Wild Women Don't Get The Blues
by Harper

"Cordelia, please."

He was standing there with those puppy dog eyes and the little pout that made him look like a disgruntled eight-year-old, and for a moment the Seer was tempted to give in if only to escape another second of being the target of that look. But, then she remembered his request, remembered exactly why she'd refused in the first place, and affixed her glare a little more firmly in response.

"My apartment isn't a repository for every stray and/or psychotic murderer that comes along, Angel," she intoned lowly, gratified by the slight wince that made its way across his pale features. She imagined that the vampire was well aware of the many times that she'd acquiesced to his wishes just for the sake of harmony, but this time she wasn't going to cave.

"But she doesn't have anywhere else to stay," Angel protested, attempting to add just the right amount of hurt to his voice. He'd had centuries to perfect wheedling, and if need be could use of all of his considerable talent to guilt others into giving in.

"I said no, and that's the end of the story." Cordelia was getting a bit angry by this time. After all, she'd already made her displeasure with the idea well known, and standing here debating a useless point was severely cutting into her late night cable viewing.

"But why?" Like a small child, he was unwilling to let go and hoping that if all else failed, annoyance would work.

"Because we have a history, and I just don't think that I'd be comfortable with her in the spare bedroom, alright," the brunette replied, growing increasingly frustrated. He might have once been the terror of the non-undead world, but right now Angel was nothing more than an obstacle in her way of finally getting free of this crummy hotel.

"I know all about the little blow to the head and the plot to end the world, but she's changed, and she needs a chance. Come on Cordy, you, out of everyone, should know that people can change." Those dark eyes were still pleading, equally as unsuccessful at it as before, but persistent nonetheless.

Hazel eyes narrowed, and Angel swallowed convulsively. The totally unneeded gesture was a throwback to the nervousness of long gone humanity, and let Cordelia know that her glare was still as effective as it always had been. "Just what are you implying by that?"

"I'm not implying anything," the vampire protested weakly, backing aware from the ferocity in the girl's voice.

"I didn't change, just matured, like every other normal human being does," she muttered, before arching a brow and throwing the man standing in front of her a pointed look. "Or at least like almost every other normal human, or non-human, being does. Besides, why can't she stay here with you?"

Because, Cordelia reasoned, that would be the logical choice.

"She's making a fresh start, and I don't think that's something that she'll feel very comfortable doing here, where she'll probably always feel like Wesley or I are looking over her shoulder." Angel said this part with confidence, having given the matter a lot of thought. It was hard enough to change your ways without constant scrutiny, whether real or imagined, and he had the feeling that Faith was walking a fine line between redemption and returning to the dark side.

"She'd be under my watchful eye at the apartment, so I can't see where that's any better," Cordelia reasoned, slowly inching her way to the door. Maybe she could take the next topic change and use it as an excuse to flee.

"That's not the same. She'd be on her own at your place. You're not there during the day and no one else but Dennis will be hanging around, so she'll have some space to reclaim herself before working on fixing the rest of her world."

After analyzing that statement for a moment, Cordelia grew highly irritated at his presumption that her apartment didn't host any visitors. For all he knew, she could be entertaining some new playtoy every night. Accordingly, her anger increased yet again.

"You'll just have to find some other arrangement. Like I said, Faith and I have a history, and I don't want her there." On this point, Cordelia was firm. There was no way in hell she was letting the dark Slayer back into her life.

"Come on, C. She's not the same girl, you know. Just give her a chance," Angel cajoled, closing the distance between them. He was planning on using the ‘encouraging hand on the shoulder' move, but somehow Cordelia had managed to move beyond his arm's reach without him even noticing.

"Its not that," the Seer growled, jaw tightening.

"Well then what is it?" As persistent as always, Angel determined to root out the cause of the girl's discomfort or provoke her into staking him while trying.

"Its not something that I want to discuss with you," the brunette enunciated, an arched brow clearly announcing that her ex-boss needed to drop the subject, and quickly.

"C, I can't believe you're letting something that happened in the past get between you and the chance to help someone. It's the motto, remember. We help the hopeless." Smiling charmingly, Angel moved even closer. If this didn't work, he was going to use the patented ‘slide your arm around her shoulders in camaraderie' move.

"Angel..." Cordelia warned.

"What could be so bad?" he asked, flashing his pearly whites winningly.

"We used to sleep together, okay," she finally burst out, unable to keep it in any longer, "and I just don't think I'd be comfortable playing slumber party."

This apparently threw the vampire for a loop because for a long moment he simply stared at her, his jaw working up and down rhythmically though no sound came out. Just as Cordelia was about to turn to leave, satisfied that her objection was now well noted and recognized, though she would have preferred keeping that particular revelation to herself, he apparently kick-started himself into action.

"Sleep together?" Angel squeaked, his eyes rounding in surprise. "As in, had sexual intercourse, knocked boots, bumped uglies, did the horizontal mambo kind of slept together?"

"Who slept together?" Wesley's voice echoed through the lobby, followed shortly after by the man himself, a folder held loosely in his hand. Glancing at the tableau before him, he pushed his glasses back up on his nose and squinted at Cordelia. "Cordelia? Oh dear, not another of those demon baby problems, is it?"

"Cordelia's pregnant again?" The loud clomp of boots preceded Gunn down the main stairway, and the brunette in question growled in frustration. Literally.

"Again?" Fred piped up from behind Gunn, peeking over his shoulder as they descended in an attempt to get a glimpse of the action. "She was pregnant before?"

"Yes, the whole demon sperm impregnation thing," Wesley explained, dark eyes turning to look upwards, a small smile spreading across his face as he caught sight of the slight physicist.

"Geez, Cordy. I could'a taught you the twelve steps to proper condom usage if you'd only asked. You'd think that after getting knocked up with batch of illegitimate demon kids that first time, you'd have wanted to learn about something like that." This was from Gunn, who had tilted his head to the side and was currently eyeing Cordelia's abdomen as if he suspected that hidden beneath her strappy little tank-top lay the beginnings of a belly.

"Twelve steps?" Wesley asked, his voice faint. "Just how can there be twelve steps to something that simple? Open wrapper, position and roll down condom and viola, no little bundles of joy in nine months."

"Ah, Wes, you're missing the big picture. Gotta start out with the basics, you know, like is the condom a latex condom because animal skins don't prevent the transmission of sperm. Lots of folks use them because of latex allergies, but now they've got polyurethane. Which, by the way, is supposed to be even better because its stronger and thinner, which means its harder to break one and it conducts heat better so things feel a bit more... I don't know, natural." Gunn advised, automatically slipping into lecture mode. "And then, of course..."

"Enough!" Cordelia screamed, seriously considering simply turning and running from the building into the relative safety and comfort of the L.A. night. "I'm not pregnant. I haven't been sleeping with anyone, at least recently, and I am well aware of the appropriate way to use any and all contraceptive devices!"

Everyone stopped. Angel and Fred pulled their attention away from the fascinating discussion on proper condom usage that Wesley and Gunn had been engaging in, Wesley and Gunn dropped their conversation, and all eyes again returned to focus on the Seer.

"So what was Angel talking about then?" Gunn queried. "You got a part in a new movie or something where you've got to have sex? It's not a porno is it? Cause, if you're that strapped for cash, then I can loan you a few bucks."

"Yes, certainly Cordelia," Wesley chipped in, a frown of concern darkening his features. "I know that you've been hinting about for a raise and I told you that we just didn't have it in the budget, but certainly you don't have to go to such extreme measures. We can work something out."

Mouth drooping open in a combination of shock and near homicidal irritation, Cordelia simply stared at the concerned faces gathered round her. Well, concern was written on every face but Angel's because he was well aware that he'd gotten her into this predicament. He actually looked rather sheepish... well, that and scared.

"I'm not starring in porn, I don't have a new movie, and, I'll go ahead and repeat this before the rumor somehow makes its way back into circulation, I'm not pregnant. Not that its any of your business," she muttered, eyes rolling skyward.

"Oh, well, that's good to hear. Not that there's anything wrong with doing porn," Fred started to babble, immediately stepping in to fill the tiny slice of silence that had fallen after that pronouncement. "I mean, I'm sure that it's a perfectly legitimate career, and I'm sure that its hard work and all, but I really don't think that its conducive to being a successful actress. Not that it can't be done, because that Tracy Lords did manage to get a part in that show where the lady who works for the FBI has the visions, but I don't think that its really something that leads into the mainstream all that often. And, its not like it's a bad thing to be a single mother. Lots of single mothers do great jobs, and I'm sure that if a demon baby was raised in the right atmosphere it would..."

Trailing off, suddenly aware that there were four sets of alternately bemused and increasingly agitated eyes turned her way, Fred offered a small smile. "Uh, not that its important anyway since Cordelia said that none of those things had happened, so I'll just be quiet now."

"Uh, guys, it was nothing like that," Angel started, and Cordelia bit back a groan. She had a sinking feeling that no matter how good his intentions were whatever he was trying to do wouldn't work out in her favor at all. "I just asked her to do a favor for me and she was telling me that she couldn't."

"A favor?" Wesley questioned, his tone disapproving. "You didn't ask her to have sex with you, did you Angel? I mean, I can certainly understand your motivation, but you know how you get when you indulge in... activities of that sort. Besides, its a little improper to be suggesting something like that in a work relationship, don't you think?"

"He didn't ask me..." Cordelia began before pausing, a thought disrupting her words. "Wait a minute Wes, what did you mean when you said that you could certainly understand his motivation?"

"I uh... that is to say... what I meant was..." the flustered ex-watcher stuttered, his normally stoic British facade falling by the wayside in favor of a deep red blush.

"What he means is that he wouldn't mind you doing him that particular favor either," Gunn offered, holding his hands up, palm forward, in a gesture meant to convey that he was only expressing what Wesley couldn't and not his own opinion.

"That's not at all... I think we've strayed far enough from the topic at hand," Wes protested, clearing his throat and trying desperately to disappear into the floor.

