Title: Surprise

Author: lilyme

Rating: PG-15 (just to be safe)

Disclaimer: The characters belong to Joss Whedon & Co. I'm just playing with them.

Feedback: Yes, please.

Note #1: The story takes place in February 2006 in Cleveland (where another Hellmouth is located, as far as we know). Faith moved there after the destruction of Sunnydale, Willow first went to live with Kennedy in Brazil, but moved to Cleveland after they had broke up at the end of 2004. Ever since Willow and Faith started to spend more and more time with each other - becoming close friends.

Note #2: This story is one tiny little snippet of a much, much larger story I'm planning about the life of Willow and Faith after the destruction of Sunnydale. I have it planned out, now I only need to find the time to write it down...

Note #3: This was simply me being totally silly one night, as you'll probably notice.

February 25th, 2006

It's not dawn yet.

A lone figure, dressed in a black leather jacket and dark blue jeans, exits a house. Their back is turned as they close the door, we can't see who it is. The person is wearing a hooded sweater under their jacket. The hood is up and tight against their face hiding their features and length of hair. They have slung a dark back pack over their right shoulder and carry a duffel bag in their left hand, which, like other hand is covered in a thin black glove.

The figure looks around to see if anyone is out; seeing no one out at this hour, they begin to walk.

They're not wandering around, but heading into one direction – they've got somewhere important to be. They cross the mostly empty streets without looking twice, the sidewalks – dimly lit by few streetlamps - still lay abandoned. Long, fast strides support their resolved appearance. It's just them and the occasional cat that crosses their path.

After walking a few blocks the figure leaves the sidewalk and safety of the streetlamps, hugs tighter against the shrubs under the cloak of darkness and shadow. Looking carefully to see if anyone has observed the approach, they make their way toward one specific house.

A quite posh looking house with big panorama windows, surrounded by a huge garden.

They slowly cross the lawn, ducking away under the large front window, but stopping short, still cowering, to look inside. The living room inside is not lit, the furniture untouched, not dust-covered though, which means that the house is not unoccupied.

The living room room, however, seems to be devoid of people momentarily.

Now they walk up to the front door. There are no lights to illuminate the exterior of the house, the figure's identity remains concealed.

They ease the large duffle bag down, careful to let the heavy objects settle so they do not make the slightest noise. They pull off their back pack, unzip it and reveal a thin, longish object that is wrapped in brown paper. All of the sudden... the "Simpsons" theme – muffled but still too loud for the person's comfort - echoes into the night.

"Shit!" the dark-clad figure mutters almost inaudibly.

They place the back pack next to the duffel bag before walking away from the house. The mysterious object still in one hand, they fumble a cell phone out of the left front pocket of their jeans. They answers it. The figure's voice is low and scratchy, it's hard to tell if it's man or woman.

"Yeah?...Oh, hi...you're where?...Heard anything from the others?...Oh, okay, good...You've got everything?...Yeah, I have it here...Everything's set up...23 Nicholson Street...Right...This is gonna be good, can't wait to see the look on her face...Okay, see ya then...3 pm...I still got some things to take care of first...Okay, bye."

They end the call and go back to where they left their belongings. The figure unwraps the top end of the objects covering and peeks inside. Obviously content with what they see there, they put the object back in its original place and feel around in the back pocket of theor jeans to retrieve...a single key.

They put the key into the lock and turn it, as fast, but also as quiet as humanly possible. Surprisingly enough the key fits perfectly. The lock opens with a snap.

The suspicious figure pushes open the door, slings the back pack over the shoulder again, picks up the bag and enters. One last look outside before they close the door.

Once inside they need only a couple of seconds to get their bearings, they seem to know their way around. The figure doesn't bother to switch on the light. They take a left turn, straight into the kitchen where they put down the large bag, but keep the back pack hanging over their shoulder.

Now they cross over to a closed door near the kitchen. They open it quietly and look inside.

The room presents itself as a bedroom. The first sun rays of this cold winter day give the room an even homier atmoshpere, a yellowish-golden glow settles over the room's most prominent feature – a very comfortable looking, gigantic bed.

The bed sheets are bunched together, one sock-covered foot is sticking out from underneath them. The foot is accompanied by an arm that dangles freely over the edge of the bed but doesn't touch the ground. A shock of red hair spills over the tan pillows and some only vaguely coherent mumbling can be heard.

The dark figure at the door smiles and closes it softly.

They move to the kitchen table and put down the back pack. Only now they pull off their gloves, rub their hands together and warm them with their breath.

They take off their leather jacket and hang it over one chair, pull down the hood of their sweater.

The figure reveals themselves to be Faith. Her dark mane is pulled up in an unruly ponytail, the brown eyes widely awake despite this early hour – maybe just because of the chilly Cleveland winter weather.

Again Faith takes the longish object out of her back pack and unwraps it. It's a single yellow rose with a red tip, already in a vase with water in it. She puts it on the table before she unpacks the rest of the back pack's content: a package of frozen croissants, some oranges, a packet with Instant Mocca and a glass of Nutella.

The dark slayer turns on the oven and looks through the cupboards to find a baking sheet to put the croissants on. After a couple of minutes of pre-heating she puts the sheet in the oven.

She gets two glasses and a knife and starts looking for a citrus fruit squeeze, not finding one, she cuts the oranges in half and squeezes them with her hands. With the help of slayer strength, squishing even the last drop out of those oranges is as easy as pie, of course.

Done with that she takes the Mocca box and reads the instructions on the back.

"Super Duper Mocca-licious", Faith scoffs as she reads this. Is it me or do they come up with sillier names every year?

1. Open the box and take the inside bags outOh, please! I would have thrown the whole

packet in a pot of milk if it wasn't for that instruction!

2. Add contents of large bag to a pot with ½ liter of milk

3. Stir

4. Microwave for one minute at 600 watts

Should be a snap. Faith thinks as she follows the instructions.

Faith walks over to the duffle and finds a tray between some indistinct plastic bags. She puts two plates, two glasses with orange juice and the glass of Nutella on it.

The microwave beeps, Faith retrieves the Mocca pot and pours its content into two mugs.

With the cocoa powder from the small bag she draws two little hearts on top of the liquid.

Now she checks the oven and sees that the croissants are ready to go. Faith gets oven mits and a basket and puts the steaming croissants on the tray one minute later.

The one missing piece on the impromptu table is the vase that holds the yellow rose with the red tip. After she puts it on the tray she opens the bedroom door again to check up on the redhead again.

She's rolled on her side by now, the mumbling has stopped, which means she isn't dreaming anymore and is probably in the waking up stage now.

Faith grabs the tray and sneaks over to the foot of the bed, surprised at herself that she didn't spill anything yet. She puts it down for a moment, walks over to the sleeping figure and crouches before her. She taps Willow's nose lightly with her finger to wake her. The redhead swats her hand away and rolls over onto her back.

But Faith - not one to give up easily – simply tries it again. This time Willow pulls the blanket over her head. Faith laughs, sits on the bed and leans over Willow, saying "Hey, Will, your mocca's gettin' cold."

The red head sits up quickly, almost head-butting Faith in the process. The blanket still covers half her head as she sqeaks "Moccas!"

"Knew that would get your attention. Good morning, birthday girl."

"You remembered!" Willow gleams and hugs Faith tightly.

"'Course I did. I would never forget an important date like that. And I've got a surprise for you," Faith anounces as she moves to the foot of the bed and shows Willow the tray.

"Breakfast in bed."

"Wow, this looks really great! I can't even remember the last time I ate breakfast in my bed."

"Move over," Faith commands, "and hold this," she hands Willow the tray so she an pull off her boots and hop into bed as well.

