Anya had emerged.

They got into the car and Xander backed it away and began to drive off campus, sweat beading down his face. "Oh, holy ex-lovers, Batman!" he cried. "What was that about?"

"You were the one in the room with her," Willow replied, glancing at the rearview mirror as she sat in the front seat with him. "What happened? And how come you didn't tell us she was here?"

"I didn't know! I open the door 'cause of the knock and - POOF! - there she was."

"She just appeared?" Tara asked.

"No, I mean, she just was there unexpectedly." He directed the car down another street. "She kissed me and then we're on the bed." His eyes wandered towards the rearview, seeing Faith's eyes on him as he spoke. "And I tried to push her away and then that face appeared. Her whole voice changed and-and I wasn't staring at Anya anymore."

Faith could hear the sadness in his voice and she looked away, glancing at the trees that passed by as they drove on. "Wasn't she some vengeance demon anyway?"

"She was. But I thought her power was in the wishing and stuff. She had explained it to me before." He shook his head. "She's not the same demon. No one had to wish anything for me to be dead." He paused. "Unless one of you."

"Xander," Willow interjected.

"Sorry," he mumbled. "Where should we go?"

"Magic Box. We should tell Giles and Buffy about this."

"Yo, maybe I should get outta the car now," Faith spoke up, very uncertain about getting involved in any of this. "You guys got things going on here."

Xander quickly looked back at her, stopping at a red light. "I didn't think any of us were asking you to leave," he said, quietly. "I know I wasn't."

Head slightly bowed in a way so that her hair would cover her eyes, Tara looked over at Faith with an assuring smile of her own. "I wasn't, either." She ran her hand over her ear to push her hair back.

Willow was silent for a moment, contemplating as she looked at her hands in her lap. "Me, neither," she finally mumbled.

Faith sat there in slight disbelief. Maybe not so much Xander as the other two girls, especially Willow. She had nothing to say to it. But she really didn't want to go when Xander's life was in danger. She sat back in her seat, still uneasy, but nodded once. "Thanks."

* * * *

They emptied out of the car into the unfamiliar shop that Faith had to take a moment to look up at. She guessed the school hadn't been rebuilt since that day. She remembered how the Scoobies had met at Giles' place when she occupied Buffy's body.

This must be the new pad.

"So." Xander said as he came up to her. Willow and Tara had already gone inside, leaving the two of them out there alone. "I guess you knew trouble was coming."

Faith looked up at him, seeing the sadness in his dark eyes. His face was still so damn cute to her and she wondered again why she ever thought leaving him was good for her. Not when she knew how much it hurt each day he wasn't with her. "I didn't come 'cause I knew," she stated. She wanted to say, "I came lookin' for you" - but now that he was here, standing right in front of her. She looked back at him, redirecting her statement. "We should go in. Me bein' back here, I gotta make a good impression. Being anti-social ain't gonna cut it." She began to walk towards the door.

Xander's face fell a little, obviously wanting to hear more from her. He was still taking in her everything at the moment. "Are you staying?" he asked, quietly.

She paused, glancing over her shoulder. "I wanna talk when all this is over. If this Anya chick is after you, I wanna make sure you're still around to talk to." Then she entered the shop, hearing the overhead bell ring.

She walked slowly into the shop, seeing Willow and Tara at the cashier's counter, animatingly telling the man behind the counter about their recent brush with lightning and Anya.

All eyes landed on her, especially the man's. His hazel eyes behind his rimmed glasses stared at her intently. "Hello, Faith," Giles said with a small smile.

Faith stopped a few feet from the counter. "Hey," she said, feeling very uncomfortable. Even though she and Giles did spend enough crisis together to render them "five by five," this wasn't her 'turf' anymore. She wished Paul or Hannah were here.

It made her realize she didn't belong in Sunnydale. She never did.

"All kinds of surprises, huh?" Xander commented coming up beside her. "So we have a slight problem." He put out his hands, palms up for sarcastic emphasis. "I have an ex-girlfriend who wants me dead. Possibly also wants dead my current ex-girlfriend, too." He glanced at Faith then looked back at the others. "Not liking the situation here."

"Now hold on," Giles said, coming out from behind the counter. "You say she was a demon but not the same demon we knew her as."

"Right. She had sort of explained to me what she did when she was a vengeance demon. Most of the stories, not fun, but she didn't say anything about lightning coming out of her hands or-or making her own wish. She pretty much told me that some OTHER woman had to be scorned and wish."

Giles automatically glanced at the females in the room.

They all looked back at him.

"None of us did it, Giles," Willow piped in. "I think Anya's something else. Not the wishy demon she was before."

"So we're believing that Anya has turned into another species of demon, then."

"Th-That's possible, right?" Tara asked, rather nervously. "I-I mean, going from being. something to another demon something?"

Giles frowned. "Well, I wouldn't rule it out." He came out from behind the counter, glancing at Faith again. "Um, would you like something to drink?"

"Nah, I'm cool." She walked over towards the furthest part of the counter and leaned on it, crossing her arms over her chest.

The bell of the store rang then, and Buffy Summers rushed in. "Giles! There was a." She saw her friends there already. "Oh, you're here."

"Safe and sound," Xander said with a grin. "You saw the wackiness on campus, huh?"

"Fire trucks, ambulances, the whole shaboogle. And it was at your dorm room." She pointed towards Xander. "Which was why I was wigged." Her voice trailed when she noticed the extra figure standing there. "Faith."

"Hey, B," Faith said, with a small unsure smile. They had made amends, somewhat, when Buffy had come to L.A. However, this was BUFFY'S territory now, and if Willow knew Xander's story.

"You didn't have anything to do with it, did you?" Buffy asked, coolly.

Faith closed her eyes. It didn't take much to bring Buffy back to where they had started. "No, B, I swear."

"It's okay, Buffy," Xander said, knowing the blonde was just being overly protective of him. "She just happened to roll into town at the same time. It was Anya."

Buffy took a moment then tore her eyes away from the other Slayer to look at her best friend. "Anya? Anya did that?"

"It seems she's become more of another demon than what she was before," Giles explained. "And it seems her target is Xander."