"I didn't ask her to have sex with me," Angel clarified, bringing the discussion back on point. Or, at the very least, bringing it back as close to the point as it ever had been. He'd just wanted to make sure that he made that clear to everyone involved, no offense meant to Cordelia who he most definitely would've pursued had it not meant the return of evil incarnate via his soulless other half.

"Can we stop talking about me like I'm not here?" Cordelia queried, only to be made well aware of how useless the gesture was when Wesley plodded on.

"This doesn't have anything to do with a case, does it? There isn't anything I should be made aware of, is there?" There was a hint of paranoia in his tone. Even though Wes officially had control over Angel Investigations, that small part of him that refused to let him believe that he was good enough for the job continually stepped in and suspected that others felt so as well, attributing underhanded motivations to friends that he knew didn't deserve the unknowing character assassinations.

At that, Angel and Wesley began to bicker back and forth, their conversation soon delving into the absurd, and Cordelia could feel a head-ache of massive proportions looming. Gunn was attempting to break into the two men's conversation, hoping to keep it from reaching confrontation level, Fred was watching with all the interest of those people who slave over the "Faces of Death" series, and the Seer decided that she just couldn't take it anymore.

"I TOLD ANGEL THAT FAITH COULDN'T STAY WITH ME BECAUSE WE USED TO SLEEP TOGETHER!" she screamed, bringing all conversation to a halt. Four sets of astonished eyes turned her way, and a low chuckle from behind her nearly caused her knees to buckle.

"Well, there goes my plan for an understated entrance."


Taking in a deep breath, closing her eyes and counting to ten in the futile hope that time would somehow reverse itself and erase this conversation completely, Cordelia pretended that she hadn't just said what she'd just said and that she hadn't just heard what she'd just heard.

"Angel, Wes, new guy, new girl, Cordy... good to see you." No, there was no hope for it. Faith was here, standing behind her, and she'd obviously been privy to the Seer's little outburst.

"Uh, Faith," Wesley stuttered, fidgeting nervously with his glasses. "We weren't expecting you quite yet."

"Yeah, wicked cool, isn't it. They said that because I had somewhere to go that they weren't going to make me stay in the half-way house." The light tread of boots against tile let Cordelia know that the Slayer was moving toward them, and she forced her eyes open. Nothing less than her most immaculate composure would do for this meeting, especially after that accidental little disclosure, and she was determined to present the best impression of the haughty old Cordelia Chase as she could manage.

"Faith." Acknowledging the girl with a nod of the head, Cordelia came to the sudden realization that jail hadn't done anything to lessen the other girl's attractiveness. In fact, with her face scrubbed free of its normal shellacking of make-up, she seemed to be somehow even more alluring than she had been before. Of course, the ever enticing glow of near insanity that had lit her eyes before was gone, but that didn't seem to do anything to dampen her appeal.

"C, looking as beautiful as ever," Faith returned, grinning widely as Cordelia managed to frown, glare, and blush all at the same time.

"We were just, uh, working on the issue of where you'd be staying," Angel offered helpfully.

"So I heard. I take it Cordy's place is out. Surely you've got enough rooms in this dump to spare me one, deadboy," Faith offered, brows wiggling. It might not have been her residence of choice, but beggars couldn't be choosers, and she was sure that it would be a sight better than some of the places she'd lived before.

"Uh, yeah, of course we do. I was just thinking that you'd be more comfortable elsewhere." The vampire was shifting uncomfortably on his feet, shooting shy glances first at Cordelia's stern face and then at Faith's grinning one. He hated it when his plans didn't work out almost as much as he hated it when the Seer was peeved at him.

"Hey, I'm not picky. Wes, you okay with that? I mean, I know that we didn't part on the best of terms and I didn't want to inconvenience you or anything."

Wesley had taken to fidgeting nervously with his glasses, his sweater, a folder... actually anything close at hand, every time Faith's name had been mentioned ever since they had that unfortunate little run in over the whole torture thing. Actually seeing her in person for the first time, and not through a comfortingly thick wall of plexiglass like had been there for his protection those few times he'd visited her in jail, was a bit more upsetting than he had anticipated. Thus, when she said his name and turned those dark eyes his way, even as filled with friendly intent as they were, he yelped like a puppy who'd gotten his tailed stepped on and raced up the stairs to hide behind Gunn.

"Or maybe its not a good idea," Faith drawled, face blank. As hard as it might be to remain emotionless in the face of the sight of Wesley trying to once again reclaim his manhood by stepping out from behind the big black guy, by straightening his rumpled sweater and marching back down the stairs to stand less than five feet away from the genesis of his PTSD-induced nightmares, she wasn't going to crack a smile.

"No, certainly you'll stay here," the ex-Watcher declared, ignoring the slight nervous twitching that was currently causing his left eyelid to blink repeatedly.

"You sure?" the Slayer questioned, arching a brow in question.

"Of course. It will be... lovely... to have you around again," he choked out, some strange British stoicism prompting the obvious bald faced lie. Not that he'd have a problem with the girl had she not committed various felonies and schemed to bring about certain world ending prophecies in the past. Or, he added mentally, slept with Cordelia, something that he was currently unable to wrap his mind around.

"So you're Faith, huh?" Fred chimed in, curiosity shining in her intelligent brown eyes. She'd heard so much about the girl standing in front of her, most of it bad, and was thrilled to meet her. Angel hadn't really let her go to jail with him any of the times he'd visited, obviously thinking that enclosed spaces and forced imprisonment would bring back some of the more nasty Pylea memories, but that didn't stop her from spending a great deal of time wondering what the woman was like. Just from her appearance, with those hooded dark eyes and the ever present smirk, she wasn't disappointed.

When the other girl nodded cautiously, Fred rushed forward. Reaching out, she grabbed Faith's hand, clasping it in both of hers and pumping it up and down furiously. "I've heard so much about you," she gushed, smiling brightly. "How did you find prison? Personally I'm not a big fan of being held captive for long periods of time, but at least you were only in for three years. Not six, like me, though technically I didn't go to prison. More like forced enslavement, actually, though I did manage to find a cozy little cave and hide out. Oh, and you have to tell me about the device that you used to switch bodies! I've been working on a theorem that derives support from the proposition that astral mass can travel at much higher rates, which is what allowed for the transfer between yourself and Buffy without any apparent structural damage to your bodies..."

"Fred, maybe Faith would like to get settled in first," Angel broke in, grabbing the small woman's shoulders gently and guiding her away from the bemused Slayer. At least he hoped that was bemusement, because it if wasn't then Fred might be the first one to fall victim to Faith's potentially still violent temper.

"This is as settled in as I get," the Slayer, who actually was just simply bemused, announced, reaching behind her to pull out a half-filled duffel bag. It contained all of her worldly belongings, few as they were.

"Well, now that old home week has officially kicked into gear, its time for me to depart." This was from Cordelia, who had managed to inch her way up the stairs while Fred had latched onto Faith like a groupie.

Faith turned slowly, dark eyes burning into lighter hazel as she grinned at the other girl. "Good to see you again, Cordelia."

The ex-cheerleader in question chose not to answer and, in a move that she probably should have executed about ten minutes prior, swung her shoulders around and marched haughtily out of the hotel and into the night.


A quick stop at a 7/11 to pick up a pint of Ben and Jerry's Phish Food later, Cordelia was finally back at the apartment. Work clothes had given way to a much more comfortable men's white cotton undershirt and a loose pair of boxers, and with the TV remote in one hand, a spoon in the other, and the nicely melting pint of ice cream between her legs, the brunette finally settled down onto the couch with a long sigh.

"You knew it was going to happen eventually," she informed no one in particular, digging her spoon into the gooey chocolate goodness that she'd picked out to aid in her impromptu self-pity party.

Yeah, she had. Not that she hadn't tried to put it out of her mind, to even forget about the hint of possibility that she and Faith would one day once again cross paths because she certainly had. In fact, she'd spent a lot of time during the past three years actively forgetting about Faith. Forgetting about the two of them with their naked skin pressed together and the heat of...

"Not helping, C," she reminded herself, though the admonition didn't do much for pictures currently playing their way out in her mind's eye. Faith had been so... so... utterly and completely captivating, impossibly sensual, and utterly without feeling. It was that last part that made the remembrances less than happy ones, but with another long, resigned sigh, Cordelia realized that they were going to invade her consciousness anyway.

She'd been intrigued by the dark girl the first time she saw her. Who couldn't be when faced with five and a half feet of seductive curves barely wrapped up in some of the thinnest, tightest clothes ever to make their way out of a hardly decent manufacturing plant in the northeast corner of Indonesia? Not that the curves or the lush pouting lips or the glossy chestnut hair were what had drawn her attention. No, she was simply interested in... well, the full breasts and the long slim legs and the entirely too kissable mouth. Had anyone found out about that, or even suggested that it was true, she undoubtedly would have shot them. Well, not shot them personally because those were back in the days when her family still had money, but she certainly would have hired someone to do it for her. Cordelia Chase wasn't one of those girls, the kind that enjoyed looking at other girls. At the very least, she wasn't one of those girls in the light of day. Darkness, Daddy's Platinum card and a fake ID gave her the potential to be one of those girls in secret, but she hadn't yet ventured out into the world at large yet.

It probably would have been better for her if she had, if she'd driven her hot little convertible up to some random club in L.A. and let the first beautiful girl she saw fuck her up against the wall of a stall in the bathroom, but unfortunately she hadn't done that. Correction, at the time she hadn't done that. Now, well... L.A. was a town full of beautiful people, and Cordelia had always loved beautiful things.

