Author: Astarte
Translator: lilyme
Title: Strawberry and Chocolate
Rating: mild NC-17 (only applies for part II)
Part: 1/2
Spoiler: BtVS 7x18 Dirty Girls; and yet again it's Halloween in Sunnydale. The First Evil is in a holding pattern and Caleb takes his time getting to Hellmouth-central.
Summary: On Halloween, the boundaries between life and death blur, or in other words, Faith's boring night at the Bronze takes an unexpected turn.
Main Characters/Pairings: Faith/Willow, Tara/Willow, Friendship Buffy/Faith
Disclaimer: I do not own these characters; they belong to Joss and Mutant Enemy. Neither do I own this story, I just translated it with the permission of the author Astarte.'Angel' belongs to Sarah McLachlan, of course.
Note: As I said, I just translated it. I thought it's a very good story, and since there are way too few Faith/Willow-centric stories out there, I decided to enrichen the English-speaking fanfic-world with just another Fillow-fic ;) I think the translation should be pretty understandable now. If not, blame it on my British, American and Australian betas (I had I check thrice) :P

Strawberry and Chocolate

Spend all your time waiting
For that second chance
For a break that would make it okay

'You're gonna like her, she's just like you, Faith'. The words uttered by Willow on the drive back to Sunnydale are still ringing in her ears and Faith shakes her head. She doesn't like Kennedy and she is not like her. Not in the least. They are so very different from one another as two people can possibly be, and that's okay. Nobody expects her to lead meaningful conversations with Red's new thang while she lets the second-classiness of the Bronze appeal to her.

And Faith doesn't like the changes here either. Too smooth and bright. She used to like the Bronze because of its shady corners and abstruse hallways, the black walls and the cozy seating units in the corner that practically invited you to long hours of smooching-sessions with your newest conquest. Before she took them with her to her motel room and it all ended far too early.

She despises this new fancy-schmancy dive that used to be the Bronze, a poor imitation of that club in LA. The chrome is burning her eyes and leather beneath her clings to her naked thighs. At least the barkeep had been willing to give out alcohol to minors or had been smart enough to not ask her for her ID, which was still in possession of the state, anyway. Because she was ready enough to kill to get her hands on something high percentage-y tonight. Is this really the thing that she had bailed out of jail for? For being here?

Faith needed a drink. Right now.

She gestures impatiently at the barkeeper and he complies. Oh, yeah, she's trouble. Thanks for nothing. And she wants to be alone, study those changes undisturbed that are so serious that she asks herself at times, if she had accidentally stranded in an alternate universe. God, she wants to get over with this apocalypse thing and then get the hell out of this sleepy hamlet. New York or Boston, a little trip to the good old home country, at the moment it sounds more intriguing than the next slay.

She doesn't want to sit here, on Halloween in the daylight-bright Bronze, and get her ears twisted by the charts-junk that blares out of the crappy sound machine, and her eyes ruined by a tragically pissed-off Buffy, and the plastic pumpkins and the reapers on the walls. The decór is disgusting and uninspired and in general it's way too bright in here. But she had noticed that already.

We'll both die early enough, no need to drown in self-pity, Blondie. Their glasses clank and Buffy looks up in surprise, just to take a tentative sip of her Bacardi-coke soon after. Hard to believe that she legally had gotten alcohol here, because Faith feels so much older than the woman next to her.

She just nips a little on her Whiskey-Mix and then orders a beer, stays quiet through the whole process. Faith bites down her advice for the blonde slayer to simply let herself get laid by her blonde vampire, without remorse, instead of hanging around here and pull a face. Screw all those bleak thoughts out of her brain; she would even give her the advantage concerning Spike, not that Buffy is good at sharing, anyway, she never was. But Buffy once again would see this as a personal attack, so Faith simply shuts her blabber and lets her attention drift further.

Back to the dance floor with Red and her new thang.

"Kennedy is so different from Tara." Buffy's voice sounds pensive and Faith nods. That's so very true. She vaguely remembers far too crassly dyed, blonde hair and not very flattering clothes, a shy glance from underneath lowered eyelashes and a stutter so insecure that it automatically made you want to protect the source of it. Or destroy. Back then she had left it at some well-aimed snarks.

Red wanted to end the world after her death, and Faith understands this.

Her eyes focus on the redhead and she thinks about LA and about Fred, about the fact that Willow had to remind herself, more than anyone else, that she actually had someone in her life. She still doesn't like Kennedy, but she is good for Willow and you really can't expect more from a substitute that doesn't reach the original by far. Just as Spike would be good for Buffy – if she allowed herself to simply let go for a change.

