The First paced angrily around the small space, although pacing may not have been the most accurate term for it left no trace in the thick dust that lay on the floor nor made a sound as it moved back and forth, returning constantly to the book that lay on top of a stone slab to read the words of the prophecy that were the source of its anger.

It had been sure it had rid itself of this prophecy years ago when the slayer had been dealt with, unfortunately not killed as had been planned but kept safely away from the other half of the prophecy nonetheless. When the slayer had eventually broken out of jail it hadn't been worried, its army was preparing to wipe the Earth clean of the contamination that was the human race, what did it matter that the slayer and the key would come into contact and have a chance to fulfil the prophecy, it was going to kill them long before they could become a threat.

Only somehow it had failed to wipe the Earth clean, Buffy and her little band of followers had found a way to defeat it's army and create an army of slayers in return, an army that was more then a match for it at the moment fuelling the First's fury.

"I am the ultimate evil how can I be defeated by a bunch of mere humans?" it shouted into the room, spitting out the last word as if it were the worst possible insult. Sometimes being incorporeal had its disadvantages, it desperately wanted to hit or preferably kill something right now.

The First glared at the few Bringers kneeling at the edge of the room. "And you're not helping, you were supposed to have rid me of this problem," the First waved a hand at the book of prophecy. "You were supposed to have killed them for me, instead they are together and enjoying each other," the First repressed a shudder; it could feel the disgusting waves of love and happiness emanating from Faith and Dawn's general direction.

It resumed its pacing, every second its appearance morphing as another human died in the world above, a symptom of its growing anger. The room it was occupying was a long forgotten tomb, one of many in the catacombs that lay underneath Rome's city streets, filled with the sweet smell of death and decay instead of the stench of life, The First couldn't understand how humans could crowd together into large cities, the smell alone would drive it insane.

"If I can't kill them I'll have to find some other way to separate them," the First said softly to itself. "They are only human after all, weak as all of their kind is weak, all I need is to find that weakness and exploit it then I can be rid of this threat once and for all."

The First stopped pacing, closed its eyes and concentrated on the two subjects of its anger, fighting back its own revulsion at the joy being experienced by both. It searched Faith and Dawn's motivations, their desires and fears, it could feel its own influence on both young women, far greater on Faith then on Dawn and tried to find how it could turn that influence to its own ends.

Finally after long hours of searching the First opened its eyes and smiled. It had discovered a weakness in the slayer it could easily exploit, all it needed now was the opportunity, then it could separate the slayer and the key and once separate pick them off at its leisure, all it needed to do was wait.

Time was one thing it had in abundance.

Dawn stood at the table reading through the same paragraph for the seventh time, trying to get into her head the information about the Galdoar demon or was it the Teudroeth demon she couldn't, for the life of her, remember. She knew Giles would be upset, she was supposed to be studying for an upcoming Watcher exam, but whenever she tried to concentrate her mind drifted off to thoughts of Faith, especially last night when Faith had used her tongue to…Dawn shivered with pleasure at that memory and then shook her head trying to clear it.

She sighed realising she had lost her place yet again and couldn't remember a single word from the page she had been reading. She had been distracted for the past few weeks, ever since her and Faith's relationship had become physical, she couldn't get the slayer out of her mind, the feel of her skin, her scent, her taste, Faith was completely intoxicating.

Dawn went back to the start of the page determined to get through at least this one chapter before calling it a day, she had managed to get halfway down the page before she felt a pair of arms wrap themselves around her waist from behind and a pair of lips press gently against her neck.

Dawn closed her eyes, relaxing into the gentle embrace and kiss. "That better be you Faith, otherwise whoever you are you're going to be in a lot of trouble."

"Damn right, can't have anyone else getting their hands on my girl," Faith said huskily.

"Maybe you should tattoo your name on my forehead," Dawn tilted her head to the side.

Faith kissed higher up the teenager's neck. "We could tattoo it above somewhere a bit more…personal," Faith let one of her hands glide down Dawn's body, ending up between her thighs.

Dawn's eyes snapped open as she grabbed Faith's wrist. "Faith, not here."

"Why not?" Faith asked as she pressed her body softly against Dawn's back.

Dawn managed to turn herself around, looking Faith directly in the eyes. "Because somebody might come in and see us, namely someone called Buffy."

Faith grinned. "Afraid she might do to me what she did to Paolo?"

