When Faith woke up in the morning she was alone in bed and for a minute she thought maybe everything was just a dream. Maybe her comatose mind was making all of it up to mess with her. It wouldn't be the first time she'd had dreams that were incredibly life-like but and all of them ended with her death.
Then again, her mind had never shown her a naked Buffy before.
"Hey, babe," Buffy said as she walked out of the bathroom with wet hair and only panties on. "I'm running late as usual. I have one class then a study group but I'll see you later at Giles', right?"
She walked over and kissed Faith as she sat up then moved away and started to pick out her clothes. Faith couldn't help but look her up and down as she walked around. She had to admit the other slayer was insanely hot and she felt a definite attraction but other than that she still wondered why the Mayor thought she wanted Buffy in a sexual way or as a girlfriend.
Buffy dressed quickly and turned around to see Faith lost in thought. She was sad they hadn't had an official welcome home the previous night but she hoped to make it up to her later. There was even a part of her that wanted to strip off the clothes she'd just put on and join her girlfriend in bed again. Of course, that part didn't win out since she had too many things to do. She promised herself that once finals were over they'd spend a couple days in bed together.
She knew Faith wouldn't object to that.
"So, do you think you'll be able to handle patrol tonight?" Buffy asked as she sat on the bed next to Faith, now fully dressed. "I know Giles will object but I need to study tonight. If you're not feeling up to it though, I can work something out."
Faith smiled, liking how Buffy was looking at her now that the sheets had pooled around her stomach and her breasts were on full display. "Not a problem, B."
"And can I use the apartment for it?"
"So you mean make myself scarce while you and a few others study?"
Buffy grinned and leaned in to give her a light kiss. "Maybe." She kissed her again. "But after next week I'll be all yours."
"I'll hold you to that."
Once Buffy was gone Faith got up and showered then got dressed. It was helpful that she was used to her surroundings. At least the spell had that going for it. Faith knew it would be harder to mask her confusion at some things if even the place she lived was completely unfamiliar to her. It was bad enough dealing with people who had memories she did not.
The first thing she looked at was all the pictures again. It was strange to her to have so many but she knew that was Buffy's doing. What she looked at most in each of them was how she appeared. In every picture, especially if Buffy was there with her, she was smiling. It wasn't her normal smile either. She looked genuinely happy and the look made Faith slightly uncomfortable, though she didn't know why. Maybe it was that she had always wanted to have what the Faith in the picture had but she couldn't be sure.
What she also noticed was that it looked like the rest of the gang wanted her to be there, too. She found a book of photos and a couple of them had her and Xander laughing and joking in them or playing games. There were even a couple with her and Willow and that really surprised her. From what she could remember, Willow had never really cared for her.
If there was a person she didn't recognize in the picture she would flip it over and find out who it was. Thankfully, Buffy had written names on the back so Faith used it to make she didn't blank on a name later.
After the pictures, she carefully went through all the drawers and cabinets in the apartment. She wasn't sure what she'd find but anything that would help her keep up with what people asked of her without getting tripped up, the searching would be worth it. No one had told her what she did while Buffy was in school and she needed to find whatever clue she could.
They had a computer and she found some papers near it that had her name on it. Faith wasn't exactly a genius when it came to numbers but from what she could tell she had enough money that she didn't need to work. There wasn't any paystubs lying around and she didn't find any sort of uniform among their clothes so she decided that she didn't have a job.
Then again, if she did and didn't show, she'd either get a call or be fired. After seeing the amount of money she had, she didn't much care either way.
By the time she'd finished with her search it was past noon and when she looked in the kitchen she noticed there wasn't any food in the apartment. She smiled, thinking it was the perfect opportunity to explore the new version of Sunnydale.
Faith walked out of the apartment and to her car, which Buffy hadn't taken to campus. She took a minute to simply look it over. She remembered when she was a poor kid in Boston she'd always wanted a car that was a lot like the one she had now. It was sporty and red, just like the one she always had thought of. She wondered if the Mayor had seen that, too.
She got in and drove around town for awhile, simply taking the time to enjoy the drive. The only stop she made was to pick up some lunch, which she ate while continuing to drive.
