Sins Of The Past
by Bwp Bard

I was born a couple of years ago. I can't remember anything beyond that day. All my memories begin with me naked on a hospital bed in a sterile white room. Alone. With a blank mind. With no memories of who I am or what I was.

My name is the one The Boss gave me.

 

Faith was in a hurry. In fact she was late. Very, very late. The session with Kim had gone overtime and her date with Cordelia officially started five minutes ago.

Fuck! Fuck! Fuck!

Cordelia waited for her in Nikki's bar. Neutral ground for their first date in San Francisco. She ran across the street ignoring the horns and the angry yells from the car drivers. Cordelia was finally in here and nothing was going to ruin it. Absolutely nothing!

They had planned this visit for weeks. Up until now Faith had visited Cordelia in L.A a few times, but Cordelia had never seen her new home. It was difficult to find the time to see each other at length, not only because of the trial against Gerald, Cordelia's former husband, for shooting Faith, but also their respective new jobs demanded their presence. Instead they talked for hours on the computer, but it really wasn't enough to get things between them on the right track. They needed time together.

"Why did you move away, then?" Cordelia asked. "You could have waited, couldn't you?"

And yes, she probably could. But after Faith was released from hospital, she decided, after long talks with both Tara and Cordelia, that San Francisco was the place she wanted to live. L.A carried to many bad memories and she wanted a fresh start. And a slayer can work anywhere.

Nik and Helen, her employers and now close friends, gave her a sense of belonging few others had, in fact only ONE other had, and she was back in Sunnydale with her lover. And she really needed that sense of belonging. Especially when her relationship with Cordelia still was rocky and vulnerable.

In a way Nik and Helen was her main reason for coming to San Francisco and they were delighted to have her here. She was like their prodigal daughter, Helen had said. And Nik had agreed. "But we're WAY to young to have grandchildren.... Yet..."

At first Cordelia was angry as hell. How could they work things out between them when she lived in another city?

"How could you leave me alone in all this mess?" Cordelia had shouted. "You always run, you bastard! Always run away and let others clean up the damn mess!"

Cordelia slammed the door in her face and totally ignored her for days. But finally they came to terms and were now officially dating "long distance". And now Cordelia was here. Faith was excited, eager and giddy beyond comparison.

They hadn't spent much time alone together and now they could look forward to maybe a week or two exploring their new relationship. Cordelia had planned on staying as long as she could. She worked full time for Wes again and he had agreed that a vacation was in order. She had been through some tough times and needed some distraction.

Cordelia was not alone in the bar. A young woman with short blond hair sat beside her and talked excitedly. Her hands gestured wildly while she told her story. Great body, an open and beautiful face and bright green eyes. She looked kinda familiar.

"You're late."

"Hi baby. I was with Kim and..."

"Ah, Dr. Kim..."

Faith made a move towards Cordelia, with the intention of kissing her, but Cordelia gave her a stern look and retracted slightly. "Faith, this is Evelyn Conners, Gerald's sister."

'Gerald's sister?!'

The blond girl smiled at her. "Hi, Faith."

They shook hands. The girl smiled knowingly at her and it made her uncomfortable. Very uncomfortable... "You don't remember me, do you?"

"No, I can't say that I do." 'Do I know her?''

"We met some months ago. When you worked at The Sappho Lounge."

'Oh shit...'

"Hi.... Eve, right?. It's been awhile. What are you doing here?"

'I fucked Gerryboy's sister! Damn, damn and...'

"She's a journalist. On a business magazine." Cordelia said and looked coolly at Faith.

"I'm here a couple of weeks do a series on Harry March and March Inc." Eve said.

"Who?" The name didn't ring any of Faith's bells.

"The company that buys and sells other companies with a huge profit. The owner is probably one of the richest and most powerful men in the country." Cordelia explained. "He's that big hunk of a man they have on CNN all the time."

Faith narrowed her eyes and a small smirk showed on Cordelia's lips.

'I'm gonna get you for this!' The look in Faith's eyes was dangerous.

'Oh, you're welcome to try.' Cordelia's dark eyebrow winked at her girlfriend.

And they smiled at each other.

 

Eve watched the non-verbal conversation between the two of them and added her observations to the rumors she had heard and got a surprise. Cordy was in love with Faith. The same Faith that Gerald tried to kill.

The same Faith that was the ultimate "fuck them and leave them" gal. And she was good at it. Both the fucking and the leaving part.

She knew that they had known each other since they were teenagers, but had Gerald been right? Did they have an affair in the period Cordy was missing? Somehow she didn't think so. Cordy was, if nothing else, not that kind of a woman.

And Faith? You could expect anything from Faith.

Faith had slept with her back then and probably that other blond woman, too. The one with the sad blue eyes. And who knew who else she slept with? Eve looked at the muscled and well-proportioned body before her, the thick dark brown hair and the almost black eyes. Some interesting promises lurked there. You sensed an underlying stream of strength and passion in those eyes.

Faith was like a panther. Dangerous. A sexual predator. Beautiful and tough. And a hint of sadness and compassion that made her human.

Eve had been very attracted to her. Still was, if she had to be honest. She directed her attention to her former sister in law.

Cordy was a lot more difficult to get a hold on. Her beauty was more conventional, more classic. Feminine with a strong presence. She always appeared cool and collected and she didn't smile that often. With her almost aristocratic aura, her sarcastic wit and sometimes stuck"up attitude she was difficult to get close to. The protective walls she erected around her were almost impossible to get past.

It had frustrated Gerald like hell and he never really felt he could reach her.

In the beginning of the marriage, Eve made an effort to get to know the woman her brother had married and after awhile they became friends.

Those two, Faith and Cordy, represented some amazing contrasts in a couple. If they were a couple? Eve was almost sure that they were. There was a story there.... The nosy journalist in her wanted to know what had happened between Cordy and Faith.

And the younger sister to a man, who was about to be sent to prison for attempted murder, wanted an explanation: Why did he do it? Had his jealousy been grounded in a real affair between his wife and Faith?

He always had a violent temper, but she never thought he would try to kill someone. Not even in fear of losing the woman he loved.

When Cordy told her about her trip to San Francisco to see Faith, Eve decided that she wanted to see them together. See for herself what they were all about.

The interview with Harry March was an excellent excuse. Now she just had to find a way to handle it all.

And how to handle seeing Faith again.

 

Sometimes I wonder who I was. The scar that runs from my forehead to my chin and the bumpy nose tells me that maybe my life then wasn't so different from my life now.

Blue Eyes says that I think too much and that I should be careful not to tell The Boss about my thoughts. He wouldn't like it. He wants me to life NOW, not in a forgotten past. Now I am useful to him.

 

They hadn't made love since that day in Cordelia's house, just before Faith got shot.

And Faith had great hope for this visit. She hoped that they could move forward and that Cordelia finally would feel comfortable enough to take their relationship further.

She hadn't pushed. She knew things were difficult for Cordelia right now. The divorce, the trial, a new sexual identity... Maybe it had been wrong of her to move to another city so soon in their fragile relationship? It was an egotistical decision, she knew that all too well and she despised herself for it. Tried to forget the gnawing feeling that Cordelia needed her to stay close and that she had failed in her first important test as a partner in a serious relationship.

They had to talk about these things....

Ah, talking...

Faith shrugged the thoughts away. Now was the time for enjoying life, enjoying that life went right for once. Enjoying the fact that she had a beautiful woman in her bed and not just any beautiful woman, but Cordelia, for years the object of her secret affection.

"No please no... Not now... Not again... please..." Cordelia's voice was like a small child pleading for mercy. "No please..."

Faith knew how nightmares worked. She carefully took Cordelia's hand and began reassuring her that everything was all right.

The nightmares were nothing new. Cordelia had them often enough. She had seen a lot more gore and violence than most people ever would and inside of her she harbored plenty of stuff nightmares are made of.

"Come one, baby. It's all right. Nothing going to hurt you." Faith slowly eased herself closer to the distressed woman on the bed. "Baby." she whispered and gently stroked Cordelia's cheek. "Wake up. It's a bad dream..."

"DON'T TOUCH ME !!" A scream more than a plea. Cordelia's body went rigid, her eyes were wide open and filled with stark horror.

Faith almost jumped out of the bed. This was new. Cordelia had never reacted to her touch like that. Not even after the most horrible nightmares. "Baby? What... are you okay?"

"I'm fine, just give me a minute." There was no intonation in her voice and her face was blank.

Faith was at loss. Nothing in Cordelia's demeanor told her what to do. The air between them suddenly went cold and Faith felt fear sneaking up. Their relationship was still fresh and fragile, and some pessimistic part of her didn't really believe things would work out for them. Things never did. Maybe Cordelia would change her mind and go back to the normalcy she so desperately wanted before?

"Are you sure you are okay? Was it a bad dream?"

"What part of "I'm fine and give me a minute" don't you understand?" Cordelia snapped. Her eyes cold and her face twisted in discomfort and anger. "Just leave me alone!"

"Sorry... I'll just... maybe I should go for a... for a run or something?"

"Yes, do that."

"Okay."

Slowly Faith got out of bed. She moved stiffly like her whole body suddenly had lost its normal agility. She found the clothes she needed and got out of the bedroom.

As soon as the door closed behind her, Cordelia's face cracked and hurtful sobs shook through her body.

 

Faith didn't go for a run and she didn't go slaying. She went down to the bar were she knew she would find Nikki. And Nik was very surprised to see her.

"Faith, shouldn't you be at home nursing your girlfriend?"

"No, we needed some time apart."

"Time apart? She just came here, didn't she? Is there something wrong?"

"No."

Nikki knew better than to start pressuring a tightlipped Faith. She would talk when the right time came. "Something to drink?"

Faith nodded.

"The usual?"

"Something stronger."

Nik went behind the bar and got Faith her favorite whisky. The first glass went down in one hungry mouthful.

"Thirsty much?" Nik's eyes were concerned.

Faith made a gesture towards her empty glass and Nik filled it again. "I've seen your former groupie down her a few times. What's name.. Eve or something..."

"Yeah, its a fucking small world." Faith swallowed the new drink in the same manner as the first one. "She's Gerald's sister."

"She's WHAT? The same bloody Gerald that tried to kill you?"

"The very same." Faith made gesture and Nikki poured her another drink.

"Holy shit-hole! What's her story? Is she following you?"

"No, I don't think so. She's a journalist on some assignment here. And she is, of course with my kind of luck, Cordelia's fucking bosom buddy! Sometimes the world is too small and too damn wicked for my taste."

"Have you told Cordy about her?"

Faith shook her head.

"You have to, Faith, or this can really blow up in your face." Nik said with worry. "She is not the most tolerant woman in the world, your Cordy."

"I know." Faith shrugged. "And she's not going to fucking like it, that's for sure."

Cordelia had a jealous streak that made a lot of things a bit difficult. Kim, the beautiful psychiatrist Faith was seeing after her second time in a coma, was a constant source of worry for Cordelia. She didn't say much about it, but Faith could feel the mistrust and hurt in Cordelia's questions. Like she expected Faith to stray. Of course Faith's reputation and Cordelia's knowledge of her life up until now didn't help much...

It didn't matter that Faith's relationship with Dr. Kim was purely professional, and deep down even Cordelia knew that the jealousy was born out of nowhere and fed nicely on her insecurities and uncertainties.

How would she react facing a woman Faith HAD fucked, and to really ice the cake, a woman Cordelia considered a friend? Oh, that would really be fun!

All she needed now was a visit from Tara. That would really make Cordelia's life complete!

"What's so funny?" Nik's voice returned her to the bar. "You look a lot like the cat that ate the canary."

"Nothing. I was just thinking... By the way, when is Helen back?"

"Right now, honey."

Helen small stature stood in the doorway to the office. Her gray-green eyes sparkled in the lights from the room. Her full body rested casually against the doorframe. She looked absolute wonderful.

Nikki swallowed hard. "Baby, when did you come home?"

"Just now. I sneaked in through the backdoor. Missed me?"

Helen walked up to Faith at the bar and kissed her cheek. "Good to see you, honey."

Nikki pouted.

"Oh, you feel neglected? Poor you. But you'll have to wait until we get home. " She nestled close up to Nikki's larger body. "When can you leave?"

"Now!" Nikki almost shouted and grabbed her lover and kissed her hotly.

Faith laughed out loud. "Man, she really got you wrapped."

Nikki tore herself from Helen and scowled at Faith. "Just you wait!" She threatened. "Your time will come soon enough."

Faith's face went serious. "I certainly hope so, Nik. I really do..."

 

I don't like what I see when I look in a mirror. The scar, the disfigured nose, the soullessness of my eyes. My hair doesn't grow out properly and I have to keep it so short that it's almost non"existing. The Boss says I should be happy about my look. It's useful in some areas of my job and it makes up for my short stature. I don't have to be beautiful to do my job.

 

Faith was drunk when she finally headed home.

When a very amorous Nik and a very amused Helen departed, she found a dark spot in bar and began to empty the bottle of whisky. And she succeeded.

More than a few women tried to talk to her, flirted with her or asked her to dance, but she just ignored them and got more and more drunk.

The walk home was the longest one ever. When she took four steps forward, it felt like three steps backward immediately followed. She was very lucky that the vamps lay low that night.

Her apartment was dark and silent. Cordelia were probably asleep. She stumbled around in the kitchen, trying to find some painkillers and not wake up Cordelia in the process. Down on her knees she crawled from cupboard to cupboard.

"Where the hell have you been?" A very angry Cordelia towered above her.

'Oh, shit...'

"I went to sssee.. sshee.. SEE Nik." Faith slurred.

'Oh shit, not good...'

"I see. And you two got drunk?"

"No you schee... SEE, Helen came home from a trip somewhere, and they...got all...you know... and then they were making eyes at each other and stuff... so they left me..."

"So you got drunk with someone else, then?" Cordelia's voice were like ice.

'Oh shit, not good at all.'

"NO! I got drunk all on my own. You see, I found this dark secluded spot and sat there... thinking about you and stuff... I didn't even dance or anything... I just..."

"Got drunk?"

"Yeah."

"Go, sleep it off, Faith."

"But..."

"Not know, Faith. Go and sleep it off."

Faith got up from the floor with some difficulties and walked out of the kitchen with her head down, to ashamed of herself to look Cordelia in the eye.

'I always fuck things up.' She buried herself in the bed and tried to clear her mind of all worries. 'She won't stay, I just know it!'

Faith pressed the pillow hard into her face. 'Oh God, how pathetic I am..."

 

"Faith, wake up. Nikki's on the phone."

It took some time to get everything in place and her head felt like someone had tap-danced on it the whole night. Maybe somebody had...?

Slowly she opened her eyes. Cordelia stared down at her, cold and withdrawn like she was about to examine something very repulsing and didn't know if she really wanted to or not. "Here." She gave Faith the phone, turned around on her heels and left the bedroom.

'Oh shit, this is NOT good!'

"Nik?"

"Geesh, Faith, you sound like something died in your throat."

"I think something did."

"I don't have to ask how you are feeling, do I?"

"Nope, like shit." Faith coughed.

"I knew I shouldn't have left you in that condition. I was thinking with other bloody parts of my body." Nikki chastised herself.

"Nik, I'm a grownup, you know."

"Yeah, one could call you that... occasionally..."

"Funny... Your cocky mood clearly shows that you got laid last night."

"Hmmm..." Nikki hummed dreamily. "I don't kiss and tell, Faithygirl."

"Lucky you, old woman, lucky you."

"Are everything okay with you two?"

"I really don't know, Nik. Even the smallest, most insignificant little obstacle blows up in our faces and then we fight."

"You're both going through some tough times, Faith. And you haven't really begun solving the matters between you yet."

Faith sighed and coughed again. "I suppose not..."

"But you love her, right?"

"Yeah."

"And you have told her, right?"

No answer.

"Faith?" Nikki's voice became stern. "You told her, RIGHT?"

"It's not that easy, Nik."

"What's not easy?"

"I'm afraid."

"Why?"

A long time Faith kept silent and Nikki waited patiently. "I'm afraid she won't return it. Afraid that she can't handle it, that everything that once was wrong between us will come back and bite my ass. And I'm afraid that she will wise up and leave...

"Oh Faith.." Nikki's vice was full of compassion. "You can't live your life with both belt and suspenders. You have to take chances on love, even if the risks are high. You risk forcing her to do exactly what you're afraid she'll do."

Faith heard a lot of noises in the background. Nikki yelled something and cursed under her breath.

"Trouble?"

"At the most convenient time!" Nikki cursed again. "I have to go out there. Maybe you should take the night off? Start to work things out with Cordy."

"Yeah." Faith sounded less than enthusiastic.

 

She heard voices from the kitchen. Cordelia and Eve sat comfortable around the table. Talking quietly. Both of them looked up when Faith came in.

"Morning, sleepy head." Eve smiled at her.

Cordelia just glared. Faith mumbled something and got some coke from the fridge.

"Cordy has promised to help out me today. With an interview. My photographer stood me up and I have my first meeting with Harry March." Eve was obviously very exited about this and babbled on, seemingly ignoring the tension between the two other women.

"She has done it before, you know. I mean, taking photographs for me, she's actually quite good. Great sense of style and composition."

Cordelia got up from the chair. "We have to get ready, Eve."

"Can I talk to you for a moment. Alone." Faith grabbed her arm. "Before you go."

"I'll just..." Eve was already out of the kitchen. "...go and do... something."

Faith swallowed all her discomfort. "Look, Cordelia, I'm sorry about yesterday. I shouldn't have stayed away like that and sure as hell shouldn't come home drunk. I'm really sorry. This isn't what I planned for your first visit here."

Cordelia didn't say a word for a long time. Faith squirmed under her scrutiny and got more and more nervous. "Maybe we should have waited...?" Cordelia finally said. "Maybe it's to early for both of us...?"

Faith felt the edges of her vision blurry and her stomach dropped. Everything was spinning inside her and she just wanted to.... run... 'No! No! No!'

"If you really think so..." she could hardly get the words out of her suddenly dry and uncooperative mouth.

Cordelia's face turned hard and her eyes cold. Her jaw worked like a grinder.

"Are you ready, Cordy?" Eva called from the hall. "We have to leave now."

Cordelia closed her eyes for a moment and when she opened them again, a profound sadness showed in them, and it almost gutted Faith.

"Can't we talk about this later?" Faith pleaded. "When we have time."

Cordelia nodded.

Faith gathered some courage and kissed her softly on the lips. And she almost died when she felt Cordelia's lips respond.

"Cordy! We're going to be late!"

Cordelia stepped back and an eyebrow left its socket. "Next time, Faith, brush your teeth." And with that she followed Eve out of the apartment.

 

I look very different in the long dark wig. Makeup disguises the scar and the contact lenses make my eyes brown. This job won't take long, but it demands a more normal appearance than my usual one. I place a knife in the inner pocket of my jacket and another in a sheath above my left ankle. I'm ready

The building was nothing but glass and steel. "How can anyone work here?" Eve looked up at the hard facade.

"When you make enough money, you can work anywhere." Cordelia dragged her inside the building.

On the inside everything was glass and steel AND marble. A high maintenance desk clerk showed them up to Harry March's office. The man himself was still in a meeting, but one of his associates, who also happened to be his younger brother, would keep them company until the meeting ended.

The brother was tall and dark haired. Handsome in a sleek and self-assured way, that may do well on TV but in real life made Eve gag. He had a superficial likeness to his older brother but he didn't possess Harry March's charm and charisma. "Welcome." he greeted them and his smile made Eve's skin crawl. "I'm Stefan March."

She introduced Cordelia as her photographer and the look in his eyes told her that he obviously found both women very appealing. And the man talked incessantly. Cordelia openly rolled her eyes and looked like she was about to fall asleep. Diplomacy was never on of her strongest forces. Eve almost laughed.

His words were interrupted when the door opened and a tall, broad-shouldered woman walked in.

Eve guessed that she was in her thirties, expensively dressed in a black Armani"suit, her hair was almost black and reached down to her shoulder blades. Sunglasses covered her eyes.

"Oh." Stefan March stiffened. "This is Joey Ryan, my brother's... odd job man... so to speak. Some say his right AND left hand..." The man was suddenly nervous as hell.

The woman's angular face revealed nothing and she didn't take the glasses off. But neither of them doubted the power in her presence. "Pleased to me meet you both." A full-toned deep voice hit Eve right in the gut. "Harry is on his way, so you can leave now, Stefan."

And Stefan did just that, without one single protest.

