Finding Faith

by Sweetprincipale

Between Season 3-4, a spinoff set in the Offers You Can't Refuse AU. (Please read that first.) A woman broken enough to believe she can't be saved. A man who knows he has nothing left to lose. Desperation, fear, and some hidden strengths throw these two together, stubbornly determined to show the world who they really are, who they can be- if they can just figure it out for themselves.

Author's Note: Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays! Thank you to all the readers who gave this piece the BEST GIFT, your support. Finding Faith took home five awards at Sunnydale Memorial. Five by five, right ? ;) You're all tremendous and I hope you all have a blessed and happy year ahead.

Author's Second Note: Picks up immediately from the end of the last chapter, so you may wanna go back and skim the ending of Part XXIV. All due credit to Ozzy Osbourne and Nativity in Black for a few quotes in this chapter.

Dedicated to: Ginar369, Omslagspapper( Artistic Consultant), Sirius120, lolo1406, Lou, Illusera, bookwarnedbookworm,Soaringclaws, AGriffinWriter, Skullmunkey, Sirius120, Sjwheelan, Naomi, and The-Darkness-Befalls.

Nothing of Buffy belongs to me, except my sincere admiration. However, this story is all mine.

Part XXV

These kisses keep occurring, Wesley thought in a haze. For very different reasons. I don't think it's normal to have this many occasional kisses.

I'm beginning to appreciate the abnormal…

Her eyes flickered open to catch his. With a smile that turned feral, she kissed him again. I'm gonna cheer him up so fucking good… Her hands pushed past his neck, and she tried to ignore a strange tingling in her stomach. Not lust. Nerves. Like, scared teenage virgin nerves.

That ain't normal, and I'm not putting up with that shit. Faith refused to identify the cause, just figured she'd better muscle through it.

Wesley's eyes were soft and weary, the way he went to cup her cheek, and the way his hand tangled up in her hair, massaging gently- the nerves in her stomach went into virus territory, made her whole midsection ache, and her breathing lose track of its rhythm.

His mind, perpetually questioning and alert, seemed to be going right along with her, racing, slowing, unsteady.

This isn't for love. She's doing this to comfort. I don't want her to feel she owes me her body as comfort.

Faith let her eyes rove quickly away from his. It's just like the other hundred guys you've gotten off with. So what if you're doing this for him, not just for you? It is for you, too. You're scared to admit just how much this is for you. How you wanna wrap your arms around those scarred up shoulders and tell him that you have all these painful, squishy, scared feelings and-

I really gotta snap out of this… Faith pulled back, then dove in harder, with a growl.

This isn't right. Dammit. Why can't I be better at doing wrong? According to all and sundry, I'm a bloody expert at it. Wesley fought the sweet sensations and the growing misgivings. I really should do something about this… But perhaps it's just supposed to occur? Who am I to fight fate, even if I know this doesn't feel quite right?

There was a sudden snap and roll of thunder, the drenching rain having given way to a thunderstorm. The house was sent into blackness.

And they were sent apart, abruptly, looking up, puzzled. "What the-"

Fate wins. Thank heavens. "Just a storm."

"Shit. The pork chops." Faith began to scramble to her feet.

"They should have been done an hour ago, or more." She got up, he went after her. "They don't take long to cook, not just chops. If it was a roast-"

"Wes, do I know that stuff?" Faith could see well enough in the dark, and he stumbled along behind her. She yanked open the oven. Two very crisp, wizened pieces of meat in a blackened crunchy coating greeted her. "Crap!"

"I'll find candles." Wesley sighed. "Peanut butter and jelly?"

"That seems to be about my speed." She grunted, and slammed the pan back into the oven.

They moved apart. Both secretly relieved and also disappointed. Jumbled inside. Routine was so much more comfortable.

"So. You, uh, feeling any better now?" Faith called to him.

Wesley rummaged blindly in the magical supplies. "Yes. So much. Thank you, Faith."

"Any time."

In separate rooms, they paused. Any time. Maybe even all the time.

Something changed between us. Or keeps changing. Wesley looked over his shoulder, back towards her door.

Faith held her stomach and shook her head, mad at herself, mad at him, and curiously happy all at once. What the hell is going on?

Like I don't know the answer. Dammit. She savagely kicked the already dented drywall in the shabby tenement, then sat down, hands clutched in her hair.

Would it be so bad?

Would it ever be something that was actually good?

The Good

"The bus won't be coming, you're gonna have to drive in."

Wesley put down the pen he was using to underline pieces of a new project. "How do you know that? Aren't you working in the city proper?" He didn't bother to ask where, it changed every few days.

"You know it." Faith grinned, tucking yet another bill in her pocket as a smiling patron left.

"Then how do you-"

" 'Cause we take the eighteen, and the eighteen is parked out front with a flat and busted bumper. I think you'd better come in though."

"Rough crowd?" Wesley sat up straighter, adrenaline already beginning to churn.

"Worse. Spring break bimbos." Faith watched a flood of giggling girls in short shorts and tank tops trip down the bus's steps. "Vampires' favorite meal. Drunk, stupid, young, and showing a lot of neck."

"I'm covered in blood. But I don't think any of it's mine this time." Wesley frowned at his shirt.

"It's lipstick." Faith threw him a glance and rolled her eyes. "And it's not just on your clothes."

"They were very grateful, weren't they?" Wesley looked flushed and scrubbed at his chin and cheeks.

"Riding in, savin' the damsels in distress. Lay it on me, Mr. Wayne." Faith held out her hand, asking for a high five. He gave it to her, then winced.

"That last one wrenched my arm back. Blast it."

"Last hottie or last vampire?" She teased.

"Vampire. The one you so messily stabbed before you dusted and - dammit, Faith, this is blood!" Wesley ran a finger over his collar. "I have to go buy more of that stain soaking pre-wash now."

She turned the radio on hurriedly. "How's the translation going?"

"Don't try to change the subject."

"You wanna drive to that place that's open all night, Wilma? Will that make you happy?"

"No, but it'll get the clothes clean."

"Now who's the angry little housewife?"

They fell silent in the early dawn.

"Sorry you got hurt."

"Thanks for getting him off of me. Hurt is a small price compared to dead."

"You wouldn't have died." Faith said quickly, harshly. "You had him. I just- wanted an even number to end the night on."

Wesley gave her a sideways glance. She kills viciously when she feels threatened. Not her usual, casual ferocity.

Or when I'm threatened.

She didn't seem to take too kindly to the lipstick brigade either.

Suddenly feeling quite pleased about the end of the evening, pained arm, ruined shirt and all, he started to hum.

Faith's eyebrows slid up her forehead slowly, jaw sliding in the opposite direction. She turned to give him a startled look, only to find him singing absently to the passenger window.

