A/N: Sixty! Can you believe it? And such a long one, too!
"Not to ruin the moment or anything, but the sun's still not doing its thing outside."
Everyone looked first at Jonathan and then through the window outside to where it was, indeed, still dark.
"Which sorta works out well for B." Faith looked away from the glass and back the blonde, who still had her arms around Willow and her own eyes closed. In full view of the window. Faith could still see the quiver in the muscles under Buffy's skin. Adrenaline, tiredness, the moment, the Hellmouth. It could be any number of things.
At Faith's familiar husky voice, those green eyes came open, searching and finding that dark, liquid brown waiting, reflecting their own relief back at her.
In the middle of it all, the younger Summers, freed from her shock, hurtled across the room to throw her arms around Buffy. The embrace knocked the older girl back a little until she got her arms up and around as well, smiling and squeezing her eyes shut one more time.
"Don't you ever do that again!" Dawn whispered it into her sister's ear as she held on tight.
Buffy whispered "I love you" back.
Willow's cries hiccupped as she stood, rocking a little from where Dawn had just pulled Buffy away. Her eyes were on the window and the persistently absent sun. "But it was supposed to...."
Giles rubbed at his glasses. "I'm afraid a crack in the door may be all the Hellmouth needed in order to begin the process of—"
"That sentence doesn't sound like it's going to have a good end to it."
"Xander!" Willow whirled from the window to find him in the doorway.
He stepped aside to reveal Tara behind him, wearing a pair of pink, scavenged scrubs. He had one arm gently around her, holding her steady.
"Willow!" Anya was the only one in the room not holding her breath. Xander stared at her. "What? I thought we were affirming each other or something."
"That we do later."
Everyone but them was still staring at Willow and Tara, a roomful of heads swiveling back and forth like the audience at a tennis match.
"Tara." Willow said it again, and it was more of a whisper this time as she struggled to read Tara's drawn face.
"Oh, Willow." What do you say? Tara could still see Willow's face bending towards her in the bedroom right before…. That last moment when everything seemed to be going so well. Bathed in the perfect moonlight. "Willow…."
"You're okay! And out of the hospital and walking and alive, which is the most important thing, what with the bullet and—" Her words tripped over themselves as she took a step towards her love. One, then two, amazed.
"Willow, the sun…the earthquakes. Xander said…." Voice quiet with the strain.
The former redhead stopped moving, eyes flashing quickly at Xander, before they came quickly back to Tara, taking in the sad confusion. Then flickering around the room. Was this really happening? Maybe if everyone else was smiling…. But they weren't. They were watching her. Buffy's green eyes were still on her. Vivid. Waiting and tense. Willow felt her mouth going dry. Looking back at Tara, sucking in a breath. "I'm…I'm sorry…I didn't mean for…." Tears flowing.
Tara closed her own eyes for a long moment, then opened them again. "I know."
And then she was walking, not towards Willow, but gingerly towards the stairs, some bedroom where she could lie down. Buffy kept her eyes on Willow for a moment more as the earth stayed mercifully still, then moved quickly and was at Tara's side—pale hand helping her up the steps, a quiet "I'm so glad you're okay"—until they disappeared from view. Giles took one look at Willow, paused for a moment, and then went up after the blondes. Faith followed, with a harder look and no need to pause.
"Buffy, perhaps Tara and I could have a moment. I'd like to talk to her about whether something could be done that might…." Giles trailed off because there were any number of things at the moment that they might like to do something about.
The blonde slayer nodded, squeezing Tara's hand where they'd made her comfortable on the bed. Given the dark shadows under her eyes, her pale face, Buffy wondered whether they'd had to sneak her out. Bruising around the little red prick in her arm from the IV, sheen of sweat on her brow. Probably. "Let us know if there's anything you need." One last squeeze and she turned to find Faith leaning against the doorway.
Dark shadows there, too. Faith turned and went into the hallway.
