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Wishing Changes Everything: Homecoming

by Declan
Rating: PG-13

+1=2=3+

Homecoming (PART 1: The Dumped And The Dead)

With a heavy thud the vampire crashed against the side of the mausoleum and slid to the ground. Buffy turned to the startled co-ed girl who was now clutching her bleeding neck.

“You, you can run on home. My ex and I have something to discuss. Go on, shoo.” Buffy pointed in the opposite direction and groggily the young woman took off into the night.

The vampire jumped to his feet and whirled around to face her. “That...was rude.” He said as he brushed off his jacket, a dated beige eyesore with too wide shoulder pads and rolled up sleeves.

‘This guys fashion sense died along with him.’

Buffy shrugged as she stepped closer. “Yeah, well so is biting people. For the record no means no, hysterical screaming also means no.”

The vampires face twisted into a leering grin. “I would’ve been gentle. Not now though.”

Buffy smiled and pulled a stake from her jacket. “Don’t worry- it’s not my first time.”

With a snarl the vampire ran at her, Buffy dodged a couple of clumsy attempts to grab her before spinning and elbowing the vamp in the face. He backed off, a little puzzled, before turning around to deliver a roundhouse kick that hit nothing but thin air. Buffy rose from a ducking crouch and gave a heavy backhand to his face followed by a couple of jabs to his chest that sent him flailing backwards. Buffy blocked a clumsy right hook before spinning and connecting with her own, more successful kick.

The vampire sailed over a tombstone, landing heavily and scattering some flowers on the other side. He rolled to his feet slowly as Buffy moved closer.

“See what I did there- I just did what you tried to do to me, only I didn’t suck at it.”

The vampire grimaced through his floppy fringe. “Slayer.”

Buffy smirked. “What gave me away, it was the hair wasn’t it? Or maybe the stake? Or maybe it was because I was throwing around like a sack of potatoes. You vamps really have to work on your deductive reasoning.”

The vampire looked confused as he backed away. “Everyone knows the slayer is some skanky brunette who wears leather pants.”

“Hey, I’ve been here way longer than her- maybe if you hadn’t fallen asleep in the eighties you would’ve gotten your facts straight.” Buffy strode forward and angrily slammed her stake into his chest. “And she’s not a skank!” Too late, he was dust.

“Thanks for that, B.”

Buffy spun around to see Faith casually leaning against a tree, wearing said leather pants, a tight black t-shirt and denim jacket. “Nice to know you’re not bad-mouthing me behind my back.”

“Faith, um, hey.” ‘Brilliant opening line.’ “I, uh, came by the motel earlier, but you weren’t there. How’ve you been?”

Faith shrugged easily. “Five-by-Five, y’know.”

“Well, clearly you’ve been busy. Starting to get a rep as one badass slayer, so, that’s good...” Buffy brushed some vamp dust off her jacket before she walked over and picked up her handbag. “You not being around so much I was getting kind of worried.”

Faith ducked the implied question as she pushed off the tree and walked over. “Since when do you patrol with makeup on standby?” She gestured to Buffy’s bag.

“Actually I’m not patrolling, that was just random slayage, but I’ll probably do a sweep later on. Uh, I’m going to meet the gang at the Bronze. That’s why I’m came by earlier, I thought maybe we could hang out.”

Faith seemed a little surprised. “Uh, sure, whatever- I’ll tag along. Things are pretty quiet out here anyway.”

Buffy smiled, grateful the other girl had accepted. Things had been strained between them recently and that was very much down to Buffy being all avoid-y. Of course, Faith had been a little distant since Angel’s return a little over a week ago, not turning up at the school as much and patrolling without Buffy a few times, but otherwise she’d been herself.

Buffy had been preoccupied with Angel, giving Giles regular updates on said vampire as well as trying to comfort Scott- whose best friend was now in jail. Add to that the intense dreams that had plagued Buffy almost every night this week she had been both pre and post-occupied, which didn’t really sound like a word but it was- it meant extra-busy.

And the subject of those dreams was the slayer standing next to her. Faith ‘the slayer all vamps fear’ Lehane.

They weren’t even technically dreams, they were just memories. Very vivid memories every time Buffy closed her eyes to doze. Memories of the night Allen Finch died, of Buffy and Faith’s frequent arguments after that, of the fight at the docks, Angel and Faith kissing, midnight school hostages exchanges. All those bad memories resurfacing were shaking Buffy’s new and improved view of Faith, and she didn’t like it.

Buffy was coming to really value their friendship, feeling the burden of slaying easing when the other girl was around, liking the easy banter they shared and this past week she had found herself missing Faith for than she expected.

She just wished her subconscious would shut up and go back to dreaming about nice things like cheese or ice-skating or Matthew McConaughey, though not at the same time, except that one time...

“Hey, Buffy, you’re spacing again.”

Buffy blushed a little. “Sorry, I’m just a little overwhelmed at the moment, with everything. I would happily settle for being just being whelmed.” She started walking with Faith along side her. “So, what’ve you been up too? Chasing college guys? Or demons? Or demonic college guys?”

“Been around,” Faith said simply. ‘Certainly a font of vagueness.’ “How are things with Scotty boy and Angel? You two timing ‘em- trying to dirty up your image?”

“Oh, no way.” Buffy said emphatically, “Angel is just… a guy I’m helping out. With blood- bringing blood to help him. Nothing dirty there- just gross. Scott and I are okay, I guess.”

Actually Buffy wasn’t really sure about her and Scott, she wasn’t trying to push him but things really had slowed to a crawl relationship-wise. They really hadn’t gotten past the ‘really nice kiss’ phase, Buffy wasn’t sure how to get passed that to the ‘long makeout session’ phase, which led to frustrated Buffy. Stiil tonight Scott would be at the Bronze so they could get all couple-y and she could work her wiles- if she had any wiles. She should definitely invest in some wiles.

Buffy suddenly remembered. “Ooh, but the homecoming dance is coming up, hopefully Scott will ask me. I already got the tickets.” She felt a little anxiety over the upcoming dance what with the getting dumped and then hunted, but as Giles said ‘forewarned is…forewarned’ or something. It didn’t matter anyway because she could see it all coming this time and ambush the ambushers…and still have time to party, with a little help. “I, uh, got an extra ticket, in case you wanted to go.”

That pleased and surprised look appeared on Faith’s face again. “I dunno, never been to a school dance before.”

Buffy smiled at the other girl’s expression. “It’s a bit lame, but you get dressed up, dance a little, eat some crappy food and someone usually spikes the punch. But it is fun- there was even vague talk of a limo, this one wouldn’t have vampires riding in it though.”

Buffy remembered the last homecoming when Scott had dumped her and Faith had offered to go instead, being a good friend.

‘Or maybe, according to Mr. Platt’s theory, she was asking me to the dance- like a date, a date with a girl. Which is just…confusing.’

“So can I get a yes or no, are you too cool for school, um, dances?”

Faith nodded. “Sure, but just to warn ya, I’ll probably be the one spiking the punch.” Then she stopped and looked a little unsure. “Your buds gonna be okay with it?”

Buffy was puzzled. “With you spiking the punch? They probably wouldn’t care, all Cordelia is concerned with is being crowned ‘Homecoming Queen’. This, by the way is an entirely lame title that anyone can get if they were bothered about what shallow people thought. I speak from experience when I say ‘Class Protector’ is way better. ”

“Nah, I mean about me, y’know, horning in on the party.”

“Are you kidding me, it’ll be great. Willow and I can bet if you’re actually going to wear a dress or not.”

Faith lightly punched her arm. “Hey, I can be stylin’, okay. I’ll think of something that won’t show you up.”

*****

The two slayers entered the Bronze and Buffy immediately spotted her friends grouped at the bar.

“I’m gonna get a drink, you want?” Faith asked.

“Great, thanks. I’ll go and say hi.” Buffy walked over, seeing Cordelia, Willow, Xander and Oz. Smiling she put her bag down on the counter and slid next to Willow. “Hey, guys. Where’s Scott?”

Xander craned his neck. “Boogying on the dance floor last time I checked. He got a little antsy when you were late.”

Buffy shrugged off her jacket. “Late on account of slaying- vamp dressed like a young Micheal J. Fox was giving a girl a lethal hickey.”

Willow snickered. “I bet the quips wrote themselves with that one.”

Buffy nodded. “It was too easy- I felt cheap.”

Cordelia spoke up. “Speaking of expenses we should get a limo, for the dance.”

Xander looked worried. “A limo. A big, expensive limo?”

Willow smiled. “That sounds like fun. And it is our last Homecoming dance; maybe we should make a big deal of it.”

“You wanna talk fun? Public bus- you meet the fun-est people. Back me up here Oz.”

Oz thought about it. “Well, if it’s a dollar issue we could all take my van...”

Cordelia seemed vaguely horrified by that idea. “A van? The homecoming Queen does not come to the dance in a van.”

Buffy rolled her eyes. “You’ve won it already, huh?”

Xander smiled before Cordelia glared at him. “Uh, of course she’ll be elected. We have her campaign all planned out.”

Buffy held up her hand. “Okay, you have my unwavering support. For the limo as well, I kinda told Faith we would.”

Willow raised her eyebrows. “Faith’s coming to the dance? I didn’t think she’d want to go to a school dance. Wouldn’t she think it was, uh, lame or something?”

Buffy glanced down the bar. “Ask her yourself- she’s getting me a drink.”

“She’s here?” Willow frowned, “Well, I guess, that would mean seven of us going. If we could split the cost...”

Buffy sighed as she looked out at the dance floor trying to spot Scott. “It might help if my boyfriend got around to asking me.”

Cordelia was surprised. “What’s the deal? How come Scott hasn’t asked you yet?”

Buffy shrugged as Willow looked sympathetic. “Well, maybe he’s nervous- like he thinks that you’ll laugh in his face. Not that you would!” She quickly added.

Xander smirked. “Actually hoping that Buffy’d get me to do it, I’ve been practising. With all my years of rejection experience I can get the inflection just right.”

Buffy pouted a little. “I don’t know why he’d think that, I’ve been super supportive recently, especially if you factor in...other things.”

“Ah, the ex-factor. Tell me is Angel wearing shirts yet, ‘cause that would be a sure sign of progress.”

“Not here, Xander, okay.” Buffy didn’t like to mention Angel anywhere except the library, where she kept things short, simple and as platonic sounding as possible when she told Giles.

Willow looked concerned. “Is everything...?”

Buffy shook her head. “I didn’t come here tonight to talk about, um, complex stuff. I came out to hang with my friends and have a good time.”

“This should help,” Faith said putting a plastic cup down in front on her, the contents smelled like beer.

Willow’s eyes almost popped out. “Is that...that’s illegal. Buffy, she’s being illegal.”

Faith smirked. “Relax Red, it’s a beer. Gals like Buffy can handle a little lubrication to loosen up.”

Cordelia smiled knowingly. “Yeah, it’s not like Buffy’s hasn’t had alcohol before, I took her to this frat party last year- she drank so much she passed out.”

“I was drugged!” Squeaked Buffy, “By evil snake-demon worshipping frat boys.” She peered dubiously into her drink.

Faith sipped from her own cup and grinned at Buffy’s discomfort. “You’ve been holding out on me, B. Partying at keggers an’ all.”

“Sounds like I’m missing something interesting,” Scott said as he stepped round Faith to squeeze in by Buffy. “You were at a party?”

Buffy stuttered trying to think of a lie. “Um, a b-boring adult party, with my Mom and a few friends- of hers. Which is why I was late and, um, just because there was alcohol Faith thinks it was a crazy orgy or something, w-which it was not!”

