TWICE CHOSEN
Part 11

By DragonWriter17

 


Rating:
R (for language)

Disclaimer: All of the materials borrowed from Buffy the Vampire Slayer belong to Joss Whedon and to the entities and companies associated with their creation.  I have borrowed them for creative and entertainment purposes only.  No compensation has been or ever shall be received for the writing below.  No copyright infringement is intended.

My Website: http://www.dragonwriter17.net/

Feedback: Yes, but only if it’s of the non-flamey variety: DragonWriter17@aol.com

Distribution: The Watchers Forum, The Mystic Muse, and my personal site (If you are interested in posting my story on your site, please contact me first for permission.)

Spoilers: BtVS Season 3’s “Faith, Hope, and Trick” (and beyond)

Pairings: Buffy/Faith

Author’s Notes: (1) See the first three chapters for detailed notes on the origin of this story. (2) This part picks up where Part 10 left off. It continues in mostly original territory. (3) For Faith’s backhistory for this series, I am using the novel Go Ask Malice: A Slayer’s Diary by Robert Joseph Levy (excellent book, by the way). I may not use all of its plot details or use them exactly as they appear in that novel, but I am assuming that Faith’s past in “Twice Chosen” is very similar to Faith’s past in Go Ask Malice. (4) I have two new banners, both of which I made. The one at the top I made with PowerPoint, and it contains pictures of Buffy and Faith in their "dinner with mom" outfits. The one at the bottom I made with the little Paint program. I just loved the way Buffy and Faith looked at each other in that screencap from BTVS Season 3's "Faith, Hope, and Trick". (5) Thanks, as always, to Lilly for the beta read and edit! By the way, Lilly won Best Beta in Round 11 of the SunnyD Awards for her work on this story. Congratulations, Lilly!

Number of Chapters: Current Plan = 18 chapters

Complete: 11

Chapter Summary: Faith runs the gauntlet at dinner with Buffy and her mother.
 


PART 01     PART 02     PART 03     PART 04     PART 05     PART 06    

PART 07     PART 08     PART 09     PART 10     PART 11   PART 12

PART 13     PART 14     PART 15     PART 16     PART 17     PART 18

Return to the Home Page       Return to BtVS Stories
 

***

After setting the table for three, Buffy hurried back into the kitchen where her mother was putting the finishing touches on a salad.

“What's next?” Buffy asked with a smile.

When Joyce looked up, she saw her daughter practically bouncing in place, ready for the next task. At first, Joyce had assumed that Buffy’s eagerness was a simple case of her wanting to placate her mother, but now Joyce saw more.

The girl is downright giddy, Joyce thought to herself, suppressing the smirk that threatened to emerge. “You can stir the sauce,” she told Buffy, who immediately rushed to stove and did just that.

Joyce watched her daughter out of the corner of her eye as she slowly and carefully stirred the large pot of sauce. She saw a series of emotions play across Buffy’s face and repeat themselves in much the same pattern: irrepressible excitement then deep worry then determined optimism.

After about a minute of stirring, Buffy set the spoon aside and replaced the pot’s lid; then she turned to her mother. “What else can I do?” she asked.

Joyce looked around the kitchen and nodded her head toward another large pot. “How about getting the water on the stove for the pasta?”

“I’m on it,” Buffy said cheerfully.

As Buffy grabbed the pan and started filling it up at the sink, Joyce saw her glance nervously at the clock: 6:20 p.m. Her eyes didn’t stay there for long, though. She quickly finished her task and turned back to her mother.

“Anything else?” Buffy asked, unconsciously cutting her eyes back to the clock.

“Yes, you can go get ready,” Joyce told her. “I can see the primping countdown already starting in your brain,” she added with a grin.

Buffy blushed a bit but definitely grinned back. “Are you sure?” she asked seriously.

“Go,” her mother teasingly commanded.

“Okay!” Buffy chirped before all but skipping from the room.

Joyce laughed and shook her head. She’s got it bad, she thought. A glowing smile lingered on Joyce’s face for a time, until a concerned frown took its place. I just hope she doesn’t end up with another broken heart. With a sigh, Joyce picked up the salad bowl and headed for the refrigerator.

***

“Nope. Nope. Nope.”

One by one, Buffy tossed aside yet another trio of outfits that she had pulled from her closet.

“Arggghh! I have nothing to wear!”

Buffy plopped onto her clothes-laden bed and slumped in discouragement. After a moment of pouting, she straightened up and pulled her shoulders back resolutely.

“Okay, get a grip, Buffy,” she chided herself. “This isn’t an audience with the Pope or the President; it’s dinner at home with your mother and your girlfriend. That’s all. You need something nice but simple. You wanna look good but not slutty. So think!”