Buffy shut the door quietly behind her and grasped at Faith's wrist, swinging the dark slayer gently around to face her. Bodies brushed together in the dim light. Faith's lower lip had a spot of dark red on it where she'd bitten at it earlier, in the middle of everything.
"B, that shit you pulled down there…."
"You know it was the only way to find out what she would do, whether she would cross that line."
"So sue me if I'm a little less fuckin' worried about her."
Buffy swept a dark lock behind the other girl's ear. "I know she said some things about you. You know they aren't true. She just said them to get under your skin."
"Well, it worked. And if Red so much as looks at you funny again, I'm kickin' her ass. I'm not sittin' on the sidelines again."
But Buffy was only half-listening, staring instead at the twin red holes in Faith's neck. The bite mark she'd made when Faith's body was sliding up next to hers in the shower. When she'd come at the feeling of Faith shuddering against her and the feeling of that sweet tang in her throat.
She winced. She'd gotten off on that.
"You should be more worried about me, apparently." She wiped her hands across her eyes, bringing them up to sweep her hair back away from her face. "God! I mean, I can't even make the fangs retract anymore!"
Faith didn't let her pull back. She ran a thumb across Buffy's lower lip, close to those glinting teeth. "G-man says the Hellmouth's makin' it harder for your slayer to fight. Keyin' ya up."
At the touch, Buffy found herself staring at the other girl's lips, dark and full. And then caught her stare as it slipped down to fixate on the little bloody, bitten spot. "Fuck!" She hissed the word out, forcing herself to look away.
"Such a dirty mouth." Faith arched an eyebrow, curling one side of her mouth into a grin. "And thought we did that earlier, but if you wanna again, far be it from me…."
Buffy's brow furrowed even further. "What, so I can drain you completely this time? I'm serious, Faith."
"Sorry, proximity's kinda makin' it hard to focus, B." Faith leaned back into the wall next to the doorway, feeling those slim hips pressed against her own. It was easy to make her words sound like a familiar, over-sexualized refrain. And because it was familiar, there was little reason to look past it to see the events of just a little bit earlier playing in front of those brown eyes. She wouldn't have been able to get there fast enough. If something had happened. She clamped the blonde even tighter against her, feeling the groan catch in the other girl's throat, hardly hearing the warning "Faith…" just before she captured Buffy's mouth with her own.
Buffy jerked back at the iron taste as Faith's lip split even further at the contact. "Faith, please…!" A hoarse whisper. The black in her eyes grown so large it threatened to swallow its emerald shield. Her whole body trembling, taut, hands fumbling to push at Faith. "I can't…I can't be here…I'm going to lose control and I can't…."
Faith blinked and snapped from the Buffy standing with the business-end of a stake pointed at her chest to the Buffy in front of her now, pleading. She could taste the blood on her own lip. She drew in a ragged breath. "It's not always on you, B." She wrapped her arms around the blonde and pulled her into a tight embrace. "S'okay. We can do this, B. We'll figure it out." Leaning in to kiss the other slayer's forehead, the bone right above one closed eyelid, down one cheek, nipping along her jawline and down her throat. "'Til then, why don't we just let my mouth do the talkin'?"
Feeling Faith's strong hand at the nape of her neck, the other one flat at the base of her spine, Buffy stayed tense for a minute and the finally let her head fall back, letting Faith's mouth do its thing.
Giles stepped quietly around the two in the hallway, catching Faith's glance with an eloquent eyebrow and receiving the slightest nod in return. He went back downstairs, alone. The researching had resumed. Tense, scattered, determined enough to put aside reflection on other things. Willow frowned at the computer screen in front of her.
"Willow, if you would like…." He cleared his throat as those dark green eyes swung around to meet him. "Tara has asked for you."
Willow instantly popped up out of her seat, but seemed less sure what to do once up. Taking a deep breath, she tried not to look at any of the other eyes in the room, focusing on those stairs as she slowly walked up them.
Xander looked back at Giles after she'd gone. But before the younger man could speak, the former watcher was already laying out their plan for attack.