Instead the two of them are sitting at the counter, lost in their thoughts. They give the impression of bored women. They nip every pass directed their way in the bud with a sharp glare. The condensation of their drinks moistens their palms, the bass vibrates through their bodies. But nothing really makes their bodies hum, it's not like sex and fighting. Are they really this old? Both of them?

Are they this bitter? Probably. Not that the world had been really good to them.

"D'you think that those two will have a future? You know, stick together if we survive this apocalypse?" Faith ponders Buffy's question, they actually have time to do that; she braces her elbows against the counter and feels the wood pressing into her back.

Finally, "No, I don't think so."

"And us?" Her head whips around and she stares at her counterpart incredulously, but Buffy's look is directed somewhere else; she seems to be far away. She is thinking in larger dimensions. Almost philosophically. Almost too much for her little brain.

"Wanna take your chance, B? Because my advice to you includes you chugging that drink and then you going to look for Spike, so that you don't have to have any regrets in the end."

The green eyes are widened in surprise. She continues trenchantly, "You know, from one slayer to the other? Missed chances are the ones that haunt you, when you look back at your life. The ones that you deflected because you were too proud. There doesn't have to be a convincing reason for everything as long as you feel willing to do it; but you know that as well as I do. You just needed one more confirmation."

She returns Buffy's conspiratorial smirk and this one actually follows her advice for a change, empties her glass and gets up. "At least one us should get properly laid tonight, so get on that and make it a good one. I'll keep an eye on the rest and keep your house empty. And finally get the steel shackles swingin', your vamp digs that."

She shrugs the shocked "Faith!" off with a wicked smile. B was just too easy, one improper comment and she was as keen as mustard in her refusal. Maybe she'd finally ease up a little after her tenth death; despite all the stuff that Spike had said about Buffy's dark side, Faith simply couldn't picture her in a nurse's outfit. Steel shackles, on the other hand? Mmh, pretty mental image, too bad that the charade with Angelus blew up before the fun really had begun.

"Just saying how it is. And now stop blocking my crappy sight, I'll tell the others that you took off." Faith empties her glass and switches to her own beer.

"You're not gonna tell them the truth, are you?"

"We'll see." One wink and then Buffy is gone.

God, she's turning into Mother Theresa, this sucked. She just helped B to hot sex, while she was playing watch dog for a bunch of potentials. Could her life get any less exciting? Fuck. The stage was getting rearranged, which meant live music; now Faith regrets her decision to give B the leave twice.

There's always one reason
To feel not good enough

And it's hard at the end of the day

Faith keeps an eye on the SITs, the men at arm's length and the barkeep within reach. The thought that this night isn't as bad as expected keeps her on the edge of her consciousness, because this is still Sunnydale and only a very small part of the demon community is as smart as to actually rest on Halloween. She doesn't want to let down the faith that Buffy has in her and she doesn't want to think too much about why it is as it is, because her story is complicated enough without that. Without any further messing up.

Kennedy, with sweaty face and glowing eyes, comes to a halt beside her. "This music's great! Why aren't you dancing, Faith?"

The open smile is almost enough for her to return it, but instead she remembers her defensive attitude. "Who said that I could dance?"

"Come on, you're a slayer, of course you know how to dance. If anyone in this world possesses coordination and tact, then it is definitely a slayer." She doesn't like the hero worshipping, but she likes being challenged even less.

Ironically, "Who said that I wanted to dance?"

"Well –," Kennedy stops and Faith raises an eyebrow. "Nobody?"

"Why don't you just go back to your little Thelma? Let me do my job here, okay, Louise?"

And for a moment it looks as if she would comply, but then she puts on this determined expression and Faith sighs inwardly. Right now, she really isn't up for a bitch contest with a potential that had absolutely no idea about life right now. Cordelia on the other hand? She grins as she thinks about LA, about the fun she had there. She misses the cheerleader with the scrunched-up nose and the arrogant attitude, because she knows very well, what this one would think about Kennedy. 'Trash'

And then Faith suddenly understands what she doesn't like about the woman in front of her; Kennedy has money oozing out of every pore of her body and her rebellistic nature is the one of a rich snobby girl that never in her life had not gotten her way. She has no idea how it is to live in a cockroach-infested motel, with crappy TV and too little money to afford proper food. To be dependent on the Scoobies favors and on the bread crumbs that occasionally fell from the rich table of welfare.

Through gritted teeth, "What's your problem, Faith? You're turning into General Buffy, and nobody likes that."

