A quick note: Thank you to everyone who sent encouragement over the past year. RL has kept its claws firmly around the keyboard and me away from it. Your enjoyment of this little series has been wonderful to see.

"And It Begins" is complete and, as usual, I will post one part a week until done. Happy reading!

TITLE: And It Begins

AUTHOR: Eleri McCleod

EMAIL: elerimc (at symbol) gmail . com

STATUS: complete

CATEGORY: Challenge response, drama, series

PAIRINGS: Faith/Jack

SPOILERS: BtVS – none; SG-1 – none

SEASON: BtVS – post series; SG-1 – 5

SERIES/SEQUEL INFO: Part 3 of the "Worth Fighting For" Series. Can be read on its own, but will make more sense if the other two stories are read first - "Worth Fighting For" and "Every Story Has Two Sides."

CONTENT LEVEL: FR15, T, 15+, take your pick

CONTENT WARNINGS: nothing you wouldn't see on TV

SUMMARY: Knowing just how much they both stand to lose, Faith begins her relationship with Jack.

DISCLAIMER: Buffy the Vamipre Slayer and its characters are the property of Joss Whedon and Mutant Enemy . Stargate SG-1 and its characters are the property of MGM, World Gekko Corp and Double Secret productions. I'm just borrowing them for a little while and will return them unharmed. No copyright infringement is intended.

ARCHIVE: TtH, Jackfic, , Gateworld, any others please ask

AUTHORS' NOTES: This has been sitting for almost a year and after much prodding and gnashing of teeth, it's done. I hope you enjoy this part of Jack and Faith's life. Special thanks go to Lynette for her beta skills. Without her all sorts of mistakes would slip through into the final version. As always, any and all feedback is appreciated.

He'd said dress casual and then refused to expand on it.

Staring at her reflection Faith found herself in a place she'd almost forgotten about – too casual or not enough. "Men," she muttered to her mirror, tossing the blouse in her left hand toward the vicinity of the bed. "Don't they understand there's casual and then there's casual," she continued, the subtle stress on the word bringing a grimace to her face. "Am I supposed to wear first-date casual or night on the town casual or getting muddy casual?" Another blouse joined the brightly colored mass at the end of her bed. She held the last shirt up over her chest, twisted and turned at all angles and tossed that one as well.

"Screw it. This is going to have to do." Already familiar with the chill that settled in at night in Colorado Springs, she'd slipped on her most comfortable pair of leather pants. Okay, she admitted silently, it helped they looked great. She'd managed to snag Jack's attention three nights ago in the bar. Now she needed to keep his attention and she was willing to use every feminine wile she possessed to do it. The crimson shirt was a step up from her normal t-shirt and contrasted nicely with her hair. She'd grab a jacket on the way out and hope it was enough, wherever they were going.

Done futzing with her wardrobe, she went into the small living room of her apartment. Jack would be arriving any minute if her experience in the future was anything to go by. He was almost frustratingly punctual. A confident knock rattled the door slightly and she sent a glance at the clock on the small entertainment center that had come with the apartment. Yep, five minutes early. For Jack that was right on time.

The smile was still on her face when she opened the door, a tiny flutter jumping through her stomach. "Hi."

"Hi back," he said, his grin starting another flutter. He held out a single white rose, the palest blush of color shadowing its interior.

"It's beautiful," Faith said, absurdly pleased with his old-fashioned gesture. "Come on in. I'll get some water for this." Her fingers brushed his as she accepted the rose, the warmth of his skin a familiar sensation. She left him in the living room to explore on his own while she dug out the only container she owned that wouldn't disgrace the beautiful rose. The simple glass vase was a slender column with absolutely no adornment. Rinsing off the packing dust, Faith realized this was the first time since she'd spontaneously bought the thing in Cleveland it was actually going to be used. After placing the rose just so in the vase, she turned to find Jack leaning against the kitchen door jamb, arms comfortably crossed over his chest. "What are you smiling for?" she asked, lips curving up as well.

"Just enjoying the view."

Instant heat rushed over her face at the tossed off compliment. First she was worried over clothes, now blushing? Oh, Faith, she told herself, you are so toast. Since she had no clue how to respond, she said nothing, merely walking past him into the living room.

He followed quietly behind her and waited until she'd placed the vase and flower atop the entertainment center. "It looks good there."

"It does," she agreed, nodding. Turning to face him, she took a quick moment to absorb his presence in her apartment. He fit. For some reason she'd been half-afraid he would look out of place in her small home. And according to his khakis and polo shirt, she'd chosen the correct level of casual. She'd have time to work on his expounding abilities later. "So are you going to tell me what we're doing tonight or am I stuck guessing?"

