House of The Setting Sun: Love is a 4-Letter Word
Episode Seven of the House of the Setting Sun Series

Disclaimer: I don't own any of these characters, nor do I make any profit from writing about them. No copyright infringement intended.
Rating: R
Summary: Episode Seven in the House of the Setting Sun series. Faith's finally arrived home, so now the fun begins, right? Craig finally fulfilling his duty is probably going to help with that, but he's not so pleased when it backfires on him.


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Episode Seven
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Act One

Buffy lay on her side, unmoving apart from the rise and fall of her chest as she breathed.

Anyone peeking through her bedroom door and seeing her from behind would think she was asleep. Well, they'd probably think a lot more than that seeing as she was naked and not alone in the double bed, but first they'd think she was asleep.

She wasn't.

Someone peeking through her bedroom window and seeing her from the front would see that her eyes were open and filled with a wonder they wouldn't understand. They'd also see a lot more than that, what with the being naked thing.

So hopefully no one was taking a stroll on the veranda this beautiful October morning. She'd cleaned the windows within an inch of their fragile lives only the week before anyway so there wasn't really any reason why she should bother to move and pull the comforter - discarded hours before - over herself.

Besides, it would obstruct her view.

Bathed in the warm morning sunshine and completely oblivious to the attention; Faith slept on.

On her back with one arm flung above her head, almost hugging the downy pillow to her scalp; her other arm was draped across her stomach as if protecting that most vulnerable area. Buffy couldn't see the scar she knew marred the otherwise unblemished flesh of Faith's upper-body, but she'd caught glimpses of that thin, silvery line last night. Right now it was hidden beneath Faith's elbow, but Buffy had a feeling it was something, along with a million other things, that would have to be dug into and dealt with if they were to stand a chance.

For the time being though, it was out of sight and Buffy was pleased; she didn't want to see it, didn't want to remember when she had caused it or what had lead her to that point. Didn't want to think about what it said about her, of what she was capable of.

Better just to look at everything else really.

Buffy smiled against her pillow.

Faith was making the most adorable little soft snorey noises. Her full, slightly-parted lips looked as red as ever even with no lipstick painted onto them, thanks to Buffy's relentless kissing the night before. Faith wore no makeup whatsoever in fact, but her face had taken a light tan which Buffy was pretty sure she couldn't have gotten in prison. Probably not big on the tanning salons in there.

Faith's hair had been a wilder mane than Buffy had ever seen before and that was before they'd started with the sexathon. Now it was spread across her pillow, half-pinned down by her own arm and looking like the halo of some ancient brown sun-goddess.

Buffy propped her head up, resting it on her right hand so she could look at Faith properly, taking in her beauty, her quiet strength, her defenselessness...

She pursed her lips as she contemplated for the briefest of moments grabbing the pillow and putting an end to her Faith-shaped problems once and for all. It was tempting. It was very, very tempting, but then she'd be stuck with ghost!Faith-shaped problems and the only real difference to her problems would be the lack of touching ability that most ghosts suffered. Bad difference! She went back to the looking…

...Her perfect nose, her little dimples - barely showing right now but Buffy had seen plenty of evidence of them last night - her nibble-worthy ears and her suckable/lickable/biteable-neck...

Buffy's eyes moved downwards, her breaths deepening as she allowed herself to remember the night before in more detail.

...Her... Buffy licked her lips as she stared down at Faith's ample, creamy-looking breasts. She might have only known them for a short time before, but she'd really missed them. From the way they'd reacted to her touch last night, she was pretty sure they had missed her too.

"Don't worry, we're going to be spending lots of time together soon," she promised Faith's breasts in a whisper, her thumb grazing over one sleepy nipple as softly as her voice had been.

"PasszeballJay," Faith mumbled, her head rolling back on the pillow.

Buffy's eyes widened and she pulled her hand back to rest as casually as she could manage on the bed beside her as Faith mouthed a few more garbled sentences and her eyelids flickered a few times.

By the time Faith was awake, albeit some what still dopey, Buffy's face was an expressionless mask. Gone was the wonder at finally lying next to Faith again, gone was the contentment bought on from their night of ...passion, for want of a better defined word... and definitely gone was the reawakening of the desire she'd been feeling seconds before.

This was probably how someone who had gotten a little Botox-happy felt.

Faith blinked a few times but when she was finally focusing on Buffy's face, she gave a slow smile. Obviously she hadn't picked up on the expression yet or maybe she just assumed this wax work of Buffy's detached-face was her normal morning face. After all, she hadn't stuck around long enough to see it the last time.

"Hey," Faith sounded scratchy with sleep, and nervous; wise woman.

"Uh huh."

Faith stretched a little; wincing as it pulled on her hair she lowered her arm to her side. "I forgot how comfortable beds could be," she chuckled, still nervous. "Been sleeping on floors most of the week."

"Yeah well I hope you didn't get too comfortable. I only let you stay last night because Willow and Kennedy have the room I got ready for you." Her voice wasn't as cold as she wanted it to be, she just couldn't manage it, but it must have come through anyway because Faith lifted her head from the pillow to look at her better.

Buffy did not let herself smile at Faith's tremendous state of bed-hair badness, but it was really hard with the bad-ass slayer looking like a poodle after a fight with a washing machine.

