TITLE: "Take Me or Leave Me"

TIME: A/U Season Three of BtVS


RATING: R (for Faithy-language)

DISCLAIMER: Now, c'mon, you know I could never create these wonderful ladies that totally belong to Mr. Joss Whedon.

NOTES: I'm looking to 2007 as the year of hopefully, more writing, as indicated by this short fic I wrote. I actually think this is first fic in a LONG time I actually FINISHED. Inspiration hit me while listening to my favorite song from the play "RENT" with the same name as this fic. It's the duet between Maureen and Joanne, and although Joanne isn't exactly Buffy incarnate, I still think as a whole, the song applies to these two. And yes, this is my official first Buffy/Faith 'ship fic.

FEEDBACK is greatly appreciated!


Every single day, I walk down the street, I hear people say, 'Baby, so sweet,'

Ever since puberty, everybody stares at me,

Boys, girls, I can't help it, baby…

Never quit,

I follow through,

I hate mess… but I love you,

What to do with my impromptu baby?

Take me for what I am,

Who I was meant to be,

And if you give a damn,

Take me, baby…

or leave me.

- Take Me or Leave Me from the play/movie, RENT

The beat in the local Sunnydale club called the Bronze echoed throughout the dance floor and beyond. Bodies swayed under the ever changing lights, making the atmosphere typical of any teenage hangout. Voices carried and intertwined with the band that served as the entertainment for the night.

In the corner, a petite, blond high school girl sat, staring out into the crowd. Fingers absently played with the straw in her empty glass, stirring the ice cubes around. Her camisole that had been covered by the black sweater began to slip slightly on one side, forcing her to pull her pesky strap back onto her shoulder. She sighed, wondering what was taking her date so long.

All they had to do was get her a second drink. She had downed the first soda in nearly three gulps, she had been so thirsty. It had been a rough evening as it was, and it put the teen in a cranky mood. She hoped by spending it with someone special, it would lift up her spirits.

Alas, so far, it was doing the opposite.

"Hey, Buffy," came a voice from above her.

She looked up at the sound of her name, almost startled. "Oh, hey… Scott?" She blinked in surprise to see her recent "ex" standing there with a smile on his face. "Uh, wow, like, sudden here. You standing. Here."

"I know. I just… I know things with us ended really badly in the sense of bad."

"Oh, you mean the whole you dumping me right before homecoming thing? Yeah, I'd say bad was playing ring-around-the-rosies nearby." The verbal jab was quick and it took all of her to hold back even more jabs. She quit playing with the straw of her empty cup, giving him all her attention now. "What do you want?"

Scott shifted his weight and scratched his head, feeling awkward now that he had gotten her full awareness. "I was just seeing how you were doing."

"Great. See?" She indicated herself by spreading out her arms, plastering a smile on her face. "Right as rain… whatever that means."

"I just saw you here… you know, by yourself, and I thought-"

"What, I was still moping over you?" The look on her face could almost signify incredulous by his assumption. "You know, Scott, so not an issue – really. I'm here with someone."

"Oh." He looked around the small table. "The Invisible Man, perhaps?"

He was funny. Like, wanna knock your head right off your neck funny. "No. A friend. She's just getting something to drink."

Scott glanced over at the bar. "Faith? Yeah, I passed her before I got here." His expression shifted slightly. "Oh, it looks like she's chatting it up with the bartender." He pointed in the general direction.

Sure enough, Buffy could see through the crowd, Faith leaning over the bar, laughing at the cute girl who was serving that night. They were admiring some tattoo on the girl's shoulder, the other Slayer touching it repeatedly as she continued to talk.

A line formed on Buffy's mouth, trying not to get that icky feeling in her stomach. The whole jealousy thing. But it was hard to keep it at bay with Faith's flirting habits filling up those feelings. It was times like these that Buffy had the silly notion where she wished she had a tattoo that wasn't attached to some mark of a scary parasite demon. She knew how Faith just loved the body art.

"Wow, so not looking like getting me a drink," Buffy muttered, her crankiness returning. She sighed, grabbing her coat. This had been a very recent pet peeve of hers and she had thought she had voiced it to the younger Slayer. Apparently, the suggestion of not openly flirting so much with the nearest warm (or not) body did not go through Faith's usually thick skull. "I gotta bail."

