Summary: Faith stays in Sunnydale on the eve of Buffy's eighteenth birthday. Will she be able to help Buffy celebrate the occasion?

Disclaimer: I don't own 'em. Boo hoo. Everything belongs to Joss and Co.

Spoilers: "Helpless"

A/N: Thanks to the usual suspects: zigpal, Lilly, and Ivy – with a very big hug to Tim for suggesting the basic plot to the muse.

A/N2: I've played fast and loose with the timeline of the canon episode.

A/N3: Submitted for the International Day of Fanfiction

They were at it again. Giles and Buffy and all their secrets. Mumbling under her breath, Faith mocked Giles' accent, "It's only for a week, Faith. Surely you can see how badly they need a Slayer in Los Angeles." Scowling through the library window at the pair huddled over the research table, she continued in her own voice, "Like I fucking care about Los Angeles. I want to know what you're up to, Tweed."

She leaned her ear into the cold glass. Even with Slayer hearing, though, all Faith could make out were the deep rumble of Giles' voice and the lighter tone of Buffy's.

Considering her options, Faith stepped back. If she wanted to know what was going on, she'd have to get inside without setting off Buffy's senses. Could she do it?

She didn't have to. A flash of light caught her eye, and Faith turned back to the window.

Giles waved a pink rock in front of Buffy while they talked. A few seconds later, he placed it on the table. Craning her neck for a better look, Faith saw several more laying by Buffy's hands.

"That's it? I get the boot for some stupid rocks? Figures." Faith didn't leave, though. There had to be more; otherwise, Giles wouldn't have tried to get her out of town.

As she watched Giles shove a blue stone before Buffy, Faith's stomach twisted. Rubbing at the ache, she saw Buffy slump a little in her chair.

Something was wrong.

Faith might have broken through the window to help – except Giles didn't seem concerned. In fact, he smiled slightly as he carefully put all the rocks into a case.

Buffy never moved. She continued to sit and stare at the table.

"I think LA can wait, Tweed." Dropping to the ground, Faith got comfortable and continued to watch the scene inside. She wasn't there long.

A few minutes passed and then Buffy jerked slightly. Glancing around the research table, Faith noticed her frown of confusion. The frown became an embarrassed smile, and Faith could almost hear her mumbled apology. With a yawn, Buffy climbed out of the chair and stretched.

"Patrol time, B?" Faith asked out loud.

Buffy unknowingly answered when she strode to the book cage and loaded up on stakes.

Faith checked her own pockets. A couple of stakes and a long knife nestled inside her jeans jacket. "I could use a little fun, too." She refused to acknowledge the surge of excitement at the possibility of slaying with Buffy. Moving away from the window, Faith sprinted toward the front of the school and a good vantage point.

A few minutes later, Buffy wandered outside. Walking like a bottle-blonde robot, she headed toward the nearby elementary school.

At first, Faith hung far behind Buffy. After all, she was supposed to be in LA, not Sunnydale. Things hadn't been good between them since Mrs. Post had blown into town. After a while, though, Faith noticed Buffy seemed off her game. Faith's senses pinpointed a handful of vampires nearby. The crawling inner itch had her reaching automatically for a stake and tensely scanning the bushes and trees for prey.

Buffy simply continued to walk, head back and eyes on the stars.

The first vampire ghosted out of the shadows behind Buffy as she jaywalked across Victoria Street.

Buffy never even looked back.

It might have been a ploy. They'd pulled the helpless routine many times on patrols, tricking vampires into coming after them and then staking them.

Faith doubted that scenario. Buffy's hands were in plain sight – and she wasn't holding a weapon. When the vampire charged, part of Faith still expected Buffy to defend herself.

The vampire closed quickly.

Buffy's empty hands swung at her sides in time with her stride.

She couldn't wait anymore. Faith stepped out of the doorway where she'd been hiding and hurled a stake across the street with deadly accuracy.

It struck the vampire in the back with so much force the point protruded from his chest. He looked down at it in surprise for a second. Then the only thing remaining of Buffy's would-be attacker was a pile of dust on the sidewalk.