"That's a beautiful rose," Willow marvels as Faith rearranges the pillows so that they are more comfortable to lean on.

"Well, a beautiful rose for a...wonderful woman." Faith alters her phrasing in the last second, but Willow caught the true meaning nonetheless. "So, do you have plans for today?" Faith changes the topic.

"Hmm, not really. I wanted to take it slow."

"Hey, wasn't there that movie you wanted to see?" Faith asks as she chomps down on a croissant.

"Yeah, "The Pink Panther"!"

"Well, we could go do that," Faith replies as they both take sips on their Instant Mocca.

A few seconds later both of them pull a face – apparently not as "Moccalicious" as the box said. "And get you some real Mocca afterwards."

Willow laughs, "Sounds like a plan.

After finishing breakfast, Willow getting ready for the day...and Faith s duffle in Willow's closet unnoticed by the redhead, the two of them head out.

The "Panorama" cinema is only a few blocks away, and luckily temperatures have risen a little since Faith arrived at Willow's house two hours ago, but still California-native Willow is freezing. Faith, more adjusted to cold winters, lends Willow her gloves.

Once inside the cinema Faith buys two tickets for "The Pink Panther"; just when they are about to order some snacks, Faith's cell phone rings again.

"I'll have a big coke and popcorn. Order what you want, on me," Faith tells Willow before she moves well out of the redhead's earshot and answers the phone.

Willow wonders for a second but decides to shrug it off. Less than one minute later the brown-eyed girl is back, just in time to pay for the goods and help her friend carry.

They head into cinema hall C and find their seats – Row 10, Seats 14 and 15...although it doesn't really matter where they sit, since there are only 16 other people there, all in pairs and all seated in the last three rows. They all seem to be in their late teens and early twens. Despite it being Saturday people apparently still have better things to do than to go to the movies at 10 am.

After what felt like two hours of movie trailers and commercials, spent with amicable talking, and ignoring the guys with their portable ice cream booths that are sent in the hall during commercial break (rarely get anything sold, since the movie viewers are already loaded up with other unhealthy goods)...the movie finally starts.

The girls are pretty engrossed in the film, and both sharing their goodies, Faith nibbling on Will's tacos and slurping her 7-Up, Willow taking sips on Faith's coke and eating her popcorn in return.

About fifteen minutes before the movie is over Faith nudges Willow and looks at her with a big grin. Willow has no clue on what's going on but she can't help smiling in return.

"What?" Willow ventures.

"Uh, would you mind looking behind you for a second and telling me what you see?"

Faith asks her as she lays her arm on the back of Willow's seat.

At first the redhead doesn't know what to make of that and scrunches her eyebrows; Faith meaningfully wiggles hers in return, so Willow indeed looks behind her.

She sees...1,2,3,4,5,6...six people - three couples sitting there, equally as interested in the movie as our two friends are.

Willow turns her head questioningly to the dark-haired slayer, "Six people...Weren't there more sitting there when we came in?" she whispers.


"Where'd the rest go?"

"They...didn't go anywhere. They're still here, just following...other interests," the Slayer suppresses a giggle.

"No way! How can you possibly know that?!"

"Slayer hearing."

"Huh..." Willow replies out of lack of a better response and both watch the rest of the film in silence, both of their minds occupied with other thoughts, though, as their grinning faces tell.

When the movie ends Red and Fai are the first to grab their belongings and leave – but only due to one sole purpose: watching ten flushed faces in slightly disarranged clothes resurface from the dephts of the back rows.

Faith winks at one of the guys who smirks in return; his blonde-haired girlfriend catches the exchange and slaps him enraged. "What the heck is this!?! One minute you're all over me and in the next you're flirting with the next best girl that walks by?!"

Faith decides to not feel insulted by the "next best girl" comment; instead she takes Willow's hand and they make a run for the exits.

"You are a thing of evil, you know that?!" Willow laughs.

"Who? Me?" Faith asks innocently. "I was just having fun!"

"Yeah, fun it was," Willow agrees. "Though I doubt that they feel the same..."

Indeed, seconds later the blonde runs past them, "Forget it, Greg! I'm not listening to this junk anymore! That wasn't the first time you flirted with other girls, when I was with you!"

Greg – hair unruly and clothes still slightly askew – follows on her heels, "Oh, come on, Kelly, I didn't do anything. Besides, that chick started it!"

"Don't give me that again!"

"But...it's the truth...," still running, he turns to glare at Faith and barely manages to not run into the wall by the exit doors.

Faith makes her most convincing puppy dog eyes and turns to Willow who just shakes her head, grinning.

As they leave the building they both burst into laughs, marvelling at the fact this clichè about cinemas might be true after all – they never imagined that it would be at this early hour, though...

They find a coffee shop one block over and order two moccas to go – real moccalicious ones this time. On their way back to Willow's place they still discuss their recent discoveries.

"I still can't believe that really happened back there," Willow exclaims.

"Well, weekend, perfect time to meet up with your lovers, or non-lovers to do...stuff. And what better place to go than the cinema which is said to be pretty empty this early in the day."

"So, for how long were they at it, anyway?" Willow wants to know.

"Let's see, the two in the corner in the last row – I think they started pretty much immediately when the movie started, two others about five minutes later – the guy's name was Tom, heard that one pretty often in the last two hours, if you know what I mean...didn't catch her name, though; Greg and Kelly didn't didn't start until an hour after the movie began...can't say much about the rest of them, it started to get confusing after a while..."

"But they didn't...you know...all the way...?"

"You've done it, I think you should at least be able to say it," Faith teases Willow a little as they cross a street.

"Thank you, Xander!" Willow mocks, Faith grins and nudges her again.

"It was kinda hard to tell, I don't have a x-ray implanted in the back of my head, didn't come with the slayer package."

"Pity," Willow remarks.

"I've often thought so..." answers jokingly.

"So I guess you never made out in a cinema, then?" Willow asks her raven-haired friend.

"Nah, lots and lots of other places...library, drug store, at a football game, airplane-toilet, drive-in, mall, bathroom at a bar, post office..." Faith stops her listing, when she sees a wide-eyed redhead staring at her, "...but never there. Why, are you offering?" Faith winks.

"Who knows?" Willow replies as she opens the door to her house.

Faith nods and they both enter. Faith goes to hang her jacket over the kitchen chair again while Willow's first way leads her to her answering machine. She presses a button and seconds later a mechanical, monotonous voice informs her "beep...You have...no...new messages...beep".

Faith looks over to see a defeated Willow standing there.

"No calls, huh?" Faith questions as Willow shrugs of her winter coat and slumps down in the couch, sad-faced.


Faith feels bad for seeing her friend so depressed. "Hey, hey, I don't wanna see you wearing that sad expression on your birthday," she kneels in front of Willow and puts her hands on the redhead's knees. "I promise you that tonight all of your friends will have said 'Happy Birthday' to you. Trust me."

"Hmm, fine." Willow replies.

Faith looks at her watch – 13:20 am. "Uh, are you done with that?" Faith points to Willow's Mocca cup.


"I still have some left. Wanna have it? Sugary goodness to cheer up little redheads?"

This earns Faith a little smile as she takes the cup out of Willow's hand; she returns just seconds later with her own cup which she hands her friend.

"You know, I've been thinking," Faith starts, "there's this new club that opened just a few days ago..."

"I've read about that, I think," Willow replies.

"So, you wanna check it out? Might keep your mind off your empty AM."

"Isn't it too early to go there?"

"Believe it or not, that thing is opened 24 hours a day on weekends." Willow raises an eyebrow at her, not quite buying it. "And if there's no other people there yet at this hour – did you ever have a club all to yourself?" Faith's eyes started to twinkle like a little kid's on Christmas Day, letting Willow forget all about her initial sadness and doubts about Faith's obviously made up story.

