Episode 2.01: What Happens In Vegas . . .

He who fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster.
When you gaze long into an abyss the abyss also gazes into you.
-- Nietzsche

The desert air whipped through Faith's hair and she had to turn her head so that it wouldn't block her face. A few strands were stuck to the damp corners of her mouth and she used her fingertips to brush them away as she gazed around the darkened night. The land was flat all around her, the mountains that surrounded Las Vegas miles out in the distance. The sky was completely black, not a single star in sight. She strained to see even the tiniest spec of light in the sky but there was nothing.

Her human side told her that it was nothing to worry about; shit like this had to happen all the time and she sure as hell wasn't any kind of astrologist or cosmologist or whatever the hell name stargazers went by. Still, her slayer side was coiled tightly inside, telling her that something wasn't right. It was on edge, ready to lash out or at least defend against whatever cosmic bitchslap It was sure was about to happen.

On full alert, Faith started to walk slowly down the dust-covered road she seemed to be on, not even sure how she got there in the first place. The gravel in her boots scraped on the pavement, the sound seeming all too loud even through the howling wind. A wisp of her hair blew over her eyes and she quickly shook her head; her hands were too busy clenching into fists to be able to brush it away this time.

Off in the distance down the abandoned road she saw a faint orange light. Even with her enhanced slayer vision, she couldn't make out what it was. Only when she was closer was she able to see that it was a smoldering fire, and only then did she finally catch the acrid smell of burning flesh. Eyes wide, she took off toward the fire in a sprint, coming to a screeching halt just a few feet away from the dancing flames. She looked down and her breath caught in her throat.

It was a man. A man laying atop a motorcycle. He was fully engulfed in flames but didn't make a sound, just looked up at her through the smoke and haze. He held out his hand to her and a chunk of flesh fell off, landing on the gasoline-covered pavement with a sickening plop.

Faith reached out her hand to pull him up, help him, anything, but instead of accepting her aid, he balled his hand into a fist, leaving one finger out pointing accusingly at her.

"You did this," he said through blistered lips.

Faith shook her head frantically and gripped onto his hand, grimacing at the feel of cracked and peeling skin. A moment later the flames started to burn brighter, hotter, her own hand starting to burn.

"It wasn't me . . . it was . . ." she shook her head again. "Fuck, I can't explain it. Just, come on. I gotta get you outta there." She frowned as another chunk of flesh fell off his arm and her own skin started to blister and peel. "Let me fucking help you!"

The man didn't budge an inch no matter how hard she pulled and after several agonizing seconds of trying, she had to pull her own badly burnt arm back from the flames.

A sickening smile crossed the man's face - or maybe it wasn't an actual smile, his lips were mostly burnt away at that point - and his other hand pointed out in the distance. Faith gazed over to where he was pointing and her eyes widened yet again.

It was the shack. The shack where she'd tortured Buffy. It was back, and a storm of black smoke was swirling around it.

"She's waiting for you," he said.

Faith looked back at the man and in an instant, the fire intensified ten times over. She had to jump back to avoid being caught up in the blaze. Using her forearm to shield her eyes, she squinted and looked into the flames finding the man staring back at her through lidless eyes, that same sickening smile on his face as he stopped moving.

It was too late.

But not too late for Buffy.

Ignoring the pain in her blistered and raw arm, Faith took off across the dusty ground and headed for the shack, pushing herself harder than she ever had. The slayer in her was twisting and churning, flexing its power in skin that could barely contain it.

The dark smoke swirling around the shack was thick and Faith could barely spot the entrance, but when she finally caught sight of it she didn't hesitate to run through the smoke, consequences be damned. A moment later she found herself inside the abandoned building, coughing and spluttering both from the exertion of running, the fire, and the black smoke.

Her eyes were dry and burning but she pushed further into the room, searching out for who she was hoping wasn't there. Unfortunately for her, she saw Buffy on a familiar chair in the middle of the room, head dangling forward with her arms tied behind her back.

"Jesus . . . fuck," Faith said, immediately running over and dropping to her knees in front of an only semi-conscious Buffy. "B, baby."

She cupped her hands over Buffy's cheeks and lifted her head up, trying to look into her eyes and rouse her. There was blood all over her clothing running out from multiple cuts and slices. A steady stream of blood ran out from a gash in her cheek, covering Faith's palm in liquid warmth.

Buffy's eyelids fluttered as she tried to focus, Faith waiting anxiously to be able to speak to her. When Buffy opened her mouth to speak, the wind chose that moment to begin whipping around in the small shack, making the sheet metal walls clang loudly against the building frame.

Words started coming out of Buffy's mouth but Faith couldn't hear them; the wind was getting too intense and the clattering of the metal sheathing was drowning out her voice. Faith strained to listen, shaking her head to move her hair from her face, and that was when she heard it: a faint whisper on the wind.

It wasn't Buffy's voice. It wasn't a voice she'd heard before. It was softer, lower; there was a hint of an accent. She couldn't place it.

"Faith," the whisper called to her, sounding faint and far away but flooding her senses.

Faith quickly whipped her head around, sure that she was going to come face to face with the person calling her name. Her heart was beating hard in her chest but there was no one there. Dust whipped around the small space and she had to squint so that it wouldn't get in her eyes.

"Faith," she heard the whisper again, louder this time.

Her eyes scanned the room, looking high and low for any signs of life. There were none. A dim light bulb hanging above them flickered and swayed in the wind, but there was no one there with them. It was just she and Buffy.


Faith was just about to turn her head to look back at Buffy and that's when she heard it again.

The whisper.

Only it was much stronger now.

Right beside her.

Eyes wide, Faith quickly whipped her head back to face Buffy only to find that she was now cradling someone else's face.

It was a woman, long dark hair and a soft grin on her blood red lips. When she opened her mouth to speak Faith's name again, Faith could make out just the faintest hint of pointed teeth behind her lips. Not a vamp, but not . . . human. Definitely not human.

Her skin prickling and the slayer within her twisting and writhing to be let loose, Faith opened her mouth to speak, only to find that she couldn't. She looked down to see that the woman was holding out both hands like she was going to wrap them around her neck.

It wasn't an aggressive act; it was a possessive act.

Panicking, Faith tried to jump back but found that she couldn't. It was as if the hands that weren't even touching her were holding her there. She looked back up to the woman's eyes, trying to fight against the unmovable force The slayer took over and Faith pushed as hard as she could against the force until she was able to scrabble away backwards on the floor.

The woman's smile slipped away, only to be replaced with a frown. She stood up and held one arm forward, slowly walking toward Faith.

"Faith!" she called out.

"Leave me the fuck alone!" Faith yelled.


Faith's eyes suddenly shot open, hearing her name on Buffy's lips. She looked over in a panic to find that she was wrapped up in soft bed sheets and Buffy was at her side, looking down at her worriedly. Her heart was beating so hard she could hardly breathe and when she did finally manage a deep breath, she let it out in a long, tired sigh.

A nightmare. Again.

She should've been used to this shit by now.

"Sorry, B. Didn't mean to wake ya."

"Were you having another nightmare?" Buffy asked, her voice full of concern and not accusatory at all.

