Ticket To Everything
by Dylan
Rating: NC-17

Disclaimer: These characters do not belong to me, unfortunately. They are the property of Joss Whedon and Mutant Enemy and whoever the hell else owns them. I make no profit from this.
Timeline: Post season 7.
A/N: This is not something I ever thought I would write, but I'm doing it for my girl for Christmas. Happy Christmas, sweetheart :)

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CHAPTER ONE

London to Cleveland. Not a flight I'd like to repeat too often, especially with flight attendants buzzing round my head every five minutes telling me I can't drink. Hell, I had to drink, planes ain't my thing. A big chunk of metal floating around in the sky isn't my idea of safe travel. I get that it's supposed to be safer than driving, but gimmie something attached to the ground any fucking day. At least I wouldn't have far to fall if I had to jump outta the door of a car. I swear, I almost had Giles sew a parachute to my ass just in case.

But I'm here now, driving down the freeway in my nice shiny rental car that smells like second-hand aftershave. They've got no clue I'm coming, except for Kennedy and Will. Ken and me have kept the friendship thing going since SunnyD sank a few hundred feet. She's pretty cool even though she's still a brat. All mouth and no trousers Giles says, and he's got a point. She talks big, but underneath she's just a girl trying to make her mark. I was like that once. I tried to make my mark in all the wrong ways. But that's the past.

I'm living the good life now. Or at least as good as it gets. Giles took me with him back to London about a month after the big fight. They swiped my records an' shit, and gave me a clean slate so I didn't have to go back inside. I didn't ask for it, but Giles didn't seem to wanna let me go. He said I would clear my debt with the Powers That Be better if I was doing what I'm meant to. Slaying. Helping the world survive another day. He had a point so I tagged along.

He set me up in a nice place in London, close to him. Giles is all about building the council back up, but getting it right this time. He doesn't want it the way it was, he just wants enough people around that can deal with all the bad shit in the world that normal folk don't have to think about.

There's little mini-slayers all over now. Popped up everywhere when Willow did her thing with the scythe. They're not as strong as B and me, but they need people to look out for them. Watchers. Can't leave a bunch of girls running around the world feeling the need to look for things that go bump-in-the-night without giving them some tips. Some help.

So I'm Giles' right hand. . .woman. I do the slaying thing in London. Top capital slayer, that's me. And when he needs me to chaperone new slayers or watchers I do my thing. I keep `em safe. It's all cool with me. I get to slay, I get good food, a decent life compared to what I had before. Much better than what I had before.

There's still something missing, though. Can't pretend it's any other way. I have a hole inside me. A big fucking gaping hole that no amount of slaying, eating, clubbing or being the good guy can fill. Every year it stretches bigger, and even though nobody would guess it. . .it's eating me alive.

Three and a half years it's been growing. Three and a half years of waiting. I dunno what I've been waiting for, but that's been me. . .doing my thing, but wanting something else. Wanting it to leap out at me and grab me. Take me in with all my faults and bad habits and want me. Need me. It's a stupid fucking way to think. It'll never happen, no matter how many nights I dream it. And hell, I should be happy with the way things are. I am happy, it's just not complete. That hole won't go away. They tell ya it's better to have loved and lost than never have loved at all. . .well, that's bullshit, especially if you never really got close to what you wanted. What you loved.

It was always just at arms length. Always something in the way. I know she loved too. . .I'm not all-knowing in that department but I know what I felt when she looked at me. When she let herself look at me. We never bridged the gap, though. Got close to it back in Sunnydale before it went bang. Sat in her bed with her talking soft to me instead of shouting, sharing some home truths, sharing more than either of us probably wanted. It would have taken just one word, one look, one touch and everything coulda been different. But I guess neither of us was ready for that. I doubt we're even ready now, but I had to come here. Had to reach out just a little. Plus, Ken invited me for Christmas, practically insisted and sent me the ticket, so I guess it's time to at least get back in the loop. Buffy's loop.

I dunno, maybe we can start over. Maybe this time we can get it right if we're both willing. The thought makes me smile. I can't help it. That thought always makes me smile. Every time we share the dreams. . .hell, I smile all day long. Dreams that don't say anything, yet give me at least a few moments of peace with Buffy. It's always a good day after a Buffy slayer-dream.

I pull the car up outside the house number I've been looking for. Little garden, a porch, big scary door. Kinda reminds me of someplace else. Somewhere gone now. Yanking the keys from the ignition, I take a breath and open the car door. It's not like me to be nervous. I'm not that kinda girl. I haven't been around these people for a while, though. They don't really know me and I don't really know them. The only person I can truly call my friend is Kennedy. It'll be good to see her at least.

We got pretty tight after everything went down. She was misunderstood. Nobody got where she was coming from, but I tried. Saw a lot of myself in her. We've been firm friends since. She knows when I need to laugh, she lets me rant when there's no one else to listen, she gets that sometimes I get down about shit and just need a friend who gives a damn. I didn't have to tell her about what I felt for Buffy, she knew. I guess she got it more from what I didn't say than did. I avoid talking to Ken about Buffy when she calls, but she lets me know that she's doing ok and that's enough for me.

Apparently she went through a bit of a rough time at first, but being Buffy. . .she pulled through. Got her shit together. Kennedy doesn't say much, and I don't ask. I'm grateful for that. She doesn't push me on it even when I know she can tell all I wanna do is know about B and her life. Yeah, Kennedy's a solid friend. She doesn't take shit and doesn't give it, and she knows what I need and when I need it. Kinda makes me wonder why she'd get me to drag my ass all the way over here knowing my Buffy issues, but I trust her. Can't say I trust a lot of people, maybe just her and Giles, so here I am. . .knocking on the door of the house Ken shares with Willow.

I probably wouldn't be stood here if Buffy lived here too, so it's a good job she has her own place. She lives closer to the city center, near Xander. The whole gang in the same city, minus Giles `cause he's in my gang now, and Dawn `cause she's away at college.

Shuffling my feet around on the porch I wait for an answer to my knock, checking myself over for wrinkles and shit. I'd stopped to drop my bag off at the motel I'm staying at, but I didn't change. Maybe I shoulda. Gotta look pretty creased up after the flight.

The door swings open, taking me a little by surprise.

"Faith," Kennedy yells excitedly, as if I didn't know who I was.

"The one and only," I say with a grin.

"Wow, so did not think you'd come," she tells me, shaking her head.

"I never break a promise," I respond, following her into the house so she can shut the cold out behind us.

The place looks good. Not huge, but nice. They've got tacky decorations all over, but I guess `tis the season and all that crap.

"You never promised," Ken points out to me, chuckling as she takes my jacket.

"Yeah, well. . .meant to," I say with a wink.

We just stand and grin at each other for a few moments. Memories lingering in the air of midnight phone calls where I've been there for her and she's been there for me. We've shared a lot of shit over the past few years, and I think neither of us had that kinda friend before.

I chuckle and pull her into a hug before it gets stupid. Not usually a hugger, but hell. . .I think we both deserve it. We just grip tight to each other; thanks for all the times we've laughed, fought, shared a lonely moment when nobody else was around. She's had it rough with Will sometimes, and I've had it rough with myself despite trying to put on a brave front. It's good to just see her, get to give her the hug I'd wanted to so many times from over 3000 miles away.

"Hey, that's my girlfriend yer groping, Miss Grabby-Hands." Willow's playful voice filters in through the moment.

I step back from Ken and we both laugh. I'm so not into Kennedy that way and Willow knows it. It's not like me and Will have become good buds or nothing, but we exchange emails. It's cool between us. The past is the past, and she's a lot more understanding than I ever coulda given her credit for.

"She's a hot chick," I say, patting Kennedy on the shoulder, "but I ain't into brunettes."

We share smiles and chuckles, and I see Willow thinking more about that little line than she probably should. She knows I bat for both teams, but as far as I'm aware she has no clue that the only girl I really ever wanted pitching to me is Buffy.

"It's good to see you," Willow tells me and I can feel the truth in it.

Looking down to my feet for a second I hide the big smile that wants to break free. It's weird. . .but it feels like coming home. I mean, I know they were never my home. Never could hope to be that close. Probably never even wanted to be that close to `em. But right now I feel a little less empty, and it's good.

I give Ken's shoulder a squeeze where I still have my hand on her. "It's good to be here," I say.

Ken smiles genuinely at me and I feel her love. Not the 'lets go get naughty' kind, but the friend kind I've never had. I know Will's happy I came too. I think I made the right decision.

I let go of Kennedy and slip my hands into my pockets, taking a deep breath and letting myself relax. This isn't so bad. No bad feelings, no lingering hatred coming my way. Nothing that's making me feel like I shoulda stayed at home. But then. . .I haven't seen Buffy yet. That could be a whole different story. Guess we'll get to that when I do see her. She's not the reason I'm here, though. Sure she's a big part of it, but not the only part. Hell, even that feels good. . .knowing she doesn't rule my life and my decisions. Doesn't influence me the way she used to. Makes a girl feel kinda liberated. Even if it is pretty much just me fooling myself, I can live with that.

"Yunno, a girl could die of thirst in a joint like this," I say with a smirk.

"Sorry, my bad," Ken says. "What'll it be?"

Before she gets completely through the door to the kitchen I see something pop out from behind it. A little thing, not much higher than Ken's kneecap. Takes me a second to realise it's a kid. Unexpected to say the least.

Willow smiles at my surprise and goes to lift the little brat up, placing her on her hip like she's been doing it for years.

"Faith, meet Lucy," she says, making the kid wave at me.

I go to lift my hand to wave back, but decide not to look like a complete twat so keep it in my pocket instead. Kids, like planes. . .are just not my thing.

"We're babysitting," Willow explains.

Makes sense. Ken never said either one of `em had shot a sprog out.

The kid stares at me and I feel kinda uncomfortable. Like it wants to eat my head, or maybe just get its grimy hands all over me. Her hair is all dark and tight curls, the little dress she has on a mess of sticky chocolate and crumbs. Little hands grabbing at Willow's necklace.

"Tell Faithy how old you are, Luce," Willow tells the kid.

I pull a face at being called Faithy, but I guess kids like that kinda shit.

"Thwee," she says, looking kinda shyly at me then burying her face into Willow's neck. Could be called cute I guess, but I dunno. . .never got it myself.

"Whaddya want to drink, Faith?" Ken calls from the kitchen.

"Something strong," I reply, backing away to sit on the couch as Willow lets the kid down to run around, grumbling about her being too big to carry now.

"We weren't expecting you `till a little later," Willow tells me.

I nod and distract myself by looking at the lights twinkling around the tree, the little star stuffed on top leaning over like it's about to drop off. It's all pretty Christmassy. I was never really into Christmas. Never had much of one as a kid, and I guess the cheery stuff passed me by every year. The only Christmas I'd ever had that meant at least something was the one I almost had with Buffy. Almost being the operative word. That got screwed up just like everything else.

Until Ken sent me the ticket and told me I just had to get to Cleveland for Christmas I was set to spend it alone. Giles has his new girlfriend to hook up with, and the newbie slayers and watchers all have families and shit to go to. It woulda been just like any other year, `cept this year I didn't much feel like being alone again. Took Ken up on her offer after a little persuasion.

"Lucy, don't throw that at. . ." Willow instructs too late.

I duck as a stuffed pink pig goes shooting past my head. Kid's got a hell of a throw, that's for sure. Staring at the little monster I raise an eyebrow and she does the same, at least I think. Her grin could almost be called evil, but I doubt it's the right thing to do to point it out. I just know she's thinking I'd be fun to piss off; I know that look, I had the same one when I was a kid. They used to call me evil too, even back then.

"Her dad thinks she's a little angel, but we know better. She likes to see you get angry. It's comical to her," Willow informs me, giving me a telling nod.

Makes me wonder why she's looking after the kid if it's that bad. I mean, who the hell would babysit the spawn of hell if they didn't have to? The spawn edges closer and I'm wondering if it would be obvious if I got up and moved. Willow's putting back the phone the kid just knocked to the floor, maybe she wouldn't notice if I tied her to the Christmas tree with the lights to keep her from getting too close with those sticky hands.

"Mommy has prettier hair than you," the kid tells me as she creeps along the edge of the couch all coy-like and ready to strike.

Great, I'm being insulted by a three year old.

"Yeah, well. . .I bet I got nicer ti. . ."

"Faith!" Willow yelps, cutting me off. "We don't say words like that in front of Lucy."

Never hurt me as a kid. Though, that's probably not entirely true. I think one of my first words was "Fuck".

"Sorry," I mumble.

I wonder where the hell Ken is with my drink. I mean, how long does it take to get a girl a beer? I'm practically dying of thirst here. I go to stand, thinking I'd better go look for the drink myself, but before I can move I get a leg full of kid. Lucy decides clinging onto me might be fun, but I can't see the reasoning behind that one.

"Um," I say, trying to shake her off.

"I think she likes you," Willow giggles from her seat opposite.

Sure, it's fine for her to sit there giggling, she doesn't have a chocolate covered imp stuck to her leg.

"Ken?" I shout towards the kitchen. "How's that drink coming?"

"Coming right up, just trying to find the bottle opener," she calls back.

"Maybe find something that'll prize this kid off me while you're at it," I shout to her. "I'm gettin' all kindsa weirded out."