"Jonathan, could you find that Hellmouth containment spell again?"
Xander beat him to the punch. "I thought we couldn't let Willow do that, what with the whole loose-cannon thing."
The Englishman sighed. "Willow won't be doing it. The rest of us will."
Anya looked up from her book. "Oh, well then. That makes me feel so much better."
It took a second for Willow's eyes to adjust to the dim light of the upstairs hallway, to resolve the darkness into the shape of Buffy pressing into Faith, head tipped back, mouth open and fanged as Faith's kisses worked down across her collarbone and the edge of the black tank's neckline.
They weren't looking so they didn't see Willow swallow, and recognize that her own lips had parted and shut them, and feel a crushing tightness in her chest and work to unravel it, and work even harder when Faith's hand slid down to cup Buffy's jean-clad ass.
But they were in between her and the door. Her and Tara.
Faith's head lifted from its kisses at the top swell of Buffy's breast. The blonde, eyes still closed, whimpered at the loss of touch. Faith glanced back to that small cry, then turned to stare at Willow again, taking in the large bruises on her jaw. She sniffed, one corner of her mouth fluttering upwards.
But Willow spoke before she could.
"Do you mind?" It was supposed to be simple question. A gesture at the door.
It didn't come out quite that way.
"Yeah, well, fuck you." Faith bit back, and didn't make any attempt to reign in the sneer any longer. Slipping out from between the wall and blonde slayer, she stalked back downstairs.
Buffy leaned against the wall and watched her go, then banged her head softly against the wall. "Please don't take this away from me, too, Will."
"Too?" Willow's turn to frown. The thing that Willow had already taken sat between them like a rock. "Are you always going to bring that up?"
"No." Buffy let out a long breath she didn't need. "But, I don't know, maybe yes. I'm not doing it to be mean. I just…." Dark green eyes holding Willow's. "I don't know. Anyway, I love Faith. I wish you could see that." And then she, too, was walking away down the hall.
"Stupid, stupid." Willow hissed it to herself, watching the blonde go. And then, steeling herself, went into the bedroom.
"Willow, is that you?"
"In the friend-alienating flesh."
"You don't alienate people."
"No, it's true. I mean, of course you wouldn't agree because you're always that kind of nice person and you try to see what's good in people—which is one of the reasons I like you—but I'm pretty sure I do. Pretty sure I'm messing up most things I touch, these days." A sad smile. "Including you. Us."
The blonde met that smile with her own sad one. "Your heart was in the right place."
Willow's eyes widened a little, reaching out to take Tara's hand, rub circles on the back of it with her thumb. "Do you think it's a heart you could—?"
Tara squeezed her hand and then let it go. "I don't know, Willow. Sometime, maybe. Not now. There's just been too much…."
"But everything—all of it was for—"
"I'm sorry, Willow, but that doesn't make it better. It only makes it harder."
"Oh." A small word when she felt like she couldn't breathe. She felt everything rising up inside and worked to choke it back down. Strained the second time. "Oh."
Tara took her hand again. "It's taking a lot to keep it in, isn't it?" Willow could only nod, dislodging tears. "That's what Giles thought." A deep breath. "I think I can help…help you with some walls. You'll have to open yourself for a minute at the beginning, really let yourself be open so I can come in and work with you. But you have to want to let me in. You have to want to work with me for it to work. Can you do that?"
Slowly, Willow nodded, sniffling, allowing the other girl to take her hands, watching as Tara brought herself gingerly up to sit across from Willow on the bed. Watching Tara nod at her to close her eyes and then close them and then remember open, open and open herself like being a glass of water and then taking away the glass so that you hope the water will stand there on its own, and somehow it does, feeling every vibration humming through the air around it, every little penetration of overwhelming air. Tara, the same knot in her stomach, tired, feeling Willow's hands in her own. Giles downstairs, the crease in the middle of his forehead, page after page between his fingers. Xander watching Anya, reaching out to push a stray strand behind her ear while she read, the big heart. Dawn, the energy, the strong pull towards her sister, the worry, the young indifference to danger. Faith's fingertips brushing across Buffy's thigh, ostensibly going for a book, the fierce protectiveness, the anger still, but the tenderness, fingers feeling the tiny ribbing of denim, the muscle tensing underneath. Buffy's fever and love, leaning into Faith's touch, and her worry, the heavy weight of what she took on herself, Willow in there somewhere…. Until Tara stepped into the liquid of her thoughts.
