Chapter One

Faith walked into her darkened apartment and dropped her bags near the door, taking a long moment to stand and stretch her travel-weary muscles before fumbling around for the light switch on the wall.

When the overhead light finally came on, Faith looked around the apartment, almost forgetting what it had looked like in the first place. It had been weeks - possibly months - since she'd last been there. The fine layer of dust that covered the furniture and floor was evident of that. But Giles had warned her right from the beginning that if she wanted to be part of the new Slayer's Council and stay out of jail, she had to work for it.

And of course, she obliged. It didn't matter that her passport read Jessie Lynn Jacobs, and it didn't matter that they had created her a whole history that even she couldn't remember the details of. What mattered was that she was out of jail and that she was atoning for the mistakes of her past. Surely the Powers That Be could overlook a bit of identity theft, so long as it was for a good cause.

The cause, of course, was great. Thousands of new slayers, confused and alone with this big new power . . . they needed guidance. They needed to be offered a place in the Slayer School that Giles was running as an offshoot of the new Watcher's Council and learn to harness their newfound powers and use them for good.

And most importantly, they needed an escort to and from the school. Or at least Giles said they did. Faith simply kept her mouth shut and accepted her plane tickets and trip itineraries whenever they were delivered her way.

Faith didn't mind being a glorified chauffeur. It gave her plenty of personal space, yet kept her attached to the group of peers she had so long desired to be a part of.

Of course, it would have been great if she'd had some help. Kennedy was busy working at the actual school, per Willow's request. It allowed them to spend more time together, seeing as that Willow was working there as well.

Buffy had worked at the school and even took part in the occasional transport of new slayers, but that didn't last too long. After a few months had passed, Buffy decided she needed to do something different with her life. Before anyone had time to question why, Giles explained that Buffy had left to find her place in the world.

Frankly, Faith thought it all came down to the fact that Buffy wanted to let loose and just . . . live. Then again, Faith also wanted to smack Buffy around for a while for dumping the whole workload solely on her shoulders.

But instead, Faith plodded along, getting stuck in a routine that consisted of 'go there, fetch girl A, bring girl A back, go there, fetch girl B, bring girl B back', etc, until she had worked through the alphabet more times than she could recall.

Still, she missed the odd occasion when she and Buffy had got to travel together to pick up new slayers, and the fun they insisted on having while they were off of the Watcher's Council radar. Dancing in Rio, partying in Prague . . . it was times like those that Faith would never forget.

It reminded her of all that she could have had if she had never screwed up in the first place.

There was no complaining, though. Faith learned in prison - possibly even before prison - that you can complain all you want but nobody is going to listen.

Why she didn't run, she had no idea. She could have pooled her resources and been lying on the beach in Cabo, wearing nothing but a teensy red bikini and a nametag that read Jessie Lynn Jacobs.

As much as she longed to be free of her responsibilities, there was always something holding her back. Some tie that kept her firmly in place amongst the Scoobies et al. She had ventured to guess what it was on a few occasions, but always pushed it back deep in her being whenever she had such thoughts.

There was no use in having them. She had to accept that she couldn't always have what she wanted, and even if she could have her . . . them . . . it . . . Well, it didn't matter. That bird had flown a long time ago.

Faith shook her head and closed the door behind her, leaving her bags by the door instead of unpacking them. There was no need to. She'd just have to repack them the next day or the day after that for whatever wild goose chase Giles sent her on next.

She walked through the living room and into the kitchen, dragging her fingertips over the wooden end table as she made her way. Chuckling at the dust that covered her fingertips, she wiped her hands on the back of her jeans before giving them a quick rinse in the sink. A short rummage through the refrigerator scored her a can of Dr. Pepper, which looked much more appetizing than the only other item in the refrigerator: a partially used bottle of ketchup.

Though she knew that there'd be no messages on her machine, she pressed the play button anyhow, only to laugh bitterly when the mechanical voice taunted her, "You have no new messages."

"Of course not," Faith mumbled under her breath before taking a long swig of the cool liquid.

She made her way into the bathroom, taking a few minutes to wash her face and throw her hair up into a big messy ponytail. A shower could come in the morning. Now, it was time for sleep.

Without even removing her clothing, Faith crept into her large unmade bed, flomping down amongst the many pillows that lay scattered on top of the bed. She'd always said that she kept so many pillows around because it stopped her rolling off the bed during particularly active dreams, but the truth was that it just made the large bed feel less . . . empty.

