Damn. Leave it to Willow and Kennedy to pick the lamest bar in Cleveland. It was empty, only a few lone drinkers huddled over bottles or glasses at corner tables. I slumped in my seat, conscious of the lack of action on the dance floor and tried to avoid watching the increasingly heated (and badly hidden) groping going on across from me. Why the hell had you agreed to meet the Deadly Duo? Friday was our night.

"So, what's with the date, Will?" You sounded innocent. I knew better. There was a smirk under that perky smile. That looked spelled trouble, and I was betting it was for me. You knew something I didn't.

Almost as if you'd doused them with water, Kennedy and Willow scooted to opposite ends of the booth. Willow's face was brighter than her hair and her mouth flopped open and closed. Some things never changed. As soon as she got a little self-control, the babble would start. I watched for the signs and did a mental countdown to the flood.

Ten…nine…eight…

It wasn't worth the effort. Before I even got halfway, Willow was off and running. "Oh, nothing. I mean, Kenny and I hadn't hung out with you for a while. You and Faith. Isn't it nice here? I like the decorations and the music. The food, though, that's not so good. Maybe we can have a drink or two and go to dinner? I know…"

Tuning out, I glanced across the table. Fuck, Kennedy had it bad. The kid was staring at Willow with the sappiest expression I'd ever seen. If you'd started gabbing like that, I'd have kissed you to shut you up. Of course, it was a moot point. You'd never hemorrhage at the mouth the way Willow did.

Too bad.

Thinking about you had one inevitable conclusion. I flung my right arm over the back of my chair and slouched until I had a better view of you. Even in the weird, pink lighting you looked beautiful. Who cared about Willow?

You caught me watching and the smirk grew wider. I was so busted. "Hanging out sounds good, doesn't it, Faith?" I wasn't expecting Willow's question – or your response.

Hanging out sounded like a terrible plan. Even I wasn't stupid enough to say that, though. "Whatever, B. You're the boss." I could down some Jack here as well as the next bar.

Something in your expression told me I'd walked into a trap. The smile you gave me had me covered in goose bumps. "That's right. I am." Your head tilted, hair escaping from the loose bun thing on the back of your head. "I keep forgetting that."

Oh, hell. I was an idiot. Just short of laughing, I asked, "You want me to help you remember, B? Write you a note? Send ya' an email?" Buy a new flogger off the internet?

The sounds of the bar faded when you leaned closer. A single finger traced along my neck from left to right. "I've got something else in mind, my Faith. Emails get accidentally deleted, and no one uses notes anymore."

"I do." I wanted to kill Willow. Didn't she get that we were having a moment? "Kenny bought me these really cool sticky notes, all colored to match my pens. I leave them all over the house."

"I don't think Faith's into sticky notes." Kennedy was irritating, but she wasn't completely clueless. She took Willow's hand and kissed her knuckles. "You're one of a kind, baby." I thought I'd puke. They were back to cuddling and crap – but at least they'd left us alone.

I wanted to know what you'd gotten me. There hadn't been anything in the mail today. Hell, all week. No way would you have toys sent to your office. Although…Now that I thought about it, you had been acting secretive. Like you had when the padlock first went on the basement door.

My stomach tightened in time with my clit, and I shifted in my chair. My eyes searched your expression for a clue.

I didn't find one. Your eyes were hard to read thanks to the crappy lighting, and the only thing on your face was the smirk. It was hot. Kind of like the one you used when we played – with a hint more edge.

You stood up suddenly, catching me off guard. "B?" I asked. Were we leaving?

"I need a drink." Your eyes challenged me as you continued in a clipped voice. "Let's go."

I nearly jumped out of the chair at the tone. "Yes, ma…uh… Sure, B." That had been close. What the fuck was I doing? If I called you "ma'am" here, I'd never live it down. "You want to stay here? Don't need two people for four beers."

Your hand shot out and gripped my arm hard enough to leave a bruise. "We'll be back," you told Kennedy and Willow. Then you dragged me toward the tiny bar.

