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The cold hard rain plummeted on the rogue slayer’s face. The dark brunette was rooted to her spot as she watched the vengeful Buffy coming straight towards her. She looked around to see there were so many places she could run to in the darkened cemetery but the thought of running scared Faith more. Gripping Faith’s knife harder as Buffy drew closer. Faith just wanted to run and scream but she couldn’t. Her breathing hitched and her body shook. She could feel the revenge pouring from Buffy. Faith just wanted to run and keep going but she needed to know how it would end, every time Buffy came after her, Faith just needed to know. Faith gave up on looking around the stormy cemetery and searching for an exit and just concentrated on the blonde slayer who was becoming increasingly closer. Faith took a breath and accepted her fate as Buffy plunged the knife into Faith’s stomach again. Faith was now eye to eye with Buffy. Buffy yanks the knife out, lifted her boot and kicked Faith into the empty grave that was placed conveniently behind her. Time slowed down as she plunged into the grave. She could see the insects crawling through the loosened, wet soil and as time slowed the depth of the hole felt deeper. Then she hit the bottom with a thud but the brunette slayer was unable to move. Buffy stood over the grave, entranced as the grave slowly filled with dirty, cold rainwater. Faith clutched at her stab wound, trying so hard to stop the bleeding. The water rose higher and higher until Faith’s face was almost covered. The last thing she saw was the hatred in Buffy’s eyes and everything went to black.

Faith snapped up in her hospital bed. Her breathing rushed and her eyes darting in every direction, not knowing where to look or who to look for. Faith didn’t understand where she was, the last thing she remembered was Buffy trying to kill her, over and over again. Then the real memory came through, Buffy stabbing Faith and then Faith falling to her not so apparent death. She seemed to be in an empty, dark, dirty white room. It looked like something out of a horror movie. She tried to move until she was pulled back. She felt a sharp pain in her arm and looked down to see the IV drip and the heart monitor wires on her chest. She shakily reached up and ripped the wires off her chest and then pulled the needle out of her arm. She took a moment to settle herself as she pumped in panic. Faith slowly pushed the sheets off of her weakened legs as she used all her energy to swing her body round on the bed. Her legs trembled in weakness as the tips of her feet as they slowly planted on the floor, not knowing how long exactly she had been in that bed; obviously long enough that she needed to give her body a little bit of time to catch up with her brain. Her legs felt weak but usable. She pushed herself up from the bed and took another look around. The dank room screamed of a woman who had been long forgotten and left behind. A feeling that had never been a stranger to Faith, she had always been accustomed to neglect and lone survival, that was until she had met the mayor anyway. She turned from the depressing sight of the now unused bed and headed for the door. She needed to know what the hell was going on and get back to her original job.

Faith walked down the deserted hospital corridor, looking for anyone amongst the torturous silence. At the end of the hall, she came across a young dark-haired woman in a red jacket and holding a teddy bear, appeared through the fire door. The woman noticed Faith straight away and walked over to her.

“Excuse me; do you know how to get to third floor west from here?” The young woman questions as a confused Faith stops in front of her.

“What?” Faith asked confused.

“Oh I see…you um need some help or something?”

“Graduation” Faith asked with a bit more confidence now but sounded more like a statement.

“What?” The woman asked, herself now confused.

“Graduation…I gotta get to Sunnydale high graduation now!” Faith snapped, her body starting to get uncomfortable, patience was never her fortay.

“Well, you can’t…I mean Sunnydale high isn’t even there anymore,” Fear drenched over Faith with the young woman’s comment. Not knowing how long she had been in the hospital, not knowing whether the mayor or the Scooby’s had come out on top.

“What day is it?” Faith questioned as she now feels the pressure to gain more knowledge and quickly.

“Friday…” The woman answered.

“What date? The date” Faith asked with more urgency.

“February 25th…” The woman replied looking at Faith more nervously, just about ready to run away and regretting talking to the obviously angry and confused patient in front of her.

“What year?”

“Maybe I should get you a nurse…”

“What happened at the school?”

“Don’t you just wanna...?”

“Just...tell me” Faith snapped at the frightened woman, whilst her words were laced in fear, worried of the answer.

“Well, it was a tragedy really, lots of students died…the principle, the mayor, I really think I should get you some help…”

Faith could no longer concentrate on what the stranger had just told her. The one man she knew she could rely on was gone, their plan had failed and now once again, Faith was doomed to walk this Earth alone with nowhere to go. All Faith knew was she needed to get out of that hospital now before anyone noticed that she was out of her bed. The woman continued to look at Faith nervously, regretting being there at all, wondering how long she had to wait to make an excuse to leave the obviously angry patient that she had managed to upset more. She instead decided to slowly edge backwards to get to the exit that she had just come through. Faith looked up at the woman and could see what was happening and she just smirked, knowing that after 8 months in a coma, she would still beat the woman to the exit.

***

Tara slowly packed the crystals into one of her drawers as Willow put her spell books back in her bag. The two women had tried a locator spell to see if they could track Adam but with the spell failing the two decided to call it a night. Not that Willow knew that Tara had purposely done the spell wrong. She couldn’t risk Willow finding out about her demon side, not until she could understand it herself and be able to explain it. She couldn’t risk anyone coming after her without the right information, Buffy may just want to kill her or worse the commando guys could lock her away forever having experiments done on her. Most of all though Tara feared the way Willow would look at her after she found out. Willow was already conflicted about the two women’s relationship, knowing Tara was part demon could send Willow running. Sure Oz was a werewolf from what she was told but that was only three nights out of the month, it could be controlled, that might not be the case for the blonde witch. Sure she felt bad for not being able to help with finding Adam but she did what she had to.

“S..ss..sorry the spell was a bust…,” Tara stuttered to Willow as she went to sit on the end of the bed. Willow looked up from her bag where she resided on the floor.

“It’s ok; maybe we could try it again sometime? We may have got something wrong…” Willow said, wearing the same face she usually did when spells didn’t go her way the first time around.

“Yeah sure, I’d like that” Tara responded giving Willow a small shy smile. Willow smiled back at the blonde as she got off of the floor and joined her on the end of the bed.

“So uh…ha…um you know how I told you about Buffy and the rest of the Scooby’s, well did you want to come with me for a meeting this evening?”

“I ttt..thought you weren’t ready for me to meet them?” Tara asked curiously.

“Well truthfully I’m not really but Buffy noticed that I wasn’t around a lot and I’m not comfortable with lying so I told her that you were helping me with spells and now she wants to meet, make sure you not a demon or something..” Willow nervously laughed as she nudged Tara. Tara returned a nervous smile and edged away a bit.

“A DDD…Demon, that’s funny, well I wouldn’t want to impose, you guys have a special thing going, you don’t need anyone new in the mix,”

“Of course we do (Willow grabbed Tara’s hand in shock) I know it wasn’t my idea for you to come but thinking about it, it sure is a good idea, two witches are always better than one and I’m sure you’ll get on great with everyone,” Willow gave Tara’s hand a squeeze and smiled.

“O..ok if you’re sure, I guess I could meet the gang…for you,” Tara responded looking at the ground, her nerves taking over her whole body at the thought of sitting in a room of professional demon hunters, counting down the days until her twentieth and them all finding out the truth. Everyone hating Tara for lying to them, and hating her for being a demon.

“Great, come on, let’s go to my door so I can drop my bag off and we’ll head over there, this is going to be really good,” Willow beamed as she grabbed Tara’s hand and they head out to the other side of campus, ready for her first Scooby meeting.

Chapter Text

Faith strutted out of the hospital sporting the young woman’s clothes from before. She quickly made her way over to the one place she knew she needed to be. She stopped across the street from the burnt down ruins of Sunnydale high. In the mayor’s plan, it wasn’t meant to be just the high school that was destroyed, it was meant to be this whole godforsaken town.

“This has B written all over it,” Faith thought to herself whilst looking at the derelict school, giving Faith the realisation that she was alone. Everything she had went through up to this point was for nothing. Even the mayor was gone and again in her life, Faith didn’t know what direction she should take, all she knew was she needed to survive.
Tearing herself away from the school, Faith slowly made her way through the busy streets of Sunnydale. Faith clutched herself as she walked along, dodging the touch of anyone who almost touched her in passing. While watching all the happy people laughing together, friends were joking and lovers kissing filled Faith with hatred. She had woken up to an unwelcoming world and now she was lost, so she headed to the one place that she knew wouldn’t have changed in this town. The Scoobies.

Faith carefully snuck down the downstairs outside of Giles’s apartment. She made her way past the old, dried up fountain and over to the window next to the front door and leant against the edge of the window, just enough that she couldn’t be seen and watched as the scoobie’s began another one of their meetings. Faith looked around the room as Giles and Buffy began to speak. Faith was so confused in that moment and furious knowing that the group was carrying on with their lives quite happily whilst she was stuck in that hospital but as she stewed, she noticed the group gathered, there was the usual scoobies, Giles, Buffy, Willow and Xander but no Cordelia or Angel or Wolfboy, and there were two new additions. The first being a tall, brown-haired poster boy, with Buffy draped over his lap.

Well, looks like B’s moved on from Angel, good to know she gutted me for nothing,” Faith thought to herself sarcastically as she watched over the loved up pair.

Then her attention moved to the cute blonde sat next to Red. The blonde was looking at the floor nervously, too shy to look up at everybody as the group spoke. Faith couldn’t hear what was being said as she looked at the girl questioningly, losing her senses with her own distraction. She couldn’t help but watch as the girl brushed a hair behind her ear. The girl caught Willow’s eye for a moment and Faith could see straight away there was obviously more than friendship there. Faith wondered if the oblivious group knew that Willow had switched teams.

Looks like B weren’t the only one to get a new model, Red swapped wolf boy for the hippie chick,” Faith thought as she continued to look around the group and take in what else had changed the whole time she was asleep. She was then brought back to reality as the phone began to ring. Quickly Faith pulled herself from view as Giles came closer to answer the phone. After a moment of listening, Giles handed Buffy the phone. Buffy’s face turned to shock instantly and then hung up the phone.

“What is it?” Giles asks with concern.

“It’s Faith. She’s awake. She beat someone up, took her clothes and disappeared out of the hospital. No one knows where she is,” Buffy told them all in disbelief.

“I’d say this qualifies for a ‘worse timing ever’ award,” Xander retorted sarcastically.

“What do we do?” Willow asked as Tara looked to her confused.

“Well, we have to find her,” Giles states.

“What about Adam?” Willow questions.

“I’d hate to see the pursuit of a homicidal lunatic get in the way of pursuing a homicidal lunatic,” Xander added with even more sarcasm.

Faith clenched her fist at this, just about ready to crash through the door and show them what a homicidal lunatic really looked like but knowing she’s not ready for that fight yet, she kept herself hidden and continued to listen.

“Well, Faith’s not exactly low-profile girl. I’ll patrol and wait for her to make a move,” Buffy told them all, not really knowing what else to suggest.

“And then what?” Giles asked.

“Oh! I have an idea. Beat the crap out of her,” Willow stated with a gleeful smile.

“Good plan!” Xander happily agreed.

Faith always did hate Willow and seeing her quite happily suggest violence towards the rogue slayer filled Faith with rage. Just as she was planning revenge in her mind she heard the shy blonde begin to speak quietly and it stopped Faith in her own thoughts.

“Isn’t that a bit v..v..violent? Tara whispered to Willow defending the unknown woman. Willow looked slightly taken aback which caused Faith to grow a smug grin at the reaction.

“No, Tara’s right. Good on paper but we still have a decision to make. Do we hand her over to the cops? They wouldn’t know what to do with a slayer even if they knew we existed,” Buffy told them.

“What about the council?” Willow asked now making a more adult suggestion than previously.

“Been there. Tried that. Not unlike smothering a forest fire with napalms as I recall,” Xander retorted.

“Well, the initiative, they do have, uh, containment facilities,” Giles stated questioningly.

“One word. Evil,” Xander stated.

“There’s no way around it. Faith is back, and whether I like it or not, she is my responsibility,” Buffy stated dejectedly.

“Yeah, too bad. That was the funnest coma ever,” Willow stated. Tara looks up and frowned at the redhead, not understanding where all the cruel suggestions and comments were coming from that evening.

“We have no idea where she is. We don’t know what she’s thinking, what she’s feeling,” Buffy said.

“Who she’s doing,” Xander adds annoyed.

“She could be terrified. Maybe she doesn’t even remember? Or – or maybe she does – and she’s sorry and she’s alone, hiding somewhere?” Buffy said hopefully.

“Uh, perhaps there’s some form of, uh, rehabilitation we just haven’t thought about?” Giles added.

Faith can’t believe what she was hearing, Buffy and Giles were putting up a caring front, if they really cared maybe it wouldn’t be a surprise she woke up because maybe they would’ve visited plus it was too late and revenge was going to be a bitch. The snarky comments from Willow and Xander didn’t help either and just fuelled the hatred and fire in Faith, she was going to make them all pay.

“And if not, ass-kicking makes a solid plan B,” Willow said quite proud of herself.

You hold a knife to a girl’s throat once and she won’t let it go...Bitch,” Faith thought to herself as she continued to watch the conversation unfold.

“I’m not gonna rule it out. First thing, we need to find her. Then we can take it from there,” Buffy stated.

Faith took this as her cue to leave; she didn’t want to hear anymore. Her blood was boiling and her heart and mind were conflicted. For a moment there, she almost thought they care but nothing changed, all the Scoobies care about was themselves and Faith was always such an inconvenience to them. They would always be high and mighty and just want to palm the problem off but not this time Faith knew she would find a way to have the upper hand. So quietly, Faith left the garden area and ventured back out into the darkened streets of Sunnydale.

Chapter Text

Chapter 3

The next day Tara and Willow traipsed around the college together, discussing the rogue slayer. Willow had called the fellow witch to join her, so they had spent most of the morning on the lookout from the infamous Faith. The two women made their way down the stairs of the social area of the college.

“Thanks for coming with. Hunting for a psychopathic super bitch is definitely in the ‘above and beyond’ category,” Willow tells Tara as she lightly brushes a hand down Tara’s arm, subtly showing affection that can’t be misconstrued in public.

“Will, that’s a little harsh don’t you think?” Tara says taken aback a little by another description given by the redhead.

“No Tare, I’m not. You don’t know what she’s like. She’s hurt and killed a lot of people, she can’t be trusted,” Willow snaps back.

“I’m s..sorry Willow, I just don’t think there’s any need to be so hh...harsh, If she’s as bad as you say she is, then we don’t need to act the same, we need to be an example of how good people don’t judge,” Tara whispers back looking at her feet.

Willow looks at Tara with guilt spread across her face. Willow really did hate Faith and understood what Tara was saying but it was so hard to not describe Faith as the vile being that she believed her to be.

“No, I’m sorry, you weren’t around last around, I can’t expect you to feel what I am but I still do appreciate you coming with me today...” Willow responds sheepishly as they continue to walk through the campus.

“It’s okay. Really. So, um, what do we do if we find her?” Tara asks looking a bit more cheery to stop the situation becoming awkward between the two.

“Run. Flee. Maybe Skedaddle? We’re not here to engage. This is strictly recon,” Tara giggles at Willow.

“What?” Willow asks.

“You said ‘recon’. You’re like, cool monster fighter,” Tara tells Willow flirtatiously.

“Well you see, I need to keep up appearances, need Faith to know I mean business, she was waiting for Buffy earlier, can’t let her think that I’m scared of her...because I’m not,” Willow says trying to keep a stern face. “Plus, technically, Faith's not a monster, and as for fighting? I'd be lucky if I bruise her fist with my face.”

“Oh...” Tara says looking unsure.

“What?” Willow asks concerned.

“Face punching… I'm not good with the whole…” Tara explains as she punches the air which doesn’t really look like punching.

“Swimming?” Willow teases.

“Violence,” Tara says dropping her arms.

“Don't worry - we're sure to spot her first. Faith's like some big cleavage-y slutbomb walking around all…And you’re plenty safe around me,” Willow assures Tara as she links their arms together. Tara nods agreeing with what Willow says and ignoring the insult that slipped through again.

“So… we ‘recon’ 'til nightfall?” Tara asks softly.

“Then the ritual hiding begins.” Willow states as the two women continue prowling the campus in content silence.

 

So already today Faith had managed to rile Buffy up (which was her most favourite thing to do) and evade Sunnydale’s finest cops and also receive a little gift from old mayor Richards Wilkins himself. This gift was going to give her the life that Buffy never deserved to live. It’s this that led Faith to her final destination, the Summer’s residence. Upon arrival, Faith had knocked Joyce unconscious and then carried her up to her bedroom and tied her hands together so she couldn’t escape once she had finally woken up.  Faith looked on down at the older woman, she had always like Joyce, not that she cared to admit it out loud but Joyce was always the mother type figure to her in the early days of her first arrival to Sunnydale. She could always imagine what it would’ve been like to grow up with Joyce as her mother, she would never take her for granted like Buffy did, Faith could see it more so when her and Joyce had spent Christmas together whilst Buffy went off to save Angel and still took her time coming back after saving him, Buffy was selfish and always would be, she did feel kind of bad for what she was doing but she needed to get Buffy’s attention on her own terms.  So whilst Joyce was unconscious, Faith took the liberty of snooping around the house. It had been a while since she visited, seeing as she was in a coma for 8 months. She started with Joyce’s dresser and begins to open the draws when the first thing she saw was a stack of unopened mail. The mail was all addressed to Buffy Summers.

Hmm...So I guess B’s been an absentee daughter now she’s out living the college life, think I’ll just hang on to these for a bit,” Faith thinks to herself as she grabbed the letters and continued to look through the draws. She manoeuvred in and out of rooms, not straying too far away from Joyce’s room. After not finding anything else of interest and still with the letters in hand, Faith headed back into the room to find Joyce beginning to wake up.

“Morning Joyce, nice to see you’re well rested,” Faith says in a sarcastic way with a fake smile plastered on her face.

“Bite me,” Joyce replied deadpan.

“Ooh and she gets feisty...I like that,”

“What do you want Faith?”

“The same thing you want Joyce, for Buffy to give us the attention we deserve!” Faith responds angrily and Joyce continued to stare at the unhinged slayer without giving emotion. Faith’s instantly changed from anger to a playful manner deciding to change tactics instantly. “Bet I can guess what you’re thinking?!”

“Really?” Joyce responds now fed up by Faith.

“Your thinking...You’ll never get away with this...warm?” Faith acts out dramatically.

“Actually, I was thinking, my daughter, will kill you soon,”

“Is that a fact?”

“More like a bet,”

“Whoa, you got a pair on you Joyce, I like seeing that in a woman your age. Guess you can afford to talk that way. In the world ‘According to Joyce’ Buffy’s gonna come crashing through that door any minute,” Faith finished her rant, grabbed the letters she found earlier and jumped onto the bed and led next to Joyce.

“Look what I found...Buffy Summers, Buffy Summers, Buffy-Lot of letters. She hasn’t been in a while, huh?” Joyce continued to look at Faith in silence, refusing to take the bait. Faith just continues on her own tangent, not even waiting for Joyce to respond.
“And you’d think with a crazy chick like me on the loose, a crazy chick with a wicked grudge against her no less, she’d call and give you a heads up,” Faith snapped as she got up off the bed and began to pace the room.

“I’m sure it just slipped her mind, it’s not like you do anything easily,” Joyce retorts as Faith rolled her eyes.

“You keep telling yourself that Joyce, I know what it’s like. You think your matter – you think you’re a part of something, and you get dumped! It’s like the whole world is moving – but you’re stuck. Like those animals in the tar pits? You’re sinking a little deeper every day, and nobody sees” Faith drifted off into her own thoughts for a moment. All the resentment she has towards everyone coming to the surface.

“Ok Faith, whatever you need to sleep at night,” Joyce responded now completely fed up of the situation.

“Don’t tell me you don’t see it Joyce. You’ve served your purpose. Squirted out the kid, raised her up and now you might as well be dead. Nobody cares. Nobody remembers. Especially Buffy, the fabulous superhero. Sooner or later you’ll have to face it – she was over us a long time ago. Too busy climbing onto her new boy toy to give a single thought to the people that matter. You’re her mother and she just leaves you here to die!” Faith replied angrily as she grabbed a knife off the side and lunges at Joyce.
Suddenly Faith was interrupted as Buffy came crashing through her mother’s window, tackling Faith to the floor. She jumped up quickly and punched Faith in the face.

“Hey mom,” Buffy said out of breath.

“Hi honey,” Replies a relieved Joyce.

Then Faith came back and returns Buffy’s punch. Buffy swung round and sidekicked Faith, catching her under the jaw, throwing her across the room. Buffy could see Joyce rush to the phone to call the police.

“Mom don’t! Trust me not yet! I can handle this!” Buffy warned her mother.

At the same time as this, Faith regained her footing and hurled herself at Buffy with all the rage inside her body throwing them both into the hallways. The two women continue to fight as they are both thrown down the stairs. They both tumble to the bottom of the stairs and without losing momentum the two women continue to spar leading them into the dining room. Faith ripped a drawer from the cabinet, disposing of the entire cutlery on the floor and launching it straight at Buffy who managed to block the attack. With Buffy momentarily distracted, Faith ran into the living to grab the gadget that the mayor had left for her which she left on the fireplace but just as she got hold of the gadget, Buffy flew out of nowhere and tackled Faith into the fireplace knocking the strange device from her hand and it rolled away. Faith scrambled to get up but Buffy punched Faith with her full weight, knocking the rogue slayer unconscious. At the same time, Joyce entered the living room and rushes over to Buffy’s side and looked down at the unconscious Faith.

“Are you ok honey?” A concerned Joyce asked her daughter as she places a comforting hand on her shoulder.

“As Faith would say, ‘Five by Five’,” Buffy quoted as she continues to look down at the silent slayer, wondering what she was going to do now and trying to hide the fear on her face of the unknown.

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 4

Faith started to wake from her slumber. For a split second, she thought the last couple of days had just been another of her coma dreams but unfortunately for her, it wasn’t. Faith’s eyes crept open; she was in the darkened basement of the Summer’s residence. As she moved to stand she was instantly pulled back to the camp bed that was beneath her. She looked at her hands and then behind her to see she was chained to the wall. She wrapped her hands around the chain and begun to tug. The chain wasn’t budging.

“Keep pulling Faith, you won’t get out...” Buffy states as she walks out from the shadows.

“Ah jeez B, if you wanted to get down and dirty, you didn’t need to tie me up...” Faith winks mockingly at Buffy whilst she continues to tug at the chains.

“Joke as much as you want but you’re not getting out; you’re too much of a danger”

“Or maybe you just know you can’t beat me so it’s just easier to keep me chained up?”

“Think what you want Faith but if you can’t behave like a normal human being, then I’ll keep you chained up until long after I’m dead...”

Faith’s rage built, she couldn’t believe that Buffy had bested her. Everything she planned had been ruined. Faith threw herself at Buffy but the chains stopped her. Buffy flinched for a split second before seeing Faith couldn’t reach her from where she was stood.

“Come on B, untie me, you know these won’t hold me forever!  Let’s throw down; I’d rather risk dying than be stuck down here! Let’s finish this for good.” Faith challenges Buffy, desperate to be released.

Buffy walked up to Faith, just close enough that they still couldn’t touch. Buffy pulls the gadget that Faith had brought into the house out of her pocket and raised it to Faith’s eye level.

“Why Faith? Hoping you get another chance to use this on me? (Faith’s grin drops from her face) What is it? Tell me; don’t tell me, I’m sure Giles will find out eventually...”

 Faith readjusts herself on the camp bed so she’s sat against the wall.
“Doesn’t matter now anyway...but it would’ve been wicked cool to try out, that’s for sure,”

Buffy shakes her head and heads over to the stairs as she places the gadget back in her pocket. She turns hesitantly and looks at Faith.
“What happened to you Faith?”

“You did B...” Faith states flatly.

“I’m sorry you feel that way,” Buffy responded sadly as she climbed the stairs.

Faith listened to the pain in Buffy’s voice, a part of her wanted to call out and speak but she could never let herself be vulnerable, especially to Buffy Summers. Conflicted by her feelings, Faith cries out in pain whilst pulling on the chains as hard as she possibly could.
Buffy lets a tear drop from her face as she leaves the basement and listens to cries of her broken sister slayer.

***

Faith had been left to stew in her own juices for a couple of hours after her little outburst in the darkened basement, the only light coming from a small light bulb in the ceiling that was just about ready to give out.  Faith just kept thinking about the last 24 hours, wishing she could go back to her 8-month coma. It was a much better prison than the one she was currently in. The door to the basement quietly clicked open and shut. As slow footsteps climbed down the stairs, Faith shifted off her back and sat up, trying to move her hands with the uncomfortably tight chains.

Joyce reached the bottom of the stairs holding a tray with food and water on and edged slowly towards the hostage. Faith watched the woman carefully like she was prey. Joyce stopped when she was about two feet away from the bed. Faith eyed her carefully.

“I’m chained to a wall, what do ya think I’m gonna do?” Faith tells Joyce, getting fed up of watching and not knowing what else to do.

“Well, it’s not like you can be trusted...” Joyce says rolling her eyes.

“Well, maybe B should’ve brought that down (nodding to the tray) or has she left you already?”

“No, she’s upstairs with Giles, I’m quite capable!” Joyce replies deadpan.

“Oh I see, is this your way of getting revenge with no one around? You’ve got some stones Joyce,” Faith grins.

Joyce quickly walks to the other end of the camp bed, places the tray down and steps away quickly. She grabs a spare chair, pulls it close and sits opposite Faith as she begins to pick at the food.

“No Faith, I have no need to stoop so low...would you have killed me if Buffy hadn’t come in? Joyce asks with a more motherly tone, not sure if she wants to know the real answer.

Faith rests down the food she was eating and brushes her hands off.
“What do you think?”

“I think you’re very unhappy and probably would’ve just toyed with me for your own sick pleasure,”

“I guess we’ll never know now, I try not to plan too far ahead...” Faith replies as she goes back to her food. Joyce watches with a frown as Faith finished her food.

“You know when I first met you, I could see you becoming a second daughter to me, and you helping Buffy and really building a life...it disappoints me so much to see what happened to you, I wish you would’ve let us help you...”

Joyce’s words cut through Faith, there was no hate or anger sent in her direction. Faith could feel the vomit rise up to her throat. She looked down at her feet that were now curled up on the bed. She so badly just wanted Joyce to scream and shout but Joyce wasn’t that woman. Joyce had a caring nature that would never change. Instead, Faith just pushed her empty tray to the edge of the bed and turned away from Joyce and clutched her knees. Joyce let out a deflated sigh. She got up and grabbed the empty tray. She stopped to look at the obviously conflicted girl. Her spare hand hovered for a moment, undecided whether to place a hand on the slayer’s shoulder but after a moment Joyce pulled herself away from the broken girl and left the basement.

 

The next morning Willow and Tara sat on the edge of Tara’s bed. Willow was absent-mindedly stroking Tara’s forearm with her little finger.

“So B..B..Buffy caught Faith then?” Tara asks Willow after bringing herself out of the relaxing silence.

“You betcha! That psycho has now taken up residence in the Summer’s basement, I hope she’s hating every second!” Willow says gleefully.

Tara frowns at the redhead but chooses to ignore her exaggerated dislike for the slayer.
“What’s Buffy’s plan with her then?”

“Well the police are definitely out, I spoke to her last night and she doesn’t trust the council, she’s thinking about trying to rehabilitate Faith but it’s risky,” Willow shifts to look at Tara, her look quite sheepish.
“So I was thinking if Buffy can’t rehabilitate Faith, I’ve been researching some spells and I found one that wipes memories...”

Tara jumps up and stands in front of Willow with a horrified look on her face.
“No Willow! Whatever you’re thinking, no! Those spells are dangerous and playing with people’s minds is unethical!”

“Well I was just thinking, if it didn’t work, then she could have a do over, a...a Faith 2.0, she could start again a..and live a better life, no more being a cleavagy slut bomb or stupid five by five saying that she has...”

“Five...by what five,” Tara asks suddenly confused.

“See that’s the thing, nobody knows!”

Tara shakes her head.
“Either way Willow no, you can’t do that to people, no matter who they are. The only way Faith will better her life is if she learns from her mistakes because she wants to, not because you want to control the situation, it could make everything so much worse!”

Willow looked up at the blonde in shock and suddenly filled with guilt. She stands and takes Tara’s hands in hers.

“Look, I’m sorry but I’m worried that if this does wrong and no one can help Faith...then she’ll need to die...”

“And if that h..happened, then that’s fates choice, Willow you can’t use magic to make things go your way. You told me about the spell you did when O..Oz left and look how that went, you risk pushing Faith further to darkness,” Tara looked at Willow with hurt and slight fear at Willow.

“I’m sorry, I just thought it would help but I won’t do it ever! I promise...can we just head over to Buffy’s now and try and have a good day?”

Tara looked at Willow intently trying to figure out if the witch was telling the truth. She could see such great power in the redhead but she feared that the redhead's need to help in any way possible would send her down a dangerous path but she knew they didn’t have time to get into that conversation now. She gave a slight smile to the redhead and nodded her head. Willow broke out in a smile.

“Ok come on, I’m so glad you can come to the Scooby meetings now!” And with that Willow led a secretly worried Tara out of the dorm room.

Chapter Text

Chapter 5

Faith led on the camp bed for what felt like days. Only having been there for one night she was already feeling dirty, gross and filled with too many thoughts for one person’s mind, so being confined made her want to chew her hands off to get out of her shackles. Faith knew she needed to find a way out without having to injure herself; it would be the only way to get away with weakening herself.
She was doing her best to listen to the Scooby meeting upstairs, straining her slayer hearing doing her best to listen to what was being spoken but could only make out random parts of the conversation. Willow and another girl were talking about confinement and Giles were discussing something about the council that just bored Faith to tears. Then there was silence and a lot of shuffling around, something had interrupted the meeting. Then she could hear the faint sound of the front door open and then shut a few seconds later. A moment passed, Faith didn’t dare make a sound in hopes of hearing something else but she came to the realisation that she must be alone; this could be her chance to escape. So quickly pulling herself into a seated position, Faith frantically started to pull on the chains trying her hardest to disconnect herself from the wall. As she pulled the handcuffs dug deeper into her wrist, threatening to break the skin but Faith ignored the pain when she could see the slightest amount of dust starting to fall from the wall when she suddenly stopped. Faith could hear the handle of the basement door open and she stopped what she was doing. Letting go of the chain, Faith spun herself around to look as casual as possible. Quiet footsteps climbed down the steps to reveal Tara carrying a glass of water and a banana. Faith instantly recognised her from the Scooby meeting the other night; she eyed the blonde girl curiously. Tara slowly walked to a small table placed by Faith and put the water and banana down without breaking eye contact with Faith. This unnerved Faith but she wouldn’t let it show. Tara stepped back and sat on the chair placed opposite Faith that all her visitors seem to sit at.

“Who are you?” Faith asks in distaste.

“T..T..Tara, I’m a friend of Willow’s,” Tara says now unable to look Faith directly in the eye.

“Yeah I saw you guys together at Giles’s place...sat quite close if I remember...” Faith raised her back and edges forward closer to Tara.
“So Willow’s not driving stick anymore. Who woulda thought? Guess you never know a person till you’ve been inside their skin,”

Tara starts to shift uncomfortably in her seat as Faith pauses to sip her water. Tara knew that she and Willow hadn’t really been open with anyone and thankfully none of her friends expected anything between them but Faith had been instantly observant and they didn’t even know each other. Faith definitely wasn’t like the others, she has potential.

“And Oz is out of the picture? I never did see two people so much in Love. She just couldn’t get enough of old Oz,” Faith says trying her best to drive the knife deeper.

“She, uh, said he www...”

“He www..what? You gonna get that sentence out sometime today?” Faith mocks Tara. She picks up her banana with a shit eating grin and begins to peel and eat it.

Tara nervously looks at Faith and swallows, intimated by the Slayer and her abrasive attitude.
“There’s nnn..no need to be rude,”

“How is honesty rude? I say it how I see it and seeing you and Red was wicked obvious what was happening,” Faith places the banana skin down, still looking Tara up and down, trying to figure out why this stranger had come down to her prison.
“So where’s B? And why are you here? - I don’t even know you or is this part of my punishment too?”

“There was a vampire attack at the church...they didn’t need me so I said I’d watch you...ttt..thought you might want some company,” Tara says with a blush forming on her face. Faith looks at the girl confused by the situation.

Why was she being nice? I was being a bitch to her?” Faith thought to herself as heat rose up in her chest, she pushed herself back against the wall whilst Tara seemed to be studying her with her eyes.

“Yeah well, I was starting to get used to it down here by myself...it’s cool but if you feel so determined to be a good Samaritan then go ahead...don’t complain to me if you get bored, I’m not one for entertaining these days,” Faith states flatly.

Tara face breaks into a half smirk as confidence builds and she opened her mouth to respond when a crash comes from behind both of the women. The basement door flew down the stairs, crashing into the wall. Faith jumped into action not needing to think, the slayer in her taking over. She holds her hands up and pleaded to Tara with her eyes. She needed to get out of the chains; she could feel it for her and Tara’s sakes. Tara looks back at the stairs and then back to Faith, she nods her head but before she could do anything a dart hits the side of her neck. She clutched at the dart before dropping to the ground unconscious. Faith stared down at Tara’s body in shock, now she definitely had to escape or they were both dead. A short stocky man ran down the steps with a gun in his hand and towards Faith. Readying herself for anything, Faith stances herself standing on the bed.  The man edge closer to Faith with his gun pointed forward, her eye’s squared in on the man like prey.

“By orders of the watcher’s council you are being brought in...” A foot to the face interrupted the British man and sent him hurtling to the floor next to Tara.
Quickly Faith went to her last resort, she grabbed her left thumb and yanked until she heard the pop of her thumb dislocating itself, she groaned in pain as she was able to ease her hand out of the cuff and quickly popped the thumb back in before it could start to heal. Faith pulled as far away from the wall to try and grab anything as a weapon or at least free her with. Then another pair of steps came rushing down the stairs, neither of the gruff men in their leather jackets stopped. Without thinking the first man pointed a gun and shot two tranq darts before she could react. Faith pulled out the two darts and slumped on the bed.

“Not cool,” Faith slurred as she dropped into unconsciousness. The first man walked over to Faith and used the base of his gun to break Faith’s other cuff. As he reached down to lift the slayer up, he turns to the gruffer man.

“Davis, pick up Rogers up and let’s get out of here, we don’t need to be bumpin’ into the other slayer,” he orders.

“But Dan, what about her? (As he nodded to Tara as he picked up Rogers fire-fighter style) ,”

Dan looked down at Tara for a moment, gets a better grip of Faith and continues to the stairs.

“Leave her, she didn’t see anything,” And with that, the two men left Tara down in the basement alone.

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 6

 

As Faith stirred, she could feel cold metal beneath her. Her body felt sore and her head hazy, Faith tried to register where she was until the memories of Tara slumping to the floor shot to the front of her mind; she lurched forward but was jolted and pulled backwards again. Handcuffs dug into the fresh injuries on her wrists.

Great, more chains...someone give me a break,” Faith thinks to herself with annoyance.

Faith looked around at where she was sat, she seemed to be in the back of some kind of can, handcuffed and chained to the wall. She looked ahead to see a pair of doors with two small windows at the top. She couldn’t see much or hear much of anything. Deciding to figure out was happening, Faith carefully shifts herself down on to her back and starts kicking the side of the van wall as hard as she could. The echoes of her foot slamming against the metal radiated in the obviously large space the van was located in. The two doors swung open and a very angry Rogers stood in the doorway. The man had two black eyes and a plaster across the top of his nose, injuries sustained when Faith kicked him in the face.

“Shut it!” The man shouts at Faith.

Faith smirks and pulls herself into a sitting position. “Why don’t you come in here and make me England?” Faith offers seductively, attempting to entice the man into the van.

Roger’s narrows his eyes on Faith, he pulls his head back and snaps it forward as he spits on Faith’s face.
“You made a mockery out of this council and if I could I would shoot you right now between the eyes, but lucky for you I can’t but that doesn’t mean I can’t keep you unconscious for the whole of our journey...Now keep it down!” Rogers threatens Faith. He slams the doors of the van closed, leaving Faith staring at the closed doors and wiping the spit off her face. She was speechless; she knew she had no chance against these psycho council agents.

How the hell am I gonna get out of this? That Tara chick didn’t see anything and even if she did, no way would B come risk her neck to save me, she had me locked up herself, I’m so screwed,” Faith thought to herself in the darkness of the cold van.

***

A hand stroked Tara’s forehead. The cold hand was slowly brushing Tara’s hair back. Tara slowly opened her eyes to find Willow knelt by Tara’s side stroking her hair soothingly and a corned Buffy and Giles stood over them. Tara tried to sit, so Willow shifted back and helped her move.

“What happened here Tare? Was it Faith?” Willow asks the blonde witch panicked.

“N not Faith...I..I..I’m not sure, we were just talking and then the door was k..knocked down the stairs and then there was a pain in my neck, and then it all went black...” Tara explains as she feels for the mark on her neck.

Buffy looks down at the discarded dart and then to Giles.
“Looks like tranq darts an there’s hardly any mess, whoever did this knew what they were doing...”

“Yes well I think I know who’s responsible... (Buffy looks at Giles with raised eyebrows) Some gentlemen came to my apartment the other night, they work for the council, and they deal with their more challenging cases...” Giles explains.

“So they’re like bounty hunters...And they came here for Faith?” Buffy enquires trying to make sense of what was happening.

“In a manner of words, yes, they’ve been keeping tabs on Faith in case she woke up, they came to warn us away from Faith...they’re planning to take her back to England,”

“And then what?” Buffy asks.

“Well, most likely she’d be contained until she can be rehabilitated or the next slayer is called...”

“Good,” Willow cuts in; both Giles and Buffy turned to look at the witch. “Let the council take her Buffy, Tara almost got hurt because they were after her, now she’s their responsibility,”

“It’s not that simple Will,” Buffy starts to explain.

“No Buffy, it really is, Faith is toxic and you owe her nothing,” Willow snaps now climbing off the floor and helping Tara up alongside her.

“No your right I don’t but I’ve got a chance to change my actions from last year and I may not be able to help her but there’s no way I’m letting the council have her, they can’t be trusted and there’s no way of knowing what they would do with her...” Giles looks at Buffy with pride from what she had said, seeing so much growth in the last year.

“Fine, if that’s what you want but I can’t help Buffy, she’s evil and I can never forgive her...Come on Tare, I’ll take you home...” Willow goes to take Tara’s hand when the blonde witch pulls away. Buffy looks at the two women with sadness and then shock at Tara’s actions.

“Nnn..No Willow, I want to help find Faith, I don’t know what she was like in the past but B..B..Buffy wants to try and help her, then I want to hh..help too (Tara looks at the ground avoiding eye contact with Willow whilst Buffy beams with glossy eyes at the blonde witch whom she barely knew but was so willing to help her when her best friend wouldn’t) I believe everyone deserves a second chance, I saw her aura before and it was conflicted and in pain but it didn’t look evil...”

Willow stared at Tara with her mouth agape in disbelief, not sure how to respond. Her eyes welling with tears, the woman she was building a connection with was standing against her.

“Willow,” Giles whispered as he stepped towards the redhead with a calming hand. Willow moves out of the way towards the stairs.

“No, I’m sorry, I...I just need to be away right now, I’ve got to go,” As Willow bursts into tears and runs up the stairs. Buffy looks away from where Willow was stood and turns to Tara.

“Thank you for that, I know it wasn’t easy, are you ok?” Buffy asks

“I’m ok, let’s just find Faith before its t..t..too late,” Tara answers trying to turn the attention from herself.

“Your right we don’t have time for feelings right now, we need to find Faith, Giles? (she turns to the ex-watcher) Do you know where these guys could be hiding?”

“Fraid not but I do know it’ll take them a few hours to get safe passage to England, we have a little bit of time before they can leave town ...” Giles explains.

“I can do a locator spell but I would need something of Faith’s...” Tara says looking at Buffy with determination. Buffy thinks for a moment, looking between the ex-watcher and the witch.

“Oh yeah, be right back!” Buffy says suddenly remembers, she tears up the stairs to grab the gadget she had got away from Faith and now hid in the fireplace. She grabs the gadget and heads back down to the basement and hands the gadget over to Tara. “Faith tried to use this against me the other night when we were fighting, I don’t know what it is and she won’t tell me either,” Buffy explains.

Tara lifts the gadget up to eye level whilst Giles narrowed his eyes at the object. Tara strained her eyes until she could see a slight green spark coming through the object. Tara’s eyes widen in surprise knowing what the object was.
“I know what this is, I mean I’ve only ever sss...seen a picture of the magical stone but I can recognise the power trying to break out, it’s a Katra...it cc..can be used to switch a person’s essence with another...” Tara explains.

“Dear god...I’ve heard about these but I’ve never heard of it being used with technology before,” Giles exclaimed.

“God Faith! What the hell were you thinking?! Now we definitely have to find her so I can kick her ass for trying to steal my life...again!” Buffy shakes her head in disbelief pinching the bridge of her nose.

“Right well let’s stay on track, for now, Tara, how about I take you upstairs to do the spell, Buffy, get some weapons ready? Yes?” Giles interjected to calm Buffy. Buffy just nods at the ex-watcher and the three go about their tasks.

***

The sudden movement had brought Faith back to reality. She had been sat in complete silence for a couple of hours, exhausted from fighting the chain and only being able to listen to the beat of her thumb throbbing from its earlier dislocation. The pain would be gone soon thanks to slayer healing but until then she used the small amount of pain as a distraction from the silence as she silently tried to think of an escape plan.  The doors to the van opened again with a nervous Davis holding a small paper bag as he slowly climbed into the van, he slowly edged towards Faith. Faith just kept perfect eye contact with the nervous man.