Scott smiled. “Okay. So, the homecoming dance? Is it cheesy or not? Should we go?”

“Oh, I’m in, that is if you are?” Buffy nodded, “I mean it sounds fun, cheesy or not.”

“Well, it won’t be orgy-kegger fun but we could laugh ironically at all the cheesiness.” Buffy watched over Scott’s shoulder as Faith rolled her eyes.

“I’m gonna go do some actual dancing, who’s in?” Faith slid her empty cup onto the bar and looked at everyone.

“We’re...” Xander stood up but was forced down again by Cordelia, “...good here, thanks.”

Buffy nodded. “I’m in,” Pleased Scott had finally asked her to the dance and feeling a little reckless she drank her beer down in one, ignoring the gross taste of it and got off her seat. “Bleeaach!” She looked at Scott a little sheepishly. “Sorry about that, do you wanna dance?”

“I think I’ll sit this one out,” Scott leaned over and gave her a kiss on the lips. “That’s about all the alcohol I can stand- I’m a lightweight.”

Buffy was about to reply but Faith tugged on her arm and dragged her towards the dance floor. “Bye!”

Buffy felt the beer settle in her stomach and spread warmth through her arms and chest. Her head was already feeling the buzz.

As they made it through the crowd she pulled her hand from Faith’s grip and scowled at her. “Do you put something in my drink?”

“Yep, it’s called a boiler-maker. Beer with a couple of shots of whiskey, rocket-fuel, B.”

With a grin Faith danced away from her, eyeing a cute guy standing near the stage, leaving Buffy to wonder how Faith had managed to get served a couple of lethal cocktails. They were cocktails right? When you mix drinks together to make other drinks, isn’t that a cocktail? She should be able to handle one little cocktail drink.

Buffy relaxed and let the music wash over her as she slowly began to move, letting herself loosen and sway fluidly back and forth. Closing her eyes she put her hands on her body, already the alcohol was making her feel a little more sinuous and sexy- maybe she could tempt Scott out on to the dance floor.

‘See, I can be all wily.’

A few moments later Buffy felt another body press up behind her, glancing back she saw Faith smile at her and sweep her hands over Buffy’s hips, her breasts up against Buffy’s back and her hips pressed against Buffy’s ass.

“You wanna give Scotty a show?” She murmured into Buffy’s ear, her soft warm breath tickling her neck. Buffy shivered at the sensation, her mind, settled in a warm fuzziness, seemed to hesitant vaguely at Faith’s suggestion before giving a mental shrug. The alcohol and the warm feel of Faith’s body made the internal debate a short one.

Faith swayed Buffy’s hips back and forth in time to the rhythm of the music, taking the blonde’s silence as assent, her hips grinding determinedly against Buffy’s backside.

Buffy sighed softly as Faith slid a hand around to her stomach, fingernails scraping under her blouse to find hot skin and trembling stomach muscles. She undulated against the brunette, feeling all those complex questions that had plagued her dreams submerged in warm, alluring heat. Her own hands, almost with a will of their own, travelled upwards and back to tangle in the brunette’s hair.

‘This is so...wrong.’ But right here, on the dance floor, Buffy felt the exhilaration build as all those unpleasant memories dissipate like mist, all that mattered was that sensation, the powerful, reckless feeling of being caught in Faith’s orbit- the same reaction she’d felt when dancing with her before, and was glad to be feeling again.

As the tempo of the song increased Buffy tilted her head back, her body seemed to feel languorous and buzzing with energy simultaneously. Faith’s hands strayed lower to the top of her jeans and then a little lower, Buffy jerked her hips at the touch as she continued to move against Faith, the warmth that had spread throughout her body seemed to be concentrating and drifting lower down. Buffy turned her head slightly; lips parted, and felt breath against her mouth.

“We should probably...” She murmured.

“...Stop.” Faith finished before sliding away from her, smiling sexily and a little out of breath. Buffy came to her senses, her head still feeling fuzzy and her skin tingling. God, she’d almost kissed...

“You better get back to your boy,” Faith said, her eyes dark and wide with amusement and maybe something else. “And don’t be thinkin’ of me when you’re makin’ out.” Faith flashed her dimpled grin before making to dance with another eager guy.

Buffy looked off the dance floor to her friends who were watching her with various degrees of shock, she giggled at their expressions before making her way carefully off the dance floor. Her friends then politely pretended that they hadn’t been staring the whole time and looked elsewhere.

Except one. “Was that your new sexy dance?” Cordelia asked tartly, her eyebrow rose.

Buffy ignored her and went straight to Scott, her arms sliding round him as she kissed him lightly on the lips. “Hey.”

Scott gave her a slightly wide-eyed look. “You, um, seemed to be having fun.”

“You like?” She asked playfully, if a dance wasn’t on the cards maybe they could find a quiet corner booth...

“Um, actually I just realised I have to get up early tomorrow...and it is kind of late.” He gave Buffy a strained apologetic look. “But, I’m excited about the dance.” He gently pulled away from Buffy and turned to leave.

“Uh, okay. Bye.” Buffy pouted as her boyfriend pretty much ran for the hills, she thought the dance would’ve done something. Something good, not the ‘deer in the headlights’ reaction she had gotten.

Willow cleared her throat. “I’m sure he’s just tired, Buffy- like he said.”

“Yeah, he’s gotta fit in all those cold showers before morning.” Xander said, his face a little red with embarrassment.

Buffy rubbed her forehead in exasperation, what was it with guys? Either you were ‘distracted’ all the time so they dumped you, or you were all attentive and pushed and they got scared and ran off. She needed smoochies already.

“ I was just trying to get him in the mood for...stuff, we’ve been moving real slowly for a week now and I thought I’d try and get, um, a reaction.” Buffy felt her good buzz fading into annoyance. Boys!

“Well maybe giving Faith a lapdance wasn’t the best thing.” Cordelia commented.

“I wasn’t...! It was her idea, with the drink and the dancing. I was manipulated!” Buffy whined.

Xander nodded. “I’m on your side Buff, most guys don’t really object to two girls getting, um, heh, physical on the dance floor.” Xander looked at Buffy, “Listen, just forget him and come drown your sorrows- drown them with soda obviously.”

“Thanks guys but I think I need some fresh air, clear my head. Sorry.” Feeling embarrassed Buffy grabbed her stuff hurriedly and headed out, she had other people to see tonight.

*****

The night air had done a great job of clearing her head, that and her slayer metabolism meant that by the time Buffy arrived at Angel’s mansion she was feeling a lot more focused. Which was good, Angel tended to cloud her head at the best of times and tonight she really had to stay and explain the situation to him.

Everyone had been relieved when Buffy, and Xander, had confirmed that Angel wasn’t a savage killer anymore- that he had recognised her. They even claimed to be pleased about it but Buffy thought that was really more for her benefit than anything else. They were still understandably wary of the whole situation and preferred to think of Angel as ‘Buffy’s problem’.

Buffy sighed and again wondered at the complete lack of normal problems in her life, skittish boyfriends, broody vampire ex-boyfriends, ex-enemies who are now friends; it all seemed so confusing most of the time.

Still, now wasn’t the moment for lots of introspection, Buffy had a hungry vampire to feed. She made her way through the overgrown garden to the French windows, pausing to self-consciously touch her hair when suddenly the curtains were thrown back. Angel, as agitated as he’d been all the other times she had visited, stepped back from her.

“It’s just me,” Buffy said, stepping inside she offered the brown she’d gotten from the butcher to Angel. “Here.”

Angel gently took the proffered bag and turned away. Buffy glanced around, taking in the fireplace and cold stone walls as she tried to think of what to say- should she handle things the same as last time or tell him everything, that there could be nothing between them because he had wanted it that way.

She decided to start simple. “How are you feeling?”

“It hurts...less.” Angel put down the blood on a nearby table and looked at Buffy, he seemed lost.

Buffy walked over to the fireplace. “That’s good, that you’re getting better. I’ll help all I can, but you really need to eat something.” She gestured to the bag she’d brought.

“Later,” Angel looked at her intently. “How long was I..?”

“A few months.”

Angel looked away disbelievingly. “Months...”

“And I’ve told the others that you’re back, Giles and, um, everyone. They’re giving you some space.”

Still not looking directly at her, Angel’s face contorted in anguish. “God...Giles.”

“They...We all want you to get better, but things are different now. I’m a senior, a-and I’m really trying harder in school. And I’m seeing somebody.”

That got his attention, his gaze snapped back to her, his eyes intense. Buffy saw hurt there and jealousy but then Angel seemed to clamp down of his emotions. He took a moment to take it in before nodding, maybe that meant he understood - Buffy hoped so.

“It’s not what you and I...but it’s new and it’s nice. I’m happier now, for the first time since...” Buffy trailed off, not wanting to finish. Their shared night together had been one of the best nights of her life followed by months of pain and torment she couldn’t have imagined, she didn’t like to linger there. “Angel I just wanted to say I’m sorry, um, about the whole sending you to hell thing.” Buffy said, realising she had never really talked to him about what happened the first time.

Angel shrugged slightly. “I’m back Buffy, that’s all that matters. And it’s much more than I deserve. Does anyone know how I...”

“Came back? No, Giles is working on it though. I asked him to, but if I’m honest I’m just really glad your here.”

Angel looked at her, his lips curled up slightly in what was his version of a smile. His eyes were as intense as ever and the longing there stirred something inside Buffy that she hoped would stay quiet. “I missed you...but you should go, don’t come here unless you have to.” With that he turned away and picked up his bag. Buffy, still a little shaken, left hurriedly.

*****

“I don’t think we should see each other anymore.”

‘WHAT?’

Buffy just stared at Scott, she felt a little lost, how was this happening? “You don’t? What...where was I when you were thinking this?”

Scott looked uncomfortable. “It’s just, I like you but I don’t see where this is going...”

Buffy shook her head slightly. “Well, isn’t it too soon to know where we're going? And now, all of a sudden, you don’t want to go at all.”

“This isn’t sudden, Buffy. It’s...it seems that you’d rather be somewhere else when we’re together, like you’re distracted all the time. I know you said you weren’t into dating guys anymore and after last night...”

“Last night you bailed after five minutes, you didn’t even want to dance. And every time I kiss you it's like you’re the one being distracted...” Buffy paused, she hadn’t meant to snap like that, she didn’t want to become a clingy type of girlfriend, but dammit she hadn’t done anything wrong this time and he was still dumping her. “Look, how about from now on we both try a little harder, it can be better than this.”

Scott gave her a sorrowful look. “I’m really sorry.” He walked away.

She called after Scott “Yeah, and right before Homecoming as well, that’s real classy!” She muttered “Jerkface...”

*****

“Stupid...” Punch. “Moronic...” Punch. “Guy.” Punch. Punch. Punch. Buffy grunted as she put as much power as she could behind each strike, her fists sounded loud in the library as they slapped against Faith’s pads.

Finally Faith pulled away, her face set in a grimace as she shook her hand. “Man! Guys should break up with you more often.”

Buffy blew out an annoyed breath as Faith gingerly took off her pads. “Gee, thanks.”

Buffy turned away and walked over to the book cage as Faith followed after. “I mean it. You’ve got some quality rage going. Really gives you an edge.”

Buffy smirked despite herself. “Edge girl? It’s nice that you find the positive in everything.” She shook her head as put on her jacket. “I just don’t think I’m there yet.”

“Well, screw him. Just didn’t know how to deal with what he had so he booked- his loss.” Faith wiped her face with a towel. “You move on, party heavily, and find someone else. You’re still going to that Homecoming thing, right?”