"Some people say my love cannot be true. Please believe me, my love, and I'll show you. I will give you those things you thought unreal , the sun, the moon, the stars all bear my seal."

"Wes." Faith coughed out, vocal cords somewhat stuck in shock.


Faith paused. "Never mind. You- uh- you want coffee?"

"I think I'd rather have a nice flat surface, preferably soft, and some ice." Wesley muttered, and flexed his shoulder experimentally.

"You got it."

She turned, waited.

She wasn't disappointed.

"Follow me now and you will not regret, leaving the life you led before we met…" His fingers beat idly on the door's edge. "You are the first to have this love of mine, forever with me 'til the end of time." He was dimly aware of her driving taking a slightly erratic turn. He smiled lazily around the song he was singing under his breath. "Your love for me has just got to be real… Before you know the way I'm going to feel…

I'm going to feel…"

"That is fucking amazing." Faith burst out, unable to control her glee any longer.

"What? Where?" Wesley stopped singing himself into a stupor.

"You! You singing."

He blushed and modestly inclined his head. "I was in the school choir and eventually I was even made organizer of the-" Some pomposity was trickling back into his voice, but she crowed over it.

"Ozzy! You were singing Ozzy, man!"

Wesley looked stunned. Maybe a bit appalled. "I wasn't. I couldn't have been. Could I?"

"Yes!" Her hand grabbed his, twisted it in triumph, some sort of high five on steroids. "You totally were. I'd bet a year's tips on it, Wes, you were."

Wesley's flush grew. "I imagine since you've subjected me to it continuously I simply- hummed along. Maybe echoed it a bit." He hastily switched off the radio. "Your stations…" He snorted in huffy embarrassment.

"It was the second coolest thing I've ever seen you do." Faith shoved his hand away and turned it back on.

Wesley coughed. "Hrm. Really?"

"Dude. Wicked cool."

"What was the first coolest thing? If I may know?"

Faith's mouth opened, then shut, nimble tongue dancing thoughtfully across her lips as she squinted into the rising sun. Thoughts kaliedescoping through her brain. So many little things and big things and when you realized now- months and months- later what exactly he'd done… "Huh. Almost everything else."


"I don't want a van."

"Nor do I. I'm simply thinking-" Wesley grunted and passed her a box, "that it may eventually be more practical. We were talking about a larger car, and we seem to accumulate a lot of things."

"April fool's joke, man?"

"Hardly." They stepped back and surveyed the car. Filled to the brim by now.

"How'd we get so much stuff?" Faith marveled. It was like- it was crazy. She had lived out of a backpack and sometimes out of coat pockets. This was home in a car. It's all his fault. He's the one who wanted to buy dishes. Sheets. Towels. Wait, why does that make him the bad guy, again? She shook her head. "No RVs."

"Heaven forbid! You and I, without walls and locking doors between us? We'd go mad." Funny. Now that's a joke. Back in the beginning, it was the truth. She hated me.

Now I love her. And I can't tell her. So I ask about the car again. "Our savings-"

"Are gonna get blown, baby." No savings. No our. Don't make me think, dude. Not about where I go with you in my head. "Vegas in springtime. Maybe you'll find yourself a showgirl?"

"I prefer my shows more action based than musical these days." Wesley smirked at her and told himself that it was the warm spring sun on her cheeks, not a faint rush of color. Because she never blushes. Least of all from an innocent, and vague at that, compliment.

"Maybe we'll get the jackpot." Faith switched topics again. "Buy Harleys. I'd teach you to ride."

"I already know how." Wesley surprised her. "But motorcycles are completely impractical! Look at what we have to carry!"

"I'm still stuck on you know how." Faith blinked. "How the hell did that happen?"

Wesley chuckled. "It's several hours to Las Vegas. You let me drive, and I'll tell you." He paused, then added honestly. "It's actually not exciting."

"I still like listening to you."

It was his turn to show incredulity. "This is very different from our first car rides. I believe you told me a rule was 'no talking'."

"I'm pretty sure that rule'll come back one of these days." She laughed her throaty chuckle, smile wide and warm, not the predatory one that was somehow both genuine and fake. "What can I say? You grew on me."

He was touched. "Faith, I don't know what to-"

"You're less of a boring asshole now." Faith slid into the car.

Wesley stared at the space where she'd been. "Ah. Yes. There is that."

In Vegas, no one asks any questions if you pay cash up front. Getting a flat in the city was simple.

Living with each other still had some challenges…

"Miss Priss? Could you maybe stop hanging your socks over the shower?"

"They're cashmere! My last decent pair." Wesley clutched them protectively as she hurled them at him. It was odd. No one would recognize him from the Head Boy, Council Poster Child he'd been only a few months ago. Only sometimes he did a craving for the old ways. The fancy socks. A crisp shirt. One with a collar.

She snorted and beer came out her nose. She wiped it up with an inelegant snort, back of her wrist rubbing it away. "You wear girl socks?"

"These are gentlemen's socks!" He protested hotly.

"Whatever you say, Wilma."

"I don't know why you're complaining, you leave your clothes all over the bathroom floor half the time."

"Only if they need your super anti-bloodstain soak." Faith shrugged.

"I'm not the maid!"

"I help! I carry all the bags to the laundry room! Why aren't your socks in the bag?"

"Because I've ruined all my other good socks in the washing machine on the heavy cycle, trying to remove undead dust, my own blood, your blood, and demon bodily fluids. Cashmere should be hand washed, or on the gentle cycle, with a mild detergent." He huffed, and tenderly folded the socks into a neat wedge. "Fleeing for my life on patrols has also bruised the cashmere." The Watcher added woefully.

She got up with a glare that spoke volumes of impatience, stomped past him, out into the desert oasis of sin, wearing nothing but a torn top and jeans that fell to the soft skin below her hips.

She walked. Walked to the rich places, the places they didn't let her kind in. Asked the valet a question. Got the valet's number with a wink and a hand sliding down her concave abs to rest in that no-man's land barely concealed by denim.

She kept walking.

"I love this town." Faith sighed to herself when she swayed home, little embossed bag swaying over her elbow, finger flipping off the tens of men who were whistling or beating the sides of their car doors, inviting her to take a ride. Fit right in around here.

No one even asks about me. No one looks twice. As long as you've got a body and some cash, this is my kinda place.

Maybe we could do a couple months here.

The thought wasn't nearly as terrifying as it had been before. Still. Faith jogged the last few blocks to their flat. Better tell him what I want before the common sense kicks back in.

"Hey! So, since it's such a pain in the ass to move around all the time and God knows I don't want to let you buy us some POS van, I was thinking maybe we could-"

"I'm very grateful for the offer, but I'll have to consider it!" Wesley shouted loudly over her, into his phone, and glared at her as he cupped a hand over his free ear.

Faith's stomach tensed. Offer? Consider it? Consider what? Consider what with who?

