Too Soon

Author: faithwth <Devilindap[at]>

Hey everyone! This is a Faith/Xander fic with a major angst warning! Enjoy and let me know what you think. You may wonder why I'm labeling the chapters by days, but soon you'll know ::tear::

A/N: This is post S7 with Faith&Xander and Kennedy&Willow sharing an apartment but the rest of the gang will be around too. Everything happened and it's been about a year and a half after the big battle at the hellmouth.

Day I

The annoying beeping of the alarm clock sounded unceasingly seeming to increase in volume with every beep. Xander heard the alarm; he had been listening to it for the past ten minutes it seemed. He held his eyes shut refusing to be woken up by the alarm – he was to be on the later shift at work for the next two weeks but Faith had been stuck with the earlier shift. Finally he couldn't deny that he was completely awake and opening his eyes he saw Faith was… well definitely not awake. She was lying sprawled across his chest as far away from awake as one could be. He grimaced at the fact that he knew Slayer's had heightened hearing abilities, yet Faith seemed to be able to block just about anything out when she didn't want to wake up.

He groaned, shifting underneath her and pushing her in an attempt to wake her. She had been late everyday for the past week and a half… he had warned them not to put her on the early shift but he only had so much sway in the company. He turned his head towards the clock and saw that it was close to five thirty. He had a feeling of sympathy for her, knowing what it felt like to be on the early shift but he was also mad that she wasn't awake, and he – who didn't have to be up for another four hours – was awake.

"Faith, get up," he scolded as he pushed her up. Her response was a vague sigh and under further encouragement she turned and hit the alarm clock off of the table and onto the ground, where it still continued with its annoying beeping. Xander had certainly started out the week with more sympathy towards her but nearing Friday he pushed her up off of his chest and he got up. "Faith, get up!"

"Fuck you," she answered, for the first time showing that she was awake – far more awake then she wanted to be at this hour. She was all for being up this early when she had been up all night partying and things were just winding down but it baffled her that some people actually had to get up this early!

"There actually hasn't been much of that going on," Xander answered jokingly, but his tone could be mistaken as argumentative since neither of them were morning people.

"Then get me off the early shift!" she demanded almost in a whine.

"It's not up to me," he answered, rummaging through the pile of clothes for a shirt to throw on.

"Then tell them they're compromising your health by having me on the early shift," she answered matter of factly. He looked at her confused and she added, "lack of sex affects your work ethic…"

"I'll be sure to bring that up at the next Supervisor's Meeting."


Xander dragged himself from their bedroom to the kitchen, seeing – as expected – Willow sitting at the kitchen table with her cup of tea as she read through the morning newspaper. The two couples, Willow and Kennedy, and Xander and Faith ended up finding an apartment that they couldn't pass up but that neither couple could afford alone. Together they could have it without stress so the next thing they knew, they were all roomies. It was a comfortable place with three bedrooms, a living room, two bathrooms and a nice kitchen. It was close enough to the rest of the gang but with enough distance to allow them to feel independent from everything on their downtime.

Willow had been concerned with the roommate idea – her and Faith never exactly being the best of pals – but everything had been working out great. They had been in the apartment almost four months and there had been more arguments within couples than between the two. From working together so long with the Slaying, living together was almost second nature.

"Morning," Xander greeted, being as jovial as he could this early. Him and Faith really weren't morning people in any sense of the word.

"Hey," Willow greeted with a soft smile knowing how hard it was for Xander to even make his way out of the bedroom. This morning was an improvement, not only had he managed to get out of his room but he had even remembered to toss on a shirt.

"Did you beat the paperboy again this morning?"

"No, he's getting quicker," she answered with a laugh. The two of them still acted like they did when they were in first grade growing up together, and it was nice that they had that easygoing relationship with someone. Both of them knew the stress and frustration of being with Slayer's, and both of them also knew the greatness of it.

"Kennedy still asleep?" Willow nodded then asked with a smirk,

"Is Faith still asleep?"

"Probably," he answered shaking his head. "She's going to get herself fired…" Willow giggled and Xander added, "it's not funny. I only got her the job a couple of weeks ago and I can count on one hand how many times she's been on time!" It was a running joke on the site and at home on Faith's tardiness issue.

"How's she doing at work?"

"She's great! She does the work really well – the Slayer strength certainly doesn't hurt – and she gets along with everyone great! A little better than I'd like but hey," he joked.

"She's an eyeful," Willow admitted.

"Yeah, the guys remind me all the time now." Xander poured out two cups of coffee and like clockwork Faith walked out of the bedroom and towards the kitchen. "You're on time," he commented as he handed her the mug.

"Really?" she asked, searching the walls for a clock of some sort. He gave her a blank look and she answered, "Shut up."

"How sweet," Willow commented from behind her newspaper.

"Usually I get a 'hello' after her second cup of coffee." Faith leaned against the countertop sipping at her coffee quietly. She knew she wasn't the pleasantest person in the morning so she tried to keep to herself as much as possible. The good thing about their housing situation is that everyone of them was pretty well aware of the others – they all understood each other.

Faith watched Xander take a few sips of his coffee then walk over to the medicine drawer. He shuffled through a few of the various bottles, most of them Willow's herbal vitamins, and pull out a bottle of aspirin. He took out a few pills then drank them down with his coffee, replaced the bottle then closed the drawer. She noticed he was squinting slightly, but up until now she had assumed he just wasn't awake.

"You have a headache again?"

"Yeah," he answered, pleasantly surprised in a way that she had been that observant – especially before six in the morning.

"You've got to go get that checked out."

"Why? Headaches are normal…"

"Not when they last a week," she answered almost snapping at him. She got a 'whatever' response and she just continued getting herself ready to leave, not wanting to start an argument this early in the morning.


At six thirty – already running late – Faith headed for the door. Xander jumped in front of her before she left, like he always was sure to, to say goodbye. She was in a bad mood, or at least a typical mood for her at this time, and he couldn't help but feel responsible for it.

"So you're done early today, right?"

"Yeah, about four."

"We'll go out tonight… have a good time…"

"Whatever," she answered flatly heading for the door.

"Hey," he said, grabbing her arm gently to keep her from leaving on a bad note, "what's the matter?"

"I want you to go get that checked out," she answered, the concern in her tone making it obvious that that same concern was what had put her in that mood. Xander found it cute that she was in a bad mood because she was worried and it was, especially coming from someone like her.

"I'm going today," he assured her. "I already called into work and told them and I'm going to make an appointment for today…" She looked up at him, her eyes softening with each word until finally they were glowing.

"So I'll see you later?"

"Yeah," he answered kissing her tenderly for a long moment before stopping and allowing her to go to work late once again.


"Hey Faith," Charlie greeted as she strutted onto the site.

"Hey you, how's your girl?" she asked as she put her hard hat on.

"She's good, things settled down after I talked to her," he admitted.

"Told you," she added with a smirk. She left Charlie as he reached his station and continued towards her own. "Hey Toni," she greeted with a slight nod.

"Hey baby," he answered with a wave, "better watch your back today, the boss is looking for you."

"Great," she answered with a groan.


Xander walked back into the kitchen hanging up the phone on the wall near the fridge. Willow was still sitting in her seat having moved on from the newspaper to a thick, ancient looking novel – a regular from Giles home collection – with several notebooks and papers now scattered across the table. He looked over at the microwave to see the time, nine thirty.

"Got an hour and a half," he muttered, thinking aloud.

"Faith must be thrilled that you have the later shift," Willow commented with sarcasm. Xander nodded,

"Yeah, it's why she was in such a peachy mood this morning."

"I know, I got the whole warm and cuddly vibe off of her earlier."

"That's Faith all over," he added with a laugh.

"So she likes work and everything?"

"Yeah, things are pretty good," he answered. "I don't think she's really into the having to do something bit but she gets that everyone needs to chip in for the rent and everything plus the work's easy for her."

"I'm sure she'd rather just mug someone weekly to help chip in."

"I'm not going to lie – it was definitely her first offer," he kidded.

"Well hey, you said she gets along with the guys on the job… I'm sure a girl like her could make a pretty penny…"

"Let's not even go there," he answered.

"Why? Does it scare you to have her around all of them?" she asked curiously. She thought it would, not really because of Faith, but she'd dropped Xander off at work a few times and the place was packed with nothing but men.

"I joke about it, but not really," he answered honestly. "I mean, all of the guys think she's gorgeous and wouldn't take a second thought at having a run with her… but Faith has a way of demanding respect wherever she is, if you know what I mean."

"Yeah," she agreed. "So you're really not worried about her at all," she added in a surprised yet happy tone.

"I know her, Wil, and I love her more than anything… she's a great girl and I couldn't trust her more. The guys can be a little sleazy but they're nothing she can't handle."

"Faith's certainly dealt with her share of scummy men."

"Unfortunately," he agreed. "You know, she doesn't usually show it but man it's fucked her up pretty good." Willow nodded in understanding knowing there had been several occasions where through the tough façade she had caught glimpses of Faith's weaknesses, and more so, the causes of them.

"She loves you," Willow answered, knowing it was true.

"I know," he answered with a soft smile.


The day turned out to move pretty quickly for her once it got moving. The only, and she certainly meant *only*, upside to working the early shift was that she was checking out of work around three, leaving her with plenty of time for afternoon fun. She was heading towards punch out when she heard the voice she had been avoiding all day – quite skillfully, I might add.

"Faith?" She continued to walk away, hoping by some vague chance that her boss might think there was actually another female on the site. "Faith!" he called again, but this time more reprimanding.

"Hey!" she greeted jovially as she turned towards him. The fake smile plastered on her face had lost its influence earlier that week and his stern expression remained. "How are things?"


"Oh, come on," she whined – quite similarly to a high school student being brought down to the principal. They both walked into his office and he sat behind his desk. Larry was a firm guy who was a little too into himself for her liking – he tended to speak down to people, or at least he spoke down to her, probably because she was a chick. He was one of those types.

"So, were you on time this morning?" he asked patronizingly.

"Of course," she answered smoothly.

"For the early shift," he added, "you got that message, right? Because that's the one you're on now… it doesn't seem like you've realized that."

"So why not just switch me back to the later shift and we won't be running into this problem…"

"Faith, listen. I like you, I think you're doing a swell job but here's our problem; now I don't say my problem because this involves you too, it's our problem. I have a boss, and as you might be catching onto, you have to answer to a boss when you make mistakes. If my boss looks at the log and sees that I'm holding onto a new employee even though she's late nearly everyday, he's going to ask me why. Honestly, even if I could come up with that answer, he's most likely not going to be paying attention anyhow.

"So then his next question will be to me, well who hired her. And here's where this problem becomes our problem. I'll have to tell the truth-"

"Because you're such an honest civil servant," Faith added snidely. Larry continued without acknowledgement to her comment,

"I'll be forced to answer, 'why sir, it was Mr. Harris, one of the top supervisor's.' And then he's going to ask me why, someone of Harris' reputation would make such a poor judgment call and I might just have to answer that it's because he's fucking you!"

"What the-" Faith defended jumping up from her seat angrily. It hadn't been in a while – more like forever – since she could say her relationship with someone was more than just 'fucking'. She would've taken offense to the comment if it were true but since it wasn't she was furious.

"Now," he said cutting her off sharply, "I don't care how much playing around you do in his pants, it's not going to keep you your job, and more importantly, it's not going to keep his. Shape up," he ended dismissingly. Still standing from before she turned away from him and left the office, muttering more than loud enough for him to overhear,

"Scumbag," on her way out. She walked out of the office angrily and heading towards the punch out again she bumped into Toni.

"Hey baby… what's wrong?" he asked, his tone shifting quickly to extreme concern. There were a few sleazy guys on the site but the majority of them were good guys.

"Nothing," she answered quickly. "Have you seen Xander around today?"

"No, he called in sick I think."

"Yeah," she answered, finally settling herself and getting everything together. "I'll see you tomorrow, Toni."

"Later, babe. Tell the boss I said hey," he added, referring to Xander.


Xander got home parking his car in front of the house. He shifted the car into park and turned the ignition off but sat there staring at the dashboard for several long minutes. He drifted into a sort of daze then regained himself and glanced at his watch. Seeing the time – 5:30 – he jolted himself into gear, knowing Faith had been home for at least an hour and got out of the car. He still wasn't completely out of his daze when he entered the house.

"Hey," Kennedy greeted, hitting him – lightly in her opinion – on the shoulder.

"Hi," he answered dryly. He walked past her and into the kitchen, grabbing two Heineken's out of the fridge before heading into his bedroom. The suite style of the bedrooms made the bathroom share a wall with the bedroom and he could hear the water from the shower just turning off. He sat down in a chair in the corner and opened the beer, leaving the other on the floor next to him for Faith. Sitting still again he drifted right back into his daze – his mind was both racing as well as refusing to form any comprehensible thoughts.

After an amount of time he didn't trust himself to make an accurate measure of, Faith immerged from the bathroom allowing the steam from the shower to pour from the doorframe. He was surprised his jaw didn't drop to the floor as she walked out looking the way she did. She had on a nice pair of dark blue jeans and a white, knit top that tied around the neck and back. Her hair was in its beautiful natural style – rough waves down her back – and her makeup was subtle but enhancing.

"Starting early, huh?" she asked, seeing him with the beer. "I thought we were going to go out," she mentioned with disappointment apparent in her voice. She walked closer to him then cocked her head to the side and looked down at him on the chair, "do you still want to?" He forced himself out of his haze and answered hesitantly,

"Yeah, of course… we should definitely go out. Yeah, that's a good idea," he babbled, as though he hadn't been the one with the idea that morning.

"You okay?" she asked suspiciously.

"Yeah, I'm just a little out of it, that's all…"

"Got me another burn out for a boyfriend, huh?" she joked.

"No," he answered quickly, unable to take that as a joke, especially after his talk with Willow about Faith's past that morning. Realizing by her expression that he had taken her joke the wrong way he covered, "how was work?" She was still suspicious but she answered,

"It was alright… I got there late again though and Larry kind of lost his shit. He made me go to his office and everything," she said, realizing how childish it felt. Xander took the comment at a slightly different angle, knowing a little more about Larry's track record when it came to bringing people into his office,

"He what?" he asked angrily. "I'll kill him – what did he do to you? What the hell happened?"

"Hey," she defended. "Nothing… what the hell's the matter with you today?" she asked, picking up the beer by his feet and opening it.

"Sorry," he answered stiffly. She took a few gulps of the beer before asking,

"Can't tell me you had a bad day today, with the not going to work and all…"

"I did," he answered blankly, seeming like he was going back to his daze even in the middle of conversation. He had told himself to say his day was fine but the words just fell out of his mouth. She smiled, stepping up to him and kissed him lightly on his lips hoping to make his day better. She expected him to hold her or pull her into him or at least kiss her back but the entire lack of any of that pushed her to alarm. She stood back up and asked quickly,

"What's the matter?"

"I went to the doctor today."

"And?" she asked, panic leaking into her throat.

"I don't want to talk to you about this," he answered quickly, trying to retreat from the inevitable conversation.

"Xander, talk to me," she demanded. He pressed his lips tightly together and stared around the room pensively for a few seconds before she pressed again, "Xander!" He looked up at her and saw in her face that he had to tell her but no matter how many times he had run over telling her in the car, doing it while he was looking into her face seemed impossible now.

"I went, and umm… well, they ran a bunch of tests… you know, because of the headaches… and…" he paused for a long moment, "baby, I'm dying." The room was quiet except for the crashing sound, which Faith thought was just her world colliding down on her, but as Xander quickly moved in his seat and grabbed the beer bottle on the ground she realized she had dropped it. He righted the bottle by his feet again then looked up at her in time to see the look of complete shock escaping her. She looked as if he had stolen the air right from her lungs.

"What?" she asked, still in disbelief. He reached his arm towards her, encouraging her to come sit down with him but she stood rigidly shaking her head, "what are you talking about?"

"Well," he stated, as though he were starting over, "I told them about the headaches and they were concerned because of…" he motioned towards where his left eye used to be under the eye-patch, still unable to really say it, "and it turns out when you get your eye gauged out, generally you're supposed to go for regular checkups… who would've thought it, huh?"

"Xander, what did they say," she asked, unable to block from her memory the night in the vineyard with Caleb. She was there and she felt she was almost as responsible as Buffy for what happened – she hated herself for not being able to stop what happened to the Potentials and what had happened to Xander.

"A lot of technical stuff that I didn't really get, but basically that there's an internal infection from the wound that because it's so close to the brain it spread and… well, they said it really doesn't look good. They say that's why I've had the headache's too…"

"So then they just told you that you were dying? I mean we're all dying, right? Everyone who's alive is dying as soon as they're alive, and…" she rambled anxiously.

"Baby, it's okay… it'll be fine," he comforted, standing up enough to grab her hand and pull her a few steps closer. He could see the muscles in her face trying to stifle her sobs,

"How is this okay?" she asked, the tears streaming down her cheeks as she held his hand tightly.

"Well," he answered, trying to lighten his tone as much as possible. "I'm here with the girl I love and you look absolutely gorgeous and you love me and that's as good as it gets, right?"

"Baby, how long… how long did they say?" she asked through her cracked voice.

"Well, they said it's in it's late stages and…" he trailed off, feeling her hand tighten anxiously around his and seeing the tears rolling down her cheeks. He was watching her cry almost openly – this was the same girl he knew would never cry for anything! He was angry at himself for making her so upset… it was the only distinct emotion he could understand and he hated himself for it.

"Baby, tell me," she pleaded feeling nothing but emptiness and pain inside of her. He took a deep breath then looked up at her and answered,

"Seven to ten days," he answered hesitantly. He felt her grip go completely flaccid and he had to clench his teeth tightly together to hold himself together in front of her. He stood up quickly and wrapped his arms tightly around her holding her more for himself than for her. He felt her body shake against his as she tried to hold back to hysteric sobs that were barely beneath the surface. "I'm so sorry," he admitted.

"Why are you sorry?" she asked wiping the tears from her eyes, "you didn't do anything wrong! You didn't do *anything* wrong…"

"Hey," he said, still managing to hold himself together, "let's go out."

"What?" she asked confused that he would even think of that.

"You look awesome and I said we were going to go out tonight and have a good time… I owe you that."

"No, it's fine… I… we…" she said trying to get her head straight enough to talk.

"I want to go out," he assured her. "I want to go have a good time with you."

"If you want to go out then we're going out," she answered, wanting to do anything he wanted to do. She nodded her head, trying desperately to paint a smile on her face, but her tense expression meshed with the streams of tears made the picture far from happy. Xander nodded to her as though her were accepting her attempt at a smile – she was almost angry at him for being better at covering up the way he felt right now. She was supposed to be good at this sort of thing. She was good at being indifferent… why was it that now when he needed her to look fine she couldn't?

She turned to one of the dressers with all of their stray things thrown on top of it and with a mirror mounted on the wall above it. She reached for her watch – a thick strapped, white leather watch Xander had gotten her. She noticed for the first time that her hands were shaking violently and she could barely control them enough to reach for the watch, not to mention attempt to strap it to her wrist, which was a tricky maneuver anyway. She remained facing away from him, trying to control her features without having to worry about looking at him, but the mirror in front of her reflected her panicked features at him.

He looked at her in the mirror and saw how miserable she was and how hard she was trying to be alright for him. He didn't know what to do… He pulled off the tee shirt he had on over an undershirt and grabbed a nice, white, button up, collared shirt hanging on the back of a chair. He put it on and began buttoning it up, unable to keep himself from watching her. She was standing with her back to him but he could see through the mirror that she was struggling with frustration trying to strap the watch to her wrist. Suddenly from out of nowhere she gave up, pulling the watch off of her wrist and throwing it down onto the countertop.

She clenched her fists, closing her eyes, and took a deep breath. Regaining herself somewhat she looked into the mirror and fixed some of her makeup quickly around her eyes. She looked at herself again in the mirror then allowed her eyes to look at Xander behind her in the reflection. He glanced over at her then seeing that she was looking slowly lowered his eyes to concentrate on buttoning his shirt. Seeing him standing there – the one thing in this world that she loved more than anything else – and knowing he was going to be snatched away from her like everything else she had ever cared about, she couldn't hold it together anymore.

