Chapter Three

Faith handed the package over to Willow who looked it over quickly before turning her attention back to Buffy and Faith.

"What do you mean 'a whole lot more'? What else did you find?" Willow asked, a confused look upon her face.

"The urn was easy to find," Faith began. "We found a computer, did the search thingamajig like you said to, and presto – got a shiny new urn at the antique shop."

"But the guy who was working there knew our other selves, apparently. He started talking about my mom, and when I found out the shoe shop was closed . . ." Buffy said, only to have Willow interrupt her.

"Ooh, you mean the place on Main Street?"

"Yeah, the place with the comfy boots," Buffy continued. "Anyway, when I found out that it was closed I got a little bit bummed out. It was all just a little weird being back there, and knowing that my mom was walking around somewhere . . ." Buffy trailed off, lost in her thoughts.

"To make a long story short," Faith continued the tale, "we took a detour back on our way to the exit point and ended up in B's old neighborhood." Seeing Willow's scolding glare, Faith tried to cover. "Hey, I just thought that seeing the old casa de Summers would cheer her up. I didn't think that she was gonna go busting in all crazy-like and . . ."

"Faith groped me!" Buffy interrupted excitedly, trying to divert attention from the fact that she caused the whole incident with her need to explore.

"Hey, not before you groped me!" Faith replied with her eyebrows raised, doing her best to look innocent.

"So, you took a walk down memory lane and decided to get frisky on your front porch?" Kennedy asked, a small grin on her face. "Kinky. But couldn't you have waited ‘til you got back here?"

"It was not kinky, at least not like that," Buffy defended. "Turns out that we, Faith and I – the other Faith and I – live together in that house. And it would seem that we're a bit more than housemates."

A moment of silence descended upon the room as they all processed what Buffy had just said. Xander's eyes widened, Willow blushed, Dawn grimaced, and Kennedy looked like the cat that got the cream.

"You mean the other Faith and Buffy are shacking up together in the other dimension?" Kennedy asked. When Buffy nodded, Kennedy laughed aloud. "That's fucking classic! So, come on . . . what happened?"

"B was busy playing explorer, and that's when I got ambushed by the other Buffy. She came bouncing down the stairs and jumped me, so I kept her occupied while B made an exit out the front door," Faith explained.

"Kept her occupied?" Buffy asked, eyebrows raised. "It looked like you were enjoying yourself to me."

Faith grinned, "Yeah, well . . . the other Buffy knew how to work it, what can I say?"

"Oh, I don't need to be hearing this," Dawn said, crossing the room as if to get away from the discussion.

"Yeah, well . . . the other Faith certainly didn't waste any time with formalities when I ran into her outside. I couldn't have fought her off even if I'd wanted to," Buffy said. Her eyes nearly bugged out of her head when she realized what she'd said. "Not that I didn't want to, but, you know . . . I had to distract her so Faith could make her escape."

Faith merely looked at Buffy and grinned, thoroughly enjoying Buffy's little slip up. Did that mean that Buffy didn't mind the other Faith's advances?

"Well," Willow began, her voice faltering just a bit, "I'm willing to assume that they didn't see the two of you together, because . . . well, you're still in one piece. I'm guessing that the lack of explodeyness means that we're safe. And hey," she held up the box for everyone to see, "we have the urn! All and all, I'd say it went only slightly askew from the plan."

"I'd have to agree there," Xander chimed in. "We have the urn, bleach boy is gonna get his body back, and Buffy and Faith are lesbians in the other dimension. It's a good day. I say we celebrate." He couldn't keep the cheesy smile off his face, despite receiving menacing glares from Buffy and Faith. "Tonight, the pizza and snacks are on me. Who's in?"

"I could eat a horse," Kennedy said, standing up and pulling Willow along with her toward the door.

"Oh, um . . . I guess we're going. Buff, Faith . . . you guys coming?" Willow asked.