“Sure I am, but I’ll bet Scott’s got a date all lined up already. And I’ll be standing there dateless- I’ll be lacking a date.” Buffy shook her head in disbelief.

“So we’ll go together, find a couple of studs, use ‘em and then discard ‘em. That’s always fun.” Faith nodded knowingly.

Buffy couldn’t resist asking. “Are you speaking from experience?”

Faith grinned and leaned closer. “Well, if you’re in you might get to find out.”

Buffy rolled her eyes a little. “I’ll think about it. In the mean time I’m thinking a girl’s night- just you, me and Willow. Tonight we can rag on how all guys are jerks while eating ice cream. Well, you and me can do the first one and Will can be all sympathetic.”

Faith made a face. “I’m not really a sleepover kind of a girl.”

“Well tough, it’s a friend’s job to comfort the heartbroken and boy-less, who knows maybe you’ll end up having a good time.” Buffy got up and picked up her school bag. “Besides this way you can check out your room before you move in.”

Faith looked like she was going to object then said. “Hey, where you goin’- I get to hit you next, remember?”

“Sorry, school yearbook photo. But first I desperately need to shower. Hey, if Giles shows up maybe you can hit him.”

“Don’t think I won’t.”

*****

Buffy sat with Willow at lunch, the redhead staring at her with her by now patented pity stare. “Oh, Buffy. I’m really sorry.”

Buffy picked at her salad with a fork. “Y’know I wouldn’t have even been bothered a week or so ago, but now I’m really ticked off. There are now ticks all over the place. Actually, what does that even mean?”

Willow reached out and touched her arm. “Was the whole Angel situation making it difficult?”

“Not really. Angel and I had the conversation last night. The whole ‘I can help you get better but I’m seeing someone nice now and everything’s different’ conversation.”

Willow nodded solemnly. “That is one of the important ones.”

“I just think Scott thought I wasn’t that into him or something, which maybe was true to begin with but I was really trying there for a while.” Buffy sighed, “Maybe I’m just doomed.”

“Don’t say that, you’re not doomed or anything. You’ll find somebody who...who realises what they have.”

Buffy nodded idly. “Faith said the same thing.”

Out of the corner of her eye she caught Willow’s slightly hurt reaction. “Hey, what was that?”

Willow looked innocent. “What? There was nothing, I’m good.”

“Are you mad at me for, um, talking to Faith about it? Because it was only my burning rage that brought it up with her anyway.”

Willow shrugged and looked a little guilty. “Well, you guys have been spending a lot of time together, doing the bonding thing. A-and I get that, she’s a slayer and she’s all cool and probably worldly when it comes to anything...”

Buffy put a hand on Willow’s. “Will, you’ll always be my best friend. I love you, and the only reason I’ve been hanging out with Faith so much is...I don’t think she has a lot of friends. I mean she left a whole life behind in Boston to come here, I’m just trying to do what I can to make her feel welcome.”

Willow looked at Buffy questioningly. “You’re saying she’s lonely?”

Buffy shrugged. “I know she acts all tough but I think underneath, yeah, she’s a little lonely. I mean I have you guys to help me, keep me on the right side of stable when it comes to the slaying. I think Faith could use a little Scoobie therapy.”

“In that case, I approve and am no longer threatened. “Willow said then smiled. “Don’t tell Xander about the therapy thing though, he’ll probably get the wrong idea, especially after last night.”

Buffy groaned. “I’m not touching anything alcoholic again ‘til college. Was it that bad? It’s all kind of a blur.”

Willow shook her head in mock disappointment. “Let’s put it this way Buffy, Oz almost had an expression, he raised an eyebrow.”

Buffy let out a whine. “Poop. Oh, well, at least I have the dance to look forward to. And we better get together sometime and see that our outfits don’t match or anything.”

Willow sighed. “I don’t even know what I’m wearing yet; I want an outfit that makes Oz have an expression. But a good expression, like a facial thumbs up- or something. Xander and I are going to try on outfits tonight.”

“You can’t!” Buffy blurted, remembering the bad fluke kiss-incident. Willow looked puzzled from her outburst. “Um, you can do it at mine- tonight, while you’re consoling me about the barren wasteland that is my love life. Plus, what does Xander really know about what boys like, anyway? I have a lot more experience at wowing guys. Admittedly not recently, but I used to be quite the boy-magnet at Hemery.”

Willow thought about it. “I guess I could change my plans, Xander will understand. I mean a guy wearing a tux is just a guy wearing a tux, right? Can’t really go wrong with that.”

Buffy smiled with relief. “Exactly, and this’ll be fun, you’ll see. You and Faith can do the bonding thing and, more importantly, tell me how much better off I am being single. That’s the main thing.”

Willow grinned. “Okay, I’ll try and remember.”

Homecoming (PART 2: Sex, Lies And Mr. Gordo)

“...and then she pointed at the car and was crying ‘a demon, a demon.’” Willow giggled.

Faith’s eyes widened disbelievingly as she laughed. “No way!”

Buffy scowled as she lay on her bed, looking at the two girls who were sat Indian-style on the floor. “Hey, for the record it was the spell, okay. I wasn’t myself; I was some 18th century ditzy noble woman. It couldn’t be helped.”

“And the whole town was freaking out like this?” Faith asked.

“No, just people who got costumes and props from this shop that just opened.” Willow said as she munched some popcorn. “Xander turned in a regular G.I. Joe and I was a ghost. It was this whole big plot by Ethan Rayne- he’s an old friend of Giles from the bad old days when he was younger.” Willow frowned as she reviewed her last statement.

Buffy sighed. “Certainly won’t be going in the Buffy biography, that’s for sure.”

“You should’ve paid ‘em to keep quiet, B.” Faith raised her eyebrows questioningly at Willow, “So what happened?”

Willow smiled at Buffy. “Well, Giles managed to break the spell just in time for Buffy to kick Spike all over town. And all’s well that ends well.”

Buffy pouted. “And that’s how you should’ve started the story, like ‘that cool time I beat up Spike wearing an impractical ball gown’. It just sounds a lot better when you say it like that. On a completely unrelated topic; I lied- the black dress makes you look fat, so there.”

Willow giggled again. “Aw, poor Buffy’s feelings.” Although Willow did take another look at the sleek black dress hanging off of Buffy’s wardrobe door. Buffy and Faith had both said that Willow had looked incredible in the dress, or ‘smoking hot’ in Faith’s case, and had made the redhead blush.

“Well, I think I’ll trust Faith’s judgement on this.” Willow beamed happily at the brunette.

Buffy had an odd feeling of happiness coupled with wonder, last year these two had...not gotten along at all. Seeing them together she couldn’t imagine Faith going all dark and threatening Willow with a knife, or even hurting her.

‘Now look at them.’

Admittedly they’d both been a little awkward in conversation to begin with, but things had lightened up when Willow had started trying on outfits for the dance and Faith had complimented her on the fact that Oz was lead guitar. “Yeah, I dated a band member before, best I could do was a drummer though, so way to go, Red.”

Now they were relaxed, giggling, poking fun at Buffy- which she didn’t even care about really because this was all going way better than she imagined.

“Man, I always thought Halloween was kinda lame, that’s how it was broken down for me anyways.”Faith suddenly grinned eagerly. “Hey, Halloween’s comin’ round again, right? Could be somethin’ might happen.”

Willow was dubious. “I think Giles is usually right, Faith. It’s pretty quiet unless some rogue element pops up.”

“Well, here’s hopin’.” Faith raised her can of soda like she was giving a toast and tossed it back.

Buffy looked at the other slayer. “I actually like the fact I get at least one night a year off, like a reverse Santa Claus.”

“Yep, he’s all fat an’ jolly, you’re skinny and grumpy. Kinda fits.” Faith snarked, then she and Willow laughed like lunatics.

“Okay, subject change before I bop your heads together. Faith, when are you getting your dress?”

Faith wrinkled her nose. “Don’t know. Tomorrow I guess, now I know to stay away from little black numbers or,” She paused for effect, “Orange...”

“It’s tangerine.” Buffy huffed, “And it complements my skin tone.”

Faith smirked a little. “I’m just playin’ with ya, B. We both know you could go to the dance in a sack and still be the hottest chick there,” She paused. “No offense, Red.”

Willow just raised her eyebrows at Buffy who blushed a little at Faith’s comment. “None taken, you’re both going to slay them whatever you wear. Just not, y’know, literally.”

Buffy cleared her throat. “I’m, uh, just gonna get some more snacks.” She got up and left, making her way downstairs to the living room.

Her Mom looked away from TV. “Hello, Buffy. Your friends sound like they’re having a good time. Do you need something?”

Buffy kept her voice low. “Uh, maybe. Are you busy tomorrow?”

Her Mom smiled expectantly. “Why do you ask?”

“It’s just Faith needs a dress for the dance, and I think she might be a bit nervous about it. So maybe you could, um, help out for a couple of hours. Help her pick something nice?”

“Oh, you trust my fashion sense?” She teased.

Buffy tried not to roll her eyes. “Mom, this isn’t current fashion trends, this is a dress. Please will you help out your favourite daughter?”

“You mean my only daughter?”

“And so clearly the favourite, please?”

Her Mom nodded. “Since you asked so nicely and also because you’re being sweet to your new friend, I think I can get away from the gallery for a few hours tomorrow afternoon. Good enough?”

Buffy gave her Mom a quick hug. “Thank you. Oh, and this was completely your idea. Faith doesn’t know how to say no to you.”

Her Mom gave her a patient smile. “I understand.”

Buffy went to the kitchen and grabbed a large bag of chips and some cookies. She then made her way back upstairs and back to her room in time to catch the end of a conversation.

Buffy heard Faith’s husky, teasing voice. “Ooh, so that’ll be rounding second by the sound of it.”

“That’s none of your beeswax,” Willow protested, Buffy could tell she was smiling.

Buffy entered. “Faith, are you tormenting my poor friend? Couldn’t you have waited ‘til I got back, I wanna join in.”

Willow got up from her sleeping bag. “I’m gonna go find sanctuary in the bathroom, and also brush my teeth.” She picked up her pyjamas and left Buffy and Faith alone.

“See, I told you you’d have a good time.” Buffy put down the snacks and then walked to her dresser and started searching for her night clothes.

Faith stood up and knelt on Buffy’s bed. “Yeah, Will’s got some pretty cool war stories; Frat parties, evil fish guys, now Halloween. So what about you?”

Buffy grabbed her cow pyjamas and turned to Faith. “Um, my stories are pretty much the same. Unless you want to hear about my thrilling life as an L.A waitress; oh the drama, the excitement, the groping- trust me Willow’s are better.”

Faith just shook her head. “No, B, I was talkin’ about your ex, Angel and you. Willow hasn’t let Oz get that far yet, but you- you boinked the undead. I mean, what was it like?”

“Oh...” Buffy went a little red. “You’re really curious about that, huh? Fine, I’ll spill. Just don’t be all judge-y."

Faith rolled her eyes and put her hand on her heart in dramatic fashion. “Promise. Scout’s honour.”

Buffy looked sceptical. “I somehow doubt you were a girl scout.”

“Nah, but one of my exes, Ronnie- he was a scout and I think I’ve had enough of him inside me so that it counts.”

Buffy made a face. “Oh god, suddenly I’m not sure this is such a good idea.”

Faith gave her a pleading look. “C’mon, no more jokes I promise.”

“Fine, but we’re getting ready to go to bed so...” Buffy gestured at the other girl. “You got anything to wear or do you want to borrow something?”