"Nah," Faith lied. "Just a slay dream. Was beating up a Fyarl demon with my bare hands and it was gettin' the best of me."

Buffy looked at her long and hard and Faith could tell that she clearly didn't believe her. Still, Buffy wasn't going to push it. She never did.

"Are you sure?" Buffy asked, trying one more time. One last attempt to get Faith to try to open up.

It made Faith smile a little and she pulled Buffy back against her, pressing her lips to her temple.

"Positive. Now come on, gotta try to catch a few more z's. Ya got an early morning tomorrow."

Though Buffy seemed dubious, she eventually gave in and settled back against Faith's side, resting her head on Faith's chest and draping an arm across her abdomen.

Faith did her best to control her heartbeat, knowing fully well that Buffy would be able to hear it. When she heard the soft and even sounds of Buffy's breathing a few minutes later, she took a deep breath and sighed.

Another dream. The same dream. She had it over and over again. She'd expected it at first, having grief over the man she'd killed while possessed by the Last. But the dreams were getting longer, more involved, more intense.

That whisper . . . that voice . . .

Faith shook her head and looked around the darkened room. The digital clock on the nightstand read 3:47am. They had to be awake in just about four hours.

Like always, though, she knew she wouldn't get another wink of sleep that night.

Propping herself up as much as she could without jostling Buffy, she grabbed the remote control from the nightstand and turned on the television, keeping it muted so she wouldn't wake Buffy from her slumber. It lit up the otherwise dark bedroom and Faith caught sight of herself in the mirror across the room.

The bags under her eyes were getting worse.

She needed to sleep.

But she didn't want to dream.

Blinking hard, she focused on the television and on staying awake. It was going to be a long four hours.

It was just a few minutes before nine a.m. and Faith was the perfect picture of relaxation, resting back against the kitchen counter as she slowly sipped from a mug full of hot, fresh coffee. The caffeine was highly needed, especially if she wanted to make the four-plus hour drive back to Las Vegas without falling asleep at the wheel. The way she drove she could usually make it in three and a half hours but with Monday morning traffic, she wasn't holding her breath for a quick and easy journey home.

Taking a glance down at her watch, she shook her head and laughed a little bit to herself, then had another sip of coffee. It never failed that they were running late on a Monday morning. Actually, she took that back. She was running right on time. Buffy, however, was practically flying through her apartment like a Buffy-shaped tornado, pulling on clothes as she teetered around trying to keep her balance.

"Oh god, Giles is so going to kill me!" Buffy said as she went hopping by while trying to put on one of her shoes.

Faith watched her, amused, and pressed further back against the counter when Buffy nearly crashed into her as she passed by and disappeared into the living room.

"Shoulda gotten up earlier, B. You know that you're never on time for anything."

That made Buffy hop back in, this time struggling to get the zipper up on the back of her dress.

"I was up on time!" she said loudly, giving Faith a pointed look. "Was it my fault that I woke up with your face between my legs?"

Faith thought about it for a moment and then shrugged. "Yep, pretty much."

Buffy narrowed her eyes at Faith but couldn't hide the small smile that made its way on her face. As much as she tried and tried to always blame her Monday morning tardiness on Faith, she was always a willing and eager participant in their bedroom festivities.

If they weren't going to see one another for almost five days, they had to make their last time count. And oh boy, did it ever!

Trying to hide her smile, she quickly hobbled over to Faith wearing only one shoe and turned her back toward her, letting Faith zip her up. While Faith moved Buffy's hair out of the way to pull the zip the rest of the way up and pressed a soft kiss to the back of her neck, Buffy stole Faith's coffee mug and took a long drink.

When she was finished, she made a quiet 'mmm' sound and turned around to place the mug back on the counter. She looked up at Faith and took a moment to just breathe.

"Has anyone ever told you that you make the best coffee ever?"

Faith smiled and leaned in, giving a quick nip to the tip of Buffy's nose. It only took a moment for the playful nip to turn into a quick peck on the lips and then a passionate kiss, Buffy winding her fingers into Faith's unruly morning hair while Faith worked to spin them around and press Buffy against the cabinets. Despite the fact that Buffy was running late as it was, neither girl seemed to mind as Faith lifted Buffy up on the countertop and stepped between her legs, holding her close while they kissed.

Monday mornings were always difficult for them because it meant saying goodbye. Buffy had stayed in Las Vegas for almost two full weeks after they'd defeated The Last but reality eventually caught up with them and she was forced back to Los Angeles with her sister, Giles, and all of the slayers who were there waiting for training.

Buffy had eagerly re-accepted a leadership position after her brief retirement, but that meant she needed to stay in Los Angeles until they could work something else out. She did, however, get her own apartment so that she could have some privacy when needed. Faith was adamant about staying in Las Vegas and trying to make it on her own, which meant that she and Buffy were forced to make their relationship work however they could.

Currently, that meant spending every weekend together. The four hour drive really wasn't that bad, and with them alternating between LA and Las Vegas every week, it just worked. They were together by Friday evening and had until Monday morning together. Dawn usually spent the weekend with Giles and the slayers to give Buffy and Faith some privacy and to keep her own sanity. No way was she going to stay cooped up with them in that small apartment when the walls were paper thin.

Of course, Giles wasn't entirely thrilled about Buffy's consistent tardiness on Mondays but he was more than willing to deal with it when he saw just how happy Buffy and Faith seemed to make one another. It was like they were a perfect balance.

Buffy moaned as Faith's hands began to glide up her thighs but it wasn't for the reason Faith was hoping for.

"Mmm, Faith . . ." she mumbled out between kisses. "I can't."

"You're already late, babe. What's a few more minutes?" Faith mumbled back, her fingertips slipping under the material of Buffy's dress and making their way to the sides of her panties.

"It's never just a few minutes with you."

Faith grinned against Buffy's lips and started to kiss along her jaw, trying to cool down the fire a bit. As much as she hated to admit it, Buffy was right.

"You complaining?"

"Nope. Nuh-uh. I'm merely pointing out that," Buffy paused to tilt her head to the side, giving Faith better access to her neck, "I have exactly seven minutes to get to work, I'm only wearing one shoe, I have traffic to contend with, and now I need to change my panties on top of all that."

Chuckling softly, Faith gave Buffy's neck one last kiss and then pulled back enough to look into her eyes. She rubbed her thumb at the corner of Buffy's kiss-swollen lips to clear the smudged lipstick away from them and then braced her hands on the counter on either side of Buffy's thighs.

"I'll see you Friday, right?"

"Like always," Buffy replied back with a sad smile. "You'll call me tonight?"

"Yeah, when I'm on break," Faith replied, her smile fading.

She hated this. She hated being apart from Buffy. She hated phone sex not that they weren't fucking awesome at it or anything. But she wanted Buffy with her, and yeah, maybe that made her a clingy little bitch, but she couldn't help it. Buffy made the past bearable and the future seem bright; she made everything better.

Everything except her dreams. Everything except her nightmares.

Faith took a deep breath and exhaled. It was going to be a long week apart, especially with the trouble she was having with sleep.

