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: None. Set post-Chosen.

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

Archiving: By permission only

The din of voices was pretty unbelievable. I mean, there were only…I stopped counting at fifty. OK, so there were a lot people crammed into the house.

"Problems?" I smiled as the only person in the room who mattered plastered herself against my back.

"Nah, we're –" I started, leaning against the wall beside me.

"…five by five," Buffy finished with me. "I know you're going to find it hard to believe, but I missed that while I was gone."

My lips twitched. They wanted to grin goofily. I had to press them together so that didn't happen. "Missed a lot of things, B. D's high school graduation. Her moving to England. Red and Junior's wedding." The list was long. I figured I'd save the rest for later.

The arms around my waist tightened. "Yeah."

I waited. She didn't say anything else, just held me.

"You ever gonna tell me why you ran, B?" My timing sucked. Although I was standing in the doorway leading to the servants' quarters, as Giles called them, we were basically surrounded by mini-Slayers, Watchers, probably an entire coven of Willow's witchy friends, and all the core Scoobies. Most of them were at least tipsy. A few were outright drunk.

My body tried to derail the conversation when she went up on her toes and kissed the back of my neck. Unfortunately for my libido (and probably Buffy), I wasn't letting that happen. Not this time. Reaching down, I pried her arms from around me and turned to face her.

She smiled up at me hopefully, those hazel eyes squeezing my heart.

All thought went right out the window. Her hands were still in mine. I knew it. I could even feel her skin slide against my own. It didn't matter. Somehow, they were tangled in my hair, too, pulling my head down.

I swear the two inches I had to bend down took days, maybe weeks. I heard her panting breaths, saw her tongue flick out to wet those perfect lips. By the time my lips touched hers, I was dizzy and trembling. So soft. So warm.

Her tongue slid between my lips, stroking my own, stoking my desire. "B," I choked out.

"Let's sneak upstairs, Faith. No one will notice." Buffy pulled away – just enough to peer up at me. "Please?"

The distance between us wasn't much. It was enough, though, for my head to start cursing at my body. Jerking back, I shook my head. "No."

Small, very white teeth nibbled at her lips. "Oh." Buffy slumped. "Sorry."

Fuck. "Don't be sorry, B." I ran a hand through my hair, frustrated. "I just…I need to know."

She flinched and backed up a step. "I promise, Faith, it wasn't anything like you're imagining. No big affairs with vampire – or even human – lovers."

I waited, muscles tensed and stomach burning.

"When we got to LA, I was done." She hunched, arms wrapped across her stomach. I had to strain to hear her voice over the conversations in the background. "Physically, mentally…just done."

I still needed to know. Now that the story had started, and I could see the way this was hurting her, I wasn't sure I wanted to know. Reaching out, I brushed my fingers over her cheek.

Hazel eyes slowly lifted. They were dark with memories and blurred by tears.

"Fuck, B." There was no thought. I pulled her into my arms, hugging her with every bit of Slayer strength I had.

She hugged back. If I hadn't been a Slayer, too, my ribs would be crushed. "No. No, it's time." Buffy nuzzled my chin until I lifted my head a little, and she tucked her head in the hollow of my throat.

The noise from the crowd swelled suddenly. "If you're really ready to spill, B, let's find someplace quieter. I don't want to risk one of the Scoobs interrupting."

"We're safe. After the thing in the kitchen, I made Will swear to stay far away if we looked together-y." Lips brushed my neck. "She was so embarrassed she promised to run interference on everyone else, too."

Every word pushed warm breath over my skin. Shivering slightly, I mumbled, "If one of the Scoobs comes over, I won't be responsible for my actions."

A quiet chuckle drifted up. "OK, OK. I don't want to be responsible for the return of Dark Faith. Bedroom?"

"It's got a lock." I stepped back, keeping her hand in mine.

I was glad we'd opted for private. Just dodging bodies on the way across the entry hall was an adventure. By the time we completed the journey, I'd added Eau d'Bud Light as my cologne of the day. And, as we crept up the stairs, I felt like every single person in the house watched us leave. When I glanced into the living room, though, everyone seemed intent on their own conversations.

The door closed with a soft thump and the lock clicked when she turned it.

I dropped onto the bed, scooting until my back pressed against the headboard. "What happened, B? All those years as The Slayer. I get the tired part. Not the running. All you had to do was tell us you were going. We wouldn't have stopped you."

"Really?" I watched her right eyebrow go up, and her voice was a little sharper when she continued.

"Fuck, B. You looked like shit when we got to LA. If you'd wanted to go to the moon, Red woulda found a way to make it happen." I sat forward, elbows on my knees.

Her head dropped and she rubbed her temple. "And the bodyguards I picked up? The ones you told to watch me?"

Now I was the one rubbing at the ache in my head. "Sorry about that." I stared at the bedspread, unable to meet her eyes. "I was…I was worried, B. We'd been in LA a few weeks. You weren't getting any better. I didn't want-" I broke off. How could I admit I thought she might try to kill herself?