Several minutes of complete silence passed, Faith's soft breathing and the sound of the Dr. Pepper fizzing away in the now sweating can the only sounds in the room. Just as Faith was on the brink of sleep, the buzzing of the cellphone in her pants pocket startled her awake.

She quickly grabbed the annoying phone and flicked it open, surprised to see Giles' number on the caller ID. He never made personal calls, especially during the middle of the night. Her annoyance faded as she hit the green button and lifted the phone to her ear.

"What's up?" she asked, her voice tired and thick with sleep.

"Faith, it's Giles. I'm sorry to interrupt, were you . . ?"

"Sleeping?" Faith finished for him, sitting up. "Not anymore, don't worry 'bout it. It's not often that I'm graced with a call from you in the middle of the night. Either I'm in trouble or someone else is, so . . ." she responded.

"It's Buffy," he said, interrupting Faith as she had interrupted him.

Faith paused, not expecting to hear Buffy's name in the context of their call. Not many people had openly spoken about her in the months that she had been gone.

"Yeah, what about her?" She asked, her brow furrowed as she felt her body tense up.

"She's in Los Angeles," Giles said softly.

"Really?" Faith asked with a smile. "I just got back here myself, didn't get a chance to check up on the facts yet. She gonna come on a transport? The company could be nice for a change."

She could feel herself becoming excited at the prospect of having Buffy alongside her again, even if it was just to transport a new slayer.

"She's dead, Faith," Giles said, his voice as solemn as ever.

Faith's smile disappeared from her face and she felt a pang in her chest.

"What?" She asked quietly.

"I'm sorry," Giles replied, unable to say the words again.

Almost immediately, Faith felt herself entering a panic mode. She closed her eyes tightly and focused on the slayer bond. Sure, she could feel other slayers. But Buffy, well . . . the bond she felt for Buffy was different somehow. The hum was stronger, more intense.

When she felt the steady hum still strong as always, Faith breathed a sigh of relief and slumped back on her bed.

"G, quit shittin' me. I can feel her, she's fine. Come on now, it's late and I'm hella tired. You gonna tell me what this is all about so I can catch a few winks before you send me out again?" She asked, sounding relieved but impatient at the same time.

"I assure you that I'm not 'shitting' you, Faith, as you so eloquently put it. Both Willow and the mystics have confirmed it: Buffy is dead. In fact, she's been dead for several months now. We've not been able to confirm it until recently, as she's been moving around to escape our locaters," Giles explained soberly but easily.

Faith sat up again, her head tilted to the side.

"Did you . . . did you just say she's been dead for months? And that Dead Buffy has been having a little jaunt across the world?" She asked, trying to put the pieces together slowly in her head.

"That's correct," he answered.

"So, what you're really saying is . . ." Faith began, to be cut off by Giles one last time.

"Buffy is a Vampire, Faith. We thought she'd retired. She'd disappeared completely from our radar. No phone calls, no letters . . . nothing at all. We had no reason to fear anything had happened; we'd assumed that she was taking advantage of what she'd always wanted -- a normal life. Then Sarelle from the coven had a vision a few weeks ago, and we've been actively searching for her since. Willow has been able to track her to Los Angeles," Giles explained, exhaustion evident in his voice.

"So . . . what?" Faith asked clearly irritated. "You wait for weeks to tell me about it, and now you call me outta the blue and want me to transport her? As if she's actually gonna come willingly? That's fucked up, Giles, even by Council standards."

"Your assignment isn't to transport her, Faith. If that was the case, you would have had your paperwork already," Giles answered matter-of-factly.

Faith paused, letting everything sink in. Letting Giles' words sink it. She thought she knew what he was getting to, but she couldn't let herself believe it until she heard the words leave his mouth.

"What are you telling me, Giles?" She asked quietly, her words barely audible.

"I'm telling you that Buffy is a vampire. She has access to numerous Council operatives and is privy to information that no vampire should know. Hence, she is a threat. The Buffy that we know is gone," Giles said, trying to keep his voice even.

Faith held her breath as she waited for Giles to finish.

"Your assignment, Faith . . . is to find Buffy, and kill her," Giles finished weakly, the last of his strength used in giving an order he never once thought he'd have to give.

Faith wanted to scream. She wanted to fly to England and personally kick the shit out of every person who had let something like this happen.

