Going Down In Style
by Harper

A clean slate, a fresh start. In theory, that was something good. It meant that all of the mistakes of the past were supposedly wiped away, that there was nothing lurking in the background to mar the unblemished potential perfection that the future promised. Only, somehow it didn't quite work out like that.

There was, of course, the knowledge that no matter how much you say the past doesn't matter, it does. Even if you forget about the things that happened, if you erase them from the blackboard of your memory, there's still that fine dusting of chalk left over, covering everything. Just like, in many ways, the events of days that you push to the back of your mind still linger on, effecting the way you see the world, the way you react to people and situations.

At least, that was what Faith was realizing. She hadn't ever really anticipated escaping her past. Everyone talks about it and self-help book gurus map out intricate plans of attack for doing it, but there's still that little bit of you that's so intrinsically linked with whatever you're trying to forget that it throws everything just that little bit askew.

It had been almost a week since that soft kiss, since the promise of a tomorrow without painful reminders or preconceived notions. A great week in many respects, if only because she felt like she could walk around the hotel without having to worry about skulking out of the way of people who had made it painfully obvious that she was unwelcome. Not that she'd ever really let it bother her before, of course, since she'd long ago learned to shed the sideways glances and covertly hostile looks like water off a duck's back, but it still felt better to be treated more like a resident than as a hostile intruder.

She'd even begun to make amends with Wes. Well, perhaps it wasn't due to her so much as it was due to his preoccupation with other things, namely a perky little physicist who had finally broken the stalemate between them, but there had been a few occasions when the two of them had actually managed to have civil conversations. Not that she was particularly interested in the health benefits to be derived from drinking hot tea, but every once in a while you've just got to pretend.

Cordelia was another arena that had suddenly opened to her. Well, reopened would be more like it, though from the awkward attempts at conversation it was clear that most parts of the stadium were still closed for repairs. Besides, something always came up, breaking in on the fledging roots of an exchange and tearing them away in favor of something more pressing. A demon, or a vision, or any number of things that made itself more urgent.

Which brought to light something new, something that she'd noticed from afar but hadn't really let herself participate in, always hanging out at the fringes because that's where she'd been relegated. Having never actually gotten close enough to Cordy to see the extent of the damage during one of the few other episodes she'd been witness to had left Faith completely unprepared for the impact that one could have when viewed up close.

It had been yet another slightly stilted conversation, this one about a television show that neither particularly watched but that had managed to make headlines for some sweeps week stunt or the other. Despite the ragged stop/start nature of the tete-a-tete, it had, at the very least, been a positive interaction. Until, that is, she'd noticed the other girl's eyes grow glassy, had heard her voice trail off until it was finally gone completely. And then Cordelia herself was gone, her head snapping back from the pain, random facts being thrown out past the barrier of hands that were cupping her forehead in agony, and the dark Slayer realized that she'd never before felt as helpless as she did at that moment.

There was nothing for her to do other than call for the others, to stand by awkwardly as the rest of the gang swung into action. Angel scooped the slumped Seer up into his arms, cradling her head against his chest while Wesley grabbed a couple of aspirin and a bottle of water. Fred appeared from somewhere, apparently drawn by the commotion, and stood off to the side by an impotent Faith, wringing her hands as she looked on with wide, concerned eyes.

They'd gotten the information that had used Cordelia as its conduit and averted the disaster, this time with added help from a Slayer who felt the intense desire to do serious damage to the nearest deserving target. Part of her had wanted to stay back at the Hyperion, to take the other girl's head and run her fingers through shiny chestnut hair until she'd soothed Cordelia to sleep, protecting her from anything and everything that might imagine that it could intrude, but she'd realized quickly that not only was that a futile thought, it was an impractical one. She just wasn't the type to sit around playing nursemaid, wasn't the nurturing, comforting Florence Nightingale of the greater Los Angeles area. She was the Slayer, and that meant that her job involved quite a bit less good bedside manner and quite a bit more physical labor.

By the time they'd gotten back Cordelia had retired to her apartment. Fred told Faith later that she always did that, that the visions left the other girl with intense migraines that nothing but darkness and bed rest could fix. So, she hadn't gone down to the defunct kitchen and whipped up chicken soup, hadn't hied herself over to Cordy's place with a wet rag and a cup full of chipped pieces of ice, and hadn't found anything else to do to occupy her time other than mope. Of course, she gave that up after a few minutes because moping really was tiresome. She hit the streets instead, prowling through as many dark alleys and deserted parks as she could find, dusting a significant number of vamps, until daylight broke.

Trudging back into the foyer of the hotel, telling herself that she was just too wired up to go to bed, she'd plopped down in Cordelia's chair. Almost half an hour later, after she'd had the opportunity to peruse the other girl's internet bookmarks, after peeking at every single post-it note that she could find, and after rearranging the pens for the fourth time, she'd heard a throat clear above her and looked up, smiling guiltily when she saw the Seer there, one elegant brow arched in question.

"I, uh, was just.... uh, looking for a pen," Faith had offered, shrugging her shoulders in a gesture of what she hoped appeared to be innocence.

"Well, they'd be there in that big coffee mug. Since there's about twenty or so of them, I imagine that I can spare a few," Cordy had answered, the slightly smug note in her voice letting the other girl know that her little cover-up hadn't been nearly as successful as she could have hoped.

Ignoring that, rising nonchalantly from her chair and raising her hands above her head in a stretch that arched her back, letting out a yawn that threatened to break her jaw, Faith had made plans for a hasty departure.

"Good. Got my pen, so I suppose I can head on up to bed now," she'd offered, holding up the Bic in question, slipping easily past Cordelia, who still hadn't moved.

"Nice to know I could be of help," the Seer had replied, amusement coloring her tone. She'd watched as Faith walked across the lobby, caught every little glance back that the Slayer didn't do a good job of hiding, until finally the other girl was in the elevator, offering a small wave before heading up.

Plopping down at her desk, Cordelia had smiled broadly. She had the sneaking suspicion that Faith had been waiting on her, and that made her feel very, very good inside.

Back in her room, Faith had fallen into bed, burying her face in her pillow in a belated gesture of embarrassment, pen still clutched tightly in hand.

All of that had been two days prior, though, and without exhaustion as an excuse, Faith had to face up to the fact that she was just simply acting like a chicken. It wasn't like her to sit around, but there were a lot of variables to this particular situation that she just wasn't sure about. As promising as the guarantee of a clean start had been, it didn't mean that her dating skills had improved as a result. And there was the crux of it... dating. In all her life, Faith wasn't sure that she'd ever really dated anyone. There was Buffy and their fun-filled nights of cruising cemeteries, but somehow she didn't think that counted as dating, particularly since one half of the couple wasn't aware that they were part of it... the imaginary couple, that is.

But, she wasn't going to pass up the chance she'd been handed, which meant that she was going to have to get off her butt and do something, namely ask Cordelia out. Wesley had started paying her, so money wouldn't be a problem. She certainly wasn't going to be opening up a money market account any time soon, but at the very least she'd be able to offer an evening that consisted of more than squirtable cheese on Ritz crackers and the Letterman show.

Cordelia was sitting at her desk as Faith made her way down to the lobby. Instead of heading straight over, though, she strolled to the front door, peeking out to make sure everything looked okay. After deciding that they weren't in any imminent danger of being invaded by anyone, she made her way over to Wesley's office, just to check and see if the ex-Watcher was up to anything that needed her attention. Surprisingly, he wasn't there, so without further recourse she moved slowly to her primary destination, whistling quietly as she crossed the wide expanse of tile between herself and the object of her affection.

"So," she said, leaning on the counter when she finally reached it. The racks of business cards directly in front of her looked a little crooked, almost in desperate need of her immediate attention, and Faith began to straighten them out as she waited.

Cordelia had watched the other girl's trek through every part of the hotel lobby that maintained a safe distance from her desk, had followed with her eyes the final leg over to where Faith was standing now, noting the disjointed quality of the Slayer's walk, her ears picking up on the low, off-tune whistling. She'd pulled herself up straight in her chair when the other girl finally reached the counter in front of her, and when Faith had began to speak, she'd waited impatiently to hear what she was going to say. And waited, and waited, until she finally decided that those two letters strung together were the only ones that she was going to get.

With a sigh, she struggled to keep herself from rolling her eyes. "Sooooo," she prodded, looking at the other girl expectantly.

After about a half a minute, her patience was rewarded. "So I was thinking," Faith drawled, leaning her elbows on the counter and turning dark eyes Cordelia's way.

Again, the Seer waited, refusing to give in to the urge to jump up from her chair and literally rip the words out of the other girls mouth. "You were thinking..."

"Yeah, I was thinking..." Faith started, only to trail off again. Noting the look of growing impatience in Cordelia's eyes, she cleared her throat, then tried again. "I was thinking that... well, that maybe you'd like to, I don't know, get together and do something sometime."

Feeling profound relief at being able to finally get the words out, she smiled brightly. This dating thing wasn't too hard, once you got the hang of it.

Resisting the urge to cry out with joy that Faith had finally worked up the chutzpas to get it out, Cordelia merely nodded, throwing the other girl a small smile. "Yeah, I think I'd like that."

"Uh, tomorrow night maybe?" Faith added, bolstered now by her apparent run of good luck.

"Tomorrow night's good for me," Cordelia replied nonchalantly, flicking her short hair back over her shoulder in a move that had been ingrained in her almost since childhood. It bared the slim column of her throat and showed her shoulders off to perfection and Faith watched with no small amount of yearning.

"Good then. Tomorrow night. Should I... I mean, I don't have a car or anything, but I'm sure that Angel would let me borrow his... That is... Do you want me to pick you up?" she managed to get out, and Cordelia refused to smile at the other girl's uncharacteristic verbal clumsiness.

"If you can get the car then that'd be great," she answered, struggling to keep the excitement out of her voice. Since giving up the anger that had been holding her back from exploring a relationship with Faith, she'd been waiting, in what appeared to be vain hopes, for the other girl to make a move. It'd gotten to the point where she thought she was actually going to have to take charge of the situation herself, but was glad now that she'd waited. It was so much more exciting to be the pursued, and after the way things had ended the last time they'd been together, she felt she deserved it.

Moving slowly backward, her dark eyes still locked with hazel, Faith had nodded, twin dimples slashing down her cheeks. "I'll just go ask him then."


The fractured mirror that took up a large portion of one wall of her room reflected back hundreds of images of herself, but Faith couldn't tell if a single one of them looked the way it should. She had a date, a date with Cordelia, and she wanted to do it right. Accordingly, she'd actually gone shopping, had forced Fred into going to the mall with her and sorting through racks and racks of clothes in the seemingly vain hopes of finding something half-way decent to wear. Finally she'd decided on the tight red dress that she was currently wearing. She'd tried on black dresses and brown dresses and even a fucking bright yellow dress, but none of them seemed to work for her. Yeah, she'd wanted to go for the good first impression thing, which she somehow figured meant that she shouldn't show up in the same pair of leather pants that she'd been wearing for years, but standing there in a conservative little black dress had just seemed so completely fake.