In some strange way she'd felt an unspoken kinship with the brash girl. Both of them desired to be in the inner sanctum though neither would admit it, and both were denied entrance. Buffy and her little Scooby gang couldn't be bothered with the likes of Cordelia Chase or Faith whatever her last name was, and she'd understood how that had worked on the other girl, how it had made her increasingly angry and increasingly bitter. Add to that the ever so obvious pathetic little crush for the blonde one that Faith was harboring, and it was easy to see how she'd managed to slide over the edge. Easy to see didn't mean easy to forgive, though in some ways her betrayal of the whole group didn't affect the Seer nearly as much as the more personal betrayal did.

Allowed in at the periphery, Cordelia had been fortunate enough to be around when the almighty Buffy needed a car to transport her to the cemetery. So, she'd let the other girl climb into the passenger's seat, had dutifully driven her to where the action was, and had leaned back against the side of her car and filed her nails while waiting for the blonde Slayer to finish up with the gang of vamps they'd found. Part of her was trying to convince herself that she really was helpful while the other part was bitterly acknowledging that she was an easily replaceable cog in the wheel of her so-called friends' lives when that low seductive voice had drifted over her, causing the then cheerleader to jump and rip a jagged slash through one nail.

"Shit!" she'd exclaimed, immediately bringing the injured digit to her mouth.

"Problem, Princess?" Somehow Faith seemed to almost materialize out of thin air beside her, taking the wounded finger from her mouth and cradling it in two hands. There was a little patch of irritated skin where the rough face of the file had scraped, and Faith looked at it for a moment before looking up at the other girl with a crooked grin.

"Nothing life threatening," she'd murmured before bringing the finger to her lips and pressing a soft kiss against the abused flesh. Cordelia had gasped, had jerked her finger away from the other girl's grasp, but obviously hadn't managed to hide the spark of desire in her eyes because Faith saw it clearly.

"Shouldn't you be out there helping her?" she'd asked finally, pushing the words past the uncooperative confines of a throat suddenly gone dry.

"Who? B? Nah, she's got it handled. I'm much happier right here, Queen C." Cordelia had nearly choked at the words, and turned narrowed hazel eyes on the other girl. She was well aware of what the beginnings of an attempted seduction looked like, and this certainly had all of the earmarks.

"Oh you are, are you?" she'd questioned, using her most haughty tone of voice only to be infuriated when the other girl merely smiled lazily, apparently unfazed by the edge of bitch in her tone.

"Nice car," was her only reply, and Cordelia watched through hooded eyes as Faith leaned over the car door into the open top, her body bending and her tight leather covered ass sticking out teasingly as she fiddled with various radio controls.

"Obviously," Cordelia had replied, clamping down fiercely on the unbidden urge to reach out and cup those beautifully rounded cheeks. She certainly wasn't going to make advances on the new slut Slayer, and certainly not in a cemetery in full view of the holier-than-thou Buffy.

"Probably about the only way you have of letting loose, isn't it? Making up for all your repressed little bad girl wannabe fantasies through the cold steel of a 280 horsepower engine and Italian leather seats, C?" Faith threw back over her shoulder, dark eyes swinging around to catch sight of the look of hunger in the other girl's gaze, no matter how quickly Cordelia tried to hide it.

"No, I leave those for the fake bad-asses from Boston who hide their insecurities under far too much cheap make-up," she'd replied sweetly, only to find herself suddenly faced with the far from happy face of the Slayer coming to rest inches from her own.

But, anger had quickly disappeared, leaving in its wake a dark seductive promise, and Cordelia had swallowed nervously, keeping her hands firmly at her sides so that they didn't reach and latch on to the figure in front of her.

"Nothing fake about me," Faith had countered with a smile, one slim digit reaching up to trace a path down Cordy's jawline. "What you see is what you get, and you want to get what you see, don't you Princess?"

Cordelia had steeled herself against the touch, refusing to lean into it not matter how much she wanted to do so. "Hardly," she said coolly. "Just what would I want with you."

"Oh, I can imagine you'd want all kinds of things, C," Faith had replied, cupping the other girl's chin in her hand. "And I'd let you do whatever you wanted, because I'm a bad girl like that. I'll bet you've never been a bad girl in your life, Cordelia Chase."

Which was true, though Cordy chafed under the words. She wasn't just another one of the white bread cut-outs that dominated Sunnydale, wasn't another Elizabeth Anne Summers. So, letting her voice drop an octave, putting every ounce of sizzling hot seductive charm that she possessed into her eyes, Cordelia let her gaze roam up and down the other girl's form possessively, determined to win this little verbal battle.

"And I'll bet that there are a lot of things you don't know about me."

Of course, she was way out of her league with Faith. Within the week the dark Slayer had managed to take the one thing that Xander had drooled over for so long, her fingers sliding easily into Cordelia's body as she used her superhuman strength to support the taller girl against the wall of some dark alley. When it was over and the cheerleader had let her long legs slide down from their place around the other girl's waist, Faith had grinned like the Cheshire cat and licked away the juices covering her hand with a pink tongue that didn't miss a single morsel.

"Gotta hand it to you, C," she'd muttered, "never thought you'd give it up to someone like me. What'll the boyfriend think?"

She'd hated her then, in that instant, but hadn't been able to keep away from her. The other girl was addictive, like a drug, and she'd managed to work her way into Cordelia's system and take over. Even after the Finch debacle, even when she could see that the other girl was slowly losing her grip, she'd still spent night after long night in Faith's bed, often doing things that she'd never even imagined were possible in the soft porn fantasies that had occupied her mind before she met the dark Slayer.

To say that she was a different person now because of what had gone on would be an understatement. Anyone who had been privy to a night with Cordelia Chase could attest to that, having found themselves helpless under the predatory seductiveness that now seemed to pervade her every sexual interaction.

And now Faith was back. Not only was she back, she was living at the Hyperion, which meant that tomorrow morning when she reported in for work, Cordelia would once again be in her presence. Daily in her presence, forever in her presence, unable to escape her no matter how far away she moved...

As her hand snaked down her belly, slipping beneath the elastic waistband of her panties and into the warm wetness she found there, Cordelia tried desperately to forget that little fact.


Cordelia was going to kill Faith. After not appearing until well after lunch, the girl had apparently decided that she wanted to claim a spot on the floor in the middle of the lobby just far enough out so that the Seer could see her over the counter in front of her desk. She'd gotten one of the heavy medicine balls that Angel used for working out and was currently tossing it up and down with deceptive ease, her hands slapping lightly against the leather of the object each time it left for an upward trip and each time it landed. The noise was about to drive C insane, as was the fact that the activity, which would be strenuous if not downright impossible for anyone else, didn't seem to be having much of an effect on Faith at all.

"Do you mind?" she asked finally, her already short supply of patience having long ago been depleted.

"Nah, not at all. Just waiting on you to talk to me anyway," the other girl replied, quickly jumping to her feet and leaving the ball laying in the middle of the floor. In a few steps, she was across the lobby and had managed to vault up and over the counter, settling herself on it on the other side so that her legs dangled over the edge as she sat facing Cordelia.

"In case you haven't noticed, I'm working. No real chit-chat time is penciled into my schedule today," the Seer replied, then turned her attention back to the copy of Maxim that she was flipping through.

"Yeah, I can see that you're slaving away," Faith threw back sarcastically before readjusting herself so that she was now draped across the counter on her stomach, head resting on her hands and turned to the side so that she could continue to stare at the other girl.

After several long silent minutes, Cordelia threw the magazine down to her desk in disgust. Swiveling around in her chair so that she was facing the petulant Slayer, she crossed her arms over her chest and glared. When that didn't work, she sighed and decided that whatever it was that Faith wanted to talk about would have to be dealt with quickly because she just wasn't ready yet to be subjected to long periods of scrutiny from those dark eyes.

"What do you want?" Her voice was sharp, cutting, and she hoped that her obvious displeasure with being forced into a conversation would work to keep any that happened to arise to a minimum.

"How come you didn't come see me when I was in the pen? Angel came; Wesley came; hell, even Willow came once, even if it was just to gloat. But did you come? Nope, not one single visit in the whole 742 days."

Cordelia couldn't tell if Faith was pouting or taunting her, so she decided to pretend that it was the latter.

"And just why exactly would I want to come and visit you, Faith?" she asked, tilting her head to the side and cutting her eyes up at the lounging girl.

"I don't know... old times' sake maybe? Because we had something between us, because we had something in common. Any number of reasons." Faith had shifted over so that she was laying on her side now, the position giving Cordelia an unimpeded view of her body, though the Seer tried desperately to keep from looking it over.

"We don't have anything in common," she retorted, picking up the magazine again, pretending to thumb through pages that she wasn't even really seeing.

"You weren't saying that when we were in the passenger's seat of your little car, or in that alley that first time, or in my room," Faith shot back, ticking off on her fingers the various places where they'd certainly shared more than a mere common interest in fashion accessories. "You didn't say that in the cemetery or in the library or in the bathroom at the Bronze or..."

"Enough," the lanky brunette snapped out, throwing her magazine down onto the desk in frustration once more.

"Never in your bed though, C. Why was that, exactly?"

Dark eyes were looking at her, an odd lack of provocation in their depths, but Cordelia didn't care. All she knew was that she didn't want to remember that, didn't want to be reminded of them together, and didn't want to be here looking at Faith now.

"Because you don't take trash home with you," she said quietly, her words enunciated clearly so that Faith couldn't misinterpret the meaning behind them.

There was the a sharp hiss of air through the dark Slayer's nostrils and then the clomp of boots on tile as she slid off the counter, moving quickly back over across the lobby to reclaim the ball. Scooping it up, heading toward the door that would lead her back down to Angel's workout room in the basement, Faith paused, turning to examine Cordelia closely.

"I understand," she said, her voice soft, tinged with just a tiny bit of hurt, and Cordelia realized that she was ashamed. It had been a long time since she'd been that deliberately cruel to anyone, and she found that it just didn't come as easily as it once had.

"Fuck," the Seer muttered, the word echoing through the now empty lobby. For a moment she considered just letting the girl go. After all, it would be better for her own mental health to allow her words to create a divide between them, to drive a wedge into whatever fledging plan for friendship Faith might possibly be hatching. But, she couldn't do it, couldn't do further damage to what she knew to be the cracked shell of an already extremely fragile ego.

