Part V

Pairings: Primarily Buffy and Faith, but that doesn't preclude other stuff.

Summary: A story set post " Chosen ". Really rather defies summarization, but it's about the Chosen Two, Buffy and Faith. Do we ever really know someone else until we know ourselves?

Timeline/ Spoilers: Set post Season 7, so it will probably include references from the prior 7 seasons. Hope you've seen them by now( all out on DVD).

Rating: R

Legal stuff : You betcha. The characters belong to Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy and Fox. I'm just borrowing them. Trust me, I'm not making anything on writing this.

Disclaimer: Sex, drugs and rock and roll? Not good for you…ok, well except maybe the last. Everything is fair game, so if something offends you, sorry. I'm not perfect, and I'm not PC. If you don't like the idea of women being in love with each other, this is NOT the story for you. Also, not the story for you if you're birth date is after 1986. Oh, and if you're heavily religious? This story probably won't appeal to you either. Ooops.


" Buffy, we really should go in now."

Buffy and Willow are standing at the garden entrance to the Hyperion Hotel. Willow is carrying some flowers; beside their hair, that's about the only color about them. They are both dressed in black. Willow is aware that the memorial service will begin soon. But she's hesitant to hurry Buffy too much.

Ever since that night when Dawn told Buffy about Angel's death, Buffy has seemed a little lost. As if her anchor to reality has been ripped away from her. It's only been a week since they got the news; for Buffy it's seemed like years. It's strange. I didn't cry for him. Why not? I just can't seem to cry. Maybe the pain is too deep, too buried in her bones. Maybe she won't or can't accept the reality that Angel's really gone. It's like he's there everywhere with me. I hear a step, and I turn, expecting to see him. I hear a voice like his, and my heart starts to beat faster in my chest. I see someone that even vaguely looks like him, and I stand there, waiting for him to turn, so I can run into his arms. It wasn't even this bad when we broke up… god, nearly 6 years ago! We moved on, both of us. Why is it like this? Why is it hard to breathe?

" Buffy, honey? Are you ok?" Willow comes to where Buffy is leaning against the stone arch leading into the garden.

" Yeah, I'm ok, Will. I just … I never really knew this part of his life. His friends, what he was doing. God, you … or was it Giles? Or Dawn? … someone told me he was working for Wolfram and Hart. How'd that happen? What happened here? Where … I just seemed not to know him anymore… and I … I never will now." Her eyes focus on Willow. " Did he go evil? Is that why he went to Wolfram and Hart? I can't believe that. I mean, he even … he reached out to Faith, when she tried to kill him. Why would he go to work for Evil, Inc. ? "

" I don't know, Buffy. I only talked to him on the phone after Sunnydale collapsed. I didn't actually see him. He arranged everything for us by phone. I didn't even really know he was working there. I only learned recently, like you. I heard that he took it over from Wolfram and Hart, it was some kind of concession on their part … for winning? But that doesn't make sense. And it was W&H that sent the horde of demons that killed him." Willow moves to Buffy, putting her arm around her shoulders. " I'm sure there's an explanation … somewhere. Maybe Giles knows something."

" Maybe, " Buffy sounds doubtful, " It was what he wanted. Our lives, separate. I respected that, kept away from him. He had L.A. , I had Sunnydale. It's what was needed, right? It was the right thing to do, wasn't it?" Buffy tries to convince herself of that by saying it over and over. " It was the right thing, I know it. But why does it feel like I've lost something precious? I mean, we didn't really know each other anymore, did we? Shouldn't it be easier to take?" She looks around at the garden, at the building, her expression forlorn. " He's really gone," her voice is just above a whisper.

" Buffy, " Willow feels an ache build in her for her friend.

" I kept hoping that somehow it was all a mistake. We'd get here, and he'd be here, or hiding, or something. But alive. I'd be angry at him, want to hit him for scaring me, but he at least, he'd be alive." She moves slowly into the garden, turning around in it as if expecting to see him in the shadows. " I always expected I'd go first. That he would be there at the last, the last thing I saw before…. This isn't right. He's not supposed to be dead. He's supposed to live forever. I'm supposed to die first." She drops down on the bench by the fountain, as if her muscles lost power. " This is insanity. We weren't together. We haven't been for years and years. I shouldn't feel this bad. We were over years ago. I'm maybe just starting something new, with Remy. I should be sad, but not like this. Not like this…" She looks up at Willow, her eyes dry. They feel grainy and hot. " Why can't I cry for him? I know if I could, I'd feel better. But I can't … It's just this ache burning in me. Burning."

Willow feels her own tears, burning at her eyes, blurring her vision. She's never seen Buffy so devastated before. It was painful to watch her best friend, her almost sister, seem to collapse into herself. She sits by Buffy, encircling her in her arms, laying her chin on her shoulder, trying to comfort her.

At first, neither is aware of the young woman that has come into the lobby from the garden. She, like Buffy and Willow, is dressed in black. Her long brown hair is pulled back in a ponytail, and her wide blue eyes are filled with concern. Dawn is rather worried about her sister. To her, Buffy has always been the strong one; even in the worst times, Buffy has taken charge, taken care of things. It's very strange for Dawn to see her like this: Lost, confused, needing help. It's brought a gentle, patient side out in Dawn. She's taken charge, making sure things were done, all the while taking care of her sister.

She sits on the other side of Buffy, and smiles briefly at Willow. She takes Buffy's hands in her own.

" Buffy, they're nearly ready to start. We should go in now."

Buffy looks up, and smiles. It's genuine, if sad. She reaches out and touches Dawn's cheek.

" Thanks, Dawnie," She gets up, and starts in with Dawn. She stops and looks back. Willow is hanging back in the garden. " Coming, Will?"

" In a minute, Buffy, " Willow says, still standing by the fountain. She seems to be looking off into the shadows.

" Ok, don't be too long. Really like you being with me right now, " Buffy turns, and with Dawn, leaves the garden.

Willow watches the sisters leave the garden and enter the hotel lobby. She waits a moment, then turns back to where she was looking.

" Who's there?" Willow calls out. " I know someone's there." She moves further to where she thought she saw some movement. " Come out, I know you're there!"

A figure dressed in a long black duster emerges from the shadows behind her. Before Willow can move she's been captured, arm around her holding her tight, a hand clamped over her mouth. She struggles to break free, but realizes that she won't be able to break free. She stands still, very still.

" If I uncover your mouth, will you scream?" a soft male voice whispers in her ear.

Willow shakes her head.

" Promise?"

Willow nods.

" If you scream, I'll have to hit you. I don't wanna do that. Promise?" The tone lets her know that he's not kidding.

Willow, wide eyed, panicking a little, nods vigorously.

" Ok, then"

The hand drops from her mouth.

" Before I let you go, I need you to promise to help me."

" W-What do you want?" Willow tries to turn to see who it is, if she knows him, but she's held too tightly to move.

" Promise."

" I … I don't know if I can help you. How can I know if you don't tell me?" Willow's voice is a little shaky. " Please, don't hurt me."