“Stay back slayer! This is your only warning; keep your hands at your sides so I can give you food,”

Faith eyed Davis as he bent down slowly to rest the bag down, taking her chance she kicks Davis’s feet from underneath him. As soon as he lands at Faith’s feet, she gathers the chain and pulls it around his neck and pulls tightly.

“Help! Help!” Davis croaked out, calling for his partners. His face swelling and turning bright red as he gasped for breath. Dan and Rogers ran to the open doors to see what the commotion was about. They look to see Faith holding Davis hostage.

“Here’s what’s gonna happen, you’re gonna let me go, and I won’t snap this guys neck and I’ll make sure to let you guys run back to the council with tails between your legs!” Faith orders as she tightened her grip.

“We go on a job, we always put our affairs in order first...In case of any accident.” Dan calmly states.

A horrified Davis looks at Dan. “Dan...”

“Sorry Davis...” Dan and Rogers walk away from Faith and Davis and head to the middle of the empty warehouse.

“I’m gonna call the council, she’s becoming a pain and we need a contingency plan,” Dan states as he pulls a phone out of his jacket and dials a number and put the phone to his ear.
Back in the van Faith couldn’t believe what had just happened; she just had to make peace with her fate. She pulls the chain from Davis’s neck before he passes out and throws him out of the van. She lays down and stares at the ceiling, continuing to listen to the conversation outside of the van.

“It’s Dan,” Dan states into the phone as he listens to the voice on the other end. He nods his head, cuts the phone off and pulls a gun out of his holster and attaches a silencer. “ They can’t get us passage, they’ve ordered the kill,”

“Torch the place?” Roger’s enquires.

“Get the gas,” Dan nods. Dan walks over to the back of the van as Davis trails him.

“She could’ve killed me, she didn’t...” Davis tells Dan still in a state of disbelief.

“Lucky you,” Dan continues to the window of the van and aims his gun through the bars at Faith. Faith heard everything that was said, she even heard the silencer being attached and she was ready for the son of a bitch. She grabbed the gun with her feet, pulling Dan forward and knocking him out on the bars, letting Faith take the gun with her feet as an unconscious Dan drops to the floor.
At the same time, Buffy and Giles charge into the warehouse from a side door. Buffy aims her crossbow and shoots Davis in the arm as Giles climbs into the van’s driving seat and starts to look for the keys. Rogers charges for Buffy and she swiftly knocks Rogers out with a high kick and then runs to the back of the van making sure to climb over the unconscious Dan just as Faith was about to shoot her chains. Sensing a presence, Faith looks up and sees Buffy stood in the doorway.

“Hand over the gun Faith,” Buffy stated. Faith looks from the gun to Buffy weighing her options, she could potentially shoot the chains and get away from Buffy but would it end there, taking a deep breath knowing her options were limited she slides the gun across the metal floor to Buffy. Buffy reaches down to take the gun and throws it away.
“You hurt?” She asks flatly, still annoyed about Faith’s body swap plan.

“Five by five B,” Faith says smugly trying to play it cool, not wanting to admit that she’s thankful her sister slayer didn’t leave her to the fate of the council. Buffy rolls her eyes and shuts the van doors. She runs around to climb into the passenger side and just nods at Giles. He punches the van into gear and accelerates through some large doors, taking them off their hinges and streaking away into the daylight of the Sunnydale streets.

***

The next morning Faith awoke to light streaming across her face, the same thing that had happened every morning she woke up in the basement, only this time when she tried to hide under the covers, she wasn’t blocked by her chains. She inched an eye open and looked at her wrists. They looked a little sore but with the lack of handcuffs now she didn’t seem to care. She rolled over in the camp bed to come face to face with Buffy who was sat in a chair opposite her. There was a glass of juice and a bowl of porridge on the table next to Faith. Slightly unnerved Faith pulls herself up into a seating position.

“So B, you watch me sleep now, didn’t realise that was your thing,” Faith muttered.

“Good morning Faith,” Buffy replied rolling her eyes again at the slayer.

“So where've the handcuffs gone? Cos I’m betting you’re not letting me go...” Faith asks as she tucks into her porridge.

“No I’m not letting you go but I figured after the last couple of days, you could do with a break from the handcuffs,”

Faith raises her eyebrows at this.
“So you’re not worried that I might, I dunno, leave the house, you can’t be here 24/7 B,”

“Your right, I can’t be here all the time, that's why Tara did a spell, you can’t physically leave this basement, it’s surrounded by an invisible shield, it’s gonna suck but at least you’re not confined to the bed anymore...” Buffy explains as Faith placed her empty bowl down and continues to drink the entire glass of juice in one and then placing that down too.

“Great, I’m sure doing laps of the basement is gonna keep me real busy...” Faith bites back sarcastically.

“Well, it’s a damn sight better than what you would’ve got if the watchers would have taken you, considering they wanted to gift you a bullet!” Buffy snaps back.

“Either way I’m trapped, I’m never gonna see the light of day if you have your way,”

“It doesn’t have to be that way Faith...last year, everything was handled...badly but I want to try but I need you to try too, I don’t have anyone in my corner on this, so I’m taking a risk with you,” Buffy pleads to the rogue slayer.

“And what if I don’t want your help B? So i can go back to you using me when you need something and just ignore me the rest of the time? Just getting to watch your great life with your friends and mom and me back in that crappy motel hoping to be remembered by someone?” The slayer asks rhetorically laced with anger.

“That’s why you wanted to do it, not to hurt me...you wanted to swap bodies to have my life?” Buffy asks suddenly having a realisation. Faith’s eyes widen in shock that Buffy had figured out what she was planning to do.

“I don’t know what I wanted, I kinda wanted you to know what it was like to have everyone turn against you but at the same time it could’ve been my chance to start fresh, I got a video from the mayor after I woke up...he said there was nothing left for me in this world and I guess he was right, so he left me that magic jewellery thing for my last chance...” Faith admits whilst looking down at her hands, not wanting to make eye contact with Buffy.

“So you’re telling me the guy who supposedly cared about you more than anyone told you there was nothing for you...a loved one would give you hope...not dread (Buffy stands and picks up the empty dishes seeing she wasn’t going to get much out of Faith)~ You may not want my help but you’re getting it, you can be a good person, whether you believe it or not!” And with that Buffy turned and left Faith to her own lonely thoughts.

Chapter Text

Chapter 7

 

About a week later Tara was walking through the park with Willow by her side, they walked close to each other, just barely brushing hand. Willow still wasn’t comfortable being close with Tara in public. Tara was still surprised that she was introduced to the Scoobies but that was still only because Buffy had questioned where Willow kept disappearing to. Tara understood that coming to terms with new feelings was difficult but the longer she was introduced as a ‘friend’ the more frustrated she was becoming. She was feeling like a dirty little secret. Tara wanted to broach the subject but the thought of making Willow feel pressured turned her stomach and filled her with guilt, so when Willow had called Tara to meet her after their disagreement the other night, Tara agreed hoping this would push them to admit more feelings that were having trouble expressing. All that had happened though was Tara receiving the same apology that always came after Willow made a mistake and just wanted to brush past the subject, so again Tara just let the issue go to keep the peace.

“So...um ...Riley’s throwing a party Friday night, did you wanna come with?” Willow asks shyly trying to bring a sense of normalcy between the two women.

“W..wh..Who’s going?” Tara asks.

“Just the usual gang, Buffy, Riley, Xander and Anya...Riley’s throwing it for the initiative guys to relax whilst the Adam nastiness is going on...”

“Yeah sure, I guess that’ll be cool...who’s going to watch Faith?” Tara asks almost scared at what the red head’s reaction would be.

Willow stiffened at this but tried to relax after talking to Buffy earlier about trying to be a bit more lenient about the Faith subject.
“Um I’m not sure, Giles or Joyce will probably watch her...So whatcha say?”

“Ok, I’ll come...for a little bit...” Tara quietly agrees.
Will gives her a shy smile and nods just glad that Tara even slightly agreed, maybe on the night she could convince the blonde to stay longer. They carried on with their walk, taking in their surroundings in beautiful Sunnydale. Neither witch was speaking just soaking in the sounds of their own worried thoughts.

***

Faith had hit the 200 mark on her push-ups, covered in sweat and beginning to feel the exhaustion but the slayer pushes through and kept going anyway. If she was going to be forced to stay in the old festering basement then Faith wanted to make sure she was at her strongest when she would finally have her chance to escape. Buffy would come down every couple of days if her army boy toy wasn’t demanding her time and try and make awkward conversation. None of it interested Faith, if talking about Buffy’s day was meant to convince Faith to be a better person, and then surely she should be the Pope by now.
Every day was like living in prison, she had the same routine every day. She would wake up and eat a crappy breakfast, half an hour running around the basement and up and down the stairs, eat lunch and chat awkwardly to whoever decided to bring her food that day and then she would lay on her back and wait for dinner.  Although sometimes if Faith was lucky Joyce would leave the basement door open, so Faith would sneak up quietly and sit at the top of the stairs and watch Passion on the small portable tv in the kitchen. Joyce hadn’t been in the basement since they spoke the other week but she couldn’t help but think Joyce was doing this on purpose to help the day go quicker for Faith. Faith had treated Joyce pretty crappy but there was a time when Faith could imagine Joyce as her mother and with the small niceties like when a little bit of cinnamon would be added to her morning porridge it was obviously Joyce’s doing, Buffy couldn’t cook to save her life. It was the little things like that which would hit Faith with a slight pang of guilt but she need to push that feeling away, she couldn’t give Buffy the satisfaction of knowing they were affecting Faith. Faith wanted to do this her own way and most of all get away. So Faith got off the floor when push-ups became just too much she grabbed a spare towel that had been given to her and wiped the sweat off her face. It must have been that time of the day again as Buffy entered the basement. She climbed down the stairs with a plate of sandwiches, a bottle of water under her arm and a fold up table under the other arm and the other hand carrying a box. She hands the plate to Faith and then unfolds the table next to the stairs and places the box on top.

“What’s this?” Faith gestures to the table as she takes a bite out of her sandwich.

“Oh, I brought you a puzzle...” Buffy states happy with herself. Faith raises her eyebrows at Buffy and continues to eat. “Don’t look at me like that, you’re obviously bored down here, you barely talk and only seem to exercise...plus I felt bad after the other day with Jonathan and his spell hijinks,” Buffy admits slightly embarrassed.

“So you should! I didn’t see you having to walk around his mansion like a lovesick puppy, that little dweeb wouldn’t have a chance with me if he was the last man in the world...I’d rather hook up with you B...If I could get my hands on him...” Faith grumbles as she finished her food and places the plate down.

“At least he didn’t...you know...do anything with you, he was too busy hiding that demon from us,” Buffy replies trying to be positive.

“Oh, you mean before he tried to convince you all I attacked that stalker and Blondie?” Faith growled, her anger slowly rising thinking about the annoying hobbit.

“Ok Faith calm down, it’s done now, let’s just move on,” Buffy pleads with her eyes. “So puzzle? I thought it could keep you busy,”

“No thanks B, it’s not really my thing,” Faith brushes off as she sits back on the camp bed with Buffy looking fed up.

“Fine seeing as talking isn’t your thing either, I’ll go but I just wanted to tell you mom’s watching you tonight...I’m going out,”

“Well try not to have too much fun; don’t want all that freedom to go to your head,”

“Bite me Faith, you’re down here because you can’t be trusted around people, take responsibility and don’t put your crap on me! Hope you enjoy your puzzle,” Buffy snaps as she grabs the plate and stomps up to the house and slams the door behind her. Faith jumps up and launches her water bottle across the basement causing it to explode on impact with the wall.

***

A few hours later and exhausted Tara, Giles, Anya and Xander ran out of Mrs Holt’s home.  The old lady that once lived in Riley’s building was abusing and punishing children that were in her care. Tara was sickened listening to the old woman’s story and her careless attitude towards it like it was nothing but harmless telling off. Tara’s father may have beaten her any chance he got but at least it was just her body that would heal but for those kids, that mental and emotional abuse had followed them through to death.

“Ok Giles, what’s the plan? Call Ghostbusters?” Xander as trying to lighten the situation.

“Yes very clever Xander, well I say me and Tara will go meet Willow at her dorm and try to get the ghost's attention long enough for you and Anya to get Buffy and Riley out...” Giles orders.

“Um excuse me, I don’t want to die, what if you can’t get the ghosts to stay away for long enough? I like you Xander but I’d feel much safer with superpowers nearby...” Anya huffs.

“An, honey, we can’t be picky, we need to save Buffy and Spike’s already bailed on us...” Xander begins to explain to his girlfriend.

“Well, we d..d..do know someone who may help and could be helpful...” Tara suggests nervously.

“Surely not, we don’t even know if we can trust her to not turn on us,” Giles replies in shock.

“Yes, no murderous slayer please, I’ll take my chance with the angry ghost children,” Anya states in her blunt tone.

“Mmmm..Mr Giles, I’ve been researching spells and there’s on that can bind a person to myself. The bind covers us in a 10 feet r..radius. If I did that, Faith wouldn’t escape and we may be able to see if her t..time in the basement has helped her at all?” Tara almost pleads with Giles.

“Does the spell come with a contingency plan?” Giles asks the witch as he weighs their options.

“Y..yes the spell would become permanent, if I died or if she killed me then she would never be able to leave me alone,” Tara answers going quiet afterwards.

“Oh do that, that would teach her a lesson...sorry Tara I don’t want you to die,” Anya says quickly. Tara smiles at the ex-demon.

“Ok, Tara do the spell, Xander keep a close eye, make sure Faith doesn’t try anything...Now I’m going to help Willow, you’ll know when we’ve made contact with the ghosts,” Giles instructs them all.

“How will we know?” Xander asks.

“You’ll be able to get in the house,” Giles states flatly. The group split up and head their separate ways before it’s too late to save Buffy and Riley.

***

Joyce chuckled to herself quietly when she got to the bottom of the basement stairs. She had come to witness Faith sat at a small table concentrating on the picture of the puzzle and staring at the puzzle pieces intently trying to find the right piece. Watching Faith at that moment made Joyce forget all the terrible things she had done. Faith seemed so innocent, it was very bittersweet to watch. So taking a chance, Joyce carefully pulls a spare chair next to Faith.

“Mind if I help?” Joyce asks quietly. Faith looks up from the puzzle to look at Joyce, she shrugs her shoulders and turns back to concentrate.

“Sure, it’s a free country,” Faith mumbles.

Joyce smiles to herself and carefully manoeuvres next to Faith and starts to look for pieces. The two women sat together for the next half an hour, contently putting the puzzle together. Faith places the pieces down carefully that she was holding whilst Joyce continued to work.

“I’m sorry...for hurtin’ you, let’s not make it a thing...but I wanted you to know,” Faith admits to Joyce quietly and turns back to the puzzle. Joyce stops what she’s doing, shocked by the statement. She looks at the brunette in awe. This was the first time Faith had taken any responsibility for her actions. With her chest feeling full, she raises a hand and places it on Faith’s arm. Faith looks at Joyce with glossy eyes, doing her best to stay strong. Then suddenly Xander, Anya and Tara sprinted down the stairs of the basement making Joyce and Faith jump up in surprise to face the group.

“Faith we need your help!” Tara tells Faith firmly

Chapter Text

Chapter 8

 

“What are you talking about Blondie? If you haven’t noticed I’m kinda under basement arrest!” Faith says slightly annoyed and confused.

“Wait is Buffy in trouble, has something happened?” Joyce jumps in now becoming concerned for her daughter

Faith looks over to the ageing mother who had become worried about her daughter’s life, the only time she had seen this was at Christmas when the First decided to make a visit to town. Joyce had spent the whole night pacing around, just waiting for Buffy to contact them but obviously Buffy had decided to be selfish and wait until lunchtime the next day to stroll in with a very much alive Angel. Faith had always hated how much Buffy took her mom for granted knowing how much Joyce had worried and now she was witnessing it again and it killed her, she had always wished she had a mother who would worry about her like that.

“Well th...there was a ppp..problem at the party earlier...” Tara begins to explain.

“Is she ok? Is she hurt?” Joyce’s presses more.

“Well...we don’t think so...” Tara trails off not knowing how to explain the situation.

Anya senses Tara’s discomfort and just jumps right in. “For goodness sake, the frat house is being haunted, people went crazy, we’re all locked out and Buffy and Riley are trapped inside bonking ...probably until they die...oh sorry Joyce...” Anya explains bluntly.

Both Joyce and Faith stare at Anya with their mouths agape. Faith breaks out into laughter.

“Wait...wait, ghosts are making B do the nasty all night long, I don’t know whether to feel bad of high five her...you never know it might loosen her up, I’m kinda jealous really,” Faith winks at a surprised Tara as she tries her best to hide her enjoyment of what she had just heard.

“F..Faith, it could be torturous for them, not even being in control,” Tara says frowning at the slayer.

“I doubt control is a problem for them right now,” Faith laughs to herself.

“Faith!” Tara snaps.

“What? I bet army boy wouldn’t agree with you on that, he’s probably having a great time,”

“Will you help us or not? We don’t have a lot of time!” Xander adds in now getting impatient.

“Why should I? After I’m just gonna be shoved back down here, I won’t be anyone’s lap dog,” Faith snaps annoyed.

“She’s got a point,” Anya agrees shrugging, Tara and Xander look at Anya with raised eyebrows.

“Then show them you deserve to be let out, you’re a slayer, there must be a part of you that just wants to help,” Tara pleads stepping closer to Faith.

Faith shuffles on the spot whilst everyone looked on at her, she couldn't understand why Tara’s putting so much trust in her. Last time they met she was a bitch, what exactly did the witch want from her? Faith just couldn’t figure the blonde out. Joyce turns to Faith and places a hand on her shoulder.

“Please Faith, help them for me,” Joyce softly asks the slayer with pleading eyes. Faith hesitates for a moment before shrugging off Joyce’s hand.

“I guess I owe B for not letting the council kill me...” Faith mumbles as Joyce beams at Faith with pride. Xander and Anya breathe a sigh of relief. “So how do we do this? You gonna let the wall down? Faith asks as she gestures to the exit.

Tara steps forward and takes Faith’s hands in her own. Faith looks at Tara uncomfortably, her hands were cold but so soft, and the touch scared Faith more than it should have. Tara held onto the slayer’s hands carefully and took a deep breath looking into her eyes. Faith’s stomach jolted when their eyes met. There was no judgement or fear. This woman didn’t know Faith but dearly wanted to trust her.

“First we need assurances you won’t run...” Tara tells a confused Faith as they continued to hold hands. Tara mutters some words in Latin under her breath. Immediately Faith felt a strong pull towards the other woman.

“What did ya do?” Faith questions as she yanked her hands out of Tara’s, very uncomfortable with the sudden closeness.

“You can leave the house now but...” Tara starts to tell Faith until the slayer jumps onto the stairs in a fast and smooth motion and ran up the stairs to the kitchen. Faith hadn’t planned to run but she needed to know if she could get away, it was the only chance she had. Just as she got through the kitchen she suddenly felt a weight on her back. Her whole body was being thrust back through the basement door and flew down the stairs until she landed at Tara’s feet with a thud.

“Ww...We did say we needed assurances, yyy..you can’t go further than 10 feet from me or this happens,” Tara explains trying not to look so smug. She carefully helps the groaning slayer get herself up off the floor.

“Great so she ran straight away, and how can we trust her now?” Xander questions filled with annoyance.

“We can trust her Xander, she did what anyone www...would given the chance...plus I think she learnt her lessons...haven’t you?” Tara says smirking at Faith whilst the slayer rubs the back of her head and nods in agreement with the witch.

“Fine...let’s just get Buffy, quicker we do that the quicker we can put the beast back in its cage,” Xander gestures at Faith as they all start to head up the stairs with Faith glaring at him from behind.

***

Faith, Tara, Xander and Anya all arrived outside Riley’s frat house as quickly as they could. Anya leant against the front door trying to sense if the building was still haunted. After a moment she looks to the others and shook her head in defeat.

“D..dd..don’t worry, Willow said it make take a little while but we’ll knn...know when we can enter,” Tara explains.

Faith wondered around the garden taking a sweep of her surroundings. It had been weeks since she had felt the wind against her skin. Just feeling the slight breeze and coolness helped remind the slayer that she was still alive. She glanced down at her feet and saw a discarded beer can that hadn’t been opened. The slayer eagerly reaches down and picked up the can and opened it.

“Score,” Faith mutters to herself as she took a gulp as she headed back over to the group.

“Faith! Is it really the time for that? Xander asks judgementally

“It’s always a good time for a beer 10 seconds, this is my first real drink in nearly 9 months...I took my opportunity,” And with that Faith rises her can to a disgruntled Xander who was still grumbling about her 10 second comment and finished her beer. She threw the can aside once she had emptied the can.

“Xander I’m bored,” Anya moans bored of watching Xander and Faith squabble.

“Well this is kind of a waiting deal hun, I’m sure Willow and Giles will get the mojo going soon,” Xander says trying to calm his volatile girlfriend. “Let’s take a walk around the house and see if there’s another entrance? Maybe talk finally?” Xander says pleading with his puppy dog eyes.

“Fine, have it your way Xander Harris,” Anya huffs as she began to walk around the house with Xander following close behind.

Tara and Faith watched on as the dysfunctional couple left squabbling with each other. Faith shook her head at them as she felt a pull as Tara walked further away to the front door, causing Faith to follow quickly.

“I wish you would warn me before you do that,” Faith grumbled.

“Sorry,” Tara slightly laughs, Faith narrows her eyes at the woman.

“Why aren’t you scared of me?,” The brunette asks curiously.

“why ss...should I be?” Tara replied trying to cover her nerves. This made Faith smirk and stand closer to the witch, face to face, barely touching. Close enough to hear Tara’s sudden gulp in her throat.

“Well I’m a big ol’ slayer killer, no one here trusts me and you thought it would be clever to lock us together...Red can’t be too happy about that...” the brunette said huskily close to Tara’s lips

“Willow doesn’t make decisions for me...and I only know the Faith stood here today...” Tara responds now looking Faith straight in the eye, refusing to show any sign of weakness whilst the slayer tries to antagonise her.
Faith slowly raises the machete, that Xander had reluctantly given her earlier, and raises it from its holster. She slowly brushes the blade over Tara’s top, dragging the tip of the blade up until it rests on the witches shoulder right next to her face.

“I could cut your throat right now ya know because you don’t know me and you’ve got to make me understand why you’re being so nice to me? Hopin’ you can ditch Red and get some beaver action from me or do you just want me to pop someone off for you?”

“Your good people Faith, www...whether you see it or not...(Tara took a deep breath as the blade edges closer to her neck) you can threaten me all you want but I can see through you,” Tara replied as calmly as she could. Tara’s words cut straight through Faith, the slayer's mouth hung open as she tried to register what the witch had said to her, there were no judgements or anger, Faith just didn’t know how to react.
“You can’t kill me Faith, If I die...the spell will become permanent and you will be bound to my corpse for the rest of your days...I told you I needed insurances...I want to trust you but that can’t happen until you can learn to trust yourself Faith,” Tara whispers just slightly close to Faith’s mouth, low enough to try and keep the slayer calm.

Suddenly Faith jumps back from the witch and begun to pace back and forth with the machete still in her hand, mumbling incoherently to herself. Tara watched on, not sure what the slayer was going to do next, wishing she had chosen her previous words more carefully. Tara continued to watch the confused and clearly worked up slayer, she could see Faith’s fractured aura again, the different colours seemed to be battling other, overlapping each other for control. Then Faith stopped, she looked as though she was going to try her luck and run but then she spun on the spot and headed straight for Tara. Tara stumbled backwards into the front door and thanks to slayer abilities; Faith was instantly in front of the witch. Faith holds the machete up to Tara’s throat this time; the witch could feel the cold from the blade touching her skin.

“Maybe I should just kill you anyway; I’d rather drag your corpse around if it means getting shot of this hell hole... (Tara closed her eyes, ready for what may come) But I won’t, I will get out of that basement, no matter what!” Faith quickly kisses Tara on the lips aggressively and then lets the witch go, taking a sudden step back. The two women just stare at each other, both breathing heavily.

At that moment Xander and Anya rounded the corner quietly bickering to one another. They stopped in their tracks when they came upon Tara and Faith stood staring at each other, with tension that could be cut with a knife.

“Is everything ok?” Xander asks as her edges over to the two women. Faith rolls her eyes and sat on the porch steps as she placed the machete back in its holster. Tara turns to Xander with a shy forced smile.

“Ooo..of course...Faith just has some anger to deal with,” Tara says sheepishly, not looking at the slayer, still trying to forget the sting of the brunette's lips. It was like she was being marked for revenge or that was the only way the woman could release a bit of anger without inflicting pain, but for Tara is still wasn’t welcomed in any form. Even though nobody knew, Tara was technically with Willow. It was like betrayal without giving permission. No matter how complicated her relationship with Willow was at the time, she was not a cheater. The slayer did intrigue the witch admittedly but she just couldn’t keep up with the mood swings and the spontaneous actions, a part of her detested these actions but another part of her was screaming to learn and understand more.

“Guys I think we’re good to go...” Anya interrupts the moment with her ear pressed to a window.

“Ok you two keep watch here, me and An will go in and grab Buffy and Riley,” Xander informed them all until a disgruntled Faith stands and faces him.

“I don’t think so dude, you didn’t bring me out of that basement and tie an invisible rope to me and Blondie so I could just keep guard, how about we go in (gestures to herself and Tara) and you both stay here?” Faith tells Xander.

“No Buffy needs us and -,” Anya cuts in for Xander.

“That’s a brilliant idea, you go risk your life Faith,” Anya responds with a grin.
Before Xander could respond, Faith grabs Tara’s hand and pulls her into the house. The door shuts immediately behind them. They both stood awestruck for a moment, looking around the abandoned party scene and at the forest that had developed up the stairs and covering a door which was obviously Riley’s room.
They both cautiously walked to the stairs with Faith taking the lead. Neither woman said a word to each other, too on guard to think about speaking. Slowly they began to make their way up the stairs, doing their best to dodge rogue branches and vines with minds of their own. Faith took charge with the machete and began to hack a path through and up to the top of the stairs. After a few minutes of struggling, the two women make it to the top of the stairs, without discussing it they both just run straight for the door. Faith began to pull at the door, using all of her strength in her. Then a gust of wind hit them both as more branches surrounded the door. The strength of the wind threw Tara from the door and over the landing bannisters and to the bottom of the stairs. Faith ran to the landing to help the witch when an invisible force grabbed Faith’s leg and dragged her body through the bathroom, throwing her into the bath and submerging her.
Meanwhile, Tara instantly was thrown to her feet, not having a second to register any pain in her body as Faith had obviously moved further than 10 feet. Tara had been thrust up the first few steps before having regained control of herself. With pure determination, Tara pushed vines and branches away, using the railing to steady herself. A rogue vine shot up over the railing and through Tara’s hand. The witch cried out in pain but only for a moment. She had too many people relying on her to stop, so she took a firm grip of the vine and ripped it out of her hand. She clutched the injured hand to her chest and pushed on.

Faith was now struggling for breath. She could see the dead children above her, just watching her struggle to stay alive. All of Faith’s strength had slowly disappeared; the fight for oxygen was wearing her out. She began to welcome the darkness. Her last breath representing her life, floating away in one bubble. Faith tried hard to watch the bubble disappear, so she could really remember the moment her life ended, when a set of hands burst through the water wall and grabbed Faith’s shoulders, pulling her out of the water. Faith gasped and spluttered for breath when she realised a dishevelled Tara had saved her life and the creepy dead ghosts were gone. By the time Faith got her breath back, she realised that she was gripping onto Tara’s good hand. She quickly pulled her hand from the witch and grumbled a quiet and awkward thank you before dragging out of the door.
The two women pushed through the hallway, dodging the angry plants, more determined than ever. Tara clutched the back of Faith’s jacket and kept her head ducked down as they reached the doorway to Riley’s room. The vines and the screams of the children became more erratic than before. Faith grabbed the doorknob with both hands and pushed her whole weight onto the door. Tara placed her good hand on to the door and helped to push, both women grunting in pain and exhaustion until there was silence. The bedroom door swung open with such ease to reveal a half covered Buffy and Riley. The naked couple jumped in shocked and try to cover themselves.

“God Tara! Don’t you knock? and Faith? What the hell?” Buffy snaps at the women almost insulted by the disruption.

“...I should’ve let you both bonk to death...” Faith responds fed up and wet as she and a disgruntled Tara turn to leave the house and a very confused Buffy and Riley.

***

A couple of hours later Faith, Tara, Buffy and Riley trudge through the Summer’s front door and all pile into the lounge. Faith flings herself onto the armchair, whilst Buffy and Tara share the sofa and Riley leans against the door frame.

“Well guys thanks for coming to save us, I can’t believe all that happened...” Buffy tells Tara and Faith slightly embarrassed with herself. Faith stretched out and grins at the blonde slayer.

“No worries B, I’m sure all those big O’s were just torture...” Faith says laughing to herself. Buffy snarls at Faith and throws a pillow in her direction. Tara places a sympathetic hand on Buffy’s knee and scowled at the rogue slayer.

“Reall Bb...Buffy, it wasn’t your fault. You were under the influence of ppp...powerful magics,” Tara says giving Buffy’s knee a soft squeeze.

“We were like zombies. I had no control over myself at all,” Buffy says still shell shocked by the events.

“Oh, it must’ve been horrible...” Faith adds sarcastically. Buffy and Riley gave each other small smirks whilst thinking back and secretly enjoying the long evening of lovemaking that they had spent together.

“Yes. Horrible,” Buffy states regaining composure.

“Uh huh,” Riley agrees.

“Yeah,” Buffy closes.

“Don’t fight the denial too much B,” Faith says chuckling. Buffy stands from the sofa and looks at Faith.

“I appreciate everything you did tonight Faith but uh...” Buffy says not knowing how to finish her sentence. Faith gets up from the chair with her hands in the air.

“I get it B, I’ve got to go back downstairs, might as well be straight with me,” Faith replied already coming to terms with her fate.

“Right, sorry...Tara, can you detach yourselves and then put the wall back up?” Buffy asked the witch.

“Of course,” The witch agreed with a bow of the head. Tara gets up and slowly walked to Faith and again took both of her hands. For a split second, Tara took a moment to feel the slayers aura for any change. Nothing had changed from earlier, the slayer was still just as conflicted and in pain but there was just one minuscule dot of light but such a small dot filled Tara with so much hope.  Tara continued to mumble some words in Latin again and instantly the two women felt the pull between them disappear. For a second it was like losing a limb. Tara then instructed the slayer to go back to the basement. Without question, the slayer nodded her head and went back down the stairs. Tara then re-established the invisible wall. Once completed Tara headed back into the living room with a curious expression on her face.

“What is it?” Buffy asks concerned.

“Faith tried to escape earlier when she knew the wall was gone but my attachment charm prevented her...” Tara began to tell Buffy.

“She what?!” Buffy asks horrified.

“Don’t worry, it was fine but this time she actually had an opportunity to escape but she didn’t, she went back downstairs,” The witch explains still surprised.

“So what does that mean?” Buffy asks still a little confused and annoyed.

“I...think, I think this means there could be hope for Faith, she chose not to run for once...” Tara trails off. Buffy and Riley look at each other stunned. Meanwhile, Tara collects her belongings and headed for the door.  “I should hh..head home but can you let Ww.Willow know I’ll call her tomorrow?” Tara asks with the door open.

“Yeah sure, be safe Tara,” Buffy says still bewildered by what Tara had just told them, as Tara left the house.

“Do you think she can change?” Riley asks.

“I really hope so...we could do with a win,” Buffy replied looking at the basement longingly.

 

Chapter Text

 

Chapter 9

 

The Sunnydale university campus was bustling with students on that beautiful sunny morning. Willow and Tara made their way through the campus together, clutching the coffee’s the two women had just purchased. They walked in silence for a while just taking in their surroundings. Watching lecturers rush to class and watching students read on the lawn, all who didn’t seem to have a care in the world. Willow decided to take the leap and break the silence that had been deafening to the two women since they met up.

“So...uh how have you been? I haven’t seen you much since the haunted party?” Willow asks as slyly as she could.

“Gg..Good, I’ve just been catching up on school work and stuff,” Tara shrugged off.

“Stuff, like help Buffy with Faith stuff?” Willow questioned, slightly annoyed as Tara looks at her nervously. “Buffy told me you’ve been taking Faith for walks with her...”

“Willow I told yy..you that I would help with Faith and Buffy needs my attachment spell,”

“Yeah well I still don’t think she can be trusted, you’re probably just wasting your time,” Willow snaps back.

“Well if I do that’s my mistake to make, don’t make your issues mine. I like to help and I feel like I’m contributing to the Scoobies for once,” Tara said more annoyed now that Willow was being so disrespectful of her decisions.
Willow could see she wouldn’t be able to get through Tara’s stubborn exterior. Willow felt like she was living in a crazy world, since when did anyone want to help that murderer? She knew to bide her time and she’d eventually show Tara, Buffy and all the others that Faith couldn’t be trusted. So taking a breath, Willow gave the blonde a shy smile.

“I’m sorry you’re right, the Faith thing is my thing, let's not ruin our morning before we have to go to Giles’s,” Willow sais hoping the blonde would quickly forgive her so they didn’t need to be upset anymore. Tara looked down at her feet nervously. “What is it? I’m sorry I was miss grumpus,” Willow quickly tells Tara returning to her childlike accent.

“Oh, it nn..not that...Buffy wants me to swing by the house before going to Mr Giles’s...” Tara tells the redhead wanting to avoid yet another spat.

“Oh...well ok, that’s cool,” Willow said slightly hurt she hadn’t known after speaking to Buffy earlier.

“Are you sure?”

“Yeah totally! I’ll even come with you, that way we can spend more time together,” Willow told the blonde, nudging her in a playful way as they continued their walk together.

***

A few hours later, all of the Scoobies had gathered at Gile’s apartment. Everyone was circled around his desk whilst Faith, whom Joyce had forced Buffy to take with her for ‘good behaviour’, was sprawled across the sofa reading a magazine. She was sat just close enough to Tara, who was leant against the counter next to Willow, that she wouldn’t be suddenly pulled over but further away enough that she didn’t need to be near Willow. When Willow and Tara had arrived at Buffy’s earlier to do the attachment spell, she had to deal with snide comments and constant glares from the redhead. It took all of the slayer’s will power to not snap the redhead’s neck. The beating from Buffy would’ve been worth it but in the last few days, Faith had been practising self-control. Walking with Tara and Buffy a couple of days a week was having a strangely calming effect and crimes from her past were beginning to weigh on her shoulders, even her threatening behaviour with Tara was giving her a strange sense of guilt that she had never felt before. She had only been trying to scare the blonde but the memories of the look on the witches eyes were haunting her. So reluctantly she thought she would try the whole redemption thing out but it didn’t mean she was going to be in a rush to become a hero, her main goal was to shrug off the hostage gig. Bringing the slayer out of her thoughts was the Scooby meeting suddenly going silent. Faith shifted up on the sofa and leant on the back to see the front door wide open and Oz stood in the doorway and everyone looking stunned.

“Wolfy! You’re back!” Faith shouts to break the tension.

“Yeah...you too?” Oz replies with a quirked smile and a confused look, knowing Faith had been in a coma when he last left.

“Oz...” Willow whispered to herself ignoring Faith’s initial reaction.

“Oz...” Tara said just as quietly, finally realising it was Willow’s first love who had just walked through the door. The man who stood between her and Willow being together.

“When – when did you get back?” Willow asks the wolf.

“Pretty much now,” Oz replies with his mellow attitude. Xander moved over to Oz for a handshake.

“Oz man, hate to sound grandma but – you don’t call, you don’t write...”

“Yeah sorry,” Oz replied non-chalontally in his usual manner.

“So are you here here? – or just passing through?” Buffy inquired suddenly feeling very protective of her best friend.

“Let’s not bombard Oz with questions right off...” Giles interjected and looked to Oz. “Can I get you something? Some tea...?” He asked. Willow panics at the thought of her ex-lover and potential love being in the same room so suddenly.

“Tea? Now? With...Oz?”

“Thanks but I’ll pass,” Oz delined. He stepped closer to Willow, Tara couldn’t help but watch on mortified whilst trying to avoid Willow’s eye line. “Look – I’m going over to Devon’s to see if he has a place I can crash. But I was hoping we could talk later. Tonight?” Oz asked Willow softly.

“I – I guess so,”

“I’ll come by your place,”

“Okay,”

Faith continued to watch the interactions from the sidelines. The way Willow was handling the situation was disgraceful. And Tara looked horrified and embarrassed. How could no one in the Scoobies see what was happening with red and blondie? Are they really that self-absorbed? None of this was going to end well and all Faith could do was watch it all unfold in front of her.
Oz had just left the apartment leaving a lot of concerned faces. Buffy was trying her best to console Willow whilst ignoring the pure look of hurt on Tara’s face.

“I just...I realised...I’m late for a study group,” Tara stammered, just wanting to escape so she could disappear to let her emotions out.

“Tara – wait,” Willow said reaching out to Tara, who’s backing away to the door.

“It’s okay, y..you should be with your friends and I should go,” Tara gave a slight wave and turns to leave. “Bye,”

“No, wait!” Faith shouted but not in time, she could feel the magnetic pull throw her from the sofa and out of the door, trailing after a very upset Tara.

Buffy looked at Willow after the display trying to hide a smile. “I think Tara forgot about the spell,”

***

Tara spent the whole of that night in her dorm room pacing back and forth, picking up the phone multiple times to call Willow but every time putting the phone down without dialling. After seeing Oz turn up at the Scooby meeting it had put her mind in a loop. She had even hurt Faith, forgetting about the attachment spell in all the humdrum. Luckily for her, Faith didn’t have as much of an issue as she thought she would. It was obvious that Faith could see the pain in Tara’s eyes. She wouldn’t say anything but she also gave Tara the space she needed, walking behind Tara the whole way to the Summer’s, she even offered to make Tara a cup of tea before having to go back to the basement, all very unFaith like behaviour. Normally Faith would’ve bitched the whole way back after being hurt and would never have gone out of her way to make someone feel better with such a simple gesture. Tara had kindly declined the tea Faith offered and the slayer had just nodded her head in understanding and left Tara alone. Tara had returned to her dorm straight after so she could release the tears that she had been holding on to. Oz was such a big part of Willow’s life, he had brought the young witch out of her shell and Tara knew she couldn’t compete with him. Tara had always been a loner and this made her nervous and more importantly, Willow had kept her hidden away whereas Oz had a whole history with her, he was cool and knew everyone and had the power to affect Willow. When he left it had put Willow in a dark place before anything had happened between the two women, Willow had mourned for Oz as though he had died. She also knew the main reason that she was a still a secret was that Willow was finding it so hard to let Oz go and if Willow came out about the two of them, then Oz was truly be gone and it would become real.
So after spending the whole night arguing with her inner demons, Tara decided to go and see Willow instead of calling. Perhaps they could go for breakfast and discuss what had happened with Oz the evening before.

Tara made her way cautiously to Willow’s dorm room. She took a moment to compose herself and knocked on the door. A moment passes before the door opened to reveal Oz stood in the doorway with no Willow in sight. Tara’s face fell. Oz had stayed the night, that was obviously why the redhead hadn’t got in touch with her. She felt so deceived in that moment. Willow had spent the night with her ex with no warning to Tara for the sake of their relationship, she just wanted to run away instantly but her feet just wouldn’t move.

“Oh...sorry. I’ll come back,” Tara managed to get out in shock. She began to leave when Oz stopped her.

“Are you looking for Willow? ‘Cause she’s just down in the bathroom,” Oz replied softly looking Tara with slight concern.

“N..No...That’s ok,”

“I saw you at Giles’ yesterday,” Oz said making Tara more uncomfortable with his realisation, she tried to inch away, using all her strength not to lose it where she stood.

“Yeah. Sometimes Willow takes me with her to the s..scoobies...”

“You sure you don’t want to come in?” Oz offered.

Tara just smiled and shook her head, trying her best to leave and stop the tears from falling. She quickly turned and walked away as a confused Oz closed the door. Just as she headed around the corner she caught sight of the redhead returning from the bathroom. The witch looked carefree with slight dark lines under her eyes, showing her lack of sleep. The redhead showed no sign of fleeting conflict for the blonde that she was keeping so heavily in the dark. So as Willow entered her room, Tara took one more exhausted breath and went on her way.

***

After the incident earlier that morning with Oz, Tara couldn’t stand the thought of going back to her dorm room and torturing her mind with thoughts of Willow and Oz together. So she decided to distract herself by taking Faith for a walk. She was meant to go with Buffy too but she was elsewhere and needing protection from the rogue slayer wasn’t her main concern that day.
The two women made their way quietly through the suburban streets of Sunnydale with Faith having disguised herself in a pair of sunglasses and a baseball cap she had borrowed from Joyce. It wasn’t completely inconspicuous but it helped with any unwanted attention from the police that she was still on the run from.

“So you wanna tell me why you took me out on a “bonus day” without B? You feeling brave today or something?” Faith asked the witch with a raised eyebrow.

“I’m not afraid of you Faith,” Tara calmly stated. Faith just huffed. “I j..just needed to get away from campus for a bit,” Tara explained with a hint of sadness thinking about Willow.

“So it’s nothing to do with Wolf boy being back in town?” Faith asked smugly. Tara looked at Faith shocked by the truthful statement. “I know what’s going on with you and red, it’s wicked obvious...well maybe not to the others, I wasn’t just pulling your strings before, I didn’t actually believe Red swung that way, didn’t think she had the stones,” Faith continued.