Eve and Cordelia looked at each other in amazement. Talk about commanding presence or what? The woman didn't say a word. So they just sat there and waited for Harry March in complete silence.

 

"That was really something." Eve was relived that the interview was over. The woman with the sunglasses had made her so nervous that she almost forgot why she was there.

Afterward she and Cordelia found a cafe in the neighborhood. "SHE was really something, wasn't she?" Cordelia snickered. "I have never seen you blush that much. And those sunglasses, tough looking chick."

"Reminded me a bit of Faith." The words were out of Eve's mouth before she even thought about stopping them.

Cordelia stiffened.

"Not that they look like each other, I mean, that woman was much taller..." Eve babbled away trying to hide her embarrassment. "And I think Faith smiles more, I mean, doesn't she? I mean..."

"How well do you know Faith?" asked Cordelia icily. "I mean..." she continued in a mocking tone. "...really ..."

"I could easily ask you the same question, Cordy. How well do you really know Faith?" Eve got defensive now. "Did you cheat on my brother?"

Cordelia turned pale. "No! No, I didn't."

"How about now? How "well" do you know Faith now?" Eve persisted. Some say he best defense is a attack...

"None of your business, Eve. None of your damn business!"

They stared at each other for a long time.

Eve was the first one to break the uncomfortable silence. "And I could say the same to your question, Cordy. None of your damn business..."

A small smile on Cordelia's lips eased the tension a bit. "You're right. I just that... " she hesitated for a moment. "Sometimes it feels like Faith has bedded most of the lesbian population and a good part of the straight and male one, too. And she has even been out of circulation ten years!"

"So you ARE lovers?"

"Yes... no... I don't know. Let's say we're working on it." Cordelia made a grimace. "But this has nothing do to with Gerald. Please, believe me, Eve. There was nothing between Faith and me when I was married to him."

"But there was before?" Eve tried to read Cordelia's expression. The cool facade was back on.

"Not really. Once when we first met in Sunnydale. Back in High School. And for a time I visited her in prison, that's all."

"So Gerald tried to kill her for no reason?"

Cordelia closed her eyes for a moment and when she opened them again, Eve saw real pain there for the first time. "Yes. I hadn't even seen Faith after her release. It was me who wanted out. It had nothing to do with Faith, not directly anyway. Gerald and I had serious problems from the start and my feelings for her was just the last straw."

Eve knew Gerald loved Cordelia, at least she thought so, but he was not an easy person to be around and as far as she knew, their relationship had been a bumpy ride from the start.

Her brother sometimes treated his wife more like a trophy than a beloved and she often wondered what kept them together. And now she wondered why Cordelia married her brother at all.

 

The ride home had been tense and silent, but Cordelia made her a peace offer and invited her on a cop of coffee. And she smiled when she did it. Eve was relieved. They chatted amicably until they reached Faith's apartment. The shower was on.

That meant Faith was home. The tension on Cordelia's face increased.

"Did you two have a fight?" whispered Eve.

Cordelia shrugged.

"Maybe I should go?"

"No!" Cordelia grabbed her arm. "I'll make some coffee."

'She is afraid to be alone with Faith.' Eve followed Cordelia out in the kitchen. 'I never thought Cool Cordy could be afraid.'

They heard the shower stop and Faith hummed while she dried herself. 'This is going to be awkward'.

"Oh.. hi..." Faith stood in the doorway to the kitchen... Wrapped in a towel. "You're home." she said deadpanned. "How was the interview?"

Eve cursed herself for blushing. Cordelia just stared at Faith's half-naked body.

"Hum....eh... great...good...I mean, it went great..."

"Good." Faith smiled mischievously, totally aware of the effect she was having.

"I will just... " Eve mumbled something about leaving and hurried out of the apartment.

Faith let go of her towel.

Cordelia's eyed widened and her tongue desperately tried to moisten her suddenly dry lips.

"I've missed you." Slowly Faith walked towards Cordelia. Her eyes were dark and slightly unfocused. The desire in them was unmistakable.

Cordelia swallowed. Small pearls of sweat covered her body. 'Oh God...'

Faith was almost touching her now. A full body touch. Almost.... "Please?" a husked question right in her sensitive ear.

"Yes.."

And the Faith's lips devoured hers, bodies clashed and passion roared in her veins, howled in her limbs.

Nipples ached, begged to be touched and Faith willingly followed their command. 'Oh God...!'

 

Sometimes I wonder if I ever had sex? I've never thought about it before, but every time I meet a this person on the streets I feel a strange urge, an ache between my legs. And at first I didn't know what it was. I talked to Blue Eyes about it and she laughed. Said it was strange to have this conversation with a grown-up, but she agreed to answer all my questions. She knew what it was like, she said. And then I knew that she had been like me. That she too was without a past.

 

The phone rang....obviously... A small fucking break was to damn much to ask for! "The machine will take it." Faith whispered hoarsely and continued to kiss Cordelia's tempting throat. The hammering pulse underneath her lips reassured her of Cordelia's growing arousal.

But reality had already kicked in and she could feel Cordelia retract slightly from her.

The voice on the machine did the rest. "Hi, it's Tara. We're coming to San F..Francisco in a day or two. As always some big evil is brewing. Willow and the H..Halliwell sisters are making plans. They don't really need Willow, b..but her gut tells her she has to be here, so... w...we will be visiting... H..hope to see you then. I m..miss you...bye."

'Fuck, I should have told Tara about Cordelia's visit. This is NOT good! This certainly killed the mood...' Faith's heart lurched.

"She misses you, huh?"

"Baby, we have talked about this. Tara is a very dear friend. Nothing more."

'A little white lie. Tara is so much more, but she's nota threat to you, Cordelia. I'm totally in love with you.'

"But you slept with her."

"Yeah, I DID, empathize on DID. Our friendship has nothing to do with sex."

'But it was wonderful as long as it lasted. The best sex I ever had, no the best LOVEMAKING I ever had! But what you and I have will be just as wonderful. Different, yes.. but wonderful. We have had sex exactly two times and both experiences blew my mind. So when we make love for the first time it with be life changing, beyond anything I ever felt before... I just know it... Please, believe me...'

Cordelia got out of the bed and straightened her clothes. "Get dressed, Faith. I'll make us something to eat." And she left Faith alone in the bedroom.

'Fuck! Fuck! Fuck!'

 

For the most part they ate in an uncomfortable silence. Faith brooded and Cordelia looked cool as ever, no emotion showed on her face.

Was it always going to be this difficult between them? That thought made Faith cringe. Love shouldn't be this hard. It should be light and easy, filled with happy thoughts and warm intimacy.

Like Nik and Helen. Like Tara and Willow before things went wrong between them.

She knew she wasn't good at this. Never told Cordelia how she felt and how much she needed her, how high her hopes were for them.

To be honest she was afraid that Cordelia didn't share her hopes. That she would get tired of all the unsolved tension between them and tired of the continued ill"timed reminders from Faith's past. A past that always was going to be there, always would be reminding them of things they most of all wanted to forget.

She HAD killed, HAD betrayed, HAD fucked her way through most of her life. Maybe Cordelia deep down couldn't deal with that? Couldn't face what her soon"to"be lover had been and maybe still was... And what if she in the end couldn't face the fact that her lover was a woman?

'I have to know, even if it's going to hurt like hell, I want to know if this is worth while. If all this pain leads in the right direction or only leads us both out in devastation.'

"Cordelia?" Faith began tentatively. "Do you..."

Cordelia lifted a brow and waited for the words that never came.

Faith tried again. "Do you... I mean... are you... do you..." she faltered, not able to form the sentence she wanted. Somehow the answer meant so much to her that she didn't dare ask the question.

Cordelia was clearly amused by seeing her so uncharacteristic flustered.

"Cordelia, I... are you...regretting this... this trip, I mean?" Finally first part of her question was out. The second one she dreaded even more. Cordelia visibly flinched and Faith expected the worst. Her heart began a painful hammering and the blood roared in her ears.

"No, I don't." a small immediately voice eased her fears and made her body calm down.

'Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!'

"I don't know what's wrong with me, Faith, but things inside of me makes waves in my mind that I can't control. Sometimes I think I'm going crazy..."

Faith saw the tears and was by her side even before they fell. Without thinking she took the distressed woman into her arm and Cordelia didn't flinch. Even under these circumstances it felt wonderful to have her there. "You have been through some tough times and you react, your mind tries to find a way to deal with it all."

Cordelia snuggles closer, seeking warmth and comfort from the strong arms that were holding her. "I know, but it doesn't make it easier."

"No, it doesn't." Faith kissed the tears away. "Maybe you should talk about it with someone."

"You mean a shrink?" Cordelia grimaced.

"Someone who can help you deal with it all. It helps me to talk. I should have done it years ago."

"Ah, Dr. Kim..."

"It don't have to be her, Cordelia. But she's good."

"I bet she is!"

"Cordelia!"

"Sorry..." Cordelia smiled and cocked an eyebrow. "But I promise to think about it."

Faith nodded an tightened her hold on her girlfriend. "So you... don't regret... this?" She had to hear Cordelia's reassurance in real tangible words.

"This?" Even though Cordelia's voice was muffled, Faith heard the teasing tone and it made her heart soar.

"No." Cordelia whispered against her neck. "I don't regret this at all. Please be patient with me, Faith. Please..."

Their lips met and it was sweet...

 

They slept wrapped around each other. No awkwardness. No nightmares. Softly Faith kissed the nearest piece of exposed skin, and the sleeping Cordelia hummed in contentment.

'This is better than sex...' Faith was shocked. 'Better than sex?!'

Yeah, better than most sex, anyway. But probably not better than sex with Cordelia... If she ever got to experience that... God, she certainly hoped she would!

She kissed the Cordelia on one of her expressive eyebrows and felt the other woman nestle even closer.

She decided that a couple of hours more of snuggling wouldn't hurt anybody. She tightened her hold on the sleeping beauty in her arms and closed her eyes.

 

Blue Eyes are the only one who really talks to me. And she's the one who taught me the trade and told me everything I needed to know about the life I now have. She warns me about The Boss. Be careful she says, don't ask to many questions, and don't let him know you're thinking about things. When you no longer obey orders without hesitation, he no longer needs you. And then things can get very dangerous for you.

 

Eve didn't know what to think. Something didn't add up. She just couldn't put her finger on it.

Harry March had been cooperative beyond her expectations and she now had so much material that she could write a book about March Inc. and its founder. But something was... wrong. It was a just gut feeling, nothing more, but she had learned by experience to listen to her gut.

"I hope you find everything satisfactory, Miss Conners?" The low sensual voice belonging to Joey Ryan, Harry March's ... whatever... broke through her speculations.

"Yes, thank you." she managed to say.

Joey Ryan smiled. At least Eve thought she did. Her mouth did, anyway, but whether the smile reached the tall woman's eyes, Eve didn't know She found it extremely difficult to communicate with a pair of sunglasses. Eyes were an important part of reading and understanding other human beings and when the eyes of a person you couldn't put a label on, were covered like Joey Ryan's, it made things very uncomfortable.

"Do you have any questions?"

"No, not right now, thank you. This is very..." Eve gestured at the large amount of paper and data-chips on the table. "...overwhelming."

Joey Ryan's husky laugh almost made her break out in a massive sweat attack. This woman was just too damn much!

"You didn't bring your beautiful photographer this time, Miss Conners?"

"Please call me Eve. No, I have photos enough for now, Miss Ryan."

"A shame."

'A shame?! What the fuck does that mean?'

"And please call me Joey, then we have all the formalities out of the way."

"Thank you... Joey."

And again that smile. Lopsided this time. Even with the sunglasses Joey Ryan was quite stunning. "I'll leave you to your work, Eve. Talk to you later."

Eve followed the tall muscled shape all the way to the door. 'Nice butt. Who are you kidding? Nice body. Period.'

Now if she just could keep her thoughts away from anything remotely lustful, and get a firm hold on her gut feelings about March Inc... Find the carefully hidden story she knew was there and make that scoop she always had dreamed of. Maybe she should begin with Stefan March? Everything about him spelled "rotten".

In the office next door Jody Ryan sat in front of a monitor and closely followed Evelyn Conners' every move, every facial expression, and every sound she made.

"She's suspicious." she said and took the sunglasses off. "And I think she can be dangerous."

"Are you sure?"

"Yes."

"Then we have to do something."

"I know..."

 

"Let's go out tonight, baby. Dance a little and have some fun."

"Dance?" Cordelia sounded skeptical. "You mean go to your place?"

"No, hell no. That would be like work. No, let's go to Nikki's. I think both her and Helen is there tonight. It might be fun."

Cordelia considered this. "Okay, I have never been to a lesbian dance bar before."

"You have never been to a gay bar? Not even a mixed one?"

Cordelia laughed. "Don't look so shocked, Faith. Why should I? I have never been gay before.... Oh, I think I have visited some mixed ones once or twice. Satisfied?"

They prepared for their night out together. Faith found some well-used leatherpants in the closet. She used to love those pants. Always wore them when she went dancing. She found a white tank top and her old dancing boots. No fancy hanky panky. No exaggerated cleavage or heavy makeup, those days were gone, but she knew that this look did her good. It had always made women drool, so maybe it would work on The Cool Queen C, too.

But she was the one who drooled all over the floor. Cordelia looked absolutely wonderful in a simple black dress, that showed her legs (but not too much), her cleavage (without being vulgar) and it exposed her beautifully shaped body (but not in a cheap way).

"Oh my." Cordelia said and suggestively raised a brow. "Aren't we butch?"

Faith gave her a rakish grin. "Well, well, well, aren't we femme?"

"God." Cordelia rolled her eyes. "Could we be more stereotypical?"

 

If Cordelia was nervous she sure as hell didn't show it. She marched into the bar like she owned it and radiated a self-assurance that Faith could only envy her.

A lot of hungry eyes followed her every move. Faith placed a hand on the small of her back, signaling to everything that this delectable piece was taken. She felt a little primitive for doing so and was glad Cordelia didn't realize what was going on. She would hate being perceived as a piece of property.

As always Faith scanned the room for any irregularities. No danger anywhere, except... no, it was probably nothing. Just a little itchy sensation in the rim of her slayer"senses. Like whenever...only when... No, no, it was probably nothing...

Nikki was there, and Helen of course. Sitting beside them at the bar was Kim, beautiful as always, smiling while she listened to whatever Helen told her.

'Damn!' Faith gave Cordelia a quick glance. Nothing. Maybe her unfounded dislike and distrust of Dr. Kim Legaspi was over and done with. She certainly hoped so. Faith was becoming quite fond of the good doctor and she hoped that she could become a friend when she no longer served as her shrink.

Cordelia's watchfulness concerning Kim was quite a puzzle. Yes, Kim was very beautiful even if she was 10 or 15 years their senior. But Nikki was beautiful too, in a more butch way, but still... And Helen, oh that was a whole wonderful chapter by itself! If Faith had to choose one of her friends to betray Cordelia with, it would any doubt be Helen she chose. That woman was sexy as hell, a full mouth dying to be kissed, flirty eyes, gorgeous and smart.

But Cordelia liked Helen a lot and instead saw Kim as the threat. Sometimes Faith didn't understand the female mind...

 

Nikki and Faith stood alone at the bar. Helen danced with Cordelia and Kim was dancing with a former lover.

Faith couldn't entirely shake the itchy feeling she had, but she couldn't find the source. She scanned the room nervously from time to time with no luck.

"You seem a little tense today?" Nikki's eyes followed her lover on the dance floor.

"Yeah, a lot on my mind these days."

"But you seem more at ease with each other tonight. Are you getting things on the right track?"

"I don't know, Nik. But I fucking hope so."

They stood for awhile and watched their respective lovers moving gracefully on the dance floor.

Their attention was drawn to Kim and her dance partner. They were arguing. "Here we go again." Nikki sighed. "A dumped woman is not a reasonable woman."

"And Kim has a lot of dumped women in her slipstream?"

Nikki snorted. "You really wouldn't want to know. Trust me..."

"Maybe Cordelia has picked up on that." said Faith thoughtful.

"That Kim is a serial dater and maybe you could be tempted?"

"Wasn't Helen... lets say nervous, at first when you spent all that time with Kim?"

Nikki nodded vigorously. "Nervous? She was frigging raving jealous!"

"But you weren't tempted to stray? Just a little bit tempted?"

"I was bloody tempted, Faith. Hell, Kim is a very beautiful, very intelligent and very attractive woman."

"But you didn't?"

"No, I love Helen more than anything. She's my life and I don't want to jeopardize that. Besides Kim and I want different things in life.."

"Different? How?"

"I want stability, long"time commitment, a sense of belonging, and Kim changes girlfriends quicker than I can remember their bloody names!"

"But she's a hell of a shrink." Faith laughed. "Even if she makes a mess out of her own life."

"That she is, my friend, that she is!"

"What are you two up to?" Helen kissed her lover lightly on the lips.

"Nothing deary. Just talking." Nikki nipped at her jaw.

"Come on, Faith. Lets dance."

Cordelia took her hand and they soon found themselves slow dancing between the other couples on the dance floor. "Are you having fun?" Faith hands slowly caressed every centimeter of Cordelia strong back.

"Yeah..." Cordelia sounded a bit breathless and she moved sensually against Faith's body.

"So am I." Faith leaned in for a kiss and without hesitation Cordelia's lips descended on hers with a passion that almost blew the heart out of her chest.

In the blur of her roaring emotions she almost didn't detect the increased itchiness gnawing at her slayer senses. Reminding her of... The slayer in her that always was alert and ready to fight knew that something or someone was disturbing her instincts. And she chose to ignore them. She had the woman she loved in her arms, kissing her senseless and doing unbelievable things to her body. Everything else had to wait. For now.

 

Tonight I went "out" alone for the first time. Blue Eyes is the only one who knows about it. The Boss wouldn't like it. He really hates when I do something on my own.

The Bar was very crowded and there were only women there. I have to ask Blue Eyes about it.

SHE was there. Every time I see her my brain.... tingles. And she was kissing another woman. I don't understand what's happening to me. I never thought anything could hurt that much...

 

"You want something to drink?" Faith stood fidgeting in the middle of the kitchen, shifting nervously from one foot to another. She didn't know what to do. They had kissed and fondled a bit in Nikki's bar and it became pretty intense and, to be honest, quite exciting. But now they were home...

"Just some water, please."

Faith was relieved that she finally had something to do with her hands. Cordelia gave her a little smile, as she took the glass. "Thank you."

And they stood there facing each other and she was feeling unusual awkward and painfully shy. Cordelia slowly emptied the glass, looking at her with smoky hazel eyes while she drank.

Faith had never seen anything that erotic, or at least the effect of something so apparently innocent was something she hadn't experienced before.

She moved closer, feeling the need to touch the other woman, reestablish the closeness and the intimacy they had felt on the dance floor.

Slowly she touched Cordelia's cheek. "You're so beautiful." She whispered, barely capable of speaking for all the emotions that welled up inside her.

Cordelia turned her head slightly and kissed Faith's hand. "So are you". They moved ever so slowly into each other's arms and their lips met.

At first the kiss was soft and tentative. Questioning... seeking... unsure... But in no time their emotions caught fire. Their tongues came into play and they moaned into each other's exploring mouths.

"Bed." Cordelia whispered raggedly. And Faith's knees went week.

Later she couldn't remember how they got their clothes off or how she ended on top of a naked and heavy breathing Cordelia, happily kissing every inch of that gorgeous body.

But from then on she remembered it all.

Their touches were heated and feverish. Repressed desires were released and hit them with a force and a passion that none of them was prepared for.

Cordelia's hardening nipple against her palm. Cordelia's long fingers touching her wetness and exploring her deeply, profoundly.

She remembered every exquisite taste, every throbbing sensation. Every loving word they spoke, every heated caress, every gentle kiss and every mind-blowing orgasm. 'Mind-blowing? How corny can you get, Faith?' But they were just that... mind-blowing... It was everything she had dreamed of. And more. Much, much more...

Cordelia's tears after her first orgasm, her shaking confession of not being able to let go with lovers. That it had shocked her deeply how Faith was capable of making her loose control like this. Even the first time they were together, all those years ago in Sunnydale.

In her mind sex had always been an overrated time-killer. One she only participated in when she couldn't refuse or when she needed the intimacy sex also provided. An intimacy it was difficult for her to ask for any other way.

During her marriage it had been more of a duty than a source of common pleasure. Gerald had been sweet about it and he was gentle and kind in bed. That was one of the main reasons she agreed to marry him. It compensated for all his other faults and weaknesses.