Seriously. I just don't get the kid thing. They're like. . .little people but much more evil and nasty. And this one's looking up at me like I have the answer to everything she wants to know. Pretty scary shit. I don't have the fucking answers, and I sure as shit don't know anything about stopping her from wailing if she decides that's what she wants to do.

I look pleadingly over to Willow and she grins and chuckles. "Lucy," she says finally, "leave Faith alone. Mommy'll be here soon and you don't want me to tell her you've been naughty."

Gotta love the psychology crap you can pull on a kid. Making everything turn into a possibility that Mom might get mad. Never worked on me of course, I did stuff all the more, just wanted attention. The more it pissed people off, the more I did it. Thankfully little Lucy here isn't like that and she lets go, at least enough for me not to feel like she's trying to yank my leg off.

Her hands are still on me and she's still looking up with those big brown eyes, her mind probably coming up with all kindsa ways to hurt me or make me as covered in sticky goop as her. I narrow my eyes at her, a little warning look, but fuck me if she doesn't do it right back. Little bastard's a tough one that's for sure.

"Don't worry, Buffy won't be long, Faith," Willow tells me.

At first I dunno why she's telling me that, but the little kid's eyes sparkle with the mention of her name. It can't be. No way. I look over at Willow then back to the kid, mouth open, not knowing what the hell to say.

"Wait," Willow says, scratching her head, "you did know didn't you?"

I shake my head no. I didn't know. Had no fucking clue. A little piece of info Ken obviously kept from me, probably to protect me from being hurt. Well it certainly hurts right now. Hurts to be so far out of the loop you don't even know the girl you've been crazy in love with since the age of sixteen had a baby.

I can feel my chest getting all tight. I don't like the feeling. It's one I haven't had for a while. Not since the night I left to go to England, watching Buffy wave with the others as the cab pulled out. Her eyes locking on mine. My mind playing tricks with me and making me believe she was crying a little. A small tear. At least some sadness. Seems like forever ago.

"I didn't. . ." I start to say, my voice shaking despite the fact I'm trying to keep it together. "Who's the. . ?" I can't get the word out.

Kennedy comes back through from the kitchen, looking suitably sorry for herself. Yeah, her and me need to talk about this that's for sure.

"Her father's Robin," Ken tells me.

I laugh. I actually fucking laugh, `cause it's just that weird. I mean, come on. . .Buffy has a baby I've known nothing about for three years and it turns out she's shacked up with Robin, a guy I fucked on and off for nearly a month before leaving. Gotta say, life knows how to get me on the back foot, every time.

Looking down at the kid I watch as she gets a worried little look in her eye, lip coming out in a classic Buffy-pout. She's got most of Robin's looks but that pout is definitely all Buffy. It's all too real. Too much for me to process right now.

Edging away I choke back the tears that want to fall. I won't cry. . .not after so long. What right do I have? So Buffy has a life. She's all loved up and raising kids and all the shit she probably always wanted. I shouldn't get upset at that, it's not like I ever had a chance with her or ever could. I guess it's just hard getting smacked in the face with it full force without being prepared. I definitely wasn't prepared for this.

"I'm gonna go," I say quietly, hardly recognising my own voice.

"Faith, I'm sorry. . .I didn't think. . ." Ken says, her words losing the flow as I lift the kid away from me and hand her to Willow.

The kid. Fucking Buffy's kid. It's fucking surreal and crazy and I just wanna grab hold of the little thing and hug it, `cause it's Buffy's yunno? A part of her.

But I don't, I grab my jacket and shut out what Willow's saying to Kennedy. Shut out what Kennedy's saying to me. I just can't hear it right now, I need to go away and deal with this. I need to get rid of the stupid fucking idea that me and Buffy could ever have something more. . .once and for all.

CHAPTER TWO

I slam my motel door shut, and instantly head for the fridge. I need a drink. A big one that'll burn on the way down and maybe, hopefully make me forget what just happened. I mean shit. . .Buffy has a kid? And to Robin? That's just too much info for me to take in. I wanna know why and how, but I also don't wanna know. I wanna bury my head in the sand, maybe go back home and pretend like I didn't see it with my own two eyes and hear it with my own two ears.

A part of me guessed that she'd probably found a new guy, settled down even, but most of me just wouldn't think it. I couldn't think it. If I kept pretending that one day. . .one fucking day we could have something, then I knew I could get by. Stupid of me. Really stupid.

It's not like I had my own life on hold. I hook up when I feel like it, but I've also never settled. Never stuck with one person too long when I knew all I wanted was her. The girl that keeps popping up in my dreams. Not just any dreams, fucking slayer-dreams we both have a hand in. Makes me wonder why she showed up so often in them now. Was she just fucking with me?

The dreams are never quite how I want `em to be, there's no getting hot an' naked together, but they're nice. Just us two, out having a picnic, or maybe just walking along a beach. Me and her just being together. We don't speak. We don't do much at all, but they gave me hope. Now I'm wondering what the fuck it was all about. Almost three years of sharing at least one dream a month. It'd kinda kept me going.

I slump down onto the bed, drink in hand, the brown liquid looking like some kinda relief at least. I throw my head back and swallow. I can't let this get to me. I can't let it drag me down; I just need to take a night to deal with it. I know why Ken didn't tell me and I can't blame her for it. She was looking out for me, didn't want me to lose sight of who I am and what I'm doing in the world. My life shouldn't revolve around Buffy and I guess she was trying to ensure it didn't. Hell, it didn't revolve around Buffy while I was in London. I was doing my own thing. Making my own mark. I just gotta remember that and not how much all at once Buffy can make me feel.

She always got to me. Always.

Kicking my boots off I lay back on the bed and flick the TV on by the remote. It's a pretty nice room. Much nicer than the flea-pit motel back in SunnyD that's for sure. Maybe I came up in the world and didn't know it. At least that's something; I'm not stuck back there, wondering who the fuck I am and what the hell I'm doing. I do have a place in the world and it's a pretty fucking good place. Yeah, I feel empty inside and can't ever seem to fill that up, but I can live with that. I have been living with that.

I run a hand through my hair and think about getting another drink. That'd be the easy option; drinking myself stupid so I don't have to deal. That'd be what I used to do. What I've done too often. Not this time. . .I'm stronger than that now. Still doesn't make me want just one more, though. I pick the little bottles up that I threw beside me and climb off the bed, shoving them back in the fridge. Not this time.

Taking my cell phone from my jacket pocket and putting it on the bedside cabinet I notice Ken's left me at least three text messages. I should read them. At least give her the chance to apologise. But not tonight. I'm tired. Fucking dog tired, whatever that means. Guess the flight caught up with me already, not to mention the shock. I ignore the flashing mail icon on the screen and take my pants off. Things always feel better without pants on. My tight boi shorts almost pass as normal shorts and I guess sleeping in my now completely creased top won't matter. . .it's already shot to shit.

Gotta try not to think everything's shot to shit, though. I can't keep expecting what ain't gonna happen. Tomorrow I'll give Ken a call and we'll be cool, `cause that's what we are, no matter what. And I'll see B and her kid, and Robin. . .and it'll be fine. I can cope. I don't have to let my life slide into the crapper again for her. I don't need to do that. Sure, it's not making me dance for joy, and I know the big empty inside me is always gonna be that way now, but that's life. That's life when you love somebody you can never have.

It's not exactly late enough to sleep, but I figure if I lay and watch TV for a while I'll drop off pretty quick and get to a new day feeling more positive. I throw the covers back on the bed and make sure there's no gross stuff inside before flinging them back into place and going to get washed up. Pulling my toothbrush and stuff outta my bag, I keep telling myself I'll be ok. Chanting the words in my head to set myself straight.

Just as I'm about to make my way into the bathroom I hear a knock on the door. I'm pretty sure I paid with the right card so hopefully it's not an unfriendly visit from the manager. I throw my toothbrush onto the bed and go to answer the door. Standing a little behind it, wary but not feeling any tingles of the demon variety, I pull it open just enough to see through the gap. What I see leaves me kinda stunned. Then I'm left kinda pushed outta the way as a crazy little three year old comes crashing through the door, yelling my name over and over.

Lucy jumps right onto the bed, bouncing up and down like a maniac. I raise an eyebrow and turn back to the now open door. I can't find the words to greet her. I think my brain fell outta my ass or something.

"Hey," she says, a little smile filtering through to me.

I look her over, like it's instinct or something, and damn does she look good. She's fucking stunning. More so than I even remember. Long blonde hair all cute and sexy at the same time, her eyes hitting every part of me like nobody else ever could. It takes me two seconds to figure out I'm still head over heals for her, less than that to know for sure I want her just as bad.

"Hey, B," I finally say, quietly, forcing my voice not to tell her too much about what I'm feeling.

Instantly the brat starts yelling "B, B, B," over and over with every bounce. I chuckle and shake my head. She's got a real handful there, that's for sure.

"Sorry," Buffy tells me. "Willow always gives her way too much sugar."

Remembering my manners I motion for her to come in. "Yeah, I get like that too after too much candy," I say with a wink.

She laughs a little and shakes her head. I've fucking missed that little chuckle and the way she looks at me like I'm crazy. Makes me wanna scoop her up into my arms and hold the fuck outta her. Then maybe fuck her senseless. . .but I can't think that way. Especially not now.

I glance down at her hand to see if she's wearing a ring, but I don't see one. Still, could be that she just doesn't wear it in case it gets lost while she's slaying.

"Kennedy told me where you were staying," Buffy says, looking around the room then letting her eyes linger on me. "Sorry, were you just going to bed?"

I shake my head no but tell her, "Yeah." Her eyes sliding all over my body like that isn't the best way to make me be comprehensible. She seems to realise how she's looking at me and quickly turns away.

See, things like that confuse the fuck outta me. Always has. She gives me these little clues, these signs. I see the want in her eyes, fuck it. . .I see the love, but then it gets cut off, like she won't allow herself to think it. Like she can't bring herself to believe in it. It's always screwed with me and it makes me push, which just makes her back off even more. I always felt like I was chasing her. Chasing the little things she'd do or say to make me feel like there's more we could be. I never caught her, though. Couldn't hope to after all I did to her.

"You look. . .good," she says softly, turning back to me again.

I want to tell her she looks amazing, but I don't wanna come off as creepy. If I knew she was single I'd try flirting with her a little, test the water, but as far as I know she's not.

Having closed the door, guessing she wants to stay a little while with the fact she's now sitting down on the edge of the bed, I shift my bag off the chair and take a seat. It feels kind of awkward, sitting across from Buffy, noticing how she's trying not to catch my eye too much or look my way for too long. . .as all the while her demon spawn ruffles up my bed covers and starts rummaging through the bedside cabinets.

"Nobody told me you were coming," she says, meeting my eyes for just a second before looking away to the TV.

I try to hold the hurt back at being left in the dark, but it comes out just a little. "Nobody told me you had a kid and were playing happy families with Wood," I say, wishing it hadn't sounded so harsh.

She furrows her brow and starts playing with a thread hanging from the comforter.

"Yeah, Ken just told me you didn't know," she says. "I didn't know you didn't know." I try to decipher what she meant and she continues. "I thought she woulda told you, but I guess. . .she didn't huh."

I shrug and shake my head. "I had no clue, but I get why she didn't say anything," I say.

"She wouldn't tell me why she didn't say anything," Buffy lets me know, probably wondering about it in that pretty little head of hers. "But I guess it doesn't matter. I mean, you know now."

"Yeah," I say, a little break in my voice giving me away.

Fuck, it hurts to know she's got the perfect life and I'm not in it. Not part of it. Not causing it. Crazy of me to think it could ever be that way, but a girl's gotta have hope. That's all I really had with her and I guess that's gone for good now.

"You didn't get in touch," Buffy says, her eyes meeting mine again.

"Neither did you," I respond.

I can see this going on a while, the back and forth but not getting anywhere. It's how we are. Going round in circles until we're too dizzy and sick to stand the sight of each other any more.

She nods and I rub my fingers over the back of my neck. Lucy spots my toothbrush on the bed and hurls herself at it, grabbing it and making it fly round herself like an aeroplane. Shoulda packed a spare I guess.

"Luce, put that down, it's not yours," B tells her, but she pays no attention. "Get your butt over here and gimmie that," she says firmer.

The kid sticks out her tongue and then plops my toothbrush right in her mouth. "Mine now," she says around it.

I can't help but laugh as Buffy sighs and rubs at her forehead.

"You sure she's yours an' Robin's?" I ask, still chuckling. "I'm thinking there has to be some kinda demon DNA kicking around in there too."

Buffy smiles and looks my way again. "No demon. She's just like I was as a kid. . .a total nightmare," Buffy explains. "It's not as easy being a single parent as I thought either. I mean, Robin helps out a lot. He takes her every other weekend, and sometimes during the week if I'm going crazy. . .but it's still a lot to handle with the slaying and the fact she's a complete terror."

I sit and blink. What did she just say?

"Single parent?" I say slowly. "But I thought. . ."

She looks at me puzzled, then realises I didn't know that either.

"I guess you didn't get that memo either," she says, sounding kind of exasperated. "I'm not with Robin. Never really was with Robin to be honest," she tells me, but stops as Lucy jumps beside her, yanking on her arm.