I hurried after you, stumbling at the pace. "B. Hey! Slow down." You were like a force of nature, though, and I nearly employed Slayer speed to keep from falling behind. If I did, my arm might come off, thanks to the way you held onto it.

Luckily, the trip wasn't a long one. Or, it shouldn't have been. You bypassed the bar without slowing down. What the hell? Had you hit the bottle before we left the house? I considered putting a stop to things. Planting my feet and making you talk.

I didn't.

Whatever twist you had in your thong could wait until Kennedy couldn't hear us. There wasn't enough noise in the bar to block out super hearing, and no way did I want Slayer Smurf knowing our personal shit. Still trotting behind you, I let you lead us down a dirty, narrow hallway, past the bathrooms, and out a back door. Like every bar in every city, the door let out into an alley. Had I missed something? I went on alert. Maybe you weren't hitting the booze. I reached under my overshirt for the stake I'd tucked into my belt.

Before I got it free, though, you yanked on my arm. I stumbled. "Fuck, B…" I'd had enough. This had to stop – and it did, when you used my momentum to slam my back into the brick wall of the bar.

"Don't talk," you ordered.

It was unlikely I would have followed that command. I had too many questions and more than a few complaints. I didn't have a chance to voice them, though. You were on me as my brain still struggled to get the first gripe into words. I grunted from the impact as you pressed against me, one leg curling around my left hip.

Tonight might not be so bad after all.

Your hands burrowed under my overshirt, groping my breasts through the cotton of my T-shirt, and my nipples sprang to attention. So did the rest of me. I felt your nails even through my shirt when they raked down from my nipples to my stomach. Oh, yeah. "Harder, B. Please."

In a heartbeat, you had stepped away.

"B!" This was so wrong.

Another heartbeat and you were back, but not in any way I'd expected. Your hands tangled in the collar of my shirt and the next thing I knew the cold Cleveland air was brushing my bare skin. My shirt hung in tatters.

"I said don't talk." You were on a serious power trip, and I loved it. The same way I loved the way you spun me around and jammed my front into the wall. Now it wasn't your nails scraping my nipples, it was the brick. You leaned in tight against my ass and reached around.

My back arched out in response as you fingered my zipper. Even through the heavy denim of my jeans, I felt the pressure on my clit. You dragged your hand up and undid the button. The zipper inched down. Slowly. So damned slow I was panting and shaking and about to scream at you to hurry the fuck up.

Finally, my jeans gaped open and your hand dove inside. Two fingers combed through my pubic hair. "Enjoying yourself, my Faith?" Your words were muffled as you pressed you lips into my back.

"Fuck, yeah. So hot." I gasped and writhed as you stroked and teased my outer lips and brushed my clit. "Right there. God. Right there, B." If you kept it up, I was going to explode soon. It was embarrassing, really. I was all for the rough and tumble, yet a few soft touches and I was a quivering mess.

"Oh, I don't think so, Faith. Not now. I have plans, and I'm the boss, remember?" I nearly whined when you pulled your hand out of my jeans. I did yelp when that same hand unexpectedly smacked my ass. "Turn around." You were back to the commands.

Body humming from the buildup, I shoved away from the wall and spun to face you. My shirt hung from my shoulders, leaving a lot of skin on display. I saw your eyes drift down as you zeroed in on my breasts. "Ain't done public nudity since that church bus, B." I held my arms out and pointed at my rock hard nipples. "You gonna bail me out when the cops show up?"

I didn't know if you were pissed at the question or if you just wanted to cop a feel, but you reached out and pinched both nipples. Hard. My arms dropped, hands automatically gripping your wrists.

"That will cost you." Son of a bitch. For the first time, I fully recognized that tone. A tone you'd only used one place until now: our basement. The playroom. The thing inside the bar hadn't been an accident. You'd planned this.

Cheeks hot despite the weather, I yanked my hands away. "Sorry." That wasn't right. However, for some reason, the right words caught in my throat.

You noticed my struggle. "You will be," you said very, very softly and I shivered. "It seems you've forgotten the…request you made last month. Let me refresh your memory." I watched in growing unease as you dug into the inside pocket of your jacket.