She wasn't that girl, the kind who wore silk and satin like it was a comfortable second skin, and some part of her had rebelled at changing herself just to fit into a mold that she was convinced she should fit into. So, she'd met herself halfway, choosing something that was classy enough to get her admitted to the finest restaurants but in a bright red that only someone with the right kind of attitude could pull off. Accordingly she looked... well, she wasn't sure how she looked, but Fred had seemed positive that Cordelia would like it and since the physicist's opinion was the only one currently available on the issue, she'd chosen to accept it.

There was a little red purse that she'd picked out to go with the dress because there simply wasn't room under the snug fabric to hide what little money she had left, much less a set of car keys, and she snagged it up as she walked out of her room, taking a deep breath of fortification as she stepped onto the elevator. When it opened on the bottom floor she grinned, amused at the sight of Angel, Wesley, Gunn and Fred milling around the hotel lobby as if it were commonplace for them all to be lazing away their time there on a Friday night.

All eyes looked up at her as she stepped out of the car, giving up any pretense that they might have been there for any other reason than to inspect her, and she walked out to the middle of the floor. Stopping there, she held her hands out to the side and turned around slowly, giving them all a good look.

"So, do I pass inspection?" she asked cheekily, her face breaking out into a wide, white smile, dark eyes glinting with humor.

"Faith, you look... well, stunning," Wesley stammered, for once not fidgeting with anything. He was too focused on trying not to drool to have any excess energy for nervous tics.

"Dig the date drag," Gunn added in, nodding his bald head in approval. He was just as impressed as Wes but had to protect his coolness factor by managing to not look like a blubbering idiot about it.

"Oh, wow, I mean, I'd seen you in it before, but wow." This was from Fred, who was alternately eyeing the beautiful brunette standing in front of them trying not to blush and her awestruck semi-boyfriend.

Angel chunked the keys her way, the metal disappearing in a flash of silver as Faith snagged them out of mid-air. "Try not to do anything that I wouldn't do," he offered, grinning widely. "And don't wreck the car, okay."

Faith rolled her eyes at him before stepping past her crowd of admirers. "I'd tell you to wish me luck, but I'm not gonna need it," she threw out cockily, shooting them all another big smile before stepping out into the cool L.A. night.

Once in the car, she fit the key in the ignition, wondering if Angel had completely realized yet that not only did she not have a license, but she hadn't been behind the wheel of a vehicle for close to four years. Deciding that she'd be better off if she was far away from the hotel when that little realization hit, she cranked the car, tuning the radio in to her favorite station, and pulled away.

It didn't take long to reach Cordy's apartment, which was good in a way and bad in a way. It was good because it meant that there wasn't a long drive that would give her plenty of time to build up a full compliment of neurotic fears, but bad in that it meant that those fears would undoubtedly hit sometime after she picked up her date. Pushing that knowledge to the back of her mind, she found the closest parking place that she could and made her way over to her friend's building.

Minutes later found her standing outside of the other girl's door, having followed a building tenant inside, and after taking in a shaky breath, she raised her hand and knocked softly.

There was the muffled sound of heels clicking on hardwood and the slide of bolts being thrown back and suddenly the door was open and Faith forgot how to breathe. Cordelia was standing there, a soft baby blue cotton dress molded to her lush curves. Her hair was pulled up, baring the elegant line of her neck, and her already long legs were made even longer by a pair of barely there heels. In a word she was breathtaking, and Faith struggled to find the words to let her know.

"You look... amazing," she said finally, hooded dark eyes meeting pleased hazel, full of appreciation.

"Yeah, you too," Cordelia replied, her voice soft. She felt nervous, awkward, and oddly like a teenager out on her first date.

"Uh, are you ready to go?" Faith stammered out, trying to keep her eyes level instead of letting them trace indiscriminately over the other girl's form, much as she wanted to do.

"Just a few minutes. Come on in while I finish up," the Seer answered, pushing the door wide open. Faith ducked inside, immediately taking in the clean, uncluttered lines of the apartment, the cheery, comfortable decorating scheme. It was a home, one clearly crafted by her companion, and for a moment she felt a small pang of regret shoot through her. Faith hadn't ever really had a home, certainly not like this one, and tried not to think about how much she would have liked it.

Cordelia had disappeared into the back which left her free to roam around, something she took advantage of. She was taking in the stereo, the television nestled in the confines of a mahogany entertainment center, when suddenly the remote control flew from its resting place on the coffee table and whacked her firmly in the side of the head.

"What the..." she exclaimed, only to have to stop in order to duck a flying couch cushion. A picture frame had levitated into the air, apparently preparing to hurl itself her way, when she heard the angry voice of her date.

"Dennis," Cordelia chastised, focusing her eyes on the picture frame until it slowly, sadly, lowered itself back to the table it had been occupying. "How dare you treat a guest that way?"

Lights flickered, and Faith started to inch her way back toward the door. "Dennis?" she asked weakly, not at all sure what was going on.

"She's changed, Dennis. She's not a threat any more." Cordelia was apparently talking to no one in particular, and Faith felt a ball of unease curl up in her stomach.

"Uh, C, mind tellin' me what's going on here?" she asked, confusion blanketing the words.

"Its Dennis. I think he feels like he has to protect me from you. But that's not true," the Seer said, stressing the last few words, obviously directing them toward someone that Faith just wasn't seeing.

"I can understand and appreciate that, C, but do you mind telling me who Dennis is?"

Cordelia merely looked at her for a moment in stupefaction. "What do you mean, tell you who Dennis is? Dennis is my ghost. I thought you knew that."

"Your, uh, ghost?"

"Yeah. He came with the place, and is usually very polite." Once again, Cordelia stressed the last few words.

"You have a ghost?" Faith was starting to calm down a little now. It had been disconcerting, finding herself on the receiving end of an attack from an unknown aggressor. While she hadn't heard of any Dennis and certainly hadn't known that Cordy was playing host to a ghost, it certainly wasn't the strangest thing she'd ever run across in her time.

"Uh-huh. And he's very, very sorry for throwing things at you. Aren't you, Dennis?"

The lights flickered on and off once more and Cordelia nodded in satisfaction. "So, we won't have any more trouble, will we?"

Again the lights flickered, and Cordelia smiled brightly. "Good, now that that's all taken care of, are you ready to go?"

"Uh, yeah. I think so," Faith nodded, eyes still casting around the room. She knew that it wouldn't help, that she wouldn't be able to see the ghost no matter how hard she tried, but that didn't stop the natural response to want to look for him.

Down in the car, after Faith had rushed around to make sure that she opened Cordelia's door before sliding into the driver's seat, the Slayer put the key in the ignition and took a deep breath. This was it, the beginning of her date, and she needed to make sure that she made it perfect.

"So, where're we going?" Cordelia asked idly, having made sure that her nonchalant date mask was firmly in place. She'd been pleased that Faith had managed to observe the social niceties thus far, but wasn't yet ready to show her approval. She wasn't one for fawning, no matter how beautiful her dinner companion was, and was determined to make the other girl work for it.

"I thought maybe dinner and then this club I know. They, uh, have a band, and I thought you might want to have a few drinks and listen to some music." It had taken Faith a long time to decide on what to do. Planning these things out was difficult. Not only did you have to take into consideration what little you knew about your partner, but you had to try and synthesize that into something that she would enjoy doing as well as something that wouldn't bore yourself to death. Frankly she was convinced that this dating thing was far too difficult.

Cordelia nodded her approval, and without even realizing it, Faith blew out a sigh of relief.


Chop Suey was a combination chop house, Chinese restaurant and sushi bar, and Faith hadn't ever really been inside of it before but had thought that it looked pretty cool when she spotted it on one of her nightly prowls. So, she'd called the place up and made reservations and now, sitting across the expanse of a spotless linen table cloth from an obviously pleased Cordelia, she was glad that she had.

Sushi wasn't anything that she'd ever really tried before, nor had the impulse to want to try, but her companion had ordered an appetizer of an array of different kinds and she was determined to at least try and act like she knew what she was doing. So, she'd taken out the set of polished ivory chopsticks that the waiter had presented them with, tried her very best to copy Cordelia's efficient manner, and followed every move that the other girl made. When the Seer poured a soy sauce into one of the small dishes and then clipped off a piece of the green stuff resting on the small wooden plate and worked it into the dark liquid, she'd done the same.

Actually picking up one of the artfully designed little rolls of rice and other stuff that she wasn't quite sure about was a lot harder than it looked when her date did it, but eventually Slayer coordination kicked into play and she managed to use brute strength alone to force the infuriating little sticks to hold one of the pieces together. Of course, her form wasn't quite as elegant as the other girl's but at the very least it managed to hold the bit of food in place long enough for her to dip it in the sauce and rush it to her mouth.

The sushi itself had been, well... interesting. It wasn't good, wasn't bad, wasn't really anything more than a slightly chewy mixture of vaguely tasty something. So, she'd dutifully eaten a few more, smiling as though she really liked them, until she'd just decided that she couldn't take any more.

There was a little pile of flesh colored shaved something on the corner of the plate which looked more like some type of mousse than anything else, and deciding that she'd round out her dining experience, she reached over, grabbed a sliver, and brought it to her mouth.

Cordelia had been watching in veiled amusement as the other girl covertly copied her every move, as she forced the chop sticks to conform to her demands, as she tried to look like she was enjoying the tasty little bites. It was beyond cute and she wasn't going to do anything to disrupt the show. That is, however, until Faith reached for the ginger. She'd been taking a sip of the sake she'd ordered when her date reached for the deadly stuff and before she managed to swallow the hot liquid in her mouth it was too late.

"Faith, no!" she said, watching as the Slayer started to chew. Seconds later she saw dark eyes bug and a frantic hand reach out for the glass of water that the server had brought out when he'd seated them. Faith gulped it down, her eyes watering furiously, and Cordelia had to stifle the urge to laugh.

"Jesus," Faith huffed out, reaching for Cordy's water glass and draining it as well.

"You're not supposed to eat that part," the Seer advised belatedly. "Well, at least not by itself."

"Thanks for letting me know," the Slayer rasped out breathlessly, her tongue feeling like it'd been scorched.

Cordelia couldn't help it. She laughed, unable to stop herself even when she saw the look of wounded pride on the other girl's face. "You're just too cute," she said finally, her voice breathy from lack of oxygen.

"Yeah, well, that's what I'm here for. Making a fool out of myself for your entertainment has been a lifelong goal," Faith muttered, fiddling with one of the traitorous chop sticks. The evil thing should have dropped whatever it was that she'd consumed before letting it reach her lips.

Reaching across the table, laying a comforting hand over Faith's loosely balled fingers, Cordelia smiled. "Don't be embarrassed. I thought it was adorable."

"Just what I've always wanted to be... adorable." Rolling her eyes, deciding that she was either going to have to shrug off her embarrassment or ruin the rest of the night for the both of them, Faith flashed the biggest grin that she had. "Well, at least we got that first crucial horribly embarrassing moment out of the way."