And Faith remembered the nightmare. The screaming. The pleading. The heartrending sobs. But this time she had been able to comfort her lover. And it had almost been more rewarding and wonderful than what they had shared hours before. If that was at all possible...

But Cordelia still refused to talk about the content of the nightmares...

 

"Have you any idea about what kind of evil we're dealing with?"

"No, not yet, Faith. But we know that somehow you're our connection to it." Willow shook her head in irritation. "We can't find the golden thread in it all, it's still quite confusing, but we're working on it."

It was wonderful seeing Tara again, even if her heart constricted slightly when she saw how the two witches looked at each other.

She was happy for them, she really was, but some part of her would always consider Tara as more than just a friend and feel a bit jealous of the one who actually got her.

'Damn, lets talk about needy and greedy here, shall we? You don't REALLY want Tara, do you? You don't REALLY want her to leave Willow to be with you, right? You want Cordelia, even if she can be bitchy, difficult and remote. You love her. But you sure as hell don't want ANYONE ELSE to have Tara either, do you? This is such a fine quality in your fucking character, Faith. And by the way, Willow is not just ANYONE...'

And now those warm blues eyes were caressing her, taking her in. "How have you been, Faith?"

Willow was watching them intensely.

"Good, still slaying, but you knew that, right?" In desperation Faith had briefly considered getting rid of The Slayer and try to live a normal life. She blamed The Slayer for all the bad things she had been through. Tara had tried to talk her out of it. Reminding her that The Slayer was an integrated part of her, not some independent force trying to ruin her life.

Tara nodded and smiled that adorable half"smile of hers.

They both knew that they couldn't talk now, not with Willow watching every move they made, but the few words exchanged between them reestablished their connection and they were both relieved that it hadn't changed.

Voices in the hall indicated that Cordelia had returned from shopping. And had brought Eve with her.

If Cordelia was surprised that they had guest, she didn't show it. Politely she introduced Eve to the two witches.

Tara stared curiously at Eve, undoubtedly recognizing the woman hanging all over Faith in The Sappho Lounge back in L.A.

Faith vividly remembered how jealous Tara had been and how tender the reconciliation afterwards had been.

Eve smiled. "We have met."

Shyly Tara smiled back. "That we have."

Faith cringed. And for some inexplicable reason Cordelia looked... amused...

"Come one, Eve." She said and winked conspiratorial at Faith. "Let's go out in the kitchen. I think this is a... business meeting." And they left the room.

A slight cough from Willow got their attention back on track.

"So.." Faith said. "We don't know shit."

"No." Willow agreed. "But I think it's a matter of time. The Halliwells are working like crazy to decipher what we got. The only thing we DO know is that a lot of clues points towards you."

"You're not suggesting that I have anything to do with this unknown evil, do you?" Faith didn't like were this was going. "Or perhaps you think I..."

"Faith, please." Tara's soothing voice made her calm down instantly. "We're not suggesting anything like that. We know that you're one our side now."

Willow nodded. "I know things always has been a little... strained between us, but I know you have changed and I know we can help each other fight evil instead of living in the shadow of something that happened ten long years ago." She smiled a little and shrugged. "And Tara thinks the world of you and she's a good judge of character so..." She shrugged again.

Faith couldn't help but smile in relief. "Thank you." She knew that Willow was jealous of her connection with Tara, but this was the closest to acknowledgment, accept and... forgiveness Willow could give for now. And it was good enough for Faith.

 

The Boss wants another one like me. I overheard him talking to Blue Eyes about it. Darky, that's the name he gave the new one.

Our names always describe one of our most prominent features. Like Blue Eyes who has the bluest eyes I've ever seen. And I'm, of course, Scarface. My deceased predecessor was called Body, because of her very "distinctive" curves.

I think he has very high hopes for Darky, who apparently not only got the name because of her eye color, but also because he sees darkness inside of her that he wants to exploit.

Now he just has to get what he wants.

 

"Oh Cordy, I forgot to tell you that I have a date." Eve's excitement poured out of her in spades.

"Forgot?" Cordelia lifted an indignant eyebrow. "How can you forget something like that? Who is it? Someone I know?"

"Yeah, you know her, but you're never going to guess who it is!"

"Then it have to be Miss Tall, Dark and Gorgeous Wearing Sunglasses Indoors. Am I right?"

"How did you know? Damn, you don't have to look so smug, do you?"

"It's elemental, dear Eve. You talk about her all the time. Every time you have been in that awful building, it's all I hear about."

Eve shook her head in amazement. "Am I really that bad?"

"You're worse." Cordelia smirked. "But there's nothing to do about it, is there? Now, tell me about the date."

And Eve was eager to do so.

"So the date is part business, part pleasure?" Cordelia concluded.

"Yeah." Eve blushed. "I really, really wanted that date BUT there's something fishy going on at March Inc. and if it's possible to combine it... well lets say, it suits me just fine!"

"I bet..."

"And this is really great in more ways than one. Joey told me, off the record of course, that Mr. March is going to run for president. I can be the first journalist to write about that."

"Wow, that could be a big break for you!" Cordelia padded Eve's back. "A big date and big news, wrapped in one attractive package..."

"Yeah." Eve smiled dreamily. "Aren't I a lucky one?"

Cordelia rolled her eyes. "What are you going to do with that story?"

Eve sobered up. "A journalist friend of mine is coming here to help me. You remember Sam, right? From the party last year. Sam McPherson. She divorced her stepsister a couple of years ago."

"She what? What do you mean by divorcing her stepsister?"

Eve grinned evilly "Don't look so alarmed, Cordy. Their parents met when they were almost grownups, they became stepsisters and fell in love. Quite a scandal in the families, I can tell you. I think they were together 6 years. You'll like her, Cordy. She has your kind of humor."

"I believe you once told me that I don't have any of that humor-stuff."

"Oh, you have! It's just very, very carefully hidden..."

"Brat!"

 

"How did you get Willow to leave, so we could talk? I sense a deep distrust going my way." Faith smirked and gave Tara a long, warm embrace. "God, I missed you."

"I missed you too." Tara kissed her nose. "I told Willow it was about Cordelia."

"Is it? I mean, about Cordelia?"

"In a way. How are you two?"

"Good, I think. It's not easy. There are so many issues between us, so much hurt and vulnerability. Both of us have difficulties with intimacy, like we're holding back or something. It's not in sex the intimacy problems lies... it more... more..."

"You have been talking a lot with Kim, haven't you?" Tara smiled.

"Oh God, I sound like a damn therapy"session, don't I?"

"A little, yeah..."

"God, how fucking weird is that?"

Tara's face got serious. "Normally I wouldn't tell you this..." she began, looking quite uncomfortable. "I'm not supposed to do this but..."

"Quit stalling, Tara, just tell me. I won't take your head off or anything.."

Tara's shy smile almost made Faith want to kiss the woman senseless, but she stopped herself.

"Okay, Faith. You know I "see" things, sense things..."

"Yeah, like people's aura's and stuff, right? Like when you saw Buffy weren't Buffy but me in the wrong body?"

Tara nodded. "That ability has grown over the years and I have become quite good at reading people. I sensed you had changed, even before we spoke for the first time. I "saw" your feelings for Cordy before you told me."

"And my feelings for you?"

Tara blushed. "Some of it, yes, I saw that, but I tend to be a little blind when it comes to myself. It would have spared me a lot of grief... if... if..."

"If you had been better at reading Willows feelings regarding you."

"Yes, but..." Tara hesitated.

"But what?"

"If I had, we wouldn't have met..."

"No, we wouldn't." Faith got a football sized lump in her throat.

"And I really wouldn't have wanted to miss that. It means the world to me."

For a long time they gazed lovingly into each other eyes. And without thinking they stepped closer to each other, drawn together by the powerful connection between them. And they kissed. Soft... tenderly, longing, loving...

Reluctant they stepped away form the embrace, both of them a little out of breath and both of them knowing that the kiss had to stop.

"So..." Faith coughed a little and tried to get a hold on herself again.

Tara blushed and stared at her hands.

"So..." Faith tried again. "What was it you had to tell me?"

"I..it's about C..Cordy." The chock of the kiss had diminished Tara's hesitation about telling Faith about what she had "seen".

"What about Cordelia?" Faith's eyes were round with fear. "It's something wrong?"

"No! No!" Tara took Faith's hand. "It's not like that."

"What is it then?"

"I sense something in her. I "saw" it years ago but didn't pay enough attention to it, but now it's very urgent. And I think it's the main thing that stands in your way."

"Stands in our way?"

"Yes, make things difficult for you. I can't "see" it clearly, but it's something from her past and it threatening to overtake her. It increases the more she opens herself up for emotions. And hurt. Perhaps her feelings for you trigger it somehow."

"And you have no idea what it is?" Faith asked anxiously.

"No, but I sensed the same thing with Kim."

"Kim? Dr. Kim?"

"Yes, they have, whatever it is, in common. But Kim has it somewhat under control, but even with her it's difficult to "see" anything. She guards it carefully. Cordy repress it, shields it. And maybe she's even unaware of how it's affecting her life."

Faith looked like someone had knocked her hard in the head. "How... how do I help her?"

"Ask her about her dreams. The nightmares. But be careful. You'll risk her closing up on you or even push you away. A therapist could help, of course, the ordinary way. But I can help, too... or Willow. Witch"stuff, you know. We can help her face it, but she have to seek help herself. She has to want to release and remove the hurt. No one but her can decide when it's time."

"She won't talk to me about them, Tara. I have tried."

"Take your time, Faith. You get closer and closer to each other each day and she feels more and more comfortable with telling you things. You just have to be patient and don't run away every time she gets... bitchy." Tara smiled and Faith blushed. "You have a tendency to run away when things gets to rough, but if you really want to help Cordelia with this, you have to stay. Even when she asks you to leave."

"I really hate this!"

Tara kissed her softly on the lips. "But think about how wonderful it's going to be in the end!"

"God, I hope you're right, Tara." Faith leaned in and deepened the kiss. Just one more time...

 

The new target is a woman. For now Blue Eyes keeps an eye on her. Later on I may have to kill her.

She's young, younger than most of the targets I have killed.

A target is a target, that's one of the things Blue Eyes told me in the beginning, and it's a sign of weakness and incompetence to see a target as more than just that.

And in the end it could get you killed.

 

Cordelia was... irritated....jumpy. She couldn't sleep, every time she closed her eyes she was back in the nightmare. Faith was out slaying and that made her nervous. She had never been nervous about the slaying before, but tonight... Tonight was an all together creepy night.

She got out of bed, giving up on sleep for now. She should be content and happy, shouldn't she? For the first time in her life in love for real. But something inside her stirred everything up, made a mess out of her emotions and caused problems in her relationship with Faith. And she knew she would hurt Faith if she didn't do anything about it. The closer they became, the more intense the nightmares got, and Faith was a convenient target for her frustrations.

In her mind she had toyed with the whole shrink-thing. Finding a solution to her lack of sleep and maybe for the first time in years enjoy life and her new love sounded very appealing.

In some ways things were great between them. Except for the dreams of course and the various other setbacks in their relationship. The main problem between them was their inability to communicate on an emotional level.

The lovemaking was absolute wonderful, though. She had never experienced anything like it. And Faith had been attentive and loving in all aspects from the first day she arrived. Not at all what she had expected from the former Psycho Slayer.

But some part of Cordelia still didn't trust Faith's feelings and intentions. No " I love you' from Faith to reassure her, but if she had to be fair, she hadn't said that to Faith either.

When she summed all her doubts up the list was clear:
Faith left L.A. when she needed her most.
Faith always left when things got rough.
Faith never asked her to stay, permanently, in San Francisco.
Faith never talked about the future and when she did it never included her.
Faith had never told her she loved her.
Faith loved Tara, she had heard it whispered between the two of them when
Faith was in the hospital. And it was probably because of Willow that Faith wasn't with the blond witch.
Faith had never been one for long-term commitment.

Tears formed in Cordelia's eyes and a cold relentless hand reached inside and squeezed her heart. It hurt like hell... But she decided to be happy with what she got from Faith, as long as it lasted.

Soon she would be back in L.A and everything would probably fade out from then on anyway. Faith would loose interest or find someone more fun and more available to fuck. And Cordelia would be back were she started all those years ago; working for Wes, no boyfriend (or apparently from now on she had to consider girlfriends, too. Great! A larger pool to choose from and still not find the right one in), no career to speak of, no life, no family and almost no friends. Pathetic, really!

A noise at the door distracts her from the dark thoughts.

 

Faith fumbled with the locks. 'Shit, this stuff is really making me dizzy.' The door opened and Cordelia stared at her.

"What's wrong? Are you drunk?"

"No, I got some sort of drug in me." Faith slurred and it was difficult for her to see the woman before her.

"A drug?!"

"Somebody tried to use me for fucking target practice. A damn dart or something. It only touched my skin, but they must have thought it hit properly, because they attacked right away."

"My God, are you hurt?" Cordelia began examining the cuts and bruised on Faith's skin.

"No, not more than after a normal slaying. But this fucking drug is making my head swim."

"We have to call a doctor." Cordelia was clearly upset, she dragged Faith into the bedroom and eased her down on the bed.

"No! No doctors." Faith looked like she could faint any minute. "Not yet, anyway. Too much to explain and besides.... I think it's wearing off."

"Yeah, right! You look splendid! But what if it isn't wearing off? We have to do something!"

"I think...- Faith was barely conscious now. "Get Tara."

'Of course'. Cordelia's heart sank. 'It's Tara she needs.'

She found the number to Tara and Willow.

 

"She's going to be okay. Just let her sleep for a couple of hours. She didn't get much of the drug in her." Without thinking Tara let her fingers run through Faith's hair.

Willow's mouth tightened and Cordelia looked away.

"Oh..." Tara guiltily removed her hand and blushed. The touch had been natural for her. Faith was hurt and she wanted to be there for her, comfort her, but when she saw the look in their eyes she knew she had to be careful, even if she wished it wasn't so. And it SHOULDN'T be so either. It was okay to touch a friend, wasn't it?

A tiny voice in the back of her brain reminded her that Faith wasn't JUST a friend, and both Cordelia and Willow was painfully aware of that. And probably hated it more than anything...

Willow was the first one to speak. "They didn't want to kill her, that's for sure. They wanted to kidnap her for some reason and that mean they must know who she is or rather WHAT she is."

"Are you sure this wasn't just some guys trying to rape her or something?" Cordelia's voice didn't show any emotions. Tara flinched.

"No." Willow placed a reassuring hand on her lover's back. "I think this was carefully planned. They know what she is and they want to use it, use her for something. It's clearly in thread with all the other stuff that's going on."

"Shit." Faith murmured. "This hurts like hell."

"You're awake." Cordelia moves instantly to her bedside, followed closely by Tara and Willow.

"Are you okay?" Only an iron-will kept Tara from throwing herself into Faith's arms.

"Just peachy... What happened?"

"You lost conscience." A rather stiff looking Cordelia explained. "You told me to get Tara, and voila here she is."

'Oh no...' Tara didn't like the tone in Cordelia's voice. A quick glance at Faith reassured her that she hadn't noticed that something was wrong. Faith had to rest now, not worrying about... stuff... 'Pull yourself together, Cordy, be there for her... Please... She needs you... Please don't be jealous, not now.'

She felt Willows presence and a warm hand returned to her lower back. She looks up at her lover who smiled and mouthed "It's going to be okay."

Tara smiled back. "I love you." She mouthed.

And Willow gave her the sign that meant "I love you too."

"Go back to sleep, Faith.- Cordelia ran her fingers through Faith's damp hair. "You need it."

"Will you be here when I wake up?"

"As long as you want me." Cordelia whispered and kissed her cheek. Sadness and hurt flickered briefly in her eyes, before she managed to conceal it. "Rest now, Faith."

 

Last night they tried to capture Darky. They didn't succeed and The Boss is not pleased. These guys are probably out of here before they can say "failure".

Darky is dangerous; she has special powers that make it difficult to capture her. Just like me. The Boss himself had to real me in, but that is out of the question with Darky. He can't risk exposure right now, he says. Maybe it's a job for me and Blue Eyes.

 

Sam McPherson was an attractive brunette in her late twenties with flirty brown eyes and a cocky smile.

She and Eve had met while Eve was still working at the University's paper and Sam was out headhunting young talents like herself for the Magazine. They got along from day one and now they worked together for the very same Magazine that brought them together in the first place.

"So, Blondie, what's this hush hush business all about?"

Eve excitedly explained the whole scenario with March Inc, her gut feeling that something wasn't right and that Harry March wanted to be the next president of the USA.

"Wow!" Sam exclaimed, feeling giddy by the whole thing. "This just... wow, Eve, this could really be the scoop of all scoops, especially if your gut is right. And it usually is. Wow, man, wow!!

"Like the word wow much? One has to wonder how you're capable of living by your words. With that lousy vocabulary!"

"I'm deeply hurt." Sam pouted. "I live very well, thank you very much. The public happens to love my vocabulary." Then she grinned and rubbed her hands. "But now let's get this show on the road. How are we going to do this?"

"I got some ideas." Eve opened her briefcase, took her computer and all the paper files out and spread it on the table.

 

"Who is this friend again?" Sam asked.

"Someone I met at The Sappho Lounge." Eve blushed and looked even younger than her actual years.

Sam smirked. "Someone you fucked, you mean?"

"Yeah, that too. But actually she's dating Cordy now."

"Get out of here! Gerald's Cordy?"

"Yup, the one and only. Faith was the one Gerald shot."

Sam looked stunned. "Get out of here!"

"Sam!"

"Sorry, but it's really weird? I mean, this is weirder than any daytime soap I've ever heard of. So to top it all off, this Faith has been attacked?"

"Yes, and we're are going to see how she is. I really like her and Cordy too for that matter, even if she's hard nut to crack."

"And don't forget a beautiful nut." Sam leered.

"Don't start that, please!" Eve rolled her eyes in disgust. "I think you're more horny than an entire boy's school put together. Cordy loves Faith." She stared intensely at Sam for a moment. "I have never thought about this before, but you could resemble Faith just a tiny little bit. The dark hair, the dark eyes... The bad girl attitude..."

"And you fucked her. Are you telling me something here?" Sam grinned when Eve shoved her.

"You're incorrigible and a pain in the ass, you know that, right?"

Sam just kept on grinning.

 

Joey Ryan carefully hidden eyes watch Eve and her friend get in the car. They are laughing. Flirting? They seemingly know each other well. She can almost see the green gaze directed at the brown-eyed brunette. And the smile. The youthful, innocent smile...

Joey knows she should get back and report to her boss, but she gets in her car and follows the two women.

 

Faith and Cordelia were finally alone. The witches were back at their hotel and Eve and her friend was out doing whatever journalists do.

"Are you alright? I mean, you seem a little distant."

Cordelia nodded. "I'm fine." She said with no intonation whatsoever.

And Faith got scared. Things were going so great between them, wasn't it? That night of lovemaking had been... had been... exquisite. Did Cordelia regret it? Or was she simply reacting this way because of Faith being hurt?

"Are you sure? I mean, you don't seem fine."

"Can't you just for once leave it alone, Faith? Leave ME alone?"

Faith was stunned. Her whole demeanor changed, her face fell and her shoulders slumped in defeat. It was like all the bones in her body suddenly turned to rubber. She got on her feet and slowly, painfully walked to the door.

'If you really want to help Cordelia with this, you have to stay. Even when she asks you to leave.' Tara had said.

"No, I won't leave. You have to talk to me. People in relationships talk to each other."

"How would you know, Faithy? Your record in that area isn't exactly one you can draw a lot of wisdom from, is it?" The venom in Cordelia's voice immediately hit Faith's bloodstream and made her heart constrict painfully.

"If it was your intention to hurt me, C, I'm happy to tell you that you succeeded quite well."

Cordelia flinched visibly. C. Faith hadn't called her that for months. Faith respected her dislike of the various versions of her name, although she had resigned herself to the fact that she never would get rid of Cordy, and Faith had stopped calling her that and the good old Sunnydale C, when she found out how much she really hated it. Luckily no one called her Delia. She hated Delia most of all. Her father called her Delia.

"Cordelia?" Faith didn't like the tormented look on Cordelia's face. "Baby, are you okay? You look like you're going to faint."

"I don't know what's wrong with me..." Cordelia whispered. "I can't take this anymore."

"Take what, baby? Please, tell me. Maybe I can help..."

"Are you going to leave me?" The question came out of nowhere and kicked Faith in the head.