Faith took her time thinking over what Buffy had said before finally asking, "Why? Don't they have a room of their own?"

"They did," Buffy nodded. "But I burned it down yesterday."

"Okay," Faith said slowly. "Why'd ya do that?"

"Someone pissed me off," she said shortly, raising an eyebrow at Faith so she didn't miss the connotation.

Faith let that sink in, nodding slightly and clearly unsure of how to respond.

Eventually she smiled again. "You got a room ready for me, B? That's cool of you."

Buffy hardened herself against the happiness in Faith's voice. "I did, but you obviously didn't want it so it's gone to a better home."

She sat up, quickly, very aware she was naked and feeling a little self-conscious now that Faith was getting to stare at her... areas... in the cold, well warm actually, light of day. She'd put on a few pounds since Sunnydale what with her lackadaisical slaying routine and she wasn't as... groomed as she'd planned on being for her first night with Faith.

And why the hell was Faith getting a good gawk at the 'chocolate chips' right now anyway? She was a long way off from earning that privilege back!

Buffy plucked her nightie from the floor beside the bed and pulled it over her head in one swift move. It felt funny. Looking down she saw the reason: three of the little buttons were missing, baring more of her chest than normal. Great! She slid off the bed to her feet.

"So where do I sleep tonight?" Faith was starting to sound a little frustrated now.

Buffy shrugged, "I don't know. Cici and Miranda are back today so there probably won't be any room in with the girls. You can always try the boy's dorm."

Faith was sitting upright now and staring at her. "What about last night?"

"It was fun," Buffy understated, allowing the slightest smile to grace her features. "I have to take a shower; I got a lot of stuff to do today."

She went to her closet and grabbed a pair of grey running shorts and a white tank so she wouldn't have to return to the room.

"You're just going to leave me here?" Faith sounded close to pitiful.

Buffy turned in the doorway to her adjacent bathroom. "You'll be fine; I mean you managed without me for the whole week, right?"

"But..." Faith's voice was cut off when Buffy left the room and pulled the door firmly closed behind her.

In the bathroom, Buffy leaned against the white tiled wall for a minute, breathing heavy. A big grin finally broke through her grave expression and once there it only seemed to get bigger.

Feeling lighter (despite the few extra pounds) than she had in months, she locked both hers and Dawn's doors - this tiny bathroom had no hallway access - and turned on the shower.


Faith's room was still pretty bare. Buffy had done a good job of turfing out any evidence of the three previous inhabitants - Alison, Miranda and Cici - but obviously hadn't known how to make it seem like home to Faith.

At least, not exactly.

Willow studied one particularly disturbing poster tacked to the wall depicting a red devily kind of figure, with black boots and a big sword, leaning on a pentagram made of swords, inside of which was scrawled the word "SLAYER". Above the picture were the words: "SHOW NO MERCY".

"Is that the new Council recruitment poster?" Willow's brow furrowed as she stared at it. "'Cause I didn't realize we were going with such a... direct approach."

Kennedy was eyeing another poster on the other side of the room. "If it is, I hate to think what Giles is thinking he's going to recruit with this one."

Willow turned to take another look at it. A little white haired boy was holding a headless teddy-bear. Behind him a horse-headed nightmare was gripping the severed head while his gruesome rabbit-headed friend prepared to place a crown on the pale boy.

"Okay, capital E Eww," she decided. "I hope Faith is feeling fully rehabilitated, or else five minutes in here is going to send her back the other way."

"Well if she never turns up we won't have to worry about her pulling the heads off any stuffed toys," Kennedy pointed out.

"Remind me to point that up-side out to Buffy later," Willow smiled at her.

Kennedy didn't return it; in fact she kept her eyes on the wall, checking out some of the other equally as freaky posters.

"So," Willow began, rolling over to face her girlfriend in the bed, but she hesitated before speaking again. "Last night was different."

"How?" Kennedy asked flatly.

"Well, with the you not wanting to, you know, do stuff." She tried a lascivious leer, but it was lost on Kennedy who was looking the other way.

"It's not the first night we haven't had sex Willow," she responded in a bored voice.

"I know," Willow agreed quickly, but then she spoke slower, more carefully, "But it's the first time you haven't seemed to even want to."

"You make it sound like that's all I'm with you for," Kennedy snapped, throwing the bed covers from herself.

Willow stayed silent. Her mouth twitched but she didn't know what to say to the unexpected anger.

"I was tired," Kennedy finally continued. "It's been a hell of a forty-eight hours."

"So it's not that you didn't want to?" Willow checked nervously.

"Why are you making a big deal out of this?"

"I'm not," Willow insisted. "It's just you've been acting a little odd since yesterday, and not 'I'm tired' odd, but 'I'm mad at you' odd. I just want to know why."

Kennedy lay there staring at the ceiling for nearly a minute in silence before she sat up and swung her legs out from beneath the covers. She sat with her back to Willow, staring out of the window at the woods to the north of the camp.

"I thought," she began quietly, "when that bastard of darkness showed up, that I'd lost you. I thought he'd taken you into oblivion like he threatened. It was only for a minute, but... it scared me Willow."

"But I'm still here," Willow sat up in the bed, pushing the covers away from her. "Like I said, I won. Everything's okay now."