“It’s still kinda new and Willow’s not ready to tell anyone about us yet,”

“So your Red’s dirty little secret?” Faith questioned.

“Not secret...j..just not discussed,” Tara said defensively.

“Whatever you need to think to sleep at night blondie, but what about you?”

“What a-about me?” Tara stammered as she lead Faith to an empty bench.

“Well, what about what you want? Are you ok with it all being on the down low?” The slayer asked swinging her arm on the back of the bench and looked at the witch who’s sat awkwardly with her hands fidgeting in her lap.

“Honestly? No, but I respect Willow’s wishes, being with a woman is new for her and it would be disrespectful for me to push her,”

“And how longs as this being going on with you guys?”

“A few months...” Tara said dejectedly.

“Sounds selfish to me but that’s Red all over, girl straight up wants it all, like when she went after Xander when she was still with wolfy...”

“What?” Tara broke off Faith with the sudden new information.

“Red never mentioned that? It broke her and wolfy up for a while but she got him back in the end, dude should’ve grown some balls and stayed the hell away (Tara listened intently, processing Faith’s harsh but true words) So how long are you willing to be a secret before you say something?” Faith asked seriously.

Tara sat in self-reflection for a while, she always knew Willow had a slight controlling nature to her and the disturbing hatred for Faith but she didn’t think she could be a cheat and as much as she tried to ignore it, the whole sneaking around situation made her feel she just wasn’t good enough.
“I guess...I just thought if I gave her time then maybe she could process her feelings without pressure from me...b-but lately it just feels like we’re more distant and no closer to cementing anything...now Oz is back...I worry...” Tara trails off after admitting her feelings out loud.

“...That she’ll ditch you for him,” Faith finished the sentence. Tara just nodded a silent agreement.

“I went to Willow’s place this morning, O-Oz opened the door...he had b-been there all night, she never thought to tell me...” Tara explained trying her best to hold back tears at the memory.

“That blows...Well now wolfy is back, think about what you want...want and take, that’s my philosophy, don’t do everything to Red’s schedule, take control,” Faith tells the witch. Tara slightly smirks and knocks against Faith’s side playfully whilst the slayer shifted awkwardly.

“Cos want and take worked so well for you,” Tara said laughing through sniffles.

“Well jeez I didn’t mean murder Red...but it could be funny (Tara raised her eyebrows at the slayer who now sat up straight from the look) seriously now, you can only look after yourself in this world, do what you’ve got to do. Don’t wait on Red. I’m no expert but I’m pretty sure couples are meant to both be happy...not just one,” Faith told the blonde. The slayer toyed with putting an arm around the obviously upset witch. Showing weakness wasn’t her thing though, so instead, she scooted closer to the witch so their thighs were touching. The two women continue to stare ahead and ignore the connection that was slowly developing. Faith didn’t do friends but with the witch, she was having an unsettled feeling of comfortableness. So they stayed in their content, quiet bubble contemplating life.

Chapter Text

 

Later on that day Tara had finally returned to her dorm. She had so many thoughts trampling through her mind at once.  Her conversation with Faith hadn’t helped either. Tara already had concerns about her relationship with Willow but now with all the new information in her possession, she couldn’t help but question things more. Tara could see herself falling in love with the redhead but was Willow willing to feel the same. Tara was brought from her thoughts by a knock at the door. Tara got off her bed and went to open the door. She was brought face to face with Willow. The redhead was stood rocking on her feet nervously.

“Hi,” Willow said with an awkward smile.

“Hi” Tara replied standing to the side to let the redhead in.

“I can only stay a minute, I have class,” Willow told her.

“Me too. I have class too,” Tara agreed.

“I just wanted to let you know, what you saw this morning, it wasn’t –“ Willow started before Tara cut in.

“It’s okay, I always knew if he came back – “

“We just talked. Nothing happened,” Willow took her turn to interject.

“Oh, really?” Tara asked, surprised at how shocked she was that nothing had happened.

“But, you, it was intense. Just talking. We have a lot to talk about...I kind of feel like my head’s going to explode,” Willow said trying to make a joke out of it.

Tara thinks about what Willow said for a moment. She appreciated receiving the truth but at the same time couldn’t help but feel her heartbreak at how the redhead spoke about her ex-lover. Why did she feel like she still had to show the redhead how much she truly cared for her? How can this man walk back into the redhead’s life and could make Willow question everything? She was beginning to think she really was just a temporary replacement. Willow hasn’t cared about how she was feeling about all of this, only how it was affecting her and Tara was the type of person who appreciated one-way affection.

“Whatever, you know happens? I’ll still be here. I mean, I’ll still be your friend,” Tara mumbled.

“Of course we’ll be friends. That’s not even a question,” Willow told Tara sounding alarmed.

“I know what Oz means to you...and I think we both know what you want (Willow looked at Tara suddenly hurt) you should be with ww..who makes you happy and that’s Oz. You haven’t been able to tell your friends about us because a part of you knew that admitting us meant you and Oz were truly over,” Tara told Willow now holding her hand in comfort.

“And how can you know that? When I’m not even sure. I mean, I know what he “meant” to me. But he left and everything changed. I changed. And then we...” Willow rambled whilst choking back tears. Tara placed a hand to Willow’s cheek.

“You don’t need to explain, I will always be here for you but you want Oz. I saw the look on your face when he turned up at Mr Giles’. For the first moment was pure joy and I’m not one to stand in the way of true love...” Tara told Willow as a tear dropped from her eye as she walked away from the potential love that she never had. Willow broke down holding Tara.

“I’m sorry Tare. I’m so so sorry. I never wanted this to happen, I’ve been terrible to you,” As she sobbed into the blonde's shoulder. Tara pulled out of the embrace, took Willows hand again and gave a forced smile.

“Well just make sure you're a better friend to me and try not to forget about...I still need a spell buddy,”

“You bet, I could never let you go,” Willow responded with a small laugh and wiped away the tears.

“Now go, you don’t want to be late for class,” Tara told the redhead as she rubbed up and down her arm in a soothing manner.

“Thank you,” Willow smiled, placed a kiss on Tara’s cheek and left the dorm. Tara followed Willow with her eyes until she shut the door on herself. Tara falls to her knees and began to sob. Noticing a sweater that Willow left behind, she held it close to her body whilst trying to calm her tears so she wouldn’t be late. Tara would mourn her lost love later. So quickly she gathered her bag, cleaned her face and wrapped herself in Willow’s sweater and left the infected dorm room and headed to class.

***

Oz was looking at notices on the board in the university corridor when an obviously upset Tara headed in his direction. Being in her own thoughts, Tara didn’t notice Oz until it was too late. The looked up sensing something in the air and turned to face Tara.

“Willow?” Oz wondered until he saw it was only Tara. “Oh – hey. I thought I sm- heard Willow,” Oz commented on his mistake. Tara could feel the nervousness creeping up when she noticed the documents that Oz was holding.

“Hey. You’re coming back to school here?” Tara inquired politely.

“Pretty much. I’m feeling oddly motivated,” The wolf smiled to himself as he looked down at the documents. Tara felt like her world was crashing in that moment, this had proved that Oz was here to stay and Tara could never really have Willow. All of their time together building a relationship was for nothing and that broke Tara’s heart.

“That’s...that’s great. I mean, It’d great for you and Willow, right?”

“I hope so,”

“Good, that’s..Because, really, you two belong together. I think it’s for the b-best...” Oz could see the blonde become more upset. He becomes confused himself at the girl’s strange behaviour and then he noticed the girl’s sweater, it belonged to Willow. He reached forward to touch the sweater when the blonde instantly pulled away.

“Is that Willow’s?” Oz inquired more urgently.

Tara began to back away, feeling the guilt flood her body, and seeing that the man had become unnerved, making her feel unsafe.
“I hope you’ll be vv-very-“ Oz cut Tara off grabbing both of her arms.

“You smell like her. She’s all over you, you know that?” Oz questioned, his body language becoming more intense.

“I can’t, I can’t talk about th-tha..”

“But there’s something to talk about?”

Tara couldn’t answer the wolf, she had already said too much. This was a conversation for him and Willow, not involving her. She turned away and hurried down the corridor. Oz began to follow Tara as he became increasingly aggravated.

“She’s...involved? But she said –“ Oz continued.

“I-I have to g-g-g-“ Tara struggled to speak under all the pressure.

“We talked all night and she never said anything. Nothing I-“

Tara picked up her speed, continuing to walk away from Oz.

“STOP!” Oz cried.

Tara froze on the spot, terrified. Oz was shaking in front of the witch.

“Is she in love with you?” Oz questioned grabbing Tara’s arm making the witch jump. His hand slowly began to morph into the wolf. “Talk to me! What is...what...” Oz trailed off losing breath. He looked down with wide eyes when he noticed his arm. He looked up to see a wide-eyed Tar staring at him in fear and shock as the rest of his body started to follow into the transformation.

“RUN,” Oz ordered the witch.

***

Tara ran as fast as her feet would carry her. Oz had a complete transformation and in the daytime no less. The pain coursing through her body was indescribable. Her body wasn’t physically fit enough to try and outrun a fully grown werewolf. Tara saw an empty lecture hall and headed straight inside, looking over her shoulder at the same time. She ran into the dimly lit room quickly realising she had hit a dead end. The witch spun around th=o exit back out of the room but wasn’t quick enough when she came face to face with the werewolf blocking her escape. Thinking quickly, Tara turned again and ran through the seating are hoping to buy enough time to think of an appropriate spell to aid her. Oz caught up behind and started to block every direction accessible to the witch. Finally giving up, Tara climbed over the seats using strength she didn’t know she had, using the adrenaline to weave through and move to the front of the lecture hall. Knowing her options were limited, the blonde decided to make a break for the exit when the wolf leapt across the hall and landing right in front of Tara, she was trapped. The wolf was ready to pounce on its prey, it snarled whilst salivating through its bared teeth staring right at Tara. The wolf slow sculked and closed in on the frightened witch. With only one option left the witch began to mumble a spell through her weak stuttering words.

“B-B-Back demon...In the-the name of Th-th...” Tara stopped the incantation abruptly as the wolf suddenly leapt at her. Instinctively Tara grabbed a chair from behind the desk and flung it at the attacking wolf. The wolf yelped mid-air, falling to the floor in a heap.
Tara stood stunned, not thinking she could take a fully grown wolf out with just a chair, she takes a step towards it when Rile, Forrest and the commando’s entered the lecture hall and surround the unconscious Oz. Riley reholstered his pistol that he used to knock the wolf out as the civilian dressed commandos began to bind Oz’s paws and lift him into a black canvas bag. Forrest approaches Tara and began to lead her away from the scene.

“Are you ok?” Forrest asked Tara, she just nods, still slightly shaken from the attack.

“Where are you...what’s going on?” Tara asked through her rattle state.

“We’ll take it from here,” Forrest told her calmly.

Tara tried her best to object as Riley and the other commando’s discussed the wolf but all of her protests fell on deaf ears. She needed Riley to know who the wolf was. The other men started to lift the loaded bag as they were ready to leave.

“You don’t understand. That’s a p-p-p,” Tara tried to explain unable to get her words out in all the distress. She moved forward to try and stop them from leaving but Forrest blocked her again.

“Listen, we know what we’re doing. You just need to calm down, ok? You’re just in shock. Go outside and get some air,” The commando told Tara in a patronising manner and then turned back to instruct the others to move out, leaving Tara alone in the darkened lecture hall. She needed to get Willow straight away.

***

 Tara had made sure her first priority was to go and find Willow in the library. After explaining to a clearly upset Willow about what had happened with Oz and the guys from the initiative. So after thanking Tara and rushing off to find Buffy and the Scoobies to organise a rescue mission, it had been Tara who was left behind again with no one to look after her.
Tara understood the redhead’s hurry but a small part of her had hoped that Willow would have asked her to come along and help but unless Tara was directly involved, she was ultimately left behind as usual. She didn’t know what to do with herself, she didn’t want to return to her dorm straight away to succumb to her sadness, so instead, she wondered the streets of Sunnydale. She thought about everything in her life at that time, wondering how the rescue Oz mission was going, losing Willow and how it would affect her helping Buffy with Faith? The deep secret that she was so desperately hiding from the world and what was going to become of her life. Would she go back to being the quiet shy girl with no friends or maybe she could create a new persona? Everything was changing so suddenly and all she could do was feel so alone drowning in her own sorrow.
Getting lost in her mind, Tara hadn’t noticed the sky grow darker and not wanting to be out late by herself, the witch decided to head back to campus, ready to resign herself to her room.
Tara had made good time getting back to campus considering the gruelling day she that had weakened her. On the way along the path, she could see a blue van parked just outside of Willow’s building. Tara could just about see the distinct impressions of Willow and Oz sat in the vehicle. Her heart stalled in her mouth, she was glad to see the wolf had been successfully saved and unharmed but seeing the couple so close stung deep within. So before any tears could fall Tara hurried away in the direction to her dorm.

Tara had come home to a blackout in her building and with no spare candles, the witch ended up crawling onto her bed and curling up into a ball. Laying silently in the darkness until all that could be heard were quiet sobs.
A little while had passed when a soft knock came to Tara’s door. Confused at who could be at the door this late, Tara slowly climbed off the bed and wiped away her tears. Smoothing herself down, she opened the door to find Willow standing in her darkened doorway holding a lit candle and a shy smile.

“No candles? Well, I brought one – it’s extra flamey,” Willow said passing the candle over Tara as the blonde stepped aside to let her in. Tara’s body tenses with anxiety wondering why the redhead came over. “Tara, I have to tell you that-“ Willow continues before Tara interrupts.

“I understand. You have to be with the person you l-love,” Tara stuttered.

“I am,” Willow responding with a wide smile. Tara looked at Willow stunned and confused with what was happening.

“Ok now I don’t understand, I-I just saw you with Oz...”

“Well I know you told me to be with him but I’m here...he’s gone now and we can be together,” Willow told her hopefully.

“Why did he go? I t-thought he wanted you back?” Tara asked confused.

“Well he does...did. He realised a part of the wolf was weak when it came to me and he didn’t want to risk losing control,” The redhead began to explain.

“So he chose to leave? You didn’t tell him to?” Tara questioned becoming slightly annoyed.

“Kinda? Yes but it’s a good thing! It made me realise how much you mean to me,” Willow told the fellow witch with a light bashfulness.

“T-That’s when you realised?... Not earlier when I told you to b-be with Oz, you never tried to fight for me then,” Tara was so upset with this, she felt like a second choice, not good enough to be fought for. Willow took the candle from Tara’s hands and placed it down and taking Tara’s hands in hers.

“I know and I feel horrible about everything I put you through. I’m gonna make it up too. Starting right now,” Willow pleaded as she moved in to kiss Tara. Not believing what she had just heard, steps back.

“No Ww-Willow, we’re over, you can’t make things better when it suits you, you had so many chances to deal with things differently but you didn’t. You just thought about yourself and how you could control things as usual,” Tara ranted at the other witch.
Willow looked away holding back tears, trying to hide her pain from Tara.
“I’m s-sorry Willow but we’re over, I won’t come second, I d-deserve better and I think i-it’s best that you leave,” Tara told Willow without being able to hold eye contact.
The redhead looked so broken but Tara did her best to stay firm and not feel sorry for the witch that she had developing feelings for. Willow moved slowly towards the door, she reached for the handle before turning back.

“I told Buffy, you know about you and me earlier...” Willow said making one more ditch effort to change the blonde witches mind.

“Good, I’m glad you could be open with her but it’s too late now but I wasn’t lying before, I’ll still be here for you as a f-friend and we can still practice magic but you and I won’t work. We need to be with people who travel at the same pace as ourselves, I know you don’t want this but maybe you could have a fresh start and move on from Oz properly and not turn to me now that our relationship is so fractured,” Tara explained to the witch sadly.

Willow had finally given into her tears and held onto the door handle for dear life. In one day Willow had lost everything, she had only wanted to keep everybody happy but in the long run did the reverse. Nodding in emotional realisation, Willow opened the door and stepped into the still darkened doorway.

“I really am sorry Tara...I’ll see you around I guess,” Willow gave a small wave to the blonde and disappeared down the blackened corridor.
Tara closed her door with her back to it and soon slid down to the floor broken. Tara had stayed strong for so long before finally breaking. Trying to fight the tears, Tara kept watch on the candle until the flame danced to a beat that hypnotised the witch and she finally fades to sleep curling up next to the door. Finally letting the day's events escape her mind briefly.

Chapter Text

Buffy hurried to answer the door of the Summer’s residence. A shy looking Tara was stood on the other side of the door. The blonde witch had been surprised that Buffy had asked her to come over out of their normal routine of taking Faith for walks, especially since Tara had just ended things with the slayer’s best friend. So Buffy smiled politely to the witch and invited her in. Buffy led them to the sofa, they sat either side of the sofa with Tara shifting nervously as Buffy sat up straight, trying to look as composed as possible.

“Thanks for coming over so last minute, I wanted to get Faith out of the house and I didn’t want – No sorry I’m doing all this wrong, I know you and Willow, well you know...I mean of course, and I appreciate your help and I still consider you a friend,” Buffy explained as scooted a little closer to the witch. Tara looked up from staring at her lap so happy to hear that she wasn’t hated. Tara had dealt with the fact the Scoobies probably wouldn’t want anything to do with her anymore now she wasn’t an important factor in Willow’s life anymore. No more going to meetings or helping Faith become a better person. Faith was still distrustful of everyone and rough around the edges but she was slowly but surely changing, and Tara really wanted to see the type of person that she could become.

“T-That means a lot to me, I’m always happy to help, n-n-no matter what,” Tara told Buffy filling her with relief.

“Good, good...You know Willow’s been really down lately, she didn’t tell me what happened but I know she’s really sorry,” Buffy said trying to subtly put a good light on her best friend. Tara shifted uncomfortably in her seat. She had known that Willow told Buffy about them before they ended things but she never expected the slayer to even want to discuss it.

“I don’t want to be rude but I’d r-rr-rather not discuss Willow, what happened between us is private and I don’t feel comfortable:-“

“Oh god, no Tara I’m sorry, guess my foor loves to sit in my mouth,” Buffy quickly said trying not to let the blonde feel more uncomfortable than she already was. “Let’s not talk about this...would you like a drink?” Buffy asked as she jumped up and headed to the kitchen, quick to change the subject.

“W-Water please,” Tara replied following Buffy. Buffy opened the fridge and grabbed two bottles of water and passed one of them over to Tara.

“So I’m guessing you didn’t want me here for the awkward conversation – so where are we going?” Tara asked with a quirked smile on her face.

Buffy sighed in relief, the panic of wondering how she was going to dig herself out of the awkward situation went away when seeing the shy witch had a great way of going with the flow.
“Well actually nowhere, I just wanted to take her out back for some light training, with the whole Adam situation, I need someone who can challenge me physically, plus I think lack of fighting makes Faith a dull girl. I think mom’s hoping I can wear her out so she’ll sleep properly...Oh god, it’s like she’s my child...” Buffy trailed off in the realisation. Eye’s wide at the disturbing image of Buffy cradling Faith in a rocking chair like a baby, only she’s fully grown.

Tara couldn’t help but laugh at Buffy’s face as she got lost in her own imagination.
“Of course, that’s not a problem,” The blonde smiled.

“I don’t expect you to sit outside with us all morning, so can you extend the rope on that attachment spell thing?” Buffy asked sheepishly.

“How much longer? 50 feet?” Tara replied calmly.

“You can do that?”

“Most definitely, I only did 10 so we can keep an eye on her plus if Faith knew it can go farther, she’d bug me to extend the leash all the time,” Tara chuckled to herself.
“Truth be told, recently whenever we go out I extend it by another couple of feet, partly as a sign of trust and partly to see if she would notice,” The two women started to laugh until they heard a voice come from the basement which made them laugh even harder, releasing the earlier tension.

“I can hear you both you know!” Faith shouted up from the stairs, annoyed after listening in on the two women since Tara arrived.

***

Faith had been training in the garden for the better part of two hours. After her initial grumble about the conversation that she had been purposefully been listening to, Faith agreed to head out and let off some steam, it was better than sitting in the basement reading Patricia Cornwell that Joyce kept lending her.  She had secretly found a love for the books but she would never say that out loud anytime soon, even if she did, people would probably be more surprised that she could read. So the slayer decidedly welcomed her brief escape for a while. And Tara not wanting to get in the way happily agreed to help Joyce prepare Lunch for everyone. The two women worked together smoothly, making random light conversation whilst tending to their tasks.

“So Tara, what is it you said you were studying?” Joyce asked whilst chopping ingredients for a salad.

“I’m studying ancient cultures, it’s r-really interests me learning about so many different parts of the world and how things use to be,” Tara responded whilst cooking the meat.

“Really? That sounds very thought-provoking, We get a lot of art from ancient cultures down at the galley, you should come to see it sometime, it could be useful for your school work?” Joyce offered to the young girl.

“Th-Thank you, Mrs Summers, that’s very kind, I would love to,” Tara thanked her excitedly.

“It would be my pleasure Tara, I always welcome anywho shares a love for an artistic perspective, plus I owe you,”

“You owe me?” Tara asked surprised by this comment.

“Well you’ve been a big help with Faith, you also seem to have a very calming effect on her,”

“I don’t see how, she barely even speaks to me,” The witch laughed at the thought of having such an effect on the rogue slayer.

“You say that but she rarely speaks to anyone, we do sometimes have pleasant conversations and the usually only happens more after you two have been together, plus she’s always ready and eager to go before you even arrive,” Joyce told Tara proudly.

“Well, I think if I’d been in a basement for two months I’d be ready to go whenever I had the chance,” Tara joked as she began to plate up food. “Plus I don’t think you can thank me, only Faith can choose her own behaviour, no one else but I’m glad to be a positive influence,” She continued.

“Well whatever it is, I’m very proud and glad that Buffy kept her here, she’s really changing,” Joyce beamed thinking of the slayer's progress.

“I agree,” Tara said glad to know that Joyce had some much confidence in the rogue slayer too.

“Ok honey, I think we’re just about done here, I’ll go set the table, can you call the girls in, I think they’ve been out there fighting long enough,” Joyce chuckled as she headed out of the kitchen reflecting on her unique life.

***

Buffy and Faith’s sparring had hit its peak. Both women were drenched in sweat and their muscles were searing in pain. Both women were secretly enjoying the challenge, causing neither of them to hold back on slayer strength. They had both always had a good rhythm together when fighting, it was like watching a dance unfold, bonding two broken souls. Faith was loving every moment of it, it was the freest that she had felt in weeks. Feeling the cool breeze against her moist skin sent a shiver down her spine. The chill was welcomed opposed to the dank basement air. Soon Buffy called time out pulling Faith from her thoughts and gestured for the brunette to join her on the grass for some water. They both led there for a moment catching their breaths before sitting back up and stretching.

“Damn B, You got any more frustrations you gonna be taking out on me...I’m gonna be sore all day,” Faith grumbled.

“Sorry, guess I’ve just been really stressed lately, we still don’t know where Adam is and Riley’s on the run and now Will’s all depressed because her and Tara...um nothing, that’s none of my business...” Catching her mistake Buffy stopped.

“Oh, you talking about Red and blondie doing the dirty?” Faith said casually whilst taking a sip of water.

“What? How do you know?” Buffy questioned.

“Are you that repressed B? It was wicked obvious, I could see when I was spying on you guy’s Gman’s place, (Buffy rolled her eyes not surprised that Faith would spy on them) The way they eyed each other up...they looked hungry,” Faith retorted.

“Gross, do you have to be so vulgar about it?” Buffy asked grossed out.

“Hey I just say as I see it, makes life simpler, and those two were all hot for each other,”

“Yeah, well that’s not the case anymore (Faith raises an eyebrow in interest) Tara broke things off after Oz came back to town, they won’t tell me exactly what happened but Will’s pretty beat up about it, it’s not been easy...” Buffy explained.

“Huh...losing two people in one day...sucks to be her,” Faith shrugged off.

“I’m glad to see you’ve been working on your empathy skills,” Buffy responds sarcastically.

“You know me B, I don’t do love and feelings, it’s a foreign concept to me, plus Red hates me, not big on caring for people who don’t like me,” The brunette said with a hint of annoyance towards the redhead.

“Willow doesn’t hate you – she just has a strong dislike,” Buffy said defensively.

“Whatever, it’s cool, I’m not looking for amends with Red anytime soon, I’ve got bigger things to worry about, like when am I getting out of the basement?” Faith pushed as she got off the grass and helped Buffy up alongside her.

“Well I guess we can discuss it, you have been more “tolerant” to be around lately and you and mom are getting along but I just...”

“Don’t trust me?” Faith finished Buffy’s sentence looking slightly disheartened but trying her best not to show it.

“I’m sorry but you did try to escape once and I just don’t see the big change, I mean this is the longest conversation we’ve had in weeks. I’d have to be leaving you alone with my mother...” Buffy admitted.

“Ok, well you try living in that basement for months and see how talkative you are?! And if I’m in a basement, how are you supposed to see a change?” Faith questioned, feeling the anger brew inside of her, making heat rise in her body at having to defend herself like the prison that she was.

“Ok Faith, calm down, I just meant I haven’t heard you admit that you want to change, this isn’t easy for me either being the prison warden...look I’ll discuss it with mom and then we’ll talk?” Buffy said trying to diffuse the situation before Faith really lost her temper.

Faith stared at Buffy blankly. She could never admit she wanted to change, she had been forced into this against her will, why would she admit anything? But she at least had to give something? Right? Only so she could get out of the basement?

“B...I...” Faith began to speak when Tara appeared at the back door.

Tara opened the door to see the two women stood on the lawn in deep conversation, wearing serious faces. Tara wasn’t sure if she should interrupt but she could tell by Faith’s fisted hands at her side that she probably should help in some way. Just she opened her mouth to speak Faith turned and locked eyes with the witch. Tara’s breath hitched when she really looked at the slayer, she was in sweatpants and sports bra and her whole body was drenched in sweat with a slick gleam. She couldn’t help but stare when a rogue drop of sweat fell from Faith’s forehead and on her collar bone. Tara had never really looked at the slayer in this way but couldn’t help but admire how toned and beautiful she really looked. Realising that she had been staring too long and Faith would probably question her, she cleared her throat now getting Buffy’s attention too.

“Lunch is ready, you’re mom said to come in,” Tara called out to Buffy, quickly escaping back into the kitchen before she could become distracted again, and not in a way that she had expected.

“Can we pause this for now?” Buffy asked turning back to Faith who was now frowning at the space where Tara had just been. Faith looked back to Buffy and nodded absently and followed her fellow slayer back into the house.

***

Buffy entered the kitchen and head straight for the fridge. So whilst Buffy was hidden behind the cold door, Faith followed into the kitchen and shut the back door behind her. The brunette hesitated for a moment before accepting defeat and headed for the basement. As her hand grasped the door handle she stopped when she heard a voice behind her.

“Uh, where do you think you’re going?” Joyce asked as she returned to the kitchen, catching Faith trying to leave. “I set that table for four, you’re not going anywhere,”

Faith looked to Buffy who had shut the fridge and holding a bottle of soda. Buffy looked to her mother and then back to Faith and just shrugged with a small smile. Faith let go of the door handle and headed past Joyce and into the dining room.
Faith came face to face with a smiling Tara who was already sat at the table. Faith hadn’t seen much of her since their talk on the bench. The witch had seemed so broken then, with so much weight on her shoulders. Now she lit up the room, obviously her break up with Willow was having a good effect on her.

“Enjoy your session with B-Buffy?” The witch inquired as Faith sat opposite her.

“Yeah it was cool, got to see the birds, look at tree’s, kick B’s ass, can’t ask for more,” Faith replied smugly as she started to plate up some food for herself.

“You did not kick my ass thank you...it was a crappy draw,” Buffy scoffed as she entered the dining room with Joyce. Buffy placed herself next to Tara whilst Joyce took her usual place at the end.

“Whatever you say B, you always were a sore loser,” Faith grinned as she dug into her lunch, almost frightened it’ll be taken away from her.

“Now now girls, I will not have you two bickering at the table,” Joyce scowled at the two slayers playfully.

“Sorry mom,” Buffy replied who had also started eating.

Lunch passed by nicely. Joyce, Buffy and Tara made pleasant conversation whilst Faith kept her head down, concentrating only on the food and half listening to the lunchtime banter.

“So Buffy, what’s happening with Adam?” Tara asked as she finished her meal.

“A big amount of nothing, he’s totally MIA, I’m gonna speak to Giles later and see if there’s anything new and probably patrol the initiative caves before, see if he’s being hiding out there,” Buffy explained.

“Are you patrolling alone?” Tara asked concerned.

“Yeah but it’s cool, it’s just recon, I’m not taking that brick house on again, not until I have to anyway..." Buffy trailed off.

“Perhaps you could take Faith with -,” Joyce began to suggest.

“Uh no-no, I don’t think that’s a good idea,” Buffy interjected quickly.

“Why B? Worried I’ll knife ya?” Faith asked, shocking everyone as she hadn’t spoken for so long.

“...No, I just don’t think it’s a good time right now,” Buffy said meekly.

“And when will it be? When the world’s ending? I’m going stagnant in that basement, you said yourself you want me to earn trust from ya?” Faith snapped back.

“It’s more complicated than that Faith – I don’t trust you! Look I’m sorry, that came out wrong-,” Buffy retorted before flooding into guilt.

“No I get it, you were never gonna let me go, I was gonna be chained up like your little lap dog as a prisoner for everyone...you may as well have let the council take me out, at least I knew where I stood with them!” Faith protested throwing down her cutlery and storming out of the room and into the basement, slamming the door hard enough to make the house shake.

“Faith!” Buffy called after the other slayer.

“No honey, let her go, talk to her later, no point of poking the beast,” Joyce said placing a hand on Buffy’s shoulder to stop her getting up.

“This is so hard, I get it sucks for her but I want to hear remorse, I can’t believe she’s changed until I get that but if I push her, she’ll dig her heels,” Buffy explained exhausted.

“DD-Don’t worry, if you want I’ll speak to her later, see if I can help? Might help to speak to someone who wasn’t around last year?” Tara offered.

“I guess that could help...but didn’t you want to come to the meeting later?” Buffy asked.

Tara thought about Willow being there and not being able to face her just yet, so being a therapist for the evening to a broken slayer seemed like a great substitute. She smiled at Buffy.
“I don’t mind missing one mm-meeting if it means I can be helpful...”

Buffy smiled at the witch knowing the real reason she wasn’t going, because of Willow. So learning her lesson from earlier decided not to mention it.
“Ok if you’re sure, I’d appreciate it, me and Faith never have been great at communicating...I guess that’s how we ended up here...anyway, thanks for lunch mom. I’ve got to go but I’ll check in later?” Buffy said as she stood from the table.

“Ok honey, just be safe,” Joyce replied.

“I will...Bye,” Buffy called as the slayer left the house and the two women in the dining room.

Chapter Text

Chapter 12

 

After storming off at lunch, the rogue slayer’s anger towards Buffy had risen exponentially in the hours that followed. Trying to relieve stress, she had resorted to exercising. Her body was still sore from her earlier sparring session but feeling that pain course through her body kept her mind distracted. She went from laps of the basement to sit-ups and then finally push-ups. With every push-up, Faith could feel burning flush through her arms, she couldn’t stop. It was her only way of escaping, to keep her body strong, no matter what. Buffy Summers wouldn’t be the first person to not trust Faith and she wouldn’t be the last. Lost in her train of thought, Faith hadn’t noticed her visitor enter the basement. She could see a pair of feet in her peripheral vision. She stopped what she was doing to see who had interrupted her. She turned to see Tara stood at the bottom of the stairs. The girl was just silently watching Faith with great care in her eyes. Faith looked away, confused by the look and went to sit on her camp bed, finally resting her sore body. Tara took a second to watch the slayer before heading over to the spare chair and sitting opposite Faith.

“What are you doing here?” Faith grumbled, not happy with an unexpected guest.

“I-I wanted to see how you are after earlier?” Tara stated simply. Faith sat back and watched the girl carefully; she couldn’t work her out at all. The witch was never rude, took any abuse from Faith like it was nothing and just seemed to genuinely care. That wasn’t normal, no one was just purely good, there was no such thing. Faith knew everyone had a dark depth, it was human nature.

“Yeah, well not great, so if that’s all you wanted then you can go now,” Faith growled gesturing to the stairs.

Tara took a deep breath before choosing her next choice of words.
“S-She does want to t-trust you, you know,” Tara told the disgruntled slayer.

“No she doesn’t, she just says that so she doesn’t look heartless to everyone,”

“I don’t believe that she really does just want you to be happy,”

“If that’s the case then why ain’t she here telling me this instead of you?” Faith questions getting more annoyed.

“She didn’t want to upset you more than she already had...and I got a call, she had a run-in with Adam, she’s ok but she needs rest...” Tara explained softly.

“Serve’s her right for leaving me behind,” Faith scoffed as Tara looked on in shock by Faith’s admission.

“And can you blame her with comments like that!” Tara snapped back, aggravated with the slayer's behaviour.

“Hey if you don’t like it Blondie then you know where to go! I don’t even know why you’re here again? Do you want something? Trying to gain my trust so I can scratch an itch that Red couldn’t?” Faith snapped back, now stood up in a rage, her whole body shaking. She didn’t need this judgement and not from someone she barely knew.  

Tara looked taken aback, she didn’t even know how to respond. The witch had never taken advantage of anyone; it just wasn’t in her nature.
“N-No, you know why I’m here, Faith I know you’re angry but you know I just want to hel..p,” Tara began to trail off, beginning to feel uncomfortable as Faith steps into the witches personal space. She looked the witch up and down as she inched her face closer to Tara’s. Her lips close enough that Tara could feel Faith’s hot breath spread over her ear. She trembled at the unwanted closeness.

“Admit it, you want to take this body for a ride and keeping me sweet will get you what you need,” Faith whispered seductively with a hint of anger into Tara’s ear. Tara’s body shivered and nausea rose up in her stomach. Anger doused her insides at the depravity of the slayer. Sickened at her comments and refusing to take any more of the slayer’s anger, Tara throws a hand which sends Faith flying into the wall, pinning her up with a magical force. Faith struggled against the magic as the annoyed witch walked over to the struggling slayer.  Tara’s eyebrows crossed into a frown, all existence of her innocent charm had suddenly disappeared.

“If you want to be a brat, fine! But now you need some home truths and you’re going to listen! No interruptions!” Tara ordered the slayer as she waved her hand again and place a silence spell on the incapacitated Faith.
“Firstly that’s the second time you’ve got in my personal space without permission I. Do. Not appreciate it. Secondly Buffy won’t ever trust you when you can’t even admit you want to change, she doesn’t want to force you because she’s being conscious of your boundaries. You have so much anger inside you and you do everything to prove to the world you deserve to be punished. Well here’s an idea, pull your head out of your ass and take responsibility (Tara began to calm herself after her little monologue)I really do want to help you but pushing me away with obstinacies just proves that your scared and angry and hiding it using evil...but you have to decide if you actually enjoy it?” Tara sighed already exhausted from the small argument.

“I’m going to undo this m-magic now...can I trust you not to hurt me?” Tara asked the now solemn looking slayer. Faith nodded her head in defeat as Tara waved her hand, Faith landed softly to the floor. Faith slowly padded over to the bed and sat down at Tara watched on. Faith just stared down at her feet, not having anything else in her to give, exhausted from the rage that had consumed her.

“Sorry...I’m not good at talking, never have been, actions always better with me...” Faith trailed off quietly. Tara hesitated for a moment and then sat next to the slayer and shifted to face her.

“Well, you could try with me? I don’t judge and would never tell anyone what had been discussed, we don’t have a history with each other, I’m completely unbiased...it m-might help you?” Tara asked softly. Faith looked up at Tara with broken features.

“Why are you still being nice, you had me pinned up like two minutes ago...I don’t understand?” Faith questioned, confused by the bright blue eyes that stared back at her.

“I told you, Faith, I want to help and when I decide you don’t deserve that, then I won’t give it but for now I’m happy with my decision,” Tara said never breaking eye contact. Faith thought for a moment not breaking the invisible contact.

“Ok...I’ll try the talking thing...but not today...please,” Faith pleaded through glossy eyes. Tara placed her hand on Faith’s and smiled.

“Of course,” Tara stood up and left the slayers space. Faith led down onto the bed, she began to cry, letting the tears flood her face, finally letting her pain take over.

***

After her argument with Tara the other night, Faith hadn’t really moved from her bed, even ignoring food that was brought down to her. Everything the witch had said to her had really struck a chord. Every crappy thing she had ever done was suddenly thrown to the front of her mind, plaguing her with brutal images that Faith had never wanted to revisit. She just led there and contemplated her past decisions, was she justified? She always thought she had been but what did she know anymore? No matter what she did, life never went the way she wanted it to. So she led there, listening to the street outside, the sound of people shuffling in and out of the house in what seemed to have been a hurry, she just listened to the pipes creak above her. Her only possessions in this world were the clothes on her back and the noises that surrounded her. Faith’s world had crumbled to nothing and it was all her fault.

About an hour after the entire ruckus from upstairs had finally ended and everyone had poured out, Faith has once again returned to her peaceful ambient sounds. A creek came from the stairs, Faith realised the basement door had been opened but no one entered. Joyce had opened the door for her to go and watch Passions. Faith led there and contemplated ignoring the woman; shun her advances of kindness but a small part of the slayer felt guilty. Out of everyone, Joyce was the only person who had never hurt the slayer, she had only ever been inviting. After having ignored her the last couple of days and that morning bringing the breakfast, it had made Faith feel unusually guilty. So apprehensively Faith scooted herself off the bed for the first time in a while. She stretched her sore muscles and clicked her joints and slowly made her way up the stairs. As she reached the top step where she would normally perch, Faith saw a plate of food and a bottle of water waiting for her and the tv pointed in her direction. Her mouth twitched into a sideways smile as she sat on the step and leant against the wall. She tentatively reached forward began to eat the food, feeling the energy flood her body with every bite. She demolished the food in minutes, the hunger more relevant than she thought. Afterwards, she finished her water and leant back to enjoy her daily viewing of passions. The first half of the show went by so quickly that Faith hadn’t noticed Joyce had joined her in the kitchen. Faith looked up as Joyce approached her to take the empty plate away.

“Are you ok Faith?” Joyce asked softly as she placed the plate in the sink and turned to face the slayer.

“I guess...” Faith shrugged

“I’m glad you decided to eat, I was starting to get worried there for a moment,” Joyce chuckled.

“Why,” Faith questioned.

“Because Faith I care, it’s not good to starve yourself and I like you, even if you don’t like yourself,” Joyce explained.

“I want to have a purpose... (Faith looked down at her feet, almost ashamed by her admission) but I don’t want to admit it to B...” Faith whispered embarrassed by what she had shockingly admitted out loud. Joyce laughed at the slayer’s choice of wording. Faith looked back up, almost upset at the reaction. Thinking about her fear of redemption and being rejected.

“I’m sorry sweetie, I don’t mean to laugh, and I understand you and Buffy always seemed to butt heads but you don’t need to admit anything to Buffy, you’ve already said it out loud and that’s a huge achievement in itself,” Joyce said beaming with pride.

“But B said...” Faith said before Joyce interrupted.

“Don’t worry about Buffy dear, I can speak to her but you just opened up for a moment there and I couldn’t be more proud,” Joyce beamed walking closer to the doorway. Faith stared up at the woman with tears in her eyes. All the emotion was just too much, she needed it to stop then and there, and she wouldn’t allow herself to break. So she wiped her tears and shifted uncomfortably.

“Yeah well don’t get use to it...Anyway, where is B? I heard loads of shuffling earlier?” Faith asked trying to change the subject. Joyce looked at her confused until she realised what the slayer was talking about.

“Oh! Apparently, there was an emergency, they said something about a spell and Adam in the initiative, and they were in quite a hurry, Buffy said she would explain it all later...” Joyce explained, Faith’s eyes widened in horror and jumped to her feet.

“When Joyce? When did they go?” Faith asked urgently.

“About an hour or so ago...why? What’s wrong?” Joyce asked now concerned at Faith’s urgency.

“Blondie told me B saw Adam the other day and got her ass beat, she can’t go down there, the initiative hate on her too, if she couldn’t stop Adam out in the open what chance have the Scoobies got?”

“Goodness no, what do we do? Call someone?”

“There’s no time Joyce, You need to get me out so I can get to them!”

“I-I can’t, I’d need to call Tara...” Joyce admitted helplessly.

“We don’t have time for that!” Faith shouted as she started banging her fists on the invisible force field.

“Stop Faith! You’ll get hurt, I’ll call Tara!” Joyce told Faith whilst trying her best to stay calm.

“Can’t...do that...Need ta...Get out!” Faith yelled through punches.
After a couple of minutes of wasting energy whilst Joyce called Tara, Faith stops for a moment and leant against the barrier catching her breath.
“If I don’t get out B could die, if that happens and I could’ve helped but was stuck in her, then her capturing me was for nothing,” Joyce looked at the girl with sadness clouding her eyes at the thought of her only daughter dying and she wouldn’t have known. Faith stands up straight and took a deep breath. She placed her hands on the barrier and began to push, using all of her slayer strength available. The harder Faith pushed, the more she creamed in a mixture of emotions of anger, fear and pain until her pushing paid off. With one final scream, the invisible barrier shatters and Faith fell through the doorway. She quickly jumped to her feet and looked back at the doorway in dismay and looked back to Joyce with fear in her eyes and a determined look on her face. Joyce just looked at Faith still shocked by what had just happened.

“Go!” Joyce told the slayer, bringing Faith back to reality. The slayer nodded her head and ran out of the house.