" Not going to hurt you, moron. I just need you to do some of that mojo junk you do!"

Something's familiar here. Familiar… and weird!

" Faith?" Willow says, relaxing a little. " is that you?"

Willow finds herself pushed away. She nearly falls, but recovers. She turns around, and looks at her captor.

Faith is definitely not the same person. Even so, there is no doubt it is her… or her brother, at least. He has a heart shape face with deep dimples. His hair is unfashionably long for a man, and is tied in a ponytail. His eyes are a deep rich chocolate color, like his hair. They reflect anger and sadness. Dark circles mar the otherwise smooth skin of his face. His nose is surprisingly delicate, small and straight. His mouth is full lipped and sensual. Currently, it's turned down in a frown.

Willow is taken back a bit by the effects of the curse. She didn't see Faith after that night; evidently, the spell did more than she expected. Faith even smelled like a man. It was eerie… and fascinating. She stares at Faith, trying to see the ' girl' in the man.

" What're you staring at? Quit looking at me like I'm a freak, " Faith's tone lowers, " even if I am a freak." She sits down heavily on the bench by the fountain. She is hunched forward, her hands balled together in her lap.

" Faith, you're not a freak, " Willow says, approaching her, sitting next to her, " you're still you, even in that form."

" You're joking, right? Please, tell me you're kidding. I can't believe you really believe that."

" It's true, though, Faith. Inside you're still you, whatever the outside looks like."

" Maybe, sort of," Faith looks at her." Do you have any idea how incredibly hellish it is to think like a woman, feel like a woman, and then look in the mirror and realize you're not? Every morning, I wake up and see this stranger looking back at me out of the mirror. He's got my eyes, my hair; he sort of has my face. But I don't know who he is. It's not me, I know that. I sometimes came off sort of butch, I know that. But I'm still a girl! I mean, I like being a woman. This body makes me … I don't know. It freaks me, and I feel like a freak, because I don't like the way this body moves, or feels, or any of it. It's strange and awful, and I hate it. It smells different, I smell different. " Faith pushes herself off the bench, starting to pace. " Do you understand any of this? I don't feel like me anymore. I feel like a stranger. I used to be comfortable with myself, somewhat anyway. I used to feel good about myself. Now it's just all wrong!"

" Faith you just have to adjust to…"

" Adjust? I have to adjust?" Faith is incredulous, " Dammit, Red I don't want to adjust! I don't want to ' get used to it'. This isn't who I am. I want me back!"

" Faith it's only until you figure out why you chose this form…"

" Yeah, says you! But how can I trust you after this?" Faith gestures at herself, " For all I know you're lying to me. This might be permanent, for all I know. At least, until you reverse it. " Faith moves over to her, putting her face right into Willow's. " Change it. Make me … ME again!"

" I told you," Willow says quietly but firmly, " I didn't make you that way. You made you that way. You're subconscious chose to be a man. Don't you even want to know why?" Willow queries. Faith just glares at her. " I told you this was a curse, Faith. Its power is determined by the target. That's you. Don't you even want to know why you chose to change into a man? Why do you feel you can't be a woman anymore, Faith?"

Faith's face flushes red with anger. " I don't give a rat's patootie about that mumbo jumbo, Red. All I know is I want this over… all of it. Especially the nightmare of knowing you and Blondie. Just change me the fuck back. Lift the curse, do a rain dance, do whatever you gotta do to make me myself again!"

" No," Willow said simply.

" WHAT?" Faith almost yells. She's taken aback by Willow's calm refusal.

" I said, No, " Willow crosses her arms over her chest. Her face is set with a resolved expression.

" Why the hell not?" Faith's voice becomes measured. Her rage is barely suppressed. She walks over and stands close to Willow, almost threateningly close.

" At first, Faith, I admit. I cast the curse on you, simply to punish you for trying to hurt Buffy… again. I certainly didn't expect this" she indicates Faith's appearance, " this to happen. Don't you find it rather odd? That you chose subconsciously to become the one thing that would continue the illusion you started with Buffy? That you chose to be the one thing that Buffy wanted to see? Why?"

" Don't play Freud with me, Witch, " Faith grabs Willow, lifting her bodily off the bench. She holds her up, glaring directly into her eyes. " Either change me back , or I'm gonna…."

" What, Faith?" Willow says, defiantly. More bravely than she's feeling. Oh, crap! This one kills, remember that Will? "What're you gonna do, kill me?" Right, give her ideas. Good one, Will !

Faith's eyes go wide, stung more than she cares to admit by Willow's words. She feels anger welling up in her, and resentment. She starts to throw Willow away from her when a voice comes from behind her. Someone grabs her arm.

" Put her down. Now."


Buffy feels numb. As if her insides have been frozen.

She sits in the back row of seats set up for the memorial service in the lobby of the Hyperion Hotel. Dawn sits next to her, holding her hand and occasionally leaning over to whisper something to her, or check on her. Buffy isn't sure which, because she isn't really paying attention.

She's watching the groups of people scattered about in the other seats. In front is a group of young men, seemingly out of place at the service. They look uncomfortable in the formal clothing they wear. Among them was a blond woman, someone Buffy recognizes from the past. Anne. She seems to have and air of authority and influence over the group; most seem to defer to her. Buffy has to smile. Anne, cum Chanterelle cum Sister Sunshine seems to have made something out of herself. I've got to talk with her, catch up if there's time after.

Across the row sits a rather nerdy looking fellow wearing, of all things, a purple cape over his black suit. She thought he was just a weirdo until he turned his head and she recognizes his face from pictures she's seen. David Nabbit, billionaire software developer. Angel knew him? Next to him sits a rather skanky, in Buffy's opinion, woman wearing all black leather. Who's she? Next to her sat a young blond woman she doesn't recognize. She's crying rather intensely. Buffy sighs. She wishes she could express her own feelings so easily.

A few rows back sits a woman with rather frizzy red hair. Obviously wealthy, Buffy judges by her clothing. Again, it's someone Buffy doesn't recognize. But next to her is someone Buffy does recognize. A blond woman, with an intense expression, and ice blue eyes. Detective Kate Lockley. The officer who arrested Faith, and tried to arrest Angel when he wouldn't give up Faith. What's she doing here? Buffy wonders. Last she saw of her, Kate had a real jonesing for Angel… a jonesing to watch him turn to ashes and die. What changed? Even from here, she can see the tears being held back.

Behind them, just a row ahead of Buffy sits a middle aged couple. The woman is obviously broken up with grief. The man is trying to keep it together for her, arm around her shoulder trying to comfort her. From his description of them from one of the few times they got together after he left Sunnydale, Buffy guesses them to be the Burkles. Fred's parents. Despite the emptiness, the lack of feeling she feels, her heart goes out to them. Their grief is obvious, genuine and deeply felt.

