Title: Braids and Cookies

Author: lilyme

Summary: "See, I didn't get that this was a popularity contest. I should have equal time to bake them cookies, braid their hair…" "Learn their names…?" So, it's pretty certain Buffy was being sarcastic here and that Faith didn't really do that… But ever wonder how it would have looked like, if things like this really had happened? Well, here is how it might have happened.

Rating: PG

Disclaimer: I don't own Joss or the gang. I only own my thoughts.

A/N: Hope there aren't any German words in it left. If so, then it's 's fault, which was playing tricks on me earlier on (showing me the unfinished version and all) :P

Two days had gone by since the tragic events inside the vineyard that had killed two young girls and injured even more. Too many.

Hardly any of the girls that had gone in had made it out unharmed.

Hardly anyone had made it out unharmed, really. Not just the little girls, potential slayers, who barely knew what this world full of vampires, demons and other otherworldly things really had in store. No, the more experienced members of the "army" hadn't faired much better. A blonde vampire, former self-proclaimed big bad, severely beaten, two full-blown slayers thrown around like rag dolls.

And a young man, with no special powers, but with a heart bigger than anyone else's and ever-observant, gentle eyes… was hurt worst of all those who made it out alive.

And who was responsible for all this? One single man. Priest. An apparently normal, average man. But with the power he possessed… he represented one of the biggest threats that ever walked the earth.

Well, at least according to them – to the girls that had come to face him. And as inexperienced as they still were… they probably got that fact right.

The girls who weren't still in the hospital and the ones that hadn't been with the others at the vineyard, all had assembled in the living room of the Summers residence.

'Assembled' might be the wrong word. It was more like all of them … all seventeen, which made up about two third of the girls… sat huddled together… looking for protection.

And why? Because there seemed to be no one else around to do that for them. Protect them. And that wasn't just a feeling they had since they had lost their… faith in what the Scoobies and everyone belonging to them.

No, it seemed to be true fact, because… they were, in fact, alone.

Willow, Anya and Dawn were most likely still at the hospital with Xander and the other girls; Giles and Buffy were missing in action, and not even missing in action together due to recent developments… and Andrew…no one knew…and most didn't care…

So… the potential slayers, the little girls, were alone in the house.

Though not entirely.

A certain peroxided vampire was down in the basement, with no apparent desire to come up any time soon…or to go out even. He would be there if some nasty decided on break and entering and especially attacking the current occupants of the house, but in real he preferred to be alone. Just maybe because he pretended that the girls were too noisy and frisky for him, because, in fact, they weren't – at least not right now.

And someone not clad in her trademark leather pants had just entered the house about twenty minutes ago. A little dusty and otherwise grubby. Obviously from patrolling. Though from the look on her face, one could see that patrol didn't go as she had wanted it to. Simple reason – she had hardly had the chance to fight anything, since even your average-day-run-of-the-mill vampires and demons were leaving town rapidly.

They knew something big was coming. Something bad.

A badder bad than a slayer desperate for a decent kill.

In this respect she wasn't much different from the vampire in the basement. Only he had come to terms with hardly being able to kill anything out there due to… the lack of anything out there… except if one would go directly to where the überüberbaddies were hiding.

It wasn't his job to hang out with them. It wasn't anyone's job, really.

But they didn't want to be seen as a job… though for Buffy and her entourage they probably were. Even more than that. A burden. A burden they had just failed to protect.

Is that why they weren't even here now? Because they knew of their failure and could not stand to be around them?

Maybe this was also a reason, but they wanted them… someone to be here… To simply be here.

So it was no surprise that Kennedy took heart and called out to Faith, who finally came back down the stairs. "Yo, Faith…"

The slayer did not react instantly, at least not in the turn-around-to-face-them-readily way. She stopped in her tracks, though, which might have lead her into the kitchen to look for food, if Kennedy hadn't called her name. Or back out into Sunnydale's night… to slay something that wasn't even there to be slain.

At any rate… she too seemed to want to be anywhere but here.

But… after a couple of seconds of seemingly weighing her options, she finally turned around. Faced them. "Yeah?"

The living room was silent. All eyes were fixed on the dark slayer, who was still standing in the foyer, fighting the urge to get away from them.

"Come sit with us…?" It wasn't supposed to come out as a question, but Kennedy herself didn't exactly know if Faith would stay with them if asked and what would happen if she stayed.