Scott stepped back as she slipped down from the stool. "Oh, yeah, sure. I came over to see if, well, we were cool. So, we cool?"

Buffy looked up at him. "Yes, Scott, we are so cool, we're cold. In fact, take it as a gesture of endearment if I give you the cold shoulder in school." She patted him on the shoulder and made her way through the bodies of loitering teenagers. Making it up to the back of Faith, she tapped the other girl on the shoulder.

Faith turned, grinning widely. "Hey, B!"

"I'm bailing. But have fun, you know, getting my drink and all." Without another word, Buffy shouldered her way through the remaining crowd and out into the cool night Californian air. She let out a frustrated sigh as her heels clicked against the pavement, slipping her jacket back on.

Sure enough, not five seconds passed before the sound of heavier heels of boots came trotting up to her and Faith's arm wrapped around her shoulders. "Hey! What's the deal, leavin' me like that?"

"What's the deal? Faith, I asked you to do a simple task of getting me a drink and you end up talking to the bartender." She tried to pick up the pace to escape out from under her arm but Faith stayed right in line with her.

"C'mon, B, it ain't like that. I saw her tatt and had to ask her about it."

"Right. Then one thing led to another and next thing I know, I'm stuck for the rest of the night, chatting it up with Scott while you, oh, I don't know, ravish that girl and her tattoo out back?"

"Scott was there?" Faith asked, glancing back. When she heard Buffy sigh again, she pulled back to stop the shorter Slayer. "I'm kiddin', B. And that's a wicked scenario you just juiced up there. The only body I wanna ravish right now is yours."

"You've got a darn funny way of showing it," Buffy huffed, stopped but not looking Faith in the eyes.

"Why do ya' gotta be like this, B? I was makin' friends, not makin' out."

"Remember our conversation about the excessive flirting you do in front of me?"

Faith shrugged. "Yeah, I remember. I don't think what I was doin' was excessive."

"No, but that whole conversation we had not even a day ago kind of was a hint that maybe you should start off bringing the flirting to a zero. I hate it when you do that."

Faith rolled her eyes. "B, that's me. I can't help it if people wanna talk to me. I like to chat – well, most of the time. Hey, that last time, that guy came up to me and talked to me. What was I gonna do, ignore the dude?"

"It could've been a start!" Buffy replied then realized how ridiculous that sounded. She pinched the bridge of her nose while closing her eyes, a habit she unknowingly picked up from Giles. "Okay, no. That's not what I meant."

Faith folded her arms over her ample chest, raising a curious brow. "Okay, what did you mean?"

Opening them, Buffy was desperately trying not to let her emotions control her mouth, a talent she really didn't brag about. "I just meant that he was on total Flirt Alert with you, and you didn't do a thing to stop it. You pretty much acted like you were single and not seeing someone."

"Well, ain't I still single? I mean, technically."

Buffy had to pause for a moment, not sure how to take that statement other than face value. She wasn't sure why she was getting so damn worked up about this. Technically, yes, Faith was single. This was maybe their third date – if that's what they were calling it lately.

Lately, Buffy wasn't sure what this was.

The only thing she did know was that Faith's statement ate at her torso. "Fine. Be single." She turned and began walking away.

Realizing at that moment it wasn't exactly the perfect thing to say, Faith rushed up and blocked her way. "Whoa, I didn't mean it like that, B. I'm only sayin' I can't help who I am, and I, unfortunately, am a big flirt. It's part of my package."

Sighing about her walkout getting interrupted, it was Buffy's turn to cross her arms and roll her eyes. "I get that. And I'm really trying here, Faith. But I can't help it, this woozy, ick-worthy feeling in my stomach that I get. That's part of my package. I can't help it when you go around, talking to every boy or girl that comes your way as if they were the object of your affection."

"Don't you trust me?" Faith demanded, getting annoyed with Buffy's attitude now. "Okay, I do the flirtin' thing a lot, but like I said, that's me. Anyway, at the end of day, you got me. Shit, who was the one you wanted in your bed the other night. Ain't that showin' you something?"

Buffy looked up. "That's some kind of big accomplishment? We just got back from patrolling. Fighting always gets you riled up – I didn't even have to ask you before you were already naked under the covers."

