Faith walked along the side of the road, looking ahead toward a house that was maybe a quarter mile away. It was the only house with a light on and maybe one of four houses in the area. All of them looked a little worse for wear but all Faith cared about was that one of them had a bed with her name on it.
After spending Christmas in Cleveland, Faith only stayed for a couple days, leaving the morning of the 28th. She knew Buffy had wanted her to stay for the headquarters' New Year's Eve party but there was a part of her that wanted to get back on the road. The need to go to a different city and discover new things on her own was too great.
The days she had stayed though were the greatest she could remember. She had stayed in her room with Buffy until the night of Christmas Eve and then had a fun time at the party. There was plenty of food and drink and everyone treated her as simply one of the gang. Even more, it almost felt as though they saw her not only as an equal but also as Buffy's girlfriend. That surprised her since she had felt that there would be some resistance to their new relationship but there was none.
They had gotten her gifts, too. She received two new knives and a crossbow along with some CDs from Xander to keep her company as she drove. The gift that she liked the most though was the new leather jacket Buffy gave her. It almost matched one that Buffy wore so there were a few jokes along with the gift but Faith really liked it even if it matched her girlfriend's.
The gifts they exchanged in her room were a little different. Buffy upgraded her phone to one with a camera so she could take pictures and send them if she needed help identifying a demon. Christmas night they found another interesting use for the camera as well. That was reason enough for Faith not to lose or break it.
The morning she left she could tell Buffy was thinking of reasons to get her to stay but she respected her wishes and let her go. When they were in bed together the night before Faith had promised that she would visit when she could but said she wasn't ready to settle down in a city yet. She hadn't proven to herself that she was on the road to redemption and didn't know when she would get that feeling. There would be no settling down until she was ready.
Since Faith had discovered when she was in Cleveland that she hated the cold the decision to drive south had been an easy one. She took a few days going from city to city, trying to find a place where there was a little supernatural action and one where she wanted to stay for longer than a few days. Buffy had told her that if she traveled along the east coast she probably wouldn't run into any other slayers so that was an added bonus. They had one in New York City and another in Washington, D.C. but other than that if she ran into anyone it would be purely by chance.
Surprisingly, it didn't take long for her to find a place that left like a good area to stay for more than a few days. When she was traveling in North Carolina she came across a particularly nasty vampire. In was a tough kill and one that took her a couple days but by the end of it she had made friends with an older man who had helped her in locating the vamp. He offered her both a room to stay and a job at a small restaurant/bar/convenience store he owned.
Faith took him up on the offer but told him that it would only be for a few weeks at the most. She liked the fact that the town of Teachey was warmer than Cleveland was in January but it was small and there wasn't much to do when she wasn't patrolling at night or working during the day. It was actually the only reason she took the job: boredom. That and she liked that she didn't have to rely on the Council's money for the time being.
She reached the house and unlocked the front door quietly, taking a quick look toward the Explorer before walking inside. There had been reporting and whispers of two violent wanderers while she was unloading supplies at the store so she spent much of the night walking around on the outskirts of the small town looking for them. It turned out her instincts had been correct and they were actually vamps attempting to find a quick meal while drifting through town. They weren't prepared for a fight when she found them and were easy to stake.
No one was awake in the house and Faith turned off the front light before walking to her room and shutting the door behind her. She turned on the small lamp near the bed and looked around the room. Her bag was sitting in the corner, a few items peeking out of the opening, and she quickly stripped out of her clothes, putting on a tank top and shorts.
The only sounds in the house that she could hear was the owner of the house snoring quietly has he slept. He didn't care about the hours she kept as long as she didn't wake him up and that rule was easy to go along with.
Faith flipped open her phone and hit the speed dial, putting it to her ear as it started to ring. She rested her head against the pillow and closed her eyes as she waited for an answer.
"Hey, B," Faith said as she smiled. "Patrol go okay?"
