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The Birthday Candle

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It was Kennedy who started changing their minds about Faith. Kenn absolutely loved the dark slayer, in a best friend way. Actually, it was more like a soulmate besties kind of way. They did absolutely everything together; went slaying, dancing, stayed up watching B-movies, had secret handshakes, made nicknames for everyone, cooked awful food for each other, giggled constantly at inside jokes, and drove Buffy and Willow completely nuts. Buffy moreso than, because Willow was deeply in-love with Kennedy and could tolerate all of her dumb behaviors.

Kennedy’s adoration for all the best things about Faith worked to draw attention to positives, and overshadow the Bostonian’s rough past. Soon, even the original Scoobies were at least warming up to the idea that Faith was more than leather, cigarettes, and stabbing.

It took over a year to really get Willow and Buffy to come around, seeing as how their feelings of despising Faith had been deeply rooted in remembering all her evil moments. Kennedy pointed this timeline out to Willow, one night while they were laying in their bed together.

“You know tomorrow is the one-year anniversary of the day we closed the hellmouth in Sunnydale?” The slayer said softly in the dark. She was absent mindedly stroking her girlfriend’s red hair, enjoying the weight of Willow’s head on her chest.

“Mmhmm.” Willow replied without giving it much thought. She was warm, cozy, and about to drift off into a happy sleep after a long day.

“So we’ve been here in Cleveland for a full year, and we’ve celebrated every holiday, and birthday here.”

Willow stifled a short yawn. “Yeah, that’s how calendars usually seem to work.” She said in a teasing tone.

Kennedy turned her head and lifted it slightly to try and make eye contact with the sleepy witch on her chest. “Except for one birthday, Will. Did you notice that?”

“Notice a missed birthday? No. Do you mean like dead people? Vampires? We don’t know Spike or Angel’s birthday, not that they have even been here to visit…”

“No, babe. We have never celebrated Faith’s birthday. Not once.” The young slayer’s tone suddenly turned remorseful. “Like, she’s my best friend, and I don’t even know when her birthday is. She has never told me, and I just assumed when it was getting close she would say something. Yet it must have come. It must have happened since we’ve been here, and she just let us all treat it like it was another day. She didn’t even tell me.”

Willow sensed the anguish in her girlfriend’s emotional state and scooted her body up slightly so their faces were aligned. She placed a tiny kiss on Kennedy’s temple. “You’re such a good friend. You are the best friend to her. Maybe her birthday just fell on a really bad day this year, like when we were up against those morphing demons that kept filleting livestock in the country. That was nasty business for a whole month. Maybe she didn’t want to distract us.”

Kenn pursed her lips with distaste, visible even in the nearly full-darkness of their bedroom. “Maybe. We could have celebrated with her no matter what was going on at the time.”

“What if it happened right when we first arrived in Ohio? You guys were only starting to hang out, then. She might not have felt as comfortable with you. You certainly weren’t FaiKen Makin’ Bacon Don’t Be Hatin’ when we arrived.”

The brunette chuckled. “We added Yo’ Momma’s Taken For Goodness Sakin’ now. That’s our full duo title.” She suppressed another giggle at the memory of her and Faith out slaying in Akron the weekend before, making up rhymes in the graveyard until their sides ached. They had drawn every vampire right to them with their uproarious laughter, that night. “But you’re right, it could have been then. She and I were working a lot together on converting this condo building to make it homey for everyone and settle the new slayers as fast as they arrived to us. I thought we were making a fast friendship then, but she might not have felt like she could trust me, yet.”

Willow sighed and nuzzled back into her lover’s neck. “I know you want to do something; I can tell when you are cooking up a plan. What do you want to do about it, love? I will help you with whatever makes you happy.”

“You’re so good to me. And therefore so good to my bestie.”

The ginger scoffed a little at this, but mostly in humor.

“I was thinking we could surprise her with a birthday cake, and tell her we know we missed it. Something really small, but she will freak out if it’s chocolate.” Kennedy speculated. “Then maybe we could get her something really cool. She has been obsessed with this one bike, and talks about it every day. I know she was saving up for it, but she had to donate all the money she’s been earning back into the greater good, aka the great big tax fuck-up.”