"NO! No, why do you think that? I have no intention on leaving you, babe, I lo..." She stopped herself not yet able to complete that sentence in front of Cordelia.

Cordelia shook her head furiously, not listening to a word Faith was saying.

"I'm going back to L.A and you are here. You'll be out there and there will be a lot... And Tara..."

"What about Tara?" Faith was really confused now.

"Don't ever talk about Love of the Heart, it'll ruin everything." Cordelia mumbled with a faraway look in her eyes.

"You're scaring me! Please, Cordelia!"

Cordelia's face changed and it was like she suddenly snapped out of the trance-like state she had been in. She blinked a couple of times and stared at Faith in confusion.

"What? What happened?"

Faith rushed to her and hugged her close.

"Faith, you're squeezing the life out of me!" Cordelia said with difficulty.

"Um, sorry." Faith released her hold. "Are you okay?"

"I think I zoned out for a minute. It was very strange."

Faith tightened her hold again and kissed Cordelia soundly on her lips.

"I'm glad you're back. Please, don't do that again." 'We have to talk about this, Cordelia, even if you want to or not."

Cordelia shivered. 'I'll have to talk to someone about this. It's beginning to scare the crap out of me..."

 

I'm strong. Stronger than most people. Even stronger than Blue Eyes and she can kick most men's asses without breaking sweat.

Blue Eyes says that The Boss chose me because I was different, like her, because of my strength. It's very useful in my line or work.

Beating people or killing them is easy for me. My lack of conscience and remorse makes me a unique and lethal weapon.

He made me that way.

He made Blue Eyes like that too, but something is happening within her and it can be dangerous for her if he finds out.

He rely on her like no one else, like a second in command, but she's beginning to think too much, she questions him and dreams of a different life.

I don't understand why.

Only when I think of...HER... the one who haunts my dreams. Then I understand...

 

Faith didn't sleep that night. She observed the sleeping Cordelia, took note of every word uttered during her nightmares and comforted her the best she could. These nightmares where the key. Somehow essential to the problems that haunted Cordelia.

Willow was quite irritated with her. According to her Faith didn't take the supposed big evil they were facing serious enough. And given the fact that Faith was the only lead to this big bad evil, Willow felt that Faith could be just a little more attentive.

But she could only think of Cordelia. The nightmares seemed to escalate and the strange breakdown yesterday worried her deeply. Cordelia had been totally zoned out and couldn't remember what happened or what she had said while she was "out".

When she retold the whole scenario Cordelia paled and refused to talk about it. But they both agreed that she should talk to SOMEBODY. It hurt Faith deeply that Cordelia didn't trust her enough to let it be her.

It created a hurtful gab between them and Faith feared the day when Cordelia would return to LA and the gab also became a physical one. If Cordelia didn't trust her now, she certainly wouldn't start doing it after she left.

And back in LA she could easily forget... Back L.A she might remember how easy life was before Faith came and made mess out of it all. And then she might choose to forget...

She wanted Cordelia to stay in San Francisco with her... forever... She wanted the gab to close... forever... She wanted long-term commitment, love and devotion... forever... In short, she wanted forever.

 

"I think someone is following me." Eve stood by the window. "I have had that feeling for days."

"Maybe someone is." Sam joined her. "You're harboring a great story and perhaps Mr. March wants to be sure you don't out him before he wants you to."

"Of course, I haven't thought about that."

"That's what I'm here for. Being your brain."

"Thank you, thank you very much! You're so very kind."

"You're welcome, Blondie. So are we going out tonight? I really want to get laid. It has been months."

"Sam!" Eve nervously ran a hand through her shaggy short her. This outspoken side of her friend always made her a little uneasy.

"It's the truth. I haven't been with anyone since...since Deb I think."

"You were only together for a month or so, right? The black girl."

"Yeah, there haven't really been anyone serious since Brooke. Not that I sleep around or anything..."

"Right!" Eve snorted.

"I don't. Trust me I should know! But tonight I really, really want to sleep around. And you're not willing to help me out, are you?" Sam's cocky grin made Eve blush. "That's what I thought, you coward you! So I'm going to find a cute and sexy one night stand."

 

Eve decided to start at Nikki's place, where you could get something to eat and where the atmosphere and the music were relatively toned down. Then later on, they could move on to Faith's (okay, technically Nikki was the owner of both, but that's beside the point) more youthful and hectic dance bar.

Nikki wasn't working that night. And Eve had hoped she would. She really liked the tough but softhearted bar owner, who flirted in the most harmless and charming way

She got them a table in the more remote area of the bar where they ate and bickered in their usual manner. Afterwards they went dancing.

For about an hour they weren't off the dance floor. Both of them tremendously enjoyed the feeling of unrestrained freedom the dancing evoked.

Eve wasn't looking for a flirt, even if a lot of attractive women on the dance floor seemed quite willing. Tomorrow she had that long awaited date with Joey Ryan and she was really looking forward to it.

Dripping from sweat and excitement they found a place by the bar where they could gather new energy and relax a bit.

"So?" Eve lifted an inquisitorial eyebrow, imitating a look she had seen on Cordelia numerous of times.

"So what?" Sam mirrored her expression and grinned.

"Have you seen the lucky woman yet?"

"Actually there's two possibilities in the final selection." Sam grabbed her glass and talked into it like it was a microphone. "And the contestants in this race are very different. It's going to be interesting to see Samantha McPherson's final decision."

Eve rolled her eyes, grabbed a glass and mimicked Sam's imitation of a sports journalist. "Who are they then, the contestants? Who are the two women who will fight for the pleasure of Samantha McPherson's perfectly trimmed and neatly tanned body?"

"Contestant number one." Sam hinted discretely where the woman in question was seated. "Slightly older than Miss McPherson herself, perhaps ten years. Blond, beautiful and blue-eyed. Well-educated and capable of stimulating conversation before and after the deed itself."

Eve immediately recognized Faith's Dr. Kim. 'Not a bad choice, Sam. Not bad at all...'

"Contestant number two." Sam's attention was now directed at a woman sitting in the darkest corner of the bar. "The same age as Miss McPherson. Blond is a good guess, even if the hair is so short that it makes it difficult to be sure. This contestant is tougher than the first one. Butch and buff in spite of her small stature and lack of height. A broken nose and a noticeable scar give her an interesting face. Attractive in a different and more dangerous way than the first contestant."

"And no one in the audience doubts which of the contestants Miss McPherson finds most intriguing." Eve concluded.

"No." Sam smiled. "And now I'm going to get her!"

And Eve almost felt sorry for the winning contestant.

 

I went out again last night. This time I wanted to have sex. Feeling for myself what all the fuss was about. I have been very thorough in my research, so I was quite confident.

I went to the bar and found the woman who resembled HER most. The target was there too but I ignored her. This wasn't work.

And I was in luck. I didn't have to do a thing; she was the one who went after me. And later she took me to her hotel room.

It was... amazing. I have never experienced anything like it before. Even though I wouldn't let her touch me, it surpassed all my expectations, and everything I have read about it paled in comparison.

She wasn't too happy with her not being allowed to touch me in return, but I did everything in my power to make her forget it. I was not ready for that part of sex. Yet...

I touched her everywhere and in every way. God, how I touched her... I used everything that I had learned from my extensive reading and I think I did quite well.

Feeling her response, smelling her arousal, dipping in her wetness, hearing the sounds she made, making her peak time after time, is something that I never will forget. Something I want to do again. As soon as possible... I left her blissfully exhausted and asleep in her room.

Next time I want to stay the whole night. And not with a substitute.

But with HER...

And to reach that goal I have to kill... the only obstacle between me and HER.

 

"Are you going out?" Faith looked up from her book.

"Yes." Cordelia nodded. "I'm meeting Eve and her friend for coffee."

Faith felt a little hurt because she wasn't asked to come. Once again she thought about the distance between them, alternating with brief moments of joyful togetherness, which Faith hoped someday would become their daily state of mind.

After that one brief incident, they hadn't discussed Cordelia's highly unpredictable, always drastically swinging moods and continued nightmares. And the idea of talking to someone about them weren't discussed either.

"Eve was out on a date yesterday and we're being let into all the greasy details." Cordelia obviously found it necessary to explain why she was meeting her friends.

Faith grumbled noncommittal and made a grimace that did it's best to resemble a genuine smile.

Cordelia hesitated. "Are something wrong?" She stood fidgeting by the door, desperately wanting to leave but not feeling that she could.

That hurt Faith even more. She felt like crying. Cordelia was the only living person that made her feel like crying that often. It was enervating. Even if she never doubted the love she had for Cordelia, she was beginning to wonder if the price was too high.

"No, nothing's wrong. When will you be back? Maybe we could go out tonight? To a nice restaurant or something." Faith wanted to scream, begging the woman to talk to her, BE with her and not hide behind indifference, coolness or sarcasm. 'Yeah, like you're any better, you hypocrite!'

"I don't know, we haven't made any exact plans yet. I'll call you, when I know more." She walked over to Faith and gave her a hasty kiss on the lips. "See you later, okay?."

"Yeah." Faith looked away, desperately trying to hide the brimming tears. "See you later, Cordelia."

And then she was gone, leaving only a vague scent of perfume behind.

For awhile Faith sat unmoving with her eyes closed. Love was a damn complicated business...

When she finally opened her eyes again, she saw Cordelia's keys on the kitchen table. She must have put them there when she went to kiss Faith goodbye.

'Damn, I have to go after her.' Reluctantly Faith took the keys and went after Cordelia.

Cordelia's car was in LA so while she was in San Francisco she had either walked or used public transportation, and Faith guessed that it was in the direction of the latter that she had to look.

And she was right. Cordelia was steadily walking towards her goal a few blocks away.

Faith was about to yell when her senses went havoc. Something was definitely wrong. She detected a very distinct signal that triggered her alerted and carefully honed instincts. It felt vaguely and frightening familiar.

And then she saw what had bothered her. A small but muscular frame followed Cordelia closely. The dark figure moved like a predator, not like an innocent pedestrian.

This person was after Cordelia and the intentions weren't honorable.

Faith started running. The figure turned around and saw her coming.

Faith stopped in shock. 'This can't be, this is me being fucking delusional.' Her inner self shouted in disbelief.

They stared at each other for a long agonizing moment, and then the dark figure took off and left a paralyzed Faith behind.

It only took her a couple of seconds to recover and then she ran after Cordelia. Deadly frightened for the first time in years.

This was... she really didn't know what this was, but she knew that Cordelia shouldn't be alone on the streets. Not with a trained killer like that after her.

And they had to talk to Tara and Willow. This was just too fucking unbelievable...

 

"Are you raving mad, Faith? What's going on?" Cordelia didn't react kindly to being dragged home without explanation.

And when she heard the explanation she quickly decided that Faith had finally snapped, gone over the edge, seeing things that really wasn't there.

"And if it really was her, why would she want to hurt me? It doesn't make any sense."

And Faith could only agree. None of it made any fucking sense. She just hoped that the witches could find some meaning in it all.

 

"Are you raving mad?!" Willow copied Cordelia's tone exactly, down to the small squeak in the end.

"Are you sure about this, Faith?" Even Tara sounded skeptical.

"This is ridiculous. It must have been someone or something else." Was Cordelia's contribution to the newest 'Faith has lost it'-festival.

Faith just sat there. Silent and in deep thought, trying to contemplate what she knew was right, even if no one believed her.

Her senses didn't lie. Even if her eyes played a trick on her, her senses never did. And she was absolute sure that the person following Cordelia, were who her senses told her it was. Different looking, a different presence, but still the same.

What her senses didn't tell her was what it all meant... Now the question was what they could and should do about it. Something really bad must have happened. And Faith knew with certainty that this, once again, meant trouble. And this time it was trouble with capital T...

 

This is not good. I fucked up for the first time in the life I can remember. And SHE saw me doing it.

It was strange how my skin reacted to her presence, I knew she was there even before I saw her. Strange...

But right now I have a more pressing problem.

The Boss is furious. He showed me how Blue Eyes and the target interacted on their staged date.

And even I could see that Blue Eyes acted very uncharacteristic. She took off her classes and showed the target her very distinctive bright blue eyes. Which is a very unusual behavior for her.

The target has some sort of hold over Blue Eyes and The Boss is afraid that it will interfere with the whole operation.

In the beginning he wanted the target to tell his truth to the world and nothing more, but he soon discovered that the target wasn't so easily fooled. And the target saw beyond the loads of cleansed material that was handed over.

And then the target became the target.

Blue Eyes told me all this right before her date. I think she was nervous and needed a friend. And I'm the only one there. The only one who doesn't judge her.

It was Blue Eyes' job to infiltrate the target, become the target's friend and perhaps divert the target's attention from The Boss

And in a way Blue Eyes did just that but not in a way The Boss liked. She had sex with the target and from the look of it, even for my untrained eye, it was way more than just sex for the both of them.

For The Boss it's a catastrophe. Blue Eyes is very valuable to him and he hates when things get out of his control.

And now I have to eliminate the "annoying little blond" as The Boss more and more frequently call the target.

It's like everything is in dissolution...

 

"It's not like Cordy not to call if something came up." Eve was worried. "Maybe she tried my cell-phone?"

"She probably did." Sam tried to reassure her. "She doesn't know it's lying forgotten and out of batteries in my hotel room."

"One day, if I'm not careful, I might forget to take my clothes on before I leave in the morning."

Sam laughed. "I certainly hope I'm here to see that! Finally I get to see you stark naked..."

"I've said it before and I'll say it again, you're incorrigible. Sometimes you remind me of...of..."

"Of an old hound dog?" Sam grinned.

"You said it, I didn't..."

Eve tried the phone again. "I think something's wrong with this." She gave Sam the receiver.

"It's dead. Probably no connection." Sam sighed. "That could be why Cordy hasn't phoned."

"We'll go see her later, to hear what went wrong."

"But you're going to tell me about your date, right? Even if Cordy isn't here, right?" Sam begged teasingly.

"It was wonderful." Eve breathed dreamily. "I think I'm in love... She has the bluest eyes I've ever seen. Like ice and yet so warm. When she looks into my eyes everything inside melts to burning hot lava. I never met anybody like her before..."

"And you slept with her? On the first date, you rascal you!"

Eve grinned. "And it was indescribable, I can tell you. Even Faith..." She blushed.

"Even Faith what? You can't blush your way out of it, honey. Spit it out!!"

Eve's cheeks got even redder.

"Come on, spill it!" Sam loved watching her friend squirm in embarrassment.

"Okay, okay!" Eve coughed, feeling a little bit shy. "You know I slept with Faith, right? More than once.... And it was the most exceptional thing I've have ever felt..."

"She was that good, eh?" Sam was properly impressed.

"Yeah, she was THAT good, but with Joey it was...I can't explain it... it was more... more..."

"With Faith it was sex." Sam offered. "And with Joey something else joins the mix... You're in love, honey... Storybook case in love..."

Eve nodded. "I'm in love...."

 

"What do we do now?" Faith paced back and forth on the floor, very close to a significant temper tantrum.

Suddenly she was stopped by a yelp from Cordelia. She fell forward; her face became pale and twisted in pain.

"What the fuck! What's wrong?" Faith rushed to her lover. "Baby? What's happening?" She tried to make Cordelia as comfortable as possible during her spasms.

Tara placed a calming hand on her arm. "I think her visions has returned. You've never seen her have them, have you?"

"How? Why now?" Faith was confused and perplexed. And scared shitless...

"Maybe her repressed feelings are beginning to loosen up?" Willow offered. "And this hold is the first one to go."

"That could explain the increasing nightmares." Faith mumbled.

"Eve is in danger." Cordelia's voice was hoarse and tinged with fear. "We have to get to her before..."

"Do you know where she is?" Tara asked.

"At home."

Willow went to the phone.

"Do you want to lie down?" Cordelia was still nestled in Faith's arms.

"No, I'm okay. I was just surprised. I had forgotten how this feels. It's awful..."

Softly they kissed each other and Faith ran a shaking hand through Cordelia's damp hair. "You scared me, baby."

"I'm sorry." Cordelia produced a thin, pale smile. "I think I scared myself." She nestled closer to Faith and nuzzled the soft skin on her neck.

"Something's wrong with her phone and her cell-phone is off." Willow was already in her coat. "We have to go there now."

"Do you want to come?" Faith kissed Cordelia's ear, briefly letting her tongue caress the lope. "Or maybe you should rest?"

"No. I'm going. It's my friend."

"Okay, let's go then."

 

"Enjoy your meeting, Sam."

Sam rolled her eyes. "I hate when they do that on my time off. I had planned helping you check some information and then take a couple of days off to write on my book" She hugged Eve and kissed her cheek. "Let's talk later. Maybe we can double date if I find the little spitfire."

"What's her name? You haven't told me her name?" Eve sat down again and poured herself some more coffee.

"Al. She call's herself Al. And I'm a stupid fuck. Damn, I know that! I didn't even get her phone number, her full name or anything. Just the name Al. I didn't get anything else."

"Just the orgasm's of your life." Eve smirked.

"Yeah, just that.." Sam sighed. "And she didn't even want any in return. Too fucking butch for her own good. Next time I'll..."

"There's going to be a next time?" Eve asked surprised. "I didn't think you were after repeat performances, you said it yourself."

"A girl is entitled to change her mind, isn't she?!" Sam opened the door. "Talk to you later."

Eve waved her goodbye and then she was alone.

Fifteen minutes later somebody knocked on the door. Sam had probably forgotten something.

Eve got up and opened the door. The person on the outside was not Sam. It was... Al? The scar made the identification quite easy.

She was about to say that Sam wasn't here right now, when Al lifted her hand and knocked her out.

The last thing she heard was a voice that sounded a lot like Faith's and it was yelling "NO, Buffy!!"

Then the world went black...

 

I have failed two times. I have never failed before. Both times SHE got in the way.

She is strong, almost as strong as I am. We fought for a long time, before I managed to get away. I have never met anybody so similar to me before. When we were fighting it felt like we were the same. Like sisters or something. Very strange...

The Boss won't like this... If he finds out, that is... I have a nagging feeling that SHE is Darky, that SHE is the one he want's so desperate to own, like he owns me and Blue Eyes. A valuable asset, an unstoppable and deadly trefoil.

He won't like that I failed and would hate that so many people saw my face. Maybe he want's me to kill them all, cover my tracks.

But it will be easier said than done...

 

"Are you saying that this woman want's to kill me?" Eve shook her head, not quite understanding what was happening to her. "And she got away and is free to give it another try? Tell me again why we can't call the police?"

Confusion radiated from Eve and everybody else in the room. They all knew that they had to give Eve some sort of explanation.

"We can trust her." Tara was the first one to break the silence. Her opinion meant a great deal to Willow and Faith. Her ability to read people was a well-known fact and her vague and not very well motivated dislike for Eve, originated from their brief meeting in The Sappho Lounge, told Faith that Tara was absolute sure in her opinion of Eve.

"You tell her." She gestured to Tara and Willow. "I'll go find Cordelia."

Cordelia sat heavily brooding in the bedroom. Her normally cool and collected face were drawn and tinged with deep worry. She looked up when Faith came in. Her eyes were dark and red-rimmed.

"You're sure that it was Buffy?"

Faith nodded. "I sensed her. I have always been able to sense her. And I even think my instincts picked up on her the day we went dancing at Nikki's. She was there. In the room with us. I was just too... busy elsewhere to notice." Faith smirked and hoped to lighten the mood a bit. But she had no such luck...

Cordelia closed her eyes briefly. A mixture of pain and grief was evident on her face. "Great! Now I don't only have to be jealous of cute, adorable, smart AND sensitive Tara, who you in fact HAVE fucked. Now good old Saint Buffy on a Pedestal is back, a little battered and not quite so Miss America looking but probably the damn love of your damn life! Am I right or am I right?"

"No, Cordelia. That's not it. I mean..."

"You're telling me that you wasn't in love with Buffy back in Sunnyhell. In the good old days before you turned psycho on us?"

"I.. no, I'm not telling you that, but..."

"I'm dead tired of being the rebound gal, Faith. I'm always second choice, aren't I? Back then you fucked everything with a pulse, including me, to get over the fact that the one you really loved didn't love you back. And now she's back, resurrected God knows how, and you get at second chance at convincing her that the slayer-bond goes beyond being mere battle-comrades and destiny-sharing demon killers."

Faith stood with an open gasping mouth and couldn't find the words she needed.

Cordelia face turned blank. "This is not working."

"What's not working?" Finally Faith found words and her heart jumped in fear.

"Us. I'm going home when all this is over."