"Hey," Buffy asked, making Faith meet her gaze. Faith hadn't even realized she'd looked away. Buffy's voice was quiet and full of concern as she continued. "Where did you just go?"

"Nowhere," Faith said with a shake of her head, trying to put back on a smile. It was difficult though and she knew that Buffy could see right through her act. She had to try harder. "Just gonna miss ya, B. Friday can't come soon enough."

She leaned in and gave Buffy a quick peck on her lips figuring that would ease Buffy's concern, but when she pulled back Buffy was looking at her with her brow furrowed.

"Faith . . . baby, are you sure that's it? I feel like you're not telling me something . . ."

"I tell you everything," Faith interrupted quickly and wiggled her eyebrows a little bit. "Probably too much, actually. No such thing as TMI with me."

Despite Faith's joke, Buffy didn't laugh. The blonde watched her carefully for what felt like forever before finally relenting, deciding not to push it further. Faith was grateful for that; she didn't want to burden Buffy with her fucked up shit; not when she already had so much going on in Los Angeles.

"Okay," Buffy finally said quietly but with determination. "You'll tell me when you're ready." Faith opened her mouth to speak but Buffy cut her off before she had the chance. "Now move out of the way and help me find my shoe so Giles doesn't put us on lockdown."

Faith had to take a quick step back to avoid being knocked over when Buffy hopped off the countertop and hobbled off toward the bedroom while trying to simultaneously pull off her panties. She watched until Buffy disappeared behind the door and had to stop to laugh quietly to herself.

Buffy sure was entertaining when she was in a hurry.

Still chuckling, Faith re-filled her coffee cup and took a long sip of it as she rested back against the countertop, waiting for the Buffy-tornado to sweep through again. She wasn't disappointed when thirty seconds later Buffy reappeared in the kitchen, hopping as she tried to pull her new panties on under her dress.

"Faith! Less coffee, more shoe-searchy!"

Just as quickly as she had appeared, Buffy disappeared, her feet going out from under her as she slipped on something while awkwardly hopping along. She landed on the floor with a thud, all movement ceasing as she lay there trying to catch her breath.

Faith tilted her head to the side and crossed her arms over her chest as she gazed down at Buffy's prone form (or at least what she could see of it from the other side of the table), a small smirk creeping up on her face.

"Those were some fancy moves. Think ya could do it again so I could catch it on video? Show the junior slayers some of that famous Buffy Summers slayer grace?"

"Not a chance," Buffy replied, her voice muffled. "But I do have some good news."

"Your swan dive altered the time-space continuum and you're not running late anymore?"

"Nope." Buffy held her hand up from beneath the table to reveal a strappy black sandal. "I found my other shoe."

It was shortly after two p.m. when Faith arrived back in Las Vegas. She'd been right; Monday morning traffic was a bitch. Getting out of LA had been the worst of it. Once she'd reached Barstow, it was smooth sailing all the way home. Andrew's neon blue Volkswagen Beetle was parked outside where it always was which made Faith both happy and frustrated. Having someone around was good; it didn't make her feel so alone.

But the fact that it was Andrew was frustrating. There was no doubt that he was waiting for her, ready to pester her about a hundred things she didn't exactly care about. She understood that he was being trained as a watcher and had questions, but shouldn't he have been bothering Giles about that?

After all, she'd turned down Giles' offer to assign Andrew to her. In fact, she turned down the offer of any watcher whatsoever. It wasn't that she wasn't grateful for the offer; she still just wasn't a fan of authority.

And yeah, there was no way in hell she was going to give Andrew any authority over her. The only authority he had over her was breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, and post-slayage buffets. She also let him patch up her battle wounds, but only the ones she couldn't reach, and only because it made him squirm like a sissy girl.

Parking her truck next to his car, she turned off the engine and gazed up at her building through her sunglasses. The sun was so bright it was reflecting off the front windows and hurting her tired eyes even through the sunglasses. Thank god she let Buffy talk her into those blackout blinds in her bedroom. Without them she'd never get any sleep, not that it mattered lately though.

With a loud yawn, Faith reached into the passenger seat and grabbed her bag, then stepped out of the car and headed toward the apartment. The sun was warm and bright, warmer and brighter than it was in Los Angeles, and instantly she started to miss Buffy. Friday felt a long way off.

She opened the front door and found Andrew sitting at the table, a million pieces of tiny electronic equipment spread out all over it. He looked up and smiled brightly . . . then frowned when she plopped her bag down over a heap of pieces.

"Jerk," he muttered quietly, which instantly made Faith smile. She pulled one of the chairs out and turned it around, then straddled it with her arms resting on the seat back. She pushed her sunglasses up on her head before addressing him.

"What's up, Inspector Gadget? Makin' me more gizmos for patrol?"

"I'm trying to," he replied, gingerly lifting her bag up and setting it on the floor. "But some brute keeps coming along and wreaking havoc on my spare parts."

Faith sat back and raised her hands up in the air.

"Wasn't me, yo. I try to keep my hands away from your parts as much as possible."

"Ha ha," Andrew mock-laughed. "I mean Anya. It was so much easier when she was a ghost. Now she's all corporeal and stealy. And she doesn't even live here anymore!"

She'd been living with Xander ever since their impromptu nuptials. They were madly in love and, according to Anya, having copious amounts of sex. For that very reason Faith was glad that they hadn't asked to move in. Giving them their own space was fine by her!

"Why the hell is she stealing your electro-thingamajigs?" she asked, casually picking up a little metallic piece with wires sticking out of it from the table.

Andrew quickly snatched the piece from her and placed it out of her reach.

"Because she's trying to build a slot machine. She has a grand idea that she can place it in the hallway of their apartment building and rig it so it never pays out. People will feed it money and she'll reap the benefits."

"That's . . ." Faith thought about it for a moment, ". . . actually pretty brilliant. Can't you build us something like that?"

Andrew scoffed. "I'm not going to waste my expertise on something so plebian. Feast your eyes on this masterpiece!"

He held up a silver - Faith inspected it closer to figure out what it was - doodad of some kind that looked like fancy brass knuckles. She raised her eyebrow questioningly.

"Brass knuckles? I had a set when I was twelve, dude. This is supposed to impress me?"

"Oh Faith. Silly, unknowing Faith." Andrew took the metal object from her and cradled it in his hands like it was the most fragile, amazing thing in the world. "This is so much more than brass knuckles. True, it works the same way: you slip your fingers through the holders and then pummel your foe with it . . ."

A memory hit Faith. The gadget the Mayor left her. Fighting with Buffy. Fighting as Buffy.

She shook her head. That wasn't her anymore.

". . . but upon contact, it takes a reading from the enemy. Sweat, body oil, demonic secretions; any genetic information gets sent back here electronically where it's instantly run through a database I'm building. Soon enough, I'll be able to tell you what you're fighting and how to kill it in just a matter of minutes."

"I generally find that cutting off the head works pretty good," Faith replied, smirking.

Then it was Andrew's turn to smirk. "Unless you're fighting a hydra, in which case two heads will grow back, or a dar'kn rei, in which case the head will sprout a body and the body will sprout a head, leaving you with two angry foes, or a sivara, in which case . . ."