"Lucky me!" he said with mock happiness.

"And you came to protect him?" Buffy asked Faith. "Aren't you too busy not being around him to do that?"

Tara, Willow, and Giles lowered their eyes feeling the tension growing in the Magic Box.

"Is it always like this?" Tara whispered to Willow.

Willow nodded. "Nobody can do it like these two," she whispered back.

"I ain't gonna get into here," Faith replied, not letting it get to her.

"Yes, please don't," Giles spoke up. "I just had this place cleaned." He cleared his throat, going over towards his books in the back of the store, ignoring the glare Buffy continued to give Faith. "Now, tell me Xander, what sort of powers did Anya exhibit when she tried to kill you?"

He thought a moment. "Uh, lightning. Big time. Out of her hands. Kind of like. a 'zing, zap' deal."

"And her face was. demon-like," Faith added.

"Like how she looked while she was a demon?" Willow asked.

Xander shrugged. "I don't think I've seen what she looks like during demon times, but she had this green tint to her and really wrinkly skin. No horns or anything. She still looked like Anya." His voice took on a more somber tone to it. "I wonder what did this to her."

Willow raised her hand a bit. "Um, here's a sitch: what if she. she asked for this to be done to her?"

"But why that kind of demon?" Buffy asked. "Why not. you know, the usual vengeance demon?"

"Maybe 'cause she knows the rules of her old ways and it wasn't gonna work for her this time?"

"Her own vengeance," Xander muttered, guilt lacing his tone.

"Who would she go to?" Faith ventured. "She got some kind of dealer person she goes to?"

"Oo! I know!" Willow cried. "D'Hoffryn!"

Giles glanced over at the redhead from the book he was looking through. "How do you know this?"

"Uh, she mentioned it a few times," Willow answered, looking away. "But - uh, I know how to call him."

Buffy and the others looked at her in surprise.

"Will, this is giving creeps," Xander admitted. "You know this D guy? And you know how to call him? I don't think Anya would mention how that's possible without some ask-age."

Willow raised her brows in worry, glancing briefly at Tara. "It's a long story. But the medallion is in my dorm room."

"Oh, no. You're not going there alone," Buffy immediately added. "We don't know where Anya is right now. She could be wreaking havoc still."

"I'll go with 'em," Faith offered.

Buffy glanced over at Willow then back at Faith. "I don't know."

"No, it's good," Willow assured her best friend. "I think it's best we keep the Slayers. um, apart. For-For wider protection, of course." She smiled wanly. She took Tara's hand and gave a small nod to Faith.

Faith glanced back at Xander, who looked back at her, then followed the two witches out the door.

* * * *

The three girls walked back towards the school in silence.

Faith kept glancing around, alert for any sign of Anya. It didn't seem like the girl was low profile, and no one probably needed special Slayer ears to hear the girl coming. The dark Slayer lagged behind the two witches.

"Sweetie," Tara began, breaking the silence. "How do you know about D'Hoffryn?"

"Oh, you know. you get into the Scooby Circle, you get to know about things," Willow said.

"Willow, I know a little about him. A-About the kind of demon Anya once was. And you can't just call him when he's needed." She looked at her feet as they walked. "I-I mean, the medallion can o-only be given to a-a person seeking vengeance."

Faith's attention was drawn to the two girls in front of her.

Willow was visibly uncomfortable then. She shrugged. "Uh, well. okay, so he came to me one night."

Tara stopped, taking Willow by the arm. "What?"

Faith almost ran into them, but stopped herself.

"Willow, honey, that-that's . not good."

"I know." Willow looked down at the sidewalk.

So the Goody Redhead really had a streak of vengeance in her.. Faith found that interesting. She really wanted to keep going. Xander's life was in major danger; but she didn't dare butt into the conversation. She was convinced the two witches forgot she was even there.

"It was. after Oz. after he left for good," Willow murmured. She met with her girlfriend's eyes, shamefully. "That was a big 'oops.'"

"Oh, honey." Tara hugged her close, beginning their trek again towards the campus. "I didn't. I knew how h-hard it was to-to lose him, but."

Willow shrugged. "Yeah, well. as you can see, demon-vengeance free!"

Faith began to follow them again when she saw something flash off to the side. Without even thinking, she flung forwards, knocking Willow and Tara to the ground as a lightning bolt zapped inches above their heads.

Faith quickly got to her feet, urging the other two to do the same as she scanned the area. People around them began to panic. "Shit!" she hissed.

Willow and Tara were a little shaken from hitting the hard concrete, but they recovered quickly.

"Where is she?" Faith murmured, glancing around the immediate area.

"Up here, bitch!" cried Anya from the roof of a deli. She shot her hands forward and a bolt shot out and headed straight for Faith.

The Slayer's reflexes kicked in a step ahead and she threw herself to one side, doing a tumble right back onto her feet. "Get goin'!" she told the other two girls.

"But." Tara hesitated, surprisingly, as did Willow.

"She probably doesn't want you! Just go!" She had to drop to the ground as lightning reached for her again.

Tara and Willow began a run towards campus, hoping all their current efforts would be worth it.

* * * *

They reached their dorm room, slamming the door unnecessarily behind them. If Anya hadn't caught up to them by now, they were safe - for now.

Willow went directly to the antique looking chest off to the side and began digging around in it. "I know I put it in here," she murmured.

"Just in case?" Tara remarked, quietly.

Willow glanced over her shoulder. "No, honey - never in case. After this, it's going in the trash of demon dimensions." She returned to her hunt and squeaked something of victory. She held up the medallion. "Ooo, here it is!"

After researching a few minutes, both witches began the chanting call of D'Hoffryn. Within a few chants, a blue light filled the room and the robed, blue figure of the demon appeared.

He blinked at the two humans, not happy. "Why have you called me, witch?"

"Uh, sorry to interrupt. whatever you were doing, but we just wanted to ask you about Anya," Willow replied. "Er, Anyanka. If she came to you of the recently."

"I don't know what you speak of," D'Hoffryn said, looking at the two witches. "Anyanka hasn't come to me for ages."