Willow rolled her eyes at this. “Yeah, I am still trying to figure out how Andrew screwed up his job as ‘treasurer’ so bad that he completely forgot about paying taxes. How much is the bike, babe?”

“Um, I think fifteen thousand.”

The redhead actually laughed out loud. “Goddess, you know there is no way in hell, heaven, or earth, we could do that. I love you, but that’s impossible. Your generosity knows no bounds. You were incredible to purchase this literal block of condos for all of us to live here together, but now that you're on a stipend...”

"I know, I know. I can't buy it for her right now, and I hate that." Kennedy tensed a little, rubbing her fingers together nervously. “Is there someway you could, I don’t know… make it happen, though?”

“Do you mean magic it?” Willow popped her head up again and looked as best as she could at her girlfriend’s face. She could make out enough of her features to see that she was anxious about asking, but very genuine. “You know the only way I could make the bike or the money materialize would be to take it from some other point in the universe. I can’t use magic to steal something that big, babe. It would bring all that bad juju right back to us, and probably to Faith. It would make for a terrible present.”

“What if she wished for it sincerely, and you were just a vessel to grant the wish? That wouldn’t bring all the bad, would it?”

Willow couldn’t help but laugh again, this time out of adoration for the sweet innocence of the requestor. “You’ve given this way more thought than you were trying to let on, haven’t you? You went and researched well-intentioned wishes for the vulnerable, right? I should have known that you weren’t going to ask me to do something for you without researching every single possible step.”

“You caught me.” The bright whites of Kennedy’s teeth could be clearly seen as she flashed a humbly wide and guilty grin. “She’s broke, lonely, and rejected by almost everyone. I can’t think of anyone more vulnerable or deserving than Faith. The rules of magic that I read about said you can grant her what she desires, as long as she is the one to ask. So it’s okay!”

“Oh, sounds like you know everything about magic, now?” Willow asked in a playful, doting tone. Without a second’s notice, she grabbed the pillow beneath the two of them and ripped it from under their heads, throwing it across the room. “Guess you can magic that pillow back here!”

Kennedy was losing it, laughing hysterically. “Babe, stop!” She nearly shouted, curling into a fetal position and sticking her arms straight out to try her best defense: tickling.

“Maybe you can magic a new pillow, made of bacon, and you can eat it in your sleep!” Willow shouted back, wiggling away from her girlfriend’s fast fingertips and trying to shove blankets between them as a barrier.

There was a brief pounding on the ceiling above them to remind them to quiet down.

“UGH.” Kennedy sighed, her laughter prematurely broken. “You also gotta’ magic us into a different condo in this building. Living below Giles is the fucking worst.”

“At least we were laughing this time, and not…” Willow trailed off, remembering the dozens of times that she was positive the old watcher had heard them having loud sex.

“We could switch to that, now that you’re fully awake.” The slayer leaned in and snaked one arm around Willow’s stomach, settling it on her side and tracing light patterns.

“I wish. I am so tired, really. Besides, now I need to get up early and start planning this birthday party and birthday wish spell for your BFF.”

Kennedy actually squealed out loud and crushed her girlfriend’s mouth in a hard, spontaneous kiss. As she pulled away, she breathlessly squeaked out: “I knew you would do this, you are so much the best best best best! The best! I love you so much!” She squealed one more time into the mattress to avoid earning another tap from the floor above, and then got up to retrieve her pillow before settling into bed for a deep, contented sleep.

==============

Kennedy spread the word around quickly of the surprise birthday party. All of the newest slayers were thrilled at the news. They loved parties, and most of them loved Faith, because she was dangerous and didn’t treat them like children.