The tight control over her breathing was the first thing she lost hold of – it hastened exponentially, leaving her practically gasping for a full breath, but she still tried to stifle it making it so she was barely breathing at all. Next the tears began to flow rapidly from her eyes – this wasn't so different from before but feeling like she was losing control she began to – almost in a panic – wipe away the tears, which reappeared on her cheeks before she had even wiped away the predecessors.

"Baby," he said soothingly as he quickly walked over to her. He pulled her hand away from her face and held it in his trying to figure out the best way to help her.

"I'm sorry," she said backing towards the bathroom, "I just… I just need a minute," she managed to get out. "I just need a minute," she said as more of a request than a statement. He walked with her all the way to the bathroom door, still holding her hand, he stopped her,

"Faith… it's okay… if you need to cry, you can… you don't need to go to the bathroom to cry, I know, it's okay," he said trying to calm her down as best as he could.

"I just… I… I… I need to just… I'm going to really flip out in a second and…"

"Okay," he nodded understandingly, immediately backing off and giving her the space she was subtly demanding. She looked at him painfully for a moment and he added, "I love you." Her face tightened immediately and she held back the sobs in her throat,

"Oh my God," she cried, "I love you so much…" she held her mouth with her hand to hold back to sobs, needing an actual hand to muffle them now. Xander embraced her calmly, holding his face against hers. After a moment she finally released her mouth and wrapped both arms around his neck tightly holding him against her as she calmed herself down, forcing herself to take deep breaths as she held her face cheek to cheek with his. As she calmed her breathing Xander heard the click of the door and turned his eyes towards it. Kennedy peaked her head in cautiously and gaining eye contact with Xander asked softly,

"Is everything okay?" Faith turned towards the voice then back to Xander's shoulder.

"Hey," Xander said raising his hand to her face and pushing the hair back from it, "Why don't you get cleaned up and I'll meet you in the kitchen, okay?" She nodded, it was the only thing she could make herself do, and then they hesitantly parted from one another. Faith walked into the bathroom – not wanting to leave him for a single second anymore but she didn't think she could handle listening to him tell Willow and Kennedy. The bathroom door swung closed behind her and Xander walked over to Kennedy.


Willow sat on the couch next to Kennedy with her knees bent up to her chest and her hands hiding most of her face from view. Almost the polar opposite, Kennedy sat hunched over with her arms lying on her thighs as she listened meticulously to everything Xander was saying. She could hear Willow sniffling from behind her hands; she felt empty and more sad than she'd ever felt before so she could only imagine how Willow felt. Xander kept nodding uncomfortably, trying to maintain his composure.

He found it harder in front of Willow than he did with Faith, which initially he thought strange but once he thought about it it made sense. Willow was the girl he grew up with, the girl who used to beat him up when he stole her Barbie or Fruit Cup. She was the one he went to when he had something to cry about and he was used to crying to her. But on the other hand Faith was the one he was always strong with – he was her macho boyfriend and in that he felt it his duty to stand strongly next to her, but with Willow he felt like he was just supposed to break down crying right next to her.

"Did they give you anything to take?" Kennedy asked, as the gap between speaking got too large for her to remain comfortable.

"Yeah, they gave me some meds for the headaches," he answered with a nod.

"How's Faith?" Willow asked, also remembering their conversation that morning. That morning felt like years before yet their childhood together felt like it had just passed moments ago.

"She's upset." He took a deep breath and added, "I've never seen her cry like that before…"

"She was crying?" Willow asked with both deep pity and sadness. Both Kennedy and Xander nodded and Willow couldn't help but remember a long time ago when she had been in a room with Faith and said to her spitefully, '…you had a hard life… a lot of people say you had some pretty bad breaks, but you know what… boo hoo!' Even now, after what Faith had done with the Mayor, she wished she could take that back. She knew this was something that was beyond the 'bad breaks' category and it was just being thrown on top of the pile for Faith.

"Are you going to call Buffy? And Giles? And…"

"They need to know," he agreed, "but I don't know if I can keep… well, right now I just want to go out and have a good time with Faith… maybe you could…"

"No problem," Kennedy answered understandingly.

"Are you okay?" Willow asked. He nodded,

"Yeah, I'm doing okay right now… way I see it, I've got the easy part." Willow closed her eyes to maintain herself and when she opened them she saw Faith approaching from the bedroom. Xander greeted her with a soft smile which she managed to return.

"You sure you still want to go?" she asked quietly. Kennedy snapped her head in Faith's direction, unsure if that meek voice could possibly belong to her.

"Yeah," Xander assured her, shifting back into his strong façade. "I want to take you out to a nice restaurant and then we'll see where that takes us…"

"Okay," she answered with a soft smile. He stood up and walked over to her, kissing her gently. They said goodbye to Willow and Kennedy and left the house.


"Hey kids," Joey, the restaurant owner greeted as he walked over to Xander and Faith sitting at their usual table towards the back of the room. "Haven't seen my favorite couple in a few weeks, you had me worried," he said jovially.

"Works been busy," Xander answered. Faith gave a soft smile in response,

"You're quiet tonight," Joey commented to Faith.

"Yeah," she answered almost blankly. Joey knew it wasn't like her but he moved on,

"So what can I get you two? Wait, should I go get a new pad of paper?" he joked. Xander motioned politely to Faith letting her go first and she answered,

"Just a small salad tonight…"

"What?" Joey asked grabbing his heart playfully with his hand. She forced a smile and sensing the tension he turned to Xander,

"I'll have the usual," he answered handing him the two menus.

"It'll be right out," he answered politely taking the menus from Xander and heading over to the kitchen.

"You okay?" Xander asked after taking a sip from his beer. She picked her hand up off of her lap and held his on the table and nodded saying softly, almost under her breath,

"I love you."


Willow put the phone back in its cradle and stared down at her hand for several long moments afterwards. Kennedy walked across the kitchen towards her and wrapped her arms around her knowing how upset she must be. She knew how upset she was when Caleb had hurt Xander and now this… an even more painful extension of the same injury. Kennedy held her tightly as she cried hysterically on her shoulder. She had barely been able to hold herself together enough to get out the news to Buffy but now that that painful conversation was over she couldn't do anything but cry.


Xander sat patiently in his seat watching Faith move the pieces of lettuce around on her plate but never lift any of it to her mouth. She had barely made a sound all night and it had given him too much time to think. He had wanted to go out so that they could have a good time like they always did and he wouldn't have to think about anything but her.

He was almost angry at her for being so quiet but he understood it. He knew her; when something bothered her she'd be obnoxious and loud, usually drawing attention from every corner of the room, but he could tell when she was really upset when she didn't say a single word. But as much as he understood it he felt an illogical anger that she had let him think about it so much. He wanted to just pretend nothing was going on but looking at her, she wouldn't let him.

"You going to eat anything?" he asked finally. He hadn't been hungry either but he had made himself eat his meal, trying to deny the fact that he felt any different from a normal day. She shook her head slowly,

"No… I'm not hungry."

"You don't want to eat… you don't want to talk… what do you want me to do?"


"Let's try this, let's have a conversation… let's actually talk to one another tonight…" he said almost patronizingly. She understood his anxiety with the quiet but she really didn't think she was going to be able to talk.

"Xander… I feel like my heart is in my throat," she admitted, immediately gulping down the painful lump.

"Let's just go home," he said quickly, signaling Joey for the check.


Willow was already in her room going to sleep and Kennedy was out patrolling by the time they got home. Both of them had remained quiet on the way home barely acknowledging each other until they had pulled up in front of the house. Xander turned off the car and was about to get out when she reached to grab his hand but he was already out of the car. She took a deep breath and got out of the car following him into the house.

Xander walked straight from the door into their bedroom without a glance around him. Faith took a short detour, walking through the kitchen, and finding what she was looking for. There was a scribbled note on the table from Kennedy,

'Hope you had fun – I'll be out patrolling, only come out if you want to – Ken.' She tossed the paper into the garbage then headed towards her room. Xander had turned the television on and was pretending to care what the show was about when she walked in. He was leaning on the edge of the dresser where Faith had thrown the watch down earlier and began to unbuckle his belt, trying to busy himself as to not have to make eye contact with her.

She walked up to him and without a word she began unbuttoning his shirt. She got to the third button when he said,

"I can get it."

"But…" she defended weakly. She stepped back away from him and turned to face the other direction before running her hands through her hair in frustration. She turned half way back to him and offered firmly, "I could just go… and give you some time alone, if you want."

"Faith," he answered, his tone almost angry with her for offering it.

"Kennedy's out patrolling, I'll just go catch up with her…"

"You can't patrol – you're exhausted!" She shrugged,

"I'm not going to be able to sleep tonight anyway."

"I just don't get why you're being like this! I mean, I just don't get it! I can deal with you being you but I just don't understand you when you're acting like this… you I get, this I don't," he defended.

"Xander, I love you… and… hell, you'd think I'd learn already, right? You'd think I'd eventually get the fact that everything I love, everyone I've ever cared about gets fucking taken away from me! I was supposed to come home today and get ready for you and make you think I looked so wicked that all night, no matter what we went out to do, you wouldn't be able to think of anything except coming home and making love to me.

"But in the real picture, in the life of what I spent years making myself deserve, I get to go to work and listen to my boss almost fire me and talk to me like a whore then come home and hear that the only person that I love and trust and want to be with forever is dying. And all through dinner he's thinking about nothing else but how much I can't pull myself together enough to even be there for him and now that we're back he won't even let me touch him." Her voice was cracking painfully with each word but she managed to keep down the tears – masking over them with a thick layer of anger and rage. Before he could even absorb everything she had said she turned away from him, "I'll see you in the morning." She grabbed her leather jacket off of the foot of the bed and walked out of the bedroom and slammed the door to the apartment behind her.

Day II

"You're home late," Willow yawned as Kennedy walked into their bedroom.

"Sorry," she mumbled.

"Everything go okay? Usually when you're alone you come home earlier…"

"Faith met up with me around one."

"She probably needed to burn off quite a bit of steam," Willow added, sitting up in the bed.

"Oh yeah."

"So she beat some vamps to pulp?"

"No…" Kennedy answered, "we couldn't find any… but she beat the piss out of a wall and some trashcans."

"That bad, huh?"

"Yeah," Kennedy emphasized, "apparently they didn't have so much fun when they went out last night." Willow nodded, unsure of how they could've made the night enjoyable.


Faith walked out of the bathroom and into the bedroom quietly. Xander was awake and he expected her to at least acknowledge him. She walked across the room in front of the bed and over to the closet. She pulled out a loose t-shirt and a pair of cotton shorts. She changed with her back turned to him, which gave him enough of a hint that she definitely wasn't happy with him. With a groan he got out of bed and walked into the bathroom. He didn't think kissing her with morning breath was going to be the best way to put her in a better mood.

He grabbed his toothbrush and as he turned on the water in the sink he glanced down at it and was immediately woken up when he saw the speckles of diluted blood along the sink. He looked around the bathroom quickly and he saw one or two stray drops on the floor but then tossed nonchalantly into the corner with a few other dirty clothes there was a towel with blood on it. He tossed his toothbrush back down and walked out of the bathroom,

"Pretty nasty vamps last night, huh?"


"You're pretty torn up," he added, pointing towards her hands with his gaze.

"Yeah," she said pulling her hands behind her back in as subtle as a way as possible.

"So you were really having down and dirty sex with some guy you met up with," he joked.

"Would've rather been having down and dirty sex with you but it wasn't in the cards last night," she muttered. She looked up at him and saw that he was trying to find the right words for what he wanted to say so she cut him off quickly, "I'm going to go work out."

"You just got home," he answered quickly, knowing it was as far as he could go with a comment about her not being home all night. "And… you're not going to go to work?"

"You are?" she asked angrily.

"Yeah, Faith, I'm not just going to sit at home and cry for a week!"

"I was thinking more along the lines of sitting at home with me," she answered angrily.


"Hey, don't listen to me," she answered holding her hands up in exasperation, "you're talking to the chick who dropped out of school because I thought life was too short, and hell, it's not like I even had a seven day limit…" Her tone was at the opposite spectrum of where it laid the night before – she was defensive and indifferent, not to mention a little crabby.

"I'm just going in to give all the guys a heads up…"

"Watch Larry be pissed off because you're not giving them a two week notice," she answered sardonically. Xander couldn't help but smirk.

"So you're not going in?"

"Drop out because life's too short… you do the math," she snapped, "cause apparently I never learned how." She turned towards the door and he added,

"Buffy's coming by a little later."

"Maybe I should rethink that work plan," she commented sarcastically.

"Faith…" he said slightly disappointed that the two of them didn't get along better.

"What?" she snapped.

"I'll be home in a little while."

"Have fun," she answered as she walked out of the room.


Kennedy answered the door for Buffy, surprised to see the look on her face. It looked like she probably had gotten about as much sleep as everyone else – zero. Kennedy was on her way out to meet up with Giles at headquarters so she told Buffy that Xander still wasn't back and that Faith was in the workout room. Buffy thanked her then closed the door behind her. She poured a glass of water in the kitchen giving herself a minute to compose herself before going in to see Faith.

She walked into the small workout room and saw Faith punching and kicking the suspended punching bag viciously. In only took Faith about five seconds to realize Buffy was there and she slowly decelerated her punches until she was slow enough to grab the bag to regain her balance.

"Since when did you become a wimp?" Buffy asked playfully.

"What?" Faith snapped ferociously. She immediately thought Buffy was making a jab at her for being upset about Xander. Buffy was taken aback for a few seconds, not expecting her to react the way she did.

"You've got your hands wrapped up," she answered calmly, offering forth a smile. "You used to make fun of me for wrapping mine." Without a word, or worse yet, a softening of her expression, Faith began to unwrap her hands angrily tossing the wrappings onto the ground by Buffy's feet.

"I fucked 'em up bad last night," she said rubbing her knuckles carefully.

"Yeah," Buffy answered seeing the deep scrapes and cuts on her hands. "Well, I'm glad to see you're not into hurting yourself with this whole Xander thing," she added sarcastically. "It's good that you wrapped them," she added, this time without sarcasm but more with concern, "you'd really be in pain if you were punching without them wrapped…" she babbled.

"I would but Xander doesn't like them all fucked up like that," Faith answered flatly. Buffy nodded, trying to role with the punches. She would've been stupid to not expect this kind of attitude from Faith – it was all she had thought of the whole way over here.

"I came to see Xander but I came to see you too… Wil said you were pretty upset."

"No, I'm fucking happy," she answered sarcastically before a look of disgust. Buffy was going to have to try much harder than that to get in.

"Faith, I-"

"Please, for the love of God, B, spare me the Buffy wisdom." She stopped Buffy in her tracks and her train of thought was also lost.

"You still deal with things just like you used to…"

"That's me, good ol' predictable Faith," she answered sarcastically.


"You know, B, you don't have to sit in here and have me rip you apart and frankly just piss me off, you're welcome to sit in the living room till Xander gets home."

"Okay… I just wanted to make sure you're okay."

"I'm not the one dropping dead – I'm five by five."

"It probably feels that way though…"

"It's a familiar feeling," she answered nonchalantly.

"Faith, you know you can't just deal with it this way, right?"

"So really you just came in here to piss me off and try and tell me how I should deal with the fact that Xander's dying?"

"It's really hard, Faith, and-"

"You have no idea, so don't even front like you do."

"Faith, I do have an idea!" Buffy yelled, finally losing patience. Her tone was immediately filled with tears, even before her face was. Her expression was filled with tension and that sense of desperation as if she needed to win belief out of whom ever she was talking to. "And you know what, maybe you've got it easier than the rest of us. You may be sleeping with him but you haven't known him as long as us and-"

"It's your fucking fault he's dying!" she screamed angrily, "and you've done nothing but take things I care about away from me, so why don't you go into the living room and wait for him to get home," she suggested strongly.

"I've taken away from you!?" Buffy yelled angrily. Xander had just gotten home and hearing the yelling he ran over to the room.

"Hey!" he called, jumping into the room mixing his tone with part mediation but part greeting so that they didn't think he was just making the assumption they were fighting. He was thankful seeing Buffy on her way to getting really angry but even though Faith already looked like she was there, she was holding herself a few paces apart from her. He knew both Slayer's better than either of them realized and just walking in and seeing the posture and stances of both of them, he could tell what had gone on and where it would have gone had he not intervened.


Xander walked into the bedroom as soon as Buffy had gone. He hated seeing the people around him so broken and weak… some people had heroes on television that they admire and love watching them be strong for that hour time slot. His heroes lived with and around him and he got to watch them be strong twenty-four seven. But that meant that he also had to watch them – on that rare occasion – be not so strong, and it made him feel a crumbling feeling inside, which he hated. His idols, the people he admired, were the people he saw everyday saving lives at the risk of their own.

Faith was sitting on the bed with her knees drawn up to her chest and her arms wrapped around them watching the T.V. She had partially excused herself from the living room when Xander was going to talk to Buffy, but she had also been somewhat told, which was the part that she chose to ignore. He couldn't help but liken her to a child who had been sent to their room as she sat on the bed with a bitter expression. She knew it was for the best for her to not be around but she also didn't like being told the things she already knew.

"Hey," he said softly as he closed the door behind him. She turned her attention away from the television and looked over at him. "Feeling a little bit better?" he asked caringly. She pulled her hands slowly down and under her seat hoping to shield them from his view without him noticing. Her attempt was naturally unsuccessful and he walked over to the bed and sat next to her. He slid his hand under butt and hand and slid it out gently. The cuts had mostly closed but there was still slight opening and scrapes along the skin where they were. He analyzed her hand for another moment before she pulled it away and replaced under her,

"Sorry," she muttered apologetically. She knew how much he hated when she hurt herself in a fight but worse yet when she did so just take out her emotions physically which unfortunately happened fairly often. He knew it was her way of dealing with things but just because he understood it didn't mean he liked it. He leaned towards her and kissed her lovingly on the side of her forehead and wrapped his arms around her back and legs, which were still held tightly together.

"I love you," she told him as she leaned on his chest lovingly.

"Is it just me or have you been telling me that a lot lately?" he asked with a smile. She nudge him playfully with her elbow and he added, "you know, I should have tried this dying thing eighteen months ago when I was trying to get you."

"It's not like you tried very hard…"

"Hey," he defended with a laugh, "you're pretty difficult when you're smashed," he recalled.

"Whatever," she teased.

"Let's see… how exactly did that night go?"

"I can tell you up until about the first hour and then the next morning, the middle, unimportant details I've kind of forgotten about," she joked.

"Right, those unimportant details of me picking you up off of the barstool and carrying you home."

"I remember you dropping me," she interpolated quickly.

"You were flopping around like a fish in a tank of beer!"

"They don't really flop," she added guiltily, remembering the time she had done that.

"Well, I picked you up off the floor pretty darn quick."

"That floor was sticky," she commented, like most bars were.

"And I got you off of it right away," he answered proudly. "Then I somehow managed to get your rowdy self back home… even if it did take me over an hour." He remembered that long walk home. The headquarter location at the time, where she had still been staying with Giles and a couple of the other girls, was only about seven blocks away but between her weaving and carrying on, it had taken far longer than expected. He had tried the entire time to convince her to just be carried but that led to several arguments and anecdotal tales from the both of them. Finally, when they had gotten within a block of the house she was too consumed with how sick she was beginning to feel and he was able to pick her up and carry her the rest of the way.

"You know you're the first guy who's ever taken me home and not expected anything… I mean, you didn't even try," she added, "how the hell can you resist me?"

"I know, I'm extraordinary but I've got to admit, the constant vomiting helped a little."

"Just a little bit," she teased. He smiled and she added reminiscently, "You want to know what I remember the most, though?"


"I remember how you helped me walk from the bathroom to my bed and then went and grabbed a cold towel… I held it for you when you put my hair back and then you took it and wiped my face with it to help me feel better. But you know what I really remember? I remember looking up at you and hoping you'd never leave." She paused, realizing where her story had brought her against her intent. She felt a wave of despondency run through her as she realized she was going to lose him – too soon.

He saw the happiness melt from her face and he stroked her cheek gently.