"You didn't want what, Faith?" The bed dipped as she got on. Buffy knelt next to my knees, her hands just brushing my arms.

If I wanted her to talk to me, I had to talk back. Pushing my legs out again, I put my hands flat on the comforter at my sides. "I was afraid you might want to stop being The Slayer – permanently." My hands clenched, gripping the comforter until my knuckles turned white. "That's why I asked the girls to watch you, B. They weren't there to keep you in LA. They were there to keep you alive." I'd said it. I felt a little better – if you discounted the sweaty palms and the black dots swimming in front of my eyes.

Her hand shot out, gripping my chin. "You thought I wanted to commit suicide?" Her voice rose to a bellow by the end.

"Yeah." I didn't elaborate. From the way she'd reacted, I'd been way off base.

"I didn't want to kill myself, Faith; although, after the body guards, I thought about killing you!" Ouch. Her voice hadn't dropped and the subject matter didn't help with the guilt squeezing my stomach.

I closed my eyes. It was the only way to avoid her eyes thanks to the fingers leaving indentations on my chin. "Like that's anything new," I mumbled.

She growled. Not just an angry hum. A real growl.

"I'm sorry," I tried. Fuck. Could I just go back to when I was playing the wallflower at the party? Redo this whole big scene? Well, not all of it…Maybe just back to her kissing my neck. That had possibilities.

"Faith." Buffy's tones softened. Her hand dropped off my chin, lazily stroking over my neck and shoulder. "Do you really want to know why I left?"

It was hard to focus, what with the goose bumps and the shivers and the need to rub my suddenly rock hard nipples. "Yeah," I groaned out, squeezing my eyes tighter.

"You." One word. One tiny little word whispered in the voice that always got to me.

That had to be why I didn't understand what she meant. "Me? What, me?" Opening one eye, I peered up at her in confusion.

The view was a little fuzzy and narrow, but I still made out her sad smile. "I left because of you, Faith. Seven years of saving the world, of having Will and Xan and Giles looking at me to find the answers…I wanted some space and a chance to sleep."

I knew where this was heading. Sitting up, I took a series of deep, slow breaths, praying I didn't puke.

"You were everywhere. You, Will, Dawn…" She sighed and dropped onto the bed, wrapping an arm over my stomach. "That was bad, but I was coping."

"Then I got the girls to watch you," I said numbly. I felt nothing now. Not cold or scared or sorry. Nothing.

Buffy's lips brushed my collarbone.

This was it. I let that warm kiss soak through my skin and into my soul. I'd had one week of Buffy and happy. As usual, I'd fucked it up. Now, I needed to remember every touch, every kiss, every smile…

"It was too much. They did you proud, Faith. No matter where I went, I had a pair of Mini-Slayers with me." Her words were soft; their impact was like a sledgehammer on my chest.

I jerked when she kissed my neck. Confusion beat out numbness. "B?" My voice wavered with the threat of tears.

"I ran, Faith. If you ask Dawn or Willow, they'll tell you I'm good at that. Better than you, probably, Ms. Head Slayer of the Slayers' Council." Buffy was teasing me now. I heard the amusement in her voice just as her tongue slipped into my ear.

Numb? Who was numb? Not me. I was burning up. My hands left the comforter to tug at the neck of my shirt.

Her voice continued to whisper across my skin. "I did Xander proud, Faith. St. Louis, Louisville, Shreveport. I lost track of all the cities I slept in over the last three years." Buffy slid a hand under the hem of my shirt, one finger swirling in my belly button.

Gasping, I struggled to stay still, to let her finish her story.

"You know what I do remember, Faith?" she asked.

I shook my head rapidly.

Buffy shifted until she was up on one elbow, looking down into my eyes. "I remembered that, no matter where I was, you weren't there. When I left, I had to get away. That lasted about a day. I expected you to come after me, Faith. I wanted you to come after me. Then it would have been just the two of us, no expectations, no responsibilities."

"I had to let you go, B." Desire took a back seat. We needed to get this out. For almost six years, we'd been dancing around our emotions. "You left. No note, no phone calls, not even a 'fuck you.'" My own voice got a bit loud with that.

Our heart to heart was interrupted by a roar from downstairs. We both looked at the clock. Twelve oh one. A new year.

Buffy was back to the kissing. Her lips and tongue teased mine. "I don't want to go back to that, Faith. I don't want to run. I don't want to look over my shoulder, expecting to see you there, and missing you when you aren't." Hazel eyes nearly gold, she looked at me. It's two thousand seven, Faith. How about a resolution to go with the new year?"

I'd never bought into that crap. No one ever did anything they promised to do. I nodded anyway, captivated by those eyes, and the hint of a future that included me and Buffy together. "What you got in mind, B?"