"Are you talking about daddy?" the kid asks. "I wanna see daddy."

"You're seeing him tomorrow, now let mommy and Faith talk, ok, baby?" Buffy asks softly. She picks the kid up and puts her on the floor, looking from the TV to me. "How about you watch TV," she says to Lucy, standing and motioning for me to get out of my seat.

I get to my feet and sidestep outta the way as she does her mom thing, setting the kid up on the chair and pushing it round to face the TV. It's kinda weird seeing Buffy like that. I mean to me she'll always be the girl I fell in love with years ago, but she's changed. She's grown up and responsible for this little person. It's kind of a mind fuck, but hey. . .we all change, and at least she's single.

"There isn't any porn on this is there, Faith?" Buffy asks me, about to hand the remote to Lucy.

"Not that I know, B, didn't go looking," I reply, for once not trying to find the innuendo I could use on her.

She hands it to the kid and leaves her to flick around the channels as she chews on my toothbrush. Pointing towards the top of the bed, Buffy herds me that way and I get the hint. I sit by the pillows facing her as she plops down and sits in front of me.

"Do you want me to tell you what happened?" Buffy asks, finally not trying to keep from looking in my eyes too long.

Do I want her to tell me? I dunno if I do. She doesn't owe me explanations, and I can't ask her to give up her secrets to me. It's kinda surprising that she's offering to tell me anything at all. We didn't part as best friends and we haven't spoken for over three years, so she has no obligation to tell me shit. I shrug, but nod just a little anyway.

She takes a deep breath, looking out of the window for a second before looking at me completely openly.

"I guess - given our history - I don't really need to tell you everything, or anything. . .but that doesn't feel right," she tells me. "Despite the fact we haven't spoken and were never exactly close, I want you to know."

I nod again, more firmly. Letting her know I get it. Of course I get it. We share something we've never told each other about. It's not all in my head like I used to think it was; it's here, it's there in her eyes.

"When you left. . ." she pauses and I know now how much it musta hurt her for me to go before we gave each other more of a chance, "I kinda went off the rails a little, or that's what Will calls it. It was more a case of just letting go for once. Being less than expected of me. I didn't go as far as I did during the whole 'Spike nightmare', but it was close. I was doing what I wanted without thinking about anybody else."

"I know all about that one, B," I say softly, knowing I've done that my whole life.

"We stayed on in LA for a while, and Robin was around a lot," she continues. "He's basically a good man, and. . .when I was finding the fun I kinda swept him up in that with me. We were together only a few times, but I guess we weren't as careful as we should have been. Nine months later and bingo. . .I get Lucy."

She smiles despite the fact the poor kid obviously wasn't planned, but I furrow my brow, trying not to think of her and Wood together. It's hard, though. She's all I want, all I think about like that. . .kinda makes me wanna find him and hurt him.

"Didn't think you two were that close," I say. "Last I knew you didn't much like him after he tried to off Spike then helped to get you kicked from top slayer spot before the fight."

"Yeah, it kinda threw me too, but. . .he was just there," Buffy says quietly, her fingers pulling at the end of her sleeve. "If I'm being honest - and I want to be with you this time - there's more to it."

She stops and turns to see what junior's up to. The remote is hanging limply in her hand, toothbrush now on the floor where it dropped from her mouth, and she's fast asleep. I guess she's kinda cute when she's all quiet and unconscious. Buffy turns back to me, apprehension making her look just a little scared.

"You understand the dreams we share, right? I mean, you get what they mean," she says, her eyes searching mine.

I stop and think about it for a second. I'm pretty sure I know what they mean. It's our way of being together without all the baggage. Like I said, they're not all intimate and sexy, but they're pretty fucking obvious even though nothing happens in `em.

"I think so," I respond, being cautious, not wanting to push it.

"Then hopefully this won't totally freak you out. It is kinda freaky and I was definitely freaked with it myself but. . ." she takes a breath. "When you left, Robin was kinda pining over you, and. . .I guess I wanted to share in that with somebody. I'd never really admitted to myself how much I like you and I wasn't about to go telling anybody," she says, her voice starting to shake just a little out of nervousness.

"You can tell me, B," I reassure, trying not to let the grin slip out having heard her say she likes me.

"I wanted to feel closer to you, and you were with him before you went. . .and yeah, I know, it's freaky," she chuckles, not hiding her nerves now. "I could talk to him about you, and. . ." she checks to make sure the kid's still asleep before continuing, "when we had sex it wasn't him I was thinking of, it was you."

I feel my heart kinda skip over a few beats, and try to process what she just said. I coulda sworn she just admitted she wants me. Like, really wants me.

"I'm a giant freak," Buffy says, hiding her face behind her hand.

I make her move her hand back down and tell her, "No you're not." I pause for a second, just looking at her before letting it all totally sink in. This is pretty surreal, and hell. . .I guess it is kinda freaky. "Seriously though, B, if you'd wanted my goodies you coulda come right to the source. The guy's got skills, but they're nothing compared to mine," I say with a grin I can't hold back any longer.

She chuckles and swats at my arm playfully.

"I wasn't ready for that. Besides, you left before I could finally deal with it," she points out.

I'd left as soon as Giles asked me `cause I thought it was for the best. I had no illusions that Buffy was suddenly gonna give me the come on and we'd get down an' dirty. Hell, if she had I don't know if I was ready for any kinda relationship back then. It probably woulda turned to shit before the sheets were cold.

"Had a lotta bad memories to get away from," I tell her.

"I know, Faith," Buffy says, placing her hand on my arm.

It's just a small touch, doesn't even mean anything really. . .but it's fucking everything right now. We're not fighting, we're understanding each other. She's not hitting me, she's just touching me.

"Anyway, that's the Robin and Buffy story," Buffy says with a shrug. "And it's about time I got Lucy home to bed."

"Right," I respond, still trying to process everything. Trying to figure out where I stand now. Where we stand.

She moves her hand from my arm and smiles at me when I look up into her eyes.

"I hope we can be ok," she says, almost too quiet to hear.

"Course we can, B. . .if that's what you want," I tell her.

I want more than ok. I want it all, but I'm not gonna make her run scared from me. I need to work out what it all means in my own brain before I start asking her where we're headed, if anywhere. For all I know right now she's not into me like that anymore. . .though I'm almost certain that ain't so. She can't hide what I see in those green eyes. And the dreams tell me everything she doesn't. We'll be ok. More than ok.

"It is what I want," she reassures me, standing and stretching her legs out before turning to the kid. "But things are kinda complicated right now so. . .I don't know where we go from here, if you want it to go anywhere."

She sounds so small, fragile and unsure. I can't ask her to make me promises or tell me what she wants. All I can do is let her know I'm here when she wants it. That's not me being whipped or wrapped round her finger or any other shit, it's me not being able to do anything but love her. I'll wait forever `cause it's all I can do. I don't have a choice. She's the only thing that can fill the space inside me.

Despite the fact this is the first time we've spoken since I left, it feels like we're kinda on the same page. Like we can progress instead of slide back.

"We'll work it out, B," I say. "Pretty sure you know how I feel, we're not kids now. . .and it ain't changing any time soon."

She looks up at me through her eyelashes, her sweet smile melting all my cold parts as she tells me, "Thanks for letting me know that."

We move to the front door and Buffy asks me to pick the kid up so she can go open her car. I look at her like she's crazy at first, but I know she won't take no for an answer. I stare down at the kid as she sleeps, some of Buffy's features clearly visible in amongst Robin's. Kinda wish I'd been around when she was born, even though babies are all pretty much the same wrinkly poop-machines. I just love Buffy, and I guess that means her sprogs get some of that too. . .by default or something. I would never tell anyone, but it probably means I'm gonna get a huge soft spot for the terror.

I slip my feet back into my boots and lean down to pick Lucy up awkwardly, not knowing how the hell to do it right. I mean, I don't wanna go throwing her around like a sack of potatoes. Hearing Buffy chuckling at me from the door ain't helping either.

"Hey, it's not like I do this a lot, or at all," I grumble, carrying the kid outside as I follow Buffy to her car.

She opens the back door and points to the seat she wants me to drop the kid in. I lean in and put her down. She hardly even moves, just kinda whimpers at me as I fix the seatbelt round her. Before I pull away I stop for a second, moving a stray curl from her eyes. Yeah, I'm pretty sure there's no demon in her, just a lot of Buffy.

"Thanks," Buffy tells me, opening her own door but stopping before getting in.

I stand upright and shut the back door, moving just a little closer to Buffy. Just gazing at her and wondering how she manages to look more beautiful every time I see her. I smile, the cute dimpled one that makes a little twinkle appear in her eyes. It never fails.

"Guess we'll see each other tomorrow or something," she says, looking deep into me, so many things being said without saying them. "I'm glad you came."

She looks like she's about to get into the car, but she stops and steps close to me. Before I can tell what she's doing her hand is on my cheek, holding me soft and sure, her lips suddenly over mine giving me the most tender kiss I've ever felt. My eyes slam shut, my whole body burning up as she presses her lips to me then slowly pulls away.

It only lasted a second, and I didn't get chance to pull my brain outta the clouds to kiss her back, but fuck. . .that was the best damn kiss of my life. I've waited years for that. For her to give it to me. There's been times I coulda jumped on her and taken it, but I only ever wanted her to want to give it to me.

She smiles shyly and I'm pretty sure I must look totally spazzed out `cause she just gets in her car and drives away. I watch her go, snow starting to fall around me, landing on my shoulders and obscuring my view of her taillights as she leaves. I look up when I can no longer see them, the air filled with white, the sky looking like somebody threw a big blanket over it. As I smile, the flakes land on my lips, cooling me where she'd just set me on fire.

I didn't think it was possible, but I swear I just fell even more in love with her. Despite the fact it threw me for a loop at most points, today was a pretty fucking good day.

Chuckling to myself I look down and realise I'm stood around in panties and boots, probably looking kinda weird and dazed. I feel weird and dazed. More than that. . .I feel like I got my hope back.

CHAPTER THREE

Feels like I spent all night floating around somewhere near the ceiling. Seeing Buffy, her words, the kiss. . .it all got me high. I'm not stupid enough to think everything's just gonna go my way now, but I'm smart enough to realise we've both changed. We've got an opportunity here to get it right for once. It might never happen again, so I'm gonna do my fucking best not to screw it up. It's her show, I'm gonna have to just go with the flow.

I've never been great at following. It feels better when I'm in the driving seat, knowing where I'm headed and what I have to do to get there. But with Buffy it's always been different. When I've tried to take the lead in the past it's blown up in my face. She's more stubborn than anybody I've ever known. Even more stubborn than me.

Everything feels different now. We talked without fighting; without falling back behind our defensive lines. She didn't come out guns blazing, and I didn't put up a wall she'd never have a chance at climbing. And she fucking kissed me. Buffy Summers fucking kissed me. I shouldn't be getting all spazzed about it, it's not like I haven't been kissed a thousand times by more people than I care to remember, but it was her. . .her lips, her hand on my cheek. I don't know what it meant, but yeah. . .everything feels different.

I smile to myself as I knock on Kennedy's door. We're spending the day doing the bonding thing. It's Christmas Eve so I'm betting that might include lotsa wrapping last minute gifts and trying not to drink all the eggnog. Shit, I hope they don't have eggnog, that stuff is wicked gross.

Buffy and the kid are coming over later, but apparently they're having their Christmas day thing with Robin and his family today. They take it in turns, or so Ken told me on the phone earlier. Last year Buffy spent Christmas Day with Robin and his folks, this year she gets to spend it with her family, or at least the family that's here. Xander's visiting his old man; seems he's not too well and Xan wanted at least one last Christmas with him. Dawn is all grown up and doing the vacation thing with friends, having Christmas in the Caribbean. That just leaves me, Buffy and Luce, Ken and Will together this year. Suits me, it's not like I'm used to big family Christmases

I'm kinda glad Robin isn't gonna be dropping by. He lives in Cleveland now to be closer to his daughter, but. . .I don't think I'd wanna sit beside him and do the 'merry merry' thing. He's a good guy, but he got the girl of my dreams knocked up. Kinda makes me itchy, and not in a good way. Not that ever being itchy is all that good.

I'll be heading back to the motel later `cause B and the kid are taking the spare room here for the night, but then I'll be back in the morning so we can do the Christmas thing together. Sounds weird, to me at least. I mean, the fact I'll be with people that give a damn about me, that actually want me there, is kind of a head trip. I never got what I wanted on Christmas before. Never. Not even close. So this year my fingers are crossed that I'm owed; that I'll get something. . .someone I really want.

"Hey, Faith," Ken says kinda sheepishly when she opens the door.

We straightened some things out on the phone this morning, but I know she still feels bad. Bygones though, right? You can't hold onto shit, especially when she was just doing what she thought was best. She wanted to protect me. It was kinda dumb, but I can't hold that against her. I've done lotsa dumb shit. It happens.

"Hey," I say back, giving her a warm smile. "New look?" I ask when I notice she's covered in bits of tinsel and ribbon.

"Yeah, thought I'd try it out. It's called the Christmas-made-me-crazy look," she answers, storming back into the living room, dropping ribbon behind her like a trail.

I close the front door and follow, chuckling when I see the mess she's made of the living room. Last minute wrapping. I knew it.

