Chapter Twenty Three

The entire gang huddled around the still unconscious Spike minutes after he had passed out from the shock of the 'soul' revelation.

"Maybe someone should slap him, see if he'll wake up," Xander said cheerily.

"Don't even think about it," Faith replied, hiding her smile. "Spike's my bud now. He helped me when he didn't have to, and besides, you shouldn't talk about your soul-mate that way, Xan."

Xander pouted and mumbled under his breath,

"He is so not my soul-mate."

As if on cue, Spike began to come around. Faith stepped next to him and sat him up. He shook his head to regain some clarity.

"I had the strangest bloody dream." He looked up at the faces staring down at him. "You were there . . . and you were there . . . and you . . ." he looked up to see the grinning face of Angel, ". . . oh, bloody hell, it wasn't a dream, was it?"

"Welcome to the World of Broodyness, Population: Two," Angel said with a toothy grin.

"I I can't breathe . . ." Spike said, gasping.

"It's probably a good thing that you don't have to breathe then, isn't it?" Buffy asked, looping her arm through his and helping him to his feet. "All you need is some room to move and some fresh air. In fact, I think we can all use some. Come on everyone, let's take a short trip outside."

The entire group excitedly made their way towards the back door with the exception of Angel, who grabbed Faith's arm and asked her to speak with him in private.

After everyone else vacated the house, Faith turned to Angel and gave him a big smile. He held out his arms to her and she walked into them, joining him in a warm embrace.

"Angel . . . I have so much to thank you for." she said with her face against his chest. "If it wasn't for you, I'd probably be six feet under by now. No one in my life ever thought I was worth helping, including myself. But even when I tried to push ya away, ya kept gettin' right up in my face, and I really appreciate that now."

Angel smiled, pulling her closer while lightly stroking her hair.

"You're worth it, Faith. Don't let anyone else tell you differently. I always saw something special in you, even when you were bad. You're pretty much a whole new person now, and a whole new path lies before you." He paused. "That's kind of what I wanted to talk to you about."

Faith noticed the change in his tone and immediately looked up to meet his gaze.

"What's up?" She asked, stepping away form him and plopping down onto the couch.

Angel began to speak in a gentle manner.

"Faith . . . you have a whole new life ahead of you now. You're not the same person that you were two years ago. You're not even the same person that you were yesterday. You're still Faith, but you've got a little of the rest of us in you now, and that alone is enough to change your destiny. As a Slayer, that may have some big implications for you down the road."

Faith nodded.

"Yeah, I realize that. But, what can I do about it? Everything's an unknown right now. I don't know anyone who can tell me what my destiny is, Angel."

"I do," he stated plainly.

"So . . . what exactly do ya want me to do?" Faith asked as she sat forward, bracing herself for the answer.

"I think you should come back to LA with me."

"No fuckin way," Faith answered quickly. "I told B I wasn't runnin' away this time and I'm not gonna. Just cos the future is uncertain doesn't mean that I'm gonna take off, big guy."

Angel sighed.

"It's not running, Faith, and it's not permanent either. There's this guy back in LA, the Host. He can look into people and read their destinies. I think it would be a good thing for you to meet with him, maybe get a heads up as to where your path is going to lead."

Faith slumped back onto the couch.

"Man, I hate it when you're right, Soul-Boy. It's not a totally bad idea, I'll give ya that much. But how . . . what am I gonna say to Buffy? She's gonna think that I'm runnin' scared again and I just had this big-ass breakthrough with her. I don't wanna mess it up," she said sadly.

Angel squatted down next to her and put a comforting hand on her knee.

"I think she's past the whole hating you thing, Faith. We all heard it plain and clear: the girl loves you. I'll talk to her; explain why I think you need to go and that it's only for a few days, maybe a week at most. If you leave with us tonight you can be back before the week ends."

v Faith sighed, defeated.

"Guess I should go pack then." She got up and headed towards the staircase.