She found the dark Slayer in the basement laying on a bench, furiously pumping a weight-laden barbell up and down. Though Cordelia was quite sure that Faith knew she was there the exact second she entered, the other girl didn't stop her movements and didn't speak to her.

"I'm sorry, Faith," she said finally, unable to watch the other girl's frenzied motions any longer.

"Yeah, well I'm sorry too." Dropping the weights to the floor with a clang, the Slayer rolled up off of the bench, wiping at the thin trickle of sweat that was slowly snaking its way down her cheek. "Sorry I assumed you'd ever think of me as more than a fuck."

"Oh please, Faith," Cordelia scoffed, rolling her eyes. "Don't try to make things out into more than they were. You never were doing anything but wasting time with me. You didn't want me, you wanted Buffy, and when you realized that you couldn't have her, you found yourself a little diversion. You know that... I was never more than just a fuck to you."

"Yeah, I guess I do know that," Faith shot back bitterly. She wasn't entirely sure why she was bitter about this. It wasn't like Cordelia was lying about anything. She'd had a hard-on for B the whole time she'd been in Sunnydale, but the original Chosen One hadn't been interested. She'd been too busy trying to find her way into Deadboy's pants to worry about anything so insignificant as Faith's crush on her. So the dark Slayer, who was persistent but not really as stupid as everyone gave her credit for, had moved on to greener pastures, namely those belonging to the Chase family. Well, and Xander that one time, but he'd just been a fluke, there at the right time for him and a convenient time for her.

"And congratulations on being out of jail and on the road to reformation and all that, but if you don't mind, I'd like to see as little of you as possible," Cordelia added. Then deciding that it was high time for a grand entrance, she spun around and marched right back out of the room before Faith could even comment.

"Well, good to fucking see you too," the remaining occupant muttered to an empty room.


"So you see, you want to make sure that you hit them with the fleshy part of your palm," Faith was saying, watching as luminous green-gold eyes took in every single syllable with apparently rapt interest. "If you hit them with your fist, you're running the risk of maybe breaking the skin or at the very least bruising your knuckles, ya know. Plus, sometimes it can hurt like hell hitting like that, bone on bone and all. Sometimes, if you don't do it right, you might even run the risk of breaking your thumb. But this way, not only is there less of a chance that you'll get cut, but its not going to hurt so much."

"So, like this?" With her hand held face out, fingers bent in half to expose the broad flat of her palm, Fred turned hopeful eyes up to her tutor.

"Yeah, just like that. You remember what I told you about how to hit?"

They were standing in the middle of Angel's basement workout room, a battered old punching bag swinging lazily from a chain in the ceiling. Something about the place was comforting, though whether it was the lack of high tech equipment or the dank musty smell that she'd always associated with the best kinds of gyms, Faith wasn't sure. She wasn't one for those harshly lit anorexia factories, preferring instead simple machines and barely adequate facilities.

"Uh-huh. I hit through them. Pretend that my hand is going to pass through their body and come out the other side. Don't just swing and stop when I make contact," Fred repeated dutifully.

Faith had become, for lack of a better phrase, Fred's idol. It had taken the Slayer a little while to accustom herself to the reed thin brunette's quirks, but once she learned how to tune out most of the chatter, honing in on only the important parts, Faith had decided that the other girl was really pretty cool. They'd been talking one day when Fred mentioned that no one really seemed to take her seriously. She'd asked Angel to teach her to sword fight like he was teaching Cordelia, but he'd only smiled at her and patted her on the head. As mad as it had made her, she hadn't said anything. After all, he had rescued her from Pylea, and that meant that sometimes he could get away with a few things.

Unlike the others, Faith decided that Fred was in dire need of training. Willowy frame be damned, the dark Slayer was determined to teach the physicist how to take care of herself. So, they'd started out with some simply self-defense lessons. It was unlikely that Fred would ever really be able to defeat anyone in hand to hand combat if they weighed more than 140 pounds, but that didn't mean that she couldn't at least learn how to put up enough of a fight to buy time for reinforcements to come in. So now the two girls worked out together, both lifting weights and jogging and otherwise keeping one another company. The lessons seemed to be going well too. What everyone had apparently forgotten was that Fred had managed to survive in a definitely hostile environment for six years on her own. She might not have been the most physically imposing girl on the planet, but that certainly didn't make her weak.

"That's right. Why don't you try it on me?" At first, Fred had been hesitant to use her newly learned fighting skills against the other girl, but after Faith had taunted her into giving it her best shot, she'd learned that the Slayer was in no danger of permanent damage at her hands.

Moving into place, Fred closed her eyes, concentrating on the move and on her goal before lashing out, breath leaving her lungs in a huff as she lashed out, her palm colliding solidly with a rock hard abdomen.

"Good," Faith praised, absently rubbing the spot on her belly where Fred had nailed her. It didn't really hurt, but she'd learned that it made the other girl feel better if she pretended that it did.

"Yeow," the physicist complained, shaking her aching hand. "I might as well be hitting a brick wall."

With a smirk, Faith looked down at her abdomen, the flesh bared by the sports bra that she was wearing. Flexing the taut muscles there, watching as the skin pulled tight to reveal a cleanly delineated six-pack, she said cockily, "Yeah, abs of steel, babe."

"Anyone ever tell you that you have an overly inflated opinion of yourself?"

Faith had been amazed by the changes that their growing friendship had wrought in the other girl. As Fred became more comfortable with her, she seemed to relax into an almost different person. True, she was essentially the same girl, but gone was the stuttering, the tendency to ramble constantly, the shy uneasiness. They'd still rear their ugly heads on occasion, but for the most part Fred seemed like... well, seemed pretty normal, especially by L.A. standards.

"Maybe a few people," Faith replied, grinning. Self-assurance had been pretty much the only thing that she'd had to bring with her from Boston, faked as it was. She'd learned early own that if you thought you were the shit others would naturally fall in line behind you. Her attitude had probably saved her life just as many times as it had risked it.

"Like Cordelia?" Fred teased, surprised when the words drew a dark scowl.

"I don't want to talk about her," the Slayer muttered, snatching up a towel from a nearby table. Using it to wipe away the few droplets of sweat that were dampening her hairline, she turned away.

"Bad memories, huh," the other girl prompted, and Faith wondered if this was going to be one of the few times that Fred would latch on to something like a dog with a bone, refusing to give it up.

"Not all bad. Not all good either." Well, that was an understatement. Memories of Cordy necessarily brought up memories of a lot of things that she didn't want to think about. There was always Sunnydale and Buffy and the myriad of things that had gone wrong. It held Finch and the Mayor and finding herself in a coma for eight months... not to mention her plan to kill Angel and to help bring evil into the world. Sunnydale was a mass of hatred and hurt and disappointment, and part of her was ashamed about what had happened there.

Cordelia had happened there. Faith had taken one look at the stuck up socialite and determined to have her. The wooing had been ridiculously easy. It seemed that C wanted far more than that little town had to offer as well, and she hadn't really put up much of a fight. She remembered that first time and her surprise when she realized that Cordelia had been a virgin, that she'd managed to steal that from the cheerleader in a dark, dirty alley. There was the knowledge that she was being used as much as she was using the other girl, and the little part of herself that wished that somehow things could be different because when you got past that prickly outer shell, Cordelia wasn't really too bad of a girl. Of course, there was also the look of betrayal in pained hazel eyes when she realized that Faith had fucked her boyfriend. Not cheated on her necessarily, since not only were they not dating but officially the pretentious Miss Chase was in a relationship. Still though, it had been the beginning of the end. After that their meetings had grown, if possible, even more rough. Completely devoid of emotion other than lust, as if lust really counted in the grand scheme of things.

All for the best though, Faith supposed. After all, it wouldn't have done for Cordelia to be around there at the end, when she'd let her grip on reality slip and had turned into someone that she didn't recognize yet someone that she couldn't stop nonetheless. Circumstance had taken over and she'd just been along for the ride, a massive ball of confusion and hurt trying to make things right again in the worst possible way. She'd felt angry and betrayed, and a lifetime of anger and hate and betrayal had all manifested itself in actions that she couldn't really explain.

Despite their parting and the large role that she played in bringing it about, Faith had still held out some hope that maybe some part of her relationship with Cordelia could be salvaged. If nothing else, she'd genuinely enjoyed the other girl's company. C was witty and bright and not at all afraid of speaking her mind, and to someone who'd never really had a friend like that before, though the cheerleader wasn't technically a friend, it was a more than welcome diversion.

"She seems rather angry with you." Faith couldn't tell if Fred was digging for information or not, but for some reason, she felt inclined to share.

"She has every right to be angry with me. Things got, well... a little crazy back then, you know. I was a different person and I did some pretty stupid things. I didn't treat her good, but she didn't treat me good either, so I guess you could say that we were even as far as that went. It never was about anything more than sex." Pausing, Faith looked over to see how Fred would take that. She never was quite sure what the other girl would accept without blinking an eye or what would send her into a stutter, blushing fit. This apparently was okay though, because there was nothing but avid curiosity looking back at her.

"Anyway, its not like we dated or even really talked much. I mean, sure we talked some, but for the most part it was just the two of us using one another. I don't know though... I always thought that if we'd met under different circumstances that there could've been something between us, you know?"

Fred nodded, large eyes solemn, and Faith continued, feeling oddly like she was a teenager sharing secrets.

"I guess I should've known. I mean, its not like she ever came to see me or wrote me a letter or called or anything. Even Wes came to visit, and I'd nearly tortured him to death before turning myself in. Not Cordelia though. Its not like I thought we'd just pick up where we left off, you know. I knew that she wasn't happy with me and that I did a lot of things to piss her off back then, but I still hoped... Hell, I don't know what I'd hoped," she trailed off, looking down at the toes of her sneakers as if they held the answers.