***

Everything blurred past Faith as the slayer as fast as she could through the streets of Sunnydale. She pushed her body to move as fast as she could go. She could feel the soles of her feet burning, her body not used to so much movement, in no way was it the same to running around the basement. She couldn’t let her pain slow her down though; she had one goal, get to the initiative. She couldn’t let Buffy go up against this Adam guy alone. The place was bound to be full of army guys and demons, so getting in wouldn’t be easy but not impossible.


Faith came to a stop once she reached the university campus; she looked around to see what direction Riley’s house was in. Faith remembered Tara mentioning the secret facility entrance when she helped with the haunted Jumanji house a few weeks back, not that she paid much attention. So finding the actual entrance wouldn’t be easy. Trying to remember her footing from that night, her slayer senses were good for remembering old routes; it was like having automatic GPS, the slayer weaved her way through the crowd of students to the other side of the campus. The slayer eventually found the house quicker than she thought she would’ve. She skulked around the house to make sure it was safe to enter. At that moment the slayer realised in her haste, she forgot to bring a weapon, so looking around Faith saw a metal fence close by. She ran over and kicked the end of one of the fence posts and headed back to the house with her new weapon in tow. She returned to the front of the building and cautiously edged to the front door. Taking a second to make sure there were no witnesses and kicked the door in and entered. The slayer stopped in the doorway to gain her bearings. Her eyes darted around the house, not sure where to go.  As she took another step inside, the slayer heard a light creek to the side of her and almost in slow motion Faith ducked as a fist came at her face.

The slayer now crouched down swung her right leg out and knocked the assailant from under their feet. Faith jumped up to see a demon on the ground with a face that looked just like a lizard. Faith readied herself with the metal fence post in her hands when two crushing hands wrapped its arms her from behind. She couldn’t see who it was but just figured it was the other guy’s buddy. The lizard demon stormed at Faith, so she lifted her feet and kicked the demon backwards and then head butting the demon behind her to get out of the vice grip. Faith roars as she charged at the lizard demon, sending them both to the floor. She straddled the demon and repeatedly punched the demon before grasping the sides of its face and snapped the neck of the demon, making it go limp. Before she could think the same arms from before grabbed Faith from behind again and dragged her into the middle of the living area. Instantly Faith bit down on the arm, a leathery texture enveloped her mouth, making her want to gag. She bit harder until she broke into the unnatural skin and liquid oozes from one of the arms spilt out. Faith spat the substance out as the arms let her go and Faith could turn to face her attacker. The demon had brown leathery skin with a blue face, small horns at the top of the head and little holes littered over the facial area.

“Hey, crater face! I’m kinda busy and you taste nasty,” Faith shouted whilst still spitting out demon blood and spinning her makeshift weapon in her hand.

This angered the demon who charged for Faith; grinning smugly she rolled underneath him and she started to hit him from behind with the fence pole. The demon lashed backwards and swung its arms aimlessly as Faith did her best to dodge. The demon turned to face her, continuing his attack. With a few dodges and side steps, Faith launched the pole into the demon’s left eye. He hit the ground with a thud. Faith continued to stab the demon until she could be sure that it actually died. Eventually, she stopped, looking down at the blood covered hands, she flashed back to the demon she killed for the books of ascension and using it to manipulate Angel. The memories clouded her mind for a moment, unable to remove the images in her mind. In a panic, Faith rubbed her blood ridden hands into her clothes, trying to remove the memories. Centring herself again, Faith slowly got up off the floor and started to walk around the house, wondering if there are any more surprises’ lurking around. As she reached the hallway the slayer could hear a distant tapping. The tapping was coming from the walls, following the sound brought her to a large mirror. She placed an ear to the glass to listen, there was definitely something happening. Not wanting to waste any more time, Faith ran and grabbed a chair and began to smash it against the mirror until finally it crumbled and a pair of elevator doors are left visible.
She kicked the remaining glass out of the way and went to the doors. Shaking off the weakness creeping through her muscles, noticing her stamina had depleted over time, the slayer grabbed the crease of the door with her fingertips and began to pull the doors open. The doors stay stiffened until Faith can pull a small enough gap to wedge her foot into and can eventually shimmy the doors open. The area was too dark for Faith to see enough but squinting her eyes enough she could just about see a small light flash beneath her. As she followed the light with her eyes, she soon came face to face with scared army men, exhausted-looking scoobies and a determined Buffy taking the lead. Buffy stared up at the slayer in shock.

“F-Faith – w-w-what?!” Buffy stammered out not expecting to find Faith at their escape.

“I’m here to help B,” Faith said giving a smug grin as she stretched her arm out to help the blonde slayer.

***

A couple of hours later after helping to retrieve the survivors from the initiative, Buffy, Faith, Giles, Xander and Willow returned to the Summer’s house exhausted from the day’s events. Faith not as much as she wasn’t involved in their uber spell to kill Adam.
They all piled into the living area whilst Faith quietly made her way down to the basement not noticing Buffy watching her with a quirked eyebrow. Half an hour later Faith was led on her camp bed, staring up at the ceiling going through the day’s events. She didn’t even know what had come over her, it was only a couple of months ago she wanted Buffy to suffer the way that she had, she was even prepared to switch bodies, but now she charged across Sunnydale to stop her from dying. She wasn’t even sure why she did it. Maybe she had just done it for Joyce, seeing the fear in the mother’s eyes for her daughter’s safety. Was being forced to be around these people really affecting her? Her mind screamed at her to not trust anyone but her chest yearned to be acknowledged. This was more painful than an injury she had ever been inflicted with. Whilst processing her thoughts a sheepish Buffy entered the basement and sat on the chair opposite Faith’s bed.

“You know, you kinda Chuck Norrised that barrier, you don’t have to be down here,” Buffy teased the brunette. Faith jumped not noticing her guest enter. She sat up to face the other slayer.

“Is that a question or a statement?” Faith inquired.

“Both,” Buffy nodded her head and chuckled. “I spoke with the others and we agreed to leave that barrier down but put one around the house...so you don’t need to be stuck down here,” Faith looked at the door hesitantly.

“I dunno, guess I’m starting to like it down here...besides you guys have your movie night going on,”

“You could join us if you want?” Buffy said awkwardly. Faith looked at Buffy for a moment, trying to figure out if she was being sincere or not.

“Why did you decide to keep the wall down? I bet Red wasn’t too happy about that choice,” Faith scoffed.

I’m not gonna lie, it took a bit of convincing but you came to us when we didn’t even ask...I’m not even sure how you did, from what mom told me it sounded insane, but I’m grateful, so we called Tara to come to do the spell in a bit, Willow’s too weak...So. Go. Roam...explore,” Buffy said with a grin.

“Don’t worry, I’m good here, it’s calm...but I might come up in a bit...get my own food for a change,” Faith shrugged picking at the blanket beside her, not quite knowing how to be. Buffy nodded as she rose from her chair and stopped at the bottom of the stairs.

“Ok, but if you change your mind, I’ll save a spot for you...I’ll probably still be up before dawn arrives,” Buffy gave Faith a small smile not knowing what truths were in her words and headed up the stairs in blissful ignorance.

Faith sat for a moment taking small breaths with her eyes closed, knowing for once she was choosing to be in the basement and for the first time in a very long time, Faith didn’t feel the urge to run away.

Chapter Text

 

A month had passed since the events with Adam in the initiative and the trippy dreams that had plagued the Scooby gang which soon followed. The first slayer had tried to kill them in their dreams which made for a great way for the gang to start their summer. Buffy had moved back into her old room after Riley had decided to leave Sunnydale after the government closed up shop. He wanted to be far away from the stresses of the Hellmouth and since Buffy refused to go with him, the slayer and the soldier had parted ways. Faith had also convinced Joyce to upgrade the camp bed to an actual mattress. Even though the house wasn’t off limits anymore, Faith found that she would always end her day in the basement, it had become her place.
And so keeping to her promise, Faith had been meeting up with Tara twice a week for the last month to talk. They didn’t always talk, communication wasn’t easy for the slayer, so instead they would walk, or play cards or watch tv, anything that could stop any conversation getting so deep but Tara was determined to break through the rogue slayer’s barriers.
So that day they were due to meet, Tara decided on a different tactic. Tara had arrived to drag Faith out of bed at the crack of Dawn which hadn’t gone down well with the brunette slayer who wasn’t an early riser.

“What do you want?” Faith shrugged off Tara’s hand trying to wake her.

“I need you to come with me Faith, I’ve already bound us,” Tara whispered.  

“What time is...?”

“6 am...”

“Arrgh, go away! Come back in 5 hours!” Faith shouted from under the quilt.

“Come on Faith please, I’ll get you a coffee from the Expresso Pump...mm-might even get you a doughnut too...” Tara teased as she tried to blackmail the slayer out of bed.

There was silence until a small mumbled voice comes from under the covers.
“Make it three doughnuts and I might get up,” Tara smiled at the hidden lump.

“Deal, now get up!” Tara laughed as she poked at Faith and left to go upstairs to give the slayer some privacy.

“Damn witch,” Faith mumbled as she got up and started to search for her clothes.

***

Soon after getting ready, Faith and Tara made their way through the crisp morning air and as promised Tara made sure to go to the Expresso Pump to get the slayer caffeinated and fed. This soon woke the slayer up some more and she wasn’t as grumpy and hostile towards the witch. Tara made a mental note not to plan many morning outings with Faith in the future. She couldn’t deal with all the hostile energy coming off the slayer after having her sleep disturbed.
After their pit stop, the two women headed back out on their journey. A few minutes of silence passed and the Faith broke the air.

“So are ya gonna tell me where we’re going, T? Why the mystery?” Faith asked now letting her curiosity get the better of her.

“I thought we could try something different and I thought I’d share with you what I enjoy,” Tara told her with a soft chuckle.

“Why would you want to do that?” Faith asked with a quirked eyebrow. Still in disbelief of how caring this woman was. In all the time they had spent together, Faith couldn’t find one flaw, well only that she dated Red for a while but she obviously came to her senses soon enough. Faith still couldn’t find common ground with Willow. Willow hated that Faith was still in Sunnydale and that her ex spent so much time with the slayer, so they both made sure to avoid each other as best as possible and that suited Faith just fine.

“Why wouldn’t I? Even if you don’t feel the same, I’ve come to think of you as a ff-friend and friend’s share things that they care about...” Tara said with sincerity in her eyes.

“Ok...So what are we going to do?” Faith asked not sure of how to respond to the acknowledged friendship.

“This,” Tara pointed to the entrance of Sunnydale zoo.

“You woke me up at six to go to the zoo? We couldn’t do this in the day?” Faith retorted slightly miffed.

“What I want to do can only be done in the morning,” Tara told Faith coyly as she led them through the entrance. “Wait here for a second, I’ll be right back,”
Tara ran through the employee entrance and a couple of minutes later ran back through with a set of keys and two visitor badges for both the women. Faith then followed Tara through another set of doors and the down a long corridor that looked like something from a hospital. They walked down a couple of turnings before Tara stopped outside a set of double doors. She knocked on the door and waited until a slim blonde haired woman wearing glasses and a lab coat opened the door, she broke into a wide smile and enveloped Tara into a hug. Faith watched the women curiously; a strange pang struck her in the stomach as Tara embraced the stranger. Her face flushed as she awkwardly shifted on the spot. Tara remembering herself stepped away from the woman.

“Faith, this is Mel, she’s the reason we were able to get in here ss-so early,” Tara introduced the woman. Mel stepped forward to shake Faith’s hand but the slayer just stared at the hand offered.

“Um, yeah hey,”

“Hello Faith,” Mel nodded as she awkwardly retracted her hand. She looked back to Tara. “Let me just grab some papers and I’ll leave you guys to it,” Mel smiled as she ducked back in the room quickly and reappeared almost instantly.
“If you need anything, just page me, I’ll be around,” Mel rubbed Tara’s arm as she headed off down the corridor. Faith watched the small touch with narrowed eyes. There was something she didn’t like about Mel but she just couldn’t put her finger on what it was.
Tara headed into the room and held the door open for Faith to follow. Once Faith got inside the room she stopped with her eyes wide. It was a huge science lab with a small desk and a computer with lots of cupboards littered around but the whole back wall was a window looking into an indoor habitat, it was like something out of a movie. Tara stood next to Faith with a smile on her face as she watched the slayer who was in such awe of the view.

“Amazing isn’t it? This is my favourite place in Sunnydale,” Tara told the slayer.

“How did you get us in here?” Faith asked pulling her gaze away from the chimp.

“I volunteer here sometimes, more so before I met Willow, I didn’t really have friends, so I would come here on my free days, so I booked a day here and told them I was bringing help,”

“What about that chick? You guys seemed pretty friendly...” Faith said trying to be as non-chalont as possible.

“Mel? You think we’re...? (Tara covered her mouth and began to laugh) Oh no, She nn-nice but very straight and very married...Why jealous she’ll take me away?” She teased the slayer.

“You wish! Just wasn’t believing your sob story that’s all,” Faith shrugged off looking back to the chimps. Tara raised her eyebrows, seeing the badass slayer trying not to blush.
“Anyway, are you gonna tell me what we’re doing in here?”

“We’re going to feed the baby chimps, there’s six of them, so we’ll probably take us most of the morning,”

“Are we gonna have to go in there to do it?” Faith asked pointing at the habitat area.

“Well, yes...is that a problem?” Tara asked trying to conceal her amusement to the slayers reactions.

“No, I guess, but aren’t the momma chimps gonna be wicked pissed that we’re holding their babies?” Faith asked.

Tara laughs at this not even trying to hide it. “Not if they’re eating at the same time, we’ll be like their nanny’s for a couple of hours, plus they’re use to it, now come on, no more questions,” Tara grabbed Faith by the shoulders and led her through a side door that goes into the habitat area. Tara moved Faith off to the side as she ran off and came back with a rucksack and placed it down. She then cautiously made her way over to the chimps sleeping area and very carefully lifted one of the baby chimpanzees up and went back over to Faith. She instructed the slayer to sit on the ground and then placed the little chimp into her arms. Faith cradled the chimp and looked at the innocent life in her hands, as the young primate yawned and stirred. Tara then brought over a baby bottle of milk and handed it to Faith. The slayer just stared at the foreign object in her hand. Overcome with emotion, warmth returns to her chest, a temperature that had been long forgotten. The slayer thought she must have been getting ill, Faith had never reacted or felt for others or so she thought.

“You know this is the part where you feed him,” Tara teased as she began to put out food for the adult chimps.

“Yeah I know...wicked obvious,” Faith shrugged off as she began to feed the little chimp. Tara eventually joined Faith on the floor with her own chimp to feed and they sat comfortably in silence whilst gazing at the beautiful creatures in their arms.

***

After a couple of hours of feeding the chimps, even playing with them a little, the two women made their way out and into the actual zoo. So they grabbed some food on their way over to the lion’s den so they could watch the lion’s feed whilst they ate their lunch. They sat on a bench opposite the den as they ate.

“So did you enjoy the chimps?” Tara asked making conversation.

“Yeah I guess...it was cool,” Faith mumbled as she ate.

“That was it? Just cool? Nothing else?” Tara pressed knowing the slayer had secretly loved the experience. Watching her interact with the chimps was a beautiful sight to see like the brunette didn’t have a care in the world.

“It was different that’s for sure but I’m not usually down for cute and cuddly, I’m more of the rough and ferocious,” The slayer said with a cocky smile.

“Oh, I see, like those lions over there?” Tara laughed nudging against Faith playfully, who sat still trying not to react and keep her cool exterior. They continued to watch the lions being fed until they returned to the shade to lie together as a family.

“How am I here?” Faith suddenly asked staring intently at the lion family.

“What do you mean? Tara asked confused by the sudden question.

“I didn’t think before because there was so much happening but I’m kind of an outlaw, that’s why we walk in less populated areas, I wear stupid disguises and I can’t even leave the house...well I can’t anyway but you know what I mean and when did you stop stuttering?” Faith asked suddenly noticing more as she spoke.

“I’m comfortable around you, I guess it just went away naturally and I was wondering how long it would take you to notice,” Tara turned her body to face Faith and took the slayers hand ignoring the uncomfortable look on her face.
“The other week after you helped with that vamp nest, we all discussed it and well, it took some convincing, well actually a lot but Willow hacked into your police records and wiped your file...your no longer a fugitive Faith,”

Faith looked down at the hand holding hers and then back into Tara’s eyes. Sometimes Faith could get lost in them; there was something calming about them, like an ocean glistening under the sun. She shifted her hand away and ran it through Tara’s hair making the witch jump.
“But why? Why do that for me? I don’t deserve it, I did a lot of crap...it don’t deserve to be wiped clean...” Faith said looking at the ground, finally expressing shame for her actions.

“You just answer your own question, your showing remorse, more willing to help...Buffy doesn’t want you locked up forever. This is our way of showing support... you're changing whether you want to admit it or not...I’m even proud of you,” Tara told Faith beaming with pride.

“Stop being nice to me...this shouldn’t be happening!” Faith started to panic, looking around for an escape. Tara quickly grabbed the slayer’s wrist.

Faith calm down, you know you won’t get far if you run, I’ll stop ok...I didn’t mean to upset you,” Tara’s eyes searched Faith for forgiveness. Faith’s breathing started to slow as she turned and her eyes found the lions again who are now all huddled together.

“They look so peaceful, who would’ve thought they were fighting over a carcass five minutes ago, reminds me of my dad...dude was a mean drunk with a wicked strong punch...but he had these sober moments and he was the best human in the world...but it never lasted...” Faith said aloud never taking her eyes off the lions.

“What happened to him?” Tara asked hoping not to push this moment.

“Car crash, the dumbass tried to drive home from the bar...my mom cried...I laughed...guess I’ve always been a monster...” Faith said as her eyes filled with tears.

“Faith look at me!” Faith ignored the witch, so Tara placed her hands both side of her face and turned her to face the witch. “You are not a monster; you wouldn’t be here if you were...that man should never have been in your life, you can be better...I believe in you...” Tara told the slayer softly. The two women stared at each other, neither one speaking or moving, just their eyes having a secret conversation. A horn noise in the background brought them back to reality.

“That’s the warning for the crocodile feeding, looks like our breaks over, we should get back,” Tara said quickly, letting go of Faith’s face and composing herself from the touching and confusing moment between the two. Faith just nodded not knowing how to proceed, trying to understand the confusing emotions circulating through her body. The women gathered their things and headed back to their busy day, trying to forget the tension they were leaving behind.

***

A few hours later the two finished their day of volunteering, so Tara escorted the slayer back to her metaphorical jailhouse. The two women arrived at the front door and stopped awkwardly for a moment as though they had just finished a date.

“So you gonna break this bind so I can go get dinner, I’m starved...” Faith said breaking the tension.

“Here’s the thing, I didn’t do the spell, and I wanted to see if you would just go by my word that I cast it...I know I lied but you let yourself trust my word and that’s a big thing...I’m sorry if you can’t trust me now, I’d understand...” Tara said now looking at her feet worried about the reaction she may receive. She looked up in shock when Faith started laughing. “What’s so funny?” Tara was more confused than ever.

“I knew there was more to you goody two shoes witch, I thought pinning me to a wall was a one-off but you actually pulled one over on me...you’re one of a kind T,” Faith said still laughing. After their other interactions, she was so sure this would anger the slayer but she definitely didn’t expect this.
“Bring it in T, your ok...your definitely not predictable...I guess I could let you off this one time,” Faith quickly hugged the witch and then headed straight into the house not looking back, leaving the witch on the porch alone. Tara started laughing to herself; she had somehow struck a good chord with the slayer. Tara left the porch after building the barrier again to return home chuckling at the thought of what else she may end up discovering about Faith.

Chapter Text

 

In the days since their trip to the zoo, Tara couldn’t help but think about that day with the dark-haired slayer.  Watching all the different emotions that had ran across the slayer’s face was a sight that Tara had never witnessed in the months that they had known each other. She had always known Faith was capable of empathy and kindness but had never seen it, only her cold untrusting nature. It was progressing and she was really starting to see a bond form between the two, she didn’t feel like she was much help to the Scoobies but she could definitely rogue slayer become the better person that she wasn’t meant to be. Tara knew it was going to take a lot of work and support but she was willing to put the time in, all Faith needed was acknowledgement and encouragement, something that had always been foreign to the young slayer. Tara had spoken to everyone about the Faith they knew from last year, so she could come up with a way to do the opposite, to figure out what went so wrong.
So her plan for that night was so to go to Buffy’s and try to really make Faith talk and open up again like she had begun to do the other day. She just knew if Faith could release some of the rage and past issues from inside of her, it could be so therapeutic and eye-opening to process the issues that obviously plague her mind. First, though she was sat in the Expresso Pump waiting for Willow to arrive. The redhead has called Tara earlier in the day and invited her for a coffee so they could catch up which Tara happily agreed to. The two women had become good friends since their little breakup. It had been awkward for the couple at first but they started practising spells together after the whole Adam situation and soon the tension had disappeared and they were able to build a friendship. So Tara sat at a table cradling her green tea, watching the world go by and thinking of ways to break through Faith’s barriers.

“Hey! Sorry, I’m late, Giles needed my help indexing his library...I didn’t realise how big his book collection was now he’s not in the library...” Willow greeted Tara as she ran over to the table and settling down opposite the blonde witch.

Tara looked to Willow, slightly startled, not noticing that she had arrived.
“Oh hi! Th-That’s ok, I haven’t been here long,”

“Good,” Willow smiled, staring just a moment too long at the fellow witch that she shook her wondering head out of the trance. “I’m just gonna grab a drink quick,” Willow bounced up and went over to the counter. Tara watched the redhead order her coffee, oblivious to the way Willow had looked at her before or anytime that they were together. Tara’s mind was always elsewhere these days and she couldn’t even see it. Willow quickly received her mocha and rushed back over to the table.
“So how have things been?” Willow asked taking a sip of her coffee.

“It’s been good, just mostly been getting ready for the new semester to start... (Tara said avoiding any mention of Faith) Have you and Buffy decided if you’re rooming together this year?”

“Mmm, no, we decided to get our own rooms, we rarely saw each other when we did live together and now we’re going to be taking different classes, I guess it just made more sense,” Willow answered playing with the foam on her coffee.

“I get that, it’s smart plus you guys will still see each other at Scooby meetings and at the bronze...” Tara said trying to be supportive towards Willow who was obviously forcing a smile.

“I guess, it just gets lonely on your own sometimes ya know...?”

“Well it can sometimes but I find it quite peaceful myself, plus you always see your friend’s every day, and you never know you might meet someone...”

“I’m not so sure...well I kinda already met someone but things didn’t really work out...” Willow said sheepishly as she gazed into Tara’s eyes. Tara’s eyes go wide when she realised the redhead was talking about herself.

“Willow...” Tara started before she was interrupted.

“I know what you’re going to say but things are different now, I’m more confident with what I want and we’ve been getting along great, why don’t we try again? Fresh start an all...maybe I could take you to dinner...ya know in public? Willow looked hopeful as Tara searched her mind for the right words that wouldn’t cause any hurt. Tara placed her hand on Willow’s and looked into her eyes.

“Willow, I’m sorry but I don’t want that...I’m happy as I am right now and I stand by what I said when we broke up...I do think we’re better as friends...” Willow pulled her hand back after a moment of hope and rested it under the table looking away bashfully.

“So you don’t think there could ever be a chance for us one day?”

“I don’t know what could happen in the future but all I know is right now, I don’t...look if this friendship is too hard, I can stay away, and you’ve got pretty good with magic...”

“No...Sorry no, I made you uncomfortable but I would totally be fine with friendships...I just ...I like having you in my life,” Tara gave Willow a small smile to let her know everything was ok.

“Good, I like having you in mine too...how about we forget about this and head back to campus? I have a couple of things I need from my dorm,”

“Sure, it’s getting dark, it’s always better not to travel alone,” Willow smiled; glad she had spoiled their time together. So the two women collected their belongings and headed out of the coffee shop.

***

Willow and Tara made their way through Sunnydale, idly chatting about anything and everything, totally immersed in their own world. Not wanting to take their time, they decided to cut down an alley by the bronze just as the last of the street lights came on. Glass bottles clanked in the distance and cars revved nearby. This didn’t faze the women who continued on their journey until a figure walked out of the shadows and stood in front of the suddenly stunned women. The two witches jumped and stopped, not daring to move closer towards the unknown danger. The figure appeared to be a vampire; he was dressed in cowboy gear and glint of his teeth could just be seen. His Stenson pulled down just low enough to see his bumpy face and facial hair.

“Well, well, well, if it isn’t one of the slayers little pals, how is young Buffy these days?” The vampire sneered at Willow, sizing her up and down like a piece of meat.

“She’d be better if you were dust!” Willow spat with narrowed eyes.

“Now, now, what’s with all the hostility? Do I scare you girly? Cos I thought we were all just friends here...” The vampire smirked knowing that he was already getting the reaction he wanted; he always did love playing with his food.

“I don’t know who you are but if you don’t get out of here, the slayer’s gonna make you regret it later!” Willow threatened the vampire, hoping it would deter him.

“Oh, I’m betting on it freckles!” The vampire gave a wide smile showing off his fangs. He took a step towards the two women as Willow was mumbling a silent incantation and a small fireball appeared in her hands and threw it at the vampire. The cowboy was too quick and leapt out of the way and went straight for Willow, knocking her to the floor. The cowboy then launched himself at a frightened Tara who tried her best to defend herself but failed was overpowered by the vampire's strength. He covers her mouth with one hand whilst grabbing her waist with the other. Tara struggled to free herself from the powerful grip that had her trapped. Willow climbed off the floor in time to see the vampire taking Tara hostage.

“You tell the slayer that I want to party!” The cowboy orders Willow excitedly.

“How will she find you!?” Willow now beginning to panic asked.

“Don’t you worry freckles, I’m sure she'll find a way...me and blondie will have a great time whilst we wait,” The cowboy cackled as he took a tighter grip of Tara and dragged her away into the shadows and disappeared.

***

“Has the movie started yet?” Buffy called from the kitchen as she put the popcorn in a bowl.

“Nah! Still on commercials,” Faith called back as she lounged on the sofa, not taking her gaze away from the television.

Buffy grabbed the bowl of popcorn and sat opposite the brunette, making sure she was comfortable before settling down. She looks over at Faith who’s taken over the entire sofa, thinking about how far they had come to be sat comfortably together watching a movie whereas a few months ago they were trying to kill each other.  
“This is nice...don’t you think?”

“Huh? Oh yeah...five by five,” Faith replies barely listening staring intensely at the television. Buffy laughed at the distracted slayer when the front door flew open and Willow charged through the door excessively and out of breath. Instantly the two slayers were on their feet and ready for anything.

“Willow? What is it?” Buffy enquired with a face full of concern.

“It’s...its Tara, she’s been taken,” Willow told them quickly, still out of breath having run the whole way. Faith stepped forward at hearing this, her eye’s become determined and rage built in her throat.

“What do you mean taken? By who?” Buffy questioned more hurriedly, noticing her sister slayer’s whole deminer changing.

“I...I don’t know, we were heading over to the campus when some crazed cowboy looking vamp cornered us, I tried to stop him but I wasn’t quick enough...he seemed to know you, Buff...”Willow finished looking at Buffy with a sadness, ashamed she couldn’t do more to save Tara.

“Cowboy? What did he look like Will?” Buffy asked trying to figure out who the vampire was.

Willow rubbed her temples trying to think. “Um, he had a goatee, Stenson and wore a LOT of denim...” Buffy tutted as she looked up at the ceiling with the sudden realisation.

“Lyle Gorch,”

“Who?” Faith asked finally making a noise.

“Cowboy vamp. I met him a couple of times, he blames me for the death of his brother and wife...last time I saw him...Cordelia threatened him with a spatula on homecoming...” Buffy explained thinking back to last year.

“Slayerfest?” Faith asked.

“Yep...” Buffy replied.

“How do we find him?” Faith asked through gritted teeth. “Spell or something?”

“No...Gorch isn’t that clever...Will, where were you and Tara when he showed up?” Buffy asked the redhead.

“Umm...down an alley close to the bronze...” Willow answered.

“He’ll be there then...Lyle Gorch isn’t a mastermind, plus its closed tonight, perfect place to hide out...”

“Right!” Faith snapped and with that the brunette ran over to Buffy’s weapon chest and pulled a couple of stakes out and threw a sword over to Buffy who caught it swiftly. She then grabbed her jacket off the stand. She made her way to the front door and waits in front of it calmly, only looking at the door. Buffy looked to Willow.

“Will, could you?”

“Sure,” Willow nodded meekly, not questioning it for the first time. So the redhead closed her eyes and mumbled under her breath. “You’re good to go,” Willow confirmed.
And with that, Faith walked straight out the door with hesitation with Buffy trailing close behind.

***

Both of the slayers arrived at the entrance of the bronze just minutes after leaving the Summer’s residence with the help of their slayer speed. Faith had stormed ahead with only one goal in mind, which made Buffy struggle to keep up. Faith ran over to grab the door handle when Buffy caught up and grabbed her arm to stop her.

“What the hell B?” Faith questioned annoyed not wanting to be held up.

“We can’t just barge in there without a plan. I want to save Tara as well but us charging in will just get her killed,”

Faith looked at Buffy for a moment with the rage still building inside of her, her patience dwindling but she knew the blonde was right. “What are ya thinking then?”

“Let’s go old school, I’ll head in the front and grab his attention...you head to the roof and go through the stage entrance...he won’t be expecting two slayers,” Buffy stated with her commanding slayer tone.

Faith didn’t respond, she just nodded and started her climb to the roof as Buffy entered to the bronze. Faith headed to the roof only thinking of Tara. The first true friend she ever had and now that friend was in danger. Since the day they had met, Tara had never given up on her, through all the abuse and anger and now Faith was going to return the favour. Faith pulled open the hatch of the roof and carefully lowered herself in, making sure not to make any noise. She pulled herself down to the light fixtures above the stage, giving her a perfect view of the cowboy stood on the stage next to a tied up Tara, with his hand on her shoulder as he spoke to Buffy, who was doing her best to distract the vampire as she edged towards the stage area. Faith scanned over all the bronze whilst she had the view to make sure there were no surprises waiting for them. The club seemed to empty except for the four of them. The scared and tied up Tara looked up and caught Faith’s eye, who sent her a wink to show they would be ok but Tara’s eyes went wide with fear. Gorch then laughed at something Buffy had said and let go of Tara’s shoulder and stepped away, Faith saw this as her opportunity. She jumped down onto the stage, landing behind Gorch and kicked him in the back of the knee. The vampire cried in pain as he dropped to the ground, rolling onto his clutching his knee. Shaking the pain off, he spun round to come face to face with Faith who was wearing a smug look on her face, ignoring his anger as his vampiric face appeared. He growled at the slayer.

“Slayer! I heard you went rogue!” Gorch spat.

“And I heard you were a loser but I guess only one of us had changed!” Faith retorted back shrugging her shoulders.

“Screw you slayer, I’ll just kill all of you!” Gorch launched himself at Faith throwing her off her stance. He threw two fists at her, that she readily dodged. She spun her body around and landed a flat foot on his chest, throwing him from the stage and to the feet of a willing and ready Buffy who started her dance with the cowboy. Knowing the vampire was now distracted, Faith rushed to Tara’s side and pulled the gag out of the frightened Tara’s mouth and then begun to untie her arm.

“F-Faith,” Tara started.

“Don’t worry T, we’ve got you,” Faith interrupted as she pulled the rope away, freeing one hand.

“No! Look!” Tara shouted as Faith looked up shocked to see what Tara was looking at. Buffy and Gorch were still fighting, Gorch was losing badly as Buffy corned him with nowhere to escape and ready to stake the vampire. As Buffy closed in on Gorch behind the blonde a large demon creature with strange tentacles attached to both of its arms came up behind the oblivious Slayer.

“No!” Faith screamed as she leapt off the stage, leaving a half tied up Tara behind her and threw herself towards Buffy. At the same time, Buffy finished her dance with Gorch and plunged a stake into the cocky looking vampire.

“You shouldn’t have come alone Gorch!”

“Hahahaha...Oh, I didn’t blondie! Woooo!” Gorch screamed with laughter as turned to ash in front of the blonde. Instantly the air behind Buffy changed and as if in slow motion, she spun around to see a strange looking demon whose sharpened tentacles going straight towards Buffy’s face when time seemed to catch up with itself and a great force pushed Buffy out of the way and knocking her into a wall.

Faith ran full speed from the stage and straight into the unsuspecting Buffy, taking the unsuspecting blow instead. The tentacle slashed at her ribs as she continued through the air, interrupting her direction causing her to roll onto the floor. The pain pierced through her, taking all her breath away. Faith looked up groggily to see a fuzzy looking Tara fighting with the restraints on her other arm frantically and then turned her head to see Buffy dodging the demon’s swipes, doing her best to protect the injured Faith. Everything stops in one moment though when a redheaded vampire, with a basic cowgirl look, entered the bronze crying. Buffy and the demon stopped their fight to look at the vampire as Faith slowly pulled herself off the floor, clutching at her laceration, to see what the new visitor wanted.

“First you kill his brother and ugly ass ex-wife and now you take my Gorchy from me? I’m going to drink you dry bitch!” The vampire screamed in her deep Texan accent at Buffy.

The upset vampire charged at Buffy, leaving the demon that now has its attention on Faith. The huge demon lurched over the slightly hunched slayer. Its head was covered in a metal mask and its body glistened with a darkened grey colour. The demon swung its sharpened tentacle at Faith who rolled out of the way. She jumped behind him before he had time to look and punched him in the lower back. The demon’s skin was like a natural hardened armour causing the slayers knuckles to crunch on impact. The demon didn’t even flinch, turning around as Faith cried out in pain. The demon lifted Faith up by her shoulders, she struggled to get free as he squeezed her and then threw her at the stage. She slammed into the side head first. Faith could barely move through the pain, the demon began to walk over to the slayer. Faith struggled to pull herself up wanting to get away and divert him away from a still half tied up Tara. The pain was too much for Faith to push through and her body fell to the floor in defeat.
Faith could faintly hear Buffy calling her name as she started to slip out of consciousness. The demon skulked closer, lifting his tentacle higher as he got closer, ready for its final blow. As the tentacle dropped down aiming straight to the unconscious Faith its body suddenly slowed down. Tara now standing, legs still tied to the chair with her arm outstretched at the demon, struggling to keep control.

“Buffy! Quick! I don’t know how long I can hold him,”

A still fighting Buffy looked over to Tara to see the demon barely frozen in place lurching over a bloodied Faith. Now more determined, Buffy jumped in the air and threw a spin kick at Gorch’s crazy girlfriend, hitting her to the floor. Buffy landed on the floor swiftly and pulled a stake out and plunged it into the vampire’s chest before it had a chance to move. Buffy then spun around and grabbed her sword that was lying on the floor and ran straight at the demon. She swings the sword and slices right through the demon’s neck in one clean cut. With that an exhausted Tara dropped her arm, the demon unfreezes, its head rolled off and its body followed falling to the floor. Buffy ignored the demon and knelt next to her sister slayer. Faith’s body and face was covered in blood, she couldn’t even see where the injuries were. Tara finished untying herself and climbed down from the stage and knelt on the other side of Faith. Tara’s hand hovered over the injured slayer, not sure of what to do.

“We should take her to a hospital,” Tara told Buffy. The injured slayer groaned in response, still not opening her eyes.

“I don’t think that’s a good idea, Faith spent 9 months in a coma, I think she’s pretty anti-hospitals, we should take her home and assess her there first,”
Tara just nodded her head in agreement, too focused on Faith to respond. Buffy scooted forward and gently slid her arms under Faith and lifted her bridal style. Faith groaned in pain as she was moved. Not wasting time, Buffy headed to the exit as Tara climbed around the decapitated demon on the floor.

“What about him? I don’t think he’s gonna go, poof,” Tara asked looking down at the demon who almost killed her friend.

“I’ll send Giles and Xander to do clean up before it opens tomorrow,” Buffy told Tara as she leaves the bronze with Faith, never looking behind.

Chapter Text

 

Tara forced her way through the front door of the Summer’s residence, standing aside so Buffy could carry a heavily bleeding Faith in. Willow and Joyce who had been waiting in the living room rushed over as Buffy started carrying Faith up the stairs.

“Mom, I’m putting her in the spare room, can you grab the first aid kit?” Buffy called to her mother.

“Of course honey, I’ll be right up,” Joyce called back as she hurried through to the kitchen.

Tara breezed past Willow as she followed Buffy up to the spare room. Buffy placed Faith on the bed carefully as Tara ran to grab towels out of the closet.  Joyce followed in with a bowl of water and the first aid kit and placed it on the bed stand next to Faith. Joyce stepped back as she watched Buffy and Tara begin to slowly strip the sleeping slayer of her top. Joyce looked away sickened by the sight and walked to Willow, who was hovering in the doorway. She placed her hand on Willow’s arm, taking the girls attention away from the scene unfolding.

“Come on honey, there’s nothing we can do, we should let them do their thing...let’s go call Giles,” Joyce told Willow. Willow looked at Joyce, tears filling her eyes and nodded at the surrogate mother. They left the room, closing the door behind them.

Buffy and Tara continued their work, not noticing the two women leave. They carefully remove Faith’s shirt and Buffy puts it to the side as Tara began to dip a towel into the water and starts to gently wipe off all the excess blood. Buffy began to lay out the sewing kit and bandages out on the bed as the injuries were slowly being revealed. There was a large gash above the slayer’s eyebrow, her shoulders and collarbones were bruised a deep purple, and a large laceration went across her ribs on her left side and her knuckles were bruised, bleeding and most likely broken. If it wasn’t for being a slayer, then Faith surely wouldn’t have survived. Tara looked over to an exhausted Buffy, she had also received minor injuries herself and her energy had quickly disappeared.

“Why don’t you go get cleaned up and get some food, I can handle this...” Tara told an exhausted Buffy.

“Are you sure? I don’t mind staying...you don’t have to do this, you were just...”  Tara cut the slayer off.

“It’s fine, really, I’ll shout for help if I need it,”

Buffy looked between the two women, she had total concern for the injured slayer but there really wasn’t anything she could do, she would just be crowding the witch. So she dropped her shoulders and resigned to leave and tend to her own injuries. She took one final look at Faith and moved around the bed, brushing a comforting hand on Tara’s shoulder as she left the room.
As soon as she heard the door click shut behind her, Tara stopped what she was doing. She rested the bloodied towel back in the bowl of water and turned on the side of the bed to face Faith. She reached forward to carefully brush the hair out of the slayer's face. A tear started to prickle in Tara’s eyes as she scanned the face in front of her. Blood that hadn’t yet been wiped had dried to the skin; the gash above her eyebrow had stopped bleeding but was still fresh. In her sleeping state, the slayer reminded Tara of an image of a broken angel. This was the most peaceful that she had ever seen the slayer, since the moment that they had met.
Realising that she had been stroking Faith’s hair whilst still staring intensely, Tara pulled her hand away and decided to start stitching the wound on her rib whilst Faith was still unconscious. She shifted her body down the bed to be level with Faith’s ribs. Carefully she reached across the body and grabbed the supplies that Buffy had laid out. Keeping a steady hand, she threaded the string through the needle. She brushed her hand over Faith’s stomach, taking in the smoothness, as she glided across to the open wound. Not sure of how long she had, Tara made quick work of stitching the wound. It wasn’t easy, the wound was large and the blood was making it difficult to pinch the skin together but she soon got into a rhythm and finally stitched the wound shut. Just as she was knotting the string as a low groan came from Faith. She started to shift under Tara.

“If you wanted to get my shirt off...you could’ve just asked,” Faith mumbled, still not opening her eyes.

“It’s nice to see your ego wasn’t injured...” Tara responded with a coy smile as she cut the string and started threading the needle for the next wound.

“What happened to psycho squid?” Faith asked laced in pain as she opened her eyes to look at the witch.

“I froze him and Buffy beheaded him,” Tara explained as she started cleaning the area around Faith’s head wound.

“And you’re ok?” Faith asked in her low husk, looking up at Tara with concern in her eyes.

“I’m ok...well better than you anyway...you’re lucky to be alive,”

“More impressed I’m not in a coma...I’m not am I? This isn’t weird a weird nightmare that ends with Buffy stabbing me?”

Tara’s eyes widened at the admission as she watched Faith shift upwards slightly, trying to move through the agonising pain. She looked at Faith with care and leaned forward, growing closer to the slayer’s face so they’re only inches apart. They stared into each other’s eyes as Tara reached a hand up to Faith’s forehead as their lips slowly got closer together. Faith’s breath hitched, and her chest fluttered at the blonde witch’s forwardness.

“Ow,” Faith suddenly flinched backwards. “What the hell T?” Faith asked now annoyed at the burning pain she received from Tara’s touch. Tara sat back giggling at the slayer.

“I’m sorry, I figured pain would prove you’re away,”

“Well next time don’t!” Faith snapped.

“Baby.” Tara retorted still wearing her signature sideways smile.

“Vixen,” Faith stated trying not to laugh looking at her friend. Tara shakes her head at the exchange as she carefully pushed Faith against the headboard to finish cleaning Faith’s face.

“Ok, I’m ready to close this up now,” Tara said as she grabbed the needle and shifts towards Faith’s head until the slayer grabbed her wrist, stopping her. Tara looked at the slayer questioningly.

“Wait...I can’t do this sober...” Faith whispered, ashamed of her own weakness.

“Boy do you know how to woo a girl,” Tara blushed trying to break the increasing tension that was beginning to fill the room.

“Serious, that hurt like a bitch when you touched it, I need a drink,” Faith said with a raspy voice.