She heard Buffy let out a breath and then she started talking about what had gone on in the building during the day. Faith smiled and simply listened as her girlfriend talked.
Waking up in a new place always had Faith tense up for the first couple days but she didn't feel that way in her current room anymore. She'd been there long enough and ending the day by talking to Buffy always seemed to relax her to the point of not waking up tense.
She took a quick shower and changed into clean clothes before walking down the stairs and into the kitchen of the old house. The owner was already at the small table, a plate in front of him full of half eaten bacon, eggs and toast. There was a plate in front of the empty chair as well and Faith sat down, grabbing a piece of bacon as she did.
"You were talking late last night," he commented as he read a newspaper.
"Yeah, took a long time to track down those two morons," Faith said after swallowing a mouthful of food. "Called in late. Didn't wake you, did I, Harv?"
He looked at her and let a hint of a smile show. "I'm a light sleeper."
Faith shook her head and ate her meal in silence. She knew Harvey would have to get to the store soon and that meant she would as well. Most of what she did there was organize deliveries and do some minor work in the kitchen of the restaurant if Harvey needed it. She knew the main reason she was that was that if there was any trouble broke out she could put a quick end to it.
"So I'm staying in tonight."
Harvey looked at her. "Why is that?"
"It's Buffy's birthday today," Faith explained. "She's a little weird about it so I'm just gonna hang out on the phone with her."
"I don't think you've shown me a picture of this girl," he commented as he put the paper down.
Faith smiled and opened up her phone, pushing the buttons until she found a good picture. It was one she had taken of the two of them together just after Buffy had given her the phone. The rest of the pictures taken from that night weren't exactly for public viewing.
He looked over the picture. "Pretty."
"Yeah," Faith agreed, smiling at the picture before putting her phone away.
He nodded and stood up. "We've got a shipment coming in today. I'll see you shortly."
Faith watched him walk out of the house before turning back to her food and quickly finished it. She got up to raid the fridge of a little more food when her cell rang. She looked at it and realized quickly that it wasn't Buffy's number before answering.
"Hey, Willow, what's up?"
"Faith, you know today's Buffy's birthday, right?"
"Of course," Faith answered as she sat back down at the table. "I was planning on keeping her company tonight while she hides from all of you if you try to throw a party again."
"We want to change her bad birthday luck. That's why we always want to do something," Willow said. "We tried last year but there was a thing with a demon and, well, I won't get into it." She paused. "That's why she doesn't even want to go anywhere for her birthday this year."
"And this affects what I'm doing how?"
There were voices in the background and then Willow spoke again. "We kind of want to all go in and give her a group present this year."
Faith smiled. "And what's that?"
"You're kidding, right?" Faith asked, laughing. "What are you gonna do, put a big bow on me?"
"Would you wear one?"
Faith took the phone away from her ear and stared at it for a second, as if to make sure the call was actually happening and not a very strange dream, before putting it back to her ear. "What exactly are you planning, Red?"
"Easy," Willow said happily, "I can just transport you here for the night and then get you back to where you are now in the morning."
She thought about the offer for a moment. Faith had to admit she would like to see Buffy again. Even though she was content to talk to her on the phone everyday she would be lying to herself if she didn't see this as an opportunity for more.
"This isn't going to hurt or anything, right?"
"You might feel a little queasy for a couple minutes," Willow said and Faith noticed her voice was a little higher, like she was both nervous and happy. "I'll call you later today when I'm ready to get you here."
"All right," Faith agreed. "I have to get to work but I'll be ready to go later."
"Okay, this'll be great!"
Willow had underestimated how Faith would feel immediately after she transported and she hated her a little for it. She had lost her lunch into a nearby garbage can only a few seconds after appearing in the library at slayer headquarters.
Faith sat down in a chair and quickly popped a breath mint into her mouth. "Where is B?"
"Classes are done for the day so she's probably in her room," Willow answered as she sat down next to Faith. "Xander and I wanted to throw her a party but we've never had much success with Buffy's birthday."