"Okay, then, let me find something to wear," Willow is about to get up from the couch to head towards her bedroom.

"Uh-uh," Faith keeps her seated on the couch and gets up instead, "you stay right there. I'll be back in a sec."

"Okay..." Willow answers hesitantly, again wondering what the Slayer is up to.

The redhead hears Faith rummaging about in her bedroom and ordering her to close her eyes half a minute later. Willow complies and little later Faith is back in the living room.

"Okay, now, you can open then up."

Willow does so and can hardly even comprehend what she sees there. Faith is holding the most gorgeous dress Willow has ever seen: Black as night, the back is longer then the front, which comes down to Willow's knees. The straps look like silk, a shiny touch to them. The light ruffles gradually come all the way down the dress. The zipper is quietly hidden along the left side of the dress.

"My God, Faith, this is so beautiful!" Willow exclaims. "This is...I can't believe it...this...I'm all out of words."

"You're fresh out of Willow babble?" Faith ventures with a smirk.

"I guess so..." Willow shakes her head, disbelievelingly and gets up to hug Faith once more. "All I can say, is 'thank you'"

"You're welcome. Now, hop into it, I wanna see how it looks on you!" Faith's eyes are gleaming with excitement.

"I can't wait myself," Willow replies, taking the dress out of Faith's hand and walking into the bathroom.

"You need a hand?"

"Nah, I think I got it. Zipper's on the side, there should be no trouble getting in."

"If you need anything, just yell, I'll wait here. And no need to hurry, we've got time."

"Okay," Willow replies as she closes the door that connects bathroom and living room.

Faith stalks into the bedroom to see if the bathroom door there is closed as well. When her asumptions prove themselves to be correct, she goes over the the duffle and pulls out the second bag. Smiling at it she unzips it.

35 minutes later Willow is dressed and has doned her make-up and hair. She looks herself over in the mirror, still marvelling at Faith's choice of clothing for her. The dress fits perfectly, gently hugging her narrow hips, even emphasizing the slope of her breasts. Willow looks down at her feet – no shoes there yet.

As she opens the door to the living room again she tells Faith, "Okay, now I only need to find some shoes and then we can go to your place. I guess you want to put on some other...clothes..."

For the second time this day Willow seems to have lost her ability to speak – which is no wonder considering the sight in front of her.

There – right in the middle of Willow's living room – she stands: the dark-haired slayer, dressed in a tight-fit black and dark-grey pinstripe suit. The jacket is not closed, the collar of the black button-up blouse under the suit overlaps the suit's collar. The blouse's top four buttons are left open, showing off Faith's cleavage. Her mane is still wild and curly, not in a ponytail anymore. Black boots complete the outfit.

"And you never stop to surprise me..." Willow tells her. "You look gorgeous!"

"So do you, sweetie!"

Willow is suddenly reminded of her senior homecoming dance – more precisely an incident a few days before that. Formal wear. Fluke. Tingly feelings. The only difference – this doesn't feel wrong; maybe because nothing happened yet, maybe it never would, but mostly because there is nothing to feel bad about, no significant others that might get hurt by future happenings.

Faith's voice cuts through Willow's musings. "Uh, about the thing with the shoes...," she points to the couch – a pair of black patent-leather shoes with not too high heels in standing in front of it.

"You are so totally crazy, you know that?" Willow says, moving to the couch

"Thank you!"

"In a good way I mean, of course," Willow hastes to add.

"I got it, but thanks for clearing that up, anyway," Faith laughs, "Now, sit down, let's see if they fit."

Willow complies and Faith gets down on one knee to help the redhead into her shoes.

As Faith puts on the right shoe, Willow thinks "You know, I kinda feel like I'm Cinderella - and you're my prince."

Faith laughs at the reference. "Well, you're in luck, then, Cindy, your shoes fit perfectly," she replies as she puts the other one on as well, "otherwise I might have had to ask Mrs. Henry from next door to go to the ball with me."

Willow smiles.

"And I've got something else for my Lady," Faith produces a necklace out of her right pocket.

A silver necklace with a single diamond pendant.

"Oh, no, Faith, you're spoiling me to no end," Willow shakes her head.

"You deserve it. Come on, I want to see how it looks on you." Faith takes Willow's hand and leads her to the nearest mirror. Willow pulls up her hair to give Faith an easier access to her neck. Faith closes the necklace with ease. She puts her hands on Willow's shoulders. "Now you look even more than perfect."

Outside they hear a noise. "And this – I believe our 'chaise' is honking." Faith helps Willow into her winter coat.


Faith pulls on her own jacket and they head out to the waiting cab. Faith holds the door open for Willow and glides into the backseat after her. The cab driver greets them with a tip to his basecap. "Good afternoon. So, where do you wanna go?" he asks.

"23 Nicholson Street," Faith answers.

"Okay," the driver says and pulls out onto the street. The most part of the four minutes drive is silent, the cabbie looks into the rear mirror occasionally, surveing his carriage

"You two beautiful ladies have something special planned?" he asks finally.

"Yeah, apparantly we're going to a night club," Willow replies, winking at Faith.

"This early in the day?"

"Oh, look, we're here!" Faith exclaims. "Well, thanks for the drive, cab!" She hands him 10 dollars. "Keep the change," In less than three seconds the Slayer is out of the cab and half dragging the grinning redhead along.

"Will do," he replies. "Have fun in your...night club," he calls to Willow and Faith's retreating backs.

Faith shoves her hands into her pocket, Willow links arms with Faith. „See, he didn't really believe that," she grins.

Faith shrugs, "Whatever," and looks at her watch. 3.02 pm.

As they approach the club, Willow notices that it is still dark in there. "Um, are you sure that they're already open?"

"I am. Just try the door and see for yourself," Faith replies as they near the entrance.

Willow tentatively reaches out her hand and opens the door without any problems. It's still dark as they enter, Willow can't see a single thing. Faith takes off Willow's coat and motions her towards a dark red curtain.

"Through there."

"Um, okay," Willow goes there as Faith puts their clothes away.

Suddenly all the lights go on and about 50 heads appear from behind tables, pillars and bar counters, among them the very familiar faces of Buffy, Xander, Dawn, Kennedy, Giles and some girls and watchers from Cleveland Slayer Central. Party music starts playing in the background. A big sparkly banner between two pillars reads "Happy 24th birthday, Willster!!!"

"Surprise!!!" they blurt all together.

Willow is startled at first and takes a step back, bumping right into Faith. "Whoops, hold on there, you don't wanna leave now, do you?"

Willow embraces Faith in an almost bone-crushing hug; well, bone-crushing if Faith weren't a slayer, her eyes are starting to well up. "Thank you!"

Faith sees Willow's glistening eyes, almost briming over with tears of joy. "I just hope your make-up's waterproof," she remarks as she puts her hands on Willow's cheeks. "Okay, let's get moving, there's some people who're just dying to see you again!"

And indeed – squeaky as ever, Dawn comes running their way right this second, dragging an apparently a little jet-lagged Buffy along with her. Just the language seems to be slightly different.

"Willow, Faith! Come siete due? Mia dio, tipi osservate così impressionante! Desidero che potrei portare un vestito come quello! Che vestiti voi più meglio di tutto il tipo su questa terra!"

The not-a-teenager-anymore looks them both over in excitement, Willow and Faith are staring at her as if she had suddenly grown a second head.

"L'OH e buon compleanno, Willow! Dio, li ho mancati così tanto, persino voi, Faith!"