"You hoped you could be friends?" Fred supplied, sighing. It was perhaps the most romantic thing, in its own special way, that she'd ever heard.

"Something like that, I guess. At the very least something more than the silent treatment."

Faith had been living at the Hyperion for a month now, and Cordelia had managed to limit their personal interaction to the almost non-existent range. If it hadn't been for her newfound friendship with Fred, she'd have cut out three weeks ago.

"She's pretty stubborn," Fred commiserated, nodding her head up and down to reinforce her words.

"Yeah well, Cordy's Cordy and I wouldn't want to change her."

And, it was with those words that Fred became convinced that Faith was in love with Cordelia. It was also with those words that she decided to do something about it.


Fred had been working on her plan to get the two girls together for a week when she realized that, well... she just wasn't coming up with any good plans. So, absent any stunningly brilliant ideas for luring her two best friends into professing undying love for one another, she decided to do one of the few things that she did well. Actually, perhaps well wouldn't be the correct term for it. She was going to do something that she had lots of practice with... talk.

Faith usually slept until after lunch. Long nights spent killing off the City of Angel's undead population left her a little tired, so she usually didn't rise until mid-afternoon. That left Fred alone with Cordelia all morning, and she'd decided to take full advantage of their time together.

"...and she's really, really wonderful. I mean, she's not at all like I thought she'd be, you know, based on everything that I'd heard. Sure, sometimes I can see where maybe she'd occasionally get a little out of control, but for the most part she seems like a perfectly normal girl. Oh, and she's teaching me all kinds of wonderful things." Fred had been babbling on about Faith for about a half-hour now, and Cordelia's polite smile was beginning to slip. Nonetheless, she just didn't have it in her heart to be mean to the girl sitting across from her, so she continued to provide the appropriate listening noises in the appropriate places.

"I noticed that you've been spending a lot of time down in the basement with her. Just what exactly do you two do down there?" She'd actually been wanting to find that out for a while. Every time she thought the coast was clear for her to sneak down and see what was going on, someone would come in or Wesley would want her to research some new demon and by the time she finished it would be too late to spy.

"Oh, she's been teaching me all kinds of neat things. At first she was just teaching me how to fight. Self-defense, you know, like hand-to-hand combat with a little bit of martial arts thrown in like that Jackie Chan guy does in the movies. I really do love his movies. You know he does all of his own stunts don't you? Anyway, lately she's been teaching me all kinds of other things. We moved on to sword fighting the other day, just like you and Angel do, and yesterday she even taught me how to kiss," the physicist replied dreamily.

It had actually been rather nice. Though it had taken her a long time to work up the guts to ask, Fred had finally managed to stammer through her request. Faith had merely stared at her with those amused dark eyes until she'd thought she was going to melt into a puddle of embarrassment, but finally the other girl had smiled gently at her and nodded her head. At first they'd just talked through it, going over the basics like timing and what felt good and what felt like a moray eel was attacking you, but when Faith noticed that the other girl didn't seem to be comprehending everything, she'd decided to show her first hand.

The first press of soft lips on hers, and Fred was lost. She hadn't kissed anyone for a long, long time... well before Pylea actually, and even then it had only been awkward adolescent fumblings. This had been the kiss of a woman, someone who was experienced and knew exactly what she was doing and possessed the skill to do it well, and it'd taken her a little while to remember that it wasn't just for fun. Hard as it had been to keep her mind focused, Fred was now completely sure that she had acquired the necessary skills to knock Wesley's socks off, and was even more confident with Faith's seal of approval. The other girl had said she was a natural, and Fred beamed just thinking about it.

Unfortunately, while she was taking a happy trip down memory lane, Cordelia was growing increasingly agitated. From the beatific smile creasing the other girl's features at the moment, she surmised that Faith was up to her old tricks, this time taking advantage of their poor defenseless unsophisticated Fred, and she just wasn't going to let it happen. The young physicist was no match for the Slayer's seductive powers, and Cordelia felt the rage inside her grow as she pictured scenes of a used and bitter Fred, of a Fred left with a shattered heart when Faith decided that it was time to move on, of Fred with dried tear tracks on her face and two dirty faced kids hanging onto the tattered tails of her ragged skirt. Okay, well maybe the last was going a bit far since she sincerely doubted that Faith was in possession of the ability to impregnate, especially in light of her own lack of a Lifetime movie of the week single teenaged mother past, but nonetheless she was certain that things wouldn't end up well for Winifred "Fred" Burkle in this situation. The dreamy little romantic expression on the other girl's face only added fuel to her fire, and with a belly full of conviction, she jumped out of her chair and stalked over to the elevator.

"Uh, Cordelia," Fred ventured hesitantly, somehow aware that her plan to talk the Slayer up had gone horribly awry.

"Not right now, Fred," Cordelia snapped back, nearly jumping out of her skin when a loud ping announced the arrival of her car. Pressing the button for the 5th floor, she was soon on her way up, Fred's confused and anxious face the last thing she saw as the doors closed.

"Tramp. Whore. No good womanizing bitch," she muttered, using the character assignations to build up a full head of steam for the coming confrontation. There was no way that she was going to let Fred be used by a heartless, lying, manipulative Faith. They should have known that a leopard couldn't change her spots, no matter how much everyone spouted off about the benefits of rehabilitation and all that other neo-hippie-esque bullshit.

It wasn't long before she was off the elevator and in front of the door to the room Faith had claimed as her own. Not even bothering to knock, she slammed the thin wooden barrier open, marching inside the poorly lit dwelling in a fervor of righteous conviction. Propping her hands on her hips, she tapped her foot angrily against the floor and waited impatiently. Luckily, she didn't have to wait for long.

"Cordelia?" Faith asked, her voice foggy from sleep. She wasn't sure if the girl was really there or if she was simply a dream induced apparition, though if she was a dream, she was certainly a lot angrier than the Cordelia she preferred to have in her dreams. Lots and lots angrier, as a matter of fact.

"How dare you? How dare you take advantage of Fred like that? And under this very roof!" Cordelia fumed, giving up her position of outrage to stomp across the room. Unfortunately that brought her in close contact with the bed and she suddenly became vividly aware that Faith still preferred to sleep in the nude. Not that she could afford to be distracted by the full curve of breasts and the teasing pucker of berry red nipples contracting in response to the flow of cool air she'd introduced to the room. No, no time at all for anything like that.

"Take advantage... What the hell're you talking about?" the other girl growled, her voice scratchy from sleep.

"Seducing her, that's what I'm talking about. How dare you play your games on her. God Faith, its like corrupting a child." She had the nagging impulse to beat the Slayer on the head with some heavy object, but there weren't any in the near vicinity that were light enough for her to wield easily yet still heavy enough to do some damage, which only increased Cordelia's level of frustration.

"Seducing who?" Faith, meanwhile, was completely confused. She wasn't quite sure what it was that she'd done to invoke the other girl's ire, but whatever it was, she'd obviously done a damn good job of it. "Fred?"

"Yes, Fred," Cordelia shot back. "I knew you hadn't changed, knew that it was just a matter of time before you once again fucked us all up the ass, but Fred? Even I didn't think you'd stoop that low. God, you disgust me."

"Look, Princess," suddenly Faith was on her gloriously naked feet, one finger poking into the Seer's chest to emphasize her words, "I don't know what the fuck you're talking about, but I'm not doing anything with Fred that she doesn't want to do. If you all hadn't been treating her like a half-wit invalid for so long, you might have noticed that she's a pretty wicked cool gal, and much more competent than you give her credit for. As for you, you have no right, absolutely none, to come barging in here talking to me like I'm some... some... I don't know..."

"Whore?" Cordelia offered helpfully, flashing the irate Slayer a bright smile.

"You know what... fuck you, Cordelia Chase. If you can't get past this petty bullshit and see who I really am, then I don't need you. Get the hell outta my room." Dark brows were pulled down in a scowl and one hand was pointed firmly at the door and Cordelia decided that she didn't have to stay there and be subject to such verbal abuse any longer. So, with one final outraged huff, she turned and stalked back out the way she'd come in, shoulders still stiff with indignation, where she promptly ran into a breathless Fred.

"Oh, sorry," the Seer muttered, then looked down to see who it was that she had played bumper cars with. "Fred, its you. Look, you don't have to worry about her bothering you anymore. I took care of it for you."

With a jerk of her head, Cordelia made it perfectly clear just who she'd taken care of for Fred. Taking the girl's hand, expecting her to follow her back down the hallway to the elevator doors, she was surprised when the slim limb was pulled from her grasp. Looking up, she saw something etched across the physicist's face that she'd never had the occasion to see before – anger.

"If you don't mind, I think my friend might be upset, and I'm going to go and see her," Fred said softly before heading into Faith's room, and Cordelia could do nothing more than stand there, dumbstruck, in the middle of the hall as the sound of the Slayer's door closing behind the petite brunette echoed through her mind.

"Her friend?" she repeated, trying the words out. "Her friend Faith... What the hell does that make me, then?"

The crumbling walls didn't answer, and with a sigh of consternation, Cordelia moved slowly back to the still open elevator doors.


"Of all the... accusing you of seducing me," Fred ranted, pacing back and forth across the limited confines of Faith's room, pushing her glasses back up her nose repeatedly in a nervous gesture guaranteed to wear away a good bit of skin. "And then, coming up here to confront you. Like I couldn't take care of myself. Like I didn't manage to survive for six years without anyone to count on but me. Like I didn't escape forced enslavement all on my very own until that unfortunate recapture. Like I'm a helpless two year old that you have to watch over so they don't burn their hand on the stove or stick their finger in a light socket. Accused you of seducing me... me!"

