Disclaimer: All things Buffy belong to Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy, and lots of people in expensive suits. I'm not making any money here, just trying to create a happier Buffyverse for my favorite characters.

Spoilers: A little borrowed dialogue from "Amends."

A/N: Another big thank you to Val, Zigpal, Ivy, and Lilly.

Archiving: By permission only

The bell rang as I leaned over to put the angel on the tree. "Hey, can someone get that? I'm a little busy here." Big surprise. No one moved. Growling, I slapped the plastic woman with her horn on the fake pine needles and jumped down.

The bell rang again.

"Don't worry, I've got it." Giles and Willow waved absently at me. Kennedy, of course, just smirked before going back to untangling the lights for the tree. Muttering under my breath, I stalked down the hall and yanked the door open. Fuck me…


I've heard that voice in my dreams a thousand times. Hell, sometimes I even heard it on the street, like she was standing behind me, whispering in my ear. Smiling from ear to ear, I stepped forward. "B! What are you doing here?"

Buffy smiled almost shyly, and I did a double take when she said, "Uh, looked like that whole Slayer-free life was gonna be kind of a drag. I didn't really have anything...

You know."

Man, she just had to say that. My memory was a little fuzzy on that night, but I managed to choke out, "I'm glad you're here." Unlike when Buffy had uttered those words, I meant them. I really, really meant them. Damn, Christmas was looking up. "Come in. It's fucking cold out here."

About that time, Willow and Giles decided to answer the door. I was nearly run down by a squealing redhead. Giles, of course, was a little more controlled. The "Good Lords," though, were his British version of squeals. Shaking my head, I leaned against the wall and watched the three try to catch up on three years in three minutes.

"Damn. I didn't think she'd ever come back." Kennedy didn't sound exactly thrilled with Buffy's return to the fold.

I snorted. "Junior, Slaying's in B's blood. No way could she walk away. She just needed a vacation." The party didn't look like it was going to be over anytime soon. "Come on, Kenn, let's go work on those lights. The gang might be all talked out by the time we get the rest of the house decorated.

Sure enough, Kennedy and I had put the lights up - twice ("Of course the lights work, Faith.") and finished putting ornaments on the tree by the time Buffy wandered in. "Wow. Looks good."

I thought so too, just not about the tree. I didn't want her to know that I was nearly drooling over her, though. As the lights reflected in her eyes, I remembered how much I'd really missed her. I squinted at the huge tree to hide my tears. "Not bad. Of course, we need more lights. Red was just too cheap to spring for that other set."

"I was not too cheap," Willow griped as she dodged around Buffy and joined Kennedy on the couch. "We have more than enough lights. I figured it out."

Here we go again. Rolling my eyes at Buffy, I waited.

Sounding very upset, Willow went on, "Look, there are two hundred fifty lights on every strand. The tree is eight feet tall. Assuming we want lights at one-centimeter intervals –" Kennedy kissed her, thankfully stopping the babble.

"It's nice to know some things don't change," Buffy murmured just loud enough for me to hear. "Willowbabble…Brings back memories." From her sudden frown, they weren't entirely happy ones.

"Hey, you hungry?" Dumb question. Slayers were always hungry. I just wanted to make her smile again.

I got one; it was fake, though. I could tell. Her eyes stayed dark, the green highlights absent. "Yeah, you got anything good?"

Tossing an arm around her shoulders, I steered us out of the room toward the kitchen. "B, we got ten Baby Slayers upstairs. What do you think?"

"I think I want more than a low fat yogurt." She leaned her head on my shoulder for a minute and I closed my eyes, pulling her a little closer.

"You always did, B. You just wouldn't admit it." Damn. I'd pushed too hard. She pulled away, and I wanted to apologize immediately. I didn't. We had a lot of talking to do. Now wasn't the time to start our first fight. Ignoring the way she'd closed off, I opened the 'fridge and peered inside. "I can do hamburgers, hot dogs, sandwiches, leftover pizza." I sniffed. "Eh, maybe not the pizza"

She didn't say anything, so I looked up.

"Nothing sound good?" I tried to keep it casual, like I didn't notice the tears in her eyes. The handle on the refrigerator groaned a metallic protest when my fingers tightened around it.