"No I'm sure she would do a lot worse, probably something involving some sort of sharp, pointy object."

"Fine," Faith sighed and loosened the embrace. "After last night, well the last few nights, I'm a little worked up is all."

Dawn arched an eyebrow. "I thought what we did at night was supposed to unwork you up."

Faith shrugged. "Maybe I just need another night's worth."

"Another one?" Dawn giggled, shaking her head in amusement. "Faith you're a machine."

Faith gave her that stunning smile she was so good at. "That's me Faith 'Sex Machine' Lehane."

Dawn's giggles broke into outright laughter. "Is that what's written on your birth certificate?"

"No but it should be."

"I can't tonight but Buffy's going on a late patrol tomorrow night and the apartment will be empty, so if you want to come over tomorrow?"

"Sounds promising D, I'll be there."

"Good," Dawn nodded. "Now you really should go I need to finish reading this."

"And you can't do that with me around?" Faith asked.

"You're very distracting, especially when you're this close."

Faith pulled her in to a tighter hug. "How about this close?"

Dawn couldn't stop the smile appearing on her face. "You're not helping."

Faith sighed theatrically. "Fine I'll go," she gave Dawn a kiss that went on far longer then she had first intended.

Dawn finally pulled back. "So I'll see you tomorrow night then?" she whispered.

Faith nodded. "Wouldn't miss it for the world D," she reluctantly let her go and left.

Dawn turned back to her reading and tried to remember exactly where she was up to before being so pleasantly interrupted.

The apartment was filled with the sound of steel on steel or wood as Buffy rummaged through the weapons chest attempting to find something, the noise completely covering the sound of the television show Dawn was attempting to watch, much to her annoyance.

Dawn glanced over frowning, Buffy had spent way more time then usual getting ready for patrol, doing and re-doing things nervously almost as if she didn't want to leave.

"Buffy," Dawn shouted over the noise, Buffy looked up. "Do you mind?" Dawn gestured at the TV indicating she was trying to watch.

"Sorry Dawnie," apologised Buffy. "Have you seen my crossbow?"

"No you banned me from touching it remember?" Dawn said resentfully.

"Well patching up all those holes in the wall was costing me a fortune," Buffy returned fire. "Where the hell can it be?" she muttered frowning.

Dawn sighed. 'When was she going to leave?'

"Maybe you left it at the office?" Dawn suggested.

"Maybe," Buffy agreed, looking around the apartment as if the crossbow might be hiding in plain view. "Guess I'll do without then."

"I'm sure you'll manage," Dawn said blandly, wishing Buffy would hurry up and go Faith would be arriving soon.

"So…are you staying here tonight?" Buffy asked hesitantly.

"Yep," Dawn nodded, her attention focused on the TV.

"Faith's coming over isn't she?"

Dawn directed a look at her sister. "Yes she is," she stated firmly.

"Good, it's nice to know you'll be safe," Buffy said uncertainly, her body language suggesting she thought Dawn would be anything but.

"I will be," Dawn noticed Buffy's unease. "I'll tie something to the door to let you know if we're still busy."

Buffy shut her eyes hurriedly as she attempted to erase that last comment from her memory. "I really did not want to hear that from my little sister, from my college roommate I could deal, sibling no."

"Then if you don't want to hear it perhaps you should leave," Dawn said pointedly.

"Fine I know when I'm not wanted," said Buffy. "Just be careful OK?"

"You say that every time I'm with Faith, I would've thought you would trust her by now."

"To me Faith and trust don't go together," Buffy raised her hands quickly to stifle any objection from Dawn. "And I know, I know I should have a little faith after all she has behaved herself recently, you're just going to have to give me some more time to get used to this."

"At this rate we'll probably be married before then."

"Married!" Buffy's voice reached stratospheric levels. "Can you even do that?" she added suddenly curious.

Dawn thought for a second. "Probably not, certainly not in Italy anyway and somehow I doubt Faith is the marrying kind that's sort of my point."

Buffy gave a small nod. "Point taken, but I am trying I haven't threatened to kill her in weeks," she pointed this out as if it were a major achievement.

Dawn's face broke into a wry smile. "And I'm very proud of you, but you need to stop worrying about me and Faith she's taking good care of me, it's not like she got some and got gone."

"Good because you deserve someone who'll treat you well."

"I know, so are you going?"

"That desperate for me to leave huh?" Buffy asked, amused by her sister's pushiness.

"You can stay and watch if you want."