Faith was sitting calmly on her bed, the sheet that had fallen absently to the floor when she'd arisen to confront Cordelia wrapped around her torso in an attempt to make herself decent. Not that Fred was bound to notice whether she was naked or not, she realized, watching as the girl moved jumpily from one side of the room to the other, only to turn around and do it all over again. Honestly it was making her dizzy, but the novelty of having someone this outraged on her behalf was just too great for her to do anything to disrupt it. She'd let her own anger over the undeserved allegations come later. Right now, well... right now was the time to bask in the knowledge that she had a friend who was willing to stick up for her.

"Where she got that crazy idea, I'll never know," Fred continued, unaware of the mental machinations of the girl sitting on the bed. "I mean, not that I'd really mind if you did, not that I want you to or anything since I'm working on my Wesley plan right now, but you are a good kisser and you're pretty too. I just don't understand why she had to go off half-cocked like that, marching up here like she was some sort of divine protector of my rights. I can take care of myself, thank you very much, and don't need a second-rate actress to do it for me!"

At that Fred stopped, clamping her hands over her mouth and shooting a wide-eyed look Faith's way before doing a lot of major backtracking. "Not that Cordelia couldn't protect me if she had to. I mean, just because she's an actress doesn't mean that she's not strong or capable or anything like that. And its not necessarily that she's not a good actress. She just hasn't had the right role come along yet. One day she'll work her way out of doing sunscreen commercials and bit parts as the third prostitute on the left because she's got real talent. Really she does..."

Fred was nodding her head in conviction, apparently trying to convince Faith of Cordelia's genuine acting abilities only seconds after haranguing her over-protective gesture, but the dark Slayer didn't really feel like making the physicist aware of the contradiction at the moment.

"Anyway," Fred continued, mostly deflated now that her initial burst of outrage had passed, "its probably all my fault. I was just trying to... well, get her to change her mind about you, but I don't think I helped. Well, I know I didn't help, what with the little flying off the handle thing and all. I was just trying to make her see that you'd changed, and I told all about how you've been helping me learn to defend myself and how you... how you taught me how to kiss."

With a snort, Faith turned amused dark eyes toward the girl standing sheepishly a few feet away. Well, no wonder Cordelia had done an Al Sharpton impersonation. But, she decided to ignore that for the moment and move to the more important matter, that of Fred's ill-fated determination to see her relationship with Cordy rise from its ashes like the phoenix that it certainly wasn't.

"Fred, Cordelia and I... well, there is no Cordelia and I, you understand. There never is going to be a Cordelia and I and as much as I appreciate you going to bat for me, ain't nothing gonna change that." Faith was slowly coming to the realization that she had made a few major life changes while in the pen. Had something like this happened four years ago, there was no way that she'd be sitting calmly, an odd sense of acceptance settling over her instead of the all too familiar comfort of rage. It was almost like she didn't care... actually, the sudden realization that she didn't care made itself known. She didn't care, didn't care that she was living here, didn't care that she was doing good now, didn't care that Cordelia hated her guts and thought that she was putting the moves on Fred, didn't care that Wesley still couldn't stay in the same room with her for more than 15 minutes at a time. Nothing really mattered. Even Fred and this newfound friendship, as cool as it was, didn't really matter. She was empty, hollow, the shell of a human walking around with no significant emotions to speak of to bother her.

Or, at least, that's what she decided had happened. She told herself that it didn't hurt her when Cordelia told her she was trash, when she reaffirmed the fact that she didn't matter. Faith Spenser didn't matter. Never had mattered, was nothing more than talented hands and lips and a powerful, attractive body. Nothing but the aggregation of parts meant to satisfy others with no intrinsic worth. Of less than no worth to Cordelia, not even important enough to merit a page in the mental scrapbook of the other girl's life.

"She's just in denial or afraid or something like that," Fred was saying, and Faith pulled herself out of the dark recesses of her wanderings, refocusing her attention on the slim figure of a girl in front of her. The physicist had positioned herself on the foot of the bed, knees pulled up to her chin as she spoke. "You're meant to be together. I can just feel it, you know. But Cordy's, well, sometimes she's stubborn. We've just got to work on a plan. You know, to win her back."

After having had minimal to negative success with her own plan, Fred was now willing to enlist the aid of one of the parties it was meant to target. Besides, Faith had managed to win Cordelia over in the first place. Surely her insight would be invaluable in this endeavor.

Faith snorted.

"Fred, I think you're not understanding what's going on here." She'd kept the full details of what had happened with Cordelia from the other girl before, though the reasons weren't quite clear to her. Maybe she didn't want her seemingly naïve new friend to know the truth about her or to know things about Cordy that she apparently didn't already know. Now, though, it appeared that it was time to fess up. "There never was some grand big romance between Cordelia and I. We fucked and that was about it. Hell, we didn't even really talk all that much, just found some deserted spot and banged one another until she got tired or I got tired or we found something else to do. We never dated, never declared undying love... we didn't even ever really like one another all that much I don't think. She was convenient, I was easy, and we had some fun. That was it, ya know. ‘Love Story' it was not."

"But I've seen the way she looks at you," Fred protested, eyebrows drawing together in confusion.

"If she's looking at me its probably because I used to could make her scream so loud the neighbors at the motel would bang on the wall," the Slayer muttered, running a hand over her face. She didn't know what she'd been thinking, either then or now. No, then was easy to figure out. She'd been thinking that she had a wicked hot girl in her bed who was good to go for some no-strings-attached fun fucking, bonus points added on top of that because during the rare times when they actually did talk, she found the other girl funny. And bright. And interesting. But, it hadn't been any more than it was and there was no sense in trying to change that through some carefully engineered selective mental editing.

Besides, did she really and truly want to get something going with Cordy now? It was best to just move on, to forget about that time in her life and all that went with it. Her affair with the ex-cheerleader was wrapped around everything that had happened then and seeing one necessarily brought to mind the other. For mental health reasons, not even taking into account the other girl's hatred and disgust, it was just the best possible route to take.

"But I really think..."

"It doesn't matter what you think, Fred. Ain't nothing there."


Cordelia had read through her new copy of Cosmo, researched an Angori demon for Wesley, rearranged the collection of business cards on display at the counter, and repainted her fingernails. All of that meant that she was now bored to tears, with nothing better to do than surf the internet reading Hollywood gossip. The only problem with that was that she didn't even find that interesting at the moment, which meant that there was something very wrong going on with her.

No matter how her mind tried to avoid thinking about it, she knew exactly what was wrong with her. Faith was what was wrong with her. It had been close to a month since their little confrontation over the seduction of Fred which had never really materialized. In fact, she'd stumbled in on the normally sedate physicist pinning Wesley to the wall of his office, her lips attached rather firmly to his. With that bastion of her anger overthrown, she'd found herself left rather adrift on the sea of potential reasons to hate the Slayer.

She knew she should hate her... knew she did hate her, but for some reason she couldn't help thinking about her. Even with as little substance as their pre-incarceration interactions had contained, she'd still developed... something for the girl. Feelings maybe, but of what type she wasn't sure. All she knew was that they were there, slipping about unidentified through her consciousness, and it was making her uneasy.

Add to that the fact that she was fairly sure that Faith was depressed, and she didn't know how she was supposed to act. The whole full of rage and homicidal intentions side of a mentally unbalanced Slayer was one she was well familiar with, having had a first row seat to the decomposition of the dark girl's sanity the first time around, but this was different. This was more like a girl without much life to her, just skulking around, gliding through the day with little notice that it was actually moving past her. It was hard to pin down the changes, but they were there and they were far more pronounced than they had been before she'd accused Faith of trying to corrupt Fred. If she really thought about it, though, she realized that something had been amiss ever since the other girl had reappeared. She'd seemed so... well, vulnerable. Vulnerable and Faith weren't words that melded together well in the Seer's psyche, which is probably what had kept them from being connected in the first place.

Of course, just because the girl was sporting early warning signs of some sort of breakdown didn't mean that Cordelia had to step in, but then again she felt like she had to. Despite herself, she cared for the other girl. At first she'd told herself that it was the leftover remnants of attraction, that it was unsettled emotions over their rather fractured past together, but those explanations didn't really fly when put to the test. Sure she was still attracted to Faith. She'd have to be blind not to be, and for someone gifted with the Sight, that just wasn't a viable excuse. The emotions part didn't sit well with her either, for reasons that she just couldn't quite chase down, which left her with the vague notion that there was something that she had to do, if only to assuage her own discomfort.

Cordelia had thought about it for a while, not really coming up with much. Sympathy, empathy and all of those other pathies weren't things that she came by naturally... well, in relation to her current subject, which left her at the end of an already short rope.

So, deciding to do what she was most skilled at, she planned an outing. Caritas was waiting, and she'd wrangled Angel, Wesley, Gunn and Fred into going with her. Fred had convinced Faith somehow, and tonight was the night.

Which actually might mean, though she refused to admit it, that her boredom was really nervousness in disguise.


She'd been shanghaied into this somehow. Fred had been the culprit, looking at her with those wide innocent eyes and begging her to go with them, and now here she was sitting in the middle of a bunch of demons, sipping on a drink that actually had a bright pink umbrella in it. It was humiliating, it was demoralizing... it was actually more fun than she had anticipated.

Demon karioke was something that she'd never run across before. Hell, she hadn't even ever contemplated it, which was saying a lot since she'd had a plenty of time to amuse herself during her unfortunate incarceration. But, it existed and here she was, sitting here amongst a crowd of people that she never would have envisioned herself with, watching Cordelia and a snazzily dressed green demon with bright pink horns discuss Donna Karen's fall line as a grayish-brown monster with two heads and four mouths sang Madonna's ‘Like A Virgin' in the background. He was doing a good job, right down to a near perfect reenactment of the Blonde One rolling around on the stage touching herself, which was more than a little disconcerting.

"So, broody, tough, and angsty one, what are you going to bless us with this evening?" It took Faith a minute to realize that the question was directed at her, but soft pink eyes were looking at her expectantly in anticipation of an answer and she searched her mind for a hint of what it might be.