"Alright, I get it," Faith said, defeated. "It'll be good for the newbie slayers at least. But I'm not interested in your fancy bling. What else ya got for me?"

She started rifling through the gadgets and gizmos before her, chuckling when Andrew slapped her hands away.

"Like I said, I've been trying. Between Anya stealing my spare parts and Giles putting me through training and studying to be a watcher, I haven't had much time to dabble. And seeing as that we're on the topic of studying, I was hoping you might be able to help me with a couple of, well, problems I've been having."

And thus the questioning began. Sighing quietly, Faith stood up from the chair and headed over to the sofa, plopping down on it with a loud grunt. Andrew followed quickly after her, pulling over the chair she'd just been sitting on so he could properly question her.

"Alright," she said tiredly. "Shoot."

Andrew took a deep breath before taking a seat and starting.

"How exactly does one get a slayer to listen to him? Sara has been wonderful. She's so happy to be back in Las Vegas that she doesn't mind the five-day-a-week training schedule or the different physical and psychic exercises I've been putting her through. She's agreeable and has pretty hair and is so, so lovely. But Kennedy . . ." he trailed off, waiting for Faith to catch on.

"You saying you don't like Kennedy's hair?"

Andrew sighed with exasperation. "Her hair is just fine, if not a bit plagued with breakage around her temples from constantly wearing her ponytail too tight. Really, if she'd just let her hair down once in a while, she'd . . ." he looked up and, upon noticing the look Faith was giving him, he cleared his throat. "I digress. She's just stubborn and unnecessarily mean! I see her only two weekends a month when you visit your ladylove in Los Angeles. Needless to say, they're the worst four days of the month."

Faith couldn't help but smile. That certainly sounded like Kennedy. Still, Kennedy had offered to cover Vegas when Faith was in LA, so Andrew was kind of stuck with her.

"You need to find your groove, Andy. Every slayer has her own personality, and so does every watcher. B had it easy; Giles is a pretty great watcher, and she's the best slayer ever. Think that's gotta be because he took a personal interest in her life beyond her being a slayer."

"I tried!" Andrew said excitedly. "I took her to see one of the Cirque du Soleil shows at the MGM Grand and she hated it!"

Faith sat forward and put her elbows on her knees.

"That's because you're trying to get her interested in something you like. Kennedy ain't into that shit. You wanna bond? Show interest in her life. Take her to a strip club or a chicken wing eating contest, or even a kick-boxing tournament. You gotta meet her half way. Sara's new but Kennedy's been in the game for a while. She's already had a watcher. Don't train her like a newbie; challenge her. She's the kinda kid that's gonna accept any challenge thrown at her and try to mount it and make it her bitch. Find a method that works, bud. Trial and error."

Andrew scrunched up his face and pouted. "Trial and error is hard."

Faith stood up and gave his shoulder a comforting slap that made him grimace even more. "Yeah, but you'll figure it out. And speaking of strip clubs, gonna have to give ya a rain check on your other problems. Gotta try to catch some sleep before work tonight. Wake me up at seven?"

Andrew nodded and Faith gave him one last slap before grabbing her bag and heading up to her room.

It looked exactly the same way she'd left it Friday: clothes strewn about from her hasty packing, bed unmade, and blinds closed to keep out the sun and the heat. She closed the door behind her and walked around in the dim room, then kicked some random clothes lying around on the floor into a little pile at the foot of her bed before dropping her bag next to it. She'd have to do laundry soon or she was gonna have to start borrowing clothes from Andrew.

Maybe she could get him to clean her room and do her laundry. That would be beneficial for the both of them. He'd probably get all pissy if his favorite nerd shirts got all stretched out at the chest.

Not even bothering to take off her clothes, Faith crawled onto her bed and plopped down face first on the pillow, only narrowly avoiding crushing her sunglasses. She pulled them off the top of her head and haphazardly tossed them onto her nightstand. Something fell and hit the floor but Faith didn't even care; she was so exhausted now that she could barely lift her head.

The sounds of the afternoon slowly faded away until Faith finally drifted off, her body succumbing to much needed sleep.

It was pitch black except for the night stars. Faith anxiously looked around herself, trying to adjust to the dark, but there was nothing around her; just an endless void. A gentle breeze licked at her skin and she could smell the sand and the dirt; sight or none, she knew exactly where she was.

The sound of a car engine coming closer caught her attention and Faith quickly turned her head, relieved to see a pair of headlights heading her way. She cautiously walked along until the soles of her boots hit the hardness of the pavement. She stepped into the path of the oncoming car and waved her arms, trying to flag it down.

The car got nearer and nearer but it wasn't slowing down. In fact, it was speeding up. Faith tried to take a step away but found that she was frozen in place, some unseen force keeping her pinned to the spot. The car was only two hundred yards away now and would be upon her in moments. She waved her arms frantically, trying to get the driver's attention, but that was when she noticed exactly who the driver was.

It was the man. The man that she'd . . . god, it was the man that she'd let burn to death in the middle of the desert. His flesh was charred and still smoking but his eyes were wide and fixed on her. His blistered lips cracked up in a cruel smirk.

You deserve this.

She wasn't sure if the thought was hers or the man's, but she closed her eyes and braced for impact. Whatever was going to happen, she wasn't going to fight it.

The engine was so loud it was almost deafening and Faith couldn't take the waiting any longer. She opened her eyes, expecting to see the car an inch from hitting her, but instead she came face to face with a woman with long dark hair and blood red lips. She was familiar, so familiar, but completely unnatural and just the sight of her made Faith's skin crawl. The woman reached out to touch Faith and that was when Faith finally felt the impact of the car against her body.

Faith let out a loud grunt as she felt herself fly through the air and land on the ground with a thud. She tried to move but found that her arms and legs were trapped in . . .soft, fluffy goodness? What the . . . ?

She opened her eyes to find that she was laying on her bedroom floor, having fallen off her bed with her blankets wrapped around her. She'd only narrowly avoided hitting her head on the nightstand and she took a deep breath, letting it go shakily.

What the fuck was going on with her? It was like her guilt was eating her alive, but with a weird, haunty, lady-ghost kind of twist. Was it possible that she was being haunted? Could the guy that she let die in the desert be coming back from the afterlife to make her life - and her sleep - hell? And if so, who was the chick he was bringing along with him?

There was a soft knock at her door and Faith shouted, "Yeah?"

Andrew opened the door and poked his head in, looking surprised to find her on the floor.

"I heard a crash. Did you . . . um, did you fall off your bed?"

"Kinda looks like I did, huh," Faith replied, her voice raspy with sleep. "Time is it?"

"Just after five. You haven't been up here long. Want me to come back and wake you up at seven still? And maybe clean your room for you afterward? It smells like a hamper in here."

Faith freed her arms and legs from the blankets and moved to stand up. Instead of crawling back into bed, she walked over to the window and pulled open the blinds, wincing when the bright sunlight hit her eyes.

No way was she going back to sleep again.

"Yunno what? No time like the present. You help me clean in here, I'll help you with your other watcherly problems. Deal?"