"Wanna hand?" I ask, trying not to laugh as she sits back down on the floor, tossing an odd shaped box around in her hands as she tries to wrap it and cover all the pointy bits.

"How about twelve, and maybe a diploma in engineering," she responds, sighing.

"Gimme that." I take the thing from her hands and sit opposite. "You just gotta think all logic like," I tell her.

"Right," Ken nods, watching me.

Pulling out a huge ream of wrapping paper, I twist it over and around the thing about six times until it's completely covered. I get the tape and start at one end, wrapping it right round too so no fucker's gonna get into it without a chainsaw or something. Still looks like shit, but at least it's covered. No way could you tell what the hell it is or find an uncovered edge. I have skills.

"Great, Faith. . .now it looks like I bought Will a huge, squished piece of crap," Ken tells me, shaking her head but still chuckling.

"Trust me," I say, "she's not gonna care how the outside looks `cause she's gonna be having too much fun trying to get into it."

We both laugh and Kennedy hands me a glass of something weird looking.

"Nog?" she asks.

"Fuck no," I tell her, pulling a face.

"Yeah, I guess it does taste like shit. How about beer?"

"Now you're talking," I say, jumping to my feet and heading for the kitchen. "You want?"

"Sure. . .anything to get the taste of nog outta my mouth," Ken calls from the living room as I root around in the fridge. "Seriously, eggs should not be drunk. It's just not right."

"Why the hell were you drinking it then?" I ask, carrying two ice cold Buds back to the room.

"Willow bought it. She wanted to give me a proper Christmas this year, what with her being Jewish an' all," she replies.

"So you were drinking it even though she's out?" I say with a chuckle. "Talk about whupped, Ken."

"Hey, I'm not whupped just. . .thoughtful," she responds, chuggin down half the bottle of beer as I do the same. "Besides, you'll be the same. Buffy'll get you wrapped around her finger in no time."

I raise an eyebrow as Ken continues to make a mess of her wrapping.

"What makes you think she even wants me around her finger?" I ask, grinning to myself as the innuendo hits home.

"TMI, Faith," Ken tells me. "And you know she does. Surely you can see it. She's crazy about you, and she doesn't wanna mess it up this time."

I try to understand what she's saying, but it's not really making sense. I mean, I didn't think B would tell anybody about the way she feels, if she really does feel that way. Has she been spilling her guts to people and not letting me in on it? Fuck knows. Ken knows something, though. Or at least she thinks she does. She's never talked about this with me before. Never told me outright that she knows or suspects Buffy's into me the way I want her to be.

"Whaddya mean, Ken?" I ask. "How can you say she's crazy about me?"

"Weird, I know," she says. "I know you're head over heels for her, but I didn't think she liked you beyond wanting to get in your pants, but. . .the past few months it's gotten real clear it's more."

"Whoa, hold up, Ken," I say, placing my bottle down on the table and sitting on the edge. "Back up. . .tell me how the hell you know she wants to get in my pants."

I'm pretty sure I know it's true, but unless Buffy's being sharing her secret with everybody I got no clue how Ken got to that conclusion.

"Come on," she says, laughing like I'm being stupid. "It's always been obvious. The way she looked at you. The way she tried her best not to get too close to you. The things she said. I noticed. I'm good at reading people, you know that," she tells me, smiling at me before taking a drink.

Yeah, I know that, she had me pegged from the get go. She's one of those people persons, or maybe her gaydar is just better than most. Whatever it is, I know it's gotta be something if she noticed Buffy was into me. Whatever B was doing. . .it wasn't just me seeing it.

"So what makes you think it's more?" I ask.

"Like I said, the last few months she's been dropping these big hints. I don't even know if she knows she's doing it," Kennedy explains. "She's lonely though, I know that for sure. Her eyes only ever light up when she talks about you, and she's been talking about you a lot."

"Yeah?" I ask, kinda grinning and feeling warm inside.

"Yeah," Ken chuckles. "She's got it bad for you, and I think she's only just realised how bad. That's kinda the reason I asked you to come, yunno. . .besides thinking it was high time we hung out other than over the phone."

"I'm glad you got my sorry ass here, Ken," I tell her, clunking my bottle against hers before downing the last of it. "Never thought she woulda come round, though. Thought I'd always be chasing the idea of us and never get to have it."

"I think she's ready," Ken says, smiling up at me.

I hope she's ready. I know I am. I wanna be with Buffy, not just for the fucking amazing sex I know we could have, but for keeps. Her by my side, fighting the nasties with me, loving me the way I love her, getting to do all the things we should always have been doing with each other. And to each other. I can't get myself all worked up over it, though. I know where that gets me: disappointed. Every time in the past when I thought she was gonna pull the stick outta her ass and get with me, she let me down. It always messed with my head. Sent me into a spiral, like I was falling but knew she'd never catch me.

Sounds dumb. All that romantic crap you read about and see in films. . .it never applied to me. Not before Buffy at least. I never fell, never loved, never wanted it, but she came along and fucked with that. I fell so hard and fast I couldn't stop. I still can't stop. All I have to do is think about her, or see her. I get this feeling in my stomach, like I've eaten a fucking bear and it's trying to rip its way outta me, busting me up inside with how much I want her. With how much I want her to want me.

I know now that Buffy feels something for me. Like she said. . .it's all in the dreams. I dunno if I could go all out and call it love. I think it is. Pretty sure it's love I see in her eyes. Still, I gotta keep control of this. No way do I wanna come off looking stupid or like a fool. It's up to Buffy to let me know for sure.

Me and Ken spent the rest of the afternoon finishing the wrapping and clearing up. She got dinner started and Red came back not too long after. I think she stayed out as long as she could so Ken and me could spend time alone. I'm glad `cause we had fun. We laughed about all the shit we've been doing, told slaying stories, which turned into a pissing contest like it normally does, and we lazed about and drank a few bottles of beer. It's about the most sane and nice Christmas Eve I've had so far, and it's only set to get better when Buffy gets here.

Just as I'm coming down the steps from the bathroom Buffy walks in, Lucy skipping into the living room like a maniac ahead of her. I can't help but smile as soon as I see her, my lips remembering just what hers felt like on them.

"Hey," Buffy says, looking at me all shy.

She looks completely adorable. Edible even.

"Hey yourself," I say back, not hiding my smile as I step down off the last step.

Buffy looks me over and moves a little closer, looking like she wants to reach out to me. Hell, I'm right here for her to reach out to. I wouldn't be objecting anytime soon. Something stops her though, and she settles for giving me that half smile and making her way into the living room. I follow her through, and the rest of the evening is just perfect. Well, except for the fact Lucy's taken a liking to me and won't leave me alone for two minutes.

I get climbed on for most of the evening as Buffy watches me, catching my eye whenever she can. I keep asking her to tie the kid up but she just laughs at me. I think she's enjoying it. . .taking some kinda pleasure in the fact it feels like I'm being tortured. I guess the kid is kinda sweet when she wants to be, but the rest of the time she's doing her best to see how far she can push me; asking for stuff, making me open stuff, pulling at my clothes, sticking candy to my pants.

It's been a cool time, though. Just chillin' and watching movies. Talking about stuff that ain't gonna get any of us all riled up about the past. Luce did cartwheels and broke Willow's favourite ornament, and we all agreed it was a pretty hideous ornament anyways. I tried to lighten the mood so they didn't shout at the kid. It's not nice getting shouted at on Christmas Eve. She's getting tired now, though. It's late. Way later than her normal bedtime I'm betting for sure.

"But I don't wanna," Lucy says when Buffy tells her it's time for bed.

"I know, but that doesn't change the fact you're going to bed," Buffy tells her. "We need to clean up for Santa, and Faith needs to get back to her motel."

"No!" the kid yells, throwing herself down to the floor. "I want Faith to stay."

She starts thrashing her legs about, but it's not a full on tantrum yet. There's no tears, just whining. I stay seated on the couch and watch as Buffy gets up and stands over her, arms folded.

"I'm sure you do, but she has to go there so she can sleep, and wait for Santa like the rest of us," Buffy tells her.

"She can stay here," Lucy says, looking up at Buffy and pouting. "She's my friend."

Buffy looks over at me and smiles. "She's my friend too, but we've got the only spare bed. Now come on, dumpling."

I try to stop staring at B, but her saying I'm her friend - even though I know I kinda am now and have been for a while well, it's kinda weird. Hearing her say the words made a chill run down my spine. A good chill.

"I want her to stay," Lucy whines, tears starting to fall now. "How will Santa find her if she's not here?"

I dunno what it is, but the way her little face is all creasing up, tears running down her cheeks, makes me wanna do something to make it better. I don't want her worrying all night that Santa ain't gonna find me, even though he's never fucking found me before.

"Hey, it's ok, Luce," I say, getting up and squatting down beside her. "Santa's like an old friend of mine, he'll know where I am."

She looks up at me, big brown eyes full of tears and wonder. Her bottom lip is quivering and it's kinda heartbreaking.

"You could stay on the couch," Willow points out. "I mean, we have pillows and stuff." She shrugs, and I see a little glint in her eye.

I see the same glint in Ken's eye too. I'm guessing maybe they think it's a good idea for me to stay the night instead of spend the rest of it alone. Gotta admit, I wasn't looking forward to leaving when things have been going so well with Buffy. Laying in a cold motel room doesn't much sound like fun.

"Sure, if it'll keep the little devil happy," I say, looking up towards Buffy to gauge her reaction.

Buffy smiles and looks pretty happy with the decision.

"Ok, we'll get the blankets and stuff, and you can go get what you need from your motel," Willow says, taking charge of the situation. If I didn't know better I'd say she told the kid to throw a fit.

"Right," I say. "I'll go pick my stuff up for the night."

"Are you staying?" Lucy asks, following me up onto her feet as I stand, her little hand grabbing at the bottom of my shirt.

"Yeah, I'm staying," I answer, ruffling her hair. "Just gotta go get some stuff back at the motel."

"Can I come?" Lucy asks, her big brown eyes making me all squishy again.

Seriously, I think this kid has supernatural powers. I don't like kids, let alone kids that whine and get all demand-y. Can't seem to say no to her, though.

"You'll have to ask your mom," I say, passing the buck.

Buffy shakes her head at me and gives me a little evil glare. It's more cute than threatening. I dunno if it's `cause she's doing it different or it's `cause I'm seeing it different. Whatever it is, I kinda like it. Makes me wanna jump Buffy right here and now, but preferably without the audience.

"Mom, can I? Can I?" Luce whines.

I didn't think Buffy'd back down, I mean. . .it's the kid's bedtime and she can't honestly be thinking of trusting me with her. But no, she nods her head and grins at me.

"Just behave for Faith, ok? And when you get back it's right to bed," Buffy tells her.

Lucy nods and keeps clinging to me. How the hell did I just get myself into that? I don't know the first thing about being alone with a kid. . .let alone Buffy's kid. Buffy's kid that I'm pretty sure has to have some connections to the devil. I mean shit. . .her name is Lucy; that's just a little too close to Lucifer for my liking.

"Maybe you should come too," I tell Buffy, hoping I'm not sounding desperate.

"I've got stuff to do here," she replies, obviously lying. "You'll be ok, just take my car, it's got the booster seat in the back."

Right, she's not only trusting me with her kid, but also her car. Things really have changed. I'd be thinking something weird was going on if she hadn't kissed me last night.

Buffy helps me get the kid into the car and I drive off as she waves from the doorway. There's little stuffed toys on the dashboard and it smells like. . .well, it smells like Buffy; her perfume. The little fuzzy seat cover makes me feel warm and happy. It's like she's all around me, letting me into her life. Her kid is babbling in the back seat, talking to a pink furry dinosaur. It's like I belong here, and it feels good.

"Mommy says you're tough, and that if I don't behave you'll kick my butt," Lucy says from behind me. "But she says you're nice, and not to be bad for you."

"That right?" I chuckle.

"I won't be bad. . .I want Santa to come," she tells me.

She carries on talking to her toy about Santa and all the things she wants. Pretty sure I heard her say she wanted her mom to be happy in amongst the ponies she wants and the Barbies. I guess Ken's right; Buffy isn't all that happy right now. I know the feeling. It's like existing but not really living. Waiting for something. Knowing you could have more, but never quite getting it. Maybe B's been feeling the same as me.

I look up into the mirror and spot that Lucy's chowing down on her mittens. I doubt she's meant to be doing that.

"Hey, Luce?" I say, getting her attention. "Pretty sure you're not supposed to be eating your gloves. In fact, there's probably even some kinda law against it. Like a. . .no eating gloves on a weekday rule or something."

I glance up at the mirror and see she's not paying attention, still munching on the end of her now soggy purple glove. I shake my head.

"Yunno. . .that things probably got a thousand kindsa germs on it. They'll be crawling around in your stomach now, all partying it up in there, ready to make you sick `till you're barfing outta your nose," I warn her as we pull up to the space outside my room.

As I turn round ready to let her out of the seat I notice the quivering lip. Oh crap, I'm really hoping she don't start crying.

"Ok, ok. . .it won't make you sick, but seriously, I don't think mommy's gonna be happy if you go home with bits of mitten in your belly. We don't wanna make her mad, right?" I say, trying to talk her down from bursting into tears.