But then she felt something. Something familiar. Her slayer senses kicked in and she knew she wasn't alone. She focused her eyes, the dark room now seeming clear as day to her.

Her breath hitched as a sudden realization came to light. Unconsciously, she moved her hand to the bedside table and opened the drawer, deftly grabbing her spare stake without making a single noise.

"Faith?" Giles said on the other end. "Faith, are you there?"

"Yeah," Faith answered evenly, her focus moving to the doorway where she caught sight of a dark figure in the shadows.

"Can we count on you to do this?" He asked, waiting for a response.

The figure took one step closer, allowing the moonlight to illuminate her bright green eyes. A wicked smile crossed Buffy's face as she stood there, staring at a truly awe-stricken and confused Faith.

"I take it that my surprise visit is ruined then, huh." Buffy said with a smirk.

Faith narrowed her eyes and met Buffy's unyielding gaze.

"I'm gonna have to get back to ya on that one, G-man," she said before closing the small cell phone and tossing it arbitrarily to the side.

"Darn," Buffy said playfully as she crept ever so slowly into the room. "Those mystics I paid to give me the voodoo mojo deal are in for a big surprise when I make my way back to New Orleans."

"Voodoo mojo deal?" Faith asked, her hand gripping tightly to the stake that she was trying to hide from plain sight.

"Yep," Buffy relied easily, turning her attention to the various trinkets and objects on Faith's large wooden dresser. "Some kind of mystical umbrella that hides me from the coven. Let's me pass under their radar without having to worry about a bunch of little girls with sharp sticks coming after me."

"So you knew they'd be looking for you then?" Faith asked, trying to make small talk to buy some time to form a plan. She couldn't think of a plan though. She was still in overdrive, trying to wrap her mind around everything that Giles had told her and expected her to do, especially now that the target in question was stood not four feet from the edge of her bed.

"Of course I knew they'd be looking for me," Buffy replied with a chuckle, her fingers tracing lightly over the objects on the dresser as she inspected them. "I'm their golden girl, Fai. No way they were just gonna let me cruise around and get on with my life. And for the record," Buffy said and turned to look at Faith, "you can ditch the stake. You won't be needing it." She paused. "At least I hope you won't."

Faith did her best to look confused at Buffy's last statement, but she realized that Buffy must have seen her grab the stake from her bedside table. A moment later, Faith sat up a bit more and gazed at Buffy for a moment or two, looking her over with an inquisitive eye before placing the stake back in the table and closing the drawer.

"Alright, B. You have my attention," Faith said, sitting up fully now with her legs crossed Indian-style. "You here to bore me to sleep, or is there another reason for your surprising and highly suspicious visit?"

Buffy smiled a genuine smile then and leant back against the dresser, facing Faith fully as well.

"See, that's what I've always liked about you, Faith. You say what's on your mind. You cut through the shit and get right to the point."

Faith merely looked at Buffy and raised an eyebrow.

"Bullshit, B. You never liked anything about me, especially the fact that I speak my mind. It's why we never got along. That stick was always so far up your ass that you never took the time to even talk with me. Which, yunno, is fine and all. The only time you actually liked me was when we were off, doing our own thing. Dancing, partying, causing trouble before blowing town . . . that's when you finally lost that stick."

"Hence the reason of my visit, Faithy," Buffy said and closed the short distance to the bed before crawling up on the edge and kneeling there, her hands in her lap. "We had some good times together, huh?"

Faith smiled for a brief moment, recalling the time in Rio when they had conned a group of men into buying them drinks all night long before ditching them to dance, just the two of them, on the dance floor until the sun came up.

"Yeah, transporting with you was always a blast, B. You finally learned to live a little when Giles got some other girls to do his dirty work."

Buffy frowned a little at Faith's words.

"Say what you want, but don't speak badly about Giles. He was there for me all those years. My mentor, my teacher, my father, my . . . friend," she said quietly as she gazed off into space.

"Yeah, well . . . are you aware that 'your father, your friend' just called me and asked me to take you out?" Faith asked with wide eyes. "And I don't mean to show you a good time, B. I mean . . . to get rid of you. They say you're a threat. Just like any other fang out there."