Willow quirked up a brow looking at Tara with a 'what now?' expression. Tara shrugged.

"Are you sure?" Willow ventured. "Because. well, we just think that maybe you at least knew how she became all demon-y. Or that she begged or pleaded or even both to become a wish demon again, only, she's not a wish demon. She's just a demon demon."

"You are wasting my time, human," D'Hoffryn said with a turn of his nose. He swung his robe around, breaking eye contact with both witches.

The door behind the girls burst open as Faith came striding in, bruised and bloodied. She swept past both Willow and Tara and went straight for D'Hoffryn, snatching him by the throat and running him back into the wall. "Talk."

"That possibly could work, too," Willow murmured.

"I thought we were doing a good job with the. asking nicely and hoping he'd tell us thing," Tara said, sheepishly.

D'Hoffryn was caught off guard by the new arrival. All he knew was that his breathing was becoming an issue. "I don't know what you - "

Faith tore him off the wall then slammed him against it again. "Bullshit, and you know it! Talk! She came to you, didn't she?"

D'Hoffryn was cringing in pain. "She may have come calling, yes," he croaked.

"So you turned her back to what she was?" She squeezed harder. "Right?"

"N-Not really."

Faith let go then. "That's what I figured."

"I don't get it," Willow asked.

D'Hoffryn rubbed his wrinkled throat, glaring at Faith. "She came to ask me about becoming a vengeance demon once again. I didn't deem her worthy, even though her pain had been great. Greater than many of the women she had assisted in vengeance. She was wrong in letting her human emotions give into love."

"There's nothing wrong with it," Willow protested.

"Right. Pain. It's all that it ever reeks." He glanced at Faith. "Am I right?"

She didn't answer, just glared at him.

"But who cares about that," Willow said. "I mean, what she is now it isn't a wish thing. It's a 'I have lightning coming out of my hands and lots of demon features' thing."

D'Hoffryn straightened his robe. "Yes, well. it's partly punishment for her wrongs during her demon days. She got her powers taken away, and she cannot just come on hands and knees and hope that her pain over a human male would grant her powers back. Other vengeance demons under my watch thought she deserved somethind more dreadful."

"So you have her trying to kill Xander?" Willow asked in shock.

"Is that what she's causing havoc towards? Well, at least she remembered what true vengeance is about."

A fist came and slammed into his face, making him fly nearly across the dorm room. He landed on the actual bed, bouncing once before Faith had him by the throat again and pressed him into the mattress. "Let's get this straight, Blue Boy. I don't know nothing about Anya, got it? So I could give a shit what she's remembered about revenge. All I know is that Xander's being hunted, and if you wanna know about revenge, I got a few lessons I can show you for being a part of all this. Now, how do we stop her without killin' her?"

"There's no such way!" he cried.

"Really? Why don't I believe that? You did this to her, undo it!"

"It's not that simple."

"Fucking MAKE it simple," she intoned.

"She wasn't kidding about 'angry on her isn't pretty,'" Tara whispered. "Not that she isn't pretty at the moment. Uh, I-I mean."

Willow smiled. "I know what you mean," she whispered back. She glanced back at Faith and raised her brows in worry. It was really the first time that the redhead could 'see' how much Faith loved Xander - or at least, in her anger Willow could see that she still loved him. This wasn't the same Faith that had fled Sunnydale. She really had grown - grown to know emotions other than fear and anger.

Well, there was still the anger, but it wasn't the same kind.

She still had that fierceness to her that made her so dangerous, however.

"It's impossible!" D'Hoffryn choked.

Faith slammed her fist into his face again. "Sorry, I didn't hear you," she spat.

"Human," he mumbled through his quickly ruined face. "You-You have to make her human."

"HOW?"

"A spell."

"What spell?" Willow asked, stepping forward a little.

"Rare book. It is a rare book that one other demon in this town owns."

"You can't do it for us? 'Cause I think you owe it to us."

"No. I can only deal with wish powers; not the power that I granted to her - it wasn't my doing alone."

Faith hauled him upright but held him in the air by his neck. "Where can we find this book?"

"His name is Gerock. I don't know where he is, only that he resides here." He was tossed across the rest of the room and he landed with a thud. "Good luck finding him," he said, getting to his feet. Then he disappeared.

"Hey, I didn't tell him he could go and disappear like that!" Willow said, looking at he medallion still in her hand. She shook it as if it would make it work better. "They should have some sort of-of warning label."

"Are you okay?" Tara asked Faith seeing the injuries to the dark Slayer.

"Yeah. I'll be better though when we find this Gerock."

"We will," Willow said. "Maybe Giles knows him. And if not, we could go to some demon hideouts. Buffy knows a lot of them."

* * * *

Spike sat in his crypt watching some afternoon talk show on the tube. "Oh, bloody hell," he muttered. "It's bloody impossible to have THAT many children. How come I can't find those kinds of blokes around here? It would be like an 8-pack chicken nugget to go."

He slumped back in his chair just as the door in his crypt flung open. He jumped up. "What the - ? Oh, it's YOU." He saw Buffy enter in first.

"Heya, Spike," she said. "Thanks for the not-invite."

"Sure. Nothing to it - literally." He sat back down and grabbed a beer, noticing the second figure coming in through the door. "Hello, there." She was something else that was for sure - all brown-headed and curvy. "Brought a new friend, did ya'?"

"Actually, an old friend," Buffy replied, stepping into his line of vision of the TV.

"You can bring old friends any time if they come looking like that." He smirked.

"Yeah, don't get any ideas," Faith spat. She stared at Spike then remembered when she had first met him at the Bronze while in Buffy's body. He was such a sucker for getting it up. One look at something with boobs, even if they were Buffy's, and the guy was aroused.

"We won't be here long," Buffy said.

"Good because you're blocking my bleedin' show." He moved his head from one side to another to try and get a glimpse of what was left of the show.

"Gerock," Buffy remarked. "Have you heard of him?"

"And what makes you girls think that?"

"'Cause we just beat someone up to a pulp over at Willy's who said you hung around with him," Faith said, walking around the crypt.

