Chapter Fourteen

Faith stood in the doorway to the dining room, her eyes wandering over to Buffy as she moved to sit down next to Dawn. Just looking at her stirred something up inside of her, a warmth that embraced her. They had spent hours in her room together, hours making love, fucking, just holding each other. Faith hadn't wanted it all to end, but it had been Willow who knocked tentatively on her door about an hour ago, putting an end to things between them.

Faith didn't know what to expect their first time together to be like, but it definitely went beyond anything she ever imagined it'd be. It'd been one of the most intense experiences of her life and just looking at Buffy, seeing her smile sweetly at her from across the room, she was happy she let herself go, gave in to the feeling, that pull and let it happen between them.

When they had come down to the dining room, saw the small box on the table and the floating, glowing egg, neither of them had any idea what to think about what they were seeing. Willow talked to them, told them what had happened when she did the spell and how she'd tapped into the magical energy that was flowing between them. Buffy blushed the entire time and Faith just listened intently. Willow explained how she controlled and forced the energy between their connection into the egg and asked if they had felt it when it happened. They hadn't and even if something did happen when Willow created the new Seed, Faith and Buffy were otherwise too consumed in each other to notice.

"So," Willow started as Kennedy was the last to join them in the dining room. "Now it's time to come up with a plan."

"How about we figure out how to open that box?" Kennedy said as she pointed to it. "The orb is in there, isn't it?"

"It should be," Willow replied. "But we don't know how to open it. I've tried everything and breaking it doesn't seem like it works."

"It has a barrier," Nelly continued for her. "Albeit a strong one, but this barrier requires some kind of key to open it."

"A key?" Buffy asked. "What kind of a key? Like an actual key or the kind of key that Dawnie used to be?"

"I'll be able to figure it out as soon as the essence of magic grows," Willow said and she smiled over at Faith. "I can already feel the power growing inside of me. I never thought I'd feel it again."

"Wil, are you sure it's safe?" Faith asked her and she nodded. "How do you know that?"

"I just feel it."

Faith nodded in understanding. She felt it too, whatever it was, and it was only getting stronger. She'd sensed the change in Willow right away, she could just see it in her eyes that she had power inside of her again. Even though over the years Willow had become completely in control of the power she held inside her, Faith was worried she'd slip the way she had after Tara was killed.

Faith wasn't the only one that was worried. It was painted all over Buffy, Xander and Dawn's faces. Kennedy even looked concerned and a little bit worried as well. Nelly and Colin, they knew what Willow had been through, she'd told them, but they didn't seem to understand just how bad it had been. Even Faith couldn't fully understand, she hadn't been there and only heard the stories first from Giles and then when Willow told her shortly after she'd shown up in Cleveland.

Walking over to the table, Faith picked up the box and examined it. It was small, no bigger than a Rubik's cube and it was feather-light, completely weightless. She could feel something else too when she held it, she could feel power-a lot of it and it make her skin prickle, the hair on her arms stand up as she rubbed her fingers over the smooth wood.

"Faith?" Willow said softly. "What is it?"

"I feel something," she replied.

"What do you feel?"

"Don't know, feels powerful though."

"You can feel the power inside of it?" Nelly asked and Faith just nodded. He motioned for Buffy to join her and she did, not even hesitating for a moment. "Touch the box together," he commanded, motioning for Buffy to do as he said. "Do you feel it as well?"

Buffy nodded, letting out a soft sigh as she stroked her fingers over Faith's as they held the box together. Faith looked down at their hands and they were glowing. She could feel what she could only best describe as a static charge suddenly surge through her fingertips. Buffy felt it too and they both let go of the box together, it falling to the floor slowly, as if the fall itself had been suspended in time.

"Now this is very interesting," Nelly said, his normally loud, booming voice a hushed whisper.

Buffy grabbed on to Faith's hand as they took a step back, watching as the box slowly came to rest on the floor. One by one, each side of the box opened until each panel disappeared completely. Faith frowned, seeing nothing was inside the box and she opened her mouth, about to say something when the tiniest of light began to form where the box once sat.

Slowly the orb began to take place, it no bigger than a marble. It glowed that same blue Faith had seen when Azri'el had shown it to her. Letting go of Buffy's hand, she bent down and picked it up carefully, unsure of what would happen when she touched it. She could feel the power, much more strongly now that she held the orb in her hand. Turning to look at Willow, she placed it in her hand slowly.

"It's beautiful," Willow whispered. "It's also very powerful."

"Are we going to do the spell right now?" Kennedy asked impatiently.

"Give her a moment," Nelly said calmly. "The power that is contained in that orb is very, very strong. It could be very overwhelming if she rushes this, now have some patience, girl."

