It Starts With Faith Season 4 -- Chapter 33 by Dreiser

TITLE: It Starts With Faith 
CHAPTER: Thirty 
AUTHOR: Dreiser 
EMAIL: dreiser0@earthlink.net 
YAHOO I.D.: dreiser3
MY REALLY LONG HOMEPAGE ADDY: http://www.angelfire.com/anime2/superhighway/Dreiser/dreiser.html
ISWF ARCHIVES: http://www.altfic.com/    --    http://www.geocities.com/shaych3/dreiser.htm 
MAILING LIST: Well, it's not really a mailing list for this fic series but just for F/C pairing in general. Check it out! http://groups.yahoo.com/group/cordyhasfaith
CONTENT: F/F romance. The stars are Faith/Cordelia. Don't like it, don't like them, please don't read the fic. 
SUMMARY: An alternate reality series that places Faith as the one true slayer aka the chosen one for her generation. 

DISCLAIMER: I own nothing but my new computer. New computer, new computer, new computer, there's no computer like new computer! lol.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Jem is excitement. Yeah, that was damn obscure of me but hell, you should expect it, no?

It Starts With Faith
By: Dreiser
-Thirty
Three- -Thirty Three-

David had seen many things during his years on the force and more recently as a Private Investigator, but he'd never seen anything quite like what was before him.

Probably because before now, David had never witnessed Kate acting and looking so incredibly nervous. He'd seen a few glimpses of nervous when they were partners but it was nothing compared to this. And that nervous, well, it came with the job. It was expected.

This nervous was different. This nervous was date related. This was a case of girlish date related nerves.

Something that David never thought he'd see in Kate. Still, here he was, watching from where he sat in the most comfy chair in the apartment as Kate paced back and forth.

"I shouldn't do this," Kate finally said. "I really shouldn't."

"Pace?" asked David, averting his eyes from his friend mostly due to the fact she was making him dizzy. "I guess not, it does wear down your carpet but it's exercise."

"No," said Kate in her ever dry tones, her blue gray eyes boring into him. She softened her voice then sighed as she said, "I shouldn't go out with Jenny."

"Why not?" David blinked. He knew the two women fought like cats and dogs. Hell, anyone within a two mile vicinity of them knew that, but when he was around and they were together, he could see it. The genuine affection that they felt for one another. "Don't you like her?"

"Of course I like her," Kate stated in frustration. She ran her fingers through her hair and said in a whisper, "That's the problem." Shaking her head, she looked at David. "If they found outů at the station, you know what'd happen."

"Yeah, I know," said David sadly. The force was and always would be the domain of the boys and one would think girls who like girls would be accepted there, but the force was also several years behind the times. Particularly in mentality of some of the officers. "You can keep it quiet though. I think she'd understand."

"Maybe," said Kate softly. A small smile spread on her lips and she chuckled, "But it'd come out anyway. I know herů secrets can't be kept, even if she wants to keep them. In this case, I don't think she'd want to, deep down."

They were silent for a moment, then David coughed and when Kate looked to him, he shifted in his seat. "I wanted to ask you this awhile ago but it didn't seem right."

"Dave?" asked Kate, looking confused.

"I'd love to have you back," David continued gently. "As a partner. It'd be great to work with you as a P.I."

"David," Kate breathed his name, a smile crossing her pretty features. Giving a slight shake of her head, she sighed. "I'd love that, I really would, but part of me wants to stay on the force. Actually, most of me does. It's just, it's going to be tough."

"Isn't tough your middle name?" teased David.

"No, it's Marie," Kate chuckled, showing a hint of her tongue as she stuck it out in rebuttal. Moving to look out at the slowly darkening sky, she said, "I think it will be worth it though. In the end."

"Of course it will be," said David, his voice firm. When Kate peered back at him, he smiled. "Some decisions we just shouldn't have to make, Katie. This is one of them. If you ask me, you deserve to have them both. It's not going to be easy, but hell," his expression was wry as his eyes twinkled merrily. "What in this life is?"

"Finding a vampire in Sunnydale," Kate replied drolly, though her expression and tone of voice was playful.

"Ouch," David winced, grabbing his chest. "You got me."

Chuckling softly, Kate murmured, "It's not the first time and it won't be the last. Come on," she walked over to him and offered her hand. "Help me out with clothes, huh? I don't think I like this outfit after all."

"Women," David heaved an exaggerated sigh. "Why can't you just close your eyes and put on the first thing that you grab in the closet like I do? It's so much easier."

"Because," began Kate in a humorous drawl. "Unlike you, I want to look nice for the woman I like."

"Don't you mean love?" hinted David mischievously as he followed after Kate.

Blue gray eyes darkened just a bit as Kate lowered her voice and whispered to herself, "Not yet but maybe soon."

---

They wanted to say goodbye at the house because Cordelia was sure if she went to the airport with Maria she would end up causing a public spectacle. And if there's anything Cordelia disliked, it was causing a spectacle. Especially on purpose.