Faith smirked. “Thought you were gonna start sleeping in the nude?”

Buffy’s eyes widened. “Not with Willow here! Um...I mean not with either of you here, there’s just no nudity during sleepovers. It’s a California law, or something.”

Faith sighed like she was disappointed. “Can’t believe Animal House lied t’me like that. Here I was thinkin’ all my research for girly sleepovers was wicked accurate. But no nakedness and no pillow fights- it’s kind of a let down.”

Willow came back in shaking her head. “Uh-uh, I’m not getting into a pillow fight with two slayers; I’m putting my foot down on that one. If you want I’ll reluctantly referee but that’s it. I bruise easy.”

Buffy threw an old white t-shirt at Faith. “There, go. You can wear that.”

Faith looked it over and protested. “But it’s got friggin’ rainbows on it!”

“Deal with it.” Buffy said simply and Faith left to change.

As soon as the brunette was out of sight Willow burbled excitedly at Buffy. “It’s going well, isn’t it? I mean, there I was thinking, y’know, gorgeous girl- probably really mean and snooty while being all cool and maybe her being nice to us that first time was just an act. But it’s like a whole slayer-loophole, where you can be pretty and really nice- it's fun.”

Buffy smirked at her friend as she turned around to quickly change into her top. She looked over her shoulder and in a sing-song voice said. “Someone’s got a crush.”

Willow scoffed. “No, I haven’t. It’s just a while since I made a new friend by just being me, y’know. I mean Cordelia doesn’t count because, well, she comes with the Xander package now. And you, you pretty much threw yourself at me...”

Buffy stopped changing and protested. “I did not!”

“You so wanted to be part of my gang.” Willow smiled as she reminisced. “The new girl in town who I took under my wing.”

“And I thought Giles had one too many bumps on the head, I’m amazed you can even cast any spells with a memory that flawed.”

Willow giggled. “Well, okay- but you get my point.”

Buffy regarded her friend. “Yep, that Willow charm works like magic.”

Willow gave a big smile. “Aw, thanks. Hey, what’s that?”

Buffy adjusted her hair as she buttoned up her top. “What?”

Buffy felt Willow step up behind her, and then a hand parting her hair. “When did you get a tattoo?”

Buffy froze. “Huh?”

“Right here on the back of your neck. I thought after the whole Eyghon thing body-art was a big turn off?”

Buffy hesitated. “Uh, yeah. I totally forgot, it happened when I was in L.A- I was feeling kind of low and I...well, it was a bad idea. I’m gonna have it removed soon so...”

They were both distracted by Faith walking back in, dressed in the white t-shirt, that Buffy now realised was way too tight for someone of Faith’s...build, and lacy black panties. “Think I stretched your shirt, B.” She said absently.

Buffy just shook her head a little. “Don’t worry about it. I’m, uh, just gonna brush my teeth.” With that Buffy hurriedly left for the bathroom. Facing side on to the mirror, Buffy pulled her hair away from the nape of her neck and saw the mark Willow had spotted. A black circle etched on her skin about the size of a quarter, with a stylized black eye at the centre with a few squiggly black lines that set Buffy’s alarm bells ringing. This ink looked very occult-y.

Buffy breathed as she tried to stop herself from panicking, okay this mark had to be linked to the wish she made right? She didn’t believe in coincidences and this would be a big one. Either way magical body art was a bad thing... but it was also a clue.

Buffy could search for this symbol in big dusty tomes and find out was it meant, and what the hell was going on. She dropped her hair back and rearranged her top, practised her best not-freaking-out face, and told herself that this could wait a little while. At least until she survived Homecoming. Again.

Buffy walked back to her room with a practiced nonchalance and dropped back onto the bed, the other two girls were busy munching on cookies. Buffy glanced in Willow’s direction, the redhead didn’t seem to be worried or looking at her strangely, hopefully she’d bought Buffy’s explanation. When Buffy had a few more answers maybe she’d tell her the truth, but first she needed to be sure what it all meant.

Faith, idly toying with Mr. Gordo, leaned over and prodded Buffy to get her attention. “’Kay Buffy, enough stallin’. Tell us how a slayer goes from slayin’ vampires to layin’...”

Buffy scowled slightly. “You said no jokes.”

In her mind Buffy hoped that by telling Faith about Angel she could take some of the mystique out of the whole situation, plus avoiding any potential misunderstandings later on. A combination of Mrs Post’s manipulations and Xander’s anger meant that last time Faith had nearly killing Angel- thinking his was just another monster that needed slaying. That had led to Buffy then having to fight the other slayer, which she didn’t want to repeat.

‘Then again, it might just mean Faith makes a play for Angel’s affections a little sooner and tries the whole seducing him thing, or did she just do that because the mayor wanted her too? Or maybe it was to screw with me. Too many things to worry about,-my head’s starting to hurt.’

Willow, busy munching a cookie, looked at Buffy expectantly. “You’re gonna tell her about Angel, which parts?”

Buffy sighed and decided there was no going back. “Open book. Really, whatever you want.”

Willow’s face was priceless. “Anything? Are you...even about the time that you..?”

“Will, I spent the whole summer dealing, the fact that Angel’s back doesn’t change anything. We can’t...be together. All I can see is a lot of abstinence in the future, so maybe talking about it- this will help me deal.”

Willow nodded in understanding. “I think that makes sense, it’s good- healthy even. Get some perspective.”

“Anyway, how come you didn’t slay him as soon as you saw him?” Faith asked.

“Oh, he’s quite the cutie.” Willow replied before Buffy could, “All quiet and soulful, very Byronesque.” Off of Faith’s look, “Uh, kind of dark and brooding.”

“Also I didn’t know he was a vampire,” Buffy added. “He was just a mysterious stranger that showed up with a cryptic warning or clue about some big, bad evil.” Buffy thought back. “Although, the first time we met he was kind of a jerk- all smarmy and knowing. I really didn’t like him.”

Faith frowned and shook her head. “How come you didn’t know he was a vampire? He shoulda set off your slayer senses, right? There must’ve been something off about him.”

Willow smirked. “I think she was all googly-eyed right from the start. Hey, you only said Faith couldn’t make jokes- plus it’s true.”

“I suppose I was smitten,” Buffy conceded. “I only found out after I kissed him for the first time, and then I didn’t know what to think. I didn’t get why he’d help me if he was just another vampire. But then Darla, that was his sire- Darla, attacked my Mom and framed Angel for it. We went all fight-to-the-death for a while, it was like Angel wanted me to kill him.”

“His soul means he feels super-guilty for all bad the stuff he’s done.” Willow added to Faith.

Buffy smiled as she reminisced. “Anyway, I didn’t kill him, instead he killed Darla. After that Angel helped out when he could. He and I...we got closer, working together, he was somebody I could be honest about myself with. I could share everything with him; it was a pretty unique sitch.”

Buffy shook her head. “With someone like Scott, I’d have to hide things from him or risk putting him in danger. I guess it would never have worked- I was fooling myself.”

“But you’re not doomed,” Willow said emphatically. She looked at Faith, “She thinks she’s doomed.”

Faith seemed to consider this. “So if Angel was such a great guy what went wrong?”

“It started last year when two vamps came to town, Spike and Drusilla. They both knew Angel back when he was evil and they’d come to the Hellmouth to party.”

“Yeah, you mentioned those guys before, sound wicked creepy.” Faith looked a little disgusted. “Demons gettin’ all loved up.”

“Anyways, they tried to end the world by resurrecting this ancient demon called the Judge; he could burn the soul out of someone just by touching him.”

Faith nodded in sympathy. “And I’m guessin’ the demon-guy touched Angel.”

Buffy smiled sadly. “Nope, he almost got both of us but we managed to escape, made it back to Angel’s place.”

“Then I don’t get it, why’d he turn evil?”

Willow looked at Buffy sadly. “Buffy, are you sure you want to...?”

Buffy nodded at the redhead. “Well, we only found out after...the curse that the gypsies gave Angel was meant to be a punishment, so he could suffer for all the bad stuff he’d done, forever. If he forgot any of that, even for a second, then the curse would be broken. And when we got back to his place, after the near miss- the almost dying and losing each other, we made love. And broke the curse.”

Faith swallowed. “Damn.” She seemed to think about it for a few seconds. “That’s the dumbest fuckin’ thing I’ve ever heard.”

Buffy had been expecting a lot of reactions, but not that. She felt anger rise in her. “What did you say?”

Faith held up a hand. “Wow, hey, I didn’t mean...I get why you got all bouncy with each other, but these gypsy guys- they go and curse Angel with a soul so he’s done with the killing and he gets to suffer. But then if he gets too happy he looses it? I’m guessin’ they didn’t tell Angel about that last part?”

Buffy frowned as she tried to follow the other girl’s thinking. “No. No way he knew.”

“So the guy who didn’t do anythin’ except get killed by a vamp gets to live with all the shit the demon did, then if he accidentally gets too happy the demon gets a get outta jail free and goes back to killin’? Man, those gypsies are dicks.”

Willow smiled a little in relief. “I’ll bet Angel said that a lot these past hundred years.”

And with that all the tension that had been building up from Buffy’s retelling of the story seemed to leave the room. Buffy actually laughed a little at Willow’s comment. “I guess I didn’t really think about it that way, too busy living with the reality.”

Faith shook her head in sympathy. “So the morning’ after was pretty rough, I’m guessin’. But what about the deed itself, huh? I mean, I’m thinking he had a good time, guys always do. But what about you?”

“Well, it’s nice that you just brush past all my pain and get right to the dirt.” Buffy joked, and then allowed her thoughts to drift back to that night. It was strange how she didn’t like to think about it with Angel, but here with her friends- and a little perspective, she could allow herself to remember.

“It was good, I mean, really good. I was kind of nervous to begin with...I started kissing him and pretty soon we were, um, taking our clothes off. We were still wet from the rain outside.”

“He must’ve been cold, right? With the whole ‘being dead’ thing.”

“Not cold exactly, more room temperature. And as we,” Buffy bit her bottom lip, “started, with the nakedness, he warmed up pretty quickly. I guess I got his blood, um, pumping.”

Faith smiled and wiggled her eyebrows as she chuckled. “I betchya did.”

“Did it hurt?” Willow spoke a little anxiously. “I-I heard that, y’know, the first time...”

“Only for a little bit.” Buffy replied, “And it was worth it. He was...slow and tender, we took our time and I had, um, the thing, the moment. Both times.”

Willow sat in wide-eyed contemplation. “Twice?”

“So, the boy’s got stamina, knew there had to be somethin’ in it for you...” Faith drawled slyly, she seemed to be enjoying Buffy’s description an awful lot. “Positions?”

Buffy flushed in embarrassment. “Just, y’know, the normal one, um- missionary.”

“I don’t understand how vampires can even...get they’re blood pumping, anyway. I mean, they’re dead, they don’t bleed but they can...do that when they want to. And how do they smoke if they can’t even breathe?” Willow looked at the other two and reddened a little. “That’s not really the issue here, is it?”

Buffy smiled gently. “All I know is that he did get...” She made a gesture with her hand. “Obviously, otherwise I guess I would’ve been kinda disappointed. Also, he had a couple of hundred years of experience, practice, whatever- that probably helped.” Buffy frowned a little. “I always wondered if I was...well, if I was the disappointment.”

“I think the whole ‘perfect happiness’ thing kind of indicates that you weren’t.” Willow replied sympathetically.

Faith thought for a moment and then grinned widely. “Okay, so how big was he?”