"It's all happening so fast, falling into place," Willow whispered, staring intensely down at the orb in her hand. "And we don't have very much time. Opening that box has destroyed the barrier that is around the house. Azri'el can find us at any moment. We need to do the spell to release the slayer essence inside now."

"Will it just go back into all those that it was taken from?" Buffy asked her and Willow looked at her, a hint of unsureness washed over her otherwise calm features. "You don't know?"

"I'm hoping that it will."

Buffy took Faith's hand in hers again, intertwining their fingers as they watched Willow place the orb on the table beside the Seed. She murmured a few words in a language Faith had never heard before and the orb began to spin slowly, gaining speed every time it went around full circle. Small wisps of smoke began to uncurl from the orb, moving slowly through the air. Faith felt Buffy squeeze her hand harder as hundreds of small lines of smoke formed into only two.

The force of which it hit nearly knocked them both off their feet. Dazed, Faith shakily ran her hands over her chest where the smoke had blast into her. The orb had stopped spinning, the light inside of it no longer there. It lay broken in half on the table.

"What the hell just happened?" Kennedy said, breaking the heavy silence in the room.

Buffy stumbled forward first, grasping at her chest. Faith felt it too, that very same feeling she had felt when she had first been Called, but it was far stronger than it had been that first time and it consumed her completely, very much in the same way that she had felt when she had been with Buffy.

"Faith?" Willow said softly as she placed a hand on her shoulder. "Faith, are you okay?"

"Damn," she groaned as she clutched at her chest. "That's something else."

"What's happening?"

"I feel it, Wil," she replied softly. "I feel the slayer inside of me again, but it's much stronger than it was before."

She looked around the room, hyperaware of everything in it, every little sound, every little bit of movement. It was like she could see more than just what was there and it was overwhelming. It was like looking at the world with a different set of eyes, hearing the world with a different set of ears.

"Buffy, are you okay?" Dawn rushed over to Buffy's side and she wrapped her arms around her. "Buffy, are you okay? Say something, anything!"

"It's there," she said in amazement and she caught Faith's wandering gaze. "I feel you completely, Faith."

"What the hell just happened?" Kennedy demanded to know and she was angrier than Faith had ever seen her before. "What's going on? I thought releasing the slayer essence meant it would go back to those it had been taken from? I don't feel anything!"

"Hey," Angel said as he walked over to Faith. "Why don't you give me your best shot?"

"You sure about that, big guy?"

"Give me all that you got."

Faith grinned and stepped away from Willow. Cracking her knuckles, she readied herself. The last time she had hit Angel it felt like he'd been made out of stone and it had hurt her far more than it even hurt him. She caught Buffy watching her and she pulled back, her fist hurling through the air and hitting Angel square in the jaw. She had to blink as she watched him sail backwards and hit the wall, the plaster cracking up to the ceiling.


"Angel, are you all right?" Willow asked, going to his side to help him to his feet. He stood, dizzily and rubbed his jaw.

"That was some punch, Faith."

"Thanks. You asked for it."

"You were never that strong before," Angel mused. "Nelly, I'm curious to hear your theories on what has just happened here."

"Isn't it obvious?" Kennedy yelled and she dropped her axe to the ground. "They got their slayer essence back, I didn't. They didn't get back what was theirs, they got back what belonged to the rest of us!"

Buffy, who had been strangely calm and quiet during Faith's show of strength in that single punch she delivered to Angel, stepped forward, placing her in the center of the group that had gathered around in an awkward circle.

"You're right, Kennedy," Buffy said, looking straight at her. "I can't believe I'm saying this, but you're right. We're stronger than we've ever been before and even during the whole Twilight mess, when I had that extra power, it doesn't even come close to what I feel right now."

Faith stepped back away from the others, unsure of how she felt about this newfound power and the lack of reasons or answers behind it. Nelly moved out of the dining room quickly, Andrew and Colin right behind him. The others began to follow, leaving Buffy and Faith alone in the dining room. Faith sighed as she leaned against the table, frowning as she ran her hands through her hair.

"What the hell just happened?" Faith asked her. "How is this-how could this have happened, B? Why'd we get stuck with all of it?"

"Maybe because we are the last two that were called the old way?" Buffy suggested. "I don't know why, Faith, but I'm sure the others will stop at nothing to try to figure this whole thing out."

Buffy reached out and placed her hands on Faith's shoulders. The smallest contact had their connection open completely and it was far more intense than it had been before. Faith shrugged her hands away and tried to put some space between them.

"Don't," she said when Buffy reached out for her again. "It's just too much right now, B."

"Are you-"

"I'm not pushing you away, not after..." Faith trailed off, a sly smile curling over her lips as she could feel the ghostly touches, kisses and everything else from before wash over her in waves. "Just feeling a little bit overwhelmed, B, that's all."

"Overwhelmed doesn't even begin to describe it."