The smile is soft, the reprimand mild, "Or maybe it's just you that doesn't like that, sweetie? Because I saw you training with the girls and you're too hot for power yourself to be throwing out stones. Besides, at least B wouldn't miss the goal."

"Are you saying that I'm a bad slayer?"

"I'm saying that you're way too old to follow in my footsteps, and you know, as damn well as I do, that this is the only way to make you the chosen one. So keep your frustration to yourself, because I don't have a death wish and right now I could sweep the floor with you." Her smile is saccharine and Kennedy glares at her angrily, searching for an effective comeback.

Willow suddenly links arms with Kennedy from behind, before the potential can blurt out the reply. The tension between the brunettes is lost on her, "So, are you having fun?"

"Of course, Louise, just fighting out the pecking order here. Oh, no need for the pit stop, Thelma was just about to look for you on the dance floor."

Red's concerned look stays on her but Faith raises her drink in a jovial toast and takes a large swig from the beer. She could practically hear Kennedy gritting her teeth, as Willow dragged her away from her. The look over the shoulder was everything but placid. But Faith has made herself far bigger enemies in the past to fear this minimal threat now.

And as the speaker announces the newest, hottest, coolest band from LA, she has forgotten about the little incident already, but not about her duty which still consists of her keeping the SITs away from the booze; the barkeep keeps sending a look her way before he pours out the stuff and Faith is glad that at least this cooperation works like a charm. The threat to cut his face open with a smashed bottle, and the light left hook when he laughed at her for that comment, had been enough to gain herself the proper respect.

He was still rubbing that spot of his body.

Then she redirects her attention at the band that is playing the first chords and it makes the little hairs on her neck stand on edge, along with the ones on her forearms and all the other parts of her body. This was reeking of black magic or some demonic form of initialization and Faith's look shoots over to Willow who is wearing a similar horrified expression. But they were the only ones who were immune to it, at least it appears like that.

The rest of the Bronze is rushing towards the dance floor. Willow's attempts to shake Kennedy out of her trance are fruitless and Faith whistles to get the witch's attention. This one reacts with a relieved expression, comes running over to her, the face looks even more alarming up close.

"What the hell is going on here, Red? This just feels unnatural, on so many levels."

"No idea, and I know that it's some sort of ritual."

"Oh, really? Already got that part, Einstein." And Faith bites her tongue to stifle further insults; she suppresses her first impulse to shake the witch until the correct answer topples out of her. After talking a deep breath, "What sort of magic?"

Willow's concentration is on the stage, fixing every band member with her eyes. After a few seconds of intense studying, pessimistically, "Powerful and black. Primitive. I'd say they're preparing some sort of sacrificial ritual for a demon god. Allatu, Kali or Holla, if I'm not mistaken, some powerful underworld goddess. Well, it's Halloween – the borders to the nether realm are extremely thin. A veil that could be broken forever with just enough blood, especially on the Hellmouth. And it wouldn't be the first time that the Bronze was the starting point for this. Still sends shivers down my spine when I think about the Master's harvest."

Faith is starting to get itchy, "Are we talking massacre or apocalypse here? Because in case of the latter, it's time to call B. Somehow I just knew that something would happen once I gave her the okay to scamper off and have sex."

"Mmh, apocalyptic repercussions and...WHAT?" the moss-green eyes are comically distorted.

"Oh, don't be like that, Will. If you get yourself an insufficient replacement, you can at least allow Buffy her sex. Or are you egoistic enough to not grant your friend a multiple orgasm?"

The complexion equals her hair color now and she gasps for air several times. At last, the stuttered protest, "Kennedy is not a replacement."

"I never said that, Tara was special, even I could see that. Nobody can replace her." Faith slugs down the automatic condolences that always come with a statement like this and tries to sound out the situation again.

The people on the dance floor have transformed into a flock of convulsing bodies, the

music equals electrifying music of the spheres. Hypnotizing and captivating. A primitive ritual and the band escalates, accelerates and the intensity spreads to the audience, slurs the boundaries between the individuals until you can only make out a tightly compressed bulk.

I need some distraction
Oh beautiful release
Memory seeps from my veins

"Thanks." Her look glides surprised to Willow whose eyes are brimming with tears and Faith swallows hard. She doesn't know how to react in this sort of situation. Heart-to-heart stuff just isn't her thing.

"You're welcome. And to get your focus back on the situation, I held a knife to your throat and I liked it." Willow nods and, surprisingly, smiles at her softly. "Can I take the band out, what do you think?"