“And I’m done!” Buffy blurted. “I think I’ve answered enough invasive questions about my one sexual experience for one night.”

Both Willow and Faith seemed a little disappointed but didn’t try and persuade otherwise, which was good. Buffy was getting a bit...caught up in the memory, and getting all pent up again, at a slumber party no less, could get awkward.

“So, um, what about you?” She asked Faith, “I’ll bet you’ve got plenty of stories.”

Faith shrugged and looked a little sad. “My first time pretty much sucked.” Then she broke into a lewd smile. “Times after that got a lot better, though. Made damn sure of it.”

“Positions?” Then Willow slapped a hand over her mouth and went beet red. “Sorry, that kind of just slipped out. Just me being giddy- ignore me.”

“’S’ okay. Nothing fancy.” Faith’s hands manoeuvred Mr. Gordo so he was sitting on her lap, trotters in the air. “Can demonstrate some of ‘em though.”

Buffy gasped before reaching over and swiping the plush pig away. “Don’t even! Mr. Gordo is a poor, innocent pig who’s not interested in downward facing dog or whatever else you’re going to demonstrate.” She cuddled him defensively.

Willow chuckled. “I’m fairly certain that’s a yoga position, Buffy.”

“Doesn’t matter, he’s off limits.”

“Sorry, B. didn’t realise I was violatin’ a sacred stuffed toy.” Faith smirked and thought about it some more before answering Willow. “Okay, so mostly on top, that way I can set the pace so a guy doesn’t pop too soon, y’know. But I’ve covered most of the basics, some wicked kinky stuff too; if I get lucky and find a guy who can keep up I get to have all kinds of fun.”

Buffy believed her, the way Faith talked about it which such confidence it was obvious she’d had some good experiences, maybe lots of good experiences. Buffy suddenly found herself thinking about the way Faith moved when she was dancing or fighting, so unrestrained and vibrant, so lost in what she was doing. Buffy concluded that whoever Faith decided to ‘spend time’ with had a pretty good experience too.

She shifted a little uncomfortably, alarmed at how warm she was getting. This was all Scott’s fault, and Angel’s, what with all the denial and restraint, plus Faith’s teasing. Buffy didn’t consider herself a slut or anything but...a girl has needs.

‘Okay, so it’s been well over a year since I’ve had sex. That’s nothing, a necessary down period. Just have to adjust is all.’

Willow was looking at Faith with a mixture of amazement and caution, a sort of wary admiration for the dark-haired girl. Like she’d discovered that Faith had done something really unwise but had somehow triumphed anyway.

“So, um, have you...since coming to Sunnydale?” Willow asked.

Faith glanced at Buffy before answering. “Not yet, just tryin’ to get a feel for the place ‘fore I have to scratch that itch, y’know. But slaying can get to a girl, y’know.” She smirked at Buffy’s discomfort.

Buffy decided to end things here before they could get too intimate and fake-yawned expansively. “Well, I’m beat. You two can keep at it but I really need to sleep, ‘night.”

Willow frowned and looked at her watch. “I guess it is getting late.”

Faith looked a little disappointed as she grabbed a pillow off Buffy’s bed and put it next to her. “Blows that you guys gotta go to school tomorrow, we coulda stayed up all night.”

“Next time, maybe?” Chirped Willow, sounding enthusiastic at the prospect. “We should pick a Friday or Saturday, with movies and stuff, like a whole big thing.”

Buffy nodded. “To be continued, guys. I got it. Oh and thanks for all this, coming over, listening and talking. I feel better.”

“You’re not doomed.” Willow’s voice was firm.

Buffy chuckled. “I know, thanks Will.”

With that she flipped back the covers and slid into her bed’s snug and cosy embrace. Buffy delicately adjusted her pyjama pants so they weren’t so...clinging, to any area. The memories of being with Angel obviously still got to her, maybe when the other two had fallen asleep she could sneak to the bathroom and...

Suddenly the other side of the covers were lifted up and Faith got in. “Scooch up.”

“What’re you doing?” Buffy hissed, in a moment of panic considering fending off Faith with Mr. Gordo.

“Didja see me bring a sleeping bag? There’s plenty of room in here- scooch yer butt.”

“But...” Sometimes Buffy had shared a bed with Willow on sleepovers- that was no big. Faith was a whole other story, a confusing, uncomfortable making story.

Faith slid down beneath the covers so only her head was showing. Buffy was very aware of the fact that everything else; arms, hands, breasts, hips were under the covers with her. She tensed, ready in case anything of Faith’s brushed up against her, or grabbed her, or stroked...

Faith nudged Buffy. “’Night, B. Thanks for the invite.” With that she rolled over so her back was facing the blonde girl, plumped up her pillow, then seemed to settle down to sleep.

Buffy waited, holding her stuffed toy tight as she wondered when Faith would try something, or if she would try anything.

But as the minutes ticked by Buffy could here the other girl’s breathing settle and deepen as she slept. Buffy relaxed, released Mr. Gordo from a death grip and attempted to get comfortable, trying to wrest her mind from any lingering curiosities about Faith’s night time experiences. No good could come of it.

‘Okay, so what- maybe part of me likes and admires Faith, parts of her personality are fun and...really fascinating to think about. It doesn’t mean anything, any attraction or lusty wrong feelings. I’m just curious, about her. About her...qualities as an individual, she’s new and interesting- that’s all.’

Buffy didn’t know why she was trying so hard to convince herself, or to push down a curious feeling that had settled in her since Faith had dozed off. Buffy found sleep overcame her just as she realised what she was feeling, slight disappointment that Faith hadn’t tried anything.

*****

“Buffy, Faith’s here!” Buffy’s Mom called from downstairs as Buffy inspected the spare room- bare of anything but a dresser, a clothes rack her Mom had found in the basement, and a bed. Buffy set the piece of paper down on the edge of the mattress and headed to the top of the stairs to see her Mom opening the front door.

“Hello, Faith. Do you need a hand?”

Faith was standing on the porch carrying a sports bag and a backpack. She had a black trash bag slung over one shoulder. “Don’t worry Mrs. S, I’m good. Is Buffy here?”

Buffy came down the stairs and raised her hand in greeting. “I’m just putting the finishing touches to your bedroom. What’s in the bag?”

Faith dumped it in the hall. “Uh, some dirty clothes. I didn’t have time to hit the laundrette before I came over. Just tell me where the nearest one is and I’ll...”

“Oh, nonsense, Faith. I’ll take those, you just settle in. Have you eaten yet?”

Faith seemed a little overwhelmed by Joyce’s attention but managed to nod. “I’m fine and, uh, thanks.”

“Well, Buffy and I are having pizza tonight to celebrate your arrival; you’re welcome to join us.” Buffy watched her Mom go carrying the clothes bag with her.

Faith looked after her in something approaching amazement. “She’s gonna do my washing too?”

“Didn’t I mention that? It’s full service here at Casa de Summers. Come on, I’ll show you to your room.”

Faith followed her up the stairs. “B, I saw it a couple of days ago when I slept over, remember?”

“I know but it’s got a couple of new additions that you should see.”

Buffy entered the room first and did an expansive sweeping gesture with her hands as she turned. “Ta-Da! Look what came to the house not one hour ago.”

She pointed to a dress bag hanging alone on the clothes rack, the label ‘April Fool’s’ was embossed on its black glossy surface. Buffy hadn’t fiddled with the zipper, though she’d been tempted. “My Mom said not to peek until you came and tried it on, April Fool’s is nice though. Kind of expensive.”

Faith stared at the bag before shifting a little uncomfortably. “Your Mom made a deal with the owner- she’d been eyein’ some picture in the gallery or somethin’. So they did a switch or a deal.” She looked at Buffy a little apologetically. “It was your Mom’s idea, she kinda insisted.”

Buffy smiled. “My Mom’s a stubborn one; she tends to get her way. Apparently she had it refitted especially. Y’know you could probably wear this to the Prom as well; get your money’s worth.”

“The Prom? I’m not going to any Prom, who would I even go with?”

“After the dance, when the boys get a load of you, I’m sure you’ll get a ton of offers.” Buffy grinned at the other girl and went over to the rack. “Can I see it? Is it pretty? What colour is it?”

“Uh, dark I think.”

“Stop teasing. Is it red? Like a dark red-or blue, like a nice midnight blue?”

Faith smirked and shook her head. “Buffy...just wait ‘til tonight, ‘kay. Don’t get all hyper.”

“I’m not hyper, maybe excited. I would also accept giddy, but not just about tonight. You’re here- you finally moved in.”

Faith gestured to her two bags. “Well, it was a big job. Couldn’t rush it.”

Buffy moved over to the bed and picked up the piece of paper. “Thought you might want this, you left it at the library when we were watching Oz.” She handed it to Faith.

Faith looked at it, seeing her cartoon-like drawing. “Damn, thought I chucked this.” She scrunched it up.

Buffy snatched the paper back. “Hey, don’t! I like it, okay. You didn’t tell me you could draw like that.”

Faith flopped back onto the bed and spread her arms out, testing the firmness. “Drawing was one of the things I liked doin’ back at school. That’s just a stupid doodle.” She sat up on her elbows. “Man, this sure beats the hell outta the motel.”

Buffy smoothed out the folded paper. “Told you. Although you do have to share the bathroom with me, and I can take ages in the morning.”

“Well see I don’t hav’ta go anywhere in the morning, so no worries.” Faith thought about and smiled at Buffy. “Might get up to sneak a peek though.”

“I’m flattered, really.” Buffy replied dryly, pleased she hadn’t blushed this time. “But the bathroom door has a lock so I think I’m safe.”

“Maybe I was talkin’ ‘bout your Mom.”

“Eeeww, gross. Okay, I’m just going to forget this whole conversation and go down and order the pizzas.” Buffy turned in the doorway. “You better stay here and unpack; we’ll only have couple of hours to get ready before the limo gets here. Trust me; it’ll take longer than you think to get ready.”

Faith sighed and flopped back. “You worry too much, B.”

Homecoming (PART 3: Dressed To Kill Or Be Killed)

Buffy knocked gently on the bathroom door. “Faith? You okay, you sound funny.” She heard a mumbled reply. Buffy repeated. “Faith?”

“Quit buggin’ me, ‘kay.” Faith sounded annoyed.

“Oh, okay. It’s just to get to the dance you’ll have to actually leave the bathroom.”

Buffy was puzzled, she seen Faith at the other dance wearing a dress, what was the problem this time? Buffy had watched the other girl rushing around in a towel having done her makeup and hair, but Buffy still hadn’t seen her dress. Maybe asking her Mom hadn’t been the best idea- what if the dress was horrible colour? Or maybe it had ruffles or sparkly bits or something else Faith had now decided she hated.

Buffy sighed and leaned against the wall next to the bathroom, she’d pretty much worked out how the evening was going to go, she knew that the limo would take the two of them out into the woods and leave them there. They would be hunted by the Davey Crockett wannabe, Buffy would defeat him the same as before. Then they’d take shelter in the cabin, Buffy figured that that two slayers could make short work of that spiky yellow demon before the cabin got blown up. Buffy had to remember to get to the phone and warn Giles away from the library.

Then they could ditch the tracking devices and race to the school to stake Gorch and his wife who would be waiting there. Buffy reckoned that after all that they’d still have time for a few dances before Cordelia got her crown or whatever.

Buffy had even thought about being all pre-emptive and going after Mr. Trick, after all the limo driver had to be in on it. But sticking to the script seemed much safer for everyone in this case, this time Buffy only had to worry about Faith and the girl could take care of herself.

