Disclaimer: I own nothing.

Author notes: Seven months post Chosen. Will not be extremely long; will probably consist of 3-5 chapters. Notice that is a "probably" though lol.

Part one

Well at least there were no sightings of demons, vampires, or the apocalypse now…better knock on wood though. Too bad Robin wasn't around anymore, that would have been a good pun…

As Buffy looked around the rather chaotic ongoings around her of the nightclub's interior, almost dizzy by the very sight of the spinning disco balls, flashing strobe lights, bounding musical rhythm and gyrating bodies, she thought to herself with a wry sense of resignation that clearly she, at 23, was already starting to get old, because at the moment, none of this appealed to her. It was her birthday, she was young, if not wild or carefree, and all she could think was that she would have rather stayed at home with a pint of Ben and Jerry's and a Christian Bale movie. Given the usual adrenaline-driven quality of her evenings, that would have been a rare and cherished treat.

She could never enjoy her birthdays anyway; every year since she had turned 17, trying to celebrate her birthday in any way, shape, or form had ultimately been an invitation for disaster of various means. It had taken six years, but Buffy had finally concluded that celebration in her life should not go hand in hand with the milestones of age increases if she wanted to stand a greater chance of herself and all her friends living to her next birthday.

However, apparently no one else had learned this yet, or else they remained ever hopeful that with the destruction of the Hellmouth, things had changed in regard to the wisdom of holding Buffy bashes. When Buffy had shared her plan of a low-key non-celebration celebration, her friends and family- pretty much one and the same by this point- had not stood for it, and Buffy found herself being hauled rather firmly against her will to Club Maui, a place she was fairly sure did not resemble the actual Maui in the slightest. Unless Maui was much more enthusiastic with the dancing, drinking, and disco than Buffy would have expected. She could be wrong- she wasn't the best with world geography. Or history. Or…general knowledge.

There had been cake, and singing, and gifts, all rather public and a bit embarrassing, since Club Maui didn't' seem to Buffy, judging from the enthusiastic foreplay-by-rubbing going on in every direction within arm's length of her, the type of place to regularly invite family style birthdays. It had not surprised Buffy at all that Faith had suggested the location- what did surprise her was that everyone else had enthusiastically agreed to it.

Of course, it looked like everyone was having a pretty freaking good time, Buffy observed as she scanned through the throng of patrons, picking out those who were part of her "party." Everyone was laughing and talking, dancing and drinking- definitely, they were drinking. Everywhere she looked it seemed like someone she knew was drunk off their ass, stumbling and giggling, flirting or making out, dancing crazy or seeming nauseous and ill from their excesses. Buffy swirled the straw in her small strawberry daiquiri, taking a sip as she swung her legs slowly at the counter of the bar where she was seated, inwardly sighing. Herself plus excessive alcohol had never equaled anything of goodness, but damn, did it get boring to be the only one sober. And on her own birthday too…but she didn't even LIKE being drunk.

Maybe that was something you acquired with age. Or not. It looked like some of the junior Slayers were enjoying themselves perfectly well, and Buffy knew that not only were they most likely not of age, but they also had not been invited. She didn't feel like kicking their ass over it now though…she'd wait until tomorrow, when their hangover settled in good, and then see how much fun they had with her training methods.

Smirking, Buffy searched the crowd for one person in particular- her sister, Dawn, one of the occupants of the club who was most definitely not 21, and the only one that Buffy cared about keeping somewhat sober. So far, from what Dawn had been able to see anyway, Dawn had been sticking to soda and dancing- though both her outfit and her precise way of dancing made Buffy's eyes narrow with disapproval and a protective surge in her chest. Dawn might be 18 now, but that didn't mean Buffy should let every guy she came across drool over her like she was a Playboy bunny, right?

As Buffy's eyes scanned the room, she noticed Willow and Kennedy, giggly and very touchy-feely on a couch in the corner, Xander, grinning broadly as he talked loudly to a duo of junior Slayers, Rona and Vi on the dance floor together, the tomboy Rona and the timid Vi laughing and dancing with much more enthusiastic abandon than she could have believed had she not known them both to be very drunk…and Andrew, Buffy snorted out loud to see, was earnestly performing what looked like a very bad combination of the moonwalk and the robot…and of course, Faith. Faith was absolutely everywhere on the dance floor, her wild, overly sexualized moves dwarfing all others in comparison, and Buffy quickly tore her eyes away from the other Slayer, continuing to look for her sister…

Who was, Buffy quickly realized, sucking face with some gangly guy around nineteen or twenty, a guy she thought looked vaguely familiar but could not place…a guy that was pulling Dawn to her feet, starting to lead her towards the hallway, still keeping her deeply and frequently.