Buffy smiled coyly again, tilting her head to the side as she looked back toward Faith, "Do they really think that you could ever kill me? I mean, sure, you're a slayer. You kill vamps for a living. Or at least you used to. But me? Do you really think you could find it in yourself to dust me, Faith?" She asked, choosing that moment to start creeping further up the bed toward Faith.

"Guess that depends on why you're sittin' here in my apartment, B," Faith replied easily, feeling only curious and not at all intimated by the girl crawling ever so slowly closer to her. If Buffy had meant to kill her, she would have been dead already. Frankly, she was interested to see what Buffy was playing at. "I guess that if you're here to knock me off so that Giles has to send someone less experienced to deal with you, well . . . I think I might have to take offense to that."

Buffy stopped crawling and basically straddled Faith's lap, her cool breath tickling over Faith's face as she spoke softly,

"That's not exactly why I'm here," she said, still smiling.

"So you gonna fill me in on the what then, or are we gonna play 20 Questions? Cos honestly? I normally lose my patience at around three questions and start getting ornery," Faith said, trying to keep her cool as much as she could. Having Buffy that close to her -- dead or alive -- always had an effect on her that she'd never wanted to admit to before.

Buffy took that opportunity to sit back on her haunches, putting a bit more distance between herself and Faith. After moment or two passed, she looked up and met Faith's gaze once again.

"I'm bored, Faith," Buffy said at last.

"Yeah?" Faith replied, raising her eyebrows yet again. "Get a job."

Buffy chuckled at Faith, but didn't let it deter her from continuing.

"I've had a job for eight years, Faith. Day in and day out, I saved the helpless again and again. And no matter how much I've tried to put all of that behind me now that I'm . . . living impaired . . . I just can't. No matter what I am now, the slayer still exists in me."

"So, what?" Faith asked. "You wanna be a good vampire? Cos, I mean . . . it works for Angel and all, but I think we all know how that ended up with Spike."

Buffy smiled and shook her head, "Nope, not like Angel, not like Spike. My soul? Good and gone. And even if there was a way for the coven to restore it, I'm not sure I want it back. I saw firsthand how it tortured Angel and Spike, and frankly? I'm all about the NOT being tortured these days. Unless, of course, it involves being tied to the bedpost or something just as creative."

"So, you have no soul and you're bored," Faith cut in, trying to ignore Buffy's last comment. "You asking me to come on some kind of killing spree, B? Cos I'm not sure if you remember or not, but I left the killing behind when I was bout 18 or something. I may not be a full-fledged Scooby, but I'm doing what I can to keep outta the klink," Faith said, still unsure of exactly why Buffy was at her apartment.

"Killing spree sounds so . . . harsh," Buffy said with a smirk, but quickly became more serious when she saw Faith react badly to what she had said. "Listen, for what it matters, I haven't killed a single innocent human, ok?"

"Innocent, huh?" Faith asked. "So what, you get to pass judgment and decide who's innocent and who isn't?"

Buffy shook her head, clearly not liking that Faith was seemingly turning on her. It wasn't supposed to go that way.

"Were you not listening to me two minutes ago when I said that the slayer is still in me, Faith? It doesn't matter that I don't have soul. She keeps me fighting. She keeps me up in the night, saving the idiotic couple walking through the dark alleyway shortcut instead of the brightly-lit street from the robber with the gun. And if I accidentally stumble and land with my teeth in said robber's neck, I can't say I feel all that bad about it. A girl has to eat, after all."

Faith tilted her head to the side, looking at Buffy with a doubtful look on her face. "So, killing the robber is okay cos you earned it after saving the two schmucks?"

Buffy smiled coyly, "Who said anything about killing? I feed, Faith. I don't kill. The only thing that I've killed to date has been a whole mess of vamps, a Polgara demon in Atlanta, a Wendigo in Tucson and a nest of banshees in Lubbock."

Faith took a few minutes to go over the conversation again and again.

Buffy was a vampire. She wasn't killing people, but she did feed on an occasional scumbag. And she slayed. What exactly, then, did she want from Faith?

"Yunno, I've gotta thank you for the whole 'catching up with Buffy' deal, but I'm still left wondering exactly what the hell you're doing in my apartment at 5:00 in the morning. And more importantly, how the hell did you get in here anyway?"

Buffy smiled as she reached into her leather jacket and pulled out a small keychain, jangling it quietly, "You gave me a key, remember? I believe your exact words were, 'Feel free to use them anytime, B. Mi casa es su casa.' And here I am."