Dawn hugs her Willow and a slightly startled Faith, who hadn't expected this show of affection from Buffy's younger sister.

"O dovrei dico „Salice" e „Fede"? Che sono „Alba" in italiano, a proposito. L'alesaggio del „Buffy", è semplicemente „Buffy", nessun cambiamento là. Ma amo che si può tradurre i nostri nomi. Siamo così speciali!"

She gestures wildly with her hands, occasionally pointing in Buffy's direction with a little roll of her eyes.

She whispers conspiciously in Willow and Faith's direction: "Ma posso orinare sempre Buffy fuori pronunciando il suo nome in un senso divertente, voi so, il senso italiano! "Mmbááfi", sapete?"2

Willow and Faith raise their eyebrows in unison.

"In ogni modo, ciao!" A little wave of her hand.

You can hear the seconds ticking away as the two women try to get their heads around the meaning of Dawn's words.

"Um...," Faith turns to Willow, "am I the only one that didn't understand that?" she whispers.

"I feel as dumb as you feel, but some of that might have been..."Happy Birthday"...?" the redhead replies, still staring at Dawn.

They simultaneously turn their eyes Buffy's way, hoping for some clarification. "Don't look at me. She keeps throwing Italian at me since we moved to Rome three years ago. I don't even understand half of it. But I think part of this was an insult – directed to me!" Buffy pushed Dawn slightly and the younger girl grins. "Now, my turn," Buffy embraces her redheaded friend, "Happy Birthday, Will!"

"Thanks," Willow says, as they disentangle.

The greeting between Buffy and Faith is slightly more awkward. First they're just shaking hands before Buffy gives up her reservations and hugs Faith – a short hug, but still. "Faith, it's good to see you again."

"Same here, B. Buffy"

Kennedy is next in line. She approaches Willow slowly, her face blank, arms folded behind her back. She looks up at the taller girl and...her face explodes into a giant grin.

"Salgueirita, feliz aniversario! Fé, hi!" she hugs Willow tightly and gives Faith a slap on the arm. "Assim bom vê-lo outra vez dois!2"

"I hope they don't keep doing that..." Faith remarks.

"But at least I'm sure that "feliz aniversario" means "Happy Birthday"..." Willow says, grinning.

Xander, holding at least ten to fifteen brightly colored balloons in his right hand, shoves Kennedy aside gently, wanting to see his best friend since kindergarden up close.

Willow and Faith are slightly afraid of what will come out of Xander's mouth in a couple of seconds.

"Ah, don't worry, I don't speak Cape Town-ese."

"Oh, thank God," Fai and Will reply simultaneously.

"Happy Birthday, my little Willster!" he says, shoving the balloons into Faith's hand so he can embrace his Willow. "And, Faith, hi," releasing Willow he grabs the slayer's hand in a manly shake, "you really need to give me the number of your tailor," he remarks looking down at her.

"Glad you like it," Faith replies.

"I helped her to pick it out! And Willow's dress as well!" Dawn gleams.

"And you brought me flowers," Willow grins at Xander, indicating the balloons in Faith's hand.

"Yes, of course, flowers for me lady!"

"Okay," Faith reacts, not understanding what goes on there, "I'm just gonna go over there and tie your...flowers...to...something," she looks the balloons up and down and heads over to an area hidden by another curtain.

Willow gets her "Happy Birthday" greetings from Giles, while Faith ties the "flowers" to a nearby pillar and wanders through the crowd of people afterwards, occasionally waving at faces she recognises.

"Cake time!" a high, but probably masculine shouts and seconds later Andrew appears, indeed carrying a large cake – chocolate with strawberry-vanilla icing. "Happy Birthday" is written on it, 24 candles form the letters "WILL".

Faith inspects Andrew thoroughly. His blonde hair is longer now, curly and not covered in gel. "Hey, Frodo!"

As he puts the cake down on the table near the "flowers", his face lightens up. "Oh, my God, you recognized it! I let it grow to look exactly like Elijah Wood in "Lord of the Rings", but nobody ever commented on it. You're so cool! Hey, you know what, I have the "Lord of the Rings" collector's edition! With five hours of extras! Now, if we were living near each other I would invite you over and...we could..."

He didn't get a chance to finish his sentence, Faith patted his shoulder "Good to see you again, Andrew, wish I could stay and chat, but...I...can't," Faith ends lamely, retreating quickly and regretting that she even dared to make the Frodo-reference.

"Willow, blow out the candles!" Andrew yells over to where Willow and the rest of the Scoobies are talking amicably; especially Willow and Dawn seem to be awfully chatty – apparently Dawn still knows her mother tongue, or Willow learned Italian within two minutes, Faith thought.

As they come over, Willow notices Andrew's new hair cut as well. "Hello, Fro..."

"...Oookay," Faith stops her quickly, "blow 'em out!"

Willow does so and gets them all at once, which earns her the respect of her audience.

"Very impressive," Buffy remarks.

"Thanks, I work out."

Half an hour later, only a few crumbs are left from the cake. Two tables over presents are opened at the moment. You can already see several items of clothing, knick-knacks and other things. Dawn shoves a carton, wrapped in red and black paper her way.

"Don't worry, it's not gonna explode. I checked it before we left Rome," Buffy encourages her red-headed friend. Dawn glares at her.

Willow unpacks the carton and finds...a stuffed animal. No, 'animal's' the wrong word...stuffed food item?...what are you supposed to call a...hamburger in plush with a face on top!

"Uh, thank you, Dawn, that's really cute."

"I know! Those big eyes and that snub nose, and it's even sticking out its tongue to you!" Dawn gleams with joy.

Willow is not yet sure, if she loves her new..."cuddle bun?"...or not.

"At least it's 100 kosher..." Kennedy supplies a helpful thought.

"Yes, can't forget that," Willow snaps out of her flummoxed state, regarding her present. "Thank you, Dawnie," she hugs her again.

"Don't worry, you'll get your real present tomorrow," Dawn soothes her.

"Oh, thank God! I mean, not that I not like it, but..."

"I know what you mean, it just seemed so cute when I bought it."

"And it's appreciated. Okay, so how do we name it?"

A lot of "Hmm's" can be heard amongst the people.

"Hamphrey Burgert?!" Faith blurts, gaining some raised eye brows, and shrugs.

"Have you seen Faith?" Willow asks Andrew about forty minutes later.

"No, I haven't. I wanted to tell her about the bloopers I discovered after watching "The two towers" for the twentieth time, but she..."

"That's great, Andrew. I gotta go," Willow hurries away, suddenly wondering if Faith disappeared because she wouldn't want to put up with Andrew any longer.

Kennedy takes her arm, "Hey. And before you ask, no, I haven't seen Faith in the last thirty minutes. Last time I saw her she was talking to Giles, she didn't seem too happy. I don't know where she went afterwards."

"Giles?" Willow asks concerned.

"Now, come on, you worry too much." Kennedy takes her hand. "I'm sure it's nothing. She'll reappear sooner than you think."

"Yeah, you're probably right."

Seconds later the music stops and the curtain ten feet away from them opens to reveal a small stage. To Willow's surprise she finds two all too familiar people sitting there, on stools and holding accoustic guitars in their hands. Faith and Oz. Two microphones are standing before them. A sqeaker of joy escapes Willow as she sees her ex-boyfriend again. He waves at her and smiles.

Faith speaks: "As you guys probably know, I'm not that good with words. But still I wanted to say something, something that is really important to me...I am not an easy person to hang out with. Some things I do, some things I say are not easy to digest, I know that.

Over the last year I got to know one person, I actually know her since I came to Sunnydale over seven years ago, and we probably had more down's than up's together. But she willingly spent time with me, put up with my problems, helped me through it all. I dedicate the following song to the most important person in my life – Thank you, Willow. And if you ever have problems, you know where to find me."