Jack chuckled, hands tucked into his pockets. "I wouldn't want to spoil the surprise. Although you might want to bring a jacket."

With a mock glare, she grabbed her non-battered leather jacket from the small closet and gestured toward the door. "I'm ready to be surprised."

The next few hours were ones that Jack would remember as some of the most enjoyable he'd had in years. When he'd agreed to go out with Faith – had it really been only three days ago – he'd been at a complete loss over what to do next. Where would they go? What would they do? Their age difference alone was enough to make him question his sanity in saying yes in the first place. And if anyone had asked him before he picked her up, he would have told them the night was doomed from the start.

Now, sitting across from her in the small cafe, Jack was pleasantly surprised to know that he couldn't have been more wrong. Instead of the traditional dinner and a movie, he'd opted for an Academy hockey game, with all its requisite calorie-filled junk food, followed by coffee and dessert. Both lighthearted and undemanding, it took away the possibility of awkward silences when they'd find nothing to talk about. Only Jack discovered Faith to be as much of a hockey enthusiast as he was. Shouting at the refs, booing at cheap shots and generally being as loud as Jack, Faith had most definitely been into the match.

And then there was her choice of post-game snack. Jack felt his smile widen as he watched her spear the last bite of the humongous piece of chocolate fudge cake with her fork. Both Jack and their waiter had been dubious at her choice, knowing the size of the monstrosity. Faith had merely smiled, a predatory gleam in her eye, and stated, "Bring it on."

"What's so amusing?" Faith asked, setting the fork down across the crumb spattered plate.

Jack couldn't stifle the grin for anything. The sudden image of a younger, brasher Faith and a basket of chicken strips filled his mind. "Nothing really. It's just nice to see a woman who's not afraid to be seen actually eating."

"Get used to it. I never have been a wilting southern flower."

His body seemed to freeze for a moment at her words. The implied future reference gave birth to a thought he'd kept firmly squashed flat – could this, they, actually go somewhere? "I'll keep that in mind." He must have sounded like his normal self because Faith merely smiled and took a sip of her coffee. Feeling the need for a shift in topic, he steered back toward safer waters. "So do you play hockey as well as you yell at the refs?"

The cup halted three inches from the table as her eyes flew to his, obviously not sure if he was teasing her or not. "I'd say 'pot' but since I haven't seen you play yet you get a short reprieve."

"I take it that's a yes then," he said, adeptly ignoring her return jibe.

"Not really," she admitted, one finger circling the rim of her cup. "I never was one for team sports growing up."

The self-deprecating irony in her voice tugged at something deep inside him. It was yet another tiny thing to tuck away for later thought. "Well maybe I'll show you around the ice sometime."

"Well maybe I'll let you."

They shared a smile Jack felt all the way down to his toes. What was it about this woman that had him throwing out all conventional logic? She was almost half his age and yet she was the one to ask him out. He still didn't know where his brain had disappeared to when he'd said yes. But he simply couldn't wish the decision back. He'd had a great time with her, both at the game and the cafe, despite the improbability with their age gap.

"Excuse me, sir, miss."

Startled, Jack's gaze flew to the young man who'd kept their coffees topped off with diligent efficiency. Although Jack had a suspicion his attention had less to do with a need for a job well done than Faith's smiling thanks at each refill.

"I'm sorry to interrupt, sir, but we're closing the register out," he said, eyes drifting between Jack and Faith as if he really wanted to say something else.

"I didn't realize it was so late," Faith said, glancing to Jack's watch with raised eyebrows.

Ego absurdly happy by her admission, Jack complied with her silent question. "It really is that late, apparently." Nodding his thanks to the young man, Jack took the check and tugged two twenties from his wallet. He set the bills in the fake leather sleeve, looking across the table to Faith. "Ready?"

"Sure." After grabbing her jacket from the seat next to her, Jack extended his hand, waiting for her to take it. His insides tingled slightly as her palm slid over his. He knew she certainly didn't need any help in getting to her feet, but he savored the soft look of surprise on her face as well as the feel of her hand in his. And somehow, after they were headed for the door together, he never did manage to let go until they were separated by the necessity of getting into the truck.

Their silence as he drove through the quiet town was a comfortable nervousness, a subtle tension of 'what do we do now' that seemed to hang in the air. All too soon he was parking the big vehicle in front of her building and they were walking up the steps to her door.