But what surprises her most was all the people that turned out to remember Angel. She hadn't realized exactly how many people he and his group had touched , been a help to. A lot of people couldn't find seats, and are standing in back. All here to share memories of him. I wonder if he knew? Exactly how many people not only remember him, but want to share this moment? It makes the numbness she felt inside almost ache. She feels more alone, more alien than ever. She feels out of place, a fraud. Why can't I feel what they feel? Why do I just feel so empty, so hollow?

One person is conspicuously absent. Giles isn't here. I know that there was bad blood between Giles and Angel. I don't think he ever forgave him killing Jenny Calendar. Or nearly torturing him to death. Still, we all did work together at one time, for the same thing. He should be here. Buffy had queried Dawn about Giles, whether he was coming to France, or if he would meet them in L.A. Dawn had been vague and evasive. Buffy now can guess why. He's not coming. He never planned on coming. He didn't want to be here. I guess he just couldn't let some things go. Buffy's just glad that Dawn was here with her. And Willow.

Where in heck is Will, anyway? She should be here by now. Buffy looks towards the garden entrance, hoping to see Willow coming over to sit down. She feels a little guilty saving her a seat, especially when someone glares at her. But she isn't going to sit here without Willow. She looks again, but no joy. Where is she? Buffy's brow furrows, but she turns away, back towards the front.

She glances over the pictures set up around the speaker's podium up front. Angel's is set in the center, surrounded by the people she worked with. Buffy identifies some of them based upon Willow's descriptions. There's Gunn, I think that's him. And Fred. Don't know why Willow thought she was geeky. She's kind of cute, in an Audrey Hepburn sort of way. And Wes. God, look at his picture. He really changed. Kind of … rugged and … well, who would've thought it? And Spike… Hold on! Spike? What's Spike picture doing there?

" Dawn!" Buffy whispers to her sister.

" What?"

" What's going on? Why's spike picture up there with the others?"

" Huh?" Dawn looks at Buffy briefly, then upfront. " I dunno."

Something in Dawn's tone doesn't set right with Buffy.

She grows suspicious. Then irritated. Then just plain angry.

" Dawn," she nearly growls at her sister, " What's going on?"

" Nothing!" Dawn won't look at Buffy.

" Don't ' Nothing' me, Dawn, " Buffy grabs her sister's arm. " Why is Spike's picture up there with the rest?"

" I told you Buffy, I don't know!" Dawn almost shouts it at her.

The people in front of them turn and look at them. Both girls blush. Buffy stands up, pulling Dawn along with her, and hustles her away. Dawn struggles to get away, but Buffy isn't about to let her go.

Buffy notices the office door open , and guides Dawn over in that direction. Nearly pushing her into the office, Buffy follows, shutting the door behind her. She leans against the office door, arms crossed over her chest.

" Ok, Dawn, I want the truth now. What's going on? Why is Spike's picture up there along with the rest?"

" Buffy, I told you already. I don't know!"

" Dawn, you know you can't lie to me. Don't even try. You know, and I want to know. Now!"

" I can't Buffy, I promised." Dawn tries to get around Buffy, but Buffy isn't about to let her go.

" No way, Dawn. You're not leaving til I get some answers. What did you promise?"

" Buffy, please. I promised. I can't tell you!"

" Tell me what?"

" About Spike."

" WHAT ABOUT SPIKE?" Buffy yells in frustration.

"That he was alive, and working with Angel."

Buffy is stunned. She stares at Dawn, her face going white. Red dots appear on her cheeks.

" You knew this," Buffy says very quietly, " You knew Spike was alive, and you didn't tell me? What, you didn't think I'd want to know?"

" Buffy, I'm sorry…" Dawn starts to cry," I'm so sorry. But I learned by accident, and I promised I wouldn't tell you."

" Who was it, Dawn?" Buffy asks, quietly. Deceptively calm.

" Please, Buffy. Be mad at me. But … don't… " the tears are rolling down Dawn's cheeks.

" Shhh… Dawn, honey, it's ok, " Buffy comes over to Dawn, putting an arm around her. " I know it wasn't you. I just want to know who asked you to lie to me."

" Buffy, don't be mad at him, promise me. Don't," Dawn looks at her, pleading with her eyes. "He was just trying to protect you…"

Buffy's eyes seem to go flat. Her expression is tight.

" Giles?"

Dawn nods.

" What else, Dawn? Do you know anything else that Giles is ' protecting me' from?"

Dawn blurts out about Angel and the psychotic slayer, how Andrew took her from Angel, and how he told Angel that it was by Buffy's order that she not be left with Angel… that they didn't trust him anymore. None of them. Also, how Angel and Spike showed up in Italy, wanting to see Buffy, but again, Andrew ran interference… by Giles' order.

" … he didn't mean anything bad by it, Buffy. Really. He just wanted you to be safe. He didn't trust Angel, or Spike, and thought…"

" He thought. He thought he knew best for me. How… typical." There's a bitter edge to her tone." Who else Dawn? Who else knew about this? I mean, besides you and Andrew?"

" Buffy…" Dawn is trembling a little.

" Who. else?"

" Buffy," Dawn screws up her courage, " you know you don't always think things through. You act on your heart, your emotions a lot; sometimes that's a disaster. We were only trying to keep you from getting hurt…"

" Right. Because I'm too stupid to make my own decisions about my own life, right? "

" That isn't what I meant… what anyone meant, Buffy, " Dawn protests.

" Yet, somehow, I managed to get us through, after mom died. You know that was me, right? The dumb blond sister? I managed somehow to get us through…"

" 'Til you died." Dawn's voice is angry and hurt." Til you died and left me alone!"

" What was I supposed to do, Dawn? Let the world end? Let YOU die? Did you forget that? It was our blood needed to end the apocalypse. Should I have let them kill you? That's what Giles wanted to do!"

" I… I don't believe you! You died because you couldn't deal with it, with me. You…" She starts to shake again.

" I died, Dawn, because there was no choice. The world was going to be torn apart. Hell on earth, Dawn. The only way to stop it was with the blood of the key. Your blood… or mine. Ask Giles sometime. He wanted to … he was going to kill you, if need be." Buffy tone goes soft. " He didn't, because he knew I'd kill him if he tried."

" Who cares? The thing is, you died, and left me alone. Mom died, and you died, and I was alone…"

" Alone? God, I wish I were so alone sometimes! You had Giles, to take care of you, and Spike, and Willow…" a thought hits Buffy, hard. She starts toward the door. " Willow. She knew, didn't she? About Spike, and Angel, and all the rest. Didn't she?"

Dawn almost flings herself at the door, trying to stop Buffy. " Don't. Please, Buffy. She just wanted to protect you. She loves you, she didn't want to see you get hurt!"

" GOD! I wish everyone would stop protecting me out of my life!" She sees Dawn's expression. " Don't worry, I'm not going to yell at her, I just want to talk to her." Buffy opens the door. Dawn starts to follow her, but Buffy stops her. " Stay here. I need to talk to her alone."