The server appeared then, whisking away the discarded appetizer dishes and replacing them with steaming entrees, and Faith considered the timing of the interruption to be perfect. Apparently the dating gods were looking out for her after all, providing the distraction of food just when she needed it the most. Or, at least just when she thought it would do the most good. Unfortunately that didn't seem to be the case because as soon as the server left, Cordelia reclaimed the hand that she had been holding prior to his interruption, once again letting shining hazel eyes burn into darker brown.

"Faith, you don't have to be perfect, you know. I'm having a wonderful time, and I'm far more comfortable here with you than I have been with anyone I've gone out with in the last three years. I don't want someone who is afraid to make a fool of herself or who doesn't know how to laugh it off when she does. I want someone who's real, someone who doesn't have to hide behind some false front, someone who can be with me and not have to pretend to be someone they're not. Someone like you," she finished, giving the fingers a small squeeze. "Now, let's eat. I'm starving."


Cordelia watched with secret amusement as Faith wielded her steak knife expertly, cutting the chunk of somewhat raw meat on her plate into perfect little squares. Picking delicately at her own dish of honey shrimp, she realized that the meal seemed to suit the other girl. It wasn't delicate, didn't conform to any kind of standards of propriety. No, it was a hunk of meat cooked medium, with a bright pink center oozing with fragrant juices, as horribly porn-esque as that sounded. Maybe it was more that she hadn't felt the need to pick away at a salad, hadn't worried about the PC-ness of ordering a slab of thick beef, hadn't been concerned that she wouldn't be able to look properly feminine and delicate with a knife in one hand and a forkful of meat in the other. She'd chosen a meal that she wanted to eat, to hell with appearances and what other people thought, and was enjoying it with the hedonistic bliss of someone who knew how to appreciate what really mattered in life.

"Looks good," Cordelia murmured, her eyes actually lingering far above the contents of the plate. Faith looked up, catching sight of the perusal, and grinned, cheeks dimpling engagingly.

"Wanna bite?" Suddenly there was a fork resting at her lips, the delicious hint of some type of smoky marinade teasing her tastebuds, and without further thought Cordelia opened her mouth. Strong teeth closed over the morsel, pulling it from the tines of the slowly retreating fork, and as she let herself fall into the pleasure to be had from the taste and feel of it all she closed her eyes, letting her head tilt back slightly, a whimper of enjoyment teasing out of her throat.

"God," Faith said, her voice husky as she took in the sight, "you can have it all if you want. Just so long as you let me feed it to you."

With a laugh, Cordelia opened her eyes, noting with pleasure the heavily lidded eyes, the languid lethargy of arousal coating the form of the girl sitting across from her. "I wouldn't want to deprive you of the pleasure of having it," she teased, spearing a plump, sweet shrimp from her own plate. Faith's eyes looked at it longingly, and with a smirk she extended her arm, bringing the bite to her date's lush lips.

Keeping their eyes locked, Faith grabbed the bit of seafood between her teeth, slowly pulling it into her mouth. A little drop of the golden sauce lingered on her bottom lip and without thinking Cordelia swiped it away, bringing the thumb that had captured the drop to her own lips, cleaning it with the tip of a pink tongue.

"Uh, C, I think that maybe I should stick with my food and you should stick with yours because, um, I'm not going to make it to the club if we don't."

That brought a smile to Cordelia's eyes and with a satisfied nod of her head, she agreed.

Dinner conversation following that was surprisingly smooth. They talked about the office, about television shows, about the fact that Faith had managed to get Angel's car away from the hotel before he figured out that she didn't have a license, both surprised by the comfortableness of the interaction. Cordelia interspersed the conversation with an occasional biting comment about an unfortunate fashion choice, and Faith found herself laughing along with the other girl, enjoying the repartee. It wasn't that Cordelia was cutting, just genuinely funny, with her traditional dryly sarcastic wit.

They'd ordered dessert when the bill came and Faith realized that as fun as this dating thing seemed to be, apparently she wasn't going to be able to do it more than once a month on her current salary. Not that it mattered, really, because money didn't mean anything to her. It was there some times and some times it wasn't, but regardless of the state of her bank account she'd always managed to make it through. So, throwing down a few greenbacks, she forgot all about it, returning to the much more delicious pleasure to be had in watching Cordelia enjoy the chocolate confection that she'd picked out.

Heads turned when they walked out of the restaurant, and Faith felt her chest swell a bit with pride. She was with the most beautiful woman there. Somehow she'd managed to work her way past everything that had happened before and had just taken someone that she never would've figured would've wanted to be seen in public with her out to dinner at a fancy restaurant, had shown her a wonderful time, and now was walking with her hand at the small of her date's back through a crowd of people who all wished that they could be her.

Cordelia had noticed the other girl's posture out of the corner of her eye, had seen the way Faith's face had lit up from within, and gracefully reached behind her, wrapping her fingers through those of the hand guiding her through the restaurant so that they were holding hands, walking side by side. It was a side of Faith that not many people got to see and even fewer realized existed at all. Walking with their fingers entwined and a bright smile on her face was a girl that appreciated the little things more than most anyone else Cordelia had ever met, probably because she'd never really had them before.

Once outside, Cordy tugged on the other girl's hand until Faith turned around, the look in her dark eyes a little shy. Faith wasn't sure why she suddenly felt awkward. Maybe it was because some part of her had been begging for approval all her life and right then, with Cordelia looking at her with a soft smile on her face, she somehow felt like she'd found it.

"Thank you for dinner, Faith," the Seer said, her voice low. "I haven't enjoyed myself that much in a long, long time."

As soon as she said the words, Cordelia leaned forward, her lips meeting Faith's for a soft, gentle kiss. Pulling away seconds later, the Seer reached up, tracing her thumb along the lush confines of a pouting lower lip, wiping away the smudge of lipstick that she'd left. "So, where to now?"

Faith cleared her throat in an attempt to find her voice again, supremely relieved when she discovered that she still possessed the ability to speak. "The Blue Monkey," she managed to get out.

Cordy arched one brow in amusement. "Where do you find these places?"

"Well, when a girl spends her nights roaming through the city looking for things to kill, she finds all kinds of interesting places."

Cordelia laughed at that, picturing the faces of anyone around them that had been standing close enough to hear what was actually an innocent statement. "Lead the way, then."

The Blue Monkey turned out to be a smoky little jazz and blues club hidden behind unassuming thick oak doors, and Cordelia turned to her companion in amusement as they submersed themselves in the dimly lit interior.

"You really seem to like this kind of music," she said when they were seated, leaning close to the relaxing brunette in an attempt to be heard over the tinny cry of a jazz trumpet. In fact, the band had a full complement of instruments, from a sax to a piano to a trumpet to a bass to a guitar, and the lithe coffee colored woman caressing the microphone had just the right amount of scratch in her voice.

"My Mom used to listen to old records over and over," Faith replied, her voice taking on a dreamy quality. "At night I'd lay in bed and listen to the music, the songs playing over and over again until I'd drift off to sleep."

She didn't add that the sound of the voices of the jazz and blues greats had covered up the noise of her mother and whoever she'd brought home with her in order to get enough money for a quick fix. She'd finally sold the old record player a little while before Faith left for good, using the money to pay for drugs that her body hadn't been able to buy any more.

Cordelia caught the sadness that had managed to slip, unbidden, into the other girl's voice but she didn't question, didn't push for more. Faith was an enigma to be worked through one slow layer at a time, and the way she figured it, they had all the time in the world.

"You don't mind, do you? I mean, I never even asked you if you liked it," the Slayer said suddenly, realizing that she hadn't even considered the possibility that Cordelia might not enjoy coming to a place like this. The thought made her shoulders tense up, and she searched the other girl's face worriedly.

"No, I like it," came the reassuring reply, and Faith relaxed back against her seat once more.

"Oh, that's good," the Slayer said, breathing a sigh of relief. Then, in a frenzy of uncertainty, she sat up again, body once again tight. "Do you want me to get you something to drink?"

"Maybe later," Cordelia murmured, reaching down to once again take her companion's hand in hers, rubbing a soothing thumb over the soft skin she found there.

They'd been sitting there, enjoying the music for close to half an hour, when the singer cast seductive dark eyes over the room. She leaned closer to the microphone, and in a sultry voice spoke directly to the waiting crowd. "We're going to slow things down for a little while. I want to see you all out on the dance floor, otherwise it means we're not doing things right."

The band segued into the opening strains of "When Its Sleepy Time Down South" and Cordelia looked at Faith with wide, pleading eyes.

"You want me to dance?" the Slayer asked, brows lowering as she prepared to refuse.

"Please," Cordelia pouted, tugging on their joined hands. Couples were already spilling out onto the dance floor, bodies wrapping around one another, and she desperately wanted to join them.

Faith looked from the dance floor to Cordelia and back again, every muscle in her body insisting that she remain seated exactly where she was, but despite that felt herself being pulled from her chair, being led by the hand out to a clear spot on the floor. Then Cordelia turned to her, wrapped her arms tightly around the Slayer's neck and lowered her head to the other girl's shoulder, warm puffs of breath teasing Faith's sensitive skin, and she forgot why it was that she didn't want to be out there in the first place.

Her arms sneaked around the Seer's slim waist, pulling their bodies even more closely together, and Faith closed her eyes, letting the soft crooning voice of the singer wash over her as they moved together slowly. She was caught up in a cocoon of soft, sweet smelling skin, with the taller girl's soft hair tickling the side of her face and the tender press of heavy breasts against her own and suddenly dancing became her new favorite activity.

She wasn't sure how long they stayed out on the dance floor but when Cordelia finally looked up at her, it was with eyes gone dark with arousal. And there, in the middle of the throng of people swaying beside them, each caught up in the net of seductive, tripping notes and a voice made out of pure Georgia honey, the Seer leaned forward and kissed her again, just another light press of lips that signified far more that just the need for a little show of affection.

"You're so beautiful," Cordelia whispered as she pulled away, long fingers coming up to smooth a strand of silky long hair back behind the delicate shell of the other girl's ear.

"Not nearly as beautiful as you," Faith husked, silently reveling in the compliment. She knew she was attractive, could tell from the lust in eyes that tracked her movements that others found her appearance pleasing, but no one had ever really told her that before when there wasn't something that they expected to gain from the words. Cordelia had said it simply because she believed it, and the rush of emotion that the sentiment brought with it hit the Slayer in an unexpected rush.

They stayed until the bartenders gave last call, simply swaying together under the caress of an anonymous blues singer's voice. Stumbling out of the bar, hands once again pressed tightly together, Faith realized that she was really, truly happy. Following closely on the heels of that revelation was the knowledge that she was in deep, deep trouble.

The drive back to Cordelia's apartment didn't take nearly long enough, and sooner than she wished the Slayer was throwing the car in park and pulling the keys from the ignition. She followed Cordelia to the front of her building, up to her floor until they stood in front of the door to her apartment. The Seer managed to fit her key in the lock without dropping it, something that she wasn't sure she was going to be able to do under the erotic scrutiny of dark chocolate eyes. When she finally swung the recalcitrant piece of oak open, she turned to capture Faith's gaze.