Buffy tried the memory wipe for the second time, without much success. "You know you are spending way too much time with Faith don't you?"

"She's an acquired taste," Dawn said mischievously.

Maybe third time lucky. "OK enough with the sexual innuendo, I told you I really don't want to hear that from my little sister."

"Then perhaps you should go," Dawn urged for the umpteenth time.

"OK, OK, I'm going," Buffy walked to the door.

"And try not to get yourself too injured we're running low on first aid supplies."

"I'll ask the forces of evil to play nice then," Buffy said dryly, opening the door to reveal Faith her hand raised to knock.

"Hey B," Faith said awkwardly, pulling her hand down quickly.

"Faith," Buffy answered just as awkward. "I'll…um leave you two alone, have fun," she added hastily and left.

"Did B say what I think she just said?" Faith asked surprised.

"She's trying to be more understanding," Dawn kissed her lightly.

"Well I can't remember the last time she threatened me," Faith said attempting to be helpful, the tension she caused between Dawn and her sister always made her feel slightly uncomfortable.

"Buffy said something similar, I told her I was very proud."

"So whatcha got planned for tonight?"

"Have you eaten yet because I was thinking of ordering a pizza."

Faith smiled. "Is there any time you're not hungry D?"

"Hey I'm still a teenager, my body's still growing," Dawn protested.

"You're barely a teenager and you better not grow any taller or otherwise I'm going to have to stand on something to kiss you, on the lips anyway."

"I wasn't saying I was growing any taller just…fuller," Dawn's hands made curving motions.

"In that case you better get eating."

"Why is my body that much of a disappointment to you?" Dawn asked archly.

"No, no," Faith said, hastily trying to back-pedal. "I like your body fine the way it is, but I wouldn't say no to a few extra curves."

"What like yours?"

Faith grinned. "Not everybody can be perfect like me D."

Dawn raised an eyebrow. "We really are going to have to do something about that ego of yours."

Faith's grin became wider. "Why? It's as perfect as the rest of me."

Dawn sighed and shook her head knowing there was no point in arguing. "I'll go order that pizza."

"Make sure it's a large one."

"Are you that hungry?"

"I'm only hungry for one thing D," Faith said, eyeing Dawn's body appreciatively. "But I want to see those curves ASAP."

Dawn blushed. "I'm sure you'll be the first one to find them," she said playfully.

"I'll be sure to be thorough when I look," Faith watched the blush creep higher on Dawn's cheeks. 'God she's so cute when she does that.'

Dawn went over to the phone to order the pizza leaving Faith to amuse herself. She slowly strolled around, absently lighting a cigarette, giving everything the once over, she hadn't had much of a look around B and Dawn's place, whenever she spent time with Dawn it was usually at her own place.

Faith saw the door to Dawn's room was slightly ajar and felt a sudden urge to investigate. She glanced over her shoulder to check Dawn was still busy on the phone before quickly slipping inside, closing the door softly behind her.

The walls of Dawn's room were painted purple, Dawn's favourite colour, with various posters of boy band members and movie heartthrobs up everywhere, a dresser was pushed up against one wall with Dawn's make-up, perfume and various other trinkets arranged neatly on top. Faith walked over and picked up one of the perfume bottles sniffing at it cautiously, the smell causing her to recoil quickly. 'Man that stuff is strong,' she thought replacing the top, she recognised the scent as something Dawn had on sometimes, though thankfully a much smaller amount. She personally wasn't much of a make-up girl, some lipstick and eyeliner were enough for her, after all it was hard to improve on perfection.

She placed the perfume back onto the dresser and drifted around the room, taking a drag from her cigarette occasionally, across from the dresser was a desk with books and papers strewn across it and a laptop, closed and turned off. For a brief second Faith thought about finding out what Dawn kept on it, a diary perhaps, but she quickly decided against it, her and computers didn't exactly get along well together she'd probably break it or cause it to crash or something.

She left the desk and walked over to the wardrobe opening it to reveal enough clothes for a small army, most of which Faith had never seen and some of which she definitely wanted to see Dawn in. She shook her head as she sorted slowly through all the clothes, how someone could own so many things was beyond her she barely had enough to fill a small bag, Dawn wardrobe couldn't be described as small and it was stuffed full. Every now and then Faith pulled something out to see how it would look on her though most of Dawn's clothes turned out to be a little too long, however some of the pants were tight enough to catch her attention.