Buffy's every muscle tightened, her eyes widening, and she leapt to her feet as quick anger heated her veins, starting off in her retreating sister's direction immediately. But she hadn't taken more than a few steps before strong arms suddenly snagged her from behind, and a husky, all too familiar voice sounded near her ear.

"Where ya headed, Birthday Girl?"

Faith, of course…Faith, with her breath warm and heavy against Buffy's ear, her arms tight around Buffy's waist, pinning her arms down to her side. Faith, with her cheek against Buffy's hair, her ample chest pressing into Buffy's back…Faith, way, way closer than Faith usually got to her. Much, much closer, and also, allowing Dawn to retreat from her.

"After the guy playing tonsil hockey with my sister- the same one who's about to meet and greet the Slayer here," she said tightly, attempting to hurriedly break from Faith's hold of her, but Faith just laughed, tightening her grip. Without even looking at her Buffy knew she was drunk, at least a little bit, because the sound of her laughter was neither a snicker nor a guffaw, as Buffy was accustomed to hearing from her, but something looser, easier.

"Aw, come on, B, leave her alone…let her have her fun too."

"Fun?" Buffy sputtered, trying again to shove Faith away quickly from her and growing irked when the taller girl's arms only tightened even more. "Fun? She looked like she was having more than just FUN, it looked like she was letting him eat her face, and that is NOT fun, that's an act of cannibalism, which is a crime!"

Faith snorted, directly into Buffy's ear; Buffy cringed, both because this tickled and because it was very loud, and again squirmed against the other woman's hold as Faith grinned. "It's called kissing, B…damn, it really has been a long time since you got any, hasn't it?"

"My little sister doesn't need to GET anything, she's only eighteen!" Buffy hissed, conveniently dismissing from her memory the fact that she had gotten drunk when she was eighteen- and sixteen, actually…and that she had lost her own virginity at sixteen, had slept with three different people by the time she was nineteen. "She is way too young, way, way too young to be GETTING things!"

Faith burst out laughing, and Buffy fumed, her ears reddening…as much because she could feel Faiths' chest heaving against her back, her breath still tickling her earlobe, as from irritation, but she quickly told herself that irritation was all that she felt. The woman was soooo annoying- and she was letting Dawn get away!

"I'd say good for her, about time she let it all hang out."

"She doesn't need to be letting anything hang out, she needs to keep it all tucked in!" Buffy growled, and when Faith broke into laughter all over again, she seethed, elbowing her as best as she could while still having her arms pinned down, trying to step on her foot. "Faith, let go of me!"

"You can't control the kid forever," Faith said calmly, practically yelling to be heard over the music, and she didn't relax her hold on the older woman in the slightest. "Let her go, B, it's her party too."

"Actually, it's supposed to be mine, since it's MY birthday, but I guess that went out the window once everyone had five or six beers each, and forgot I existed," Buffy groused, rolling her eyes. She hated to admit it, but the longer Faith held her hostage, even as irritating and awkward it was, the less pissed she felt about the Dawn situation…and less inclined to go after her. Or maybe she was just getting tired. "But she can't just go off with a stranger, just whenever she wants!"

"Actually, yeah she can, she's eighteen, so she can do whatever the hell she feels like," Faith pointed out, and before Buffy could quickly counter that she couldn't drink, Faith smirked, "And whatever she can't, she can find a way where she can, nothing you do is gonna change that anymore. So leave her alone and let her think you're cooler than you actually are. Besides, that guy's not a stranger- she's been dating him for weeks."

That last part was thrown out as a casual afterthought, but once she heard it, Buffy completely forgot the rest of what Faith had said. Her eyes bulging, she finally succeeded with a burst of rapid motion to break away from Faith, spinning around to face her head on.

"What? She's been what?"

"What, she didn't tell you?" Faith said in all seeming innocence, and Buffy shook her head vehemently, all the more angry now.

"Uh, NO! She told YOU? She didn't tell me, but she told YOU?"

"Well, yeah," Faith deadpanned, shrugging. "I thought she'd told everyone. Willow and Xander, and Giles met him, and Andrew-"

"ANDREW? She told ANDREW?"

"Oh, come on, B, probably slipped her mind or something," Faith said, though she was snickering, dimples flickering in her cheeks. "Come on, lighten up. Come dance with me."