Andrew was obviously pleased with the deal and walked into the room, immediately beginning to sort through the clothing on the floor as he rattled off his list of problems. Faith yawned deeply, then started helping. At least it was a good distraction.

**(Suggested Listening: Get U Home by Shwayze)**

Faith arrived for her shift at the club right on time at eight p.m. She parked her truck near the employee entrance and walked in, high-fiving one of the other bouncers on her way. Employees welcomed her left and right, from the dancers to the bouncers to the servers and even the managers. She was well-liked at the club and she had an idea that it had something to do with Camryn. It was Camryn, after all, who had gotten her the job as a bouncer after Faith had dealt with a handsy customer or two when she'd been there to visit before.

Faith hadn't wanted to accept the job, thinking that Buffy wouldn't like the idea of her working in a strip club; especially with what she had said while infected with wrath. Buffy had been nothing but supportive though. She encouraged Faith to take the job, so long as it didn't involve Faith herself getting naked.

Buffy had actually forged a good friendship with Camryn. In place of jealousy was a mutual love for Faith, though Camryn reassured them both that it was solely platonic on her part. Buffy was also okay with that . . . so long as Faith didn't do too much staring while Camryn danced.

Luckily for all of then, Faith had eyes for only Buffy. Well, okay. Sometimes the eyes drifted now and again, but really, it was only because Faith had to look out for all of the girls. It was her job!

At least Buffy accepted that explanation readily enough. Besides, Buffy's eyes drifted sometimes too when she came to visit Faith at work. Mutual driftage was apparently not against the rules.

Faith made her way to the office and clocked in, then headed out to the floor to see where she was needed. Two dancers were up on stage, Ginger and Crystal, and there were several more walking around the club among the patrons. Faith immediately picked out a guy with his hands all over Jazzmyn, a newbie who seemed to be having a hard time making him back off. She walked over and grabbed him by the shirt collar, yanking him up to his feet. He looked shocked, and pissed, and, well, a little bit turned on.

"First and only warning. Hands off the ladies or you're outta here. Capiche?"

"Yeah," the guy nodded. Faith was just letting go of his shirt when she heard him add, "But how much for a dance from you, honey? I want those tits all up in my face."

Faith grinned. She was hoping for that.

She tightened her grip on his shirt and yanked him along with her towards the main entrance. Chris and Donnie, the two bouncers at the door, saw her coming and opened the door, laughing as the man stumbled along after Faith, utterly dumbfounded by her strength.

Yeah, everyone was pretty much dumbfounded by her strength. She was stronger than any bouncer in the club, not that she ever let them know that. Still, they noticed how well she handled herself.

"Make sure that turkey don't come back in here," Faith told Chris and Donnie. They nodded and took over from there; sometimes a warning from a three-hundred pound guy built like a tank was a better warning than Faith could offer.

Wiping her hands off on the back of her pants, Faith headed back to the main stage area. She spotted Camryn across the floor and waved to her, but before she could even walk over to say hi she noticed another customer that she was going to have to warn. It was going to be one of those nights, apparently.

People just couldn't seem to control themselves when they came to Vegas, even on a weeknight.

It was one o'clock in the morning and Faith's shift was finally over. It had been a long night full of drunken idiots and people who seemed to have no boundaries, so Faith was happy to just sit back and have a drink while the next shift took over. She took a seat at the bar with a bunch of dancers who had finished their shifts as well and were just relaxing and having some fun.

She'd tried to reach Buffy on her break earlier in the night but hadn't been able to get through. Knowing Buffy, she'd come back from a long day with the slayers and had fallen asleep on the sofa watching a romantic comedy. Faith would call her when she got home to make sure that she got up and got properly into bed.

Camryn made her way over to the lounging group even though she was still on the clock. There were enough girls working that the manager didn't even seem to care. Faith wasn't sure how Camryn had everyone so wrapped around her little finger but she didn't really care either. She was good people, and even more, a great friend to Faith.

"How was your weekend with Buffy?" Camryn asked over the music.

One of the dancers sitting around them shrieked as another put an ice cold glass against her bare stomach and Faith looked over and laughed before answering Camryn.

"It was awesome. Always is. Went by way too fucking fast though."

"You've only got a few days 'til you see her again. You'll make it."

Faith laughed and took a long sip from her glass. The alcohol burned its way down her throat and she realized that she hadn't eaten since that morning.

"You know, I hate to say it, but you're looking kinda haggard," Camryn continued.

"Haggard?" Faith repeated incredulously.

"Still attractive, but haggardly for sure. It looks like you haven't slept all weekend."

"That's because I haven't." Faith wiggled her eyebrows but Camryn didn't blush at the insinuation. She never did.

"Oh, I don't doubt that, Romeo, but it's something else. There's something going on with you. Even Buffy thinks so. What aren't you telling us?"

"Nothing," Faith answered all too quickly. "I'm five by five, Cam. Just been busy between working and slaying and spending time with B. Yunno how it goes."

"I do, but sleep is important, so here's how this is gonna go: you're gonna put your drink down, you're gonna stand up, and you're gonna get the heck out of here. Go home. Eat. Rest."

Faith knew that Camryn was right, but honestly, sleep was the last thing she wanted to do. It wasn't working out for her so great lately. She opened her mouth to reply, but that was when she felt it: the low hum that reverberated along her spine and made her scalp tingle and her stomach dance. She knew exactly what it was, but . . . it couldn't be, could it?

Slowly, Faith turned her head, her eyes searching through the crowd until she saw exactly what she was looking for. Standing just inside the main entrance was Buffy, actively looking through the crowd until her gaze landed on Faith. She smiled and Faith felt her heart flutter.

"Rest is the last thing on my mind right now," Faith said blankly, then turned and gave Camryn, who was now busy waving at Buffy, a big smile. "Thanks for the talk, even though you called me haggard."

"Say hey to Buffy for me."

Without another word, Faith stood up and walked across the floor, not stopping until she reached Buffy. She put her hands on Buffy's hips and lifted her up, then slowly brought her down, their bodies pressed together until Buffy's feet touched the floor. Buffy's smile was so bright and Faith knew hers matched it completely. She brushed her nose against Buffy's and then gave her a soft kiss on the lips.

Behind her, she could hear the dancers at the bar swooning and making cat-calls.

It was no secret that several of them had it bad for Faith.

When she pulled back, Buffy was looking up at her with so much love that it made her heart ache.

"I missed you," Buffy began by way of explanation. "And I just had this feeling that you need me, and that I need to be here with you."

Faith couldn't stop smiling. God, she really loved Buffy.

"Camryn says hey," Faith finally said after a few moments.

Buffy laughed and peeked over Faith's shoulder to blow a kiss over at Camryn. Camryn pretended to catch it in the air, then gave one last friendly wave before heading back out into the main area of the club to finish her shift.

"Did you wanna stick around and have a drink . . .?" Faith asked, hiking her thumb over her shoulder toward the bar.

"Raincheck? You have drinks at your house and I didn't drive all the way to Las Vegas to see naked ladies."

"Ain't I a lady?"

Buffy pretended to think about it for a moment. "Not according to at least seven books on etiquette, no."