"And then," Kennedy spoke over her, "almost immediately after, your ex shows up on the doorstep!"

"But that doesn't mean a thing," Willow promised.

Oz showing up unexpectedly had been a surprise, that was for sure, but it didn't change what she felt for Kennedy. Not that she really knew what she felt for Kennedy, not in so many words, but she did know that whatever it was, it hadn't altered in the slightest after spending some time with Oz.

"You've been searching for him for ages, Willow. You told me just last month that you'll always be a little bit in love with him and I get that, he was your first, but you can't sit here and tell me that it doesn't mean anything and expect me to believe it."

"But... but it doesn't!" Willow stressed. "And you do have to believe me!"

"I spent an hour with you both last night, just an hour, and I can see how much that's not true. You two are like..." Kennedy trailed off and Willow stared at the back of her head, wincing as she waited to hear what was coming. "It was like you and he are the soulmates and you and I are barely just acquaintances."

"Well on some, not very important levels, maybe..." Willow inched closer to Kennedy on her knees.

"You never said we were together," Kennedy added bluntly, stopping Willow from moving any closer.

"I didn't?" she squeaked.

Kennedy shook her head, her eyes still fixed on some fascinating point outside.

"Well I think it was implied, and Oz is pretty intuitive for a guy. I'm sure he knew," Willow tried.

"Yeah, but you didn't say it!"

Willow played with the sheets. She wanted to argue that Kennedy was just being petty, but she knew she wasn't. Okay, she was in a way, but Willow could imagine how she felt which made arguing unfair.

If she'd told Oz she and Kennedy were a couple it would have put any ideas out of his head. Not that he probably had any ideas in the first place. This wasn't like when he came back and she was just beginning things with Tara; it had been years since they'd last seen each other. He probably had a girlfriend of his own by now, or maybe even a wife! Riley had come back married only eighteen months after leaving Buffy.

Kennedy stood up, startling Willow from her thoughts. "I need to talk to Giles about setting up a physical training schedule for Reece and Naomi."

She started pulling on the clothes she'd worn the night before. Most of their clothes were still in the closet in their room and reeked of smoke. Willow was planning on spending most of her day doing laundry.

"Can't Buffy do that?" Willow asked, wanting to keep Kennedy talking until they resolved everything.

"Buffy's going to have enough on her plate with Faith's parole officer coming this morning," Kennedy reminded her.

"Oh shoot," Willow climbed out of bed, reaching for her own clothes. "I should go see her before she has an anxiety attack of the head-exploding kind."

The sound of the door shutting softly was her only answer. Willow looked up to see that Kennedy had already left the room.

"Shoot!" Willow muttered again sitting back down on the edge of the bed with her pants only halfway up her legs.


"No way!" Dawn dropped the blush brush she had been gesturing emphatically with and bent down to look for it beneath her stool, cellphone still held to her ear with her other hand. "And then she pretended like nothing had happened?"

Fen's voice came crackly through the earpiece, "Yep, even when they came out of the cubicle together all rucked up and starry-eyed, she swore they'd just been talking. It was so frakking obvious what they'd been doing, but no one ever mentions it 'cause her father's the... Father."

"Yeah, well next time she starts preachin' that my family is a bunch of evil, lesbo sinner-types I'm using this info." Dawn located the short fat brush and scooped it up just as she started feeling dizzy from the upsidedown-ness. "Whoa, head rush!" She sat up properly again, blinking away the spots.

"That's why I told you," Fen assured her before asking, "What are you doing there?"

"Applying makeup," Dawn told her, going back to it.

"And that's giving you a head rush? Wow, you really do everything to extremes, Sunny D; no wonder your sis won't let you out of her sight," Fen chuckled.

"Not true, she's letting me out of her sight today, isn't she?" Dawn defended her independence. "Okay so it's a Monday afternoon and no matter how psycho-protecto Buffy gets even she'd have a hard time stopping me from going out on a Monday afternoon, but, you know, baby steps."

"Plus, it's not like we're going out with any guys," Fen pointed out. Her upbeat tone turned a little grumpy as she continued, "In fact, this is turning out pretty lame, Dawn. Matinee showing, no guys - what's up with that? We're two teenage girls with bodies and minds to die for; how come we haven't got a line of boys waiting to get their hands slapped in the back of the theatre, huh?"

"Well," Dawn mused on the subject as she tilted her head back to put on some mascara. "Maybe they're intimidated by our bountiful beauty and brains. Or," she continued, less sure of herself. "Maybe they're just not interested in me. I mean, you always have guys drooling over you, you could have picked five different dates for this afternoon if you wanted. When I'm around, no drooling to be seen!"

"Or maybe they can just sense that you're not really interested, maybe because you're so totally hung up on someone else that you're blind to all other options?" Fen's chuckle tickled Dawn's ear again.

Dawn froze with her lipstick halfway to her lips. How did Fen know about Reece? She hadn't mentioned him because she knew her friend would make a big deal out of wanting to meet him and would not so subtly drop hints that Dawn liked him when she did.

"Sunny D, you still there?"

"I am not hung up on anyone!" She insisted.

"No? Then how come you can't even look Seth in the eye anymore?"

"What?" Ew, no, never, how could anyone think she was attracted to that arrogant freakazoid tail-boy! "A thousand times no, and then some more," she shuddered with the intensity of her dislike. "I have never wanted to look Sethos in the eye."