Willow nods, her eyes start to well up already.

"And thanks, Oz, for supporting me."

Faith starts to play the intro, Oz accompanies her, the lights are dimmed. Although there are about 50 to 60 people in the club, it's just the two of them at this very moment. Willow and Faith, Red and Fai, the Witch and the Slayer. Two people, so different, but so alike at the same time. And one song, describing their feelings for each other better than anything else ever could.

Prison gates won't open up for me
On these hands and knees I'm crawlin'
Oh, I reach for you
Well I'm terrified of these four walls
These iron bars can't hold my soul in
All I need is you
Come please I'm callin'
And oh I scream for you
Hurry I'm fallin', I'm fallin'

Show me what it's like
To be the last one standing
And teach me wrong from right
And I'll show you what I can be
Say it for me
Say it to me
And I'll leave this life behind me
Say it if it's worth saving me

Heaven's gates won't open up for me
With these broken wings I'm fallin'
And all I see is you
These city walls ain't got no love for me
I'm on the ledge of the eighteenth story
And oh I scream for you
Come please I'm callin'
And all I need from you
Hurry I'm fallin', I'm fallin'

Show me what it's like
To be the last one standing
And teach me wrong from right
And I'll show you what I can be
Say it for me
Say it to me
And I'll leave this life behind me
Say it if it's worth saving me

Hurry I'm fallin'

Faith looks at Willow, who is leaning into Xander for support, her best friend has drawn his big strong arms around her. Happy tears roll down the redhead's cheeks. On their left are Buffy and Dawn, the blonde slayer marvelling at the dark-haired girl's voice, her little sister alternating between watching Willow and Faith, not wanting to miss one second of this magic moment.

Upon seeing Willow's reaction, tears start to form in the slayer's eyes as well. Her voice struggles through the last section of the song, on the verge of breaking.

All I need is you
Come please I'm callin'
And oh, I scream for you
Hurry I'm fallin', I'm fallin', I'm fallin'

Show me what it's like
To be the last one standing
And teach me wrong from right
And I'll show you what I can be
Say it for me
Say it to me
And I'll leave this life behind me
Say it if it's worth saving me

Hurry I'm fallin'

The song ends and Faith pats Oz's shoulder in gratitude before she hands him her guitar and jumps down the stage to get to her Willow, the redhead is already approaching her.

Willow embraces Faith in a tight hug and sobs into her dark curls, Faith soothes her, combing her the red hair with her fingers. She lets her own tears run freely, not bothering to wipe them off.

The redhead pulls away, just enough to be able to look at Faith's face, but not releasing her fully. "I think I will never be albe to repay you."

"Ah, no need to. That you're here with me is all I need," Faith replies, trying to wipe Willow's tears away with her fingers.

"Giles?" Buffy ventures and the watcher reacts instantly, goes over to the hugging couple and hands Faith his handkerchief. Faith thanks him with a smile and softly dabs Willow's tears away.

"Now you look presentable again – there's someone who's dying to see you again," Faith points to Oz, who is standing three feet away.

Willow goes over to the next pair of open arms, leaving a happy Faith to dry her own tears with Giles' hanky. She wants to give it back to the man afterwards but he reclines with a shake of his head and a smile. "No, no, keep it." He pats her shoulder and smiles.

Willow and Oz are dancing to a slow song, Faith and Xander are doing the same maybe fifteen feet away. Buffy, Kennedy and Dawn are sitting at the bar, nursing their drinks.

Giles has said his goodbye's earlier because he has an important appointment in London the next day that couldn't be delayed. He took his watcher trainee Andrew with him; the blonde locked man was a little disappointed that he couldn't discuss the mysteries of the sci fi world any further, but there was no point in arguing with Giles.


"So everything's cool with your new band?" Willow asks her long-ago boyfriend.

"Yeah, we just got a record deal last month."

"This is so great. I would love to hear you guys play some time."

"I think that can be arranged. We found the perfect lead singer four months ago, and it all went through the roof from there on," Oz smiles...well, smiles as much as his still cool demeanor allows. Willow – master in Oz studies – recongzises it nonetheless.

"It sounds like there is more to it..." she grins, "tell me about her."

"Her name is Annie, she's 25 and she's just...great. We've been seing each other since New Year."

"It sounds like you're happy."

"I am," the redheaded man agrees, "but I guess you're not too bad off yourself."

"Yeah, I guess not," Willow smiles, looking at Faith, who laughs at something funny Xander just said, "I can't even explain what happened in the last couple of months, but it feels just right, you know?"

"I can relate," he agrees.


"You're such a goof, you know that?" Faith laughs at Xander's last comment.

"I just meant that things can get a little sexy when a handsome young guy...or girl in a tux lays eyes on a beautiful girl in an absolutely gorgeous dress for the first time," he almost blushes. "Remember that homecoming dance?"

Faith's eyes go wide. "Now I understand why you two acted so weird that nigth!...Well, weirder than usual, anyway...," she corrects.

"Hey!" he feigns a stern look.

"Not sorry," Faith grins. "But you didn't get to the down and dirty part, right?"

"Oh, no no no no no!"

"Figured. You were so terribly innocent when I dragged you into my motel room." Faith falters and looks down at the ground for a second, "um, I'm sorry anout that, by the way. I didn't treat you really nice back then...and also that other night..."

Xander puts his finger under her chin, forces her to look up into his eye "Hey, hey, it's okay, no hard feelings. I'm not someone who hates...except when it comes to certain room-temperatured guys; if I was I would have to hate 80 of my friends."

Faith nods. "It's nice to be forgiven."

"You deserve it," he reassures her. "And I think you're really great for Will. You really care about each other, huh?"

"I do. Now, I can't read her mind, but..."

"She does, too. Trust me. I know her since we were babies, I can see it, when she feels something for somebody."


Buffy has braced her elbow on the table, her chin resting in her hand. "She has a great voice," she remarks, looking over at Faith.

"You said that ten times already," Dawn nudges her.

"But she's right," Kennedy agrees with Buffy, a rare happening in itself. "But you know know what suprises me?" Dawn shakes her head and Buffy sips her drink absentmindedly.

"Never thought that Faith would bat for the home team. Did you see her act flirty with other girls before."

Buffy almost spits out her drink and coughs, trying to swallow it down. Dawn smiles.

Kennedy raises an eyebrow at Buffy, who's turning redder and redder, and slaps her on the back. "Is there something you want to tell us about?"

Buffy is lost in her thoughts for a second:

"Well, screw him, alright? You move on, and... you party heavily," she smiles as Buffy takes a sip from her water bottle, "and you'll be fine. I mean, you're still going to that dance, right?"

Buffy smiles shortly, "Maybe".

"You got the tix already. Why don't we go together?"

Buffy feels uncomfortable with this suggestion. Did she just ask me out on a date?! "I don't know about that." The blonde slayer declines.

"You're a liar. I've seen you. Tell me staking a vamp doesn't get you a little bit juiced. Come on, say it." Faith demands from Buffy. She stops and folds her arms, waiting for Buffy's answer.

Buffy can't help but smile, and looks down to hide it.

Faith laughs, "You can't fool me. The look in your eyes right after a kill? You just get hungry for more."

"You're way off base."

Buffy opens the test booklet, but is interrupted, along with the rest of the class, by Faith rapping on the window pane trying to get Buffy's attention. Faith lifts the sash and leans in.

"Hey, girlfriend. Bad time?"