She shakes her head no, letting the mitten drop to the seat.

"Great," I say with a smile, "we don't have to tell her if you just leave `em on your hands and not put them in your mouth."

I'm betting they don't taste so good, but when did that ever stop kids from eating crap.

"I don't wanna be sick out of my nose," she says, all quiet and worried lookin'.

She seems a little traumatised, and I'm certain Buffy wouldn't be too pleased if I bring her home all distraught.

"You won't be," I reassure her.

"But you just said. . ."

"Tell ya what, if you forget I said that. . .we'll stop on the way home and get ice-cream," I tell her.

"I don't like ice-cream," she points out, her pout looking more mischievous than scared now.

"Of course not." I rub the back of my neck and get out of the car. "How about. . .I'll play any game with you that you want tomorrow; that fair?" I ask, recalling how I'd kept telling her I wouldn't play tea-party with her today. Didn't really feel like sitting on the floor and playin' with dolls, not with Ken laughing at me.

"Really?" she says, her face lighting up right away. "We can play tea-party then. You'll like it. My Barbie's on a diet, but she's allowed iced-tea. Yours can have her share, she has bigger clothes. Mommy gotted the wrong ones."

This kid's insane, but at least I'm off the hook. She carries on babbling as I get us into my motel room, get my things and get her back into the seat in the car. The entire time she kept talking about Buffy's lack of Barbie knowledge. I couldn't help but laugh, which Luce seemed to like. Her little smile reminds me of Buffy's. Kinda makes me smile right back.

We get back pretty quick but Lucy falls asleep. I throw my bag over my shoulder and carry her back to the house.

"Wow, you put my daughter to sleep, thank you," Buffy tells me as she opens the front door.

I just smile and hand the kid over. Buffy's hand brushes over mine and we kinda lock eyes for a few seconds. I see the sadness inside her then. The need to have more. The empty feeling I know all too well. We share in that like we've shared in most things. Hurt, pain, fear. . .it's all been circling round the same thing. Always hiding behind everything we've done to each other.

"Will and Ken have gone to bed," Buffy lets me know. "I'll put Lucy down, then. . .if you don't mind I'm gonna stay up a little while longer."

"Don't mind at all, B," I assure.

She nods and I watch her walk up the stairs. It's kinda hard to not stare at her perfect ass; it's just so fucking squeezable.

When she gets outta sight I make my way into the living room and notice the couch has already been made up for me. I take the few minutes alone to pull off my clothes and slip on some loose shorts and a tee shirt. I'm not usually the type to wear stuff to bed, but I don't wanna scare B off by flashing my goodies at her without warning.

I rest back on top of the comforter that's been thrown over the large couch, flicking through the TV channels but not really paying attention to what's on. I guess I'm kinda on edge. It's not like I'm used to spending 'alone time' with B. We spent the evening together, but there were people around. Being alone with her is a whole different thing. I get even more on edge when she strolls into the room wearing just a tee shirt. It's a pretty big tee shirt that just about covers her ass, but damn. . .she looks cute and just about ready to eat.

"Anything good on?" Buffy asks, as she hovers near the end of the couch.

I lift my feet outta the way so she can sit down, crossing my legs and grinning at her. The only thing that would be good on. . .is her on me. There was a time I woulda said that too, but then Buffy woulda rolled her eyes and acted like I'd just abused her or something. I don't wanna risk getting her pissed so I hold it in this time round.

"Nah, nothing good on," I tell her.

She gets onto the couch and curls her legs up so she's all comfortable. "How about if I get 'on' you, would that be good?" she asks, taking me a little by surprised, and when I say a little, I mean a lot. She's had a few drinks, but I didn't think she was hammered enough to get like this.

"Um. . ." I blink at her, waiting for her to tell me she's joking.

"Maybe if I demonstrate, you could let me know. . .if that's ok?" she says, looking at me from under her eyelashes, a little grin tugging at the corners of her mouth.

Buffy moves towards me - practically crawling across the short distance - her eyes never leaving mine. It looks fucking hot. She's fucking hot.

"Demonstrations are always good," I respond, remembering I'm not still just sixteen and totally afraid of what could happen between us. "But. . .why now?"

I couldn't hold the question back. Need to be sure I'm not getting it wrong or mixing up the signals.

"Because it feels right now," Buffy explains, her body inches from mine as we sit facing each other. "Why do you think I kissed you? Yunno, apart from the fact you looked adorable in panties and boots."

I chuckle and shake my head, wanting so much to reach out and touch her.

"Not sure, B," I answer truthfully. "But I'm thinking more of the same might give me some insight."

My grin escapes, all dimples and wickedness. She licks her lips and leans into me. I think my heart stopped beating, or maybe it's going too quick for me to feel it pounding.

"I think that sounds like a good idea," Buffy whispers across my lips. "We need to stop dreaming and start living."

"Sounds like a plan to me," I say softly, leaning towards Buffy, my lips just barely brushing against hers.

For a moment it feels like time stopped existing. All that exists is me and Buffy. Close. So close to finally stepping over that line we've been trapped behind. She lifts her hand to my cheek and I lift mine to her shoulder, and we meet more firmly. My lips crash against hers, needy and wanting. It's not soft, it's everything we've held back for so long. She moans into my mouth when I slide my tongue into hers, slipping it over and around her own, lips pressing, sucking, tasting. I can feel her heat, her need. . .and it's gonna drive me wild. I just hope she can handle it. I hope we both can.

Buffy breaks away as we both gasp for air, hands beginning to roam, touching how we'd always wanted to touch.

"I want you, Faith," she says breathlessly. "God, I want you so much."

I pull her back to my lips, kissing her deep and hard. She has no clue just how much I want her too. It fills me. It lives inside me like an animal, crawling around in me, looking for an outlet. I don't just want her, I need her. She fits my empty spaces. She belongs inside me. She always has.

A/N: Barbie's diet is credited to Jen's niece Paige, who's other Barbie is also on a budget.

CHAPTER FOUR

I glance at Buffy over the table laid out with all the Christmas stuff you'd expect: turkey, veggies, ham, little red and green decorations. It all looks pretty good, and so far everything tastes amazing. Even the little brat is on her best behaviour for this. We're all in good moods, eating and being merry like we're supposed to be on Christmas day, but I can't shake the feeling I have in the pit of my stomach; that I kinda don't fit. They're treating me like one of their own, and I know I am after all we went through. . .but I guess last night threw me for a loop and I'm feeling kinda shaky.

Buffy smiles at me and I smile back, but I know it's not getting to my eyes. She can tell; her smile drops a little, but then she's back to being happy-Buffy, full of the joys of turkey and stuffing and feeling good after some pretty hot sex the night before. I'm feeling good about the sex too, less good about what was said after.

It's not like it was that bad, just unexpected. I hadn't thought about everything that would come along with being with Buffy, especially now she has a kid. I don't know if I'm ready for it all. I know I'm ready for her, but as for everything else. . .I never thought of myself as the family type. When she'd brought it up I froze. Stupid that I didn't think that far ahead, but I'd never even thought as far as Buffy finally wanting to be with me so I can't really be blamed.

Buffy asks me to pass the gravy and our fingers touch as I do. I feel the electricity all over from it. Just a simple touch. It's always been that way, but after last night I guess it's bound to be more obvious.

Once we'd started kissing we couldn't stop. The floodgates were open. She told me she wanted me, and I let her have me. There was no way I couldn't.

Her hands slid over me on top of my clothes and I did the same, laying back into the pillows so she was resting on me more. I shifted my legs and she fell between them, our lips hungry for each other, kissing deep and hard. Her little moans were driving me nuts as our tongues slipped and plunged, and my hands travelled all over her back and ass.

"You're such a good kisser," she said as she brushed her lips over my neck.

I couldn't think straight. I was wet already, my body burning for her.

"Not bad yourself," I pointed out licking my lips, my fingers drifting under the bottom of her shirt.

As my fingertips hit her soft skin at her sides she shuddered, her lips pressing firmer against my throat as she sucked. A little moan escaped me as I drowned under the feel of her against me and the things she was doing to my neck. Pushing up into her only made things hotter. She pushed back, her body fitting perfect with mine, her heat starting a fire between us. We moved against one another, needing more, needing to feel each other. I was getting so turned on, every movement she made making my clit throb for her.

My hands ran up her sides and back down, thumbs brushing the curve of her breasts before moving back to her ass. We were kissing again, hot and heavy, breaths coming out in sighs and soft moans. I wanted to push further. I needed to feel her, make her mine. . .but I wasn't running the show, she was. There's no way I was gonna fuck it up by rushing ahead of her. I showed her what she was doing to me by rolling my hips up into her more fully, our pussies grinding together through our clothes. It wasn't just me that groaned, we both did.

"Faith," Buffy gasped as I rolled again, my hands on her ass pulling her into me.

She didn't hesitate in grinding down on me, her forehead resting against mine as she hovered above me. I looked up at her and all I saw was her beauty and how much she wanted me. I flicked my tongue over her top lip, and smiled just as she did.

"You're making me so fucking wet, B," I told her, my heart racing in my chest.

"I'm right there with you on that one," she confessed.

I wanted to feel it. Wanted to know just how wet and what it would feel and taste like. My mind was spinning and my heart pounding, and before I knew it Buffy had her hand under my shirt, her fingers teasing over my rock hard nipple.

"Fuck," I sighed, all kindsa uncool.

"I didn't think we'd get to that yet," Buffy said with a grin, "but yeah. . .I want to."

She pulled on my nipple and I gripped her ass, my nails digging in just a little. Got me a nice moan in my ear as Buffy tried to ease the need she was feeling by rubbing herself over me. I really wanted our clothes gone. I wanted to be in a bed with lotsa room to roll around and explore every inch of her, but we didn't have that. We had a couch, and people upstairs. I know we shoulda stopped, but I was so ready, and she'd basically told me she wanted us to fuck. No way could I stop what was bound to happen.

I sucked on her bottom lip and gave in to what was happening. My mind was screaming at me to rip Buffy's clothes off, but I listened to the sensible voice inside me telling me to follow her lead. I didn't have to wait long, but she didn't go ripping my clothes off probably for the best given the circumstances she skipped right past that and slipped her hand from my breasts and down into my shorts.

I moaned deeply, my legs falling open as her fingers brushed over the top of my pussy.

Lifting herself up a little, she left a small space between us. Her eyes were so green, hardly any hazel in them at all as she looked right into me.

"Can I touch you?" she asked all breathless and low. "I wanna feel you so much."

Her fingers were tickling over my folds, not yet slipping inside them to feel how wet I was. It felt like there was a fucking octopus inside me, wriggling around in my belly as I held onto that moment. I'd wanted her for so long. Wanted her to touch me like that. To love me like that. Here she was, asking my permission, making me melt in all kindsa ways. It was about the most girly I'd ever felt my entire life. I wasn't a bottom, I was top, a "roll `em over and fuck them crazy" kinda girl, but she flipped that on its head and I didn't care. Right then. . .I just wanted her to touch me.

"Fuck yes," I replied, pushing up against her fingers, causing them to slip between my folds.

We both trembled as her fingers slid over my clit, my pussy covering her with arousal. I really was fucking soaked. Never been so wet from so little.

"You're so soft," Buffy mumbled against my mouth, the little smile I could feel making my heart flutter.

I crashed my lips back into Buffy's and took a chance that she wanted me to touch her too. She didn't say stop when I wriggled my fingers into her panties, in fact she shifted her weight a little so I could get to her better. We shared a grin and I dipped my fingers into her, spreading her pussy so I could feel how wet she was. She coated my fingers and I closed my eyes as I explored. It was fucking heaven. She was dripping for me, soft, wet and warm. Just perfect. And her little clit was hard and needy as I slipped over it, making her moan my name into my neck.

We moved slowly at first, fingers circling and teasing, lips kissing faces and necks as we breathed all hot and heavy. Her little moans mixed up with mine as we tried to be quiet but finally enjoyed the sensation of being so close to each other. I coulda stayed that way forever, just on the edge; so close her scent was all I could smell, her touch all I could feel.

My fingers drifted inside her and she sighed deep and loud, like she'd been wanting me to do that from the first moment we'd met, years ago when neither of us were in the right place to let go. We both let go this time, Buffy's fingers slipping deep into my pussy. I rocked up into her hand and she drove down into me, her body moving perfectly with mine.

"Oh God, Faith," Buffy murmured into my hair, her body trembling as I plunged into her, my palm rubbing up over her clit in the close confinement between us. "That feels so good."

Her sighing breaths were sexy as hell as we slid our fingers into each other deep and hard, needing to make it real; make it hold us together like never before. Buffy pressed into my clit as I did into hers and we both moaned as we fought to breathe and take each other over the edge.

"I'm gonna come so hard, Faith," Buffy gasped as I stroked in and out, her walls clamping down on my fingers as she rode them.

"Shit, Buffy," I gasped as Buffy rubbed up inside me, copying my movements exactly so we could both feel the same. "Oh fuck yeah."

Buffy moaned my name out as she came with me, our free hands clinging as we rode out our climax. The air was hot and full of our scent and all I wanted to do was kiss Buffy until I couldn't breathe anymore. I felt completely wrapped in her, fingers covered in her come as I slid them out and held her tight. She did the same, resting on me, lips brushing over mine as we both basked. It felt fucking perfect, even though I wanted her naked skin on mine. Even though we were crammed onto a couch and not alone, not really able to continue what we'd started. It was still more than I coulda hoped for.