The last place she stopped on her drive was the building where the Mayor had his office. It didn't look any different now, at least from the outside, but Faith knew there was nothing to remind her of her old boss on the inside. Under the spell he only existed as a memory, the source of Faith's money, and no one here would know anything about it.
That thought made Faith sadder than she thought it would. In a way, the Mayor had been something of a father to her. He seemed to have genuinely care about her wellbeing, more so than her own mother had at times. Even though he was evil Faith knew she would miss that side of him.
Faith turned her head away from the building and noticed someone looking at her across the street from where she had parked and she returned the stare for a minute. It was a woman and she didn't think it was anyone from the pictures but she couldn't be completely sure. She was too far away but Faith realized that she'd probably been sitting there too long. The last she wanted was to look suspicious or out of place.
She started the car and drove away from the building, knowing she wouldn't be able to pay much attention to it again. Whoever the woman was Faith didn't like the feeling she got from the encounter. It made her slayer senses go on high alert.
The day was going by quickly and Faith wondered if she was supposed to meet Buffy anywhere. She didn't know the routine, if they had one, and that would make her girlfriend ask questions. Questions Faith wouldn't know the answer to.
The thought soon left her brain though and Faith decided to go back to the apartment for the rest of the afternoon. She noticed during her search of the place that she still had her Playstation and thought maybe some mindless gaming fun was just what she needed.
"What is Faith doing today?"
Buffy set her bag down as she closed the front door and looked at Giles. "Taking it easy I hope. She was pretty exhausted last night. Fell asleep early."
"I guess that would be why she didn't show up today."
Buffy did think that was a little odd, mostly because she had thought she'd reminded her, but she didn't say it. Since Faith didn't have a job she normally helped Giles during the day and did much more training than Buffy did. The fact that she didn't show up was uncharacteristic of her and she was sure Faith said she would be here in the afternoon.
"She does seem to be a lot better today, Giles. She's ready to patrol tonight."
Giles wasn't so sure of that and he knew his face said as much as Buffy sat down. "If her memory isn't what it was before she was hurt maybe it's best for her not to patrol."
"I don't think so, Giles," Buffy protested. "Faith is ready. Her wounds are healed. If they weren't she wouldn't have been discharged from the hospital."
"I suppose so."
"Besides, she said she would cover it tonight so that I could study for finals. You don't want be flunking out, do you, Giles?"
"Your studies are important, Buffy, but so are your duties as a slayer. You were able to balance them without Faith so you shouldn't need to rely on her now if she still needs time to recover."
Buffy scowled at him, getting a little irritated with how he was acting. She wanted to remind him that if anyone should be concerned about Faith it should be her. She loved the other slayer more than she'd ever loved anyone. "Giles, if you remember correctly I wasn't exactly the greatest student before Faith showed up. In fact, I remember a lot of skipping classes and a small case of academic probation before Faith shared the slaying duties."
"I do realize that but . . ."
"No, no buts. She's fine. Sure, she missed training today but maybe that's because she needed to take a day off. When I meet up with her later, I'll ask."
Giles still had concerns but decided not to voice them at the moment. He could see Buffy was getting frustrated and she was always protective of Faith, right from the very beginning. He knew he would have to wait to see if Buffy began to notice more inconsistencies with the other slayer.
"Okay," he relented. "I'll trust your instincts on this. I simply don't want to see Faith hurt because she jumped back into patrolling too early."
"I don't want her hurt either." Buffy wasn't scowling any longer but she was still annoyed at the questioning. "If there's a problem tonight she won't go out alone again."
Giles nodded in agreement. "Understood."
They sat in silence for a minute. Buffy knew that Giles was right and they should probably patrol together but Faith said it was fine and her girlfriend had never lied to her before, not since they had started dating. That was a promise Faith had made to her long ago and as far as she knew she'd never broken that promise.
"Okay, I have to meet with my study group. We're studying at the apartment today so if Faith's hurt I should be the first to know it."
Giles stood as Buffy did and nodded. "You could always have someone else go with her. Xander, perhaps?"
Buffy smiled. "I have a feeling Faith will want to get out on her own tonight. It's been too many nights without being able to stake something."
After an afternoon of not doing much at all Faith grabbed a couple stakes and left the apartment as the sun was setting. She was anxious to get out and do what she was made to do. It had been months since she'd patrolled.