Faith smiled a little at that, "Yeah, guess I did. You'd think a slayer would be a bit more careful about giving someone permanent access to her house." After a brief moments pause, she continued, "So….?"

"So….? Oh!" Buffy said, realizing what Faith was expecting. "So. Right. I'm bored, Faith. This whole undead thing? Pretty much blows. I mean, sure. . . normal vamps get to congregate and run amuck together. And me? Well, I'm not big with the fitting in, seeing as that I'm out killing them pretty much every night."

"Yeah, I can see how that would cause some conflicts," Faith added.

"Right. And the Scoobies, well . . ." she looked at Faith sadly for a moment, ". . . I don't really fit in with them anymore either. Don't get me wrong . . . if I ever found out any of them were in trouble, I'd be there in a minute. They're still my family, dead or alive."

"Buffy . . . B . . . I'm gonna make this really easy for you. What do you want from me?" Faith asked, leaning forward a bit to get right up in Buffy's personal space, leaving her no room to beat around the bush.

"We've had lots of fun together, Faith. I mean, after the whole trying to kill each other phase, that is. Now that Sunnydale is gone, we're a lot more alike than I ever gave us credit for." Buffy paused, choosing her words carefully. "I went on those transports with you because I was going to run away. I needed to get out and lead my own life. Away from Giles, away from the Scoobies, away from them all. But you showed me what it was like to have fun. That we could be out, and be wild, and not let all of the other bullshit get in the way."

"But then I told you that I was happy to be doing the right thing, working for the Council," Faith interrupted, recalling a conversation that she and Buffy had once on a plane trip back to England. It was the last time that she had seen Buffy before Buffy had left to start her own life.

"Right," Buffy said. "I wasn't about to ask you to run off with me when you were so proud of what you were doing. What you're still doing."

Faith chuckled to herself, earning a confused look from Buffy, "Thing is, B? I probably would've left with you. I mean, yeah, it feels good being on the right track and all, but . . . I never really fit in, if you know what I mean."

Buffy smiled, almost sadly, "Yeah, I know all about the not fitting in right now."

"So, what now? We have a big suckfest and ride off into the night together? Gotta say, it's not the most appealing offer I've ever been given," Faith said sarcastically.

Buffy shrugged slightly, "I hadn't really thought about the intricate details. You don't have to . . . you know . . . change. You can stay just like you are. I wouldn't force anything on you. I just . . . it's lonely out there. And we could have so much fun . . ." she trailed off, waiting for some type of reaction from Faith.

"Shit, B," Faith said, running her fingers through her long ponytail. "This is . . . a bit overwhelming, to say the fucking least."

Buffy smiled, but it was mostly to hide her disappointment. She scooted a bit closer to Faith, effectively straddling her lap again.

"How about this: You . . . take some time to think about it," she said as she wrapped her arms over Faith's shoulders. She began to wriggle ever so slightly on Faith's lap, causing the other girl to groan a little. "We could be good, Faith. Me and you, all over the world, living it up . . . nothing or no one stopping us in our pursuit of . . . whatever it is that we want."

Faith had always dreamt of that moment. Buffy on her lap, surrounded in her scent, having what she had always wanted offered up on a silver platter to her.

"But . . ." Buffy continued, her breath coming out in short puffs over Faith's sensitive neck. Faith didn't even flinch, even with Buffy that close to her neck. ". . .you have to decide soon. I'm gonna have to get re-mojo'd soon, before Giles sends in the troops, and I can't very well do that here in LA. I need southern magicks for that."

"How long do I have?" Faith asked, her hands unconsciously moving to Buffy's hips as they moved in a delicious pattern.

"Two days from now, just after sunset. I'll be back. Don't tell Giles about this conversation. And Faith?" Buffy said, pulling back just enough to look into Faith's eyes which had gone almost black with desire. Desire that they had both been fighting for more years than they could remember. "I really hope you choose well."

At that, Buffy leaned in and kissed Faith deeply, moaning quietly into her mouth as their tongues dueled. A moment later, Buffy leapt from Faith's lap and disappeared from the room before Faith even had time to open her eyes.

Faith sat there for several moments with her eyes closed, heart beating fast, the taste of Buffy still on her lips.

Was the offer too good to be true? A trap? Or was it was she had always been looking for?

Only one thing was sure . . . she had lots of thinking to do, and not much time to do it in.

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