"Home? What do you mean?"

"I'll leave San Francisco and go back to LA. Back to my life."

"And you'll... leave me too? For good?" Faith's voice cracked.

"I'll think it's for the best."

"You think it's for the best." Faith couldn't process was she was hearing. Her brain was unable to understand and her heart refused to.

Cordelia remained silent. She closed her eyes and apparently wanted Faith to leave her alone.

Faith looked at her love one more time... and then she left.

 

"Can I crash here tonight?"

"Of course, honey." Helen saw her tears and hugged her warmly.

Nikki came out from the kitchen. "What's up? Oh, Faith it's great to see you. I didn't hear the door..." She sensed that something was wrong and looked inquiringly at Helen, who shrugged. Faith hadn't told her what was wrong. She just assumed it had something to do with Cordy. These days must worries and speculations in Faith's life was about Cordy

Nikki embraced the two women, closed her long arms around them both and made them feel safe and loved.

And it made Faith cry even harder.

 

"You can't let her go that easy. Fight for her, woman!" Nikki wagged her index finger at Faith. "You know she loves you.."

"I don't fucking know that, do I? We never talked about the big fucking L-word, did we? And now all this stuff with Buffy..."

"Who or what is Buffy?"

And Faith told them what she could. About her moving to Sunnydale (she left out dead watchers, vampires and slayers), how she fell in love with Buffy, who loved someone else (a vampire with a soul, but of course she didn't tell them that), how she fucked Cordelia and later fucked up everything (not mentioning demon mayors or being in Buffy's body, messing up her life).

"And now this Buffy is back? And Cordelia think she's your real love?" Helen summed up. "Not Tara, not her, but this... Buffy?"

"Yeah, but I think it's just the trigger event, the excuse she has been waiting for. I don't think she trust me enough to be with me."

"You don't know that!" Nikki raised her voice. "You haven't seen her look at you. Take a positive chance for once in your life, Faith. Don't throw this away!"

Helen nodded. "I almost did just that. And I think it would have killed me."

"How?" Faith was curious. Helen and Nikki didn't talk that much about their early days together. It represented a lot of hurt for both of them, so much was obvious.

Helen told the story about their budding love. It was a rocky start, her being the governor in the prison where Nikki was put after her murder sentence. She was engaged then. To a man. But her attraction to Nikki couldn't be denied and they began a troubled relationship. Always fearing to get caught kissing and always worrying if they had a future at all...

After a vicious fight, caused by Nikki's jealousy, Nikki escaped and came to her house. They made up and made love for the first time.

After that it went down hill and their relationship was terminated. Helen decided to move on, forget Nikki and their hopeless love. And she found herself a substitute. A man working as doctor in the prison.

"And I could have lost everything." She said with tears in her eyes. "I was prepared to force her out of my life and it would have been the stupidest thing I ever did!"

Helen told Faith of her nights in despair, the heavy drinking and the deep sense of loss that followed her everywhere.

"I would have gone mad within a year. Or at least in rehab somewhere... You can't turn your back on love, Faith. Even if you want to. Doing that always comes with a price that can be much heavier to pay than the hurt of a difficult love."

When Nikki got out of prison after a retrial, Helen swallowed her pride and went to congratulate. And the rest, as they say, was history.

"And even if the road to where we are now where rocky, bumpy and like climbing the highest mountain, it was all worth it. Believe me!"

"At least give it some serious thought." Nikki pleaded. "Don't give up on her. There's not enough love in the world for you to throw it away so carelessly."

It was almost the exact words that she herself had used when she tried to convince Tara not to give up on Willow. And if they were true for Tara, couldn't they be true for Faith, too?

"I'll think about it." She murmured.

Helen hugged her and kissed her lightly in the corner of her mouth. "Fight for her, Faith. I think she will be worth it in the end, even if she carries a lot of baggage around."

"Baggage? What so you mean? You haven't talked to her, have you?"

"No, Faith. I'm just very observant when it comes to people. In my business it's a essential skill, you know."

"She won't talk to me about what's haunting her. I know something is wrong and when I look back, I've seen it been her eyes before. All the time I have known her, I mean."

"I think she should talk to Kim." Helen said and smiled when she saw the expression on Faith's face. "Or someone LIKE Kim. I know she's not that fond of our good doctor. But I have a feeling that they have a lot in common."

"You're not the first one to mention that. Tara said something similar. Why can't you be specific about it? Why do I have to stay in the dark? You all assume and see stuff in her, but won't share the great knowledge you gain. Why?" Faith yelled.

"There's no specifics about intuition." Nikki said. "But someone or something must be the key to help Cordelia."

'Tara.'

 

"You tried to kill her, you bastard!" Blue Eyes is screaming in my face. Her blue eyes has lost all humanity and if I was a normal human being I would fear for my life, but I know she can't hurt me and I know that she really don't want to. "He told you to kill her, didn't he?"

I nod. No use in denying a well known fact. "But I didn't succeed." I reassured her. "Darky got in the way."

"Promise me that you won't try again, Al." She uses her own name for me, reminding me of our friendship.

How did I become Al? Easy. Scarface... Al Capone... Al "Scarface" Capone. The analogy is obvious, isn't it?

I promise her I won't try again. I can see in her face that she's planning something. "He won't tolerate it." I remind her. "He won't tolerate disobedience, you know that."

"I've had enough, Al." She whispers savagely. "I want a life. I want love. I want all the things he has taken away from me."

"You will eliminate him." It's not a question because I already see the answer in her eyes.

"I know how to do it. I know the only way to kill him. It's not going to be easy, but I'll do what needs to be done to freed. Will you help me?" I think for a moment. In a way I don't even have to consider it. Joey is my friend, my only family and I think what I feel for her, is the closest thing to love I have known in this existence. I won't let her down. Furthermore a new and rapidly growing part of me wants the same things she wants. I don't want to feel numb anymore. The attraction to Darky and that one wonderful night with the woman from the bar shows me that there is a life outside the realm of The Boss. I want to know how life was before him, what it is he had made me forget.

"I'm in, Joey."

And Joey smiles. A beautiful but deadly smile.

 

"Where the hell have you been all night, Faith? Cordy has been in there crying her guts out for hours!" Willow's normally kind green eyes glinted with resentment. "And Eve is a mess, too. This whole fucking thing is a God awful frigging mess!"

Faith flinched visibly. Not used to hear profanity and curses for the normally so soft-spoken witch. Granted, she had changed a lot over the years. She was not shy and insecure anymore. But Faith was not yet used to the change. For her Willow would always be B's annoyingly smart and geeky best friend.

'This must be really tough on her, for all those years thinking that her best friend was dead, only to find out that she isn't. And that she is a totally different person now, not a slayer anymore, but a killer, capable of killing innocent people. Willow must be near a breakdown by now.'

"Where going to find her, Re...Willow." She said quietly. "And we're going to get her out of this mess."

Willow's eyes were huge with emotions. "Oh, Faith I hope so...."

Faith nodded. "You'll be alright? I'll go apologize to Cordelia."

"Yeah." A small smile spread on Willow's mouth. "Tara's right, you know."

"She is?" Faith was puzzled. "About what?"

"You're really not that bad, actually you're are quite nice once one gets to know you."

Faith blushed and fidgeted in embarrassment and Willow laughed.

 

A tired looking Eve sat on the bedside, watching a sleeping Cordy with worry. After Cordy stopped crying and ramble about 'breaking The Love of the Heart', she hadn't said anything and the look in her eyes scared Eve. Or rather there was no look in them. They were empty, like she had pulled away from the outer world.

"Are you alright?" Faith whispered.

Eve shrugged. "I've been better." She grimaced. "It's difficult for me to understand all this. Everything is running amok, isn't it? I mean, somebody out there wants to kill me."

"Yeah, it may not look so good at the moment, but we'll protect you. She won't get to you." Faith sat beside her. "Have you warned Sam, about B..Al?"

"Not yet. I haven't been able to track her down. She's not answering any of her phones."

"Are you worried?"

"No, not yet. I mean, this is not unusual for her. She often disappears for a couple of days when she's writing on a big article or on her book. And Al didn't hurt her when she could, that must mean something. She's only after me."

"And Cordelia."

Eve nodded and looked at her sleeping friend. "She's not feeling well, Faith. Maybe you can get through to her."

"What do you mean?" Faith's voice raised in worry.

"I think she's closing herself off." Eve had seen her do it before. When life got to nasty Cordy turned off the light and waited for better waves in the dark.

"Can I be alone with her for awhile?" Faith asked quietly.

"Of course." With difficulty Eve got an aching body out of the bed. "God, I feel like my own grandmother." She muttered and hobbled out of the bedroom. "Or even better, my own grandmother's grandmother...Great grandmother? Yeah, that must be it... great grandmother..."

Amused Faith shook her head. She really liked Eve. It seemed that their time of passion where conveniently forgotten and Faith was thankful for that. Being ex-lovers was a difficult place to start a friendship.

When she once more focused on her current lover, Cordelia had opened her eyes. "Hi." Faith said tentatively.

"Hi, yourself." Cordelia said with a toneless voice.

"How are you?" Faith didn't like the empty look in her eyes.

"Fine."

"Can we.. can we talk?"

"Is there anything left to talk about?"

Faith didn't like this at all. "I'm sorry I left you like that. That wasn't..."

"It's okay."

"But..."

"I'm tired, Faith."

"Okay, Cordelia. Let's talk later, alright?"

Cordelia closed her eyes and turned away from Faith, her body stiff and dismissing.

Faith got up. Her whole body felt like rubber, like every muscle had turned to water. This was wrong. Something was very, very wrong.

She had to talk to Tara. Tara could help... She would know how to deal with this...

Tara...

 

I wander the streets, not quite knowing what to do with myself. My world is falling apart. I had to make a choice and I chose Joey over The Boss. And I didn't succeed in killing two targets. Something in me is radically changing and now I don't even want to kill them anymore.

The blond was a job, no personal feelings involved. And the other... Joey say's that you can't buy or kill your way to love and affection. If SHE loves this woman, there's nothing I can do about it.

I'm numb. I have never been without direction before. The Boss always mapped my life out and Joey tried to make it more bearable for me. She always explain things, make it fit a context somehow. She knows how lonely it feels when you don't understanding what goes on around you. When you're a stranger in a strange and confusing world.

My feet take my to a hotel. The woman I had sex with the other night stays there.

I pass the reception and the clerk looks at me curiously, but doesn't stop me. The glint in my eyes keeps him silent.

She answers the door quickly. Her hair is tousled and she has baggy jeans and a T-shirt on. Behind her I see a messy table with a small computer, she is obviously working on something. If she is surprised to see me she doesn't show it. She smiles, let me inside and offer me something to drink.

I decline and instead I move in to kiss her. No explanation for me being her, no asking permission. Her response is eager and passionate. And soon we are naked on the bed. "Touch me." I whisper. And I don't have to explain. Sam knows what I mean. She kisses my face, nuzzles my neck, nips at my earlobes, and works her way down my heaving chest. Soon a tongue plays with a nipple, then shifting to the other neglected one, this time using sharp teeth and small arousing nips.

Her tongue finds my navel and the sensitive skin just above the rough thatch of hair between my legs. And beyond this, words can't explain what she does to me. Raving emotions, the almost devastating sensations and a roaring climax concludes her lesson of how it feels to be touched in love, not in friendship, in hatred or indifference.

I haven't felt anything remotely like that before, not that I know of, anyway. My body feels like it's floating. Like it has it's own free will and doesn't care for anything else than this... She softly kisses my tears away.

 

"I don't know, Faith. It's dangerous. It can easily backfire." Tara shook her head. "To take a walk in another person's s..subconscious.n.ness is really, REALLY risky."

"You told me about the time Willow looked for Buffy... went into her mind or something..."

"That was totally different, Faith. And you're not trained in this, if Willow..."

"NO! It has to be me. I know it. I can feel it. It has to be me." Faith's eyes pleaded and her lips formed an irresistible pout.

"Yes." Tara sighed in defeat. "IF we do this, it has to be you. You're the only one emotional close enough to be let in."

Suddenly Faith felt the fatigue of the stress she had been under the last couple of days. This was almost too much to handle. Buffy was alive, not the Buffy she once was, but a totally different person, in appearance and in behavior. Cordelia had retired to some faraway place, where it would be difficult to get her out from. And their relationship had ceased to exist, if it ever really did in the first place.

Some day's prison life almost sounded desirable...

"I think Cordelia suffers from some sort of depression." Tara said. "And I think she feels her control is somehow slipping."

"You think she feels like this because of that vision?"

"Yes, partly, but also falling in love with you, given your history together, and then have her husband trying to kill the person you're in love with, because of a jealousy you think you caused by leaving him. There is probably a lot more to add to her pile of stress factors."

"Including that mysterious thing you can see in her, the one she shares with Dr. Kim?"

"Including that, yes."

"Then you must agree, that there's only one solution, beside her going into therapy for years and years?" Faith pressed a little harder. "You'll be there to help me, right? It can't go wrong!"

"I don't know..."

"Please Tara."

 

"I can't find anything to track, Wes! Nothing to hold on to. It's like she's not even there."

"Maybe she isn't, Willow." Wes found it difficult not to toss everything aside and leave for San Francisco immediately. The phone, even the videophone they were using, was a poor substitute for being in the middle of this very unexpected action.

"You mean they have somewhat cleaned her slate or something?"

"Yes, I have heard about it before. It's like taking everything, the harddisk, and the software out of the computer, only leaving the box, the monitor. Perhaps it's why you couldn't find her back then. The frequencies in her brain has been altered and she's not our Buffy anymore, therefore it's impossible to track her AS Buffy."

Willow was silent for a long time. "That's awful." She finally said.

Wes nodded. He could only agree.

"Can you research some more on this, Wes? Who uses this technique and so on? I don't have my books here. I'll try surfing a bit, but it would great with some backup."

"Sure, Willow. I keep in contact and I'll try to find something as quickly as possible. Just call me if you need anything else."

 

Eve stared on the ceiling. There had been a lot to comprehend in the last day's events. Much more than she was really prepared for.

She was on her way with a big story that could determine her further career. She had fallen in love. Deeply, profoundly, erasing all other in-loves she had ever experienced. And someone had tried to kill her. Yeah, this was certainly not a normal time in her life!

The only redeeming thing about it all was that she was here with people who seem to know what they were doing. Oh, and of course they weren't JUST people. They were witches, a slayer and a seer. Of course... Her life had turned into a silver screen horror story...

"Are you alright?" Faith asked concerned. She and Tara stood in the doorframe, watching her. "We knocked but you didn't answer."

"I'm okay, I guess. This is just... a little too much to handle in the same time." She rolled her eyes. "I always wanted excitement in my life and look at me now..."

"I think this would be too much for most people, Eve." Faith said and gave her a lopsided grin. "Even me."

"So you're some kind of superhero?" Eve asked deadpanned.

Tara giggled and looked at Faith like she was saying: Okay, let's hear how you're going to answer this one!

Faith coughed uncomfortable. "That's... that's not quite how I see it." She muttered.

"You kill monsters." Eve persisted. "What else can you be?"

"I'm not like this... by choice." Faith tried to explain. "They chose me to do this job. I had nothing to do with it."

"A reluctant hero." Tara said and giggled again.

Faith raised a very Cordelia-like brow at her.

"I think heroes are supposed to be reluctant and modest." Eve loved that her relationship with Tara, who she really liked, was more carefree now and that they could tease Faith together. "I most have read that somewhere."

"You're right. I think it's in the manual." Tara added. "In one of the early chapters."

Faith rolled her eyes.

Someone knocked on the door.

"I'll get it." Tara was already on the way. She opened the door and outside stood a stunning woman, with the most amazing blue eyes she had ever seen.

"Hi." A deep sexy voice said. "My name is Joey Ryan. I'm here to see Evelyn Conners."

 

"You're so damn good at making me scream." Sam whispered in my ear. And I had made her do that... screaming that is... quite a lot. She is exhausted and so am I. She had been very persistent in returning the favors and she proved to me that my body was capable of a huge amount of those orgasms. She said that I was almost inhuman that way.

I wonder if I had them before and how it is possible for me to forget that?

She asked me who I am and was clearly hurt when I had no answer for her, and I could feel her withdraw slightly.

And we didn't give each other new orgasms after that.

 

"So you're telling us that your boss, this Harry March guy is some sort of...a frigging God...?" Faith asked, not sounding like she believed the other woman.

Joey nodded and moved nervously in her seat. Quickly she glanced at Eve, who refused to look at her and it made her fear that it was all over between them. The innocent young woman would never understand all the things she had done, and she would certainly not understand that their whole relationship started on a lie.

Willow and Tara who had seen more in Sunnydale than most people, even Faith, and had fought so-called Gods before, were more receptive of Joey Ryan's story. It fitted perfectly to the research Wesley had made and matched quite well with their own intuition about it all.

Harry March was some sort of ancient God who wanted his influence and power in the universe back. He used what was left of his godly powers to gain that, but right now his main focus was the power he could get in the human world. To begin with he wanted to become the President of United States. In that position he could do almost anything.

"How do you and Buf...Al fit in?" Willow wanted to know if there was anything they could do to get the real Buffy back.

"We're... assassins... among other things." Joey replied.

Eve's eyes widened and she paled. 'This is not happening...'

Joey continued her explanation. "We're carefully selected because we have special powers or talents that are useful to him."

"How do he find you?" Faith asked.

"I don't know. I remember nothing of my previous life. What I know is what he has decided I need to know."

"And the same goes for Al?" Tara was horrified by the confirmations of their suspicions.

"The same goes for Al." Joey confirmed. "I have been in my new identity a whole lot longer than she has, maybe that's why I began questioning the things he made me do and why I want another life. She still have problems dealing with emotions and separating right from wrong, but confusion is setting in and she HAS promised to help me."

"And you believe she will do that." Willow asked.

"Yes. I'm the only emotional bond she has, the only one she really trusts. I'm her trainer, her teacher, and her friend. She don't have anybody else."

"But what about..." Willow began.

"So how do we get rid of that damn God?" Faith was getting impatient. "There most be some way to destroy him, right?"

Joey Ryan nodded. "But it's not easy."

"It never is..." Faith grumbled and a dark shadow crossed her face.

"So you were ordered to...to...to fuck me?" Eve voice shivered.

"NO!" Joey turned pale. "I was ordered to get to know you. When we made love it was... it meant everything to me. I did it because I really wanted to, needed to..."

Eve turned away from the pleading eyes, dismissing the words, dismissing the woman who spoke them. Forgiveness was clearly not in the cards for the foreseeable future.

Faith recognized the painful flash of sorrow and despair on the tall woman's face. They obviously had more in common than a sordid past. She instantly warmed up to the woman.

"So how do we terminate him?" She asked, trying to get Joey's thoughts away from the angry and deeply hurt blonde.

Joey forced the tears back, tried desperately to compose herself and concentrate on something she COULD do something about.

"We have to get a knife."

"A knife?!" Faith almost yelled in disbelief.

"I'll take a wild guess and say it's not an ordinary knife, am I right?" Willow said.

"No, it's not an ordinary knife. Far from it. It's the only one of its kind."

"Figures." Faith mumbled.

"Tell us about this knife." Willow's curiosity got the best of her. "Where is it? How do we get it? Why is it the only thing that can..."

"Darling." Tara took her lovers hand. "Give Miss Ryan a chance to answer the questions."

Willow blushed. "Sorry, I haven't babbled like that in years."

Tara smiled and Faith could see the profound love that shone in her eyes, and not for the first time she felt envious or what they had.

Even Joey Ryan smiled a little, but her face quickly became serious again.

"So where do we find this knife?" Faith asked.

"Probably in a museum somewhere."

"A museum?!" This time it was Tara who uttered the words in disbelief.

"Yes, probably a museum for ancient Greek artifacts."

"What's so special with that k..knife?" Tara continued, impatiently trying to speed the not very communicative woman up.

"It's a ancient knife with a very long history. The short version is that some sort of blood has made the blade capable of killing Gods like March."

"What kind of blood?" Willow asked.

"Today's scientist may consider it to be the blood of a fairytale creature. I'm not exactly clear on what it is, but it's supposed to be some kind of a mix between a human and a hind."

Willow kissed Tara's hand. "I'll go phone Wes."

Tara nodded.

"I'll go and take a bath." Eve mumbled and shot Joey Ryan an evil look. "I feel dirty."

Joey's shouldered slumped visible.