"Are you sure?" Maria asked for probably the twentieth time that day. "I can stay longer if you like. I know they say they need me back at the restaurant, but really they're fine. Just a bit nervous, that's all."

"I'm sure," said Cordelia with a smile, reaching out to hold Maria's hands in her own. Ducking her head, she said wryly, "If I asked you to stay any longer I don't know if I'd ever want you to leave."

The two women were silent for a long moment. They were alone in the house, Faith having left them together with the excuse that she had to pack Maria's bags into her rental car, so that they could have private time to say goodbye. Except saying goodbye was far more difficult than they ever imagined. Even if it wasn't forever.

"I don't have to, you know," Maria murmured. Callused hands cupped Cordelia's chin and the tall brunette looked up with teary eyes. "I can stay, if you want me to."

Taking a shaky breath, Cordelia said, "I want that more than anything, Maria. I want that so much it almost hurts, but it wouldn't be right. If you stayed... I think I would just use you for a crutch. Hide behind your skirts like I did when I was six and we went to that haunted house." Closing her eyes painfully, Cordelia continued, "And I can't do that. I have to learn how to deal with things on my own. How do deal with..." Cordelia trailed off and her face formed a hard expression. "Me."

"You're a human being, Cor," said Maria softly, in reassurance, knowing what Cordelia was thinking. "You have to believe that, like Faith and I do. Now," she moved Cordelia's face so their eyes met. "Don't we know you better than anyone, hm?"

"Yes," said Cordelia in hoarse tones.

"Then trust us," Maria whispered, forming a beautiful smile as she held Cordelia's face in her hands. Moving forward, she kissed the tall brunette lightly on her forehead and murmured, "We love you."

"Maria," Cordelia sobbed, falling into her embrace and holding on tightly, looking distraught.

"Shhh," Maria soothed, rubbing her back. She heard the quiet opening of the front door and smiled as she looked at Faith who stood in the doorway. "I might be in Texas but that's only a few states away. Besides," she smiled as she drew back and wiped away Cordelia's tears. "Didn't you both promise to come and visit my restaurant to taste some of the most delicious food in the world?"

"Yeah," sniffled Cordelia, smiling at Maria. "We did."

"And I know you're not thinking of breaking a promise to me, are you, young lady?" asked Maria in almost scolding tones. She then looked over at Faith for support.

Smiling slowly, Faith closed the front door and stepped close to Cordelia, wrapping an arm around her waist. Leaning against the taller girl, she lifted an eyebrow and drawled, "How could we do somethin' like that, Maria? You'd skin us alive."

"You bet I would," said Maria in semi-threatening tones that didn't at all match the affection in her eyes. She turned to Cordelia and said her name softly. Looking up, Cordelia met Maria's gaze. Stepping forward, Maria held both Faith and Cordelia's hands. "I want you to know, I do consider you family. Now and forever. Anytime you need me, call and I'll come running, all right?"

"All right," Cordelia agreed, giving a small nod and offering her very best smile that was still a bit wan.

Returning the smile, Maria caressed Cordelia's cheek before looking at Faith. She then surprised the dark Slayer by pulling her in a sudden embrace then whispering in her ear, "Make sure she knows she's loved, Faith."

"I will," Faith replied in bare tones that echoed of a promise so ferocious and strong few could argue with it.

"Good," said Maria, her expression pleased. Her eyes swept over the couple, Faith walking back to Cordelia, an arm once again around the taller girl's waist. There was a natural movement in how Cordelia leaned against the Slayer for support that made her smile. Holding back tears, Maria cleared her throat. "Well then. I should get going or I'll miss my flight."

They walked out of the house and towards her rental car only to pause in front of it. Maria turned one last time to face the two girls and Cordelia squeezed her eyes shut then rushed forward for a desperate embrace.

"I love you," Cordelia said, her voice shaking with tears, ripped with raw emotion. "And I'll talk to you soon."

"I love you too, Cor," Maria said tenderly.

Faith walked over to Cordelia and the vampire leaned back against the Slayer who was holding her from behind. Faith stood on her tippy toes, resting her chin on Cordelia's shoulder, watching as Maria got into the car.

That's where they remained, keeping a silent vigil while Maria drove from their house and towards the airport. A few moments after she vanished from sight, Faith felt Cordelia begin shaking as soft sobs filled the air.

She turned her girlfriend around, allowing the taller girl to collapse in her arms and release her sorrow. It had almost been like a dream, having Maria around. Like things were back to how they once were. Now with her gone, reality gripped Cordelia in its merciless hold.

"She still loves me, Faith," Cordelia breathed raggedly, her voice full of painful disbelief. "How can she?"

Looking down at Cordelia, who reminded her so much of a small child as she trembled in her embrace, Faith felt a familiar pain fill her heart. Why did it have to be this way? How had she let it get this far? This wasn't the way it was supposed to be. The monsters in the night weren't meant to touch the most precious people in her life.

Yet they had touched them, the evil had. Even worse, it affected them, tore them apart emotionally and physically and it was more than Faith could take.

