Chapter 42

They were in the hallway in front of the upstairs bathroom, and Faith was giving her the puppy-dog look.

Faith was giving her puppy-dog eyes. As in, the bad-ass girl from Boston who did not under any circumstances pout, and most definitely did not use the puppy-eye look to get what she wanted. Yet here she was, using them on Willow.

She was the one who gave those sad, un-ignorable eyes. Not the other way around. Who did Faith think she was?

"Faith," she groaned. Now she understood what it was like for other people when she used her Resolve Face on them.

"Red, please."

"I told you, we're good. I'm good," she stressed.

"You're not mad though?" Faith was not using the look to get something she wanted; she was using it to get back in the redhead's good graces. Not that she'd ever left in the first place.

"No, I told you, I'm not mad at you."

The Slayer squirmed and looked away, roughly shoving her hands in her pockets, "You looked pissed last night."

"Because I was a little confused as to why you were dumping a bleeding Buffy on me and then leaving without telling me what happened."


"I get it, Faith," she cut the brunette off. "I understand." She laid a gentle hand on Faith's arm. "You were freaked out yourself, and didn't want to be around a freaked out Buffy. Those two things make for explosions and punches. Don't worry."

Faith was still wearing a guilty face. And it looked adorable on her. Not that Willow would ever tell. The guilty looks she liked reserved for her alone, let everyone else deal with her badass looks. Not that Willow really minded those either.

"Did you sleep at all last night?"

"Eventually, yeah," the witch answered. "You were dead to the world when I came in. So were the girls in there with you. None of you heard when I almost knocked the lamp off the table. It was really bad, I tripped over the end of one of the sleeping bags and the table was there so I grabbed it so I wouldn't fall but then the lamp almost-"

"Red." Faith cut-off, rolling her eyes.

"Sorry. Anyway, I promise," she said, squeezing the arm on the other girl's upper-arm, "We're okay."

Faith smiled, still unaware of how adorable she was looking to Willow, all concerned and considerate. Not that Faith wasn't considerate. It was just so much cuter when she was afraid Willow was going to be mad at her. It didn't fit with the usual mental image that came with Faith, but it was cute nonetheless.

Too bad no one else gets to see how cute she can look. No one would believe me.

Scratch that, she thought as Faith's lips connected with hers, I want her all to myself.

The redhead let herself get lost in the kiss for a moment, enjoying the feel of her lips against the Slayer's. Faith was a good kisser, why hadn't she thought to do this sooner? Kissing Faith-lips years ago would probably have solved a lot of the bad blood between her and the Scoobies.

When Faith's hands slid down her back to her waist to pull the witch closer Willow pulled back hastily. "Faith," she breathed out, "Someone could see us."

Faith growled, but pulled away, reluctantly putting distance between their bodies. "I'd make sure we didn't get caught."

"Oh, like you did yesterday afternoon, when Buffy and your sister almost walked in on us making out?"

Faith smirked, "Hey, we didn't get caught, did we?"

Willow slapped her lightly on the arm, "We almost did! How do you think Buffy would have reacted if she'd walked in on that?"

Faith seemed to ponder this a moment, "We could probably teach her a thing or-"

"Faith!" Willow squealed.

"Hey, just being honest. Though, she's had her deal with Spike. I bet he loosened her up a bit. Got rid of that stick she had wedged up her ass."

Willow gave her a disapproving look.

"Come on, B was pretty stuffy. Still is."

"You may get away with insulting her, but I don't. She's my friend."

"And you didn't disagree with me," Faith smiled wickedly. "You agree with me."

"I didn't-"

"Willow?" Giles voice rang through the house.

Oh, right. "Coming," Willow replied. Giles had called her and Faith downstairs over five minutes ago. They had been on their way down, but Willow had gotten distracted by Faith's puppy-dog eyes. "Come on." She tugged Faith forward towards the staircase.

The Slayer had been outside working with the girls for most of the day, only stopping to let them have a quick lunch. Willow had no idea what they were doing out there in the backyard, but none of the girls seemed to be complaining. It was almost dinner-time now, and Faith had opted to let them have a break and cool off after working out for so long.

"Mmm, I smell food." Faith said as they entered the kitchen.

"That's right," Andrew said, turning away from the stove. "We're having… well, and assortment of food. Some kind of stale looking pasta that I'm hoping will perk up, a stew with all the vegetables I found in the house before they go bad, and a frozen pizza I discovered hiding in the freezer downstairs."

Willow tried very hard to be polite and not laugh at the blonde man; he was standing in a white apron and a chef's hat – where did he even find that? Willow was pretty sure that she, Dawn, nor Buffy owned a chef's hat.

"So long as it's enough to feed an army Andy," Faith said, "We're good."

"Ah, Willow," Giles said, entering the kitchen, "There you are."

"What's up?"

"Well, I – do you know why the phone was disconnected?"

Willow blinked at the unexpected question. "Um, no, I-"

"Oh, sorry, that was me," Andrew said from the stove.