Buffy emerges from the office. She quickly scans the crowd to see if Willow has come in. God, what did she do? Leave town? Buffy , as quietly as possible, edges around the crowd towards the garden entrance. She hears someone telling about her experience with Angel and Co. ; briefly she wonders why she doesn't stay and listen. Maybe I just need to say goodbye in my own way, alone. I can't do this right now. I've got to find out what Willow knew. Why she was hiding things about Angel. What was going on. She quietly slips out the garden entrance to the lobby.

She hears what sounds like a squeak, and looks into the garden. Someone, a man, is lifting Willow off the fountain bench, and holding her threateningly. She quickly moves to behind the man, grabbing his arm.

" Put her down. Now!"


Faith, startled by being grabbed and the voice, drops Willow back onto the fountain bench. She turns around just in time for her jaw to meet with Buffy's fist.

" Ow!" Willow cries, hitting the stone bench rather hard on her tailbone.

" Ow!" Faith cries, staggered a little by Buffy's punch.

Buffy, on the other hand, gets handed yet another shock today.

" Remy? What're you doing here? " Buffy is surprised and somewhat taken aback. " Why were you … what's going on here, anyway?"

" Uh…uh…" Willow stalls, trying to think fast. " Buffy! Surprise! We… Remy and I, well we knew you'd … well, we thought that maybe it'd be a good idea if he was here. I mean, I talked to him, and we agreed you'd need some support, so he came over too. Isn't that great?"

" Uh- huh, " Buffy isn't buying a word of that story," you can't lie to save your life, Will. Well… It thought so until maybe 5 minutes ago." She turns to 'Remy", and arches a brow. " So, what's YOUR story? Why were you attacking Willow?"

"Cher, let me explain, " Faith starts, then stops. A funny expression comes over her face. " No, fuck that. I'm done playing games. Time for the truth." She shakes her head, rubbing her jaw. " You still hit like a girl, B."

Buffy looks at 'Remy', then looks at Willow, then back to ' Remy'. She feels her anger rising again.

" You're not French! You're American!" Buffy says, realizing how stupid that sounds after it came out.

" No shit, really?"

" Who are you?" Buffy comes closer to Remy. " Why do you look so familiar to me?" She looks at Faith's face carefully.

Faith just smirks at her, and turns to Willow. " Well, Red, I think the ball's in your court now!"

Buffy's eyes go wide. It was the smirk that did it. She's seen it so often…

" FAITH?" She backs up. Stunned is too mild a word for what she feels. " Faith?" She almost whispers it.

" Bingo, Blondie. You got it on one." Faith grins. " You're a lot more observant than I give ya credit for. But then again, Red isn't exactly casting a glamour now, either…"

Buffy stands very still. The only thing moving are her eyes. They go back and forth between Faith and Willow. She frowns, and turns to Willow.

" Ok, I want an explanation, now." Her voice is quiet. Too quiet.

Faith also turns to Willow, her expression expectant.

Willow is trapped, and knows it. She looks at Buffy hopefully, but she sees not sympathy there. She quietly explains her motives to Buffy, going over everything that happened at Les Masquer when they were there, and Buffy removed Faith's mask.

" … I just didn't want to see you get hurt again, Buffy. Not after what happened in L.A. I knew you were still upset over that, and when I found out who ' Remy' was, and that she was planning on unmasking, I just used a harmless glamour to let you see what you wanted to see, " she glares at Faith, " I didn't want her to get away Scot-free with playing you again, so I cast a penance malediction on her. Like Amy used on me, remember? I just wanted her to pay for hurting you, don't you get it? I had no idea this is what would happen!" She looks at Buffy, hoping to see understand or forgiveness.

Instead she sees Buffy looking at her with tight lips, and stone cold eyes. She feels her heart sink in her chest.

"Protect me. Yeah. By lying to me, over and over, " Buffy looks at Willow, then at Faith. " From her, I kind of expect it." She waves at Faith. " She doesn't like me. I'm getting that now, finally."

" B, it's not that I don't like you…" Faith protests. Buffy puts up a hand to cut her off.

" It's ok, Faith. I understand. I haven't treated you really fair over the years. What the hell was I expecting?" Her tone turns a little harsh, " would've been nice if you'd told me the truth that first night, and not played with my feelings. Make me fall in love with you all over again, or at least, have feelings for you. Nice story you told by the way. Really iced the cake, you know? Nice." Buffy nods her head. " But it's not really you I'm angry with."

She turns on Willow. " You, I expected more from, Willow. What were you thinking? Why didn't you tell me the truth?"

" Buffy, I told you. I didn't have time. She was going to unmask, I had to do something…"

" Not about Faith, Will. Though, I'm pretty damned mad about that one, too. No, I'm talking about Angel… and Spike."

"Huh?" It's Faith's turn to be surprised.

" Why didn't you tell me that Spike was alive? Why didn't you tell me? Why didn't you let me know that both Angel and Spike had come to Italy to see me? Why didn't you tell me the truth, Willow?"

" Buffy, " Willow manages to get out, but seeing Buffy's expression, she looks down at her hands. She really doesn't have a good explanation. Not one she can share.

Faith gets it, however. It suddenly hits her like a freight train. She looks at Willow, and knows.

" No, instead, you lie to me, Willow, " Buffy turns and walks away, wanting some distance between her and Willow. " You hid it from me, to protect me, right?"

Willow doesn't look at her, she just nods.

" You don't have that right. None of you. Not Dawn, not Giles, and not you. I'm an adult, Willow, " Buffy says, feeling suddenly drained . " I have the right to love whomever I want. I have the right to make a fool out of myself. You're not my mommy, Willow. You're not my lover. And, right now? You're not even my friend."

Willow snaps her head up. " Buffy, please! I'm so sorry!" She gets up, and starts to walk over to Buffy. " Please, don't do this. Forgive me, I'm really sorry!"

" Buffy, that's harsh, really harsh!" Faith says, " there were reasons…"

" Don't you even start!" Buffy turns on Faith, " don't you start telling me how to live my life, too!"

"Fine!" Faith puts up her hands, backing off.

" I'm leaving. I think I've had enough of everything for today." She starts to walk away, then turns back. " Well, Faith, at least someone here got their wish. I won't be bothering you anymore. You should be dancing in the aisles." She turns to Willow. " I'm checking out of the hotel, and catch a flight to England. There's someone I need to see there. Then I'll be in Paris again. You can get your stuff then. Ok?"

Willow nods, not looking up.

Faith won't let it go at that. She moves over to Buffy.

" Buffy, you and Red? You've been friends for… years. Are you sure you want to throw it away over this? Can't you find it in your heart to forgive her?"

Buffy looks at Faith, and her expression isn't angry. It's sad.

" We were best friends, Faith. We shared everything. We could tell each other anything, knowing that it was safe. She's like my sister, as close to me as Dawn. But this wasn't just some small lie. Some lie you tell someone to spare their feelings. Like wearing spandex when you're way too fat for it. She took any chance I had to see Spike again away from me. Spike and Angel. She decided she knew better how I should live my life. Ok, I'm not perfect, I grant you that. But when I saw her hooking up with Kennedy, did I try to stop her from doing it? I mean, behind her back? I said I didn't like her, or trust her, but I let her have the choice. It's her life, and her choice. She took that from me. And now, it can never be fixed. It's too late. How can I trust her again? Tell me, and … never mind, just never mind."