Faith full out laughed and gave Buffy a good smack on the ass before pulling her into a tight hug. Buffy hugged her back just as tightly and Faith couldn't help but press her lips to Buffy's temple, breathing her in.

"Let's get outta here," she mumbled.

Buffy happily complied.

**(Suggested Listening: Number One Blind by Veruca Salt)**

Faith had never been more thankful for Andrew. He had cleaned - and deodorized - her room which meant that she and Buffy were able to comfortably get to the bed without having to dodge sock monsters and god knows what else. The sheets were freshly laundered and Faith was pretty sure he had run upstairs and lit a few candles to set the mood when he had heard them walking up to the house together.

Nerd or not, the guy knew how to create a setting.

Not that they were exactly using it for romance at the moment . . .

"Ha! Gotcha again!"

"Did not!"

"Did too!"

"That's cheating, B!"

"Says who?"

"Says the World Thumb-Wrestling Federation."

"There's no such thing."

"There is, because it's my room and I said so."

"Now that's cheating."

"Says the cheater!"

"Fine. We'll have one last round, winner takes all."

Faith was lying back on the bed, her back propped up against the pillows and headboard. She was dressed in only her panties and tank-top and Buffy was similarly dressed in one of Faith's t-shirts. Buffy was straddling her lap and their right hands were interlocked between them, thumbs still playfully fighting for dominance.

"Fine," Faith agreed. "And stop doing that thing where you dislocate your thumb. Not only is that shit cheating, it's wicked gross too."

"But your thumbs are longer!" Buffy argued. Faith glared at her and Buffy finally relented. "Okay, fine. No thumb trick. Now are you ready to get topped one last time?"

Faith sat up the rest of the way until there was just enough room for their joined hands to fit between them. She had a look of sheer determination on her face; no one topped Faith Lehane!

"Ready," Faith replied. "One, two, three, four, I declare a thumb war."

"Five, six, seven, eight, try to keep your thumb straight. Faith!"

Buffy toppled over backwards as Faith lurched forwards, bringing their lips together in a kiss that took the blonde completely by surprise. As Buffy threw out her free arm to stop them falling off the bed, Faith maneuvered her thumb so that it pinned Buffy's.

Faith smiled against her lips victoriously.

"Cheater," Buffy murmured, though she really didn't seem to mind. This turn of events, with the kissing and the laying? It wasn't a bad situation for either of them.

"That's what you get for trying to top me," Faith said as she finally pulled back after a few minutes so she could look down at Buffy.

"Lesson learned," Buffy replied. "Small admission? I don't mind being your bottom. So long as, you know, you don't tell anyone that. I already take enough crap because of my height and the fact that I like to wear skirts."

Faith chuckled and placed a soft, chaste kiss on Buffy's kiss swollen lips.

"Hey B?"

"Hey what?"

"Thanks for coming. Guess I didn't know how much I needed ya 'til ya got here."

That got Buffy smiling all soft, which Faith absolutely loved. It was one of her most favorite smiles ever because she could see in Buffy's eyes just how much she loved her then.

Buffy reached out and brushed the hair away from Faith's forehead and cheek, tucking it behind her ear and letting her hand gently linger.

"I'll always be here when you need me. You know that."

"Well," Faith began, pausing for a moment as she gathered her thoughts. "What if I said I need you always?"

That made Buffy grin. "Is that your subtle way of asking me to live with you?"

"Maybe," Faith shrugged, feeling suddenly embarrassed and vulnerable. "But I know that ain't exactly an option, what with Dawnie needing you around and stuff and you guys needing to be in LA. I'm just . . . I dunno, getting the idea out there, I guess. If things ever change in LA and you want to, yunno . . . you can. With me. And the kid too. She can live here too. There're good colleges and . . . well, legalized prostitution, which probably ain't on the list of pros, but it's gotta count for something, right?" When Buffy didn't do anything but stare up at her with watery eyes, Faith quickly continued. "But I'm not tryin' to scare ya or force ya or anything, and I don't want you to feel pressured to . . ."

Faith's words were cut off by a soft pair of lips pressing against hers. As she felt Buffy's hands wrap around her back and start pulling her shirt up and pushing her panties down, she knew that the message was received.

Faith awoke with a start the next morning, skin sweaty and hair clinging to her face. She was breathing hard and immediately had to try to calm her quickly beating heart. Taking a quick glance to her side, she saw Buffy comfortably sleeping in the crook of her arm, completely oblivious of the horrifying nightmare that had startled Faith awake.

Sighing with relief, Faith flopped back down on the pillow and stared at the ceiling, running her free hand though her hair to keep it away from her face. Her heart rate was coming down and her breathing was almost back to normal, but she was still sweaty and gross and she didn't want Buffy waking up to feel that against her.

As gently as she could, she pulled her arm out from under Buffy's head and gave her a soft, lingering kiss on her shoulder before snatching up some clothes from her dresser and making her way toward the bathroom. A nice cool shower would help. Besides, if Andrew heard her up and about, he'd probably wake up and start on breakfast. That very thought alone made her stomach growl with hunger.

Faith showered and got dressed quickly. When she tip-toed back into her bedroom, she noticed that Buffy must have woken up because she was nowhere to be found. She followed the sound of casual conversation and the smell of bacon down the hallway and steps and into the kitchen where she found Buffy sitting on the small countertop while Andrew was busy stirring and mixing and flipping at the stove.

"Mmm, breakfast," Faith said as she walked into the kitchen. She completely bypassed the stove and walked up to Buffy, standing between her legs to give her a long, slow good morning kiss.

"Mmm," Buffy replied against her lips. "I'm not on the menu."

"You were last night," Faith said with a grin, wiggling her eyebrows playfully.

"Not in the sanctity of my kitchen, please," Andrew interrupted.

Buffy pinched Faith's arm and Faith chuckled quietly as she rubbed the now tender spot on her bicep. She couldn't help it! Making Andrew squeamish was one of the best parts of her day!

"Seeing as that Buffy's here," Andrew tried to change the subject, "I called Xander and Anya and invited them over for breakfast. They'll be here shortly."

"Isn't Xander supposed to be working today?" Faith asked. "I mean, it's Tuesday. Don't you non-stripclub folk have regular hours?"

"Looks like I'm not the only one playing hooky," Buffy said, smiling.

"And how long much longer can I count on being graced with your presence?"

"I figured I'd leave when you go to work tonight. I promised Giles I'd be back to the usual routine by Wednesday, so . . ." she trailed off and shrugged, obviously not too thrilled with the idea of leaving.

Completely understanding her sentiment, Faith nodded and leaned forward placing a quick kiss on the tip of Buffy's nose.

"You'll still be here Friday night, right?"

"Wouldn't miss it for the world."

That made Faith happier than she could say. Friday was only a few days away! She grabbed Buffy's hands and helped her down from the counter, then grabbed a pile of plates and silverware and led her into the dining area so they could set up the table. No sooner than they finished did Xander and Anya come walking in the front door, all smiles to see Buffy for an unscheduled visit.

Well, Xander was happy to see her. Anya was happy to rifle through the box of gadgets and gizmos that Andrew had left out near the sofa.

