BtVS season 7

I never understood why Spike got to be the hero.

Stand Back Up by Kristen Hall and Kristian Bush is from Sugarland's Twice the Speed of Life CD. If you haven't heard them, check them out, cause they're awesome. This song stayed in my head the entire time I wrote this and the lyrics are shown here without permission.

Buffy and Her Friends belong to Joss Whedon and a bunch of suits. I'm altering their reality for fun, not profit, as I own nothing and have the credit report to prove it. Dialogue from End of Days by by Douglas Petrie & Jane Espenson. Dialoge from Chosen by Joss Whedon.

Go ahead and take your best shot,
Let 'er rip, give it all you've got,
I'm laid out on the floor, but I've been here before,
I may stumble, yeah I might fall,
Only human aren't we all?
I might lose my way, but hear me when I say,

I will stand back up,
You'll know just the moment when I've had enough,
Sometimes I'm afraid, and I don't feel that tough,
But I'll stand back up,

I've been beaten up and bruised,
I've been kicked right off my shoes,
Been down on my knees more times than you'd believe,
When the darkness tries to get me,
There's a light that just won't let me,
It might take my pride, and my tears may fill my eyes,
But I'll stand back up,

I've weathered all these storms,
But I just turn them into wind, so I can fly,
What don't kill you makes you stronger,
When I take my last breath,
That's when I'll just give up,

So, go ahead to take your best shot,
Let 'er rip, give it all you've got,
You might win this round but you can't keep me down,
'Cause I'll stand back up,

And you'll know just the moment when I've had enough,
Sometimes I'm afraid and I don't feel that tough,
But I'll stand back up,
You'll know just the moment when I've had enough,
Sometimes I'm afraid and I don't feel that tough,
But I'll stand back up.

Buffy moved quietly, staying in the shadows. The Bringers were loud at least, and she could hear them coming, but there was nothing like that around her. Only graves and silence. And Faith. "Faith?"

"Yo, B."

"What are you doing here?"

"Got sprung, thought I'd see what's happenin' in the 'Dale. Looks like you got your hands full."

"What do you want?" Buffy asked impatiently. She had two more graves to get to before leaving this cemetery.

"I don't want nothin', B."

"Faith, you always want something." Buffy was losing her temper. "And I don't have time for your games. If you're here for revenge, bring it on."

Faith chuckled. "I don't wanna fight, B."

"That's a first."

"Gimme a break."

"I'd love to." Buffy smiled coldly. "Get to the point."

"C'mon, B, don'tcha miss me a little?"

"No." Buffy walked toward Faith. She meant to bang into her shoulder, but walked through her. "Shit," she said softly.

"What's a matter, B? Didn't know you have my blood on your perfect hands?"

"I really don't have time for this," Buffy answered over her shoulder and kept walking.

The thing that looked like Faith kept pace a few feet behind her.

Buffy found the fresh grave she was looking for. A hand broke through the dirt. She leaned over, grabbed it, and pulled its owner onto a stake.

"Nice move."

Buffy ignored the familiar voice and broke into a jog. The other grave was at the far side of the cemetery. As she got there, the vampire freed itself. Buffy didn't give it a chance to react. She disabled it with a kick, and quickly staked it. She expected another comment in Faith's voice, but it appeared she was alone again, and spooked enough to call it an early night.

Willow was the last one awake in the house. She was still researching something Dawn had found earlier that evening.

"Hey, Red."

Willow squeaked and jumped in her seat before turning to her left to see Faith lounging against the wall. She got up and started backing away, trying to think of a spell that wouldn't finish destroying Buffy's house.

"C'mon, Red, relax. If I was gonna hurt you, I'da done it all ready."

Willow cast a binding spell at Faith, flinging her hands forward with the final words.

Faith laughed and moved from the wall. "That's not gonna help ya, Red. None of your little tricks can help."

"I'm not afraid of you," Willow said defiantly.

Faith laughed again. "You should be," she said, and drew into a point of light before disappearing.

Willow took a deep breath to calm herself, and went back to work. A little later, the door opened, and Willow turned from her laptop to see Buffy come in.