Faith still hesitated a bit, but eventually (or finally, depending on how you wanna see it) entered the living room. Immediately two of the girls got up from the armchair, which pretty much made up the center of the room, and sat down on the ground next to it.

The slayer walked past all the little girls, already feeling fairly uncomfortable. And the 'throne' that had just been cleared for her…was just one of the factors causing this feeling.

All eyes were on her and she felt self-conscious. Not because of her still damp hair or the barely fitting clothes that she had just borrowed from…she didn't even know whom… because, frankly, she was running out of clothes, since, having just escaped from prison, she hadn't had that many on her to begin with.

No, that was definitely not the reason.

The girls watched her closely, took in her battered appearance, the bruises on her arms, which the almost-sleeveless shirt still revealed. It seemed that slayer-healing hadn't taken care of them yet, and thus she looked just like most of them. Bruised. A fact that didn't make them more relaxed. But the fact that she… someone was here with them… did still.

Especially Kennedy felt more relaxed, since now she wasn't the one everyone looked up to for advice or help or comfort or anything… simply because she was the oldest and most experienced one.

No, now Faith was here for that.

And that exact thing – the girls apparently counting on her to make it better – is what made Faith self-conscious.

Of course the unusual quietness of the house wasn't helping any. A few days ago, the spazzing Wannabes on Starbucks had gotten on her nerves and she had taken the opportunity to flee from them into the basement. Now… they were much too quiet for her liking, and on top of that didn't leave her a chance to sneak off, since they apparently really wanted her there.

She had no idea what they expected from her now. She had no idea what she should talk to them about. If she should talk at all…

She watched them… watch her. Expectantly. Anxious. All of them. Not only the girls, whose faces were still rather unfamiliar to her and who were consequently nameless for her. Also the few girls, whose names she had already learned since her arrival. And even the one girl, whose name she had already known before her arrival, because the girl's redheaded girlfriend had told her about her on their drive 'home' from Los Angeles to Sunnydale.

Normally she didn't have a problem with being the center of attention; but right now, knowing that they wanted… needed her to comfort them in some way… she felt lost. She wasn't good at comforting people. She wasn't good at anything interpersonal, for Christ's sakes!

Her eyes scanned for something to do, to talk about, maybe… anything! Anything that wouldn't have all too personal dimensions for starters… Something neutral.

She took in sleeping bags, lots and lots of dictionaries, understandably, since, even though most of the girls seemed to be from English-speaking countries, interestingly enough, several of them only spoke English as a second language – if at all.

There were Spanish-English dictionaries, German-English dictionaries, Italian-English dictionaries, Arabic-English dictionaries… and Cantonese-English dictionaries…

All resting close to girls, who looked like they'd be from countries these languages are spoken in. That was the only reason Faith figured that Cantonese had to have something to do with China or the likes.

She read over the titles of other books that were scattered across the table and floor… noticing that she had heard of one of those books… No, wait, book series, rather, since, upon closer inspections she found that there were several of them. And apparently it was an international thing, since even one or two non-English books of that series were in the room with them.

She figured this would be the easiest and on top of that relatively neutral thing to talk about. And a thing she didn't know anything about, so…

"So…tell me about that Harry guy."

Big mistake.

Big big BIIIIG mistake…

That starter had broken the ice… but also had given her a headache… a really big headache. And she didn't even need the what felt like five hours they needed for explaining the basics to her to get that headache.

Too many too high voices and all of them talking at once.

Apparently every single one of the little girls had something to say to and about Harry and everything… Well, every little girl except Kennedy, who just watched the spectacle amused and relieved.

Yeah, relieved, since at least now the eerie quietness and uncomfortableness that had invaded the house. Faith felt it too.

But now she wondered how the little girls, who by now had encountered vampires, demons, weird priests with preternatural strength and at least one real-life witch… could still be so fascinated by fiction about the same topic.

Could be that there was more to Harry and his pals than just that.

Maybe it was the names… Though Faith didn't really get what the author could have been thinking when she had come up with them. Well, okay, Voldemort … that one she got – after one girl, not from France but speaking French, explained that "mort" meant "death"… fitting for a bad guy. But… to call a school Hogwarts…? "Hog warts"… No, thank you. Even if it was a "school of Witchcraft and whatnot".