The basking was nice and it lasted at least an hour. We just kissed after I pulled the cover over us, touching softly, no words beyond the few we could speak.

I told her she was beautiful, she told me I had always been in her thoughts, and in her fantasies. We told each other how much we wanted each other, how it had always been that way. The night ticked by and we both got sleepy, our eyes closing as Buffy lay on top of me between my legs. She rested her head on my chest and I stroked my fingers over her back, the biggest smile plastered on my face.

"I wanna be with you, Faith," Buffy mumbled sleepily. "I don't want to waste any more time."

"Me either, B," I replied, feeling my heart swelling, my insides filling up with Buffy.

For a second I'd thought she'd drifted off to sleep, but then she continued, her voice tired and low, almost a whisper.

"I want you to be part of my family," she muttered. "Maybe we could have a family of our own. . .a baby. I'd like to have your baby," she finished with a little giggle.

My eyes shot open wide and body stiffened. She felt it right away. A baby? I mean, apart from the fact it's not actually possible for her to have my baby. . .that's some scary shit right there. I hadn't thought past just being with her. I knew right then she wanted it all, though. The whole thing. The total commitment. The babies and white picket fence.

I can admit, it scared me.

"I know, it doesn't sound possible. . .but with magic and our own totally powerful witch, we could have a baby one day," Buffy continued, waking up a little more, her eyes searching for mine in the soft light of the lamp. "I'd really like Lucy to have a little sister or something one day."

The more she said the worse I felt. I know I wanted to spend my life with her. Every part of me needed her. . .but she was saying too much too soon. I freaked.

"Hold up, B. . .you're going a little fast," I told her, sitting up a little, causing her to move from between my legs.

"But I thought we wanted the same thing. I thought we were finally at a place we could. . ."

"I do want you, Buffy," I assured. "I'm just. . .this is. . ."

I couldn't get the words out. Didn't actually know what I wanted to say. She got the message though, and was up and off me before I could stop her.

"Was this just a fuck, Faith?" she asked, looking down at me, the hurt obvious in her eyes.

"No, B," I said firmly. "I just don't know if I'm ready for. . .everything."

"Everything meaning commitment, meaning Lucy, meaning wanting a future together," she shot back, her hands on her hips and head shaking.

I swung my legs round so I was sitting on the edge of the couch, hand running through my hair, trying to think of a way to fix things. I couldn't fix it, though; I was somewhere out in stupid-land being stupid, freaking out about something I knew deep down I wanted too. I wanted my life with her, but I couldn't get past the fear. Couldn't get past the knowledge that I knew nothing about commitment and 'happy families', and all that other bullshit.

"Buffy," I said softly, gazing up at her, wanting to stop the sad look in her eyes, "you know how I feel about you. I. . ." I couldn't get the words out.

I wanted to tell her I love her, but my mind was racing in circles and all I could think about was running before I fucked it up completely.

"I get it, Faith," Buffy said slowly, taking a deep breath before continuing. "You need time to adjust," she told me, and I nodded. "I'm asking for everything here, not just a good time between the sheets. I understand why you might freak out a little. This is a big deal. . .for both of us."

I nodded again, rubbing at my brow with my fingers. She sounded like she understood, but she also still sounded hurt. It's something I hadn't meant to do. I never wanted to hurt her again, I was just staring something in the face that I'd never dared to really dream of.

Now, sitting near her at the dinner table, all I can think about is the fear of fucking up something that could be so good. I can't see past it to the things she said, to how much it sounded like something I could want. I know I have to talk to her, we didn't get chance last night as she left to go sleep with Lucy after I'd nodded and basically let her know I'm not as ready as I thought I was.

She didn't get mad. She didn't leave on a bad note, Buffy just looked sad. My hopes had been as high as hers and I feel sad too. Sad that I'm not good at this kinda crap. Sad that I had to screw it up after we'd finally taken the plunge. I hope it can be fixed before it's too late again. We need to sit and talk. . .but not until after I'm done with feeling the urge to run. That urge goes way back, it's a whole big part of me I can't ignore and it creeps up on me when I really don't want it to. I hope she gets that I do love her, though. Obviously more than I'm able to say.

"Mom, can I play with my new Barbies now?" Lucy asks as we start to clear away the table.

"Of course, but give Faith a break before forcing her to play too," Buffy tells her. "I'm pretty sure she'd like the chance to sit down at some point today."

The kid giggles and nods, looking over at me all coy and shy. I'd given her a good few solid hours of Faith-time, letting her pull me around by the hand and have me sit on the floor with her new toys and stuff. She just wants somebody new to play with, I can't really get mad for that. It's not like I have anything better to do other than brood a little at myself and try not to get too close to Buffy.

All I wanna do is pull Buffy into my arms and kiss the hell outta her, but that wouldn't be fair on her. It'd just confuse stuff more, not that she can't tell I'm totally into her no matter what. I can't keep my eyes off her. She looks gorgeous today, dressed all nice with just a little hint of sexy. I know the sexy part's for me and it's making me grin to myself more than I'd like to admit. Can't help it if all it takes is for her to lick her lips or look up at me through her eyelashes to get me wanting to rip her clothes off. I still have the memory of her pussy around my fingers, the smell of her, the way she sounded and the way she moved. I want that again, I know that much.

We make our way into the living room, Willow chuckling again about how her presents were wrapped. She couldn't get over the fact she found it almost impossible to get into any of `em. It was almost as fun watching her rip at them as she was having doing it. See, I know how to wrap, it's all in the quantity not the quality.

As most of the guys make their way to collapse onto the couch and stuff I hang back, thinking about slipping out onto the porch to smoke a cig. I haven't smoked for almost two years now, but I'm feeling kinda antsy. I finally got Buffy, and here I am too scared to go the rest of the way. It's messed up, I know, but seriously. . .I don't think I'm ready to do the parent thing.

"Hey," Buffy says to me, moving back towards me as Lucy dives onto Kennedy's lap on the couch.

"Hey," I respond, feeling just a little silly for not having anything more to say.

She smiles softly at me and runs her fingers over my lower back, gesturing for us to go into the kitchen. I raise an eyebrow and follow. Guess I can only avoid being alone with her for so long.

"You had a good day so far, Faith?" Buffy asks me as she leans against the kitchen counter.

I smile and nod, feeling the urge to press against her and hold her there so I can kiss her. I don't, choosing to stay at a safe distance instead.

"You can get closer yunno?" Buffy says with a chuckle. "I'm not gonna tie you to me so you can't get away. I know the score."

Wait, she knows the score? Hell, I don't know the score. I just know I'm stupid, and that I'm getting wigged about finally having something I want in my life; Buffy's love.

"The score?" I ask, moving just a little closer.

"I can wait. . .for you to stop freaking I mean," she tells me. "And you will stop freaking; then we can have much more sex and finally do that happy thing together," she finishes with a grin.

I raise my eyebrows and chuckle. Seems like she's got this worked out better than I have.

"Guess I just never thought about all the responsible stuff," I say quietly, trying my best to look her in the eye. "Don't doubt that I wanna be with you, it's just. . ."

Once again I can't explain myself. It's gotta be pissing her off, but she doesn't show me that; not like she woulda done in the past.

"We'll get there, Faith," Buffy says, stepping close to me and taking my hand in hers. "I don't want to have to wait forever - it doesn't sound much like fun but I'm not gonna push you further away by making you decide now. I want you in my life. I want you here, with me. . .with my family."

She strokes the fingers of her other hand over my cheek and I close my eyes. It's hard for me to understand what she's saying let alone fully believe the words. I never imagined her saying that to me, not beyond my deepest fantasies. I want it, I do. . .but is it too much? I don't know if I'm strong enough to deal with everything she wants.

I stop thinking when I feel Buffy's lips gently press against mine. She kisses me soft and slow, not pushing it further or getting us both worked up so we can't think straight. Her lips are sweet and tender, and full of promise.

"I'll wait for you," Buffy whispers as she pulls away.

Just about makes my heart burst to hear that, and to know she means it. To know what she feels without her having to say it. And I do need a timeout to figure out my own shit. Hell, I have a life back in London. I have responsibility there, and even though I had a huge gaping void that I wanted Buffy to fill. . .I can't just walk away from that without being sure I can handle it. If I be with her, it's for life, with everything that goes with that. With everything she needs.

"Faith!" Ken shouts from the other room, breaking the silence me and Buffy were sharing comfortably. "Giles is on the phone."

I smile at Buffy and tell Ken I'll be right in. I place a quick kiss on Buffy's lips and have to force myself away from them.

When I get into the living room Kennedy doesn't look too happy. She's holding out the phone to me with an apologetic expression. I take it from her and watch Buffy go sit by Lucy as Giles says a quick merry Christmas and then gets to work on telling me I need to fly right back. He tells me there's a vamp nest causing chaos out there and it needs stamping out before the locals get a clue. They have a leader, and he ain't stupid. He's organising midnight raids on fucking kid's homes and shit. Obviously I can't say I won't go, so I tell him I'll pack right up and be ready for the flight he already has booked.

I don't wanna leave - I really don't - but maybe it'll be best this way. I'll get to think clear without having Buffy right there making me all kindsa needy with wanting her. I'll go do my duty, my job, and kick this vampire's ass right back to hell. . .then I'll deal with myself. I'll kick my own ass a few times and hope I can stop myself making a huge mistake that'll leave me empty for the rest of my life.

CHAPTER FIVE

Throwing my damp towel onto a chair I stretch out my aching muscles, then pull down my small tee shirt back over the top of my shorts. The hot shower I just had was good, but I still feel like I went ten rounds with a huge fucking vamp that had claws. . .and that's exactly what happened earlier. It took us almost a week to drive the vamp nest underground and have them lead us to the guy controlling them. They were all pretty tough, but me and my team of slayers worked away at `em, killing as many as we could each night.

Tonight it was the boss' turn. We went in guns blazing, or at least stakes swinging. The other slayers kept his minions busy and I went right for him. He put up one hell of a fight; kinda reminded me of Kakistos. I'm better and faster than I was back then, though. Didn't take me too long to find his weak spots and take him down. Plunged a big fucking spike through his chest and watched his face get all twisted before he went poof. Best feeling in the world. Well, almost.

It's not the best anymore, that's reserved for Buffy now. Never felt anything as good as being close to her, making her come for me. Making her moan my name and want me as much as I want her. The memory's still strong in my mind. Still getting me wet every night; picking up the phone only to put it down again, never sure what to say.

We've spoken since I went, but just once. She called two nights ago, asking how the killing was going. I filled her in on the sitch and we talked for a little while about this and that, but it never got deep. I didn't know what to say. Wasn't sure I knew exactly what I wanted, even though hearing her voice had my heart fucking aching for her. I could kinda tell she was the same. . .wanting to ask me, needing to know. I wouldn't have blamed her for pushing me, but she didn't. We talked for about an hour, catching up. Then it got a little heated when she told me how much she'd been thinking about me and her and what she wants to do. It coulda strayed into phone-sex territory but the kid woke up and she had to go.

I'm kinda glad we held off, it woulda just got me even more horny for her, and being over 3000 miles away just sucks when you really need to fuck the person you can't stop thinking about.

Running my fingers through my damp hair I glance around my apartment. It's looking all kindsa empty. I never had a problem living alone before, but now I know I could be shacked up with Buffy it just feels cold, silent. It's not where I wanna be.

The phone rings and I shake myself outta my daze. It's probably Giles checking in on me. I think he's a little worried I'm gonna be spending New Years alone. Fucked if I care; the only person I wanna spend it with ain't here, and I was too much of a pussy to face the obvious when I was with her. I pick it up and wait for him to speak. I never say hello first, it pisses him off and gives me a chuckle when he rants at me.

"Faith?"

I almost don't realise it's her at first. I mean, it's not like I was expecting her to call.

"Faith, are you at some wild New Years party? Hello?" Buffy says.

My silence breaks and I chuckle at the cute way she's saying hello. This chick is adorable, with all the fucking bells on.

"Hey, B," I finally respond.

"Oh, you are there. . .good," she sighs with relief. "Not that's it's good you're sat all alone at almost fifteen minutes to midnight, but at least I'm not just talking to your answering machine."

I grin and feel the need to pull her into my arms and squeeze her tight. Kinda makes me feel even more empty realising I can't do that, and that it's my own fault I can't.

"Nope, I'm definitely not a machine, B," I tell her, smiling `cause it's just so good to hear her voice.

"Well that's good to hear, otherwise it'd be all weird wanting to get you naked and have my way with you. I was never into sex toys," she says, all dead-pan, like telling me she wants to have sex with me is the most normal thing in the world for us.

`Course, it's not normal at all, but I'm not gonna point that out; not when it's so good to finally hear it and know it's real and not just me. Makes lotsa parts of me tingle.

"Anyway," Buffy continues, "why are you spending New Years alone?" she asks.

It kinda puts me on the back foot. I don't have any excuses or lame lies about having something important to do or other places to be. Didn't much feel like partying the night away, I was just gonna sit in with a couple of beers and try to make sense of where my life's headed.