The Scoobies reactions were more mixed, but none of them were rude enough to be outwardly negative about it. Xander made a sour face and appeared uncomfortable with the invitation, but agreed he would be there. It would have been impossible for him to come up with an excuse, as his schedule was available to everyone. Dawn seemed to also wish she could say no, but just smiled in response and thanked Kennedy for throwing the party. Buffy, of course, was the hardest to read. The original slayer asked what she could bring, or how she could help Willow with the set-up. Kennedy explained that it was best to keep it absolutely simple, and that they would only have a cake, candles, and maybe a few tiny gifts. Then Kennedy added: “There might be one big gift, but it’s a surprise.”

Buffy reminded her to please ask for help if she needed it, and then agreed to be in-place that night for the party.

There was a floor of the condo building that served as a common area for meetings, brainstorming, and other gatherings for the slayers and Scoobies. It was on the second floor and had been a cubicle bay, or perhaps some kind of IT data center. It was the largest single room in the building and had been easy for Xander to make into a huge open area. It was now filled with tables, couches, and a few refrigerators. This is where everyone gathered that evening, fifteen minutes before Kennedy told Faith to meet her there. Her excuse was that they were going to plot out where to hardwire speakers for a giant sound system, which was part of a desire they both had to slowly convert the room into an ultimate gaming den. Of course, no one else wanted to give up their extremely functional workspace for the two slayers (plus sometimes Andrew and a few others) to play video games.

There wasn’t enough furniture for everyone to hide behind, so they agreed to all stand in a long receiving line, on both sides of the door, and high five her as she came through. Other than her arriving several minutes late, the surprise went off as expected.

“I fucking hate you guys.” Faith laughed, as they shouted surprise at her in the doorway. She reached out to give Kennedy a side hug and whispered: “What’s this about?”

“We never celebrated your birthday and it’s been a whole year, so we decided: today’s your birthday!”

Everyone cheered as Kennedy shouted the last part.

Faith laughed harder at this. “Any excuse for a FaiKen Bacon party, I guess! It’s not my birthday but, sure. Is there booze?” She had already started down the receiving line and was giving the hardest high fives she could manage (though was kind enough to not hit her hardest to the non-slayers).

Kennedy shouted again toward her back. “There’s chocolate cake! And… we’ll be drinking!” She turned to Willow and raised her eyebrows pointedly.

“I did not bring booze.” Will whispered. “I was too busy planning, the other thing.”

Buffy was within earshot and quickly signaled to her friends. “I got it.” She mouthed to them, not wanting Faith to realize they had forgotten the totally obvious. She looked back to see that her dark counterpart was caught up in trying a weird series of fist bumps with Andrew and therefore distracted enough to not notice as she slipped out the door. Buffy darted through the building to gather up whatever booze she could locate; she could tell that this meant a great deal to her truest and oldest friend Willow, so it meant a great deal to her, too.

No one seemed to notice her absence besides the party hosts, who quickly encouraged everyone to take a seat or stand around the largest table. They lead Faith to a chair in the center and directed her to sit down. The room stayed loud and busy with chatter, until Kennedy whistled to get their attention. She stood up across the table from Faith.

“Don’t worry everyone, I am not going to make a lame speech.” Kennedy promised, with a devilish grin that said otherwise. “I’m not going to go on and on about how Faith is absolutely the raddest person I have ever met. I am also not going to tell you how she is the most thoughtful, and kindest, and most caring friend I have ever known.”

There was a chorus of “aww”s around the table, and Faith shook her head, grinning. “That’s a lie, dude. We all know I’m an asshole. Don’t ruin my rep in front of all these baby slayers!”

Kennedy laughed, then started again. “Well, you know she loves all this attention, because let’s face it, Faith loves attention of any kind. But we will keep this party as simple and plain and without frills, because you know she also hates frills.”

“That I do, Ly-Ken.” Faith agreed, using one of her many dozens of nicknames for her best friend. “Let’s speed this up and just get wasted, then maybe have a good cry about how ancient I am. If this turns into a roast, you know I’ll eat that shit right up.”

Willow had taken her cue to run and grab the cake they had hidden in the room an hour before. She started walking slowly back to the group and cast a glance toward the expectant Kennedy, who killed the lights. Everyone turned to look at the spectacle in the witch’s hands: a bigger-than-average chocolate layer cake, covered in colorful varieties of candles. There were at least twenty individual burning candles on top, but Willow knew there was only one candle among them really mattered when it came to that big birthday wish.