Her head shook rapidly.

Well, fuck. So much for acting like nothing was wrong. I was across the kitchen in a flash. "B?" I touched her cheek lightly. "Come on. It's just a little mold. If ya' want the pizza so bad, we'll just scrape the fuzzy part off."

Buffy giggled a little and sniffed a lot. Tears wet my fingers where they rested on her face. "Faith…"

I waited as long as I could – not long. "Yeah, B?" Was it just me or was she leaning up toward me?

"Can I have some hamburgers?"

Her lips were wet. And red. They were moving. God, had Giles turned the heat up again? My shirt was sticking to my back. "Huh?"

"Earth to Faith," Buffy said, and I jerked back.

"Damn. Sorry, B." I didn't even try to offer an explanation. Anything I said would sound stupid. "You want those burgers warm or cold?" All I had to do was touch them. They would be charcoal in seconds from the heat in my body.

The zipper on her coat sounded loud as I reached into the still-open appliance and grabbed the plate of hamburgers. "I prefer mine hot, thanks. The works, if you have them." She cleared her throat. "I…uh…I'm sorry I haven't been back in a while."

My eyes closed, and I stood very still as the microwave heated her burgers. . It didn't help. All of my good intentions were gone with that one phrase. "A while?" Damn. Even I heard the anger in my voice. "It's been three fucking years, B. A while is a month." I slapped the plate onto the island counter with a bang.

I pulled back at her flinch. "I needed to get away."

"We got that, B. Just as soon as you left us high and dry with a bunch of whiny teenagers who were suddenly Slayers." Well, we'd lasted almost fifteen minutes without a fight. In Faith/Buffy time, that was almost a lifetime. Walking away, I made her a pile of burgers, absently piling onions, tomatoes, pickles, and lettuce on each before squirting them with copious amount of catsup and mustard. Yeah, I still remembered what she liked.

"You had it under control, Faith. You didn't need me," Buffy said softly. "I didn't think anyone would miss me."

She was joking, right? Not miss her?

"Red cried every day for a week. Don't expect Junior to welcome you with open arms after that." The burgers were done, but I wasn't ready to face her. I didn't want her to see the truth in my eyes. I'd cried when she'd left, too. After the First, I'd been so sure…

A small hand covered mine. "I'm sorry," Buffy repeated raggedly

I knew she was. We'd all been pushed to the limits back then. B more than any of us. Hell, I'd been worried that she might do something stupid, even got some of the girls to set up a spy network so Buffy wasn't ever really alone. Somehow she'd managed to sneak by them, though. Buffy the Clothes Horse with a single duffel bag and the open road.

"We're good, B. In fact, I think you still have a few freebies at my expense." I turned, wanting to whimper when our hands slipped apart. "Here, eat. Slayers are always better with full stomachs."

"Listen to you," she teased, but I could still hear the strain in her voice. "You sound all Mom-ish."

I crossed my arms and glared at her with a look I remembered Mrs. S giving me. "Who you calling a Mom, B? Not me? Faith the Dark Slayer? The Slayer Boogie Man…"

Ah…I was so fucking good. Buffy giggled, almost choking on her bite of hamburger. "Yes, you. Look at you."

I looked down. "Yeah?" What was I supposed to see?

"Where's the leather and the tank top? Huh?" Buffy waved a hamburger at me, bits of lettuce spewing out and littering the floor. "You aren't wearing any makeup, none. You needed a putty knife to layer that on back in your Dark Faith days."

Girl had a point. "Got out of the habit in prison," I told her with a shrug. Looking at her, I relaxed a bit. Buffy looked better now; no tears in sight and she was motoring through the food. "You want a flash from the past, though, I think I got some old clubbing clothes upstairs. Wanna get all decked out and do a little dirty dancing?" I dropped the Faith Smirk and ran my hands down my sides until they artistically framed my crotch.

Either I'd lost my touch or Buffy had gotten a hell of a lot more experienced. Her eyes locked onto mine, and I thought I'd incinerate on the spot. The inner fire climbed higher when she tossed the burger onto the plate and stalked toward me.

"Hey! There you are," Willow bounced into the kitchen and threw herself onto a stool next to Buffy's plate.