"Maybe in the other dimension they are," Kennedy said with a slightly evil grin.

Dawn sighed loudly, letting her shoulders slump forward. "Scarred for life. Thanks, Ken." She turned to Buffy, "I'll be up in my room trying to wipe that thought from my memory."

Without another word, Dawn was climbing the stairs two at a time until she reached her room and closed the door behind her.

"You can count me out," Faith said. "I've got a six-pack of ice cold Bud with my name on it. It's the perfect support group."

She turned on her heel and made her way through the kitchen and out the back door, headed toward her own half of the house.

"That just leaves you, Buff. You coming?" Willow asked, ignoring Kennedy's insistent tugging on her arm.

"Nah, I'm just gonna stay here. It'll be dark soon and it's my night to patrol. That and I'm so not into the teasing that Kennedy and Xander have in for me."

Willow shook free from Kennedy and took a few steps back into the house, speaking quietly so that only Buffy could hear her.

"Are you sure? I can stay here with you if you need to talk, Buffy. I promise, I won't even tease you. Much," she said, a little smile breaking through her sympathetic guise.

"I'm sure," Buffy said with a smile. "Now go, before Kennedy starts gnawing on Xander's tires."

Willow leaned forward and gave Buffy a small hug, then made her way to the door and closed it tight behind her.

Knowing that she was finally alone and under no one's watchful gaze, Buffy leaned forward so that her head was near her knees and exhaled loud and deeply. She tried to relax, taking in nice and deep breaths while stretching her tense muscles.

The whole ordeal had been really unnerving for her. She knew that she should feel weird about what she saw in the other dimension, but she didn't. It hadn't bothered her as much as everyone thought that it did. Sure, she was slightly shocked at what she'd seen and at what she was able to surmise was going on between the other Buffy and Faith in the dimension. What did unnerve her was how much the situation didn't bother her. She wasn't able to figure out in her own mind what that meant, and to be honest, she was too tired and mentally exhausted to deal with it just then.

Instead of letting it stress her out, she walked into the kitchen and grabbed a bottle of beer from the refrigerator. The cap twisted off easily in her hand, and a few seconds later she had downed nearly half the bottle.

As she rested back against the counter with her eyes closed, rolling her head around to stretch her neck muscles, she heard Faith's back door close. She looked down at her watch and smiled. Right on cue, she thought.

Without hesitation, she made her way to the back door and opened it up to find Faith resting on the large wicker couch that they'd purchased for back-porch sitting. She was under a large fleece blanket with her head rested back against the couch, looking peaceful and not at all troubled by the day's events. Her shoeless feet were up on the wicker table, crossed over one another so that she was in the perfect relaxing position.

"Any room for me under that blanket, or are we gonna do the thing where we act all weird and stay exactly five feet away from each other at all times?" She asked with a small smile.

Faith opened her eyes and looked over at Buffy, giving her a friendly smile.

"There's always room for you, B."

She lifted the blanket up and Buffy walked over to take a seat, bypassing the large wicker armchair like she did every other night in favor of a seat on the couch.

Buffy took off her jacket and laid it down on the table before flopping back on the chair with a tired sigh. Faith lay the blanket back down over Buffy's legs and grinned.

"Just don't try to molest me or anything, B. I'm in a fragile state of mind and stuff . . . I might let you take advantage of me or something."

Buffy smiled and took another swig of her beer, letting the amber liquid warm her up from the inside out.

"I'll try to resist," she joked.

They sat in a comfortable silence for a few minutes, just watching the colors change in the sky as the sun began to set. When Buffy finished her beer, Faith reached down to the six-pack she brought outside and handed Buffy a new bottle after twisting the cap off for her.

"So chivalrous," Buffy commented as she took the beer from Faith.

"Yeah, that's me for sure. Holding doors, opening bottles, taking us on forbidden tours through Sunnydale just to make a lady happy. I'm all about the chivalry," Faith said tongue-in-cheek.

