Chapter Eighteen

Buffy sat quietly in her chair, replaying the words that Faith had said over and over in her mind. She kept her eyes fixed straight ahead of her at some point in the back yard. The look on her face was a cross between shock and confusion.

After about two minutes of silence, she took a sideways glance at Faith and noticed that the other girl was anxiously staring at her, obviously waiting for some type of response.

Buffy knew that she had to say something, but she wasn't sure what. Part of her wondered if Faith was messing with her or maybe if it was just a sex thing. But what if it was something else? Oh god, what if it was something else? She opened her mouth to say something but nothing came out.

After seeing Buffy struggle with her thoughts, Faith finally spoke up.

"B, I'm not askin' for anything here and I'm not tryin' to mess around with ya either. You told me not to lie and I figured that I owed you at least that much. If it's honesty that you want from me, that's what you're gonna get."

Buffy sat quietly for another moment before finally lifting her gaze towards Faith and speaking.

"So . . . what does that mean? Is it just a sex thing for you?"

"No!" Faith answered quickly but grinned a little and continued, "Well, I think that by now we both know that I wouldn't mind a little lovin' from ya . . ." to which Buffy visibly tensed, so Faith quickly added, ". . . but, that's beside the point. It's not just a sex thing. It's kinda . . . more of a heart thing."

She braced herself waiting for the other girls' reaction.

Buffy's eyes had gotten wide and had quickly returned to staring into the back yard. Her body still tense, she began to chew on her bottom lip a little.

A heart thing? Did that mean that Faith was in love with her?

Noting Buffy's nervous response, Faith decided to try to clear things up a little.

"Listen B, I don't expect anything back . . . you don't have to respond or do anything. I'm not imaginin' any monumental declarations from you or nothin' so don't worry about it . . . please. I just wanna get through this whole mess with my head first. If I make it out alive . . . well, I guess I'll have to deal with the consequences of this little discussion at that point in time."

Faith wasn't quite prepared for what happened next.

Keeping her eyes focused on some random point in the back yard, Buffy slowly and without warning reached over and took Faith's hand into her own. She interlaced their fingers and gave a comforting squeeze.

"Faith . . . this is a lot for me to take in right now. I'm glad that you're not expecting a response because I'm not sure that I can give you one right now. The only things I'm sure of is that I'm glad that you're back and that I don't want you out of my life again anytime soon. I'm gonna do whatever it takes to help you, and we're all going to make it through this . . ."

She looked up to meet Faith's intense stare and she continued.

". . . and when that time comes, you and I will have a little chat. But before that time comes, can we just stay like this?" She brought up their intertwined hands and raised her eyebrows. "Can we just be . . . like this . . . just be close, at least for now?"

She smiled timidly, awaiting Faith's response.

Faith was pretty much speechless at that point. She hadn't expected Buffy to react with such a . . . lack of violence? And yelling? And anger?

Fairg responded in the only way that came to her mind. With a small smile on her face, she raised up their intertwined fingers and placed a small kiss on Buffy's hand. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath, holding Buffy's hand against her lips. After a moment, she lowered their hands and opened her eyes to meet those of a smiling Buffy.

"Yeah, B. We can just be like this for now."

They smiled at one another before turning their gazes out towards the backyard. They remained sitting on the back porch, hands intertwined, just enjoying being in each other's presence.

They sat like that for a couple of hours, not even noticing as the sun began to set along the horizon and as the cool evening air settled around them. Only when they heard the sounds of Dawn, Xander, and Anya returning from their day out did the two girls finally decide to rejoin their friends.

Neither one of them seemed ready to let go of the other, so they walked into the house hand-in-hand. As they entered the kitchen, they found it bustling with activity, so much so that no one had even noticed them enter.

Angel was standing near the basement door with Cordelia in his arms, both of them smiling and slightly jumping up and down in excitement. Willow and Tara stood nearby holding hands, just smiling at the sight of Angel and Cordelia. Wesley and Giles remained in the dining room doing research, but they both seemed to have cheerful expressions on their faces.