And then there was… that game that somehow sounded like a Scottish whiskey… but not really. Oh, yeah, she knew her booze, but she absolutely didn't know what to do with that game. She didn't get it. Not even after they had explained it to her for the third time.

But all that explaining made her long for a nice little glass of Quidditch, no Glenfiddich, or even better, Jack Daniels. And not a glass, an entire bottle. Maybe that would help with the headache.

Though… she didn't want to leave the girls right now, just to flirtily convince a barkeeper of the fact that she was already twenty-one, which even she herself not yet was, to provide her with some alcoholic drink of any kind. She didn't want to do that tonight. Maybe some other night. When someone else would be here with the girls. Or when she simply would feel the need to get out again.

The need for that was somehow gone now.

Not only because a potential that looked like about twelve years of age, though Faith really hoped she was older… had decided that Faith seemed trustworthy enough to have her braid her hair for her.

The little blonde girl hadn't said anything, had simply sat down in front of Faith, shown her the one braid that had already been done by someone else or maybe the blonde girl herself and had indicated with a questioning look that Faith should do the other braid.

Faith had not hesitated for long… had gotten to work pretty much right away. Having absolutely no idea what she was doing there and if she was doing it right. This literally was a first for her. Years ago, she had watched Buffy braid her blonde hair, never really paying that much attention to that, though. Well, the blonde herself had been more interesting to her than the silly little girlie thing this one was doing. But that's an entirely different matter. A matter of the past… probably.

All the other little girls, who were still laying out the essentials of Harry Potter to her, watched Faith do. Most of them probably deciding against having her do the same thing to their hair any time soon.

But the blonde girl seemed happy enough.

And then… she didn't know what hit her, maybe the braids were screwing with her brain… Faith had suggested that they could have a go at baking some cookies, just "to pass some time or something".

The girls had agreed eagerly, readily forgetting the helplessness they had found themselves in in the last few days. Well, almost. Of course they didn't simply forget what had happened and how the others – in their own helplessness – had behaved towards them. But without really realizing it herself, Faith had indeed helped them somehow and still continued helping them. Comforting them, even.

Though the question remained, in how far Faith's cookies would make them feel better. Maybe they'd make them feel worse…

But of course it wasn't like they all stood around watching while Faith baked cookies…well, at least not the entire time. Every single one of the girls got something to do… even if the 'something to do' only consisted of filling the right amount of sugar, butter or flour into a cup, getting out the baking sheets or preheating the oven and the likes.

The girls didn't ask her when and how she learned to bake… Well, okay, baking cooking wasn't all that hard, but Faith wasn't too keen on telling anything about her crappy past. A crappy past that only held few pretty memories in store, like times she had been at her short-termed-childhood-friend's and had helped her and her friend's mom with baking cookies and other goodies.

Yeah… no, it wasn't necessary that they learned anything about the not-so-happy bits of that era. As far as she was concerned, they knew everything about her they needed to know: Name - Faith. Second best Slayer aka. The Chosen Second. Had been convicted for murder two. Had escaped from jail to help in the fight against evil…

At least one and a half of these snippets of information were already pretty crappy anyway… and that combined with the crap the girls had to face now on a daily basis… No… enough was enough.

And Faith much rather wanted to find out about the girls.

She had never thought about how young the girls actually were… except a few minutes ago, when the little blonde girl had wanted her to braid her hair, and a few days ago, when Willow had told her about her new potential-slayer-girlfriend.

Now she knew that Emma from Sweden, her little blonde hair-braidy friend, was fourteen – well, at least something – and Kennedy, the oldest of the girls, was eighteen – which meant that Willow could legally not be considered a sexual offender… a fact Faith acknowledged weirdly relieved.

She learned some other things about Red's brat. Privileged little girl that had lived in pretty big little family home(s) when she wasn't attending a pretty little boarding schools for little privileged girls. Yeah… that and partly her attitude made her deserve the title "brat": Faith wondered how those two – Red and Brat – had gotten together. It seemed a little weird. But apparently something had wanted them to get together.

Just like something had wanted all these little girls to become potential slayers and later on possibly slayers.

The other potentials didn't grow up that privileged, had pretty regular… average backgrounds, as far as Faith was concerned. Of course she knew that she knew far from everything about them now. It pretty much boiled down to name, age and home country. And it was hard enough for her to keep up with all those facts; additional background info would probably have made her headache return… the one she had almost gotten rid off by now.