She was a Slayer, she was born to protect, and she knew this, she embraced this, it was who she was. And now she was going to do not only what she was born to but she wanted to. Protect Cordelia from that evil.

At any price.

Pushing these dark thoughts into the back of her mind, Faith kissed Cordelia's silky locks, murmuring against her head, "How couldn't she love you? You're so damn cute."

"Flatterer," Cordelia chuckled wryly.

Running her hands through Cordelia's hair, Faith held the taller girl's face in her hands. She then met their lips in a tender kiss that expressed all the love she felt for Cordelia in it.

When they parted, Faith formed a small smile and left another fleeting kiss on the bottom of Cordelia's chin as she looked up at her. "C'mon," she said quietly. "Lets go inside. I think I know what'll cheer you up."

"Do you?" Cordelia raised an eyebrow and smiled. Her mood seeming to improve for the first time that day.

"Yeah," Faith drawled, wearing a naughty expression as her eyes filled with desire. "I do."

The couple stood still for a moment then Cordelia's hands shot out towards Faith's waist and the dark Slayer dodged them, laughing as she ran into their house at top speeds.

Naturally, Cordelia was close on her heels.

---

Giles watched Jenny rearrange the books on Eastern magic for the fourth time in an hour. This had to be some sort of nervous habit, he supposed. It made him wonder if that was why when he first dated Jenny her apartment looked totally different from what he was used to, with the furniture scattered all over the room.

"Janna?" began Giles, trying to fight the smirk spreading across his features and failing. When she looked at him with wide eyes, he asked, "Nervous are we?"

"I'm not nervous!" Jenny protested. She scowled at him then whirled around to face the books and frowned. "I'd better change these again. I think healing books should be closer to the ground than protection. Don't you?"

"Wouldn't that put a strain on the customers backs?" Giles murmured slyly, moving to pour himself a cup of tea and smiling as he heard Jenny's sound of frustration.

"That was mean!" declared Jenny, glaring at Giles. "I'm not nervous. I just need to keep myself busy until I pick Kate up at her apartment, that's all. This is my way of keeping busy. If you like I could do something else," her eyes glinted dangerously at him. "Like hexing you."

"You wouldn't dare," Giles sipped his tea calmly. "If you did, I would simply tell your family about it. Or worse, I'd tell Faith and Buffy."

"Tattle," Jenny scowled again. "You're such a tattle."

Giles smiled warmly then set down his tea and asked, "Can I ask what you have planned for your evening with Detective Lockley? Nothing embarrassing, I hope."

"No," said Jenny, looking exasperated. She paused to consider this then she walked closer to Giles, leaning against the counter. "Don't question my dating skills. You know I'm good at it."

"Mmm," Giles murmured, eyeing Jenny carefully. "And I had thought you wanted something more than what you're normally good at, Janna."

Jenny's eyes flashed with anger and she said, "Of course I do." Her expression softened and she sighed. "Rupert, I've learned from my mistakes," she chuckled now. "Finally."

"I'm glad," said Giles, smiling softly. "Then you wouldn't do such a thing like irritating her on purpose, I trust?"

"Yes, Dad," Jenny rolled her eyes. "I swear," she said in playful tones, walking away from him. "Sometimes you're worse than my real father."

"An apt compliment, I'm sure," Giles murmured, watching Jenny move across the shop to retrieve her jacket. "I would hope," he frowned.

"It's a compliment," Jenny assured cheerfully, shrugging on her sleek black jacket that traced her form perfectly as it reached her knees. She smiled at him and said, "I have to go see a man about a flower."

"Just one?" asked Giles curiously.

"One is all you need if you mean it," replied Jenny, giving a saucy wink before she strode out of the magic shop.

Watching her walk away, Giles smiled as he realized that this time around, Jenny most definitely did mean it.

He just hoped Kate did as well.

---

Charlie wore a serious expression on his handsome features as he absently tugged on a strand of taupe hair. Then a huge smile spread across his face and he spun around to look at his bandmates.

"I got it!" Charlie declared, clapping his hands.

"Yeah?" Derrick questioned softly, a small smile tugging on his lips as he eyed his boyfriend. He knew the smile on Charlie's face could only mean something good. "What?"

"Why doesn't Xander slow down during your solo? Go with the balanced tones you're using," suggested Charlie, his eyes gleaming. "Then V-Babe can maybe, you know, do that Psycho theme violin thing. It'd be hella creepy."

The members of Prophecy Girl exchanged looks then Veruca smirked and picked up her violin to make the ear piercing sound Charlie spoke of.

Immediately, Willow shivered. "That already creeps me out," she confessed.

"You're just not a fan of the classics, Willy the Kid," Xander teased, smiling at his old friend.

"Maybe I would be if when we were little you didn't act out the scenes around me when I didn't expect it," Willow accused, glaring at Xander, her gaze softened by fondness.

"We can use something else," said Veruca slowly, wearing an expression of concern. She remained sitting on the stool on the far side of the stage but Willow was warmed by the kindness she saw in her eyes. "Okay?"

