Jody (strangebint) wrote in slayerlore,
Jody
strangebint
slayerlore

Pimpin' My Fic Spike/Faith, Connor, Kennedy more...

Hi Everybody,

So, I decided to pimp my Buffy The Vampire Slayer and Angel fic on LJ. My Website is:

http://strangebint.com/

Most of my recent stories have Spike/Faith and Connor, and Faith and Kennedy friendship. (I do have Spike/Buffy, Spike/Dru, Angel, Angelus/Dru ect)

I have many short stories and this huge Spaith (with Kennedy/Willow) Series "Forget Me Not" at:

http://strangebint.com/forgetchapters.html

This went so well (meaning I had over 10 readers). That I decided to do a Season Two. I just started it and that is what I am mostly pimping it's in the LJ cut below
Major Spoilers to: All of Buffy and Angel Seasons 1-4, and for the first Season of my fic linked above. Enjoy or make fun. Whatever your pleasure. More plot heavy than smut heavy. But there is smut. I swear!. Here it is:


Title: More or Less- Chapter One
Author: Strange bint
Email: strangelilgrrl75@aol.com
Show: Angel, Buffy
Rating: R
Category: Action/Adventure, Character Study, Drama, Humor, Romance, Series
Warnings: het, language, BDSM
Characters: Buffy, Faith, Giles, Olivia, Spike, Wood
Pairings: Faith/Spike, Giles/Olivia
Summary: This takes place after my Forget Me Not Series. Faith and Spike are having the kind of fun only they can have at Angel's Wolfram & Hart beach house after she gave up her Slayer power to save his life. Buffy is crashing at Giles's house trying to recover from being dragged out of yet another dimension. She wants to make sure she is happy before she lets everyone know she is back, but can she do that? Faith's ex, Robin Wood has his powerful Adoptive Gramps crashing the High School basement. Wood finds himself crashing someone else's party.
Author Notes: Thanks to Dutch and Jill and everyone for the feed back!
Story Notes: This takes place after my Forget Me Not Series. I tried to make it so you could read it from this point on. But of course if you want to read the rest no one is stopping you :)
Disclaimer: No sue
Author's Website: http://strangebint.com

This story is also available on the web at: http://archive.shriftweb.org/archive/29/moreor.html
____________________________________________________________________

More or Less- Chapter One
by Strange bint

Part 1
Please see part 0 (template) for warnings and summary.

Same as it ever was

"Giles, how old do I look?" Buffy asked as she looked in Giles's
decorative mirror.

She didn't think she looked any older, but it was hard to say. Maybe
you didn't age here if you were there (married to Angel they told
her, but she remembered none of it.)

"Hmmm?" he asked.

"How old do I look?" she asked.

"You look like any girl in her twenties," he answered.

He was looking down at his papers again. Maybe it wasn't because he
thought what she was asking was boring; maybe it was because she
didn't look like just any girl in her twenties. If anyone knew that
she wasn't just like any girl in her twenties, it was Giles. Giles
who had been living in London these past two years with Olivia in
shacked-up bliss.

Even Giles had found someone. Buffy was in her cookie dough stage,
and she realized now she just lost two years of baking time. This
next birthday she'd be twenty... no, not that old, not yet! Yes, not
yet, but that old soon. Buffy had lost two years in this world where
she was pretty sure she was about to be the oldest living Slayer. She
wasn't sure how old the oldest one had been. She just knew making it
to twenty-five was a really big deal.

"Yes, but twenty-what? Twenty-one, Twenty-three, Twenty-twenty-five?"
she asked as she pulled her cheeks back.

"I can't say. You look your age," Giles said.

She didn't feel like it. She felt like she wanted to sit here with
Olivia and Giles and have the peaceful silence that she remembered
having in her house when her mother and father were together...twenty
years ago! No, Buffy didn't feel her age, she felt old, and yet she
wanted to sit here with Giles and his girlfriend, who wasn't old
enough to be her mother. It was time to get back to...what had she
been doing before? Oh yeah, the last battle with the First Evil.
Before that? Guidance Councilor, but she had only landed that job due
to the last battle with the First Evil. Buffy wasn't really doing
that well at the adult thing before the end of the world came. She'd
rather have the end of the world. She was good at that.