"Yes. Yes, I suppose that does depend on… I'm sure it's current, Sir. If I did agree, I could drive if needed. Oh, you budgeted for the flights? That's very kind of you."

Sir? Flights? Faith stared at him, watched him fumbling in his wallet, life's important little pieces of card and plastic littering the table. She slunk over, staring at him, staring at everything but him. Confusion. So much around him. I should never have let myself go anywhere near confusing, should have kept it at barely tolerate.

"Yes, it's current." Wesley shuffled through the cards until he found some date he seemed to want, then replied, "I'll just have to- hrm- consult my schedule. My family schedule. Of course. No, no I understand you would move other deadlines as needed. Thank you. I'll let you know. Yes, as soon as possible. Thank you, Mr. Barnolden. Good evening."

He hung up and turned to her, glare melting into a puzzled smile. "I've just been offered an additional job."

"Well, good." Faith replied with a similar puzzled smile.

Wesley seemed to deliberate, speech slowing. "If I accept it. It does increase my standing in the company, which is security for us. Security as in available income in any place we travel. Which is something needed when we move so frequently." She snorted, but kept quiet, meaning that grudgingly, she knew it was true. He continued cautiously, mulling it aloud, "I could make the cost of a half-dozen translations in two week's time. Plus airfare and accommodation expenses, so it wouldn't cost us anything out of pocket."

Faith's eyes were less than friendly, wary. "Exactly what was that? Airfare?"

Wesley's glad face dropped. "It was merely an offer. Job offer. To act as a live translator at a conference for the company I work for. Silly, I know, but some of the workshop presenters may use languages other translators in the company don't know. But I know-"

"Everything." Faith nodded woodenly.

"I don't have to take it." Wesley quickly reassured. "I haven't said I would. They could easily find someone else, it is a place full of linguists, after all. I'm new there. It's flattering they even asked me."

Because he's the best. They aren't stupid, like the Council of Brainfarts, and they don't treat him like a nothing. He should take it. He could use it. We could use it.

She didn't say that, something grudging inside her throwing up selfish little roadblocks. "We already paid up front. Got three weeks left. Paid plenty too, Vegas isn't cheap." Faith shrugged and ran her fingers over the cash and plastic he was neatly rearranging into his wallet. That's the reason. The money. It's always about the money with me.

Let's tell him that, anyway.

Wesley nodded. "I did think of that." I always think of that. If we're going to have a roof over our heads. I'm so much weaker than her, but I try to offer her the sorts of help and protection I can. Being one stable thing in the upheaval that is her, that is our life. "I wondered- if you'd be alright… on your own. Just the last week and a half." He coughed. "I could drive, and that mean a bit more time. They'd prefer I fly out, they've already booked a bank of tickets with airlines. And you can't very well-"

"Can't fly, because fake IDs don't fool the pros, just bartenders who're sketchy anyway, and little old landladies who don't really care once you show them the cash." Faith understood. I can't fly with him.

Why would I want to? A week and half on my own! Yeah, that's the life, right? That's the good life, the free life, the real life for me. I'm a loner and I don't need anyone.

Wesley nodded. "I won't take it. I simply couldn't be rude to my employer, I had to at least make a pretense of deciding." Because I'm a lapdog, used to heeling. I'm not a pawn anymore, my duty is to her, and I should have been brutally clear that my other tasks, while certainly more challenging, allow more freedom and that's what matters to us. Her and I. "I'll call him back now."

Her hand rested on his wrist long enough to make him stop reaching for the phone. "Don't be stupid. Money's a good thing, and you know I don't always make a lot of it. Sometimes there are places I just can't." Faith gave him a little nudge. "I can take care of myself for a couple weeks. Months. Whatever."

"It's not like that. I know you're fully capable. I… We could drive. Together. To hell with flying." He smiled at her, and shook his head at the folly of corporations and their stupid whims. "We'd just have to leave a few days before the conference starts. It's in New York."

"All the way back to the other side, huh?" Faith shook her head with a rueful grin.

"At least it won't be the winter." He returned the half-smile.

She was silent. Eyes downcast on the table. "No. Do it. Show off. Fly in, be the big man, impress the boss. You know you're the best they've got. Anyway, it's not for long."

"We'll go together." He insisted, his fingertips went in search of hers, only to find they were gone.

"Fly out. It's faster." Don't push me. Don't make me say that I got so soft I can't hack it alone for a couple measly days…

He read something resistant in her eyes, and he agreed with a single nod. "Then I'll fly back to wherever you want to meet. In May." If you do want to meet. If you still need me. Want me.

I can't do this. The room suddenly felt too bright and the world too frightful. I'm throwing away everything. I have to take it back. I can't risk this. She trusts me, I trust her, and yet… I'll always be a coward when it comes to being without her, for I can't think of anything heroic about losing the woman you're falling in love with. The woman I'm in love with. Not that she loves me. Once I'm away, will she even miss me?

She doesn't need me. I need her.

"I think, upon reflection, hrm, that I-"

"You trust me with the car? Drivin' solo from Vegas to the Big Apple?" Faith arched one eyebrow as she cut him off.

He tossed her the keys immediately, and she snagged them, wide eyed, brow and cynical playfulness dropping.

"It's only a car. It's the driver I can't do without." He whispered.

I can't do without you, either, baby. Faith blinked rapidly, words that stunned her staying hidden, masked under a nod and dropping the keys back to the table between them. "I'm gonna drive out there, and meet you. I'm gonna show you the city like you never seen it before." He nodded and she laughed, "C'mon, we're makin' a huge deal out of like- nothing. It's not for awhile. And it's not for long."


They exchanged a semi-relieved smile.

"You won't have to patrol that week." Wesley tried to break the silence, return them to normal. Whatever their normal was.

"The hell I will!" Faith snorted. "I can handle it."


"Dude. We have so much more time before you leave. We're gonna have the vamp population down to negative numbers. And the demons too. Bet there's a good magic shop in this place, you could find one of those orb things. Five by five Faiths, huh?" She punched his arm and turned away.

I wish I could take one with me. But there is only one. The rest are just my copies, shades of the original tigress in the shadow.

I'm getting horrifically poetic. I have to stop thinking like that, it doesn't do either of us any good. "I'll see if I can find a shop." Wesley nodded, then winced. "Good heavens, I can't go to an international conference that lasts two weeks with only one suit!"

"Wear jeans?" Faith shrugged.

His haughty tone came out reflexively. "Don't be ridiculous! I need at least three, a few shirts, a few ties. I can rearrange them and then it won't be so obvious I'm traveling light. I suppose I need to get new shoes. Or at least have these properly polished. And handkerchiefs, and, oh dear, my suit bag is still in Sunnydale if it hasn't been sold by now…"

Faith stomped off. Pompous. Richboy. Ass. Jerk. Leaving me for some stupid three piece suit-a-thon.