"Yeah, sure, it's no big," Charlie agreed, although he looked slightly disheartened at this idea. He was sure if they just tried it, the song would sound better.

Watching Charlie's reaction, Willow shook her head then said, "No, lets not." When Charlie looked up, she smiled gently at him. "I think you're right. This will work."

"All right," Xander grinned, slamming the drums in a fast beat that caused the others to glare at him. "Why don't we give this song a test drive?"

By the time Frank walked back into the main room of the Bronze, the sounds of the song, and that portion of it were carrying through the air, and as predicted it was creepy.

Hella creepy at that.

"My father's door, I'll never see again," Willow sang the final lyrics as the chords of Derrick's bass guitar faded.

The atmosphere was electric as they looked at one another and Charlie whispered, "That's it."

Sounds of their rejoicing were interrupted by Frank's clapping and embarrassed looks as they faced him. He grinned at their modesty. Since the first time they met he'd liked these kids. They had talent but most of all they had heart. For awhile he feared they wouldn't return to making music after losing Vince, but they had somehow recovered and returned better than ever.

"I thought you were going away from the dark stuff," Frank began, tilting his head to one side. "Then again," he wore a wry expression. "I don't think I've heard you play anything quite like that before. It was..." Frank trailed off, trying to think of the words. Finally they came to him and his eyes lit up. "Noir."

"It's V-Babe!" Charlie bounded over to Veruca and grabbed her hands, squeezing them affectionately. "This girl's got the magic touch! Just give her a hint of what you want and bam, she's got it goin' on!" Forming an impish smile, he batted long eyelashes at her and said, "You're the best and if you were a guy, I might cheat."

Chuckling softly, Veruca said, "Thanks." Turning to Derrick, she looked sympathetic. "You've got your hands full with this one, don't you?"

"You have no idea," Derrick replied, heaving a playful sigh and rolling his dark eyes.

Observing all this, Willow smiled with a gentle happiness that Xander hadn't seen in quite some time. When she met his eyes, he murmured, "These are the happy times."

"Yeah," Willow agreed, her eyes shining. "They are."

Somehow, as Willow turned back to watch Veruca and Derrick jointly tease Charlie, she couldn't help but think it had to do with their newest female band member.

And the way she made them feel.

---

Ten minutes had passed since David left her apartment but in those ten minutes, a lifetime seemed to pass.

At least, according to Kate's nerves.

Which were, to note, on edge. She had returned to pacing in her living room. Back and forth, then back again. The act was somehow soothing for Kate and she enjoyed it. Plus without David around, she could do it for as long as she wanted without being teased about it.

Kate really didn't enjoy being teased.

That was something her date for the evening could very much attest to. Especially since Jenny delighted in doing the very thing that annoyed Kate the most. Little did the Detective realize, the only reason Jenny did this was because she enjoyed how Kate looked when irritated.

Perhaps if she did, she wouldn't get annoyed so much.

Then again, maybe not. Kate wasn't exactly someone who could control her emotions easily. Oh sure, she could hide them with unnerving accuracy, but control? That was an entirely different ball game.

For as long as she could remember, Kate had been fighting her emotions due to the fact that they made her vulnerable... weak. The best way to do this was to simply act like they weren't there. Over the years, Kate had done such a good job of convincing herself and others of this that she wondered if she did have emotions or if she'd somehow wiped them away.

Then she came to Sunnydale and met her.

Jenny wasn't like anyone Kate had known. Male or female, she was in a league of her own. There was this air of confidence and calm knowing about the other woman that Kate envied. She wanted to have the same peace that Jenny had, that same self assurance.

How was Kate to know that Jenny was just as lost and confused as she? Jenny was different, yes, but she was very much the same in the defenses she held.

While Kate protected herself from being hurt by simply pretending that she couldn't be, Jenny made sure people would never get that chance by pushing them away.

Her most common weapon? That deceitful charm, the glint in her eye, the smile on her lips, and the words that poured from her like honeyed wine so sweet that no one could ever guess that it could become poisoned.

Although they were as opposite as night and day, both women had reached a significant point in their lives. They were sick of hiding, of pretending to be something they weren't. That's why they were so nervous.

Tonight would signify a start of a new life for them. One where they no longer denied their emotions or attempted to hide from the frightening possibility of being hurt.

The thought of doing this with Jenny at her side made Kate form a breathtaking smile. Just seconds later, the smile was gone and Kate jumped in the air as a loud knock sounded on the door to her apartment.

Kate could only gasp as she looked at what was before her. Jenny had on a sleek almost sheer black dress with long sleeves that perfectly complimented her figure, hugging to her curves and accenting her exotic beauty.

Arching an eyebrow, Jenny smiled slowly, her dark gaze inspecting every inch of Kate with a heated stare. The silk shirt she wore clung to her body, the blue colors shimmering as she moved, revealing the contours of her frame. That was nothing compared to the light gray pants the blonde had decided to wear, which were almost molded to her, showing every delicious movement of her muscles.

"You're beautiful," Jenny pronounced in husky tones.

