Chapter Twenty

Five days have passed and we're seeing off the last of the slayers that are going home to their families. I'd love to say that there's been some huge progress between Faith and I and that we're on our way to a happily ever after, but that's not the case. In all fairness, we're closer now than we ever have been in this reality. Friends, even. But she clams up whenever I try to dig and I can't bring myself to divulge any of my feelings if I don't know for sure that she's feeling them too.

And I mean, I'm pretty sure that she does. The way she talks to me, the way she looks at me . . . I feel like it's right there underneath the surface. Like she's waiting for me to give her a sign.

But I'm a chicken, and she is too. We push and we pull but neither one of us gives. I've had enough time to think about it all when I lay alone in my room every night, hoping she'll come to me instead of getting up off of my own ass and going to her. I think I understand why we're scared though. It's taken almost a week of going over it again and again to figure it out, but I finally did.

What it all comes down to is this:

Back in Sunnydale, Faith and I were indifferent toward each other at best. There was tension and, let's face it, more mixed signals than we knew what to do with. Life was crazy though and even if there were feelings buried beneath it all, we didn't have time to focus on them. We had to save the world.

Fast-forward two months and a long nap later and we're in love. Love like I've never felt before. It worked for us in the other dimension because there was nothing there to distract us. Nothing there to be afraid of. It's easy not to have fear when you have nothing to lose in the first place.

But we're not in that dimension anymore. We're here – home - living and breathing and suddenly we have everything to lose.

So we're both chickens, and we're both terrified to lose something we've never actually had, and neither of us can pass ‘go' or collect our two-hundred dollars until one of us finally confesses to the other what we really feel.

And that is why we've made no progress in the last five days.

Understandable, right?

I shake the thoughts from my head, not wanting to make myself crazy with it when I should be paying attention to the task at hand.

"You guys know that you can come back any time, right?" I ask as I load two more duffel bags into the back of one of the vans.

"We know," both Hazel and Laura reply.

"We're leaving here tomorrow and heading off to our new place. Giles thinks we'll be ready to start bringing girls back to train as soon as a couple of months from now. We'll call when we're all set up and, if you're ready for us, well . . ." I trail off and smile and both girls nod in understanding.

"Got it. We see the Bat-signal, we come a-runnin'," Hazel says.

"I think we'll be a bit more modest than a flashy light in the sky, but that's the gist of it, yeah," I reply, laughing softly.

It's hard for me to believe but I'm going to miss these girls. All of them. They were my family in the other reality, but now we have to send them back to their real families; at least until we come up with some kind of great cover story so their parents will allow them to come back.

They take their turns giving me, Krista, and Jo hugs goodbye and are just about to hop in the van to the airport when we hear someone calling out from down the sidewalk. Needless to say, each and every one of us is all smiles when we see Faith jogging up to us with a small white bag in her hands.

"Hold up a sec!" she yells as she approaches. When she finally stops in front of us, she reaches into the bag and pulls out a clear plastic casing. She tears it open and out slips a pay-as-you go cell phone. Pressing a few buttons, she smiles happily as the phone lights up and comes to life. "Gimme your hands," she tells Hazel and Laura, looking up at them.

They don't hesitate for a second and anxiously lift up their hands in front of her. Faith reaches into her back pocket and slips out a black Sharpie marker. She pulls the cap off with her teeth and glances at the small screen, copying the number down onto their opened palms.

"You need anything," she mumbles around the pen cap, "you call. Any time, night or day, whatever. I'll never turn it off. And I'm serious: anything. Even advice on a prom dress, though I'll probs flake on ya and tell ya to wear a tux instead."

She pulls them into a giant hug and as I watch on, smiling, I feel someone step up behind me. I don't look over but I can tell by the breathing and by the soft scent of soap and cologne that it's Giles.

"She has quite a way with them, doesn't she," he says.

"You have no idea," I reply, recalling all of the girls she helped in the other reality.

"It goes without saying that she'll be quite an asset once we're in a position to begin helping slayers. I think she'd be wonderful in a role where she can mentor as well as physically train the young slayers."

"I agree."

"You and she," he begins quietly after a few moments pause, "you've become very close."

I look up at him and see him studying my face intently. Smiling softly, I nod my head and look back over to where Faith, Jo, and Krista are now waving at the departing van.

"We have."