When they reemerged… Oh, shit. The thought flitted through my mind right before you stuffed your hand back into my pants and shoved the Smartball you'd been carrying all the way inside me.

"Help me, Buffy." You were talking. I dimly heard the words, my own words, repeated in your mocking lilt. "I can't control Dark Faith without you," you said. I couldn't follow the words, though. Not with the ridges from the ball teasing my g-spot and your fingers prodding my clit as you withdrew your hand again. Sweat beaded my hairline and slicked my skin. "How can I help you, if you don't remember asking me to be your Mistress. That was what you wanted, right, Faith?"

Yes. Yes. Teeth clenched, I choked the word out on the third try. "Yes, ma'am."

"Excellent." You rewarded my response with a brilliant smile. "You know I only want to please you, Faith." The smile slipped away as you moved away again. "I left a bag in the car, my Faith. Get it. It has some things I want you to wear." Your confidence wavered; I saw the way your eyes flickered away and your hands rubbed against legs of your jeans.

The need to reassure you warred with the Game I was sure we were still playing. "Yes, ma'am." It was the right response; I hoped. If you had gone back to Vanilla Buffy, I'd be OK. If you hadn't… Well, I still had that little "gift" tucked inside, and I really wanted to see what you had in mind for the rest of the evening.

"I'll be at the table." You stared at me for a second, and I waited. What else did I need to know? Whatever it was, you weren't saying. Instead of spilling your other secrets, you spun and reentered the bar.

I thought about following you. It was fucking cold out here. My jacket was inside, and my T-shirt was useless. Pulling the tails of my overshirt together didn't help, and the movement jostled the Smartball. It's ball bearing rolled every time I so much as breathed. Taking tiny steps, I inched my way through the alley and all the way around the building to the parking lot. I was cursing and on the edge of a screaming climax by the time I got to the car and dug the keys out of my pocket.

A small part of me wondered why the fuck I hadn't removed the Smartball. The rest of me remembered that I'd been the one to ask for everything you'd given me. And I was enjoying the hell out of it – when my clit wasn't the size of a walnut.

Finally, the car beeped and I heard the locks click open. Where were the clothes? Not in the front. I'd been driving on the way to the bar, but I still would have spotted any bags or whatever. That meant the back. I concentrated on carefully opening the door and peered hopefully inside. Damned Cleveland winter had me shivering – something I wanted to avoid at the moment. You hadn't said anything about not climaxing; still, I wasn't taking a chance on letting loose. Luckily, I spotted the bag stuffed behind the front seat immediately and dragged the zipper open.

Black leather pants, a black wife beater, and a pair of boots tumbled out of the duffel onto the back seat. "No." No way, Buffy. I'd rather go naked. This was the Dark Faith uniform. One I hadn't worn in years. One I was never, not even for you, donning again. You knew that; we'd talked about it once.

Still in denial, I automatically turned the bag upside down to empty it. A makeup case tumbled out along with the wardrobe you'd selected. Hands shaking, I pushed the case aside and stared at the leather pants. The clothes seemed to mock me. What was I afraid of? Unless Willow had put a spell on them, they were only clothes. One hand reached out as if it belonged to someone else. I certainly wasn't controlling it; I wasn't wearing the damned pants. Or the shirt. It didn't matter that you'd told me up front to put them on.

I wasn't wearing them.

My overshirt and the tattered remains of my T-shirt came off easily and a new wave of humongous goose bumps erupted as the cold air hit the rest of my skin.

I needed to warm up. That's why I pulled the wife beater over my head. It had nothing to do with your order or the look in your eyes before you left me in the alley. Why, then, did I toe off my tennis shoes and unbuckle my belt? Leather was probably better than jeans against the biting wind. They slipped easily over my legs and hips, hugging without becoming a second skin. They were soft and supple and familiar. Too familiar. My head caught up with my actions and I froze, barely breathing. All I needed was for "Blue Sun" to start playing and I'd be right back in Sunnydale and my first night in the Bronze. A few short months before my life fell into the crapper. As I tucked the wife beater into the pants, I wasn't me anymore.