Tara reassuringly touched the dark woman's arm. "Give her some t..time. She's a loving and forg..giving person and she just need do d..digest it all. It's quite a mouthful, isn't it?"

To sets of blue eyes met and Joey seemed to relax. "Thank you." She said hoarsely. "I hope you're right."

"Tara is always right." Faith said.

Tara blushed and her hair fell forward to hide her eyes. "I'll go talk to her." She blushed again and shyly avoided the two dark women who regarded her with amusement. And the she left, leaving Faith and Joey alone.

"So..." Faith began. "You like blonde's?"

Joey stared at her, not knowing what to expect from this woman, who her boss has wanted so badly and who radiated she same strength and power as Al did. She sensed the dark energy in the slayer and it made her feel a familiarity with this woman that made her lower her guard.

"Yeah, cute blondes gets my juices going." She grinned, trying to forget the look of hatred and disgust in a certain blondes eyes. "How about you?"

Faith grinned back. Maybe some light banter and some childish locker room talk could make them both forget the women who refused to talk to them.

 

"I'm sorry." I have never said that to anyone before. And she just stares at me, waiting, obviously wanting me to say more. But I don't know what to tell her. How can I explain my life and what I am? A freak of nature? A murderer, who has killed more people than she can count and even tried to kill her friend? That I went home with her that night because she reminded me of HER?

I sigh in defeat. I can't tell her anything that will make her understand and not hate me.

"I'm sorry." I repeat in desperation. And her face softens and her eyes regain their normal warmth. But I can trace a hint of... of sorrow (?) in them.

"You don't own me any explanations, Al, I know that. It's just that..." She stops herself and shrugs off whatever it is she wanted to say.

"It's not important. I'm being silly. Let's get something to eat. We need some energy for what I have planned for later." Her gaze turns lidded and I instantly turn wet.

But I know she's trying to the hurt from me...

 

"This is just too much!" Eve sobbed into Tara's shoulders. "I did not ask for all this, right? I didn't somehow jinx my life, did I? I mean, you're a witch you must know about these things, right? Witches know stuff, don't they? I mean, I don't understand... I'm in love with someone who is partly responsible for the attempted murder on me and who herself probably has killed dozens of more and less innocent people..."

Even if Eve's confused desperation was very real, Tara couldn't help but smile. She was reminded of a very young Willow when Eve babbled like that. A Willow she sometimes missed.

When their daughter June died, Willow grew serious and taciturn. She stopped being silly, stopped horsing around and stopped talking in that childlike voice she used once in a while. She instantly became a GROWN-UP... But Tara had missed that childish part of her lover and was delighted that it was slowly and surely making itself known again.

When they finally found their way back together, after she ran away from Sunnydale and ended up in Faith's apartment, a lot of things changed within them both and most noticeable between them. They became more carefree, more playful and they even flirted more than they had done in years. And they even talked about getting another child.

At first she had been a little hesitant when it came to making love. The picture of another woman between Willow's thighs resurfaced whenever they tried to be intimate. But it changed around the time Faith got shot. And now their lovemaking was, if it was possible, even better than before.

So many layers were uncovered, feelings was discussed and analyzed and they had told each other their deepest fears and hopes. Slowly the trust had been rebuild and the love between them had been cemented.

She mumbled comforting words in Eve's ear, knowing that the process she had to go through was similar to what she and Willow had to deal with. Facing the truth. Forgive. Declare what the heart holds. Showing compassion. Regaining trust. Then surrender... And finally redemption...

 

Willow's fingers flew over the old-fashioned keyboard. When her fingertips touched the buttons, it felt nice, like in the old days. Before Buffy disappeared... She wasn't quite sure about was she was looking for, but something in the back of her mind told her that the answers was within her grasp. Wes was searching for the knife in museums all over the world and she was looking for... Oh...Her fingers froze over the keyboard. Here was something... A small website, easy to overlook. She downloaded the information. Her palms were moist and her hands were shaking slightly. She always felt like this when she was about to have a major breakthrough. She opened some files and looked at the content. The person behind the website called himself Herakles. He was very dedicated on exposing Harry March and had obviously spent years on researching the topic.

The website was created in the vain hope that somebody would listen. Apparently nobody ever did. None of the media's or the police reacted when he showed them the material he had gathered. He was speaking for deaf ears. Except now. Willow was more than willing to listen.

She started reading and became more and more worried for every word the monitor showed her. Her eyes stuck on the name Joey Ryan. She opened the file. She wasn't so sure they should trust the woman. Did she change? Why was she willing to betray her boss so easily? What was her real motive?

The words blurred before her eyes and she suddenly felt faint. There was a file on Evelyn Conners, too... "Goddess..." she mumbled, not yet capable of absorbing the things she read. "I can't believe this. It can't..."

 

Later when she had given Joey Ryan directions to Willow and Tara's hotel, where she would be staying, Faith went looking for Cordelia to tell her about Joey, The God, the knife and how Buffy the Slayer became Al the Assassin.

She hoped Cordelia's was awake and in a better mood. She slept way too much these days, according to Tara another sign of depression. When she didn't sleep she stared into the air or listened to Leonard Cohen again and again, mumbling the words the singer's dark voice spoke, rather than sang.

(...I see you standing on the other side.
I don't know how the river got so wide.
I loved you, baby, way back when.
And all the bridges are burning that might have crossed,
But I feel so close to everything that we lost
We'll never have to lose it again
I bit you farewell,
I don't know when I'll be back...)

'Man, Leonard Cohen! Who the fuck was Leonard Cohen, other than an old man with an enticing voice who seemed to help you deeper down in depression? Maybe I should break that fucking CD into millions of pieces and scatter it all over the town, never to be found again?'

Outside the bedroom door she hesitated. Being on the receiving end of Cordelia's coldness and indifference was tearing heavily on her nerves and it took some effort on her part to dare open the door.

She swallowed visible and knocked. No answer. She tried again, a bit more determined this time. Still no answer. Then her hearing detected some, by now, well-known noises. Cordelia was in the grasp of yet another nightmare.

She opened the door and found Cordelia twisting and turning on the bed, unarticulated words floated from her mouth and she was sweating profoundly. This was getting really scary. She had to find out what the dreams were all about. Help her. Even if Cordelia didn't want them to be together anymore, she still wanted to be her friend.

And her friend was in desperate need of help.

Carefully she tried to bring Cordelia out of her nightmare, but it didn't seem to work. She didn't respond to the touches or to the words that were spoken to her. Now Faith really started to get worried.

"Baby, wake up! Come on, snap out of it. I won't let it hurt you, I promise."

 

The phone rings and I feel Sam move around. We haven't been out of bed much since I came, only to order something to eat or use the bath or the toilet. It has been wonderful. She's a wonderful woman and she makes me laugh. Nobody has ever done that for me before.

Sam answers the phone. Her voice raw and hoarse from all the screaming I made her do. I can't help but feeling a little smug about it... I haven't felt smug about anything in my life before!

All these new feelings and sensations confuses me...

"Hi, Blondie.... Yeah, I been busy, no phones, no... what?"

The squeak at the end of the last word draws my attention to her conversation. "Somebody tried to kill you? Who..."

This is it. The happiest hours in my life are rapidly nearing the end. I get dressed while I watch Sam's face get more and more pale and her dark eyes wider and wider.

"Are you absolute sure about this?"

She stares at me like I'm a monster and I see pain, betrayal and hatred in her eyes.

"She's here..." Her voice cracks. "No, I'm alright..." And tears starts to fall. "I don't think she will hurt me."

I head for the door.

"Al." She says and I stop immediately. "They want to talk to you."

I don't want to talk to anybody.

"Eve says they're helping Joey."

I turn around. "Joey?"

She nods. "She wants to see you, too." She won't look at me anymore.

"Where?"

She gives me the address to a hotel.

I turn around and leave.

 

"What do we do?" Faith was frantic. "Can we do this without preparation, can we? Please, Tara. Say that we can!" She sounded like a pestering child.

Tara couldn't help but smile, but she quickly turned serious again. "It's to dangerous, it can..."

"Just fucking look at her, Tara! She trapped in there, facing whatever big bad fucking monster alone! We must help her!"

"Maybe we should wait for Willow, she's..."

"NO!" Willow will be gone for hours. Please, Tara, please! Can you do it or can't you?"

Tara looked at the tormented woman on the bed and the pain etched in her face.

"I..I can...d..do it..." She whispered.

"Do you need anything? Herbs, rattails, snailspit or whatever it is you witches use?"

Tara shook her head. "S..snailspit? No, i..it can be d..done without that."

"Thank you." Faith hugged her tight and kissed her lovingly on lips. "You're a wonderful friend, Tara."

"I hope you're right..." Tara mumbled. "By the Goddess I hope you're right."

 

Willow found a small Net Cafe where the computers were strong enough for her purpose and if she were caught hacking the trace wouldn't lead back to Faith's place.

She needed to find Herakles the man behind the website about Harry March. Some valuable information was on that site and perhaps he knew more, knew where the knife was.

She expertly surfed, searched and hacked her way through huge amount of information, before she finally found was she was looking for. The man had an email address, careful hidden in a small mirror site, only for the very persistent to find.

5 minutes later the first contact was made. She set up a private chat-room and hoped he would respond to her email before she had to leave the Net Cafe.

 

"She won't know you're there if you don't interrupt or disturb what's going on. So please, whatever you see, DON'T do anything, Faith." Tara's blue eyes were dark with worry.

"Why? If I chase the fucking nightmares away they might not return. That must be a good thing, right?"

Tara shook her head. "We have to know what we're dealing with before we do anything. I can't stress it enough, Faith. It can be devastating for her if you make a wrong move, you have to understand that. If you don't, I can't let you go in there."

They stared at each other, a silent argument to place. Finally Faith agreed. "I won't do anything."

Tara nodded. "I still don't like this, Faith."

"Don't worry, baby. Nothing's going to happen. I'm going in, take a peek and come out again. No sweat..."

Cordelia groaned in her sleep, both Tara and Faith rushed to her. She was still asleep and impossible to wake, but the nightmares have calmed down a bit. They seem to come in waves and in between them, her sleep was almost normal.

Faith took Tara's hand. "Let's get on with it."

 

Willow tried to look occupied, while the young men in the shop measured her up, a bit curios about what she was doing in their waterhole. She didn't look like a regular customer. The Net Cafe was a meeting ground for serious Death Doom Avengers 8 players and a woman of her age and looks were a rare sight.

She had to go. Tara would get nervous and these boys would soon try to find out what she was doing.

Suddenly a motion on the screen caught her eye.

HERAKLES: HEKATE, ARE YOU STILL THERE?

Willow nearly fell off the chair.

HEKATE: YES, I'M STILL HERE.

HERAKLES: WE NEED TO TALK, DON'T YOU THINK?

Willow could have kissed the screen.

HEKATE: YES INDEED, IT SOUNDS LIKE A GREAT IDEA.

 

Faith and Tara sat facing each other, holding hands. The room was dim. Aromatic candles were placed so they matched the four points on a compass, the rest was placed in a circle around Cordelia on the bed.

"Remember when you want to get out say so and then follow my voice."

Faith nodded. "You will be in there with me?"

"No, not really. But we will be able to talk to each other if it becomes necessary."

"Okay, I'm ready."

"Close your eyes and listen to my words. Every time you feel your focus slip return to the words. You won't understand most of them, but let them sink in anyway. You understand?"

"Yes."

"When you're in her mind it will probably materialize itself as rooms and you must walk from room to room. Use the dark doors."

"Dark doors?"

"Yeah." Tara allowed herself a small smile. "The subconscious sphere can be very banal in its imagery. Dark doors are the dark parts of what's on her mind, so to speak."

"Right, going through dark doors only. Got it..."

"Close your eyes and take a deep breath. And then exhale..."

Faith did what Tara asked, tried to cleanse her brain and listen to the strange words.

"Ind. Du skal ind. Klart lys vil lede dig. Dybt. Du skal lade dig forsvinde ind i det ukendte..."

While Faith listened, her brain blurred and her limbs felt heavy and disconnected. She saw a light and followed it. She ended up in some sort of hallway with doors in different sizes and colors.

She tried to clear her eyes, focus on which way she was going. And there it was. The dark door. She opened it. Behind it several more doors materialized. They were in different shades of dark. Somehow without even considering it she knew which one to choose.

Faith found the handle and opened the door to the first room.

 

Stefan called me on the cell phone. The Boss is out of town on some election-business and he wanted to hear were I was. One thing I have learned from Joey is that Stefan is a slimy bastard you can't trust, so I didn't tell him anything. I just said that I needed some time off.

"There's no such thing as a time off." He said, trying to sound as commanding as The Boss do.

"I will be back in a couple of days." I said and disconnected the phone. Now I wanted to see Joey.

 

"Willow, I can't understand you!" Wesley yelled into the phone.

"Sorry." Willow sat in a park near the Net Cafe with a mouth full of a delicious sandwich. She chewed, drank some water and began again.

"What you're are saying is that that Ryan woman and your friend Eve has met before?" Wesley asked.

"Yes, they met and fell in love a few years back. Harry March did whatever it is he does and erased them from each other's brains. I suppose he didn't want to loose Joey."

"Why was he so stupid to let them meet again?"

Willow chuckled. "Herakles said that March is a very vain man who thinks he has control over everything. He wanted to brag about how efficient his technique is."

"But it wasn't."

"No, they met and fell in love again."

"What about the knife? Did Herakles know where it is?"

"Yes, March has it."

"Oh."

"Yeah, oh... But I'm working on it."

"What else did Herakles tell you?"

"Oh, that's even worse..."

 

The room was dark. Faith couldn't see a thing. And it was hot. Fresh sweat was running from face and armpits. Carefully she took a step forward. And the room became brighter.

On bed she saw two women making love. She took one more step and saw who the women were. Or at least who ONE of the women was. It was herself. And she was making love to a variety of women. She recognized Tara, Eve, Buffy, Sam and even Willow in the mix, alternating with women she had never seen before. But they obviously did some very satisfying things to her, and moans of pleasure filled the air.

A voice startled her. It was her own. "See baby, that's how it's done. Maybe you can learn something here? No, that's right! Don't bother. You'll always be a boring stiff. Nothing to do about that."

Then she saw a pale Cordelia sitting in a chair near the bed. Curled around herself she watched the scene with pained eyes. Silent tears streamed down her anguished face.

"I will never be satisfied with you." Faith's mocking voice continued. "I will always need this. You have always been and will always be frigid bitch. How do you expect me love a troublesome, boring, stuck-up Queen Nothing like you?"

'Don't touch her, don't speak to her.' Tara had said, and it took all Faith's willpower not to intervene in what was going on in front of her. 'Go to the next door when you have seen enough.'

And Faith had seen more than enough...

The next room was also dark. And like before when she took a step forward the room became brighter. This time the spectacle was a more violent one. A man, a muscular man with bulging arms and broad shoulders where attacking a smaller person.

Faith moved closer. A smaller woman. Herself. She was bloody and almost beaten to unconsciousness. She begged him to stop, pleaded for mercy through broken teeth. Her nose was lying flat against the chin and apparently her ribs and several of her fingers were broken.

The scene shifted and this time the man, Faith now recognized him as Cordelia's former husband, stabbed her again and again until death finally released her. There was blood and guts everywhere.

A voice, probably Gerald's spoke. "This is all your fault, Cordy. You made me do this!"

Faith heard a heartrending sob and turned around. Cordelia sat pressed up against a corner, eyes pleading and mouth shivering in terror and grief.

"You' re a worthless bitch, Cordy. I made a mistake when I married you. You ruined my life and then you made me do this. You made me kill your lover."

This was just too much. Faith stepped into the next room, hoping against hope that it would get better in there.

She stepped inside a... movie theatre. The only audience there beside herself was Cordelia and the show was horrifying. Faith guessed that it was a thorough examination of all the times Cordelia was too late with her visions or didn't have the vision that could have saved someone.

Voices cried, pleaded, blamed and hated her for being too late or not good enough. Or both... And then Angels voice, loud and clear. "I'm so disappointed in you, Cordy. You always mess up, don't you? I called you my friend and you failed me, you let me die."

Faith quickly moved to the next room, not sure she could take much more.

"Take it easy, Faith. You're pulse is way to high." It was Tara's calming voice and she felt fingers caressing her face. "You're safe. I'm here with you."

This room looked the library in Sunnydale. She saw Cordelia acting like she owned the town, bossing people around, picking on Willow and ignoring drooling teenage boys. She saw how everybody talked about Cordelia behind her back, how despised she was, how little everybody really cared.

Always alone. Never really SEEN by anyone. Hiding hurt behind wit and sarcasm. Never loved by someone or even cared for. That's how Cordelia saw herself.

Faith witnessed Xander kissing Willow, telling Cordelia that he always wanted his best friend and not her. That she was the second, no there was Buffy too, so the third choice. Maybe... Maybe she was more likely the fourth or fifth choice...

Faith saw other boys doing something similar. And she saw herself wanting Buffy, but fucking Cordelia because she was convenient. "You really ARE the phony bitch Queen C of Sunnydale." She heard the Faith of this room say.

She wanted desperately to throw up, take Cordelia in her arms and tell her how much she loved her. That she had friends that loved her...

She took a step into the next dark room. The hairs in the back of her neck tingled and stood straight up. This is it. Somehow she knew that this room held the worst part of her journey. And she was scared of what she was about to see.

It was clearly a child's room, dolls and teddy bears all over the place. A skinny child sat in the middle of a small bed. A five or six year old Cordelia. She wasn't a beautiful child. Too gangly, too thin and bony, and her features were way to pronounced for a child so young.

A woman's voice. "That child is hopeless. Just look at her! How can a child of mine be so unattractive?" The child on the bed flinched and her face showed the hurt the words inflicted, but the blank expression on her face quickly returned.

"And she's not very bright either, is she?" The woman continued. "Without our money she will never get married. No one can love a girl like that."

Suddenly a man appeared. "But Daddy loves you, Delia. A love directly from heart to heart."

"Love of the heart." The child on the bed said with a voice so emotionless that it both chilled and sickened Faith. Reminding her of her own childhood or more precise lack of a one. If this room was any indication of Cordelia's real life, her seemingly more privileged upbringing meant nothing. She was still a lonely and hurt child. Just like Faith had been in that lousy one-room apartment she grew up in.

The man reached the bed. The child didn't look at him.

"You know that Daddy loves you, Delia. You may not be beautiful and smart, but I will always be your Daddy. You see, our love is a love of the hearts, and that kind of love is a very special love."

The child's eyes closed and she whispered: "If you talk about it to anyone the heart breaks and everything is ruined. It has to be a secret between the owners of the hearts."

The man smiled. "They are envious of our special love, Delia, and out of jealousy they will do anything to destroy it. You understand that, don't you Delia?"

The child nodded.

The man, Cordelia father, moved closer to his daughter and he opened the zipper in his pants.

Faith began to hyperventilate. Tara's voice tried to calm her down. 'No no no no..." Faith wanted to scream.

Compared to the child the penis was enormous. Angry red and swollen. The father grabbed his daughter's head and pushed it down to his increasingly swelling penis.

Something in Faith snapped.

"Faith NO!" Tara tried to stop her.

"Tara, you don't see what I'm seeing. I can't let it happen... I can't..."

 

"Scarface." It's him. It's The Boss. "I have been looking for you."

"I thought you were out of town." The fear is very distinct in my voice.

"Of course, but you thought wrong. I always know when something's up in my own backyard."

I should have known. The Boss knows about almost everything that goes on around him. Joey says he has many skills, originated from the time when he was a real God. And he has many ears and eyes that complement the missing skills.

"You're not betraying me, too, are you? As always following in the footsteps of Blue Eyes?"

I can't lie to him and I know what I have done would be considered a betrayal, so I keep silent.

He smiles and shakes his head. "I'm older than this civilization, older than most of the Gods on this pathetic planet and still you think you can fool me. At least Joey should be wiser than that. She has been with me for so long..."

Did I detect sadness in his eyes? I knew he had some feelings for Joey, other than them expected between an employer and an employee, or rather a master and a slave. Quite intriguing... his weak point... That he has a weak point at all... He shrugs. "Time for a new cleansing, my dear. But first I have to find out what you know."

He raises his hand and a ray of light hits me hard.

 

"So Blondie, do you think we need group therapy or something? Our taste in women... sucks, don't you think?" Sam shrugged and shook her head in mock wonder. "Maybe we can get some kind of discount, a special offer for the lovers of brainwashed assassins?"

Eve didn't laugh. She looked at her friend's teary brown eyes and knew that Sam wanted to cry, too.