“Ok,” Tara said tentatively. She placed the needle down and left the room, stopping at the top of the stairs. “Mrs Summers?” Tara called down. Tara didn’t have to wait long before Joyce appeared at the bottom of the stairs.

“Yes, dear?”

“Do you happen to have any strong alcohol?” Tara asked sheepishly.

“Oh to disinfect wounds?” Joyce asked obliviously.

“Only if the disinfecting is happening in Faith’s stomach,” Tara laughed.

“Ooh, ok I think I have some brandy, I’ll bring it up,” Joyce chuckled, heading back out to the kitchen.

Tara returned back to the room, Faith watched confused but before she could say anything, a knock came to the door and Joyce entered with a smile. She handed a bottle of brandy and some pills to Tara.
“I grabbed some Tylenol as well, in case she can’t sleep,”

“Thank y-you Mrs Summer’s,”

“You’re welcome dear, shout when you’re up and I’ll bring some food for you both,” And with that Joyce left the women alone again. Tara went over to Faith and helped the slayer sit up properly. She reached for the bottle, removed the cap and placed it at the slayer’s lips for her drink. She pulled the bottle away as Faith pulled a disgusted face from the burn of the undiluted alcohol.

“Ready?” Tara asked after a few more disgruntled sips.

“Almost...give me a couple of those...” Faith pointed to the pills. Tara placed the pills in Faith’s mouth and grabbed the brandy for Faith to take them.

“Ok, no more brandy for you...only water,” Tara order the now more relaxed slayer.

“Ok boss,”

“Right, now hold still,” Tara told the slayer as she began to stitch the wound.

“You know, you should feel privileged,” Faith said trying not to wince from the pain.

“Oh yeah, why’s that?”

“I don’t usually let anyone tell me what to do,”

“Well, you’re not exactly in a position to fight me,” Tara replied still concentrating on her stitching.

“Maybe not but my mouth is fine and that did fight you neither,” Faith said casually closing her eyes as the mixture of brandy and pills slowly began to take effect.

“Probably...but you’re the only one I like touching me,” This statement made Tara’s eyebrows rise.
What was the slayer saying? Was this an admission of truth or just her drunken haze speaking? Faith continued her slurred talking.
“There’s something about you, I can feel it. I saw it when I met you...I think you have a secret Tara Maclay...”

Tara started to panic internally. Could Faith’s slayer instincts sense the demon in her? Did that mean Buffy could too? They couldn’t be, her birthday wasn’t for months, she was still safe.
“Maybe I do but what about you Faith, do you have secrets?” Tara asked trying to mask her worry.

“Only ones I want to forget...”

“Like what?...Faith?” Tara paused what she was doing to see the slayer had succumbed to sleep. Sighing at the relief of the escape of their conversation, which she hoped the medication would make Faith forget. Tara quickly finished her task, she made quick work of cleaning and patching up the rest of her body. Tara then covered the slayer in a fresh sheet, bends down and placed a chaste kiss on the slayer’s forehead.

“Thank you for saving me Faith,” Tara whispered, taking a moment to take in the beauty in front of her, before leaving the room and the wounded slayer to heal and rest. Tara now had some thinking to do.

***

A few hours later a sore and groggy Faith woke up in a dark room with only a small dim light radiating the space.  She tried to shift her body to a sitting up position but the searing pain from her ribs pulled her back down onto the bed with a grunt. Movement came from the side of Faith’s bed; Buffy had been curled up in a chair watching over her younger sister slayer. Buffy noticed that Faith had woken up and went to her aid to help lift her so she was sat up. She reached over the side of the bed to hand Faith a glass of water. Faith shakily reached for the glass with her bandaged hands and brought the water to her lips. She emptied the glass quickly trying to quench her hours of dehydration. Buffy took the glass away as she placed a tray of food in Faith’s lap and sat back in her chair as Faith began her feast.

“Where’d T go?” Faith asked through mouthfuls.

“She went home to get some things, she said she’d be back soon,” Buffy tells the slayer’s who was trying to look more preoccupied with her food. “How are you feeling?”

“Like a demon with tentacles kicked the crap out of me...” Faith responded between bites of food.

“...Thank you for saving me...” Buffy said sheepishly, not used to having this type of conversation with Faith in a very long time and especially in such a safe environment.

“Don’t sweat it B, I just know your mom would’ve been pissed if I had let you die,” Faith shrugged off Buffy’s thanks as she continued eating.

“Admit it Faith, you wanted to help...I saw you when you found out about Tara, you act hard but you care...I have to admit, you’ve changed,” Buffy told the fellow slayer in admiration.
Faith continued to eat until she finished the plate, Buffy got up and took the plate away and helped Faith lay back down.

“You say change...I haven’t...My priorities change. For the first time in my life, I’ve been forced to face my past and having to think about it every day...I just don’t want that life anymore...”

“And what do you want now?” Buffy enquired trying not to push the brunette.

“Other than my own Jacuzzi? I don’t know...I want the anger to stop,” Faith said unable to look Buffy in the eye.

“Everything takes time and for what it’s worth, I’m glad I stopped the council taking you...” Buffy reached her hand across and rested it on Faith’s arm lovingly. Faith shifted uncomfortably, removing her arm from underneath Buffy.

“Ahem, Yeah well I’m in too much pain for this pity party, how’s ‘bout you pass me some more of those pills?”

“Oh, yeah sure...” Buffy quickly jumped up and gave Faith the pills that she took immediately. Faith rested her head and closed her eyes, praying for sleep to take hold so she could leave the emotions surrounding her and the slayer she once viewed as her enemy.

Chapter Text

 

The next evening, Joyce quietly entered the darkened room that Faith resided in. The slayer had been sleeping on and off all day. People had been coming in all day, taking it in turns watching over the injured slayer. Tara who was asleep in the corner curled up in an armchair had been a constant by Faith’s side all day, not wanting to leave until she was sure the slayer’s injuries weren’t going to have any permanent damage. So before heading to bed, Joyce decided to check in on Faith as she hasn’t actually had a spare moment to actually spend time with her with the hustle of the day. She went over to Faith’s bed where the slayer was propped up looking over at Joyce in the darkness.

“Mrs S, what’s up?” Faith whispered, cringing at the pain coming from her ribs. Joyce sits on the side of the bed next to Faith, careful not to hurt the patient.

“Just thought I’d come and look in on you now the house is emptier and quiet,” Joyce gave a quiet chuckle.

“Yeah I don’t get why there were so many people here, I was asleep all day, kinda weird to watch me lay here the whole time,”

“Honey, they were here to make sure you were ok because they care,”

“Then why didn’t they bring me anything? People in hospitals get chocolate and grapes, I didn’t,” Faith asked confused. Joyce gave a quiet chuckle at this not wanting to wake the sleeping witch.

“Don’t worry I’ll make you pancakes for breakfast,”

“Sweet,” Faith said impressed already forgetting about the lack of received gifts.

“Why aren’t you sleeping?” Joyce asks only just noticing that the slayer was awake before she entered.

“Too wired, all those pills and sleep and now I’m wide awake, just figured I’d take advantage of the quiet, not much else I can do...so she fell asleep here?” Faith asked looking over at the sleeping witch. Joyce looked over to the witch and then back to Faith.

“Looks like...she’s been here all day, said she wouldn’t leave until she knew you were strong enough, such a sweet girl,” Joyce smiled thoughtfully. Faith continued to watch over Tara, conscious of her deep breathing, and the sad expression that was spread across the witches face.
“She cares about you a lot,” Joyce told Faith grabbing her attention back.

“More fool her...” Faith responded still looking at the witch.

“You really need to stop doing that,”

“What?”

“Thinking so lowly of yourself, you need a more positive attitude or nothing will ever change for you, that girl stood up for you when no one else would and cared about your wellbeing, stop pushing her away especially with things you don’t mean,”

Faith looked back to Joyce, with slight glossy eyes.

“Why would I want to get attached when I know she’ll just end up leaving, people always do,”

“And some people can surprise you, you need to open yourself up more, let people get to know you and not the persona, you want the world to see,”  

Faith dropped her head against the headboard. Faith was too tired for so much emotional talk at that moment but when it came to Joyce Summers, the mother she always wanted, she would give her the time she needed. If not only to make up for the horrible things she put her through in the past but because she actually enjoyed the older woman’s company.

“And what if this is just me?” Faith finally responded looking to Joyce.

“Do you believe that?”

“Sorta...I don’t know much of anything these days...I don’t really trust myself, what if I ruin everything and it hurts her? I feel so much pressure to become something that feels so foreign to me, I keep hearing it takes time but I never felt completely a part of reality or connect with anyone let alone just trying to be normal...”

“Honey don’t worry about what everyone says, just take everything a day at a time, you worry so much for someone who doesn’t need anyone, no one ever knows who they are, I sure don’t and I am a lot older than you, you just need to be making better decisions and the good will follow, trust me life isn’t as bad as you think, just try not to be so negative unless you really need to,”

“Thanks, Mrs S, you’re so much better with words than Buffy,” Faith says trying to lighten the moment a bit more.

“And that’s why my daughter is the fighter and I’m not, we all have our strength, You and Buffy won’t admit it but you’re both quite similar, as neither of you are great at communicating but we still have time to work on that,” Joyce laughed, still keeping her voice low.
“And this is the third time that you’ve saved my daughter, I’ll always be grateful to you. You didn’t have to do what you did but you did, so if you’re having a bad day or do something bad, make sure you come to me and I’ll remind you of this, no matter the time,” Faith gave a small smile back to the mother.

“You think your gonna have to then?”

“Maybe but everyone has setbacks, it’s just a part of life,” Joyce rubs a comforting hand on the slayer's legs and turns to get some pills and water off the bedside table. “Here, take these, you need some sleep, I can’t be talking to you all night now can I?” Joyce laughed as Faith took the pills and water. The mother helped the slayer lie down who didn’t even put up a fight; she was obviously still very weak from her injuries. As soon as the slayer was comfortable, she moved around the bed to a sleeping Tara.

“Now you can’t sleep here all night...Tara, honey, you need to go to bed...” Joyce whispered to the witch who just gave a low moan in her sleep at the disturbance.

“What ya doin’?” Faith whispered from the bed, trying to her best to fight the sleep to see what was happening.

“Sssh go to sleep, Tara needs to be comfortable too,” Joyce whispered back. Faith’s head fell back on to the bed, not having the energy to talk anymore. So Joyce carefully hooked her hand under Tara’s arm and started to gently lift the sleeping witch. Tara, in her disorientated state, began to comply and unravel herself from the chair.

“Its ok sweetie, come on over to the bed,” Joyce told the witch and she guided her over to the spare space on the bed next to a now sleeping Faith. She manoeuvred the witch down and pulled a blanket over Tara’s slightly shivering body.
Joyce stood back and looked down at the two women, who had in succession, rolled towards each other only leaving a small amount of space between their two bodies, and Faith’s fingertips brushed against Tara’s arm, almost protective. Joyce couldn’t help but think how cute the two women looked, sleeping so close. She wasn’t blind, Joyce could see the magnetism between the women, and they always found ways to be near each other but no else could see it, not even themselves. Joyce could just sense that good things were ahead of them, and couldn’t wait to see how it would all unfold. Taking herself away to let the women sleep and so she could get some rest herself, Joyce left Tara and Faith in the darkened room to heal together.

***

When Tara woke up that morning she could feel tickling on her face. She lifted her hand from a lump underneath her hand to brush her hair out of her face. Upon moving the hair though, she found it wasn’t hers. So a still groggy Tara cracked one of her eyes open and was shocked to Faith, laying very close. Tara must have been holding her in her sleep. How did she get there? The last thing she remembered was sitting on the chair watching over Faith, there’s no way she would have invaded the slayer's space without her permission. So doing her best not to wake the slayer, she gently pulled herself away and carefully slipped off the bed. She looks back down to where she had been led, confused and a little scared about how comfortable she had felt laying there. She could only hope Faith hadn’t noticed, that was in a medicated enough state to have been asleep all night. She looks at the clock, it was seven am, early enough to slip out unnoticed and go back to her dorm for some fresh clothes and a shower. She hadn’t wanted to leave Faith until she knew the slayer’s injuries were going to be healing well enough but she needed some time alone, just to contemplate how she had awoken. And how confusingly nice it had felt, she felt so safe and protected. Usually, she just woke up alone and tense, a feeling she more familiar with. She just had to remember that this wouldn’t be a regular event, Faith was her friend and still healing in so many ways, there would never be anything between them, and she shouldn’t expect anything less.
So grabbing her jacket from the chair, Tara quietly tiptoed out of the room until she touches the door handle.

“I do have super hearing you know, I heard you open your eyes,” Faith told the witch without opening her eyes. Tara dropped her head and laughed at the cockiness of the slayer. She was so good at making Tara forget her worries, without even knowing it most of the time.

“Sorry didn’t realise I’d be so annoyingly loud,” Tara chuckled still looking at the not, not wanting to wake the house with their talking.

“Where you goin’?” Faith asked still half asleep.

“Just home, I need to freshen up,” She whispered in a calming tone.

“You’re coming back, right? Faith slurred her head now pointing in Tara’s direction but keeping her eyes closed.

“Do you think you’ll need me?” Tara now hesitant of what to do, not wanting to crowd the slayer, wondering if she should start keeping boundaries.

“I always do...” Faith trailed off as she rolled to the side and falling back into slumber. Tara just smiled at the disorientated slayer.

“Ok Faith, see you soon,” Tara lifted her head and left the room. More content to be returning.

Chapter Text

A week had now passed since Tara’s kidnapping and every morning Tara would arrive at the Summer’s residence. She would spend all day looking after Faith until the evening when she would head back to the dorm. This thought this was a more sensible decision after waking up next to the slayer one morning. So to avoid any mishaps again she made sure to go home at the end of the day and not fall asleep.
On this morning, Tara was doing her usual routine of checking Faith’s wounds and redressing them but with the slayer’s accelerated healing, she was already feeling stronger. The bruising on her collar bones and shoulders had disappeared and she could move her fingers much better but they were still severely bruised. As far as cuts, they had grown smaller but still quite deep, which slowed the slayer down.

“So...I’m feeling a lot better today...” Faith said casually as she put her shirt back on,

“That’s good,” Tara said putting the first aid kit away.

“I was thinking we could go out...”

“Together?” Tara responded suddenly, shocked by the slayer’s sudden bluntness.

“Yeah...I’m not completely healed...Maybe go for a walk and stretch my legs?” Faith suggested innocently.

Tara sighed in relief after understanding what the slayer actually meant but now slightly embarrassed that her mind just to such preposterous conclusion straight away.
“Faith, I don’t know if that’s such a good idea like you said, you’re not fully healed,” Tara explained.

“Come on T, I’ve been stuck in this bed for a week, I’ve got an ass print in the mattress...please?” Faith pleaded almost ready to beg. Tara laughed at the puppy like expression that appeared on Faith’s face.

“I suppose we could go for a short walk after lunch BUT you have to take regular stops, I’m not carrying you back if you get tired, got it?” Tara ordered.

“Yes ma’am,” Faith mock saluted the witch.

“Now get some more rest on that ass print, I’ll be back,” Tara gave another order as she left the room.

“Ok Mrs Terminator,” Faith grinned as she laid herself back down on the bed knowing she had gotten her own way.

***

A couple of hours later Tara and Faith were out on their walk. They almost made it to the edge of town after a few insisted pit stops from Tara. Faith’s movements were slow, so their short walk was becoming quite the journey. They started passing through the rougher side of town, Tara began to feel agitated as the sunset was setting in. She knew they shouldn’t be out much longer.

“Faith, I think we should probably head back now,” Tara suggested nervously.

“Not yet, can’t we wait until its dark and then we’ll head back, I can’t get enough of this,” Faith said stretching herself out as they passed a seedy demon bar.

“It’s basically dark al–,” Tara began to tell the ignorant slayer.

“Faith!” A vampire shouted from behind them. Both women spun around to see a vampire had exited the bar and obviously recognised the slayer.

“Oh, crap...Hey Shorty! ...miss me? Faith greeted the vampire in a very patronising tone. Tara began to look nervous knowing they were in no way prepared for a fight.

“You should’ve stayed in that coma bitch! You ain’t got Wilkins to protect you now!” Shorty growled leering towards the slayer. Faith took a confident step forward.

“Shorty, you were always a piss poor excuse for a vamp, I don’t need protecting,” Faith antagonised the vampire.

“Faith, no, you can’t...” Tara hissed to Faith.

“Don’t worry, I got this-,” Faith was cut off with a punch to the stomach, the impact vibrated through her already damaged ribs, sending her to the floor. The pain in her ribs knocked the wind out of her, catching her breath wasn’t easy. “Ok, I don’t got this,” Faith scrambled off the floor with Tara’s help. The vampire ran straight at Faith again but she was ready for him this time. She dodged his punches, not very well, but still dodged. She grabbed his fist and twisted the wrist, causing it to crack and Shorty dropped to his knees. Faith then grabbed his head and slammed his face to the floor before stomping on his back. Clutching her side, Faith turned and grabbed Tara’s hand for them to start running and make their escape. Faith led Tara away from the bar and down multiple alleyways, looking behind her to make sure they weren’t being followed; they dropped to the side of an old dumpster.

“Are y-yy-you ok?” Tara asked the wounded slayer, struggling to catch her own breath.

“I will be but we need to get out of here before she catches up to us,” Faith leant back against the wall trying to breathe through the throbbing pain searing through her body. Tara looked at her with deep concern; she looked around them to weigh their options.

“We can go to mine, the campus isn’t far...it’ll be safer,” Tara suggested anxiously, knowing they would be risking a lot running back to the Summer’s, the slayer wouldn’t be able to make it in her weakened state. Faith just nodded in agreement, the pain was too much for her to suggest anything else. So Tara put Faith’s arm around her shoulder and the two women made their way out of the alley and slowly ran to campus.

 

A few minutes later the two exhausted women made it back to Tara’s dorm. Tara hurried Faith through the door so she could lock it behind them. Tara busied herself closing the curtains whilst Faith stood in the middle of the room and looked at her surroundings, the room was dark with Wiccan trinkets and spell books and fairy lights draped everywhere. The room had a very calming effect on the slayer; it reminded her of the basement but with a more homely feel to it. She definitely hadn’t expected this to be the type of place that Tara would live in but it still suited her at the same time.

“Faith, get on the bed,” Tara told the slayer, bringing her out of her thoughts.

“No dinner first?” Faith tried to joke as she sat back on the edge of the bed.

“You’re hurt again, is this really the time for jokes?” An exhausted Tara stated.

“T, lighten up, everything’s five by five,” Faith said as she brushed off Tara’s annoyance. Tara stormed over to Faith and pulled her top up to reveal her stitches had ripped and fresh blood was seeping from the wound.

“Does this look five by five to you?” Tara huffed letting the shirt drop.

“Yeah I get it, I screwed up but why have you always got to be so serious? We’re safe now,” Faith snapped.

“And why have you got to be so careless, you wouldn’t have if you had just listened to me!”

“I didn’t ask you to be my carer!”

“No, you just asked me to come with you!”

“Well if I could go alone then I would,” Faith scoffed at the witch.

“God, you’re so stubborn!”

“You started it!”

“Because I’m worried about you, you could’ve got hurt again!”

“And I’m sorry!”

“Well, that’s all I wanted to hear!”

“Then why are we fighting?”

“I don’t know anymore!” Tara who was still shouting suddenly starts to laugh with a very confused Faith watching her.

“Girl, you crazy, you know that?” Faith shifted uncomfortably still watching the laughing witch. Tara composed herself again and went to sit on the bed next to the slayer.

“I’m sorry...I was worried something bad would happen and then it did and now you’re stuck here...”

“I’ve been stuck in worse places...” Faith nudged Tara making her smile; showing her there were no hard feelings.

“Look just take your top off, so I can patch that cut, I’d rather you didn’t bleed all over my bed,” Tara rose from the bed and began to gather bandages as Faith slowly unbuttoned her shirt and took it off, leaving her in just her bra waiting for the witch. Tara turned to see the waiting Faith and almost dropped everything she was holding. Her breath hitched and colour flooded her cheeks at the sight. It wasn’t the first time she had seen Faith without her top on, she here in it when she trained with Buffy or for the last week when dealing with her injuries but she never tried to look in a disrespectful way. Faith needed to be treated before but now her body was healing nicely, Tara couldn’t help but take in the beauty before her. Faith made her beauty look effortless. Her eye’s screamed pain but everything else was like a goddess. It hurt Tara’s heart to think this woman could be so damaged but also had so much potential for good. The more she got to know the slayer, the more difficult she found to ignore the attraction but she knew nothing would ever come of it. Not only because of what she was destined to become but because Faith could never want her. She was a woman for one thing and a friend next. She could never risk the trust they were building with romantic feelings. So drawing her eyes away from Faith, Tara joined the slayer on the bed and began to clean and bind her wounds again. It didn’t take as long this time around. After covering the wounds, Tara put the things away, then grabbed a shirt and shorts out of the drawer and gave it to Faith.

“What’s this for?” Faith asked confused, looking at the clothes.

“Did you want to sleep in leather pants? Can’t imagine it’s comfortable,” Tara laughed.

“Oh right,” Faith thought for a moment whilst looking at the clothes like she was figuring out what to do with them. She shrugged her shoulders and removed her bra to start changing. Tara flushed at the sight and quickly turned around, trying to busy herself. Faith laughed at the witch.
“Don’t tell me you’re a prude now?”

“NN-No, I’m not, I just wasn’t expecting you to be so brazen...” Tara stuttered back.

“Ok firstly, I’m done you can stop hiding, second, we’re both women, nothing you ain’t seen before,” Faith said crawling up to the back of the bed and resting her back against the headboard.

“I guess I’m just not as free as you are and you probably don’t want someone like me looking...” Tara trailed off slightly embarrassed.

“What the hell are you...Oh the gay thing...who cares, you not exactly a predator besides I look good, don’t really care who sees this,” Faith said cockily upon realising why the witch turned away.

“Well I like to be respectful; no woman deserves to be ogled like a piece of meat...”

“So you think I’m ogle worthy?” Faith raised an eyebrow in curiosity.

“I’m not blind, I can see how beautiful you are if that’s what you're suggesting?” Tara started to match Faith’s cocky behaviour.

Faith’s face dropped at this and suddenly pulled her knees up to her chest. “I ain’t beautiful...”

Tara looked at the slayer, sadness filling her eyes. She sat opposite Faith on the bed and placed a hand on her knee so the slayer would look at her.
“I don’t know why you would think that about yourself but you are you know...beautiful,”

“No, I’m not...”

“How can you say this sweetie?” Tara asked.

“I just ain’t...no one gave me a reason to think otherwise. I’ve always been the party girl, the one all the boys wanted to screw. No one’s ever called me anything other than sexy...” Faith said almost laughing at herself.

“What about your mother?” Tara asked horrified by what she was hearing.

“What about her? She was a drunken whore and then after dad died she was never home, that woman never had a good word to say about anyone,” Faith brushed Tara’s hand off of her knee and got up from the bed and started stretching her arms around. “So you got any food in this joint?” Faith asked non-chalontely trying to change the subject.

“You always do that,” Tara shook her head and stood from the bed.

“Do what?” The brunette asked.

“This, anytime we talk...like really talk, you find a way to escape,”

“Maybe I don’t like talking, why do you have to keep pushing?” Faith asked now growing annoyed, not wanting to speak about herself anymore.

“Talking is a part of what makes us human, Faith you need to heal in so many ways, talking about our past helps us grow,”

“If it’s so important, how come you never talk about your past?” Faith asked now deflecting again.

“You’ve never asked me anything,” Tara stated simply.

“Huh?” Faith asked thrown off.

“You’ve never asked me about my past, I’m not saying you don’t care but in all the times we’ve spoken, you’ve never asked. You obviously have an issue with your past and I would never push you to talk if you didn’t want to, this is all at your pace, you can ask e whatever you want...that’s what friends do,”

“Well I’m not talking and you can’t make me, I won’t go back there!” Faith said getting worked up and shaking.

“What are you talking about sweetie? No one’s going to make you go anywhere,” Tara reached a hand forward to Faith but the slayer flinched and began to cry.

“Don’t touch me! Stop being nice, pin me to the wall, I deserve it,” Faith grew more upset; she started shifting on the spot, looking to escape the room. She looked towards the door but Tara saw it instantly. The witch lunged forward and wrapped her arms around the crying slayer. Faith tried to pull away but Tara wouldn’t let go.

“Sssh, calm down...Faith its ok, just stop!” At that, Faith stopped struggling and her tears grew stronger. Tara continued to hush the slayer whilst stroking her hair. Tara’s heart broke again, no wonder the slayer turned out the way she had. Her past was obviously traumatic; the women had never received real affection before. After a few minutes of staying in the same position, Faith’s breathing began to even out and the tears slowed. Tara didn’t want to let the slayer go until she knew she was ok, so they didn’t move.

 

After a couple of hours of holding each other, the two women finally released. Tara had made them both food and pretended their earlier conversation hadn’t happened for the sake of the emotional slayer. Tara went about getting ready for sleep after eating and the slayer couldn’t help but just silently watch her. Her movements were graceful and it calmed the rogue slayer. She had always felt a pull towards the witch since the moment she laid eyes on her. She just wanted to protect her, even as a slayer she had never felt the need to protect a person so much as she did for the witch. It was as though they were both running from their pasts. Faith found herself caring for a woman who could never be with her. Faith was broken and if Tara was with her, she would only cause the witch pain. Nobody she got close to survived.

“You ok?” Tara asked pulling Faith from her thoughts.

“Um yeah, just tired I guess,” Faith said shaking off the daze.

“Ok, I’ll just grab the sleeping bag and we can go to sleep,” Faith just nodded and started to climb onto the floor.
“Faith what are you doing?” Tara asked shocked.

“I’m going to sleep on the floor...” Faith stated as though it was obvious.

“You’re not sleeping on the floor your hurt...I am,” Faith jumped up off the floor.

“This is your place, I’ll be fine down there,” Faith stated.

“And if you hurt yourself more, I’ll feel so guilty...” Tara explained as Faith looked over at the double bed.

“Ok then, we’ll share?” The slayer suggested.

“We can’t do that...”

“Why not? Not trust that I’ll kill you in your sleep?”

“Of course not!” Tara said offended. #

“Get in then, one night won’t hurt, so chill ok?” Faith told her as she climbed under the covers. Tara just nodded not having any other argument, so taking a deep breath; she moved around the bed and joined Faith. She quickly shut off the light and they both lay on their backs, side by side. They both lay in silence for a few moments, just listening to the sounds of the hallway and each other’s nervous breathing until Faith broke the tension building.

“T?” Faith whispered with her husky voice.

“Yeah?” Tara whispered back.

“Why did you want to help me? No one else did and you didn’t even know me...” Tara took a moment before answering.

“You just answered it, I didn't know you and everyone was ready to give up. I believe everyone deserves a second chance, even a rogue slayer...” Faith just listened silently.

“Goodnight Tara,” Faith whispered with her eyes already closed. Tara felt a lump in her throat, knowing this was the first time she had heard the slayer consciously not refer to her with a nickname. Faith really did use actions better than words in so many ways.

“Goodnight Faith,”

Chapter Text

 

Another week had passed since Faith had awoken in Tara’s arms and after sneaking out, they hadn’t spoken since. It wasn’t intentional but she needed time to think and heal without the confusing feelings that were developing for the witch. Faith had never particularly been an affectionate person and waking up in the witches arms was definitely a surprise. It was the best night’s sleep she had had in a long time.  It scared the hell out of her and she was so glad the witch had been asleep, so she didn’t have to see Faith being weak and making things awkward between the two. Tara hadn’t made contact either, so she had either woken up at some point as was embarrassed also or she was just annoyed that the slayer had left the next morning without saying a word. So trying to keep herself distracted, Faith went about her week, her wounds were all healed now and the barrier had not been put back up around the Summer’s which she had taken full advantage of.  Well taken advantage in how the new Faith would, this included one meaningless dalliance with a guy she met at the bronze, and the rest of the time was errands that she made for Mrs Summers. She didn’t see the point in just partying and fighting like she used to, even her one night stand wasn’t like it used to be. She regretted it and didn’t find the thrill in using and abusing like the old days. Flashes of the blonde witch kept popping in her head which just didn’t help either, all she could see what the blonde being so disappointed with her and then the flashes went a bit more x rated than she had anticipated, which brought more confusion to the slayer. So she just figured she would ignore how she use to act and see what could happen instead.

The slayer had made her way to Giles’s apartment after spending her morning exercising. She entered the apartment to find Buffy and Giles sitting on the sofa. So she sauntered over and collapsed onto the armchair and swung her feet onto the coffee table.

“Good morning Faith, “Giles greeted the slayer whilst ignoring how she used his coffee table as a footrest.

“What up? Xan man told me you and B wanted to see me, so what’s the big bad?” Faith asked.

“Um...there is none?” Buffy responded confused and wondering if there was a big bad that she had just forgotten about.

“Oh, well then what couldn’t wait until I saw you at the house?” Faith asked now taking the role of the confused slayer. Giles smiled at Buffy and nodded. She pulled a key out of her pocket and threw it to Faith.

“What’s this for?” Faith asked catching the key mid-air and examined it.

“It’s the key to your old penthouse...” Buffy said with a proud smile.

“Gonna need some more info here guys, that was Wilkin’s place?” Faith pushed.

“Ah yes...well when Willow expunged your record she came across some things and it turns out he had it in your name, the deeds yours if you would like it?” Giles explained with a smile.

“Hold up, you’re telling me you’ve known for weeks that I owned my own place and you let me stay in that crusty basement?” Faith questioned annoyed.

“Technically yes but so much has happened between that point and we want to make sure-,”

“That I wasn’t going to kill anyone?” Faith interrupted.

“As horrible as it sounds but yes. Faith when you woke up from that coma you were a danger to yourself and others around you but since then you’ve grown and begun your redemption, you haven’t had your magical barrier for a while now and you still choose to come back rather than escape...” Giles explained calmly.

“So what now? You kicking me out?” Faith asked looking between Giles and Buffy.

“No! –No...but if you want to, you can move into your own place...we trust you, Faith,” Buffy smiled.

“Oh cool, well maybe, I’ll think about it...uh thanks (Gestures with the key) I’ll speak to you guys later...” Faith shifted uncomfortably with the key and then left the apartment, not sure how to handle all the positive vibes.

“Do you think she’ll be ok?” Buffy questioned her watcher.

“No...But she will be, she’s surprised us all,” Giles smiled thinking about his other slayers progress.

***

Faith entered the Summer’s residence to find Joyce sat in the kitchen reading the newspaper. She kept her head down and headed straight to the basement

“Hold up now! Come and sit please,” Joyce called without looking away from the newspaper, stopping Faith in her tracks.

“What have I done?” Faith asks almost like a teenager.

“Well I have a plate of croissants here and you didn’t even steal one on the way past, so what’s wrong?” Joyce replied now putting her paper down. Faith rolls her eyes and joined Joyce at the kitchen island.

“B and Giles gave me the key to my old penthouse, turns out Wilkins’s had it put in my name,”

“So is this a good thing or a bad thing?” Joyce asked, not sure of which way to steer the conversation.

“Good thing...I guess,” Faith shrugged, leaning on her arm on the table.

“You don’t seem too sure,” Joyce assessed.

“Aaargh, I don’t get why this is wiggin’ me out, I should be pumped that I have my own place but I just feel empty,” Joyce chuckles lightly at the slayer and places her hand on Faith’s arm lovingly.

“Oh honey, so much happened there and you haven’t been back in a year, you’ve either been in a hospital or my basement, you shouldn’t expect yourself to feel great about it, I’d be nervous,”

“I’m not nervous though...I just don’t know what I am...do you want me to move out?” Faith asked not really knowing how to centre herself.

“Of course I don’t but how long did you think you would be staying here?”

Faith just shrugged at the mother. “I dunno, just figured I’d just kit out that basement into a sweet pad and then once you retired, I’d just fight B for the property....”

“Seriously?” Joyce asked not sure if the slayer was joking or not.

“Maybe...it was just a rough draft...” Faith said now thinking about how she would design the basement if it was permanent.

“Honestly honey, why don’t you just go see the place, think about and if you don’t want to go back there then you are always welcome here, nothing’s the end of the world and there’s always a solution,” Joyce said smiling.

“Really?”

“Of course, you started out here as a prisoner but now you’re a guest, so don’t forget it,”

“Thanks, Mrs S, guess I’ve got somewhere to be then...” Faith ends the conversation not knowing how to respond to the compliment. She jumps up and takes one of the croissants off Joyce’s plate as she leaves the mother back to her newspaper.

***

Tara had spent most of the morning in her dorm room getting ahead of her reading before college started again.  It had been a week since she had seen the slayer. She had woken up with a peaceful Faith cradled into her chest.  The sight was definitely unexpected but the witch couldn’t bring herself to move the slayer away.  Instead, she closed her eyes and embraced the innocence of the situation and let the slayer stay in her place and get as much needed rest as possible. Tara had fallen back to slumber but when she awoke, she was alone and Faith was gone. Tara could only think the slayer needed space. The night before had been very emotionally stressful, so she made the conscious decision to stay away for a while and honestly Tara appreciated the break. The confusing feelings between herself and the slayer were becoming more and more prominent. She knew they should distance themselves for a while but Tara honestly didn’t want to. She enjoyed the slayer's company and would much rather spend the last couple of weeks of summer with Faith than in her dorm working for no reason. She had spent many times thinking of reasons she could use to see Faith but short of making up a vampire attack, there were no reasons, so Tara stayed away and hoped that soon she could have her friend back.
Tara had just about finished her and was about to practice some spells when a knock came from the door. The witch wasn’t expecting anyone, so she closed her books and answered the door to come face to face with Faith.

“Hey,” Faith said looking at Tara like a nervous child.

“HH-Hey,” Tara stuttered back not expecting the slayer to be stood there.

“Mind if I come in?” Faith asked.

“Oh sure,” Tara agreed, standing aside to let the slayer in. Faith walked in and straight away began to handle random trinkets in the room.

“Sorry we haven’t spoken, guess I’ve been busy, they kept the barrier down now so doing a mad amount of errands for Mrs S...”

“I heard about that...you don’t want to be stuck with a keeper, you’re free...” Tara said bashfully.

“Don’t say that, I said I like being around you,” Faith said sternly. “Don’t put yourself down, T,” 

Tara gulped and looked at Faith. She could feel her body tingle, memories of waking up with the slayer in her arms were flooding her mind. She couldn’t let their conversation become serious again, in case she left again.
“You’ve healed really well,” Tara gestured to Faith's face.

“Oh yeah, magical slayer healing,” Faith laughed, she grew nervous and started shifting on her feet.
“Are you busy today?”

“Uh no...Has something happened?” Tara asked the slayer who looked ever so nervous.

“No I just, I got to go check somewhere out, I haven’t been there in a while...I wanted to know if you would come with me? You know what I just turned up its cool, I’ll hit you up later-,” Faith turned to leave.

“I can go,” Tara stated before Faith could open the door. Faith turned back around slightly stunned.

“Really?” Faith asked hopefully as Tara nodded.

“Where did you need to go?” Tara asked.

 

About thirty minutes later, Faith and Tara were stood in the middle of Faith’s old penthouse. It hadn’t been touched since the night Buffy and Faith had fought and put Faith into a coma.  Everywhere the slayer looked, old memories kept crashing into her mind. She could see the first time she saw this place and how excited she had been especially with all the new gifts Wilkins kept giving her, she could see the day she wore a dress and how special it had made her feel, to be wanted and the fight she had with Buffy that burnt straight to her core. Being confined to the Summers so long, she almost managed to forget her past but seeing this place in front of her eyes, it disabled her. She walked over to the window that she and Buffy had thrown themselves through during the fight. The windows had been boarded up and it was covered in graffiti.

“What happened to this place?” Tara asked making her way through the mess.

“Dunno, looks like squatters (she looked around the trashed apartment and vandalism scattered around the walls) it weren’t that bad last time I was here, me and B were only fighting, the worst we did was to the window...”

“Fighting?”

“Yeah, the night I ended up with a knife in my gut and in a coma, didn’t think B had the balls,” Faith chuckled to herself with a strange sense of nostalgia.

“I’m sorry, this place must bring back awful memories for you?” Tara said moving closer to Faith.

Faith just shrugged at Tara, trying to pretend that she wasn’t bothered.
“It’s cool, this place is so trashed I’m not even sure I remember what it use to look like... (Faith gets distracted by something on the other side of the room) dude look at that bed, it has a huge hole in the middle...how?” Faith said as she started listing off the damages. Tara started laughing, she couldn’t help but smile watching the developing domesticity of the slayer. Faith caught Tara’s eye when looking around.
“What’s so funny?”

“Nothing, it’s just nice to see you be so normal,”

“I’m acting the same as normal,” Faith replied confused.

“What I mean is, you’re in your own environment, you’re not talking about demons or vampires, it’s nice to see you relax even if it is looking at your trashed apartment,” Tara laughed.

“I still gotta decide if I want to live here or not...” Faith said making room for herself and Tara to sit on the musty sofa. Tara walked over to Faith to join her.

“You’re thinking of leaving Buffy’s?” Tara asked worrying this may cause a distance between the two of them.

“I wasn’t...and the G gave me the key to this place, turns out Wilkins put it in my name, and I guess B wants her basement back...” Faith rationalised.

“Or she trusts you so much she thinks you need your own space? Look at this place, yes it’s a mess but a bit of work and it could look great...Not many people as young as you are lucky enough to own their own property, don’t think Buffy is just trying to get rid of you,” Tara said placing a hand on Faith’s leg for comfort.

“Would you help me? Like, fix this place up? I’m not even sure where I’d start,” Faith asked as she rubbed her temples.

“You want me to help?” Tara asked slightly surprised.

“I did just ask, do you just like repeating me?” Tara pushed Faith’s shoulder playfully.

“I can totally help but classes start up in a couple of weeks,” Tara explained.

“That’s cool, we can get a lot done in that time, cleaning it first, but I don’t know where I’ll get the money to fix or replace anything, not many places hire a high school dropout,”

“Don’t worry about that yet, let’s just clean everything first, you can worry about money later,” Faith just nodded her head whilst listening. “Now let’s make a plan and go from there,”

Chapter Text

 

“This place looks really good Faith,” Buffy praised her fellow slayer.

It had taken just over a week but between Faith and Tara, they had managed to clear the apartment and clean it top to bottom. They had only managed to salvage the sofa which took a thorough dusting and the bed frame. A very proud Faith did manage to find an old mattress in a random alley whilst on patrol. Tara couldn’t bear to tell the slayer it wasn’t the best choice so instead kept her mouth closed and used the strongest chemicals she could find to make sure the slayer didn’t catch any back alley diseases. Faith had also convinced Xander to replace the glass in the window which Tara had enjoyed watching as Anya wouldn’t leave her boyfriend's side in fear that Faith would try to seduce him.  Faith had also taken great pleasure in teasing the ex-demon about how she had taken the carpenters virginity. Strangely, Xander had managed to fix the windows in record time, so he could escape before his girlfriend tried to take vengeance out on the slayer.

“Thanks, B, I just need some furniture and paint this place and it’ll be done, the maintenance guy said he had some old paint I could take, so I should be done by the weekend,” Faith explained.

Buffy nodded whilst looking around the room. “That’s...that’s great, are you sure you don’t want to stay at the house until it’s done? You don’t have to move in today,” Buffy offered trying not to come off concerned.

“Nah its time, the place is safe now...why gonna miss me B?” Faith teased.

“Yeah sure, I’m gonna miss you raiding my fridge and your marathon baths,” Buffy shrugged off.

“Whatever you say B,” Faith smirked.

“I must say, Faith, you’ve done remarkably well,” Giles complimented the slayer as he enters the room from looking around the apartment.

“T did most of it, I was basically the muscle...” Faith shrugged off the compliment.

“Regardless, you both did excellent work, any plans for when you’re finished?” Giles asked.

“Dunno, guess look for a job, slaying don’t exactly pay the bills,” Faith said, not sure of what her plan actually was.

“That’s excellent to hear...anyway you probably want to enjoy your new home, I’ll grab your things from the car,” With that Giles exited the apartment, leaving the two slayers alone together.

“Sooo...you and Tara are hanging out a lot lately?” Buffy asked trying to be casual.

“Yeah? And?” Faith asked defensively with a hint of aggression in her husky tone.

“Oh nothing, I just never seen you spend so much time with someone, I mean I get before with the spells but your free now,”

“T’s cool, we just get on I guess, I don’t see the issue,” Faith frowned telling Buffy.

“There’s not one, its good that you found someone,”

“Found someone? We’re friends. Nothing else. I’m still loose and free,”

“Oh...Oh right, yeah, sorry, I didn’t mean anything by...have you since, you know? Been back? I’m sorry that’s none of my business,” Buffy said now embarrassed.

“Nah it’s cool, a couple of weeks ago I used and abused some guy, didn’t get his name but I’ll survive,” Faith told Buffy, trying to make sure she didn’t suspect any feelings that she may have for the witch. Buffy went to respond when they heard a throat clearing behind them. Giles and Tara were stood in the doorway, both holding a bag.

“T, hey, what’s happing,” Faith greeted the witch, now internally panicking that the witch may have heard their conversation. Tara was smiling shyly as she continued to enter the apartment with Giles.

“I...I just brought those sss-sheets I promised you, did I cc-come at a bad time?” Tara asked trying so hard to keep eye contact, trying to act like she hadn’t heard anything. Faith could tell something was wrong, she must have heard about Faith’s one night stand. Tara must be so disappointed? But why? Faith decided to continue to try and act normally.

“Oh great, thanks,” Faith said taking both of the bags from Tara and Giles and placing them in the living room. The room fell silent, Buffy could feel the tension and now regretted opening her mouth and she wasn’t sure why.