"Guess so. And Faith . . . I have this weird feeling that everything's gonna work out fine. Things are gonna start looking up for the two of us."

Faith smiled weakly.

"I hope you're right, Angel. I really do."

By that point the rest of the gang began to slowly filter back into the back door.

"How's little Spikey?" Angel asked as Dawn came bounding back into the room and plopped down on the couch.

"He's totally freaking out. I told him that he should calm down before he bursts a blood vessel or something. I think that he headed off to Willy's to get tanked."

Angel smiled.

"Is your sister still outside?"

Dawn looked at him and raised and eyebrow.

"Yeah, she is. But if you're going out there to rekindle the flame, I'd give it up. Faith will so kick you in the head."

"I wouldn't dream of it, Dawnie." He laughed and mussed up her hair as he headed out onto the back porch where he found Buffy sitting alone, a small smile on her face.

"Hey," he said, taking a seat next to her on the porch step.

"Hey," she smiled, leaning against him and resting her head on his shoulder.

"What's with the dreamy smile?" He asked, poking her in the ribs a few times, finally settling his hand on her lower back and rubbing small circles on it.

"I'm just . . . happy," Buffy replied, her smile getting even bigger. "I felt so empty for so long, even with my friends and family here. Faith and I being Slayers at the same time is an anomaly. I think that we're meant to be together because our beings basically share the same essence. Now she's here and she's staying, and I just feel . . . warm. Happy. Complete." She paused and lowered her voice just a tad. "When my mom died, I thought things were never going to look up again, but I'm starting to think differently about that right now."

Angel's hand that was on Buffy's back stopped moving as he tensed up, knowing that he was about to deliver some upsetting news to her.

"Listen, Buffy . . . there's something I need to tell you. You're not gonna like it, but I think it's for the best."

Buffy slowly lifted her head off of his shoulder and turned to face him, a questioning look on her face.

"What?" She asked, a hint of dread in her voice.

"I asked Faith to come back to LA with me, and she agreed."

Buffy immediately stood up, stepping away from Angel as if he had scorched her.

"What?!?" She asked through clenched teeth, tears forming in her eyes.

"Faith is going to come back with us tonight to LA, and she's going to . . ."

"NO!" Buffy interrupted, stepping dangerously close to him. "She's staying right here, with me. She's still weak and I can protect her."

"It's for her own good, Buffy. With all that happened today, her destiny has to have changed. As a Slayer she needs to know what direction her path is leading her in." He watched as Buffy seemed to calm down a little at his explanation, and he continued. "There's a demon in LA that can read destinies. She'll only be gone a few days, I promise."

Buffy rolled the words around in her head, taking in everything that Angel had explained.

"Fine. But I'm coming too."

She tried to walk past Angel to the door, but he grabbed onto her arm and stopped her.

"No, you're not," he stated flatly.

"Yes, I am," she stated with force, getting up in his face.

Angel sighed.

"Come on, Buffy, don't do this. You can't leave too, the Hellmouth needs you."

"Faith needs me," Buffy answered quickly, instantly making Angel upset.

"Dammit, Buffy, you need to stop acting like a child. You're just afraid that you need Faith more than she needs you." He looked down at her with an annoyed look on his face.

Buffy's anger subsided and was replaced by a look of defeat, like she was about to cry again.

Angel sighed again, "I'm sorry, I didn't mean it like that."

He took a step towards her, but she stepped back. She looked up at him through teary eyes and began to speak quietly.

"You're right. Maybe I do need her more than she needs me." She paused for a few moments before continuing. "Okay, Angel. You win. Take her to LA. Just make sure she gets back to me safe and sound."

She began to walk towards the door but stopped when she heard Angel's voice again.

"Everything will be fine, Buffy. Give her a few days to do this and then you'll have the rest of your life to spend with her."

Buffy nodded, shooting him a half-smile before walking into the house and closing the door behind her.