Then, one by one—finally, but also finally—the sensations closed off and left Willow alone in her own skin.
"Those of us casting the spell will all gather here, at the Hellmouth itself." The morning had worn into afternoon, though you couldn't tell it by the dim light outside. The sirens were nearly constant now. Giles pointed on the diagram Xander had drawn for him. Everyone crowded around. "Now we aren't sure exactly what to expect. The demons waiting there…well, some of them may have even crawled through—we won't know until we get there—but they are not your run-of-the-mill demons. Not half-human bastardizations, like vampires—"
"Hey! Watch who you're calling a bastard." Buffy arched an eyebrow at him.
"Present company excluded, of course. Particularly given that being a slayer makes you somewhat different from the usual—"
"Right, she's like Super Bastard Slayer." Xander put an arm around Buffy and squeezed.
She made a face at him. "Yeah, let's get me a cape and put that on my chest."
Faith chuckled. "Not to slight your god-given assets, B, but I'm not sure it would fit." For which she earned a smack on her arm.
Anya cut in. "Ooh! Or Slayer Plus! That's shorter. With maybe an 'S' and a plus."
Buffy threw up her hands. "Okay, now I sound like a cereal with added fiber. Giles, you were saying? So Faith and I will take care of creepiness that comes forth…."
"Actually, Buffy, you should not be that close to the Hellmouth. Its pull would simply be too strong for the vampire within you. Faith will be our slayer there."
The blonde blinked, looking between Faith and Giles. "But you just said the stuff coming out of…."
"Will be of the sort Faith is eminently qualified to take on, without the added worry of a demon within." Giles held his ground and put a hand on Faith's shoulder. He could feel the dark slayer staring at him, but went on to Buffy. "You will take the perimeter, watching for those demons already here that will be attracted to the Hellmouth's impending opening. And Willow will help you there."
Now it was the redhead's turn to protest. "Wait, I'm not going to be casting the spell? I thought I was going to be—"
The Englishman shook his head. "Also not advisable. Tara may have erected some walls for you, but there's no need to test them so quickly. And Tara is quite accomplished when it comes to magic, so I have no doubt she will be—"
"But she's still weak and—"
"Willow…." Xander softened his warning with a hand on her shoulder. "Tara won't be the only one casting. "We'll be there to support her. And we've all done a few of these in our day."
Buffy nudged her shoulder. "Looks like we drew the short straw, Will. But, hey, it'll be sort of like old times. Except, you know, we're older, and thus there will probably be more aspirin later. Or more Hellmouth. But hopefully the first one."
Willow furrowed her brow and started to open her mouth, but at Tara's glance, kept it shut.
Dawn dropped an armful of weapons on the coffee table with a clank, keeping two stakes for herself. "I'm going with Buffy."
Giles raised his eyebrows. "Well, Dawn, I had thought you might help with the casting—"
The younger Summers shook her head. "Nope. I'm going with Buffy." She handed a crossbow over to Xander. "And you're going to keep an eye on Faith."
"I'm starting to think we're never going to get away from this place."
Sunnydale High School, dilapidated and condemned as it was, loomed in front of them in the hazy dark. The smell of smoke filled the air. They'd already staked five vampires on the way over. Buffy and Faith making quick work of three, Dawn taking a fourth after some fight, and Xander and Willow managing the last. That group had been headed towards the school, like they were.
"Maybe if we'd left town, it might have helped." Buffy stared at the dark building.