I told him to. He didn't want to.

Anger faded, but flared back up. Anger was a comfortable emotion, much easier than saying she was going to miss him. And she was scared. Scared isn't a Slayer-word, you get that through your stupid head. Seriously, you really think you need Mr. Head Boy over there to keep you company?

Listen to him. Why aren't I having a party to celebrate that I'm getting away from that stuck up, stick up his ass- Faith's train of insults died away inside her head.

He's not really like that.

Wesley watched her slam into her room. His litany of petty clothing worries ended with a sigh. Damn and blast the suits and everything that goes with them.

"It's your birthday." Faith made statements flatly, without an ounce of joy in her tone.

Wesley stopped typing. Hours had passed without a single word or sound from inside her room. "It is? Oh. Yes. Later this month." It had utterly slipped his mind. Twenty eight. Hardly the auspicious career and lifestyle his parents expected him to possess by now.

"You'll be gone then."

"I don't really celebrate it." Wesley looked at her with that sweet earnestness Faith found so unusual but so wonderful.

"You should." Faith tossed a small stiff bag on the table, elegant gilt script edging the surface. "Save yourself some shopping." She slid out the door.

Wesley opened the bag slowly, almost warily.

Socks. Cashmere and wool. Solids and argyles.

He slammed the computer shut and tore after her.

"Faith! Faith, what are you doing?"

"Patrolling. Practice. Gotta get used to doing this by myself." I wouldn't have to do any of this shit without him. I don't have to be a slayer. Not some good girl.

Guess I would though. Guess I would anyway.

"I thought you trusted me." Wesley's words were soft but the stripped through her defenses, a single lash that sliced deep.

Then tell him you were stupid. No, tell him he's stupid, he's stupid and a loser and not worth your trust. Tell him it was just something you said, Faith's snide inner voice shouted out hard comebacks.

"I- it's not that I don't. I just- got used to you not leaving." You told me you wouldn't. I even kinda hinted you should. I like you stubborn, Wes.

Wesley seized her hand, held it as she struggled, until she realized that he was matching her pace, determinedly clinging, unwilling to let go.

Not letting go of me.

"You'd best get used to someone coming back. Every time we're apart - I will come back. I don't even have to go in the first place. I don't actually want to go." He confessed hurriedly, still fighting for those clever, calloused fingertips.

"You wouldn't rather stay in some nice hotel the company pays for, wearing your suits and making your speeches?" She scoffed, even though she already knew it was the truth.

"No. I would rather be covered in slime, or walking through graveyards- sometimes both at once- freezing or roasting, as long as you were slogging along with me."

Faith realized what they were doing. Holding hands. Which she so did not do. And his words- they were those pleading, half-forcing, "I will not quit on you, don't you quit on me" crap kinda words.

Wesley realized it as well. That he still had hold of her. That- for the first time, there was not the hasty burst of passion or the desperate easing of sorrows. This is different. And rare. Like her. Like a shooting star, and maybe I'd better not be a damn fool, or be twice the one I already am, and tell her exactly how much she means, why I would always come back. No matter the conditions. "Faith, listen to me. I think you need to know that- not only do I- choose to be at your side and that I like it, but that I-"

"Oh, screw that speech, Wes." Her hand yanked away, but her arm looped around his, suddenly saucy, mercurial shift in her mood, leaving him off kilter and unable to conclude that fatal phrase. "If you're ditching me for a joyride off on society hill, you better put in your hours now. This is Vegas, baby. The never ending cycle on the strip."

"I… I'm lost." He confessed. On so many levels. She cut me off. Did she know what I was going to say? Would it have ruined everything?

Yes. I'm sure. He listened to her in a grateful haze.

"Hookers. Vamps love hookers. You don't even have to go into the bars, just open your door, and boom, meals on wheels. No one keeps track, no one cares if the girl was talking to a stranger- and then same deal. If they get turned, they can go right back on the prowl. You come out at night, strangers pick you up, invite you in, and yay. Another course."

Wesley blinked and turned to look at her as they walked. "That's brilliant. How'd you learn so much in a week?"

"Not my first time here." She tossed him a careless grin and shrug. "Not like you didn't already know this stuff."

"True." Wesley conceded. It was more the idea that she knew it. That the battle raging brassy girl always knew so much more than others gave her credit for. She knew enough to save you from yourself just then, didn't she? Get back on track, Pryce.

"We have our work cut out for us, as you said. What sort of plan of attack were you thinking of?"

Faith gave him an absolutely dazzling dark smile, dark cherry lips speaking volumes of suggestion.

Suggestions he didn't like. "You can't possibly…"

"Come on. Let's go get me something trashy. Trashier. And you- practice looking lonely and horny."

"What?" Wesley squawked. "Both of us? Surely-"

"Sure you wanna come back to this?" She teased- then half-yelped when there was a rude pinch on her hip.

He was resolved. Even if it meant enormous humiliation. "I told you." He smirked and used his free hand to rake his hair into a less-dignified angle. "I prefer this. You. O-over anything. I'll always come back."

It wasn't that she didn't believe him. It was just that she equating seeing things actually happen, seeing someone prove it.

"Can you tell an undercover cop from Jane Doe?"

"No, but I can tell a vampire from a breathing human." Wesley tucked his glasses in his pocket, along with stakes and holy water.

"It's a start." Faith came out of the bedroom.

Wesley said nothing. Verbally. In his mind he made all sorts of comments, some that he didn't even know he was capable of thinking.

"Got the horny look going on, Wes. Nice cover." Faith licked her lips, now stained siren red, and winked one heavily shadowed lid.

"I'm- hrm- simply impressed with- the fact that- hr-hrrrm," he ran a finger under the collar of the already mostly unbuttoned shirt he wore, "that you can walk in those boots."

"Way different than heels." Faith shrugged and cast an admiring look over her ensemble. Boots that came up to just over her knee, but clung and bent so she had no fear the vamps would outrun her as she tripped along. The boots led to a mini skirt in a black nylon so tight it was practically sheer, and plunging top that revealed far too much cleavage, offset by waves of rich, chocolate silk flowing over her shoulders. "Starting to drool, man."

Wesley grabbed at his chin guiltily, and she laughed. "Fine. You look alluring, the part and beyond. How about me?"

Faith surveyed him. No glasses, hair gone from slicked back to scraped off to the side carelessly, shirt loose and unbuttoned enough to say he wanted fun, nice enough to say he could pay for it. "You have to stand like you're relaxed."

"I'm not going to be 'relaxed'!"

"Fake it." She winked, and leaned against him. He leaned back, instantly. "See?" Faith said, wet, red lips framing the words almost against his jaw, "Just like that."

Oh no. Wesley mutely shook his head and followed her from their flat. That was entirely real.