She leans over to the next window, wipes the dust from it with her sleeve, exhales to fog it and uses her index fingers to draw a heart with a stake through it. She looks at Buffy, smiles and bounces her eyebrows. Buffy considers for only a moment before deciding to blow off the test. She slides down from her lab stool and heads for the window. Willow and Xander are shocked.

"No, sh-she can't!" Willow exclaims.

Faith smiles and leans back in to wait for her partner.

"Y-you can't! Can you?" Willow can't believe what she sees.

Buffy ignores her and climbs out of the window. Faith lowers the sash after Buffy has climbed out. Willow can't believe what just happened.

Buffy comes out of her musings. "Nope." she replies, still coughing.

The Party comes slowly to its end. Most of the guests have left already, Willow is saying goodbye to Oz at the moment.

"...and don't you dare not writing me! What else do you have an e-mail account for!" she shoves Oz lightly.

"Okay, okay!" Oz pacifies her and gives her a kiss on the forehead. He goes over to Faith and shakes her hand. "And if you ever want to start a musical career, you know where to find us."

Faith laughs, "Sounds tempting. Maybe I'll take you up on that."

"Bye, guys" he says, before heads out to his van, his trusty old van, painted in dark grey now.

"So, see ya tomorrow, then. We'll come to your place?" Xander asks Willow.

"Yeah, sure! I can't wait!" Willow replies delighted about the surprise that is waiting for her tomorrow.

"See ya!" Buffy and Kennedy call simultaneously from the door.

Dawn unties the balloons from the pillar and hands those and "Hamphrey Burgert" to Willow. "Here, don't forget your flowers."

"Oh, yeah, thanks. See you tomorrow," she calls to her foursome of friends, who are heading towards their hotel.

"Bye, guys," Faith says.

Willow links arms with Faith again. „So, what are we gonna do now?" she asks as they head out into the cool Cleveland night, where their cab awaits them already.

"I don't know about you, but I'm kinda sleepy," Faith replies.

They get into the cab, the same driver who greeted them eight hours ago, is sitting behind he wheel. "Oh, hey, it's the gorgeous ladies again! You're headed home?"

Willow and Faith nod and the driver pulls away from the curb. Willow takes Faith's hand and smiles at her.

The driver sees the balloons in their clenched hands. "Nice balloons."

Both their heads snap in his direction, they don't know which balloons he is talking at first. Then Faith remembers those brightly colored things in her hand. "They're called 'flowers', now," she winks at him conspicously, Willow giggles.

"Oookay," the driver replies, suddenly wondering about the alcohol level of his passengers. The cab pulls into Willow's street. This time Willow pays him, keeps her hold on Faith's hand and leads her to her house.

She hands Faith "Hamphrey Burgert" so she can open the door. "Come in," Willow says to her dark-haired friend. Faith does so a little apprehensive.

Inside Willow takes off her coat and takes the items of out of Faith's hands, goes into her bedroom where she places the plush hamburger on her bed and ties the balloons to her doorknob.

Faith is standing stock still in the living room, unsure of what is about to happen. Willow comes in and helps Faith out of her jacket, puts it down on the couch. The Slayer looks so small all of the sudden, like a little child on the first day of school, where all is new and exciting, but at the same time a little scary. Faith doesn't even notice Willow turning on the her stereo, putting on a slow song.

Willow takes Faith's arms and draws them behind her own back, so that the Slayer is embracing her. Then she puts her own arms on Faith's shoulders, intertwining her finger's behind her neck. "We didn't have a chance to dance tonight."

Faith looks at her, searching her eyes for clues on what is happening. Willow smiles at her anxious Slayer, "Are you okay?"

"Uh, yeah," Faith replies, "I guess."

"Faith. I wanted to thank you. For today, you did so much for me today, I can hardly believe that all this happened in one single day. And it's not just today. You are there for me whenever I need you. You are such an amazing person."

Tears have started to roll down Willow's cheeks, Faith smiles and uses her right hand to wipe them away. The red-haired girl takes the younger girl's hand and kisses it softly. Faith's breath catches in her throat.

As Willow then puts the Slayer's hand over her heart, it's almost too much for Faith to handle. Now it's her turn to start crying. Willow uses her other hand to cup Faith's cheek and leans over and kisses the tears away. She doesn't stop when the stream of tears ends, instead she lets go of Faith's hand that is still places over her heart, puts her hand on the other side of Faith's face, drawing it towards her.

Their lips meet in a slow, sensuous kiss. This is it. Their first real kiss. Softer than Willow thought that Faith could kiss, softer than Faith has ever been kissed before. The Slayer opens her mouth and allows Willow tongue to taste her. Breath-mints mingled with the distinct taste of Faith's favorite Coke and Beer mix. The redhead herself tastes like strawberry and vanilla, Faith notices Willow puts her hand behind Faith's head, Faith pulls her closer as well. They kiss like that for a long time, exploring this new stage her their relationship.

Eventually Faith pulls away and puts her forehead against Willow's, caressing her cheeks with her thumbs. "This is nice," Faith states the obvious.

"Yeah," Willow agrees, kissing Faith again shortly.

Faith look to the wall, to the big clock hanging there. 1:20, it states. "I hate to say this, but it's late. We should get some sleep, who knows what the guys have planned tomorrow...today, I mean."

"Yeah, I guess," Willow replies.

"So I should probably..." Faith disentangles herself from Willow and goes to the couch, intending to retrieve her jacket.

Willow takes her hand. "No, please,..." Faith turns around. "...stay with me," Willow pleads with her eyes.

"Okay," Faith smiles, "I'd like that."

Ten minutes later they've changed into their night clothes. Willow is wearing red and white PJs, Faith grey boxers and a blue shirt. They are both laying on their right side, Faith has snuggled up to Willow from behind, her hand is resting on Willow's tummy, and it looks as if the Slayer is fast asleep already. Willow takes Faith's hand plays with her fingers, watching the shadow play of their hands on the far wall, the moon shine is illuminating the room in a soft blue.

"What are you doing?" Sleepy Faith mumbles into the red curls, her eyes still closed.

Willow laughs, "Nothing. Just playing with your hand."

"Mmokay, then, carry on," the Slayer replies, kisses her neck and is asleep seconds later.

Willow follows her into the land of dreams soon after, keeping hold on Faith's hand that is lying on her belly again. The soft music in the living room slowly comes to an end.

That's how Buffy, Xander, Dawn and Kennedy find them the next morning. Apparently Faith has lent them her key to Willow's house; they have let themselves in and are now standing maybe four feet away from Willow's giant bed, watching Willow and Faith sleep peacefully.

The bedsheets are pulled down, only covering their legs, Faith snores slightly while Willow is mumbling something about flowers on strings flying through the air.

"Why aren't I surprised by this?" Buffy asks, smiling over their affectionate behaviour.

"Because you're not as dumb as you pretend to be..." is Xander's not very helpful suggestion.

"Hey!" Buffy punches him on the arm, hard.

Xander laughs...until the pain, caused by Buffy's blow, kicks in. "Ow!" he hisses, clutching his arm.

"I wish I had a camera." Dawn comments.

Kennedy opens her bag, that she is conveniently carrying, and hands her hers. Dawn gleams at her. Ten pictures later, taken from various angles and distances, Dawn is finally satisfied. She gives Kennedy her camera back and the quartet walks into the living room, closes the door and waits for the two sleepyheads to wake up.

In the bedroom Willow smirks and opens one eye, "Are they gone?"

"Yep," a yawning Faith replies, "now they're sitting on your couch, pretending not to have spied on us."

Smiling Willow turns in Faith arms, faces her, "Morning."

"Morning," the Slayer replies, brushing a lock of hair out of Willow's eyes.

"Did you sleep well?"

"The best sleep I had in a good long while," Faith smiles.