He doesn't say anything in response but only steps closer and presses his lips to the top of my head. I close my eyes and smile again. He knows more about me than I can ever begin to imagine, and this is his way of telling me that he supports me. Whatever happens between Faith and I . . . he'll be there for me.

When I open my eyes to look up at him, I see that he's already several steps down the sidewalk and heading toward the second van that Xander is busy loading with bags. Giles and Anya are going to close the real estate deal today and they're going to spend the night at the new place, getting it ready for the rest of us to arrive tomorrow. Xander, Andrew, and Dawn are going with him as well, having been recruited by Giles to help get everything set up.

I start to walk toward the second van to say goodbye to them when I feel an arm sling over my shoulder and a hip bump into mine.

"You looking forward to tonight?" Faith asks, a big smile on her face.

"You do realize that we're probably going to get busted and spend the night in jail, right?" I ask.

"You doubt my bribing prowess?" she asks, and when I raise my eyebrows, she feigns hurt. "Really, I'm wounded, B. Listen though, there's nothing to worry about. I sweet-talked the night manager and he said that he'll turn his head the other way if we wanna take the rest of the girls into the hotel bar. It's not like it's the weekend so they're not gonna be all that busy anyhow."

"What exactly does ‘sweet talking' involve?" I ask her, and when she wiggles her eyebrows, I groan and chuckle at the same time. "You do realize that Giles frowns on you using your feminine wiles to get what you want, right?"

"Yeah, But what G don't know won't hurt him and he's about to leave here in ten minutes anyhow. So, come on. You gonna come with us tonight? The last of the girls are really lookin' forward to it and it might be our last chance to kick up our heels for a while."

I pretend like I'm thinking it over despite the fact that I made up my decision to go when she mentioned the idea to me last night. Of course I'm going. If it means I'll get to spend some time with Faith, well . . . I'm there.

"Fine, fine. Twist my arm. Nine o'clock?"

"Sharp," she replies. "And I'll be wearing black. Yunno. Just in case ya wanted to color-coordinate." She winks at me and then takes off back into the hotel, shouting her goodbyes to everyone getting into the second van.

Nine o'clock can't come soon enough.

I spent the day doing a little bit of extra shopping – thanks to a small loan from Angel – and making sure everything is packed up for tomorrow. Faith and Jo have been with Jamie and Rachel most of the day, and Krista has made friends with Rona and Vi so she hasn't been around much either. That's good though because it gave me some alone time to regroup. Whatever happens is going to happen. I won't fight it.

I start getting ready for the night at just around seven thirty, making sure that my makeup and hair is absolutely perfect. When I'm satisfied with my progress, I slip into the shimmery white sundress that shows off my freshly tanned skin. My new strappy sandals and silver necklace are the finishing touches and I stand in front of the mirror, admiring myself.

Good luck resisting, Faith.

Smirking, I look over at the digital alarm clock and see that it's exactly 9:00. Perfect timing. Grabbing my room key and tucking it safely away in my bra, I take one last glance in the mirror and then head out the door.

By the time I catch the elevator and get down to the lobby, it's almost 9:05. I can hear music pumping from the bar just down one of the main corridors and I smile. I can't wait to see Faith. The music gets louder and the closer I get and when I walk through the front entrance, I'm not surprised to find all of the slayers and even Willow out on the dance floor.

Actually, not all of the slayers. There's one standing at the bar grinning at me, her black leather pants and tiny black tank top hugging her curves in all of the right places. Her long wavy hair is cascading down her back and my breath catches in my throat. God I could kick myself for not realizing back in Sunnydale how hot Faith looks in leather.

Maybe she's not the one who'll need luck resisting tonight.

"You're late," she says as I approach her, letting her eyes roam over me.

"Perfection takes time," I reply playfully.

She hands me a drink from the bar and takes one for herself, then holds it up between us. I clink my glass against hers and down it back in one shot, not caring what it is. It doesn't taste too bad – obviously she knew that I wouldn't like something too hard or horrible-tasting – so I don't hesitate when the bartender hands us over two more. We both tip them back at the same time and I lick my lips when I set the empty glass back on the bar.

"You want another?" she asks me and I see that the bartender has already started pouring them.

I shrug and nod. It's liquid courage, right? Hopefully it'll work on Faith if it doesn't work on me. We finish our last drink for the moment and she takes my hand without asking, leading me out toward the dance floor. The only people dancing are the slayers and Willow and the few other patrons around the bar are barely paying us any attention at all. Krista waves excitedly, as does Willow who looks relieved to see me. She starts to dance over our way, but then Faith tugs on my arm and pulls me closer so that my back is to Willow.