"You won't believe who I saw." Buffy said.

"Faith," Willow answered flatly. "I all ready called Los Angeles. She's out of jail, but she's with them, so it wasn't really her."

"I didn't know she died," Buffy said.

"Me, either."

"She said it was me."

"What was you?"

"She said I killed her."

"Buffy, she's alive. I swear. I talked to Cordelia half an hour ago. If you call now, you can talk to her. Faith, not Cordelia, but I guess if you want to talk to Cordy you can."

"That means there's another Slayer out there somewhere."

"That's what I'm working on now. I all ready left a message for Giles. I guess he'll get it whenever he can."

"Where is he now?"

"I'm not sure, but he said he'll be back on Thursday."

Buffy stood tiredly and thought. Her stomach had been in knots since the first syllable she heard in Faith's voice. She thought she had washed Faith's blood from her hands long ago, but looking at them again tonight, she could see it, feel the slick warmth and see the look on Faith's face. She had been surprised and grateful, and in her darker moments, Buffy completely understood that look.

"You haven't died have you?" Buffy asked.

"I don't think so. Not in this dimension anyway, and it's the only one that counts right now." Willow got up and took a tentative step toward Buffy. "You all right?"

Buffy choked out a laugh. "Peachy."

"I don't believe you."

"You weren't supposed to." Buffy took a deep breath. "I don't know what to do."

"Hot chocolate," Willow decided. "C'mon." She held her hand out to Buffy.

Buffy looked at Willow's hand for a few seconds before joining her own to it. She let Willow bring her to the kitchen. Buffy leaned against the counter while Willow made hot chocolate for them. "The brats ate the marshmallows," Willow apologized.

"It's all right."

"You all right about Faith?"

"I will be. I mean, I'm still one up on her," Buffy tried to joke.

"Not funny." Willow put her drink down.

"I never thought about it. The whole time she was in the hospital, nobody ever said anything."

"How do you know?"

"I visited," Buffy admitted quietly. "I felt so guilty. If I had done things different," her voice faded out.

"It wouldn't have mattered," Willow said firmly.

"How can you be so sure?"

Willow shrugged.

"It's just another thing," Buffy said after a few seconds. "Thanks for the chocolate," she smiled, and left the kitchen. She went upstairs, to her room, and picked up her phone. She carried it to the bathroom and closed and locked all the doors before dialing Angel Investigations. Before Cordelia finished her greeting, Buffy cut her off. "Hey, Cordy, it's Buffy."

"I thought you'd call." Cordelia covered the mouthpiece, but Buffy heard her call Faith anyway. "She'll be here in a minute. How are you?"

"Not bad, I guess. How's everybody up there?"

"We're fine. You should come for a visit."

"All right."

"Here she is." Cordelia handed off the phone.





"What's wrong?"

"When did you die?"

"I dunno, B. I didn't stick around to check the charts or nothin', ya know."

"All right."

"You ok?"

"Just another day at the office," Buffy answered. "Later."

Buffy returned the phone and went back downstairs. She stood behind Willow's chair.

"I found her," Willow said.

"I'll call Giles. Where is she?"

"I'm not sure."

"You said you found her."

"I got her name from the Council records. I'm still trying to find out where she is. Their records are a mess."

"Getting blown up will do that to you."

"No, I think it's just an attempt at encryption or else they are truly technology impaired."

"Well, Giles is their finest graduate," Buffy said, and both women laughed. "I talked to Faith."

"How is she?"

"She didn't know she died."

The ringing telephone interrupted Buffy, and she hurried to answer it. "Hello."

"I died?" Faith asked.


"What's that mean?"

Buffy sighed. "You know about the First, right?"


"Big evil. Uses dead people to talk. I ran into you in a cemetery tonight, only it wasn't you. Only way that could happen is if you died."


"Uh huh."

"Does the Council know?"

"They did."

"Damn," Faith repeated.

"Will's trying to find her now."

"You want me to come down?"

"No," Buffy said firmly.

"You sure?"

"Yes. Last thing I need right now is two of you."

"I think I'm hurt."

"Whatever, Faith. I'll call if I need anything from you."