"Would you like to come in for a little while?" she asked, hoping that the nervousness that she was feeling wasn't too evident in her voice.

Faith smiled gently, then shook her head. "Not tonight," she husked, the desire clearly evident in her tone wiping away any sting that the words might have had. "Maybe next time."

"But you'll at least kiss me good-night," Cordelia whispered, her voice suddenly disappearing in the face of the night's ending.

A slim hand slid up her arm and over her shoulder, winding its way into the mass of hair she had pulled back at the nape of her neck, pulling the Seer forward until their lips met in a soft, wet caress. This time there was the gentle flick of a teasing tongue against her flesh and Faith opened up to let the questing organ in. Pressing closer, her mouth opening wider, she deepened the kiss until she realized that she hadn't remembered to breathe for longer than was wise. Pulling away reluctantly, planting several chaste little kisses on the swollen lips in front of her, the Slayer pushed down her burgeoning arousal.

"I think its time for me to go," she said breathlessly, closing her eyes as she struggled to get herself back under control.

"Okay," Cordelia rasped out, well aware that it wasn't the most elegant dismissal that she'd ever offered, but unable to come up with more at the moment. Deciding to retreat to the relative safety of her apartment while she still had her wits about her, the Seer turned to disappear inside, only to be brought short by the tug of a strong hand on her wrist. She turned around to see Faith looking at her shyly.

"C, do you think its too early to tell you that I think I'm falling in love with you?"

Cordelia only moaned, jerking her arm forward and bringing the still attached Slayer with her. Using her free hand to slam the door shut, she nearly fell on the other woman, her lips once again meeting the ones she'd been desiring all night. "God Faith," she managed to mutter, not breaking contact with the other girl's mouth, "I don't want you to go."

Faith didn't really want to go either, so she allowed herself to be pulled down the dark hallway and into the bedroom, losing her shoes somewhere on the way back. Cordelia didn't bother to flip on the light when the got there, just tugged desperately on the straps of Faith's dress until she realized that the garment wasn't going to go anywhere until she found the zipper. But that hot mouth was still on hers, making it hard to think, and her fingers slipped against slippery fabric until she grew frustrated with the attempt and broke the kiss. Spinning the bemused Slayer around, she grabbed the zipper tab between two fingers viciously, tugging down until she bared all of the smooth skin beneath, her lips falling to taste the silky flesh bared by the vee of the fabric.

"I want it off... take it off," she commanded, kissing her way across the fluid muscles under her lips. Her own hands were tugging at the straps, trying to pull them free of slim shoulders, and she moaned in relief when the garment finally slid to the floor. Faith wasn't wearing much underneath, just a scrap of red lace, and Cordelia let her hands slide around until her palms were flattened on the taut expanse of the other girl's abdomen. Tracing the questing limbs upward, she cupped full breasts, her thumbs brushing eagerly against rapidly hardening nipples as she pushed aside the fall of dark hair flowing down the Slayer's back with her chin, giving her better access to the flexing tendons of the other girl's neck.

Faith was lost in a haze of feeling. It seemed that Cordelia was everywhere, her lips and her tongue and her exploring fingers capturing every single inch of her burning flesh, even though she was well aware that it wasn't possible.

"Cor..." she whispered, her arms raising to wind their way through the other girl's hair, pulling it from its confines until it was free. She was pressing instinctively back against the other girl's solid form, groaning in frustration as her skin came in contact with fabric instead of flesh. "Want to feel you."

The hands cupping her breasts fell away and a few seconds later she heard the rustle of cloth behind her. When Cordelia returned there was absolutely nothing separating their bodies but the scant little she still wore, and impatient hands pushed that down and out of the way.

Turning in the other girl's loose embrace, Faith brought herself face to face with her soon-to-be lover, taking in the intense look of arousal in simmering hazel eyes, the slight flaring of nostrils around the scent of the two of them mingling together. She was surprised when strong hands on her shoulders propelled her backward, but then she was sinking into the soft comfort of a bed and it didn't matter any more. Cordelia was stretched out on top of her, one slim thigh pressing against the junction between her legs, and the hard tips of aroused nipples were bumping against her own as their lips met once more.

It wasn't long before the hot cavern of the Seer's mouth made its way down her neck, nipping at the flesh it found on its way, until it was hovering over the taut nub of her nipple. Searing, harsh pants of breath burned into her flesh until finally those soft lips descended, sucking in the aching flesh. Faith's hands came up to wrap themselves in Cordelia's thick hair, her back arched and her mouth opened on a choked cry of encouragement. The sharp edge of teeth sliding over her skin brought with it another wordless moan, and she felt her legs part further in automatic response.

Cordelia grinned against the flesh she was teasing, pleased with the movement. She wasn't ready to move on yet, though, and kissed her way across the Slayer's chest to the other full breast, her tongue painting the skin along her path. Propping herself up on one forearm, she let the fingers of her other hand skim down the quivering muscles of Faith's belly to tease at the soft hair they encountered. The other girl's hips bucked wildly as she whimpered, and Cordelia released the flesh her mouth still held captive with a pop.

Faith was sure that she was about to die. She literally burned with arousal, and the teasing brush of the ends of soft hair trailing down her torso seared into her flesh. Then, arms that were far stronger than she remembered wrapped around her thighs, jerking her body down, and she reached up blindly, fingers wrapping around the spindles on the headboard as her biceps tensed in response. The broad flat of a tongue had insinuated itself between her swollen lips, lapping in long strokes against her sensitive skin, and with an incoherent cry her head snapped back, eyes opening though they didn't see anything.

Before she could prepare herself for it, two slim fingers were pressing into her, curling upward to rub against the spot designed to drive her wild, and that soft tongue had stiffened and was flicking roughly against the hard bit of flesh at the apex of her thighs. It was all too much and she cried out roughly, a hoarse shout pushing its way past her lips as she felt herself convulse, felt her hips freeze and then buck upwards wildly.

"C... Cor... baby," she huffed, giving up her death grip on the headboard to reach down and wrap her fingers through the other girl's hair, pulling her upward. She wasn't sure that her body could take any more stimulation at the moment, though from what she could tell her lover didn't appear to intend to stop any time soon.

"You... that... C..." she mumbled incoherently, attacking the other girl's neck with fervor. She was desperate to return the favor, her hands wild as they stroked down Cordelia's sides, as they came up to cup heavy breasts, her fingers pinching hard nipples.

Cordelia's answer was a deep, encouraging moan, watching through hooded hazel eyes as that dark head disappeared down her stomach to bury itself between her thighs.

Meanwhile, back at the Hyperion, Angel watched as Gunn stuffed yet another Cheese Puff into his mouth, washing it down with a swig of Dr. Pepper.

"You think they're alright?" he asked, his brow scrunched with worry. "Think they're having a good time?"

"They're fine, man. Stop worrying," Gunn replied, his tone bored. He was trying to watch the game, but Angel insisted on breaking into the sports analyst's commentary every few seconds to offer his own.

"Think they'll be back soon?"

"No," Wesley shot back distractedly. He had $50 riding on this game and if Angel didn't shut-up soon, he'd be forced to take drastic measures.

With a deep sigh, the vampire tried once again to become interested in the players running about on ESPN Game Night. "I hope she doesn't wreck the car."


There was something heavy pressing down on her back, but for some reason Faith didn't feel the urgent need to displace it. In fact, she didn't feel the urgent need to do anything but lay there and bask in the extreme satisfaction of deliciously sore muscles and heavy, lazy limbs. After a moment she realized that the weight on her back was warming the flesh there with rhythmic breathing, and she smiled widely.

Cordelia. She was in Cordelia's bed with the Seer sprawled out on top of her and some of the most beautiful sunlight that she'd ever seen was trickling through the windows to her left. Moving slowly, she rolled over so that the other girl flopped onto her back, then took advantage of the position to nestle herself in the vee of spread legs.

Hazel eyes fluttered open as a heavy warmth settled down over her chest only to be confronted with glowing chocolate orbs only inches away from hers. Blinking in confusion for a few seconds before finally realizing just exactly what she was seeing, Cordelia let a broad smile stretch across her features in reaction.

"Hey you," she whispered, surprised when Faith leaned down for a short, soft kiss.

"Hey you," came the reply, the other girl's voice sleepy soft and scratchy, and Cordelia felt the fire in her belly suddenly rekindle.

"You got plans for the day?" she asked breathlessly, drawing her fingers over the soft skin of her lover's hip.

"Not a one," Faith replied. Seconds later her eyes widened in surprise, her mouth opened on a gasp, and her neck arched as she felt long fingers bury themselves in her once more.

"Not a one?" Cordelia questioned, watching through the haze of arousal as Faith raised herself up on her forearms, supporting her weight so that she could rock slowly up and down on the Seer's hand.

"Well, I'm sure that I could be persuaded to come up with a few," the Slayer gasped in reply, struggling to keep her eyes open.

"Hmmm," Cordelia murmured, reaching up to bite at a particularly alluring tendon in Faith's neck before soothing it with a lazy swipe of the tongue, "maybe we could go get some breakfast or take a walk in the park or check out a museum or do some shopping..."

Swollen lips descended on hers, cutting off any further conversation and Cordelia laughed with the sheer joy of it all.

They didn't make it to breakfast until much later, and after the duo finally made their way out of the shower, they realized that the only thing that Faith had to wear was the dress from the night before. Cordelia took great delight in garbing the other girl in a pair of Capri pants and a cute little sleeveless button-up shirt that tied off at her midriff, even as Faith shot her looks designed to kill.

"What? I think you look adorable," she said with a smile and a soft kiss, and Faith couldn't do anything more than roll her eyes.

"Uh-huh," she grumbled, before lapsing into silence. She didn't know what to do now, didn't know whether she should ask if she could see Cordelia again that night or if that would be too pushy, so she stood there, shifting from one foot to the other, swallowing convulsively as she studied the wall in front of her with intense concentration.

"Faith?" Cordelia asked, growing concerned at the sudden change in the other girl's demeanor.

The Slayer drew in a deep breath then blinked, bringing her eyes up to meet questioning hazel. "Cordelia?"

"What's the matter? You're not... I mean, last night was..." the Seer trailed off, now finding herself staring at the floor as if it held the key to unlocking the secrets of the universe.

"No... no, last night was... incredible." Faith blushed at the slightly dreamy quality her voice had taken on, then struggled to straighten her shoulders and regain as much of her composure as was possible in the outfit she was currently wearing. "I just didn't... well... I don't... What do we do now?"

"Oh, well, I guess we just take it one day at a time," Cordelia replied nervously, nibbling on the corner of her lip.

"Actually I meant now, as in... well, now. Can I see you tonight? Is it too soon?" she clarified, watching as a bright smile broke out across her lover's face.

"You don't even have to leave if you don't want to," the Seer said, feeling a wave of relief wash through her. She'd been afraid that things had moved too fast, that Faith regretted what had happened.