"Didn't much feel like making plans, B," I tell her.

"Yeah, me either," she responds. "And I'm glad I caught you in. I mean, that way we kinda get to spend New Years together."

I can almost see her smile and it makes me wanna reach out and touch it. Kiss it.

"I guess," I say, looking out the window into the darkness of the street.

There's people singing and dancing up a storm a few houses down, having fun, being with the people they care about. I don't think I've ever spent this night with people I really care about. As a kid I was told to stay outta the way, and when I got old enough I'd spend the night getting drunk with strangers and fucking the first person I thought was gonna be the easiest to kick out right after. I started that shit young, and even though I can't regret my past, I sure as hell would like to forget some of it.

"Are you ok?" Buffy asks, making me shake my head and stop feeling sorry for myself.

"Five by five, B," I tell her.

"You know I'm not going to believe that, right?" she replies, calling my bluff.

I chuckle. No answer to give her.

"Faith?" she says softly. "Would you like me to be there with you?"

I furrow my brow, thinking about the question, wondering if she's trying to catch me out. In the past I woulda told her anything not to seem needy or weak, or show that I actually miss her. Of course I want her here, but it ain't gonna happen.

I try to be as honest as I can in my answer, knowing she deserves that much. "There's not another person in the world I'd rather be with, Buffy," I say quietly.

Maybe I was just a little too honest `cause the line's gone completely quiet. I can hear her breathing, but she's not saying anything. I probably went too far considering the last time we spoke I basically told her I couldn't handle being with her right now.

"B?" I say, worried that I just scared her the hell away.

"Sorry, you just. . .took me a little by surprise there," she confesses. "I got a little sidetracked by all the butterflies."

I try to figure out what she means but then I get it and it makes me smile. "I give you butterflies?" I ask.

She pauses before replying shyly, "All the time, Faith."

My smile turns into a full on grin. I could get used to us being honest with each other like this.

"And if you go and open your front door," Buffy continues softly, "maybe I could return the favour."

My eyebrow raises and I look towards my front door. I don't get what she means but move that way anyway, thankful I have a cordless phone. I wanna tell her she gives me butterflies all the time too, but I don't feel like looking a complete wuss. The closer I get to the door, the more those butterflies start flappin'.

"You get a me a gorilla-gram or something, B?" I ask, chuckling to myself.

"Just open the door."

My fingers curl round the handle - my heart beating fast in my chest and I slowly open the door. It's then that I can feel the faint tingle; the subtle but distinct sensation I get from Buffy. It's like her inner-slayer speaking to mine, letting me know she's there. I pull the door open enough to see into the dimly lit hallway, and take in the sight of Buffy, smile gleaming at me with her cell phone to her ear.

"Hi," she says, her eyes sparkling at me, her hair flowing over her shoulders in golden curls. She looks amazing.

I move my phone down and slip it without looking onto the small table next to the door. She just took my fucking breath away. She gave me butterflies and then some.

"Can I come in?" she asks, a little frown gettin' in the way of her smile.

I shake my head yes and step aside, watching as she pulls one of those small suitcases on wheels in. I know I'm blinking and standing around like a dork not saying anything. . .but seriously, I didn't expect Buffy to show up at my door any time soon, let alone ten minutes to midnight.

"Sorry I didn't give you a little more warning," Buffy says, stopping in front of me as I close the door.

Trying to find something to say is getting to be a real problem. Hell, all I really wanna do is grab hold of her.

"Not a problem," I finally say. "I didn't. . .how did you. . ?"

"Giles got me the ticket last minute. Don't know how, I just know he has some serious connections," she tells me with a little laugh.

"Yeah, the old guy's got some pull," I nod, looking her over as she takes her jacket off and places it on her suitcase, dropping her phone on top of it. "He can get you a ticket to just about anywhere."

"Or everything," Buffy says, her eyes locking on mine as we move closer.

I feel like there's fucking electricity or something flowing between us, charging up the atmosphere, keeping me from just reaching out and touching her. I'm almost afraid to, as if she'd give me a shock or make me combust or some shit like that.

"Why didn't you call me and let me know? I coulda picked you up or. . ." I begin, not really sure what else I would have done had I known.

"I didn't want you to panic and run," she tells me, looking up all bashful at me so I don't get pissed. "And it was all pretty last minute. It's Lucy's weekend with Robin so I won't be missed. . .but that only gives me three days to convince you."

She pauses and looks down at her hands before looking back up at me.

"Convince me of what?" I ask, my voice quiet, trying my best not to intimidate so she knows I'm glad she's here.

Buffy takes a breath, her eyes looking right into me, searching through my layers to the parts she knows are all hers. "To convince you to come home with me," she informs me softly.

I can't help but smile, and notice the little glint in her eyes as she gets a flash of my dimples.

"You won't need three days, B," I point out, glancing towards the center of the room.

Her gaze follows mine and she looks around, seeing the half full boxes of my stuff. It would be obvious to anybody that I'm in the middle of getting my shit together to leave. There's nothing on the walls, nothing laying around that isn't wrapped up in paper and ready to be boxed and shipped. She turns back to me, a questioning look in her eyes that looks more hopeful than worried.

"Realised for sure a few days ago that I can't live without you anymore," I say, laying myself bare. "I'm meant to be with you. Felt it the first minute we met."

I'd never said the words aloud. Never even allowed myself to truly think them without wanting to kick myself in the head for being crazy. There's no way I ever believed in the whole 'love at first sight' crap, and I'd avoided trying to feel it more than I can explain. . .but I'm done avoiding. Done running. I just hope she really does feel the same `cause it's out there now. She knows I need her to complete me.

A small tear rolls down Buffy's cheek as she processes what I just said. I can almost feel the relief inside her; the release of years of holding it all in. Neither of us can hold it in any longer, though. There's no room inside left for empty spaces full of regret.

I step forward and pull her into my arms as more tears fall, and she trembles against me. Now she's in my arms all I wanna do is feel. I've denied it so long. . .but all my heart can do now is burst with feeling. Holding tight I cling to Buffy and she clings right back, our arms wrapped around backs, Buffy's face in my neck as she smiles through her tears.

"I love you," I hear Buffy whisper, her hot breath warming my skin. "I think I've always been in love with you. . .even when I hated you."

My arms hold tighter, probably almost on the verge of hurting her, the words sending shivers through me, though we both let out a soft chuckle at the last ones. I don't sense that hate from her anymore, just the love that was always there bubbling under the surface. It warms me like I've never felt. Makes me love her more than I ever did.

Keeping tight hold of Buffy I brush my lips over her temple, breathing in her scent. I kiss down her face, tasting the damp trail of salty tears that have stopped flowing, following its path down to her lips. Buffy sighs happily, her hands stroking over my back. When I reach her mouth with mine I pause, lips barely touching, ready to taste. I place a kiss on her top lip, then on her bottom as she waits patiently, her heart pounding against mine. My own feels about ready to burst outta my chest for her, the love inside needing an outlet.

I whisper across her lips, "I love you, Buffy."

Her body shudders against me just a little, hands pulling me tighter to her. We share a secret smile before pushing closer, kissing soft and slow; taking our time to catch every moment, to keep it inside forever.

Buffy flicks her tongue across mine, inviting me deeper, fuller. I don't waste a second to give her what she wants. Our lips tease and taste as our tongues take us from love to lust, getting us both hot and breathy. She's a fucking amazing kisser and I'm fast getting seriously turned on. Her body pressed against me is just making it worse. . .or better, depending on whether or not she wants us to get to the sex stuff again so quick. If she doesn't stop doing that with her tongue she's gonna have one hell of a horny slayer on her hands.

"Buffy," I say, forcing my lips from hers, but not too far. "I slayed pretty hard tonight, and I've been doing nothing but think about fucking you for the past week, we'd better stop kissing like this if you're not looking to. . ."

"I've done a lot of thinking about it too, Faith," she says, interrupting me. "For a lot longer than a week."

She pulls me back to her, mouth crashing against mine, kissing me deeply, pouring herself into me as we fight for air. We both want the same thing, I can tell that for sure. There's no doubt anymore. Taking a chance, I use my strength to lift Buffy up. She gets the idea right away and jumps up on me, wrapping her legs around my waist and her arms around my neck.

Both grinning like idiots, trying to kiss as I walk, I head us towards the bedroom. As we reach the door I hear a burst of fireworks outside. People are yelling and singing. I stop and look up into Buffy's eyes as she gazes down at me, nothing but love and desire on her face.

"Happy New Year, B," I say, finally understanding what happy really feels like.

She says it back, her smile open and beautiful, the kiss she places on my lips perfect.

I make the short distance from the door to the bed quickly and let Buffy fall back gently, laying her down, watching as she kicks off her shoes. Her eyes never leave mine and I feel consumed by them. Can't quite believe I've got Buffy on my bed, waiting for me to join her, to fuck her. . .hell, to make love to her. Makes me feel kinda nervous, but she's what I want. All I ever really wanted.

"You're so beautiful, yunno that?" Buffy says as I stand at the foot of the bed.

I feel the urge to blush but play it off, shaking my head.

"Nothing compared to you, B," I tell her, looking her over as she lays before me.

Buffy smiles but tells me, "You're wrong. One of the reasons I fell so in love with you and couldn't shake it is because you're just so fucking gorgeous, Faith. There was no ignoring or denying that."

This time I grin, feeling sure of myself. Feeling like I can be myself with her now. Fully.

Making sure I've got every little bit of her attention by slowly licking my bottom lip, I pull my tee shirt off over my head. She watches, pupils wide as she takes in the sights.

"Gotta make sure you've got plenty of reference material if you're gonna go callin' me things like beautiful," I tell her. "Want me to keep going?" I ask playfully, hands gripping the top of my shorts as I grin at her.

"You'd better," she replies huskily, her breath coming quicker as she rests back on her elbows.

I raise an eyebrow at the challenge. "What do I get in return?" I ask.

She starts undoing the buttons of her shirt with one hand as she looks deep into me.

"Anything you want, Faith. I'm all yours."

My stomach does a flip as she pushes her shirt open and I get a peek at the pink lacy bra underneath. I wanna lick her all over, nibble on her, suck on her. I can see in her eyes that she is all mine.

Not wasting anymore time, I push down my shorts and kick them off, leaving myself completely naked. I crawl onto the bed, noticing how Buffy's looking at me, her lips slightly parted as she ogles my goodies.

"Wow, it's even better than in my fantasies," she says, looking a little more flustered now as I straddle her waist and push her shirt further open.

Buffy's hands slide up my thighs to my waist, one hand continuing up over my stomach, reaching up to my breasts. I get distracted for a second as she feels me up, biting her lower lip as she does it. I wanna rip her bra off but I don't, instead choosing to brush my fingers over her nipples through it, making her sigh my name. It's fucking sexy the way she says my name like that.

I lean down and kiss her, needing to have her tongue slipping around mine as I push off her shirt and get her out of her cute bra. Her hands are all over me, making me insane with need. I'm dripping for her and she just discovered that as her fingers drifted lightly over my pussy. I didn't want her to move them, but I also don't wanna be distracted from what I need to do to her. I shift lower, kissing over her breasts and nipples, making her sigh and moan.

"Faith," she groans, "I wanna touch you."

Her fingers are still reaching for me, but she's gonna have to wait. My teeth scrape lightly over her nipple and she arches up into me, her hips looking for mine to press down on her. She's still got her jeans on so I'm gonna have to fix that first.

"I wanna make you come, B," I tell her as I trail my fingers down to the buttons on her jeans. "I wanna taste you. Make you come in my mouth."

Buffy's breathing gets noticeably deeper, stomach tensing as I place kisses over it. I undo her jeans and pull them off her hips and down, throwing them to the floor along with her panties. She seems a little shy, little trembles running through her as she looks into my eyes. I slowly crawl between her legs, my hands smooth on her thighs, lips tasting her skin. Her body is beautiful, slim and sexy, calling out to me to touch it and love it.

"Oh fuck," she gasps as I kiss over her pussy, feeling how wet she is on my lips.

I moan and nuzzle against her as she spreads her legs wide for me, giving herself to me. I've always loved eating pussy, but this is. . .this is fucking heaven. Getting to taste Buffy. Getting to make her come like this; it's something I've only ever dreamed about.

Her folds part for my tongue as I glide it over her, covering it in her juices. She's soaked for me and gasping with every touch. I feel her fingers in my hair, connecting us. Her taste is hot and sensual, every sticky drop making me drunk on how much I want her. I let my tongue explore for a while, causing Buffy to moan and twitch when I hit her clit, her fingernails scratching at me and letting me know she wants more.

Not gonna make either of us wait too long, though. We have all night. Hell, we have three days here alone.

The third time I make her come with my mouth on her pussy she pulls me up, gasping for breath after practically screaming my name. Guess she likes me sucking on her clit `cause she went fucking wild.

"God, Faith," she says breathlessly. "Come here, I need to hold you."

I move up from between her legs and she wraps one around me as I settle on top of her. She's holding tight to me, her nose nuzzling against mine as I enjoy the warmth of her body and the sensation of having her naked against me.