"Do you remember what happened after that?" he asked with a soft smile.

"You tried to go sit in a chair and I told you to lie down with me but you didn't want to. You said you were fine on the chair…"

"Then you tried to convince me you weren't drunk anymore," he laughed, "meanwhile you smelled more of liquor than the entire bar. But then you told me that you didn't want anything except for me to lie with you… so I did."

"Been stuck on you ever since," she teased. He kissed the side of her forehead again and she added, "Xander, I love you… I always will."

"I love you too," he answered but he was worried about the second half of her phrase. "Faith, you're twenty-two… I want you to be with someone else."

"What?" she asked, pulling away from his hold quickly.

"That came out wrong," he admitted. "I just don't want you do be alone and-"

"I told you – I don't want to be with anybody else. You don't want that anymore?"

"Faith, I just… now I don't because I know I'm not going to be there to make you happy anymore. I can't be."

"Well…" she answered angrily but in an anxious and unsure way, "I still don't need anybody else, I don't want to be with anybody else… I don't need to be… I'm yours," she explained.

"You're twenty-two years old!" he emphasized.

"In Slayer years that's like… that's like what, eighty or something," she defended. He could tell by her tone that she was quickly reaching the point in the conversation where she wasn't going to be able to stay together about the whole thing.

"Listen, I'm-"

"Whatever," she said cutting him off, "I'm going to go work out again," she added getting up off of the bed.

"This whole thing gets to you – I know… but… going and beating up a bean bag isn't going to make it better…"

"And walking around acting like nothing isn't going to just make it disappear!"


"You deal with this your way and I'm going to deal with this mine… obviously dealing with it together isn't in your deck so I guess I can just take it out of mine."

"You're not dealing with it! You beat up things and then – like last night – you just want to have a random roll in the sheets, and I know you're only doing that because you want to forget about everything. You do that because you want to just forget what's going on and… and, I don't know why you do it!"

"Listen, why don't you save your psychoanalyst voice for when you're getting paid two-fifty an hour," she mocked, "and right now I'm broke, as you know, and hey, I probably lost my job today too, wanting to spend the time I had left with you! And as far as the random screw you're so convinced I need, why don't I just give Larry up a call? Maybe I'll save my job after all."

"You know, could you not give me the image of you fucking Larry, please?"

"Did it ever occur to you that the random fuck you're talking about from last night was me wanting to be with you? Did you ever think that I just wanted to be close to you? It's been a year and a half and you're going to call me a slut for wanting to be with you?"

"Did it ever occur to you that I'm the one dying here, Faith?"

The room fell completely silent – Faith was shocked by the reprimand she had received and Xander immediately regretted saying it. They both stood there without moving for several long moments in silence. Faith finally made the first move and walked over to the closet and grabbed a zip up sweatshirt.

"Where are you going?" She shrugged,

"I don't know."


"So how are they?" Giles asked Buffy solemnly. "I've seen both Willow and Kennedy this afternoon but I've yet to see Xander… or Faith for that matter," he added realizing how huge the impact was going to be on the both of them.

"Xander's actually doing okay," she answered. She looked as though she had been crying, but unlike Faith she seemed to have been able to let out all of her tears and was now capable of handling the situation. "He's pretty solid with the whole thing… but then again, Xander always seems to be pretty solid no matter what we throw at him." Giles nodded,

"And Faith?"

"Well, let's see… if Xander's a solid than Faith's a gas… an unstable gas!" With a glare from Giles she admitted, "so we got in a little fight while I was over there… simply put and void of most insults, she's bugging."

"I'm sure," Giles answered pensively. He had been so preoccupied with Xander he hadn't even thought into how Faith would be taking the whole thing, but now that he did he was becoming increasingly concerned. To his knowledge, the last person Faith had lost of such important magnitude was the Mayor and after that she was extremely violent towards Buffy and then she had moved on to Los Angeles and caused extensive damage, including the torture of Wesley, then she had become suicidal, begging Angel to take her life. If he dared to say also, he felt that her connection with Xander was not only a healthier one but a stronger one as well.

He knew she had come a long way since Mayor Wilkin's and he knew her reaction wouldn't be directed nearly in the same way as it was for him but the magnitude behind her actual reaction, whatever the form, would inevitably be the same. Needless to say, he was concerned.

"So really, how is she?" Giles asked again.

"Well, I went in to see her and she was beating the crap out of a punching bag and then she unwrapped her hands and they might as well have been put through a shredder with the cuts on them… so basically it was the typical, mature, Faith-ness. She's upset so she acts angry and violent, she's sad so she acts angry and violent, she's hurt so she acts angry and violent… need I go on?"

"You realize how dangerous it could end up being if she remains so closed and in denial, don't you, Buffy?"

"Listen, I was good – she was being Faith and all in my face and attitude-ish and I held it together pretty well… but you know if anyone can make me mad it's her, and so she did and then it all kind of went down hill from there. Did you know that she's blaming this on me?"

"Yes, quite," he answered as though he had already assumed so.

"What? You think so too?" she asked defensively.

"No, of course not, but I had assumed she might blame you. Buffy, I know this is going to be very hard on everyone involved, but I need you to understand something. As difficult as she may be in the next weeks, it's all because of what she's been through and how much this loss is going to mean to her. I mean, none of us even know how deep that's going to run – when someone loses someone close to them they not only grieve for that person but they grieve for everyone they've already lost. She's going to be thinking of Mayor Wilkins, her mother, her first Watcher, I mean, who knows how many important people she's lost…

"But one thing is important for you to understand. You need to be there for her, Buffy. You two may both hate and despise it, but it's a fact that both of you need each other and as you said, no one can make you as angry as Faith can but I've got to tell you, no one can make you as happy as she can either! You forget, I was around when the two of you were at your closest and the chemistry between you was amazing – use that to both of your advantages and help her through this… she's tried so hard to win back your approval over the past years. Buffy, take this time to accept it and help her through this."


Xander had stayed standing where she left him as she walked out but after a couple minutes of being left in deep thought he charged himself forward and ran from the bedroom and out towards her car on the street in front of the house. He was pleasantly surprised that he hadn't missed her. To his advantage she was serious when she told him she didn't know where she was going and presently she was trying to decide. He jogged over to the driver's door and she glanced over at him – trying to mask any emotions towards him that she had. He took the look as admission and opened the door and squatted down next to the car so they were about at the same height.

"What do you want?" she asked curtly.

"Listen," he said taking one of her hands off of the wheel and putting in his. "I know that… well, physically is a way that you're comfortable both showing and being shown… affection. And I have no excuse," he admitted with a shrug, "I've known you long enough to know that right about now you probably feel like I don't care about you since I haven't been with you in a while… but, Faith, you have to know how much I really love you. I know I'm trying not to show it but… this whole thing is really hard for me."

He watched her face immediately soften sympathetically. She was surprised that he had been able to figure out how emotionally important it was for her to have their relationship be on some physical plane. He understood that it was really the only time she openly showed how much she loved him and she really accepted it as a way for him to show her the way he felt. The fact that they exchanged, 'I love you' s regularly now had to be some sort of monumental height.

Sex had always been important to their relationship. As soon as they were really thinking of themselves as a couple, or at least a 'thing' – as Faith put it – it was easy for Xander to realize how important the sex was. If for some reason they missed two days in a row in the beginning, it was immediately obvious how put off she was and how insecure she immediately became. It came too with it's own setbacks; he thought himself fairly aware of Faith's past after being with her his first time and having such a clear awakening to the 'importance' she held it with. But he had realized – as he shared with Willow – how much it had actually fucked with her.

There were certain things that would just set her off, or really more shut her down. He tried to be really romantic one night, which had already made her uncomfortable, and then when he was making love to her he kept everything really slow and purposeful, looking into her eyes the whole time and kissing her gently. Well, that night's romanticism had gotten shot to hell when she struggled to tell him to get off of her then she got up and got dressed and when he had gone to try and see what was wrong he was concerned with how violently she was shaking.

Still squatting next to the drivers door he stood up half way and kissed her, still holding her hand lovingly. He reached his other hand over to the ignition and turned the car off and took out the key. He kissed her again unbuckled her seat belt, which he was shocked she was actually wearing.

"Come on," he urged. She got out of the car and stood looking at him as he closed the car door and turned back to her. He grinned at her as she glanced down at the ground shyly – for someone who was such an exhibitionist she was certainly not comfortable with PDA's. He kissed the corner of her mouth so he could feel the sides raise as she smiled. He walked behind her with his arms wrapped around her waist and continued to kiss her neck and cheek as she walked into the house. She turned and locked the apartment door behind them and when she turned back around to face him he grabbed her waist and picked her up.

She kissed him passionately as they stumbled towards their bedroom. She had his shirt unbuttoned and him sufficiently tangled in it as they were through their door. She couldn't help but laugh at him as he struggled to free himself.

"You stuck?" she teased. He stopped trying to free himself, completely distracted by her. She flashed him a devilish grin then slowly began to unbutton her shirt. "That's too bad," she teased further as she dropped her shirt to the ground. She looked over at him slowly, distracting his eyes from her body and onto her face until he heard the faint dropping noise of her shorts unto the floor. He couldn't help but stare at her standing there in a matching set of red underwear. She touched his lips so lightly if he wasn't staring at her he wouldn't be sure if she kissed him or if a hot breeze had just run over his lips.

He had managed to free himself several moments earlier but had been far too distracted to even tell his brain to drop the shirt to the ground. He had been with her for a year and a half and she seemed more gorgeous every time he looked at her. He had been with pretty woman before – hell, he'd been with gorgeous woman – but none of them held the sexiness that she did. Everything about her was sexy; there wasn't a moment in any day when someone couldn't recognize that. He had been in a meeting with Buffy and Faith a while back when he realized that that was what separated the two of them, at least for him. He found them both incredibly attractive, but to him, the elusive sensuality that Faith had was what brought her out so far above Buffy.

"You're so beautiful," he mumbled. He dropped his shirt to the ground them held her hips in his hands. She pressed her body against his bare chest and kissed his lips,

"I love you," she whispered to him. Her tone upset him though – it was clear that she had just reminded herself that she was going to lose him. It was so hard for her to not run away from the way she felt about him and shut her feelings out when she knew she was losing him, but what they had seemed to go beyond what she could deny anymore. It was a subtle sign in her voice but it hurt him. He touched her cheek with his hand and kissed her again.

"I love you too."


Larry did his usual rounds on the construction site to make sure everyone wasn't just sitting around eating lunch when they should be working double time to make up for their lack of it on this new project. They had promised to have the job finished on a date that even in the best conditions would be hard to meet. He walked down a small dirt mound and was greeted by several workers sitting down in a circular pattern just talking when they should've been working.

"What the hell is going on?" he growled. They all jumped to their feet like children caught playing with matches.

"Mr. Owens, how are you?" Jimmy asked quickly.

"I'm shitty, actually," he snapped, "and you want to know why? Because I have a useless crew of workers who don't do shit!"

"Sir, we couldn't-" one worker began before the one next to him jabbed him in the side sharply. He immediately shut his mouth but not before Larry's suspicions were heightened.

"What were you going to say?"

"Me, Sir?"

"Yes, you, what were you saying? Charlie, leave him alone, I want to know what he was going to say." Charlie stepped aside and Larry stepped up to him with an offensive stance. The young worker gave a guilty and apologetic glance at Charlie then answered,

"Sir, I was just saying that we don't have anything we can do."

"And why is that?" Larry asked, picking up his usual patronizing tone.

"Well, sir," he hesitated, "because… well, the way the shift works is that the station before us preps the area and then we build and modify on it."

"And why isn't the shift working then?"

"The station…" he covered, "isn't here." Larry turned angrily towards Charlie,

"Who's station is it?"

"Faith's, Sir," he answered begrudgingly.

"Faith didn't show up?" The downward glances of the entire ground answered his question. "She's finished!" he stated angrily.

"You can't do that," Charlie answered jumping to her defense.

"And why not?"

"Because of what's going on with Xan- Mr. Harris, of course she didn't come in."

"Unless he's dropping dead I don't care what the situation is…"

"He is, Sir," Charlie answered angrily.

"What?" Larry asked in shock, then regaining himself shot, "well, I don't care. She should've called in – there's no special treatment for the workers fucking administration!"


He held her close to him – her body still trembling slightly – and he stroked her arm affectionately. Looking deeply into her face, searching for some sort of admission or weakness, he saw her biting anxiously at her lower lip. It was a normal gesture for her, she did it often, but it caught his attention. He kissed her lips, trying to distract her from the nervous habit, but she quickly resumed afterward.

"You okay?"

"Yeah," she answered unconvincingly. He continued stroking her shoulder and arm, tracing the lines of her tattoo with care. Finally she added, "so many things could be different."

"You can't think that way… besides, if things were different we might not be together." She thought that over for a second then answered,

"I could just be keeping you from being happier with someone else… maybe it's bad that things worked out this way… I mean, yeah it's great for me, but you're probably missing out and-"

"Is everything okay? Was that just like terrible sex for you or something, because usually you're after-sex happy doesn't wear off for at least an hour… I mean, I was trying – what didn't you like?" he snapped.

"Stop it…" she reprimanded.

"What? I'm just asking what I did wrong, I'm not doubting our entire relationship and wishing it never happened," he answered sardonically.

"I didn't say that!"

"Generally that's not one of those things you have to say outright but actually you went ahead and said it exactly." He sat up and swung his legs over the side of the bed, ready to get up but he felt her hand quickly grip his arm,

"Don't… I'm sorry… I just…" He glanced over his shoulder back at her not just surprised by her action but really by her tone. She looked submissively up at him then kissed his arm where she had grabbed him to stay.

"Don't do that," he answered angrily. She backed off immediately knowing exactly what he was talking about – he hated when she slipped into that forced, submissive role that so many men had taught her to do when she needed something. It so wasn't what she was about or how she was, which was why it made him so angry. He hated that someone so strong felt that they needed to slip into that in order to convey their feelings. He knew it was a sign of insecurity and desperation on her part but he hated it; he hated that there were still times when she felt insecure and desperate around him.

She pulled the sheet around her upper body and sat up in the bed on the other side from where his legs were still hanging off. He looked over at her and could see her mind working painfully over everything flying through it. He stood, grabbing a pair of boxers off of the ground and sliding them on. He heard her move so he turned to face her and saw that she had only pulled her knees up to her chest under the sheet and was now hugging her legs tightly. It amazed him that she could make such a picture of innocence in its epitome. He found himself staring, almost in amazement at her, as though she were actually a picture, until he saw her features change almost in an instant. He walked over to her side of the bed quickly and sat by her feet,

"Baby, what's wrong?" He saw it in her face how she went from just thinking to looking like she had lost everything.

"I wish I didn't love you," she answered firmly. He was taken aback for a moment but then as she continued he understood what she meant. "I wish we weren't together. I wish I didn't care about you. I wish I hated you like everyone else. I wish you never made love to me. I wish you never kissed me. I wish everything was just different! I wish you weren't fucking sick! And I wish you weren't leaving me and I wish it didn't hurt this way… I wish I didn't care."

He sat next to her on the bed and pulled her into his lap holding her tightly. She wasn't crying – he guessed because her eyes were so unused to crying that they were completely stocked out of tears – but she had her jaw tightly clenched and her arms still tightly bound around her legs. He held her tightly against him with one hand on her face holding it against his.

"I wish this didn't hurt you so much," he answered kissing her forehead as he rocked her slowly back and forth to soothe her.


"Hey!" Willow greeted with a forced smile. She was glad they were there but needless to say, the situation didn't seem really worth smiling about. The gang had decided to all meet up for dinner at the apartment and put in some quality together time – since they all realized just how soon there wasn't going to be everyone to be together with anymore.

"Hello," Giles answered as he walked in the door followed by Buffy and Dawn. He handed Willow a covered dish,

"What's this for?"

"We figured it's bad enough we're invading your place so we brought some grub," Buffy answered with a smile.

"Who cooked it?" Kennedy asked playfully.

"Me and Giles," Dawn answered, "Buffy wasn't anywhere near the kitchen."

"Oh good," Kennedy answered.

"Very funny," Buffy answered. She turned to Willow and Giles and saw that they too were relieved as they gave her playful glances.

"Hey guys!" Xander greeted happily from the kitchen. He seemed to be in brighter spirits than anyone else, which put smiles on everyone else's faces right away. It reminded them all very quickly that Xander had always had that role and it was nice to see that he was holding on to it.

They all greeted him in kind and in a blink everyone was weaving in and out of the kitchen and dining room.

"Do you need anything else?" Kennedy asked Xander when everyone but her was occupied with a job of their own.

"Everything's pretty much set… do you think you could go grab Faith? She should really spend some time with everyone… being happy." Kennedy nodded understandingly then walked out of the kitchen and over to their bedroom. She knocked and asked,

"Can I come in?"

"Yeah." She walked in, closing the door partially behind her. Faith was standing by the window smoking a cigarette. "I'll be out in a minute," she stated holding up the last half of the cigarette as a means of telling time.

"Okay," Kennedy answered, acknowledging that she had said that so she'd just leave, so she walked in further and plopped down confidently on the bed bouncing up and down a few times before settling down quietly on it. "Got good bounce," she commented with a smirk. She expected to at least get a smile out of that one but Faith just exhaled a long stream of smoke out of the window and quickly filled her lungs up with it again.

"I'll be out in a minute," she repeated, attempting again to rid herself of the unwanted company.

"Good… everyone's here," she answered remaining seated on the bed trying to maintain her overwhelmingly positive attitude. She looked over at Faith, someone who no matter what the situation, she found something about her worth idolization, but tonight she just looked… not right. There was one thing Kennedy thought of Faith the first time she'd ever met her – the only person that could kick that girls ass was herself. And it seemed like that had always held true and tonight it looked like she had given herself a royal ass kicking.

"You look… you're eyes look," Kennedy began, feeling uncomfortable with the prolonged silence. Then she realized midway through her sentence that her eyes looked puffy because she had been crying. "You look tired," she stated, trying to conceal what she had discovered, even if it wasn't a difficult discovery. She was shocked by the reaction she got. Faith slammed her hand holding the cigarette into the window sill,

"Whatever," she yelled throwing the cigarette out of the window. She walked past the bed and over to the bathroom and turned the water on in the sink. Kennedy got off of the bed and walked over to the bathroom and leaned against the doorframe looking in at Faith.

"Hey, you look fine… since when did you become so concerned with what you look like?"

"Kennedy! I just…" she stopped herself from going off and took a breath, "Ken, just go and… I'll be out in a minute."

"You've said that three times in the last five so…"

"What the hell do you want from me?"

"I kind of just want you to come out and say hi to everyone." Faith took a deep breath trying to ease her frustration. She cupped her hands under the water then splashed it over her face. She wiped her face with a towel then walked back into the room and grabbed one of Xander's sweatshirts off of the bed. She put it on and it was almost longer than the blue and green plaid boxer shorts she was wearing. She lit another cigarette then walked out of the room.

She had hoped to be able to find a quiet place to sit down without having to talk to anyone for a few minutes but as soon as she exited the bedroom she was within two strides of Giles who had just headed towards the bedroom to come see her. He had been extremely concerned with her wellbeing and the fact that she had been absent thus far only encouraged his fear.

"Faith, hello."

"Hey, G-man," she greeted, forcing a smile she always found for him. She ran her left hand through her hair, pulling it away from her face and out from under the sweatshirt. "How's it hanging?"

"Well," he answered, trying to balance his cool factor with his English-ness. He had to admit his fears certainly weren't eased by seeing her. Honestly, she looked absolutely terrible. Her face was ghost pale and her eyes had heavy bags underneath them and they were puffy. Her hair wasn't done in any sense of the word – it was a curly mess that luckily for her still seemed to fall into the right place. She was wearing a pair of pajama shorts that were very short, he couldn't help but notice – only making it easier to see that she had lost even more weight and muscle - and a huge sweatshirt that would cover the shorts if she didn't have it slung up on one side over her hip. The messy look mightn't have worried him except that it certainly wasn't cold enough for anything other than a tee-shirt outside, and inside it was even warmer. Her clothes and her face made it clear to him that she was suffering physically, and for a Slayer, that was a hard thing to do.