"Later, B." Faith handed the phone back to Cordelia, who returned it to the cradle without checking whether Buffy was still on the line.

"What was that about?" Cordelia asked.

"Slayer stuff," Faith answered, and turned away, struggling with the idea that she had died at some point years ago. Finally, she took a deep breath and crossed it off her short list of things to fear. That still left returning to Sunnydale in the number one spot.

Two months later

Buffy came in from patrol to a quiet house. She went upstairs and opened her bedroom door, and was surprised to see Willow on her bed, huddled over her laptop.

"You all right?" Buffy asked cautiously while closing the door.

Willow nodded without looking up from the screen.

"Then why are you here?"

"I'm hiding," Willow sighed.

"From," Buffy coaxed.


"What did she do now?" Buffy put her jacket on a hanger and bent over to unzip her boots.

"She scares me, Buffy."

Buffy stood up and and turned around. She did her best to calm herself before asking, "Did she hurt you?"

Willow looked at Buffy. She recognized the look on Buffy's face, but she hadn't seen it since Oz took off. "No, she didn't touch me," Willow said, and looked back to the screen. "Not for lack of trying," she muttered.

Buffy continued to undress. She dropped her clothes in the hamper and got a sleep shirt and flannel pants from under her pillow. "Are you gonna make me pull it outta you?"

"What? No, sorry." Willow closed the laptop and pushed it away. "She's all flirty but in a coming on too strong way. The way she looks at me is almost as bad as being groped." Willow shivered.

"Want me to talk to her?" Buffy sat on the bed.

"Would you? I mean, I've told her I'm not interested, but she won't take no for an answer and she's sleeping in my bed and I can't sleep with her because she'll think it means something else and"

"It's ok, Will," Buffy smiled. "I'll talk to her tomorrow. You can sleep with me tonight," she leered, teasing, but not.

Willow blushed and threw Buffy a dirty look. "Can I borrow some pajamas? I really don't want to got in there."

"Help yourself." Buffy yawned and stood up. She pulled the covers back and got into bed.

But she didn't go to sleep until Willow was tucked in beside her.

Buffy came home from work with a plan. She intended to act like an adult and explain carefully to Kennedy that Willow wasn't interested and it would be in Kennedy's best interests to leave the redhead alone.

Instead, as soon as she came in, she saw that Kennedy literally had Willow cornered. Buffy saw red and charged the younger Slayer. She grabbed Kennedy's shoulder and swung her around.

"Hey!" Kennedy protested.

"Shut up!" Buffy growled.

"Buffy," Willow said sharply.

Buffy looked at her. "I'll handle this, Willow." She maintained her grip on Kennedy and marched her through the house. Kennedy protested the entire way.

They would have had an audience except that once Buffy shoved Kennedy through the back door, Dawn barricaded it and stared down the potentials with Buffy's glare.

"What is your problem?" Kennedy demanded.

Buffy stepped into her space. They were separated by inches. "I'm going to use little words so you understand me," Buffy said in a threatening growl. "Willow is mine. You don't look at her. You don't talk to her. You don't touch her. Understand?"

"No," Kennedy answered defiantly.

"Which part isn't clear?"

"All of it. You don't act like her girlfriend. She didn't say anything about you being her girlfriend. Dawn said"

"I don't care what Dawn said. I don't even care what Willow said. This is a warning. Next time, I won't be nice. Am. I. Clear?"

Kennedy stared angrily at Buffy. She was used to getting her way, and she wanted Willow. She wondered what, exactly, Buffy would do if she crossed her.

As if reading her mind, Buffy grabbed Kennedy's arm and used it to spin the girl around. She jerked her arm up behind her back. Kennedy squawked at the unexpected pain and pressure. Buffy hissed into her ear, "Leave her alone."

"All right, all right," Kennedy conceded, and Buffy released her. She went back into the house and went upstairs, pointedly ignoring the girls she passed.

Buffy knocked on Willow's door, and opened it before she answered.

Willow was at the window, and turned to look at Buffy. "I thought you were gonna talk to her."

"I did."

"That looked more like threatening."

Buffy shrugged. "I had to get her attention."