Faith looked at her then at Xander as he sat down as well. "What exactly happened last year to make her want to hibernate this year?"
"We went to a club that was raided by demons." Xander shrugged. "Could've happened to anyone."
"Yeah, right," Faith said, laughing quietly.
"Did someone order a pizza?" Andrew asked as he walked in to the library carrying a pizza box. "If you're going to order out, you should let me know before I start dinner."
"That's for me, Andy my boy." Faith stood up and grabbed the box from him. "So are we gonna go upstairs and get this surprise started?"
"Faith? You're here?"
"We'll fill you in later," Xander said as the three of them got up and walked out of the room.
Faith was a little nervous as she followed Willow and Xander up the stairs and toward Buffy's room. She knew that the other slayer hated surprises, something she'd mentioned a couple times when they talked, so she didn't know how she'd take her coming to Cleveland for the night. It had to be good surprise but she never knew with Buffy.
At the suggestion of Buffy's two best friends, Faith kept out of sight as they knocked on the door. Buffy didn't answer right away and Faith thought that maybe she was trying to sleep away the rest of the day. After a couple more knocks though, she opened the door and even though Faith couldn't see her face, she knew that she was far from pleased.
"Guys, I know you mean well but I don't want to go out for my birthday," she said. "Badness happens when I do."
"We don't want you to spend your birthday alone, Buffy," Willow said.
"I won't be alone. Faith should be calling later and she'll keep me company."
"That doesn't sound like much fun."
"It'll be fine, Xand," Buffy seemed to insist and Faith could tell she was getting ready to close the door on them.
"Okay, but maybe you want to know what we got you for your birthday," Willow said and Faith could tell she was getting ready to tell her. Her voice always got higher when she about to reveal something.
Buffy sighed. "Sure, what did you get me?"
Faith took that as her queue and moved so she was now between Xander and Willow. They moved aside and she smiled as she saw Buffy's face. "Apparently, pizza is a good birthday gift."
Buffy's eyes seemed to light up as she looked at Faith. "Faith? You're here?"
"I'm told that I'm a good birthday gift, too," she said, smiling.
She managed to juggle the pizza in one hand and hug Buffy with the other as she now had two strong arms wrapped around her. She walked them a couple steps further into the room and turned her head to give a little smile and nod to Xander and Willow.
"We'll see you in the morning," Willow said as she and Xander turned to walk away.
Buffy let go of Faith then and hugged both of her friends. "Thanks, guys. I never would have thought of this."
"You're welcome." Willow looked past Buffy to smile at Faith, who gave her a nod in return. "Don't have too much fun."
"No promises," Buffy said as she grinned and closed the door.
Faith set the pizza down on the small table near the door and used both arms to embrace Buffy. She couldn't believe how good it felt to hug the woman who she was beginning to think of as her girlfriend. It made her feel warm everywhere.
Buffy kissed her lightly before resting her forehead against hers. "I can't believe you're here."
"Willow called this morning with this idea and I wasn't about to say no." Faith kissed her softly, breaking away after only a couple seconds. "Just had to tell Harvey that I wouldn't be around tonight but would appear tomorrow morning."
"Just for the night, huh?"
Faith nodded. "Yeah, but we'll make it worth it, right?"
They smiled at each other and Faith looked around the room. She had only been in it once when she was last there and that was only while Buffy found a change of clothes. It was bigger than her own and she noticed that she had moved her mini fridge and microwave back to her room. She also noticed that Buffy had a new picture on the nightstand by her bed: one of the two of them together.
Buffy saw her looking at it and closed the distance between them, putting an arm around her waist. "That was is more respectable than some of the others we took."
"That's definitely true," Faith said quietly then walked back over to the pizza. "Why don't we eat then find something better to do."
Faith still wasn't used to the fact she was comfortable simply lying naked with someone. Prior to what she had with Buffy, there was no basking in the afterglow of amazing sex. No, as soon as they were done was usually kicking whoever she'd had sex with quickly out the door.