"Same here," Willow agrees and kisses her.

20 minutes later Xander is loading up his five female friends in a rented minibus. Willow is wearing a red sweater and black pants, Faith her jeans and dark sweater from yesterday. It is significantly warmer than yesterday, the sun is shining

Faith has asked Xander to stop by her house for a minute so that she can put on some fresh clothes as well. "As long as your fridge is full, I'm cool with everything," he replied.

As they jump out of the bus and over the lawn to Faith's house, Willow notices Faith's neighbor. The friendly 72-year old lady is clipping her hedge momentarily.

"Hello, Mrs. Henry!" she waves.

"Oh, hello, my dear! Hello, Faith!" she says and Faith waves and smiles. "I see you brought some friends. Who is the studly young man?"

Xander blushes slightly, "Um, my name is Xander. And this," he points out, "are Dawn, Kennedy and Buffy."

Mrs. Henry stops cutting and looks at Buffy, "'Buffy'? No, really?"

Buffy nods and shrugs. Of all the weird names in our sixtet, mine's the one she notices? she thinks to herself.

The friends inspect Faith's house while she is in her bedroom upstairs, changing.

"My God, that kitchen is a bomb!" Kennedy marvels at the black, luxurious kitchen counter and the illuminated island. "Do you cook here a lot?" she yells.

"Nah, just sometimes. I'm not a great cook, anyway," Faith replies from upstairs.

"Don't make yourself smaller than you are." Willow counters, "she's good," she tells her friends.

Xander doesn't marvel at the kitchen that much, more at the content of Faith's fridge. He's helped himself to a big sandwich, and is admiring the architecture of the dark slayer's house while he's eating it.

"Didn't you have breakfast at the hotel this morning?" Dawn laughs at him.

"Yeah, but that was two hours ago. Strong men need to eat much."

"Right," Willow nods in mock understanding. She is sitting on a stool at Faith's living room bar counter. Buffy is seated on the stool next to her, Dawn is standing behind the counter, playing bartender.

"This is not a real bar," Dawn scoffs at Faith's collection of Coke and Beer mix drinks and several bottles of water and apple juice, "where's the booze!"

"Okay, remember where we are?" Buffy asks her and Dawn scrunches her eyebrows, "Cleveland, Ohio, USA. Now, you are 20 years old. You're not allowed to drink over here, anyway!" Buffy sticks out her tongue.

"Oh, as if you didn't drink before you turned 21!" Dawn sneeres.

"Nope!" Buffy replies too quickly and all eyes turn her way, raised eyebrows.

"You sure about that, B?" Faith yells from upstairs, buttoning her pants.

"I know all about little cave slayer Buffy!" Dawn grins, and Buffy turns red. "Anyway, that's one more thing I love about Europe: You're legal boozing life starts at the age of 18, 16 when it's just beer!"

Faith comes down the stairs, wearing black jeans and a light blue sweater, "Who cares about boozing laws, anway?"

Ten shoulders shrug in unison.

"I hear that. You guys ready to go?"

They nod and head outside. Xander puts his arm on Faith's shoulder. "I have a question," he starts.

"Ask away."

"Why renting a club for a whole day, when you could have celebrated Will's birthday at your house? Gigantic kitchen, bar, I-don't-know-how-many squares of living room space..."

"I wasn't too keen on cleaning up afterwards, you know?" she smirks.

Kennedy has takes the place behind the minibus's wheel. Buffy is arguing with Xander at the moment.

"I still don't see why you won't let me drive!"

"Aw, come on, Buffy! You know how you drive. I won't take the chance of you crashing the bus," Xander, driving shotgun, tells her.

Dawn laughs, "You should see her driving in Italy. She fits right in!"

"Not really; at least I have the decency to stop when there's a red light..." Buffy folds her arms, offended. "And, by the way, I'm not the one who almost crashed the car because I was looking at the cute guy in the car next to me!"

Now it's Dawn's turn to blush.

Faith and Willow watch the exchange from their position in the back of the bus.

"Good old times," Willow comments with a smirk and takes Faith's hand into hers.

And then they are there – their destination, the local indoor mini gulf course!

Willow and Dawn are the first to run in and pick out the gulf clubs that fit them best, Buffy and Xander follow on their heels.

Faith and Kennedy bring up the rear, walking a little slower. Apparently they're not as keen at getting indoors than the rest of them.

"Have you ever played it?" Kennedy asks her fellow slayer.

"Um..." Faith falters, "just once. Seven years ago, almost on the day," Faith seems to be lost in her thoughts for a moment. "What about you?"

"Never," Kennedy replies. "But we played gulf very often, you know? My handicap was pretty good."

"Well, mini gulf courses are a liiittle smaller," Faith laughs.

"You don't say!" Kennedy scoffs, changing the topic soon after. "So, um, you two are pretty happy together, huh?" Ken indicated her and Willow.

"Uh, yeah, I guess," Faith replies cautiously, not sure where Willow's ex-girlfriend is going with that. "I mean, I'm sorry if it bothers you..."

"No no," Kennedy interrupts her quickly, "it's okay. I mean, don't get me wrong, if things were different, I'd try my luck with her again, but..." the smaller girls stops and so does Faith, facing her. "I know that the thing with us wasn't meant to be – as much as I wanted it to – I understand that now. I just hope that you two have more luck, not just for Will, for you, too. Okay?"

"Thank you. Really. I appreciate it."

Kennedy puts an encoraging hand on her shoulder. "Okay. Let's do this mini gulf thing," she says as she opens the door and lets them both in.

"Okay, let's split up. Two teams. I'd say Slayers vs. Ordinary people?"

"Hey!" the Witch, the Key and the...Gloryfied Bricklayer yell in unison. It is a question of interpretation if the "hey" applies to Buffy's team-splitting decisions – leaving them to compete against three women with superhuman powers, or to being called 'Ordinary'.

Buffy wiggles her eyebrows. "The team that completes Lane 21 first, is the winner."

Buffy regrets her choice half an hour later. The 'Ordinaries' lead with six lanes, they have already arrived at Lane 10, while the slayers are stuck at Lane 4, the infamous windmill.

But even the first three lanes weren't that much fun; someone should have told Kennedy that miniature gulf requires finesse and not muscle stength. Some of her balls would have smashed the windows in the place, if they weren't made of safety glass.

Faith fared slightly better, even landed a hole-in-one once – unfortunately it didn't count, since her ball was meant to hit the hole on Lane 2...and not the one on Lane 15.

Buffy is the only slayer who managed to put the ball in the right hole so far. And it's her turn now, she lands a hole-in-three.

No need to be too happy, though. Buffy has a plan, "Guys," she waves to the others to come closer, "I have an idea," the three grinning faces of Xander, Willow and Dawn near her, as do the slightly depressed faces of her fellow slayers. "Um, since it looks like we're..." she indicated her, Faith and Kennedy, "are going to lose, I thought it might be a nice idea to make a liiittle change in our teams...?"

Her eyes are pleading with the leaders, who don't seem very surprised by Buffy's change of mind.

"Yeah, sure," they agree in unison, surprising Buffy who thought that this would a harder task. Faith and Kennedy don't seem to pleased; they glare at Buffy, offended, that Buffy practically declared them the 'losers'...which in itself was true, but it was still hard to admit it to themselves.

"Okay, so who wants to..." Xander starts.

"I'll go," Kennedy states, happy to be in the winning team soon.

"Then I'll come over to you," Willow swaps places with Kennedy.

Which means that the teams now consist of Willow, Faith and Buffy and Dawn, Xander and Kennedy.

It works better now, the two slayer/one witch team has caught up, Faith even managed to put two balls in.