"How are you?" he forced himself to ask even after he had already decided on his own answer.

"You know me," she answered with a shrug. She motioned to walk away and he quickly asked,

"Are you smoking more?"


"I haven't seen you smoke in a while… are you smoking more?" he asked. She knew – since he voiced it quite often – that he hated that she smoked.

"I don't know," she answered with a shrug.

"Faith, do-"

"Giles, I'm fine," she snapped. "Excuse me," she muttered, walking past him. Kennedy was still standing by the bedroom door and she held her hands up, gesturing that she understood how he felt speaking to the brick wall with an attitude. Giles would've stayed with Kennedy to 'compare notes' but he didn't want to miss a stride so he struck off in the same direction as she had. She walked towards the kitchen then immediately stepped to the side to stay out of everyone's way who were carrying plates of food to the dining room.

The kitchen was soon vacant except for her and Xander and she walked over to him by the stove and placed her arms around his waist. She rested her head on his shoulder until he was finished with what he was doing then, turning off the stove, he turned to her and kissed her dropping his hands down to her hips. He held her close to him for several long moments while he looked down at her then he kissed her softly again.

"You feeling okay?" she asked, leaning her head on his shoulder again.

"I'm good," he answered, kissing her forehead.

"Xander, do you need me to-" Buffy asked as she walked through the door. She stopped short, unsure really why, but she felt like she had walked in on something when they were really just standing next to each other with his arm around her. She didn't care if it had been almost two years – she didn't think she'd ever get used to seeing the two of them so intimate, especially after knowing Faith's 'policy' on getting intimate. Xander wanted to laugh at her silliness but he couldn't when he felt Faith react the same way. He held on to her, refusing to listen to her silent protest, and answered Buffy as though everything was normal,

"I can get the rest, thanks, Buff."

"Okay…" she answered, hastily exiting the kitchen, even after she realized how silly she was being.

"Why do you do that?" he asked giving her a small squeeze around her waist with his arm.

"Do what?" she asked glancing up at him.

"I don't know… you just act like being with me is a crime."

"It's just a reflex," she muttered, trying to mask her embarrassment.

"And I was under the impression that you were a swank," he joked.

"I like to play," she agreed, "but… I don't know… she can make me feel guilty for drinking a glass of water."

"She shouldn't… she's not exactly preaching from a clean platform anymore either."

"I know… she's still better than me though."

"Depends what you're looking for," he joked, squeezing her again.


Everyone found their seats at the table excited to finally be eating. It had been a long and stressful day for everyone there and it was nice to finally be able to sit down. The only two missing from the table were Xander and Faith; everyone was talking amongst themselves until the two of them walked in from the kitchen. The talking ceased as everyone absorbed the image into their minds of the two of them standing side by side so simply and close. Some were quiet out of happiness and a slight amazement at how whole the picture of the two of them was while others were quiet out of shock and somewhat disapproval.

"Thank God, I'm starved!" Kennedy finally said, once again uncomfortable with the silence in the room. Giles was at the head of the table with Xander at this left, followed by Faith, then Kennedy and Willow who shared the other end of the table across from Giles, with Buffy and Dawn finishing.

"So how's everything at your new job?" Dawn asked Faith excitedly. She opened her mouth to answer but then no words came out as she realized she was probably without that new job at this point. She mustered up a shrug and a smile and Dawn pressed, "What do you mean?"

"I don't know if I still have the job," she finally answered.

"Larry fired you for not coming in?" Xander asked turning to her.


"What do you mean, probably. What did he say?" he waited a moment and seeing the only answer he was going to get was the blank expression with raised eyebrows he sighed, "you didn't even call in, did you?"

"No," she answered nonchalantly. He sighed again, this time with more frustration.

"So how have you been feeling?" Giles asked.

"Me?" Xander asked, as though there were anyone else at a health risk at the table. "I've felt better… but you know, it could be worse." His tone surprised Faith with it's seriousness in which he answered the question. Whenever she had asked she had received a small squeeze or smile followed by a reassuring 'fine'.

"I did a little research on the topic… you've been experiencing headaches am I right?"


"They've yet to escalate, correct?"

"Yeah, they're not… they're still okay on… on minimal…" he began to hesitate with the conversation knowing emotions would soon be aroused over the subject. The headaches were bound to worsen increasingly as the days went on but luckily they hadn't gotten out of control as of yet. He was still only on minimal medication for the pain but the doctor had prepared him and given him more than enough medication for when they became unbearable and he needed to basically just take them every hour.

Buffy got up from the table going into the kitchen for a drink. She didn't want to think of Xander being in pain, especially from an intangible foe whom she couldn't rid him of. Giles saw her get up and decided to shift the conversation where he could.

"Robin told us to be sure to say hello for him. He's sorry he had to miss dinner but he was… preoccupied," Giles added, realizing perhaps his shift in conversation wasn't for the best. Things between Robin and Xander had been fairly sticky over Faith. It wasn't something that Giles really thought about which was why he didn't realize it would be a bad thing to bring up but when the tension rose slightly in the room – mostly from others anticipating there being tension from Faith and Xander – he was reminded.

"Do you want something to drink?" Faith asked Xander.

"No thanks," he answered with a small smile.

"Okay," she answered as she stood and walked towards the kitchen.

The tension between Xander and Wood was unexpected. Both seemed to be very amiable gentlemen but both were very stubborn at the same time. Wood felt he had a claim to Faith, or at least at trying to get Faith in a permanent sort of way. He continued with his efforts even as Faith and Xander were obviously becoming an item. It was understandable from both sides – Xander was pissed because he was with Faith and there was another guy trying to get her for himself but as can be imagined, Faith and Xander weren't ones to publicize themselves as a couple past the time when it was obvious to everyone. Still to this day they didn't introduce themselves as such or even act very much like it around others.


Faith walked into the kitchen then realized her error when she saw Buffy. She grabbed at a box of cigarettes on the nearby counter and quickly lit a stoke. Buffy turned to her, hearing the clicking of the lighter.

"Do you guys have diet soda?" Faith shrugged,

"Maybe in the back." She nodded then began her search,

"Do you want anything?"

"Yeah, pass me a beer."

"Light?" she asked holding up a Coors Light.

"Fuck no," Faith answered quickly. Buffy smiled and replaced it quickly with a Corona. Buffy handed it to her and got a nod of thanks.

"You're handling this whole thing really well…" Buffy began quietly, needing something to fill the stagnant silence between them. Faith continued smoking her cigarette without the slightest acknowledgement. "I mean… I think I would've started freaking out or something," she continued, wanting desperately to sound understanding and caring.

"Yeah, I think you freaking out last time resulted in a dagger through my gut," she answered nonchalantly.

"You deserved it!" she spat angrily. Really she had an overwhelming guilt surrounding the entire situation – she knew it's what had to be done in that moment but whether she would admit it aloud or not, she loved Faith and stabbing her was like stabbing herself. A part of her, a part she would never admit she had, understood Faith and why she did things – it was the part of Faith that made her such a good Slayer and everyone knew it. It was the part of Buffy that she held back that kept her from being that incredible, prophetic Slayer that she could have been.

"Whoa B, it's fine – what's past is past, right?" she answered, maintaining her composure before adding, "and if you want to start throwing blame around, let's think who's fault Xander's dying is. What goes around, comes around – I guess that really does hold true."

"Shut up! You can't put that on me!"

"Whatever," she answered, tossing her cigarette out of the window.

"It's not my fault!" Faith went to walk out of the kitchen and Buffy added, "you know it's not my fault."

"Since when does it matter what I think?"

"Oh, don't act all innocent about this shit." Faith walked back towards the dinning room and muttered,

"How'd you like a knife through your gut," then sat down next to Xander again.

"That was the fastest fight ever!" Xander greeted. He was kidding entirely since what had gone on in the kitchen hadn't been heard in the dinning room.

"Sorry," she muttered. He was caught a little off guard by the apology and then realized from the tension in her face that there had actually been a fight between the two of them. The conversations across the table had resumed and Xander moved his hand on top of hers trying to soothe her already overwrought nerves. He wrapped his fingers through hers and turned to face her.

"You feeling okay?" she asked him, unable to keep herself from worrying.

"Yeah," he answered surprised, "I'm fine." The telephone rang from the kitchen and Xander offered to get it. "I'll be right back," he told her as he freed his hand from hers and walked into the kitchen. He stopped short seeing Buffy standing in the corner of the kitchen wiping her face quickly. He grabbed the phone and answered it.


"Where's Faith?" Giles asked as everyone got ready to leave.

"Probably in our room," Xander answered, knowing she had snuck away about an hour before. He could tell with how she was acting that she had run out of patience for the whole situation and needed to be away from them.

"I'm just going to stop in and say goodbye," Giles said as everyone else helped Dawn and Buffy to the car. He walked over to the door and knocked.

"Come in," she answered reluctantly.

"Are you feeling alright?" he asked as he walked in. She was sitting on the bed with a cigarette looking miserable.

"I'm fine."

"Do you have the chills?" he asked, seeing that she was still wearing the sweatshirt.

"No," she answered defensively. She didn't want to admit it but since it was his sweatshirt it had his smell on it and it was more comforting to her than she thought something stupid like that would ever be.

"Listen, as soon as I heard about Xander I realized how hard this was going to be for you…"

"Would everyone stop thinking of me and think of him! He's the one that's sick."

"I understand that, Faith, but I was worried about you as well."

"Oh, you're going to make me blush," she retorted sarcastically. Xander walked into the room quietly and stood by the door wanting to remain relatively unnoticed.

"Faith, I picked these up for you," he answered. He walked towards the dresser-top where they seemed to toss everything and placed down a pill bottle.

"What? You dealing now… gotta say, now I've seen everything."

"It's an anti-depressant that I think you should take."

"What?" she snapped viciously. "I don't need fucking meds! I'm not fucking crazy, why the fuck do I need to be medicated?"

"Faith, it's just to help you through this and-"

"I don't need help! Why don't you spend your time finding meds for Xander if you're so concerned?"

"Faith, it's just an anti-depressant that I thought-"

"Do I look fucking depressed to you? I don't-"

"You do, actually," he answered firmly.

"…know who the fuck you think you are but-"

"Faith, I am simply trying to help."

"Yeah, by doping me up. Buffy told me about when you juiced her and-"

"That was different and has since been made up for… all this is going to take away from you is some of the tension and-"

"I like tension, in case you haven't noticed."

"I don't think you do." His tone was firm and it left her without a retort. "And I do think you're very depressed right now. I think you've been depressed for quite some time and it's an issue that hasn't been addressed and is one that will only worsen in the following week. For a girl that everyone described as 'personable' and 'ebullient' not too many years back, you've become completely unsocial and withdrawn."

"Side note to Giles," she answered condescendingly, "a lot's gone down in the past few years. Sorry if I'm not the happy go lucky type you've all come to expect in a Slayer but-"

"This has nothing to do with comparison Faith, the only thing I'm relating you to is yourself. Just look at yourself right now – you're very easily excited and from your past it's evident that you're very effected by death. I'm just trying to look out for you and-"

"Seems to me that you're just trying to watch out for yourself – ooo, everybody watch out, Faith's going to snap."

"You say that as though it hasn't happened before," he answered calmly.

"I don't need fucking brain candy, alright? I'm out of that phase, okay? I get my high other ways now…"

"Don't take this the wrong way, Faith, but you are crazy, and you need to be the first to acknowledge that, and I think you do. I think you realize your irrationalities and being as strong as you are, you're actually able to control it. I'm sorry if I offended you by bringing you those pills but… I'm not so sure you're going to be strong enough through this to hold yourself together. I want you to be able to ask for help where you need it."

"I don't need your fucking help. I have him… he's all I need," she admitted.

"You know what Faith, I think you're already falling apart… mentally and emotionally you're losing control."

"I am not losing control!"

"At the mention of anything, you get upset and-"

"Giles, I think that's enough," Xander warned softly, speaking up for the first time.

"… unpredictable. You're able to hold everything together just enough but you're dancing on that line."

"I'm fine!"

"If I were to add any other stressor to you I'm not so confident that you'd be fine."

"Giles, I'm fine," she answered after taking a deep breath to compose herself again seeing that Xander was ready to stand up for her.

"Would you still be fine if I mentioned your mother? I'm not so sure you would be."

"Get out," she answered sharply.

"Giles, come on," Xander added, seeing the look of near panic on her face at the mention of her mother. He had never talked to her about her mom but it became instantly apparent that it was a very sore area.

"Faith, I didn't say that to upset you, I just need you to realize that you're struggling right now and as long as you see that and don't pretend to be fine, then things will actually be alright…" he explained, never wanting it to have to be taken quite so far, but with Faith it always seemed to have to be an extreme. Xander walked over to her in the room and touched her arm,

"Faith…" She snapped away from his touch coldly and reached for her cigarettes. Her face was tight and angry. He walked back across the room with Giles and showed him out.

"Why the hell did you have to go and do that?" Xander asked as they walked through the hallway.

"I'm sorry, I didn't realize that's what was going to happen when I offered her those pills and I'm just concerned… I'm truly terrified for her. She's holding everything in, and-"

"She's different now, Giles. You think she's holding it all in but did you ever think that she's talking to me? She doesn't hold everything in around me – we talk and hell, she even cries! Why can't you let her be different? She's changed so much and you're still treating her like a killer."

"That's the type of attitude that's going to bring us to trouble – Xander there's a special place in my heart for her but she *is* a killer, that doesn't just disappear. I'm not saying that she's going to hurt anybody again, but what I am saying is that we need to be there for her and not deny what the real situation is like we did last time. Xander, you saw how she reacted when I mentioned her mother."

"If you knew she was going to react that way, why did you bring it up?"

"She needs to realize that she's got more open wounds than she can count…"

"Well, if she were still the old Faith you would've gotten your ass kicked, so there's my proof that she's different now." Giles nodded, and then waved goodbye at the sound of the cars horn beeping impatiently in the background.


Xander quickly went back to the bedroom and saw her pacing in front of the window, flicking her cigarette out of it every time she past whether it needed it or not.

"I beat him up, don't worry," he joked as he walked over to her. She tossed her cigarette out of the window then turned to him. She pulled him closer to her by the bottom of his shirt and began kissing his neck, tracing around it with her passionate kisses.

"Hey," he whispered softly, "are you okay?" She kissed his earlobe then pulled it playfully between her teeth before kissing it again. "Are you?" he repeated, holding her waist firmly.

"I'm fine," she answered, quickly resuming what she was doing.

"Can I talk to you for a minute?" he asked softly.

"We can talk after," she answered, "I've been waiting all night for everyone to leave."

"Well, I think the two times we did it this afternoon can hold you for another sixty seconds…"

"Knowing you, we could be done by then." She pressed her lips to his neck again but he pulled his neck away,


"If you don't want to just say so," she snapped, pulling away from him completely.

"Faith, I don't think you're fine… what he said really bothered you."

"Well, just leave it to a Watcher to really piss me off."

"What's the deal with you and your mom?"

"There is no deal," she snapped, "can we just get off the topic?"

"Were you two close? Were you guys like me and you?"

"I didn't fuck my mother."

"That's not what I meant."

"Yeah, I bet you would've dug it though."

"Faith, why the fuck do you have to act this way? Did she kick you out of the house or something? Did you two not get along at all? I'm just asking you these questions because I want to know, not because I want to hear how quick you can spit out nasty, sarcastic lines."


"Oh, that's mature, Faith." She reached for her pack of cigarettes again but he quickly jumped in grabbing them away from her. "This is your third pack today, Faith, enough is enough!"

"Xander!" she screamed so loud that her voice cracked from the forced pitch. He opened his mouth to respond then his voice fell short leaving him standing there in silence. Everything going on had begun to build up inside of her again and her screaming so hysterically and forcefully made him remember that side of her again. It was a side of her that terrified him – as well as everyone else – and one that he had been glad to push to the back of his mind. But it was true, as much as she had changed, that was still a part of her and it was one that couldn't be ignored.

She saw his face and realized her explosive reaction; regret was an omnipresent emotion in her mind but at this point she just couldn't deal with all of it at once. She grabbed her cigarettes out of his hand hurriedly – which out of shock he automatically handed back to her – and practically ran out of the room.


"Is everything okay?" Willow asked, peeking her head cautiously through the open door. Xander shrugged, looking over at the two beautiful woman by his door. "We heard the yelling…"

"Yeah, Giles got her kind of worked up…"

"Where is she?" Kennedy asked. Xander pointed out towards the kitchen and with a nod she left the two in the bedroom.


"Yo," Kennedy greeted, playfully kicking Faith in the butt as she walked up to stand next to her, "I thought we understood you're not allowed to be skinnier than me. When my ass is bigger than yours you know we have a problem." Faith turned towards her with a light glare. "You on a diet?"

"Yeah, it's called the stress and exhaustion diet," she answered. Kennedy leaned next to the window sill next to her waiting for her to continue since it was clear to her that she was milling over something in her head. Proving her right, moments later Faith spoke again, this time her tone softer but yet far more serious than she could remember her ever sounding… or maybe it wasn't serious it was just pensive. "Kennedy, I need you to promise me something."

"What?" she asked cautiously.

"If it comes down to it, I want you to put me out not Buffy."

"What the hell are you talking about? Why would it come down to that?"

"I'm just saying… you know what's happened and you know me now. Not to mention, you could probably take me. I just want to know that you'll do it and not feel bad about it." She almost had Kennedy convinced until those last two words where her 'so Faith' accent popped out and Kennedy immediately receded away from the idea.

"It's not going to happen, Faith. I mean… why you would…" Kennedy began stumbling over her words.

"Kenn, never mind…" she answered, seeing Kennedy was getting upset. She would never get like Buffy, she swore that to herself; she wasn't about to just vent and spread the way she felt by making those around her upset too.


"…you've got yourself a high maintenance girl, Xander, I don't know what you want me to tell you."

"Just tell me I'm doing a good job with her… I just need to know that I'm not making her worse by the way I'm acting. I just want to make her happy and not make this worse for her than it already is."

"Xander," she answered with a proud smile, "you're doing great." He smiled gratefully and she continued, "seeing you two, as crazy as both of you have been lately, to me it just shows how much you both love each other."

"I'm crazy about her, Wil, I've always been. It was a little touch and go for a little while, you know when she tried to kill everybody, but even then, deep down, I understood. I always just wanted to walk up to her and grab her by the arms and shake her… I always knew that if I could just do that she'd snap out of it and… I just wasn't strong enough to do that before. It kind of helped that she got a little less intense too," he added with a smirk.


Kennedy walked back into their bedroom; Willow and Xander were both yawning upon her entry. She motioned her head towards the kitchen for Xander to go get Faith. He smiled appreciatively back at her and they all said goodnight. He walked out of the bedroom and out towards the kitchen. She was leaning reliantly on the wall as she stared out of the window. He walked up to her confidently and moving his baggy sweatshirt over his hands he rested them on her hips and held her back close to his chest. He held her softly as he breathed warmth by her ear.

After a few moments he was confident that she had either cooled down about the entire thing or that she was too tired to argue anymore… either way it made right now easier. He kissed her shoulder where the sweatshirt was hanging over it then kissed her neck and cheek.

"Let's go to sleep, okay?" he suggested softly. She nodded lazily and without hesitation he moved one hand up on her back and the other lower on her leg before picking her up into his arms. She was semi-surprised by the action, just because it was something that never lost it's pleasant element of surprise but she wasn't shocked because it was a habit he had become very proud of. She leaned her face on his shoulder willingly and placed a small kiss on his cheek as he walked back into the bedroom.


Sleep failed to find her the entire night. She felt more exhausted with every following moment. All night she had lain next to her lover just watching him; watching every breath he took and every time he would move. Nothing was more satisfying than watching the rise and fall of his chest as he laid there full of peace and content. Her muscles throbbed from soreness it was a feeling she had become used to years ago and one that had never abandoned her. The feeling was pain but to her it was a comfort unlike everything else in her life it was something she could always depend on.

Her mind raced with random thoughts all night; thoughts she hadn't allowed herself to think about for a very long time. Xander knew how she felt about the Mayor she knew he had made her into a killer and gave her the encouragement she needed to now be haunted by her demons for the rest of her life. He hadn't just pointed her down the wrong path, he had paved it with gold for her, and held her hand as they walked it together.