"You're telling me."

"I can't believe she did it," Buffy said, turning her attention to the brand new Seed still hovering a few inches above the table. "She really did it."

Faith was amazed and the feeling of being so proud of Willow made her smile. She knew Willow would find a way, she knew she'd be able to do this even if she had those lingering moments of doubt. Everything about that day had changed the future and Faith had a feeling that it wouldn't feel real, wouldn't really sink in until they were finished with Azri'el and had killed him, putting a stop to his plan of eliminating the world of the one thing that kept the balance, vampire slayers.

The new Seed of Wonder would change life, return some aspects to the world as it had once been and it would create something new, something bigger than any of them could imagine. The world would always be changing, always adapting to the change better than most species that called it home. There would be a new balance once they eliminated Azri'el, one that would fall upon only her and Buffy's shoulders to keep it in place and not hundreds of other girls spread out throughout the world.

Faith didn't know how she knew, but she just did. It was like that feeling inside of her that told her that things could only get better from there, that no more heroes would have to fall ever again, that no more innocents would suffer at the hands of Azri'el for another day.

She also didn't know how she knew, but she knew he was nearby, not quite there but on his way to them. His power was limited, but not stripped completely and he was furious-beyond furious and Faith could just feel it. It didn't sit well with her, the fact that she could feel this demon like that. It just made her more than ready to get this done and over with.

"We need weapons," Faith said and she grabbed the axe that Kennedy had dropped earlier. "We need a lot more than what they brought in here before."


"He's coming, Buffy, and he's fucking pissed off!"

"He's coming? When? Right now?"

"Right now!" Faith yelled at her and the house began to shake, pictures falling from the walls and the glass frames shattering at they hit the floor.

Angel came running into the dining room, wielding a long sword, raised at the ready. "He's coming?" Angel asked over the roar that surrounded the house. "Be ready for anything," Angel said to both of them. "I'll protect the Seed if he decides to come for it. Willow will try to block him from using magic, but there's no guarantee that it's going to work."

Faith and Buffy stood back to back in the middle of the dining room. Angel stood facing them, protecting the Seed from one side. Faith whipped her head around at the sound of crackling cutting through the air and she watched as Azri'el slowly appeared just a few feet to her left, right near the doorway. He appeared in his true form, his demon form and she could feel how scared Buffy was at the sight of him.

"Now's not the time to be afraid," Faith whispered.


"Well," Azri'el growled, the human-like voice coming out of a demon of his size strange and obscure. "This I wasn't expecting."

"What were you expecting?" Faith asked him, standing firm, her confidence growing as Azri'el stood unmoving from where he had appeared in the room just moments ago. "Were you expecting us to fail? Cos I got to tell you, you made a pretty big mistake on your part. You failed, big time."

"I will kill you last after I force you to watch me kill everyone, Buffy will be the last of them," he chuckled sinisterly as he took a step forward, the air around him shimmering as he assumed the form he'd been before, the man that had fooled Buffy and used her as a pawn in her game. "Dear sweet, gullible Buffy, how does it feel to know that I'll be the one that kills you and makes your current lover watch as I do, rendered completely helpless and unable to save you?"

Faith gripped the axe tightly, but loosened her grip when she felt the wood start to splinter under her strong grip. Azri'el glanced at her before looking back at Buffy, winking as he reached out and grabbed Angel by the throat.

"You're still alive, vampire?" Azri'el growled, not even struggling as Angel tried to free himself from his grip. "You've become a very serious problem, do you know that?"

"Fuck you," Angel growled and he tried to gain leverage, swinging his body around to deliver a hard kick to the side of Azri'el's head.

Faith, waiting for the perfect opening, grabbed on to Buffy before she had a chance to launch herself at Azri'el. She shook her head no and motioned for her to follow her. Azri'el, too distracted in trying to kill Angel, didn't notice the two slayers as they slipped behind his back, keeping themselves out of immediate reach.

"You're a vampire that has nine lives, aren't you?" Azri'el chuckled, spitting out a mouthful of blood after Angel kicked him again. "How many lives have you gone through already? I'm guessing eight of them, am I right?"

"Faith, he's going to kill Angel," Buffy whispered and she gripped on to Faith's arm. "We need to stop him now before he kills him."

"Angel won't go that easily. We need another minute," she replied quietly. "Willow is almost done the spell."

"What? How do you know?"

"You mean you can't feel it?"

Buffy shook her head no. Faith shrugged and squeezed the hand that was on her shoulder and took it in her own. They could only watch and wait as Angel freed himself from Azri'el's hold and swung the sword at him, the tip of the blade slicing through the skin of his bare chest. Black ooze trickled out in place of blood and the smell quickly filled the air, making Faith's stomach churn at just how bad it smelled.