"I can tell," Buffy said with a smile, keeping her gaze focused on the sky. "I never thanked you, by the way . . . for letting me see my old house. I think I needed to see it one last time."

"No problem, B," Faith said, looking from the sky to her half-full bottle. She picked on the label a little bit, choosing over her words. "Do you regret going there?"

"No," Buffy answered straight away. "I wish that we wouldn't have gotten caught so quickly – I didn't even get to check out my old room. But no . . . no regrets."

"That was kinda wild, wasn't it?" Faith asked with a smile, finally looking over to Buffy. "Seeing our other selves like that. Kinda makes you think," she said, looking back up to the sky.

"About what-if's and why's?" Buffy asked, taking a glance over at Faith.

Faith chuckled and took a long swig of her beer. "No, about what happened when they realized they weren't mackin' on each other two minutes before."

"Ahh yeah, that," Buffy laughed. She pulled the blanket up higher around herself, the cool evening air wrapping around them.

"Ya shouldn't have taken your jacket off if you're gonna sit here shivering and turning blue, genius," Faith said, inching closer to Buffy to help warm her up.

Fact of the matter was, Buffy always took her jacket off before she sat down. She knew that she'd get cold, but she also knew that the blanket was warm, and that Faith wouldn't let her get too cold before moving closer to help warm her up.

Buffy thought about that very fact as she sat there, feeling Faith's warm body pressed against her side. Why was she always subconsciously trying to get Faith closer to her? And why hadn't she realized it before that very night?

"Whoa," Buffy said, not realizing that she'd said it aloud until she felt Faith look over at her.

"What?" Faith asked, her brows furrowed as she watched Buffy's face.

"Oh, uh . . . nothing. Just thinking," Buffy answered, shaking her head slightly.

"Aww, come on B," Faith said with a smile. "Don't sit there and violate me in your mind and then clam up about it. Spill."

Buffy smiled and looked down at her beer bottle. "No, really, I was just thinking. Just about . . . stuff."

"Yeah, stuff," Faith said, looking at her own beer bottle. "I've gotta ask, Buffy, cos it's gonna drive me nuts if I don't," she paused, trying to find the right words, "what we saw today in the other dimension . . . is it gonna make things weird between us? Cos I really don't want that. What happened there can stay there, yunno? I don't wanna go back to being all angsty with you and stuff."

Buffy smiled a little and looked over at Faith, noticing how nervous she'd suddenly become.

"No, no weirdness. We've had too many years of badness and weirdness. There's no reason to get hung up on it again. What happens in other worlds doesn't affect what happens in this one. Right?" She asked quietly.

"Yeah, definitely," Faith said, nodding her head.

More comfortable silence passed between them as they both gazed up at the setting sun yet again. Buffy could tell that something was still on Faith's mind though, seeing as that she couldn't stop bouncing her knee up and down.

"Faith?" Buffy asked, then indicated her bouncing knee. "If there's something on your mind, just say it. I think we've already established that we're okay with the whole deal."

"Okay," Faith said, taking a deep breath. "I don't know about you, but I'm just sittin here, wondering over and over in my mind if that's how we are in all the other dimensions. I mean . . . is that how we're supposed to be?"

"I don't know," Buffy answered truthfully. "I think that things happen for a reason. We write our own destinies."

Faith sighed and shook her head, obviously feeling a bit frustrated. "So I guess that if we were supposed to be together here like in the other world, I screwed it all up then. I've always been a fuck up, yunno?" she asked with a chuckle, not really expecting a reply.

"We all make mistakes, Faith. God knows I've made more than I care to think about," Buffy said and paused for a few moments. "I guess that when it comes down to it, it doesn't matter what we did in the past. We're here where we are now, and . . . I like where we are. We're friends. My life is good. I can't say that I'd go back and change things, because I don't know that it would bring me back to this place, you know?"