She shot a guilty look at the still closed door, Dawn wouldn't react well if she caught her poking around in here and she probably shouldn't be doing this but her burst of curiosity had been hard not to act upon. She tidied the wardrobe quickly to cover up any indication she had been there and closed the door.

As she was about to leave, a photo on Dawn's bedside table caught her eye. The picture was one Dawn had taken of her sitting on the railing of one of the innumerable bridges in Rome while out on a date.

Faith smiled softly, she was touched Dawn had not only kept the photo but also put it in a nice frame and kept it beside her bed. She traced a finger around the frame and photo gently before replacing it on the bedside table.

She did a quick check around the room to make sure everything was in its right place before turning to leave, as she reached the door it opened suddenly and Dawn walked in.

"Faith what are you doing in here?"

"I was just looking around," Faith said, trying to appear as innocent as possible.

Dawn looked annoyed. "Well if you'd waited I would've given you the tour," her eyes narrowed when she spied the burning cigarette in Faith's hand. "Have you been smoking in here?"

Faith looked quickly down at the cigarette then shrugged uncomfortably. "I guess."

Dawn snatched it from Faith's hand and stalked angrily out of the room. "I can't believe you did that, it'll take me ages to get the smell out of my room and I bet you got ash everywhere as well."

Faith trailed slowly behind Dawn, mentally kicking herself. She knew how much her smoking bothered Dawn. "Probably, sorry D," she apologised.

"I thought you were quitting?"

"I am, it's a process," Faith said defensively. "I've cut down heaps well some anyway, I guess I wasn't thinking."

"Now there's a surprise," Dawn muttered to herself.

Faith's hackles rose when she caught Dawn's comment. "Well if I'd known you were going to act so princessly about it…" she shot back angrily.

"What!" exclaimed Dawn. "I am not acting like a princess."

"Yes you are, you should lighten up a little."

"Oh I should lighten up," shouted Dawn scornfully. "About the things that cause cancer and kill people, well I'm sorry for caring about your health."

The two women glared at each other across the room, Faith eventually broke the glare by uncomfortably turning to look at the wall. "You care about my health?" she asked curiously.

Dawn sighed exasperatedly. "Of course I do, I don't want you dying on me anytime soon," she moved over to Faith, slipping her hand into the slayer's.

Faith looked down at their linked hands, squeezing Dawn's gently. "I'm a slayer D it's kind of an occupational hazard."

"Not now," Dawn saw the look Faith gave her. "OK not as much, with all the other slayers around it's a lot safer and certainly safer then smoking," she finished pointedly.

Faith gave a wry smile at Dawn's persistence. "Fine I'll try harder to quit, if only to get you off my back."

"Good," Dawn leaned forward and lightly kissed her on the lips making a face as she pulled back. "Although you do need to use a breath mint or something to cover that smoker's breath."

Faith's eyes narrowed. "Are you always this controlling?"

"Yes," Dawn nodded. "But you need someone like that to keep an eye on you."

Faith began to argue before grudgingly realising Dawn was probably right. "Anything else about me you want to change?" she asked jokingly.

"Well now that you mention it…" Dawn said mock-seriously, breaking into a smile when she saw Faith's hurt expression. "I'm kidding Faith I like you just the way you are."

"Good because the smoking thing is going to be hard enough," Faith went to kiss Dawn, stopping when she felt Dawn's finger pressed against her lips.

"Breath mint, remember?" Dawn whispered, spinning around and walking off towards the couch leaving a stunned Faith behind her.

"And what if I don't?" Faith asked irritated.

"Then I guess you're going to be one very frustrated slayer tonight."

Faith silently weighed her options, keep her pride and no sex or give into Dawn…it wasn't really much of a contest. "I'm sure the pizza will cover it," she said confidently, sitting next to Dawn and letting her arm settle around Dawn's shoulders.

"You better hope so," Dawn answered as she flicked the TV on with the remote.

They sat watching the television in a comfortable silence, broken by the buzz of the doorbell.

"That'll be the pizza guy," Dawn jumped up to answer the door.

Faith turned the TV off and reached the table as Dawn put the pizza down, they both grabbed a piece and began eating hungrily. Faith was through the first piece and reaching for her second when she realised there was something missing.

"Want me to put on some music?" she asked around a mouth full of pizza.

Dawn answered with a nod, years of being told off by her mom for talking with her mouth full not allowing her to answer.