"No, I definitely have to leave," Faith protested vehemently, looking down at the pink nightmare of a shirt she was wearing. "I can't wear this all day."

In the car on the way back to the hotel, Cordelia suddenly realized that if the others hadn't already noticed that Faith hadn't returned yet then they most certainly would when the two of them came strolling in together and Faith looked like she'd traded in her Maxim wardrobe for a more Cosmo look. Of course, there wasn't really anything she could do about it now since she'd already decided to accompany the Slayer, for some reason not wanting to let the other girl out of her sight, other than hope that everyone else had found something to occupy their bright Saturday... mid-afternoon.

It was, really, too much to hope for, and when they'd swung through the front doors to find everyone wandering aimlessly around the lobby, Cordelia had merely let out a resigned sigh and steeled herself for the coming scene.

"Oh, uh, hi." This was from Angel, who was lingering back out of the way of any stray shafts of sunlight. "Uh, glad to see you, uh, made it back okay."

He was obviously trying his best to avoid any mention of Faith's near 24-hour absence, and Cordelia could only hope that the others picked up on his cue.

"Yes," Wesley concurred, managing to only tweak the ear of his glasses once. Maybe it had something to do with the outfit. Faith was much less intimidating in sandals. "Not that we were wondering where you were, mind you, or at all afraid that something had happened..."

"Or that you'd wrecked the car," Angel threw in, then cringed at the glare Wesley sent his way.

"What the hell're you wearing?" Gunn blurted out, apparently no longer able to keep that observation to himself. "I mean, you go out in that ferociously hot little red number and come back looking like a Cordy-clone. Jesus, they say you start to look like the people you date after a little while, but don't you think it's a little early?"

Faith took offense at that, glancing down at her cutesy little shirt in outrage. "I didn't pick it out. Its her fault."

An accusing finger was pointed Cordelia's way, and she rolled her eyes. Nothing was ever simple.

"I told them you were fine," Fred said brightly. "All night they sat there, wondering if you were okay, wondering if you were having a good time, whining about how you were going to wreck the car, but I told them that they didn't need to give it another thought. They're having a good time, I said, and look, here you are, all shiny and happy and in one piece. You, uh, are in one piece, aren't you? Well, aside from the clothes. Just how did you lose your dress, Faith?"

"She didn't lose it," Cordelia ground out.

"Oh man, you didn't run into trouble did you? The car is fine, isn't it?" Angel asked worried, stepping forward to inspect them more closely before realizing quickly that it wasn't a very wise move on his part.

"Caddy's fine," Faith said with a wide grin, tossing the keys over to him in a high arch. "Great ride, really."

"Yeah," Gunn said sotto voce, elbowing Wesley in the side. "Its got a real big backseat."

"I mean, not that I was really worried about the car," Angel offered with a weak laugh. "Because I knew that you'd take good care of her."

"Angel, could you give it a rest about the car," Wesley mumbled under his breath, shooting Gunn an evil glare for his comment at the same time.

"Just what do you know about the backseat?" Faith asked, grinning widely, unlike Cordelia who was doing her best Medusa impersonation and sincerely hoping that her so-called friends would take the hint and turn into stone.

"Oh nothing, just have to sit back there some times," the big black man said flippantly, and Faith watched with no little incredulity as a deep red blush crawled up Wesley's cheeks. Interesting.

"Yes, well, the car is fine, the girls are fine, and I need to... go look at a new book that I'm researching," the ex-Watcher stammered, beginning to backpedal in the general direction of his office.

"So," Fred began, smiling shyly, "you two did have a good time, didn't you? I mean, you were gone all night, so you must've."

It was Cordelia's turn to blush furiously, at which Faith laughed, the dimples in her cheeks dipping deeply into her flesh.

"Yeah Fred, we had a great time. In fact, I'm hoping to do it again very, very soon."


"Do you think you could teach me about sex?" Faith stopped in mid-swing, the punching bag that she'd been abusing taking the opportunity to come back and smack her in the mid-section, and as the air left her lungs in a huff she looked up at Fred questioningly.

"Teach you about what?" she asked, trying to keep the squeak out of her voice. It wasn't something that she'd expected, obviously, and wasn't exactly sure how she was going to work her way out of this one.

"Well, like before. You know, when I wanted to learn more about kissing because I hadn't really done it before and I wanted to make sure that I was good at it before I went and tried it with Wesley. I want you to teach me about sex, just like you did with kissing." Earnest green-gold eyes were staring up at her trustingly and Faith reached out blindly for a towel that she was sure she'd dropped nearby earlier.

"Uh, Fred, I don't know..." she started, only to be cut off by the other girl.

"I mean, you know how to do it obviously, since you get so much practice and all with Cordelia," Faith had to smile at that. Ever since that first date, they'd grown even closer. Occasionally, when all was quiet up front, she'd even been able to coerce her all-too-willing lover upstairs for a little mid-afternoon rendezvous. "So I was thinking that you'd be the best person to ask, you know, especially since you helped me out before. And we are friends, and that's what friends are there for, to ask questions and to help one another out and..."

"Fred, I'm not going to sleep with you," Faith said, perhaps a little more sharply than she'd intended.

"Oh, well," the other girl stumbled, blinking rapidly, "I wasn't expecting you to actually... I mean, that is, I didn't think that we'd..."

"Oh, okay." Faith breathed a sigh of relief at that. She was fairly certain that Cordy wouldn't be too happy with the 'It was all for the sake of knowledge' reasoning behind a liaison with Fred. Not that she'd actually sleep with Fred, for numerous reasons, the main one being that she had absolutely no desire to be with anyone other than her lover.

Silence fell between the two girls, one blushing furiously while the other was caught up in the joys to be had in a new relationship. But then Faith noticed that Fred had started to fidget quite a bit, and she broke herself free.

Clearing her throat, she sought to clarify. "Just exactly what do you want from me then? Pointers?"

As far as she was aware, the physicist's fledging relationship with Wes was moving forward with about the same amount of speed as an ancient glacier, so she couldn't imagine that the pair would be anywhere near the copulation phase. But, how was she to know what went on behind closed doors? She certainly hoped that the others didn't know what went on behind hers, though she imagined that they had a fairly good idea. Ah, but what they didn't know about their beloved Seer...

"No, I was hoping that you could... could... help me sort a few things out," Fred replied, blushing deeply. Her eyes slid downward to fasten on a particularly fascinating nail in the baseboards, and Faith sighed. For once in her life the other girl was actually being rather closed-mouth, and just this once it was infuriating.

"And what do you need me to help you sort out?" she prodded, reminding herself to be patient with her friend.

"I was hoping that you could show me what you and Cordy do," the other girl said in a rush, and it took a few minutes for the words to sink in to the Slayer.

"Fred, I thought I explained that I..."

"I don't want to sleep with you," the embarrassed girl burst out, her face so red now that it challenged the glow of a ripened tomato, and Faith tried not to let the words in any way mess with her ego.

"Why would you want to know about what Cordy and I do?" she asked finally, extremely confused. "I mean, sure it might help out a little with you and Wes..."

"Its not for me and Wesley. I think that Wesley is interested in someone else and I... well... think that I'm not really interested in Wes," she finished, stressing the last word.

"Not really interested in Wes?" Faith repeated, brows beetling together in confusion. "Wes is interested in someone else? Who?"

"I... I don't want to say," Fred stuttered, shaking her head rapidly from side to side in an attempt to underscore her reticence.

"If he's led you on, if he's been playing with you..." Faith growled, feeling her anger rise.

"No, no, nothing like that," Fred broke in, grabbing the other girl's arm only to be momentarily distracted by the play of muscle beneath her palm. "Anyway, I don't think I'm interested in Wes either."

Again she stressed the name, and Faith tried once more to put it together. "So you're not interested in Wes and you want to learn more about what C and I... do... Fred?"

The Slayer looked up with a question in her eyes, startled when the other girl blushed even further and smiled up at her shyly.

"Uh, so you're... that is... I mean... You want to know what things are like between Cordy and I for your own personal use?" Faith drawled, slowly beginning to put it all together. "So that you can put the moves on some hottie chick that you've not been telling us about?"

"No," Fred scoffed. "I haven't been hiding anyone. I just think that... well, you know... that maybe one day I'd like to. Put the moves on some hottie chick, that is."

At that Faith threw back her head and laughed, the sound filling up the room. "Yeah babe, I can show you what Cordy and I do."

That was how Faith and Fred ended up renting porn. What Cordelia said when she returned to her apartment after work to find her lover and the normally demure little physicist watching with rapt fascination as a generously endowed woman explained the many uses and benefits of a strap-on is something that probably shouldn't ever be repeated.

"So Fred is thinking of switching sides?" Cordelia asked later... much later... when she'd finally calmed down. Fred had been ushered back to the hotel room, Cordelia had been left alone with the video tapes just long enough for her to decide that they needed to try out some of the things that the ever so instructive lady had been talking about, and Faith had found herself on her back only seconds after she'd walked back into the apartment. Not that she'd minded, really, though she was fairly certain that one of Cordy's neighbors had called the cops on them for disturbing the peace. Good thing the L.A. police force far too busy to investigate those things.

"Uh-huh," Faith replied, rolling over on her stomach, wincing as tender flesh hit the mattress. "And she told me that she thinks Wes is interested in someone else, but she won't spill who it is."

"Someone else? Who someone else? There's not anyone else around that Wesley knows to be interested in," Cordelia scoffed, one hand dropping down to idly scratch her lover's back.

"There's always Gunn," Faith said teasingly, resisting the urge to arch her back like a cat at the feel of Cordelia's short nails teasing over her flesh.

"Gunn?" the Seer asked, snickering at the picture of the two together. Stiff as a board, overly starched to his bones British Wesley and baggy jeans wearing escaped from the 'hood Gunn? As if it wasn't hard enough to picture the boys together even absent that, the thought of the two opposites together made her laugh. "Please. Could there be any two people that were more different?"

"Uhhhhhh... us," Faith drawled, snuggling closer to the warmth of the woman beside her. "We're not exactly two peas from the same pod, sweetheart."

"Yeah, but... no... I just don't see it. Wesley and Gunn? I sincerely doubt they're..." Cordelia trailed off, shaking her head in disbelief at the simple thought of it.

"That they're what? Queer? Please, C, like you can tell just by lookin' at someone," Faith snorted, running her eyes up and down the other girl's body pointedly.

Leaning over to bite Faith's shoulder teasingly, Cordelia murmured, "I still don't see it."

"Keep that up and the only thing you'll be seeing is the ceiling," Faith growled warningly, cutting her dark eyes up at her gloating lover.

"Oh really," Cordelia replied provocatively, slowly biting down on the same patch of flesh once more.

Before she could even blink, Faith was on top of her, looking down seductively as she lowered her mouth to the other girl's neck.

"Uh-huh, because baby, this time I'm on top."


Angel was standing over her, a shy smile on his face, and Cordelia spun around in her chair with a sigh.