That’s if she ever decided to show herself.

“Alright...I’m comin’ out.” Faith said with a clack as the bathroom door unlocked.

The door swung open and Faith stepped out in all her glory, hair piled up with strands hanging down to frame her face, dark lipstick and eye shadow accentuating her lush lips and stunning eyes. For a moment Buffy didn’t take in the entire effect, just staring, before her eyes swept down the rest of the other slayer's form. The dress was a deep blue number with black trim across the cleavage and bottom of the skirt, which brushed around Faith’s knees. The material was a gorgeous, shimmering silk, which hugged the brunette’s waist and bunched around her chest, spaghetti straps left her shoulders and graceful neck bare.

Faith gave Buffy an awkward look. “I feel wicked stupid.” For a moment Buffy couldn’t speak, Faith looked at her nervously. “What?”

“You look...so girly. I mean, in a good way. You look beautiful, Faith.” Buffy shook her head in amazement. “Did you pick this out?”

“It was the only one that wasn’t a stupid colour or had flowers on it or some crap like that. Kinda limited my options.”

Buffy tried to think of something to say that would give Faith a little more confidence. “The dress, um, really shows off your boobs.”

Faith raised her eyebrows and smiled. “It does? Cool.” Faith looked down at herself and seemed to loosen up a little. “I guess I can survive in it for one night. How much time we got?”

“Five minutes or so until the limo gets here; c’mon I’m sure my Mom wants to gush over us.”

Buffy grabbed her purse and went to the top of the stairs where she felt a hand on her shoulder.

Faith cleared her throat a little uncomfortably. “Goes without sayin’ B, but you look good, uh, really good. So I guess findin’ another guy ain’t gonna be a problem.”

Buffy smiled at the other girl. “Thanks, but I’ll be happy if I just get through tonight without adding to my growing collection of embarrassing stories.”

“Oh, don’t you two look a picture,” Buffy’s Mom came to the foot of the stairs and smiled fondly up at them.

Buffy smirked at Faith as the two of them made their way down the stairs. “Thanks, Mom.”

“Yeah, thanks Mrs. S. For the dress too.”

“It was my pleasure Faith, and as a bonus I got rid of a nasty piece of Polynesian art.” She was interrupted by a knock on the front door. She looked questioningly at the two girls before turning and opening it.

“Hey, guys.” Willow gave a little wave. “I’m not too late am I? Wow, Faith you look so girly. And that dress really shows...”

Buffy interrupted. “Will, is everything okay? What are you doing here?”

“Relax, B. I asked her. I thought she could ride in the limo with us- we can kick back before we swing by everybody else.” Faith looked at the redhead, “Cutting it a bit close, Red.”

“I know, my dad drove me I had to give him directions,” Willow gave an apologetic shrug, and then saw the look on Buffy’s face, “Buffy, what’s wrong?”

‘What’s that saying, “no plan survives contact with Buffy’s life.” Damn it.’ “Nothing, you just threw me is all. Let’s get outside.”

The three of them stepped out onto the porch into the quiet evening air, Buffy walking on ahead to look out for the limo. All of a sudden tonight didn’t seem so simple and neat, by saying nothing and pretending everything was okay she was putting Willow’s life in danger. True the first time around it had been Cordelia in the crossfire but, well, Buffy really liked Willow; she especially liked her being alive. If something went wrong- a stray bullet or blade- anything, Buffy wouldn’t be able to live with herself.

She came back to herself to here the other two girls talking.

“...a song he wrote for me, they're playing it tonight.”

“So if he’s playin’ it who are you gonna dance with?”

“Oh, I thought I’d just stare adoringly up at him while he plays.” Willow sighed contentedly, and then pointed down the street. “Yay, our limo.”

The three of them watched as the car pulled in front of the house and the driver got out, walking round to open the back door for them.

Faith grinned.”Real classy. Plus, cute driver’s a bonus.”

“Can you maybe wait until we get to the actual dance before hitting on guys, Faith?” Buffy snarked before getting into the limo.

She sat where Cordelia had been sitting the last time and noticed the two corsages on the back seat, an orchid and a freesia.

Faith got in after her, Buffy flushed a little as she got a good view of her cleavage as she bent over to climb in. “Well, ‘scuse me all t’hell. I thought we were supposed to be having fun tonight?” Faith sat down next to Buffy and rearranged herself. “Almost fell outta this damn thing.” She muttered.

Despite herself Buffy smiled at the other girl’s actions. “Sorry, my bad. Fun Buffy is on duty tonight I promise, but try to hook up after the dance, okay. Don’t leave me hanging around alone all night.”

There, that had sounded better, Buffy shouldn’t be acting like their evening was gonna be disrupted by a bunch of evil mercenaries with more money than sense.

Willow climbed in next and sat to one side. “Hey, someone got corsages. Who’re they for?”

Thinking quickly Buffy grabbed the box. “Um, Mom said they were Faith and me.” She showed the box to Faith, “Which one do you want?”

Faith shrugged as she peered at them. “What’re you supposed t’do with ‘em, anyhow?”

“You wear one, silly. On your wrist.” She took the freesia out of the box and slid it onto Faith’s wrist. “Like so. What do you think?”

Willow smiled. “Very pretty.”

Faith wrinkled her nose as she held it closer. “Smells like motel soap.”

Buffy giggled as she took the orchid. “Well that one goes better with darker colours, trust me you look great.”

During all this the limousine had started moving and was swiftly taking them to wherever, Buffy’s stomach clenched at the thought. They sat in silence for a few minutes before Buffy spoke up again. “So, who do we pick up next?”

“First Oz, then we swing by Cordelia to pick up her and Xander, I think her Dad is helping Xander with his tie.”

“’Til then how about we find a way t’loosen up,” Faith said and reached under her skirt.

Buffy looked on in alarm. “We are not doing anything like...”

Faith pulled a silver hip flask out with a flourish. “Gee, B. What didja think I was gonna do?” She grinned naughtily at the other slayer.

Buffy stammered. “Anything like...d- drink alcohol, um, in a moving vehicle.”

“Yep, Buffy and alcohol leads to dirty dancing.” Willow snickered before asking Faith. “What is that stuff?”

“Just some rum, it’s pretty lethal too.” She gave it a little shake. “This’ll be more than enough to liven up any cocktails at the dance. I could’ve brought more but I got a knife strapped to my other leg.”

Willow looked surprised. “What for?”

“Slayer can’t go anywhere without a weapon, Red. We’re on a Hellmouth, remember? I’ll bet Buffy packing something?”

Buffy smiled and patted her purse. In it she was carrying a couple of freshly whittled stakes. “Just a precaution, Will. Better to have it and not need it.”

Willow nodded at that as Faith unscrewed the top of the flask. “Anyone want?”

Buffy gave an emphatic shake of her head, even if she wasn’t going to be hunted alcohol led to fuzziness and bad judgement around Faith.

Willow also declined. “I better not, but I’ll have some punch later on, promise.”

With that Faith took a quick glug before returning the flask to its hiding place.

Willow was looking out of the window, frowning. “I think we’re going the long way round, either that or this guy’s lost.”

Faith didn’t seem interested as Buffy peered out of the other window. “I don’t know, Will. It’s pretty dark, I don’t see...”

“I see trees, not houses.” Willow sounded a little unsure. “Hey, we’re stopping.”

The limousine did indeed grind to a halt. The driver’s door opened and then his footsteps took off hurriedly into the night.

“Uh, this isn’t good.” Willow still peered through the window anxiously.

Buffy frowned at Faith. “Maybe we should get out, something’s very wrong.”

“Like what, a flat tire?” Faith opened the door and got out and looked around. “Driver’s hoofed it anyways. Never can trust the good-lookin’ ones.”

Buffy helped Willow out of the car, staring around at the familiar wilderness. “This is Miller’s Woods, nowhere near the school.”

“Buffy look,” Willow pointed the TV and VCR sat on a nearby rock, a nearby sign instructing them to ‘play me’.

“What is all this crap?” Faith walked over to the electronic set-up.

“I’m guessing something bad?” Willow glanced nervously around the woods.

Buffy took her hand. “Stay close.” They moved over to Faith as she bent and fiddled with the VCR.

The television blinked to life, showing Mr. Trick posing in a snazzy red suit. He smiled genially. “Hello ladies, welcome to SlayerFest ninety-eight. What is SlayerFest you ask? Well, as in most of life, there’s the hunters and the hunted. Can you guess where you two fall? From the beginning of this tape you have exactly thirty seconds,” He checked his watch. “no that’s seventeen now, to run for your lives. Faith, Buffy, have a nice death.”

With that the TV went black, showing a SlayerFest logo. Buffy sighed in irritation and looked around the woods.

“Who was that?” Willow asked, her voice was a little higher than normal.

“Calls himself Mr. Trick, a chump who used to run with Kakistos. Looks like he’s got all ambitious.” Faith quietly reached down, lifted up her skirt and pulled out her knife.

Willow shuddered. “This is horrible, it’s like ‘The Most Dangerous Game’, only it’s worst because we’re all wearing dresses!”

“We have to get out of here, keep moving. If we stay in one spot...” A gunshot rang out and the television exploded. Willow screamed and Faith pulled her to the ground.

“Good idea. Run!” Faith shouted as she pulled Willow into the brush.

*****

The three of them sprinted through the woods, Buffy in the lead trying to remember which way the cabin was. Willow followed close behind with Faith bringing up the rear, occasionally glancing back into the darkness.

“They're shooting at us. That’s...that’s not just wrong, it’s really unfair. There should be a no guns rule for hunting slayers, or the friends of slayers now that I think about it.”

“You wanna keep it down, Red. We’re making enough noise already.”

“Sorry, it’s just...Buffy, look out!”

Buffy yanked her foot off the ground as the bear trap slammed shut, she’d almost forgotten about it.

She turned to thank Willow and then saw a man in the middle distance raise a rifle to his shoulder. “Get down, now!”

She grabbed Willow and pulled her down as the bullet blasted the branches above their heads, Faith had already ducked low and turned, knife ready. She hurled the blade at the hunter and he cried out in pain and alarm before staggering back, and then screamed again in agony.

Buffy quickly ran over and scooped up the man’s rifle as he stood there clutching his leg, caught by another one of his traps, Faith’s knife still lodged in his shoulder. Buffy pointed the gun square at his head as Willow and Faith caught up.

“Oh the irony, huh? Now, I can let you out of that trap or I can put a bullet in your head. How many are there in this little game and what are they packing?” She cocked the gun for emphasis.

“Better do as she says.” Faith smiled at him evilly.

He glared at them before speaking up. “There’s me, two Germans with AR-15’s and grenade launcher, yellow-skinned demon with long knives, vampire couple from Texas named Gorch.”

“Who else?”

“That’s everybody who’s out here. Germans are wired- their boss is tracking them on computer. Now get me outta this!”

Buffy looked him over. “Tell you what if my friends and I live through this I’ll send... wait, is that one of my Mom’s kitchen knives?” She looked at Faith.

Faith nodded almost proud. “Yep, looks wicked painful.”

Buffy looked a little disbelieving. “I use those for making fruit salad not for skewering mountain men.”

Suddenly two large bone knifes slammed into the tree next to the three of them and Willow screamed. ”Tell off later, run away now!”

*****

Buffy kicked open the cabin door and gestured for Willow to follow her inside. Faith, now carrying the hunting rifle strode after them; Buffy fetched a nearby chair and wedged it under the door.

“Guys, check if there’s a weapon or a phone around anywhere.” Buffy got busy shuttering the windows.