"Really cutting into the vamp population." Faith scrubbed her mascara off in the sink as he leaned heavily against the doorjamb, toothbrush in his mouth. A whole new level of intimacy born from long nights and complete exhaustion.

"Cutting into? I think we've nearly desiccated it. Especially after this morning."

"Gotta say," she moved to the side so he could rinse, "flaming arrow through the ceiling, stroke of genius." The roof had burned quickly, letting in daylight as the fiery patches gave way to the open sky and sunrise.

"I find it interesting that one moment we can be surrounded by murderous, burning demons, nothing but shouting and fire- the next, nothing but silence and ash." Wesley mused, head tilted and a reflective expression on his face. "How is it that the 'immortals' are killed by things we humans could survive? Of course, the demonology aspect must be considered, I just have come to find it fascinating. Now that I actually see it for myself, not merely read about it." He frowned as he absently screwed the cap back on the toothpaste.

Faith elbowed him out of the way. "Excuse me while I dwell on other mysteries of the universe, like- how are dudes only offering me fifty bucks when I'm showin' off these?" Faith scoffed and pushed her now braless breasts forward, showing Wesley far too much detail under a straining white undershirt.

"They don't know you. They don't understand your company is priceless." Wesley murmured and smiled at her before padding tiredly to his room.

The Bad

"I can handle this alone." Faith argued. The closer it got to his flight, the more "independent" she got, or to the outside observer, less talkative, walling herself in, keeping him out.

He knew that. He tried to be sympathetic. They still worked so well together, lived so well together, ninety percent of the time. Still, he pressed, "I would feel much better if we attempted this together before I leave."

Faith brushed off his remark with a little edge in her tone. "If you get hurt bad, you're not gonna make that flight, so why don't you just let me handle this, okay, English?"

We're back to calling me "English". Not in the affectionately saucy way, either. "My flight isn't for two days!" Wesley bristled slightly.

"Like I said." Faith tried to push him back into the apartment.

"If you think it's that dangerous, then you ought to have someone watch your back and investigate with you!" Wesley hissed, and pushed the wrists trying to force him to fall back.

In the last few days, they had played various parts. Customer. Seller. Lounge lizard. Tourist. Unlike most people in Vegas, their luck was good. At least, if you consider finding something bad and dangerous at every turn a good thing.

"You said yourself, these aren't normal vampires. They don't mess about with little catches and kills." Wesley argued.

"It sounded like something big and not the good type of big, the type of big you can handle." It'll be like those losers in the roadhouse. The ones that almost took him out. I can't- I won't. No. Even if he's wicked stronger and even if he's made double digit kills with those lady vamps this week, I- no. Just no.

Wesley stopped resisting. So there's a limit to how much she wants me involved. I suppose that's normal for Watchers and Slayers. We're not imbued with their level of strength or speed. "If you want me just to watch, then I'll watch. But I will come with you." He said heavily.

No arguing with that. Faith knew the tone, and she threw her head back with a deep groan. "They're gonna grab someone. Someone special, and they're gonna kill them, offer them up like some sort of sacrifice. The guy who picked me up- before he realized he wasn't just dealing with dinner and he was all talkative on his cell, said they'd get wicked protection powers, everything they could wish for. No one could stop them. They want to run this town. Power mad vamps? That's a job for a slayer, and I-"

"Protection? Protection from the forces of good, supposedly." Wesley pulled her back into the flat and headed straight to his books.

"Uh, yeah, I don't think the good fairy is going to grant wishes to vamps who turn hookers."

"So presumably a dark entity that accepts offerings and grants powerful protection in exchange. That's not a lot to go on. I wish you'd mentioned this earlier."

"Sorry, I was kinda busy scrubbing off the undead perf I got in my hair." Faith put her hands on her hips, then tossed them up as she joined him. "Books? Now?"

"Is there a deadline?" He looked up.

"For some poor victim, yeah, literally!"

"No, no, did they mention a time? Were you able to hear much of the conversation?"

"I could hear a lot. He didn't realize I had the Slayer hearing going on, that I could hear him even when he was all hush-hush."

"Lovely. Now answer the question." She shut me out. She shut me out for my own safety, and now someone else may die. Wesley felt as though their progress was taking a sudden downward slide, and it pained him, came out in his urgent, unyielding tones.

Faith hated that sound. The sound of pissed-off-but-not-taking-it-out-on-her-even-if-she-deserved-it Watcher. She replied almost flippantly. "Has to be done tonight. But, look, I don't know if that's all mojo related or just because he has tickets to see Seigfried and Roy tomorrow, y'know? So stop getting out your evil prophecy appointment book, and just- let me deal. " Faith paced impatiently. "Can I just go? I know where I'm going."

"Where's that?" Wesley barely kept his voice in check. How could she have stopped sharing so much with him? Practically overnight. Never should have accepted that bloody job. "How'd you find out, did he say?"

"Listen, and I'll tell you." She tossed her hair and kept her hands at her sides with an effort. "Dusted him, looked at the last number called on the phone, the guy he'd been making plans with, and called it back. Some restaurant in the not so friendly area."

In spite of his frustration he smiled. "Clever."

In spite of all her walls, he could still slip through. Her cheeks lifted, and she smirked at him. "Learned from the best. All the practical poindextering had to rub off eventually."

Wesley nodded. "You could have told me. Even if you were upset, harboring some feelings of doubt because I'm going away soon, I-"

"Wes. We can't do a soaps scene now. Someone is gonna get offered up at Jeanie's Bar and Grill, and I have to go rewrite the menu!" Faith began to turn on her heel.


"The place. I'm gonna go out on a limb and say it's probably not really a fine finding establishment, but…"

"Jeanie! Genie. Djinn!" Wesley gasped.

"Gin? You wanna hit a bar on the way?"

"No! Djinn, the proper name of genies. Genies, as we've come to associate with folklore, as powerful, helpful beings, granting wishes, is not entirely accurate."

Faith blinked. "Are you telling me vamps turned Aladdin and he's gonna get out his lamp tonight?"

"No. I'm saying the djinn, or as we call it, the genie, is going to grant a wish. But they do that in exchange for something. Something that feeds their power."


"In part." Wesley said gravely. "There is nothing so full of wishes as the human heart."

"Vampires aren't humans, so they do the shopping for this joker?" Faith's temper began to boil. Bad enough being evil, you gotta do other people's evil? Doesn't that sound familiar? And all so they can have power, so they can run their own little corner of the world? So close to home on that one. "Stop talking and bring your anti-djinn powder or whatever you got, and let's go. You handle the djinn, and I'll handle-"

"Vampires are much less of a threat in this situation." Wesley told her softly, honestly. "The djinn is a twofold battle. Unless we get there before they summon him, you not only have to find a way to kill him, you have to find a way to rescue the child."