"And you're hovering over me because..." she asked pertly, a fake bright smile flashing his way.

"I need you to talk to Fred for me," he said in an overly-friendly voice which didn't at all bode well for anyone involved in whatever he was cooking up.

"Talk to Fred about..." she drew out, looking at him expectantly.

"Well, she's seemed a little out of it lately and I think..." he started, only to be cut off as Cordelia waved at him dismissively.

"Oh, I know what's going on," she said, breathing a sigh of relief. Fred was merely contemplating life on the other side of the fence, nothing to be worried about.

"And you haven't done anything about the problem?" Now Angel seemed affronted, and after examining his statement for a moment, so was Cordelia.

"Problem? You think it's a problem?" she fumed. Of all the things that she might have expected to come out of his mouth, this certainly wasn't one of them. Why that closet homophobe...

"Don't you?" he asked, his voice hitting a high register in indignation.

"Absolutely not, and you should know better than to even say something like that to me." Cordelia was on her feet in a flash, arms crossed tightly over her chest as she glared at the object of her ire.

"Well, excuse me," Angel exclaimed, his arms coming to cross over his chest in a mirror of Cordelia's pose. "I wasn't aware that you were a proponent of drug use."

"I'll have you know... Wait a minute. What're you talking about?" Cordelia stopped in mid-rant, tilting her head to the side in confusion. "You think Fred's on drugs? I mean, she's always been a little spacey, but I don't think that she's been hiding a major crack habit from us or anything."

"Well, I know she is," Angel protested, nodding his head in conviction. "Everytime I see her she's smiling and humming and singing that she doesn't want to do things because she's high."

"Because she's high?" Cordelia repeated, then smiled when understanding hit. "Oh that... that's nothing. Its all Faith's fault, really."

"Faith gave Fred drugs?" The vamp was slowly becoming increasingly frustrated with his confidant's lack of upset over this issue.

"No, she gave her Afroman," Cordelia explained patiently.

"Are you speaking in some kind of secret code that I'm not aware of here? What the hell is an Afroman?" the clearly irritated man nearly shouted, only to be shushed by Cordelia.

"Not a what... a who. You know, the singer. Faith just loves that song of his 'Because I Got High' and apparently she's made a copy of the CD for Fred," the Seer elaborated, watching as confusion gave way to tentative understanding.

"So she's not on drugs," he checked, narrowing his eyes.

"I can assure you. She's not on drugs." With a small shrug of her shoulders, she dismissed the concern, much as Angel would have done had he actually used his brain before coming to speak to her.

"Oh, then what were you talking about?"

Cordelia froze for a moment, then quickly remembered that she wasn't dealing with the most observant man on the planet. "Its just a girl thing, I'm sure," she said, tongue in cheek.

"Oh... a girl thing," Angel repeated, trying to look like he was really cool about whatever that might be. "I see."

"You wish," Cordelia muttered under her breath, then turned away from her ever so confused boss with a smile.


"Soooo," Faith drawled, leaning one hip up against Cordelia's desk, smiling down at her girlfriend. The Seer had a pencil tucked behind her ear and cute little glasses perched on her nose and Faith thought that it was by far the most adorable thing she'd ever seen.

"So what?" Cordelia asked expectantly, arching a brow up at her grinning lover.

"So what're we doing tonight?"

Cordy sighed then rolled her shoulders, popping several vertebra. "I don't know what you're doing, but I've got to stay here and finish some research."

Faith pouted, sad brown eyes focusing on her companion's desk calendar. "But..." she started, only to trail off.


Sometimes she didn't understand her lover. At times she was one of the cockiest people Cordelia had ever known, strutting around the place like she was the best thing to come through the lobby of the Hyperion in years, while other times she was almost like a lost and lonely child, watching the Seer with dark, brooding eyes when she thought the other girl wasn't looking.

"I just thought... you know, its been four months and I thought... I don't know, that we could do something. You know, to celebrate," Faith said breezily, pushing away from the desk. "But, you know, its no big deal. I mean, I can't expect you to be with me every night..."

With a sigh, Cordelia pushed back away from her desk. Taking her glasses off with one hand and rubbing the bridge of her nose with the other, she ran back through what the other girl had said, piecing together the disjointed parts in hopes of finding a coherent statement. Then it hit her... four months. They'd been together four months now.

It didn't seem like it had been that long, yet she couldn't believe that it had only been four months. They'd been nearly inseparable since that night. Faith had appropriated half of her closet and a key to her apartment and spent most of the week in her bed. The few times that they didn't stay at her apartment, she crashed here at the Hyperion and had stashed away enough emergency outfits so that the others weren't aware of when she stayed over. Not that they didn't know the nature and extent of her relationship with Faith. If they hadn't figured it out by now then they were either the stupidest people on the planet or blind, and she was fairly certain that none of her co-workers were either. She just didn't want to flaunt her private life, and so accordingly tried to keep her relationship with Faith somehow hers, not available for general consumption by her friends.

The four months had been, well... interesting, to say the least. Living with Faith was never boring, whether it was waiting up half the night worried until she stumbled in, a few bloodstains marring the previously clean surface of her shirt, or dealing with a woman who was still half-girl and who still loved to play her beloved PlayStation II, or whether they were indulging in their much more fun nocturnal, and occasionally diurnal, activities. Lorne had been right... innocent wasn't a look that suited her.

Faith was also surprisingly settled. She'd adapted to a stable relationship with remarkable ease, something which had frankly shocked the Seer. In fact, she seemed to be much better at it than was Cordelia, who still couldn't bring herself to utter those three little words that the other girl appeared to be able to offer her freely. Before she left in the afternoon for work, at the height of her pleasure, before rolling over and drifting off to sleep she'd say it. "I love you."

It wasn't that Cordelia didn't feel the same way... she just didn't feel as comfortable expressing it. She was afraid that if she said the words and made it real that something would happen to take it all away, so she held back, even against the pull of disappointed dark eyes that wanted nothing more than to hear the sentiment repeated. Soon, though, she'd do it...

"We can do something when I finish up here," she said finally by way of reply, stopping the retreating girl in her tracks. Faith had managed to make it half-way across the lobby, the stiff set of her shoulders the best barrier she could throw up in the face of having her offer rejected.

"Not if its too much trouble. You'll probably be tired," she threw back over her shoulder, clearly sulking, and Cordelia made her way over to the other girl. Placing slim hands on shoulders covered in a thick layer of black leather, she turned Faith around, planting a soft kiss on her lips.

"You'll never be too much trouble. Really, I want to see you tonight. I just need to finish this, okay?"

Faith nodded shortly, then smiled. "Yeah, I'll go out and see if I can't take care of some business myself."

Grabbing hold of the Slayer's lapels, Cordelia pulled her closer, giving her another kiss. This one was longer and a bit deeper and when they pulled away, Faith's smile was much wider.

"You be careful," Cordelia teased. "I'm too young to be a widow."

Faith snorted at that, then turned and walked out the front door, leaving Cordelia there to finish her work. She did so sooner than she'd expected, having used her mental timekeeper to determine that Faith would probably give her about two hours before returning. That meant that she still had at least a half an hour, and the Seer decided to make good use of it.

Locking the front door, knowing that Faith had a key and would be able to make her way back in without problem, she headed upstairs, sneaking into the Slayer's room. There were candles scattered about, used initially to chase away the musty smell of a room that had been closed up too long, left there now because Faith had discovered that she liked the softer light. So, finding the other girl's Zippo in the drawer where she always kept it, having given up smoking when she realized that it was impeding her ability to slay, Cordelia went around the room until it was ablaze with the glow of countless lit candles.

Deciding that it was a nice effect, Cordelia moved on to the next item on her agenda... herself. Running a brush through her hair to remove any of the tangles that might have developed during the day, she contemplated what to wear. The few things that she had at the hotel were mainly the necessities, nothing especially exciting, and after running through her work-place wardrobe mentally, she decided not to wear any of it. In fact, she decided that she just wouldn't wear anything at all.

She'd just folded up the last of the day's clothes when she heard the clomp of boots coming down the hallway. Looking around furiously to make sure that everything was as perfect as the short amount of time she'd had to prepare could make it, Cordelia rushed over to the bed, rolling into a lazy position on her side just as the door swung open to reveal her lover.

"C..." Faith whispered, her eyes immediately drawn to the figure on her bed. The soft light from the candles bathed the other girl in a golden glow, alternately hiding and accentuating her features, and the Slayer was sure that her lover was the most beautiful woman she'd ever seen.

"I've been waiting on you." Cordelia had pitched her voice as low as it would go, hoping that it would come out as seductive and not as if she'd been taking testosterone treatments, and was pleasantly surprised at the pitch she achieved.

Faith was across the room in a flash, shedding her clothing wildly until she stood by the side of the bed gloriously bare. Falling to her knees on the mattress, she crawled over to where her lover lay, her dark hair falling in a curtain over the both of them as she bent down to kiss the lips she hadn't stopped thinking about for the past two hours.

"I love you," she whispered, the words fading into oblivion as the Seer brought their mouths together firmly.


One minute they were sleeping, bodies wrapped comfortably around one another in a warm cocoon of flesh, and the next they were jerked rudely awake, the flick of the overhead light burning into eyes that hadn't had the time to prepare for it.

"Faith have you seen..." the voice trailed off, and the Slayer rolled over onto her side, shielding her eyes with one hand as she tried to make out the form of whoever it was that had burst in. It was Angel, who was shifting from foot to foot, looking sheepishly from the bed to the door and back again as if he couldn't decide if what he had to say was important enough to have to stay there any longer.

"Yes?" Faith prompted, pulling the covers up a little higher to cover her lover's naked torso, feeling the other girl start to wiggle awake beside her.

"Uh, Cordelia," the vampire finished weakly, doe brown eyes dropping to the floor.

"Is that who I think it is?" Cordelia muttered, rolling over so that her face was buried in the crook of a shoulder.

"If by that you mean a vamp who's had centuries to learn how to knock then you'd be right," Faith replied, shooting Angel a look meant to set him aflame where he stood.

"I mean a vamp who'd better have a damn good reason for bursting into your room or else he's going to find himself on the wrong side of a pointy wooden object," the Seer murmured, burrowing further into her hiding place.

Faith, meanwhile, was studying the man standing in front of her. Something seemed... well, not right. Usually he'd be stammering or stuttering or doing the best impersonation of an undead blush that she'd seen, but he wasn't. Instead he was just standing there, exhaustion sketched in every line of his form, from the slumped curve of his shoulders to the tight pull of his pale skin.

"C, I think you need to get up," she said slowly, aware that something was very wrong with this picture.

Intrigued, Cordelia pried herself away from the safe haven of her lover's shoulder, peeking up to see what was going on. Instantly she noted the grim set of her friend's features, and with a sudden sense of foreboding she sat up straighter, pulling the sheet closer around her body.

"What's wrong?" she asked, suddenly afraid to hear the answer.

"I've been trying to call you," was her only reply, the words oddly hollow.

The sense of unease grew at his words, the evasive non-evasion of someone who couldn't quite find the words to say whatever it was that they needed to say.