After several more minutes of sorting, she settled on a pair of tight black jeans and a sleeveless black top with a slightly-ruffled v-neck. She put her hair up but kept her accessories simple but elegant: moderately dangly earrings and a thin gold necklace. She refreshed her makeup then appraised her reflection in the mirror.

She tilted her head and then sighed. “It’ll have to do.”

***

Meanwhile, across town, Faith was having a fashion debate of her own. She had already laid out her own small wardrobe on the bed and, with her arms crossed tightly over her chest, she was now inspecting the possibilities with clear disappointment. Nothing, she decided, had the least bit of “mom appeal.”

She sighed and uncrossed her arms. Her eyes caught a glimpse of the tattoo on her right arm. She pulled her arm around and glared at the black tribal design.

“I’m not exactly the ‘bring home to mother’ type,” she grumbled to herself.

Faith thought back to the morning’s events, frowning as she remembered the fury in Mrs. Summers’ eyes.

“Ah, screw it,” Faith said, exasperated. “She’s gonna hate me no matter what I wear.”

At that, Faith just picked some things from the pile and pulled them on: a maroon tank top, blue jeans, and a denim jacket. She brushed her hair and applied a fairly tame version of red lipstick to her lips.

She stepped from the bathroom and posed in front of the full length mirror on the wall.

“It’ll have to do,” she said with a shrug.

***

When Buffy stepped out of her bedroom, she met her mother in the hallway. Joyce had changed too, and they gave each other a look-over.

“You look nice,” Buffy said sincerely.

“You too,” Joyce said. She reached out and tucked an errant strand of hair behind Buffy’s ear. “I like your hair up. You should wear it that way more often.”

Buffy smiled at the compliment.

“Shall we?” Joyce said, indicating the stairs.

When Joyce turned to go, Buffy reached out and touched her mother’s arm, causing her to turn back to her daughter. Buffy’s face was creased with worry.

“Mom?” she asked. “Don’t be too hard on Faith. This hasn’t been easy for her either.”

Joyce placed her hand over Buffy’s. “Honey, I’m not going to be an ogre, for goodness’ sake. Don’t worry.” She gave Buffy’s hand a pat and then headed for the stairs.

“Easy for you to say,” Buffy mumbled to herself as she began to trudge after her mother.

Just then, the door bell rang, and Buffy jumped into alert mode.

“I’ll get it!” the slayer blurted before rushing past her mother on her way to the stairs.

She dashed down the steps and practically skidded to a halt in front of the door. She took a second to right herself and to smooth her hands over her hair and clothes. When she had taken a deep breath, she opened the door.

She found Faith standing there on the stoop, holding a small but colorful bouquet.

“Hey,” Faith said simply, her light expression hiding the fear that was churning in her gut.

Buffy’s heart nearly burst with pride when she saw the flowers in Faith’s hand. Her face lit up in a huge smile as she gave Faith a “Hey” back. Buffy motioned for Faith to come inside, and when she had done so, Buffy shut the door.

“You got flowers,” she said sweetly, just beaming at Faith.

Faith shrugged nonchalantly and handed them over. “They’re kinda lame,” she said. “Got ’em at the grocery store.”

Buffy shook her head. “They’re not lame at all,” she assured her.

Buffy reached out for Faith and pulled her into a grateful hug. Faith returned the gesture, wrapping her arms around the blonde. Both sighed in relief, feeling their shared anxieties dissipating in the warmth of their embrace.

Meanwhile, from the stairs, Joyce quietly observed the exchange. Despite her disapproval of the relationship, she wasn’t immune to the depth of emotion radiating from the two slayers. Involuntarily, her face softened at the sight of the girls, at how “right” they seemed to look together.

Soon, however, Joyce’s critical side reasserted itself. She shook off the warm-and-fuzzies and put on a stern expression. Then she cleared her throat and started coming down the stairs.

At Joyce’s throat-clearing, Buffy and Faith instantly separated, putting several feet of respectable space between them. Faith shoved her hands into her back pockets. Buffy pointed obviously at their visitor.

“Mom! Look!” Buffy announced. “Faith’s here.”

“Yes, I see that,” Joyce stated evenly as she reached the bottom of the stairs.

“A-A-And she brought flowers!” Buffy said, lifting the bouquet in her hand.

Joyce gave her daughter a small smile and a nod of acknowledgement. “Why don’t you go to the dining room and find a nice vase for them?” she suggested, although her tone made it sound more like a command.

Buffy’s gaze darted nervously to Faith then back to her mother. “O-O-Okay,” she said before reluctantly starting in that direction.