"And what did you say while you had it? I don't wanna hear it from the grapevine."

Buffy looked at the floor and mumbled "I told her you're my girlfriend."

Willow frowned and blinked. "I'm sorry?"

Buffy sighed and closed the door. She crossed the room. "I told her you're my girlfriend," she repeated.

"Why'd you do that?"

"Well, I didn't really say it. I kinda insinuated it."

"Begging the question much?"

"C'mon, Willow, you wanted her to leave you alone. I promise she'll do it."

"Because she's afraid of you."

"She should be afraid of me," Buffy said. "I'm the one keeping her skinny butt alive, and feeding her, and making sure she has a chance."

"Is that how you feel about me?"

Buffy's eyes widened. "No, that's not how I feel about you." She smiled and tried to lighten the situation. "Besides, you pay rent."

"Again, not the point."

Buffy sighed. After a few seconds, she said, "I guess you want me to apologize."

"That's up to you."

"Just tell me what you want me to do," Buffy asked.

"I'm not going to tell you what to do. You never listen anyway."

"Will, you know that's not true."

"Oh, right, I forgot, you listen when I tell you what you want to hear."

"No," Buffy said patiently. "I listen to everything you tell me. Then I ignore your advice. Some of the time anyway. 'Cause otherwise, they'd say I'm whipped," she muttered.

Willow laughed, despite herself. "What am I gonna do with you?"

Buffy had several ideas, but was too afraid to voice any of them. She knew how fragile and uncertain Willow still was. It was less than a year since Tara was taken from them, and a few short months since Willow returned from England. Buffy watched her every day, and saw that she struggled far more now than she had dealing with the twin problems of her magick addiction and Tara's separation. She smiled brightly at Willow. "You're gonna patrol with me tonight and buy me a double fudge mocha."

Willow laughed again. "It's a date."

Kennedy waited until Buffy was gone from the house to politely apologize to Willow. Willow accepted her apology without correcting the impression Buffy left with the younger girl.

Two months later

Buffy rocked back on her heels. The demon was stronger than anything she'd faced before. She felt a moment of fear and wondered for a split second whether this was how Faith felt as she fell from the roof. Faith had been on her mind ever since Angel suggested she return to Sunnydale. Willow was on her way to Los Angeles, alone because they couldn't spare anyone to go with her. The ugly demon charged again, and she was able kick it and spin away. It reminded her of something she had seen in a movie at Lowell House with Riley, but she couldn't bring up the details.

The demon was on her again before she could fully recover, and backhanded her into a brick wall. Buffy lost her breath and saw stars, and those seconds cost her dearly. It covered the ground quickly and beat on her. She felt a rib crack, then another, and her vision went red on the right side. She shook the blood away and ducked under its next swing, running as quickly as she could. Along the way, she picked up a steel pipe, and turned, swinging it at the demon's knees. While it was down, she battered it until the pipe broke.

Buffy jumped on its back and pulled a large knife from her jacket. She yanked its head back and began sawing at its throat. In pain and enraged, it managed to shake her loose. Buffy pushed herself up from the concrete into an open handed slap that knocked her twenty feet into a pile of steel drums. They toppled over her, making a small cave where she tried to catch her breath. It was still coming for her, but slower, and she felt a brief surge of hope. She was ready when it lifted a barrel from over her head, and pushed three on it with her feet. While it struggled, she pushed herself away, looking everywhere for anything that could be used as a weapon.

She knew she didn't have much left in her, and when her eye found a splintered 4x4, she thought of Faith again, and how she had run Kakistos through with a beam. She tucked into a roll and came up next to the lumber. She heard footsteps and grabbed the wood, then turned. Buffy aimed as well as she could through one eye, and took off running toward the demon. The impact between Slayer and demon drove the wood half its length into the thing's chest, but it stayed up.

Buffy didn't care. She was exhausted and knew she had to get home before anything else happened. She left the warehouse as quickly as she could, limping on a knee and ankle that suddenly screamed, and pulled a cell phone from a pocket. She held down the 2 button until the ringing began. Fortunately, it was Giles who answered. "I need a ride," she said hoarsely.