"What's wrong?" she repeated, her throat tightening. She wanted to get up and go to him, wanted to wrap her arms around his shoulders and pull out of him whatever it was that had her normally slightly depressed co-worker looking worse than she'd ever seen before.

"It's... It's... Buffy's dead," he managed to choke out finally, soulful brown eyes looking up at the Seer in the vain hopes that he'd somehow find what he needed there to fix the gaping hole inside of him. He didn't see it though, didn't see anything other than the sudden pang of compassion as she pulled herself up out of the bed, heedless of her nudity, and crossed the room to wrap her arms around him as tightly as she could manage.

At the touch he felt everything inside him break, felt the tears that he hadn't been able to cry before, that he hadn't even known that he could cry, rush down his cheeks in a tinge of pinkish pain. Strong arms tightened around the slim shape in front of him and he let his head fall to the soft skin of her shoulder, his entire body shivering.

"Oh baby," Cordelia whispered, running her fingers through his hair. "I'm so sorry."

As she continued to rock him, whispering words of solace and comfort, Faith just lay where she was, a look of stunned shock on her face.

Buffy was dead. Dead. Buffy. She was gone, dead, no longer here for... For what? For Faith to say she was sorry, to try and make things up, to try and forge some kind of bond that the small part of her brain that was still rational told her that they never would have had? Her one last chance at reconciliation gone, forever. Buffy was gone, which meant that she was alone, the Chosen One now. The Slayer.

Gone. Gone. Buffy was gone. There would never be a Faith and Buffy, never be the two Slayers fighting side by side, never be anything else between them. It was over, all over, and she hadn't even gone to Sunnydale to see the other girl. Hadn't apologized, hadn't told her that she had never meant for it all to happen like it had. Hadn't told it that it was okay that the other girl had gutted her, had stuck a knife in her belly and left her for dead. Hadn't told her that once upon a time she'd fancied herself in love with her. All unsaid, all meaningless, all nothing in the face of the sudden emptiness that was clawing away at her.

Reaching blindly over the side of the bed she grasped a discarded tee shirt, sliding it over her head. Jeans followed, pulled from wherever they'd fallen when she'd worn them last, and when she was finally dressed, she got up the strength to look over to where Cordelia still stood, her body gently soothing the pain of someone who had ten lifetimes of pain inside of him. There were socks and shoes and a jacket and suddenly she was dressed, was ready to go somewhere, anywhere, away from here, from this room where the words just spoken hung far too heavily in the air for her to breathe.

Moving mechanically, she pulled a robe from the back of a chair, walking over to where the vampire stood with his leather jacket covered arms wrapped around the naked flesh of her lover. When he saw her there he backed away, embarrassment written clearly across his expressive features, and she slid the worn cloth over the other girl's shoulders, watching as it was belted, as all that flesh that she'd just found comfort with disappeared.

"I'm.... I'm gonna go tell the others," Angel rasped, straightening his shoulders in an attempt to reclaim some part of his self that he'd just lost. Not pride, not composure... nothing like that, because those things didn't matter when you didn't even realize that they existed anymore. No, he wanted the fake comfort of pretending that things were normal, that they were going to be alright.

Cordelia watched him go with sad eyes, her own tears mingling with his where the material of the robe had soaked them from the skin of her shoulder. She was in shock, both from the outpouring of emotion that she'd just witnessed and from the proclamation that an old friend, one that she'd always thought to be invincible, was dead. A dead Slayer, and suddenly she wanted to wrap her arms around the dark figure hovering to her left and never let her go.

Instead she just turned slowly, confusion written clearly across her face as she took in the other girl's appearance, from the heavy black boots up to the old faded tee.

"You're dressed?"

"I've gotta go," was all Faith said by way of reply, her voice sandpaper rough, full of restrained emotion.

"Don't go," Cordelia whispered, one hand reaching out to run through disheveled dark hair, wanting to smooth back the tangled mess.

At her touch the Slayer flinched away, chocolate eyes narrowing. "Don't touch me," she hissed, wrapped too deeply in her own pain to see the pang of intense hurt that her words caused.

"You can't run away from this, Faith. Can't run away from me." Cordelia wasn't sure what was going on, but she knew that if she let Faith leave her now that things wouldn't be the same between them. If her lover left her now then there was something missing, something that she obviously couldn't supply, some way in which she was inadequate.

"You don't fucking understand, do you?" Angry, hard words and the barely restrained flash of mania in eyes that weren't even really seeing her, and the Seer became afraid. Afraid that something precious was slipping away.

"Of course I do. I've lost a friend too," she tried to comfort, taking a small step forward only to have the other girl stumble back away from her.

Faith shook her head, trying to clear it of the morass of emotions that were taking up too much room, blocking out her ability to see and hear and function. Cordelia was looking at her with concerned hazel eyes and all she knew was that for some reason this was something that her lover couldn't fix.

"More than a friend," she rasped. "She understood me."

Even though she knew that she shouldn't be hurt by the words, that they had their genesis in a pain that she couldn't comprehend, Cordelia couldn't help it. What was she, then, to this woman standing in front of her, the woman who had apparently been hiding the larger part of herself. Telling her lies and touching her body and all the time doing it only in half-measure, guarding away all these feelings for someone who hadn't even bothered to call since Faith had gotten out of jail. She'd been foolish to think that her lover was over the blonde, that she'd left all those feelings behind in Sunnydale. So here she was, Cordelia Chase taking home the second prize ribbon again, acting as the consolation prize for someone who was forever chasing after, but never capturing, number one.

"Faith, please, let me help you." Because no matter how much she hurt inside right now, she wanted nothing more than to wrap her arms around the stiff figure in front of her and absorb as much of the pain as she could.

"I just can't... I just don't want to be with you right now," Faith said, all trace of emotion and compassion and feeling wiped free of her voice. Then, unseeing eyes not even glancing the other girl's way, she walked out of the room, slamming the door behind her as she went.


Biting back a grimace as the mix of liquor she'd just thrown back burned its way down her throat, Cordelia reached for the next shot glass. There were three lined up before her, soon to join their other five compatriots in the graveyard of empty glassware. She was drinking Kamikaze's, the potent blend of alcohol settling rapidly over her consciousness like a calming, slightly hazy blanket. The loud thump of the bass of club music was moving soothingly through her body, the mix of voices and the clink of glasses and the blaring sounds of techno-whatever blending together to provide a nice background of meaningless white noise, and she fought back the urge to laugh with a joy born of bitterness.

It had been a spur of the moment decision to come here. After what had happened that morning she'd felt the need to know that she was desired, to know that she was beautiful, to know that she was wanted, and this had been the one place that had always offered that to her before. Here she wouldn't be second choice, wouldn't be the fall back girl. No, in this place, with its hot press of bodies and its overpowering essence of sex, she was top dog. In the short amount of time that it'd taken her to achieve a pleasantly mind-numbing buzz, she'd already sent a handful of admirers packing and the knowledge that there were more waiting in the wings, bolstering their courage to approach her, soothed any of the bruises her ego might have received.

They wanted her, wanted to be with her, and that made her feel good.

Another $20 earned her four more drinks, and she looked with pride at the stack of shot glasses that she'd already made her way through. When Cordelia put her mind to it she could drink with the best of them. All she had to do was take a deep breath, close her eyes, and let the nectar of escape flow past the back of her tongue and down her throat. She was good at it, had spent numerous nights fleeing whatever demon had been plaguing her, whether literally and metaphorically, and welcomed the comforting arms of inebriation with wholehearted abandon.

And, too, there was something about being surrounded by beautiful women and knowing that they wanted you that had always soothed her soul. Here, tonight, in a tight black dress that accentuated the fullness of her breasts, with the long length of her legs bared, she was the only person in the world that mattered. In this place there was no one to look at her with eyes that found something lacking, and even if they did, the rose-colored glasses of intoxication would take care of it for her.

She felt the urge to dance, to get out in the midst of that gyrating, teeming mass of sexy bodies and throw her hands above her head and let loose. So, that's what she did, making her way confidently to an open patch of dance floor, her hips immediately sliding into the groove of the music. The women were there instantly, one behind her and one in front, with one to the side of her looking for an opportunity to make her way into the thick of things. She could feel dozens of eyes tracing their way down her body, desiring her, wanting to be her, wanting to be with her.

Cordelia merely laughed, throwing her head back and baring her neck in a primal show of satisfaction. These women were hers. They wouldn't leave her, wouldn't yell at her or look at her with hurt eyes, and until she told them to go, she wouldn't hear the slam of the door behind them.

There were hands moving down her side, hands coursing over the taut plane of her belly, and she felt the blissful lassitude that comes with complete and utter intoxication. The lights were beautiful, moving across her sphere of vision in a cascade of glittering colors and the music was flowing around her body, carrying her along in its rapid current. There was a warm mouth on her neck, a hot tongue tracing the contour of her ear, and she turned to see who was so bold.

Blonde hair, hazel eyes, a pert little nose and a coy little smile and she could have been looking at Buffy fucking Summers herself. Only this girl wasn't Buffy. She knew where Buffy was, and it certainly wasn't here, dancing in this club. She didn't know where her lover was, but that didn't matter at the moment. All that mattered was the feel of slender fingers entwined with her own and the hot, frank look of sex in the eyes staring up at her.

"What's your name?" she asked, her voice clear despite the tremendous amount of liquor flowing through her bloodstream.

"Farrah," the girl replied, her soft voice barely audible over the boom and thump of pulsating techno bass.

"As in Fawcett?" Cordelia asked, a smirk making its way across her features at the look of confusion spreading through guileless green-brown eyes.

"Faucet?" the girl asked, brows scrunching in mystification. "I don't know about that yet honey, but you definitely do make me wet."

Frowning, shaking her head in disbelief before letting the words slip right on out of her consciousness, Cordelia gave the other girl's hand a tug. As they made their way off the dance floor, out past the bar and the grinning bouncer and into the crisp night air, she forgot about the vapid moue of lips that were too thin to be the right ones.

"Tell me Farrah... you want me, don't you?" She didn't recognize this husky tone, hadn't heard it in so long that she'd forgotten that it even existed. It had been a long time since she'd played this role, since she'd been the seductress, since she'd crowned herself queen of the world of skin and sweat and faces not important enough to be remembered.

The other girl nodded, grinning slyly. "Very much so."

"Do you understand me, Farrah?" Cordelia asked suddenly, watching with amusement as puzzlement warred with desire in eyes that should have been darker than they were. "Because I don't understand you. Does that bother you?"

Some part of her was aware that she was drunk, that she was walking a fine line, but she didn't care. Fuck it all, especially her conscience, that irritating little internal voice that kept trying to tell her something that she didn't want to listen to at the moment.

"Not really," the girl replied, not quite comprehending the significance of her exchange with the gorgeous brunette who had apparently picked her for the night but not really caring either. "Should it bother me?"

"Not at all, Farrah. Not at all."