"Remember how much fun we used to have dancin', B?" Faith asks, her breath warm against my ear.

"It's one of our better pastimes," I reply, smiling.

Willow? What the heck is a Willow?

"Then let's show these kids how real slayers do it."

We fall into step perfectly, better than we ever have. Every move compliments the other no matter what kind of music plays. We're close but not overtly groping each other, clearly pushing the bounds of how close friends can dance without it being weird.

But it's not weird, it feels anything but weird, and I hope to god that regular friends don't dance like this. No wonder guys drool when they see two girls dancing together.

Hours pass and we stay on the dance floor the whole time, not even stopping to get drinks or mingle. Kennedy brought us a couple of bottles of beer a while ago and Willow was on drink duty for a while because, unlike the rest of us, she doesn't have slayer stamina.

It has to be nearly one in the morning when the music changes from dancey pop to a much slower, grindier song. It doesn't throw any of us and Krista giggles drunkenly, commenting on the fact that we're all lacking partners to grind on. Kennedy and Willow partner up making the rest of the girls hoot and holler at them.

But no one makes a peep when Faith spins me around and pulls me right against her so we're chest to chest. The move only momentarily surprises me but I quickly catch my footing and follow her lead, resting my arms up on her shoulders. She smiles and leads us a few feet away from the girls, giving us a bit more space and privacy.

We haven't danced quite this close all night but I'm certainly not complaining. I can feel a strong leather-covered knee between my thighs but Faith isn't pressing her luck; she's keeping it fairly respectable . . . at least for the moment. Her exposed skin is hot and damp with sweat and it takes everything inside of me to stop from running my hands up and down her body.

"You havin' a good time?" she asks over the music, her breath once again warm on the side of my face.

"Yeah," I reply. "You?"

"Pretty much," she says and I can practically hear the smile in her voice. "You sure you don't mind dancin' with me like this? Didn't mean to go all Johnny Castle on ya but somethin' about ya brings out the dirty dancer on me."

"Why would I mind? You're a great dancer!" I say, then something crosses my mind. "Wait, if you're Johnny, does that make me Baby?"

She pulls back enough to look at my face and I can see that she's grinning softly. "I dunno, B. You wanna be my Baby?"

"Is that a bona fide offer?" I ask playfully, not sure if she really meant it or if she's just playing.

Faith just chuckles and shakes her head, pulling me fully back against her. "We sure are great dancers. We dance around everything, huh."

"It's a part of how we've always been together," I admit, knowing that she's not exactly talking about our actual dance moves. I wish I could see her eyes right now . . .

. . . and wishes apparently are coming true tonight because she pulls back and looks into my eyes, a serious look on her face.

"So let's lay our cards on the table for a change and break the habit. What do ya say?"

"I say . . . you go first," I reply, almost kicking myself for saying that.

Faith chuckles again and shakes her head but eventually nods. "Alright, fine. I can do honest. How's this: I remember stuff."

"What kind of stuff?" I ask warily. We're barely dancing now, just kind of swaying to the beat.

It looks like she's fighting with herself but she takes a deep breath and exhales slowly, obviously preparing to let a bombshell fly. I just hope it's what I think it is.

"Stuff like this," she says, and suddenly she leans forward and captures my lips with hers, kissing me soft but enthusiastically. Her lips feel like heaven and my legs almost give from under me. Thank god she still has her hands around my back.

She starts to pull back and I so want to put my hands on the back of her head and keep her lips to mine, but I reluctantly let her pull away. There's no way I can keep the smile from my face and when I'm able to open my eyes, I see she's smiling too.

"Good stuff," I reply, still a bit dazed.

Faith laughs and I feel her arms pull be a bit closer to her, if that's even possible. "Your turn," she says.

"Alright," I say, thinking of something that will reveal something important but not too much. Baby steps. "I remember this," I begin, running my fingertips over the new tattoo at the back of her neck. It's the same as mine: a tribal band similar to the one on her arm with two Kanji symbols in the middle. They're the symbols for dream and reality. They're interlocked together, kind of like this reality and the one we were trapped in for two months.

"That's not exactly something that happened in the other dimension."

"I know," I reply. "But I remember my first tattoo, after Jo . . . well, died. You told me to send for Shy after we'd . . . well, after we . . . uhh, the first time . . ."