Never knew sex could be like this. I haven't even gotten off yet but it feels fucking amazing. Making her moan for me and call out my name, her come spilling over my lips into my mouth as she shakes, is something I'm gonna love doing as much as I can. Doesn't seem like she'd refuse either; she came hard, three in a row without stopping as I ate her out using every trick I know.

Buffy smiles happily as I pull the sheet up over us, shutting out the cold. She's obviously all sleepy from the flight, her eyes closing as she pulls me as close as she can to her. I'm not complaining. I want her to sleep in my arms feeling safe and loved, `cause that's how she's making me feel. Something I never felt before, and something I know she's always gonna make me feel. We've gotten over the bad stuff, had our fill of it together. From here on in I get the feeling it's gonna be non-stop lovin' and fucking and spending every minute we can making up for what we screwed up before.

"Don't leave this time, Faith," she says in a sleepy mumble into my hair.

"Not going anywhere, B. I belong with you," I tell her, my heart burning for her as I speak the truth.

She squeezes me to her and I kiss her lips softly before she drifts off to sleep. I can't have a life without her now; it would rip a hole right through me. One I could never hope to get over. Buffy's my everything. Always was and always will be. No matter what I fill my life up with, it's always been Buffy I want by my side.

CHAPTER SIX

A/N: This chapter is just a short one to finish up with. An epilogue if you will. And as always, and especially with this fic...this is for Jen. My own personal everything.

I'm sat in Buffy's car watching out the window, music turned up and heater on full to keep the chill off for when she gets in. Never thought I'd being doing stuff like this, but I guess people change. I know I have. Almost two months ago I flew back with Buffy and we've spent every second showing each other how much we've always meant to be together. I can't get enough of her and she's always hanging off me, wanting me around. I thought someone being like that would really get to me, annoy the hell outta me, but it doesn't. It's Buffy, and I fucking dig the fact she wants me so much.

Her friends - hell, my friends too I guess - were kinda wary at first. I don't blame `em, we've got history, I get that. Didn't take them long to see how serious me and B were, though. I planned to stay at a motel at first or use Kennedy's spare room, but after one night at Ken's away from B we realised I should move in with her right away. Moving in with her just seemed natural, even though it was way outta my comfort zone. Buffy was cool, and she gave me plenty of room to get used to it. And pretty soon the gang treated us normal, like any other couple that are madly in love.

As surreal as it seems sometimes. . .I can't get over how good it feels. I've got Buffy. She's mine and I'm hers and we're living the dream. Every night I get to touch her and show her how hot she is, then fall asleep with her laying all over me. And every morning I get to see her sleepy face and ruffled hair, and call her adorable. Our days are mostly spent apart with Buffy working full time. I took a part time job so I can take care of the weapons and do most of the slaying, and so I can be around for the kid when she needs taking places or looked after.

Buffy didn't wanna rely on me for shit like that at first, but over time we both realised I ain't so bad at it. She's still worried it's gonna get to me at some point and make me run, but I'm not gonna run anywhere. Don't wanna be anywhere than right where I am.

Just last week we even talked about the baby thing. I wanted to know how the hell Will could mojo up a kid. Buffy didn't really know the how, but she does know it's possible. We were layin' in bed just talking, thinking about how we'd cope with another kid running around. I told her I'm ready for that when she is, knowing she doesn't want it for a few years yet. It's cool by me. . .a little sister for Luce, and mine and B's baby; it's kind of a nice thought. I didn't pack up my life in England without thinking about everything she wants as a family, and everything we could have.

I glance outta the window again and see Lucy skipping out of the building she goes to day-care in. Climbing out of the car I go to meet her and take her off their hands. The staff get a little freaked sometimes by how full of energy she is, but I try to tell `em she's just expressing herself. You can't stop a kid from being creative, even if she does decide finger-painting is best done with hands and arms, and sometimes other kid's shoes.

"Hey, monster," I call out, watching her little face light up as she sees me.

I crouch down as she heads towards me, looking like a big pink bubble in her winter coat and hat. It's a wonder she can move in the thing, let alone run at me like a freight train.

"Faith," Lucy squeals, jumping up into my arms as I scoop her up and give her a hug.

"Have a good day?" I ask, putting her back on the ground and tidying her now ruffled coat.

"Yep, we made pictures," she tells me, looking all proud.

"Yeah, I can see that." I brush a glob of glitter off her nose and notice the small curl of now blue hair sticking out from under her woolly hat. "Looks like you had fun."

Luce nods and jiggles her favourite Barbie around in her hand. She fiddles with it and pulls the arm off, her smile falling faster than something damn fast. A pout comes right after as she looks up at me, all big brown eyes and sad face. I can't even remember how many times I've had to fix this damn thing, but she won't let go of it. It's her favourite one.

I reach out and take the Barbie as I crouch in front of her, pushing the arm back on where it's meant to be.

"There, all fixed. She'll live to see another day. . .though don't go yankin' at her leg, it looks kinda funky," I say, kissing Luce on the top of her head to help get rid of the pout, which it does right away. It always works for Buffy too.

She wraps her arms round my neck and gives me a hug, making me have to pull her hat back on straight and pull down her coat again when she's done. Can't have her getting all cold and shit. It's still freezing here and the snow just doesn't seem to wanna leave.

"So, you remember what we talked about this morning? About being good when we go get mommy?" I ask as I take her hand and head towards the car. "I got a surprise for her, so you have to promise to do what I asked."

She nods and hops into the back seat so I can strap her into the booster.

I'm pretty sure the kid'll behave. I told her we'd eat nothing but burgers for a week if she did. She loves that shit. Buffy'll kill me for it but I'm pretty good at getting back in her good books. The few arguments we've had since we've been together haven't lasted longer than an hour or so, and they always end with me getting Buffy moaning my name until she forgets what the hell she was mad at me for.

Hopefully with the surprise I have planned, Buffy won't be getting mad at me for at least a good few weeks.

"We're gonna get mommy now and take her to her favourite park, then we'll get burgers and go home. Sound cool?" I ask as I pull outta the car park.

"Yep," she says cheerily before continuing. "Mommy loves you. So do I. . .but Miss Penny thinks you're mean. She just told me."

Lucy thrusts her favourite Barbie through the gap in the front seats, wiggling it around so I can see. I glance over to it and feel a little guilty about its dented head. Hey, it's not my fault the kid leaves stuff laying all over the house. Miss Penny got stepped on last night when I was going out to slay, in my hard-as-fuck boots I like to kick the shit outta vamps in. She's lucky I didn't completely destroy it. If Buffy wasn't so soft on the kid, spoiling her all the time, there wouldn't be a ton of the damn dolls to trip over every five minutes.

"Well, if Miss Penny thinks I'm so mean. . .next time her arm drops off I'll feed it to the neighbour's fish," I warn her, chuckling as she clutches it to her chest.

"Miss Penny's right, you're mean," she says, a fake pout making her look all cute with her woolly hat almost covering her eyes.

I know she doesn't mean it, the kid dotes on me, or at least that's what B says. Likes being around me more than her dad, which is good for us `cause it means there's no hassle with me living with Buffy. Luce took to me living there right off the bat.

I pull up outside Buffy's work and wait for her coming out. She knows we're not going straight home so she's got her big coat and stuff so I don't go freezing her to death. Luce spots her first and asks if it's time for her to behave now. I tell her yes and push the door open for Buffy to get in.

"Hi," she says as she gets into the seat and straps in. "How's my two favourite girls?"

Buffy leans over and gives me a quick kiss. I wanna let it linger but it never feels quite right to go mackin on B when the kid's around.

"Faith's bein' mean to Miss Penny, mom," Lucy whines.

I shake my head and chuckle. "Hey, I saved her arm. . .that's gotta count for something."

Buffy smiles at us both and gently squeezes my thigh as I get the car moving again. She keeps her hand there, making me smile from the inside out. It feels so good just to have her there, touching me in the simplest way yet making me feel completely whole `cause of it.

"So, where we going? I know you said to wrap up warm, but I'm not good with surprises," Buffy tells me.

"Can't say. . .it's a secret," Lucy informs her rightly.

I don't answer Buffy and just keep driving. The destination isn't far, and it isn't grand, but it's a place we all like. . .especially Buffy.

When we get there I pull into the car park and glance over at Buffy to see the little smile she gives me before we all step out into the snow. Making sure the little one's properly covered and warm I take her hand. Buffy slips her arm around my lower back and we head up the path to the top part of the park.

The path's a little slippery in the snow, but we get up the hill without any of us sliding right back down. The view across the park is pretty neat. You can see the city all laid out behind it way in the distance, there's trees all round, topped with big globs of white. The air feels clean and fresh, and there's a little swing just by the picnic bench we always claim. From there you can see down the slope to a small ice rink. It's only there over winter B says. I guess they used to use the pond right by it, but these days it doesn't get cold enough to completely freeze over so they've started setting up a man made rink.

We get down there and skate around sometimes, but today we're just gonna watch. I need to do this without a crowd of people around, even though it looks like there's only a few out on the rink right now.

I pick Luce up and put her in the swing. It's one of those you put your legs through, for real small kids so they won't fall off. She loves just sittin' there, going backwards and forwards as we watch from the bench. I give her a little push and head over to B as she takes a seat, her back to the table, looking out towards the skaters.

"Thanks for bringing me here, Faith," Buffy says, taking my hand in her gloved one as I sit beside her. "I needed the fresh air, and it's nice just to sit and be peaceful for a while."

Her work load's been doubled since they promoted her, and I know she's been getting kinda stressed. Makes me wanna tell her to stop working so I can go out and earn our way, but B doesn't want that. She loves her job. Says it makes up for all the time she spent not feeling normal. I guess I can understand that.

"Anytime, B," I tell her, just looking at her as she watches people gliding around on the ice.

I don't think I could be any happier than I feel right now. I got the girl of my dreams. I got a home I love, people around me that care, no feeling inside me that one day it'll all turn to shit, or that one day I'll have to run. This is it. This is perfect. Buffy, the kid, the slaying, a place I can call home. . .the future we can have. Couldn't ask for more. I finally know what it means to have a family. The kinda family B wants. Which is why I asked her to come with me today. . .`cause there's just one more thing that'll make it perfect. Might seem kinda soon, but it feels right.

"Yunno, B," I say, suddenly feeling my heart leap into my throat as she turns to look into my eyes, "I never really knew what a family was. Never really wanted all that bullshit. The responsibility. The commitment. The fear that one day you might lose it all."

Buffy furrows her brow, her hand reaching out to cup my cheek. The soft wool brushes against my face and I smile. Guess I wasn't really explaining myself all that well; she looks a little worried.

"I'm not going anywhere, Buffy," I reassure, not letting her ask the question. "I love you. I love being with you. I love Luce, and I'll love any little kid that pops outta you in the future. Thing is. . .this family isn't right yet."

I get up from the bench.

"Faith, what are. . .?"

Placing a light kiss on Buffy's lips I keep her from saying anything more. I let my lips stay there for just a few seconds, just feeling the warmth of them on me, the softness of the kiss she gives me back. As I pull away I slip off one of her gloves, taking her hand between mine.

"I want you forever, B," I say, my heart pounding in my chest as I fall to one knee in front of her. "I'm hoping you want it too, which is why I'm asking. . .will you marry me, Buffy?"

I keep hold of her hand as I reach into my pocket, pulling out the cute silver ring I got her. She nods, a little shudder running through her. Watching as a tear rolls down Buffy's cheek, her eyes locked on mine - so much love in them it almost makes me burst - I slip the ring on her finger. She smiles all big and finally finds her voice.

"Yes," she says through her tears. "Yes, I'll marry you, Faith. I want you. . .I want this forever."

I get pulled up into her arms as she holds me to her, a small sob rolling out of her, making tears well up in my eyes too. We just cling, filling each other with love. Never wanting to let go.

She whispers that she loves me, and I whisper it back, the warmth between us cutting through the cold air.

"Mom," Lucy calls from the swing, "I want burgers now. Faith said I could if I be good."

I chuckle and feel Buffy do the same against me. Pulling away I wipe at my eyes and take Buffy's hand in my other one, not ready to let go just yet. We agree that we should get home and eat so we can get Lucy in to bed early. Buffy doesn't let go of my hand as we walk back to the car, my other hand occupied by Luce. The three of us all smiling like crazy people as the snow starts to fall again, covering everything around it like a frozen blanket.

We get Luce strapped into her seat in the car and Buffy takes me in her arms before I get in too, kissing me soft and deep.

"I love you, Faith," she tells me when she breaks our lips apart. "You're everything I could ever want. . .in a wife."

She gets a puzzled look on her face and we both laugh. Yeah, who knew all those years back she'd one day be calling me her wife?

We've come a long way, picked up a few scars on the path, but I always knew she was everything to me. Even through all the bad shit. . .I loved her with every bit of my heart.

"Now lets get home so I can show you just how happy I am you asked me to marry you," Buffy says, giving my butt a squeeze before we both get into the car.

We drive home slowly, Lucy singing about burgers and Barbies in the back as Buffy keeps smiling over at me in the front, her eyes shining every time I smile back.

I guess the trip from London to Cleveland wasn't so bad after all. I got a new life out of it. One I'd never dared dream of having until Buffy showed me I had her heart as much as she has mine. I'll have to remember to get Ken a huge and expensive gift. . .after all, it was her that bought me the ticket to everything I ever wanted.

The End

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