The alarm clock was buzzing again and again, and Cordelia reached out blindly to slap it off only to discover that she was on the far side of the bed from it. Her hand had hit only bare skin, and with a groan she buried her head further in her pillow, trying to escape what had to be the most annoying noise she'd ever heard.

"Faith, turn it off, will you?" she whimpered, smacking dry lips together. It felt like she'd decided to dine on the finest Saharan desert sand the night before and was fairly certain that her eyelids were glued shut.

"Faith?" A voice that was pitched far too high to the be right one asked her, and with a sense of foreboding Cordelia rolled over. A long strand of light blonde hair fell into her range of sight, and she fought the urge to whimper, to bolt out of bed and vomit up all of the bile that suddenly rose in her throat. "Who the fuck is Faith?"

"Shit. Fuck, fuck, fuck, shit," Cordelia muttered, pulling herself up to a sitting position in the bed. Forcing her eyelids open, ignoring the pain of overly bright light against her retinas, she surveyed the scene in front of her. Bedsheets were scattered around in a tangled muss, half of them wound around one of her calves and the other half laying on the floor. There were tanned, toned legs stretched out beside her, and she followed the appendages up to connect them with slim hips and the smooth curve of a back that, while attractive, didn't belong to the person who should be occupying that half of the bed.

A slim arm reached out, finally shutting off the annoying chirp of the alarm clock, and Cordelia let her head drop down to her hands.

"Hangover, sweetie?" The girl, who Cordelia vaguely remembered was named after one of Charlie's Angels or something like that, rolled up onto her side and ran soft fingers up her bare leg. Jerking away from the touch, nearly falling out of the bed in her desire to separate herself from this girl, from what she'd done, the Seer turned blood-shot hazel eyes over to look at whoever it was that she'd apparently brought home.

"You've got to go," she rasped, wishing desperately for a drink of water. Something, anything, to wipe the taste of shame and betrayal out of her mouth. Her betrayal, the one that she'd just executed. Fuck, but she didn't know what to do now.

"What?" the other girl asked sharply, swiftly coming to the realization that this wasn't going to turn into some lazy morning of lovemaking. "No breakfast?"

Cordelia could feel the sticky residue of spent sex between her thighs, could smell the essence of a stranger on her sheets and for a moment thought that she might be physically ill. This was beyond bad and she didn't have a clue of what to do.

"You've got to go," she repeated, kicking off the sheet still clinging to her leg. Her feet landed heavily on the floor, but she didn't fall. Instead she immediately went to work, sifting out familiar from foreign clothes from the piles littering the floor, throwing the unknowns back at the women lounging on the bed.

"Good morning to you too," the blonde shot back, her voice sharp. Cordelia didn't care though, just kept searching for things that didn't belong to her. She heard the rustle of sheets behind her, heard the other girl start to shrug back into the now smoky, wrinkled outfit that she'd been sporting the night before.

"Oh my God," the Seer muttered, running a hand through her hair raggedly.

She hadn't found the girl's shoes, couldn't see where they could be in her room that she hadn't already looked. A sickening feeling of self-loathing was battling with nausea from the night before's left-over alcohol residue as she stumbled into the living room, still nude. Just as she reached over and found the shoes, snagging one from underneath the couch, she heard the rasp of a key in the lock and it took all of her strength not to give in to the weakness in her knees.

Everything seemed to move in slow motion, from the door swinging wide open to reveal Faith, still dressed in the jeans and tee that she had been wearing the day before, a white paper bag clutched tightly in hand, to the pad of bare feet as her colossal mistake entered from the other side. There was nothing she could do but stand there, shoes that didn't belong to her hanging loosely from her fingers as chocolate brown eyes took in her nudity before flicking over to the extremely rumpled figure of some stranger emerging from her lover's bedroom.

"Oh, you found them," the girl said brightly and Cordelia dropped the shoes, her throat swallowing rhythmically as she searched for something to say.

"Faith..." The Slayer's name came out of her dry throat as little more than a whisper, and the blonde looked up to see a glowering figure standing at the door. Deciding that quickness was the better part of valor, she scooped up her shoes and ran out, giving as wide of a berth as possible to the dark-haired girl glaring at her.

"I brought breakfast," was all her lover said, throwing the bag to the floor. It landed with a harsh crinkle of paper and Cordelia looked up from it to Faith's face. The other girl's jaw was clenched, her lips were pursed and thin brows were pulled together in a low line. Her eyes were unreadable dark pools of some unidentified emotion, and Cordelia reached out with one hand, the gesture futile against the expanse separating them.

"I'm so sorry," she said raggedly, not even bothering to offer up the disrespect that would come with a lie at this point. Her indiscretion was painfully clear and she felt her heart break wide open at the sight of a silver tear tracing its way down from the corner of one dark chocolate eye.

"I wanted to apologize," the Slayer said, her voice monotone, emotionless. "To say I was sorry about what I said. That I didn't mean it. That I needed you."

"God," Cordelia gasped out, nearly doubling over in pain as her lover's words cut through her.

"Who was she?" Faith asked finally, her voice eerily calm. Her hands were fisted at her side, fingers clenching spastically, and her body was held taut with tension.

"I don't remember her name. She was nobody," Cordelia admitted, her head dropping until all she could see was the floor beneath her feet.

"Nobody," the Slayer echoed, her voice apathetic. "You fucked me over for nobody."

"It wasn't like that," Cordelia began, pausing to wet dry, cracked lips with her tongue. It was a mistake, though, because she could taste the foreign flavor of the stranger on her flesh and it almost made her cry. "I didn't mean to..."

"You didn't mean to?" Faith repeated, and Cordelia could see a muscle in the other girl's jaw jump. "You didn't mean to go out and find some slut, didn't mean to bring her home and fuck her in the bed that we shared, or you didn't mean to get caught?"

"I... its... it was a mistake," Cordelia whispered brokenly, taking an awkward step forward. Faith's outstretched hand stopped her though, and she felt the hot burn of tears sliding down her cheek, scorching the skin.

"You never were going to love me, were you?" the Slayer muttered, running a hand through her dark hair before giving Cordelia one last look, hurt eyes tracing over the long lines of her bare flesh. Then she was gone, moving through the still open doorway and out into the hall, pulling the door shut firmly behind her.

As the sound of it closing echoed through the apartment, Cordelia slumped down onto the couch, dropped her head into her hands, and sobbed.


Faith was gone. She'd packed up all her stuff and left the hotel, disappearing into the bright noon sun without a backward look. Cordelia had searched for her before giving up, had sat for hours in the room that the Slayer had just vacated, staring at bedsheets that hadn't been made when the other girl left.

She didn't cry anymore, having wept herself completely out of tears that morning. Instead she just sat silently, her mind running over and over everything that had happened. There were the memories of them together, dancing in a smoky blues joint to the sound of this generation's Billie Holiday hopeful wailing away behind them. There was a mental picture of Faith, lounging around on Cordy's coach in a tank top and her panties watching Cartoon Network when the Seer walked in after work, dropping her purse to the floor tiredly only to have the other girl rush over and swoop her off her feet and away to the hot bath that she had waiting. There was the reminder of countless wounds that she'd poured alcohol over then cooled off with a gentle stream of cool air because Slayer healing might mean that they were gone the next morning but it didn't necessarily mean that some icky demon infection didn't need to be warded off.

And then she'd ruined it all because she given in to her insecurities and rushed off to find meaningless reassurance from the one place that could never really have given it to her. She'd broken her lover's trust, had violated the sanctity of their relationship, had driven her partner off... all without ever once getting up the guts to let Faith know that she loved her.

"We're getting ready to leave, to go to Buffy's funeral." The sound of Wesley's voice, calm and low and soothing, broke over her haze of grief and she looked up at him, nodding weakly.

"I'll be right there." She certainly looked the part with her gaunt face and the dark circles under her puffy eyes and the unrelenting black that she would have felt like wearing anyway.

The drive was long, intolerable, with not a word spoken among the car's inhabitants. Angel was too wrapped up in his grief, Cordy in her regrets, and the rest realized that words just didn't have a place there.

They were half-way through the ceremony when she felt the hairs on the back of her neck prickle. Turning slowly, suddenly aware that she should have realized before now that Faith would come here for this, to see Buffy's body laid to rest, she caught sight of the dark Slayer. The only Slayer now, unless another had been called and they hadn't had word of that yet, not that her friends were hanging around in the circles that let that kind of information go anymore.

She waited until the priest said his final words before she pulled away from the crowd, her eyes scanning the horizon wildly. But, it was to no avail, and as she walked deeper and deeper into the heart of the cemetery, slowly becoming aware that she'd missed her one chance to make things right, Cordelia let the tears flow once more.

"I'm so sorry," she whispered, the words spirited away by a gust of unseasonably cold wind.

"Yeah, I am too." The Seer nearly jumped out of her skin at the words. Whirling, she caught sight of the one person that she'd been looking for, one lean hip propped up against the side of a thick headstone.

"God, Faith, I thought I wasn't ever going to see you again," Cordelia rasped, walking over quickly to stand in front of the Slayer. She was surprised that that the other girl allowed it, surprised that for once Faith didn't rebuff her or turn around and run.

"I just wanted to tell you congratulations. I guess you finally managed to even up the score," was all the other girl said, her words achingly distant, her eyes blank.

"It was never a game, Faith," Cordelia insisted, reaching up to cup the other girl's jaw with her hand. The Slayer's skin seemed abnormally hot, as if it were going to burn through her palm, but she didn't let go. "I love you."

Faith huffed in disbelief, pulling her jaw free from the other girl's grasp. "No... no, you don't."

Cordelia closed her eyes, gathering strength before opening them again, hoping that everything that she was feeling was written clearly across their depths.

"Yes, I do. I made a mistake, a horrible mistake, and I hurt you," she said, her voice trembling with the force of her emotions. "And I'm sorry... so, so sorry."

"How could you do it, C? How could you just betray me like that?"

Cordelia thought for a moment, trying to find the right words to explain what she'd done even as she knew there was no explanation. So, hoping desperately that Faith would remember the words that she herself had spoken, the Seer once again laid her hand against the Slayer's face. "I did something that didn't make a lot of sense, Faith, but I promise you, it doesn't mean that I don't love you because I do... very much."

Faith's jaw clenched at the words, a pang of hurt shooting through her bottomless dark eyes. "So what're you saying, C?"

"Give me another chance," Cordelia replied slowly, her words not pleading, but strong.

For a long time the rustle of the breeze was Cordy's only answer, and she could virtually see the cogs of the Slayer's mind whirling as she thought, as she decided the Seer's future. Their future.

"Clean slate?" Faith questioned finally, a spark of hope igniting where there had been only hopelessness before.

"Just a fresh start," the Seer qualified, leaning forward to place a light kiss on the other girl's lips. "I do love you, Faith. I'm sorry that I didn't say it before. I was... I was afraid."

For a moment she was terrified that the Slayer wasn't going to answer her, but then a bright smile broke out over those dark features and Cordelia felt something break loose inside of her, belatedly realizing that it was her fear.

"I love you too, C."