Everyone broke out into the Happy Birthday song, all in different keys. Faith was positively beaming. As they finished the song and clapped, Willow carefully set down the cake on the table. Faith started leaning in to blow out her candles, but Kennedy caught her by the shoulder.

“Make sure you really wish for the thing you want most, dude. Make it good.” Kenn whispered quickly.

The older slayer nodded, thought for a brief second, then gave a half-cocked grin. She took a deep breath, pulled back, and blew out every flame in a long, sweeping, dramatic breath. Willow felt a slight, satisfying ‘pop’ in her fingertips, like she had many times before upon completion of a successful spell. She glanced around the room to see if the motorcycle had materialized, perhaps covered in giftwrap for extra effect.

The slayers and Scoobies were all clapping and cheering, and Faith was swarm upon by a crowd of girls who rushed in to take turns patting her on the back and pulling her in for hugs.

Willow tried not to draw attention to herself, but she started walking to the outer edges of the large room, looking for anything that may have apparated since the candle was extinguished. Maybe Faith had just wished for the cash, itself? In that case, it could be slightly out-of-sight and more difficult to spot. As she neared the entry, she caught Buffy walking in with a duffle bag of unknown origins, practically overflowing with booze, random beers, juice and solo cups.

“Hey Will, is it somebody’s birthday?” The slayer asked, lifting the heavy bag as if it weighed nothing.

Willow couldn’t tell if her friend was trying to imply that she didn’t care about celebrating Faith, or if she was bragging about the amount of booze she had wrangled up. She guessed perhaps the former. “I know it might seem ridiculous to do all this, but Kennedy really wanted to make this party special for Faith. You can cut out early, if you want. I’ll make up an excuse for you.”

Buffy smiled genuinely, excitement suddenly in her eyes. “That’s adorable. Even though her birthday is two months away.”

“You… you knew that? Why didn’t you tell us?”

The slayer shrugged and looked as though she was about to answer, but her presence (or rather her bag) had been spotted by Xander and Kennedy, who were now shouting fervently at her to bring it over and start the party. She laughed and complied, pulling out a single beer for herself, then hoisting the bag onto a coffee table. Xander eagerly started helping her with setting out everything to make it into a bar.

Willow finished trying to poke around the room while still looking casual. She thought she was doing an excellent job of not drawing attention to herself.

“So… you’re being really weird, over here.”

“Oh, hey, babe.” Willow jumped in surprise. She glanced back toward the gaggle of a party, which was now starting to spread into little pods of people socializing together. There was a group beside the bar, about twenty feet from them. Willow had been around slayers enough to know that this was within earshot of their enhanced senses, but they seemed distracted enough that she could take a chance to talk quietly. She motioned to her girlfriend, and leaned in for a whisper. “I don’t see the motorcycle, anywhere. I thought she must have wished for something else! I’ve been looking everywhere.”

Kennedy’s face twisted in a blank look. “Motorcycle? In here? No way you could get a bike up the stairs, love.”

“Right.” The redhead replied, realization dawning over her. “So maybe it’s outside, and Faith has the keys?”

“To a new bike? Sure. Maybe!” Kenn winked almost sarcastically and then took a long pull of her beer.

The redhead glanced around again, now looking for anything small and shiny that could be a set of keys. “Maybe I should ask Faith if she has a lighter and she will reach in her pocket… this idea sounds terrible. How can I get her to check her pockets?” Willow whispered.

The brunette shrugged and tilted her head back toward the group. “Just ask Buffy to check them, for you.” She said dryly.

Willow followed Kennedy’s gaze to a surprising sight.

Faith was standing near the cake table when Buffy made a beeline for her from out of nowhere, taking her by one hand and pulling her away. There was a sectioned-off area at the back of the room where extra furniture was stored, and no one seemed to be paying any attention as the smaller slayer practically dragged Faith toward it, into seclusion. There, they were encased in shadows out of view to everyone in the center of the room, except for Willow and Kennedy who were at an angle to see them pretty clearly.