She lifted her dark eyes, powerful in their truth, and formed a dazzling smile. Moving her hands out from under the jacket they were hidden under, Jenny shyly produced a blue violet and presented it to Kate.

Her eyes going wide, Kate took the violet, stepping backwards and into the apartment so Jenny could come inside. The other woman softly shut the front door and when she looked back at Kate, she was happy to see a look of quiet pleasure on the blonde's face.

Their gazes met and seeing the question lurking there, Jenny smiled and said, "It reminded me of your eyes. But I have to say," her expression turned mischievous. "I think your eyes are far more lovely than a flower any day."

"What does it mean?" Kate asked quietly. When Jenny blinked at this and looked confused, she smiled and said, "I thought all flowers had special meanings attached to them. What about this one?"

A long moment passed and Jenny stepped close to Kate, leaving only a breath between them. Looking down at the violet and the graceful hands that held it, Jenny traced her hands down, covering and lifting them.

She kissed Kate's knuckles softly, smiling around them as she murmured, "Faithfulness." Lifting her head, dark eyes burned intensely into her. "I will be with you forever."

"That's what it means?" Kate whispered, surprised she could find the strength to say these words. Her heart was beating a mile a minute and she felt weak at the knees and their date hadn't even begun yet.

"That's what it means," Jenny nodded with a smile.

She pulled away and carefully pried the flower out of Kate's hands and wandered into the nearby kitchen making only a minimum of noise as she retrieved a glass to fill it with water. Moments later, she returned, still smiling as she looked at the blonde.

"Kate," Jenny said her name almost shyly, dropping her eyes to the floor when she looked her way.

"Yes?" Kate answered, walking towards Jenny, who suddenly seemed just as unsure as she.

"I... I want you to know," Jenny looked up at Kate, trying with all her might to project the truth of what she was about to say. "I don't... I just..." Shaking her head, she muttered to herself, "Spit it out already."

"Hey," said Kate in gentle tones, reaching out to lightly caress then cup Jenny's chin so dark plaintive eyes would meet with her own. "You can tell me."

"I mean what I say," Jenny said, her voice thick with emotion. "From now on, everything I--"

Jenny was prevented from revealing anything more as Kate pressed her index finger against full lips and smiled. "It's okay," she murmured. "I believe you and..."

"And?" Jenny prompted when Kate's finger fell away.

"I promise the same," said Kate, her face earnest.

The two women smiled quietly at one another, reveling in their newfound connection. Then Jenny cleared her throat and formed her usual roguish smile.

"Well, Detective," Jenny drawled, leaning in close to peer into blue gray eyes. "We should get going or we'll be late for our dinner reservations."

Forming a dry expression, Kate walked past Jenny, grabbing her coat from the rack and opening up the front door. "I wasn't the one delaying us with heartfelt talks, was I?" Kate playfully reminded.

The only response Jenny gave was to smile slowly and walk quickly out the door before Kate locked her inside the apartment.

Not that Kate would ever dream of doing such a thing.

---

She was crazy.

Plain and simple, there was no way around it. The way she looked at them with that animalistic shine in her eyes, the stench of death that surrounded her, and the sense of utter determination in her stance told them that.

This wasn't same Slayer they were used to dealing with. The old Slayer would come after them with a deadly cool efficiency that was frightening, yes, but there wasn't that horrible hatred burning in her gaze.

When she came for them today, crashing into their nest in the sewers, she smiled. A slow and wicked smile, one that froze their undead hearts and filled them with fear. It was the smile of the Grim Reaper itself.

That was why they ran.

It wasn't doing any good though. They could hear her everywhere. The splash of her footsteps in the water and gods, that low and dangerous laugh that reverberated in the air. Then suddenly, their leader froze in his tracks.

She was there, in front of them. Walking forward and into the dim sliver of light that poured into the sewer, forming another harsh smile that made them shiver.

"Why'd you run boys?" Faith grinned, her hand slowly tracing up to reach behind her. In a smooth and elegant movement, she pulled her Japanese wooden sword from its scabbard and went into the traditional stance, holding it at an angle. "We're gonna have us some fun."

It was too much for their leader. They had been avoiding her for weeks, upon hearing what she'd been doing to all of the others. Hunting them, stalking them, driving them almost to the edge of madness with her games.

They had been so close too. It was only a few miles from L.A., where they were in the sewers. But somehow she'd found them before they could escape. Now they would die, just like the others.

And their leader wanted to know why.

"Dammit Slayer!" he cried out wildly, his eyes flashing. "Why are you doing this?! Just get it over with already! I know the deal, we all do! We're enemies, we always have been but lately you're taking this all so damn personally! It's crazy, Slayer!" His eyes narrowed and he hissed, "No. You're crazy, Slayer."

Faith's eyes darkened and the vampires shivered and huddled together on seeing that look of death grip her gaze again. It was like nothing they'd ever witnessed before and they didn't like seeing again. There was an inhuman quality to it that even they couldn't appreciate.