Buffy hadn't returned to the apartment by the time she left but she was okay with that. She could feel that she was becoming more comfortable around her and that it was easy to do all the girlfriend-type stuff so far but it still felt a little off. It couldn't feel that way if she was going to stick with what the spell had to offer.
What hadn't changed in the spell was how she felt about patrolling. She never felt more in control than when she was patrolling and slaying. Every time it felt as though everything had to bow to her will and that was the way she liked it. Anything else was a weakness that could get her killed.
It was a good night, too. Within the first fifteen minutes she came across two vampires. There was a little trouble with the first, mostly because she hadn't slayed in so long, but after she dusted him she knew she wouldn't feel that again. The second one was much easier and he was dusted without her even having to break a sweat.
About an hour in she started thinking about the new Sunnydale and had to admit she liked it. Even though she didn't know what she was doing half the time she definitely liked the new possibilities it had to offer. It felt like she could do whatever she wanted, like she could do no wrong.
After four cemeteries and a handful of vamps Faith decided she'd had enough of patrolling for the night. She looked at her watch and knew there was a good chance that Buffy and whoever she was studying with would still be at the apartment so she figured she should stay away a little while longer. She didn't want to interrupt anything, thinking that's what a good girlfriend would do.
The Bronze seemed like a good option and after slaying the vamps she had there was definitely some excess energy she could dance off. She'd been there plenty of times by herself before and Faith knew she looked good enough to get a dance partner if she wanted one.
When she got there the place was packed full of people and the music was loud, DJ and not a band. Faith wandered over to the bar and ordered a drink, the bartender not even bothering to ask for ID, and drank it quickly. She took a deep breath and looked out over the dance floor, grinning as she walked away from the bar.
To Faith, the only thing as freeing as slaying was dancing. It was a time where she could completely let go and let all of her emotions flow out of her body. It was intense and soothing and energetic all at the same time.
She wasn't sure how long she'd been out dancing but after awhile she felt the need to go get another drink. A couple of guys had attempted to dance with her while she was out there but she pushed them away so when she was ready to leave no one was necessarily dancing with her, only around her. After seeing the second guy get shoved off the floor no one laid a hand on her.
As she was leaving the dance floor, she heard, "Faith."
Faith stopped and saw a woman staring at her. She looked familiar and Faith realized that she knew her from all the pictures she'd looked at earlier in the day. It took a few seconds but then she remembered. "Anya."
Anya looked at her with a furrowed brow, confused at why Faith was there without Buffy. "What are you doing here?"
"Dancing," Faith answered as she smiled. "What does it look like?"
"You never come here without Buffy," she said.
Faith didn't like that answer and she didn't like that it felt like she was being questioned. "Well, there's a first time for everything."
She passed her without another thought and went to the bar, ordering another drink and taking the free shot offered to her with a wink to the bartender. Faith downed the shot and took her drink, turning to see Anya only a foot from her. "What?"
"I don't think I've ever seen you drink before," Anya commented, still confused by the situation. She hadn't seen Faith after she'd woken up in the hospital but she wasn't acting like the Faith she knew. "It's different."
"Of course," Faith muttered. The Mayor didn't like drinking so it would be like him to give everyone the impression that she didn't drink. "Again, first time for everything."
"There you are, Anya," Xander said as he walked up to the bar. "Faith! I didn't know you were coming out tonight. Where's Buffy?"
Faith looked at Xander and was a little relieved that he hadn't changed much. She wasn't sure he liked his girlfriend though. "Studying. I'm staying out of the way."
He didn't expect that answer and could tell his girlfriend didn't either. "Oh, I guess I didn't realize . . ."
"Yeah, yeah," Faith said quickly, cutting him off. "Nice to see you but I'm heading out."
She brushed past them and was already at the door before either of the pair could question her further. Xander and Anya both watched her go before Xander turned to his girlfriend, a confused look on her face. "What was that about?"
"I don't know," Anya said. "I saw her today staring at a building. I know she saw me and she didn't mention it. That's strange, right?"
Xander wasn't sure what to say. "Maybe it's nothing. Come on, let's go."
Buffy was worried and she didn't worry often.