Everyone had to admit Faith's answer was probably right. And, looking up, they found themselves at the entrance. Where Buffy and Willow and Dawn would leave the others to go in alone. Buffy could already feel other vampires nearing from behind them. She could feel the Hellmouth herself. Buzzing. Sickly. She focused instead on the vibrating strand that ran between her and Faith. She held on to Faith's hand, pulling her back against her for a moment.
"Don't make me have to rush in there to save your ass." The blonde tried on a grin, trailing a finger along the other girl's hip bone, trying not to look concerned.
"Don't be worrin' about me." The dark slayer grinned back, itching for the fight down there. "You just concentrate on poppin' out your little sun parasol when we get this shit locked up down there."
She hardly got it out before the world jerked under their feet and sent them all clasping for hands and shoulders around them as they rode it out. Everyone looked at Willow, who had both hands raised.
"It wasn't me, I swear."
Giles frowned. "Then we'd better get inside."
Willow watched Tara lean against Xander as she went through the door.
Buffy felt the cool air where Faith's body had been. "See you soon?"
"Yeah." Two fingers pressed against Buffy's lips, and then, with Faith's nod, the two groups parted ways.
It was only moments before the perimeter was under attack.
Inside, the rest of them raced ahead, dashing through familiar corridors made unfamiliar by neglect and dark and emptiness. Down into the bowels of the school, under the old library.
The demon was on them before their eyes could adjust to the dark down there. Shiny, white, a vampire gone wrong, face permanently twisted. It had on armor. It came at Faith with a sword.
"Okay, fucker, that's the way you wanna play it?" Faith danced back out of his reach and the sword sparked against the wall next to her. She kicked out underneath the blade and caught him in the chest, sending him back down a few steps. "You got toys…." She pulled the long knife out from inside her jacket. "…I got toys."
It bared its teeth at the blade in what might have been a smile, slashing in again. Faith leaned back and felt the blade whistle past where her stomach would have been. She nearly stumbled into the rest of them behind her, a few feet up the stairs.
A thwack, and a crossbow bolt sprouted from the center of his chest, quivering where it sunk in. Faith mouthed a thanks over her shoulder at Xander.
She turned to Giles, then back in front of her just in time to see the decidedly un-dusted vampire swinging his sword down to slice her in half. She got the knife up and managed to deflect it somewhat as metal clanged against metal. She rolled away with just a gash down the length of her arm.
"Oh, now that's just fuckin' annoying."
Buffy dodged the punch aimed for her face from one vampire and got wrapped up from behind in a bear hug by another. She swore she felt a rib break as he squeezed.
"You know, I think you might have just punctured a lung." She slammed her head back in to the vampire's nose, sending blood flying everywhere. "Good thing I didn't really need it anyway." He dropped her to grab at his shattered face. She whirled and met him with a side kick to the gut. "Doesn't mean it didn't hurt, though."
He staggered back and then turned to dust as Dawn's stake pierced his back. The sisters shared a brief smile before it was cut off.
"Dawn, get down!"
Faith pressed forward, grabbing ahold of the demon's sword arm as cut through the air in front of her, twisting around to bring herself close and jam an elbow into its breast bone. Or rather, breast plate. The thing was hard as a rock, and she winced at the lack of give. It wrapped its other hand around her, taking the advantage of having her in close, and lashed out with a mouthful of sharp, thin teeth. Faith cried out as it caught her on top of that other bite, much rougher, the blood coming much faster.
She slammed the hand with the sword in it against the wall as she struggled against its grip. She felt it hiss "slayer" in her ear as it drank. She finally banged the sword free and it clattered to the ground, but she still couldn't get leverage herself, slipping on the edge of a stair.
The younger Summers obediently ducked and Buffy's stake flew over her shoulder and into the demon that had been coming up behind her. Before she had time to retrieve it, a kick to the side of her head sent her reeling.