“So I think we’re going to go, I need to get the car back to mom, she wants to spend more time together before I go back to college...you know...but we’ll see you Sunday for lunch?” Buffy asked as she nudged Giles and they both slowly headed to the door.

“Yeah sure I’ll be there, I can’t say no to Mrs S,”

“Great, it was good seeing you Tara,” Buffy waved.

“You tt-too Buffy,” Tara stuttered and gave a small wave back.

“Quite, goodbye girls,” Giles nodded as he closed the door behind him.

Both Tara and Faith stood in the living room in silence, both staring at the floor, neither knowing what to say. Tara was in good spirits when she had left for the slayer’s apartment. The two women were growing so close that week and the tension was slowly building between them. Tara didn’t know what it was but she knew the slayer was feeling something. She could always feel the slayer’s eyes on her like she was searching for something. Tara knew it was nothing romantic and it never would be but something was happening even if the feelings weren’t returned. So standing in the doorway to hear Faith had slept with a man cemented the fact Tara didn’t have a future with the slayer, she wanted other things. And in that moment, that one kiss that Faith had planted on Tara all those months ago came to the front of her mind. The taste of her lips coated her senses. She knew that would be the one and only experience she would have with the rogue slayer.

“I sh-should go too...” Tara gestured to the door.

“You don’t have ta, we could hang or something?” Faith offered.

“N-n-no it’s fine, I sss-“ Faith cut the witch off.

“Why are you stuttering? You haven’t done that in a long time... (Faith suddenly has a realisation) You heard me and B...” Faith hung her head in slight shame.

“Sorry, I didn’t mm-mean to listen in like that...” Tara said nervously, feeling like she had intruded into something that wasn’t her business.

“You shouldn’t be sorry, I shouldn’t have run my mouth, you didn’t need to find out like that,” Faith told the witch, ashamed of herself.

“Faith, you don’t owe me an explanation, your free and single, it’s none of my business who you’re intimate with...” Tara said now looking at the ashamed slayer, realising she had no business acting differently with the slayer. Nothing had ever happened between them, they were just friends.

“Yeah...yeah I know that but you shouldn’t have to hear that...” Faith said.

“Why? Think I’m too innocent to hear about sex?” Tara asked now a bit defensive but also trying to lighten the mood.

“No! Just don’t want you to see this side of me...it’s shameful, I’m the get and get gone girl but you never saw me that way and it was nice...I didn’t even want to sleep with that guy, I just did, it’s all I know what to do,” Faith explained now dropping herself down on the sofa. Tara’s eyes filled with tears watching the slayer. She couldn’t believe Faith felt that way. Tara would never judge Faith no matter what. She had seen under the slayers tough exterior and she couldn’t be more different from how everybody perceived her. Tara hurried over to the sofa and sat next to the slayer and grabbed her hand.

“But you don’t need to be that girl if you don’t want to, I still see you as the Faith that I’ve gotten to know, you don’t need to hide anything from me ever!” Tara told Faith who looked up so their eyes are locked.

“So you’re not upset with me?” Faith asked not able to look up.

“Of course not, I won’t lie I was shocked but that’s none of my business, I don’t run your life,”

“But I like your input...” Faith stated innocently. Tara was shocked by this; the slayer continued to surprise her with unexpected honesty.

“Just know Faith, you shouldn’t have to worry about telling me things, your my friend and I trust your decisions and I’m definitely a big girl, I can handle a lot more than you think...”

“Are you sure you can’t stay for a while?”

“Sure... let's order a pizza,” Tara smiled giving in and putting Faith at ease.

***

About an hour later Tara and Faith had managed to relax into their usual behaviours with each other. Tara was telling Faith about the new classes she would be taking that year. Faith had never been very academic, that’s how she had ended up a high school dropout but she continued to smile and nod, just content on listening to the witch’s voice. They were interrupted but a knock at the door.

“That’ll be the pizza guy, I’ll get it,” Faith said as she jumped up from the sofa and answered the door. She was met with a blow to the face, throwing the slayer backwards. Shorty stepped in with another vampire both wearing a full demonic face and a smile on their faces.

“Oh, god Faith (Tara ran over to Faith’s side, helping her up) how did he get in?” Tara asked in shock.

“My fault, I invited him in when I worked for the mayor, guess I forgot,” Faith explained now pissed as she stood from the floor.

“Great job too, when I heard you were back round here, I knew we’d get to finish our ‘chat’,” The vampire grinned at the slayer with psychotic eyes.

“How about we skip the chat and I just dust you?” Faith suggested ready to fight, especially as this time she was fully healed from her injuries.

“Bring it, traitor!” Shorty gestured for her to come at him.

“AAARGH!” Faith screamed as she threw herself at Shorty.
They both tumbled to the floor, rolling around for a few moments fighting for control, meanwhile Shorty’s accomplice started rounding in on Tara. The witch took a couple of steps backwards and knocked her foot on a box, she grabbed an umbrella sticking out of it and whipped it open into the vampire's face and pushed it into him making him stumble and fall over the sofa. Quickly looking around trying not to get distracted by Faith’s own battle, she noticed a vacuum cleaner by the fallen vampire. She gestured her hand using telekinesis to pull the cord and wrap it around the vampire’s neck. She clenched her fist making the cord pull so tight it decapitates the vampire’s head and turned him to dust. Just then the witch was struck in the head by an unknown object but whatever it was, Faith had just dodged it. Seeing Tara get hit just made Faith more furious. She continued to punch and kick Shorty until he grabbed an oncoming kick and threw Faith through her newly fixed window and onto the balcony that she and Buffy had once fought on.

“You dick! I just had that fixed!” Faith snapped as she got off the floor and brushed away the glass.

Shorty just jumped through the broken window laughing. He grabbed Faith by the hair and threw her back down. Tara suddenly appeared at the window and caught Faith’s eye. There was blood on her forehead where she was hit. She lifted a stake up into view and threw it to Faith as Shorty was closing in.

“I’m gonna drink you dry and then I’m gonna have that tasty blonde for dessert,” Shorty grinned just as Faith caught the stake mid air and thrust it into his chest.

“Sorry dude, she’s not into guys,” Shorty’s face dropped as he turned to dust.

“Are you ok?” Tara called from the window.

“Five by five,” Faith replied getting back up from the floor again and climbed up through the broken window and back into the apartment.

“What about you? You took a pretty bad hit back there,” Faith asked looking over Tara for any injuries.

“It looks worse than what it is,” Tara brushed off Faith’s concern. Faith brought a hand up to push back Tara’s hair from her face to reveal the cut just under the hairline. Both of the women’s eyes locked in that moment, all of Tara’s pain instantly disappeared and Faith was getting lost in the witch. Their heads inched closer. There was nowhere to run, Faith’s mouth began to part and Tara’s breathing increase, her heartbeat ringing through her ears. Was Faith actually about to kiss her? As their faces grew closer, everything seemed to stop. Tara took one more deep breath just as their lips met.

“Uh excuse me?” A voice came from the doorway; both women jumped back and looked to where the interruption came from. A very confused pizza guy was stood in the hall by the open door. “I’ve got your pizza,” The guy told them as he looked around the destroyed apartment.

***

A little while later the two women got the pizza and paid off the delivery guy with an overly large tip in hopes he’ll forget what he witnessed. Before they could eat though, Faith demanded that she clean Tara’s cut and then cover the smashed window. The two women were sat on the sofa as Faith cleaned the wound with a cloth.
“I don’t think it needs stitches but you should stay here tonight just in case you have a concussion,” Faith told the witch.

“Only if you let me put up an anti-vampire invitation spell, who knows how many pissed off demons are looking for you,” Tara laughed.

“Not gonna lie, there’s probably a few, I’m a traitor from all sides, I really do know how to rub people the wrong way...I’m sorry you got hurt, it’s my fault,” Faith shook her head.

“Your right, it’s your fault,” Tara gave a coy smile as Faith finished what she was doing. Faith smiled back at the witch’s cheeky remark and grabbed a slice of pizza and lounged back on the sofa opposite Tara.

“Think I liked it better when you stuttered,” Faith said teasingly.

“No you don’t,” Tara smiled grabbing her own slice and relaxed back, ready to spend another evening and night with the slayer.  She did her best to try and ignore the fact that they had both almost kissed but Faith hadn’t mentioned it, so many it was just something in the moment that was misconstrued. Faith always said she got hungry and horny after a fight, it could’ve seemed like something it wasn’t but either way, it was making Tara’s chest go crazy. Her skin was vibrating, she felt so alive and wished they could just carry on what they started but not wanting to ruin the moment, she just did her best to push the memory to the back of her mind.

Faith looked on at the happy witch, still trying to wrap her head around what almost happened between the two of them. She almost kissed the witch, seeing her injured just brought out all of Faith’s protectiveness. She feared losing Tara and in that moment the pull for Tara’s touch was irresistible but after the interruption Faith questioned everything, secretly happy nothing happened, not wanting to take advantage of the witch, especially when she didn’t know where her feelings were at, the witch deserved more than to be used. Now she just needed to figure out if it was a one-off or if it could happen again.

Chapter Text

After the events with Shorty, Faith and Tara hadn’t managed to find time to see each other. Faith was busy repairing the new damage and decorating the apartment, whilst Tara was busy preparing for classes. They had managed to meet up with the rest of the gang at the beach before school started though. They decided on a barbeque at the beach but whilst there Tara couldn’t help but drool over Faith in her bikini. Faith had spent the better part of an hour throwing a football around with Buffy, building up a nice gleam of sweat which the sunlight bounced off of beautifully. Tara could’ve sworn that Faith had noticed her looking but she couldn’t have. The slayer was always turning away and keeping busy, the witch was just paranoid. Faith had made no signs that she had any interest in the witch; they barely spoke since their awkward interaction the other week, there was no sign of different behaviours coming from Faith but what Tara didn’t know was actually being distant.
When Faith had first arrived at the beach she had immediately noticed Tara in her swimsuit and sarong, she had always seen that the witch was beautiful but had also wondered what she looked like underneath her flowing choice of clothes. And from what Faith could see she wasn’t disappointed, she could feel the blush creeping up her face every time that she looked and not being used to feeling so embarrassed, she did her best to avoid eye contact. Then she had to put up with Willow making a pathetic attempt at flirting with her fellow witch. It filled the slayer with rage knowing that Willow was still trying to get with Tara even though she knew Tara didn’t want it, luckily she didn’t have to do much avoidance when Willow made the heavens open and ruin beach day with a torrential downpour when a spell she did to light the barbeque backfired.

So this brought them to a few days later and they had all been called to Giles’ apartment for an emergency Scooby meeting. They all sat in the living room, Willow, Tara and Buffy sat on the sofa whilst Faith sat on the floor opposite and Xander and Anya curled up together on the armchair, whilst Giles walked around the room and looked over them all like the father figure he was.

“So you’re trying to tell me you met “the” Dracula? Like not some fake ass sesame street version?” Faith questioned, not quite believing what she heard.

“Yeah, so then Buffy’s all – look out! – and then friggin’ Dracula’s standing right behind us and can I just say he’s in serious need of a monster make-over,” Xander excitedly finished the rest of his story.

“And then he lunges at us – like whoosh! And -,” Willow added.

“He totally looked shorter in person -,” Xander told them.

“I told you he heard of me, right? Can you believe that? Count famous heard of me?” Buffy told the rest of the group for what felt like the tenth time that morning.

“No B...this is the first we’re hearing it, brand new information,” Faith replied with her most deadpan face, trying to ignore the jealousy bubbling inside of her. Tara tried her best to stifle a laugh at this.

“Sorry. Am I repeato girl? I guess I’m a little blown away,” Buffy bowed her head a little embarrassed.

“Don’t worry B, you’re the slayer, I’ve got a while to go before I’m noticed like that, I’m not surprised he’s heard of you,” Faith offered a branch to her fellow slayer.

“I guess. But the way he said it, he made it sound so-,”

“Sexy,” Willow finished Buffy’s sentence in her dreamy daze.

“Kinda. He of the dark, penetrating eyes and lilty accent...,” Buffy described in her own world.

“You think Dracula’s sexy?” Tara asked Willow in a slightly judgemental tone, this time it was Faith’s turn to stifle a laugh.#

“What? Oh no, he was – yuck,” Willow replied quickly brushing off her earlier compliment.

“Right except for the whole tall, dark and handsome thing. Yucko,” Anya casually responded in her usual sarcastic manner.

As Xander and Anya continued their conversation, talking about meeting Dracula in her demon days, everyone watched on whilst Faith got lost in her own thoughts of disinterest and tuned out. She turned her gaze away to Tara who was watching the conversation unfold. As though she could feel Faith watching, she turned to lock eyes with one another. They both got lost in each other for a moment as Tara gave the slayer a small smile. Before anyone could notice their silent exchange, they are pulled out of it by Giles addressing Faith.

“Does that sound good Faith?” Giles asked his slayer, not paying attention to her lack of interest.

“Hmm? What?” Faith asked having missed everything that was said.

“Tonight? Can you patrol, maybe see if you can get any information on a Dracula type arriving in town?” Giles asked oblivious to why Faith wasn’t paying attention.

“Yeah sure, I got this,” Faith agreed not having any other plans that night.

“And remember Faith, if you come across him don’t engage, we have no clue what abilities he possesses that other vampires do not,” Giles warned.

“Chill G, I’ll stay away from Count Dorkula, besides its B who gets the hots for vamps,” Faith teased winking in Buffy’s direction, who rolled her eyes at the comment.

“Alright, Willow you and Tara find anything you can on the actual legend of Vlad the Impaler on the internet. I’ll search the library,” Giles told the two witches who nodded in agreement.

“Ok guys; let’s say we reconvene here in the morning?” Buffy suggested rhetorically. Everyone agreed to the plan and went their separate ways.

***

After an uneventful patrol and an unsuccessful attempt at beating Willy the snitch for information, she had arrived at Giles’ apartment the next morning with no new information. Willow and Tara couldn’t turn up anything new but they had all discovered that Buffy was visited by Dracula and she could be placed under his thrall. So Giles and Faith took it upon themselves to go and find Dracula and leave Buffy with Xander and Anya whilst Willow and Tara placed an anti-invitation spell on the Summers residence.
Faith and Giles had searched all around Sunnydale looking for large buildings that Dracula may be taking residence in. Until they came across a large castle on the top of a hill, and with stormy weather developing around them, it looked like the beginning of a bad horror film.

“You know G, the whole time I’ve been in good ol’ SunnyD...I’ve never noticed...”

“A castle?” Giles finished Faith’s sentence for her.

The two make their way into the spooky castle together; the entire building was lit by candlelight. They walked down the darkened hallways looking for any sign of Dracula.

“We should cover more ground, you stay here and I’ll go down that corridor,” Faith instructed as the two separated and go in their own directions.
Faith made her way through the castle cautiously, making sure to look behind herself as often as possible. Lightning flashed through the darkened corridor. Faith could’ve laughed at the bad stereotype when she realised this corridor didn’t seem to have an ending. She stopped dead in her tracks and looked behind her; all she could see was another dead end. Now confused she took a different direction and entered the room directly to the left of her. She walked straight into a large piano room; the room was empty except for a large organ in the middle of the room and another door on the opposite side. She slowly walked across the hardwood floor, the room echoing with every step. A deep echoed tune sound came from the organ, rippling through the silence but no one was playing. Faith moved cautiously toward the instrument, a few more keys began to play by themselves. She spun around on the spot immediately to see if she was alone and then spun back, as she grew closer to the organ it’s keys sped up. She runs straight to the keys which stop before she has a chance to touch them. Faith reached a handout and touched one of the keys but no sound followed, confused she tilted her head to look inside of it when hundreds of bats fly out from the deep depths of the organ. Surrounding the slayer, she punched all around of her trying to dodge the mass amount of fluttering wings whipping her face. She screamed in rage, making the bats more agitated. The bats started to overlap on top of each other, speeding around in circles confusing the slayer's vision before shooting upwards in a block, disappearing into the blank ceiling. Once the noise disappeared, Faith carefully moved her hands away from her face to reveal she was alone again, the bats were gone. Not wanting to find out what else was going to jump out in the haunted house, Faith headed for the second door, she closed the door behind to find herself back where she had left Giles.
She had managed to travel in a complete circle unbeknownst to her. In the distance, the slayer could just about hear the faint sound of giggling. Not sure if she should go towards the sound after her own encounter with the bats and the hallways with a mind of its own but then Faith could hear the unmistakable sound of Giles in some kind of struggle. Not even hesitating at her watcher being in danger, she ran down to the end of the hallway and rips open the only door available, only to catch herself, realising there was no floor underneath. She looked down to see a dark pit below her but then a hand landed on her shoulder and she spun round to see a crazed looking Xander.

“Nobody harms my master,” Xander told the slayer.

“Your master? You and Anya trying to kink up your already disturbing sex life or something?” Faith asked confused by what Xander was talking about, wasting time that she didn’t have.

“You want him? You come through me,” Xander stated now stepping back and raising his fists ready to fight. Faith just shook her head and punched Xander in the face, knocking him out.

“You got it Xan man, now have a time out,” Faith responded with her usual quip before turning back to the doorway. She looked down and squinted using her more developed slayer vision to see Giles laying on the ground with his shirt open and in a daze with three female vampires on top of him, seducing his body. Faith pulled a cross out of the back of her jeans and brandished it towards the vampires.

“Giles!” Faith shouted trying to get her watchers attention. The three women hissed up at Faith and scattered away. Faith laid down on her fronts and stretched her hand down to Giles who still seemed to be in a daze.
“Come on, we’ve gotta go!” Faith shouted.

This seemed to wake Giles up slightly, who pulled himself up from the floor drunkenly and grabbed the slayer’s hand that then pulled him up and out of the pit.

“Thank God you came. I was doomed. There was no possible escape – (Giles stopped and noticed that one of his shoes had fallen off in the pit) Is that my shoe? Silly me, I’ll just pop down and  -,” Giles tried to climb back down into the pit until Faith stopped him and pulled him back.

“Uh uh, no more sex pit for you England,” Faith told her glamoured watcher.

***

Faith and Giles soon found Buffy just after she had staked Dracula (even if it did take a few goes) and once Xander had put them all through his diva fit, they all finally headed home. Faith walked a still slightly glamoured Giles back to his apartment first before going to her own place. Now going past midnight, the slayer decided to spend the rest of the night on the sofa watching the tv that she had stolen from Spike’s crypt. So she was surprised to enter her apartment and be welcomed with the smell of food cooking. She cautiously made her way to the kitchen to find Tara pulling a pot out of the oven. Faith stood in the doorway, shocked by the unexpected visitor, not prepared for the sight in front of her. As Tara turned to place the pot on the table she caught sight of the slayer.

“Oh Faith, hi,” Tara said trying not to seem too surprised.

“Hi...?” Faith said with a questioning tone. “What’s going on here?”

“Well I wasn’t sure what time you’d be back so I thought I’d make something to leave for you to eat,” Tara explained now serving some stew up for Faith.

“Ok...why?” Faith asked still confused by the kind gesture.

“I always feel bad you have to come home to an empty apartment after slayer, so I thought if tonight was rough, dealing with Dracula, it would be nice for you to come home to already prepared food...” Tara said now slightly embarrassed by her act of kindness. Faith didn’t respond, she just looked at the witch, still always so surprised when the witch does nice things for her. She left the doorway and sat at the table with Tara and began to eat. Faith stormed through the food before helping herself to seconds. Tara finished her portion and gazed over at the slayer, now finished her seconds. Faith started licking her fingers when she noticed the witch watching her.

“Why are you really here?” Faith asked suspiciously.  Tara didn’t expect the sudden bluntness.

“I told-,”

“Nope, there’s another reason...what is it?” Faith asked more forcibly. Tara looked down at her hands in her lap.

“I missed you,” Tara admitted quietly. Faith’s eyes widen at the admission. She herself had also missed the witch too but could never bear to admit it out loud before, not wanting to show weakness. She sat back in her chair more relaxed and cleared her throat, trying not to look awkward.

“Me too...,” The slayer mumbled, looking at her feet. Now it was Tara’s turn to look up, her heart skipped a beat. Hearing those two words made her body chill. Tara couldn’t keep ignoring her feelings, she tried so hard but her birthday was getting closer, she couldn’t bear to hurt the slayer, especially when there was a huge chance Faith would have to kill her.
“Thanks for the stew, it tasted wicked,” Faith quickly changed the subject.

“You’re welcome Faith,” Tara smiled at the slayer lovingly, hiding the pain of what was soon to come.

Chapter Text

 

The next couple of weeks seemed to fly by with all the happenings for Faith. Buffy’s bratty little sister got herself kidnapped by Harmony and got Anya injured in the process, which no one would hear the end of much to Faith’s annoyance. Giles had also bought the magic box and managed to rope Faith into helping with renovations before the big opening which he also roped her into but when it came to earning spare cash the disgruntled slayer wasn’t about to complain. Xander got cloned by a psycho demon who was actually aiming for Buffy and more recently a new big bad made herself known. Faith hadn’t seen this new evil because she was helping Giles with his grand opening but from Buffy’s description, this chick just seemed to be a super-strong Cordelia and for the consolation prize of getting her ass kicked, Buffy had acquired a mystical glowing ball. And then there was Joyce who ended up in the hospital, Faith had taken the news hard and ended up in Tara’s dorm room for the night. The slayer didn’t want anyone to see she was upset but she also didn’t want to be alone. She hadn’t spoken a word the whole night but led next to Tara in her bed in silence. She needed the soothing vibes of the witch and Tara would never turn the slayer away when she was in need. Tara didn’t question or push the slayer and when they woke in the morning wrapped in each other’s arms, they just went their separate ways, thankful for the night of comfort that would never be mentioned again in a silent agreement between the two.
So that brought Faith to present day in Buffy’s new dorm room with the rest of the Scoobies, helping her fellow slayer pack her things up and move back out.

“But we just helped her move this stuff in a few days ago! (Saw Buffy) And it was fun!” Anya said disgruntled as she crossed the room with a lamp in her hands over to the exit.

“Yeah I guess it’s kind of sudden but I’m hardly ever here and with mom being ill, I figured I’d save some cash,” Buffy explained sheepishly as she dragged a disgruntled Dawn to help her fold sheets.

“I just can’t believe you’d want to give up this cherry corner suite...” Xander said astonished whilst pointing at the exit as Anya entered again.

“Just a few days after we moved you in,” Anya added faking a smile.

“It’s no big, now we’ve got this new big bad, it feels safer,” Buffy said covering for why she’s really leaving, to protect her mystically created sister.

“I think that’s smart,” Willow agreed with a positive nod. Willow exited the room with a box as Faith entered, looking for more boxes to move. Faith looked over to gaze at Tara in the closet packing away Buffy’s clothes quite contentedly when she looked to see Buffy bend down and wince.

“Still feeling it, hey B?” Faith asked Buffy knowing she’s still feeling her fight with the crazy blonde chick.

“Nothing like getting your ass kicked to...make your ass hurt,” Buffy retorted, still slightly pissed that she lost.

“You’ll totally get her next time,” Dawn told her older sister with confidence.

“Cause you’ll have back up Baby. She’s messin’ with ALL of us,” Xander chimed in supportively.

“Yes, we’ll find her weaknesses and then...,” Giles started to say until a silent Tara cut in.

“Yeah, you learn her source and we’ll introduce her to her insect reflection,” Tara said cleverly with a smile until the polite silent expression pointed in her direction except for a small smiling Faith to the side of her which paled in comparison to how uncomfortable everyone else made her feel. “That was funny if you’ve studied Taglarin mystic rites...and...are a total dork...” Tara whispered as she grabbed the box of clothes and left the room.

“What’s Taglarin,” Faith asked once Tara left the room, so not to embarrass the girl more so than she actually was.

“Actually it’s quite interesting, it involves a person’s centre power and the karmic cycle...that was actually quite humorous,” Giles chuckled to himself whilst the rest of the Scooby’s continued to look on clueless. The Willow, looking around behind her shoulder, hurried into the room.

“Okay, guys, now remember, you gotta be at the Bronze by eight,” Willow told the gang as they try to remember what she was talking about.

“Bronze...,” Buffy said slowly.

“Tomorrow night! Tara’s birthday!” Willow emphasised.

Faith’s eyes widened in surprise, how did she not know it was Tara’s birthday? With all the time that they spent together and spoke, this had never come up once, and Willow knew about it! Well, they kind of together at one point...but she planned a surprise party? Willow was obviously making it no secret that she wanted the blonde witch back. Should she go? Of course, she should, Tara would want her there or so Faith hoped she would.

“We have to bring presents, right? Birth is a present thing?” The ex-demon asked anxiously, which pulled Faith out of her thoughts and back into the moment.

“I got something...picked out, yeah...” Xander jumped in with his white lie.

“You all can still come, right? I mean, I know there’s this new evil and all...” Willow asked, scared her friends had all forgotten.

“No, no, we can make it. I could definitely use a break from all this craziness,” Buffy stated putting the redhead at ease.

Faith rolled her eyes, knowing Buffy was thinking more of herself than of Tara. The two weren’t really close friends and since Buffy’s encounter with the mysterious women a couple of nights ago, it was definitely making Buffy act more on edge and more selfish than usual. Then a realisation hit Faith. What was she going to get for Tara’s birthday?

***

Later on that morning, Tara had met with Willow to make their way to the magic box. On the way, Tara was explaining her earlier joke about the mysterious villain which Willow understood straight away and couldn’t help but laugh. As she finished her explanation they entered the magic box, laughing animatedly between them.

“Well, what do you know,” The sound of the man’s voice made Tara stop in her tracks instantly. The blood drained from her face when she saw the man stood in front of her. Faith, Buffy and Xander sat behind him surrounded by books at the table, now turning their attention to the scene unfolding whilst Anya looked on from the till and Giles stood in the background keeping a close eye.
“What’s the matter? Don’t got a hug for you big brother?” The man asked with his arms outstretched to Tara.

“You’re related to that?” Faith questioned out loud, forgetting other people could hear her, making them jump.

“Tara didn’t say she had a brother? I’m a dirty little secret?” The man asked questioned in a friendly way.

“D-Donny, these are m-my friends,” Tara introduced her brother to the group nervously. Everybody murmured polite hellos whilst Faith kept a close eye on the brother, feeling a bad vibe coming from him and already concerned that the witch had started stuttering as soon as she saw the sibling.

“What? Alla, you hang out?” Donny asked nudging an uncomfortable Tara playfully. “That’s more people than you MET in high school. Tara wasn’t too social back when. I don’t think she spoke til she was eight...,” Donny laughed telling the group, making Tara’s embarrassment grow.

“How did you find – I mean, how come you came?” Tara quickly changed her wording to avoid suspicion but Faith had already noticed the slip.

“Well, duh, birthday girl. We came down in the camper, been all over the campus-,” Donny began to explain.

“We?” Tara asked now panicked.

“Dad, you know and Cousin Beth. We went all over campus looking. They oughta circle back here in a bit,” Donny trailed off just as an older man and a girl about Tara’s age enter the magic box. Tara looked behind her and slightly inched towards them apprehensively. “Look who I found...” Donny sung.

“Dad! Hi!” Tara called out, trying her best to sound happy.

“Well. There’s my girl,” Mr Maclay greeted his daughter in an awkwardly informal hug lasting seconds.

“It’s such a s-surprise. Hey Beth,” Tara waved nervously. Beth just smiled back meekly.

“One of your dorm mates said you might be here...” Mr Maclay told his daughter with a very unimpressed look on his face.

“Oh...Oh, these are friends...this is Mr Giles, he runs the shop,” Tara introduced knowing her father preferred authoritative figures.

“How do you do,” Giles responded with a handshake.

“Pleasure, (Mr Maclay responded before turning back to Tara) Well, I don’t mean to interrupt your plans; I know we’ve come on you kind of suddenly. But I thought we’d have dinner,” Mr Maclay proposed.

“Okay,” Tara responded quickly, just wanting them to leave.

“Why don’t I pick you up at six? And we’ll...do some catching up,” Mr Maclay stated suspiciously but only Tara could notice this, her father had never been a very caring man and this whole show made the young witch very sceptical on what their true intentions were, knowing full well what her birthday meant for her.

“Yes sir,” Tara agreed. Mr Maclay nodded to the group and then turned to leave with Cousin Beth on his trail and Donny waving annoying goodbyes to everyone. Once the door shut with its final ring, the room went silent. No one was quite sure of what to say as Tara took her seat next to Faith, Giles changed the subject and began discussing the research that had been found to help break all of the uncomfortable tension. Quietly Faith scooted her chair a little closer to Tara so she could speak low enough so that no one but Tara could hear.

“Hey, you ok T?” Faith whispered grabbing Tara’s attention, the blonde tilted her head in Faith directions, so she could still try to concentrate on what Giles was speaking about.

“Yeah,” She whispered back, not knowing what to say when her head was swimming with so many thoughts and fears that she just wasn’t sure of how to express.

“Should I be worried about the out of towners?” Faith asked in a serious tone, feeling very protective of the witch.

“No, they’re just my family, I was just surprised is all,” Tara looked the rest of the way at Faith and gave her an unconvincing smile before turning back to the group to listen, ending the conversation before it could really begin. Faith leant back in her chair eying the witch suspiciously, she always knew the witch was hiding something and now she was sure. Tara wasn’t happy to see her family, it was obvious to anyone who had eyes and Faith wanted to find out why.

***

Tara had returned to her dorm room a couple of hours after the incident at the magic box to find her father stood in the middle of her room and looking at all of her things. He had told her in no certain terms that she would be returning home with her family. He didn’t want her friends to see the demon that she would become. Tara had worked so hard to escape her family all that time ago and now they had found her and the only option she had left was to run away again, but she didn’t want to leave Sunnydale, this was her home now. She had built a life here and there must be a different option that the witch hadn’t thought of yet. She still had until midnight to create a plan, maybe she could find a spell that could stop her demon side coming out or maybe she could glamour herself so she could stay hidden. Whilst going through all the possibilities in her head there was a knock at her door. Tara’s heart skipped a beat, she wasn’t meeting her father anymore but maybe he came back early to take her away, so she wouldn’t be prepared. So ready for the worst, Tara edged slowly to the door and pulled it open slightly to see a casual Faith leaning against the wall opposite with one foot resting on the wall. Upon seeing the door open, Faith stood up straight.

“Hey, can I come in?” Faith asked with an intense look on her face.

“Yeah sure,” Tara invited the slayer in, still too busy thinking about her own situation.

“How was dinner?” Faith asked making small talk. Tara just nodded her head making Faith think otherwise instantly. “So, uh, Gman wants us all to meet about this new mega-bitch,”

“Oh, you should go, they don’t need for that, you can fill me in...” Tara disputes not wanting to waste the little time she had left.

“Yeah well I’m not exactly any help there but I’m going...maybe you and red could do some mojo to find this chick?” Faith suggested to the witch, not wanting her to feel she was useless.

“We tried that before? It didn’t work,” Tara argued now becoming more exasperated with the unwanted distraction.

“You know what they say; practise makes perfect or something like that?” Faith shrugged, ignoring the obviously agitated Tara, the witch had started acting differently since her family had arrived but Faith didn’t care if she was holding up the witch in any way.

“Well, I’m tired, I could try with her tomorrow,” Tara suggested trying her best to end the discussion.

“Come on T, just an hour-,”

“My family’s here; I can’t just...not everything revolves around the scoobies and stuff...” Tara snapped at Faith.

“You know what, ever since your secret family turned up you started acting a bit weird, didn’t realise you were gonna turn into a dick! Figured you’d want a distraction from them but I guess I was wrong, your obviously very happy they’re here...” Faith snapped back, offended by the witches tone.

“No, no I’m...there’s just so much going on. I’m just...I’m really tired,” Tara could see the hurt in Faith’s eyes that she had caused and wanted to just come out with the truth but she couldn’t, she couldn’t cause more disappointment.

“Sure whatever,” Faith shrugged, not convinced.

“I’ll see you in the morning and you can fill me in?” Tara asked trying to lighten the mood.

“Yeah...we’ll see,” Faith said letting herself out of the dorm room, slamming it shut behind her.
Tara watched on, hating how she had lied to the slayer, the one person she would never want to hurt. Then a thought came to her, she hurried over to the desk and started looking through the spell books until she came across a particular spell and hesitated for a moment. This could be the spell that solved her problem of having to leave Sunnydale.

Chapter Text

After her not so pleasant encounter with Tara, Faith was in a foul mood. She knew it was too early to go on patrol so instead, she went to the training room in the magic box to burn off some frustrations and anger. She had completely abused the practice dummy until there was much left but a wooden pole, scraps of clothes hanging from it and piles of hay on the floor around it. To which she then moved on to the punching bag, letting all her anger out, her muscles were burning but not enough to make her forget why she was angry. This was all too new to Faith and she had no idea how to deal with her emotions. In the recent months, she would just get locked in the Summers’ basement but now she had nowhere to go and trying her best to be a better person stopped her from taking her aggression on any old person that she came into contact with. The irony of the situation was that the one person who had tried their very best to help Faith and keep her calm was the one who was the source of all this anger. Tara had lied straight to Faith’s face and the slayer could feel it instantly, the two women had grown close enough that they could sense each other’s feelings without having to ask about it. All the slayer wanted to do was inflict revenge on the witch, shake her so hard that she would just spew the truth out and the self-restraint was like torture, all Faith wanted to do was stick to the status quo. Giving up on the punching bag, afraid she would have to pay for another piece of broken equipment; she really didn’t need Giles taking it out of the little wages that he gave her. Deciding on a different activity, Faith positioned herself opposite a large bare wall and ran straight at it, as she got close she stretched her leg so that she would run up the wall and backflipped perfectly into a standing position. She kept repeating this action, getting faster with every flip, her body was still screaming, resentment flushing through her pores, if she couldn’t hurt anyone then all she could do was settle for inflicting that torture to herself. After quite a few wall flips she then moved to the pommel horse and worked her core, spinning her legs around as many as she could, keeping her eyes focussed in front of her. She just wanted her brain to shut off, Tara had hurt her so much, and the one person that she thought she could trust had made her feel like a fool. How could she be attracted to someone who could pretend with her so easily? Everyone always questioned why she would have worked with the mayor but no matter how evil he was, he never lied, he made no excuses and now this just proved that Faith really couldn’t trust anyone but herself but she was determined to not go back to how she was, she needed to prove everyone and herself that she was better than that. So she continued with the torture, siphoning her anger and pain into extreme exercise.

“So were you planning to kill yourself before the meeting? I didn’t think it would be that bad...” Buffy called to Faith, bringing the slayer out of her thoughts as Buffy tried to make light of the situation. Faith looked at Buffy with a frown before launching herself down from the horse and in front of Buffy. The rogue slayer began to stretch out her limbs as the burning in her limbs started to calm down.

“Not really in the mood to joke right now B,” Faith told Buffy as the blonde slayer sat on the crash mats near to Faith.

“I can see that and I’m pretty sure the dummy got the hint too...” Buffy lightly joked not wanting to make Faith’s anger worse; the two slayers looked over to the remnants of the dummy and then looked back to each other. Faith grabbed a bottle of water and sat next to Buffy on the mats. “What’s got you all grouchy? You were fine earlier and now you're causing Giles to have a coronary with all the damage you're doing back here?”

Faith drained the water she had and placed the empty bottle down and slid back to rest against the wall, letting her vibrating body finally relax.
“Like it matters, we all know he’ll just make me or Xan fix it all...could be worse, I could have killed someone...” Faith shrugged at Buffy’s not so impressed expression on her face. Buffy raised an eyebrow at Faith. “Ahh fine...why you got to look at me like that man? I thought it was funny...I went to T’s before here and there’s definitely something wiggy going on with her...”

“And that made you this angry?” Buffy asked now confused.

“No, her lying did, since her family rocked up she’s been kinda shifty,”

“And some people get like that, Family’s can drive people crazy and she obviously wasn’t expecting to see them, maybe give Tara some slack?” Buffy told Faith, trying to smooth out the situation.

 “Nah, somethings off...I can feel it in my slayer bones, she’s never mentioned her family before today and they can make her act so weird, you must have seen it?”
Buffy thought for a moment, looking like it was something she didn’t want to get dragged into.

“I guess, she did look shocked but I figured anyone would be with such a surprise, I’m more surprised they’re all related, I mean, you saw her brother right, couldn’t believe they were related...” Buffy’s eyed widen at the thought of the buffoon man that she had met earlier.

“That’s it, what if they’re not her family? No one’s really asked T about her life before Sunnydale, just because she said they’re family doesn’t mean they are...it was all very unexpected and it would explain why she’s acting like a dick...”

“Do you think there might be something more going on? (Buffy hesitated for a moment) So what’s the plan?” Buffy asked calmly.

“Huh?” Faith wasn’t expecting that response.

“What do you want to do about it? Anything’s better than you being pissed back here for hours,”

“Umm, I’m not sure, go check them out I guess? See if they’re up to anything? They came to the Hellmouth willingly, they must be insane...”

“...or up to no good...” Buffy finished her fellow slayer’s sentence. “Ok after I drop Dawn home later, we’ll go check out where they’re staying?”

“Ok, do we tell anyone?” Faith asked, now getting up from the crash mats.

“No, we have nothing concrete to go on, so we just stay quiet unless we find something,” Buffy stated as she rose from the mats also. “Now come on, you smell and we have to go listen to Giles talk about research,”

“Oh joy, where’s a vampire attack when you need one?” Faith replied sarcastically as Buffy laughed and they both left the training room together.

***

A little while later Tara snuck in through the back of the magic box and quietly crept across the training room and to the doorway of the shop. She carefully peered around the door to see all of the scoobies sat around the table discussing the new big bad and all the research that had been done again. Making sure that nobody had noticed her, Tara lifted her hand and opened it out flat in front of her face and quietly started an incantation.

“Blind Cadria, desolate queen, work my will upon them all, my obedience to you,” She blew the red powder that was in her hand. A red mist lifted up and flew through the magic box and around the group. The mist settled in the middle of the group before shooting into all of their eyes. All of their eyes glowed red for a split second and then they all jerked backwards. Tara watched intently to make sure her friends were ok and the spell hadn’t backfired. A second later they all shook off the haze and carried on with their conversation, not even noticing the interruption. Just as Tara was about to leave she caught sight of Faith whittling stakes on the edge of the table, her face looked so hard and concentrated. Ashamed for how she treated the slayer, Tara turned and left the magic shop knowing that she had betrayed everyone but it was for the best, that’s what the witch told herself at least.

 

Sometime after Tara had left the magic box and the meeting was over, Faith was sat on the counter reading a magazine as she waited for Buffy to finish training so they could go on their covert mission to check out the Maclay family. Willow kept running to the door in hopes of Tara joining them that evening, luckily for Faith that wasn’t the case, whilst Giles busied himself with some books and Anya did her daily money count behind the counter. The bell of the magic shop door chimed, everybody looked up knowing the shop was closed but it must have just been the wind. Faith just rolled her eyes and carried on with her magazine but just as she did, it was almost as if she could feel the air change when an invisible force grabbed Faith’s legs and flipped her over behind the counter. She landed on the ground with a loud thud, hitting the side of her head as she went down. Her hand went straight to her head, clutching at the throbbing that had just appeared. The pain made it hard for her to open her eyes but she could hear a ruckus going on in the shop. The sound of smashing erupted in her eardrums and she just knew she had to push through the pain. She strained and opened her eyes, she looked up to see Anya stood behind the counter, clutching onto an overly large magnifying glass in her hands. Reaching up, Faith grabbed the side of the counter and pulled herself up, pushing through the groggy dizziness that enveloped her whole body. As she stood with a slightly shaky footing, she looked around to see Dawn hidden under a desk, as Xander, Willow and Giles were fighting invisible foes. So without a second thought, Faith launched herself over the countertop and trampled straight towards whatever was currently attacking the group. Aiming for the invisible space that Giles was grappling with, Faith tackled the invisible space and was surprised by the solid object that she impacted with. Faith and the invisible force tumbled to the ground.

The bell chimed again and Tara hurried into the magic box to see the disaster in front of her. Faith was on the floor wrestling a demon that she obviously couldn’t see whilst Willow and Anya were fending off a demon who was throttling Xander. Buffy entered through from the training with a demon trailing close behind her, ready to attack.

“Buffy! Behind you!” Tara warned the slayer.

Buffy spun around instantly and started to hold off the invisible demon until it threw her across the table, throwing her into the demon who was still wrestling with Faith. Tara ran further into the shop, panicked at by the sight that she had created, now putting them all in danger. Faith jumped up from the floor after Buffy knocked it away and looked to Tara.

“T, can you see them? We’re blind here,” Faith shouted to Tara.

“Oh god...Blind Cadria, lift your veil, give evil form and break my spell -,” Then just as a demon came visible one appeared in front of Tara and hit her in the face, throwing her into the side of the counter.

“Tara!” Mr Maclay shouted as he entered the magic box with Donny and Cousin Beth trailing behind. The demon that had hit Tara turned its attention to her father and ran straight for him, ready to attack. Mr Maclay dropped to the floor in shock at the sight of the demon. Out of nowhere, Buffy kicked the demon’s feet out from under it, so its chin slammed onto the top step. She quickly jumped around and slammed her boot into the demon’s neck, killing it instantly. The room fell silent as Faith moved over to an injured Tara, Giles proceeded to pull Dawn out from under his desk and Spike strutted in from the training room.

“What in the name of God is that...?” Mr Maclay questioned as he climbed up from the floor.

“Lei-ach demon. Fun little buggers; big with the marrow – sucking,” Spike explained casually as he entered the room.

“I don’t understand...” Mr Maclay said flabbergasted by what just happened.