"So you're trying to tell me you don't spend your nights coming up with new ways to thank him for saving you from Mr. Roberts?" Fen was so obviously smirking on the other end of the phone.

"I so do not!" Dawn huffed as she put her makeup away in a drawer and locked it so certain sisters could not come in pretending to collect plates and glasses but really on a mission to steal all of her decent stuff. "Anyway, you're single too, Fen. Who are you hung up on?"

"Sure as hell nobody at school," Fen drawled. "Been there, done them."

Dawn blinked at that. Did she mean, like, literally?

Fen was still speaking, "I need someone with a bit more going for them these days than the average McKinley High boy can claim; like a job, a car daddy didn't buy them and a place of their own would be good too. My parents are just total freaks when it comes to guys."

"They can't be worse than Buffy," Dawn rolled her eyes as she checked her reflection for perfection. "At my last high school, in Sunnydale, she was either warning guys off me or... or coming on to them."

"Really?" Fen gave a shocked laugh.

"Uh huh, and once you get labeled as the chick with the schizo sister, guys tend to stay far away from you."

"Yeah well I still say the quickest way to scare off a potential boyfriend is to introduce them to my parents. Whenever I take someone home, they make us sit in the parlor with them and drink lemonade while we have chitchat!" Fen pronounced the last sentence in a hoity-toity accent so different to her usual drawl that it caused Dawn to giggle. "In eighth grade I took Graham Winston home for tea and my mom wouldn't let him leave the welcome mat until she'd fetched him a comb for his hair!"

Dawn thought about the scruffy, long haired, heavy metal fanatic in question and giggled some more. "How'd he look?"

"A lot better actually," Fen sighed, "But that's hardly the frakking point."

"True," Dawn agreed as she left her mirror and set about filling her purse with all she'd need for her afternoon out.

"Hey, going back to our datelessness this afternoon, do you think your brother would want to come with us?" Fen asked, sounding excited by the prospect.

"Xander?" Dawn rolled her eyes. "You know he's not my real brother."

"Yeah, so what? Do you think he'll come?"

"I doubt it." Dawn paused while an idea came to her. "Andrew might though," she offered. "And he's older, well, older than us, and he has a job, well, sort of."

"Cool, that's me set." Dawn smirked at Fen's enthusiasm and wondered if it would last once she'd met him. "Any other hotties hiding away at that camp of yours that might wanna join us?"

Dawn thought about Reece, and then she thought about asking Reece if he wanted to go to the cinema with her. She blushed hard, feeling her tummy go all butterfly cave on her.

"Um, maybe," Dawn began as her bathroom door opened. "Hang on."

She looked up with a frown as Buffy entered stealthily, looking around half of the room before sliding her body completely through the doorway.

"And here comes the Greater Spotted Makeup Stealer," Dawn intoned in her best David Attenborough voice causing Buffy to jump and look her way sharply. "As is common with this breed, you can see she is attempting to take the makeup from another's nest instead of buying her own."

"What?" Buffy looked at her perplexed and a little worried. Dawn could hear Fen laughing on the other end of the line, but she kept her suspicious eyes on her sister. "I have a spot?" Was Buffy's next, seemingly frantic; concern and she went to the mirror to look for it.

"Uh no," Dawn told her as Buffy turned her face this way and that, checking for blemishes.

Today was the day Faith's parole officer was showing up, and was going to find no Faith in residence. Obviously Buffy had become unhinged as a result.

She looked at Buffy for a moment longer before sighing into the phone, "Fen, I have to go. My sister's taken a turn for the worse. I'll see you at noon?"

"Sure thing, Sunny D, don't forget to ask your friend if he wants to come." Fen hung up.

Dawn pressed the cancel button on her cell phone and chucked it into her bag. "Buffy, you have no spot. Why are you in here? You have your own door you know, looks just like this one, except it's on the other side and leads to your room."

Buffy muttered something to herself about zits and sod's law, always a bad sign when she started using Spike's favorite phrases, and finally satisfied herself her face hadn't erupted into a mass of pus-y boils in the space between the bathroom mirror and Dawn's mirror.

"Uh, yeah, I couldn't go through it," Buffy offered vaguely. "It's... sticking, yeah, very sticky, probably the rain..." They both looked out of the window at the beautifully sunny day. "...last night," Buffy finished.

"Uh huh." Dawn was still skeptical; Buffy's door had never stuck before to her knowledge.

"I'll leave you to it," Buffy started for the main door, stopping just on the threshold to look back, adding, "Oh and Dawn, next time you wanna make fun of me to your little friends, just remember who gave you the money to buy all the makeup in the first place."

"You mean Giles?" Dawn countered, crossing her arms as she glared at Buffy in the doorway. "The guy who gives me thirty dollars a week for research assistance?"

"Uh, yeah, him." Buffy looked surprised. "Just... don't forget. It wouldn't hurt to show a little appreciation is all I'm saying." She disappeared.

"Oh yeah, this is gonna be a fun day," Dawn muttered to herself as she tried to decide what would be the best outfit to wear for asking Reece out on a date.

It took a few minutes to decide whether she should go for smart or slutty. After all, he was a Watcher-trainee; maybe he preferred his women in tweed as opposed to spandex. Not that she owned any tweed or spandex.