When Faith had closed the door behind her, Willow heard the door shut and immediately ran over to the two Slayers.

"You guys are never going to believe this . . . Angel just got some really good news."

"Oh yeah?" Faith asked, looking over to Angel and Cordelia. "What kind of good news? You win an Oscar for Best Brood?" She joked, giving Angel a little wink.

Angel finally let go of Cordelia and walked over to Faith, taking her hands in his.

"Faith . . . do you remember when we were leaving the prison, how Drake did all kinds of protection spells?"

"Yeah. I was there Angel, and I'm not an idiot . . . or, well . . . not a complete idiot. Of course I remember."

Angel smiled.

"Do you also remember when he performed a Zedalyde Ritual to bind your soul to this plane?"

Faith raised her eyebrows and nodded, anxious for him to make his point.

"Well, I just talked to him, and he had some interesting news for me. Apparently when he performed the ritual, it took effect on everyone in the room . . . including me."

"What?!?" Faith and Buffy shouted at the same time.

"My soul . . . it's permanent. It's bound to this plane. He didn't realize that the ritual would affect me as well. He only found out when he contacted one of his connections on a higher plane. Apparently, the Powers That Be are aware of what happened and they're not going to interfere. It's mine, for good," he beamed, barely able to contain his excitement.

"Wait . . . are we sure about this?" Buffy asked. "Is there some sort of spell we can do to see if it's really true?"

"We don't n-need to," Tara replied. "I can sense it, it's in his aura. I wasn't trying to see it before so I never noticed it. But now when I try to see and feel it, I know that it's definitely there. His soul is bright white and there's no darkness around it . . . just pure light."

"Angel, that's fuckin' awesome!" Faith replied as she pulled him into a hug.

"Hey! Teenager in the room!" Dawn said as she came walking in, wanting to see what the commotion was about. "What's going on? Is Faith better?"

"No, Dawnie, but there's some other good news for a change. Angel's soul is anchored. It's permanent now," Buffy explained, a small smile on her face.

"Holy shit!" Dawn exclaimed, running over to Angel and giving him a hug.

"Dawn! Language!" Buffy scolded half-heartedly, trying to stifle her giggle at the teenager's outburst.

"Oops . . . sorry. Guess I kinda got caught up in the moment," Dawn said meekly. "But, hey, you can't blame me." She pointed at Faith, "Miss Potty-Mouth over there has been swearing since she got here. You can't blame me for being an impressionable youth."

Faith scoffed, pretending to be hurt.

"Aww, D. I thought we were tight! And here you are, passing the blame. Yeah, I guess I've been a bad influence on you. Teachin' you to swear, and pass blame, and god knows what else. Hey . . . maybe I can teach you how to smoke."

"NO!" Buffy cut in. She grabbed Faith's hand and held on tight. "I'm not letting you near her without my supervision, thank you very much. That's all I need is a Junior Faith strutting around here, calling me B and sprouting random Five-by-Five's and wicked's. I get enough of that with you," she said and poked the other girl playfully.

Willow observed the new-found closeness between the two Slayers with interest. She couldn't help but notice that since Faith had arrived, Buffy had been extremely friendly with her, especially considering their past.

It was all beginning to make sense to her. She always knew that the two slayers had shared a special bond due to their Slayer connection. But she thought that was all there was to it . . . the Slayer connection. Now she was beginning to see things a little bit differently.

Giles had come up to her while they were researching and had mentioned how Buffy had gone to visit Faith daily while she was in the coma. It had somewhat taken Willow by surprise. She knew that Buffy felt remorse for putting Faith in that condition, but she never thought that the blonde would let down her walls enough to express that remorse in any way.

Willow understood that Buffy had always felt alone, simply because there was no one who could completely relate to her life. That is, except Faith. And now Buffy was reveling in the thought of having Faith back in her life and on her side.

What she couldn't comprehend was the fact that now that the two slayers were reunited, there seemed to be no way to separate them. Not even a Slayer-connection could be that strong and impenetrable, she thought. It was something more, like the connection between two people with shared destinies, or even more than that. . . cosmic soul-mates.