Faith peaked out of another window. “We didn’t run far, demon-boy won’t be far behind us. You know about any of the others?”

Buffy watched a shutter come away in her hands. “Damn. Uh, yeah, the Gorch brother, they’re redneck types- pretty tough but not that smart. Last time they were in town one of them got eaten, I’m guessing the other one wants payback.”

“I found a phone!” Willow exclaimed, pulling a telephone out from under a table. “I just hope it works.” She tested the dial tone and nodded at Buffy.

“Ring Giles, tell him where we are, that we’re fine...and also tell him to be careful. If these guys have been watching us they might know about him.” Willow dialled and Buffy walked over to Faith. “You okay?”

Faith nodded. “Kinda pissed about the dance but wha’cha gonna do, right? Least we got this- rifle’s only got three shots left and the sights a little off...what?”

Buffy was smiling at the other slayer. “You’re just taking all this in your stride, huh? Well, I’m glad you’re here.”

Willow was speaking to the answering machine. “Hi, Giles, it’s me, um, Willow. Surprise, we’re in terrible danger. Buffy, Faith and I are in a cabin in Miller’s Woods being hunted for sport, which actually isn’t very...sporting. Sorry, I’m babbling but Buffy thinks these guys have been watching us for a while so be...hello?” Willow looked at the two slayers worriedly. “The line went dead.”

Buffy moved towards the redhead to take the phone. Faith shrugged her shoulders. “Guess these guys want a private party, huh.”

“But how are they finding us?” Buffy asked aloud, and then looked at Faith. “The corsages.”

Faith looked warily at the flower on her hand. “How’s that?”

“Are you thinking some sort of tracking device?” Willow asked.

Buffy figured she must look really smart right now. “Those Germans are wired up to some sort of base camp and then the phone line just went dead, maybe...”

And then a demon crashed through the window behind Faith.

Faith just managed to turn as the growling demon barrelled into her, knocking her back onto the bed, it lunged down whirling its knives in an attempt to disembowel the slayer but instead tore a pillow to shreds as Faith rolled off the bed and onto her knees.

Buffy ran over to the wall to grab the deer antlers mounted there as the spiny creature again attacked Faith, who managed to bring the rifle up and around to block its blades. Then there was an incredibly loud bang as the impact set the gun off and a nearby lamp shattered to pieces. Willow gasped before finding cover by ducking down behind the table.

With a roar the demon flung Faith away from him, across the room where she collided heavily with the wall, the rifle skittering into a corner. He raced after the dazed brunette but Buffy got between them, smacking him across the side of the head with the antlers.

The whirling bones spurs were brought around, smashing through deer horn as the demon tried to hack Buffy to death. One blade, going high, barely misses her neck. The other managed to nick her leg, tearing through the dress and gouging flesh on her thigh. Buffy cried out and took a quick step back as the demon pressed its attack.

Suddenly the rug beneath the demon’s feet was jerked out from under him and he tumbled to the ground. Faith threw the carpet to one side as she got to her feet and moved towards the demon.

Buffy backed up and grabbed the table next to Willow before hurling it at the back window, smashing the glass. “Go, now!”

She turned to watch Faith grab the demon as he got to his feet and, grunting with the effort, ram him face first into the far wall before pounding a knee up into his stomach that knocked him up and around to face her. Quickly the demon backhanded Faith and kicked out with one leg, sending her stumbling to the side.

Buffy grabbed the rifle and tried to blast the thing’s face off, but with an empty clack the rifle jammed. Buffy launched herself again at the demon, wrestling with it in the centre of the cabin when there was the sound of breaking glass and something clattered to the ground between them.

Without hesitating Buffy pushed away from the demon, grabbed Faith by the arm, and dived with her through the broken window into the bushes. They scrambled to their feet and with Willow in tow ran full tilt away from the cabin before being knocked off their feet by the resulting explosion.

Willow lay there panting and Faith flopped onto her back, propping herself up and blowing some hair out of her eyes. She was all smiles. “Now that was cool. What did you do?”

Buffy struggled to rise, wincing as she put weight on her leg. “Not me, I’m guessing the heavily armed Germans. Oh, and ‘cool’, there is something seriously wrong with you.” She said it lightly; just glad they all got out of there in one piece.

“How you doing there, Red?”

“Um, tip-top, y’know, considering I’m terrified.” Buffy helped the other girl to her feet as Faith tossed off her shoes.

“Done wearing heels while fightin’ demons, that’s just all kinds of stupid.”

“We need to get to the library.” Willow looked around as if expecting another attack.

“No, you need to,” Faith sat up. “Buffy and me should stay and ambush these suckers.” She gestured to the slightly battered corsage on her wrist.

“Faith’s right, we can’t lead them to the school.” Buffy took off her corsage and looked at it thoughtfully. “And if we ditch these things they could just find us later.” She turned to Willow. “Listen, go find Giles and tell him Gorch is back in town, arm yourselves and wait until we’ve dealt with these Die Hard rejects.”

Willow didn’t like her plan. “Buffy...”

“Look, they’re tracking us with these,” Buffy turned the flowers over to show Willow the carefully hidden chip. “We use these to lead them into an ambush, but I need you safe Will, and I need you to go tell the others.”

Willow nodded, determinedly. She was so brave, Buffy thought.

Faith had gotten to her feet. “Best get moving, those guys will’ve realised we ain’t in little bits by now.”

With a last look at Willow the two slayers scampered quickly for the cover of the trees, heading away from the direction of the school. Buffy hoped the Germans would take the bait and follow, because now it was time for some payback.

*****

This is not how Buffy had imagined Homecoming night, up in a tree, half sitting on Faith’s lap. The other girl breathing against her, both bodies tensed, Buffy trying to concentrate on the ambush point below them instead of the feel of Faith against her.

They were both carefully perched above a cross-section of bushes and a couple of fallen trees, Faith had scoped it out and reckoned it looked like a defensibly position that they might hole up in. Buffy had placed their corsages on two nearby branches, hidden with foliage, and waited for the assassins to show.

“Any longer and my butt will fall asleep.” Buffy hissed.

“Want me t’give it a pinch.” Faith whispered in her ear. Buffy glared at her hotly, and tried to suppress the warm shudder that went through her.

“Faith- wrong time, wrong place, wrong person.” But Faith wasn’t listening; she held up her hand and cocked her head. Buffy heard the muted crackle of static, then the rustle of branches being slowly pushed aside. No footsteps or voices- these guys were good.

It was hard to see them in the moonlight, just dim shadows moving in tandem by either side of the tree they’d chosen to hide in. They were three feet from where Buffy had hidden the trackers, just a few more seconds...

Faith leapt, flashing past Buffy as she jumped clear of the tree and landed on the back of one of the shadows, who let out a surprised grunt. Buffy cursed as the other form turned, moonlight catching a glimmer of gun metal as the rifle pointed at Faith.

Buffy threw her stake at him in desperation, as she too jumped off the branch to the ground next to the figure. Her feet struck the ground as the stake caught the arm holding the rifle, the man cursed in German as he lost his grip momentarily and swung around to face Buffy.

The blonde slayer kept low as she rushed him, her left arm knocking the weapon skyward as her right struck him high in the chest. To her surprise he dropped the rifle and pivoted, faster than she expected and struck her round the side of her face with an elbow, then turned her momentum into a hip throw.

Buffy landed with a grunt and barely avoided the knife that came down at her throat, bringing up her hand to catch his wrist. The man was strong and had leverage on his side as he managed to force his hand lower, the black blade glinting sharply.

Buffy, instead of resisting, pulled him down and forward towards her waist as she swept a knee up and struck him heavily in the forehead, with a groan the man rolled away. Buffy flipped to her feet and snapped a look at Faith just in time to see her backhand her assailant before throwing him sideways into a tree.

The other figure came at her again, slower this time, blade weaving back and forth, Buffy didn’t know if that was some tactic or if he was just concussed. Nor did she care; darting towards him she feigned a right before catching his outstretched wrist and twisting it so it snapped. Another solid punch to the jaw and a kick to the chest sent him out for the night.

Buffy breathed out a sigh and turned to the other slayer. “You jumped the gun.”

Faith, who’d been watching Buffy deal with her man while trying to fix her hair, grinned. “Nah, I jumped his ass, and guess what- he’s our friggin’ chauffer.”

Buffy peered at the downed guy. That explains that. “Doesn’t matter, they're down and out. That just leaves the happy couple, but we’re out of weapons- we should head for the library.”

“Lead the way.”

*****

Buffy and Faith made their way down the deserted school corridor, battered and bruised but still alive, Buffy still had a stake but all Faith was holding was her silver flask.

“Jungle-Bob, Spike-head and the Germans are down, that just leaves the vamps.”

Buffy slowed as she got to the library doors, moved quietly over to them and quickly glanced through. She saw Gorch and his trashy wife with their backs to the door, closing in on Willow, Xander, Oz and Cordelia, Giles lay unconscious by the counter.

Buffy brandished her stake and turned to Faith. “Damn, they’re here. You ready?”

“Knew I shoulda grabbed that grenade launcher.” Faith grumbled.

As they both burst through the doors Buffy spoke up to get their attention. “Well, looks like we saved the worst until last.”

Gorch spun round, his face twisting into a grin. “Slayer. Well, you’re right; I am the worst of the lot.” He adjusted his hat and cracked his knuckles.

“Yeah, you really didn’t get my meaning...” Before she could finish Gorch’s wife rushed her, launching a kick in her direction. Buffy was feeling a little tired but she managed to dodge backwards out of the way, seeing Faith cautiously approach Gorch as he loomed over her.

“Hey, y’know what’ll improve your looks?” She held up the flask. “Holy water.” With that she tossed some directly into his face.

Gorch cried out in surprise and pain and clutched at his face, before pulling his hand away. “Wait a sec now, this is liquor.” Then Faith slammed a fist into his face sending him tumbling over the table. Willow and the rest scrambled out of the way as Faith pushed chairs aside and stood over Lyle Gorch.

He looked up at her, dazed. “That dress sure is purty, shows off your...” Faith punched him before he could finish, pounding her fists into his face.

Buffy weathered two ferocious back-hands that spun her head a little before ducking low under a clumsy roundhouse, grabbing the vampire by the hair she and flung her backwards. The blonde crashed against some shelves which collapsed under the impact. Buffy dodged a couple of books thrown her way before stalking closer and punching the stake into the other girl’s chest.

“Faith!” Xander called to the other slayer as he chucked her a broken chair leg. Faith caught it handily as she stood over the battered vampire. “Time to join your brother,” She quickly looked over her shoulder. “And your squeeze.”

“Candy!” Gorch cried out as Faith buried the wood in his chest and dusted him.

Taking a step back Faith looked over at Buffy. “So I guess we win SlayerFest, huh? Do we get a prize or anything?”

Buffy sighed. “Just our lives, Faith.”

“Are you both okay?” Willow went between them to crouch by Giles, who seemed to be coming around.

“Yeah, because you look awful.” Cordelia declared. “I mean really.”

“We’re fine, really. But... I can’t go to the dance like this,” Buffy shrugged helplessly as she looked down at her torn, stained dress. She didn’t feel too hot either, aching all over. Maybe some things just weren’t meant to be.

“Well, you could. You’d be making a statement.” Oz said wryly, stooping to help Giles to his feet.

“Yeah, you could go with the surviving a slasher movie vibe you’ve got going on.” Xander smiled as he looked them both over. “Great timing by the way, any longer and it was about to get pretty messy. By which I mean scattering my limbs across the room messy. So...”