“And take your time,” Joyce added, making clear eye contact with her daughter.

Buffy nodded and then slipped from the room.

Once Buffy had gone, Joyce and Faith were alone in the living room. They exchanged several uncomfortable glances before Faith finally spoke.

“Mrs. Summers,” the slayer said in greeting.

“Faith,” Joyce replied coolly.

After a long moment of silence, Joyce extended her hand. Though surprised, Faith took it, and they shook hands.

“Thanks for coming,” Joyce said as she pulled her hand back.

“Thanks for inviting me,” Faith replied. After a beat, she added, “I think.”

Joyce smiled at that and chuckled a little. Faith smiled with her, until Joyce’s expression grew hard. As another awkward silence descended, Faith directed her gaze to the floor, wishing that she could be anywhere but right here right now. She’d rather face a dozen vampires than this one angry woman. She pulled her hands from her pockets and started to speak.

“I, um...” Faith had to stop and clear her throat. “I’m sorry about this morning,” she said, finally lifting her gaze to meet Joyce’s eyes. “I...” Faith trailed off, not really knowing what else to say.

Joyce folded her arms across her chest and looked down at the dark slayer. “You understand why I was so upset?”

“Yeah. I imagine there’s a whole buncha reasons you’re pretty peeved about it.” Faith tried to maintain eye contact, but felt herself glance away several times anyway.

“I won’t lie, Faith,” Joyce said. “I have concerns about where you and Buffy are headed. And I’m frightened at how fast you’re moving.”

Faith just nodded, letting Joyce have her say.

But...both Buffy and Mr. Giles have told me how important you were in helping Buffy break the backlash curse. And for that, I am so grateful.” Joyce unfolded her arms and took a step closer. She didn’t reach out to the slayer, but she did gaze at her deeply. “You brought my daughter back to me,” she softly told her. “Thank you.”

Faith bore the intense stare as long as she could; then she looked away. “You’re welcome,” she mumbled, fidgeting in place.

Joyce waited until Faith looked up. Then she went on. “I said some harsh things this morning. Things I regret now. Things that were based on my own misinterpretations. I apologize for that.” Joyce’s apology was genuine, but her tone was completely neutral, as if her regret were still tinged with some of her earlier anger.

Faith merely shrugged in response. “I’ve heard worse.”

Joyce nodded, considering Faith’s words an acceptance of her apology. But then, once again, the two women fell into uneasy silence. Eventually, Faith spoke up.

“Mrs. Summers,” she said, “I want you to know that I would never do anything to hurt Buffy. Never.”

Joyce gave Faith a small and only slightly forced smile. When it didn’t appear that Faith had anything more to add, Joyce spoke up, this time in a much lighter tone. “So...” she said, taking a step back and bringing her hands together in an almost-clap. “I think we’re probably over the worst part. How about we eat now?”

Faith smiled and said, “I’m in. It smells good. What are we having?”

Before Joyce could answer, Buffy made a perfectly-timed re-entry into the room. “Grilled girlfriend,” she said with a smirk. “It’s the house special.”

“Well, stick a fork in me,” Faith said, chuckling. “I think I’m done.”

After joining Buffy and Faith in a quick laugh, Joyce said, “We’re having spaghetti. You like spaghetti, don’t you?”

“Love it!” Faith answered enthusiastically. “There’s not a pasta out there I don’t like.”

“Spam and gouda goulash?” Buffy offered impishly. Faith and Joyce both shot her twin looks of disgust.

“Nobody makes that,” Faith scoffed, though with a twinkle in her eyes.

Buffy giggled and linked her arm in Faith’s as the three moved from the living room. “Yeah, but you said...”

With the mood substantially lighter, they made their way to the dining room.

***

A short time later, the three were sitting down to the table, digging in to the Italian feast. The vase of flowers that Faith had brought was now at the end of the table.

“This is really good, Mrs. Summers,” Faith said as she stuffed a forkful of spaghetti into her mouth.

“I helped, you know,” Buffy claimed pointedly, gunning for a compliment.

“Well, kudos to you too,” Faith added.

“You boiled the water,” Joyce reminded her daughter.

“That’s helping,” Buffy whined, though with a grin.

“You mean like you were ‘helping’ in that baking photo?” Faith asked.

Buffy shot a mock glare at Faith. “Thou shalt not discuss the embarrassing photo of snaggle-tooth Buffy. Have you forgotten the first commandment?”

Joyce’s face lit up. “Oh, that’s one of my favorite pictures. Buffy was so cute!”

Buffy just groaned.

“It took me two hours to clean up the kitchen after Buffy’s ‘help’, though,” Joyce said.