"I think I got it," she says with a wink. "Not a bad memory if I say so myself."

I chuckle and dip my head down in embarrassment, then look off to the side. Did I give away too much? Only a few moments pass and I feel her fingertips under my chin, making me look back at her.

"My turn, right?" she asks, and when I nod, she continues. "I remember this."

And suddenly her lips are on mine again, kissing me deep and intense, making my toes curl. Her tongue slides over mine and I moan into her mouth, chills running along my spine as her hands roam up and down my body. I practically melt when her fingernails scrape along the back of my thighs just under the hem of my dress and for a very brief moment I'm almost afraid that she's going to lift my dress up and over my head.

Almost afraid. At this point, I don't think I would stop her.

Her thigh presses snugly between my legs and I moan again, then notice that all of the slayers – and even the bartender, I think – are making catcalls around us. Faith's hands suddenly squeeze my butt and I force myself to pull back from the kiss, breathing heavily.

"Your memory is awesome," I manage to say and she laughs again, her gaze never leaving mine.

"I was kinda thinking the same thing," she replies. "You're up. What else do you remember?"

I bite softly on my lower lip as I stare up into her eyes, trying to keep back my smile.

"I think if I show you, we might get arrested for public indecency."

"So do you wanna talk somewhere more private?" she asks tentatively and I nod.

"Private sounds good," I reply, still breathless. "Though I'm not sure we'll do much talking."

She smiles and takes my hand, leading me off the dance floor and toward the exit of the bar. The slayers are hooting and hollering still and when I look behind us, I see Krista giving me two thumbs up and Willow giving me a knowing smile. She's had her suspicions and I guess now they're confirmed.

Faith tugs me along to the elevator and once we're inside and the doors close behind us, we're all over each other again. I know we're only a few floors up but it feels like the longest ride of my life. The shiny steel wall is cold against my back and Faith is hot against my front and all I can think about is getting back to my room.

I know this isn't exactly how I saw this evening going but . . . I can't help myself now. Faith is right here in front of me and I want her, no matter how it is that I get her. I just need her. I can't turn away from this.

"My room key is in my bra," I mumble against her lips and I feel her start to smile. Without pulling her lips from mine, she reaches between us and feels me up, stealing the key away without me even feeling it. "How did you do that?" I ask when the bell dings and the door opens.

"I'm multi-talented," she replies, grinning. She places the card in my hand and waits for me to lead the way.

Ahh, I guess this part is up to me. She's letting me take the lead for a change.

I peek out into the hallway and when I see that it's empty, I pull her to me and start kissing her again. She kisses back just as enthusiastically and we somehow manage a backwards crab walk until I see we're standing just outside my door. I start to unlock it but I feel a hand soft on my wrist, stopping me.

We stop kissing and when I look up at Faith, she's looking at me so intensely that my heart starts to ache in my chest. There's something in her eyes; she's waiting for something. I lean up to kiss her again but she pulls back just out of reach, still staring into my eyes.

"It's still your turn, B. What else do you remember?"

What? We're still playing that game? Okay, fine. I can do this.

I smile sexily and look at her through my eyelashes, my hands pulling her hips against mine.

"Well why don't you come inside and I'll show you," I say.

She smiles nervously but shakes her head, her hands coming to rest on my sides.

"Nuh-uh," she says. "Just tell me . . . something. Anything."

Her eyes are pleading with mine again and I don't know exactly what she wants me to say. My hands slowly let go of her hips and hers tighten on mine, clinging to me. Clinging to some hope.

"Why don't you just tell me and I'll tell you if I remember," I try and she shakes her head again. I hear her breath leave her throat, shaking gently.

"Please, B," she whispers, pressing her forehead against mine and closing her eyes. "Just tell me what else you remember."

I take a deep breath and open my mouth to speak but nothing comes out. If we could just go inside, I could show her everything. We could make it all real.

Almost a full minute passes and finally I feel her sigh and her shoulder slump. What? I have no idea what's going on with her all of a sudden. I open my mouth to ask her what's wrong and her finger presses against my lips, so so gently. I give it a gentle kiss and she replaces her finger with her lips, returning the kiss just as softly. She takes a deep breath and pulls back, smiling sadly at me.

"Night, B," she says, then takes a step back and starts to walk down the hall to her own door.

"Faith?" I call after her but she doesn't look back.