"Child?" Faith practically spat in her surprise. "They didn't say a kid! A human is bad enough, why pick on a kid?"

"Do you know anyone who believes in wishes more than a child? Who makes more wishes than a child? Who is so full of innocence and belief than a child?" He was pushing past her now, to the place they stashed one of their caches of magical aids and weapons. "You should have told me at once."

"I told you there was a job going on." I didn't want you to get hurt. Not tonight. I wanted you to go fly away safe. Kinda like sending you off in one piece would be doing right by you.

"That was hardly enough, was it?" Wesley rummaged in the box.

"You ever wanted to protect someone you care about, Wes?" Faith demanded coldly. Ever have a bad feeling in your gut you just can't shake?

Wesley stood up, nodding silently. "Trust isn't given overnight. I know that. And I suppose it keeps growing, the more we-"

"Kid in danger, Wes. What do I use to slay a genie? Oh, and do they really come in lamps? Couldn't I just stuff it back in, put the lid on it?"

"They can be confined in smoke-form in small spaces, but if it's receiving an offering and it's in Vegas, I assume it's in corporeal form and in which case you need pure silver, true silver that's only had one minting." He slammed the lid shut suddenly and growled in exasperation, "Of course I can't find what I want, it must be in the car."

"Pure silver? Like-"

"Your knife." He looked towards the door, not at her. "The one I got you for your birthday."

"I knew which one you meant." Lots of knives. Only one of them is mine. She pulled if from the sheath, high on her thigh. "Some girls like garters, I like daggers." Faith grinned. "It's always on me. Don't you know that by now?"

He flushed. "I'm glad you like it."

"I love it."

A pause. "We'd better go."

In the heat of a big battle, they united again, the tension forgotten, happy, relieved to have their partner at their side.


"There'll be muscle out front, ringleaders inside." Wesley muttered from the corner of his mouth.

"No shit, Wes, I've done this before, on both sides. I know the drill."

"Holy water won't work this time. Fire attracts too much attention."

"Crossbow- distance?"

"Both of us, quickly."

"And after this, ice cream?" She winked, trying to laugh off the sick feeling inside.

"Highest number of bodies buys?" His gallows humor reached hers.

"Only if you spot me some for degree of difficulty. Djinn is like what, ten?"

"Say five."

"Fine, five, but only because I seriously hope there aren't ten."

"As do I." He grinned tightly. "Loaded?"

"Three rounds, three waiting"

"Let's do it."

Four figures in dark suits at the front. Four on each of the other sides. Wesley took down the first three with silent stings of arrows, earning a short, gasping roar and the fourth calling for back up. All the while, Faith pulsed next to him, kneeling in the dark.

"Wait… wait…"

"There's no time to wait!"

"Shhh." Wesley slid the next three rounds in to the chambers. The fourth vampire looked in their direction, snarling, looking past them, nostrils flaring as he shifted into fangs. He called something into the darkness beside the building, and backup came running.

Shtck, shtck, shtck. Three more solid hits, three more hisses and puffs of grit in the air.

"And then there were six."

"You can't handle six." Faith was in a runner's crouch, practically pawing.

"So take out three on your way in and I'll re-load." Wesley squeezed her shoulder. "Go."

She flew.

There were more meatheads on the inside, ones with guns, in case humans came in to interfere, she guessed. She tore through them, right hand with knife to throats, slashing back with swift vicious swings, while the left swung and plunged forward, into hearts.

Some were demons, some were vamps. "Must be a big deal to get all of you to play nice." Faith panted amidst throwing blows and dodging bullets. "Any fun party games? Spin the bottle? Or you just gonna rub it?"

Her words clicked with the vamp controlling the security force. "She knows! Stop taking it easy and blow that bitch's head off!"

Faith grinned and felt something hot and metallic split the shoulder of her coat. "Ooh. Nice shot. Not the head, but you can try…"

Trying to outrun them, and trying to get in wasn't working. He had to move the fighting ground inside, closer to the action, to let Faith get her shot at the true threat.

While I simply deal with all these lesser threats. Which are each extremely violent, fatal threats. He couldn't fight, reload, and run, all at once. Really a skill set I must develop. "Tunc Cessare!" Wesley flung his hand out in front of him and the beings before him halted, frozen in mid-attack.

He didn't realize, with his lack of focus, and his hurry, that he hadn't stopped the ones behind him.

Faith saw a flash of bright blue. Her shoulder was grazed, her ribs were hurting, yet she was loving every second. Loving it more now that she saw the bolt of blue. Magic man's on deck. He made it this far and he's still strong enough to dish it out.

Guess I am too. "Tired of dealing with amateurs. Where's the big boss?" Faith demanded, hoisting a vampire by his hair.

Two vampires turned from the inner sanctum, what had once been the kitchen of this place, finally hearing the commotion outside.

"About time." One rolled his eyes.

"He's cutting it close. He knows we can't open the vessel without three of us." The second turned an incredibly ancient bronze vessel with some form of arabic writing scrolled on three sides.

The first nodded, frowning. The sounds outside seemed to be intensifying. Not the noise one would associate with a single vampire joining his two blood brothers in an incredibly difficult, hush-hush bid for power. He looked toward the door, then back to his comrade. "You hear there's a slayer in town?"

"So? She's not gonna find out about us. Only humans we've seen in days are dinner." he laughed cruelly. "Elliot went out to pick up a streetwalker. You know him. He likes them dark an' dirty. Says they fit in better at the nest."

That seemed to further irritate his sibling. "What nest? I don't think there's a nest left standing. That Slayer is getting too close. You know we've been dropping faster than ever before in just the last two weeks? I -"

"Ain't no slayers selling it on the strip! Calm down. Elliot's too smart to get taken in by a slayer. He was fine last night, I talked to him. He'd already grabbed a girl. He won't screw this up." The second vampire looked towards the door with a grimace.

"So what's all the noise?" The first led.

"Can't be the police. We had one of those demon types cloak us." The second got up and peered under a pile of black rags.

Their offering, drugged, slept on, tiny form in pink and white pajamas and tears on her lashes. "I don't think she even had time to scream…"

"She had parents in the hotel, though. Right next door. They'll realize by now that she's not in-"

An echoing crash startled them both. The girl twitched and quivered. "It's not Elliot. Cover her up and get the jar."

"Don't order me, Robert, I'm an equal partner and you know it."

"Then I'll get the girl and the jar, you waste time. We're gonna find police outside any minute and it's all your fault."

"Nope." Faith strolled in, hands in her pockets, both clutching weapons. "My fault, and I'm not police. Just call me a concerned citizen." She dropped a cell phone on the table. "Oh. And I'm here to return your buddy's phone."

The two shifted into game face, one backing towards their offering, one running towards their vessel.

She was faster. The silver knife flew from her hand, rang as it struck the bronze urn, and it fell from its table. Both vampires lunged for it, and she lunged for them.