"Oh my god," Buffy gagged and she turned to the wall, losing the contents of her stomach.

"Come on, Wil, get it done," Faith said under her breath, knowing somehow Willow could hear her from wherever she was doing the spell. "Get it done now."

It's done. Now kill him. You've only got a couple of minutes.

Faith yelled out as she launched herself at Azri'el before he could plunge a stake in Angel's chest, the wood already in but not far enough. She used the handle of the axe, pulling it tight on his throat. Azri'el growled and he spun around, slamming Faith against the wall in an attempt to dislodge her from him. She pulled on the axe harder until it broke in the middle. She dropped the broken weapon to the ground and shoved Azri'el away from her.

"Fight me, you bastard!" Faith yelled when he tried to run to where Buffy's was at Angel's side, pulling the partially logged stake out of his chest carefully. "Hey!"

"You're as bad as the vampire, a nuisance. I should've killed you like I killed the other girls. I could've done this with only one of you. I should've."

Chuckling, Faith spun around and kicked him in the chest, the force of it causing him to fling into the wall. Unlike when she'd punched Angel earlier, Azri'el broke clear through the wall and outside, landing hard in the snow.

"Come on, fight!" Faith yelled as she walked through the broken wall and grabbed him by his neck. "This is what you wanted, isn't it?"

Not giving the demon a chance to speak, she punched him hard, feeling the bones in his borrowed face break upon the impact. She narrowly ducked out of the way of his flying fist and used his momentum to fling him back inside. She didn't see Buffy or Angel where they'd just been moments ago, but she didn't have time to worry about either of them. One wrong move and Azri'el could kill her. She only had a few minutes to kill him and the seconds were ticking by too quickly.

He took every kick and every punch she delivered, retaliating and yet his own fists not connecting, always missing her by a fraction of a second. Faith was fast, faster than she'd ever been and she was quickly getting adjusted to her newfound power and abilities.

"I told you that you would lose this fight," Faith said, panting as she ducked another hard right hook. She spotted a sword on the floor by the table and as she ducked from another punch, she rolled, grabbing the sword before she was on her feet. "I told you that we would win. I'm going to kill you."

"Are you?" Azri'el chuckled, sounding a little too confident and sure of himself. Faith didn't like it and she knew she had less than a minute to work with before he'd be able to use magic again. "Have you wondered why it is you and Buffy share two halves of the same soul?"

"Sure, but I know we'll figure it out, one way or another."

"This was destined to happen just as you were both destined to fight me and die a death just moments apart from one another."

Faith rolled her eyes. "All for what? The greater evil? To tip the balance and allow the First to reenter this world and make it It's own? I don't think so."

Faith rose the sword above her head and brought it down, hard and fast, the sharp blade slicing through Azri'el, cutting him clean in half. Staggering back, she watched each half of his body fall to the floor, each half returning to his original form, the black ooze gathering around each half rapidly.

Panting, she covered her mouth and nose with her arm as the house shook violently. The Seed still where it was before was spinning, the light burning brighter than ever. She had to look away as the light burst from the Seed, pulling each half of Azri'el's body into the Seed itself. She gasped as the house stopped shaking and things grew eerily quiet and still. Blinking, she looked over at the Seed, it now just glowing a soft orange as it hovered above the table. She looked at the floor where Azri'el had fallen and not even the black ooze that had come from his body was there anymore.

"Huh," she grunted and dropped the sword to the floor. All that was quiet didn't last for long as two dozen vampires began to climb through the hole in the wall. "You've got to be shitting me?" Faith yelled and she grabbed the sword from the floor. "Buffy!"

Knowing she couldn't take on this many vampires alone, even with the strength and speed she had now, she had to find a way to get away from them until she had Buffy and Angel at her side to help her kill them all. She just narrowly made it out of the dining room and found Buffy already rushing towards her in the hallway.

"What is it?" Buffy asked frantically just as a few of the vampires came running out behind Faith. "How many are there?"

"Two dozen, give or take! Where the hell is Angel?"

"Fighting. There's more of them outside!"

Faith knew that wasn't good. They were under attack and it was clear to her now that the fight against Azri'el still wasn't over, not with his vampire followers there trying to kill them all. Dusk had barely fallen twenty minutes ago and Faith couldn't believe they were in the middle of a massive fight. Still, they were fighting against normal vampires, not zompires or anything else, but a pissed off vampire was always a challenge, even with two slayers fighting just one of them.

Using their knowledge of the house and the many rooms, the house almost a maze itself, they led the vampires through room after room, stopping only to kill the ones that got too close. Buffy's weapon of choice was a short broadsword she held in one hand and a sturdy, sharp stake in the other.