“I bet,” Faith replied. “I liked the ice skating picture, too.”

“With or without the Dorothy-do?” Joyce inquired.

“Without,” Faith answered. “The one where she looks so...I don’t know...intense, confident, something.”

Joyce instantly knew which photo Faith was referring to. “I like that one too.”

Buffy sighed and rolled her eyes as the two continued to talk as if Buffy weren’t even there. “I’m doomed to be the invisible topic of conversations everywhere...” she muttered melodramatically.

Joyce and Faith continued to ignore her, but Buffy didn’t mind. She was just thankful that the two were talking at all, that her mother and her girlfriend had been able to put the morning’s events behind them and have a normal conversation. Buffy smiled to herself and tuned back in.

“Buffy actually won several skating competitions,” Joyce said. “She was very good.”

“I’m glad somebody is,” Faith grumbled.

“You can’t ice skate?” Buffy said in surprise. “But...you’re from Boston. Isn’t that, like, mandatory in New England?”

“I only went once,” Faith said. “Totally sucked at it. Spent most of the afternoon with my ass on the ice.” She poked at her garlic toast with disgust.

“I’ll take you some time,” Buffy told her. “Show you the ropes.”

“Gee, thanks,” Faith said teasingly. “That way I can cross off ‘learn to ice skate’ on my ‘Ten Things I Want To Do Before I Die’ list.”

After laughing with the two girls, Joyce turned to Faith and said, “Boston...that’s such a long way from here. How did you end up in Sunnydale of all places?”

Faith and Buffy both froze at the innocent inquiry.

Buffy glanced worriedly at Faith, knowing the topic would raise painful memories for her. So before Faith could even form an answer, Buffy spoke up for her. “The Hellmouth!” she blurted. “That’s where the Slayer is supposed to be, right Faith?”

After a moment’s hesitation, Faith decided to play along with Buffy’s plausible but entirely fabricated explanation. “Uhhh...yeah. Right.”

Noting the averted gazes and fidgeting hands, Joyce eyed the girls suspiciously and waited. Eventually, Faith caved.

“My watcher was killed,” Faith said, softly but matter-of-factly. “And the vamp that killed her came after me. Truth is...I didn’t know where else to go.”  She paused and gave Buffy a grateful glance. “Luckily, Buffy helped me kill him once he tracked me here.”

Joyce leaned toward Faith, a troubled expression in her eyes. “What about your family? Aren’t they worried about you being so far away from home?”

Buffy looked at Faith with a combination of concern and curiosity, realizing for the first time that she herself didn’t know much about Faith’s past.

Faith barely blinked at the question. “I don’t have any family,” she stated flatly. “Not anymore.”

Buffy and Joyce frowned and looked away. When it seemed that the two were gearing up for apologies and sympathies, Faith quickly interjected.

“Trust me,” she told them with a large but forced smile, “I’m better off without them.”

Buffy and Joyce smiled back, but they didn’t appear to be reassured by Faith’s statement.

***

Meanwhile, in one of the local cemeteries, Willow and Xander and the rest of the Scoobies were staking out several new graves. While Xander, Cordelia, and Giles were watching two graves about a hundred yards away, Willow and Oz were camped near another that was beside a large mausoleum. The two sat on a blanket with an array of snacks and weapons laid out in front of them.

Willow glanced over at the freshly dug grave and sighed in annoyance. “Is this guy ever going to rise?”

“Well, if we’re lucky, he won’t,” Oz replied.

“Yeah. Right,” Willow admitted but without a hint of enthusiasm about the idea.

“You wanna talk about it?”

“About what?”

Oz reached out and touched his girlfriend’s lips, tracing her frown with his index finger. “About what’s got my Willow-smile turned all upside down.”

That got him a small smile, but it didn’t last long. Soon Willow was frowning again.

“It’s Buffy, isn’t it? You’re worried about her.”

“Of course I’m worried about her!” Willow answered. “Aren’t you?”

Oz put a hand over Willow’s. “I’m sure things are going fine. It’s just dinner.”

“It’s not dinner I’m worried about,” Willow explained. “It’s Faith. Sure, she’s acting all devoted now, but what happens when the thrill is gone, when the thrill is gone away?”

“First of all,” he said with a grin, “bonus points for the shout-out to B.B. But secondly...I don’t think she’s acting.”

“Oh, come on, Oz! You’ve heard her stories. She’s all about having fun and moving on, and Buffy’s not like that. I just know this is going to end badly.”

“People can change, Will.”

Willow shook her head, and her expression became pained. “Losing Angel...it just about killed her.”