Her hands are in her pockets and her head is down, and I go over everything that just happened to try to figure out what the fuck just happened. She reaches the end of the hall and disappears around the bend and I'm left alone in the hallway, tears filling my eyes but not falling.

What did I do wrong? What did I get wrong? We were doing so well, and hey – she's the one who started the kissing! And she's the one who suggested privacy! We were being honest for a change and she ran away? A tear rolls down my cheek and I swipe it away in frustration. More try to join it and I let them fall as I try to figure out what happened and where I went wrong.

I don't know how long I've been standing here – at least five minutes - but the sound of the elevator catches my attention and I look up to see Kennedy and Willow stumble out into the hallway. They're giggling and laughing . . . until they see my face. They come over in a rush, Willow asking me what's wrong and why I'm crying while Kennedy just watches silently.

"Buffy, what is it? What happened?"

"I don't know," I answer truthfully.

"Where's Faith?" Kennedy asks.

I shrug and sigh. "In her room, I guess. I don't know. She didn't say anything when she left."

"Oh," Willow says nervously. "You two looked like you were getting along fine when you were dancing . . ."

"We were!" I pretty much shout back, throwing my arms up in frustration. "We were good, and there was kissing, and touching, and I thought we were getting somewhere, and then . . . she left!"

Willow takes a step closer to me, looking like she's trying to keep my voice from reaching all of the surrounding rooms. "Come on, let's go inside and talk," she says. She shoots Kennedy a look and Kennedy nods, then walks off down the hall toward Faith's room.

Willow takes my room key from my hand and opens up the door and then leads me over to the bed. She sits down and pulls me down next to her so that we're facing each other. When she sees that my tears are falling again, she reaches over to the nightstand and grabs the box of tissues, then places them on my lap.

"What happened, Buff?"

I grab a few tissues and blot my eyes and cheeks, then shrug. "I guess it's just not meant to be. Not here, anyhow."

"Buffy?" she asks, clearly confused.

I take a deep breath and sigh. What can it hurt if she knows it all?

"Faith and I . . . in the other dimension . . . in here," I tap my head, "we were . . ."

"Together?" she fills in for me.

"We were in love," I say quietly, staring down at my lap. "It didn't start out that way. We fought, and then we were friends, and then we . . . there was sex. But it grew into something more. We were inseparable."

"I've noticed how close you guys are since you woke up," she comments.

"Yeah. Wishful thinking, I guess," I reply. "It was love, and it was amazing, even in the middle of hell. She died and it felt like someone ripped my soul out. Then I woke up and realized that she didn't remember – or didn't want to remember – and it felt like my soul was getting ripped out all over again."

"Oh Buffy," she says, her bottom lip coming out in sympathy.

"I still love her, Wills," I say sadly. "But it's just not the same here. I don't know why she was able to tell me that she loves me in the other dimension but she can't say it here."

I shake my head sadly and for once in her life, I can tell that Willow doesn't know what to say.

"Maybe she does."

"Then why did she walk away?" When Willow can't answer, I continue. "I know you still hadn't figured it out the other day, but have you made any progress on getting the other dimension out of my head since then? Maybe if it's gone, everything will go back to normal."

I can tell by the look on her face that she doesn't have good news.

"I've consulted with the coven and with more mages than I can recall but they all say it can't be done. I'm sorry, Buffy. I think it's in there to stay."

And instantly, my tears start falling again and my shoulders are wracked with sobs.

"How do I do this, Will? How do I make it through this reality without her when the other dimension is still in my head, along with the memory of loving her and her loving me back?"

Willow pulls me into her arms and holds me tight, resting her chin on the top of my head.

"I think the first step is to figure out what you want, Buffy. What you really, really want. And the next step is to make this reality even better than the other one."

"How do I do that?" I ask her, looking up into her green eyes.

She looks down at me nervously, then glances over at the door before looking back at me.

"You have to be brave, Buffy. You've always been the bravest person I know when it comes to monsters and all kinds of baddies that go grr in the night. Maybe it's time that you use that courage for yourself, and for Faith. I know she's used hers for you at least once before."

"What?" I ask her, confused.

She glances over at the door again and when she sees we're still alone, she puts her hands on my upper arms and pushes me back enough so that she can look right into my eyes.