Spike muttered something under his breath, but then said, "So what of it? He keeps low key, doesn't hurt anyone."

"Well, it seems he likes his fun just like the next demon - only against other demons," Buffy answered. "He's helped one of our friends turn into a demon."

"Did he? Which one?"

"Anya."

"Oh, her. Yeah, well, he's told me stories 'bout her. Broke his heart sometime in the 1920's or whatever. Been waiting to get a shot at her." He shrugged and guzzled down part of his beer.

"He got it."

"And I care because?"

Faith came up beside Buffy. "Exactly why isn't this asshole staked yet?"

"I'm beginning to wonder about that," Buffy answered with a roll of her eyes. "Look, Spike, Anya is a friend of ours. And now she's this out of control demon who's looking to kill Xander."

Spike almost spit out his drink in laughter. "Really? That's a turn of events if I ever heard one." He laughed again. "Good for her! Never liked that boy; he's of the very, very useless, waste of skin. Hope Anya gets the job - "

Faith was on him before he could get any more words out, knocking him out of the chair and straddling him with the stake hovering dangerously over his chest. "Finish that sentence and this here's gonna make sure you choke on your own dust," she warned.

Buffy walked up casually behind Faith, looking down at Spike and his helpless position.

"Oh, so you're sending in the new friend to do your dirty work, are you, Slayer?" he choked out.

"No, Spike," Buffy said, exasperated. "She's a Slayer, too. You know, the whole staking annoying vampires thing? She's just a little more impulsive than me."

"A lot more," Faith sneered. "Happy trigger finger of mine." She shook the stake a little. "I'm sure you know my work."

"Faith? Oh, bloody hell." He struggled underneath her but couldn't move. "Okay, you wanna know about Gerock? He lives down in the sewers, right below the Espresso Pump."

"Good, thanks." She brought the stake down right into his heart and he disappeared below her. She stood up, dusting herself off.

Buffy shook her head. "There goes the only other source of information we had," she couldn't help but remark.

"I did you guys a favor."

"Yeah. Not going to argue with that."

With that, both Slayers left the now empty crypt.

* * * *

As they moved through the cemetery, Faith scanned the area. "You know this Espresso place, right?"

"Spend my college nights and days there," Buffy answered. "Faith, what did you come here for?"

Faith stopped and looked at the blond Slayer. "What, you want me to get outta your hair, B?

"No. Not really what I mean. Last time I saw you, you and Xander were, well, more together than now. I don't know what happened, exactly. Xander talks about you and the missage that goes with it, but he never really said how it all happened. It's kinda why Willow and I are just making assumptions. And I'm not really asking you for the long-form of it all, but. I hope you're not here to just tell him good-bye."

"Don't know what I'm here for anymore," Faith murmured. "Right now, saving his ass. I know you're just tryin' to protect Xander, especially from me, B, but - "

"Buffy! Faith!" cried Willow as she rushed up to them, breathless. "It's Anya. She-she came into the Magic Box. Tara and I tried to-to stop her."

"Will, what happened?" Buffy asked, taking Willow by the arms.

"She took Xander."

Buffy stared at the redhead a moment then looked over at Faith. "Is everyone else okay?" she asked, looking back at Willow.

"Yeah. Buffy, what are we gonna do?"

Buffy glanced in the general direction of the Magic Box, trying to think of a plan of attack. "There's a book."

"Where do you think she took him?" Faith spoke up, her voice tight.

Willow shrugged. "I don't know. She flew away. I think they were heading . I don't know - "

"Think about it!"

"Let's just think about it on the way to getting this book," Buffy urged. She looked at Faith, seeing the intensity behind her brown eyes. "Faith, listen, we'll get Xander, you know we will. If she took him somewhere, it means. it means that maybe she's gonna let him live a little longer. We'll take what we can. The Espresso Pump is only a few blocks away."

"Then let's go," Faith intoned, already moving in the general direction.

* * * *

"Can't we talk about this, Ahn?" Xander asked, sitting very still in the chair he was literally thrown in. He looked around what was once his room in the basement of his parents' house. Why did she bring him here of all places?

"You don't get to talk with me," she sneered as she stood by the space that was still occupied by his dumpy bed.

Because this is where I broke up with her.

"Anya, stop this. C'mon, it's me. It's Xander." He was hoping to talk his way out of this, although he wasn't 100% sure how. He wasn't even sure if there was any of Anya left in her.

But Xander had to believe there was.

After all, he had broken up with Anya and not Anyanka.

"Yes, you asshole, I know who you are!" She stepped towards him, anger and rage in her voice and her demon-expression. "Which is the whole reason I'm about to fry your butt!"

"Anya, please, can't we just stop and talk? I mean, all this wanting to kill, just not good for the relationship."

"WHAT relationship, Xander?" She came up to him and punched him in the jaw, sending him reeling back against the seat, almost knocking it over. "WHAT relationship!?"

He was dazed but shook the blackness away. "Anya, that-that decision, it was good for us; we weren't connecting."

"Right. YOU weren't connecting with ME. I thought that you'd prove me wrong with all the testosterone-filled wrongness I've been spreading vengeance on for thousands of years!"

"What did I do to you, Ahn? I didn't cheat on you! I didn't use you. I loved you, I still DO love you, but not the way that. I'm looking for. And it's not your fault; it's not mine. It's just. just the way it has to be!"

"No. I hated being human, Xander. And you had to come along and make me see the good things about humanity. That warm feeling I always got every time we kissed, we had sex! I thought it was all the orgasms, but it's not! It's feelings, it's-it's what makes all this so stupid and painful!"

Xander could hear the pain of Anya under the demon exterior. And it ached him. "We never got a chance to talk, Anya. I told you it wasn't working and you just left. You didn't let me explain."

"Do you want to get back together with me?"

"No, Anya. I mean, I wanna be friends but - "

She was on him, lifting him out of the chair and throwing him to the other side of the room.

Shelves crashed under the impact.

"Shut up! There's nothing TO explain anymore!"

He groaned and held his head, feeling the blood seeping through his hair. "Okay, a simple one of those would've been a lot better for me than throwing me across the room."