Deciding on a compromise, she picked her tightest, butt-hugging blue jeans and a formal looking white shirt with faint blue pin-stripes and went into the bathroom to change.


Buffy walked into the kitchen to see Kennedy standing at the counter making coffee.

"Hey," she greeted the other slayer brightly; a smile on her face and a bounce in her step.

Kennedy half-turned and put her finger to her lips, motioning to the corner as she grabbed another mug from the cupboard and poured Buffy some coffee.

Coming further into the room, Buffy could see that Giles was on the phone. Taking the coffee Kennedy handed to her, she smiled thanks and sat down at the table.

"Who's he talking to?" she asked in a lower voice.

"Not sure, but someone from England. He keeps using all these colloquial phrases that I've never heard of; and I thought I had a pretty good handle on Briticisms after spending time with Annabelle and Molly." Her mouth turned up briefly at the corners, but her eyes were sad.

Buffy didn't know if it was because she was remembering the two fallen potentials from Sunnydale or something that went deeper than their loss, but something clearly wasn't right with the normally brash girl.

"So, you all set for today?" Kennedy said, breaking Buffy out of her thoughts.

"What? Uh, yeah, I guess."

Kennedy sat down opposite her, "Do you know what you're going to say to the P.O. yet?"

"The parole officer?" Buffy checked. "Absolutely nothing. S'not exactly my problem, is it? I mean, Faith knows what's at stake; if she can't deal with it then that's her problem."

"What?" Kennedy looked surprised. "But aren't you at least gonna do some damage control?"

"If I start doing 'damage control' for Faith now, Ken, I'll never stop. It would be a full-time occupation," Buffy chuckled.

"Well I don't blame you for finally giving up on her," Kennedy admitted, looking up as Giles finished his call. "It's not like she's done a lot to sway any of us the other way."

"Oh, I don't know Kennedy, I wouldn't write her off too soon. Faith might surprise you yet." Buffy grinned behind her coffee cup.


Faith lay on her back in Buffy's bed, her hands laced and resting on her bare stomach while she waited for the blonde to come back.

She had been waiting a long time already.

She wasn't surprised Buffy was acting like a total bitch this morning; in fact she was more surprised about the hot welcome she'd received the night before, but would it have killed the other Slayer to at least take a minute to show her around?

Faith pushed herself up so she was sitting against the pillows. That was when she noticed there were three doors leading out of the room.

Great! Did they come with a riddle?

She couldn't remember which door Buffy had gone through either or what might be waiting on the other side of it. Maybe this was part of their master plan to stop her from running off again, confuse her so much she never managed to leave this bedroom in the first place.

Sick of feeling like a chump for needing Buffy to hold her hand and just sick of waiting in general, Faith slid off the bed.

"Okay, I choose door number one, Monty."

She padded over to the nearest white-painted wooden door, her eyes falling to her clothes scattered across the floor on the way. She did a double-take at the cactus on a shelf, partly because the spiky plant was missing the top third of itself and partly because her bra was hanging off of it in a jaunty manner.

Faith smiled as she remembered the enthusiasm Buffy had shown when undressing her the night before but didn't take any more notice of her clothes. They'd been on her a week. Even with the scrubbing she'd given them the day before, they were not touching her skin again.

She pulled open her chosen door, half-expecting it to be a closet. When faced with a choice of three doors, the first one opened was always a closet, or a supply room or some other completely useless little room that didn't help at all. Not that a closet wouldn't be useful right now; closets held clothes after all and even B's clothes would be better than exploring this house bare-ass.

As it turned out the law of probability was not on Faith's side.


Dawn was in the bathroom humming lightly to herself, a tune she couldn't remember the name of but that had been stuck in her head all morning, as she lifted one foot to step into a pair of cotton panties.

The hum died in her throat as the door to Buffy's room was pulled open. She knew it hadn't been stuck! Buffy had just been snooping; she'd probably heard her on the phone with Fen, and had thought she might catch Dawn out, planning something she shouldn't be.

It wasn't until after this thought, that she wondered just who the heck was opening Buffy's door when the blonde herself was downstairs now.

The door swung open wider.

Faith!

Dawn screamed in surprise at the missing Slayer standing in the doorway and fell flat on her face on the linoleum floor, tripped by her own panties.

"Hey Dawn! Got anything I can wear...?" The words didn't register, only who was saying them.

"What... what are you doing here?" she looked up a little fearfully from the awkward position she'd fallen in. "And where are your clothes?"

She flinched backwards as Faith walked into the room with her, not seeming bothered by her own nudity, but vaguely interested in Dawn's.

"In there," Faith pitched a thumb behind her to Buffy's room. "Damn, Dawnie, you really are all growed up, huh?"

"Why did you take your clothes off?" Dawn scrambled to her feet, covering herself as best she could with her hands as she backed towards her own open door.

Faith shrugged, clearly enjoying the younger girls' embarrassment. Dawn felt Faith's eyes travel up and down her body and it made her blush in a way she couldn't explain; it was more than mere humiliation, although it was that too.

"You know, maybe if your sister doesn't drop the bitch act ASAP, I'll take you for a spin; you know, if you're up for it."

"Get out!" Dawn squealed, her face burning.