"Where are you?"

"Warehouse about three blocks east of the Bronze," she panted, still moving. "I'll probably be there."

"Be careful."

"Hurry." She flipped the phone shut and looked over her shoulder. It was coming, but moving slower than she was, so she began scouring the alley for anything else she could use as a weapon. Buffy didn't waste any breath voicing the stream of curses running through her head, and that, too, made her think of Faith. 'Then stay alive until you see her, damn it,' she ordered herself and moved just a little faster despite the grating of bone against bone inside her boot.

Somehow, she made it to the Bronze, and the doorman pulled her inside and put her on his stool. "You all right?" he asked uncertainly.

"Do I look all right?" she asked archly. "Keep an eye out for a red BMW. It's my ride."

"No problem. You need a drink or something?"

"Please. And thanks, Pete."

He keyed a radio and told the bartender to bring him two bottles of water immediately, in a tone that ensured they would be delivered quickly. "No problem, Buffy."

"Look, if you can, you should get outta town. Sooner the better."

"Nah, I trust you. After graduation, well, let's say that if you need me, all you gotta do is ask." He took the bottles from the bartender and opened one before handing it to her.

Buffy drained it in a few seconds, and he handed her the second bottle. "Thanks."

"No problem. And there's your ride."

Buffy slid down from the stool and grimaced at the impact reverberating through her injured leg. She managed to walk to the car and get in, moving much slower than normal. As soon as she closed the door, Giles clicked the electric locks into place and made a quick u-turn. "What happened?"

"Huge, ugly demon. Tough as nails. One of those turban thingies."

"Did you kill it?"

"No. I'm lucky it didn't kill me." Buffy reached between the seat and the door and laid the seat back. Her back was beginning to ache, and she had a knot on her head, as she found when she leaned into the headrest. "Have you heard from Willow?"

"She arrived in Los Angeles an hour ago. She and Faith will be here tomorrow afternoon."

Buffy turned to look at him. His profile was clear against the dash lights. "Why not tonight?"

"Willow said she needs to take care of a few things while she has the opportunity."


"You can call her, you know."

"Yeah, I know." Buffy sighed.

"Are you ever going to tell her?"

"No, Giles, I'm not, and neither are you," Buffy said firmly.

Willow sat alone at a table and watched women dance together. She felt lighter away from all the pressure and insanity of the Hellmouth. There was just so much, and Buffy looking at her oddly all the time, as if she were unsure just who Willow was. There were times when Willow understood the look.

Faith moved into the chair next to her and shed her leather jacket. "Didn't expect to see you here."

Willow shrugged.

A waitress brought over a tray of drinks and set it on the table. Faith smiled charmingly at her and slipped her $10. She'd paid for the drinks at the bar.

"What's this?"

"I figured you'd like at least one of 'em." Faith pulled two dark glasses from the tray and handed one to Willow.

"Why are you doing this?" Willow asked.

"Cause it's easier than telling you how sorry I am. And it's the last chance I'll have to have some fun for a while." Faith downed half the glass. "C'mon, Red, it's just a drink between old enemies."

"I'm not your enemy, Faith." Willow sipped cautiously and made a face. She put the drink in front of Faith and pulled another glass from the tray.

"Good." Faith finished the first drink. "I'm not your enemy either. Don't know what that makes us, though."

"A lot more alike than either of us ever thought." Willow slurped down the first of three red gelatin shooters.

"Can't blame you for what you did."

"I do."

"C'mon, he murdered your girl. He got what he deserved."

"And if I ended the world that day, we wouldn't be having this conversation."

"True," Faith grinned. "But you can't go by ifs. Besides, I'm enjoyin' our conversation."

Willow smiled. "I am, too."

"Don't worry, I won't tell your Scooby pals." Faith finished off her second drink. "You're fallin' behind."

"I drove."

"Queen C took your car back to the hotel."


"I didn't hurt it. You should put your spare key somewhere a little harder to find."

"I don't believe you." Willow's tone was exasperated, but not hostile.

"C'mon, Red, relax. We'll catch a cab." Faith put the other two shooters in front of Willow and grabbed a shot glass for herself. "Drink your drinks and we'll dance a little."