"It's good to see you, Buffster," Xander said as he took his place at the table. "Faith always has an extra bit of bounce in her step when you're around."

"It's good to be here. Giles says I owe him big but I figure I'll just bribe him with donuts."

"Make sure you get extra jellies. He may seem cool and professional but he's a jelly addict. He'll do anything for one."

"Noted," Buffy laughed. "I keep trying to get him to move operations here since there are so many of us here already but he thinks it's best if things stay where they are. Something about parents not wanting to send their daughters to a so-called private school in Sin City."

"Not that LA's really much better," Faith cut in.

"Ain't that the truth," Buffy said drolly. "On my drive in I passed a big building for sale in Barstow. It's not exactly next door to Vegas but it's still closer than LA. I was thinking of talking to Giles about it. Angel's got LA covered. Taking the newbie slayers to a slightly less demonic area might be better. There'll be more opportunity to train them and less throwing them right into the fray and hoping they land pointy-end out."

"That actually sounds like it could work," Faith said thoughtfully. "Think he might go for it?"

"Hard to say," Buffy said with a shrug. "It'd be nice to be closer to you. We could have more nights like this if we really wanted to. And hey, maybe if I sweeten the deal with a skilled carpenter to help with renovations, it could become a real possibility."

Both Buffy and Faith smiled and looked over to Xander who shared their smile.

"Hey, just tell me where to sign, Buff. I'm still relatively new to my job but I'm pretty sure it won't be too difficult putting up one of my crews for a few weeks if it means making two of my best friends happy. Besides, the company I'm with works all over Nevada and parts of southern California. You get the go-ahead from Giles, we'll make it happen."

Anya scoffed from across the room. She tossed the small metallic object she'd been fiddling with back into Andrew's box of gadgets and quickly joined them at the table, standing with her hands on her hips as she glared down at Xander.

"Well that's just fantastic. Why can't they hire someone who's not my husband? You'll be off being my rugged and handsome breadwinner in Barstow and I'll be stuck here doing what exactly?"

Xander laughed nervously and looked to both Buffy and Faith apologetically before meeting Anya's gaze.

"I'm sure you'll have found a job by then, hon. You've put in dozens of applications. One of them has to be a winner!"

"You're looking for a job?" Faith asked, then took a sip from her coffee mug.

"Of course I am. It's not like you exactly paid me when I was your liaison to the Powers That Be but at least I had a purpose then," Anya said.

"You got your body back. I'd consider that a pretty fat paycheck," Buffy threw in, making Faith nearly spit out her coffee as she tried not to laugh.

Anya ignored her and continued. "But I'm useless to the Powers now and my greatest purpose these days is being an orgasm machine for Xander."

Xander looked mildly horrified but not nearly as horrified as Andrew who had chosen that moment to walk in with a giant platter of pancakes in one hand and a plate piled high with bacon in the other.

"Guys," Andrew whined. "I thought we had the talk about boundaries before. What are the rules?"

"No talk of orgasms at the breakfast table," Xander said sheepishly.

"No talk of orgasms in the kitchen," Faith added.

"No orgasms on the breakfast table," Anya said and rolled her eyes.

"No orgasms in the kitchen," Buffy finished, her cheeks turning bright pink as everyone looked over at her and Faith.

Andrew's rules were obviously put in place for very, very specific reasons.

"Thank you," Andrew said. "Now can we please enjoy our breakfast and have a nice, adult conversation while we do so?"

"We'll try our best, bud," Faith said and took the plate of bacon from him. "Eggs?"

"I'll go get them."

Andrew excused himself back into the kitchen while everyone else started helping themselves to the pancakes and bacon. There was already syrup and butter on the table and Andrew brought in the scrambled eggs and toast just a few seconds later. They all began digging in, happily munching away on the delicious food. Andrew really was a kitchen wiz.

"So what kind of jobs ya been applying for?" Faith asked with her mouth full. She still managed to take a huge bite of toast after she asked though.

"The usual. Bank tellers, casino cashiers, blackjack dealers, pit bosses," Anya replied easily enough.

"So basically anything where you handle money," Buffy said rather than asked.

Anya smiled brightly. "Yes. Las Vegas is full of money. I'd like more of it to be mine, hence the search for a job. Purpose and money. They're a winning combination."

"Ahn, I've already told you," Xander cut in, "I don't mind being the breadwinner."

"I know. You're a wonderful husband," Anya said. She smiled and leaned over, cupping his neck and running her thumb over his jaw.

Xander leaned in to the touch and it was just so damn obvious how much they really loved each other. It made both Faith and Buffy smile, and even Andrew swooned a little, though no one knew exactly who he was swooning for . . .

"I can always try to get ya a job at the club," Faith offered. "Got any problems with showing your nipples on a daily basis?"

"Yes, she does," Xander said immediately.

"Honey, relax," Anya said. "Faith only offered because she'd like to see me naked. It's probably because my breasts are larger than Buffy's. My nipples are glorious."

"Hey!" Buffy crossed her arms over her chest self-consciously. "I'll have you know that mine are equally if not even more glorious. They're nipplicious."

"Truth," Faith muttered as she shoved another piece of bacon in her mouth.

"Well you have nothing to compare them to," Anya said defensively. "You have to see mine so you can fairly pass judgment."

Anya pushed her chair back from the table and grabbed the hem of her shirt, ready to let the judging begin. Xander tried to stop her but she slapped his hands away. Buffy hid her eyes behind a forkful of fluffy pancakes while Faith put her fork down and sat back in her chair, amused.

They all turned their heads quickly when the sound of chair legs scraped loudly against the floor. Andrew was standing up, hands on his hips and an angry pout on his face.

"You're all a bunch of rule breaking, dirty-minded heathens! Stop talking about orgasms! Stop talking about nipples! I'm not . . . you're all . . . breakfast is so cancelled!" He grabbed the plates of pancakes and bacon and stormed back into the kitchen, letting the door swing closed behind him. After just a few seconds, he popped his head back in the room and warned, "Lunch is at one o'clock. If I hear - or see - so much as one nip-slip before then, there will be no dessert!"

He disappeared just as quickly back into the kitchen, leaving them all completely dumbfounded. They sat in silence until Anya flopped back down on her chair and huffed in annoyance.

"Well if I can't talk about nipples or orgasms, I'm completely out of things to discuss. And honestly, if he's going to make up such inane rules, I'm going to have to start physically harassing him again."

"You have my full permission," Faith said with a grin. She turned her attention to Buffy and asked, "Since breakfast is over, you wanna go up and chill for a bit?"

"Only if Xander and Anya don't mind," Buffy said, looking to Xander hopefully.

"Not at all," he replied with a warm smile. "Go. Chill. Do couply things that couples do. Discuss all the nipples and orgasms you like knowing that we'll keep Andrew occupied as you do. Honestly, his desserts are top notch. We don't want to screw this one up."

"Thanks bud," Faith said. "Make yourselves at home if ya want. We'll see ya at lunch time."

Without another word, she took Buffy's hand and led her upstairs, eager to spend as much time with her as she could before they had to say goodbye.