She walked past her friends who immediately quieted down and stared as they watched her somberly cross the room and head up the stairs towards her bedroom. She didn't need to ask where Faith was . . . she could feel her pain from a mile away.

Buffy stood at the open door to her room, quietly observing Faith shove random articles of clothing into a small duffel bag. It reminded her all too much of the night she had found Faith frantically packing after finding out that Kakistos was in Sunnydale.

"I think we've already deja'd this vu," Buffy said quietly, brown and green eyes meeting suddenly from across the room.

Neither girl knew quite what to say or do. Faith sat down on the edge of the bed and patted the spot next to her. Buffy crossed the room and sat down next to Faith, their hands instantly intertwining.

"I'm not runnin', B," Faith said with a scared look on her face.

Buffy weakly smiled, bringing one of her hands up to cup Faith's face.

"I know. I just . . . I hate the fact that I finally got the real you back,and now you have to leave." She broke eye contact with Faith and looked down into her own lap, hesitating for a moment. "Angel said that I'm afraid that I need you more that you need me, and I think he might be right."

"No," Faith jumped right in, placing a finger under Buffy's chin and making her look up, "that's not true, B. I've always needed you. After these last few days of being so close, I don't know how I'm gonna last the next week without ya. I'll always need you, Buffy. More so than you'll ever know."

Buffy relaxed a little, and a small grin snuck up on her face.

"You need me? Are we talking about a sex thing, Faith?" Buffy teased, recalling her similar words from the night before.

Faith grinned.

"Well, I'm definitely not gonna rule it out." She leaned forward and placed a chaste kiss on Buffy's lips before pulling back. "Listen, I think we got a hella lot to talk about and work out when I get back. I promise ya I'm gonna be back as quick as lightnin'. It's strictly a business trip, no sightseeing involved. So . . ."

"So . . ." Buffy repeated.

They smiled at one another.

"So . . . I guess I better be goin' then," Faith finished, standing up from the bed.

"I guess so," Buffy said sadly. "But before you go, let me just remind you of the surrender that I gave to you: my heart. I just want you to know that a piece of me will be missing as long as you're away from me. I'll only be whole when you're back in Sunnydale, in this house, in my arms . . . when you're home."

Faith loved the way that sounded . . . home. She hadn't known the feeling for so long. She wanted to tell Buffy how happy she was and all that she was feeling, but she couldn't find the right words.

"Umm, B . . . Buffy, there's something I wanna say, but I'm not really a word kind of girl. I'm really more of an action, hands-on girl, so I'm just gonna get right down to it."

"Okay," Buffy replied, eyebrows slightly furrowed.

Before she knew what was happening, she felt Faith's mouth on hers and she instantly parted her lips, granting her tongue entry. They kissed deeply, both wanting to burn the feeling of this last kiss into their memories.

After a minute or so had passed they finally broke apart panting, foreheads pressed together.

"I have to say," Buffy said breathlessly, "I like the way you said that."

Faith smiled.

"I love ya, B."

Buffy pulled her close and planted another quick kiss on her lips before relaxing into her embrace. "I love you too, F."

Faith picked up her small duffel bag and the two girls made their way downstairs to say their goodbyes to the rest of the group.

After a few tears and many more laughs, The LA Gang and Faith headed off to LA. While Angel, Cordelia, and Wesley were anxious to get there so they could get back to their own lives and normal routines, Faith was anxious to get there so she could get her business done and head back to Sunnydale to start her whole new life.

That very thought put a smile on her face. Never in her past would she have ever considered Sunnydale, Buffy, and the Scoobies to be a part of her happy future, but there they were, and she was unbelievably happy. She was almost waiting for the bottom to drop out at any time, but she pushed that thought to the back of her mind, choosing to focus on the good in her life for once.

After about a two-hour drive, the four friends arrived at Angel Investigations in LA.

Angel had a lot of work to catch up on, so he immediately shut himself up in his office to get to work. Wesley headed home, yearning for his own bed after the few exciting days that they'd spent together. Cordelia decided to putter around the office for a while, randomly filing papers and writing messages on sticky-notes.

