N.B.: Part of this here work was inspired by what was apparently a proposed, yet ultimately discarded, storyline for season seven regarding a wish that Buffy makes. However, it veers from the show's planned storyline pretty much straight away. In addition, while this epic began many years ago (I kid you not), I believe that, where the title story is concerned, a similar scenario with regards to one particular aspect of the events depicted turned up in the 'season eight' comic; but, since it was bound to come up at some point and, again I believe, the contexts are radically different, I'm not overly concerned.

Also: It should be clear that the attitudes/opinions/thoughts expressed herein belong to the characters and do not necessarily reflect my own attitudes, etc.. Indeed, some of them I even vehemently disagree with! These attitudes/opinions/thoughts may also include, or be depicted by recourse to, some potentially 'offensive' or 'disturbing' material and/or language.

Poetry excerpts and song lyrics taken from: Hymn to Aphrodite (Sappho, literal translation by Henry T. Wharton); I'm Not a Juvenile Delinquent (words & music by George Goldner); Anyplace is Paradise (words & music by Joe Thomas); Smiles (words & music by Lou Reed).

Thanks to: mphoenix, frogfarm, somercet, and Ian M.


LET IT BLEED

In which,

in the interests of maintaining the balance

of the cosmic veracity that is the Buffyverse,

what was so obviously set to pass does, indeed, come to pass,

whereby the characters of Willow and Faith

are righteously brought together

in that manner that we know to be true

in our hearts and in our minds,

while a few gentle adventures of the spooky variety ensue.

No, really.


"Persons attempting to find a motive in this narrative will be prosecuted; persons attempting to find a moral in it will be banished; persons attempting to find a plot in it will be shot."

Mark Twain, 'Notice', Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

"You've got my vote."

The last words spoken by Willow to Faith in the television series. Oh, yes.


PROLOGUE: COMING DOWN AGAIN

May 2003

"Got a dollar?"

Willow looked up to where Faith stood in front of her, hands shoved as deep as possible inside the front pockets of her jeans. The Slayer's feet shifted awkwardly as she tilted her head back in the direction of the vending machine in the corner.

"Mouth's dry as dirt and I think the bar's shut." Faith smiled, noticeably – notably – abashed, despite the joke.

"Sorry, I don't have anything on me." Willow glanced down the hallway. "Kennedy should be back in a minute. She's got money."

The smile turned into something Willow was more used to associating with the other woman. "So I heard."

Faith slumped down on the seat beside Willow and folded her arms. She stretched her legs out in front of her, crossing her ankles.

"How d'ya swing that one, anyhow?"

"Swing what?" But, Willow knew what she meant, hence the irritation she heard in her own voice. Faith must have heard it too, but it didn't stop her.

"You know, my girlfriend's got a bigger yacht than your girlfriend."

"I didn't 'swing' anything."

Faith gave her a quick once-over, openly sneaky, flirty. "Not even a little bit?"

Willow sighed, partly to cover up the blush, partly to stop herself from smiling because it was sorta funny.

Faith pounced on the almost look of amusement. "Always figured you were a sly one. Chicks really dig that who me? shit."

"And you would be shutting up now because this is probably headed somewhere even you don't want to go."

Faith reared back in mock-surprise. "Ooh, a challenge."

"No, a word of advice." Willow looked at her. "I'm tired, kinda cranky, a little hungry, soon to be a lot hungry, and my girlfriend's disappeared while she's supposed to be getting food for us so we don't have to eat the nutritious-but-inedible crap they're serving in the cafeteria. I don't need to hear a bunch of pointless-but-sure-to-be-amusing jokes about how the quiet ones are the worst or … or how I just got lucky 'cause nerds are in again this year."

The mock parted company with the surprise. "Whoa, you're really missin' that Big Mac rush, aren'tcha?"

Willow looked away again. Maybe she was. Or maybe it was because out of everyone she'd ever known, Faith was always the person most likely to be on the receiving end of her bitchy streak. Before now, usually behind her back or in the presence of (under the protection of) Buffy, but she didn't need that kind of distance anymore. And not just because she had more power than most people could even hope to comprehend.

"I'm sorry," said Willow. "Guess that was the cranky part comin' out."

"Nah, I shouldn'ta said that. Bad joke."

And there was the other reason: The woman – girl – Willow had known all those years ago would never have admitted she might have taken a joke too far or that she'd come this close to hurting Willow's feelings by reminding her that, despite everything, she was always gonna be 'the dorky one' as far as some people were concerned. And being bitchy to a former sociopath who was no longer a threat to her, in any shape or form, was kinda mean and maybe even a little on the cowardly side. Willow should pick on someone her own size.

They sat in silence for the next three or four minutes, Faith slouched down on the cushioned seat, crossing her arms and shutting her eyes for a few seconds at a time, while, every so often, Willow glanced at the clock on the wall of the waiting area.

Then suddenly, the Slayer sat up straight again and drew a breath, as though stirring herself into wakefulness. She yawned silently and stretched a little. "So, that was some scuffle, huh?"

Willow held back a smile. How to make the battle with the ultimate evil sound like a round of schoolyard fisticuffs. "I didn't see too much of it from where I was, but, yeah."

The Slayer's eyebrows drew together, her lower lip jutting out. The type of expression Willow remembered seeing just a few days before, when Buffy left – had been banished from – the house and Faith had been left in charge.

"It is a choice, right?"

"Sorry?"

"All those girls?"

For a short second, Willow didn't understand. Then, catching on, she nodded vigorously. "Oh, yeah. I mean, some of them might be a little surprised, but they want it. They want to be like you and Buffy."

The Slayer returned a quiet, shaky laugh. "Killin' people and screwing vamps?"

Caught between a deluge of triggered responses – sympathetic guilt, sympathy on its own, and non-sympathetic annoyance – Willow ignored the grim not-quite-joke and went for reassuring gravity: "We wouldn't have done it otherwise."

Faith hesitated, turning the assertion over, examining it for cracks of insincerity or perhaps even an outright lie. Finally, she nodded, satisfied, and the smile she directed at Willow might have been blinding, except she still looked worn out. "Guess that makes you the big cheese around here then."

Willow conducted her own quick examination, but there was no malice in the teasing. She looked at the Slayer, curious. "So, what does that make everyone else?"

A shrug, then a grin as Faith wriggled down into the seat again and her eyes fell shut once more. "Dunno … Kraft slices?"

Willow smiled slightly. Yeah, pick on someone her own size.

Except there was no one her own size anymore.