They split up at the top of the stairs, four vampires following Faith and only two following Buffy. She found herself cornered at the end of the hallway and that was exactly what she'd been hoping for. Smiling at the four vampires inching their way to her, she rose her sword, sliding through the neck of two with one hard strike.

"Think you two got what it takes to take me down?" Faith asked and she moved quickly, sword slicing through the air, meeting the one closest to her in the neck. "What about you?" Faith asked the last one standing and the only response she got was a low growl before the vamp turned and started to run. "Hey!"

Faith ran after the vampire, catching up to him before he reached the stairs, yet before she could decapitate him as she had done to the last three, Buffy's stake whizzed through the air and pierced the vamp's chest. Faith laughed as she lowered her sword, loving the rush she felt from slaying nearly a dozen vamps herself.

"Did you have any trouble with yours?"

"Nope, you?" Faith asked and Buffy shook her head no. "We should check out the rest of the situation. Angel might need a hand."

Buffy led the way downstairs and they headed out the back door in the kitchen. Outside Angel was struggling with one last vamp, the biggest of all the ones they'd just faced. Faith marched through the snow and the vamp dust that covered most of it and grabbed the vampire off of Angel. She threw the vampire with what felt like ease and she reached down for Angel's hand to help him to his feet.

"We're under attack," Angel said, gasping as he held his left side. "Don't know how much longer I can fight."

"We were under attack," Faith said and she grabbed the stake she saw poking out from the inside of his jacket. She spun around as the vampire charged towards her and she shoved the stake into it's beefy chest, watching as the vampire's face twisted in pain and confusion before it turned to dust. "We cleared them out of the house."

"There were more than two dozen-"

"We ended it," Faith said, smiling as she put an arm around Angel and helped him to the house. "How badly are you hurt?"

"Couple of broken ribs," he winced. "Did you-did you kill him?"

"He's dead and gone, hopefully for good. Split him in half and the Seed uh, sucked up his body."

"Sucked up his body?" Angel asked, groaning loudly as Faith let go of him so he could sit down on a chair by the kitchen table. "What do you mean?"

"Exactly what I just said," Faith replied and she looked over at Buffy who was kneeling on the floor by an injured Dawn. "Yo, B? Is Dawn all right?"

"She took a pretty hard hit to the head. She's breathing, but unconscious. We need to find the others."

"Stay with her," Faith said and she gripped her sword tight. "I'll find them and any stragglers left behind."

Faith started to search through the house, room by room, first coming across Kennedy and a very scared Colin hiding in the den. After asking them about Andrew, she found him curled up inside one of the few closets in the den. She told them to join Buffy, Angel and Dawn in the kitchen while she found the rest.

Faith was determined to find Willow. She had to make sure she was okay and that nothing had happened to her. She wasn't sure she could live with herself if something had happened to Willow. She came across Nelly next, holed up in the sitting room by the front door, shotgun pointed at her when she kicked in the locked door. She forced him to the kitchen, the old man being stubborn about it. The only ones missing were Xander, Wood and Willow.

"Kennedy, you injured?" Faith asked her while giving her a once over, looking for any visible injuries. "No? Come with me."


"Buffy, stay here with Dawn. She needs you right now," Faith said pointedly. "Come on, Ken, let's go find the rest."

"I saw Wood running after a couple of vamps that started running out of the house," Kennedy said. "He couldn't have gotten far."

"Shit, come on," Faith said, pulling Kennedy with her as they headed for the front door. Making a run for it, she glanced at the ground, seeing three sets of footsteps in the snow leading away from the house and to the line of trees near the side of the house. "Keep up, Kennedy!"

"Jesus, I'm trying to, but not everyone is a slayer again here!"

"Stop being so fucking jealous and keep up!" Faith snapped at her, slowing down as she saw the footsteps show obvious signs of a struggle. Faintly she could see dust scattered and then only two sets of footsteps continuing towards the trees.

And then she could see the blood, a lot of it and her heard leapt to her throat as she slowed down. It was almost pitch black out there, but as her eyes adjusted to the darkness, she could see more of what surrounded her. She knelt to the ground and touched the small pool of blood, it just as cold to the touch as the snow. Sighing in relief knowing it wasn't Wood who was bleeding, she followed the footsteps until there was only one set.

"Took you long enough," Wood rasped. He was leaning against a tree, clutching his left arm. "Barely managed to get the last one."

"You all right, Wood?"

"Been better."

"You're hurt?"

"Dislocated shoulder," he said, wincing as he walked over to her. "The others?"

"Xander and Willow are still missing. Kennedy, make sure Wood gets back into the house with the others. I'm going to keep looking."

"Xander is in the shed," Wood said, groaning as Kennedy slipped an arm around him to help keep him steady as they walked through the deep snow. "I didn't see Willow after she started the spell to block Azri'el from using magic. I'm not sure if anyone saw where she went running when the house began to shake."