It turned out that Emma and Kennedy were both at one respective end of the potentials' age spectrum. And as one might have figured from the various dictionaries lying around, girls from various countries had made their way to La Casa de las Summers.

The majority of the girls, however, came from the US… though Faith figured, this was because those were the easiest to find and/or didn't need that long to get here. The US girls consisted of Kennedy (who, however, had spent most of her in England), Vi, who Faith thought was a cute and adorable little thing… which maybe was because of the babbling and the red hair…, Amanda, who had lived in Sunnydale her entire life, but swore to have only recently found out about vampires, Melody and Kelsey, who were from the same part of the US and had buddied up soon after their arrival, though they had their differences from time to time and had went days without talking, as they almost in sync had told a still attentive Faith, Britny without E and Lyndsey, with double Y and E, who had lived relatively nearby as well, had not known each other, but had the same problem of having to spell out their names constantly to make sure people knew how to write it.

Then there Dana and Wiccy from Australia, who pretty obviously had a thing going… well, at least Faith thought so, maybe reading too much into little gestures and things.

Team Europe consisted, in addition to Emma, of Diana from Spain, Felicia and Marisa from Italy, and Sandra and Mandy (yes, Mandy, not Amanda, and, yes, that's really her name and she doesn't like it that much) from Germany.

Skipping the girls that were still in the hospital, the group was completed by Sonya from Jordan.

Well, almost, that is. Last not least was…

"Okay, who's got the nuts?" No, Faith wasn't trying to make a dirty joke. But if one wants to make chocolate chip and nuts cookies… one consequently needs nuts…

Still several girls smirked and Faith along with them. Not all girls got the pun, however, including a little Asian girl, who held a bag of nuts in her hands, looking around confused, wondering what the other girls could possibly be laughing about. Language difficulties.

Vi nudged her arm and pointed over to Faith, who looked at her with a nodding smile. And that was when Chao-Ahn got what she was about to do now.

Her face lit up and she walked over to Faith and the "ceremonial bowl", as some of the girls had called the bowl the ingredients were bit by bit filled into, with Faith, the "mistress of ceremony" and her scepter/wand/hand mixer standing right next to it, supervising and stirring, while the girls mostly just watched and smiled and chatted.

They hadn't planned on this becoming such a ceremony-like act, it had just happened; not only because it would have been stupid to have eighteen girls with eighteen separate bowls, baking eighteen different kinds of cookies… though that might have been an interesting Yummy-Fest as well. The "ceremony" probably still had something to do with them looking for Faith to lead them in this… any… situation.

She looked so relaxed… none of the girls could feel that she herself was still nervous around them. Because, okay, now they all felt a little better, with the last few days just a little less present in their minds… But one could never know what would happen in the next days, the next minutes, even. And one could not know how they'd handle these situations, what the outcome would be. If something went wrong, not even only concerning the fight against evil, she knew that the trust she had now gained, and hoped the Scoobies would gain again, could easily be taken away again.

For all she knew, she could even go and simply say something stupid to make that happen. So she had to be careful.

Chao-Ahn approached her and handed her the nuts with a giant smile. "Hey, thanks, sweetie," Faith returned the smile, though not all that giant. "So, what's your name?"

Asking her that was almost as bad as asking the girls about Harry Potter had been earlier on. No, it was even worse because now… she didn't even get the words. Because what the girl was telling her… she didn't tell her in English… as far as Faith could tell. And it sounded too long to be a name too… Faith understood the word "cookie", though she wasn't sure if the girl really had said that. If she had said "cookie", then it certainly wasn't her name… Faith didn't know much about Chinese, but she knew the people there didn't really call their kids "Cookie"… right? Well, she didn't know what "cookie" means in Chinese – or Cantonese, rather – either, so maybe.

Still smiling, Chao-Ahn went back to her place and left Faith wondering… Which her face must have shown, since half of the girls started laughing at her and her mixer and bag of nuts, respectively held in one confused hand that matched a confused expression.

Finally, Vi managed to get her laughing under control and answered, "Her name is Chao-Ahn and…"

"…we have no idea what she just said," Kennedy finished.

Faith shrugged, "Well, okay," she replied and finally added the nuts to the soon-to-be cookie dough.