Taking hold of Buffy's hand, Faith started to pull her towards the very crowded, quite raucous, and rather booze-infiltrated dance floor, but Buffy resisted more quickly this time, digging in her heels so that Faith jerked to a stop, turned around, and looked at her with some surprise, brows knitting briefly.

"Faith, I don't' want to, I'm not in the mood."

Plus, dancing with Faith, who Buffy had just watched performing practically a strip tease, and literally a lap dance, with everyone who came close to her…after Faith had already practically dry humped her while she was just sitting there minding her own business…no, just weird. Way, way too weird.

Faith, however, was never one to easily take no for an answer, and she tugged at Buffy's arm impatiently, leaning close to practically yell in her ear her urging. Buffy swallowed, trying to put distance between them as the other woman's hair brushed her shoulder, her breast lightly pressing against the side of her arm. She tried not to look down at the ample amount of cleavage Faith's low-cut top was displaying as she attempted to pull back.

"Live a little, B! It's your birthday!"

"Exactly!" Buffy yelled back over the music, one hand thrust out with exasperation as the other attempted to extract itself from Faith's grasp. "It's MY birthday, and I not only got dragged to a party I didn't want to have, I got dragged to a club I didn't want to go to, and then I got dragged away from introducing my fists to the guy that apparently my sister has decided she should drag away from every meeting me, even though I think I'm very understanding for a guardian figure, and definitely not too intimidating or scary, or embarrassing, because even if I do threaten violence I usually just do a lot of pointed talking. And NOW, I'm getting dragged over to dance with you when I'm tired and annoyed and starting to get a headache, and I know the way you like to dance and it involves a lot of hands, and I really don't' want hands right now!"

With that outburst laid at her feet, Faith stared at her, eyes wide, mouth slightly open, and then shook her head, blinking.

"DAMN, B, you need a Valium or something…or a tranquilizer. Or a stick-up-your-ass remover…"

"Faith," Buffy exhaled, her voice more weary now. "Just go…please?"

"Well, fine, whatever," Faith muttered, releasing Buffy's arm fast, almost shoving her away from her. "Then I'll just leave you alone."

Turning away, she headed towards the dance floor, first snagging a beer from the bar counter, throwing her head back, and draining its contents in two long swallows. Plunking it back down, she strode towards the dance floor in nearly a swagger, immediately grabbing hold of the first person she saw and pulling him close to her, grinding her crotch into his ass as she ran a hand up his chest. Buffy, gritting her teeth, turned away. Somehow it was always in a crowd of people that she felt most alone.

If she was honest with herself, though, the truth was that she usually felt alone now. Ever since the destruction of Sunnydale, but especially the development of the new Watcher's Council and Slayer Headquarters, which Buffy and Faith, as Senior Slayers, coheaded, she had felt, more than she thought possible, even greater pressure and responsibility placed upon herself. Buffy was used to carrying the weight- and the fate- of the world on her shoulders, but now that she personally knew and worked with so many, she had to be concerned with individuals as well, more than ever before, the lives, recruitment, psychological well-being, and training of hundreds, eventually, probably thousands. With Angel going rogue, teaming up with Wolfram and Hart by heading their evil law firm, there was that much else for her to worry about- and that much fewer to count on for help.

Buffy loved her friends and family, still wanted and needed to be close to them, but with her growing responsibilities and sense of authority, she found herself unconsciously distancing herself from them, and knew they were from her as well. Everyone was so busy, and things were so different now…THEY were so different now. Even in what was supposed to be celebration, it was hard to just let herself have fun with them. Did she even know how to have fun anymore?

It looked like everyone else hadn't, anyway. Certainly Faith, with yet another beer in her hand, and a guy's chest in the other, looked like her increased responsibilities had done little to make her want to pull away from the world.

Buffy grimaced slightly, shifting her eyes away from her sister Slayer's twisting form. Maybe she'd been a little short with Faith…she'd probably hurt her, by not being more receptive to her dancing or at least hanging out with her. But she'd been serious about Faith's roaming hands….and anyway, the girl looked like she wasn't exactly about to go off in the corner and lick her wounds any time soon.

Her relationship with Faith now was odd as well, different. Although they were civil to each other, respected each other, they still fought with frequency, still often had an undercurrent of tension between them even when they weren't openly battling…but Buffy knew she cared about Faith, considered her family…even if her family was a unit she was constantly distancing herself from. The words were never spoken, but she knew without their existing a need for them to be said that Faith cared about her too.

Then why was it always so hard for them to simply coexist?