Buffy turns, and walks back to the lobby doors. She hesitates a second, realizing her life is going to change. She opens the doors, and walks through them.

Willow sits looking at the ground. All the life seems to have been drained out of her. Faith stands, looking at her.

" So, are you ever going to tell her?" Faith asks.

" Tell her what, Faith?" Willow doesn't even seem to be listening. Not really.

" That you love her. That you're in love with her."

Willow looks up sharply at Faith.

" What're you talking about?"

" God, haven't you learned your lesson yet? It all fits together, all of it. You try to protect her from big bad me. From Spike, from Angel. Why is that, unless you love her? You don't want to see her hurt, because it hurts too much to see her hurt? When are you Sunnydale people ever going to be honest with each other?"

" What does it matter, Faith? She doesn't feel that way about me, " Willow sounds weary, " It's kind of pointless, and would only…"

" Confuse the issue? Hurt her? Didn't she just say something about her right to be hurt, if that's what she wants? But no, you guys are gonna do this merry –go –round forever, aren't you? Never just say what you feel. Just keep lying to each other, " she pauses. And sighs. " Of course, I guess it must be catching, because I haven't exactly been honest with her, either. I guess I need to take my own advice, and own up to my own feelings. Kinda being a hypocrite, huh?"

" Being a little hard on yourself, don't you think?" Willow says, still looking at the ground.

" Guess I gotta be. Who else is gonna do it?" She walks over to Willow, putting a hand on her shoulder. " Cheer up, Red. She'll get over it. She'll cool down, then you and her can go back to playing your don't ask, don't tell games again. She's not gonna throw you away… not after all this time."

Willow shakes her head. " I think this might be a deal buster, Faith. Don't think she's likely to forgive me any time soon."

" Maybe not. Maybe you've learned something though."

" Like what?"

" Maybe not to try to ' fix' everybody's life? Gotta let them just make their own mistakes, act like morons. Then be there if they need help picking up the pieces." She hesitates, then plows on. " So, Red, can you like… I know you're kind of upset, but do you think you can take this spell or curse or whatever it is off now? Kinda pointless, all considered."

" Yeah, of course. I'm really sorry. Another stupid thing I did," Willow looks up, and stops. She stares at Faith.

" Ok, I know I'm a gorgeous guy, Will, but please. You're gay, you know? Get over it!"

" Faith? I think you should go get a glance of yourself in the lobby doors."

"What're you babbling about? I know what I look like. Just fix the spell already, ok?"

" Faith? For once? Just do as I ask, ok?" Willow says. A small grin tugs at her lips.

" God, you and you're games. Sheesh." Faith throws up her hands, then walks over to the lobby doors. She looks at herself, and does a double take. Then she does a triple take.

Faith is Faith again. She's back to her cuddly, sexy female self!

" Whooo hooo!" Faith almost yells. Then she stops, and tilts her head. " Wait a minute, I'm not getting this. I thought you said this would only happen if I figured out why I changed in the first place. Not really getting it."

" I'm guessing you figured it out, Faith. Must have to do with all the being honest with oneself stuff?" Willow says, pointedly. " Maybe you finally changed back to you, because you know what you've got to do now."

"Meaning?" Faith suddenly feels she's not going to like the answer.

" I'm guessing, talk to Buffy. Tell her the truth, the whole truth, about how you feel."

" Shit, " Faith frowns, not liking it one bit. " And if I happen to skip that part?"

" Then you skip it. But I don't think you're going to like the consequences."

" You're not taking off the curse, then?"

Willow shakes her head.

Faith sighs.

" Thought not. Damn." She sighs again. " I really hate you, you know that?"

She leaves, disgusted and upset. She almost got a clean break. Almost.

" Join the club. I hear it's very popular, " Willow says to no one. She sits down, folding her hands together.

Dawn enters the garden a minute later. She finds willow sitting at the fountain, staring at the ground.

" Willow? Will? Are you coming?" She sits next to Willow. " What happened? She's really upset."

" I think right now, Dawnie, it's best if you don't hang with me. Not at least, if you want Buffy to continue talking to you. I don't think I'm on her favorites list." She sees Dawn's puzzled expression." We had a fight. A pretty bad one."

" Don't worry 'bout me. She's barely speaking to me, anyway. More grunts than anything." She puts an arm around Willow. " She'll get over it."

" Don't think so, Dawn, " Willow says, leaning against the younger woman. She starts to cry. " I really blew it this time, Dawn. I really did!"

Dawn holds Willow as she cries out her broken heart.


Buffy stands alone in the Hyperion lobby. It's later in the evening.

The others are all gone now. Most everything is gone. The only things left are the flowers and the pictures of the fallen.

She walks over to the picture of Angel, which sits center to the rest. She reaches out, and brushes her fingers over his cheek. There is a sad smile on her face.

" Well, look at you. All gone now. You, and Wesley, and the rest. All gone. No one knows what happened, not really. There are rumors that Wolfram and Hart came at you in a big way. Kind of weird, seeing how you were running one of their branch offices. How did that happen, anyway?"

" I really wish you'd called me before you did whatever it was that you did. What got you killed. I so would've liked to at least have had one last chance to hear your voice, talk to you… maybe try to talk you out of it. But I guess you thought I'd turned against you. I've been learning that certain people were telling you things that just weren't so. They told you I didn't trust you anymore, that I moved on, didn't care anymore. At least, that's what I'm hearing. It wasn't true, Angel. Really, it wasn't true. I thought you knew me better than that. Sure, we had our …ok, we fought, ok? But I never stopped caring Angel. Yeah, we weren't together anymore. We moved on. I moved on; I hope you did too. We weren't 'in love" heavy breathing can't keep our hands off each other. But that doesn't mean I didn't care. That I didn't still love you, just differently now. A little more calmly. Maybe a little more distantly. But I still cared."

" Had to go be the hero again, didn't you? You goof, why'd you do it? Oh, I know the others, they thought that Wolfram and Hart changed you, made you corrupt or something. But I know that didn't happen. I know … knew you, Angel. Better than anyone, I think. I know they couldn't get you, not that way. No, you must've done something really big to piss them off. They never found a trace of any of you. Nothing. Always with the big show, huh? Had to just stick it to them, right? Couldn't you've once, just walked away?" She shakes her head, her smile growing broad." No, that wouldn't be you then, would it? That wouldn't be the Angel I know."

Feeling suddenly weary, as if a great weight is pressing down on her, she sits down by the picture.

" You weren't supposed to die first. You know that, don't you? Neither of us was supposed to die for a long time yet. I was gonna go first, you know. I'd be in some hospital somewhere, all alone, because all my friends had died already. I'd be all wrinkly and old, tubes running every which way. Then you'd be there, still so young and pretty. You'd look down on me, and smile. And I'd see in your eyes that you still loved me. You still saw me not as some hagged out old lady, but as I was … when we met. You'd lean over, and kiss me goodbye, and then I would slip away. That's how it was supposed to go." She looks angry. She hits the picture, knocking it over. " Damn!" She scrambles up, putting it back up. " Dummy, why'd you have to go change things?"