She couldn't help but feel that there was still hope for Faith. She wasn't sure how it would work or if it would work at all, but if Faith's soul was bound to this plane and the two Slayers were indeed soul-mates, then Buffy's soul would play an active part in fighting off the darkness that was trying to overcome her.

Willow just needed to figure out the formula.

"Well, as happy as I am, I need to get back to research. Congratulations Angel. I'm really happy for you," she said as she excused herself from the group in the kitchen. When she walked into the dining room, she pulled Giles aside and told him about her thoughts on Buffy and Faith's souls.

In typical Giles fashion, he removed his glasses and polished them with his shirt.

"I believe that you may be on the right track, Willow. In fact . . ."

He walked over to the table and began moving books and papers around as if looking for something in particular. After a moment, he moved across the room to a duffel bag that lay filled with books near the door. He reached in and pulled out a small leather-bound book and quickly returned to Willow's side.

". . . I seem to remember the case of an ancient Celtic Princess . . ." he flipped through the pages until he found what he was looking for, "ah, yes, here it is. Princess Enid was from a mystical family, filled with witches and warlocks, etcetera. There were many demons and forces of darkness that were after her, as they wanted to harness the power of her pure soul for their own use."

He read further, and then continued.

"On one occasion, the demon Visrath caught her and began a ritual to remove her soul and take it into himself. Halfway through the ritual, her witch-sisters vanquished him, and in doing so, they burnt up the part of Enid's soul that had been removed. For many moons thereafter, Enid suffered greatly as other forms of darkness tried to invade her to steal the remaining part of her soul. Her witch-sisters performed a spell using their own life-forces as a power supply. The spell enabled Enid to travel to a higher plane and try to get her soul back through a sort of tribunal. Though it's not written what happened while there, she returned to our plane with a complete soul. Whatever happened, she was much stronger and powerful when she came back and the darkness halted its attempts to steal her soul."

"Wow!" Willow exclaimed, slowly letting Giles' explanation sink in. "But Giles, this is different. It's a curse. 'Only love can cure', remember?"

"Yes, well, I hate to be the one to point this out, but it seems as though we're lacking any other pertinent leads at this time. This spell seems to be our only breakthrough at this point and I don't believe that we have much time to waste in this matter. I suggest that we try it and take the chance that perhaps Faith's soul can be restored or mended in that way, and maybe that will drive the darkness away. We simply choose to go around the curse."

"I guess that since it's our only break so far, we can try it. But Giles, after what happened with the spell this morning . . . I don't know if I can do it again. What if something goes kablooey again or someone gets hurt? I don't want to be responsible for that," she replied with a hint of sadness and fear in her voice.

"Willow, I have complete confidence in you and your abilities. You weren't at fault for what happened this morning. Ask anyone, I'm sure they'll tell you the same."

"Okay, Giles. If you think I can do it and that we might have a chance here, I'll give it a shot. I think Faith deserves another chance at life and I want to help her. Gosh . . . I never thought those words would ever come out of my mouth," she said with a little smile.

"I understand," he said, returning her smile. "Back to business, I think that we better start planning this event. Perhaps we should plan a group meeting for later this evening, in about an hour or so. Wesley and I will read further into the history and the ritual and you can tell the others about our findings and the meeting."

Willow nodded and headed off into the kitchen to tell the others about the meeting.

Giles turned back to Wesley in the dining room and got right back to work, a small smile on his face at the promise that the spell could possibly hold in store for them.

Willow entered the kitchen and found the rest of the group there, including Spike. She told them about the spell that she and Giles had discovered and about the story of Enid.

A couple of people questioned the validity of the spell, especially when being put up against a curse. Willow explained that it was their only shot at the moment and that they would further discuss it at the meeting.

Faith immediately hung her head, trying to hide the scared look on her face. Buffy was too wrapped up in the conversation to notice that Faith had let go of her hand and had slipped out onto the back porch to be alone for awhile.

As Faith went to sit down on the steps, she heard the door open and close. Expecting it to be Buffy, she didn't turn around to investigate.