"You wanna know why?" Faith whispered, stepping closer to them, her footsteps causing low splashes in the water as she neared. "Why I'm doin' all this? Why I feel like I'm not even me anymore?" The vampires nodded almost shakily. Faith grinned again and she ducked her head only to lift it and burn her gaze deep into them as she said, "You took Cordelia away from me. I got her back now, sure, but she's full of guilt and nightmares and there's nothing I can do to stop that. But," Faith formed a vicious smile. "I can do one thing. And that's get rid of every last nasty thing that ever knew her when she was like that. That way just maybe she won't be reminded so much of what used to be. Then she might realize she's what she's always been to me." The Slayer's voice lowered and she said in breathless tones that were meant for her alone, "My heart and soul."

The vampires didn't have time to react to Faith's answer because seconds later, she crouched low and pounced at them, her wooden sword slicing through the air, killing their leader with that same horrifying calm they'd been hearing about for weeks now. Then she came for them. One by one, she killed them, her eyes glassy, reflecting the emptiness she felt inside.

Dust was falling in the air in clouds, like it always did when Faith wiped out a nest. It was her favorite part of the kill. Peaceful and almost poetic. That was when she heard the shouted warning.

Whirling around, Faith raised her sword just in time to stake the vampire she'd missed. The one who came flying at her from the darkness, intent on having revenge for all his brethren that had fallen to her hands.

Brown eyes slowly watched the slim figure that emerged before her and Faith wondered how she managed to track her this far without her noticing. "Buff," she said evenly, not revealing a hint of surprise. "Thanks for the warning."

"No problem," said Buffy, stepping a breath away from Faith, her gaze boring softly into the other Slayer. "We're partners aren't we?"

Faith narrowed her gaze and not wasting any time, she asked, "What're you doing here?"

"I do the same slay time you do," Buffy said. She chuckled then revised, "Well, until recently. Anyway," she looked at Faith meaningfully. "I heard the word on the street was that one of the Slayers was on a killing spree. I knew since it wasn't me..."

"You followed me to figure what was up," Faith finished. She snorted then said, "I guess that's easier than just askin' me what's going on, isn't it now?"

"Would you have told me?" asked Buffy honestly.

Shaking her head, Faith turned and began walking away. Very aware that Buffy was following after. "Probably not, I'll give you that," she said. "So?" she looked back at the blonde. "You gonna turn me in?"

"I'm going to help you," Buffy said in decisive tones, her gaze locking with Faith's.

"What?" Faith asked with surprise, her voice almost leaping up an octave. Calming down, she looked hard at Buffy then said, "Why would you do that, Buff?"

"Because," said Buffy simply, taking a step forward and forming a tender smile. "We're partners."

Faith took in a sharp breath at the loyalty she saw in Buffy. The loyalty to her and everything she chose to do. Then she grinned and shook her head warily.

"Yeah, you are," said Faith with quiet sincerity. "You're the best damn partner a girl could want."

"Got that right," Buffy declared haughtily, flipping her hair over her shoulder, taking Faith's hand in her own and leading her through the sewer. "Come on," she said. "Lets get going. If we don't hurry up, you'll never make it home in time to shower before Cordelia's class ends. That's not something you want happening, I'm guessing. And I'm supposed to get coffee with Veruca pretty soon."

"Figured that out too, huh?" Faith chuckled. Her eyes darkened and she said in reluctant, husky tones, "I didn't wanna lie to her... hide this from her, Buff, but I know she wouldn't understand why I gotta do this. And I do gotta do this, to keep her and everyone else safe. I just have to."

"I know," murmured Buffy in reassuring tones, looking back at Faith and smiling, squeezing the hand she held. "It's because you love her, love all of us."

"Yeah," said Faith slowly. Her mind focused on Buffy's other statement, and she smiled slowly. "You're meeting the mysterious roomie for coffee, huh? You two sure are hanging out a lot lately. What's up?"

"Nothing is up," Buffy flushed, turning red. "Vee and I--"

"Vee?" Faith interrupted with a naughty smile.

"Veruca!" Buffy cried out, scowling at Faith. "Veruca and I are friends! She's very nice and--and--Veruca like. She's fun to hang out with, that's all."

"Uh huh," said Faith wisely. She grinned mischievously then said, "You like her, Buff. Just admit it already."

For a reply, Buffy merely scowled again. But she didn't and couldn't hide the blush forming on her cheeks and the rather dreamy expression she wore when thinking about Veruca.

And that told Faith everything she needed to know.

---

Kate should've expected to be taken somewhere like this but she really didn't. She wasn't sure why that was but it's the truth of the matter. Which would explain her surprise.

Smiling softly, Jenny slipped her hand into Kate's, entwining their fingers. Leaning close, she whispered in the blonde's ear, her breath lightly disturbing beautiful silken locks as she spoke. "I wanted to be somewhere we could feel comfortable." When Kate looked into her eyes, Jenny added, "Be ourselves."

It made sense when Jenny said it that way. Still, the last thing Kate expected was for Jenny to take her to a trendy gay restaurant with a small dance floor, located smack in between Sunnydale and L.A.

"I guess this is the place to go then," Kate finally replied, smiling when she saw the relief in Jenny's gaze.