Heart pounding, Faith watched Buffy stroll down the sidewalk. She'd never noticed the vampire or Faith's assistance.

Giving up on stealth, Faith walked a block behind Buffy. They crossed East Sola and skirted the hulking stone shell of Sunnydale Elementary School. There were more vampires ahead in Alameda Park. Faith counted at least three.

Even Buffy noticed the first one. He stood at the top of the slide, silhouetted by the bright moonlight. "Come on. Don't you know there's a height requirement for that? Get down before you hurt yourself," she called out.

Faith kept one eye on Buffy as she advanced toward the playground; the other scanned for the other two blips on her Slayer radar.

Her two targets were to the right. Faith drifted in that direction, keeping to the cover provided by the shrubs surrounding the equipment. Leaves rustled farther into the underbrush, and Faith knew she couldn't continue to divide her attention. Buffy would have to handle one vampire on her own.

Diving headfirst into the thick green growth, Faith tackled one of "her" vampires.

They crashed to the ground, grappling for position. Her head rocked back, and Faith bit back a groan when the muscled demon punched the side of her head. "Damn it. That's gonna leave a bruise," she protested.

He seemed fine with that. His fangs gleamed when he smiled.

"Bet this will, too." With a wrench of her hips, Faith reversed their position. Sitting on top of the vampire, she pinned his left shoulder to the ground. With her right fist, Faith rained down a series of crushing blows.

They were enough to daze her opponent. While he laid gasping and moaning under her, Faith yanked a stake from inside her jacket. Seconds later, her knees thunked to the grass.

"One down, one to go," she muttered. Hopping up, she wormed her way through the underbrush in search of her final target. He wasn't far away. Faith felt him nearby.

She paused. What the fuck? Buffy's vampire was still alive. He tickled the edges of her senses.

Head whipping back and forth between the vampire ahead of her and the one with Buffy in the playground, Faith struggled to make a decision.

Buffy won out.

Spinning, Faith located Buffy and her vampire on the grass near a picnic table. Air exploded from her lungs.

Somehow, the vampire had gained the upper hand. He straddled Buffy, and, even from across the playground, Faith saw him shoving a stake closer and closer to Buffy's chest despite her efforts to keep it away.

Faith flipped the stake in her hand over and prepared to repeat her throw from earlier.

Before she could bring her arm back, though, Buffy snapped her head forward, head-butting the vampire above her. She followed that with an open-handed slap. The sound of flesh meeting flesh was loud in the silence of the playground.

The vampire staggered back a few steps.

Perfect. Faith pulled her arm back, stake held close to her right ear. She just needed…

With a loud roar, the vampire charged at Buffy.

Whipping her arm forward, Faith heaved the stake at him. The sharpened wood slammed into his back – just as Buffy's stake pierced his heart from the front. A cloud of dust exploded where the vampire had been.

Slowly sitting up, Buffy brushed at her clothes. "Well, that was more fun than I expected," she grumpily announced to the empty playground, seemingly unaware of Faith's presence.

Faith melted back into the shadows. A quick scan of the area didn't yield anymore vampires. The last member of the previous group must have run away. She sent a silent thanks to the PtB as Buffy climbed unsteadily to her feet. Faith was out of stakes, and Buffy looked like she was on her last leg.

She took a step toward Buffy. Maybe she should say something, find out what was wrong.

"I am so telling Will that we can't do all-night study parties again. Sleepy Slayers are Dead Slayers," Buffy mumbled as she plodded back toward the street.

At Buffy's comment, Faith rethought her options. She didn't want to overreact if Buffy was just tired. She stepped back into the shadows and once again followed her down the darkened streets of Sunnydale.

There didn't appear to be any more vampires in the area – at least, none Faith could sense. She didn't relax, though. Keeping Buffy in sight, she continued tailing the other Slayer until she climbed the steps to the Summers' house. Freed from her self-imposed bodyguard duty, Faith watched as the living room light blinked out and Buffy's bedroom light went on. "Hope to hell you get some sleep tonight, B. I got better things to do than follow your sorry ass on patrol every night."

The upstairs bedroom went dark.

Casting one last look around the neighborhood, Faith began the long walk to the Sunnydale Motor Inn.