Both lunch and dinner had come and gone and Buffy and Faith were back up in Faith's room, laying and kissing, tickling and laughing, and watching TV and snoozing. Well, Buffy was snoozing, but Faith hadn't so much as taken a catnap. She was tired, exhausted even, but she didn't want to risk waking from a nightmare if Buffy was in bed with her and awake.

Xander and Anya had left after dinner and Andrew kept busy downstairs to give them some privacy. Faith had to be at work at eight p.m. which meant that Buffy would be leaving in just under an hour. Their day had gone by far too fast and Faith didn't want to think about saying goodbye. It was always hard enough on Monday mornings. She was pretty sure it wouldn't be any easier on a Tuesday evening.

Buffy was currently dozing with her head in Faith's lap. The TV was on but neither of them were watching it; Faith was too wrapped up in watching Buffy that she barely registered that it was even on. Her fingers were softly caressing Buffy's blonde hair and before she could stop herself, she blurted what was on her mind.

"Stay tonight."

Buffy's eyes fluttered open and she looked up to meet Faith's gaze.

"Stay tonight," Faith repeated. "You played hooky from work today, now it's my turn. We can go out for a night on the town, have some fun, come back and spend the night together. You can leave in the morning and get back by noon or one if you get an early start."

She couldn't help the urgent tone of her voice. With Buffy at her side, everything seemed better. Life was better. She was so wrapped up in just being with her and touching her that she was able to forget for a short while the terrible things she'd done. The terrible things that plagued her night and day.

Buffy continued to stare up at her, obviously trying to figure out what exactly was going on. Sure, Faith always tried to con more time out of their visits. This was different though. If it was obvious to Faith, it had to be obvious to Buffy as well.

Shuffling around, Buffy readjusted her position so that she was straddling Faith's legs. She ran her fingertips down Faith's bare arms and then intertwined their fingers.

"Baby, what's going on?" she asked quietly, her voice gentle.

"I just miss you is all."

"And I miss you too. I always miss you. Something's going on though and I can tell that you're trying to hide it. Is it a 'What happens in Vegas...' kind of thing?" When Faith turned her gaze away, Buffy freed one of her hands and brought it up to tilt Faith's face back toward her. "I'm not prying, honest. I know you don't like to talk about your problems. I get it, I honestly do. But if you talked to me about it, maybe I could help. Maybe I could make it better."

"You make everything better already," Faith said honestly.

Buffy smiled. "And that makes me happier than I can say. You make me happier than I can say. I just . . ." she paused, considering her words, ". . . when you're ready to talk, I'm ready to listen."

She didn't say anything further; she simply leaned in and pressed the softest, sweetest kiss known to man on Faith's lips. It made Faith's toes curl and her heart skip a beat. All of her problems seemed to melt away with that one little gesture.

But it couldn't last forever as she well knew. Buffy pulled back after a few minutes with a forlorn look upon her face.

"But I can't stay," she said sadly. "Giles rescheduled my work from today to tomorrow morning because I promised I'd be there. Besides, I should check in on Dawn. She told me it was okay that I was going but I still need to be there for her."

Faith was upset but she understood. Buffy had responsibilities. It sucked, sure, but that was life.

"Alright," Faith said with a nod. "But you better put the pedal to the metal when you head out here on Friday."

Buffy laughed, "Have you seen me drive? The pedal is always to the metal. I have a wide array of speeding tickets to prove just that."

"It's probably time I teach you how to get out of a ticket."

"Giles says it's cheating if I use my feminine wiles to get out of trouble, though I think he was actually referring to my pout."

"Well that's understandable. The pout is kryptonite to anyone with eyes. Not sure it'll work on cops though. With cops ya gotta give a little more. Look up through your eyelashes. Smile. Bite your lip. Kinda like this."

Faith demonstrated perfectly and could visibly see Buffy swoon.

"See, you should have done that when you asked me to stay tonight," Buffy teased.

"So it's too late then?"

"Yup. Now that I know your secret, I'm impervious."

"Not completely impervious, I hope," Faith replied, her voice low as she smiled seductively. She let go of Buffy's hands and moved them to her hips, tracing soft circles there with her thumbs.

The shaky breath that Buffy took was all the answer that Faith needed.

They had less than an hour left together and Faith didn't want to waste any more time with words. She gently maneuvered them so they were lying down fully on the mattress and decided to take full advantage of every last minute they had.

Faith stood in the front doorway of the house, one hand resting on the frame as she watched Buffy's car disappear into the fading light of the evening. They'd kind of ignored the clock a bit and now she was running about thirty minutes late for work but she didn't really care. A small smile graced her lips as she watched Buffy's car drive down the street, but that smile disappeared the same moment the car turned off out of sight.

She stood there unmoving, wondering exactly how she was going to make it through until Friday night. It was only a few days away but it still felt like forever.

Taking a deep breath, she stepped inside and closed the door, then turned around and rested her back against it. Her brow immediately furrowed when she noticed Andrew standing in the living room, strapping an assortment of pads and cushions to his body. He stopped when he noticed she was staring at him.

"Is this some kind of, uh, roleplaying thing?" Faith asked skeptically. "Cos I thought we agreed on no more of that in the house."

"I believe we also agreed on no nipples at the breakfast table," he said pointedly as she began fastening the straps once again.

Faith thought about it and shrugged. "Point taken."

No sooner than Faith said the words did she feel a gentle knock on the door reverberate against her back. She smiled wide; she knew Buffy couldn't stay away! Quickly turning around, she pulled the door open to find Sara standing there in workout clothes with a duffle bag over her shoulder.

Not Buffy then, but it did explain Andrew's ensemble.

"What's up, kid?" she asked after a moment, trying to find a smile despite her disappointment.

"Time for my lesson," Sara said with a nervous smile. "Andrew wants me to hit him tonight. I'm both excited and terrified."

"And I wish I could stay and watch but I'm already late for work. Maybe we should start recording these sessions . . ."

"So you can watch me get pummeled?" Andrew asked. "Not even. Mr. Giles says that physical combat is an important part of every slayer's training. I'm doing this for Sara's benefit, not for your cruel, cruel entertainment."

"Alright, fine. No videotapes. But, when you get tired of getting kicked around, and when you," she looked to Sara, "get tired of kicking him around, let me know. I make a pretty good sparring partner, and I don't even gotta wear the couch to protect me."

She gave Andrew a wink, then grabbed her leather jacket and headed out.

A light breeze picked up as she was getting into her truck and she could still smell Buffy on her skin. Her eyes were burning but she couldn't tell if it was from the wind, from being an emotional baby, or because she was just so damned tired. She had a feeling it was all three, but she would blame it on the wind if anyone asked.

Yawning, she put the keys in the ignition and started the truck. Before she took off, she grabbed a can of Redbull from her jacket pocket and chugged it down in a few quick gulps. She tossed the empty can in the back seat and looked up at herself in the rearview mirror. God, she was a mess.

Shaking her head, she tilted the mirror away from her and put the truck in reverse, slowly backing it out of the driveway.

Three days.

Just three days.

She could make it.

~Roll Credits~

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