It was different with Buffy. The other girl seemed to put her mind at ease so getting gone wasn't the first thing she thought of once she got off. Instead, she gave in to the light touches and caresses she felt as Buffy's hands moved over her body. It was comforting to the point that she didn't want to flee, only stay with her.
They'd eaten the pizza Faith brought and watched a movie before the clothes came off. After that, they had sex until they couldn't any longer without at least a little rest. Faith knew she dozed off for a little while but now all they were doing was watching another movie while resting against each other.
"Having a good birthday, B?" Faith asked as she rested her head against her shoulder.
Buffy smiled. "The best."
Faith placed a soft kiss against her skin. "Then it was worth transporting and getting sick in the library."
"Transporting does take a little getting used to," Buffy said as she ran her fingers lightly over Faith's skin as they huddled under the blankets. "Maybe you can try it a little more."
"Depends on what I'm working on, I guess." Faith moved against her slightly, causing her to let out a quiet sigh. "Right now I'm just staking vamps wandering through looking for a meal but who knows what else is in the area."
"Everything here keeps me pretty busy, too."
Neither of them said anything for a minute and Faith wondered if the conversation would go in a direction that would ruin the mood. Right now, she was naked with someone who cared for her, who might even feel more than that, and she didn't want to ruin that feeling with a discussion at why she wouldn't stay. Buffy had been understanding so far but she knew her true feelings on the issue.
Faith turned on her side and looked at Buffy instead of the movie they had been watching. "I don't think I want to travel forever."
Buffy turned to her, mirroring her position. "I don't want you to travel forever."
"I know you don't." Faith smiled and pressed her hand against her face, cupping her cheek gently. "I just have this feeling I can't shake. It's something that I've felt since I first turned myself in back in LA and it hasn't gone away."
"What does it feel like?"
"It's like a restlessness," Faith said quietly. "It goes away when I'm on my own, when I'm concentrating on slaying or figuring out how to fight something or save someone. I think it's there because I need to find my own way. It can't just be doing good by taking orders."
"I don't want to give you orders, Faith." Buffy looked down for a minute then back at her. "If you stayed here, you would be working with me and not for anyone. We'd be a team."
"Maybe eventually we can do that but I don't think I can right now."
Buffy nodded and Faith couldn't read the expression on her face. "It's just that, I think I'm falling in love with you, Faith."
A couple feelings overwhelmed Faith the moment Buffy said what she did. First was a sense of panic because no one had ever said that to her before and meant it. She knew Buffy meant what she was saying. She knew it wasn't a line, something that was said after sex just because something needed to be said.
The other feeling she had was a huge amount of happiness and it overpowered the initial panic quickly. It felt amazing that someone would love her without an ulterior motive.
Now she needed to figure out what she felt for Buffy. Was it love? Faith had never said that to anyone and wasn't sure if she'd ever felt it either. No one had given her a reason to feel it before but now Buffy was changing all that. When they talked Faith always seemed to have a smile on her face. In fact, hearing her voice usually changed her mood for the better and when she saw how happy she was with her arrival today her heart skipped a beat.
She looked at Buffy and saw how nervous she was. Faith knew that wasn't a good thing. "I think I'm falling for you, too, Buffy."
Buffy smiled then leaned in and kissed Faith. They kept it light and tender, not feeling the need to rush. Faith could feel her heart beating faster though, even with the fact that it was easy to see Buffy liked what she had said. She had never admitted something like that to anyone and even with the kissing there was still nervousness there.
When they broke apart, Faith kept her forehead pressed against Buffy's, suddenly feeling rested enough to explore her body again. "I think I'm going to have to sleep once I get back to North Carolina."
"I think that's a good plan," Buffy whispered as she kissed her lightly again. "Right now there are better things to do than sleep."
Faith took that as her cue to straddle Buffy, knowing she would be exhausted when she was transported back but knew it was completely worth it.
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