Part of her thought she was being silly for worrying about Faith. Her girlfriend was a slayer, the strongest person she knew, and could take care of herself. Sunnydale had been quiet since they'd killed the remaining demons so she didn't think Faith would have any trouble on her own. That's why she felt okay in telling Giles Faith wouldn't have a problem patrolling on her own.
The studying had been a success as far as she was concerned. Three of her fellow classmates had met her at the apartment and they'd studied as long as they could, taking the necessary pizza break, of course. She thought she was prepared for her final by the end of it.
She knew Faith had said she'd have the apartment to herself but her classmates had left at midnight and that was almost two hours ago. Unless Faith had a problem during patrol she should have been back by now. Buffy knew she would never forgive herself if something bad happened.
The door opened then and Buffy ran to it, Faith stumbling into her arms a moment later. At first she thought that she was injured and she frantically looked for injuries but she didn't find any. That's when she realized what was wrong.
"Faith, are you drunk?"
"Got it in one, B," Faith slurred then laughed as she moved away from Buffy and fell onto the couch. "Where is everyone?"
"They all left an hour ago," Buffy said as she sat next to Faith. "I was thinking I'd have everyone leave once you got back from patrol and we could continue what we started last night. But then it got late and everyone left and where the hell did you go?"
Faith sighed and opened her eyes. She instantly felt bad at the look on Buffy's face. The last thing she wanted was to see her upset. "I said I'd let you have the apartment for the night to study. Patrol was done a little early so I went out."
"And you got drunk?" Buffy was confused. She'd never seen Faith drunk the entire time they'd dated, even when she first got to Sunnydale. "I didn't even know you drank."
"Me neither, I guess," Faith said as she tried to concentrate. "Went to the Bronze for awhile then a bar . . . then back here, I think. It's a little fuzzy."
Buffy looked her over, scowling as she did. It was one thing to get hurt on patrol and have to recover but it was another thing entirely to show up hours late drunk. Part of her didn't even recognize the action as something Faith would do. It was much too out of character.
"I'm going to sleep," Buffy said, getting up and turning away from Faith. She was angrier than she thought she would be and she didn't know why. "We'll talk later."
Faith didn't like the tone and she knew she'd messed up. Buffy looked so hurt and she knew she was the one to blame for it. She cursed under her breath for screwing up what was probably the best thing she'd had. The Mayor had given her someone who loved her, something that she didn't think she would ever have, and she was sabotaging it.
"B . . . Buffy," Faith started as she stood up, trying to will herself sober, "I didn't realize you thought I'd come back after patrol. I thought you'd study longer."
Buffy let out a breath and turned back to Faith. She still didn't know why Faith was doing something so uncharacteristic. There was also something in Faith's look that she couldn't read and she didn't like that. "I don't want to fight."
"I don't either," Faith said and thought about what the right thing to say was. She was quickly discovering she wasn't good at pretending to be a girlfriend. "I'm sorry."
They only looked at each other for a few seconds and Buffy could feel the anger go away. She wanted to believe that it was just a misunderstanding. The only part she didn't understand was the drinking since as far as she knew her girlfriend didn't drink but it was easier to overlook it.
Faith could tell Buffy's mood was changing so she did what she thought she should: she closed the distance between them and put her arms around her. She felt her whole body relax when Buffy's arms made their way around her waist and she had to admit she liked the feeling. The thought that she needed to go along with the spell was getting stronger and she knew she needed to try harder at being the person everyone remembered.
As Buffy pulled away, she placed a light kiss on Faith's lips and smiled. "Get out of those clothes and get into bed. They smell like a bar."
She wasn't sure that was true but Faith also knew the last place she was in wasn't exactly upstanding in its clientele. Her clothes probably reeked of cigarette smoke and cheap booze. She started to walk off to change but suddenly Buffy was stripping off her clothes and she found herself watching. Buffy had an amazing body and Faith had to force her eyes away.
Buffy eased herself under the covers and closed her eyes as she waited for Faith. The way Faith had looked at her as she undressed always turned her on. It was something she'd done almost every night since they had moved in together. She took it as a sign that things were getting back to normal.
Now all she hoped for was that Faith would come to bed naked, too.
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