“I’m not sure either,” Buffy said now turning her attention to Tara with a serious look on her face.

“I’m so sss-sorry, I didn’t mean...I was just trying to hide...The spell went wrong...” Tara stuttered nervously knowing she had been caught out and ready for the backlash.

“What? T what spell? Why you hiding?” Faith questioned with growing concern at the distraught witch.

“I didn’t want you to see...what I am,” Tara said looking into Faith’s eye, trying to hide the tears that were glossing her eyes.

“What?” Faith asked still not understanding.

“I told you, you try to run from it, you’ll put these people in danger. And my god...” Mr Maclay said with a clear hint of judgement.

“I didn’t mean for anyone to get hurt,” Tara said now addressing the whole room. Buffy looked at Tara, still waiting for more information.

“I think you better explain. What do you mean, what you are?” Buffy ordered Tara. Faith stepped in front of Tara protectively, almost as a shield from Buffy.

“Demon (they all look to Mr Maclay) the women in our family have...demon in them. Her mother had it, it’s where the magic comes from, this isn’t something we generally like to share with strangers. We came to take her home before...well, before things like this started happening,” Mr Maclay gestured across the room to all the dead demons.

“You put a spell on us to keep us from seeing your demon side. That’s why we couldn’t see our attackers,” Giles said finally putting all the pieces together.

“Nearly got us all killed,” Buffy stated looking over at a shaken Dawn. Tara rose from the floor and steadied herself, stepping out from behind a shocked Faith.

“I’ll go. I’m very sorry,” Tara addressed the room after accepting defeat that she would be leaving everyone. Leaving Faith.

“The camper’s outside,” Mr Maclay told Tara.

“Hold up, wait! (Faith placed a hand on Tara’s shoulder so they could face each other) She just screwed up a stupid spell, Red does that all the time, can’t she make a mistake?” Faith addressed Buffy almost pleading to her fellow slayer, whilst Willow looked on disgruntled after Faith’s comment.

“It’s not the point and it’s not your concern, the girl belongs with us. We know how to control her problem,” Mr Maclay said until Faith raised a hand to silence the man as she continued to look at Tara, who was now looking down at her feet ashamed by everything.

“Tara, lookup (Tara did as she was told, also shocked the slayer had used her name and not a nickname) everything you’ve done to help me, was that all a lie? You’re my friend, you could’ve told me...or do you not actually trust me?” Faith questioned seriously in her low husky tone, searching the witch’s eyes for the truth.

“No! No...” Tara had now given into the tears and let them fall, no longer able to hold it in.

“Do you want to go?” Faith asked sincerely, almost forgetting they weren’t the only people in the room.

“That is not your decision young lady –,” Faith cut off Mr Maclay.

“Back off dipshit! (Faith turned back to Tara ignoring Mr Maclay’s interruption) Do you want to leave?” Faith asked the witch again who responded by shaking her head.

“You are going to do what I say young lady and you’re going to come with your family so nobody gets killed, even if that means I come down and get you myself,” Mr Maclay snapped in frustration.

“You want to take her Mr Maclay? Sure go ahead (Instantly Faith grabbed Tara’s wrist ready to run and take everyone on, she couldn’t believe Buffy would give in so easily) but you’re gonna have to go through me first!”

“And me!” Dawn chimed in standing next to her sister with a determined look on her face. Faith stood stone-faced, confused by what was happening. She expected everyone to turn against the witch but it wasn’t the case. She continued to hold Tara’s wrist, not ready to let go, not wanting to lose that connection.

“You wanna take Tara out of here against her will, then you gotta come through us,” Buffy told Mr Maclay. All Tara could do was stand behind them all, just trying to focus on the heat coming from Faith’s hand that was gripping her wrist; so many emotions were flooding her senses with how everyone was protecting her.

“Is this a joke? I am not gonna be threatened by some little girls,” Mr Maclay laughed off the absurd idea.

“Well you’re not just dealing with some girls,” Giles added.

“You’re dealing with all of us,” Xander added from behind the counter.

“This is insane! You people have no right to interfere in Tara’s affairs. We are her blood kin – who the hell are you?” Mr Maclay asked now enraged.

“We’re family,” Buffy stated calmly. Tara cried more at this admission, originally expecting to be shunned and turned away instead of being protected. Mr Maclay turned away in defeat as Donny stepped down the steps baffled.

“Dad, you’re not gonna let them -,” Donny stopped in front of Faith and Tara. “ Tara, if you don’t get in that car I swear by God, I’m gonna beat you down,” Donny threatened.

“Try it hill billyboy, I’m ready for a tussle” Faith said cracking her knuckles menacingly. Donny just eyed the slayer for a moment before backing away.

“Well, I hope you’ll be happy hanging around with a disgusting demon,” Beth spat. Anya took and instant offence and raised her hand.

“Um, hi, yeah, what kind of demon is she? I know many demons who are very helpful members of society and well Tara doesn’t look like a demon...so what type?” Anya questioned.

“What does it matter? Demon’s demon and evil is evil,” Mr Maclay sneered in disgust and impatience.

“Well, let’s narrow this down then...” Anya began.

“Oooh, I see...why don’t I make this simple...” Spike piped up, he approached Tara, tapped her on the shoulder to get her attention and then punched her in the nose. The moment his fist touched the nose he had to grab his head in agony.

“AAAHHH!” Spike howled.

“Ow!” Tara shouted in pain not expecting the punch.

“What the f...wait he’s in pain?” Faith first annoyed and then suddenly relieved.

“He hit my nose!” Tara said gleefully whilst clutching her nose.

“And that only works with humans...” Buffy told Mr Maclay smugly.

“There’s no demon in there. That’s just the family legend, am I right? Bit of spin to keep the ladies in line? Oh, you’re a piece of work. I like you,” Spike said slightly impressed by the human as he headed back out of the magic box, through the training room.

“Mr Maclay, I’d say your business her is finished,” Giles said with finality.

“Tara, for eighteen years your family has taken care of you and supported you, if you want to turn you back -,” Mr Maclay started to make one more last-ditch effort to make Tara comply when his daughter cut him off.

“Dad...just go,” Tara told her father with newfound strength, finally feeling free. Mr Maclay took a moment and then turned to leave with Donny and Beth following. Just as Beth reached the exit she looked around to Tara hatefully.

“Are you happy now?” Beth spat at her cousin.

Tara just smiled at her as she left, knowing she had made the right decision and she was exactly where she belonged.

***

Faith had been stood outside the Bronze for the last five minutes, just watching patrons enter and leave the building. She had arrived later than everyone else for Tara’s birthday and was feeling unusually anxious. Faith hadn’t seen Tara since the night before; she still couldn’t believe what had happened. All those months of wondering what the witch was hiding, and what she was hiding was a complete lie. No wonder she hadn’t said anything with two slayers around her, she was probably petrified. So finally pulling herself together and loosening her grip on the gift that she had been clutching for Tara. Her palms were sweating, she wasn't used to being wanted at a social event, she would usually just turned up uninvited. So making her way into the bronze, she scanned the room to see Giles, Buffy, Dawn, Xander and Anya crouched around a small table covered in gifts, talking animatedly. The whole area was decorated in streamers and balloons, obviously, all of Willow’s doing. Faith made her way over to the table, Buffy looked up to see Faith heading over and smiled at her.

“Hey! You made it,” Buffy said with a genuine tone.

“Yeah, I guess (Faith looked around the club) Where’s T?” Faith asked casually.

“She’s on the dancefloor with Will...great...I’ll be right back I need to get Dawn,” Buffy huffed resting her drink down to stop her sister from running around the Bronze again.

Faith shrugged not really caring and turned to look at the dance floor only to find Tara and Willow slow dancing in the middle of the floor. It felt like a punch to the stomach, they looked so close and Faith couldn’t help the jealousy sweeping through her. Tara had never actually told the slayer the reason why she had broken up with Willow but now Faith was beginning to think it was because of the demon secret. It made sense and now she was free to be happy. Faith couldn’t handle the emotions and turned away just as Tara caught sight of her. Faith moved to leave when she bumped into Giles.

“Oh sorry Faith, I didn’t see you there, Willow did a great job don’t you think,” Giles gestured around the room with an annoying happy smile on his face as he greeted the slayer.

“Oh yeah, look I’ve gotta go, forgot to do something, say hi for me,” Faith said making her excuses and shot past the watcher before he could reply. She straight out of the front door and stops and soon as she hit fresh air. She took a deep breath before starting to walk away, only getting a few feet away when she heard a voice behind her.

“Faith?” The slayer turned to see Tara stood outside the Bronze, looking at her concerned. The witch looked so beautiful in her dress, even with the look of worry on her face, Faith found it so difficult to look at her but did her best not to look away. “Your leaving?”

“Uh yeah, I’ve got something to do...”

“Don’t give me that crap,” Tara frowned at Faith, disarming the slayer with her sudden confidence.

“What?” Faith asked.

“You heard me, I saw you in there...nothing’s going on with me and Willow...it was just a dance,” Tara explained with hurt in her eyes.

“You don’t gotta explain yourself to me, you can do what you want,” Faith shrugged off, trying to not look bothered when really her heart skipped a beat when she heard they weren’t together.

“Obviously not if you're storming off (Tara stepped forward so she was in front of Faith) Willow isn’t the person I want and I think you know that,” Tara said resting her hand on Faith’s cheek so the slayer would look straight at her.

“I...I know,” Faith said swallowing her nerves, not sure of how to express herself.

“I always said I would never push you and I’ve been ignoring my feelings for so long...but it’s you Faith and I know you’re not the type for monogamy...hell I don’t even know if you like women but since last night I realised hiding things just doesn’t help and I want to be free. To tell the truth, to be myself and be with...who I want,” Tara told Faith trying to fight back the tears, readying herself for the rejection.

“I could never be good enough for you,” Faith responded sadly.

“Don’t you think that’s for me to decide? Faith I won’t push you but if you don’t want this, tell me now so we can go back to being friends,” Tara almost pleaded. Faith went to speak but nothing left her mouth. Tara just nodded her head in understanding, she let go of Faith and started walking back to the Bronze.

“It’s always been you, even when I didn’t know it (Tara stopped walking and listened, not turning around) you make me feel things I never knew I could feel. I couldn’t handle seeing you with Red because I wanted to be the one dancing with you, I just thought you would never want to be with a murderer,” Faith finished calling out, hoping she hadn’t lost her chance. Tara turned around, her face soaked with tears.

“I only see the Faith I know and I think she’s pretty great, I thought I was the one who wasn’t good enough,” Tara said through tears, stepping closer to Faith whilst Faith did the same thing so they could meet in the middle.

“I want you in my life and I’m not sure how to do it, this is all new to me...” Faith explained shakily as all her barriers began to drop.

“Then we can figure it out together,” Tara told her with a slight joyful laugh. Tara’s face got closer to Faith’s. They take a second to look at each other, looking for consent and then finally their lips met. The kiss started slow, just tasting each other for the first time. Faith could taste Tara’s tears on her lips but soon the want increased and the kiss became heated. Faith took Tara’s face in her hands whilst Tara wrapped her arm around Faith’s back. They stood in place for a few minutes just exploring each other for the first time until breathlessness took over and they parted so they could catch their breath. They continued looking into each other’s eyes whilst panting, forgetting where they were stood. Tara reached a hand up and brushed some hair from Faith’s face with a smile.

“Happy Birthday,” Faith gave a small smile as Tara gave a soft chuckle at the first statement made after their kiss.

“Thank you, Faith,” Tara looked down and saw the crumpled present in Faith’s hand, Faith followed Tara’s eye and realised what she was looking at.

“Oh yeah, I got you something, it’s pretty crappy,” The slayer handed the present to Tara. She opened it to find a little stuffed baby chimp toy.

“Oh, I love it!” Tara exclaimed with glee, too many happy emotion taking over the body.

“Really? It reminded me of when we went to the zoo...”

“Really, this is the best birthday,” Tara told Faith as she pulled them back together so she could be kissing the willing slayer and not for the last time that night.

Chapter Text

Faith woke the next day with a hot breath spreading against her neck and an arm draped across her stomach. She looked down to see a very content Tara almost sleeping on top of her. Faith couldn’t help but smirk at the sight, last night after finally admitting their feelings for each other; the two women had finally made it back to the party after a few more stolen kisses.
They had both agreed not to mention anything to the others until they had spoken properly together about what was happening, so when they entered the Bronze again and Tara went back to her role of centre of attention whilst Faith stayed in the background watching on. Although it doesn’t matter how cool and relaxed Faith wanted to appear, she could never resist a dance session to really let loose. She was riding on a very secretive high, so escaping to the dance floor worked great and she even managed to get a couple of dances in with Tara. It was more provocative than the witch was used to but lucky for Faith everyone was so used to her dancing style that none of the Scoobies questioned how she was being, so they were free to enjoy each other in that way. The two women had done their best not to look at each other too often when they were around people but all they wanted was to be alone with each other. So when the night drew to a close, Willow tried to offer to escort Tara back to campus but Tara quickly declined the disappointed redhead instantly. She made her excuses and left with Faith once she knew everyone was heading home. The two women didn’t discuss where they were going; they just naturally gravitated to Faith’s apartment. Tara had taken Faith’s hand as they walked the whole way to Faith’s in silence with only their hands making contact. Never having been affectionate in the past, Faith couldn’t understand why people felt the need to hold hands, it just looked awkward to her and just another way to slow her down but now she was doing the one thing she hated but looking at how happy her witch looked, Faith just kept her mouth shut and her hand connected to Tara’s.
      Once they got inside tension refilled the air, so Tara continued taking control as she had all night and she once again took Faith’s hand and led her to the bedroom. Faith had stood in the doorway awkwardly, not sure of how to proceed. Tara walked over to the slayer’s drawers and pulled a t-shirt out. Carefully Tara proceeded to unzip her dress and let it fall to the ground, leaving her in her underwear. Faith was in awe, she started to tremble, this was going too fast for the slayer and for the first time in Faith’s life she wasn’t ready to be intimate but then she saw Tara pull the baggy t-shirt on and then removed her bra from underneath and climbed in to the bed and pulled the covers over her and just waited, not even saying a word. It was then that Faith understood, going to bed didn’t always mean sex and the witch wasn’t expecting anything, she was simply going to bed. So Faith slowly stepped into the room and walked over to the edge of the bed never taking her eyes off Tara. She unbuckled her belt and unbuttoned her jeans and pushed them down to the floor and then almost mirroring Tara, she took her bra off underneath her bra too. Remembering how uncomfortable Tara had become that time she undressed in the witches dorm room, Faith made sure to avoid her usual sleeping naked. She climbed into the bed next to Tara, pulled the covers up to her chin and switched the light off next to her, draping the two women in darkness. She led there rigid for a moment just listening to the noises from the street, not sure of how to behave in her own bed. She never felt so unnerved and happy all at the same time. Faith had shared a bed with Tara a few times but this was different and she was terrified, she had started something that she didn’t even know how to proceed with. And then she felt soft skin against her cheek, Tara had kissed Faith on the cheek and wished her goodnight, allowing the slayer to relax and calm her overactive mind.

So being led there watching Tara slumber, her chest rising up and down in a relaxing motion, was the most calming sight Faith had ever witnessed. She bent down and placed a soft chaste kiss on the witch’s forehead; Tara stirred under the touch and slowly opened her eyes. She took a moment to remember where she was and then with a smile she looked up to see Faith and all the memories from the night before came flooding back.

“Morning,” Tara croaked with her morning voice.

“Hey,” Faith husked quietly.

“Oh sorry, I’m led all over you...” Tara realised how she was positioned and started to shift until Faith stopped her.

“It’s ok...I’m ok,” Faith reassured the witch, not wanting to lose the comfort. Tara just nodded her head tentatively and led back down against Faith’s chest.

“So have you started freaking out yet?” Tara teased.

“Why would I do that?” Faith asked confused.

“I saw you last night when we went to bed; you looked like a deer caught in headlights, ready to run for the hills and now...well I’m here,” Tara said now shifting and leant on her elbow so she could face the slayer.

“Well, I wasn’t sure what you were planning...” Faith said sheepishly.

“Planning? ...what could I be...Ooooh...” Tara started laughing.

“What’s so funny,” Faith asked annoyed thinking the witch was laughing at her.

“Nothing sweetie, I’m sorry I guess I should’ve communicated before...I’m not ready for that, we haven’t even had a proper conversation about what this is. I just wanted to be close to you that’s all. I would never expect you to...you know,” Tara told the slayer apologetically as she held her hand.

“Oh yeah totally, I knew that,” Faith bluffed, trying to hide her shock that Tara hadn’t expected sex, considering an easy lay is something that Faith was used to being branded as.

“No you didn’t,” Tara gave her sideways coy smile.

“Ok I didn’t but how was I to know with the whole stripping in front of me thing...girl you can be mysterious when you want to be,” Faith nudged her playfully. Tara laughed and pressed a kiss to Faith’s lips and then jumped up and headed out of the bedroom.

“Where you going?” Faith called after Tara whilst being left in the bed.

“Somewhere mysterious,” Tara called back as she headed into the bathroom and closed the door behind herself.

Faith laughed to herself, glad that the witch always knew how to break the tension in the best ways. Faith never was good at expressing herself and the witch understood that, so shaking her head she climbed out of the bed and pulled her clothes on from the night before. Faith ran her fingers through her hair like a brush and shook away her bed hair and headed to the kitchen.
A few minutes later a now fully clothed Tara entered the kitchen and swiftly wrapped her arms around Faith’s waist that was facing the opposite way pouring them both a coffee.

“Look whose back,” Faith said with a smirk turning to face the witch and placed her hands on her waist.  

“Hope you don’t mind I stole your clothes,” Tara hummed back looking down at the shirt and joggers she was now wearing.

“No sweat...you look good,” Faith charmed whilst swooping in for a kiss. They both reluctantly pulled away and Faith handed a mug to Tara and they both headed to the sofa.

“Have you got to rush off?” Faith asked trying not to show how much she wanted the witch to stay.

“I’m sure I can be persuaded to stay for a couple of hours (Tara teased as she curled her feet up and leant back against the sofa) but I have got reading to do for class tomorrow so I can’t stay too long...” Tara explained.

“That’s cool, I was gonna get some training in before patrol tonight anyway...I can walk you back to campus if you want?” Faith suggested trying not to smother the witch.

“That would be nice,” Tara said as she took another sip of coffee and then placed it down on the coffee table as Faith mirrored her. “So...us...” Tara trailed off not quite sure of what to say.

“Yup....us... (Silence for a couple of minutes, both women lost on what to say) Look I’m sorry, I’m not sure what I’m doing,” Faith apologised.

“And you think I do? I’m just as lost, I’ve never had a relationship either, I’ve never been with anyone...in fact,” Tara confessed almost ashamed of herself.

“Well, it’s not like I’ve been anyone either, never been one to stick around long enough for anything to last...” Faith shrugged no quite understanding what Tara was trying to say.

“No Faith, I’m not sure you're understanding me...I’ve never been with anyone...physically...” Tara emphasised slightly embarrassed.

“Physicall-? (Realisation hits Faith mid-sentence)...Ohhh,” Faith finally understood, instantly getting lost in her own thoughts.

“It’s not a problem, is it? I know you’ve probably had a few...partners, I get if it’s an issue...” Tara said nervous of rejection, mentally kicking herself, knowing she should’ve raised this subject long before wanting to get involved with Faith.

“What? No! ...no, I’m just surprised, I mean you’re...you’re gorgeous and I thought you and Red...you know...bumped uglies” Faith jumped in quickly not wanting to give Tara the wrong impression. Tara blushed at the compliment, noticing the slayer had slipped it into the conversation.

“Me and Willow were complicated, she was still discovering herself and I didn’t feel comfortable giving my virginity to someone who was willing to hide whatever we have,” Tara explained as Faith tried to hide her annoyance of how the Redhead could’ve treated the witch this way. Faith couldn’t imagine hiding the blonde witch away, she deserved to be happy.
“So you see I’m no expert, I’ve never really done the things couples do,”

“What do couples normally do at the start?” Faith asked curiously, oblivious to what the social norms were.

“I guess they go on a date, get to know each other but you usually do that stuff in public, I kinda did that but I don’t think it counts in my dorm,” Tara shrugged innocently looking down at her hands that were playing with the string of her joggers.

“Let’s do that then,” Faith stated casually as she grabbed her mug of coffee to drain the rest.

“Do what?” Tara looked up, confused by the random statement.

“Let’s go on a date, me and you...tomorrow night, we’ll do that couple thing...” Faith gestured towards nothing.

“Really? Would you be comfortable with that, we might be seen?” Tara asked not sure if Faith was being serious.

“I don’t care what people think and If I’m seen with you then so what...we may as well start somewhere but I can’t promise it’ll be wining and dining,” Faith said looking cool as she slouched on the sofa, resting her legs on Tara’s lap, the witch stroking her feet instinctively.

“I wouldn’t expect anything else (She laughed) But I’d love to go on a date with you, as long as you’re sure you want this?” Tara said giving Faith one last chance to back out. Faith lunged forward and grabbed Tara and kissed her fiercely. Tara took a second to respond before kissing the slayer back passionately, a couple of minutes passed before Faith pulled away, giving the witch some space.

“What do you think?” Faith replied rhetorically with a smug smile and her raspy voice, only inches away from the breathless witches face. They both moved back in for a kiss and before they knew it, they were lost in each other again. They both sunk into the sofa, content on how they were going to be spending their morning.

***

Later that afternoon Faith headed to the magic box for training after escorting Tara back to the campus.  She spent a few hours in the back of the shop trying her best to get back to peak physical condition and not think about her new love life that was causing every nerve in her body and mind to twitch. From the moment she had left the blonde witch at the campus after a heated goodbye up until that very moment, Faith had already begun to question everything. She was convinced that none of this real, maybe she was still in a coma and never really woke up. Why would Tara want to be with a killer with a very sketchy reputation and past. She was so pure and Faith, well she wasn’t. Faith spent every day trying to repress her urges to punish others and give in to her deep-rooted anger, and now she had asked another person on a date and not just anyone but her complete opposite but at the same time that magnetised attraction drew the women together on a deeper level that defied words. Everything that Faith knew was suddenly changing and now after a few hours of sweating and her mind swirling with too many confusing thoughts that she just couldn’t concentrate. So she packed her things away and headed back into the shop. She padded over to the table and perched herself on top in her training clothes and drained a bottle of water. The shop was empty which was normal for that time of day with the exception of Anya who was behind the counter; she was making herself busy with sorting stock. Without looking up from her work Anya addressed the slayer.

“Do you have to sit on the table with those sweaty clothes on? You know there’s a perfectly good chair next to you...” Anya questioned the slayer with a slight huff.

Faith rolled her eyes and placed the empty water bottle next to her.
“Chill girl, I really don’t think the mass of customers will be offended...” Faith retorted with a sarcastic smirk. Anya just looked up at Faith with an annoyance in her eyes and then returned to her work unimpressed.
“Fine, I’ll wipe the table after me, jeez,” Faith says showing her hands in peace, knowing the ex-demon obviously didn’t find her funny.

Anya ignored the slayer whilst carrying on with her work, Faith huffed and looked around the empty store not knowing quite what to do with herself, she still had a couple of hours before patrol and no one else was around to annoy. She focussed on Anya for a moment before she got a brainwave.

“So...how did Xander manage to get you?” Faith asked the ex-demon trying to fake interest whilst failing.

“Excuse me?” A confused and irritate Anya replied taking her attention away from her work and onto the slayer who was obviously invading her space.

“Well being in a coma, I’ve been out of the loop and I just wondered how seven-minute wonder managed to bag himself a hot ex-demon girlfriend,” Faith responded with a forced compliment which seemed to work judging by the blush creeping up on Anya’s face.

“Well...you know...” Anya waved away still focussed on the last comment.

“Well...no...I mean did he pursue you, wine and dine...that kind of thing?” Faith questioned more so now, trying not to sound pushy.

“Oh no, nothing like that, I asked him to prom and then I left so the mayor wouldn’t kill me and then I came back so I could sleep with him to get him out of my system,” Anya explained as a matter of fact.

“That sounds romantic...?” Faith quirked her eyebrow not sure of how else to respond.

“Who needs romance? I’m over a 1000 years old, Xander is so much nicer than anyone else I’ve been with...probably doesn’t help none of them had souls but that’s not the point and well the sex is great. We have lots of it,” Anya smiled satisfied by her own explanation.

“And you’re ok with just sex?”

“Faith we don’t just have sex, that’s just one of the perks...I don’t need Xander to be romantic, it’s the little things he does...like runs me a bath or listens to me talk even if he doesn’t think what I’m saying is human enough or the kiss he always gives me as soon as he sees me. He doesn’t need to take me to fancy restaurants to show he loves me but buying me lots of nice things definitely helps,” Anya explained as she faded into her own daydream.

“Yeah, but it wouldn’t have been like that at the beginning, straight to love?” Faith asked.

“Oh no it was mostly sex but Xander was also poor so I would go and watch him at work a lot, I really enjoyed that. I didn’t care where I was with him as long as we were together,” Anya smiled to herself and turned back to her work. Faith thought for a moment, processing what the ex-demon had just said before suddenly forming a plan in her mind.

“I’ve gotta go!” Faith said out loud suddenly after a couple of minutes of silence making Anya jump. Faith quickly grabbed her things and ran out of the shop with a confused Anya shouting after her.

“Hey! You were meant to clean the sweaty table!”

Chapter Text

 

Later that day, Faith made her way into the Summer’s residence, letting herself in, comfortable enough to not need to knock, not that she really asked permission in the past. She stepped in and looked around the house, there didn't seem to be any movement. The house seemed to be empty. Faith started to scope out the area, looking around for any sign of somebody being at home. She entered the kitchen, making sure to check that nobody was in the backyard. Faith pulls herself up by the kitchen sink, her toes only just touching the floor as she craned her neck up to the window, only to find nothing, huffing partly from the lack of people around her and boredom for another part. Making her way over to the fridge the slayers wrenched open the door lazily, pulling out a large bottle of soda and taking a huge gulp right there and then. As she tilted her head back to down the fizzy substance, a thud came from above her head. Frowning, the slayer looked around, placing the soda down on the middle island.

“Hello?” The rogue slayer called. Cautiously Faith stepped towards the living room; silence fell around the house again. Concentrating as she listened out for anything else and reaching for the nearest heavy object which just so happened to be a remote control when another thud came from upstairs and Faith just ran. Jumping over the banister and running towards the noise brought her straight to Buffy’s room. Taking a deep breath, readying herself for what danger maybe lurking in the room, Faith grasped the door handle and turned it opening the door. In front of Faith was an obviously pained Buffy, clutching her stomach with her hand and her other hand placed on the bed trying to pull herself up.

“Shit B!” Faith exclaimed as she bounded into the room, hooking her arm under Buffy’s shoulder and helped her fellow injured slayer onto the bed.

“Thanks...I feel like an idiot, I couldn’t even get up...,” Buffy said shaking her head, only just being able to look at Faith without wincing.

“How did you even end up down there?” Faith asked confused as she pulled a chair up to sit next to Buffy’s bed. Buffy just looked at Faith not knowing what to say, sighing in defeat she pulled her top up to show blooded bandages. Faith dragged out a long low whistle.

“Damn B, who tried to gut you? You’re lucky you’re not in a coma...”

“Ha ha very funny... a vamp last night got lucky staking me with my own stake,”

“Super vamp?”

“Nope, just your run of the mill...regular vamp,”

“And how did you end up on the floor?”

“I was trying to get the first aid kit from under the bed to change these (Gestures to her stomach) but it hurt too much and I fell and then again trying to get back up,”
Faith just stared at Buffy for a moment, and then reached forward and grabbed the first aid kit from the floor and sat next to Buffy on the bed.

“Ok blondie...strip,”

“What?” Buffy asked confused, now clutching at her top as well as her stomach.

“Well I can’t change those bandages if they’re covered,” Faith said like it was the most obvious thing in the world.

“You’re going to change them?” Buffy asked with raised eyebrows.

“You’re welcome to try again yourself?” Faith said resting the first aid kit down.

“Sorry, I’m just more surprised your offering,”

“Figured I’d try something, try not to bitch too much and tell me about this vamp,” Faith said pointedly at Buffy and began to change the bandages.

“Nothing special, he looked like something out of a bad 80’s punk video...turned my own stake on me...”

“Vamp dead?”

“No...Spike saved me and then I passed out, he brought me back here before the sun went up,” Faith started laughing at this.

“I don’t know what’s funnier, Spike saving you or passing out, at least when you gutted me I went out in a blaze of glory,”

“You dropped on to a moving truck,”

“A well-timed moving truck-,” Faith retorted when Dawn rushed in the room.

“Sorry to interrupt whatever. This. Is. (Dawn waves her hands in front of Buffy and Faith) but mom’s coming,” Dawn warns, so Buffy straightens herself up as Faith quickly shoved the old bandages and first aid kit under the bed. As Faith sat back up a happy looking Joyce walks in the room behind Dawn.

“Hey Faith,” Joyce said lovingly at the unexpected visitor.

“Hey Mrs S, You feeling good today?” Faith returned a genuine smile. Everyone noticed this moment of contentment in Faith except Faith herself and it warmed Joyce’s heart to see.

“I’m fine, bordering on chipper and tomorrow planning on being obnoxious...are you staying for dinner honey?” Joyce asked.

“No can do, I’m patrolling tonight so I won’t be here long,” Faith shrugged.

“Ok honey, next time, Buffy, when you have a minute I’d like to go over the grocery list for next week?” Joyce said as she turned her attention to her daughter.

“You got it,” Buffy nodded trying her best to ignore the pain in her stomach.

“Are you disinfecting something?” Joyce asked catching sight of medical alcohol that Faith had forgotten to hide.

“Huh? Oh, uh -,”

“Mine! Some nail polish experiment that’s doomed before they even begin,” Dawn tried to laugh off as she jumped in to grab the alcohol.

“But you just keep pushing the envelope honey,” Joyce smiled at Dawn and left the bedroom pulling the door behind her, leaving the girls in the room.

“Did I just pull a slayer related mom cover-up thing? Come on, who’s the man?” Dawn said as she smiled to Buffy looking proud of herself.

“You are. A very short, annoying man,” Buffy retorted turning Dawn’s proud moment into an insult. Dawn’s smile dropped into a face of annoyance. “If I show you something, you promise you won’t tell?” Buffy asked as she gave in to her younger sister’s pout. Dawn gave a gesture crossing her heart, so grabbing the bottom of her shirt, Buffy lifted it to reveal her bandages.

“Oh cool! (Buffy’s face didn’t look impressed by her sister’s reaction) I mean, gross!” Dawn quickly backtracked. “Oh, sure, I save your butt and you dump all your chores on me...I got it. You’re covered. We’re good. Just lucky it’s not bikini season,” Buffy just gave a small smile and stroked Dawn’s hair.

“So D-Swings got that covered, I’ll try and find this vamp,” Faith chimed in as she grew tired of the emotional moment that was beginning to transpire.

“By yourself?” Buffy asked slightly shocked.

“Yeah, I’m a big girl now, I think I’ll cope,” Faith said as she looked at Buffy baffled.

“Do me a favour? Take the gang with you?” Buffy asked her fellow slayer hopefully.

“Hell no,” Faith answered immediately, almost insulted by the question.

“Why not?” A shocked Buffy responded making Dawn jump.

“I’m not taking them, Xander and his demon chick’s constant bickering drive me crazy yo! And Red don’t like me and I don’t like her (Buffy continued to stare, not changing her expression) uuggghh damn Scoobies, if I find a nest or something more dangerous on patrol I will call but not before,” Faith said with finality and exhaustion.

“When do I get to patrol?” Dawn piped up.

“Not until you’re never,” Buffy hit back. Dawn huffed as Faith watched on amused.

“Yeah so I’m gonna let you guys work through your stuff, B, call me if you need anything,” Faith just nodded at the two girls and left the room.
Faith headed down the stairs and headed to the kitchen in search of Joyce. She walked into the kitchen where she found a struggling Joyce trying to lift large boxes off the kitchen floor. A shocked Faith ran straight over to Joyce, stopping her from what she was doing.

“Hey! Back up Mrs S, I got it,” Faith told the surrogate mother and proceeded to lift the large boxes off the floor and on to the kitchen counter.

“Oh thank you dear, looks like getting them up those basement stairs really took it out of me...” Joyce said as she gave the slayer a small slightly embarrassed smile.

“Come on you should sit down, you should’ve called me or B,” Faith told the older woman as she ushered Joyce over to the sofa.

“Nonsense you girls were talking and I’m not going to let Buffy do anything whilst she’s injured, she needs to rest,” Joyce added casually as she sat back.

“B ain’t hurt,” Faith said trying her very best to bluff. Joyce just waved her hand at the slayer not believing what they said.

“Oh don’t lie for her Faith it doesn’t suit you, she may have got away with being a slayer for 4 years but since then I’ve made sure to pay more attention, if Buffy wants to tell me about it she can but for now let’s just let her think she’s hiding it well,”

“Mrs S, I’m impressed...very shady of you, how’d you find out?”

“I love my daughter but she’s not the smartest knife in the drawer, she probably shouldn’t have put bloodied bandages into the bathroom bin, and put that together with her not leaving her room all day and Dawn doing experiments with disinfectant, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist,”

“Check you out, remind me not to hide anything from you,” Faith said amused by Joyce’s admission.

“I’m sure you wouldn’t Faith, even when in your bad patch, you were always honest, I think that’s one of your strengths,”

Faith just gave a small smile. Never being good with taking compliments, she grew uncomfortable. She knew the one person that she could talk to about her relationship with, was Joyce. Feeling like a small child, Faith gulped and fidgeted where she sat. Joyce looked on at the slayer very content; enjoying the silence that had just fallen between them.

“So uh, speaking of honesty...I kinda got this thing tomorrow...?” Faith started, not sure why she was finding it so difficult to get her words out.

“Oh is it a slayer thing?” Joyce asked happily oblivious.

“...No...more like a. Date. Thing...” Faith told Joyce awkwardly as she looked around the room.

“A date? And who is the young man?” Joyce asked her face lighting up with enthusiasm.

“ (Making incoherent sounds) ... it’s... it’s ah...it’s not a –,”

“It’s Tara,” Joyce happily finished the sentence as she saw the slayer struggle, wearing her most proud smile. Faith’s jaw dropped, shocked at how casual Joyce had been.

“How? ...” Faith started to ask; still shocked that Joyce could’ve known when they had only got together the night before.

“Oh honey, I just said I’m much more observant these days and I have seen the way you and that girl look at each other...in all the time I’ve known you I have never seen that kind of emotion come through your eyes, I could always see there was a connection...admittedly I wasn’t sure what type but she helped you in so many ways, I think she was what you’ve always needed,” Joyce told Faith like a proud mother. A single tear rolled down Faith’s left cheek; her throat felt like a sponge had been rolled into the middle of her throat, all known words getting caught in her chest.

“Yeah well (Clearing her throat) She’s pretty cool and I have no idea what I’m doing, that’s why I came here...” Faith admitted taking a deep breath.

“Not sure of what dear?” Joyce asked confused.

“Like what to do on dates or like that thing people do when they get together...”

“Be in a relationship?”

Faith clicked her finger ecstatically. “Yup that’s the one,”

“I’m not really sure how much help I can be, every relationship is different and it’ll be the same for you and Tara, just be there for her, you two will find your own way of doing things,”

“I guess...what if I’m not good enough for her?”

“You won’t find out until you go through the motions...just don’t worry about screwing up or not being good enough and just work on getting to know that girl, you might surprise yourself Faith,”

Chapter Text

The next day Tara had spent the better half of the day panicking about her impending date with the rogue slayer. She tried her best to keep busy but in the last couple of days so much had happened and it was all so hard to process. Of course, Tara was so happy she had finally admitted her true feelings but now she couldn’t help but think that she had been too forceful. After the high of finally dealing with her family, Tara didn’t want to waste any time or opportunity anymore but she couldn’t help this small niggling feeling that the slayer wasn’t ready and they should just be sticking to their original friendship, it was going so well after all. Tara couldn’t help but be selfish and keep hope that this was something that Faith wanted too. So finally deciding to try and push her thoughts away and try and concentrate on her date.
The evening had crept up quicker than Tara thought it would. Faith was late by a couple of hours. The witch kept telling herself that the slayer had probably got caught up with vampires or slayer business but as more time passed and not even a phone call, the witch came to the conclusion that her earlier thoughts were right. With a disappointed sigh, the witch decided to give up waiting and head to bed knowing her plans had inevitably changed. Grabbing her night things, Tara began to get ready for bed. Tara swiftly pulled her shirt off when there was a sharp rapping at the window. A stunned Tara spun on her feet in the direction of the noise to come face to face with a smirking Faith outside her window. Quickly covering herself with the discarded shirt, a shaken Tara ran over to the window and quickly opened it letting the slayer come in and stepped back.

“You’ve really got to stop stripping in front of me like this,” Faith winked at Tara as she straightened herself up from climbing in.

“Well if you had come to the door it wouldn’t be a problem,” Tara replied playfully with a slight annoyance. Faith raised her hands in surrender.

“Ok I’m sorry, I know I’m late but I did it for a reason,” Faith protested.

“And climbing through the window?” Tara asked eyebrow raised waiting for the slayer's response.

“Well I was thinking, I’m just being me and jumping up to your window is quicker and easier than coming through the building and I think you should see who I am...” Faith trailed off trying to figure out Tara’s expression at that time.

“So for me to get to know you, you scale the side of a building and get here two hours late? I’m not getting a good impression if I’m honest,” Tara snapped slightly as she pulled her shirt back on. Faith crossed the room and grabbed the witch’s hands.

“This doesn’t look good but you need to know what I’m really like and for that, I needed to wait until it was late enough to show you,” Faith explained sheepishly. Tara furrowed her eyebrows at Faith.

“Well, a warning would’ve been nice...I thought you changed your mind, I felt like a fool,” Tara admitted quietly looking to the ground. Faith’s eyes widened realising her mistake; she quickly tucked her finger under Tara’s chin and lifted her so they were facing each other. Faith placed a soft kiss on the witch’s lips making Tara catch her breath as the slayer pulled away.

“I’m sorry I didn’t think but I definitely haven’t changed my mind...so still want to come with me? I promise to use the door this time...,” Faith playfully pleaded whilst swinging the witch’s arms. Tara’s face broke into her signature sideways smirk which Faith’s lips quickly reciprocated. Faith ran and grabbed Tara’s jacket and lead both of them out of the dorm room.

“Oh yeah, you look great by the way,” Faith added as they left the room together.

***

Faith led Tara deep into the darkened cemetery, they had been wandering around the graves for a little while in such an awkward silence. Neither knew how to act with each other after leaving Tara’s dorm. Faith embarrassed and kicking herself for upsetting the witch whilst Tara couldn’t shake the slight annoyance at how she had been treated. She could tell the slayer was nervous and obviously way in over her head but she had been made to feel like a fool for a moment and she deserved to go through the motions. If she was going to be different from before then she couldn’t just act like she wasn’t upset, she wouldn’t hide anymore or for anyone, even if she did just want to hold that one person and make them feel better and ignore her own feelings.
They continued on their route, Faith was staring at the ground, too nervous to look at Tara. The witch couldn’t help but roll her eyes.

“So patrolling huh? I knew you weren’t a "wine and dine" kind of girl but I definitely didn’t expect this...” Tara blurted out, not instantly realising that she hadn’t said it in her head but instead breaking the silence.

“What can I say I like to be different,” Faith winked at the witch, trying to convince herself and Tara that she knew what she was doing; Tara just raised an eyebrow clearly not convinced. “Ok...so B got beat yesterday by some vamp, she’s ok but needs me to cover patrol so I thought we could include it in our date, maybe watch me work my magic?” Faith said trying to fake confidence in her ridiculous plan.

“Poor Buffy, of course, you should’ve just said...so what did you plan originally?” Tara questioned with an innocent enough look on her face, trying to hide her enjoyment of trying to watch faith talk her way out, having witnessed Faith’s strange behaviour all evening.

“Something much better, like mind-blowing stuff...”

“Oh yeah? Like what?” Tara asked faking interest as she moved closer to the awkward slayer.

“Well, stuff that definitely wouldn’t be in a graveyard...of course...,” Faith brushed off as she pushed the fake confidence in her fake answer whilst Tara continued to move in closer so their bodies were pushed together.

“You’re so full of crap,” Tara said in a low breath as her lips were centimetres away from Faiths and then stepped back with a knowing grin.

“Say wha’?” Faith exclaimed now raising her eyebrows now expecting the shy witch’s response.

“You want me to see the real you? And now this? Faith I wasn’t born yesterday, you have no clue what you’re doing, it’s like you’re making it all up as you go along, I’ve seen you in action so many times before or did you forget?”Tara told the slayer as she tried to repress a laugh. Faith’s shoulders dropped in defeat, running a hand through her wavy brown locks; she positions herself against a nearby grave, leaning against it.

“Urgh, fine, I have no clue what I’m doing, I even tried to get ideas from Anya but every time I thought of something I would change my mind and then B got hurt...did I screw this up?”
Tara just looked on at the disappointed slayer before beginning to laugh, Faith scowled in response to Tara’s laughing.
“T? You been snorting some magic powder or something?”Faith asked as she could feel anger building up inside of her, she knew that she had made some mistakes that evening but there was no need to be made fun of, it was humiliating.

“I’m sorry but the thought of you getting ideas from Anya just pushed me over the edge (Tara moved to Faith as she stifled her laugh and took her hands) You haven’t screwed anything up buuut you will if you don’t just talk to me, you can be yourself without climbing through my window...,” A snapping sound came from behind Tara at that moment so without thinking, Faith looked around the witch to see a prowling punk-looking vampire heading in their direction. Faith pulled a stake from her jeans and sent it straight to the vampire’s heart, turning it to dust instantly. Faith turned back to Tara ignoring the brief interruptions.