“So that was horrible, let’s go dance. That crown is mine.” Cordelia took Xander’s arm and sauntered out of the library.

Buffy, still feeling a little sore and tired, limped over and leaned against the desk.

Giles was helped over to a chair as he looked over the two slayers. “Well, you both did very well under very trying circumstances. In case you were wondering, I did get your message but alas, I was rather predictably rendered unconscious before I could act.”

Willow nodded. “I got to the school and found Oz and the others here, so we all came here to find Giles, and these guys,” She gestured at the spaces left by the two vamps, “Were here, but luckily we managed to keep them talking for a little while. They really weren’t that smart.”

“Just glad we got here in time to put an end to the Gorch clan. Buffy looked at her watch “Plus there are two terrorists sleeping it off in Miller’s woods. They should be coming round in half an hour or so.”

“Well, I think that’s my cue to inform the police of their location.” Giles steadied himself as he got to his feet. “After that I’ll think I’ll retire for the evening, this whole Homecoming dance isn’t really for me. Goodnight Buffy. Faith.”

Willow looked at Buffy as Giles left. “Are you sure you don’t wanna...?”

Buffy waved her hand. “You two go on, enjoy yourselves. We’re good.”

“Thanks, I’m kinda in the mood for a dance or two.” Willow grinned. “Also for some reason I’m weirdly excited to see Cordelia win, who knew.”

“Well, I’m always excited by weirdness.” Oz remarked dryly. “But, on the downside, titles tend to go to people’s heads. It’s a risk.”

Willow took Oz’s arm as they left the library. “So it’s a good thing Cordelia’s so humble and down-to-earth, huh?”

Buffy found herself alone with Faith and the quiet; she heard the distant sound of music from elsewhere in the school. Never mine, she’d get to have Prom all over again, she could sit this one out.

“Some night, huh B?” Faith remarked with a chuckle. She was busily undoing her messy bun and running her hands through her hair.

Buffy looked down at her dress. “Not so bad. After all the last time I wore something this formal, I died.”

Faith gave her a surprised look. “Harsh.”

“End of the world harsh. But I got over it, the upside is you’re here.” Buffy smiled at the other girl. Tonight hadn’t been as easy as she’d hoped but, in a weird way, it had been a lot more satisfying. Working with Faith, teamwork over competition, watching each others backs, that’s what she would remember from tonight, and that was more important than any dance, or title.

‘Oh my god, I think I had a cheesy “moral of the week” moment. “Working together is always better than competing against each other- and that’s why we triumphed.” I think I’m cracking up.’

Buffy chuckled at the thought.

“What’s up?” Faith was still looking at her.

Buffy shrugged. “Oh, nothing, I’m just thinking about what I’ve learned about tonight.”

Faith frowned. “Limos are evil?”

“Well we knew that.”

Faith grinned. “Explosions are cool!”

Buffy just stared at her.

Faith’s grin faded and she nudged the other girl. “Sorry you didn’t get your dance on, B. You look awesome.”

“You too,” Buffy looked as Faith unscrewed her hip flask and drank from it. “Nice trick with the ‘holy water’ thing, by the way. What made you think of it?”

“Well, you said they weren’t that smart as vamps go,” Faith smirked. “Besides if it didn’t work I woulda just set his head on fire, this stuff is strong.”

Buffy held out her hand, surprised Faith passed her the flask and watched as she tipped her head back and took a long gulp. “Thanks.”

The alcohol made Buffy feel better, or at least a little less achy. The wound on her leg was the sorest part, she reached down and parted the tear in her skirt and examined the wound. Not too deep but long, across the top of her thigh. Buffy pouted- no shorts for a few days but at least it wouldn’t leave a scar.

“Damn, B. That looks nasty.” Faith stood in front of her and squatted down. Putting her hands gently on Buffy’s thigh she gave the wound a closer look. “The dino-demon do this?”

“Yeah, I’m fine though.”

Faith’s hands gently stroked the bare leg around the wound. “You want I should go and get a first aid kit. Patch you up?”

Buffy was suddenly aware of Faith’s touch, surprisingly gentle, on her skin, quite high up her thigh. Aware of her closeness, of her tousled hair and dark eyes looking up at the Buffy.

Buffy shifted nervously as she felt herself warm inexplicably. “No, that’s okay. No need to play nurse Faith...” ‘Nursemaid, I know I meant to say nursemaid!’

“Nurse Faith, huh?” Faith drawled huskily. She chuckled as she stood up. “Gotta say, haven’t tried that one before.”

“You know what I mean.” Buffy was disgusted to hear her voice shake a little, and was her voice really that high?

Faith just stared at her, her eyes dark and torrid. Buffy had seen that look before when things had been heated between them in the past, when they argued, when they’d confronted each other at the docks, even when they had fought at Faith’s apartment. Faith’s eyes had been full of passion then, only now Buffy was beginning to realise what emotion lay behind them...

“Maybe we shouldn’t have had that drink, huh?” Buffy tried to keep her voice light and jokey, things could get awkward otherwise.

Faith shifted a little closer and leaned in. “Feel fine, B.” Her voice sounded a little deeper, huskier. Sexy. Sexy is bad. Faith stroked hands up Buffy’s arms. “You feel fine, too.”

Buffy felt like she couldn’t move, her heart felt very loud in her ears. Faith’s right hand drifted purposely over her shoulder to the back of her neck, seemingly toying with the small hairs there. Buffy could suddenly smell Faith’s aroma as the other girl moved closer, subtle vanilla under some unidentifiable scent like passion fruit or mango, something surprisingly exotic and girly.

Buffy’s face felt hot and her mouth was dry, which made a kind of sense, what didn’t was this whole situation. Girls didn’t affect her like this, girls...

Faith kissed her.

Their lips brushed and despite her mind’s rational protests Buffy didn’t pull away, instead she tentatively pursing her lips against the other slayer's. Buffy melted into the kiss, the feel of Faith’s soft, full lips melding against her own was different to anything she’d experienced. There was a sweetness and tenderness she would’ve never associated with Faith. But behind that, as the kiss deepened and Faith breathed against her mouth, she felt something else, a need, and a rampant roiling passion within the other girl. And she felt the same thing rising up within herself, almost as a mirror image.

Buffy’s mouth opened slightly as Faith’s tongue brushed against her lips, then stroked into the blonde girl's mouth as her kisses became more insistent and hungry.

Buffy lost herself in the warm, wet heat of the other slayer’s mouth, it had been so long, too long, since she’d felt anything like this, like something inside herself tearing loose and making her nervous system feel like it was having a seizure.

Buffy gave a soft ragged moan against the other girl’s mouth, her hands finding their way into Faith’s hair, fingernails scraping against scalp. Buffy felt the other girl’s tongue graze across her bottom lip before capturing and sucking on it as her thigh pressed upwards against the junction of Buffy’s legs and her hand went and cupped Buffy’s breast through her dress.

“Oh my god!” Cordelia cried.

Buffy reacted in an instant, pushing Faith away from herself and sliding back onto the table as she did so, the resulting sound of the table scraping across the floor seemed incredibly loud. The silence that followed, to Buffy anyway, seemed to last far too long.

“Second. I came in second!” Cordelia whined. “I hate this school. They are so...fickle. Those two tramps get joint prize and I get, wait...where is everyone?”

“Dancin’ or gone home, CiCi.” Faith replied huskily. She sounded annoyed.

“Then, what are you two still doing here?” To Buffy’s relief Cordelia seemed to have actually missed...whatever the hell just happened.

Buffy looked at Cordelia over Faith’s shoulder, hoping she didn’t look too flushed. “We, uh, y’know, just had a big fight. Kinda tired. Faith was looking at my...wound.”

Cordelia sighed. “Whatever. I can’t believe I’m getting a ride home in Oz’s van. My life is the worst.” The library door swung shut and they were alone again.

Faith smiled at Buffy and rolled her eyes a little. Then she stepped closer, her hands going back to Buffy’s sides.

“Wait!” Buffy managed to brush the other girl’s hands away before anything happened. “What am I doing?”

“You don’t know? ‘Cause ya kinda acted like you did.” Faith’s tongue flicked across her upper lip in a very deliberate way. Buffy felt a small flicker of desire at the other girl’s action, a flicker she immediately squashed.

“And what are you doing? You with your alcohol...and your wiles.” Buffy jabbed an accusingly, “I know all about your wiles.”

Faith seemed nonplussed, although she was sporting an obscenely cocky grin. “Don’t know what’cha talkin’ ‘bout. We were just...”

“Kissing!” Buffy hissed. She was suddenly so angry at herself. She had a chance here to do things right. No romantic Angel delusions, fine. So she couldn’t hold onto Scott like a normal girl, fine. But she could try someone- anyone else. No complications or heartache. But no, Buffy had to be crazy and difficult and kiss the one person who she shouldn’t kiss.

The girl, who not too long ago had tried to murder her friends, her actual boyfriend, had tried to sell this entire town down the river out of jealousy. And now Buffy was considering...

Buffy shook her head in disgust at herself. “No, Faith. I was kissing you.”

Almost immediately Buffy realised that had come out wrong, that she had sounded way harsher than she’d intended. That her words had been tainted with disgust, disgust she had felt for herself. Faith- this Faith hadn’t done any of those things.

She saw a flicker of hurt in Faith’s eyes as her grin faded. The other girl stepped back and brushed her hair away from her face, her face then twisted into a sneer.

“Hey, I’m real sorry, princess. Guess I gotta know my place right? Ignore all those signals you’ve been puttin’ out. Y’know I pegged you as a tight-ass right from the start, thought if I stuck around long enough you might loosen up.” Faith shook her head like she pitied Buffy.

“Faith, I didn’t mean it like that...” Buffy reached out to the other girl but Faith took a couple of steps back.

“Or maybe your little signs are meant for people you actually like, huh?” Faith turned and walked to the library doors. “I’ll do you a favour; leave some mouthwash out for ya so you can at least get the taste of trash outta your mouth.”

With that she pushed open the door and was gone, brushing passed a slightly bemused looking Xander.

“Hey...and she’s gone.” He turned to look over at Buffy. “Although she wasn’t really the gorgeous brunette I was looking for- have you seen Cordelia around? She stormed off in a homicidal sort of way.”

Buffy shrugged. “She was here a few minutes ago. Her timing really sucked, or maybe that’s just me. Maybe I suck.”

Xander looked at his friend. “Was that a ‘slayers butting heads’ thing that I just missed? Who gets to be top dog? Or, actually, not a dog, something much, much prettier. Like a cat. Head cat, is that a phrase?”

Buffy smiled tiredly at Xander. “Just a long night, that’s all. I’ll give her some space then tomorrow I’ll do a bit of grovelling. Um, Cordelia-she mentioned something about Oz’s van- maybe she’s holed up there?”

Xander nodded in gratitude and then, perhaps sensing that Buffy wished to be alone, he left.

Buffy sighed. Confused, tired and even a little turned on, it was going to be a long trip home. Then awkwardness around Faith until she apologised to the other girl, explained to her that she really did want to be friends. But just to be friends.

Buffy thought back to the kiss. Was that even true? Because that had been some kiss, it was up there with Angel kissing. Which was a happy place Buffy hadn’t visited in a long time.

‘Maybe if I figure out what I actually want, I could tell Faith and then we could be on the same page.’

But what page was that. Friends? Besties? Cuddle-monkey? Sex-poppet? Right now she would happily settle for friend and take it from there.

Buffy slowly got up and walked out of the library. Better than the last dance? She’d spoken too soon.

...continued in Revelations...

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