She laughed, sandwiched between them in seconds, bursts of pain making her insides respond, some kind of chemical signal, and endorphin rush. There was a carnal craving, the kill, the blood, the high. She sighed and groaned, kicking, punching, clawing, feeling two bulky, growling forms doing the same against her. "If I could ever learn to share, I'd do great with three ways." Faith panted in one heavily pierced ear.

"More of a fifty-fifty split. We're gonna drain you dry and leave your heart for the djinn." The one called Robert snarled, fangs nipping the nape of her neck.

"Useless offering. I gave up on wishes a long- time- ago!" She grunted and elbowed her way to a good grip on the vampire in front, and found leverage to give a powerful thrusting kick to the rear. She stood alone, ravaged but triumphant looking. "But I'm great with hearts- destroying them, staking them, stuff like that."

Her small collapsible crossbow appeared from inside her ripped jacket pocket and fired twice, dusting one, wounding the other badly, high in the ribcage. "Okay, so I need a little work with the sharp-shooting. I have a guy for that." She retrieved her knife as he writhed on the floor, stepping around him, coldly looking down. "I like it up close and personal, anyway."

Faith rose, wiped her dusty hands, wiped her knife and tenderly tucked it safely away. "There's the magic lamp thing, bad guys dusty, now all I need is the-" Faith's eyes fell on the pile of black cloth, and widened, "offering."

Please don't be too late, please don't let this be a remove the heart first deal, please, please, please…

She yanked the cover back, and the form shuddered and mouthed silently, still with its eyes closed, insensible.

Faith didn't know this feeling. Not this strong. Something inside her hurt and ached and felt immeasurable relief all at once. She stooped and picked up the bundle, light in her supernaturally strong arms. "Shhh, shh baby." She needlessly soothed the child. "No one's gonna hurt you. All the bad men are gone. No one's gonna hurt you." She rocked her on her shoulder, wincing slightly as she had to contort herself to retrieve the urn as well. "Everything's okay. Bad guys are all-"

If the bad guys are all dead, why isn't Wesley here? Why didn't he come in?

Oh my God. Oh my God.

No, no, no, no…

Please, please, please… Faith streaked through the deserted restaurant, her prayers of the moment making her prayers of a minute past seem like casual conversation.

Faith skidded to a stop through the second set of swinging doors, what would have been a lobby, if this was a real restaurant, not just a front. She dropped the metal vase. She sank down to her knees, and placed the unconscious child on the floor gently, with shaking hands.

He was in the center, between a reception desk and two coatracks. There was a body beside him, some demon, and dust everywhere, piles of it.

He still had the crossbow in his hand.

"Wesley." Faith said quietly from across the small room. "Wes." She inched closer, still calm. Voice calm.

For all of two seconds. "Wes? Wes! Wesley! WAKE UP!" Faith plowed across the floor, on her knees, then on all fours as she fell forward, reaching for him.

The vampires were ash around them, but there was a gash on his head and a puncture on his shoulder that was deep and scary looking. Faith took all of this in with rapidly darting eyes, hands hovering just inches above him, afraid to touch him.

Thank God. Still breathing.

She watched him. The breathing seemed thready and faint to her, and she realized she didn't know a lot about first aid and she never paid attention anyway and - Faith put her hands briefly over her eyes, pulling in a shaking breath.

She hated him and she hated herself so much right then. He's gonna die. He's gonna die. He's not gonna leave you, he didn't use you, he's just going to die and you'll miss him.

Faith reacted the easy she usually did. Lashing him with one hand and covered her face with the other, pulling in a breath that would begin the long sobbing wail she felt building in her chest, first tears she could ever remember shedding.

"Ow. I say, surely that's uncalled for." Wesley mumbled and blinked, rolling towards the pain.

"WESLEY!" Faith scooped him off the floor, sitting him up.

"I seem to have hurt my head." Wesley frowned up at her dazedly.

"Hurt your head?" She cried in exasperation. "You- you- yeah, you hurt your head." Mindful of his injuries, she grabbed him and hugged him hard, heart pounding against her ribs, straight through to his.

"Faith… I got them. I got the last one." Wesley murmured in her hair as he surveyed the ground around them.

"I know you did. Good job, Rebel." She sniffed in. "But if you ever almost die on me again, I'll hurt the rest of you!"

"Hey. Sweetie, no one's gonna hurt you. You're safe. We're gonna take you home." Faith settled their little passenger in the backseat, and spoke softly to her as the child blinked her eyes open and started in fright. "Easy… You're okay."

"Who- who are you? Where's my mom?" A nervous voice whispered.

"I'm a friend." Faith avoided giving her own name. The police would probably be involved already. Just need to get the kid back home and avoid all contact with the feds. "And I'm gonna get you home to your mom. What's your address, kiddo?"

"346 Parkside Road."

"Parkside Road?" Wesley took the wheel, though he did it uneasily, knowing his range of motion was limited and he had lost quite a bit of blood. "I'm not sure where that is in the city…"

"It's in Washington. We're on vacation." The voice squeaked.

"Oh, kiddo. Rough vacation, huh?" Faith smoothed the damp, fine hair back. "Do you know what hotel you're at?"

"The one with all the angels in front."


"The white statues."

"She's at Caesar's Palace." Faith called to the front as she realized. He put the car in gear. "You okay to drive?"

"Stay with her." Wesley smiled at the two in the backseat. "What's your name, my dear?"


"Carrie, you're in very good hands. That's the lady that saved you."

The child seemed to relax marginally. She stared at the two adults. "Do you have my bear?"

"I think the bear might still be in your room. Do you know what happened?"

"Someone knocked on my door. Not Mommy and Daddy's. Their room and my room are together, but - it was on my door. Soft. I opened the door and-" The child's voice tightened, tears welled up. "I want my bear! I need my bear."

"Shh. We're gonna get you home to mom and dad and your bear. And you promise me you never open a door without your mom or dad there. Ever again. We're not always there." Faith said sternly, trying to tear her eyes from the kid and never quite managing it. The girl nodded.

Wesley sped in silence. As predicted, there were police cars outside the lavish hotel, not an uncommon sight, but this seemed worse. People were milling. Papers were being handed out. Everyone looked genuinely concerned and some were crying.

"There we go. There are your angels, Carrie. We'll get you right next to those policemen, and they'll get you inside."

"Are you coming with me?" Carrie suddenly grabbed Faith's hand.

"We can't. You can't tell anyone we helped you." Faith said, trying not to jump at the touch, how soft and how tight all at once.

"No one is supposed to know we're here, helping." Wesley cautioned. "We just help because it's our duty. Our job."

"Like angels?" Carrie whispered. "Guardian angels? Are you mine?"

"No." Faith snorted, as Wesley answered, "Yes."