Not Faith Lehane, ex-con. Not Faith, the Senior Slayer.

I was Faith of the no last name. Faith, the loner. Faith, who lived and breathed for the thrill of violence and the kill.

Two separate Faiths whispered in my ear as I stepped into the boots and opened the makeup kit. Like the angel and devil characters in cartoons, one Faith (the one in my now-normal jeans) warned me to be careful. To change back into my tattered clothes and run for cover. The other… Well, Dark Faith sang a sexier song. Go into the bar, grab Buffy for some dirty dancing, and see what trouble we could find. They kept talking as I drew a thick line of kohl around each eye and covered my lips in lipstick.

The yammering voices in my head and the ever-shifting Smartball made the trip back to the bar hard. Despite my lack of alcohol consumption, I probably looked like a boozer as I stumbled and staggered my way to the front door. The bouncer gave me a narrow-eyed look. Bet she didn't want to risk letting me near another drink in my "state".

Dark Faith roared, drowning out New Faith. I stepped into the bouncer's private space, rubbing into her in a way that should have gotten us both arrested for public lewdness. "You gonna let me in or do I gotta convince you, baby?" I purred. She was hard and muscled, and I was sure she could help take care of the fire your little toy had roaring in my oven.

Her hands shot out, gripping my hips and I grinned. This could be fun. Tensing, I got ready for a fight. The pleasuring would have to wait.

No. New Faith had my ear now. No, she warned. Bar fights were on the black list. Besides, we didn't need a fight. Buffy was waiting for us. In fact, Buffy had told us to meet her back at the table. Buffy was a lot more fun and exciting than a throw down with a mere bouncer. Buffy was all that mattered right now.

"Sorry," I told the glowering bouncer. "Just teasing." It was too dark in the bar for her to see my hand shake (I hoped) as I showed off the entry stamp from earlier. Stepping around her, I hurried across the mostly empty dance floor as if all the demons in Hell were after me. I'd been too close to the edge. "B!" I could see you at the table, laughing at something Willow said. Screw Willow. I needed you - before the Dark Faith devil on my shoulder convinced me to do something stupid. "B!"

You turned slowly, still smiling.

Then your eyes met mine and the smile vanished. You straightened and your jaw firmed and you held out a hand. "Faith, it's OK. I promise."

How could you know that? You hadn't been there when I'd tried to come on to the bouncer. You hadn't been there when I'd nearly welcomed a fight. I wanted to tell you that, but Willow interrupted. As usual.

"Wow. I haven't… Faith, what are you wearing? You look like a flash from the past." Willow didn't sound thrilled with the prospect. Neither was I. "Why did you change?"

I didn't have an answer. I was too busy clinging to your hand like a lifeline. I should have known you'd take care of things. Without looking away from my eyes, you answered, "I asked her to, Will. Faith and I…We're finally dealing with a few things."

Some lingering need for self-preservation kept me from laughing. We were dealing? I was the one all tarted up. I was the one dealing with more than some chaffing from the leather pants and the gift you stuffed inside. There was no we.

You must have seen something in my eyes. I shuddered as you stepped closer and reached up to kiss my throat. "Thank you," you told me, voice barely penetrating the music. "I knew you could do it. I knew you could face your dark side. I wanted you to be sure, too."

"Anytime, B." I had no clue what you were talking about; that didn't mean I wasn't enjoying the rewards for following directions.

Your lips warmed my neck a second time before you pulled away. Still holding my eyes, you announced, "I wanted you and Kenn to be here tonight, Will. I wanted to share the good news." Reaching into your jean's pocket, you pulled out a thick gold chain with a circular medallion and held it up.

The lights from the bar winked over the swaying disk and I squinted. There was something written on it.

"What news?" Willow's voice rose, and I tuned her out.

I wanted to know what the medallion said. Leaning forward, I tilted my head. M. My. Damn it! Nearly growling in frustration, I gave up being polite and grabbed the chain.

My Faith, I read at the same time I heard you say, "Faith and I are getting married."