"I told you before how the magic was made to work with one of the original slayers. You fell unconscious first and the magic activated, trapping you and the other slayers in it; but not Faith. It was made for you or her, but not both. She fought until the very end and carried you out of the hellmouth and to the bus. She was at your bedside for a week. She didn't eat, she didn't sleep; she was sick with worry, Buffy, and when Amanda woke up and said that you were there, confirming what other girls had described, well . . . she wouldn't sit idly by any longer no matter how much we tried to convince her to wait."

"What are you saying, Will?" I ask, my brow furrowed.

Willow takes a deep breath and continues. "She told me to figure it all out and to figure it out fast. Said she was gonna get you out, again. Next thing I know, she's running out of the room with a determined look on her face . . . and the key to Giles' rental car hidden in her pocket. Buffy, she . . . she knew how to get into the other dimension. She knew she had to become unconscious and then she'd be able to slip in. Or at least she hoped so, I think. We didn't know her plan, but . . . she got in Giles' car and drove it right into the side of a building at a stupidly high speed. We didn't know what happened until Andrew saw her being wheeled into the emergency room on a stretcher. Her plan worked: she got in. She just couldn't do anything to help once she got there because she became a part of the magical world created in your mind. She didn't remember an accident, or the mission she was on. But she was there with you, and I think that's all she really wanted in the first place."

I don't know when but at some point during her speech, my hand came up and covered my mouth. I can feel my breath warm and trembly against it and my tears are still falling down my cheeks.

"Will . . ." I begin but find I can't say anything else.

Willow smiles softly and takes my other hand in hers. "Go and tell her how you feel, Buffy. Be brave for her, like she was for you."

And I can't even think of anything more to say to her. When I stand up Willow does too and I pull her into a tight hug.

"Thank you," I whisper.

"Go and get your girl, Buffy," she says and when I pull back, I can see that she's giving me a big smile. I smile back through my tears and start to head for the door just as it opens from the other side. My heart jumps into my throat when I think I might find Faith on the other side but instead I see Kennedy standing there, frowning and holding onto a folded sheet of paper.


"She wasn't there," she says. "But this was, and it has your name on it."

She hands me the paper and sure enough, I see my name scribbled on one side of it. I open it up and see Faith's handwriting over a few lines.

"B –

You asked me what I remembered. I told you some stuff. Here's the rest: I remember wanting to cry with relief when I saw you walk into the arena that day. I remember fighting with you. I remember being your friend. I remember kissing you and touching you. I remember holding you and promising that we'd always be together and we'd ride off into the sunset together.

I remember telling you I love you.

I remember it all, except for one thing: I don't remember you ever telling me that you loved me back. Pretty sure I never will, either.

And I can't pretend I'm cool with that anymore, cos I'm not. Maybe one day we'll see eye to eye on it all. Until then . . .


My eyes go wide and I read over the letter at least two more times before looking up at Kennedy.

"Where did she go?" I ask anxiously.

"Don't have a clue. She ain't in her room though, and when I jimmied the lock I saw that her side of the room was cleared out."

I look back at Willow and her eyes are wide too but she shakes it off and quickly closes the space between us.

"It's not too late, Buffy. Go." When I don't budge, she actually pushes me out into the hallway, just narrowly avoiding sending me crashing into Kennedy. "Buffy, she's a slayer; she walks fast. Go, now!"

And I'm suddenly running down the hall faster than my strappy sandals want to take me. The elevator is still on our floor and I jump in and bang on the button for the lobby again and again. The metal doors slide shut and I pace back and forth as the elevator slowly descends.

I finally get it now. I know what Faith was waiting for. She told me that she loved me and I never had a chance to say it back. She's been waiting to hear it this whole time; Faith put her heart on the line for me and was waiting for me to return the gesture.

God, I'm such an idiot!

The doors slide open and I look out through them, then take a deep breath. This is it. This is my last chance.

**(Suggested Music: Your Guardian Angel by the Red Jumpsuit Apparatus)**

I run out into the lobby and look from left to right, scanning for any sign of Faith. It's completely deserted with the exception of the front desk clerk and I run over to the desk, startling her when I all but crash into it.

"May I help you?" she asks with a friendly smile.

"Yeah. Yes. Hi. Uh, I think a friend of mine may have come through here a few minutes ago and I'm wondering if maybe you saw her and can point me in her general direction."

"Brunette, leather pants, about my height?" she asks.

"Yes! Yes, that's her. Can you tell me which way she went?"

"She walked toward the rear exit just a few minutes ago."