"Yeah," Faith answered quietly. A full minute passed before she said, "But don't you wonder if it could be even better?"

Their eyes met and they just stared at one another, more silent questions passing between them. They were pulled from their thoughts, however, when the back door of Buffy's house opened up and Dawn walked out.

"Hey Buffy, I was thinking about making some dinner . . . are you hungry?"

Buffy turned her head and smiled at Dawn, "Yeah. Why don't you go see what we can make and I'll be inside in a sec?"

"Okay," Dawn said somewhat cheerfully and walked back into the house.

"Duty calls," she said with a small smile as she stood up from the couch. She placed the blanket back down and looked over to Faith, who was busy trying to avoid looking at her. Buffy couldn't help but notice how affected by everything Faith appeared just then.

"Hey," she said quietly, making Faith look at her. "It wasn't your fault, Faith . . . the past. You didn't wreck anything, and we're happy now, right?"

Faith nodded her head, but still looked troubled. Buffy couldn't stop herself as she leaned down to give Faith a comforting kiss on the top of her head, but she froze as Faith looked up and she found herself face to face with the girl.

They gazed deeply into one another's eyes, searching for answers, searching for something, and Buffy didn't even realize that she had moved closer until she felt her lips brush softly over Faith's.

The kiss was soft and chaste, lips not moving but lingering for several seconds. When Buffy felt Faith's soft breath on her face, she pulled back and closed her eyes, willing her body to move but was seemingly stuck in place.

A moment or two later, she stood up fully and opened her eyes to see Faith staring up at her, a million questions in her eyes.

"Goodnight," Buffy said, walking quickly into her house before giving Faith the chance to say anything.

"Yeah, night," Faith said to no one in particular, seeing that Buffy's door was already closed. She slouched back further against the couch, letting out a deep breath as she ran a hand through her hair.

She hadn't expected that – any of that. Not the conversation they had, not how open she had been despite her paralyzing fear of scaring Buffy off, and certainly not the kiss that they had shared. To be perfectly honest, she didn't know why she had looked up when Buffy leaned down to kiss her head. It was almost involuntary now that she thought about it; as soon as she had felt Buffy getting closer to her, she'd looked up and into her eyes.

The almost scary part was that she didn't initiate the kiss. Faith had sat there unmoving, gazing up into Buffy's green eyes trying to figure out something; trying to find the proverbial needle in the haystack, hidden under their many years of angst and emotional baggage. And she saw it; for the briefest moment, she saw a glimmer of hope that maybe Buffy was thinking the same thought that she was thinking, feeling what she was feeling.

And then the kiss. Oh god, the kiss. Faith brought her fingertips up to her still tingling lips as she recalled it. She had never been kissed like that; soft and slow and not asking for anything more than just the moment that they were stealing together.

Faith closed her eyes, letting the memory of the kiss wash over her again and again as she pressed her fingertips softly against her lips.

She didn't want to open her eyes. She didn't want to come back down to the place where Buffy had just kissed her and there would be residual awkwardness. And most importantly, after the conversation they had just had, she didn't want to spend the rest of her life wondering what she had messed up and what they could have had together.

However, as much as she didn't want to come back to reality, Faith realized that she couldn't sit on the back porch with her eyes closed forever. After a few more moments passed, she opened her eyes to see Buffy's jacket laying across the wicker table. She leaned forward and took it in her hands, ready to return it to the girl.

"Hey B," she began as she stood with the jacket in her hands, but she quickly stopped when she felt something in the jacket. Cautiously, she reached her hand into the pocket of the thin jacket and pulled out the orb and the scrap of paper.

She held the items in her hand and just stared down at them, her head tilted to the side in concentration. She stole a quick glance at the back door of Buffy's house, then back at her hand.

"Fuck this," Faith said as she dropped Buffy's jacket back onto the table and stood up fully, clutching the orb and scrap of paper in her hand.