She had backed into her room, but Faith had followed her and was now standing in the middle of her room, looking around as casually as she pleased and still very naked!

"Get out!" She said again, louder this time.

Faith gave her a quick leer, "That's a no then I take it."

"GET OUT!" Dawn screamed the words this time, also grabbing the first thing that came to hand and throwing it at Faith.

Faith flinched as the wire coat hanger rebounded off of her bare chest. "Okay, jeez, I'm outta here!" She pulled Dawn's bedroom door wide and stomped out of it, muttering, "Some people don't how to take a fricken compliment."

Dawn reached out and slammed the door shut, nearly hyperventilating.

Willow ran in to the room from the direction of the bathroom, obviously having taken a shortcut through Buffy's room. "What is it? I heard screaming. Is everyone okay?"

Dawn spun away from the latest intrusion. "Will you people learn to knock?"


More shaken than she wanted to admit by her unexpected run in with B's sister - man could that chick scream loud - Faith moved quickly down the corridor away from her room.

She could hear conversation floating up from downstairs; maybe Buffy had called a meeting about her arrival. Any second Giles might come up looking for her, ready to rip her a new one for going AWOL on him.

Clothes would be good before that happened; it would be hard to look repentant like this.

Suddenly Willow's raised voice could be heard demanding answers from Dawn. Crap, Dawn acting all hysterical and telling tales of a nude Faith running around wasn't going to help her any.

She put her hand on the nearest doorknob, ready to slip in and hide at the same time as she looked for something to cover up with. She only just cracked the door when she realized an argument was going on inside.

Pausing, she looked over her shoulder for a better option and couldn't help but overhear enough to make her smile.

"Will you stop saying that?" Xander was stressing from the other side of the door. "For the last time: you kissed me!"

"No I didn't, you kissed me."

Faith raised an eyebrow and her smile turned a little devilish as she realized who was in the room with Xander.

Interesting.

"And why would I do that, Andy?" Xander sounded like he was trying to be rational whilst hanging on to reality by his fingernails. Boy didn't sound good. "I'm not remotely gay. Admittedly there have been times when I almost wished I was, but I'm not, whereas you on the other hand are harboring a not-so-secret crush on Giles' God-son."

Faith's eyebrow rose again - Giles had a God-son, and he was here? Wow, there was just so much to she needed to catch up on. Buffy hadn't told her jack the night before; in fact apart from a bunch of sweet nothings and a ton of dirty nothings on top of that, they'd barely spoken at all.

"No I don't," Andrew was answering. "Craig's just a friend."

"Andrew it's okay, liking Craig is fine, you can mack on him or any other guy as much as you want. Any other guy who's not me, that is," Xander said. "Kissing me is not okay."

"I. Did. Not. Kiss. You!" Andrew shouted. Faith pulled her ear from door in surprise. "I told you, it wasn't me. I didn't kiss you, I wasn't thinking about kissing you, I haven't thought about kissing you in..."

As Andrew stammered to a stop before he could say too much, Faith had to cover her mouth to keep from laughing out loud.

"I haven't thought about kissing you ever," Andrew continued, obviously lying. "You did the kissing, and you were the one rubbing…"

"There was no rubbing! No! I never..." Xander sounded close to meltdown now.

"...my face!" Andrew continued, sounding pretty crazed himself.

There was silence for a few moments before Xander spoke again.

"Okay... okay, for the sake of ending this merry-go-round let's just agree that we... kissed each other." Faith could hear the pain it caused him to admit that. "Then maybe we can get to the bottom of the why we did that?"

"Well why did we?" Andrew whined.

"Beats the hell out of me," Xander replied.

"Maybe we should tell the others, maybe one of them will know." There were footsteps towards the door making Faith lean away from it, but then the sounds of someone being tackled.

"Tell people, are you insane?"

"Why not?"

"Because then they'd know, dimwit!"

"So, why do you care? Unless of course it's because you are secretly attracted to me and you're worried that if we tell them it won't be so secret anymore," Andrew finished triumphantly.

"Fine!"

Faith jumped back when the door was suddenly yanked open revealing a fuming, towel-clad Xander, making him better dressed than her right now, and Andrew in a pair of red pajama pants.

"Holy shit!" Xander jumped back himself on seeing her standing there. His eyes grew even wider as he took in what she wasn't wearing. "Plimbluh."

"What?" Faith asked, her forehead creasing in confusion.

"I said," Xander continued in a slightly calmer voice, "What the hell are you doing here?"

"Really?" Faith kept a straight face with difficulty. "'Cause it sounded more like the noise you make right before you..."

"Faith, you have three seconds to cut the crap before I..."

"What?" she asked.

"...call Buffy to come and kick your ass," he finished cockily.

Faith rolled her eyes. "You know, I'm really not feeling particularly welcome in my new home so far."

"I wonder why," Xander said through gritted teeth.

Movement down the hall made Faith whip her head that way, just in time to see Willow raise her hand in a threatening manner. Faith was already diving out of the way by the time the witch threw the spell at her with a command of "Encase!"

"What the hell is wrong with you guys?" Faith yelled as she came upright again near the end of the narrow hallway.

"I don't know what your naked, nefarious plan is Faith, but this will go a lot easier on you if you just come along quietly," Willow said calmly, raising her hand again. "I don't want to have to do this."