Jenny really was as nervous as her, Kate realized. That thought reassured her more than anything else. Told her that tonight really was important to Jenny.

Watching Jenny's every moment with sharp eyes as they were led to their table, Kate knew without a doubt this was the place to be. Just because Jenny was here and she was with her. Nothing could make it better.

Then again, the dim light of the candles that surrounded them and the romantic atmosphere helped a lot. Kate sat across from Jenny, arching an eyebrow at the brunette.

"Someone did their research," Kate accused lightly.

"I wanted tonight to be perfect," Jenny murmured, leaning forward and resting her chin on the back of her hands. "A first date can only happen once."

"Oh, I don't know about that," said Kate with a smirk, taking a sip of her water. "Sometimes they can happen two or three times if you get a girl drunk enough."

"Is that a proposition?" Jenny seemed to purr.

Blushing despite herself, Kate ducked her eyes and took another sip of her water. "No," she said a bit roughly. She lifted her gaze and smiled sweetly. "Just making some conversation with you, that's all."

"I rather make other things," Jenny said coyly, smoothly reaching down to open the menu and scan it with her eyes. Not looking up, she said, "They have excellent pasta if you enjoy that sort of thing."

"Sort of thing?" Kate echoed dimly, opening her own menu and looking over the contents.

"Messy food, thick sauce," said Jenny, quirking an eyebrow, a teasing smile playing on her lips. "Sometimes eating with your hands when a fork just won't work." She scooted closer and her hand reached out, snagging Kate's in a gentle grip, her thumb tracing a featherlike path over Kate's palm. "Do you enjoy that?"

"Yes," Kate said hoarsely, not sure if she was talking about the food or what Jenny was doing to her hand.

She couldn't recall the last time that she'd been treated like this or if she ever had. Somehow she didn't think so. Kate wasn't someone people felt they had to woo, to romance, and to affect with the tiny touches and subtle glances. But Jenny was different it seemed. She wanted to give all that and more to Kate.

It was something Kate relished very much.

Jenny sensed the waiter's approach and kissed Kate's knuckles softly, just like she had done earlier, and asked, "Can I order for you?" Her eyes twinkled and she said, "If you let me, I'll promise you anything you want." She paused then added, "Within reason."

"Go ahead," Kate approved, swallowing the lump in her throat that formed when Jenny flashed her a brilliant smile before turning to the waiter.

They were alone again and Kate played with the edges of the tablecloth, feeling all too aware of the dark gaze that caressed her from across the length of the table. Looking up, she was met with a soft smile from Jenny.

"I'm nervous too," Jenny murmured, her face knowing.

"What?" Kate knew she must've looked like she was hit with a truck because that's how she felt. How could Jenny have known that just from looking at her?

Seeing this reaction, Jenny squeezed Kate's hand lightly, the one she'd never released, and said, "I know because I feel the same way." Releasing her rich musical laugh that always gave Kate the most pleasant shivers, Jenny looked out the nearby window and at the city lights. "I'm just as wound up as you are, Kate. I'm just better at hiding it."

"I... I'm..." Kate began hesitantly. She flushed as Jenny fixed her gaze on her. It almost made her stop, not give into the urge to tell the other woman what she felt. Then Jenny turned away, sensing her unease and looked back out the window. Her only reaction to Kate's reluctance was a soft squeeze and caress of her hand. Swallowing the ever present lump in her throat and regaining her courage, Kate said, "I'm usually good at hiding what I feel. But with you it's different somehow." Kate smiled wryly and shook Jenny's hand lightly. Dark eyes looked to her because of this and Kate murmured, "I can't hide from you."

Jenny formed another brilliant smile, one that warmed Kate down to her toes, before she turned towards the waiter who presented them with a bottle of wine. She watched quietly as Jenny shooed him away playfully, then uncorked it herself, smirking as it flew upwards in the air. As it did, she gave Kate a significant look that almost said 'well'? And Kate found herself snapping up the falling cork in her grasp and returning Jenny's smirk.

"Well done, Detective," Jenny murmured, pouring Kate's glass first. Dark eyes were heated but amused as they bore into her. "I knew you had fast hands."

"You don't say?" Kate replied, giving into the urge she always had to just screw it and return the coy comments Jenny so enjoyed using. She smiled secretly and sipped the wine. It was sweet and somehow still bitter at the same time. Almost like Jenny herself. "Well," blue gray eyes darkened and Jenny swore she could see the flash of a storm inside them. "They're slow when they need to be."

"That's reassuring," Jenny said, drinking the wine quickly, hoping to help her suddenly parched throat.

"I'm glad you think so," said Kate mischievously, delighting that she'd managed to affect Jenny just as badly as she always was by her comments.

Her gaze rested on the hand that had been holding hers, elegant and fine, full of promises of gentle touches and tender caresses. Giving into another urge, Kate reached out to clasp it and was rewarded by seeing a look of pleasant surprise pass over Jenny's features. Kate wondered why this was then she realized this was the first time she did that. Did anything remotely physical that hinted she felt something for Jenny that was more than friendship.