As soon as they rounded the corner, Buffy flipped around to face Faith, smiling broadly up at her. Quickly, the smaller woman reached up to grab the lapels of Faith’s denim jacket and lightly pushed her back against the wall in a smooth motion. The brunette’s hands raised instinctively in protest, braced for a confrontation, and stayed suspended with intensity on either side of Buffy’s shoulders. Faith was rigid, and her face conveyed total shock as Buffy filled the space between them with her body. The blonde was pressing every inch of herself tightly in exactly where it fit, perfectly, intimately, and erotically. Their mouths weren’t moving as their eyes met, staring deeply into each other for a long few seconds. Faith’s chest was rising and falling rapidly with anxious breaths. Then, it happened. Buffy’s lips were against Faith’s. Buffy’s lips. They were not only connecting with Faith’s, but they were hungry, passionate, and urgently pressing against the younger slayer’s mouth. In tandem, her hands moved down from the jacket she had been clinging to, and freely pushed aside a cotton t-shirt to graze the skin above Faith’s waistband. It was obvious that the dark slayer was making an effort to move back and break the contact, but she had nowhere to go.

“What the actual fuck.” Willow heard herself say, involuntarily.

“What? Oh, yeah. Told you she could check the pockets.” Kennedy replied. “Typical.”

Faith finally seemed to remember her hands could do more than hover in the air beside them, and she took hold of the older girl’s biceps to lightly push her back. In a swift circular motion, Buffy expertly reciprocated by grabbing the other woman’s wrists and pinning them to the wall, not breaking the kiss as she let a proud smile escape. This proved too much for Faith, who tilted her head upward, using her height as an advantage to catch her breath. She was saying something, trying to get Buffy’s attention, but moving her lips away only gave the blonde new targets to assault. Instantly, the shorter woman took  the open canvas of skin before her as an invitation, and rained a flurry of eager kisses over Faith’s exposed neck and jawline. Buffy’s right leg had somehow found its way between her sister slayer’s thighs and was now rocking in a slow but firm rhythm.

Willow was torn between feeling horribly alarmed and feeling too embarrassed to interrupt. Her first thought (though it seemed ludicrous) was that maybe they had been hiding this from her. Buffy seemed far too confident and comfortable; it was obviously not the first time she had touched Faith.

“Why don’t they get a room, huh?” Kennedy nudged her distracted girlfriend who was standing totally still and agape. “And why don’t we go enjoy the party? Give them privacy, for a minute or two? They’ll wander back.”

The witch begrudgingly listened, but she felt strange about it. She felt even weirder that Kennedy was totally unphased. As they walked over to the bar, Willow took one last glance into the shadows, to see that Faith appeared to now be totally resigned to it, and was kissing Buffy back.

“Beer? Screwdriver? Something else?” Xander offered, gesturing at the impromptu display of alcohol.

Kennedy swallowed down the remainder of her current beer and swapped it for a new one. She looked at her girlfriend to see if she wanted a drink, took inventory of the redhead’s current anxious expression, and asked Xander to make something “hella’ strong”.

Willow grabbed the solo cup of mixed cocktail and chugged, barely tasting it, which was fortunate because the alcohol was cheap and burned on the way down. It worked to take the edge off her nerves.

Caridad and one of her friends had brought in speakers and an iPod, turning the event from a gathering into a straight up party with the addition of music. Willow’s awareness was still heightened significantly, but she decided to keep one eye out for signs of magic-gone-wrong, and otherwise enjoy the chance to relax with her girlfriend and best friends. She asked Xander for another of the drink she’d just had, and joined in a spirited debate with Kennedy and Dawn about whether Xena could beat Buffy in a fight.

=================

Faith’s first instinct had been that this was a joke, or a dare. After all, one has to expect that when your friends throw you a surprise birthday party on a random day, 2 months away from your actual birthday, that they might add a few twists to fuck with you. When Buffy pulled her into that shady storage area, the Bostonian was expecting a wet willy, or a wedgie, or maybe a water balloon popped on her head. Something wholesome and adorable like that would have been Buffy’s idea of a great prank, and she would have correctly expected Faith to be a good sport about it.