He had been the first person to ever make her feel loved. She felt like she belonged when she was with him. Everything she did was amazing, whether it was to kill someone or to drink her milk, it was this incredible feat that needed all of the recognition in the world. And on top of that he made her feel like she didn't need to give up anything for it even though she was being used in the most manipulated way possible, she felt like for the first time she wasn't.

She had repented for what she had done and she continued to be penitent for it all. She knew it was wrong and that everything the Mayor did for her was fake but she still loved him she was angry for what he did to her but at the same time she didn't know anyone that she wasn't angry at so it didn't seem like that big of a deal the whole issue confused her so she had made herself not think about it.

But last night there was something that jumped to the forefront of her thought and whether or not it was what kept her up all night, it was certainly the only thing she could think about. He told her that all she was ever looking for was love and acceptance and she was never going to find it anywhere but with him. It had taken her a long time to overcome those words and accept them as wrong it took time, but Xander's consistency and true devotion to her had made her eventually realize how wrong he was. She knew the first part was right; all she had ever looked for was love and acceptance. She never cared if she were rich or powerful deep down inside she knew she could be living in a closet without any food and only the clothes on her back and as long as she had someone who she knew loved her and accepted her for who she was, she'd be happy.

And now, here she was, with the most incredible man she'd ever known, and he loved her and everything about her. There were no secrets between them a few unmentioned dark sections but only because they hadn't gotten to them yet. He loved her and accepted everything about her and he was dying. Whatever it was that kept her awake all night she knew she was grateful, for she didn't want to miss a single breath he took while he was still alive.

She was ripped suddenly from her pensive daydream as Xander went from completely asleep to completely awake in a state of panic. He jumped up quickly, grabbing at his chest as if to make sure he were really there. Then just as suddenly he turned towards Faith, who had jumped up as well at this point.

"Baby, are you okay?" he asked quickly, grabbing her shoulders in a panic as though she were the one in question. "Are you? Tell me are you?" he continued to ramble.

"What?" she asked softly, trying to calm him down. She wrapped her arm around his which was still gripping her shoulder and rubbed it softly.

The look of fear flashing through her eyes halted his hysterics dead in their tracks; it was the look his panic had been trying to avoid. He took a deep breath then loosened his grip on her arms and stroked them encouragingly,

"Did you sleep okay?" She shrugged, still unable to just get over what had happened.


"Just a bad dream," he answered, leaning forward and kissing her forehead. She knew there had been nights when she would wake up in the same fashion and he would just accept her nonchalant excuses so she tried to do the same but inside it was killing her not to know what he was going through. He saw the hesitation in her face and added, "I'm fine, Faith." She forced herself to accept it and also forced an approving smile it came out as a half-hearted curvature of the lips, but she tried. "That's all I needed to see," he added, kissing her softly.


"So what's on everyone's agenda today?" Willow asked cheerfully as they all sat around the kitchen for breakfast. Kennedy had offered to make her famous waffles and not even Faith could turn down the offer. Faith shrugged then was distracted by the blinking of the answering machine. Since all that it could possibly be for were present she pressed the play button.

"This is Larry. I was calling to send my regards to Mr. Harris but also to notify Faith that she no longer holds a position at Johnson Construction-" Faith immediately hit the delete button and the voice ceased to continue.

"I'm going to raise such hell for that bastard!" Xander stated angrily.

"Xander, don't"

"You do your job better than anyone; that piece of shit can't fire you!"

"It's not really what I want to worry about right now, okay?" she answered, continuing to maintain a calm tone.

"Well when are you planning on worrying about it, Faith? You can't just dump the rent on Willow and Kennedy and expect-"

"I'll get a different job," she cut him off but still remained calm. "I'll work the night shift, I'm better suited for that anyway"

"I don't want you working at-!" This time he cut himself off hearing an overbearing and overly protective part of himself in his voice. He never tamed her and he wasn't about to start acting like it now. "I'm sorry, that's not my place."

"I won't work nights, okay?"

"It's not my place."

"Yes it is," she answered firmly. The weakness in her tone was heard by all and the conversation was dropped as though it had never begun.


Kennedy served the delicious waffles then stepped into the other room to retrieve Faith who had stepped out for a cigarette.

"They're ready."

"Awesome I'll be right in."

"Faith," Kennedy began, looking at the look of misery that consumed her face as well as her entire body language, "can you stop looking like he's already dead? Enjoy what you have left"

"When he's gone you won't be able to look at me."


Xander looked across the table at Faith who had one foot resting on her chair with her knee pulled up close to her as she sipped at her coffee. The lack of sleep left her looking tired and drained but everyone knew it ran far deeper than that. He swallowed hard then looked away from her, concentrating again on his meal. He had dreamt his death last night and it wasn't that which had frightened him; it was the pain he saw in her. He didn't want to keep his life for himself anymore, he just didn't want her to lose him. He understood what all of this was going to do to her and he hated himself for it. What had woken him from his dream hadn't been the thought of him no longer being able to fill his lungs with air it was the sound of her hysterical weeping.

Everyone else thought they knew what it was like for her. They thought they knew how she was going to react and what she was going to have to go through but they didn't. They couldn't even grasp what it was going to be like for her. They didn't know half of the things about her that he knew.


"Buffy, is everything alright?" Giles asked. She snapped out of her daze and turned towards him,

"Yeah, everything's cool."

"I umm I have to admit, for the first time I actually understand how you feel when it comes to having a disagreement or um confrontation with Faith. It's much more emotionally draining than one puts credit towards."

"What do you mean?" she asked with a smile.

"Well, last night I had a so called confrontation and it's had me thinking about it all day and just every moment of it replays in my mind and everything that was said, down to the tone it was said with, is put into question now I can truly understand how you get hung up on small spats with her."

"See why I always end up hitting her," Buffy answered jokingly.

"I probably would've lost an arm if I had taken that route," he agreed, "not that I came far from it anyway"

"She must've been in rare form last night usually Faith limits herself to one enemy per night unlike her theory one men but-"Buffy allowed herself to trail off.


"Can we talk?" Xander asked, walking into the workout room. Faith was punching the suspended punching bag fiercely.

"'Bout what?" she asked, clearly not in the mood for talking. She continued to punch the bag, the intensity of the blow increasing by increments with each hit.

"To be blunt, your mother."

"To be blunt back, no."

"Faith, why are you being so stubborn about this?"

"Me? Stubborn never!" she answered sarcastically.

"And now onto the sarcasm I just want to know why it's such a sensitive topic."

"See, I could've forgiven it before, but you just admitted to knowing it's a sensitive topic, so now you're just being annoying."

"Mature, really we've digressed to annoying. Faith, we don't lie to each other"

"I'm not lying I don't want to talk about it because that might lead to lying, so back off."

"We don't keep secrets either."

"We're not exactly the Brady Bunch neither," she answered, still increasing the blows.

"Faith, I just want to talk"

"Well I don't!" she answered, slamming her fist into the punching bag again but this time unlike the others she pulled it back to her and practically doubled over as she grabbed it with her other hand. Xander heard the painful gasp that she would forever be denying from this day forward but he heard it and ran up to her.

"What is it?" he asked trying to grab her hand that she was holding tightly against her stomach. A rush of heat ran over her face from the pain but she clenched her teeth and tried to shake it off. She shook her head stiffly in response to his question. "Let me see it." He grabbed her arm and pulled it,

"Stop!" she yelled almost squeaking. He immediately took a step back and held his hands up,

"What'd you do?"

"I just broke it," she answered, still holding it tightly.

"Oh, I just broke it," he mocked, "you were hitting the fucking bag hard enough of course you broke it!" He walked back up to her, "let me see it." She slowly straightened her arm and showed it to him. He held her wrist gently, "what's broken?"

"Still working on the GED, but don't worry, I'll tackle the MD tomorrow."

"Bend it." She bent it slightly than stopped with a slight cringe.

"Yeah, that's where it's broken," she muttered.

"Alright," he answered holding it gently he said it more to keep himself calm than her. "You know, I think you're going soft in your old age."


"Well this is just a wrist I remember a time when you dislocated your shoulder and barely thought twice about it."

"I found a distraction," she snapped.

"Alright, let's get you to Giles. He'll know what to do."

"No, I'll be fine I just need to give it a minute."

"Okay, you sit here and give it a minute and I'll be right back I'm going to go call not Giles." He headed towards the door and added, "be sure to flip me off with the other hand."

"I hate you," she groaned, sticking her tongue out at him spitefully.


"So what are you going to do about it?" Buffy asked. The telephone rang and Giles picked it up,

"Hello?... Yes, of course alright," he said hanging up the phone. "The self inflicted injuries begin"


"This is fucking ridiculous," Faith protested as Xander gave her shoulder a final push before he quickly closed the passenger door. "I'm telling you, I just need to ice it or heat it or something and I'll be fine," she claimed as he jumped into the drivers seat.

"I want to make sure," he answered.

"It's not like it's my neck, it's just a wrist"

"Many men might argue against that," he added sarcastically.

"That's not going to be an issue," she snapped.

"We're not going to get into that right now."

"Fine!" She propped her feet against the dashboard and cradled her hand on her stomach. "Watch Giles use this as another reason I should be on brain candy."

"Maybe he'd be right."

"Is that really what you think?" she snapped angrily.

"Faith, I just want you to be okay and he's right, you seem really angry about some stuff and-"

"I've always been angry about stuff. I've been angry about my mom for a long time before you even met me, okay? I'm pissed off at just about everybody but you know what, you fell in love with me like this, why the hell should I start popping some fucking doper pills?"

"Faith, it's just that-"

"Do you love me?"

"Of course I love you why the hell do you have to question that?"

"You saying you want me on those meds tells me you don't. If you want me to change the way I am then say it, because that's what that's going to do."

"Fine you're right."

"No! By saying that you're saying that you don't love me the way I am do you want me different? Because if you want me different I'll change for you but you know you always said you loved me when-"

"Faith, you're right, okay? I didn't think about it like that."

"How else is there to think about it?"

"Faith, can we just drop it. I agree with you, okay? I love you and you're right."

"Xander, there's the diff between me and B, alright the point of everything for her is to be right. Me, I'm wrong all the time and I'm alright with that because I get to know why."

"You're being ridiculous."

"I don't care who the fuck is right! I want to know why."

"Fine!" he answered, pulling the car quickly to the side of the road and coming to an abrupt halt. Faith wasn't backed off by the aggressive attitude in the least but she was impressed that he had done it not to front anything, but actually because of what he was going to say. "You want to know why, fine! I know I've only made one promise to you and that was to never leave you. I swore to you and to myself that it would never happen and here I am less than two years later throwing that back in your face. I'm sorry if I thought that maybe some magic pill would make it less hard for you, okay? Now you know why," he finished and before she could answer he set his focus back on the road and continued driving.


"She broke her hand?" Buffy asked again, still not really believing it. "I've never broken my hand before does this mean she really hits harder than I do?"

"What?" Giles asked, caught off guard by the question.

"You've trained with us both who hits harder?" she asked again, stuck on the thought.

"Well" he answered cautiously. "You've both very different techniques, I don't know if they're comparable"


"Faith's technique is to injure her opponent and then kill them whereas yours is to just position them for the kill. You're more accurate and she's more combative"

"So she hits harder than I do?

"Buffy, I- I hear them at the door."


Giles left Faith and Xander in the living room while he went to get some supplies to bandage Faith's wrist. Buffy voluntarily followed him out of the room leaving the two where they were seated. They seemed strangely calm when they came in Faith was quiet and Xander only spoke a few words to Giles. Buffy had expected them to be heated when they got there; she wasn't sure why but it just seemed like they would be.

"Are you okay?" Faith asked quietly. Xander was taken slightly aback by her tone but then answered flatly,

"I'm fine."

"Of course you're fine," she muttered tiredly. She had missed sleep before it was more of a luxury to get a full nights sleep than a notable event to not, but more than ever before for her, the last few days had been entirely draining. She had been so drained and exhausted at the end of the day that she couldn't make herself fall asleep because sleep took too much effort on her part. Many of her demons hid on the inside of her eyelids and she just didn't have the strength to fight them. That and the fact that she felt like there was this constant ticking away of time in her mind as the few precious seconds she had left with him were ticking away and nobody was noticing. She was tired and she was frustrated and over the past year and a half she had gotten used to him taking care of her when she felt this way, but now he was the cause of it and she couldn't figure out a way to let him take care of it anymore.

"Here we are," Giles said as he walked into the quiet room with all sorts of first aid supplies.

"Where'd Buffy disappear to?" Xander asked.

"Oh, she's right in the kitchen." Xander nodded than stood and walked into the kitchen leaving Faith with Giles.

"Let's have a look"

"It's really fine. I don't know why he's spazing about it."

"Well" Giles answered pensively, "it seems to me that you're not exactly the type of girl who allows herself to be 'taken care of' on a regular occasion but where he has the chance, he really wants to take care of you."

"Which is why he walked away as soon as he could, huh?"

"I'd imagine he's probably feeling very guilty"

"I know plenty about that," she muttered.

"Let's see." She held up her right hand slowly. He noted that she clearly was uncomfortable as soon as he cradled her wrist in his hand, not out of pain but just because of the touch. He glanced up at her face to see if it matched and it did; her eyes were focused rigidly on the floor away from him and her face seemed frozen in place. "Does it hurt?" he inquired, thinking maybe her discomfort was due to pain.

"No, it's fine." She took her hand away.

"It's a fairly bad break, Faith."

"Whatever, it'll be better in a day so who gives a shit?"

"How'd you break it?"

"I fell," she answered blankly.

"Xander told me you were punching"

"Well if you knew, why the fuck are you asking?" she asked angrily, standing up from the couch.

"Faith," he answered, keeping his tone more soothing, "can you just sit and I'll wrap it up for you and-" She sat but argued,

"I don't understand why we have to be here wasting time on something that doesn't matter and-"

"How is this a waste of time? I heard you were fired where else are you supposed to be today?" After a short moment he answered his own question realizing that she felt like her time left with Xander was being calculated on someone else's stopwatch. "It'll only take a minute, I promise," he added, his tone completely altered.

"Promises are bullshit."


Giles wrapped her wrist quietly than left her at the couch and walked into the kitchen. Buffy took the silent cue and walked out into the living room and sat across from Faith.

"So, what's up?"

"You tell me."

"I've come to the happy conclusion that boring is a good thing when it comes to slaying."

"Sure" Faith answered, only feigning agreement.

"Angel called last night he heard about what's going on and wanted to check in."


"Why is that strange?"

"Well, that he called you."

"Why is it strange that he would call me? It would be much stranger if he called you, wouldn't it?" she asked defensively.


"What?" she snapped bitterly, her jealousy of Faith and Angel's relationship peering out. "Why not?"

"You said he was calling about Xander update, B, me and Xander live together and we've kinda got the same phone number." Buffy was frustrated by her nonchalant tone that she was maintaining while she was having trouble staying away from hysterical. But she was also frustrated because she was completely right.

"He didn't have your number."

"Well did you give it to him?" she asked, her tone finally shifting away from equanimity.

"I was out. I didn't have it on me." She allowed that to sink in, then added, "he says hi."


"Is she okay?" Xander asked.


"What do you mean, no?" he asked quickly. "Is her wrist that bad?"

"Oh, no, her wrist should be fine by tomorrow."

"Then why is she not okay?"

"She's holding it together but she's working really hard to do so. I think she's starting to actually realize what's going on with you but she's reluctant to accept it."

"Why are you saying all of this?"

"Are you two fighting a lot?"

"We always fight if we weren't then there would be a problem. We fight about what's wrong and then it's over with and then we make that better. We don't hold it in so it becomes a big deal. That's how we work," he explained. Giles nodded,

"I know, you two are very unique," he smiled, "but just make sure you two are spending some time together when you're not fighting about something."

"I know," he answered with a nod.

"You better go get her," Giles suggested.

"Yeah, her and Buffy in a room together right now is definitely a bad idea."

"Yes," he agreed, "but she's becoming overly aware of the time factor also." Xander nodded in understanding then turned towards the living room and began to walk away, "Xander"

"Yes?" he stopped and turned back towards Giles,

"Xander, death is something that is very hard to deal with I know you're going through something that's extremely difficult in every way imaginable. But it's important to understand that well, the person dying has a hard time, but those left behind have a far more difficult task." He nodded and answered,

"I don't think I would ever be able to handle this if it were the other way around you know, there's a piece of me that's almost glad it's this way."


"Ready to go?" Xander asked lightly as he walked back into the living room. She stood up and walked towards the door without a word and he could tell there hadn't been pleasant words exchanged between the two slayers big surprise. "See you later, Buffy."

"I'll see you tonight."

They walked out the door, Xander following Faith until she stopped dead in her tracks and Xander almost bumped into her.

"Where are you going tonight?" He placed a hand on her lower back and got her to continue walking to the car he didn't want to make a scene right outside of the door.

"Willow made reservations at Evan's and it's where *we* are going tonight." He opened the car door for her and she got in with a huff. He went around and got into the driver's seat and started the car.

"You like the food at Evan's," he encouraged with a smile.

"We had dinner with everyone last night."

"Yeah" he answered hesitantly, not wanting to bring up again they there were only so many nights he had left. "Wood wanted to come and he sparked the idea and I would've said no but you really liked the food at Evan's the last time we went" he explained.

"Yeah" she muttered. He looked over at her but her gaze was fixed away from him and out of her window.

"It'll be fun," he added, seeing that she wasn't convinced.

"Why couldn't you guys go out to lunch or something?"

"I understand the whole not being allowed to wear the same shirt two days in a row thing you taught me about but I must've missed the memo that dinner was in that same category," he answered jokingly.

"I miss you," she admitted quietly.

"We're together right now, Faith I'm not trying to be an asshole, I just don't understand what you're talking about."

"Never mind," she answered. Her tone sounded snappy to him but it was really just an on the spot cover as her throat clenched when she began to speak.

"Faith, we can have sex during the day too, it's not limited to around dinner time, don't worry," he answered, his tone feigning levity.

"Fuck you!" she answered angrily, "that's not what I'm fucking talking about."

"Then what are you talking about?"

"We used to just relax and hang out we'd just chill just me and you and it was so nice and we-"

"I'm sorry if my dropping dead is ruining our down time but I thought you liked Evan's and I thought the party girl liked going out and it would be fun." She could barely get herself to take another breath but she was far from being able to answer him. He glanced away from the road for a moment and over to her and saw she was staring rigidly out of her window again. "You want to talk about us not having any time to spend together but here we are, together, and you make it a fight." He glanced over at her again and she remained unmoved. "Faith?"

She didn't answer him and he looked over at her again at a stop sign. In front of them he noticed a couple in their late twenties each holding one hand to a little boy that appeared to be their son as they crossed the street. The kid was skipping happily between them and both the woman and the man were smiling and agreeing with something the child was talking about.

"Are you crying?" he asked, demanding to know.

"I'm not fucking crying," she lied, "can you just drive so we can go home." He drove forward for a moment then pulled the car over to the side and got out of the car. He took a deep breath and ran his hand through his hair in frustration as he walked around the car muttered to himself,

"Pull yourself together and stop being such an asshole, Xander."

He walked over to the passenger side of the car, surprising her, because she didn't know where else to face to cover the fact that she was more than just crying. He opened her door and she turned, facing forward.

"Xander, get back in the car and just drive me home."

"Why so you can beat the shit out of the wall with your left hand? Or maybe have a few beers and go to sleep and pretend nothing's going on and don't forget, you need to smoke a few packs too."

"What do you want me to do?" she asked almost helplessly as she stopped herself in the middle of pulling a cigarette out of the box.

"I want you to turn around and look at me! I know you're fucking crying and I know it's my fault I'm being an asshole and I made you upset. Turn around and look at me!" She wiped her eyes off quickly then turned partially towards him with new tears already wetting her eyes. He grabbed her legs by her knees and pulled them around so she was facing out of the door and directly at him.

"Can we just go home?"