Xander, Kennedy and Dawn are only three lanes ahead now, on Lane 16, Kennedy's balls at least stay on the right lane by now. Maybe she just needs her own private teacher - Faith has recruited hers immediately.

Every time it's her turn to hit the ball, she shows Willow her most convincing puppy-dog eyes and sticks out her lower lip to support her helpless appearance. Willow, of course, can't deny her anything when Faith looks at her like that.

As she did it the last four times, she comes up behind Faith, embraces her to put her hands over Faith's which are holding the gulf club. "Okay, bend your knees a little," she orders, Faith complies, "strike out, not too much, yeah, that's it," the club is about five inches away from the ball, "and now," they hit the ball in a slow move.

It rolls along between the four triangular obstacles, hits the edge in an 80° angle and rolls and rolls...and rolls...and...it looks as if the ball comes to a rest maybe two inches away from the hole. Six crane her necks to get a better look. Willow is still standing behind Faith, her hands placed on the Slayer's hips.

Two more rotations and...the ball is in.

"Ye-hah!" Faith yells, delighted and the redhead cuddles her; Buffy comes and high-fives her fellow slayer with both hands...right before she joins Willow in the cuddling of Faith, even if it is only for a couple of seconds.

The game ends – Xander, Kennedy and Dawn win with only one lane advantage. They celebrate the game's outcome in a nearby bar, with non-alcoholic drinks since some of them still need to drive today.

Buffy is engaged in a conversation with Faith, Willow is talking to Xander and the two youngest girl decided on a party billiard. This time Kennedy appears to be winning, at least one achievement for her.

"You're planning to come back to the States, then?" Willow asks her childhood friend.

"Yeah. You know, Cape Town is nice and stuff, but...I don't know, I guess I'm missing something."

"We miss you, too," Willow takes his hand and smiles.

"Yeah, we do. And if you decide to visit us we may show you how much. There might be outfits involved..." she winks in Xander's direction.

Buffy, Xander and Willow stare at her wide-eyed, Willow is less shocked than the other two, more intrigued by what is going through Faith's mind. The youngsters come over to ask Xander and Willow to join them on the billiard table. Kennedy takes a sip on Willow's coke.

"She hasn't changed that much, has she?"

"No, fortunately not," Willow smirks in Faith's direction, who raises her glass in a toast.

"You should have seen what she did yesterday at the cinema...," the redhead tells them, as they head towards the billiard table.

Faith faces Buffy, who's look is suddenly a little more serious. "What?" Faith inquires.

"Uh, Faith, there is something I wanted to talk to you about," the blonde Slayer looks her right into the eyes.

"Okay," Faith replies, suppressing the urge to avoid Buffy's intense stare.

"I can see that you care about Willow..."

"I do," Faith replies sincerily.

"No interruptions," Buffy admonishes her and Faith nods compliant. "I can see that you care about her, and she seems happier than I've seen her in a long time; we owe a huge part of that to you, it makes me happy to see her like this.

Faith smiles.

"Now here's the thing: if you – even for a nanosecond – so much as think about hurting her, playing games with her, your next encounter with me will be your last! Do you understand me!?" Buffy pins her down with a hard stare.

Faith doesn't flinch as she replies seriously, "I understand. I mean, I can't promise you that we will be together for the rest of our lives, but I really want to try this mysterious thing called 'relationship'..." looking down, she almost blushes when she says the next words, "it, uh,...it would be my first...with a person I really care about, you know?" And all of the sudden she is the little girl again, confrontated with feelings she hadn't experienced before; feelings that that were exciting and scary at the same time.

Buffy's eyes soften and puts a hand of Faith's shoulder, whereupon she looks up "You want my opinion? I honestly think you two might stand a chance."

"Thanks, Buffy."

Buffy raises her glass, Faith does the same, a silent toast to their new understanding. They empty their drinks in unison. Buffy slides of the stool and takes Faith by the hand. "Come one, let's see how your honey is faring at the billiard table."

Five hours later – it's 10 pm already - Willow and Faith have seen off their their friends at the airport and driven to Faith's house with the rented bus. The rental agency would pick up the car the next day.

Faith is lying on her back, one arm behind her head, and is staring at the ceiling. She thinks about the happenings of the last forty hours. Especially the last ten hours are rotating in her brain. Mini gulfin', never thought I'd do that again!

She had won her first and to date only mini gulf game seven years ago. The Mayor let her win, of course, played especially bad for her. She had felt stupid, not being able to putt without fifteen atempts; finesse has never been her strong suit, she could break into houses without making the slightest noise, she could follow and observe other people without being noticed herself, but she couldn't put a stupid ball into an a few inches wide hole!

The Mayor had padded her back and bought her the obligatory chocolate shake for her win.

Her thoughts go back to a less pleasant scene in her life, the last time she saw him. Not really him, but the First in Mayor disguise. Back to the words that plagued her for so long.

"You keep looking for love and acceptance from these people, these 'friends' of yours, but you'll never gonna find it."

She thinks about yesterday's party - the friendly ribbings with Xander, bubby Dawn chatting with her about everything (even calling her just when Faith is about to "break in" into Willow's house), about today – Kennedy's encouraging words, Buffy accepting Faith as a firmly established member of Willow's...and maybe even her life.

Even the First's biggest lie has proven wrong: "The truth is, nobody will ever love you."

Faith smiles as Willow comes into her bedroom, changed into some of Faith's boxers and shirt.

„What?" the redhead asks her as she climbs into the bed, leaning on her arm to get a better look at the Slayer.

"Just thinking."

"Happy thoughts?"

Faith turns her head to face Willow, "Very." She takes Willow's head and lays it on her chest, right over her heart. Willow takes her left hand and intertwines their fingers.

They lay like this for a few minutes before Faith speaks again, "Red, I have to tell you something."

Willow lifts her head and looks at her.

"I have to fly to England for a couple of days. Giles needs me for something, he wasn't too clear on the details," Faith explains.


Faith almost doesn't want to answer this, "Tomorrow morning."

Willow pouts and lets her head slump onto Faith's chest again. "This is so unfair!"

"I know," Faith agrees, kissing Willow's hair, "but I'll hurry back as soon as I can."


"Hey, did I ever break a promise I made to you?"

"No," Willow kisses her.

The next morning Faith is sitting on the edge of her bed, fully clothed, a small suit case is standing at her feet. She leans over the sleeping Willow, "Hey, Will," she tries softly.

The redhead opens one eye and yawns, stretching her arms.

"Just wanted to tell you that I'm ready to go."

"You sure you don't want me to come to the airport with you?" Willow asks her.

"I'm sure. Just wanted to say goodbye, didn't want you to wake up and see that I'm already gone," she kisses her on the forehead. "You can stay here as long as you want."

"I'll wait for you," she hugs Faith shortly.

"Bye," Faith taps her nose.

"Bye," Willow answers, as Faith takes her suit case walks down the stairs.

Willow snuggles herself into the pillows and sheets that held Faith's sleeping body just hours ago, inhaling her scent and going back to sleep.

end...for now.

1 Italian: Willow, Faith, how are you? My God, you guys look so awesome! I wish I could wear a dress like that! And that suits you better than any guy on this earth! Oh, and happy birthday, Willow! God, I missed you so much, even you, Faith! Or should I say „Salice" and „Fede" I'm „Alba" in Italian, by the way. Buffy's boring, she's simply Buffy, no change there. I love that one can translate our names into Italian. We're so special! But I can always piss her off by pronouncing her name in a funny way, you know, the Italian way! "Mmbaafi", you know? Anyway, hi!

2 Portuguese: „Happy Birthday, little Willow! Hi, Faith! It's so good to see you two again."