Stirring the ingredients, Faith sorted the potentials' names in her head, systematize to memorize, that is, and noticed something interesting. Except for Cookie…uh, Chao-Ahn and Vi, all the names of the girls assembled ended in either A or Y…

She started to wonder if the Powers That Be made this name characteristic a requirement for recruiting girls as potential slayers and if girls with other name endings just happened to be recruited and even called by mistake. That would explain how she could have turned out the way she had, Faith thought. At least, to some extent.

But she, the apparently accidentally chosen slayer, still lived. Partly because she had spend most of her time in coma(s) and in prison, of course, but also… because nobody and nothing had managed to kill her yet, even though things and people had tried… and she had tried it herself as well. Buffy happened to have died at least twice already, as far as Faith knew.

And then there was also Kendra, the girl chosen before her and after Buffy, the girl her watcher had told her about as well. And Buffy's predecessor India… whose time as chosen slayer had been equally cut short than Kendra's had been – and technically speaking, Buffy's. She also remembered the name of one of the two girls, who had died in the fatal fight in the vineyard – Molly, equipped with a name that, unfortunately, perfectly seemed to fit this schema, and she hadn't even been a slayer yet.

So was having a name that doesn't end in Y or A still better, because your "chance" of dying early was minimal… or less big? Or was there only a bigger chance a girl whose name fit this characteristic would screw up as a slayer…?

She almost shook her head. She didn't like that thought. Or any of them, actually.

Out of the corner of her eye, she watched the girls, who were paying less attention to her now, were talking to each other, and she wanted to forget her thoughts or at least hoped that they would prove wrong. She knew she would never find out because for one them to be called, she would have to die. And she hoped that this would not happen any time soon. Not because she was afraid of dying, no; but because the slayer gig sounded more fun that it actually was, regardless of if you chose the proper or the wrong side of the force.

Super healing and supernatural powers! Well, whoopee! But also…

She only noticed that she had stopped stirring, when a hand sneaked its way into the bowl and a mischievous little finger scooped up some of the now done dough and a mouth quickly licked the finger clean. Faith recognized the girl immediately – it was Chao-Cookie, who smile-grinned at her and then walked away again.

"Hey…!" Faith exclaimed mock-strict, because even if she wanted to scold the little Chinese girl, this one wouldn't understand her anyway.

Some girls realized what had just happened and started laughing again. Faith made a grumbling noise, but only to amuse the kids even more.

The front door opened and a Dawn-y voice announced her presence. "Hey, guys!"

Immediately several of the girls went to get there and Faith wondered why. No, not why – she figured they wanted news from her about how the girls in the hospital were. And Xander.

Xander… the poor guy.

What had happened to him was definitely not something that letting him rant about his favorite comic and baking him cookies could cure. But… maybe they'd find something that could.

And she already made a mental note to save some cookies for him… just in case he was up for them.

She felt that – for starters – it was at least something she, they, could do.

"So, most of the girls are ready to come ho…," Dawn said, standing somewhere between foyer and dining room, surrounded by the girls. But when her eyes fell on a certain blonde girl, "Oh, my God, Emma…," she giggled, "what happened to your hair? Those braids look a little… uneven."

"I only did this one," Emma, in perfect English, but with cute Swedish accent, pointed out and to her hair, before she grabbed Dawn's arm excitedly and dragged her towards the kitchen, "Faith did the other one".

Faith… standing behind the kitchen counter; her and two of the girls just about to put little heaps of cookie dough on several baking sheets.

"What?!" Dawn's face broke into a giant grin. "You bake…and braid hair…?!"

"Yeah, well…mad world…," Faith replied, suddenly a little embarrassed, though not knowing why exactly. Maybe because of…

"Oh, I so can't wait to tell the others…!"

… that. Playing the comic relief for the girls, okay. But becoming an amusement for the Scoobies too…?

She hadn't planned on anyone else walking in on this… though her secret would have come out somehow anyway, she figured.

But, whatever; Faith sighed, if this had helped the potentials to feel better, maybe it would help the others as well.

As long as everything turned out okay in the end and everyone was happy, she'd be okay with making a fool out of herself. With or without cookies. At least she – the neither A nor Y slayer – would be helpful for once.


A/N: All the girls in there, well, except Emma, who I made up, and the girls we already knew from the show, I somehow all happen to know personally. And most of them are really from the areas of the world I put them it ;)

Thanks for reading. I hope you liked it a little bit. And reviews always make me happy :)