Faith wandered over to the stereo, wiping her hands clean of pizza sauce on her jeans, she flicked through the CD's sitting next to the stereo checking for anything that she liked, Nelly…pretty boy, Usher…even bigger pretty boy, Black Eyed Peas…gone commercial, Nickleback…boy band with guitars, Hoobastank…ugly boy band with guitars, some American Idol…not a chance in hell.

"Hey D do you have anything good over here?" she called over her shoulder.

"What do you mean," Dawn said, confused. "There's heaps of good stuff there."

"I mean decent music, with some guitars and bass you can actually hear."

"What about Maroon 5 they rock," Dawn suggested.

Faith snorted. "Yeah they're about as rock as Three Doors Down, or whatever the hell their name is."

Dawn, who was just about to suggest them, shut her mouth with a click. "Well what stuff do you like then?" she asked annoyed by Faith's dismissal of her taste in music.

"You know rock music, Queens of the Stone Age, System of a Down, Muse, Metallica, Rage Against the Machine, Guns 'n Roses stuff you can really get into."

Dawn frowned. "How can you like that stuff its just noise."

"Yeah but its good noise gets you jumping, not like that soft over-produced crap you hear in the top 40," Faith said defensively.

"I happen to like that soft over-produced crap," Dawn said edgily.

"Huh," Faith desperately tried to hold her tongue and avoid adding to the growing tension.

Dawn however wouldn't let it go. "So let me get this straight, you think I'm a spoilt little princess with a crap taste in music?"

"You're the one who said it not me," Faith snapped, instantly regretting it as soon as she said it.

Dawn stared at her speechlessly for a second before her gaze fell on the pizza,

then Faith, then the pizza again. She casually picked a piece of pineapple off the top and expertly threw it at Faith hitting her right between the eyes.

Faith stared at a smugly smiling Dawn in shock before reaching up to remove the pineapple from her forehead and return it with interest.

Things quickly degenerated from there; Dawn ducked behind the cover of the table pulling the pizza box down with her. "Hey no fair," Faith shouted. "How am I supposed to fight back?"

Dawn raised her head over the table-edge for long enough to stick her tongue out and throw something else before ducking back down.

Faith ran for cover behind the couch, she glanced at the weapons chest sitting at the end of the couch but dismissed the idea before it even formed; she needed ammunition of the edible variety.

She spied the refrigerator in the kitchen and a slow smile crossed her face, getting to the kitchen however would be a problem as it would involve dashing across open ground with no cover.

'Come on Faith you're a slayer,' she thought. 'You've got hit by a lot worse things then pieces of pizza.'

Faith took a couple of deep breaths, readying herself and then made a mad dash for the kitchen getting hit twice along the way, Faith was silently impressed with Dawn's aim, for a non-slayer she was damn good.

As Faith opened the fridge door Dawn suddenly realised what was happening. "OK Faith that is definitely not fair," Dawn called out from the relative safety of the table.

Faith replied by grabbing a handful of some kind of cake she had found in the fridge and throwing it at a small exposed area she had spotted, a direct hit made obvious by the cute squeal that came from Dawn's direction.

After a few more exchanges Dawn, who was now covered in the stuff Faith was throwing, realised she was fighting a losing battle. "Faith," she called out.

"Yeah D?" was the cautious response.

"How about a truce?"

Faith looked down at the can she had just removed from the fridge and grinned wolfishly. "Sure D why not."

Dawn rose slowly from behind the table and became instantly suspicious when she saw the grin on Faith's face. "No more throwing stuff right?" she checked.

"Absolutely," Faith promised. "No more throwing stuff."

"Good," Dawn said as she walked slowly towards Faith, allowing the slayer to wrap one arm tightly around her waist. She noticed Faith was keeping her other arm behind her back. "What are you hiding behind your back?" she asked curiously.

Faith raised her hand to reveal a can of whipped cream, Dawn's eyes widened when she saw it. "Faith you promised," Dawn protested.

"I promised not to throw anything," Faith said innocently. "I didn't say anything about spraying stuff."

She stuck the top of the can down the front of Dawn's top and pressed down on the dispensing button spraying the cold cream directly onto Dawn's warm skin. Dawn squealed and squirmed trying to get out of Faith's grasp but Faith held her firm until she had emptied most of the can, then adding the coup-de-grace, a small blob on the end of Dawn's nose.