"Then don't," Faith offered a solution, backing away from the crazy Scoobies. "Just put your hand down and find me some clean..."

Faith suddenly found herself rushed from a doorway. She barely had time to see what was attacking her before the blanket was thrown over her head and the weight of either Andrew or Xander banged against her hard enough to knock her off her feet.

She pitched over backwards, the blanket blinding her and restricting her arms. She didn't even know what the hell was going on, let alone able to do anything about it, when she started sliding down some stairs.

Her back smacked into cool polished wood at the bottom but it caused less trauma to her spine than each jarring step she'd hit on the way down.

Okay, enough was a fricken 'nough. Had they all gone crazy since they left Sunnydale: throwing magick at her, pushing her down stairs? Were they trying to make her snap and screw up before she'd even unpacked her bag? ...oh right, she'd lost her bag. Well, bring it on then.

Sitting up, Faith ripped the blanket from her head and stared wildly around what turned out to be a kitchen. She flinched a little when she realized there were a lot of people staring down at her. One of them was Buffy, her lips were in a tight smirk, her arms crossed, her head tilted slightly to one side as she enjoyed every second of Faith's grand entrance.

"Damn, you were right, Buffy." Faith's eyes found Kennedy as she heard her voice. The younger Slayer was checking her out in a playfully appreciative way. "Faith is full of surprises."

Standing up, the blanket discarded by her bare feet, Faith rounded on the stairs, down which was coming a clattering of noisy feet.

"What the hell is your problem?" She looked between Xander and Willow, Andrew cowered behind them.

"We could ask you the same thing, Faith. What were you doing snooping around up there?" Xander demanded answers.

"Perving on me for one," Dawn had joined them, now fully dressed.

Faith rolled her eyes, "That was an accident."

"So you offering to take me for a spin was just an accident?"

"Maybe joke would be a better word," Faith hazarded, starting to feel a little uncomfortable now. Half the people staring at her were strangers. "Could we lose the nerd herd please?" she waved her hand at the bunch of boys along a counter openly staring at her - some with pleasure and others with shock.

"Uh yes," Giles stood from the table, his glasses in his hand instead of on his face. "Come along boys, we have to leave anyway. Faith." He gave her a tight nod as he passed her but didn't look her way.

She was pretty sure that his reticence had nothing to do with her being in the nude and some of her nerve wilted inside of her as she watched him organizing the boys.

"I tried to hold her Buff," Willow was saying. "But she was too quick…"

Faith raised an eyebrow at Buffy, "You were in on all this, B? Is this some kind of hazing thing?"

"Luckily for us, Xander and Andrew had the bright idea of using the blanket or else she might have gotten away again," Willow continued.

Buffy was still smirking at her. "No, but it's what you get for running around the house buck naked."

Faith had to agree with that, "Yeah well I was looking for your clothes when everything went nuts."

"I never said you could wear my clothes!" Buffy snapped, but Faith was pretty sure at this point it was just to wind her up.

"Well the ones I was wearing are only fit for burning," she pointed out, "and the rest got stolen. What do you expect me to wear?"

"Just hang on a minute," Faith turned her head to Xander's annoyed instruction. "You don't seem too surprised to suddenly have Faith fall naked into our kitchen."

"That's true," Kennedy folded her arms and turned a mildly interrogative stare on their number one slayer.

Faith grinned a little as suddenly Buffy was the center of attention.

The blonde fidgeted, holding her hands in front of her in a 'butter-wouldn't-melt' kind of way and shooting Faith evil looks that held promises of torture for her future.

"Yeah, Buffy, what's going on?" Willow looked wicked perplexed as she looked between the two slayers. She was probably better at reading Buffy's guilty expression than most of the others in the kitchen.

"Yeah B, what's wrong, didn't you tell them about last night yet?"

"Last night?" Xander repeated. "What happened last night?"

"Uh, Faith showed up," Buffy admitted the obvious.

"And you didn't think to tell us?" Giles asked her.

"It was late," Buffy lied.

"Well did you at least get the full story of where she has been all week?" he asked next, and the look he cast Faith's way made it clear he didn't expect her to tell the truth to anyone, except maybe Buffy.

"Um... not exactly," she squeaked, looking at her feet.

"Then what were you doing...?" Giles realized how stupid that question was as he looked from Buffy's guilty as hell expression to Faith's nakedness and back again. "...oh for heaven's sake," he finished instead, shaking his head resignedly.

Kennedy let out a low whistle as Willow whispered a soft, "Oh Buffy."

"You and Faith.." Xander looked from her to Buffy and back again a few times, and started again, "Faith and you... after all the crap this past week? You couldn't even wait twenty-four hours before jumping into bed with her? Did you lose your mind? For all we know she's spent all week making connections with undesirable city officials and..."

"Okay boy toy, time for you to shut the hell up," Faith spoke quietly enough, but as she moved to stand directly in front of Xander her stance made it quite clear he was shutting up. "You wanna take your shots at me, go ahead, I couldn't give a shit, but you can lay offa Buffy 'cause she hasn't done a damn thing wrong to warrant your manly bitchiness."

"Well I don't know, she did you." Xander didn't back down, his one eye steely as it bore into her. The kitchen had gone dead silent as everyone seemed to hold their breath at the same time.