"Thank you!" I shout back to her as I'm already half way across the lobby and heading toward the back exit. I skid down the long corridor and burst through the heavy glass doors hard enough to send them flying back as far as they'll open. I stop just outside them and look around, hoping to see some sign or find a clue that will lead me to her.

Needless to say, I'm more than surprised when I look toward the short concrete wall along the outside of the garden and see her perched on it with her feet dangling just off the ground, staring up at the starry sky.

"Faith!" I shout and run toward her.

She looks just as surprised to see me as I do to see her sitting there and I'm pretty sure I almost give her a concussion when I crash into her and wrap my arms around her back.

"Buffy . . ." she begins but I cut her off with a kiss so long and deep that it leaves us both breathless. She hasn't moved her hands from the ledge of the wall and her eyes are still slightly guarded when I pull back to look into them. "What . . ." she begins again but I cut her off.

"I remember," I say, breathing hard. My heart is racing in my chest and I feel like it's about to burst at any second. "Everything. I remember everything. Faith . . ."

I stop for a moment and unwrap my arms from her so that I can hold her face in both of my hands. I stroke my thumbs over her lips and then look up into her eyes. They're not guarded anymore; she's looking at me so openly, so honestly, and with so much love that it takes my breath away. I smile and tears start to form in my eyes again.


"I know what you did. You put yourself in a coma so that you could help me. You . . . you were there for me, Faith. My guardian angel. You brought me back to life and . . . I love you. God, I love you Faith. So much."

A silence falls between us and my heart is beating so hard and fast that I can hear it in my ears. Please, don't let it be too late. Please.

A small smile creeps up on her lips and then I feel her hands on my sides, pulling me to her. We hold each other in the tightest hug known to man and she hops down from the wall, bringing us that much closer together. My tears start falling again and I rest my cheek on her shoulder, so content to just be in her arms again. To know that this is real and not something that will be forever hidden away in some part of my mind.

"I didn't care what happened to me," she says. "I would have died to know that you'd be alright. Nearly did. Guess it doesn't matter now though. We're both here, right?"

"Yeah. We are."

"I love you, Buffy," she says finally.

And suddenly, all of the pieces fall into place. My heart clenches in my chest and I know that I'm right where I'm supposed to be with who I'm supposed to be with. If the other dimension still exists in my head, I'll never know it for sure. I don't want to spend another second of my life anywhere than right here with Faith.

We pull back just enough so that our lips can meet in a series of soft, quick kisses. Each one is sweeter than the one before it and I know that I'm going to spend forever getting to know each and every one of her kisses.

"I can't believe you were gonna leave," I say as we pull back from the kiss.

"And I can't believe you finally got the balls to stop me," she replies, giving my butt a hard slap.

"All I had to do was open my eyes and realize that my life wouldn't be the same without you in it. Any world without you in it would be as bad as the world we were trapped in."

"It wasn't all that bad," she says, laughing when my eyes widen at what she said. "What?"

"Demon apocalypse, Faith. Human slaves. No shampoo or conditioner!"

"Yeah, but it was worth it. Two years of hell and I walk away from it with you in my arms. Me? Not gonna complain about it."

I chuckle and plant a few more kisses on her lips, then lean down to grab her bag and sling it over my shoulder. She wraps her arm around my waist and we slowly start to walk back toward the hotel door.

"I guess you're right. No complaining from me either."

"Yunno what I am gonna miss though?" she asks.

"What's that?"

"Bobb-o. Coolest demon ever."

I laugh softly. "What would you do if I tell you that Bobb-o is actually a three-hundred pound orderly from the hospital that used to like to paint my nails while I slept?"

"For real?" She asks. When I laugh and nod, she gets all excited. "I've gotta go meet him!"

"You can. We can go together."

"You gettin' all clingy on me now?"

"Like saran wrap."

"Ya better."

She pulls the door open and we walk in together. I don't know where we're going from here or if our life together will work out as perfect as it feels right now, but none of that matters. I've got amazing friends who have been there for me through the most trying two months of my life, toenails that are still painted the prettiest pink I've ever seen, the cutest new clothes that a girl could ask for, and the girl I love, groping me as we ride up to our floor in the elevator.

I'm pretty sure that it doesn't get much better than this.

It took losing everything I had and everything I ever knew to find everything I never knew I always wanted. You better believe that I'm never gonna let it go now that I have it.

The End

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