“You were saying?” Faith asked casually, her husky voice not even cracking. Tara smiled at the slayer and leant in for a soft kiss.

“Just stop being stupid. I like you. I don’t need special gestures to be impressed...just you,” Tara reassured Faith as her cheeks grew red. Faith just looked over Tara with no emotion and just nodded.

“Ok, let’s get out of her then,” Faith told the witch now trying to tug Tara away.

“What about the vampire who attacked Buffy?” Tara asked looking back at the graves as she was being pulled away.

“We got him. B said it was punk vamp with a bad 80’s mop on its head, plus he had a stake in his hand...must’ve been a trophy from beating  the slayer’s ass...we’re five by five,” Faith explained as she continued to lead them out of the graveyard not even looking back, so sure of herself.

“So where are we going then?” Tara asked confused, still not knowing what was actually happening that night.

***

After Faith had dragged Tara away from the cemetery and led them into her apartment. She quickly gathered some things into a bag and in a flash dragged them back out and up some stairs. They stepped out onto the roof where an amused and confused Tara gasped at what she saw. Pinned up on the wall where they had entered was a large white sheet and opposite was an old theatre projector and then next to that was two tattered camping chairs. Faith kept herself stood by the door just watching as Tara explored the new environment in front of her. Tara turned to Faith with a huge smile on her face.

“How did all this happen?” Tara asked in wonder. Faith smirked at the witch mischievously and went over to the projector, resting the bag down next to it.

“Just after I moved in I was on patrol and saw that it had been thrown out behind the movie theatre, and there were some movie reels in a box, so I figured I’d bring it back and see if it worked (Faith began to fiddle with the projector and added a reel to it) and no one ever comes up here, it’s a good place for quiet and somewhere to think. So their loss is my gain,” Faith shrugged casually as the projector started to hum and she joined Tara on the chair. She grabbed the bag and pulled out a blanket, placing it over the witch’s lap, never looking up the entire time and Tara watched her with quiet fascination. Faith then pulled out a bottle of soda, a couple of cups and a bag of cheetos, resting them down by the chairs. Faith turned and flicked a switch on the projector and the reel started to spin and play the movie. An old black and white movie appeared on the screen. Quickly the slayer poured them both a drink and settled back in her chair and began to watch the slightly worn film. The two women lost themselves in the movie, all the sounds of the town disappearing into the night as they forgot the rest of the world.
Tara glanced across to Faith for a second to see tiny goosebumps forming on her arm. So she grabbed her chair and scooted closer, Faith looked up when she heard the scrapping on the floor. She frowned, confused by what the witch was doing and the tiny interruption. Tara then pulled the blanket across and onto Faith’s lap as well so they were both sharing.

“What are ya doing?” Faith asked not understanding what was happening.

“You look cold and this blanket is too big for just me...,” Tara said nudging the confused Faith with her shoulder.

“Oh. Ok, cool...thanks,” Faith responded, stunned at the kind gesture. Faith could feel a warming in her stomach from this, a feeling she had never really experienced before. Tara smiled at the slayer before taking Faith’s hand and turning back to the movie. Faith looked down at the two hands connected and then back up to the blonde. Watching the witch look so content at that moment made all of Faith’s senses tingle. She wanted to reach out and show the witch how much she cared and tell her everything she was feeling but at the same time sh

e wanted to jump off that roof and leave town before she could cause the witch any hurt. Faith got so lost in her own thoughts that she hadn’t noticed the film had finished and an amused Tara was watching the distracted slayer right back. So Tara slowly reached for the cheetos and threw one at the slayer’s face, knocking her back to reality.

“Hey what gives?” Faith asked realising what just happened.

“I didn’t realise my face was more interesting than the movie,” Tara teased.

“Did it finish? I’ll put a new one on,” Faith said as she moved to stand up when Tara rested a hand on her arm to stop her.

“Don’t...let’s just talk for a bit?” Tara said softly not wanting to scare the slayer with such intimacy.

“Uh, ok...what about?” Faith asked worried about what the witch may want to talk about.

“Nothing bad if that helps? Where did you go before, you looked like you were in deep thought?” Tara asked quietly, tilting her head waiting for the slayer to respond. Faith just looked back at Tara not quite sure how to form words. Tara curled her hand around Faith’s again. “You can talk to me remember? I don’t judge,”

“I was thinking...about...you,” Faith admitted dropping her head in embarrassment. “I still kind of find all of this surreal...me and you, trying to do the normal thing I guess,”

“So is this a being with a girl thing or just being with me thing?” Tara asked listening patiently, hiding her anticipation of what the answer could be.

“I don’t care about the girl thing, I’ve never done the nasty with one, I mean I swear me and B came close at one point...but whatever...I guess I just can’t help but think that I’m bad for you...you’re like this pure thing and I don’t want people to treat you differently cos you’re with a murderer...” Faith said finding the conversation so awkward but also trying to keep her promise of communicating with the witch.

“You’re talking in the past sense again but no one would treat me differently, things have changed, you and Buffy get on, you’re helping now...,” Tara said brushing a hand through Faith’s hair soothingly.

“You say that but if they knew, I’d soon be seen as that girl locked in the basement, like I’m taking advantage or something,” Faith told the witch as her blood boiled thinking about the scoobies finding out.

“So what?” Tara stated. Faith’s head whipped up at the statement. “Since when have you ever cared what other people thought? I certainly don’t, I’ve spent too much of my life hiding myself and if the others don’t respect this, then that’s their problem,”

“Why do you like me? Let’s face it I was a dick to you when we first met,” Faith asked without thinking, still shocked by the witch’s admission.

Tara smiled at the emotional slayer, seeing such a vulnerable Faith made Tara’s heart swell with pain and happiness. So she carefully pushed the blanket aside and stood from the chair, she stepped in front of the slayer and placed herself in Faith’s lap and wrapped her arms around her neck so they’re both facing each other.
“When we first met all I could see was your anger but I also saw your aura, it was fracture and laced in pain...you’re not a bad person, you just needed help and through all that trapped anger you still managed to let the real you out. Faith I think you’re extraordinary and you’ve brought a different side of me out and I like it. I could never force you to be mine but you make me happy in ways I just can’t express,” Tara admitted.
Faith’s eyes were glossy with tears, not sure how to deal with all the affection she was receiving. Tara brushed a thumb across Faith’s cheek and leant in for a kiss. Their lips met slowly, Tara was careful to give Faith time to reciprocate. Soon the slayer took control and the kiss became more heated. Their tongues brushing each other’s lips, tasting satisfaction before sharing each other’s space. A couple of minutes later the two women pull apart gasping for air. Tara’s face fell straight into the slayer’s shoulder, embarrassed by the forcefulness. The slayer lightly nudged Tara; the witch lifted her head and was greeted by a smiling Faith. A sight Tara could never get tired of.

“Come on, you’re sleeping here tonight...no funny business I promise,” Faith told the witch.

“Nothing wrong with a little bit of funny,” Tara teased back and she led her head back on the slayer’s shoulder.

 

The two women soon made their way back to Faith’s apartment and into bed. Tara had borrowed some clothes to sleep in and they were much more relaxed about the sleeping arrangements this time around. Faith was led on her back with a sleepy Tara led into her side and Faith’s arm wrapped around her shoulders. Faith looked down at the half-asleep blonde, only just being able to see part of her face in the darkened bedroom.

“T?” Faith whispered into the silence.

“Mmm?” Tara mumbled incoherently almost falling into a deep sleep.

“I am ya know...yours...,” Faith quietly admitted into the darkness knowing the beautiful witch who had truly captured the slayer’s heart had fallen asleep.

 

The next morning Tara awoke with the morning sun streaming across her face. She stretched her arms out, slowly waking her body up. As she stretched, she reached out to find the space next to her was empty and cold. She sat up in the bed to try and listen out to where the slayer had gone. She hadn’t expected to wake up alone but it wasn’t the end of the world, she couldn’t imagine Faith had abandoned her in own apartment. So Tara got herself up and left the bedroom in search of the slayer. As she opened the bedroom door her ears filled with music coming from the kitchen. Tara followed the music as it got louder with every step. As she entered the kitchen her eyes fell on the brunette slayer dancing to some punk band whilst pouring two bowls with cereal. As she spun on the spot the slayer quickly registered Tara stood in the doorway with an amused smile on her face. Faith quickly switched off the music and greeted the witch with a kiss and then returning to the cereal to pour the milk.

“Morning. You hungry?” Faith asked, her voice even more so husky than usual, looking so relaxed for a change, proud of the cereal breakfast she had just created for them both. Tara chuckled and sat at the table as the slayer joined her.

“Sure, why not?” Tara laughed rhetorically. Just as the witch went to take a bit of her cereal, a ringing started echoing around the kitchen. Faith jumped not expecting the noise and answered the ringing phone. The slayer barely said hello when she slammed the phone down, her face as a white as a sheet. Tara dropped her spoon with deep concern.

“Faith Honey? What is it?” Tara asked worried. The slayer raised her face to look at the witch, her solemn look unchanged.

“We need to go,” Faith stated seriously.

Chapter Text

 

The witch and the slayer tore through the hospital, making their way to the waiting area. A sheepish Willow rose from her seat and greeted the two women as Giles looked on from his spot with a sleeping Dawn next to him.

“Where’s B?” An agitated Faith hurriedly asked Willow.

“She’s down the hall with Mrs Summer’s, the hospital called last minute so it was all really unplanned, she said to send you straight down once you got here,” Willow explained meekly.

Faith looked to Tara, ignoring that Willow was still stood there watching them both.


“Are you gonna be ok here?” Faith asked the witch just quiet enough that only she could hear. Tara reached her hand out and placed it on Faith’s arm comfortingly.

“Go. I’m not going anywhere,” Tara told Faith whilst giving her a supportive smile. Faith nodded looking Tara in the eyes, making sure that she was being sincere before disappearing down the hall. Willow watched the two women’s interactions with curiosity, not quite sure of what their body language with each other was being. Tara then looked back to Willow with a small smile.

“So...you and Faith...came here...together?” Willow asked trying to act as casual as possible and not like a jealous ex.

“Um, yeah. We were having breakfast when Mr Giles called...,” Tara explained not seeing Willow’s confused expression and the hurt in her eyes. Willow looked up at the clock in the waiting area and looked back to Tara.

“Its 10 o clock...Giles called a couple of hours ago, bit early to be having breakfast together isn’t it?” The redhead said giving a half laugh as she tried to pass the comment off as a joke.

“No I don’t and I don’t see the issue,” Tara said seeing through the Redhead’s fake attempt to hide her own annoyance.

“Oh no..no, no issue...it’s just surprising is all,”

“Surprising? Because we had breakfast early or because I was with Faith?” The blonde witch asked defensively, doing her best to control her temper. Willow just continued to stare at Tara with her mouth open, not sure how to form words, shocked by the girl’s sudden bluntness. Tara took pity on the Redhead, realising just how abrasive her defence was.
“I’m sorry, let’s not talk about this, we’re all here for Mrs Summers,” Tara said trying to keep the peace and end the conversation. She just didn’t have the time or energy to defend herself to her ex and deal with such jealous behaviour.

“But there’s something to talk about?” Willow pressed a little, worry building.

“I...not now Willow!” Tara snapped in a hushed tone as she brushed past Willow and plastered a forced smile on her face and walked over to Giles leaving a disgruntled and suspicious Willow behind.

 

Faith made her way hastily down the corridor of the hospital, doing her best not to crash into an orderly or push strangers out of the way. After her phone call with Giles, Tara had to calm Faith down and stop her from leaving the house straight away, it was just a scan but Faith couldn’t help but think the worse when it came to Joyce Summer’s. The one woman who treated her like a daughter and the one person Faith wanted to make so much up to after the way she had treated the older woman. As she rounded a corner, she could see Buffy was stood outside a room in conversation with a doctor. Faith stopped and watched for a moment, not wanting to intrude. She watched the back and forth, never seeing Buffy look so weak before, whatever was going on must have been serious. The doctor soon left with a dazed Buffy just staring into space. Faith slowly walked up to her fellow slayer and placed a hand on her shoulder to get her attention. Buffy looked up with glossy eyes.

“Hey B, what’s the stitch?” Faith asked trying not to seem too serious in front of the obviously upset blonde.

“Oh Faith, hey...uh...mom got a call last night for a scan but now she’s going for surgery...” Buffy explained as she did her best to wipe the tears from her eyes as she spoke.

“Surgery? Is she gonna be ok?” Faith asked as she looked through the window of the door at Mrs Summer’s just led up in bed looking at scans that had been left up on the wall.

“Yeah, nothing to be concerned about but they found a shadow and want to do a biopsy that’s all...,”

“That’s all? Shit B, are you sure your ok?” Faith asked.

“Yeah, I just wasn’t expecting it all ya know, we came in for a last-minute scan and now she’s having surgery,” Buffy said as she trailed off, still distant from reality.

“What can I do?” Faith asked knowing there was a reason she had been called in, not just to be told about Joyce.

“Well Giles said he’d take Dawn back to school in a bit and then keep an eye on her at the magic box but can you do patrol for a couple of days, I know you’ve already picked up the slack but now with mom and this demon chick out there...,” Faith just puts her hand up to stop Buffy.

“It’s cool B, I’ve got it,” Faith said with finality

“Are you sure? I really appreciate it,” Buffy asked worriedly.

“When it comes to Mrs S, I’m down for anything, so don’t mention it, seriously,” Faith said ready to leave, all of the politeness and niceties made Faith so uncomfortable and she definitely didn’t like hospitals.

“Did you wanna see mom before you go?” Buffy asked genuinely. Faith looked at Buffy thoughtful for a moment, their relationship had come so far in the recent months and then looking back to Joyce, it was all too much for Faith to cope with, she would be more helpful away and doing her job, helping Buffy in any way she could.

“Nah, I’ve been here too long already getting that itchy feeling, you go be with your mom, maybe do a puzzle, “ Faith teased as she made her quick escape through the hospital, too scared to speak Joyce Summers and deal with what was happening.

***

A few days later after the events at the hospital, Faith had been in full slayer mode, she hadn’t stopped. Her head was swirling with stress; she had never felt so much responsibility before, not even when she thought she was the only slayer. The night she took over slayer duties the demon chick “Glory” as Buffy discovered her name, had sent a snake demon to the shop. It didn’t do anything but it worked Buffy up enough that she and Giles chased after it, leaving Faith to look after Dawn and the magic box. Buffy had killed the snake but never spoke of it again, Faith was suspicious at first but with Joyce in the hospital, she ignored those feelings. Joyce was still unwell and ended up having surgery, the night she returned from the hospital an extraterrestrial demon came down to kill all the crazies in Sunnydale including Mrs Summers. Luckily Spike and Buffy had managed to kill the intergalactic demon before she could reach the house in time. It was then that Buffy decided to take a couple of weeks off so she could really look after her mom and Faith readily agreed, seeing this as her chance to really prove how good she could really be.

Faith spent her days helping at the magic box whilst Giles went away to England for a few days for research on their new blonde demon whilst at night she would patrol Sunnydale. She had never been so involved with the Scoobies, research and teamwork before and it had never been Faith’s thing, she always found going it alone was easier and quicker. This time though things had changed, she couldn’t repeat history no matter how much her body was willing her to just let go and do things her own way. She knew to be a better person she would need to play well with others even if she didn’t get on with anyone, especially when she discovered a vamp nest that would feed on volunteer humans and the Scoobie’s insisted on helping to clear the nest out. She spent more time making sure the others didn’t get hurt than actually dust vampires which let loads of them escape. So instead of going home that night, Faith went rogue and hunted down the rest of the vampires by herself. She had felt bad for lying but having the freedom to let her frustrations out was freeing and if she was taking it out on vamps then there was no need for her to feel guilty, it’s not like they were human. She didn’t like going behind the Scoobie’s backs and it seemed to have started Faith’s nightmares, she just wanted to release all her strength, the feeling of wrapping her hands around some poor innocent’s throat kept her up all night. Every aspect of her life was violence and now it had taken over her mind. So Faith instead got minimal sleep so she could patrol longer, hoping the more violence she inflicted then the more chance that her nightmares would disappear, stopping the temptation to kill.

So in her exhausted, sleep-deprived state Faith had received a frantic call from Tara telling her to go to the magic box. Willow and Anya had somehow managed to make a troll appear, who also just happened to be Anya’s ex. Faith had tried to act surprised but after everything she had experience in Sunnydale over the years, this was easily the most logical thing she had witnessed. So after dealing with that mess and the hilarity that is Willow and Anya interacting, Faith couldn’t help but love when Anya would push all of the Redhead’s buttons; she always loved how exasperated Willow would get no matter the situation. Faith left the magic box to stick to her new patrolling routine, praying that it was quiet so she could return home to bed. It was her penultimate night alone before Buffy returned to her duties and so far she had been quite lucky since word got around that was now two slayers living on the Hellmouth vampires tended to keep their distance. She just wanted to go back to normal and actually have a chance to see Tara again, in a non-Scooby capacity. Since their date, they had barely anytime alone or even talk and it was already beginning to get to the slayer. She had never really depended on anyone before but going from seeing the witch almost every day to suddenly nothing was having a large effect on her.

Faith made her way through the main streets of Sunnydale as her distance from the magic box grew, making her way to the cemetery when she could hear a ringing in the distance. It was quite late in the evening, so the streets were pretty empty. As tempting as it was for the rogue slayer to ignore the noise and leave it to Sunnydale’s finest to deal with all she could think was “WWBD” – “What would Buffy do?” And knowing the goody two shoes, she wouldn’t keep her nose out of it. Huffing in defeat Faith decided to swing past whatever was making the noise before getting back to her routine, it had already been interrupted once that day and she didn’t need anything adding to that.

With her hands shoved in her jean pockets, Faith made her way through the quiet town to a row of expensive shops, the kind of place Cordelia use to live in back in the day. As she grew closer she could see the line of shops with bright lights illuminating through the large windows. Nothing looked out of the norm until a body slammed into the front windows of one of the boutiques, the moment she saw the flash of body Faith charged to the shop without hesitation. The slayer stormed through the entrance to see a blonde woman in a skimpy silver dress lifting a female shop assistant above her head and snapping the victim’s neck and dropping her to the floor with next to no effort. Faith stood in shock for a moment; this was obviously the demon chick Glory that Buffy had gone up against. The glamorous woman wiped her hands on her dress and turned to face Faith. The woman’s hands dropped to her side, not seeming to be shocked by Faith’s presence with a small malicious smile formed on her face.

“Can I help you?” Glory asked with a vindictive attitude.

“Well I was looking for someone to help me buy a shirt but it looks like you killed them all,” Faith replied sarcastically doing her best to keep a cool and calm exterior.

“Oh honey, I don’t think there’s anyone who can save your fashion sense,” Glory mocked as she waved her finger up and down at Faith’s current outfit of her usual jeans, vest top and a leather jacket.

Faith continued to look at Glory with a stone face, not impressed by the Cordelia wannabe stood in front of her. Just listening to her voice, the slayer couldn’t understand how Buffy couldn’t beat this chick in a fight. Faith gave a low breathy laugh as she took a step towards the blonde-haired woman.
“Guess I‘ll just have to settle for kicking your skanky ass,”

Faith stormed straight for Glory, not giving the woman a second to respond. The slayer landed two punches on the woman who barely flinched at this, Glory then grabbed the third fist heading for her and pushed herself against it, throwing Faith across the store and landing on a couple of clothes rails. The sudden impact winded the slayer but not having time to acknowledge it, Faith struggled to her feet as she shook off any pain her body may have been feeling.
Glory was now sat on a countertop filing her nails as she waited for the slayer to get back to her feet. Faith scowled at the woman who didn’t seem to take anything seriously. Everything about this woman just filled the slayer with rage; she needed to show the stranger she wasn’t one to be messed with. Balling a fist Faith took a step forward as she planned her attack.

“I wouldn’t bother if I were you...I could snap your neck before your puny body could throw a punch,” Glory stated as she continued to look down at her nails.

Faith rose an eyebrow at the statement; she didn’t like to be talked down to especially by a slutty supermodel demon with far too much self-confidence.
“Pretty cocky for someone who got a lucky shot,” Faith retorted un-intimidated.

Glory threw the nail file to the side and hopped off the counter, she sauntered over to Faith and stopped until their faces were mere centimetres away.
“Take a shot sweet cheeks, I dare you,” Glory breathed at Faith who instantly took the bait.

The slayer threw her head back and slammed it into Glory’s face, knocking the woman backwards. Glory pinched her nose and looked back at Faith once she regained her footing.

“What is it with strong women in this town; it’s like an infestation...sooo annoying!” Glory snapped. The blonde stepped back and grabbed the side of the counter and with ease ripped it up from the floor and launched it at a surprised Faith who barely got out of the way in time. The slayer rolled across the floor and flipped up whilst kicking Glory in the face as she landed.
“Ugh...enough with the face!” Glory screamed at the slayer.

“Glory swung her fist, hitting Faith in the stomach, sending her up to the ceiling and then back down to the floor in one fell swoop. Before Faith could get her footing, Glory grabbed the back of the slayer’s jacket and threw her across the shop again, knocking into a shelf of shoes that descended on her with the impact. Faith clutched at her ribs that had broken her fall and quite possibly herself. Pushing shoes and boxes aside, a now seething Faith climbed up awkwardly off the floor. Glory just stood and watched with a bemused look on her face.

“You’re the other one I heard about...a slayer? I thought the other one was tacky, turns out it comes with the job...hmph,” Glory stated just as unimpressed with Faith as she was Buffy.

“Then you must be Glory, sound as stuck up as you were described,” Faith replied as she wiped some blood from her lip.

“Oh chill out Brooklyn. It’s like you want me to kill you,” Glory replied as though she was bored. Taking herself across the room, Glory found herself a spot on a sofa by the fitting room, leaving an angry Faith to just watch on. Faith took a step forward to get a clearer view of the frustrating woman.

“Why don’t you wanna fight, afraid I’ll beat ya?” Faith asked cockily, doing her best to coax the woman to face her, she refused to have her ass kicked so easily.

Glory laughed patronisingly, she leant back and crossed her legs seductively and rested her chin on her fist.
“Oh honey, slayers don’t concern me especially substitute slayers,” Glory replied bitchily, knowing she was hitting the right nerves.

“I ain’t a substitute bitch,” Faith growled back.

“Then what are you? See the only thing I’ve heard about is Buffy the super slayer...nothing good about the killer slayer who wasn’t even good at that, look at you...it’s pathetic,” Glory shook her head in embarrassment for the slayer.

“Well maybe telling an ex-killer that she’s pathetic probably ain’t a good idea,” Faith snapped as she whipped a small knife from her waistband and threw it at Glory’s chest. Instantly Glory stopped the blade of the knife in her hand just inches away from hitting her. With her hand gripping the blade tightly, Glory tutted at a shocked Faith then shaking her head she threw the knife back, going straight through Faith’s shoulder.

Faith dropped to her knee as the pain from the blade spread through her arm, forgetting how to hold herself up. She reached with her uninjured right arm up to the handle of the knife, while heavy breathing through gritted teeth, Faith tightened her grip and pulled the knife out and threw the bloodied blade to the ground. Using her hand to put pressure on the wound, Faith looked up at Glory with blood lust. She wanted to punish the arrogant woman who seemed to be getting lucky shots in.

“Good now you’re quiet, now can I finally have a moment to talk? (Glory flicked her hair back with a huff making Faith roll her eyes) So after meeting your boss, I did my own research and I know a lot about you and sweetie you sound like a hot mess,” Glory told the slayer as she rose from the sofa and started to peruse the clothes on the hangers that had managed to escape the carnage.

“Then you’ve been talking...to the wrong people, that’s...past tense...and she ain't...my boss,” Faith managed to say through waves of pain, her hand still doing its best to stop the blood from pouring out.

“Oh no, you’re still a hot mess, look at all your anger, it literally takes over in seconds and that isn’t a good look for anyone. You’re clearly unhappy and have no direction if you can’t get a good reputation as good or evil,” Glory told the slayer unapologetically.

“So what? You’re not going to kill me...just so you can insult me instead?” Faith forced out, not wanting a psychology talk from a psychopath.
Glory turned away from the clothes and walked over to the crumpled slayer on the floor that was doing her best to stay upright as dizziness and nausea took over.

“I’m not killing you because I think we can help each other sweet cheeks,” Glory said raising a seductive eyebrow.

“I don’t...think there’s any helping you,” Faith snapped back, unable to restrain herself from responding.

Glory just gave an un-amused smile and kicked Faith in the face knocking the slayer down to the ground. The side of Faith’s face slammed onto the carpeted floor, she could feel the rough material grate on her skin as her cheekbone crunched in the impact. The slayer groaned, too exhausted to feel anger anymore. So taking the last piece of dignity she had left, Faith moved her shaky hands and pushed her broken body off of the ground so she was kneeling again, looking Glory in the eye once more.

“No more funny remarks? Good...now, where was I? Oh yeah, seeing as you’re a loser with no direction I figured I could give you purpose, see I can’t find my key and I’m pretty sure that blonde bitch has it!” Glory snapped almost developing a tantrum as she worked herself up.

“What key? Like a door? (Faith took slow deep breaths as she tried to numb herself from the pain) And you ain’t got nothing I want lady,” Faith replied unimpressed, letting the stranger talk so she could look for her chance to escape.

“Oh honey, do you know how powerful I could make you...you could run this pathetic town...finally be the top slayer. All you have to do is find my key and tell me where it is,” Glory crawled onto the floor so she was level with Faith. She lifted her hand and started to push pieces of the slayer’s hair behind her ears and then slowly stroked her fingertips across Faith’s forehead. Faith kept her mouth shut as she watched the psychotic woman’s actions in front of, not knowing what she was expecting to happen.
“...Hmm, what I would do to eat you up right now...but I won’t (Glory pulled her hand away from a confused Faith) Well if you’re nice I won’t,” Glory laughed as she got back off the floor.

“I don’t know what the hell you’re talking about but I ain’t helping you, so you might as well kill me,” Faith spat, she refused to go back to the past, she couldn’t betray Buffy again.

“No, you’ll change your mind, I know you will. You’re a survivor like me and you’ll do whatever you can to survive, you always do. So when you’re done with whatever this act is, which is super cute by the way, just find me what I need,” Glory shrugged, unfazed by Faith’s persistent defiance. Glory casually grabbed some clothes off the hangers and headed to the exit.

“What if I don‘t...change my mind?” Faith asked not really wanting to know the answer.

“Oh sweetie, when I get my key...and I will, you’ll have wished I killed you right now,” And with that Glory left a broken and bleeding Faith knelt on the floor of the store. All Faith could do was stare off into the distance of where Glory had just exited, feeling the uselessness fall from her shoulders as she contemplated the events that had just happened.

***

Faith just about managed to get the keys in her front door before falling through the front door. The small distance from the clothes shop to Faith’s apartment felt like such a long journey. The slayer was weak from the loss of blood that had thankfully clotted on the way home. Faith could’ve stayed on the floor of that shop all night but with the mixture of injuries, dead bodies around her and the new thoughts in her head was almost debilitating but the risk of unwanted police attention forced Faith to move and push the issues down inside of her like all of her other feelings and forced her body to leave.

The front door flew open as Faith trampled in the doorway. She kicked the door shut behind her and stumbled into the kitchen area. Her body was weak and she needed to fix her wounds. Instead, the slayer reached for the fridge and pulled a cold beer out and drained half of the bottle straight away.

“Faith...Sweetie?” Tara’s distant voice called as the witch left the bathroom. “I got my essay done early so thought I’d pop round and see if you were back from patrol...I hope you don’t mind...I missed you...,”

Tara headed into the kitchen to see a bloody and dishevelled Faith nursing a cold beer.

“Jesus...Faith!” A worried Tara exclaimed as she ran to Faith who seemed to be in a world of her own. She took the bottle from the slayer and led her to the bathroom, leading her to sit on the toilet. Tara rushed about collecting bandages and cloths to clean the slayer and check for injuries.
“Faith, can you talk to me? What happened?” Tara asked now knelt in front of the slayer.

Taking a second to return to reality, she looked down at the witch who was now cleaning her shoulder wound.
“So I met Glory,” Faith replied her voice much hoarser than usual.

“What?” Tara asked shocked, stopping her movements for a moment before returning to the wounds.

“Yeah found her killing everyone in one of those posh clothes shops,” Faith replied wincing at Tara’s touch, shifting uncomfortably.

“Was she looking for something?” Tara asked as she finished binding the shoulder and moved onto the cuts on Faith’s face.

“Just a new wardrobe and I interrupted...,” Faith replied staring off into the distance. Glory’s words still trawling through her mind, making her question everything. She had this amazing girl in front of her and all she could think was had she actually changed or was Glory right about her?

Tara looked on at Faith with concern on her face, Faith looked so lost to the witch, and it was heartbreaking to see. She leant forward and placed a soft kiss on the slayer’s lips. Faith’s eyes returned to reality with the touch and looked at the worried witch in front of her.

“Are you sure it was just clothes, did she say anything to you?” Tara asked sensitively.

“Ahem...she wanted me to help her find something called “the key”...whatever the hell that is,” Faith half told Tara as she pinched the bridge of her nose, concentrating on that moment of time, not wanting to show the witch something might be wrong. “Think she heard about Faith from two years ago, hoping I would turn on B,”

“So you told her no?” Tara as she finished with Faith’s wounds. She got to her feet so she could lead them to the sofa.

“Pretty much,” Faith replied as they both sat down, Faith leant back, shifting and stretching her body.

“So why leave you like this, why not finish the job?” Tara asked confused, knowing anytime Buffy interacted with Glory it had never been this bad, worried that Faith was hiding something from her.

“Maybe she thinks I’ll change my mind after she beat the crap out of me? Either way next time I won’t be sleep deprived and I’ll be ready for her,” Faith finished as she realised what she said when she saw Tara’s face drop.

“You’ve been patrolling on no sleep?!” Tara replied with a hint of worry and annoyance in her tone.

“It’s no big, it just been busy this week without B on duty, I just need some sleep tonight and I’ll be fine,” Faith told Tara, brushing off the issue.

“That’s not the point Faith, we’ve barely seen each other because you’re busy being Faith and Buffy but now I find out you almost died because you’re not looking after yourself, how can you be so blahzay? Five minutes ago you looked like you saw a ghost and now nothing...I’m going to call Buffy and tell her you need help...,” Tara went to get the phone when Faith reached out to stop her from leaving.

“Don’t we agreed she would be with Mrs S...It’s my last patrol tomorrow and honestly, I’ve never done this whilst trying to juggle a normal life, I don’t get how B does it...just let me rest and get tomorrow done,” Faith almost pleaded.

“What about Glory?” Tara asked slightly defeated.

“Easy, she won’t kill me, she wants my help and I’ll tell B what happened once G is back, no point worrying anyone over nothing. Just let her have one more day, I’ll be fine after I sleep I swear. The only bonus of being a slayer, I heal quickly,” Faith told Tara taking the witch’s hand. “And tomorrow night, I will patrol and we will meet at the Bronze like we planned and I’ve been looking forward to that all week, this doesn’t have to be the end of the world,”

Tara looked at Faith’s pleading face; she always had a great way of making Tara relax no matter what the situation. Tara didn’t want to let anything go but she had to trust that Faith knew what she was doing. Tara couldn’t coddle the slayer; she should only air her concerns and show support.

“Fine...but you have to promise me you will talk to Buffy about this, it doesn’t give me a good feeling inside and the thought of anything happening to you...,” Tara trailed off looking down at their hands entwined. Faith just lifted Tara’s chin so they could look at each other and placed a kiss on Tara’s lips which the witch happily returned.

“I will be fine...you give me a reason to want to survive...I’ve never had anyone in my life that made me fear death before...,” Faith admitted a little embarrassed. Tara’s eyes glossed at the admission and she held Faith’s cheek in her hand.

“Come on, you need sleep. Let’s get you to bed because if you’re like this at the Bronze tomorrow I’ll be dragging you home to bed myself,” Tara told the slayer lovingly. Faith just grinned and wiggled her eyebrows at Tara.

“Who need’s sleep when I get an offer like that,” Faith joked cockily noticing the innuendo that Tara hadn’t. Tara just held her hand out for the slayer to take and rolled her eyes.

“Oh ssh or I’ll leave your ass on the sofa,” Tara said as Faith took the outstretched hand and the witch helped the slayer to her bedroom.

***

Faith hadn’t managed to get any sleep that night, not even with Tara laying by her side. Tara always relaxed the slayer and when they were together sleeping came so easily but not that night. Faith was plagued with more nightmares, some of it was flashes from her past, and some was her killing everybody around her until she was alone. She had woken up multiple times before giving up altogether, spending her night watching Tara in a peaceful slumber and when the witch woke, Faith quickly faked sleep so not to cause issues.

So for the rest of the day Faith dragged her way through her work at the magic box, still dealing with the knife wound in her shoulder that was taking it’s sweet ass time to heal. So she spent the day cleaning up after Willow and Anya’s troll spell which they happily left anything too heavy to lift for Faith. So after making her shoulder bleed twice and avoiding Anya, Faith finally made her way to patrolling. She had been waiting for this moment all day long, she felt like a kid waiting for the school bell to ring. All she had to do was a quick sweep of town and she could finally be with Tara and hopefully, that would help all the bad thoughts in her head and the nightmares disappear. It was starting to make her think evil was ingrained in her whole body and there was no escaping it and after what Glory said it was making her paranoid.

So after a couple of hours of patrol and self-reflection, it was time to wrap up and head to the Bronze. The night had turned up empty much to the exhausted slayer's pleasure. So as the slayer headed out of the cemetery a branch snapped behind her. Faith stopped in her tracks letting out an exhausted sigh, she spun around to come face to face with Spike who was casually leant against a tree smoking a cigarette.

“What are you doing here Spike?” Faith asked annoyed that her night was now getting held up.

“Lovely night for a walk slayer, nothing wrong with that,” Spike shrugged.

“You? Walk? More like stalking, I could smell you around all night,”

“I like to get a fight in before bed, figured if I found any nasty’s they’d be near the slayer,” Spike said throwing his cigarette down and stamping on it.

“Oh really? And here was me thinking you thought I was Buffy seeing as your totally obsessed with her,” Faith stated with her arms crossed. Spike jumped up from the tree a little startled by the comment.

“Pah! I am not!” Spike blurted out, doing his best not to get caught out by his new developing feelings for the slayer.

“Yes, you are! You’re always hanging around the house and I’ve seen the way you look at her it's uber-creepy,” Faith said with a scrunched up face.

“I only look at her so I can figure out how to kill her love,” Spike jumps in, angry that Faith was the only Scoobie who could figure him out.

“More like you’re obsessed,” Faith corrected the vampire.

“No you’re obsessed,” Spike shot back.

“That doesn’t make any sense,” Faith replied getting fed up of the whole conversation.

“Oh yeah, it does! Look at you walking around like you’re all big bad slayer all reformed when it was only a few months ago you tried to swap bodies with Buffy! Face it, you want her life, always have and now you’re playing happy life so no one will see you’re still that screwed up killer that you’ve always been!” Spike sneered getting up close to Faith. The slayer saw red and punched Spike in the nose, sending him to the floor.

“Screw off Spike, if it weren’t for that chip I’d stake you right now, your pathetic,” And with that Faith left the cemetery and very pissed off and bloodied Spike behind.

***

Meanwhile at the Bronze Tara was sat at a corner table with a soda she had been nursing for the last hour waiting for her slayer to meet her. Faith wasn’t running late, Tara was just having a very strange day and couldn’t keep focus, so she headed to the Bronze early and just watched the band play whilst she waited. Since the night before Tara couldn’t help the feeling something wasn’t right, she had never seen the slayer this way before. She had seen Faith happy, scared or sad but not like the look she had in her eye, that vacant lost look. She knew taking on all of Buffy’s responsibilities may have been soon for the slayer seeking redemption and now with Glory in the mix, the witch couldn’t help but sense the air changing around her. She was scared for Faith but all at the same time wanted to trust her, she was slowly falling for the woman. It was fast but the instant connection to Faith made Tara feel more alive than she ever had before. It was completely different from how it had been when she dated Willow, she and Faith both came from broken pasts and their souls instinctively wanted to heal each other. She would never tell Faith that, not yet, not so early. They hadn’t even discussed if they were in a relationship, telling the slayer she was falling in love could scare Faith away. Faith needed to progress in her own time and for Faith, she was happy to wait.

“Hi, Tara!” Tara had her attention pulled away by her name being called next to her. A smiling Buffy greeted Tara’s sight.

“B..Buffy, hi, what are you doing here?” Tara asked trying to mask her surprise.

“Well mom’s doing good and Dawn’s at a friend’s so I figured I deserved a break. Figured I’d come see if any of the gang was here...are you here alone?” Buffy asked catching sight of the drink Tara was nursing and searched the room around her.

“Oh nnnno, I’m just waiting for F-Faith to get off patrol, she should be here any minute,” Tara explained nervously.

“Cool, I’ll hang with you guys then...unless I’m intruding?” Buffy asked internally panicking as she realised she hadn’t really spent much alone time with Tara. Tara hesitated for a moment looking at the awkward look Buffy was sporting.

“You’re not, we’d love to hang with you,” Tara told Buffy feeling sorry for her, knowing she was sacrificing alone time with Faith. Buffy broke out in a relieved smile.

“Great, I’m just going to the bathroom, I’ll be back,” Buffy rushed off into the crowd leaving Tara alone at the table once again, so the witch turned her attention back to the band again. Before a minute could pass, the witch felt a hand on her shoulder, she smiled knowing Faith had arrived and in good time.

“Hey you -,” Tara began as she turned around to see a tall frat boy smiling at the witch.

“Hey to you too,” The frat boy sneered at Tara as he undressed her with his eyes. Tara pushed the boy’s hand off her shoulder awkwardly.

“Sorry, I thought you were s-someone else, c-c-can I help you?” Tara asked, her body language turning timid.

“That stutter is adorable; can I buy you a drink?” The frat boy leaned in so his face was close to Tara’s, making the witch feel uncomfortable.

“No thank you, m-my friend will be back soon,”

“That’s ok, how about a dance while you wait?” The boy pushed more now.

“No thank you,” Tara insisted as she looked around the boy hoping to see Buffy.

“Come on baby, it’s just a dance. Why don’t you be nice to a guy?” The frat boy almost pleaded, not taking a hint or didn’t want to.

“Please leave m-me alone, I’m really not interested, I’m sorry,” Tara said more firmly now trying to get the frat boy to leave.

The frat boy didn’t look happy at this, he didn’t appreciate rejection. The boy grabbed Tara’s wrist and pulled her close as she struggled to pull away. His face grew closer to hers so she could smell the alcohol on his breath.

“One dance and I’ll leave you alone, what’s the problem with that?!” The frat boy half asked and half-shouted now being more aggressive.

“No! Get off me!” Tara struggled to get away as his grip tightened.

“Why are you being so diffic-,” The frat boy was cut off when Faith appeared from nowhere and pinned him against the wall, making him let go of Tara instantly.

“I’m pretty sure the lady said no dick wad!” Faith spat at the boy, tightening her grip on him, a fire burned in her eyes that she hadn’t had for a while.

“Get off me, you psycho bitch!” The boy snarled trying to struggle free. Faith narrowed her rage-filled eyes.

“You want a psycho? I’ll give you a psycho!” Faith screamed as she launched the boy across the dance floor making the crowd scatter like skittles as the boy crashed into an empty table full of glasses. “And I hate being called a bitch!” Faith stated as she stormed over to the shaken frat boy, not even noticing a shocked Tara watching on. Faith leapt onto the boy as he tried to get off the floor and straddled him.

“Jeez lady I’m sorry, I’ll leave her alone!” The frat boy pleaded with the raging slayer who had finally snapped.

“Sorry? Sorry’s not good enough!” Faith shouted as she began to punch the frat boy in the face.

The boy struggled to move his face away but the slayer’s strength and speed were too much to resist. Faith continued to punch until his face was bloodied, not knowing how to stop. Suddenly her fist was caught mid-air by a furious looking Buffy. As the realisation of Faith’s actions hit home, Buffy lifted Faith off the floor by her injured shoulder and punched Faith with so much force, the brunette flew backwards landing at Tara’s feet. Shaking off the blow, Faith climbed up to her feet to face an angry Buffy and a horrified looking Tara and a room full of scared patrons.

“What the hell was that Faith?!” Buffy screamed at Faith as she tried to get her breath back. Faith looked down at her bleeding knuckles and then to the two women. She looked straight to Tara who couldn’t keep eye contact. Faith’s heart broke in that moment; Tara had finally seen the monster that she was.

I...I’m sorry...I don’t...I...,” Faith tried to speak but the tears building took control. She turned on her heel and sped off out of the Bronze. Buffy and Tara quickly followed, trying to fight through the crowd in their way. As they got through the exit they found an empty street with a couple of stragglers hanging around and Faith had disappeared.

“Damn it!” Buffy snapped, looking around to see where Faith had gone. “Tara, what happened in there?”

A shell shocked Tara looked to Buffy, still replaying the events in her head, she shook her head in disbelief.
“It happened so fast, that guy was being pushy with me, quite forceful wanting me to dance with him and then Faith came out of nowhere and just lost it, I’ve never seen her like that before,” Tara said doing her best to understand the past few moments in her head, not understanding why Faith would behave in that way after such a long time.

Buffy brushed a hand through her hair taking a look around her once more before turning back to Tara with glossy eyes and a look of regret.
“Well I have and it didn’t end well,”