Faith had decided to go up to bed but found that she was too excited to sleep. She couldn't stop thinking about getting back to Sunnydale and starting her new life.

She wandered out of her room and down to the lobby of the hotel, plopping down on the chair behind the counter. She thumbed through some of the documents that lay scattered around, amusing herself in any way that she could.

"Hey!" Cordelia yelled, causing Faith to jump. "If you're sitting in my chair and looking through my paperwork, then you better plan on doing some work, missy."

Faith laughed.

"No way, Cor. I'm on vacation." She smiled sweetly, showing off her dimples.

"Fine, fine. I see how it is. I give you a piece of my soul and you won't even do a little bit of menial office work for me. That's okay, I see how I rank to you," she said in a playful tone.

"Aww, C. You know ya mean more than that to me. Of course I'll help, just tell me what ya want me to do," Faith replied, putting on her business face.

Cordelia laughed, "I'm only joking, Faith, take a pill or something. But I do like the fact that I can hold that whole soul thing over your head now whenever I need something."

Faith shrugged, getting serious.

"Yeah, but ya earned that right, Cor, so it's all five by five. You went above and beyond and I really appreciate that. You had no reason to trust me, but ya did. I owe ya a lot more than a little bit of slave labor. You name it, I'll do it."

A mischievous look crept up of Cordelia's face.

"Okay, Faith, I have a request."

"Name it, C," Faith said with a smile.

"Fill me in on the big enigma. What the hell is 'five by five'?"

"That's what you want from me?" Faith asked with a smirk and Cordelia nodded anxiously. "Okay, I'll fill ya in on the mystery. It's a code that radio operators use, like Paramedics and EMT's and people like that. It's a scale of one through five based on volume and clarity. If everything is loud and clear, you say five by five. If it's quiet and crackly, you say one by three or two by two or whatever. So when I say that I'm five by five, I mean that I'm all good."

She stood up and grabbed her leather jacket, stopping for a moment to put it on.

Cordelia stared at her with her mouth wide open.

"That's it?" She asked incredulously. "That's what I've been waiting almost three years to hear? I'm highly disappointed, Faith. I'm gonna need something else. Come on, give it up, sister."

"Alright . . . umm . . . I sleep naked, so stay outta my room tonight unless you want an eyeful," she said with a grin as she walked towards the door, about to make her way outside.

"Wait . . . where are you going, Miss Impatient? Buffy's gonna kick your ass and possibly mine too if you get hurt," Cordelia yelled from behind the desk.

"My ass can handle it. Besides, it's midnight, Cor. The Slayer in me is itchin' to come out and play. Tell Angel I'll catch up with him later."

"Faith . . . what are you up to? You're up to something. Your left eyebrow just twitched."

Faith stopped walking and turned around slightly to stick her head back in. She shot Cordelia big smile and blew her a kiss before heading out the door once again.

Cordelia went back to her work, mumbling under her breath,

"That girl's definitely up to something. She's crazy if you ask me. And what's with the over-share about sleeping naked? I definitely need to find some new female friends around here."

About three or four hours had passed and Cordelia was still at the office. She also felt like she had too much energy to sleep, plus she didn't want to disturb Angel for a ride home, so she decided to get some much needed work done. If she got tired, she could just wander upstairs and pick one of many rooms to crash in for the remainder of the night.

About an hour before dawn, Angel made his way out of his office, surprised to see Cordelia still there.

"Hey Cordy, what are you still doing here?" He asked with a smile.

"Collecting over-time," she answered sarcastically. "I was kinda wired, plus, I didn't want to bother you for a ride and I didn't want to walk alone."

Angel frowned slightly.

"Cordy, I would've given you a ride. That, or Faith could've walked you. She can handle herself."

"Yeah, well, little Miss Faith left for patrol and hasn't come back yet. Guess it must've been a busy patrol."