"Mind a bit of company, pet?" Spike asked.

She immediately turned her head around to look at him.

"Oh, hey. Nah, I don't mind. Care to cop a squat with a convicted felon?" She asked jokingly.

"Not unless you don't mind sitting next to a mass murderer," he joked back, pulling a cigarette out of a pack and lighting it. He held the pack out to her and she fished out a cigarette, lighting it with his lighter.

"So," he continued, "how come you're out here by your lonesome?"

"Got a lot of shit on my mind. Didn't want the Scoobs to have to indulge my ragin' insecurities. Figured I'd brood out here for a while, then go back in and put on my brave face."

"Right. So the tough-girl act . . . all a front?" He asked, keeping his gaze locked on her.

"Guess so. That gives us one thing in common. You may try to be the Big Bad, but here you are, pullin' for the good guys. What gives?" She asked, finally looking over to him and meeting his gaze.

He smirked a little.

"You know, if you would've told me two years ago that I'd be making friends with the Slayer and her pals, I would've laughed and killed you for it. But people change, I guess. Got me a chip and they took me in, even though I was always tryin' to kill 'em or fuck 'em over one way or another. They may not be my friends, but they accept me and that's good enough."

Faith grinned.

"Yeah? And why else, tough-guy? You gonna say it or are ya gonna make me do it for ya?" She leaned in slightly and elbowed him.

He arched his eyebrows at her, then finally shrugged his shoulders.

"It's all about the girl. Can't fight her, can't forget about her, and can't hate her no matter what I try. I love her . . . but she could never understand that. I'm a monster. I'll never be good enough. So I try . . . I play nice with her Scoobies and help out where I can. Whatever it takes, right?"

Faith gave him a friendly smile. "Guess that gives us another thing in common."

Spike did a double take and just stared at her.

"Yeah, you heard me right, tough-guy. It's all about the girl, right? For me too. It's always been about Buffy. I think I've loved her since before I even knew her. But me? I'm beneath her. Never expected her to love me or want me around in any way, shape, or form. But as of late, things seem to be changin' a little. She says she doesn't feel so alone when I'm around. If that's what it takes for her to be happy? . . . me just bein' here? Then you better believe that I'm gonna fight 'til the end to make that happen for her."

Spike just listened to her speak, realizing just how much she loved Buffy. After hearing what she had said and looking back at the events of the day, he could see that maybe Buffy loved her too. A small smile crossed his face.

"We're both completely whipped, aren't we?" He asked, gazing out into the back yard.

"Yeah, I guess we are," she laughed.

"Let's review: one neutered vampire and one rogue slayer, both in love with the original Slayer. We're a sad lot, you and I. Maybe that's why I like you. We're a lot alike, Faith the Vampire Slayer."

"Yep we are, William the Bloody."

A comfortable silence fell upon the new-found friends.

Faith stubbed out her cigarette and was about to head back inside when she heard the door open.

"Faith?" Buffy called out. "Oh, there you are. I didn't even notice you'd stepped away until I realized that my hand was cold," she said with a smile.

"Yeah, I'm out here, B. Havin' a little chat with blondie here." She gave Spike's arm a little jab.

"Oh really?" Buffy asked, raising up one eyebrow. "Dare I ask about what?"

"Nah, nothing interesting, Slayer. Just makin' nice," Spike answered, giving Faith a wink.

"Alright, well, the meeting starts in a few. You coming in Faith?" She asked, putting out her hand to the other girl.

Faith smiled.

"Yeah, B. I'm with ya." She stood up and grabbed Buffy's hand and let the girl lead her to the door. As she passed by Spike, she brushed her free hand across his shoulders and gave him a friendly smile.

He returned the smile and remained seated on the steps as he heard the door close.

"Alright. If that's what it takes to make the Slayer happy, that's what I'm gonna do. I'll help the Rogue get through this and let them be happy in love. Yeah, I'm definitely good 'n whipped."

He stubbed out his cigarette and got up, opening the door to join the rest of the gang in the house.

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