"No we can't just go home. I made you upset and I'm not going to just leave it like that so you can hate me all day. Faith, look at me!" he demanded. She turned her face towards him again but her stomach felt like it was being torn apart. The trucks height had her eyelevel slightly above his as he stood in front of her. "I hate this. I hate that everything we have has to be over even though neither of us want it to be. I almost wish I'd just die right now so I don't have to see everything I'm putting you through."

"Xander, I don't want to do this right now, okay?" she asked, her tone begging him to just pretend nothing was happening.

"I'm not going to pretend like nothing's wrong, Faith, because obviously you're doing that and you're still upset right now, so it doesn't work."

"Stop it," she pleaded, the tears still flowing from her eyes. She tried to turn away from him again but he held her legs firmly and looked up at her obdurately.

"Faith, I love you. Listen to me!" he demanded her focus, "I'm sorry, okay? I'm sorry I let you fall in love with the wrong guy. I'm sorry that I'm putting this on you, I really am."

"Xander, stop!"

"I'm sorry that I'm fucking this up for the both of us, okay? I wish a lot of things were different. You know the day I went into the doctor? Yeah, well that was the day I was going to ask you to marry me and be mine forever. I wanted to marry you yeah, stupid me, I even went and got the ring!" he pulled a small velvet box out of his jacket pocket and held it up as proof. "I wanted you to be my wife forever and I wanted you to be the girl who had my kid or kids even okay? I wanted to have a family with you and I wanted to take care of you and be with you and make you happy for the rest of your life. Okay? I wanted all of those things for us and now neither of us gets to have them because of me. I wanted to be old and still holding the most beautiful girl I'd ever met in my arms at night."

Faith was struggling so much to breathe that stifling her tears wasn't something she could be concerned with. They flowed like rapids down her cheeks as she tried to make herself keep looking at him. Xander's voice was cracking at every other word but he continued to spill his heart out.

"Xander" she managed to get herself to say as she put her hands on top of his on her legs. "Why are you doing this?"

"Because I know you Faith, I can see it in you already. After I'm gone you're going to find some way to deny that I loved you you'll find some way to deny to yourself that anyone wanted you forever and that I couldn't have loved you like you thought. Well I do. I love you more than you'll ever understand and I don't want you to forget that, or to make yourself forget that." He raised his hands and cupped her face gently, "I love you."

She nodded and he leaned forward and cautiously touched his lips to hers, unsure of whether she would be put off by all that he had said and needed to be left alone. She pulled away from his kiss slightly and he immediately pulled back and let go of her, understanding by now how she worked. She wiped her tears with her left hand then raised it to his face and caressed his cheek with her thumb.

He could see in her face that she was still absorbing everything he had said to her. He was right about the fact that that evil side of her personality would immediately if it hadn't started already challenge the integrity of their relationship and all the things she believed were a part of it. He moved his head to the side where her hand was still perched so that his lips now touched her hand. He kissed her hand lovingly then added,

"Now that I'm done with my little mental breakdown, we can go home." Her expression was drained and her face was still broken from crying but with the grin that followed his words she immediately brightened. "I just needed you to know that I really love you even if I do act like an asshole sometimes." She finally gave him the smile he had been waiting for and he smiled happily back. She turned in her seat and he closed her door for her and walked around the car. He got into the driver's seat again and started the car and as he was pulling out of the parking spot and back onto the road he felt her move over on the bench seat and rest her head on his shoulder while wrapping her arms around his right arm.

A few minutes later when they were about half way between Giles' house and their own he added,

"I love you."

"I know," she answered with a smile.

"Just wanted to make sure you remembered."

"I swear I won't forget."

"Guess what I love you."

"You're such a dork."

"See, it's true all of the dorks do end up with the hot girls."

"Damn, I am hot, aren't I?" she answered, turning the rear view mirror towards her to look at her own reflection.



Kennedy walked into the apartment looking completely wiped out. She dragged herself to the kitchen in search of some highly caffeinated beverage and saw Xander waiting by the microwave.

"Lemme guess, she sent you out for popcorn."

"Right again," he admitted.

"So if she's trusting you with the popcorn, you two must be doing a little better than you were this morning."

"Yeah, we had a little talk today."

"A talk," she answered skeptically.

"Yeah, you know, one of those very professional, quiet, unemotional talks where you sit in one of those big offices across a desk from each other decked out in suits" he explained.

"Cursing, screaming, crying"

"Pretty much," he answered with a smile.

"But you're on popcorn duty now so I guess it turned out alright."

"Yeah," he answered as the microwave beeped, finished with the popcorn.

"You two are way too perfect for each other," she joked, burying her head in the fridge.

"Want some popcorn?"

"Faith would kick my ass if I stole her popcorn."

"Better you than me," he joked, walking out of the kitchen and into his bedroom. He presented the bowl of popcorn on the bed beside her then sprawled himself out next to her, wrapping his arm around her waist.

"I love you," he reminded again. It had been their little game throughout the day.

"I love you too," she answered kissing him.

"Kennedy was trying to steal your popcorn," he joked.

"She knows better." He kissed all over her shoulder as she watched the TV and ate her popcorn.

"We should start getting ready. You want the first shower?"

"Would you hate me if I didn't go?"

"Why wouldn't you come? I mean, you're my girlfriend and-"

"I'm just not really in the mood for a whole social thing right now." He continued to hold her and then suggested,

"I could not go and we could just hang out"

"I don't think you can cancel on your own dinner, as much as I'd like you to."

"You'd be surprised," he joked, "this whole dying thing comes with its privileges."

"That's not funny," she answered flatly.

"Then why are you trying not to smile?" he asked as he grabbed her ribs and tickled her.

"Because you're an asshole" she managed to get out as she wriggled away from him and finally made it to her feet off of the bed.

"Oh, my darling sweetheart," he answered jokingly.

"Shut up," she laughed, sitting back down on the bed cautiously. He moved over to her on the bed, standing on his knees, and wrapped his arms around her waist and arms and kissed her neck playfully. He made loud, childish kissing sounds as he did so and worked his way up to her cheek dramatically then stopped suddenly and looked at her,

"You're so cute when you're pissed off," he joked, then stole a kiss from her lips.

"Oh, go take a shower, you smell," she answered, playfully pushing him away.


"So how fancy is Evan's?" Kennedy asked Willow.

"I talked to Buffy about it it's not really fancy but she suggested we get prettied up. It's nice to have somewhere to go and have to look nice," she added with a smile.

"Just wish it was for a better occasion."

"What's wrong with the occasion?" Willow asked defensively, "it's a bunch of friends, getting together to just see each other and-"

"Wil, are you okay?"

"I'm fine. Why wouldn't I be fine? See, I'm fine." Kennedy walked over to her lover and made her look her in the eye,

"Baby, do you want to talk about it?"

"Talk about what? Everything's fine and-"

"Willow, you're best friend is dying everything isn't just fine and it's okay for you to not be just fine."

"There's no point to getting all ugly and upset about it. That doesn't fix it or change anything."

"It'll make you feel better and at some point you're going to have to show how you're feeling and if that's 'ugly' and 'upset' that's okay."

"I'm not like Faith I'm not going to be all crabby and upset in front of him. I don't think that's right. I think with the little time we have left with Xander everything should be happy and normal and not crabby."

"I see what you're saying, Baby, but well, Faith's like that because she knows how explosive and dangerous she gets when she keeps all of that inside of her Willow, I'm worried about you too. She's a Slayer and I've heard how fucking scary she can get but you're up there too, Baby, you're a powerful Wicca and if you keep everything pent up inside then who knows."

"I don't want to make Xander have to deal with me being upset. It's not his job to make me feel better, it's my job to make him feel better," she explained firmly.

"Then I'll be here to make you feel better," Kennedy stated.


Xander walked out of the bathroom where a pair of boxers and toweling off his hair as he walked. Faith was lying on the bed watching TV before he came out but the show lacking anything interesting to watch quickly became unnoticed. She had had something running through her mind since their 'little talk' earlier and she wasn't sure if she should bring it up, or even if she should, how she would go about it, but she thought she owed it to him to be upfront with it.

"Hey," she said getting his attention.

"What's up?" he asked, turning from the closet to her.

"I've got a weird question"

"What is it?" he asked with a smile, amused that she seemed embarrassed about whatever it was she was going to ask. She sat up on the bed, facing him still, and asked, her tone surprisingly serious,

"Are you still going to ask me to marry you?" He felt like he had been thrown backward by her question, catching him completely off guard. A pensive expression immediately took over his face and he began to shuffle through some folded shirts in the drawer.

"Umm" he answered several moments later, only to assure her that he had heard her question and was actually thinking about it.

"Sorry," she apologized, uncomfortable with the silence. "That's not something I should ask. Forget it," she added, giving him an out.

"Faith," he answered pensively, as though she hadn't said anything since her initial question, "why would I do that to you?" She looked at him with surprise,

"What do you mean?"

"Why would I make you a widow when you're not even close to being twenty-five?" She shrugged,

"I don't know I just" she tried to answer without showing the slight disappointment which even she didn't completely understand in her tone.

"Baby, how do you know a year, five years, ten years down the road you're not going to meet someone who makes you really happy and you want to have a family with? Why are you going to make him number two if he doesn't have to be?"

"Xander, why can't you get this? There isn't going to be anyone else."

"You saying that really upsets me," he answered firmly, if not a little angrily.

"Why does that piss you off-"

"You want to know why? Because to me that's saying, 'hey Xander, you just fucked up her entire life because now she's going to feel guilty if she's not faithful to some dead guy!' That's why it pisses me off."

"Xander, do you realize how rare it is that I can be with someone? Like really with someone that I love and care about and can actually say that to them?"

"You never know, now that you've done it once it might be easier"

"Xander!" she stated almost yelling, feeling like he wasn't hearing a word she was saying. "Where am I going to find someone who's known me since I was sixteen, knows what I do and what slaying is all about that I won't have to keep secrets from, and who's known me through the good and *all* of the bad?"

"You being so closed to the idea of finding someone makes that harder"

"Xander I don't want anyone else!"

"You don't know that"

"Xander, I've been with a lot of men more than you'd ever want to hear about," she admitted, "and being with them never felt like what it feels like to be with you. When I'm with you it's completely different and I can't have that with anyone else it's just not going to happen. Believe me, I was shocked that after all of the meaningless sex I've had, that I would actually be able to find someone that made it mean something and made it actually different for me. Not only am I not going to be able to have that with anyone else, I can't go back to it being meaningless either. The thought of having anyone but you touch me makes me sick it's not fun, it's not sexy it's not something I want anymore."

"Listen, we obviously don't agree on this. But I just want you to know that after I'm gone, I want you to do whatever makes you happy and I don't want you feeling guilty about anything because you feel like you're doing it against me. If it's something that'll make you happy I want you to do it. Don't feel guilty"

"Xander, I feel guilt every time I take a breath because I know I don't deserve it."

"Don't say that to me."

"I've hurt so many people and fucked up so badly that I just don't understand why I'm not the one who only has a few days left. I deserve to be sick and-"

"Faith, stop it."

"You've never done anything wrong! I'm a loser I'm a killer I'm a burnout you name it, if it's bad, I'm it. I deserve to be given a week, not you. There are so many fucking pieces of shit walking around that don't have to worry about anything and you're the one who Caleb hurts and now you're the one who's sick? I just don't fucking get it"

"It's not something you're supposed to understand. When it's your time it's your time"

"But it's not your time."


"Wow!" Xander exclaimed as he stood at the door to the apartment and Kennedy and Willow exited their bedroom, finally ready to leave. "You two look incredible! I'm suddenly feeling very underdressed."

"You look really nice," Willow answered.

"Shall we?" he offered jokingly as he opened the front door.

"Where's Faith?" Kennedy asked quickly.

"She's not coming," he answered, almost a little curtly.


"She had a rough day and I don't think she wants to deal with Buffy."


Faith had been staring at the clock since he had walked out of the door hours earlier. She even found herself pacing the floor a couple of times and needed to force herself to stop.

"I'm like a fucking junkie going through withdrawal," she accused herself. "I am so fucking pathetic!" She threw the television remote control onto the floor and walked into the kitchen. She lit a cigarette as she walked and exhaled it with a tired sigh. She opened the fridge and pulled out a beer, then heard a loud knock at the door. She held the beer in the same hand as her cigarette by the neck and answered the door without hesitation and an air of insolence. All of that evaporated as soon as she saw the tall, dark featured, quiet Angel standing outside of the door. She faltered only for a second but it was more than long enough for both of them to notice.


"Hello, Faith," he greeted, his voice was warm but he remained standing perfectly still.

"Come on in," she added backing up a few steps to give him room to walk into the apartment. After a second she realized she was only wearing a pair of very short boy shorts and a tank top. She tugged at the bottom of her shorts hoping to make them cover at least half of her butt

"I see you're taking care of yourself," he said sardonically, eyeing her hand holding both a cigarette and a beer. She held them both carefully in her hurt hand, paying it only a small amount of attention, but for Angel, he was paying it much more.

"You know me," she answered, turning and walking into the kitchen. He followed her quietly, "so how've you been?"

"Busy but I heard about Xander. How's he feeling?"

"He's been okay," she answered quickly then took a long pull on her beer.

"Well, then how have you been?" She looked at him skeptically then took a drag of her cigarette as though it were stupid he was even asking of course she was fine. "Faith?" he pushed at her silence.

"I'm five by five," she answered pompously.

"I see that," he answered, motioning again at the beer and cigarette. "Where's everyone else?"

"They went out to eat"

"You're not eating anymore?" he asked, glancing downward at her hardly covered legs.

"No it's just honestly, I just wasn't in the mood for"

"For what?"

"I'm a little dinner-ed out"

"Was Buffy going by any chance?"

"Listen" she snapped, "I can't even begin to deal with B right now."

"Yeah, I got that feeling when I talked to her."

"Yeah, she was sure to bring up the fact that she talked to you." He shook his head,

"For someone so remarkable and wise she sure can be a little kid, huh?"

"Little kid piece of shit pain in the fucking ass however you want to put it, really" she answered without completely joking.

"You two still get along that well, huh?"

"You know me; I just love being talked to like a worthless waste of space." She walked over to the sink and quickly ran the butt of the cigarette under the water then tossed it in the garbage can. "I was um just laughing at myself before because" she hesitated, instantly embarrassed at what she was openly admitting but then realized she was too far into it to back out so she decided to play it off with confidence, "well, I haven't stopped watching the clock since he left I'm going to be in some state next week, huh?" With that thought still ambient in the air she took the final gulp of her beer and quickly retrieved another from the fridge.

"I wanted to talk to you about that I know LA's not exactly a place full of good times for you but if you need some space from everything you're welcome to stay over with me."

"That's really nice of you but I don't see myself doing much traveling in the near future."

"What do you see yourself doing?"

"Well Angel, I'm not the mopping type, you know but then again, I'm not really the clock watching type either," she concluded, lighting another cigarette quickly. She took a quick hit then exhaled and added, "I I don't never mind."

"Faith, talk to me." She exhaled another puff of smoke and answered,

"Honestly, I don't see myself being able to talk myself into getting out of bed. This isn't something I'm going to just be able to hold down and ignore."

"I don't want you to," he assured her. In a sudden moment she added,

"Angel, I hate her."

"Buffy? Well, Faith, you two haven't been good for a long time and-"

"Jealous, sure envy, all the time angry, no doubt, but Angel, I've never hated her like this before. It's crazy, I know but hey I'm not exactly the picture of sanity over here. I don't know, I just feel like like every time I get something that I actually care about and something that I have that's mine she always ends up being behind why I lose it."

"Faith, this is hard, I know"

"I don't need someone else telling me how hard this is all going to be, okay? I get it news update, it's already too hard for me to deal with."

"I'm sorry," he answered honestly. "You're one of the strongest people I know, Faith, and looking at all of the people in my circle of friends, that's quite a compliment. But I came out here because I needed to see that you were okay because I realize how this is going to be for you."

"Angel, you know how I feel about you," she said placing the second empty beer bottle in the garbage, "and we both know how much you've done for me and how much I need you." All of these things were things they both knew and were both comfortable stating but then she added, "Angel, I can't live without him. I've never felt this way about *anyone* before Angel" suddenly her expression sank and she just let out a sigh that seemed like it might soon be a sob.

"Talk to me."

"Did you know he was going to ask me to marry him?" Without even realizing it his face lit up with excitement but then quickly died down again, "and did you know I would've said yes."


"In a second I don't have to explain what we have to you you know how happy he makes me. He was really upset today and we were driving and he stopped and came over and told me that he was going to ask me and he told me how much he loved me and he told me he wanted to have a family with me"

"Faith, I'm so sorry."

"He said he told me all of that because he didn't want me to pretend what we had wasn't real after he's gone the bastard knows me way too well. But you know, a part of me really thanks him for that but another part of me wishes he had left me that little land of denial."

"Hey, when do you plan on slowing down with those?" he asked as she finished off the third beer.

"When they're all finished," she answered quickly. "I am also letting you know that next week I'm going to be in a drunken stupor for probably several days if not weeks" she joked.


"Well I still think it's really shitty that Faith didn't come with you, Xander," Buffy continued. "I mean this is your night and she's your girlfriend, isn't she? I mean granted Faith isn't really the "girlfriend" type but-"

"Actually she is," he cut her off. He had finally grown tired of the small jabs she had been throwing at Faith in her absence. That was one of the things he admired most about Faith although she quarreled with Buffy on a regular basis, anything she had to say about her she said to her face, and when Buffy wasn't around, rarely did she bring it up unless it was something that was really bothering her. "And as Faith explained it to me before I left, to her, every night is my night." Kennedy couldn't help but grin as she stared down at her plate trying to keep a straight face.


"What'd you do to your wrist?" Angel inquired. He sat on a chair by the kitchen table looking up at her sitting on the countertop.

"I fell." He let out a laugh then quickly regained himself,

"You're full of shit."

"Why doesn't anyone believe that one?" she asked with a smile.

"I've seen you fucking piss drunk and you're not anywhere close to falling down."

"Just you wait to see me next week, I'll be took drunk to even stand up let alone give myself the chance to fall down," she joked.

"What'd you hit?" She laughed in disbelief,

"Am I really that predictable? Please, I think it's time to kill me."

"I'm going to pretend that's your sense of humor coming back and not your suicidal tendencies," he joked.

"I think both of those things kind of run hand in hand when it comes to me." He thought about it for a moment then laughed a little,

"Yeah, you're right."


"Xander, are you alright?" Giles asked quietly as to not interrupt the rest of the tables conversation. He had noticed him looking increasingly uncomfortable and squinting his eyes in the past half hour.

"My head's actually starting to bother me a little bit," he admitted slightly. Really he wanted to say that every thirty seconds it was feeling like someone was hitting him in the back of the head with a two by four but he didn't want to raise more concern to everyone than necessary.

"Did you bring any of the prescription?"

"No, I left it at home I'm not really into this whole routine yet."

"Do you need to go?" Xander shook his head showing that he wanted to stay but as he moved his head back and forth the pain settled in, take away the thirty second interval between hits.

"Maybe I should call it a night." By this point everyone had seen his discomfort and had ceased their conversation. "Thanks for dinner everybody." They were all concerned but Wood offered to walk him out to the car and then later give Willow and Kennedy a ride home.


"So how are things with you and Faith?" Wood inquired with concern as they walked out to the car.

"Trying out for the rebound position?" Xander asked quickly.

"Oh come on, don't insult *her* like that."

"I'm sorry," he apologized, "you're a good guy, Robin."

"Thanks. Have a safe trip home."



After about seven beers and a pack of cigarettes Angel glanced up at the clock on the wall.

"See, I'm making you a clock watcher now, too." He smiled and answered,

"Yeah I have to get going."

"What, you're not going to wait till at least B shows up to see us chilling together?" she joked.

"As much as I'd like to," he answered jokingly, "I've gotta get going."

"Yeah," she answered, feigning indifference. She walked him to the door, "Angel," he turned and looked at her, "thanks for coming by." He nodded,

"I'll be around again soon."