"Pardon me?" It was the politest thing she could muster at the moment. When they'd first gotten there, she'd been somehow convinced that this was a test that she had to pass and had immediately swung into action, grabbing the very first demon that she saw, immediately preparing to break its neck. It wasn't until Fred's desperate pleading broke through her consciousness that she realized that everyone was staring at her, and she'd let the disgruntled and disheveled demon go. Lorne, as she'd learned soon was the green guy's name, hadn't been too pleased with the original outburst of violence, and things had been a little chilly between them since.

"Singing, sugarpea. Everybody's got to do it, and since its your first time here that means its your debut." He was smiling at her, the expression on his face so wide open that it almost caused his hooked nose to nearly bump into his chin, and she immediately pushed down the impulse inside her that told her to lunge across the table and rip his cute little horns off and shove them down his throat. She was in nonconfrontational mode at the moment, mainly because of the superior holier-than-thou smirk Cordy had thrown her after she realized that killing these demons was a major party foul.

"I don't sing," she replied flatly, lips pursing around a frown.

"Here you do, doll. Either you pick the song or I do, but it's the way we break all the newcomers in." She had the distinct impression that the neon demon was enjoying himself at her expense, which didn't bode well for the future of her nonconfrontational status.

"Oh, how exciting!" Fred, well aware of the tension slowly descending on the table, took the opportunity to break in. "I mean, I think it'll be great, don't you Faith? What do you want to sing? I'm afraid that I don't know much about music, so I can't really help with the selection. Oooh, unless maybe you want to do some Patsy Cline?"

"Yeah, Faith," Cordelia added in, her voice fairly oozing challenge and sarcasm mixed together in a deadly cocktail of taunting, "what are you going to sing? You are going to sing, aren't you? I mean, you're not afraid, right?"

"Of course I'm not afraid," the Slayer tossed back, then winced internally at the words. She'd let her competitive nature get the better of her, automatically responding to the slight to her ego, and now she was going to have to go up there and wail away for a bunch of drunken demons and a table full of people that she'd either tried to kill or sleep with at one point in time or another.

"Great," Lorne beamed, clapping his hands. "You can go up next. What should I cue up for you, sweetheart? Lets see... I'm guessing you're a Def Leopard kind of girl. Eighties rock big hair bands really get your engine revving? All that leather just screams ‘I loved Bon Jovi'."

"I'll pick it out myself, you overgrown grasshopper," Faith growled, pushing back from the table. They all watched her go, half afraid that she was going to snap and take out the bar's patrons while the other half just settled in in anticipation of the show.

"Me-ow. Somebody forgot to sheathe her claws," Lorne murmured, looking down at his lovely bright yellow suit. "I don't look like an overgrown grasshopper, do I guys? Come on... do I?"

Unfortunately, no one was really paying attention to the battered and bruised ego begging for some stroking. Instead, all eyes were turned toward the stage, focused intently on Faith. She'd taken the microphone out of its holder and appropriated a stool from the bar, which she was currently sitting on, her booted feet hooked on the bottom rung. She looked a little nervous, and her brown eyes kept flashing back and forth from the table of her somewhat friends to the rest of the crowd.

The lights seemed to dim somehow as Faith's head dropped down so that all that could be seen was a fall of glistening chestnut hair. Cordelia tensed as her voice came through, low and smoky and seductive, instantly drawing the interest of everyone in the room.

"I'm gonna do a little song. Its called ‘Love Is Like a Ball and Chain'," she murmured, and all of the table's occupants turned to look at one another in confusion.

"Isn't that..." Cordelia started, her words fading off as the first few twangs of a guitar rumbled through the speakers, instantly throwing the club into the haze of the blues.

"Janis Joplin," Wes finished for her, his brow wrinkled in confusion.

"Well, technically Willie Mae Thornton sang it first, but I think she's going with the Pearl's version," Lorne said thoughtfully, his head tilted to the side. The soulful guitar intro had been joined by the lazy beat of a drum, and he could barely see the heel of the Slayer's left boot dipping in time to the music. Intriguing...

Head still down, Faith began to sing, her torso swaying slightly as the words rasped past her throat.

"Sittin' down by my window, Just, lookin' out at the rain. Oooh hmmmm, sittin' down by my window, Just lookin' out at the rain."

Cordelia sat, transfixed, as the woman before her somehow transformed into a blues goddess, her normally low, scratchy voice teasing past the words to the song in a rumbling cascade of hurt.

"Somethin' came along, honey, grabbed a hold of me, And it felt like a ball and chain."

"Is everyone else seeing this?" Angel whispered, ducking his head down low as if to hide his observation from the girl on the stage. A few hesitant nods were his only reply, and he straightened back up, once again returning his focus to Faith.

"And I say, oh, oh, whoa, whoa, honey, tell me why, Why does every thing go, go wrong ? I said yeah it all goes wrong, yeah. I wanna know And I say, oh, oh, whoa, whoa, honey tell me why, Why does every thing go wrong. Everything goes wrong."

"She sounds so sad," Fred sniffed, automatically feeling herself tear up in sympathy for her friend.

"That's because it's the blues, Fred," Cordelia hissed across the table, refusing to let herself be drawn in by the pain she could hear in the girl's words. "Its supposed to be sad. Otherwise it wouldn't be the blues, now would it?"

"Hey, here you gone today, honey won't you love me,
Honey, I just wanted to hold you, I said, for so long."

"Damn, she's pretty good for a white girl," Gunn said suddenly, drawing the glares of the rest of the tables occupants. Holding up his hands in self-defense, he qualified, "Hey, no offense. Its just that I've heard the rest of you sing."

"Love's got a hold on me, baby,
And it feels just like a ball and chain."

"And just what does that mean?" Angel shot back, only to be shushed by Lorne.

"Now, now, now, now, love's got a hold on me baby,
Feels like a ball and chain.
Honey I don't know why the woman I love yeah,
Wants to go on and leave me here in so much pain."

"Could you guys be quiet? I'm trying to work here," he complained, waving his hands in an attempt to get the others to shut up.

"I don't quite think that Janis sang that in her version," Angel murmured, his brow scrunching in confusion. No, he'd heard this before, and it definitely didn't say woman on his CD.

Wesley nodded, concurring with Angel's observation while Cordelia merely glared at them.

"And I say, oh, oh, whoa, whoa, now hon', tell me why,
Baby, sugar wanna tell me, tell me, tell me, tell me, tell me, tell me why, yeah.
And I say, oh, oh, whoa, whoa, whoa, baby tell me why,
When I ask you I want to know why, now baby."

Faith was really getting into the song at this point, her whole body swaying from side to side, jerking with the occasional emphasized passage, and Cordelia wondered if she was actually somehow channeling Janis Joplin. It wasn't that far-fetched. They were in Caritas after all.

"Here you've gone today,
I wanted to love you, love you, love you
Till the day I die."

The song broke out into a cascade of aching, echoing guitar rifts, and for a moment Cordy wished that she smoked, wished that she had a cigarette that she could light up and suck down because somehow the heart-rending sound of a blues guitar made her crave nicotine and the far away tease of serenity and the elusive sugary-sweet comfort of absolution. Of course, none of it made sense, was nothing more than a vague feeling, though she couldn't help but wonder just how much of herself Faith was pouring into this song, into its words. Was each tortured, raspy syllable some part of her soul brought to light and laid out there for everyone to see, or was she just a better actress than the Seer herself?

Pulled out of her reverie by Faith's voice, the slow, dark, thick honey of her tones reaching out to settle over the crowd once more, Cordelia shook her head to clear it of the conflicting thoughts.

"And I say oh, oh, whoa, whoa, no honey
It ain't fair, it ain't fair what you do, honey what you do.
I say honey, what you doin' to me.
And I say oh, oh, whoa whoa now baby
It ain't fair, it ain't fair what you do
I tried to tell you.
You went and broke my heart,
Honey it didn't belong to you."

Wesley leaned back in his chair, raising his beer bottle to his lips for a quick swig before looking around in disbelief. "She really is very good," he whispered, consternation coating his words.

Fred nodded, transfixed by the sight of her friend onstage.

"Sittin' down by my window,
Lookin' at the rain.
Out at the rain,
Lookin' at the rain, see the rain."

The Slayer was building to a crescendo, and for the first time since she started singing, she looked up, her dark eyes blank. She wasn't looking at anything, wasn't focusing on any person in particular, and yet Cordelia felt like the girl could see straight through her. What she was going to see the ex-cheerleader wasn't sure of, but she imagined that somehow those lifeless eyes would ferret out some truth about her that she didn't want realized.

"Sittin' down by my window, just looking out at the rain, Somethin' came along, honey grabbed a hold of me, Baby, and it felt like a ball and chain."

Moving to stand, planting her booted feet on the stage so that their spread was a vee as wide as her shoulders, Faith put both hands on the microphone as if to control it, to somehow leash the power of her words. Her hair tangled about her shoulders, its dark luster highlighting the porcelain paleness of her face, and Cordelia was immediately struck by her beauty. She'd always imagined it, always remembered it, as being strong, cutting, in your face. When she thought of Faith she though of confrontation, and her looks had seemed to echo that. Now though, she was suddenly hit by how fragile the other girl was, with her slim willowy build and her fragile, exotic features. Still stunning by any definition of the word, yet somehow made more real, a bit more human, in the harsh glow of Caritas' spotlight.

"And I say oh, oh, whoa whoa, now baby
Honey this can't be, no this can't be in vain,
And I say no no no no no no no no!
And I say whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa
Now now now now now now now now now no no not in vain
I know there is somebody that could tell me
Why, oh honey why,
Hon', tell me why love is like
Why love is like,
Like like a ball
Baaaaaaalllll and chain."

As she wailed out the last few lines of the song, Faith once again dropped her head, almost as if she couldn't bear to see how people would react to her. She shouldn't have worried, though, because immediately the place burst into cheers, the loudest of those probably originating from the normally demure Fred, and with a small grin and a light blush, Faith thanked her benefactors before hopping down off the stage.