Faith turned to face him, the same grin he'd seen on and off all evening lifting her lips. It floated through his mind what that smile would taste like – chocolate and coffee? Or simply Faith? With a blink he pulled his gaze away from her lips, focusing on her forehead. Get a grip, he ordered himself, stuffing his hands deep into his pockets.

"This was a great evening, Jack," she said, appearing a hell of a lot more comfortable than he was. "And I'd really like to do it again."

"Really?" He didn't sound half as surprised as he felt, which didn't mean a whole lot as Faith burst into a surprised chuckle.

"Yeah, really."

Suddenly, she was only inches away, the smile he'd just been wondering about tantalizingly close. "Okay," he murmured absently, without a clue as to what he'd just agreed. One hand climbed out of its pocket on its own and trailed over her cheek, fingers barely brushing her skin. His pulse filled his ears and liquid tension roiled in his gut, yet it was the most natural thing in the world when he leaned down, his palm cupping her jaw. As if he'd been doing it for years, he met her lips, an overwhelming feeling of right, of coming home filling him, replacing the tension with a banked warmth.

Time simply stopped. No sound intruded. Nothing invaded their small bubble before her door. Faith's mouth was soft, warm, pliant beneath his. His lips burning wherever they touched her, he kept the kiss slow and gentle, exploratory even. Senses whirling from the feel of her, the subtle scent of her shampoo became a fragrance far more precious than the most expensive of perfumes.

Minutes, hours later, they separated, Jack's eyes floating open lazily. So lost in the experience, he hadn't felt her hand come up to rest on his chest. Now, it burned through his jacket and shirt, marking his chest with her warmth. "So," he started, clearing his throat when it came out more like a croak.

"So," she parroted, fingers running in tiny circles against him. "Got any plans for tomorrow night?"

He chuckled, voice far raspier than he would have thought possible from a simple kiss. Although he really couldn't imagine calling what he'd just experienced simple in any way. "I think I do now."

"Good. Call me tomorrow. We'll figure something out." Her voice didn't seem much steadier than his, Jack was pleased to hear.

"Count on it," he said, stepping back slightly so she could dig in her pocket for her key. Before he was ready, she had the door open and was standing inside. "Hey, Faith."

She turned, keys dangling from one hand. "Yeah?"

"I had a great time too." She must have been happy with his comment since she stepped back out of the door and stretched up to press a quick kiss against him. Before he had a chance to do more than register her presence, she was back on the other side of the doorway. "Sleep well."

"You too. I'll see you tomorrow." With one final smile, she closed the door.

Jack waited for the click of the lock before turning to make his way back down the stairs. He felt light, his body strangely disconnected. Pushing the button on the key fob to unlock the truck, he caught a glimpse of his reflection in the window – all sappy smile and wide eyes. He sent a quick glance back up toward Faith's living room window and there she was, leaning against the sill watching him. Smile growing impossibly broader, he lifted a hand in acknowledgment. Realizing as he completed the gesture exactly how juvenile he must look, he decided he didn't care. Faith waved back and he climbed into the truck. Juvenile or not, he hadn't felt so good in a long time.

And he couldn't wait to see what tomorrow would bring.

Stepping back and closing the door was one of the hardest things she'd ever done. Heart pounding, her gut a roiling mess, Faith leaned her forehead against the coolness of the door and forced her hand off the knob.

Oh, how she'd missed him.

The sound of his voice. The feel of his hand on her skin. That look in his eyes he only gave her. Throughout the entire evening she'd held herself under the tightest of control – holding his hand when she wanted to be in his arms, smiling at his antics during the games when she could have been kissing him. Only the knowledge that if she could hold it together, could give Jack the time to get used to the idea of a them, enabled her to act as if they weren't already married.

She moved slowly, almost reluctantly, over to the window. As much as she wanted yet one more look at him, to prove he was really there, she wasn't sure her heart could take watching him drive away from her. Her hand reached out nonetheless, pushing the curtain aside just as Jack opened the door of his truck. A smile covered his face, one she couldn't help mirroring. As if she'd called his name, he glanced back up toward her window and lifted one hand in acknowledgment.

A burning sensation tingled the back of her throat as she returned the gesture. Faith, you cannot screw this up, she ordered herself, letting the curtain fall back into place. She heard the truck's engine rumble to life, but refused to look again. No, she couldn't stand to see him leave. She'd watch tomorrow, when he came back to her.

With that thought repeating in her head, she flicked off the light and headed for her empty bedroom.