If it hadn’t been for the huge grin on her face when she pushed Faith’s back against that wall, the dark slayer would have gone into adrenaline mode and fought back. Even as the grin turned serious, studious, thoughtful… there was clearly no mal intent.

But nothing in the world could have ever prepared Faith for what happened next. Not even if Kennedy had said to her “hey, meet me in the big room on the 2nd floor, because Buffy is going to make out with you” would she have accepted this as possible. Even when she felt the pressure of soft lips against her own, it wasn’t registering as real. She could leap out of bed from a dead sleep to accurately stake a vampire’s heart if he snarled across the room, but somehow couldn’t find reflexes to react to this tiny slayer, kissing her.

Buffy’s touches were not hesitant in any way. She showed no restraint or fear of rejection as she confidently touched Faith’s skin. It was as if she already owned the younger slayer.

Faith regained some sense and tried to push her away, wanting to make sure this was… what, exactly? Real? Probably. She wanted to hear it. She wanted Buffy to tell her that this wasn’t a mistake or a joke or a spell. She certainly didn’t taste like she had been drinking too much, so that was ruled out.

Buffy responded by pinning the younger woman’s wrists to the wall. Faith tried a second approach to get her attention; she tilted her head upward and breathlessly panted out “B… Buffy, hey. B?”

This only spurned on the short slayer even more. Buffy immediately moaned into Faith’s neck, assaulting it with open mouth kisses and gentle bites, up to her jaw and back. Faith felt the blonde’s knee firmly press at the small space between her own thighs and she couldn’t help but let them drift apart to allow the welcome access. Instantly, Buffy’s leg was angled perfectly so that her muscular upper thigh was there, insistently pushing in a rhythm that made arousal ripple outward through Faith’s core.

“Buff… wait.” She whispered out again, sounding unconvinced.

“What is it lover?” Buffy responded breathlessly. “Don’t tell me you want me to wait to get you wet until I can finish you with my mouth? I don’t care. I’ll keep you ready for me all night until we are alone.” She bit down hard on Faith’s collarbone to show just how much she meant it.

Faith moaned loudly, her head slamming back against the wall. “Oh, fucking hell. I don’t know you’re your game is Slayer, but I’ll play.” With that, she dipped her head down and caught the blonde’s lips with her own, once again. This time, their tongues collided, brushing together to match the rhythm of Buffy’s thigh between Faith’s legs. The brunette tried to ignore what that contact was doing to her; she began forcing herself to calm her senses and distract her body from how close it was making her feel to the edge. She was afraid to lose control, even though it was becoming more obvious that she was not in control of any of this.

Buffy felt absolutely perfect: better than Faith had ever imagined. And yes, she had imagined it. Not for years, honestly, because she had been so certain that it would never happen and it would only hurt to pine unrequited after her fellow chosen one. But somehow she knew that if Buffy ever let loose and gave the physical chemistry between them a chance, it would feel this fucking good. Faith only wished she knew how to say “I told you so” to someone, because she had totally called it.

It felt like only a moment passed, but then Buffy was pulling away with a devilish grin. Faith instantly missed her touch; she wanted to chase after the warmth of those lips until she was satisfied.

“You have to wait, Fai.” Buffy teased. “I guess since it’s your fake-birthday, you get to have the thing you usually get on your real birthday.” She leaned in again, her nose against Faith’s ear, and whispered: “You know, that dirty, dirty thing I do for you.”

“Wait, what?”

The blonde laughed. “I know, but I guess if I can do it once a year, I can do it twice. Just for you babe. Thank Kennedy for giving you a fake-birthday.” In a long, emphasized action, Buffy ran her tongue over her lips and wiggled her eyebrows. She smirked with satisfaction at the certainly-shocked look Faith wore, before spinning on her heel and sauntering away.

Faith took a series of deep sighs, rubbed her eyes, and desperately tried to process what had just happened.