"Thanks. Don't worry, I'll find her. You two get Xander and get inside, yeah?"

Faith started running back towards the house and she stopped by the front steps, breathing heavily. Where the hell was Willow? A quick round around the house showed hundreds of sets of footprints, all of them far too big to belong to Willow. Taking her chances, she headed back inside and continued her search through the house. The last room she checked was Willow's bedroom and she let out a relieved laugh when she found Willow sitting on her bed in the dark.

"Jesus, Wil, just about had a heart attack thinking something happened to ya," Faith said as she hit the light switch. "Wil?"

"I was right here."

"I checked before, you weren't here."

"You passed my room. Twice."

"Shit," Faith groaned, dropping her sword to the floor and she sat next to Willow on the bed. "Are you hurt?"


"What's up?"

"It's really over, isn't it?" Willow asked, looking a little bit dazed and out of it. "We really did it?"

"You did it, Wil."


Faith smiled and put an arm around her shoulders. "It's over, Wil. We survived it, you restored magic back in this world, contained it. We even survived one hell of a vampire attack and we're all alive. Some birthday today has been," she laughed.


"Come on, Wil, snap out of it, would ya? It's over, Azri'el is dead and gone, the vamps he brought along with him, all dust."



"Guess that third one wasn't going to slide on by you," Willow chuckled softly. "I just can't believe we did it, Faith."

"We couldn't have done it without what you did, Wil. Now come on, let's get downstairs with the others. Dawn is hurt, hoping its not too serious, but she was unconscious when I left Buffy with her."

They joined the others in the kitchen, the atmosphere between them feeling heavy despite have a huge win on their side. Dawn was still unconscious and while Faith had been upstairs looking for Willow, the others decided she needed to get to a hospital as soon as possible. Between them all, Nelly, Colin and Andrew stayed behind, the others piled up in Wood's Escalade and in Faith's truck.

Faith had a lot on her mind, everything that had happened over the course of the day finally sinking in as she followed the Escalade into town, Willow seated beside her, quieter than she expected her to be.

In less than twelve hours she had given in to Buffy and everything she felt for her, she'd let herself go and allowed herself to be loved by Buffy. In less than twelve hours she'd learned what it felt like to be truly touched by someone who cared and loved her and it had been so very overwhelming. In less than twelve hours, Willow had used the magical energy that flowed between her and Buffy's very soul to retrieve the orb that Azri'el had used to drain every slayer of their essence and in turn, she used that very same energy that flowed through their soul, their connection, and harnessed it, controlled it and encased it to make a new Seed, to regenerate magic in the world. In less than twelve hours, she had killed Azri'el and survived a huge vampire attack on the house and she wasn't the only one who had survived the fight, they all did.

It was hard to believe her entire life-and not just hers, but all of their lives-had changed in less than twelve hours. After all they had gone through, after spending a month holed up there in Nelly's house, safe from the rest of the world, safe from Azri'el until the time was right, their entire lives were completely different than what they had been when they'd first arrived there.

Everything felt new, like she'd closed the door on everything that used to be her life and opened up another, one that held unlimited possibilities and hope that the world would change as well in time. She didn't know what tomorrow would bring, or the next day, but she couldn't wait to find out what would happen next.

Faith paced around the small waiting room at the local clinic, the roads still too treacherous to drive to the hospital in Fort Erie. The doctors at the clinic were quick to get Dawn into a room and checked her over, her only serious injury was the bump on the back of her head and the fact that she still lay unconscious. Her vitals were strong and the doctors had told them that they just needed to wait until she woke up. Until then, they were keeping her under a close watch, nurses checking on her every ten minutes.

Buffy hadn't left her side all night and the others had stayed there, leaving after a couple of hours, the events of the day wearing them out completely. Faith stayed behind, she wasn't sure why, but she knew she was doing it for Buffy. She felt like she needed to be there for her as much as she wanted to.

"Hey," Faith said as Buffy exited the room Dawn was in. "Anything?"

"Still the same."

"She'll be all right, B. She'll pull through. The doctors would've said if it was worse. No reason to lie, right?"

"I guess. What time is it?"

"Almost six."

"Did you sleep?" Buffy asked her and she shook her head no. "I tried, but I couldn't."

"Too wired?" Faith asked and Buffy nodded. "Me too," she said with a small smile. "Come on, why don't we go get something to eat and come back?"

"What if she-"

"If you don't want to leave, I'll go grab us something to eat and bring it back here, okay?"


Faith smiled and turned to walk towards the front doors of the clinic and found herself being stopped by Buffy. Smiling as she turned to face her, she wrapped her arms around her as Buffy did the same. She planted a soft, lingering kiss on Buffy's cheek before moving to deliver a sweet kiss on her lips. Keeping it brief, she stepped back, still smiling as she backed up to the doors, unable to take her eyes off of Buffy who looked like she would jump her if they were anywhere but the clinic.