Buffy froze, and I could see her pulling away. My hand clenched into a fist, and I knew I needed to leave. Now. Before I either told Willow just how bad her timing sucked or tried to kiss Buffy with an audience.

I ended up going out for the lights for the tree. There's nothing like Walmart the week before Christmas. Wheeling back into the driveway, I sat for a long time in the car. Buffy was back. This was my chance. Hell, if she decided to do another disappearing act, it might be my last chance.

Holding my bag like a prize, I sailed into the house. Well, that was a let down. Kenn wasn't there to celebrate my victorious return with the lights. Frowning, I searched the entire ground floor. It was empty. All the lights were on, but no one was home. Grumbling, I opened the box of lights and stretched them out across the living room. I was testing this strand before it hit the tree.

"You know, the tree looks fine without anymore lights," Buffy's voice commented out of nowhere.

I barely managed to choke off a girlish scream. "Fuck, B, give me a heart attack, why don't you?"

"You must be getting old, Faith. I come with bells – Slayer bells." She grinned at me. That heart attack wasn't such a joke anymore, and the look in her eyes was making me nervous.

Grabbing the lights like a shield, I held them up. "We need the lights. I ain't letting Red and her math win. She won the last two years – but only because the lights I bought at the last minute didn't work. These work. See?"

Buffy came closer, peering at the lights. "Perfect." A blonde eyebrow raised and her head tilted. "You realize, though, that the tree is completely decorated."

I was missing something. "So?"

"Unless you want to take all the ornaments, tinsel, and little berries off, these lights don't go up." Her hands brushed mine as she took the lights and draped them around my neck.

"Hey-" My voice cracked. Clearing my throat, I tried again. "You…ah…you don't have to help with the lights. Junior's actually pretty good once you get her started." I watched her hands lift, more lights wrapping around my neck and draping down my chest. "B?" God, if this is a dream, don't let me wake up.

Smiling up at me, Buffy shook her head. "Kenn's not here." The smile widened. "Willow's gone, too."

I might have cheered, if I could breathe. My lungs burned from the lack of oxygen. Little spots flashed in front of my eyes as Buffy's fingers traced up the strand around my neck and then tangled in the hair at the back of my neck.

"They're all gone. No babies or Scoobies." She went up on her toes, body pressed hard into mine.

"B, please…" I was so far gone.

Lips brushed my chin, my cheek. "Please what, Faith?"

"Don't tease." The words came out harsh and clipped. I'd been waiting for this moment since I was sixteen. Years of dreams, fantasies, and despair stood in my arms. If she pulled away now…

A hand slipped out of my hair and I felt tears fill my eyes.

That same hand gripped my chin with Slayer strength, forcing my head up. "Look at me, Faith."

I fought that soft command, squeezing my eyes shut. I wouldn't…I couldn't… The tears leaked out anyway.

"Faith." Buffy's soft, husky voice tormented me. Strong teeth nipped my neck. "I'm right here, Faith. I'm home, after three years of running." A warm tongue laved the spot she'd just bitten. "I spent every last penny I had to send the girls and their chaperones on a shopping trip."

The words mixed with the desire fogging my mind. "Sh-shopping?" I managed to mutter. That meant…

"Yep." Damned if Buffy didn't sound pleased with herself. "It's just you and me and all these lights."

I was still a little slow on the uptake. "We're alone?"

"Yep," she repeated, head tilted to one side.

"And they ain't coming back for a while?" Damn. My heart rate picked up

"Nope. Teenaged girls. A big mall." God, that Buffy smile… "I gave them cash."

I grabbed her and whirled us around. "And Red thinks she's the brains around here. You're a fucking genius, B." The spinning slowed. I had something else I wanted to try.

Keeping my eyes locked with hers, I lowered my head. Thanks to Slayer hearing, I heard her breath catch for a second then almost explode out of her lungs. Her heartbeat (or was that mine?) pounded in my ears. Tremors ran through me, and I wasn't sure my legs were going to hold me up.

When my lips finally touched hers, I expected the angel on the tree to blow her horn or for the lights to …hell, explode! No music or fireworks, though. It was just Buffy and softness and heat. I could have sworn her voice whispered in my head, "All I want for Christmas is you, Faith."