Xander walked into the apartment holding the side of his head with his hand as though it would stabilize the pain. He couldn't think straight anymore and all he could think about was going and lying down. He walked into the bedroom and Faith immediately jumped up, happy to see him. She placed the eighth beer of the night onto the floor and walked over to him and clutched his waist, kissing him lovingly. He didn't speak, unable to get himself to think that much and only motioned towards the bed, needing desperately to lie down. She felt his direction but took it the wrong way. He laid himself down on his back and took a deep breath but in a second she was hovering over him with her hair dancing across his face and her lips kissed slowly down his neck.

She knew he had been strangely quiet but the nice buzz she had gotten going and her anticipation of his return was enough to override her hunch. She continued to kiss him lovingly until he mustered up enough thought and control of himself to grab her hips and push against her. That was a signal nothing was going to be able to override. She sat up and looked down at him and immediately saw that he wasn't okay.

"Baby, are you okay?"

"Faith can you can you just get me some medicine?" he managed to push out.

"Yeah," she answered, feeling a surge of agonizing guilt and sadness rush through her. She hated seeing him in pain she leaned down to give him a quick kiss before running into the kitchen to grab his medicine. She knew his head must have been really killing him when he snapped at her kiss,

"Faith, now."

"No problem," she answered, climbing off of him and walking into the kitchen quickly.

Day IV

Xander resisted being pulled away from the sleep he had finally managed to find by the painful throbbing in his head. He held his eyes closed until he finally couldn't anymore. With a sigh he slowly opened his eyes and what he saw momentarily numbed the pain. He didn't feel her near him but he had just instinctually assumed that she was further away from him on the bed so she wasn't touching him. When he opened his eyes he saw her sitting with her knees pulled up to her chest and her arms wrapped around her legs to hold them as she rested her chin on her knees.

He blinked a few times to rid his vision of the fuzzy sleepiness and to get a more defined picture of her in front of him. Her hair was loose and most of it fell to one side because of the way her head was resting on her knee. As he blinked a couple more times he saw that her face was completely exhausted showing that after he had fallen asleep she hadn't. In fact, he remembered suddenly, that was exactly where she was sitting when she handed him the medicine and he went to sleep. He tried to keep himself from blinking anymore, not wanting anymore painful details, but unable to resist, he blinked again and the redness of her eyes became clear to him. She was exhausted and she had probably been crying for the majority of the night – and he had just slept through it.

With that realization and a few more blinks he was reminded again of the constant throbbing in his head. The blinking ceased and he just squinted painfully – it wasn't as bad as it was last night but the medicine was definitely wearing off.

"Do you want some more medicine? That's probably worn off, right?" The tone of her voice ripped him apart more than the fatal pain in his head.

"You've been counting Mississippi's all night?" he joked, needing to feel like he was making it better for her rather than worse. He was sure the lack of sleep was why he didn't receive any laughter and it had nothing to do with the quality of his joke.

"I'll go grab some," she answered quietly, moving for the first time in hours. He would've argued with that, not wanting her to leave, but the throbbing reminded him that it was probably for the best that she was going to get his meds. As she left the room he turned his head slowly to the side and saw the clock beside their bed – it was five in the morning.


Faith walked into the kitchen barely still conscious and probably not entirely so. She was thankful that she didn't have the energy to think about what was going on – she kind of appreciated the zombie-like state she was in at the moment. She walked over to the drawer with the meds in it and began rumbling through the bottles,

"You're up early," Willow greeted quietly as she walked into the kitchen with a thick book, ready to begin her morning routine.

"I like to think of it as up late," she answered in a mumble.

"You looking for a morning fix or is something wrong?"

"Very funny," she answered, entirely un-amused.

"Is he okay?"

"Oh yeah," she answered sarcastically, "he's just peachy." Willow took a deep breath to keep herself from taking Faith too seriously this early in the morning. As scary as the thought was, this was an improvement for Faith's morning attitude.

"Are you okay?" she asked, judging by the look of her that she certainly was not.

"What the fuck do you care?" she snapped as she poured a few pills into her hand. Willow felt that intimidated little girl feeling creeping up inside of her – a feeling she concluded only Faith could still make her feel – but she maintained herself and pressed it back down seeing that Faith definitely hadn't slept last night and probably not since she had heard the news. Xander had talked to her about it on more than one occasion how Faith was a bad sleeper and she had to assume that 'bad' was probably an understatement the last couple of days.

She sat quietly at the kitchen table and just watched Faith patiently. She reached for a pack of cigarettes lying on the counter and quickly realized it was empty. Willow found herself anticipating the inevitable outburst that was about to happen. Holding the empty pack Faith took a deep breath and as she exhaled she crumpled the carton in her fist. The rush of emotions running through her were undeniable – she quickly released the pack and reached for a glass and began to fill it with water for Xander.

Willow had a hunch that she was even crying. It wasn't a concluded hypothesis but as Faith quickly wiped her face with her wet hand from the sink she accepted it as true.

"Fai-" Willow began, unable to discard her concern. She was cut off by the fumble of the cup of water in Faith's hand that she dropped back into the sink accidentally. Willow remained silent – Faith hadn't thrown the cup in anger but either her being so distracted or so exhausted is what made her lose her coordination and drop it. She forced herself to take another deep breath – one that from Willow's view looked almost jagged and painful. She picked up the cup and refilled it with water then without another word exited the kitchen.


Despite the throbbing in his head Xander smiled happily upon her return. She walked up to the side of the bed and handed him the pills and then – carefully – the glass of water. He noticed how quietly she did everything and it kind of bothered him; Faith wasn't really the quiet type. He actually expected her to be joking about something like how much he was going to have to pay her to get up this early and go get him water…

"Thanks," he said taking the pills and quickly swallowing them down. He knew if he wasn't looking so hard he would've missed the minute curvature of the corner of her mouth in response – it was *almost* a smile. She climbed back onto the bed and returned to her sitting spot where she had been all night. She had watched him toss and turn in pain all night, squinting and turning his head. "Come here," he said, placing the empty glass onto the floor beside the bed.

"Do you feel better?" she asked without moving at all.

"It'll kick in in a few minutes," he answered with a smile. He was making himself downplay his headache because he could see how stressed she was and even if he couldn't make it better for her – since she didn't let him – he certainly wasn't going to make it any worse.

"That's good," she muttered with a slight smile. He had gotten to know her over the years and he could tell in moments such as these, when she was close to crying or being emotional in any way she tried to not make any real facial expressions because it seemed that any expression at all – even a smile – might jump start her into the emotions that were really building up behind it all. He sat up in the bed, resting his back against the backboard of the bed and held his hand out to her. She met it with hers and their softly entangled fingers lay on the bed covers quietly.

"Come here," he repeated softly.

"I'm okay," she assured him, "why don't you close your eyes and get some rest… you're probably still really tired and-"

"Speaking of which, why don't you come here and lie down and get some rest yourself." She hesitantly moved over to him and through his guidance, he laid her down right beside him with her head resting against his chest. He held her with his arms firmly and allowed himself to keep time by the hot breath against his skin; as the skin cooled from the breath it was met again by another. "I'll wake you up if you fall asleep," he promised, knowing for some unknown reason that she didn't want to be asleep.

"I won't," she answered. He knew she was… stubborn was a good word for it, but he also knew that there was more behind her not sleeping lately.

"It's okay if you do, you know?" She shook her head and answered,

"I'm okay."

"You can't live off of that coma sleep forever, Faith," he added playfully. She lifted her head slowly from his chest and kissed his jaw by his throat tenderly.


"And where have you been?" Dawn asked with a grin as her sister finally walked through the front door to their apartment. Buffy jumped slightly at the unexpected greeting right through the door.

"Dawn, why are you awake?"

"Well, most people wake up around seven o'clock…"

"Umm… yeah," Buffy answered, pushing past Dawn and walking into the apartment.

"So where'd you go last night?"

"Dawn, go away," she snapped.

"So it was that bad, huh?"

"You know," she snapped, "you really need to stop spending so much time around Faith. I really don't think-"

"You showing up at seven in the morning seems to me that maybe you're the one who needs to stop spending time around her," she giggled.

"Dawn, I don't want to hear it."


He ran his fingers through her hair, pulling it away from her face gently, then brought her lips from his chin to his lips. She kissed him gently, almost afraid to hurt him as if he were a doll made out of fragile china. He lowered his hands down to her hips and slid her from next to him to on top of him and pressed her firmly down against him. Her kisses instantly became deeper and stronger but he maintained the very slow pace.

Xander held her lower back firmly with one hand and brought the other up to her cheek, which he held lovingly as he kissed her. The slow pace was something different for them – they had tried to keep it slow before, but this was bordering too slow for foreplay, but both of them were left yearning for the other between each kiss. She brought her hands up to his face and cupped it gently as she kissed him and he took his hand and stroked her arm slowly surprised that he was able to bring himself away from running his fingers through her hair. There was something about that for him – there was something very tender about kissing her and touching her hair.

On a final stroke, he brought his hand up to her shoulder then allowed it to trace her body slowly back down over her breast. He followed her shirt down to the bottom then did a sit up with his upper body, bringing her slowly up with him without ever breaking their kiss. Still holding her back with one hand he pulled her shirt up as far as he could with his other hand. She raised her arms over her head as she parted her lips from his. She smiled softly at him as she looked at him – almost innocently – and he pulled her shirt over her head.

They both paused, even in their breath, as the locked eyes with each other. They were pressed against each other firmly except for their lips which were parted by a few small inches. The moment erupted several memories for both of them but the most relevant was the thought of how far their relationship had come with each other. The fact that Faith could actually stop in the middle of foreplay and look into her lovers face was monumental for both of them. She looked into his face with the usual tender, loving expression except it lacked the usual glow, which was replaced by an unwanted understanding. Still keeping his gaze locked with hers, Xander lowered his lips to her shoulder and kissed it softly. She smiled slightly then pulled her lower lip in between her teeth pensively. He squeezed her waist then kissed her lower lip, pulling it into his mouth instead of hers.

She kissed him again as she found the bottom of his shirt and pulled it up, waiting to stop the kiss until the shirt separated them. He held her bare waist with his hands as he lowered himself back down onto the bed. A shiver went through her body as he slid his hands from her waist under the waistband of her shorts. He paused to make sure it was a good shiver then once he was assured by her pulling him into another kiss he slid them down.

She slid up on him taking a deep breath while still kissing him.

"I love you," she promised as he slid his pants off.

"Faith, I…" he lost his voice as she slid down onto him. Pressed down on him she pulled him into another kiss. He pulled her closer to him by holding her hips firmly and guiding her over him rhythmically.


Giles walked quietly from his kitchen into his study holding a cup of tea. He sat down behind his desk and glanced down at one of the drawers then back up again. He swiveled the chair slightly in both directions a handful of times than glanced back down at the same drawer. He hesitated then finally opened the drawer and took out an unmarked manila folder. He laid it flat in front of him then after taking a few sips of tea he opened it.


He held her tightly as she lowered her head to rest it on his chest. He felt her still shaking softly as she laid there – trying to act as though she wasn't. He noticed her slowly regaining her breath. When she did he still felt small shudders going through her body. He knew it had nothing to do with being cold but he gently slid her to lying next to him and pulled a sheet up over her.

Xander repositioned himself next to her so that their eyes were exactly at the same point and he began to stroke her cheek affectionately.

"Baby, are you alright?" he asked as soon as he saw a tear slowly fall down her cheek and leave an unmistakable shine on it. She nodded but more tears followed their predecessors and he wasn't convinced by the weak nod. "What's wrong?" he asked holding her face with one of his hands.

"Nothing," she answered in a tone that did nothing but heighten his suspicions.

"Well, you see, I'm concerned because you're kind of crying," he answered sarcastically. She wiped the tears away from her face as though him informing her was the first thing that made her realize it was true. "Was it really that bad?" he asked, "I mean I've had woman run away screaming but never have I driven them to sobbing…"

"No, it was good."

"And you're crying why?"

"Because it was really nice," she answered. He quickly understood the tears and kissed her,

"I love you."

"I could tell," she answered, the tears beginning to flow again.


"Just hold me," she answered pulling his arms around her.

"As long as I have left," he answered, "I'll hold you." He felt her stiffen as he said that, making her have to realize how limited that time frame was.

"I need you longer than that."


"So what are we doing today?" Kennedy asked energetically.

"I don't know," Willow answered with a soft smile.

"Anything with Xander?"

"Maybe later tonight… all I know is that he's got a doctor's appointment this afternoon. Maybe we could meet him somewhere…"

"Why don't we go out drinking or something?" Willow flashed her a skeptical look and she added, "it's something Faith would want to do."

"Oh," she answered sarcastically, "so I'm sure Faith would really enjoy having you as the designated driver."

"Very funny!" Kennedy answered.


"Where are you going?" Faith asked quickly as soon as Xander began to motion towards getting up.

"I think I was just going to go to the bathroom," he answered. He tried to hide his smile at her anxiety but then added glancing at the clock, "I actually need to get ready to go."


"Didn't I tell you?" he asked, seeing in her expression that he didn't want to bring this up. She continued with her blank stare and he added, "I have a doctor's appointment."

"What for?" she asked. Her tone was very telling to him; her old school, indifferent attitude was in her words as though her were talking to Faith years earlier but looking at it from another angle it was obvious that it was all standing on a platform of concern.

"Just to check everything out," he explained nonchalantly. He had gotten up off of the bed and was slowly inching his way towards the bathroom trying very hard to not let this become a big deal.

"What's there to check out?" she pushed. "I mean is there a chance they can fix it or give you more time or…"

"I don't think so."

"So what's there to check out?"

"Faith, I don't know," he answered shortly. He saw how abruptly she silenced her questions and he knew he had handled the situation wrong. "I think it'll be a really short appointment, though…" he added awkwardly.

"Can I come?" she asked cautiously.

"If you want to, of course." He was surprised that she actually wanted to go to something like that… actually he was surprised that she even wanted to leave her room.


As usual they were late. Xander claimed it was the fact that Faith was involved in their getting to the appointment that made it so they had no other choice than to be late. They also had an argument about the fact that, despite Faith claiming that being fashionably late was the way to be, Xander didn't think that rule should apply to doctor's appointments. To make up for them being late, which Xander maintained was Faith's fault, she offered to park the car and meet him inside.

She parked the car and as she was about to get out and walk towards the building she stopped and pulled out a cigarette from her bag and lit it quickly. She let herself sit back comfortably in the seat and she pulled the rear view mirror to the side so she could look at herself. She couldn't tell whether she was happy about it or not but the one thing she saw when she looked at herself was… well, her. It seemed like a strange thought but there was something so typically her about the way she looked. It was strange enough to her that that thought was something that stood out to her but it was even stranger that she wasn't sure that made her happy.

It had been years since she'd smoked anything but cigarettes and she hadn't been having profound thoughts like these since then about herself. She glanced down at her clothes – she was wearing her regular jeans and tank with a denim jacket – and she couldn't figure out why she wasn't happy with it. She shook off the thought as she exhaled a large cloud of smoke from her lungs. She finally exited the car and threw her cigarette to the ground and walked towards the office.

She walked into the building and up the elevator which brought her into a large waiting room area. She glanced around and saw a bunch of people waiting; some with family others with their children and some with their spouse. They were all dressed casually but for some reason Faith felt out of place. Her attention was then drawn to her left when a child whined to his mother,

"Mom, I don't want to go in… I'm scared."

"Sweetie, it'll be fine. I promise…"

A soft smile spread across Faith's mouth at the cute little boy whining to his mother. The mother glanced over at Faith watching them then after giving her a quick glare she grabbed her child's hand and walked him away from her. She had been given countless dirty looks in her life and she knew how to act as though she hadn't even seen them. She played it off like nothing had happened then pulled out another cigarette from her bag and lit it. She reminded herself that she needed to find Xander and glancing to her right she saw the secretaries desk. She walked over while taking a pull on her cigarette,

"Hi, I'm just-"

"Can I help you?" the secretary cut off rudely as Faith exhaled a stream of smoke.

"Yeah, I'm looking for Xander," she answered nonchalantly. The secretary apathetically glanced down at a pad of paper and answered,

"He's not on this list."

"What?" she snapped, confused. "Of course he is… I just dropped… sorry, I mean, Alex Harris."

"Oh, Mr. Harris," the secretary answered. Another nurse walked behind the desk from the back and began listening to their conversation as she put down a clipboard. "Are you related to him?"

"No," she answered honestly as she took another pull on her cigarette, "I'm his… umm… his girlfriend. But not like that… I'm not just like a fling girlfriend or something, I'm like… I'm his…"

"I'm sorry," the nurse interjected, "family members only." She allowed that thought provoking thought to sink in then added, "and there's no smoking allowed in this building." She was about to lash out in her usual way of telling both of them off and demanding to be let into the doctor's office to see him but she heard from somewhere behind her in the waiting room,

"Mom, they're going to give me another shot… I don't want to, mommy, it's going to hurt."

"Sorry," she forced herself to answer glancing at her hand holding the cigarette. The secretary had looked up Mr. Harris' folder after Faith had said his name knowing she had heard his name come up in conversation sometime that week in the lounge and how sad a story it was. She wanted to make sure it was the same man she was thinking of and as she flipped through a few memo's in his folder she realized it was.

Faith put out the cigarette on the sole of her shoe and tossed it in the garbage can. She took a deep breath to compose herself then asked again,

"Are you sure I can't just go in to see him? Please… I don't want to let him down." The nurse maintained her stance against Faith, looking at the girl who obviously to her was the typical rebel without a cause. She had seen this type before – they were the type that whored themselves out to anybody then ended up coming into the hospital either for an abortion or for an overdose. She had no interest in doing this girl any favors. The secretary was seeing a different side of the story as she flipped through the file and remembered the doctor talking about how sad the story was. She overheard him talking about how he was almost brought to tears when one of his patients told him he was going to ask his girlfriend to marry him the day he was told his illness was terminal.

"Certainly not," the nurse answered quickly. "It's policy," she added half-heartedly. The secretary stood and motioned for the nurse to follow her a few steps away from Faith.


"You seem like you're in a rush," the doctor noted as Xander continually glanced towards the door to the office.

"No, I'm just wondering where Faith… my girlfriend is. She was supposed to meet me in here, she was just parking the car. I hope she's okay…"

"You mentioned the last time you were here that she can become emotional sometimes," he remembered, being extremely touched by Xander's concern for his girlfriend when he broke the bad news to him.

"She's really only emotional when it comes to me," he answered with a smile as he realized it almost for the first time, "other than that she's kind of the indifferent type."

"Well, maybe it's best she's not in here then."

"What do you mean?"

"The blood tests have signified that the infection may have accelerated it's process and…"

"I promised her at least a week and that's already too soon… you can't be telling me it's going to be less than that."

"I don't know for sure," he answered, "but it's possible that the infection will spread more quickly and therefore become more of a problem for your health sooner."


"The Harris case is terminal," the secretary explained. "Dr. Carter was discussing her before," she said motioning towards Faith, "they were to be married and-"

"I don't care," the nurse answered. "Even if I wanted to give that girl a break, I can't because it's policy that only family members go beyond that door."


"She's trouble," the nurse answered quickly, "she'll only make a scene. I'm mean for goodness sake she came in here smoking! For all we know she'll mug someone or something," the nurse argued weakly.

"Now you're being outrageous," the secretary defended.

"It's alright," Faith interjected, "I'll just wait outside." Before the secretary could say anything Faith had already turned away from the desk and walked into the elevator.


"Thank you, Sir," Xander answered while taking a bottle of new – stronger – medication from the doctor.

"You certainly are in a hurry…"

"I just want to make sure she's alright, I don't mean to be rude."

"Not at all," the doctor assured him. Xander practically ran out of the office and towards the waiting room. He walked past the secretaries desk then stopped and backed up several strides and asked quickly,

"Excuse me, miss, have you seen a young woman with dark hair and-"

"Are you Mr. Harris?"

"Yes, Ma'am."

"She was in here looking for you but… only family is allowed in and-"

"She's my girlfriend," he answered with confusion.

"I'm sorry," she answered ashamed that she hadn't been able to get Faith inside, "only family members are allowed. I'm very sorry…"

"Fine," Xander answered quickly turning away and practically jogging towards the elevator. She watched regretfully from her desk and as he hit the elevator button several times without the door opening he quickly went for the stairs and jogged down them.