"And I know exactly WHY you won't take me back! Because of HER!"

Xander looked up, trying to get to his feet. "Who? Amy Yip? 'Cause you know that's never gonna change, Ahn."

"No! That slut, Faith!"

"Okay, didn't want you to go there," he said, his voice growing less humorous. "Ahn, you KNOW Faith has nothing to do with what happened between us. I didn't even think it was possible for me and her, okay? And if you wanna hear a happy ending to it all, it wasn't possible. So just leave her out of this and cut out the name calling."

"She's not the reason you stopped loving me, but she is the reason why you won't even think about us anymore. You think about her. All the time."

"Alright, so I do. So what? I love Faith. The way I thought I could love you. But these things. the way a person feels, sometimes can't be controlled. You can fight it, and sometimes you come out reigning champion, but I was never good at fighting. It's over between me and Faith, Ahn. But even so, you and I can't ever happen. It just wasn't meant to be."

The demoness stood there, staring at Xander. Her eyes reddened a bit. "Then it wasn't meant to be," she replied quietly. "Guess it's time that I kill you now."

Xander put his hands up. "Whoa, Anya. hold on a sec. Is this how you want us to be? Us arguing then with the killing? C'mon. Let me help you. Get you back to being you, and then we can have a more civil chat. I hear it does wonders."

"No." She fired more lighting at him.

He dived out of the way in time, landing near some tools he left behind. He grabbed the crowbar and stood up. "Ahn, c'mon! You don't wanna do this!"

"First you, and then everyone you loved in your life!"

"They're your friends, Anya!"

"They never liked me! Willow, especially. She hated the fact that I loved you!" She fired again.

Xander tumbled forward, realizing that Anya needed a moment or two to charge up. He got back on his feet and was only two feet in front of her. He swung the crowbar back and hit her on the shoulder like baseball bat.

She stumbled to one side but grabbed it when he tried again. "You're not going to kill me, Xander, are you?"

He was trying to pull it out of her hand. "Nope!"

"Your loss." Her hand charged up, the electricity going through the metal of the crowbar and into Xander's arms.

He shook from the electrocution but let go, falling on his backside. Dazed, he saw her try to return the favor and use the crowbar on his head. He reached up and caught it with both hands and kicked at her knees.

It was her turn to fall onto her back.

He jumped on her and straddled her, trying to keep her at bay. "I'm sorry I have to do this, Ahn," he murmured, raising the crowbar to knock her out.

She growled. "No, the sorry is all mine." Her whole body charged up with electricity and it caused Xander to fly off of her and land in the stairway of the basement, smashing through the wooden railing.

She stood up and held the crowbar like a javelin. "This isn't the way I planned our life together," she hissed.

"Feeling's mutual," he groaned, pulling himself up. He decided to make a break for it. He stumbled up the stairs, going for the door.

"Not so fast!" Anya ordered, throwing the crowbar with deadly speed and accuracy.

Xander was leaning against the door, turning the knob when he saw it flying towards him. "Yah!"

The door opened then, causing him to fall forward onto his face. The crowbar nearly embedded itself into the wall instead when a hand caught it, stopping it dead. Faith stepped over Xander's fallen body and looked over at Anya. "What's going on?" she greeted her with a smirk, lowering the crowbar onto the ground.

Anya narrowed her eyes at her. "No," she mumbled. She fired her lightning bolts at the Slayer.

Faith jumped off the stairway, the lightning missing her. She landed on her feet and stood there, staring at Anya. "C'mon, girlfriend, what're you trying to do here, huh? Kill Xander, then all's well? I thought you loved him, wanted him back? I ain't a romantic, but even I know this ain't the way to do it."

"That's the problem, Faith. He doesn't want me back!" She fired at her again.

Faith flipped forward until she was right in Anya's face and slammed her fist into her cheek, sending her flying back. "It's a wonder why with all your fucking charm!"

Buffy burst through the back door, catching Anya in her arms, and then tossing her into the nearest wall. "Anya, stop this!"

Anya got to her feet, getting her bearings. "Oh, shut up, Buffy." She glanced between the two Slayers. "Both of you just don't realize how so annoying it is that he's all over you! Okay, Buffy, not so much anymore." She flung her hand back along with a bolt of even more intense lighting, hitting Buffy with both force and electricity.

The blond Slayer flew back, hitting the concrete wall hard. The wind was practically knocked out of her.

Faith twisted once and roundhouse kicked Anya in the face, driving her back. She had to stall for as long as possible while Giles, Willow, and Tara did the mojo outside.

Anya staggered back, hitting the shelves. She released more lightning. "You're special," she told the Slayer as Faith flipped out of the way. "You, I would like to kill first. You and your sexy bombshell way of coming into town and sweeping men off their feet!"

"Girlfriend, that's not my fault," Faith remarked, facing Anya again. "Just something that comes naturally."

Anya picked up a box filled with random tools and threw it at Faith.

The dark-haired Slayer tried to also avoid the barreling object, but the tools flew out of the box on the way there. A hammer got ahead of everything else and hit Faith straight in the forehead.

She stumbled in her escape and landed on the ground, her hand going up to her bleeding wound. "Shit," she muttered.

Charged up again, Anya let loose on Faith, hitting her almost point blank.

Xander got to his feet and saw Faith convulse with however many bolts of electricity Anya was unleashing, hearing the Slayer's cries of pain. "Anya! STOP!"

"Shut up, Xander!" Anya called over her shoulder.

Willow and Tara appeared through the back door, book in hand, chanting the spell. Giles came up behind them, also chanting the same words except in Latin.

"What's going on?" Anya muttered, her eyes glancing over at the new arrivals. But she ignored them, concentrating on keeping up the charge as long as she had done all day.

Xander held his breath, willing Faith to fight it, but Faith couldn't - and he could tell she was fading from the pain. He looked at Giles and the others, but they were too busy concentrating on the spell. Their eyes were closed, willing the magic to work.

Without thinking about anything - anyone else - except Faith, he grabbed the crowbar next to him. He was NOT going to let Faith die, not even if it meant. Then he threw it, like a javelin, with accuracy he didn't think he possessed.