Giles looked over him, frowning. "Why…? Never mind, Andrew, I don't want to know."

"Why'd you need the phone, G-man?"

"A contact in England was trying to get a hold of me. He said we have another Potential coming into town, a girl from Vancouver."

Faith nodded, "Godda dig the Canadian chicks."

"When's she getting here?" Willow asked.

"Sometime this evening. She is supposed to be taking a Greyhound bus to Los Angeles, but will get off early at meet one of us downtown."

Willow sighed internally. Another person to add to the count. Just how many Potentials were there around the world? She thought Giles had said there was only a handful left. This was getting to be quite a big handful. Obviously it was better if they were here if it was the safest place for them, but at the same time, it was getting a little… cramped.

"After the attack again last night we know the Bringers are still watching us and looking for an opening. Faith, I was wondering if you could-"

"Wondering if she could what?" Buffy's chipper voice asked.

Willow turned, watching as her friend closed the basement door behind her. She looked… well rested. And she had a determined but pleasant look on her face, the one that said she was down with whatever the world threw at her because she was a superhero.

"Ah, Buffy," Giles said, "Are you…?"

Buffy raised her eyebrows, waiting.

Giles seemed a little unsure how to finish without insulting her, so Faith offered, "You outta your funk yet?"

The blonde girl rolled her eyes, "Yes, Faith. General Buffy is back and ready for business."

"Are you sure?" Giles asked, ever the concerned Watcher, "If you need more time alone-"

"I'm good, Giles," Buffy said sincerely. "I just… lost it a bit last night. It was," she waved her arms slightly around her face, "all over the place. But I'm good. I'm done wallowing and ready to kick some non-corporeal ass."

Willow was glad. Willow was very, very glad. She always got worried when Buffy lost her stride right before a big battle. The world was so hard on the blonde; she was forced to be the leader. And it was hard trying to be the supportive Scooby when you were just as lost as Buffy was.

She knew Buffy wasn't one hundred percent back to her old self, that she wouldn't be until this battle was over and the weight was lifted from her shoulders, but she was at least feeling better enough to put on a show and fall back into the leadership role.

"So," Buffy continued, looking at the Englishman, "You were wondering if Faith could what?"

"We have another girl arriving in town. I was wondering if Faith could… well, if she could go and…"

"Pick her up?" Faith in a sultry voice, raising her eyebrows suggestively.

"Faith!" Willow squealed, elbowing her in the side.

"God, Faith, gross. They're kids," Buffy scoffed. "Enough with the dirty comments."

"B, it's me. That ain't possible."

"Clearly," Buffy muttered.

"G-man, if B's feeling all back to superbitch mode, you want her to go?"

"I-" Giles started.

"Was that supposed to be a compliment?" Buffy asked, amused, "Back in superbitch mode?"

Faith shrugged non-committedly, "Sure."

Willow watched her friend roll her eyes dramatically. "Giles, I can head down and the get the new girl when she arrives. I'll take a few of ours; do a quick sweep on the way there. We can scare off whatever The First has out prowling tonight."

"Buffy, you're sure?"

The blonde tensed a moment, "Yes. I'm fine. Really. I'm not going to break."

Giles looked like he wanted to say more, but instead nodded and left the room.

"Fine by me," Faith said as she leaned back on the bar counter, "Night off sounds good after today."

"Why, what did you do today?"

Willow spoke up, "Faith was training with the Potentials all day while you were… getting better."

"You. Teaching. All day," Buffy asked, looking at the brunette. She had a sceptic looking smirk on her face.

Faith smiled, "Piece of cake. Just gave 'em all a bunch of caffeine and left them in the backyard for the afternoon, telling them to get me when they were all punched-out. Seemed fine to me, only a few bloody noses and broken bones."

Buffy didn't look amused.

"Chill, B. I handled it, okay? Just… taught them some breathing and shit and then let them work more with the knives and stakes. Did a bit of sparing. All good. I can be responsible."

Willow's hand flew to cover her mouth, but it didn't hide the giggle that escaped.

"Oh, thanks Red. Glad I've got your vote," it was meant to sound mean, but Faith was smiling with her eyes.

"So," Buffy said, turning away from Willow and Faith, "Andrew. Whatcha got cooking?"

"Ah, ma cherie, I'm glad you asked…"

Willow always seemed to be in the room when it happened. It was becoming a pattern now, and it always seemed to freak Willow out during the first few seconds before her brain kicked in.

Everything had been fine only moments before. She was sitting on the couch next to Xander, Faith was in the armchair and Andrew was pacing in front of them.

Xander sighed heavily, "I'm just saying, I don't really think it's appropriate for right now."

"Well you're no fun."

"Andrew, right now isn't the time for this."

"You just know I'll beat you."

"I didn't say that."

"You may as well have," Andrew whined and turned as Giles entered the family room. "Mr. Giles, Xander isn't being fair."