"There now we're even," Faith said to Dawn's shocked expression before leaning

forward and gently licking the cream off Dawn's nose she then slid her mouth down onto Dawn's, the mix of the cream and Dawn's lips was the sweetest thing she had ever tasted.

Dawn moaned softly and kissed her back, wrapping her arms around Faith's neck and pressing her body close. Their lips parted for a second allowing Dawn to murmur an apology. "I'm sorry if I was acting like a princess."

"That's OK D," Faith mumbled as she kissed her way down Dawn's neck. "Allows me to be your knight in shining armour."

Dawn felt Faith tugging her insistently floorwards. "Not here Faith, what if Buffy walks in?" she said managing to put up a small amount of resistance.

"Then I guess she's going to catch sight of something really hot," Faith whispered in her ear, Dawn giggled as her resistance melted away under Faith's gentle pressure causing them to collapse together onto the floor.

Faith stroked her fingers gently through Dawn's soft hair, she could see now why Buffy used to brush Dawn's hair whenever she was feeling stressed or worried, there was something comforting about the gentle repetitive action, something soothing that made a warm, fuzzy feeling appear in Faith's stomach.

It had taken them awhile to clean up the mess the food-fight had created both in the apartment and on their bodies, mainly because the body part of the clean up had involved the use of tongues and this had delayed any other part for quite some time.

After they had both recovered from the extremely satisfying body clean up they had had just enough energy to clean up the apartment, enjoy a shared shower and collapse into bed, the previous argument and tension a thing of the past.

Faith's fingers teased out a tangle in Dawn's hair lovingly smoothing it out, she felt Dawn snuggle closer giving her a soft hug. Faith leaned down and laid a gentle kiss on the girl's forehead, as she did so she heard Dawn mumble something sleepily. "I love you Faith."

Faith's entire body froze solid, disbelieving what she had heard. Dawn hadn't said that, had she? No way Dawn could have meant it even if she had said it, no one had ever said that to her not Robin or any of her previous guys, not her alcoholic mother and certainly not her absentee father. She'd gone through life quite happily avoiding that four-letter word, though people had applied other four letter words to her, mostly uncomplimentary ones, they had never used that one.

That warm, fuzzy feeling had disappeared, swamped by a wave of panic that was threatening to overwhelm her, she gave Dawn's shoulder a quick shake attempting to wake her up but got no reaction, Faith desperately gave her a much harder more prolonged shake, Dawn stirred a little but didn't wake.

Faith took some slow, deep breaths trying to slow her racing heart and calm down but Dawn's voice whispering those three small words to her was on constant repeat in her head causing a small part of her brain to scream at her to get out, leave, run as far and as fast as she could.

Faith slipped out of bed needing room to breathe before she drowned under the wave of panic and fear, she stood watching Dawn unsure of what to do, that part of her brain was still screaming at her to run but she was torn, she could feel herself being pulled in two different directions and she didn't know what to do or in which direction to go.

After standing and watching Dawn for what felt like hours Faith finally made up her mind, she silently got dressed and quietly left. 'Maybe a quick walk around the block and a slay will help me sort things out,' Faith thought desperate for anything to help shake off the feeling of dread enveloping her.

She exited the apartment building, hunching her shoulders and setting off quickly in a random direction letting her feet do her thinking for her.

Faith tried to sort through the storm of thoughts raging inside her mind, Dawn had told her that she loved her, OK so did she love Dawn back…at the moment her thoughts were in such a mess she was unsure of her own name so figuring out that one was damn near impossible. Faith hadn't thought about the future at all, at the moment she was enjoying the present, letting things happen when they happened without much of a plan that was how she had always lived her life. Future planning wasn't a skill slayers usually needed to possess due to their distinct lack of future and that had suited her perfectly but something Dawn had said earlier that night began to ring true, things were different now, with thousands of slayers around her life expectancy had suddenly shot up, giving her a future, maybe a future she could share with Dawn…

Faith avoided that thought by looking around to see if she recognised where she was, much to her surprise she could. She was standing across from a little nondescript bar she had found when she first arrived in Rome, though it had been awhile since she had been here, between Dawn and the slaying she didn't have much time to spare.

'A drink could help me think,' she thought. 'Well maybe not, but god I need one right now.'

Her mind made up Faith pushed open the door and went in.

Faith sat at the bar staring blearily into the bottom of her glass. The one drink she had come in for had turned into two then three then…she had lost count some time ago so she wasn't quite sure how many she had had but was certain it was way too many, she really should be going, but where? Back to her place or back to Dawn?