Giles, Willow, and Tara all cried the last word of the spell as one voice. The whole room began to glow with results, blinding the occupants.

Anya screamed, the electricity stopped, and everything got quiet as soon as the glow went away.

Xander blinked, turning around slowly to see what had happened.

Had they done it?

Buffy was finally coming to, holding her head and blinking back the darkness that had engulfed her.

Faith lay on the ground a moment, staring up at the ceiling, letting the pain and the sensation of electrocution fade. She moved her arms glad she was able to.

"Oh, God," Tara breathed, seeing Anya on the ground, a crowbar, jutting out near her abdomen area.

"Anya," Xander whispered. "Oh, man." He ran down the stairs and rushed over to her side. "Anya?" he called again quietly, gently sweeping her hair away from her damp face. Blood was everywhere on her. "Oh, God. What-what did I do?" He placed his hand over the wound caused by the crowbar. The crowbar that had thrown.

"The spell worked," Tara commented, quietly.

Willow nodded, still reeling a little from the spell. "It did. But." She glanced down at Anya. "It looks like she got hurt while she was. human." There was no blame towards anyone behind her tone, just fact.

"We need to get you to a hospital," he said. He looked up at the others. "Hospital, please!"

Faith got to a seated position and watched the emotions cross over Xander's face. Fuck, she thought, looking away and more towards the concrete she sat on.

"I don't think. I'll make it," Anya mumbled, cringing in pain. Tears began to streak down the side of her face. "It hurts. This being human thing hurts."

Buffy knelt beside Anya, her face trying not to show just how bad it looked. "Giles, call 911," she said.

Giles nodded. "Right." He hurried up the stairs.

Xander kept brushing his hand across her forehead, his eyes slightly tearing at what he had done to her. "I'm sorry, Ahn," he whispered.

"Oh, don't be so babyish," she commented, very weakly. "I still hate you. For leaving me. For not loving me." She coughed.

Xander had nothing to say to that.

Faith watched them, realizing that Xander wasn't even looking back at her - and never did even when the ambulance came.

* * * *

Faith stood outside the closed Magic Box, not really sure who she was waiting for. She was waiting for an answer to how Anya was doing.

Tara was the first to walk by and noticed the dark Slayer there. "Hey," she greeted her.

"Hey," Faith said, a little relieved it was the blond witch. "How's Anya doing?"

"Fine," Tara said. "S-she did have to be resuscitated once when they got there, but they stabilized her and have stopped the bleeding. And r- repaired any damage."

Faith showed relief in her features, nodding and glad to hear it. "How's Xander?" Faith asked.

"He's better now that he knows Anya is going to be okay," she answered, bowing her gaze a bit.

"Good," she replied.

"How about you? Maybe you should've gone to the h-hospital, too."

Faith shook her head. "Five by five. Kinda sore, but." She let it trail.

"You did great back there," Tara commented, a smile on her lips.

Faith just shrugged. "I did what I could. I almost got my ass toasted, though. If it wasn't for Xander."

Tara bowed her gaze a bit. "I don't think he would've d-done anything else. Not if it involved you."

"Yeah, whatever." She stood up off the wall of the Magic Box. "I think I fucked everything up here, Tara. I always do, you know that."

"Not really. I mean, I-I've heard stories. But from what I've seen today, they're just that."

"Not really," came Willow's voice as she came up to her girlfriend. "Actually living them kind of is a theory defeater." She saw as Faith glanced at her then quickly looked away. There was a pause before Willow continued. "But. after what I saw tonight, even I'd think they were stories."

"Whatever, Red," Faith murmured. "Tryin' to look good in front of Tara. You don't gotta put up a front."

"I don't have to put up any front, Faith, especially in front of Tara. You. you were great. You did what you had to, you stuck around, even when-when we - I guess *I* - wasn't all 'yay, rah, bring it on, cheery' about you being here." She exchanged a look with Tara then looked back at the dark Slayer. "Talk to Xander, Faith."

Faith turned towards the Magic Box, glancing up. "I think it's better if I don't."

"That's not fair to him. And to you."

"When do you care what's fair to me?"

"When I saw how much you care about Xander." She let go of Tara a moment and stepped closer to Faith. "And you do, I know it, and Xander knew it. I just. I saw how much you've changed. And. I just. I think."

"Got you all tongue-tied, huh? Look, I appreciate it and all, Red, but you don't gotta apologize for whatever you think you - "

"You deserve him."

Faith stopped, her face falling into a look of what could only be shock.

"Maybe you keep telling yourself that you don't deserve him, and maybe back then if someone were to come up to me and tell me how great of an idea you and him were, I'd laugh and possibly spit my drink out, whatever I was drinking at the time. But. now, I can see you deserve him. And I know he makes you happy. He makes me happy and always has, and that's what I love about Xander. And.. I think. you deserve that, Faith. Happiness."

To say that Faith was too stunned to move was an understatement. To hear it come from one of the two people that would NEVER say it.

Tara nodded. "I couldn't have said it better myself." She smiled. "We all know how much you s-still love him, Faith."

"I-I. dunno," Faith finally said, looking down on the sidewalk. "Damn, this shit is complicated as HELL. It's why I don't. do relationships."

"But they're worth it," Tara added quietly.

Willow nodded, reaching out and holding Tara's hand in agreement. The redhead looked over at Faith. "Do yourselves a favor - talk."

"But him and Anya. they looked so."

"Faith, you won't know how they 'looked' without talking to him."

The dark Slayer stood there, still uncertain. "Where is he?"

"The h-hospital," Tara answered. "I think he was in the waiting room."

She took a deep breath. Meeting their gazes for one last time, she took off into a sprint.

Willow watched the Slayer disappear into the night in record time. "I should wonder if she's running to him or running away again," she answered. She glanced over at Tara. "But I don't."

* * * *

Faith slowly entered the hospital, a little weary considering it was where she spent months in. She looked up and down the hallways, rounding the corner. She almost ran into someone coming the other way.

Buffy stopped inches from Faith. "Oh. sorry."

"Yeah, me, too."