"And you should consider yourself wicked lucky, B." A cocky smirk spread across the dark Slayer's face. "You gotta lot of people who would fight ya' to be where you were the other night."

"Seriously, was that supposed to be assuring? 'Cause that fell in the realm beyond reassuring!"

Faith shrugged, getting tired of this conversation. "You knew what you were getting' into when you asked me out the first time! If you can't take it, then ya' can't. Tiger can't change her stripes, B, you gotta know that."

"I knew this was… was…" Buffy really didn't want to say 'mistake' because deep down, it really wasn't.

"Was what?" Faith challenged.

"I don't know!" She threw her hands up in surrender of this conversation. "I'm tired, tonight's patrol already made me grouchy, and now I'm full-on Miss Cranky Pants. Just… enjoy the rest of the night." She moved past Faith and continued on down the alleyway.

"What? Is this you takin' me or leavin' me?" Faith called out to her.

"Good night, Faith," Buffy called before turning the corner.

"Fine! Fuckin' have it your goddamn way!" she snapped, angrily. She pulled out a cigarette from her jacket pocket, her mind in all kinds of confusion as she lit the tip of her first one for the night. Typically by now, she would be winding down on her second pack that she had only bought this morning with the first one. But ever since she started hanging around Buffy, she had cut down.

Funny enough, she wasn't sure if the blond Slayer had even noticed that change.

With a snort and a shake of her head, Faith flicked some ash away and walked back inside.

After a few hours at the Bronze, Faith made her way back towards her motel room. The night should've loosened her up, relaxed her. After all, she had danced with quite a few boys and girls, all having a good time. And although her own expression was all smiles and enjoyment, she wasn't able to fully take in the night of partying as she should've. It annoyed her to no end.

When she walked up towards her door, however, she found Buffy sitting next to it Indian-style, carelessly picking at the edges of her jeans. Her blond hair, which had been previously in a ponytail, was now spilling over her shoulders, curtaining part of her face.

She hadn't moved, even though Faith knew Buffy could easily hear anyone approaching long before any normal human would've. It was part of the reason she kept her motel room unlocked most of the time. If someone was rummaging around in there, she would hear them before they would her.

"Hey," Faith called.

Buffy finally turned her head to look at her. "Hey." She stood up, dusting her jeans from the extremely dirty floor she had been sitting on.

"You been sittin' here since you left the Bronze?" Faith asked, then saw the large scratch across Buffy's right cheek. "Shit, what happened?" she asked, hurrying up to her to get a closer look.

"It's nothing," Buffy told her, turning the wound away from sight. Or trying to. "I… went patrolling more after I left. Had a run in with a tree branch after a vampire kicked me into it. It'll be fine in a few hours."

"Right." She glanced at the door, thumbing towards it. "Uh, you wanna come in?"

"Sure." She followed the slightly taller Slayer into the musty room, shutting the door behind her. She watched as Faith automatically took off her jacket and tossed it onto a nearby ratty chair, revealing her always-handy, extremely tight tank that allowed her to show off her flat, firm stomach. Buffy found herself staring, as she constantly did when her midriff made an appearance.

Faith sat on the bed, one leg tucked up under her, the other hanging off the edge. "Wanna drink? I think I got some Coke or beer in the mini-fridge."

"No. I'm not thirsty." The smaller Slayer moved more into the room, a little antsy. Her small hands kept trying to hold onto something – the button of her own jacket, her other hand… "Faith, I… I'm sorry about tonight."

The other Slayer didn't do anything except stare down at the floor for a moment then shrugged. "It was gonna happen sooner or later, B."

"Yeah, maybe… but I didn't want it to happen like the Battle of Gettysburg." She took another anxious step forward, unsure if this was the right action to take. "I just… I get jealous. I'll admit it; I'm the jealous-type. Jealous Jane, that's me."

Faith met Buffy's gaze.

"I watch you, and I sometimes wonder why you even bother with a lame-o like me." Buffy began to pace around in the small room as she spoke, gesturing with her hands. "Besides the whole Slayer thing, I'm pretty boring. And since you're on par with the Slayer thing, that makes me 100 boring. I don't smoke, I drink and I nearly get sacrificed to a snake, which hello to negative reinforcement, and I don't have a cool tattoo to talk to you about on my body."