Fucking surreal having her look at me like that. Could definitely get used to that.

Leaving the clinic, Faith hopped in her truck and made the quick drive down to a small diner just down the street. She had to wait a few minutes before it was opened for the day, the old woman who was running the place looked surprised to have a customer so early in the morning. Faith was hungry, beyond starving and she knew that Buffy was too. Neither of them had eaten since yesterday morning. They had been otherwise preoccupied for most of the day, after all.

Faith ordered enough food to feed six people and she waited while the cook got her order ready. The old woman offered her a free cup of coffee and placed a local newspaper on the counter for her to read while she waited. But she ignored the paper and sipped her coffee, her mind still going over the events that had unfolded, not just the day before, but over the course of the last month.

What would happen once Dawn woke up? Would they all go back to their respective homes, spend Christmas apart, or would they return to Nelly's house and spend the next couple of weeks there and celebrate Christmas together? It wasn't like Faith and Willow were a part of their little family, but things had changed so much she didn't know if that was still the case anymore. And after, if they did spend the next few weeks at Nelly's, what would happen then? Would she go back to Cleveland with Willow and Wood, maybe even Angel, or would she follow Buffy back to San Francisco and start a whole new chapter of her life there with her?

Whatever would end up happening, she knew that somewhere along the way, she'd have to make one of the hardest decisions in her life. The fact was, she just wasn't so sure she was ready to make any life changing decisions yet.


(Six Months Later...)

Faith stood on the balcony of her apartment, watching the sun as it rose over the city of Cleveland. Summer was nearly there, the warmth each day and night brought reminded her just how much time had passed. After everything that had happened at Nelly's in Crystal Beach, after Dawn had woken up nearly two days after falling unconscious, the time for decisions had came. It fell upon them as a group, they all deciding to stay there with Nelly and Colin for Christmas and head back home a few days later.

The goodbyes had been bittersweet to say the least, Faith having made the decision to return to Cleveland, declining Buffy's offer for her to join her in San Francisco. She knew she'd made the right choice in the end. She wasn't ready to uproot her life yet again and to pursue a relationship with Buffy. It was something they both wanted, but in the end agreed to let it happen over time. They'd already jumped head first into it and they needed time and space apart before coming back together.

Willow had made a surprising choice, one that Faith knew she should've seen coming before the words even left her mouth. With magic back in the world and growing stronger every day, Willow decided to join the coven in Dover, traveling to London with Angel when he left. She needed to be with the women of the coven, they needed to be together, to regain their power and to find a way to protect the new Seed from ever being destroyed again. There were long phone calls a few times a week and Faith looked forward to them all the time, loving to hear how happy Willow was over there with the coven and learning of all the things they were doing, accomplishing together.

There had been a few visits over the last six months, mostly with her flying out to London to visit Angel. Willow would come to London when she was there and they'd spend a few days just hanging out, enjoying the time they had together. But back in Cleveland, it felt weird coming home to an empty apartment after having lived with Willow for a while. She was used to coming home, to having someone to talk to, joke around with, just having someone there in general.

A few months ago, Faith called Buffy for the first time since they'd said their goodbyes a few days after Christmas. To hear her voice again after months having gone by, it stirred something inside of her, something she couldn't shut out anymore. It brought everything right back up to the surface, but it was different that time. She didn't try to push it away, bury it inside of her. She embraced it. A few times a week after that four hour long phone call, they'd call each other and talk for hours. A few times a week turned into an every day thing and it got to the point where Faith scheduled her entire day around that sometimes two hour long phone call.

And it was different now, everything was different now. She knew her life was going to change after Azri'el was dead and magic had been restored and she and Buffy gained their slayer essence back, ten times over. She just didn't think it'd turn out to be the way it was now.

Warm, strong arms embraced her from behind and she smiled, turning to face Buffy. She was there, just visiting, but she'd been there for three weeks, going on nearly a month. Faith wasn't sure if she ever planned on leaving, not with the amount of clothes she'd brought with her and the amount that she'd bought while she'd been there. It wasn't like she was complaining, but they hadn't talked about Buffy staying, the initial visit only supposed to have been a week. She knew they had to talk about it, yet any time she tried to bring it up, Buffy found ways to distract her or avoid talking about it completely.

"Good morning," Buffy smiled as Faith leaned in to kiss her.

"Morning, B. What you doing up so early?"

"I heard you get up," she replied softly, her arms still wrapped around Faith in a warm embrace. "I couldn't fall back asleep."


"Don't be."

"B?" Faith asked and Buffy leaned back in her arms to look into her eyes. "We gotta talk."