Willow looked at her suspiciously. "Why?"

"Why not?" Faith tipped the shot glass and Willow watched her muscles contract and release.

"Why not?" she echoed and slurped down the shooters in a few seconds. Faith stood up and offered her hand, and Willow let Faith lead her to the dance floor.

Faith danced the same way she had all those years ago, moving effortlessly with the music. Willow didn't try to match her. They stayed in the middle of the dance floor longer than she wanted to, and she was about to return to the table when the music slowed. Willow didn't have an opportunity to move away before Faith gathered her close. Willow followed her automatically. Her brain seized up for a few moments before launching into three separate babbles at the same time.

"You all right?" Faith asked softly.

"Honestly, no."

"Need to go?"

"I don't know what I need," Willow answered absently.

"I know the feeling," Faith answered, and pulled Willow closer. Willow hummed with power, and it set Faith's Slayer sense at attention, not that she wasn't paying attention anyway.

Willow giggled as the alcohol finally engaged. "Last time we were this close, you had a knife to my throat."

"My technique's improved since then."

"I bet."

"I'm really sorry," Faith said softly.

"Me, too. Can we stop saying that now? I mean, it was a long time ago, and we were young and stupid."



The slow song ended, and Faith led Willow back to their table. They each picked another drink from the tray and clicked the glasses together before drinking.

"How bad is it, really?"

"Way worse than the mayor." Willow stared at the table for a few moments. "I'm not sure we can do it this time," she confessed.

"Damn," Faith swore softly.


"What else do I need to know?"

Willow shrugged. "The house is insanely crowded. Spike's in the basement, the potentials are everywhere. The First pops up wherever, whenever, looking like the person you most want to see, and tells lies. Bringers are everywhere, and they aren't worried about sunlight. Every night, Buffy sees some new demon we've never seen before. Everything in Sunnydale is falling apart, people leaving right and left."

"How's B?" Faith asked cautiously, and Willow shrugged again.

Before answering, she pulled the last shooter from the tray and sucked it down. "Stressed," she decided. "Buffy is definitely stressed."

"Huh." Faith finished the last shot and pushed the tray of empty glasses to the other side of the table. "Another round?" she asked.

"Nah, I'm good."

"You're always better than that."

"Remember that," Willow said.

"You up for patrol?"

"Sure. I just need to, um, use the bathroom first."

"No problem. I'll meet you at the door." As soon as Willow left, Faith went to the bar and bought two bottles of rum. She slipped them into interior pockets in her jacket and went to wait for Willow at the door.

Willow was there quicker than Faith would have thought possible. She'd paced the bathroom hallway a few times, trying to process her many thoughts. The alcohol, Willow noticed, helped her feel less frantic than her many frenetic chains of thought normally did, and she kept the promise she'd made herself months ago, sitting under a huge oak tree in England. "Where to?" she asked Faith, who offered her jacket.

"This way," Faith moved her head toward the right.

They prowled through alleys, talking occasionally and taking turns destroying vampires. Faith took care of the few human troublemakers they found, a pimp beating a girl and two muggers. They looked at each other sometimes, noting the differences of time and trouble, and looked away guiltily if caught.

After three hours, they were back at the bar, and took advantage of a recently deserted booth. Willow slid in, and Faith sat beside her. The waitress arrived promptly, and Faith ordered three rum and cokes for herself and half a dozen shooters for Willow, plus a soda and some water.

"The mojo's impressive."

"That's one way to put it."

"You never could take a compliment."

"Some things never change," Willow said.

Faith shrugged her jacket off. "Everything changes," she chuckled, and helped Willow with her coat.

"So what's next on your agenda tonight?"

"Few more drinks, a little dancing." Faith grinned easily at Willow. "You up for it?"

"Yeah," Willow said confidently.

"Cool." Faith saw their waitress coming and dug in her pocket. She handed her a fifty and waved her away before she could make change.

Willow's eyebrow went up and she asked, "You always tip like that?"