“But it didn’t,” Oz softly pointed out. “She’s a slayer. She’s tough.”

“Physically maybe, but she’s still a girl...a girl who can get her heart broken.”

Oz just shrugged in acknowledgement.

“A-A-And what about the backlash curse?” Willow went on, getting more upset as she went along. “What if it’s not really gone? What if Faith dumps her and the curse comes right back?”

Oz didn’t have an answer for that.

Willow dropped her gaze to her hands. When she looked back up, her eyes were filled with tears. “I don’t want to lose her...” she said in shaky voice.

Oz reached over and cupped Willow’s cheek, using his thumb to catch the tears that had begun rolling down her face. “You won’t,” he assured her. Then he gently kissed her and pulled her into a warm hug.

***

After they had finished dessert, Buffy and Faith cleared the table and washed the dishes while Joyce put away the food. Within minutes, the chores were completed, and the three women stood awkwardly in the kitchen, wondering what to do next.

Buffy finally broke the silence. “Thanks for dinner, Mom,” she said. “It was really good.”

“It sure was, Mrs. S.,” Faith added. “Thanks for inviting me.”

“You’re welcome,” Joyce said sincerely. But then she pinned both girls with a serious look. “Before we call it a night, though, I have a few more things to say.”

Buffy and Faith exchanged nervous glances then turned back to Joyce.

“I told Buffy this earlier,” Joyce said, “but I want to say it to you as well, Faith.”

“Okay,” the dark slayer answered.

“I know that I can’t possibly police your behavior outside this house, but I do have ground rules that I expect both of you to follow,” she told them. “No bed-sharing sleepovers. No sneaking in during the night. No locked bedroom doors if you’re visiting. And no overnight stays for Buffy at your place either.”

Faith nodded dutifully. “Yes ma’am.”

“I want you girls to take things slow,” Joyce said before putting on an encouraging smile. “You’re young. You have all the time in the world.”

Although Buffy and Faith gave Joyce brief smiles, their minds went simultaneously to the same unvoiced thought: Unless we get killed slaying.

Buffy shook off the pessimism to press her mother for a favor. “Mom, is it okay if I drive Faith home?”

Joyce eyed the girls warily.

“I’ll come straight back, I promise,” Buffy said.

Joyce stared at them a little longer then finally relented. “Okay,” she said, “but be careful. And come right back.”

“Thanks Mom!” Buffy said before giving her mother a big hug.

***

As soon as they had shut the front door behind them, Buffy tugged Faith to her and gave her an earnest kiss. When they pulled apart, Faith’s expression lit up in a smirk.

“Mmmm...what was that for?” she asked.

“What? Can’t I just kiss you ’cause you’re cute and sexy?” Buffy countered playfully.

“Hey, you can kiss me ’cause I got five toes on each foot if you want to—especially if you kiss me like that.”

Buffy laughed, and the two of them walked down the porch steps arm in arm. “It was just to say thank you,” she explained. “For going above and beyond the girlfriend call of duty.”

Faith gave a small shrug. “Wasn’t as bad as I thought it was gonna be,” she admitted. “Not sayin’ it was a barrel o’ fun, but it could’ve been a lot worse.”

They separated, and Faith walked over to the passenger side of the SUV. Buffy opened the driver’s side door and popped the locks. She and Faith got in and put on their seat belts.

Once they were settled into their seats, Faith turned in Buffy’s direction. “Your mom’s all right,” she said sincerely. “She could’ve totally flipped her lid over this, but she didn’t.”

“Uhhh...excuse me, but that was you in my bedroom this morning, wasn’t it?” Buffy asked pointedly as she put the key in the ignition and started the engine.

“I don’t mean then,” Faith explained. “She had every right to freak out then. I’m talkin’ about after. She could’ve stayed mad, done something crazy like call the police on me or ship you off to boarding school. But she didn’t.”

“Yeah, she didn’t,” Buffy said with pleased wistfulness. “Thank God,” she added, as the thought of those alternatives finally sank in.

Buffy put the car in reverse and concentrated on backing out. When she had done so, she shifted into drive and headed down the street.

“I think Giles had a lot to do with that,” Buffy said, picking up where the conversation had left off. “They had a long talk today, and I think he really got through to her.”

“Remind me to send him a big thank-you card, then,” Faith joked.

“From both of us,” Buffy added with a smile. “Seriously, it’s nice knowing that he’s behind us, you know?”

“Yep, Giles is pretty cool as watchers go.”

“What was your watcher like?” Buffy asked cautiously.

At first, Faith didn’t answer, but then she said, “She was cool too. Tough, but...I think she really cared.” Faith chuckled. “Had a sweet old mansion in Cambridge. Definitely a step up from what I was used to. Hell, it was a whole staircase up!”