Angel furrowed his eyebrows, "That's not like Faith to go without telling me. Oh well," he said and shrugged. "Come on, I'll take you home while it's still dark. You can have the day off, catch up on your sleep and your housework."

He walked across the office and over to the counter, moving the papers around as if looking for something.

"Hey, Cordy, have you seen my car keys?" He asked, rummaging through the papers.

"They're on the coun . . ." she trailed off as she turned to face him, realization hitting her, " . . .ter. Angel, I don't think you're gonna find your car keys there," she said, trying to hide her smile.

Angel turned to face her, a questioning look on his face.

"Well . . . would you mind telling me where they might be, Cordy?"

"Probably in Faith's back pocket. She asked me to tell you that she'll catch up with you later."

Angel furrowed his eyebrows, trying to figure out what was going on. Then it finally hit him. He smiled. "We're so blind."

"Let me guess . . . you probably told her where to find the Host but said we could go another day, right?" Angel nodded, and Cordelia laughed again. "Yep. Completely and utterly blind."

Back in Sunnydale later that morning . . .

Buffy lay awake in bed after having a restless sleep. She had spent the prior few nights nestled up against Faith and now she just felt cold lying in her bed alone all night.

She had seriously considered getting in her car and driving to LA to be with Faith, but she knew that would draw a negative reaction from mostly everyone around her.

Just as she was about to give up on sleeping and get up out of bed, her bedside phone rang. She glanced at her alarm clock.

6:30am? Who would call at 6:30am?

She leaned over and picked up the phone.


"Hey, B. Miss me yet?"

"Faith?" She asked excitedly. "Of course I miss you. I missed you the minute you stepped out of this house."

"That's nice to hear, B. I'm glad you answered. Ya don't sound like you were sleepin'."

"No, I wasn't. Guess I kinda got used to having you next to me. Couldn't really fall asleep last night. What about you . . . why are you up so early?"

"I never went to bed yet."

"What? Why not? Are you okay? You don't have to be afraid of the nightmares anymore; you're all better now, baby."

"Aww, I'm your baby, B?"

"Yeah, you are," Buffy smiled.

"Good to know. So, yeah, I couldn't sleep, had lots of things on my mind. Decided to take care of some things. I went out to patrol . . ."

Faith continued talking, but Buffy couldn't hear the words because an ambulance with its loud siren on passed by her house, blocking out the words.

"Faith, I can't hear you, there's an ambulance . . ." Buffy's voice trailed off.

Even through the sound of the siren, she could still pick up a distinctive sound on the other end of the phone. She heard the sound of a siren echoing by.

Buffy immediately sprang up from her bed and ran to the window. She looked down into her front yard and dropped the phone when she saw Faith staring up at her with a huge grin on her face, a mobile phone in one hand and a single red rose in the other.

Without another word, Buffy ran across her room and went bounding down the stairs, bursting out of the door and into Faith's waiting arms.

Faith lifted Buffy off of the ground and spun her around a few times, both girls laughing the entire time. Finally, Faith stopped spinning and let Buffy's feet hit the ground. They instantly began to kiss, happy to be in one another's arms again.

They laughed and kissed for a few minutes before being interrupted by someone clearing their throat. They looked up to see Dawn hanging out of her bedroom window and Willow and Tara hanging out of another window, all smiling.

"Yeesh. Get a room," Dawn said with a big smile before pulling her window back down. Willow and Tara just smiled down at the two Slayers before following suit.

Faith looked down at Buffy.

"So . . . about that room . . ." she said, waggling her eyebrows.

Buffy smacked her upper arm.

"Yeah, yeah, yeah. I can't believe you're here. You have to tell me everything that happened, and . . ." she looked over Faith's shoulder and saw Angel's car there but no Angel, ". . . does Angel know that you have his car?"

Faith smirked.

"It's kinda a long story. Let's go inside, B."

Buffy smiled a 1000-watt smile.

"Okay, baby."

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