Xander walked out of the building and saw Faith standing on the corner smoking a cigarette. He walked over to her quickly, putting the bottle of medication in his pocket.

"Hey," he greeted.

"Hey," she answered. He could tell she was covering up the fact that she was upset by her tone and even her stance.

"Why didn't you-"

"Hospital's kind of wig me out," she answered quickly.

"I'm sorry," he answered, swallowing down the lie. "You never told me that…" She shrugged and asked,

"So, did he tell you it was all just a mistake and that you're fine now?" She was joking but even saying those words made her faintly believe it could be true and only left her to be disappointed.

"Sorry it took so long," he answered pulling her into his arms.

"It's okay," she answered tossing her cigarette to the ground. He watched it's short flight and then watched it land in a pile of others she had smoked.

"You trying to kill yourself off quickly or something?"

"No, that would be stupid."

"I'm glad you see that," he answered with relief. She took a breath then answered,

"Yeah… as much as I'd like that to work I know we're definitely not going to the same place after we die…" He had never heard her talk about anything so… well thoughtful before. It was strange for him to realize that she actually thought a lot about life and death. He had assumed it was just something she blocked out of her head because it bothered her too much. "God I fucked up!"

"What do you mean?"

"Xander, you're going to get the luxury suite up there," she answered with a grin, "me on the other hand… well, let's just say I'm going to pay for everything I did."

"Faith you're…" he tried to dissuade her but he found it hard to. He had become so close to her and thought so highly of her that it was hard to actually connect her with what she was guilty of. He didn't think of her as a killer anymore…

"…out of cigarettes," she finished his sentence after a long delay. She did a half turn out of his arms then wrapped hers around one of his. With her head leaning against his shoulder they crossed the street and headed towards their car.


After walking for several blocks in silence they finally arrived at the parking lot that Faith had illegally parked in. Xander climbed into the driver's seat and then as he started the car he glanced over at Faith. He had a feeling something had happened in the doctor's office from her behavior and the secretary's anxious apology to him.

"What's the matter?"

"I think I'm the wrong girl for you," she answered. Not only was he taken aback by what she had said but he was already thrown off guard when she answered with something other than the expected 'nothing'.

"What are you talking about?" he asked with a laugh.

"I don't think I'm the one."

"Is this like a Slayer issue?" he asked, still joking, "having to be the only one all the time."

"Xander, guys look at me and they don't think picket fence, big wedding and two point five kids."

"I never understood that two point five thing… is that implying that one of the kids is going to be obese or something?" he joked.

"Never mind," she answered angrily. She leaned against the car door and stared out of the window.

"Faith, I'm not trying to be a dick here, okay… listen to yourself," he said, still having to laugh at the fact that they were actually having this conversation. She remained in her position, ignoring him completely now. "Faith… I've got a couple days left here and I can't think of spending them without you… you're my girlfriend… I love you," he added, hoping to get some acknowledgement. The final phrase finally got her to turn back towards him. She answered in a very pensive and tight tone,

"What if you're spending your last days with the wrong person…"

"Faith, I'm the first to admit that I'm a chronic screw-up, but-"

"But what if I'm your last and biggest mistake?" He saw the worry and anxiety consuming her face like a dark cloud engulfing the sky. "I mean, I don't think I can do anything right with my life, Xander… for the first time in my pathetic life I actually feel like what I'm doing is right… this feels right to me but everything still points to it like it's wrong."

"Baby, no," he answered, quickly grabbing her hand into his. "Don't you feel this?" he asked with a soft smile, "how could this not be right? What could possibly point to this being wrong?"

"Gee, Xander, I don't know, maybe the fact that you're dying," she answered sardonically. "There's a million other things too if that one isn't big enough for you," she added.

"Yeah, like what?"

"Okay…" she answered thinking for a second, "Buffy hates us being together and Willow wasn't exactly thrilled about it either. You walk into a room and everyone thinks of what a great guy you must be; I walk into a room and everyone's thinking about whether I'm five bucks or ten."

"Faith, that's only what you think about yourself. No one thinks that about you… What about how people look at us when we walking into a room together?" She sat there silently and he answered for her, "you know what they think, they think about what a lucky fucking guy I am to have a girl like you next to me." She began to argue but he cut her off, "and about Buffy, since you brought it up. She told me she was worried about you and that I needed to stop thinking about you unless I was actually going to act on it. She told me flat out – she said you were drinking way too much and being with way too many random guys and she didn't like the road you were going down. I think she expected me to just try and talk some sense into you but a part of her knew that I still had feelings for you. She may seem like she doesn't approve of us being together but inside she sees how happy we are."

He watched her facial features carefully and saw her struggling with all of the complicated thoughts streaming randomly through her head. She opened her mouth to speak but then stopped – she did this several times. Finally she spoke after several false starts,

"I think… I think even if you weren't sick this wouldn't work."

"What are you talking about?" he asked as he brought the vehicle to an abrupt stop. For the first time the levity was completely drained from his tone.

"Xander… I'm not the white dress kind of girl and kids… nobody in their right mind wants my kid anywhere near this planet! And even if it was a great kid, which it would be because of you, I'd only fuck it up! It would end up as screwed up as I am and it would hate me and-"

"Faith," he cut her off strongly enough to make her stop talking, "I think you'd be the greatest mom…"

"How?" she asked doubtfully.

"People you love have absolutely nothing to fear on the Earth."

"You're the only person I love," she answered, "and you can't lie and tell me you're not petrified to die… and I can't do anything but watch."


"Xander, I'm used to guys walking out on me. If I really wanted any of them around anyway I could've kept them. I want you to stay with me and it's not even like I can change anything to make you stay."

"Faith, there isn't anything about you that needs to change!" he stated with frustration.

"Sorry," she answered quickly, "I'm just freaking out a little I guess…"

"You want to go out?" he asked out of nowhere.

"Yeah," she answered of course.

"Will suggested we meet her and Kennedy at this sports bar nearby. You up for it?"

"I've never been to a sports bar before," she teased.


Within an hour Faith had won over a hundred and fifty dollars from playing pool with a group of guys, had to be talked down from about half a dozen bar brawls, and had consumed far more Tequila than any person in their right mind would've drank in a week. She was having fun and Xander knew it was her way of dealing with the fucked up things in her head so he couldn't complain. Willow and Kennedy finally had arrived to meet them there as Faith won yet another game of pool. Xander was still amazed that her game of pool was not only maintaining it's quality as she drank but it might've even been improving.

"Let us proclaim the mystery of Faith," he muttered, remembering that from Sunday school from several decades earlier.

"Has she been going that fast since you got here?" Willow asked with a bit of concern as she watched Faith down another shot. He pretended to think momentarily then answered with a shrug,


"She's going to get sick, Xander," she warned.

"She had a really tough day," he answered, "and I don't know how to make it better so… so I figured I'd just let her deal with it her own way."

"What happened?"

"They gave her some shit at the hospital… she won't admit it but I think they really made her feel worthless. Can you believe this, she said to me that she thinks she might be the wrong girl for me! I mean, how much more perfect for me could she be?" he asked, redirecting his gaze back over at her. Willow followed his eyes and she ended up seeing Faith pushing a guy several feet back and yelling,

"Fuck you!"

"She's a keeper," Willow answered with a smirk. Xander quickly walked over to her as the guy she pushed began to walk back towards her offensively.

"Hey!" Xander called, "back off, alright?"

"Keep your bitch under control," the guy spat back as he walked away.

"Fuck you, bitch!" she retorted.

"Faith, knock it off," Xander scolded turning back to her. He was slightly irritated that this was far from the first guy he had had to step up to tonight.

"Baby, what's the matter?" she asked innocently.

"I think you need to be cut off."


"Because you do," he answered firmly.

"But…" she began to argue but Kennedy was approaching from the bar with two bartenders following her each holding as many shots as they could.

"Right across the middle," Kennedy instructed pointing at the pool table. They lined them up on the table and Kennedy called to Faith, "you sure you're ready to play me like this?" Faith caught the disapproving glare from Xander and said,

"We could just go home," she offered.

"No, you two have fun."


"No really, play." She leaned over to him and kissed him on the cheek before turning to the table and having Kennedy explain the game.

"Alright, as you play you need to pick your line that you're going to send the ball and if there's a shot glass in the way you need to drink it to move it. If you hit the shot glass with the ball when it's full then you have to drink all of the glasses left on the table. Loser drinks what's left on the table."

"Ouch," she answered, "you know some of us are already wasted."

"So hopefully you're as good a player as you claim to be," she answered with a smirk. Willow threw Xander a hesitant glare and he answered,

"Hey, don't look at me like my girlfriend's the one who just came up with that game."


Between the playful – yet highly competitive – comments being thrown back and forth between the two slayers, the interesting new game of pool, and the fact that both of them looked the way they did, the two Slayer's attracted quite a crowd of spectators. Kennedy's game seemed comparable to Faith's for the most part but it was more evident how many shots she had done as the game continued. Faith had become aware of how much she had drank so far that night by her blurred vision and slightly shaking limbs so she began to play quite conservatively – well, for Faith.

"Bet I can finish this game right now," Kennedy stated confidently.

"What, by passing out you mean?" Faith answered with a laugh.

"I'm okay," she lied, "but I've got to admit, I'm amazed you're still standing with as much as you've drank," she answered, her speech beginning to be affected.

"You gonna keep trying to talk or are you actually going to do this thing?" Faith pushed. She couldn't see any line that Kennedy could choose to get the three balls in that she had left. Kennedy answered her with a mocking glare and a roll of the eyes then she picked up two shot glasses and downed them both quickly. Faith leaned over playfully looking over at Kennedy,

"Are those going to come right back up?" she mocked.

"Ha ha," she answered tossing the two glasses onto the floor.

"I've gotta see this," Faith teased, unable to see how she was even going to hit one ball without hitting another full shot glass. Kennedy began to crouch down to line up her shot and Faith interjected, "you sure you want to do this? Count 'em… there's five shots still on the table, Kenn." Kennedy shrugged her off, used to Faith's taunts, and began to line up her shot again. Faith saw her confidence so she looked where she was looking to see what her line was.

"Shit," Faith muttered, louder than she wanted to. She saw the line Kennedy had and knew if she could pull it off she was going to be the loser drinking the five shots still standing there mockingly on the table. Faith walked quietly over to Kennedy and leaned her hand against the table so she was close to where she was picking her shot. As she pulled the stick back and then jumped it forward to hit the ball Faith quickly gave her a nudge. The ball ricocheted off of the edge and hit a full shot glass.

"You fucking bitch!" Kennedy yelled in disbelief as she slammed the stick down onto the ground. Faith laughed and answered,

"All's fair…"

"In love and war," Kennedy finished.

"In life," Faith corrected her to her own version. "Hey," she greeted as Xander walked out from the shadowed corner of the bar and over to her. She jumped into his arms, wrapping her legs around his waist and holding his neck with her arms.

"Whoa," he said catching her. He looked up into her face and even through the thick mask she was wearing he could see the sadness threatening to come through her eyes. "We should go home." She nodded in agreement and kissed him as she held his face tenderly in her hands.

"Whatever you want, baby." He supported her by her hips as she slid off of him to stand back on the floor. She felt a wave of dizziness rush through her as she stood and she leaned her head on his shoulder for several moments. "Take me home," she muttered into his ear.


Xander knew she was far from sober but her sensual attitude was addictive. As they drove home the car was silent but her intent was clear. As much as he was ready to go along with it he couldn't help but think of how many silent car rides she had been in going to someone's house with the same intent. She was walking towards the bedroom now as he closed the apartment door behind them. Tossing the keys on the kitchen counter he walked into their bedroom and saw her sitting on the edge of the bed. He walked over to her and as he stood over her he asked,

"Are you okay?"

"If you kiss me I might be," she answered. He leaned down to her and kissed her softly. One of her hands quickly met his cheek as she kissed him and the other began unbuckling his belt. He felt the slight shake going through her hands and asked,

"Why are you shaking?" he asked standing up straight. She stayed sitting on the bed but brought her arms around his waist, hugging him towards her.

"I want to have your baby," she answered quietly. The hesitation in her tone baffled him but the seriousness in it terrified him.

"What?" he asked sharply.

"Xander, don't say no to me," she begged.

"You're drunk," he concluded.

"That's not it," she answered. "Xander, please!"

"You must be so beyond wasted you're not even listening to yourself speak."

"You said it today! Today! You said we were going to have a baby and you said that I'd be a good mother. I'm not a good anything, Xander, but I want to be a good mom if you say I can and I-"

"Faith, we're not even talking about this now."

"Oh, okay, we'll just talk about it next week some time then."


"Xander, I need somebody! I need something to live for… I need somebody that needs me… I need something to care about. Xander I know what I need to keep my head together and I can't believe you're just saying no," she argued as her hands flew around trying to emphasize her words.

"Faith, listen to me."

"No, you're just going to tell me I'm drunk and I'm crazy and I'm fucking stupid."

"You said it, not me." She was offended by what he said and he quickly added, "Faith, if you're not going to listen to me listen to yourself. Faith, you just decided today that you wanted to be a mom?"

"You just decided four days ago that you're going to drop dead so let's not talk about quick decisions okay. It's not like you're giving me a long time to think about all of this. A few years down the road, yeah, that might be a little more ideal for us but hey, guess what, you ain't going to be around in a few days!"

"Faith, I'm not going to just knock you up because you think that's going to solve everything."

"Knock me up? We're going to be together almost two years and you think of it as knocking me up?"

"What does it matter what the hell I call it? Faith, come on, I'm going to die any day now and you're giving me a hard time about-"

"You promised me at least a week," she caught his misuse of the words and instantly needed an explanation. "Xander, you swore you had at least a week!"

"I probably do."

"You're lying to me."


"And you lied to me about being a good mom too. Was that all just to get me to shut up?" She finally stood from the bed and walked towards the bathroom, feeling herself getting dizzy as the argument progressed.

"I'm not going to do that to you! I'm not leaving you with a kid to raise by yourself." He grabbed her arm to keep her from walking out on the argument.


"But nothing, Faith!" he scolded, holding her arm firmly so she wouldn't walk away from him. "My parents were together for me and my mother still did all of the work. Hell, you don't even know your dad and I don't know whether you hate him or not because you won't talk about it and as for your mother who I'm guessing was the only one around to raise you, all I know about her is that she's dead and you can't even have someone ask about her without getting upset! Faith, you served time for murder because you have deep rooted anger issues which as far as I'm concerned go right back to your mother. How the fuck do you think your kid's going to end up without a dad around?" He saw the tears brimming her eyes as he spoke but he needed to defend his side of the argument because he felt so strongly about it.

"Let me go," she muttered as she pulled her arm away from him. He lost his grip but tried to regain it, "don't fucking touch me, Xander!"

"Faith!" he followed her to the bathroom and blocked the door she slammed in his face. He didn't walk in but he pushed the door back open. She immediately kneeled down in front of the toilet and began to vomit. "God, Faith," he sighed as he walked in, his demeanor changed entirely. He grabbed a small towel and wet it with cold water then pulled her hair away from her face as she sat up. Her entire body was shaking from repelling the insulting fluids she had drank in abundance earlier. Tears were rolling down her cheeks as she tried to catch her breath. He had gotten to know a few personal things about Faith in their time together; throwing up was an upsetting thing for her. It was something that she claimed always had made her cry – he had a hunch it was a little more deep than just that.

He sat down next to her on the floor and wiped her face gently with the wet towel. She was shaking violently and as he tried to wrap his arms around her she pulled away but not because she wanted to but because she needed to throw up again. He quickly pulled her hair back for her and he felt his own insides twist at the thought of how shitty she was feeling.

"Why the fuck did you have to drink so much?"

She sat up again and he wiped her face then held the cold towel to her forehead for a few moments. She seemed to be staring off into nothing as she tried to slow her breathing back down unsuccessfully. He tried to soothe her by rubbing her arm and kissing her cheek but she quickly moved away from his touch,

"Don't touch me."

"Oh, stop it," he answered softly. She put her hand up to her face to block his view of her face,

"Don't look at me. Don't touch me. Just go away."

"You're just trying to make me feel like an asshole, thanks Faith," he muttered. There had always been something about her that he could never explain that made her so untouchable that there was that constant need to touch her especially when she was so far from her characteristic fine. He moved his hand and placed it on her arm over her tattoo to stroke her arm in the attempt to soothe her.

"Don't touch me," she scolded, this time actually using the hand she had to block her face from him to push him away. "Why don't you just fucking die already and stop torturing me!" she screamed at him angrily. He felt like she had actually just punched him in the stomach as hard as she possibly could. He couldn't even get enough air into his lungs to try and say something back. All he could make himself do was slowly stand up and walk out of the bathroom.

If she wasn't so upset and confused – not to mention, drunk – she probably would've regretted what she said. But she didn't. At least not right then; it was almost a relief for her – temporary of course – to have finally vented her frustration. If someone dies in an accident or is killed by a vamp or something, she knew how to deal – she was allowed to deal with it right away and get over it. But this was so different – it was like someone had told her, 'the worst thing you could possibly think of is going to happen, but not yet, so even though you know it's going to happen, you have to pretend to be happy until then, okay?'

She had never been able to push him away before but her words had really crushed him. He knew she really didn't want him to leave the bathroom but he couldn't sit there anymore. He knew a stronger, better man would've stayed and talked to her but he really didn't think he could even move his lips. He heard her crying behind him as he slowly walked away,

"You said I wouldn't be alone anymore… you swore it… and I fucking believed you… I don't want to be alone anymore. It's your fucking fault I'm going to be alone!" she screamed the last phrase loud enough for someone down the street to hear her. He sat down on the bed and smoothed the wrinkles in the sheet from where she had been sitting earlier. He regretted everything – in one phrase she had made him regret being born. He regretted being with her and he regretted promising her things that now he couldn't give her. He regretted not doing what she wanted earlier and just sleeping with her – who was he to tell her she couldn't have a baby? Who was he to make her be alone for the rest of her life? When she said she wasn't going to be with anyone else after he died, he had a bad feeling that she wasn't kidding.

Sitting on the bed he could still hear her crying. He heard her start throwing up again and he stood up and walked out of the bedroom and into the kitchen.


Willow walked into the dark apartment leaving the door ajar behind her. She walked by the kitchen but quickly backtracked seeing the seated shadow.

"And here I was staying out as long as possible to give you two some privacy…"

"Sorry," he answered quietly. He looked around and asked, "where's Kennedy?"

"She's crawling her way up from the car."

"At least she hasn't gotten sick."

"No, we stopped four times for her to throw up out of the car window," Willow assured him with a laugh. "Is that what killed your night of romance?"


"What happened?"

"Willow, she's *so* angry at me. She can't even hide it from me anymore… she's so angry at me."

"Xander, she's probably just upset."

"Oh, yeah, she's definitely upset too, but… God, she is so angry."

"Xander, that girl's been angry since she was born."

"Which is exactly why I shouldn't have put myself on the top of her list of people who've disappointed her in her life and let her down. I promised her everything she ever wanted when I wasn't even sure if I could give it to her or not."

"Xander, you've got too much going on right now to beat yourself up for everything… there's no way you could've seen this coming."

"Not even just this though – I'm constantly fucking up with her lately. I mean, all she wants is someone to be there for her to help her through this and I can't even do it. I mean, if there was ever a time that Faith would be easy to please now would be it and I can't seem to stay away from a fight with her. I couldn't even not fight with her tonight! She's drunk and I still couldn't just tell her what she wanted to hear!"

"I think the bottle of Tequila she drank might be part of why you couldn't not fight tonight," Willow added, trying to lighten the mood.

"Will?" Kennedy called from the doorway.

"You made it," Willow greeted, slightly mockingly. "Bedroom's that way," she pointed without offering any aid. Kennedy made a slight groan then continued walking slowly towards the door.

"I could never quite figure out why I didn't like drinking very much," Willow commented sarcastically. Xander gave a half-hearted laugh and Willow asked, "do you want to talk about it?"

"No," he answered honestly, "I want to just think for a little while." She nodded in understanding then walked into the bedroom and closed the door.