"Buffy!" This time from Willow, who was rushing after the vampire that had slipped away from her to take on the slayer instead. Willow and Dawn both jumped on its back, sending it staggering a few steps forward. It whirled them from side to side, succeeding in flinging Willow off into some bushes near the steps.
"Buffy, I can't quite…." Dawn struggled to stay steady enough to plunge the stake in. Her sister was still shaking off the blow to her head, coming out of it only when she felt tension in the slayer connection. A flickering.
"Faith!" Looking to the door of the school, but then Dawn's cry bringing her back, as she saw her sister toppled head over heels, thrown over the vampire's shoulder. And he was following her, pinning her down easily in the grass.
Too much blood earlier. Too weak already. Faith struggled against the merciless fangs at her throat, but felt her peripheral vision narrowing. Some far away voices calling her name.
Another thwack and the crossbow bolt hit the demon in the eye. It roared, letting Faith go to grab at the stick protruding from its eye. Faith slumped to her knees, gasping, then wrapping her fingers around the fallen sword. She swung it up and around, taking its head clean off.
Finally, there was dust. She knelt in it, shaking her head to clear it. Giles ripped off part of Jonathan's shirt and tied it around her neck.
"Can you stand?"
She blinked, actually feeling the blood coagulate in the open wound. "Yeah."
And with that they were scrambling down the rest of the stairs.
Even as she cried it out, Willow was hurtling into him, knocking him off Dawn so that they rolled together in the grass, Willow bringing a cross up between them and pressing in hard into his face while her other hand pushed the wooden point between them. Buffy reached out to help her up as the dust fell, already saying her thank yous.
The ground shifted again beneath them, and they all looked to the building behind them.
"Oh, god…Faith." Buffy half-turned to go.
"You can't! The Hellmouth, Buffy!" Dawn pulling her back. "You could hurt her! You have to trust them!"
The dark swell of energy. The as-yet small opening straining wider. A pulsating vortex.
"C'mon, motherfucker. Just try it." Faith stared at it. The thing that drew demons and made her existence necessary, even if it did not seem particularly interested in prolonging that existence now.
Behind her, Tara's pale form leading the chant. Xander was standing next to her, holding her up as whatever unearthly tongue they spoke filled the room. Candles, symbols, other things she didn't understand. Not her thing. Her thing was watching that opening, slicing down with her newfound sword as a clawed hand poked through. She cut it off at the wrist and there was a shriek from the hell below. More were clamoring. She fought to ignore the dizziness, the pain in her arm. She could already feel her slayer starting to take care of those things, but if the opening got much wider….
The jolt sent her stumbling. The chanting stopped momentarily as everyone braced themselves. Anya eyed the ceiling.
"Keep going!" Giles' voice cut through the rumbling, pressing them on even as that opening started to stretch with the rolling earth. A torso this time, another of the old-school vampires. Faith cut it down like wheat and saw another coming up in its place until the chanting reached a crescendo and the aftershocks stilled and then there was a wail as the demon was caught in between earth and fire as the Hellmouth closed on him.
With one last swing of the sword, Faith sent him back to dust.
And they were done.
"Is that it?"
Dawn met them in the hallway, Buffy right behind her, sheltered from the sun that had reappeared outside.
"You were expecting more?" Giles rubbed at his eyes, wondering how it was that any of them were still functioning.
"Faith!" Buffy pulled the other girl to her, taking in the gash, the makeshift tourniquet around her neck. "I thought— Are you—?"
"Gotta say, B. You've ruined me for any other vamp's kisses. Not as gentle as yours." She was met by an insistent mouth covering hers, but managed a few words around the kiss. "You got better breath, too."
"I'm so glad you're—"
"Thank, Xan-man. Tara, Giles, all of 'em. They did their thing."
"And you did yours, Faith." Giles squeezed her uninjured arm.
"And I scored one demon eye." Xander held up his crossbow. Buffy reached over to hug him, mouthing her thanks in his ear. For everything.
"We got a few demons ourselves, before they could crash your party."