"Talk?" Buffy whispered, frowning as she let go of Faith. "About what? About us?"

"Yeah, about us, B."

"Did I do something wrong?" Buffy asked, still frowning as she moved to sit down in one of the chairs at the small table that was out on the balcony. "I thought everything was going great between us."

"Things are going good, B, and no, you didn't do anything wrong. It's just that I thought this was just a visit?"

"It is-"

"And you've been here for almost a month," Faith continued. "Not that I'm complaining. Growing used to having you around all the time. I'm actually surprised how well we're getting along, how good it is between us. It feels like we don't even gotta try, we just gotta let it be and it's something I never had before, you know?"


"You know I'm in love with you, right?" Faith said and Buffy nodded her head slowly. "You know that I love having you around, love having you in my bed, love having you by my side patrolling every night, but what about your life in San Francisco, B? Don't you want to go back to that? I'm sure Dawn, Xander and Kennedy miss having you around."

"Are you trying to get rid of me?"

"No," Faith chuckled softly and she pulled the other chair close to Buffy and sat down. "That's not what I'm getting at here at all, B. I'm just wondering if this is not a visit anymore?"

"What do you mean?"

"I mean, you've gotten pretty comfortable here, made yourself right at home. Again, not complaining, just trying to make things clear here," she said quickly. "Back over Christmas, when we talked about this, about us, we agreed we were gonna take things slow, put it on the back burner for a little while until the time was right and-"

"You don't think the time wasn't right when you invited me to come here and visit you?"

Faith sighed, knowing Buffy wasn't fully understanding where she was trying to go with this conversation and she knew she had to be a little bit more clear on what she was getting at, choosing her words carefully since Buffy had an annoying habit of taking some of the things she'd say the wrong way.

"It was the right time, B. I thought it was just gonna be for a week."

"If you wanted me gone after a week, why are you asking me this now?"

"Cos I want to know if you're staying here with me, or if one of these days you're just gonna decide you miss your life back in Cali and decide to go home."

Buffy moved to sit astride her lap and gently cupped her face in her hands, making Faith look straight at her. "Do you want me to stay?" She asked and Faith nodded. "Then I'll stay. I kind of thought it was obvious that I would be, seeing how I'm still very much here."

"Good," Faith smiled, her hands easily finding their way to rest on Buffy's hips. "Cos, like I said, I've gotten used to ya being here, B. All those months of phone calls, didn't know how much more of it I could stand. It was getting harder, you know? Talking to ya every day and not being able to see you, kind of started driving me nuts and I couldn't understand why. But I get it now. I do. Everything makes more sense when you're here with me. Everything feels more complete with you here, like this is how it should be and that there's no other way for it to be."

Faith couldn't get enough of Buffy and at first, she'd been so afraid when she came to visit her, just as afraid as she was after Buffy had kissed her that very first time. She was so afraid that she'd be left with a broken heart so broken beyond repair that she'd lose herself again.

There were a lot of things she'd learned while Azri'el had put that through that whole ordeal. She learned a lot of things about herself, things she hadn't realized were even there. She learned how to open up, let down her walls and trust Buffy again. She learned a lot about Buffy too, those long hours of phone calls giving them more than enough time to talk and really get to know and understand one another. The one biggest thing that she did learn was that if Azri'el hadn't come to their world, hadn't tried to put an end to the slayer line completely, that she would have never realized what it was like to fall in love, to have someone love her back the way that Buffy did.

When heroes fall, a whole new world is opened up to them. And as Faith learned along the way, she had to be willing to let go and let things happen, instead of fighting them and herself. She'd made some mistakes, they all had, but she'd made some choices that had forever changed the path that her life was on. Now it was just her and Buffy again, the original Chosen Two, the two of them against the rest of the world. The natural balance had been restored almost completely and Faith was sure that wherever the First was holed up, It was screaming in frustration of being beaten by them once again.

A hero never stays down once they've fallen. Not when they inevitably find love they were never looking for along the way. When they find a purpose, a reason to keep going and to never give up, they'll always find a way to rise again, to be that hero they were and would forever be.

Faith had never known love before because she wasn't meant to until now. Fate still very much controlled her life and everyone who crossed paths with her were woven into her fate, her destiny one way or another.

"Come back to bed?" Buffy said softly, pulling her away from the heavy thoughts that always seemed to plague her mind. "It's still too early to be awake. And when we wake up," Buffy said, a teasing smile dancing over her lips as she led Faith back inside. "I'll show you again how much I love you, how real this is, over and over again. Day after day. Night after night."

And Faith couldn't help but smile. Happiness surrounded her despite the dangers that still lurked in the darkness of the night. But, it was her life and she no longer walked it alone. She never would again, not as long as Buffy was there with her, right at her side.

Where she belonged. Where she was meant to be.

The End