"When I can, so, you know, she'll be here to check on us later and we'll get what we want without waiting forever. And it's a suckass job. Plus, that guy, you know, volunteered his wallet." Faith chugged her first drink and pushed the empty glass away. "C'mon, Red, I wanna dance."

Willow nodded and did two shooters in quick succession. "I'm all yours."

"Now you're just teasin'," Faith said as she got up.

"Oh, please, you don't want me."

"You'd be surprised what I want," Faith answered, and took Willow's hand.

They again worked their way to the center of the dance floor. It made Willow feel faintly claustrophobic, but she pushed it away and danced with Faith. When the slow song came, she leaned against Faith, who smiled, and again when the slow music ended, they went back to their seats. This time, they finished all the drinks before getting up to dance. Willow was more relaxed this time, and moved easily with the music and in counterpoint to Faith. They left the dance floor before the music slowed again, and returned to their table to find fresh drinks in addition to the ones they left.

Willow slid in first again, and slurped two more shooters before emptying her water glass. Faith finished another rum and coke.

"What now?" Willow asked.

"Drinks." Faith nodded at the table.

They drank silently, and when the music turned quiet again, Faith asked, "You wanna?"

"Sure," Willow answered, and let Faith take her back to the dance floor.

Faith pulled Willow against her again, and they both sighed. At the end of the third song, they left the dance floor again. This time, the table was empty except for Faith's last drink and a fresh glass of water for Willow. They didn't bother to sit down, just grabbed the glasses and chugged. Faith leaned into the booth and came up with Willow's jacket. She helped her into it before getting her own. They left the bar again, and on the sidewalk, Faith put her arm around Willow. Willow leaned against Faith, her arm around Faith's waist, and wondered how they would find a cab in this neighborhood.

Faith led them four blocks away, to a well-lit, busy street, and after a few tries flagged down a taxi for them. She pushed Willow in first, and gave the driver the address as she closed the door. The cab lurched into motion immediately as the driver made an illegal u-turn across three lanes of traffic. Willow was thrown into Faith, who righted both of them. "You all right?" she asked Willow.

"Yeah. Thanks. It's been a much better evening than I thought it would be."

"Oh, we're not done yet." Faith grinned.

Willow raised an eyebrow. "Oh?"

"Trust me, Red, it'll be good."

"All right," Willow said and yawned. She leaned against Faith and dozed lightly.

When the cab finally stopped in front of the Hyperion, Faith paid the driver and woke Willow. She was obviously out on her feet, and Faith gave up her plan for company for the rest of the night. She walked Willow to her room, got her jacket and shoes off, and put her on the bed. The room temperature was comfortable, so she didn't bother to cover Willow. She took off her jacket and dropped it beside the only chair in the room. Then she got one of the bottles of rum from her jacket and sat back to watch Willow sleep.

Faith's thoughts unnerved her. It was bad enough she was going back to Sunnydale, back into Buffy's turf. Buffy was still angry with her, and the others always followed her lead. But Willow, who had been optimistic in the face of insurmountable odds before, even against the wall with Faith's huge knife at her throat, was genuinely frightened that they might not survive. Of course, living was frequently overrated, Faith believed. She sighed, thinking how very much she hated Sunnydale, and drank deeply from the bottle.

Willow sat up. "Come and lay down," she said, and slid over to make room for Faith.

"Thought you were sleepin'," Faith said while she screwed the cap back on the bottle.

"I don't sleep much," Willow said.

"Me neither." Faith stood and stretched before moving to the bed. She sat down and removed her boots before laying beside Willow. She was careful to leave space between them. "Night, Red."

"Night, Faith."

After ten minutes, both were still awake. "You said we weren't finished," Willow said softly.

"I was gonna show you something."

Willow sat up. "So show me."

Faith swallowed hard at the challenge in Willow's tone. Then she sat up and pulled her boots on. Willow got out of bed and located her shoes. "You'll need your jacket," Faith said.

Willow nodded and picked it up. Faith got hers, too, and the open bottle of rum, before holding the door open for Willow.

They went up onto the roof. There were chairs and a table, and they sat, taking in the city.

"Great view," Willow said.