Buffy laughed with Faith, and the two of them continued on their way to Faith’s motel.

***

A short time later, Buffy pulled into the parking lot of the cheap motel that Faith called home. They got out, and Buffy walked Faith to her room.

“I guess this is good night then,” Faith said as they stood outside her door.

“I guess so,” Buffy replied unhappily. “Wish it wasn’t.”

“Yeah, me too.”

The two then moved into a long, warm hug. They didn’t rush it; they just drank in each other’s presence.

“I’ll miss you,” Buffy said, still entwined in Faith’s arms.

“I’ll miss you too,” Faith answered.

“I slept so good last night,” Buffy went on. “First time in a while that I didn’t have any nightmares.”

“Yeah, me too.”

Buffy pulled back and looked at Faith. “You’ve been having nightmares? How long?”

Long time,” Faith said ruefully, drawing out the first word. She shrugged dismissively and added, “It’s no big. It’s not like I have ’em all the time.”

“Are they ‘slayer’ dreams?” Buffy asked, a little worry in her voice.

“Sometimes,” Faith answered softly, not meeting her eyes. Then she looked up and said, “Ehhh...most of the time they’re just crap from my past. If V was here, she’d say they were ‘unresolved issues’ or some other bullshit.”

“V?”

“Vanity Collins,” Faith replied. “My case worker before I went into foster care.”

Buffy frowned deeply at the term ‘foster care.’ When it looked like she was going to press Faith for more information, the dark slayer cut her off.

“You’d better start back,” Faith said, diverting the focus from something she really didn’t want to discuss. “Otherwise, your mom’s gonna send out a search party.”

“Right. Good idea,” Buffy had to agree.

With a final hug and good night, the two reluctantly parted. Once Buffy had gotten in her car and driven away, Faith went inside her room.

***

As she shut the door, Faith felt the warmth of Buffy’s embrace fade. Now alone, she sighed unhappily and glanced about her motel room.

It wasn’t much, but at least the lights and water worked, and the door and window had been repaired since Kakistos’s attack. She usually felt a small sense of pride when she came into her room; after all, it was hers, damn it, dinginess and everything. It also provided her with a greatly appreciated private space—one which she fiercely defended from unwanted occupancy. If she brought someone home with her, she made sure they took care of business and then got the hell out, sometimes shoving them out the door, clothes in hand.

But tonight her room just felt...lonely.

She sighed again and sank onto the bed, leaning back against the pillows. It was then that she realized just how tired she really was. The emotional roller coaster of the last few days had taken their toll, and she was completely exhausted. She sat up long enough to take off her jacket, kick off her boots, and turn off bedside lamp. Then she plopped back down onto the mattress and closed her eyes.

When the light from outside peeked through the curtained window and landed on her face, Faith grumbled and draped her arm across her eyes. Now in darkness, she tried to go to sleep. Unfortunately, her mind had other ideas as it dredged up unpleasant events from her past.

Being shuffled among relatives who clearly didn’t want her. Being left with strange men while her mother disappeared for weeks at a time. Being forced to fend for herself in an apartment without food, heat, or electricity. Longing and praying for her mother’s return only to wish soon after that the woman had never come back.

Faith growled in frustration at the onslaught of memories. “Just shut up,” she told her brain. Then she turned onto her side and faced away from the window.

***

“Foster care?” Buffy repeated to herself once she had pulled away from Faith’s motel. “I knew she had a hard life in Boston, but I didn’t think it was that bad.”

Buffy’s thoughts immediately went to numerous well publicized cases of abuse in the foster care system. She frowned in concern.

“How long was she in it? She told me she had lost her mother. Is that why she went into foster care? Or did she go in before that...because of something her mother did? She hasn’t mentioned her father. Where does he fit into all of this?”

Buffy didn’t have answers to any of her questions. She slumped and sighed heavily. After a moment of thinking, she straightened in her seat, a determined expression on her face.

“I’ll just ask Faith,” she said. Then her resolve failed a little, and she got an uncomfortable look. “I-I-In a completely sensitive and totally non-invasive way, of course.” She slumped again. “A-A-And in the years that is going to take, I’ll ask Giles.”

***

When Buffy got home, she found her mother in the living room watching TV. Buffy gave her mother a big smile and held up the car keys for her to see.

“Keys,” Buffy announced as she put the ring on the table beside the front door.

Joyce nodded and asked, “Everything go okay?”

“Yes, everything went fine,” Buffy replied as she made her way to the couch and sat down. “I managed to go three whole miles without hitting a single object.” After grinning at her mother’s eye roll, Buffy sobered and said, “Seriously, Mom...thank you. For everything.”