"Faith?" someone behind her asked questioningly, Faith turned and managed to focus enough to see a tall, slim brunette walking towards her. 'Oh shit,' she thought 'Dawn's found me.'

Faith prepared herself to face the music but as the woman came closer she realised it wasn't Dawn. "Rosa?" she said uncertainly.

Rosa rewarded her with a smile. "You remember me, how sweet," she delicately sat on a stool next to Faith.

"What are you doing here?" Faith asked surprised.

"I live around here remember?"

Of course she did that was how Faith had found the bar in the first place, it was near to the motel she had been staying at. "Right guess you do," Faith nodded a little unsteadily.

"So where's your little girlfriend, Donna was it?" Rosa asked looking around the bar.

"Dawn," Faith corrected her automatically.

"Sorry," Rosa said clearly not. "Dawn, so where is she?"

Faith shrugged. "She's not here."

"Why you two have a lover's quarrel?"

Faith stared down into her empty glass, feeling guilty. "Something like that," she mumbled.

Rosa leaned close. "I could make you feel better, free of charge," she whispered her warm breath tickling Faith's ear.

Faith started to politely refuse then stopped. "Sure why not," she said something from her past taking over, pushing her to do something reckless and being well on the way to falling-down drunk didn't exactly help her self-control.

"Really?" Rosa said trying to cover her shock. "Well, good."

Faith stood up, throwing some money onto the bar then hooking her arm through Rosa's. "We going?"

"Lead the way, you know where," Rosa said still a little dazed.

They stumbled out into the street arm in arm and made their way unsteadily towards Rosa's place, Faith leaning rather heavily on Rosa's arm, neither noticed the shadow detach itself from the mouth of an alley and follow silently behind them keeping itself hidden.

Faith and Rosa reached Rosa's motel room, kissing passionately before falling through the door, the shadow watching it all silently. As the door slammed shut Buffy stepped out of the shadows staring hard at the door as if she could force it open by will alone. She had been on patrol when she had seen Faith and Rosa together and had followed them all the way from the bar to their destination, the sounds now coming out of the room left no doubt as to what they were up to.

'Faith is cheating on my sister with that whore,' Buffy thought, angry not even beginning to describe her current mood. 'How dare she.'

She somehow managed to stifle her first reaction, to knock down the door, drag Faith out and hurt her repeatedly, that wouldn't help things; well it would help her feel better but it wouldn't help Dawn.

Buffy stood thinking, wondering if she should tell her sister. She didn't take long to make up her mind, of course she should tell Dawn, although she didn't know how she was going to break it to her, it was going to crush her.

Buffy continued to stand staring at the door, unwilling to leave as that meant facing her sister that little bit sooner, but she knew if she remained here the urge to hurt Faith badly would become overwhelming so finally she turned and stalked off preparing herself to break Dawn's heart.

The apartment was silent and empty; the only noise an occasional creak from the floor or walls. The bare minimum amount of furniture remained, Faith had never really added much to the place anyway, a habit she had picked up in childhood when any personal items she had owned had been stolen or sold, usually by her mother.

Faith lay on her back on the bed staring at the ceiling; she couldn't believe how quickly her life had fallen apart, then again destroying anything good in her life had always been one of her greatest talents.

Last night she had been holding the most beautiful women in the world in her arms and life had been perfect, for once things had seemed to be going right for her. Then Dawn had told her that she loved her and she had freaked reverting back to her old behaviour, trying to smother her panic with alcohol and sex, using them as a shield to keep her from the reality of those words and what they meant.

This morning when she had woken up in Rosa's bed Faith knew she had done something monumentally stupid, she had used a lifetime's practice of sneaking out to leave before Rosa awoke and had quickly resolved never to tell Dawn what had happened that night, she could come up with an excuse to cover her absence from Dawn's bed, no one needed to know, least of all Dawn. Only someone had seen her with Rosa, and out of the all the people it could possibly have been it had to be Buffy, just her luck. She had waltzed into Buffy's apartment her excuse all prepared, to be greeted by Dawn her arms crossed across her chest, her expression stony and the hint of tears in those beautiful blue eyes.

Then had come the shouting, the accusing, the crying and finally the dumping, Dawn had broken up with her, just like that, shouting at her to leave and never come back that she didn't want to see her ever again. Faith had stood there unable to speak until Dawn had finished, then she had turned away wordlessly and left, doing what Dawn wanted this one last time.