She stands silently for awhile, just staring at his picture.

" So now what, Angel? What am I supposed to do now? I guessing you think I'm going to get all weepy and wail-y over you. Well, get over yourself, Angel. Not going to happen!" Buffy's lips tighten, her expression grows harder." I'm so mad at you, I could spit. Why'd you do it? Think it changed things? Look around, Angel. The world's still harsh and ugly and cold. Whatever you did, think it made a difference, really? It didn't… it didn't. So, what, are you special now? God no! We're just plain ordinary people, fighting against something we can't ever stop. Nothing's changed except now we've got one less fighter. So what, did you get your redemption? Are you free now? Are you happy now, that you've really gone away from me? Left me behind? You left and you never even said goodbye!"

Angry, she hits the picture again, sending it flying. She doesn't bother to go after it, she just stands there, fists clenched at her sides.

" Well, goodbye Angel. I'm not going to cry over you. Pretty much see now that you didn't want me to. So I won't!"

She starts to walk away, but then turns back, facing where the picture landed.

" I'm not going to miss you, Angel. I won't! I'm going to move on, just like we agreed, all those years ago. I'm going to be happy. I'm going to go on with my life. Without you. Get it? Don't need you! Don't need you!"

She turns her back, starting to walk away. She gets a few steps, then her knees seem to give out on her. She sits heavily on the floor, in the middle of the lobby. Angry with herself, she starts to get up, but then falls back. The emotional dam breaks, and the tears that wouldn't come, couldn't come, come. For a long while, she just sits there rocking back and forth, crying quietly. She finally regains control, and lifts herself off the floor. She walks over to where the picture is laying, and picks it up. She brings it back to where it was, rights the easel it was sitting on, and places it back in position.

"So this is goodbye, for reals. No going back, no coming back. It's really goodbye." She cocks her head to the side, tears still shimmering in her eyes. " This is what you wanted, isn't it? To finally let me go. This is your last gift to me." She leans over and kisses the picture. " Goodbye, honey. I do love you. I hope you found that peace you wanted."

She stands for a few more moments, looking at his picture. Then she turns, crossing the lobby, up the steps, and exits .


Buffy rushes around the small sitting room, putting the final touches on her packing.

God, why didn't I just do this last night? Could've been done and gone by now!

But that's not really true. Over on the settee is a pile of stuff that doesn't belong to her. It's Willow's stuff. The stuff she left here when they went to L.A. She arranged with Buffy to pick it up this morning.

Buffy looks at her watch, impatiently. Hurry your ass up, Willow. Not going to wait all day for you. If you're not here in 10 minutes, you're just going to have to fight with the landlady for your stuff.

Buffy's been back in Paris a couple of days. She made a stop off in Britain, and after a huge fight with Giles, has quit the council. She's wrapped up her affairs here in Paris, and is getting ready to return to Italy. After that she's not exactly sure what she's going to do with her life.

But the one thing she knows is, it won't include Giles, or Willow, or the Watcher's council. That's done. That part of her life is over.

And she's pretty sure that Faith is pretty much out of her life, too. That never would've worked, anyway. We never got along, so I guess this is for the best. Sure it is. That's why you've been all weepy for the last couple of days, huh?

She looks at her watch again. Dammit Will. This isn't a hotel. Out of patience, she grabs her bags, ready to leave. She goes to the door, and wriggling around a little, manages to open it. She almost runs right into Willow, who's standing in the doorway. Shaking her head, she backs up, making an impatient noise.

" Exactly how long have you been standing there, Will? I was ready to leave!"

" Couple of minutes. Sorry, I was just working up the nerve to knock, " Willow says quietly. She doesn't enter, she just stands in the doorway.

" Will, for God's sake, I won't bite your head off!" Buffy softens her tone. " Ok, we're not friends anymore, but I'll be polite, ok? Your stuff's on the settee over there." She indicates with her shoulder, since her arms are full of bags. " Try not to take too long. I've got a plane to catch."

" Thanks, Buffy." Willow moves quickly to the settee, starting to pack her belongings.

A silence descends between them. Very uncomfortable for both, since neither are used to feeling the way they feel. Finally, Buffy breaks the silence.

" Pretty crappy weather we're having, " She says, looking out the window. " looks like rain. Whoever came up with the "Springtime in Paris" crap was pretty full of it."

" uh huh"

Another silence.

" Heard you quit the council, Buffy. What're you gonna do now?"

" Dunno. I'll figure something out. Live like a civilian, I guess."


" What about you, Will?"

" Giles wants me to take Europe, now that you're leaving. I dunno, though. Not really looking forward to it. But…" She shrugs.

" Right"


" I need to say something, Buffy."

" Go ahead, Willow."

" You're not going to like it, considering how you feel. But I've got to say it."

" Just say it, Will. Don't make a production out of it!"

" Fine!"

" Fine!"

" I love you, Buffy Summers. I'm in love with you."

Long pause.

" I know, Will."

" Huh?"

" I said, I know Will."

" Yeah, I heard that. Just… how did you know?" She turns towards Buffy.

" I'm not stupid, Willow."

" I never said you were stupid!"

Buffy tilts her head.

" Ok, ok… but… how did you know?"

" I figured it out, Will. I mean, what other explanation really fits? I know you Willow, and you wouldn't hurt me, not deliberately. You wanted to protect me, because…"

" … it hurts too much to watch you hurt, Buffy, " Willow finishes. " I … hate seeing you hurt. It hurts me."

" I know. I don't like seeing you hurt either, " Buffy says, softly. " But Will, I don't…"

" I know, Buffy. Not a moron, either. I know you don't feel the same way."

" I wish I did, Willow. Somehow I figure loving you would be the best thing for me."

" Buffy, please don't. Not the " wish I loved you" speech, ok? Just … I had to tell you, be honest with you. That's what you wanted, right?"

" Yeah." Buffy moves a little towards Willow. " I do love you, you know that? I mean, just not romantically."

" I know , Buffy."

" I hate this… what we are now."

" Me too, Buffy."

" Can we stop now?"

" No."

" No?"

" Buffy, I can't be your friend anymore. I'm sorry, I'm just not strong enough to do it. Every time you fell in love with someone, I'd die all over again. Better to just break clean. We've had a good run, better than most. Best to just let it go now."

" I don't want this! I want to be friends again, " Buffy protests, " Why can't we be friends again?"

Willow can't help smiling.

" That's my Buffy. Sweet girl, not too bright."

" So, that's it? We just walk out of each others life? Forever?"

" Nothing's forever, Buffy. "

" What am I supposed to do without my best friend?"

" Live. Be happy. Find someone to love." Willow feels her lip tremble, and bites on it to keep it still. " You'll be fine, trust me."

" Yeah." Buffy doesn't sound like she believes it.