Joyce smiled and rested her hand on her daughter’s arm. After a moment of silence between them, Joyce pulled her hand back and looked away. When she glanced back up, she said, “I, um, I have to admit that Faith really impressed me. She wasn’t what I expected.”

Buffy gave her mother a curious look. “What were you expecting?”

Joyce shrugged uncertainly. “I don’t know...defiance, maybe? Like she hadn’t done anything wrong?” She shook her head. “Or at the very least, false regret. You know, just telling me what I wanted to hear so that she could get what she wanted?”

Buffy nodded, acknowledging that her mother’s expectations were understandable. After thinking a moment, Buffy shyly asked, “So...you’re okay with her...with us?”

“Yes, I’m okay,” Joyce said with another smile. “But it’s a tentative ‘okay’, okay?” she quickly added. “I still have my concerns.”

“That’s cool,” Buffy said as she got to her feet. “You’ve got your concerns, and Will’s got her shovel.”

Joyce’s face creased into a confused expression. “Huh?”

“Oh nothing,” Buffy said, waving off the comment. “Let’s just say that, between the two of you, I’m fully covered by my overprotective life insurance policy.” She gave her mother a teasing grin. “In fact, if I don’t get to my room and call Willow right now, she’s going to be sending over a SWAT team.”

***

Meanwhile, at the Rosenberg home, Willow was pacing in her bedroom.

What’s going on? Why hasn’t she called yet? Willow thought worriedly.

Just then, the phone rang. Willow leapt onto her bed and snatched up the receiver.

“Hello?” she answered.

“Hey, Will,” Buffy said.

“Buffy! I’m so glad you called. I was starting to get worried.”

Starting to?” Buffy teased.

“Very funny,” Willow said. “So tell me...how did things go?”

“Things went wonderful,” Buffy replied. “Mom was so cool. I mean, she had her say, you know, but she didn’t go nuts or anything, and Faith was...just...” Buffy made a contented murmur before blurting, “She brought flowers, did I tell you that?”

Willow could practically hear her friend glowing through the phone as she related the details of dinner. Willow sighed and leaned back against her pillows, her smile fading away.

I should be happy for her, Willow thought. I mean...listen to her. She hasn’t been this happy in a long, long time.

I want to be happy for her, I do. But how can I be when she’s a heartbreak away from another Kingman’s Bluff?

“Willlllllow? Willlllllow?”

Buffy’s voice broke into Willow’s reverie. “Huh?” the redhead asked.

“Where did you go?”

“Uhhh, nowhere. Sorry. Y-Y-You were saying?”

“I was saying that I wished you would give Faith a chance, too.”

“Oh.” Willow didn’t know what to say beyond that.

After a moment of silence, Buffy went on. “I know you think she might hurt me, but she’s not like that. I swear. Not with me, anyway. If you’d get to know her better, you’d see that.”

Willow still didn’t speak. She opened her mouth several times, but didn’t say anything.

“Please, Will...for me,” Buffy said. “Would you try?”

Willow sighed heavily and closed her eyes. After a second or two, she opened her eyes and said, “Ohhh-kaaaay. I’ll try.”

“Oh, thank you, thank you, thank you!” Buffy said happily.

Willow smiled at Buffy’s excitement. At the same time, she silently prayed that her friend’s trust in Faith wouldn’t turn out to be misguided.

***

The next day at school, as Buffy was coming out of class, she was thrilled to find Faith waiting for her.

The dark slayer was leaning against the far wall, with her thumbs hitched nonchalantly in the front pockets of her tight black jeans. She wore heavy black boots, a black leather belt studded with silver grommets, and a black tank-top that clung to her body, revealing every curve.

Buffy’s face instantly lit up in a pleased and somewhat lusty smile. She waited until the crowd of students thinned and then crossed the hallway to where Faith was standing.

“Hey,” Buffy said.

“Hey yourself,” Faith said, returning Buffy’s smile. “Headin’ to the library?”

“I sure am.”

The two slayers walked side by side as they slowly made their way toward the library. Neither put an arm around the other, and they didn’t hold hands, but they walked close enough that their arms were touching most of the time. They barely watched where they were going, having eyes only for each other.

By the time they had gotten about halfway to the library, the hallway had cleared out. When the bell for the next class rang, Buffy suddenly grinned, grabbed Faith’s hand, and yanked her into the girls’ restroom. After a quick glance at the stalls to see that no one else was in the room, Buffy dropped her book bag, pulled Faith to her, and gave her a ardent kiss, which Faith eagerly returned.