Faith couldn't help the small smirk on her face. "Believe me, B, just 'cause you don't got a tatt to talk about, it don't mean I don't got a reason to talk about your body."

"See! Then you do that! And I'm back to feeling like I have a chance with you."

"B, you do got a chance with me," Faith told her. "What I'm feelin' from you here is that ya' don't trust me. I'm not gonna run off with every person I flirt with. I… I wanna be with you at the end of the night."

Buffy's shoulders slumped slightly as she finally stopped pacing and placed herself next to Faith. "And therein lies the problem. I DO trust you, Faith. But how else am I supposed to feel when I see the person I want to be with off talking to another?"

Faith broke their gazes by picking at a loose string on the shabby comforter. "I saw ya' talkin' to Scott tonight," she suddenly admitted.

"You did?"

"Only for a split second."

"Had to be since that's about as long as I wanted to talk to that loser."

"I didn't know how long ya' talked to him. All I know is that I saw him talkin' to you and you were talkin' to him, and I found myself wantin' to walk over there and punch the guy's head right off his body and tell him -"

"Tell him what?"

Faith's intense brown eyes met with Buffy's blue ones again. "'Leave my girl alone,'" she murmured with hesitation. Dammit, she sounded so cheesy in her own head.

Surprised at everything that had been said in the past five seconds, Buffy blinked. "You… felt all that?"

Faith nodded. "I know, ya' don't need any protectin' whatsoever..."

"Doesn't mean I don't like it every once in awhile," Buffy replied, quietly.

"B, you don't get it, though. All that shit you just said about bein' too borin' and prude for me is bullshit. To me, you're perfect. Too perfect. Gets me wonderin' what the hell you see in me. You can have any fuckin' person you want, and I… just don't wanna fuck it up with what we started. After all, the first time I laid my eyes on ya', I fell for you. Hard. Of course, though, the Faith-way is not wanting to fuck up so much that I end up fucking up."

She stopped there and expected Buffy to say something right back. A laugh. A snicker. Anything but the abrupt silence between them in the room, the only sound coming from the wooden clock sitting atop the television set.

"I'm sorry," Buffy finally said after a minute. "Cliché as it sounds, I couldn't hear anything past that 'I fell for you' part – in a really good way." She reached out and took Faith's hand, giving it a squeeze. "Looks like we both have some stuff to work out. And ironically enough, it sounds like a lot of your stuff to work out sounds like my stuff to work out. We both have trust problems for different reasons, it seems, even if we do trust each other. Seems like we don't really trust ourselves on what caught the other's attention at first sight."

A small chuckle left Faith's throat, giving Buffy's hand a squeeze in return.

"And you're not gonna mess up anything – or at least, not the only one who MIGHT. If one of us messes up, which does happen in relationships, it's both of our responsibilities to clean it up."

"You know, I ain't exactly an expert on relationships. I have this ugly tendency to never be in one."

"And, what, I'm the Dr. Phil of relationships? I suck at them, pardon the occupational pun. Look, all I can tell you is that being a part of something with someone who want to be with all the time is… is indescribable. That's how I feel when I'm with you." Not wanting to totally make Faith scream with fear over the word 'relationship,' Buffy put her other hand on Faith's cheek. "Don't worry, we'll take it slow, no rush. Deal?" Dropping that same hand, she held it out as an offer of a handshake.

Faith stared at the hand then looked back up at Buffy's half-smile. "Deal." Instead of taking her hand, however, she leaned in and kissed the other Slayer deeply, taking Buffy's face in her own strong hands.

When they came up for breath, Buffy smiled. "By the way, in case you didn't figure it out, this is me taking you, not leaving you."

"No, B, this is ME wanting to take you… and do naughty things to you." She threw her a wolfish grin as she tugged at the bottom of Buffy's undershirt.

Buffy shared Faith's devilish grin. "Why Miss Faith, is this you asking me to stay the night?" she teased.

But the expression Buffy got in return was serious and somewhat solemn as she remained only inches from Buffy's lips. "Yeah, Buffy," she whispered. "This is me askin' if you'd stay with me tonight."

Pushing her lips against Faith's again, Buffy pulled back and smiled. "I thought you'd never ask."