"I'd like you to define fair," Willow heard the older man mumble under his breath. He sighed and spoke louder, "What is it Andrew."

"I think we should organize a fantasy role playing game! Morale's been low lately; why not get spirits up with a game? I suggest Dungeons & Dragons; everyone is assigned a character and-"

"It's a nerd game," Faith mumbled, reclining on the chair. She was sitting sideways, legs draped over one side, watching the interaction between Andrew and Xander. The younger man was clutching a box – presumably containing the game – close to his chest as he argued with the Scooby. Willow sat silently and watched.

Andrew glared at the Slayer, "Well you don't have to play. I just think it would be a good idea. You guys never let the girls do anything fun."

"Today was fun," Kennedy piped up from where she and Amanda were lying on the floor. "We got to throw knives."

"You have a sick and twisted version of fun, Kennedy," Xander said dryly.

"I think Dungeons & Dragons sounds like fun."

Willow suppressed a laugh as Faith rolled her eyes; Amanda was most definitely on level playing-grounds of nerdiness with Andrew.

"Andrew," Xander tried again, "Not now, okay? We're trying to win a war."

"Exactly," the blonde went on, "And this is a strategic, warfare emulating game. What better way to practice our attacks on The First than by-"

"Andrew," Giles tried again, "I have to agree with Xander. Now isn't the time for-"

Willow stopped listening. She didn't mind either way. Andrew had a good point, it would allow the girls to relax, but Xander was right too when he said now probably wasn't the time for this. Buffy was out picking up the new girl, which was probably why Andrew was bringing it up now, when the blonde wasn't home to shut him down immediately. Apparently he felt going to Xander would have been a good thing.

Willow let her eyes flicker to Faith, where the girl was lazily tossing a wooden stake in the air. It appeared Faith too was hardly paying attention, only pausing to throw out insults to Andrew every so often.

They really needed to find a way to defeat The First. Living in the same house with the same people day in and day out was starting to wear everyone down. The Potentials were fighting more; Buffy, although claiming to be fine, was clearly not alright; Giles was getting snappy, Anya was getting whiny.

And Willow really just wanted to kiss Faith.

Damn it. This is getting ridiculous. I'm acting like a teenager. What is wrong with me?

Willow focused back on what was happening around her when Dawn and Dani entered the room, clasped hands swinging between them, each holding a drink in their free hand. Willow was really proud of Dawn; the girl had basically taken the role as Dani's personal Watcher. She'd befriended the girl, entertained her, and kept an eye on her when Faith was busy training with the other teens.

And Dani clearly liked having a friend. Willow wondered if Dani had ever had any actual friends at Stone Manor, or if she only had associations and interactions with the other patients.

"-about Monopoly?" Andrew asked. Clearly the topic had moved from Andrew's specific game idea to simply suggesting random board games.

"We don't have that," Willow said lightly. "Amy got out of her cage once and ate most of the little pieces."

"Who's Amy?" Amanda asked, eyes raised.

"She was… our rat," the witch answered, deciding not to bother with details.

"Okay," Andrew went on, "What about… The Game of Life?"

"Lame," Kennedy replied immediately.

"Anya loves that," Xander smiled.

"Operation!" Dani squealed excitedly.

Willow saw Faith smile and roll her eyes, clearly she was aware of her sister's love for this game.

"I suck at that," Dawn said, dropping to sit down next to Amanda and Kennedy. "Buffy threatened to burn it the last time we played because I kept setting the buzzer off… I think I was like, nine."

Giles muttered something about silly American games and wanting a cup of tea as he left the room. Willow felt bad; the poor guy was clearly out of his element with the generation gap between him and the Scoobies and Potentials.

It was because her eyes were watching Giles as he left the room that Willow saw it. Dani was still standing, excitedly explaining to Dawn how Operation was her favourite game to play at Stone Manor. Then Kennedy cut her off, complaining about how everyone in the room was lame and her idea of fun involved being out of the house and causing some sort of trouble in town and not playing a board game. Faith immediately agreed with her.

Dani's face went slack. At first Willow assumed it was because the other girl had cut her off and dismissed her idea so quickly. But Willow watched as Dani stood perfectly still for a moment, staring blankly ahead of her.

Oh no. The witch opened her mouth to speak but couldn't get the words out fast enough.

Dani's grip on the glass she was holding loosened and it fell to the floor, shattering to pieces. Time seemed to slow as everyone looked over, wondering what happened.

Faith practically flew from the chair, "Dan?"

"No." Dani's voice was gentle, staring straight ahead at something only she could see.

"Dani," Faith tried again, "What do you see."

The younger Lehane's lips twitched, pulling into a deep frown. "No… no, that's not…" She stepped forewards, not fully absorbed within the vision yet. "No, that isn't right. You… he can't… no."

"Faith," Willow hissed, standing up and moving next to the Slayer, "the glass." Dani's bear feet were stepping on the shards of broken glass.

"Dani," Faith's voice was firm, "Dan, don't move, you're gonna hurt your-"