Dawn chimed in. "And Willow saved me there at the end."
The redhead blushed under the appreciative glances directed her way. Tara moved over, pale but smiling, to give her a hug. "Well, it would've been really lousy to get bitten right when they closed the Hellmouth."
"Will's right, bad timing is not allowed." Buffy had her arm around Dawn, but nodded over at Willow.
"So what now?"
Everyone looked at Anya for a moment.
"I'll second Xander's motion." Willow raised her hand in the air.
Giles shrugged. "Eh, why not? Buffy?"
"Think I'm gonna do a little quality bonding time with ye old alma mater." She swept a hand grandly around her. "Maybe check out the library. Pretty much avoid the sun until nightfall, by which point you will hopefully have thought of a better plan than me in your closet."
Giles smiled at that, then turned to the dark slayer next to her. "Faith?"
"Pretty sure she needs a chaperone. I hear these libraries are dangerous places."
"They're also secluded. There's one part of the stacks where Xander and I had sex fourteen times."
Faith's eyebrows shot up. "Duly noted, Anya." Buffy just put a hand over her face.
"And on that note…." Giles herded the rest of them towards the door. "Buffy, Faith, you know where to find us later."
With a wave, they watched them go before turning to each other.
"Was it bad?" Buffy traced a finger down the rip in Faith's shirtsleeve.
"Day in the life."
"Our lives are not like other people's lives." She squeezed Faith's hands. "But I'm glad you're here with me, harrowing danger or not." A pause. "Oh, and Willow wanted me to give you this."
Faith's brow furrowed a little at that, turning the envelope over in her hands, unfolding it from where it had been in Buffy's back pocket. "Red?"
"Yeah, I think she thought it might be awkward…. Anyway, she wanted me to give it to you."
Faith opened it to find a folded birth certificate and social security card. "Faith…Giles?"
"She said she's set up the whole identity. A new one. So there won't be the problems with the police anymore. A fresh start. And Giles suggested that he would…you know, because he's practically…."
"Red, huh?" Faith grinned, turning the papers over in her hands. "Wait, so that means G-man's my dad now? Shit, I've got a lot of catchin' up to do. I mean, he didn't even have to deal with me when I was a teenager."
Buffy couldn't help but grin back. "I'm sure he'll be thrilled to relive those lost years with you. But just remember I'm stuck in his closet until we find something better."
"Or, more to the point, we're stuck here, alone, in this school until night. And did I hear there was some harrowing danger in those secluded stacks in the library?"
"Ooh…scary. But I think we can handle it."
"Pretty sure 'bout that."
Buffy's brow furrowing for a moment. "Are you sure…with…?" She pointed at the cloth around Faith's neck. What they both knew was underneath.
"So long as spinnin' 'round in circles doesn't sound like a hot time to you, I'm alright." One corner of her mouth tipped up. "And maybe I should just accept it as a challenge to keep you otherwise occupied."
"Consider the gauntlet thrown."
Thanks so much to all of you who have followed me through these sixty chapters! I really hope you've enjoyed it...I know I've certainly loved hearing what you have to say! I think I'm going to have to go back now and read it all at once. Especially given that I only had a vague sense of what might happen when I started this so many months ago. If anyone feels inclined to do the same, I'd love to know what you think along the way (so I can see what you see). I'm particularly curious about the places where the psychology of the relationship between Buffy and Faith was most interesting to you. I'm thinking of writing another story and, as I did in between my first story "Within" and this one, I decided to build on tensions that were interesting to readers, to flesh them out in a different situation. I'm even--gasp--contemplating a Buffy/Star Wars crossover, if that doesn't sound too far out there. Just imagine: Faith with a lightsaber. I'm thinking Buffy along the lines of Leia in Return of the Jedi (and I'm not sure if that involves a metal bikini). Could be good, could be horrendous, but I'd love to hear your thoughts on this story and, who knows, they might show up in the next! Thanks so much for reading!