The transformation that Cordelia saw on the Slayer's walk over was amazing. In those few short steps she shed any hint of fragility, any slight whisper of anything other than a brash strength, letting the hard shell of her usual attitude fall firmly into place. It was with a swagger that she made her way back to the table, and when she plopped back down in her chair, it was a cocky grin that met the bemused looks on her companion's faces.

"So, didn't think I'd do it, did you?" she teased, smirking. "Didja like it?"

No one said anything until Lorne, looking from Faith to Cordelia and back again, broke out into laughter.

"What the fuck's wrong with you, grasshopper," the disturbed Slayer sneered, not at all anticipating his reaction. It was quite discomforting. Surely she'd hadn't been that bad.

"Oh, honey, save your strength. You're going to need it for that one over there," he said by way of reply, cocking his head in Cordelia's direction.

"What do you mean by that?" the Seer in question demanded, a scowl descending on her own usually unperturbed brow.

"Don't try to play innocent with me," the Host intimated, wiggling his brows. "Trust me honey, it doesn't fit."

"Look," Faith was growing increasingly upset, "I don't know what's going on here, but I don't like it."

"Whoa, calm down there, Ms. Potentially Deadly. Didn't they tell you?"

Several slightly chagrined faces told him that the Slayer hadn't quite been brought up to speed, so with a sigh he ran through it.

"I can tell your future. You sing, I see... get it?"

"You mean to tell me that you're some kind of Mistress Cleo wannabe psychic hotline staffer specializing in karoke?" Faith snorted, not quite sure whether to be amused or outraged.

"Hey there, missy. I'll have you know that I'm the real deal, not some ganga smoking, incense burning tarot card hack." Lorne was getting a bit upset himself now, and Wesley, ever the mediator, decided to step in.

"Honestly, Faith. He can see into your future when you sing. His predictions are usually quite accurate." The ex-Watcher still hadn't gotten over his unfortunate nervous habit of fiddling with his glasses whenever he was in her vicinity, but he was doing a lot better now.

"So then what'd you see?" Though not entirely convinced of the veracity of the green man's claims, she was a little bit intrigued, especially since it seemed that whatever her future held, it seemed to include one currently irate brunette.

"Uh-uh. I can't give it all away. Where's the fun in that?" Reveling in his role, Lorne leaned back against his seat, the hint of a smile playing with one corner of his mouth. "Needless to say, you'll get what you want, and sooner than you think."

"What I want," Faith echoed, her eyes shooting unbidden over to where Cordelia sat.

"You got it, sister."


Cordelia was fuming. After picking up on the not so subtle insinuation that Lorne had seen something about a future between herself and Faith, she'd resolved to drag the girl off at the earliest possible convenient moment and disabuse of her of the notion. Unfortunately that hadn't occurred quite as soon as she would have liked since the rest of her companions had apparently been more than happy to sit around and drink for a few more hours.

Having finally convinced the group to pile back into the Caddy and head for the Hyperion, she'd realized that she wasn't quite sure what to say. Still convinced that she needed to say something, despite her lack of an idea as to what that something might be, she'd dragged Faith up to the Slayer's room, pushed her back onto the bed, and was now pacing a line back and forth in front of the patiently waiting girl.

"I don't care what he saw, its not going to happen," she said finally, stopping her trek to turn and face her nemesis.

"Look, I'm not the one who said he could read the future. You believe whatever you want to. I could care less," Faith shrugged, watching with satisfaction as her apparent disinterested only increased Cordelia's anger.

"Yeah, well, I'm glad you realize that," the Seer said threateningly. Actually, it was more like she attempted to say it threateningly, but the number of strawberry margaritas that she'd consumed after Lorne's little insinuation took a bit of the sting out of the words.

"I'm not the one who's all upset here, Princess," Faith noted idly, leaning back lazily on her bed. She was amused by the show being put on in front of her. Hell, she hadn't believed that the outrageously clad green guy could actually see into her future, nor had she allowed herself to take heart in what he said he saw. She didn't need Cordelia, didn't want her in fact. Not after she'd so clearly expressed just what exactly she thought about the Slayer. No, didn't want her at all...

"Don't call me Princess," Cordelia ground out, her jaw clenching in frustration.

"Why not?"

"Because... because you used to call me that before." Once the words were out of her mouth, Cordelia immediately wished that she could take them back. She didn't want to bring up anything that had to do with their time together, especially not now, and from the gleam she could see in the other girl's eyes, Faith was more than eager to take the opening that she'd been given.

"And that bothers you?" Faith asked, intrigued.

"No," Cordelia denied, well aware that Faith was aware that it was a bald-faced lie. Otherwise why would she have protested its use in the first place?

"I don't believe you," Faith commented blandly, tilting her head to one side as she surveyed the lanky brunette. "I think you've got issues regarding it."

"And I think you've been watching too much Oprah," Cordelia shot back, nostrils flaring.

"Come on, C... I thought you told me that you didn't think about that anymore, that you'd forgotten about it. Shouldn't bother you if it wasn't important, should it?" Faith wasn't sure who that was meant to hurt, herself or the girl standing in front of her.

"I never said I'd forgotten it, and I never said it wasn't important," came the muttered reply, and Faith's gaze sharpened.

"Yeah, that's right. You just said that I wasn't important."

Cordelia grimaced at the reminder. Wounding the other girl that way wasn't one of her fondest memories, and she took the opportunity to try and fix that. "Look, I didn't mean that..."

"Sure you did," the Slayer broke in, her tone bitter. "You know as well as I do that I didn't mean a damn thing to you. Hell, you couldn't even come and fucking see me when I was in jail. You don't want me here. In fact, I doubt you woulda minded all that much if I hadn't ever woken up from that coma."

"Faith, that's not true," Cordelia protested, stepping forward, unsure what she wanted to do but somehow needing to comfort the other girl.

"Save it, Princess," Faith sneered, emphasizing the epithet. "Just because it wasn't the nice thing to want doesn't mean it wasn't true. You don't have to pretend to be perfect here."

"Damn you, I didn't want you to die." Faith's presumption that she would ever think such a thing was unsettling, and Cordelia felt her anger grow. "Yeah I was mad at you, yeah I was hurt and upset and confused, but I never wanted that."

"Maybe not, but you wanted me to go away. Just like you want me to go away now, don't you? You don't want me here, interfering with your precious little settled life, always a constant reminder of your dirty little secret. Well, maybe not so secret anymore." The memory of Cordelia shouting that they had been lovers flashed through her mind, and Faith smiled briefly.

"You don't know a thing about me," Cordelia hissed vehemently, her jaw tightening.

"Oh, I know a lot about you, Princess." Suddenly Faith was on her feet, advancing on Cordelia like a hunter with its prey, her movements smooth, feline. When they were only inches apart, the Slayer leaned forward, her eyes tracing over the slim column of the other girl's neck, over the sharp line of her jaw and up to her troubled hazel eyes.

"That doesn't mean you know me," Cordelia stressed softly, reading the intent in Faith's eyes, "and I'm not going to let you fuck me over again."

"So you don't want me anymore. Is that what you're saying?" Faith wasn't sure why she felt the need to drive this point home to herself, to have the other girl confirm what she already knew.

"I... I don't know what I want anymore," the Seer confessed brokenly, suddenly aware that it was the truth. She'd spent months telling herself that she didn't want anything to do with Faith, ignoring the little trickles of arousal the other girl's presence initiated, refusing to let herself consider the possibility of learning more about what the Slayer was like as a person, outside of the confines of naked bodies and exchanged moans and sex without emotion. It hit her that she hadn't managed to avoid the issue by hiding from it. Her feelings, or whatever they were, were still there, still waiting on her to get past her fear and take a closer look at them.

"You think I just want to use you. Like before." Dark chocolate eyes were burning into hers, and Cordelia realized that she didn't have the answers, wasn't even sure of the questions.

So, she didn't answer, not sure what to say, and was shocked when Faith reached up with one tremulous hand, running the soft tip of a finger down her jaw.

"You were always different," the Slayer whispered, her eyes following the path her finger had made. She wanted to lean forward, wanted to capture those soft lips with her own, but held back. There was too much between them – bitterness and hurt feelings and confusion and anger and awkwardness – and she wasn't going to put herself back in the same place she'd inhabited before.

"It didn't feel like I was different," Cordelia rasped, trying to ignore the trail of fire the other girl's touch had caused. "It didn't feel like I was different when you slept with Xander, when you betrayed me, when you forgot about me."

"I did a lot of things that didn't make any sense," Faith whispered helplessly, her finger still moving across that soft skin. "But I promise you, you were..."

"I didn't treat you much better," the Seer admitted, fighting the urge to turn her face into the warmth of the other girl's touch.

"Yeah, well, we both did a lot of things wrong."

They were quiet for a moment, each lost in thoughts, in remembrances, in regrets. Suddenly the Seer realized that, whatever had happened between them, that it had been a long time ago. They'd both been different people then, both been slaves to their own agendas and fears and that she shouldn't run the risk of ruining the same opportunity twice.

"What about...," Cordelia started, only to pause, running her tongue over suddenly dry lips, "what about forgetting about all that. What about starting over, clean slate."

She wasn't sure what had prompted her to make the offer, but once the words had passed through her lips she was sure that she had done the right thing. It felt so right, so natural, to be standing there looking down into dark eyes, to have the familiar scent that seemed to be some part of Faith herself drifting up to tease her with its elusive sweetness, to feel the hot tease of the other girl's breath burning her lips.

Faith's eyes searched her face, looking for clues until it appeared that she was satisfied with what she saw, with the sincerity of the offer. Unable to help herself, she leaned forward, pressing her lips gently against Cordelia's, the touch so light that it was almost non-existant.

"Yeah," she murmured, smiling brightly. "I think I'd like that."

Tremulous as it may have been, it was a start.