Faith glanced at her bag sitting on the floor, her few possessions and clothes barely filling half of it, she knew she couldn't stay in Rome, as much for her sake as Dawn's, working at the council with Dawn and especially Buffy would be too awkward, and also probably a little dangerous.

She vaguely heard the knock at the door but ignored it. Unless it was Dawn, which she severely doubted, she wasn't interested. A key scraped in the lock and the door opened whether Faith wanted it to or not, she didn't bother looking up she knew instinctively who it was.

"Come to kill me B?" she asked conversationally.

"Trust me that's definitely an option Faith," Buffy said coldly. "But that would probably make Dawn feel even worse, if that's possible."

"How is she?" Faith asked softly.

"Why do you care?"

Faith almost snapped back a response, but what was the point. "I was just wondering."

Buffy stared at her for a few seconds. "When I left she was still crying in her room," when no response was forthcoming she continued. "Why did you do it Faith?"

Faith shrugged. "I don't know," and she didn't, not really, it was almost like it wasn't her last night.

"Well there's a great excuse," Buffy muttered, Faith didn't have the fight in her to answer.

Buffy saw Faith's bag lying on the floor next to the bed. "You going somewhere?"

"Yeah," Faith said, her voice sounding small, almost childlike.

"Good, where?"

Faith shrugged again. "Wherever."

Seeing Faith like this, so down the fight completely taken out of her almost made Buffy feel sorry for her. Almost. "You'll need this then," Buffy threw a small package onto the bed.

Faith looked at it suspiciously, as if it might explode. She slowly reached out and opened it, a passport and various papers fell out as well as a credit card. "What's this?" she asked curiously.

"A parting gift from the council, Giles insisted on it. He said despite everything you are still a slayer and our responsibility, so there's a passport, travel documents and papers you'll need and a credit card with a $10000 limit all in a different name, it'll be paid off monthly so try not to overspend."

Faith was pretty sure she hadn't spent ten thousand dollars throughout her entire life, let alone in a month. "Why a different name?"

"You are still a wanted fugitive Faith," Buffy explained impatiently. "So I wouldn't recommend a visit to the US, with the way airport security is these days you'll probably be picked up straight off the plane, god only knows how you got to Rome in the first place without being arrested."

"I have my ways," Faith said nonchalantly. "This is decent of you B, thanks."

"Don't thank me, I told you Giles insisted. If it was up to me you'd be leaving with the clothes on your back and that's all."

Faith studied Buffy closely, not sure whether to believe her or not. "Thank Giles for me then."

Buffy looked around the apartment, pretending not to hear. "When are you leaving?"

"My plane leaves in a couple of hours."

Buffy nodded. "What are you going to do?"

"I don't know, travel around a bit I guess," she gestured using the hand holding her new passport. "This stuff will make that a hell of a lot easier."

"Try to keep in touch on at least a semi-regular basis Faith, it would be nice to know whether you're alive or not."

"To see if you need to finish the job B?" Faith couldn't resist one last pointed remark.

"I'm not the one wanted for murder Faith, although keep this up and I might be," Buffy said angrily, turning to leave.

"Tell Dawn I'm sorry," Faith said softly.

Buffy's back stiffened. "You think that'll make things better Faith?"

Faith shook her head. "No, but she deserves an apology."

Buffy nodded, still not turning around. "She does," she walked out, closing the door quietly behind her.

Faith returned to staring at the ceiling and brooding, trying to figure out where she was going to go.

Neither slayer had seen the First standing in the corner, smiling triumphantly. It had been so easy to push Faith into her actions of last night, almost too easy. A little nudge here, some encouragement there and the slayer had ended her relationship with the key on her own with no direct intervention required, it probably should have thought of this in the first place.

The First smiled, a small somehow sinister smile, as close to happy as it could get. Humans were so weak, so easy to manipulate and Faith had been no exception, it was as easy now as it had been years ago in Sunnydale with the same result, a threat to it's plans had been eliminated and with Faith going off on her own arranging her death should be easy, the prophecy could be neutralised once and for all.

The First faded out still smiling, it was always good when things went the way they were supposed to bringing its eventual victory that little bit closer.

It had big plans for the future and especially for the slayers, everyone who opposed it were going to suffer endless pain and torment before it killed them, the future was looking full of fun.


To be continued…