It made her smile. She wanted to turn and see what expression Buffy had right now. Faith was surprised she'd stayed quiet this long, but she knew that by looking away she'd lose some of her power over the situation. Not that she seemed to have a lot to begin with.

"What's your problem, Xander? You think you're the only one allowed to get his jollies with someone a little bit bad; B's not allowed to join in the fun too?"

"What?" Xander gave her a less than amused look. "If that's an oblique reference to Anya, for one you can leave her out of it, and for two you can go f..."

"Actually," Faith cut him off, smirking. "I was talking about Andrew. Weren't you two going at it like gay bunnies this morning?"

Xander opened his mouth; no words came out so he pointed his finger instead. Faith smiled innocently at him, shrugging a little as he continued to struggle for both words and, by the looks of him, air.

"What?" Willow was looking at Xander like he'd grown another head.

"How does she know?" Andrew muttered urgently under his breath.

"Okay, somebody needs to hit the back button because I must have missed something on the last page." Buffy was looking between Xander and Andrew. "You two are together now?"

Xander sat down at the kitchen table with a loud heartfelt groan. "No we are not, we just... he kissed me. It was a thing, a...a... fluke."

"Like the clothes fluke?" Willow asked.

"Yeah, maybe, except we weren't wearing any clo..." Xander spotted several grins growing around him and winced. "Let's just say it was a thing!"

"You kissed Xander?"

Faith looked in the direction of the quietly shocked English boy who'd spoken. She'd never seen him before but she'd bet good money he was Giles' God-son based on the way Andrew was now looking at him.

"No, it's not what you think. It was Xander that kissed me," Andrew ignored the glare Xander gave him. "I mean why would I make the first move? I've never even..." He looked around nervously. "Uh, nothing."

"Yeah no worries, I've got a plane to catch." The kid started to head morosely out of the kitchen door.

Giles called him back. "Actually Craig, you haven't. I spoke with your mother this morning and she requested that I keep you here with me for a while. You're to have an extended holiday," Giles smiled warmly.

"What? No, I can't stay here. I have to go home." The kid, Craig, looked wicked panicked for someone just told they were getting a free vacation. "My mum needs me."

"Your mum will be glad of the break," Giles told him sternly. "You're staying, that's final, so you might as well get used to it."

Craig looked like he was gonna cry and his dark eyes kept shifting between Andrew and Willow.

"Sir, I don't mean to interrupt, but if we don't leave now we won't make it to the airport in time." Another of the English boys, a mini-Wes more of less, reminded the Watcher.

"As yes, shall we make our way to the minibus then?" Giles started shepherding some of the kids out of the kitchen.

Giles laid his hand for a brief moment on Craig's shoulder as he passed but the kid shrugged him off. Faith couldn't tell if it was part of the boy's hissy fit or if he was just embarrassed or unused to the gesture; his reaction wasn't easy to read. She didn't like the sadness it brought to Giles eyes though.

"We'll talk when I get back Craig," he promised quietly and left through the back door.

Craig squeezed his eyes shut and bit his lip, but a word escaped in a burst of emotion, "Pants!" He disappeared in a hurry without saying anything else.

Andrew started to follow him, but a tall blonde chick left a seat at the breakfast counter and held up a hand that paused him.

"I'll go," she told him, when Andrew still looked uncertain she added, "It's okay, he's just throwing a wobbler because he thinks his Mum and Mr. Giles are ganging up on him. He'll come around." She left.

"That was Naomi, right?" Faith checked, feeling all the more comfortable now she was only being stared at by people she knew.

"Uh huh."

"Nice." Faith smirked, nodding in admiration as she checked out the ass of her competition.

"We're not all like you," Buffy rolled her eyes. "And what's this I hear about you coming on to my little sister?"

"She barged in on me when I was changing and then, like, wouldn't take 'Get out' as an answer," Dawn piped up eagerly.

"And what were you doing hovering outside my bedroom?" Xander asked as soon as Dawn had finished. "Aside from eavesdropping on a private conversation that is. Just what were you planning up there?"

"I..." Faith started.

Willow overrode her, "Yeah Faith, I don't want to sound all accusatory, but why did you run away from Giles in Stockton? Where have you been? People have been searching for you all week and then you suddenly show up snooping around the house all..." Willow blushed as her eyes dropped to Faith's body before meeting her face again. "...Oh boy, all sky clad. Why did you run, Faith? Why risk getting yourself in trouble with the police all over again?"

Faith looked down at herself, "Sky clad?"

There was a light tap against the back door; all eyes swiveled that way to see a woman not much older than Buffy standing in the doorway.

Faith noticed her smart suit and neat little briefcase first and wondered if it was someone important maybe she should pick the blanket up to cover herself. After all, did she really want everyone in this crappy town seeing her in all her glory? There was such a thing as leaving a little to the imagination. Admittedly, normally for her that meant leaving her name out, but this was supposed to be a new start, right?

"Hi, sorry to intrude. I'm Ms. Devenrowe," she said that like it was supposed to ring a bell for Faith and fixed the slayer with a no-nonsense stare as she stepped further into the room. "And I'd also very much like the answers to those questions if you don't mind."

"Oh crap." Buffy winced.

Faith stared blankly back at the stranger, now totally at a loss as to what was going on.


Act Two

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