The redhead stares at the stage with a frown, "With a little help of me, sure. I mean, I took on a goddess and only lost by a hair's breath, and these are only high priests."

"And the beast and Angelus brought me back to shape, so let's get it over with."

And with this she approaches the stage purposefully, Red as watchful shadow following on her heels, the air crackles of magic and necromancy. Figures appear out of nowhere and disappear as quickly as they show up, the club suddenly seems five times more populated. And, most of all, dark. Didn't she complain about the brightness of the whole thing earlier? Now she can barely see the hand in front of her face.

"What's going on here?"

"They are lifting the veil between the realities. Letting the deceased trespass and materialize here. The gateways for ghosts of all kind open on Halloween, as well for those that have found their peace already. They can visit their loved ones - " The professional voice behind her falters in mid explanation and breaks at the question, "Tara?"

Faith whirls around. The ash blond witch is standing in front of her in her blue shirt and tight jeans. And it breaks her heart when she sees the sad faces of the other two. The soft smile and the love that shines through every fiber of Tara's being and gets reflected by Willow.

So sweet and perfect that Faith has to fight the lump in her throat, as the two fall into each other's arms, Willow's crying becomes louder, while Tara's hands gently caress the red hair. Her sea-blue eyes pin Faith down with a mysterious look before refocusing on her lover.

Tara's hands enclose Red's face and the silent communication lasts an eternity and is still just a little moment in this nether realm. A reunion and a farewell, and a real one this time. Willow's sobs ebb away and suddenly she emanates the same calmness that engulfs Tara. And Faith feels like an intruder, still more like a voyeur of a moment that is so much more intimate, like a shared climax, and still she can't look away.

Can't close her eyes to the warmth and closeness that those two are radiating.

The kiss is so devout, so bittersweet, so full of lost promises that tears are welling up in her eyes. Another eternity passes and then the lips part in a synchronized movement. One last glance and their soulful conversation is over.

A composed Willow turns towards her, "Tara will support us from the ghosts' realm of this reality and we will focus our energies on you, you will be guided by us. Can you handle that, Faith?"

Give up control? Her look goes to Tara and the shy smile that she has gotten to know made room for a sanguine one. Could she let the other two use her as a tool? "I think so."

The incantations don't take long, the two of them are a good team and the black magic that oppresses the room dissolves for Faith as she gets taken by the hands by the other two and hears the last outlandish words swirl through her brain.

The circle closes with blinding sparks.

The Bronze empties in front of her eyes and allows her an undisturbed view at the band. Confidently she advances the three demons that have built appeared on the stage, and without their human veil they simply appear grey with glistening, blood red eyes and glamorous black robes. Faith knows that this fight is taking place on unusual terrain.

She is in the role of the observer while the energy of the witches is pumping through her veins, and she experiences things she has never felt before. Auras that glow in every color imaginable and still fit into the picture, as if the ghosts are not really gone, but still don't overlap with her sight.

A kaleidoscope of colors and emotions. Yet it's transparent.

Clarity and the black magic that is evaporating from the stage, and she uses it. The words on her tongue are unfamiliar and well-known at the same time. The challenge is accepted and the trio takes on its enemy.

Circles her, tries to spellbind her and bring her to her knees. But her energies continue to grow due to the demon priests' attempts to rob her of them. They are as one. The first slayer's powers untamable, intensified by white magic and made translucent. No darkness, only light and knowledge. She is a focal point that pulverizes its enemies and the victory is chocolate, dark and bitter and sweet.

And then the world is back in her focus. She is only the Dark Slayer.

The loss is unexpected. No ruins, only on her inside.

Now she knows how it feels like when a bullet shoots through your heart and that it hurts less than a knife in your stomach but at the same time can affect you so much more. That the rage about losing your only love in such a pointless way is enough to want to make the world pay. And that an 'I love you!' can be enough to break through the wall of hatred and coldness and to give in to the pain.

Faith gasps and turns to face the dance floor crowd full of bewildered faces and rigid bodies. Sunnydale has its own ways of dealing with the uncanny; the sound system gets turned back on and the charts music plays again. And she jumps off the stage and pushes people out of her way, people that are standing between her and the exit.

She needs to be alone. She needs to get out of here.

And she's out of the Bronze without any second thought about the SITs or other potential dangers.

Faith had never been good at playing watch dog.

Let me be empty
And weightless and maybe
I'll find some peace tonight

if the font and formating looks sucky, then it's not my fault. Blame it on ffnet ;)

Next part will follow soon

I would love some feedback :) If you want to give the author Astarte some feedback as well, you can do that in the review section too (I'm sure she'd love it)