"I come up here to think," Faith said. She put both bottles on the table. Willow surprised her by taking the open one and taking a swallow.

"What are you thinking now?" Willow asked.

"Tryin' not to," Faith answered.

"Never works." Willow raised her bottle to Faith, who tapped the other against it. "Here's to the end of the world."

"Not gonna happen."

After a long silence and several sips, Willow said, "I wish I didn't have to go back."

"Me, too. Sunnydale's the last damn place I ever wanna see again."

"And yet we're going."

"Yeah." Faith took another swig. "You look good."

"You, too."

"What the fuck happened?"

"When?" Willow finished the bottle and laid it on its side.

"I dunno. Pick a time. Sorry, I'm just ramblin'."

"It's all right. I do it all the time."

"Yeah, but on you, it's cute."

"Faith, you've been flirting with me all night. Is there a reason or is it what you do now?"

"Some of both." Faith offered the second bottle to Willow and watched her drink. "You should be hammered."

Willow shrugged. "I don't get drunk anymore. Not since, uh, I tried so hard to forget everything, and it didn't work. Just made everything brighter." She sighed. "I miss Tara so bad."

"I'm sorry."

"I wish everyone would stop saying that. I'm so tired of it, of everything. The people who know me best walk around me scared like they're afraid I'll go all Darth Willow again. I could, but I won't, but they don't see that."

"I know the feelin'," Faith said.

"Yeah, I guess you do." Willow took another swig and handed the bottle back to Faith.

She emptied it and laid it by its partner. "If it's any comfort, I'm not afraid of you."

"You should be."

"You threatenin' me, Witch?"

"No, Slayer, just stating a fact." Willow turned to Faith and let her eyes darken with magick.

Faith felt Willow calling power to her, but just looked at her until Willow let it go. "You done bein' badass?"


"Good." Faith slid her chair closer to Willow's and put her arm around her. Willow laid her head on Faith's shoulder, and Faith absently kissed the top of her head.

"What do you want?"

"Right now, just this," Faith answered softly.

"K." Willow answered, and looked up. She saw nothing except the reflected glow of millions of lights. "How do you live without seeing the stars?"

"I'm not in a cage."

"I wish they'd've done that to me. It would've been easier."

"Trust me, Red, it ain't easy. No privacy, never a moment to think, always lookin' behind you and hopin' that's not the moment that the one in front of you takes a shot. Power struggle all the time, and you can never be yourself, except maybe in the middle of the night for just a few seconds."

"I wanted to visit but Angel said not to."

"I got your letters."

"Why didn't you answer?"

"What was I gonna say?"

"Anything. Everything."

"You never give up, do you?"

"Only the one time, and that's why we're here enjoying all the pollution."

Faith chuckled. "I'm glad you came."

"I volunteered. Needed to get away for a few hours. Plus, you know, if you were still psycho bitch, I could do something about it. What's another black mark when your soul's all ready gone?"

"Your soul's just fine."

"When I die, the First gets it," Willow said softly. "That was the price for bringing Buffy back. A soul for a soul."

"Damn, girl, when you go over the edge, you go all the way."

"You say the sweetest things," Willow said. She raised her head from Faith's shoulder and kissed her.

Faith didn't hesitate. She moved her hand up Willow's back to the back of her head. When they stopped, she asked, "Why?"

"Why not? You're gorgeous, Faith, and you've been flirting with me all night. Isn't this what you want?"

"What do you want?" Faith asked, raising her free hand to stroke Willow's cheek.

"You," Willow answered, surprising both of them with her directness, and kissed Faith again.

Faith struggled with herself, then gave in. Willow was beautiful and strong enough now to choose to leave or take whatever Faith offered. They broke for air, and Willow moved from her seat to Faith's lap. She straddled Faith and kissed her again, reveling in the taste of rum and the smells surrounding Faith, leather, shampoo, vampire dust and something darker.

Faith stood up, and Willow locked her long legs around her waist. Faith navigated them downstairs to her room. She opened the door and kicked it closed, and laid Willow on the bed, holding her there with her weight. "You sure this is what you want?" she asked huskily.

"Yes," Willow answered firmly, and pulled Faith down.