The child's head swiveled between them. "She is a guardian. I simply help her." Wesley smiled softly.

Faith caught his eye, and then leaned over to Carrie, sharing a secret, cynical woman who didn't believe in believing anymore pouring out her heart to someone who still had all the magic of wonder inside her. "He's my angel. But don't tell him. He thinks he's just here for backup." Faith stage whispered. She was rewarded with a tiny grin. "Hey. I see a lady outside, blonde hair, blue robe, holding a pink teddy bear. Sound familiar?"

"Mom! Mom and Snuggles!"

"I'm pulling in round that corner, there's a forensics van right there." Wesley pointed to the dark van, doors open, men and women bustling in and out. "Carrie, listen. Look. Do you see those people?" She nodded as he pointed. "Tell any one of them your name and your mother's name, and they'll get you to her. We'll watch to make sure you get there. We won't leave until you're safe."

"Go on, kiddo. Go take care of yourself." Faith whispered, and gave the girl a nudge as she pushed the door open. "If they ask how you got back- say someone helped you get home."

"The guardian and her angel." Carrie nodded solemnly, her pale face showcasing her wide, uncertain eyes.

"I'm watching you until you get there." Faith repeated, and shoved her along.


"Sophie, don't upset yourself." A grim faced man clutched his wife.

"I heard her, Bob, I heard her."

"Mommy! Mommy!"

"Carrie! Oh, my God, my baby, let me go, Bob, it's her, it's really her!"

"Tearful parents rocking crying little girl. Police smiling and patting each other on the back like they did it all. You can drive." Faith sighed and sank back into the passenger seat.

Wesley began to snake his way through the line of police cars and stopped onlookers. "Thank heavens. Are you all right? You look a bit battered."

"I'm fine. You're fine. Holy shit, Wes, you scared me so bad, I-" I'm scared enough that I'll actually tell you that you scared me.

"I can handle myself, Faith. I'm sorry, dear, I never meant to-"

"Stop the car! Stop the car!" Faith grabbed Wesley's knee in a sudden vise-like clench and he jerked to a halt.

A figure was rushing through the slow moving cars, chased by frantic parents and shouting cops. "What the hell?" Faith rolled down her window. "Get out of the street! You're gonna get hurt!" She shouted. Her hand was already on her seatbelt, about to get out and push the child back to safety, unmindful of her own.

Carrie stopped and waved, blowing kisses and then- something pink hurled through the night. "Thank you!"

The police and parents were coming closer, and Wesley peeled out of the line of traffic and made an illegal turn on red, earning a chorus of blaring horns and waving fingers.

"Good Lord." Wesley swallowed.

"Stupid kid." Faith grumbled.

"What in the world made her do that?"

Faith looked down at the object that had flown in her window. Pink, fuzzy, bald in some spots. A much loved, much held toy. Something to cuddle with, snuggle with, keep you feeling safe. Something she'd never had. Something their little rescuee must have decided she didn't need anymore.

"It's her thank you." Faith whispered.

"That stings." Wesley hissed as she poured school across his forehead and roughly dabbed it. Normally stoic, he felt forced to comment, as she seemed to be attempting to take skin off, rather than heal it.

"You'll thank me later, and you're gonna do the same thing to me. They got me in the back in a couple spots I can't reach."

He was quiet then. Watching her bruised jaw frame her full lips, the starburst of blood at the corner of her mouth where she'd received a telling blow.

"You sure that reject from Aladdin is defused or de-genied?" Faith asked, applying a piece of gauze.

"Holy fire can obscure the incantations." He'd sent a bolt across each panel of writing on the jar, and now each bore a ring of words, the body of the text nothing but a smoking blur. "As long as the incantations can't be read, the djinn can't be released. It's safer than attempting to release him, then kill him with a blade of pure silver."

"Well, I got the knife ready in case." Faith plopped herself down and unwound her towel, revealing her back. "My turn. Fix me up, doc." She leaned forward, hair hanging low hiding her relief, her exhaustion, a dozen other strange, painful emotions. "What a crazy ass way to try to get you wishes to come true…"

"Indeed. Nonetheless, one of mine did." Wesley smiled as he started to survey the damage and apply antiseptic.

"What's that?" Faith asked from under the curtain of her hair.

"I saw you be the hero you wanted to be."

"Hit your head pretty good, huh?" Faith chuckled sadly.

"Laney Perkins' mother." Wesley said quietly. The back stiffened under his touch, but she was silent.

Damn him for remembering. Everything about me... Knows too much about me. But somehow she didn't hate that like she used to.

He kept talking. "You said all she was was a mother who was always there for her child."

"Not a mom."

"I watched you save and protect a child. Comfort her. Inspire her. Nurture her. In the space of a ten minute drive, Faith. You're a natural. Whether you like it or not, you could be that hero. You already are."

If he hadn't almost died, she might have considered killing him for saying stuff like that.

Stuff that made her hope. That made her wish. I'm all out of wishes. The only magic I believe in is the bad kind. Or his kind.

"I didn't mean to upset you. Only to tell you… how proud I am of you. How happy I was tonight, to see that. You're so many kinds of heroic, Faith. At least to me." He finished applying the antiseptic cream, and began to bandage, coughing in his awkwardness.

"I guess… yeah, I guess I did okay with the kid." Faith finally mumbled. "But if that's the kind of stuff you wish for, Wes, we gotta start getting you out more."

"The best wishes aren't the flashiest." He chided in response to her teasing.

Faith swallowed her argument, thoughts of just a couple hours ago flashing in her mind. If the bad guys are all dead, why isn't Wesley here? Why didn't he come in?

Oh my God. Oh my God.

No, no, no, no…

Please, please, please…

All I wished for was that he wasn't gone. That he made it.

He made it. Still here. Yep. Here he is. Wrapping me up for the hundredth time, talking away as he does it, even with a split open scalp and hole is his chest.

"Whaddya know. I got my wish too." Faith rose and turned to face him.

"A-nd that is?" Wesley paled, confronted by penetrating eyes and drastic amounts of cleavage, spilling over a loosely held towel.

"You're still here."

"I'm not going anywhere." Wesley vowed. Her eyes found his, questioning, reminding him that he left for the other side of the country in a day's time. "I'm not leaving you," he clarified, "even if you want me to." The Watcher finished with a wink.

"You can try, but I'll come find you." She winked back and let out a single, muted laugh.

"Already found me." Wesley dared to lift a lock of just shampooed hair and tuck it behind her ear. She caught his hand as he smoothed it back, half-lidded eyes so serious.

"Good to know." She whispered, leaned forward and lightly kissed his cheek before she left.

Wesley turned to find a pain killer for the throbbing in his head and body, knowing there wasn't going to be any easy cure for the pulsing in his heart.

Yes, you found me, so easily, so completely. I think I'm finding you, too…