"You. okay?" Faith asked. "You kinda got knocked around."

Buffy nodded. "You?" She pointed to her forehead. "Hammer and stuff. Oh, and electrocution."

Faith also nodded. "Five by five."

They both stood there, unsure of each other's presence.

"He's in the room around the next bend," Buffy answered. "Kind of like 'over the river and through the woods' deal except without the river or the woods."

Faith smiled slightly, but it quickly faded. "Guess you're not surprised I'm here."

"Oh, yeah, I am. But. I understand. And. I'm glad you proved me wrong - again, for like the 10th time today." She allowed a small grin before walking past her.

Coming up to the nearly empty room, she automatically spotted the awkwardly placed Xander Harris snoozing against three chairs. He looked exhausted, for which she didn't blame him. It was a long, stressful, emotional day.

Just watching him for a moment, looking so vulnerable, so goofy - so lovable, she wondered only for a split second why she ever pushed him away. She knew what she was feeling, how she still felt.

She came up to him, hovering over him a moment, then squatted down next to the chair. Reaching out, she touched his arm and shook it. "Xander?"

He stirred but went back to sleep.

"Yo, Xander."

Xander's eyes opened slightly, staring at Faith. "Are you the lap dancer I called?" he murmured, still half-asleep.

Faith couldn't help but laugh. "Nope. Sorry, Xand."

He opened his eyes a little wider then realized who it was. "Oh." He sat up straight. "Faith. Um, I wasn't dreaming." He ran his hand through his hair and yawned. "What time is it?"

"It's almost 11." She stood up then sat down in the row across from him, her eyes looking towards the ground. "Are you. doing okay? Is she?"

Xander nodded. "Yeah. She's asleep right now, so I decided to wait around until she woke up. Let her have someone there when she did. It's a nice. thing to wake up to." He looked her over, wincing slightly at the mark on Faith's forehead from the hammer. "Are you okay?"

"Wish people would stop asking me that. I'm five by. I'm fine."

They sat there for a moment.

"I don't want you to go," he said, quietly. His eyes weren't looking at her.

But it made her look back at him. "Xander, this here's your life. You got school, B, Red, Jeeves, Anya, all of them. They need you here. And I don't wanna take this all away from you, especially when you've got Anya to take care of. I'm sorry about that."

Xander finally met gazes with her. "What the heck are you sorry about, Faith? You're not the one who threw the crowbar. I'm Crowbar Man. Besides," he paused, looking away. "I think it's about damn time you stop putting words in my mouth."

His sudden remark caught Faith off guard. "Huh?"

"How do you know this is my life?" he asked, irritated his face now angry. "How do you know all this here in Sunnydale is where I want to be?"

"Xander, I thought - "

"Yeah, you thought, but you didn't ASK," he retorted. He gestured as he spoke, leaning towards her. "Faith, I'm here not because this is where my entire life is; I'm here because the place I want to be isn't rolling out the welcome mat."

She couldn't say anything; what more could she expect from him but how he was reacting?

"I had nowhere else to go. You made sure of that, Faith, right?" He shook his head. "I know you're probably here to tell me you're leaving. But if you are, the other words out of your mouth better be 'I don't love you anymore.'"

She stared at him, eyes almost glazing over at the words. "Is that what you wanna hear?"

"NO!" he cried, his patience lost now. "I want you to tell me how you FEEL, Faith. But don't tell me you love me then just do a tap dance out of here. That's not fair to me or you." He crossed his arms, watching her intently.

"What about Anya?"

"What about Anya?" he asked. "And why does it matter? She wasn't there when you stopped loving me, Faith, so don't bring her into this."

"I never." she trailed a moment. "I never stopped loving you, Xander."

"Then what the hell happened? You think I'm a crispy critter, you come to find I'm not, and all of a sudden, you don't wanna be with me anymore?" He tapped his chin. "Hmmm. tell me again where logic fell into that situation?"

She glanced away, not knowing exactly how to answer it.

"Guess it wasn't that important, was it?"

Faith looked at him in near disbelief. "You almost bein' killed ain't important?" She narrowed her eyes at him, sudden anger in her tone now. "Shit, Xander, that was the most important fucking detail to me! The fact I coulda lost you, and you don't think that's nothing to worry about?"

Xander met her gaze, his gaze not as hard as before, his voice not as loud. "It was important. At least, I thought it was. But seems like you didn't think it was. The only thing I knew was that it happened and I found myself . by myself a lot of the time. I repeat: I left not because I didn't want to be around you. I wanted to be around you, I wanted you all the time. But you wouldn't let me and if I couldn't, well, that kinda's a big clue there was only one thing I could do."

Faith followed his gaze out, knowing she really had no right to be angry with him. None whatsoever. This was she under the hot lights. "I'm sorry," she said, quietly. "Fuck, that was the last thing I wanted you to do. I didn't know what I wanted. I was just. I didn't know what I was doin' with myself after I went all fucking insane - again." She looked over at him, noticing he wasn't looking at her. "You wanna know the truth?"

"It would be nice."

"I was afraid of myself, not you." She glanced down at her hands. "I saw my building up in flames, and I didn't even think about the building or nothing. I didn't have that much shit in it. until I found out you were in there." She closed her eyes. "Somethin' snapped in me that night. And afterwards, all I could think about was how much I wasn't ready to be outta the slammer. I still had those damn thoughts about hurting people and making sure they hurt; I was afraid. that I'd hurt you somewhere in there. I hadn't changed."

"But Faith."

"Hold up," she interjected. "Then, I had a talk with a couple of people. And they helped me out, helped me understand how it wasn't the same. I hurt people because they tried and hurt people that I . cared for. That I love."

"Why didn't you say that to me? That's all I wanted to hear, Faith." He had relaxed a little.

"I did. I was ready to. Then you left." She looked up at him. "I know, as always, I fucked it up. I waited too long. I was bein' so fucking stupid. Then all this shit with Ethan. But I saw where you wanted to go, and I wasn't gonna stop you."

Xander sighed, things being brought out into the light. "I didn't wanna go. God, that was hard. But. you've changed, Faith. You're not the same person you went in being. I know this. Do you believe that?"