When they pulled apart, Buffy said, “God, I missed you.”

Faith smirked as she let their noses touch. “Ya did, huh?”

“Did you miss me?” Buffy asked mischievously.

Faith cocked her head and thought. “Mmmm...maybe a little.” Then she flashed Buffy a full-dimpled grin.

Buffy gave Faith a mock-glare and then a swat on her arm. “Faith!” she accused.

In a split second, Faith grabbed Buffy’s wrists and held them behind her back as she maneuvered the blonde against the bathroom wall. When she had her in place, she gave her a long, searing kiss that left Buffy breathless when it was over.

“Okay...maybe more than a little,” Faith said with another grin.

Faith released Buffy’s wrists and started to take a step back. Buffy reached out and grabbed Faith by her hips and pulled her close. Then she locked her fingers behind Faith’s back to hold her in place. Faith didn’t seem to mind and wrapped her own arms around Buffy.

“I missed holding you last night,” Buffy complained. “And I missed waking up with you.”

“Yeah, me too,” Faith agreed.

At that, the two moved easily into a warm hug which lasted for a full minute. When they finally separated, Buffy put on big pout.

“Mom’s rules suck,” she pronounced.

Faith reached up and gave Buffy’s lower lip a pluck with her finger. “Yep, they sure do,” she told her. After giving her a quick kiss, she said, “We’ll just have to find a way around them, won’t we?” She pulled away and hitched her thumb over her shoulder toward the door. “Come on. We better check in with Jeeves.”

Buffy rolled her eyes as she picked up her book bag. “You know he hates it when you call him that.”

Faith just grinned. “I know.”

After a quick lipstick check, the two girls headed out of the restroom.

***

Meanwhile, in the library, Willow and Oz were seated at the far table across from Xander and Cordelia. Giles was in his office.

“I can’t believe we’re going to the dance in a limo!” Willow said excitedly. “We’ll be like movie stars, all glamorous. Ooo! Can we stick our heads out of the sun roof and woo-hoo down Main Street?”

Cordelia snorted condescendingly. “Yeah, ’cause that’d be so glamorous.”

“Now, now, Cordy,” Xander chided, “don’t begrudge us our fun. We mere peasants are unaccustomed to the pleasures that the Chases know so well.”

As Cordelia rolled her eyes, Oz turned to Willow. “So...have you told Buffy yet?”

Willow’s enthusiasm fizzled. “No,” she said. “I haven’t had the chance. I—”

“Tell me what?”

At the sound of the voice, the four turned to see Buffy and Faith standing at the end of the table, looking at them expectantly.

Willow got a deer-caught-in-headlights expression. “Uhhh...about, um...uhhh...”

“About the limo we’re getting!” Xander quickly interjected. “You know, for the dance.”

“Uh-huh,” Buffy said tersely as she gave them a disbelieving glare.

One by one they all looked away, except for Cordelia, who gave an annoyed sigh at her tablemates. “It’s about Scott,” she announced.

“What about Scott?” Buffy asked worriedly.

Once again, Willow and Xander couldn’t get out the words, so Cordelia said, “He’s going to the dance with Danielle.”

There was a long, silent pause as everyone stared at Buffy, waiting for her reaction to this news.

“Oh,” Buffy said simply as she took a few steps away from the table.

Faith didn’t follow her. She just watched with concern in her eyes.

“He’s going to the dance...with someone else,” Buffy went on. She dropped her gaze to her hands. “He didn’t waste any time, did he?”

As everyone continued to stare at Buffy, Faith just clenched her jaw and shoved her hands in her front pockets.

“Not that I care,” Buffy announced as she turned back to the group. She quickly looked over at Faith. “’Cause I don’t,” she told the brunette. Then she looked back down at her hands. “It was just a stupid dance, after all.”

“You can go with us,” Willow offered. At Buffy’s skeptical glance, Willow said, “Come on, it’ll be fun. All of us in the limo, the original Scoobies showing up in style...”

Buffy shook her head as she looked at the two couples at the table. “No, that’s okay. I don’t wanna be a fifth wheel. Besides, I haven’t even shopped for a dress or anything.” Once again, her eyes fell to her hands.

After another long pause, Faith stepped over to Buffy and gave her an elbow nudge. “Hey, what’d’ya say we crash the dance together...you and me?”

Buffy looked up at Faith with a vulnerable and yet hopeful expression. “Really?”

Faith gave her playful grin. “Really.”

Buffy’s face lit up into a big smile.

As the two slayers indulged in a hug and kiss, Willow just scowled and crossed her arms.
 

TO BE CONTINUED IN PART 12...

 

 


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