Willow hands her something. It's a folded piece of paper.

" What's this?"

" Call it a parting gift, Buffy. Maybe it'll help."

" I didn't get you anything!"

" Yes you did." Willow sees Buffy's confused expression, and explains. " I'm going back to Brazil, Buffy. I'm going to try again with Kennedy. Maybe I can make it work this time, knowing that you and me? Not going to happen. I hope so. If I can pour enough love into that relationship, then the ache I feel when I see you? Might be less. Maybe enough so that one day…" She shrugs. " like I said, nothing's forever, Buff."

Buffy opens the paper. She sees an address written on it.

" What is this?"

" Faith's address in Paris. I think you two need to talk."

Buffy studies the paper. She looks up at Willow.

" I'm gonna so miss you, Will."

" Me too, Buffy." She looks at her watch, " I better get going."

" Ok, I understand. Be careful, ok? Don't get my best friend into too much trouble."

" Goodbye, Buffy. Take care."

" Goodbye, Will. "

Willow gets to the doorway, then stops. She lowers her suitcases to the ground, and turns back.

" Aw, screw it!" she says.

Before Buffy can blink, Willow has her in a major hug.

" No tears, girl. It's gonna be fine, you'll see. I hope it works out with you and Faith."

Before Buffy can stop her, she's grabbed her cases and is gone.

Buffy sits on her suitcase, staring at the paper in her hand.


Faith rushes down the stair leading to her flat. She's a little late, and with Michel making a major stink out her being gone nearly a week, she really doesn't want to be too late.

Wish that stupid work permit would come through. Then I could tell Michel exactly which of my butt cheeks he could kiss. Faith shrugs. Ah well, at least he didn't fire my ass. Whoop on that.

Faith isn't really sure, however, if she's going to stay in Paris, now. After what happened with Buffy , she's not so sure she wants to hang here anymore. Too many bad memories. Leave it to Blondie to ruin the perfect city for me! I'm just glad I managed to convince( Ok, coerce) Willow into taking that curse off me. At least, I don't have to see her again. I wonder if Nepal would be safe? Why do I doubt it?

Faith reaches the bottom of the stairs, and glances across the street. Standing there is a diminutive figure, wearing a long coat and a wool cap. Blond hair hangs under the cap. Buffy!

Aw, crap!

Faith starts to walk down the street, away from Buffy.

" Faith! Wait. Please, I need to talk to you!" Buffy, on the opposite side of the street, runs after her.

" Go away, B. Don't have time. Get lost!"

" No!"

Faith stops dead. She turns around, hands on her hips.

" What?"

" I said, no! I won't go away, I won't get lost. If you don't talk to me now, then I'll just hang around til you do!"

" Well, hope you like hanging out on street corners. Cuz I'm not talking to you."

" Faith, c'mon. Be reasonable."

" I'm being reasonable, Buffy. I'm not coming over there and pounding you into the ground. Do you have any idea the trouble you and Red have caused me? I'm sick of the lot of you. Get lost." Faith increases her pace.

Buffy keeps up with her, across the street.

" 10 minutes, Faith. That's all I ask. 10 lousy minutes. If you want me gone then, I'll go. No arguments, nothing."

Faith stops. She considers.

" 10 minutes? After that you'll go away, and never bother me again?"

" Yes!"

" No arguments, no tears, none of that girly crap?"

" YES!"

Faith looks at her watch. " Tick tock. Times a-wasting Buffy."

" Come over here, please, Faith. Don't make me yell at you across the street!"

" You come over here!"

" It's nicer over here," Buffy says. She points at a bench." See, a place to sit, and everything!"

" Not planning on sitting, B. "

" Please, Faith?"

" Fine!"

Faith crosses the street. She sits on the bench. Buffy stands, pacing.

" 9 minutes left, B. Go for it."

" C'mon, Faith, give me a break. Reset the clock."

" Whatever. But no more deals. Just speak your piece, and let me in peace. Ok?"

Buffy nods.

" Why do you hate me, Faith?"

" I don't hate you, B. You got it wrong. I just… well, I don't like you too much."


Faith looks up at Buffy, and sees she genuinely wants to know.

" Buffy, just let it go, ok? Nothing's ever going to come of it, so just accept the fact that we're never going to be more than we are."

" I can't do that Faith. I wish I could. Believe me, I wish I didn't feel the way I did. I just lost my best friend, because she loves me. I wish I could love her back, like she wants me to. But I can't. So, I can't just go away and pretend I don't feel what I feel !"

" You're talking about Red, right?"

" You know?"

" Well, a blind Tibetan monk could see it, Buffy. Only you are so self involved, that you couldn't see it. There. There's one reason I'm not liking you so much. You're all wrapped up in Buffy. Who could like you better than you?"

" I'm trying to change, Faith. Really. "

" Well, try harder, and get back to me in a couple of years." Faith sighs. " I'm sorry, I didn't really mean that. You're not a bad person. Not really. Just… god, you bring the bad out in me, and that's another thing that bugs me."

" I'm sorry, " Buffy moves over to put her hands on Faith's shoulders. Faith moves away. Buffy puts up her hands. " Sorry."

" Buffy, let's just finish this. It's pointless to sit here playing around. Here's the deal. I don't like you, because you never gave me a chance to like you."

" Huh? I don't get it."

" Well, surprise there! Ever since I've known you, Buffy, you've treated me like some junior assistant. I've never been your equal. Not in your eyes, anyway. You've never given me any respect; never given my props for being as good a slayer as you are."

" all right, I see."

" But really, Buffy, that's not the whole deal. Not even close. You've always been competitive with me, never let me be a part of your group. Always made me like walk 2 steps behind you, or some such like that."

" That's not true!' Buffy protests.

" Buffy, it's true, and if you want to be honest with yourself, you'll admit it. But then what am I saying? That's never going to happen. Even worse? The holier than thou attitude you always had. Sure, my life was different from yours. I grew up in different circumstances. Not my fault, ok? I was doing the best I could. But you always had this " Faith is the major slut" thing going, pretty much turning all your little scoobies friends against me. Oh, and I loved how if anything went wrong, somehow it was always Faith's fault."

" I didn't say that!"

" Maybe not, but you sure didn't stop it, either! Shit, Buffy, you live like that day after day, see how you like it. It was always ' Be more like Buffy, be more like Buffy'. I had it running out my ears until I was puking . Why couldn't you once try to see my side of it? Try to be a little more like me? God, I bent over backwards trying to please you, and you did squat." Faith stands, and faces Buffy. " Look, I'm not saying you had to act like me. But at least you could've tried not to make me feel I was a mental defective because I wasn't your clone. All I wanted form you was some respect. Some acknowledgement that I was doing a good job too, in my own way. Maybe I wasn't there for every single training session, or every stupid patrol, but I was there when it counted. You weren't!"

" What are you talking about?"

" When I needed you most, Buffy, you turned your back on me. When I needed you to stick with me on Alan Finch, you were all about making me out the crazy psycho killer bitch."