She shrugged. "I know I ain't the same."

"Wanna know what I think?" He moved closer to her, the anger out of his tone now. "I think you're the person you're meant to be. And as non-bad ass as it sounds, you were meant to care so much. So don't be afraid of that, okay? Don't be afraid to know you're something so great and that sometimes, yeah, we do things we hate. Heck, you went in and defeated a big bad. Went into some dimensional floor to fight him and everything."

She chuckled bitterly. "I pulled a Buffy," she commented.

"No, I think you pulled a Faith. Buffy hasn't done any dimensional floor hopping. At least, I don't think she has." He pondered it for a second. "You ask me, you're one up in style as far as saving the world."

She laughed, not realizing how good it would feel to do so. "Don't tell B that."

Xander laughed with her then they both quieted down. They sat there, awkwardly, the tension still not going away.

Suddenly, they both began to realize the tension was something else, not of the bad kind, but something that had attracted them to each other in the first place. A good tension that was only bad when they weren't together.

"Don't leave," he said after a moment.

Faith looked up from her spot on the armrest of the chair. "You want me to stay?"

"Forever," he said. "For once, I wanna tell you what YOU think you should do." He gave her a half-smile.

"What about Paul and Hannah.?"

"I don't mean stay here in Sunnydale forever. I meant, stay with ME forever." His face grew solemn. "I wanna do this again. I kinda never wanted anything else. I love you. I've never felt like this towards any one girl before, and I gotta say, I kinda like it that it's you." He moved his hand towards hers and took it, giving it a squeeze.

Faith stared down at their adjoining hands, their first contact like this in weeks.

And it felt so damn good.

She sighed, torn at what she wanted to do. until she looked at him in the eyes. She leaned in, pushing him against the other side of his chair, kissing him passionately and hard. She felt him return the favor as they continued on.

People slowed their walking as they saw the two brunettes making themselves very public in the waiting room.

"Ouch!" Xander cried as his head banged against the plastic object. He cringed, his hand going up to rub the sore part. "Not comfortable."

"Sorry," Faith said, pulling him back up. "Kinda got carried away."

"No, that part's fine. Just wish there was a soft something rather." He looked over at her. "So. what was that?"

"You didn't get the message?"

"I'm a little fuzzy when it comes to decoding."

Faith shook her head with a small smile. "I love you. I wanna be with you."

Xander pondered that a moment then nodded his head. "OH! Okay." He leaned in and kissed her gently. "I promise not to go out and get burned, either."

Faith gave him a mock glare. "Don't fucking joke about that, or I'll kick your ass." She kissed him then gently ran her fingers through his hair, staring at him deeply. God, how good this all felt; God, how much she missed this, missed HIM... But there was one thing that was nagging the back of her mind: "I promised Paul and the others I'd be back, though," she said, watching her fingers rake through his brown locks. "I don't wanna let 'em down."

"We can wait here in Sunnydale until I finish out this semester, just so I can get a little bit of college in me, and we'll both go back. I can transfer or something."

"You'd. do that?"

Xander nodded. "Yeah. I don't wanna let them down, either. Rachel can give a heck of a look when she's mad."

Faith chuckled. "What about Buffy and Willow?"

"Well, I do love them, too, but three girls? Might be a little TOO much to handle - even for the Xand-Man. Plus, they have their own significant others and if I include them, too, it'll be one crazy orgy."

Faith shook her head. "And they say I'M the promiscuous one? You get what I mean. I don't wanna get the evil eye from them two for takin' you away."

Xander placed his hands on either side of her face. "Faith, I love those guys. But they know where I'm happy, and they'll understand. They don't have anything to do with us, okay?"

"Okay."

"And neither does Anya. Paul and them will understand, right?"

Faith glanced down then back up at him. "I think they will."

He kissed her again. "But you're sure about this?"

She thought a moment. "Nope. But sometimes, you just gotta go with your gut."

The grin grew larger with her answer, not believing, for a moment, that this wasn't all just a dream. Deep in his heart, however, he knew it wasn't. Part of him was elated - more than words could actually tell - but another part of him wished not all of it was real. His face grew solemn a moment. Case and point: "This whole thing with Anya," he began. "It's tough. Seeing her like that."

"I know. I'm sorry."

Xander shook his head. "Nothing to do the 'sorry' thing about, Faith. She just wanted revenge on me for breaking her heart; I didn't think that was possible. Me? A heartbreaker?" He smiled sadly. "Physically, she'll be okay. Just. everything else. We're gonna talk tonight. I just didn't know what to tell her until I knew where you stood."

"Looks like I'm standing right here," she said, quietly.

He glanced down. "Actually, you're sitting." He smiled, leaning forward to kiss her again. "Now I know exactly what to tell her. She knows it's over, but I still care about her."

"I know. I just get this wicked jealous streak sometimes. Don't listen to it." She winked. "Go be with her, Xand. She needs someone, ya' know? I know how it is to be alone in a hospital bed."

He nodded. "Right," he replied, quietly. "Where will you be?"

"Around. Maybe here at this magic store? Giles didn't seem to mind me there, except when B and I were in the same space."

"Okay. Yeah, Giles will love the company, especially when he works nights." Getting to his feet, he put out his hand for her to take. "We'll work on Buffy, but I think she'll be a push over."

Faith took his hand and stood up, quirking a brow. "Yeah, right," Faith said, uncertain.

Xander hugged her, loathing to let her leave his sight. But he knew this was a Xander and Anya thing for now. "Well, you got Will, Tara, and Giles back on your side. It's a beautiful thing." He began to backpedal away, finally letting go of her hand. "Toughest one to break, though, might be Dawn. You know how the Dawn-meister is about things. The whole 'I'm 14, I'm stubborn as hell.'"

"Huh?"

"But I know we can break her. uh, in a good, non-violent way, I mean. I'll meet you back at my dorm, how's that? You know where that is - the place with no door."

She nodded as he turned the corner towards Anya's room.

She started to go back towards the elevators, pressing the button. Right before the doors closed to descend, she asked herself aloud, "Who the hell is Dawn?"

- END -