She made her way into her own house and into the living room where she grabbed the denim jacket that she had been wearing earlier. In a swift move, she put the jacket on and pulled her hair form the back of it, a look of determination on her face.

"Okay, you can do this, Faith. It's just Latin," she said as she strained to read the piece of paper, the orb in her other hand. "Peterface porta."

She waited for several seconds, but nothing happened.

"Okay, how about . . . Peterfice porta?"

Again, nothing happened.

"No? No. Okay," she said with a sigh. "Peterfish porta?"

Still, nothing.

"Fucking Latin. No wonder it's a dead fucking language. Work with me here, Peter!" she said, frustrated.

"What are you doing?" came a voice from behind her.

Faith spun around to see Buffy standing there with her jacket in her hands looking slightly confused.

Buffy held up her jacket for Faith to see.

"I forgot my jacket," she said with a slightly uncomfortable smile. "Your door was open and I heard you talking to . . . well, Peter, I thought."

Faith sighed again, obviously agitated.

"Yeah, well . . . he's not cooperating."

"So I can see," Buffy said, trying to hide her amusement from Faith's words. "Faith," she began but paused before taking a few steps closer, "what are you doing?" Her voice was soft and gentle, not at all trying to sound accusatory or upset.

"What does it look like I'm doing?" Faith asked, knowing fully well that she didn't have to explain her actions. Buffy knew.

"Faith, you . . ." Buffy began, but Faith immediately interrupted her.

"I can't not know, B. I can't sit here and pretend to get on with my life if this isn't the way that it's supposed to be going."

Buffy took a deep breath and exhaled, turning her head to gaze at some random place in the room.

"Listen, you don't ever have to know," Faith continued. "You can go on with your life and be happy, and I'll be happy for you. I will, I swear. But I've gotta know. I'm sorry, B, but I can't wonder about it for the rest of my life."

She stood and waited for some kind of response from Buffy; any little sign that she wasn't going to freak out or kick her ass, or even worse – push her out of her life.

After a minute or so passed, Buffy finally looked back at Faith and held out her hand. Faith looked down at the proffered hand, then back up into Buffy's eyes.

"You didn't let me finish before," Buffy said quietly. "You can't go alone. It only works if we say it together."

Faith furrowed her brow a bit when she realized that Buffy was offering to go with her.

"You . . . you're gonna come with?" Faith asked, confused. "Just like that, you're gonna tag along?"

Buffy shrugged her shoulders.

"Willow said that the portals would be open through midnight, we'd just have to summon them if needed. I guess that if we're ever gonna find out, now's the time to do it."

"Are you sure, B? I don't want you to do something you'll regret, especially if you're doing it just to keep me from kicking Peter's ass," Faith joked, trying to lighten up the tense atmosphere around them.

Buffy merely walked closer and took Faith's hand in hers, confirming her decision to go with her.

"I don't want to wonder forever either," she said quietly, before pulling her gaze away from Faith's. She took the paper from Faith's free hand and looked down at the words, reading them aloud so that Faith could copy them.

"Patefacio porta," she said, then looked up to see if Faith heard and understood.

"Ahh, patefacio," Faith said. "So Peter's off the hook then. Lucky for him."

Buffy smiled softly before letting a determined look come over her face. "Ready?" she asked.

Faith nodded, and then they said the words together, their hands joined tightly around the small orb. It only took a second or two for a whirly white portal to open up, just as it had done before.

"Let's do this," Faith said as she stared into the white light, her eyes squinting.

A moment later, they took their first step through the portal and into another dimension. When the white light faded and the atmosphere settled, Buffy and Faith looked around, their eyes wide.

"I don't think we're in Kansas anymore," Buffy whispered, her eyes fixated on the space just in front of them.

The obvious commotion of the portal opening and closing caused the large Tyrannosaurus Rex before them to look their way, his pupils dilating as he detected their subtle movements.

"Oh shit," Faith said, preparing to be dinosaur dinner.

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