" Ok, now that's just not true. I wanted to help you. I wanted to, but you ran. You joined up with Mayor Wilkins, and oh, yeah, tried to kill us all."

" Sure I did. I had to look out for my ass. Because you sure weren't. You didn't have my back. And your help? No thanks. What were my choices? Let the council deal with me, and like lock me up forever. Or go to jail, and let them lock me up forever. Swell choices, B. "

" You killed a man, Faith. What did you expect? Puppy dogs and a parade? Thing was, you didn't even try to come clean, try to take responsibility. If you had of, you would've found out you might not even have done any jail time. Giles was willing to help you, but you just turned your back on us."

" Yeah, and what about YOUR responsibility, Buffy. You were there with me. As I remember it, I staked the poor sap, but you threw him in my way to stake. Why didn't you stand up to your responsibility? Huh? You were responsible, too! But no, let Faith take the fall. That's the ticket, right?"

" That's not fair, Faith. I would've stuck by you, but you didn't even admit you'd done anything wrong. You thought you were justified in killing a human, just because you happened to be a slayer!"

"No, I didn't" Faith grows quiet.

" Oh please, you told me as much."

" It was bullshit, Buffy. I was hurting, but as usual, you didn't see it. I saw that man's eyes staring at me every night. Shit, I was lucky to sleep an hour or two at a time, with the nightmares. And after I started killing for the mayor, it just got worse. I had to kill my feelings, or …"

" You would've gone crazy? Seems you did anyway, Faith."

Faith goes silent, staring at her hands.

" I still have the dreams, Buffy, " Faith says, not really talking to her. " Not like I used to, but I still get them. I still feel the knife going in, the squishy clicky sound as it goes through flesh and hits bone. I still see the look in their eyes, the fear. I see the life draining out of them, and I still can feel the blood on my hands." She looks up at Buffy, frowning . " Why do you think I quit being a slayer, Buffy? I loved it. I wasn't like you, I loved doing it. Fighting the demons. But … I can't … I can't do it anymore. I can't take the reminders of what I did. Why do you think I want nothing to do with it, with you? Because it all just reminds me of what I did!"

Buffy puts her arm around Faith's shoulders. "It's ok, Faith. You did your time, you paid for what you did."

" No, Buffy. It doesn't work like that. I can never pay. I can never be even again. I can't ever give those people their lives back." She looks at Buffy, eyes dead. " You can't understand that. I hope you never do. Angel did. It helped knowing he did… and now he's gone. I have no one anymore who understands. No one."

" Let me try, Faith. Let me be there for you!"

Faith shrugs off her arm.

" Just go away, ok? You just bring up bad memories. God, just let me be in peace."

" Are you at peace, though, Faith? I don't think so. Let me in, ok? Let me help you. Don't shut me out."

Faith just gives her a sidelong look.

" Why didn't you ever visit me, Buffy? While I was in that hellhole of a prison? Not once, not once did you make the effort to come see me. Even once might have made a difference, Buffy. But you couldn't have cared less."

" I couldn't"

" What? Oh please! You couldn't take a few hours out of your valuable life to drive up and visit me? Oh, and you cared so much about me? Right?"

" I couldn't… because Angel asked me not to."

" Yeah, sure."

" He did. He thought that my coming there would only bring up bad memories for you. He said you needed time to heal, and that me being there? Would only make things worse."

" Mmmm hmmm"

" Ok, first few months? I really didn't want to see you…"

" Ah-hah!"

" But after that, after I had time to cool down, I did. I really did. But Angel… he wouldn't allow it."

" Oh, and you always do everything Angel tells you to. Because he's your Daddy, right?"

" No, of course not. But I thought he might know best in this case."

" Right. Because, you didn't want to come!"

" No, " Buffy lowers her head, " because I didn't want to see you like that. Knowing I should've been there too."

" Excuse me?"

" Ok, what do you want? A signed confession? You're right, Faith. I should've been there too. I was there that night, and yes, I threw Alan Finch in the way of your stake. I was an accessory. Ok? I … I let you take all the blame, but I was to blame too."

Faith scrutinizes Buffy, to see if she's being genuine. She reaches out, putting a hand on Buffy's shoulder.

" Thank you."

" Huh?"

" That's what I wanted to hear, Buffy. Thank you. " Faith turns and starts to walk away. " Now , go away!"

" Wait a minute. What?"

" Go away. Do I have to spell it for you?"

" I don't get it. Didn't we just make a breakthrough there, or something?"

" So?"

" So, can't we even talk about this?"

Buffy by this time is trotting backwards, talking to Faith.

" What's the point, Buffy? We're two completely different people, with two different lives. We don't mesh, girl. We're like oil and water. Never mix."

" Don't you even want to try?"

" Er… why?"

" Aren't you even the least bit attracted to me?"

" Oh, yeah. Short, skinny blondes? Get me all hot." Faith makes a face. " Please!"

" I'll get fatter! I'll get taller!" Buffy moves faster, trying to keep up. " I'll get fatter and taller!"

" Buffy, don't get pathetic on me. It's not attractive!"

" Faith, c'mon… be reasonable…. Whooooaaa"

Buffy doesn't see the crack in the sidewalk behind her. Her heel gets caught, and she loses her balance. She starts to fall. Faith, seeing her fall, rushes to catch her, before she hits the pavement.

"Well, that was close, " Buffy says, smiling up at Faith. " You saved me. See, you do care!"

" Don't get full of yourself, Buffy. I would've caught a falling drunk, too, " Faith stares at her. " You little cheat. You did that deliberately, didn't you?"

" No…" Buffy reaches up, wrapping her arms around Faith's neck. She kisses her. Faith briefly gives in to the kiss, then pulls away. " Now that? I did deliberately" She grins at Faith.

Faith lets her drop.

" Hey!"

" Go away, Buffy. I gotta go to work."

Buffy is back up on her feet, trotting backwards again to keep up.

" No way. You liked it. I could tell. I'm not dumb."

" Could've fooled me. Now, get lost."

" Uh-uh."

" Buffy!" Faith growls.

" No way. You liked it. You like me. Admit it. You do, I can tell."

" Not going to happen, Buffy."

" Ok, how 'bout friends. I'll settle for friends. For now, anyway."

Faith rolls her eyes.

" Ok, promise NOT to kiss me again?"

" Yes."

" Or pull any more stunts?"

" Sure"

" Ok, fine, friends. Whatever." Faith starts walking faster. " Go home, Buffy."

" Don't got one."

" What're you talking about?"

" Quit the council. Don't got a job. Hey, is Michel hiring? Think I'd look good in a tux?"

Faith groans.

" Well, if we're going to live together, I've got to pay part of the rent."

" Who the hell said anything about living together?"

" Hey, no home, remember? What? You'd let a friend sleep on the streets?"

" Works for me."

" You're evil, you know that?"

" Never claimed to be a girl scout, " Faith takes off running. " Later Buffy."

" Wait…. Wait! You can't get away!" Buffy runs after her. " I know where you live!"