Kate lifted her gaze to meet Jenny's eyes and the two women smiled softly, enjoying the simple act of just being together. Without having to hide from one another and most of all, from themselves.

That was how they remained for most of the evening. Parting only to eat dinner, but that had also been an unusually touchy feely experience for Kate. With Jenny offering up portions of her own food with bare hands, presenting them before full lips with a slow smile. The entire meal was horribly romantic and Kate had to admit she loved every cheesy moment of it. Perhaps because before now, she never did anything like this.

The best she could do was dream of it.

Certainly in her dreams, the person she was with wasn't anything like Jenny. Maybe that's why she was enjoying reality all the more. Even in her dreams Kate didn't quite believe she could get so lucky to meet someone who'd understand her like Jenny did.

She felt a gentle tug on her hand and Jenny was smiling at her again, her dark eyes soft and Kate could swear she felt her heart melting at the sight. When had she become this way? Let someone affect her so? It happened without her even knowing and now Kate knew she was helpless to prevent it. Not that she really wanted to anymore.

"Dance?" Jenny suggested in a low purr.

Turning to look at the small dance floor, Kate noted a slow song was playing and she nervously swallowed yet another lump that formed in her throat. "I don't know," she began. "I'm not really a good dancer."

"That's all right," said Jenny, her eyes playful as she rose to her feet and pulled Kate up with her. "I'm good enough for the both of us." Stepping closer to Kate, she said, "Let me take the lead. I'll show you how to go."

Looking up at Jenny and the dark gaze that knew all the secrets of her heart, Kate nodded slowly. Smiling widely at this, Jenny led Kate onto the dance floor, gently pulling Kate towards her, sliding her hands down to her waist.

Warm hands caressed the bare skin of Kate's back, just above the line of her pants and she could only gasp at the fire that burned through her at the touch. Leaning into Jenny, she returned the favor, pressing them closer together as she wound her hands up and behind Jenny's neck, pulling her head down so eyes would meet.

Jenny formed another beautiful smile and smoothly swung her hips, causing a delicious grind as she moved into Kate. The blonde closed her eyes and held back another gasp, burying her hands in Jenny's dark locks. Fingers lightly traced the softness of her skin, over her neck and then shoulders in circular patterns.

A firm hand grasped her from behind, squeezing with a hard yet gentle hold and this time Kate did gasp again. Rising up and into Jenny who gazed down at her, eyes dark with desire and full of more emotions than Kate could decipher.

"I think you dance very well, Detective," Jenny murmured in velvety tones that were laced with longing.

"I told you to call me Kate," Kate responded. Swallowing hard, she tried to control her breathing as they swayed to the music, every movement bringing their bodies in contact.

"You did, didn't you?" Jenny tilted her head to one side, regarding Kate thoughtfully. "All right then," she leaned down, resting her forehead against the blonde's. "Kate."

Closing her eyes, Kate found herself saying the words before she could help it. "What do I call you?" she asked.

"Hmm?" Jenny pulled away and Kate had to stop herself from groaning at the loss of contact.

"You," Kate said again, averting her gaze from Jenny's, feeling embarrassed she had actually brought it up. "Your real name is Janna Kaldaresh but you said only your family calls you that. But..." she trailed off.

"But?" Jenny prompted softly.

"It doesn't feel right," Kate admitted, turning back and looking at Jenny earnestly. "Doing this, being with you this way and calling you something you aren't." Jenny studied Kate so carefully after she said all of this that the Detective felt herself blushing. "What?" she asked a bit defensively after a moment.

"Nothing," said Jenny in strangely contemplative tones. "I've just never been with anyone who cared that much about it."

"I care," Kate said firmly. Her hands moved from the back of Jenny's neck to reach around, resting flat on her face, feeling the delicate skin. "Because this matters to me, you matter to me. The real you."

Hearing this, Jenny formed another dazzling smile, one that Kate couldn't help but return. They leaned forward, moving together in both body and soul. Kate's lips parting in anticipation for a kiss she knew would mean more than any other she'd ever had. Hands released their hold on Jenny's face to tangle back in her hair. Then they found each other.

Nothing else existed for them except this kiss. They knew only the sensation, the touch, of one another. The airy feel of breath on breath, tongues exploring their sweetness as a slow burn of passion ran through their veins.

When they parted, Jenny found herself reluctant to let Kate go and covered her lips with several quick and fleeting kisses that she would swear from that day forward caused the blonde to giggle. Their foreheads met and they looked deep into each other's eyes, pleased beyond all means to see the same emotions reflected there.

Then Jenny ducked her head down, resting near Kate's neck, pulling her close as she whispered in her ear, "My name is Janna and that's what I want you to call me."

Fighting tears, Kate simply nodded and pulled Jenny against her, molding their bodies together for a warm embrace. Unaware or uncaring that this wasn't exactly fitting for the fast dance song that was now playing.

Not that the other patrons minded their actions. No, they didn't mind much at all.

Continue to Chapter 34

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