She gathered her distressed friend in her arms and they sat there, comforting each other, for a long time.

Sam sniffled and moved slightly away from the embrace. "Where's everybody?"

"Tara and Faith are with Cordy in the bedroom." Eve eyes widened. "That sounded WAY more kinky that I intended it to."

Sam laughed out loud. "I think it would be a sight for sore eyes... A lot better than the hotel's damn porno channel!"

"You're watching the porno channel?" Eve said smugly. "I thought you were WAY to political correct for that? WAY too feministic?"

"I think you're using the word WAY... WAY too much!" Sam replied.

"I think you are stalling..."

"I think you're right..." Sam smirked.

Eve shook her head. "I don't know what they are doing in there, although I'm pretty sure it isn't... that...!" She giggled and Sam rolled her eyes. "Actually I think Cordy is not feeling to well."

"Is she sick?" Sam said with concern. "I don't really know her that well, but she seems a little... off balanced these days, compared to the Cordy I met in LA."

"Yeah, I don't think things are going in the right direction for her and Faith. Maybe they're in there sorting it out?"

"With Tara? Faith's ex-lover? Uuuuh..." Sam's eyes widened comically.

Eve giggled again. "Tara is a smart cookie. If anyone can help them sort it out, it's her. Trust me on this."

"Hmm, maybe I should talk to Tara myself, then? She has the cutest blue eyes and that adorable shy..."

"Sam!!"

"Um sorry..." Sam grinned wickedly. "Old habits, you know... Where is her girlfriend by the way?"

"I don't know. She left some hours ago, something is going on, but I'm not quite sure what it is."

"You haven't really explained why didn't you call the police when Al tried to... to kill you?"

Eve sighed. "It's complicated. I don't know how much I can tell you, but Al is really a friend of theirs, before this happened to her. They thought she was dead."

"So this March-guy did something to her?"

Eve nodded. "Erased her memories. Trained her as an assassin or something."

"I sense a interesting story here..."

"You wouldn't believe..."

"What about Joey? Do you know... I mean she came here, right?"

"She's staying in Willow and Tara's hotel room for the time being." The pain in Eve's green eyes was palpable. Sam watched her friend's face crumble and she tightened her hold.

Eve cried for nearly an hour, sobbing like the world had ended, and in some ways her world had. And Sam joined her and cried for her friend, for herself and for... Al...

 

Faith growled in rage and attacked. The man about to abuse his daughter was thrown into the wall and then Faith was on him. Kicking, hitting and cursing him to hell.

Images of what he had done to Cordelia flashed around Faith. She saw him force his daughter to use his hand or mouth to please him, or when he pushed his penis in between her small thighs and rubbed hard. When she got older he penetrated her ass, but never her vagina. Somewhere in this monster of a man, a part of him wanted to let her keep at least something to herself. Something she by her own free will could give to someone someday.

'And I took that...' Faith thought with shame. 'Without honoring or appreciating it. I just took it, almost by force. Like him...'

It felt fucking wonderful when her fists hit the soft flesh and the man moaned in pain. Faith hadn't felt the pleasure of inflicting pain since before she went to prison. Once she lived it, breathed it like it was the one thing in her life she had control over, that she knew she was good at. And because it made her feel... feel something... anything...

Then, when she finally took a clear look at herself, she was nauseated by what she had become and it terrified her that she used violence as a substitute for... everything...that was missing in her life.

"Faith!!! What are you doing? What's happening?" Tara concerned voice penetrated her bloodlust and she became aware of her surroundings and where she was. Inside Cordelia's mind. And she had disturbed the order of things in there. 'Fuck! Fuck! Fuck!'

She heard the sobbing sounds from the bed. The child, Cordelia, lay in a fetal position up against the wall, crying her heart out in the most desperate way. "Just a moment, Tara, then I will come out."

"I don't like this, Faith. You promised me not to intervene."

"I'm sorry. I'll explain everything when I'm out."

She walked over to Cordelia. Tentatively she reached out and touched a shaking shoulder.

"Shhh, honey. It's all over now." She whispered, trying not to scare the kid. "He won't hurt you anymore, I took care of him."

Cordelia looked up at her with huge hazel eyes, red and swollen from the crying. "You did? Did the heart break? Is everything ruined now?"

"No, honey. Don't worry, everything is fine."

Cordelia hiccuped and throw herself into Faith's arms, where she started crying again.

It was strange sitting with a young Cordelia in her arms. A child in deep pain and still the woman she loved.

"Come on, honey. Everything is going to be alright."

"Nobody is going to love me now." The small voice was almost deafening in its obvious despair and pain.

"I love you, Cordelia." Faith whispered with tears running down her face. "I love you so much."

"You do?" It was obviously hard to believe.

"I really do. And I always will, Cordelia." Faith assured her and held the small body closer, letting a shaky hand run comfortingly down the skinny back.

"Promise?" The voice held a hope and a joy that tugged painfully at Faith's heart.

"Promise." Faith kissed Cordelia's wet cheek.

'If you'll let me when this is over.'

 

What's happening to me? I float in liquid darkness. The silence is penetrating.

 

"Are you sure you can do this?" Willow's brows made a worried triangle above her eyes.

Joey nodded. "I can easily get in. It won't be a problem to find the safe. Nobody will stop me. They think of me as a second in charge. It won't be a problem."

"I hope you're right..."

"Did..." Joey hesitated. "Did Herakles tell you anything about me?"

"No." Willow lied, not sure about what the other woman knew beforehand and what the revelations would do to her, if she had been kept in the dark about certain things in her past. It was better to wait... "We concentrated on Mr. March."

For an awkward moment they sized each other up. How could you trust somebody you didn't know, trust a stranger with your life?

"Have you heard from Buf... Al? I mean, Sam told her to get in touch with you?"

"No. Something must have stopped her. She wouldn't ignore me like that. She's trained to obey my orders."

Willow couldn't help thinking about the life Buffy and this woman had lived. Controlled by a man without moral and scruples, who erased their former lives and made them do things that they probably never would have done if they had been themselves. At least Buffy wouldn't...

How many lives were ended by this woman, and by Buffy, was something Willow didn't want to think about. It made Faith seem like a pure Virgin Mary in comparison.

"So..." Willow closed her eyes and forced the thoughts away. "March is out of town and if we are lucky he hasn't suspected anything yet."

"Buy it's a matter of time. He has a very extended intuition and he is very much in tune with his business and his employees."

Willow nodded. "That only stresses the fact that you have to go in and out very fast. When we have the knife we make a new plan. Faith and Tara will help, and if Al has shown up, it's even better. Don't do anything hasty OR by yourself. We mustn't mess this up."

Cool blue eyes glinted dangerously. Joey wasn't used to taking orders from anyone other than Harry March and she didn't like the way this snip of a woman suddenly was in charge. Although she had to admit that Willow seemed were competent in these matters. Growing up on the Hellmouth was a good training for this kind of work. The Boss could have used a witch like her...

"Let's get to work." Willow said and Joey found herself almost saluting the other woman.

 

Cordelia was awake and crying like life had ended. She wouldn't let Faith move and held on to her like she was the only thing between her and absolute disaster.

Tara hoped that Faith's intervention in Cordelia's mind would turn out to be a good thing. She had read about a similar situation somewhere. A woman was raped and couldn't let go of the trauma the act had caused. Nightmares haunted her and she nearly pushed her lover away in her anguish and pain. Very similar to the Faith/Cordelia situation.

With the help from a healer who specialized in dreamscape-interventions her lover entered her mind and saved and protected her from the evil in her dreams. And it made the healing process much easier and brought the lovers closer together.

Tara hoped with all her heart that this would be the outcome of Faith's journey in Cordelia's mind.

If Cordelia saw it as an intrusion of her privacy, of her inner self, the damage could be devastating.

Tara concentrated her focus on Cordelia. Her colors were slightly altered. Lighter. Some of the dark area's had changed structure and depth. Some of the carefully constructed shields were weaker and more transparent and it gave her some insight on what Cordelia had been through. And it gave her a well founded hope that some of the mess inside Cordelia's head was beginning to clear up. Tara almost sobbed in relief.

If Faith and Cordelia dared open op and love each other, maybe it would be all right...

"Call if you need anything, Faith." She whispered. "I'll leave you two alone."

Faith looked at her with wide, scared eyes and Tara knew what she was asking.

"It's going to be alright. Just be there for her. Don't run away."

Faith nodded and her dark eyes warmed with gratitude and adoration, and Tara felt an aching sting in the heart. These eyes would always get to her, would always remind her of the love they COULD have had if things had been different. If they had made other choices in their lives...

But they hadn't. They lived the consequences of the road they had chosen. And the love and friendship they could share had to be enough. Even if moments like this made her ponder wistfully on all the "what if's".

 

"Hallooo, Tara! How are Corrrdy... doing?" Eve slurred. "Ishhh shshe al..alright?"

Both Eve and Sam was drunk. In less than an hour they had consummated more whisky than both of them ever had before.

"We are drinking our sorrows away." Sam explained, looking very focused and concentrated on getting the words right. "And we are succeeding very well."

Tara couldn't help but smile.

"Look!" Sam squeaked. "There's that adorable shy..."

"Sam!!" Eve rolled her eyes. "Behave!"

"...smile I was taking about." Sam finished and winked at Tara who immediately blushed.

Even now when she was a competent and confident grown woman, the shy and insecure girl was never far away. 18 years of her family's influence had made some permanent marks that couldn't be erased.

She looked up and saw a smirking Willow standing in the doorframe.

"Honey, I think you have made shyness a lethal weapon in the what-makes a woman sexy-department!"

Tara's blush turned a much deeper red. And Eve and Sam laughed so much that they almost fainted.

Willow just smiled.

"Sometimes you're like a naughty teenager!" Tara finally found her voice. "And sometimes I think you love embarrassing me."

Willow moved closer, caressing a sensitive ear with her breath. "When all this is over, there are some other things the naughty teenager would love to do to you." She rasped.

Tara blush renewed itself, but this time it was slightly different. Her blue eyes darkened and Willow sensed her growing excitement.

"I can't wait." Tara husked and she was no longer a shy, but adorable woman. Her whole demeanor radiated a sensuality that almost toppled Willow over. She loved that duality in her lover and it made her own excitement almost unbearable.

"Wow." Sam whispered.

Eve nodded.

"I need to get laid." Sam whispered. "Do you think a brainwashed assassin can be redeemed and take up a permanent residence in my bed? Soon?"

Eve didn't answer. Could she forgive Joey? Could she look past all the bad stuff she knew that the woman had done?

She couldn't even give herself an answer to that one...

 

My head hurts. I'm surrounded by darkness and I have no idea how long I've been here. I suppose he hasn't cleansed me yet, I still remember everything.

These can be my last thoughts as the person that I am now. Tomorrow I can be blank like a newborn baby. A baby he hand mold as he pleases.

Some mind-blowing thoughts would be appropriate in a situation like this. Go out with a big intellectual bang... But I don't think that's going to happen. I just feel sad. I regret some of the things I have done and some of the things I never thought of doing.

I wish I could say that I'm going to miss Joey, miss being fascinated with HER and miss Sam's lips, her laugh, the way she made me feel. But I know that's not going to happen. I won't miss a thing. Al won't be living here no more...

 

When Joey walked through the halls of March Inc. she sensed that he had been there recently. He was no longer out of town. That made the whole plan much more risky.

Her office was as she had left it. No one had been through her stuff and everything seemed normal.

She took the sunglasses off and turned the computer on and checked the security installations and the alarms. Nothing seemed changed. She locked on to her own private system and it had nothing to report either.

It was too easy and it made her nerves tingle. 'Go in, get the knife, go out.' She knew where it was. He kept all the remains from his godly years in a secured room in his office. He liked having the stuff near, even if it could kill him. She was sure the knife was in there, too.

If this were a success she would be free. For the first time in the life she could remember she would be in control. Things would be different from then on.

Eve.

A thing to deal with. A very important thing... When this was over she had to work at her groveling and begging. Images of sparkling green eyes and a flirty smile flashed though her. She nearly lost her breath and the pain in her chest almost made her puke.

"I can't lose her." She said to the wall. "I will do anything..."

 

Cordelia lay still and way to quiet in Faith's arms. The desperate sobs had stopped, but she hadn't said a word. And it frightened Faith more than facing Cordelia's anger.

"Did you mean it?"

Faith flinched. The small voice startled her.

"Mean what?" She tenderly stroked Cordelia's disheveled hair.

"What you said to me in there... that you love me?"

Faith's heart started pounding, threatening to blow her chest wide open. Cordelia felt the change and looked curiously up at her. Faith averted her eyes, feeling vulnerable and exposed.

"Faith?" Cordelia swallowed visibly. "Why did you come in after me? And stayed, even after you saw... everything?"

"You were hurting, baby. I had to do something to help you."

"A drastic approach, don't you think? Entering another person's mind."

Faith didn't dare to speak, so she just nodded.

Cordelia lifted a hand and caressed Faith's cheek. "Nobody has ever done anything like that for me before."

Faith let out of lung full of air in relief. Cordelia didn't hate her for what she had done. Finally she had done something right when it came to Cordelia. She moved around until they were facing each other.

"What you saw in there..." Cordelia struggled for words. "What you saw must make you... make you sick."

"It did."

Cordelia winced and her eyes conveyed a pain that struck Faith hard in the chest.

"I see." Cordelia choked out and tried to move away from Faith, devastated.

"NO!" Faith hastened to reassure her. "That's not want I meant, Cordelia. It wasn't your fault. He's a sick bastard who deserve to get skinned and fried alive!"

She moved closer to the distressed woman, wanting to give the comfort she so desperately needed.

"You survived that, not without bumps and bruised, but you survived. You are an extraordinary woman, Cordelia, and you're going to beat this, put it behind you for good. And I'm going to be there every step of the way."

"Why?" Cordelia's eyes burned with tears. Her heart thumped, almost threatening to choke her.

Faith kissed her lips softly, lingering as long as she dared, and then their eyes met.

"I love you." She said and saw the relief wash over the other woman.

"Make love to me, Faith. Let's make some good memories to diminish the bad."

"Are you sure?" Faith was suddenly nervous. Like it was their first time together. Her throat bobbed reflexively. And in a way it was.

"To use a cliche: I've never been more sure of anything in my life."

The look in Cordelia's eyes released fluids in Faith's body she didn't even know she had. A warm gush dampened the crotch in her jeans. She wanted to touch her lover so badly, that she couldn't think of anything else.

Slowly Cordelia moved forward and carefully placed her soft lips on Faith's. Faith whimpered.

"I love you, too." She mumbled into Faith's mouth and a deep passionate fire ignited in them both.

The soft reassuring lovemaking they both had planned for this reunion went up in burning hot smoke.

And they did manage to make some damn extraordinary new memories. Actually a lot of them...

 

"Come in." Stefan March looked up from his computer and waited for the door to open and reveal who the visitor was. He hadn't expected her to cross his doorstep like she owned the place. A tall, dark menage with startling ice-blue eyes covered by sunglasses.

"Joey." He greeted her, visibly uncomfortable with her presence.

"Herakles."

He stiffened and his eyes widened in fear. "You know?"

She grinned evilly. "I'm not stupid. You're the only one besides me and Harry who know that much about this organization. Tsk..tsk.. betraying your own brother." She shook her head mockingly. "Not nice."

"Someone have to stop him." Stefan said shakily. "I couldn't let him regain all that power."

"Oh, you have grown a conscience, have you? Or are you planning to replace him when he's gone?"

"No! I would never..."

"Don't bother, Stefan. I take over from here and you're destroying every information you have and you won't be talking to Willow anymore, won't you?"

"No." He was pale now, obviously doubting that he would survive the encounter with the much stronger demigod.

"Do it!" She snarled.

"Sibling rivalry is the worst kind of rivalry, isn't it?" Harry March suddenly popped up out of nowhere and stood tall and supercilious in the middle of the office and he wore a broad grin on his handsome face. "Come on, Stefan, say hallo to your sister."

"Yes, father." Stefan said and turned his attention back to his shocked sister.

 

"Al, wake up. Come on, you have to get out of here."

Joey. I fight hard to open my eyes. Everything is a blur.

"Al." Joey is shaking me lightly. "Talk to me."

"I'm awake." And I remember everything. I'm still Al.

"Go to them and tell them I have everything under control. I'll contact Willow in a few days. Tell her that Mr. March is back and I have to bend the plans a little."

"Okay." This is like a dream.

"Come on, Al. Repeat."

The familiar commando finally gets me on my feet. "The plans are changed because Mr. March is back. You'll contact Willow soon."

Joey nodded. "Now go!"

And as always I obey her orders.

 

Faith's place had been quiet for hours, except from Eve and Sam's drunken snores.

Willow and Tara slept in the extra bedroom, they had made love for the first time in days, and their sleep was deep and content, the worries forgotten for now.

A similar contentment radiated from the other bedroom, where Faith and Cordelia slept tangled up in each other with sated and peaceful looks on their faces.

Cordelia was the first one to wake up. She snuggled closer to her lover's warm body, relishing the emotions running through her.

She knew she probably should be angry. Her privacy invaded and all that, but she wasn't. She was relieved and she couldn't remember the last time she felt so light and happy. She needed help, she knew that, it was too much for her to handle by herself, even with Faith's support.

Her intellect knew how abused and victimized people reacted during the assault and how troubled you were when the assaults stopped and you had to find a way back. She knew that her self-esteem problems and her difficulties with dealing with love and friendship, originated from what her parents had done to her.

Her heart was not quite as smart as her brain and it had more control over her than she liked. So the conclusion was that she needed professional help. She had known that for years. Maybe now was the time to be serious about it?

Faith mumbled something in her sleep and tightened her hold on Cordelia. Falling in love had been unexpected. Both times. When Faith was in prison it had been easier to ignore what the dark slayer stirred up in her, disregard it all as temporary insanity. But the day she knew Faith was out, the feelings returned in full force.

And now she was in Faith's arms, after hours of exceptional lovemaking, and she knew she wanted to stay there forever. Loved and protected.

"Don't go back to LA." A low sensual voice purred in her ear. "Stay here with me. Please..."

With tears running down both their faces, they made love again.

 

Willow tried lazily to dig herself out of the fluffy and contented sleep. This state of mind was way too comfortable to ruin by facing a new and troublesome day. Her phone had a different opinion on the matter.

But Tara's soft and curvy body was way too wonderful to leave. Their cocoon of love and satisfied peace was the essence of life, wasn't it? Not fighting baddies or saving the world again and again... Although that was pretty important, too. No world, no cocoon... Anyway, Willow was forever grateful that she still had this. That their love had survived...

The phone? Right...

"Willow?" The exited voice on the other end belonged to Wesley. "I know how to get rid of him without the knife!"

 

"Oh God, I think I'm dead." Sam groaned. "Or at least I should be."

Eve carefully opened one red eye. "Perhaps you died in my mouth?"

"Quite possible. But if it's the case you really need some mouth freshener. It smells like a garbage can in here."

Eve attempted a smile, but didn't quite succeed. "Why was it we felt it necessary to empty that bottle of whisky?"

"We were feeling like shit." Sam closed her eyes when her stomach constricted.

"And now?"

"We are still feeling like shit."

"Yeah, only worse." This time Eve managed to smile. "We're feeling like shit on more levels than before."

"Great! We have progressed. Too bad it's in the wrong direction."

The doorbell made both their heads spin and they groaned in unison.

"Do you think one of the lovebirds are going to get that?"

Eve shook her head. "From the sounds they made, they're are probably out for a few more hours. I'll get it."

It took some time for Eve to get on her feet. Every muscle in her body ached and her bones had changed to rubber during her sleep. Groaning in discomfort she moved slowly to the door and forgetting the normal precautions she just opened it.

"Oh God!"

The small muscular figure outside the door took a step forward, preventing the door from being smacked in her face.

"I'm not going to hurt you. I have a message from Joey."

 

"Where is Scarface?!" Harry March's voice boomed. "How the hell did she escape? Someone had to..." He abruptly stopped and looked at his daughter's expressionless face. "You released her didn't you?"

Joey kept silent.

"Didn't you?!" He yelled into her face. "You let your little protege go. What is it with you and small blondes? Do I have to invent a cure for that?"

Joey's face revealed nothing but cool detachment.

Harry March sighed. "We'll find her later. Now, what I really want to know is, are you ready to retake your birthright, your place by my side? Are you ready to join me in my quest, in OUR quest for our rightful position in this universe?"

"Yes, sir."

"Good. I'm tired of you behaving like a disobedient child. You have to take responsibility. Honor your heritage."

"Yes, sir."

"Later on you can indulge in all the blondes you want."

"Yes, sir." A small twitch passed quickly.

But Harry March saw it. "Forget about her, Joey. She's not worth it. She has NEVER been worth it. She's a nosy little bitch and always have been. Trust me on this."

The ice in her blue eyes turned a bit colder. "Yes, sir."

"Good. Now Stefan has to be dealt with and later on we have to eliminate the new Scoobies."

"The Scoobies, sir?"

"Never mind. Just something I picked up in Scarface's brain the first time I cleansed her. Get to work."

"Yes, father."

 

"So Joey is basically telling us to stay put while she... handle... things?" Faith recapitulated. "And that's all she's telling us?"

Al nodded. She didn't understand why these people were so reluctant to trust what she was telling them. Joey never lied.

This whole situation was very uncomfortable. They stared at her like she was some sort of.. some sort of... she didn't know what they thought she was, but they STARED nevertheless.

The redheaded witch, Willow, for instance. Her eyes were sad and filled with tears. Al didn't understand the reason behind that look. Something else was lurking in the green gaze. Love. There was love in there for her and it made her profoundly confused.

SHE, Faith, had no expression whatsoever in her eyes, she was cool and professional about it all.

Her woman, Cordelia, and Joey's Eve watched her with a mix of mistrust and curiosity.

The blond witch, Tara, her eyes were filled with... with compassion...

And Sam. Hurt was the first emotion she spotted in her, but now Sam's eyes were unreadable. Like she had closed herself off. And that fact made Al's stomach lurch.

"Maybe I should have told her what I know." Willow said.

"Told her what?" "Faith asked.

And Willow told them what Herakles had told her. Not that Eve and Joey had met before, but the fact the Joey actually was Harry March's daughter.

"But they practically look the same age." Eve said.

"God's don't age like the rest of us."

"Then she's some sort of... of half god?" Eve whispered. "I slept with a half god?!"

"No wonder you were so high afterwards." Sam mumbled and went over to comfort her friend.

"If she didn't know it beforehand, I should have told her." Willow shook her head.

"You should have." Tara agreed. "Knowledge is power. He can use that knowledge to his advantage."

"Yes, knowledge is power." Willow walked over to Al. "I'm sorry, Buffy." She touched Al's chin and muttered some words.

Al's eyes became small, her mouth opened and closed, until she fell sideways down on the couch.

"What did you do to her?" Sam questioned angrily.

"She's sleeping until we decide to wake her up again. I have something to tell you and I don't know if we can trust her."

"Do you think she's planted here by March?" Eve asked.

"We're not sure about anything. We think she can be trusted, even if there's nothing of Buffy left in her, she's still a good person underneath it all." Tara explained. "But it's better this way for now."

 

"It can be summarized like this..." Willow was in a real bard-mode now. "Until thirty or thirty-five years ago Harry March had his home in a cave somewhere, entombed for about 1000 years by someone who found him too dangerous for the world. Something or someone killed most of the ancient Gods and only a few survived. March was the only one of the survivors that was threatening to make a comeback and that intent got him trapped in that cave."

"Sounds easy enough. We just have to get him back in that cave, right?" Faith asked deadpanned. "Where do we find it?"

"A God in a Cave. Man, it's so fucking mean that I can't write about this!" Sam had difficulties with all the new information. She was surrounded by vampire slayers and witches and now they talked about Gods.

"We don't have to find it. We just have to get me close enough to touch him. Wesley found some sort of incantation that will bring him back in the cave."

"How do we know it works?" Cordelia asked.

"It was the incantation that brought him there the first time. I just have to touch him while I recite it. Eve, you have to phone him and make an appointment for an interview. Maybe you even have to come with us."

"It can be dangerous." Faith looked at Eve.

"I have to come. The alibi for all of you being there won't hold water if I'm not there."

"She's right. It's the only thing to do." Willow said. "Tara and I have talked about this and we will go, too. Two witches to give it a try is better than one."

"One journalist, two witches and one slayer." Faith said. Cordelia was about to say something.

"No, baby." Faith stopped her. "I need you to be safe. And we have to go in there as few as possible and as quickly as possible."

Reluctantly Cordelia nodded. She knew Faith was right.

"Four people under cover is a lot to hide." Faith continued. "But we have to rely on the fact that the March building is open for the public and that means a lot of people going in and out."

"What about Al?" Sam was sitting with the former slayer's head in her lap, tracing the scar in her face with tentative fingers.

"We'll let her sleep until the deed is done." Willow looked sadly at her former best friend. "Wesley is trying to find out if we somehow can restore her memory."

"So she can be Buffy again?" Sam asked.

No one knew the answer to that.

"And what about Joey?" This time it was Eve who sounded worried.

"We'll try to find her." Faith promised. "Find out what her role is in this mess."

 

"Promise me you'll get out of there without a scratch." Cordelia kissed Faith's neck. "You'll need all your strength when you get back."

"Hmm... Not even the Lord Almighty could stop me from getting back to you and collect on that." Faith hummed and caught Cordelia lips in an intense kiss that made them both break sweat.

For awhile they enjoyed the silence and the feelings passing between them.

"I'm going to see your Dr. Kim." Cordelia said without warning, making Faith jump.

"What?!"

Cordelia did something very uncharacteristic for her. She giggled.

"Don't look so shocked, Faith. She is a good shrink, right?"

"The best. But I didn't think you would..." Faith shook her head. "You'll never cease to amaze me, baby. That's one of the many things I love about you."

Cordelia's eyes moistened. "Say that again."

"You'll never cease to amaze me?" Faith gave her a lopsided grin that made Cordelia's heart stop for a second and then it galloped away in her chest, making her head spin.

"No, that's not what I meant and you know it!"

Faith kissed her lips again. Agonizingly slow. Taking time to explore every curve, every corner.

"I love you, Cordelia."

Breath's increased, pulses hammered and clothes got dampened in desire.

"We don't have time..." Cordelia's voice sounded ragged and out of breath. "Willow is waiting..."

"I know... I know..."

"Is it okay then, for me to see your Dr. Kim?" Cordelia was suddenly very serious.

"She's not MY Dr. Kim."

Cordelia raised a saucy brow.

"You don't have to be jealous of her, Cordelia."

"I know that, but you have been seeing her. It may make you uncomfortable. I could find someone else if you like..."

Faith shook her head. "I think she's just the right doctor for you. I think she knows about these things. Up close."

"What do you mean?"

Faith told her about the things both Nikki and Tara had told her about Kim Legaspi. That she probably had been through something similar to Cordelia.

Relief washed through her. Cordelia was scared of being judged by others and as a result considered a pathetic weakling. If Dr. Kim had first-hand experience in this, it made them more equal in the process she knew she had to go through. Cordelia would feel more free to tell the doctor the details about what had happened.

"It's going to be a tough ride, Faith." She said, a part of her still scared that Faith would run, loose interest and find a less complicated lover.

Faith shrugged. "So be it. I know you're worth it."

"Are you sure?" Cordelia's eyes brimmed with tears.

"I have said it before and I'll say it again until you believe me." Faith began kissing the salty tears away. "I love you and I want to make a life with you."

Cordelia hiccuped and cried into Faith's chest.

"I love you too." She whispered the words that always had been difficult for her to say, partly because they made her feel vulnerable, partly because she never had felt them like this before. This time they meant something. They meant everything.

And Faith heard her and understood.

 

"Fuck, this is a stinking cold place!" Was Faith's gut reaction to the headquarters of March Inc. She shuddered at the sight. "I would hate to work her. It's a fucking mausoleum."

They had decided to go in two and two, keeping in touch via some small transmitters.

Faith carried a camera, acting like Eve's photographer. Eve walked nervously beside her and couldn't concentrate on anything but walking without tripping all the time.

"Relax." Faith grabbed her hand. "Think of this a your first major undercover story for the magazine. Or think of it a scene in an action movie. Or what about..."

"I get it!" Eve smiled. "I'll try to loosen up a bit, but I'm not in the saving-the-world-on-a-regular-basis category. This is my first try, you know."

Another thing that made Eve nervous, was the fact that she was alone with Faith for the first time since coming to San Francisco. They had never acknowledged the fact that they had been lovers in LA and that Eve had a serious crush on her.

Faith had probably been scared of Cordelia's reaction and Eve...? Eve had trouble finding her role between her former lover and her friend (and former sister in law).

And now she was in the middle of this big part adventure/part nightmare, in love with a half god she wasn't sure were good or evil, still having a slight crush on Faith, a vampire slayer, and not knowing if she survived this day.

`Can one kick a half god's ass?' Joey was constantly in her thoughts. She had never been in love like this before. `God...ups bad choice of words... gosh, I hope I'll see you soon. I hope you can explain it all to me.'

She looked back and saw the two witches walk through the main entrance. They were nice; not at all what she would have expected witches to be. No long warty noses and funny hats. They were both beautiful and not at all fitting the scary tales from her childhood.

On the outside Willow seemed like the strong and competent one, and perhaps in the witchy stuff she was, but Tara, on the surface more modest and sometimes almost painfully shy, had a strength that all of them, one time or another, had drawn encouragement from. She was the glue that had kept them all sane and focused.

`Faith has a wonderful taste in women!' Eve smirked a bit at the thought.

"Hey!"

Eve jumped at the sound of Faith's voice close to her ear. "What?"

"You don't have to distract yourself THAT much..." Faith grinned, when Eve blushed. "Daydreaming much?"

Eve ignored her. "His office is right over here."

"Welcome to March Inc." A booming voice greeted them.

"What..." Faith tried to speak, but couldn't. She saw the contours of Eve shimmer and fade out. And then she saw nothing...

 

"Wakey, wakey, little slayer. Let me see those big brownies. Come one... don't disappoint me now. I have waited a long time to meet you face to face."

Slowly and with difficulties Faith opened her eyes. A smiling Harry March greeted her. She looked around. Eve lay unconscious on the floor.

"Your little blond friend is okay. I just put her to sleep for awhile. Oh, and your cute witches..."

Faith followed his gesture to a corner of the room, where Tara and Willow stood like they were frozen.

"Ever heard of a witchtrap? No? I've have been around for some centuries, slayer. Nobody can fool me. Not for long anyway."

Standing ramrod straight next to Harry March stood a very still and very emotionless Joey Ryan. Blue ice cubes, not protected by the usual sunglasses, was fixated on the wall behind Faith.

Somehow Faith didn't doubt that the woman was alert and ready to kill if it became necessary.

"So..." Harry March smirked. "I know there is darkness inside you, dear Faith. I know you. Isn't that right, Joey? We know all about darkness, don't we? Now we just have to get you to tap into it. Find the pleasure in it. You know its there, don't you Faith? You have been there already... And it felt fantastic, didn't it?"

His voice had an almost hypnotic quality to it. Faith felt herself being surrounded by his voice, almost aroused by it. The pull was almost irresistible. It promised things that she always had wanted. A sense of belonging, power over her life, control of the world around her. A purpose.

"You're strong, Faith. You have the power to change the word, to change yours and others destiny. I can give you that. I can give the meaning of your existence. Without me you will always feel you're missing something. The dark side of you will always be calling, will always tempt you. I was born out of that darkness, Faith. I AM that darkness. And I can teach you to control it, tame it, make it an invaluable tool for you. I can give you that power, Faith. You just have to say... YES!"

Faith blinked a couple of times, she felt herself going forward, moving towards him.

"FAITH!!" Eve's voice penetrated the haze surrounding her and she shook the rest of it off with a forceful shrug.

`He almost had me. Fuck! Fuck! Fuck!'

Harry March laughed and it wasn't a nice sound. "Oh, the annoying blond is awake, always ready to get in the way."

"Eve, are you okay?" Faith asked weakly.

"I'm fine, I'm more concerned about you."

"Isn't this nice, Joey. A little bonding between the dark slayer and the nosy journalist."

Eve looked at the two frozen witches and then she stared at Joey Ryan.

"What's going on here, Joey?"

Joey didn't move and inch, didn't even blink with her incredible blue eyes.

"Have you turned against us, Joey?" Eve's voice cracked. "Are you going to kill us?"

Harry March moved closer to Eve. "This is her destiny and this time you can do nothing to stop it."

"This time?" Eve was confused. "What does ...this time... mean? I haven't done anything..."

"Don't fucking listen to him, Eve. Don't talk to him. You give him power if you do that."

"My dear Faith. It may come as a surprise for you, but I already have the power." He turned around and looked at Joey. "My dear daughter is going to seal the faith, so to speak, of this meeting."

Joey's eyes moved away from the wall and rested on him instead.

"Kill the witches." He sneered.

Joey nodded. She walked over to Tara.

"Yes, start with the blond one. She's too good to be alive, anyway. The other one can be useful to us."

"NO! You're not touching her, you fucking bitch!" Faith jumped and landed on Joey's broad back.

With seemingly no effort Joey shrugged her off. And then they stood face to face. Joey's eyes were colder than anything Faith had experienced before and she had felt the power in the strong body underneath her. Like riding a powerful stallion. This was not going to be an easy fight.

Eve couldn't believe own eyes. She knew that she loved the dangerous killer more than she had loved anyone else, but the woman fighting Faith was a terrifying sight.

She saw the vicious stroke coming. Her mouth opened to warn Faith, but she was too late.

Faith crashed to the floor with a sickening crack. And all movements stopped. Even Joey looked surprised.

"Good job, daughter of mine. Now finish it. She won't be worth the effort."

And Joey raised her hand, preparing the final blow. Faith lay helpless on the floor and Eve knew that this was it. Joey wouldn't hesitate.

"Do it!" Harry March hissed.

 

"Joey!!" Eve had somehow managed to get herself between the tall woman and the unconscious Faith. "Don't do this, Joey. Look at me."

No answer, no reaction.

"Joey, please look at me!"

Wild blue eyes blinked and finally met soft green ones. And they stood there, staring at each other for long agonizing seconds.

"You have to do the right thing, Joey." Eve said softly. "This is not you, regardless of your heritage."

"Don't listen to her endless babbling." Harry March moved closer to them, carefully watching every change in his daughter's demeanor. "I ask you, does she ever have something new to say?"

"Please Joey, don't turn the back to your humanity." Eve gently touched Joey's arm. "Don't turn your back on me."

Harry March laughed. "Joey loves power. She lives for the fight, lives for the rush of bloodlust. You can't give her that, little girl. It's better than sex! You can't compete with that."

"I love you, Joey."

Ice turned warmer and for the first time since she woke up in Harry March's office, Eve recognized the women she had fallen in love with.

"Eve...?" Joey whispered hoarsely.

"Not again!" Harry March moved quickly. His hands grabbed Eve by the throat. "This time I'll kill you the old fashioned way and I'll enjoy every moment of it!"

"Noooo!" Joey yelled. A knife was in her hand. Her whole body was shaking with turmoil. But her intent was clear. Harry March saw it coming a second before cold steel, with the blood of a hind on it, penetrated his gut.

"Joey..." He hissed in pain. "The knife. You got the knife..."

"Yes."

"We could have ruled the world together, you and I."

Eve got up on her feet and tentatively put her arms around the shivering woman. "I've got you." She mumbled softly against Joey's warm, wet cheek. "I've got you..."

 

"What then?" Sam asked excitedly. It was like being in the front seat of a private showing of an exceptional action movie.

"Then everything becomes a blur. I don't remember much. Not before everybody is awake and talking at the same time. The confusion level was quite high, I can tell you that much."

"But Mr. March was dead?"

"Turned to dust, to be precise. Like a vampire, Faith said." Eve shivered. "It all happened so fast."

"And everybody is okay?"

"Yeah, Faith woke up and helped Joey get rid of the witchtrap that held Willow and Tara."

"Wow, this is some story. Man, I wish we could write it." Sam's eyes were huge with wonder and amazement.

"But we can't." Eve said softly.

"I know..." Sam sighed. "Maybe we could write a novel? You and me, the famous authors of the most exiting thriller of the year. What do you think? We'll get groupies and screaming fans..."

Eve laughed. "You would love that, wouldn't you?"

They laughed together for a few minutes, fantasizing about the possibilities of their new career. Then Sam's face suddenly turned serious.

"What about Joey. What's the status on you and her?"

"I don't know, Sam. I really don't know. I love her and I think she loves me too, but I don't know what she's going to do with the power, being the owner of March Inc. gives her." Tears of desperation were brimming in Eve's eyes. "I want her to make the right decisions..."

"After what you have told me, you have a lot of influence on tall, dark and gorgeous. Maybe being with her while she finds out how to deal with her new life as a human being, will help her make decisions that lead her in the right direction?"

"You really think so?" Hope entered Eve's green eyes.

"Yeah, I do. Only one thing for you to do."

"And that is?"

"Go get her!" Sam smirked.

 

"She'll never get her memories back." Willow cried hard into Tara's neck. "She will never remember our friendship. She will always be a stranger named Al..."

For the first time since they had learned about Buffy still being alive, the consequences of that knowledge struck them hard.

Buffy was alive, but their friend was not. The grieving had to start all over again.

"How many times do we have to grief over the loss of Buffy?" Willow sounded angry and hurt. "One or even two times are obviously not enough!"

They had lost so much. Buffy. Friends had died in the fight against evil. And June, beautiful June that had been the light in their life, a dream come true.

"She's so different." Willow had a faraway look in her eyes. "So... so... butch... I mean, Buffy was strong and competent and all that but she wasn't... butch. And she wasn't gay, was she?"

"You had a crush on her when you first met her, didn't you?" Tara asked softly.

Willow nodded. "But I didn't fall in love with her or anything. And I most certain never thought she..."

"Could reciprocate?"

"Yeah..." Willow blushed. Then a thought struck her. "Faith. Damn it, I didn't see it then. I was jealous of the way they bonded, but I never even considered that Buffy..."

"Was in love with Faith." Tara once more concluded her sentence.

"Goddess, did I know my best friend at all?" Willow's tears intensified. "And now I lost that possibility. Al isn't Buffy. Not yet. Maybe we could...

"You have to let her go, darling, you know that." Tara's soft lips removed the tears on Willow's face. "Al doesn't need Buffy, she need a real life, a life away from March Inc. and maybe even a shot at happiness."

"Buffy were never really happy."

"No, but maybe Al can find it. Find happiness."

"I'm happy though." Willow's voice had a childlike tone that Tara had missed for so long. "You make me happy, Tara."

"I'm happy, too. You make me happy, too." And for the first time since their daughter's death, she knew that the statement was completely true.

 

"I almost gave in...I almost gave him what he wanted. I was THIS close." Faith shivered at the thought. "He made me remember how it felt, how drowning in bloodlust felt... Back then lust was the only thing reminding me I was alive... Making me forget how alone I was... If Eve hadn't..."

Cordelia grabbed her chin, almost forcefully and lifted her face up so they looked each other in the eyes. "You would have pulled yourself out of it, Faith. Don't underestimate your strength and don't belittle what you have become. You do good things now, not because someone is telling you to, but because you WANT to. You have other reasons to live and you're not alone anymore."

"So you're staying with me?" Faith eyes turned shy. "For good?"

Cordelia smiled warmly. "As long as you want me. Nightmares and all..."

"That could be a really long time, then." Faith smiled back. "I'm good at chasing nightmares away."

"That you certainly are." Cordelia snuggled closer. "And you're the best damn heater in town."

"Hmmm, I have many skills..."

"You know, I'll still be jealous from time to time, and I will sometimes doubt myself, doubt you and what we have?"

"I know."

"But never doubt this, Faith. I love you, I love you more than I ever thought I could love anyone." Cordelia kissed the nearest naked flesh.

Faith moaned softly. "Keep doing that and I'll demand you to prove it."

"Oh, I will, slayer. I most certainly will...."

 

"I won't hold you hear against your will, Al. I would like you to stay and help me run this thing, but if you prefer to try to make it out there." Joey gestured towards the panorama window. "It's okay. I trust you to be discreet with what you know."

I know she's threatening me and I understand why she has to. "I promise." And now she knows for sure that I'm leaving.

"Where are you going to stay, Al?"

"Sam has offered me a room at her place and I think I'm going to accept. Willow and the other's see Buffy when they look at me and that's a bit... uncomfortable. Sam only sees Al. And besides that I really like her."

"I bet." She takes off her glassed and looks me in the eyes. "I'll miss you, Al. I hope you will be happy out there."

It probably won't be easy, I have heavy odds against me, but I have to try. I really want to try...