"I'll have to go back to Sunnydale soon. They'll need my help with
the Hellmouth open again," Buffy sighed.

"As soon as you feel you are ready," Giles said.

He looked up from his papers when he said it.

"You do look a bit young in my baggy clothes. It's because you're so
tiny. The boutiques in London make clothes for little girls just like
you. Ripper, we should go shopping and get her some clothing that
actually fits, don't you think?" Olivia said.

Buffy was positive she loved Olivia. Of course, Giles would object.
He would say something about her wasting perfectly good money on
ridiculous fashions, which she might actually do now, since she had
no idea what was going on with fashion now. Giles would be right. She
couldn't afford to spend her time here, watching someone else's TV
and spending their money, like she was some teenager on summer
vacation. She'd have to go back to the mortgage, the Hellmouth and
Dawn. Dawn was a senior now! Buffy tried to think of her as looking
older, and she found she couldn't bear it. Buffy felt Giles looking
at her, and she quickly smiled. Had she looked upset? She swore she
was not upset. This was not Buffy being ripped out of Heaven Part II.
She did feel alive, just out of place. What else was new?

"No, but thank you," Buffy said, "I couldn't take your money. I have
to get back to my life--my responsibilities. Clothes and how I look
should be the last thing on my mind. My little sister is living on a
mouth of Hell, and she has to worry about who'sgoing to ask her to
the Prom."

"This is actually the perfect time---"Giles began.

"To go back, I know. I wonder if she likes anyone, if she has had any
boyfriends. I-I can't believe I wasn't there," Buffy said.

"--to go shopping," Giles finished, "Things are well. The Hellmouth
is guarded. Faith and Spike are out of danger, and Dawn has had a few
dates, but no serious boyfriends. She's spent most of this secondary
school year studying the occult with Willow and my help via the
Internet. She spends a lot of time with that Amanda girl, the only
Sunnydale Potential. Do you remember her? She is quite bright. I knew
when she played D and D that she--Well; I think she is a good
influence on Dawn."

"I-I remember her," Buffy said as she felt her face drain.

"I didn't mean to upset you, Buffy. If something was wrong with Dawn
I would have returned to America immediately. I hope you know that I
left America to help you be able to be independent. I sometimes
regret---"Giles sounded too pained for Buffy to let this go on.

"No, Giles," Buffy said, "It isn't you. It's me. I-I thought Amanda
was one of the girls that died. I think I got her mixed up with one
of the other girls. There were just so many of them that died and so
many of them that left right away to find their families after."

Buffy sighed; okay, maybe she was kind of depressed. She couldn't
even keep track of her army. She thought that was the one thing she
was good at. Now this girl was Dawn's best friend and it seemed Giles
knew her a lot more than Buffy did.

"So, Amanda moved back to Sunnydale after Spike rose up with the
town, and you say this girl is smart?" Buffy managed to smile.

"Well, you remember how all the real estate resurrected with the
town," Giles smiled, "Her family wouldn't get the earthquake
insurance money, and they would have the impossible task of selling
Sunnydale real estate."

"Sunnydale Real Estate? I think that is actually the name of a band.
It's gotta be a depressing band," Buffy said.

"They're actually called Sunnyday Real Estate. They are a very
influential post-punk band. They are nothing compared to their
predecessors of course. Perhaps we can go to a record store and you
can listen to them when we go shopping," Giles said.

"Okay, who are you and what have you done with Giles?"

"Oh," Olivia said, "There is lots to Ripper you don't know. It's not
that he doesn't like good music. It's that the music he likes has to
be too good. He's a music snob."

"It seems like there a million things about everyone I know that I
don't know. It's why I should go back there," Buffy said.

Or not go back. Everyone had gone on with their lives, even Spike.
They would expect Buffy to not be depressed, and then they would
think they could rely on her again. Buffy wanted to tell Giles she
totally got why he left for England now.

"You're right," Giles said.

"Ah, there's Giles. I was afraid this was some kind of bizzaro
world," Buffy said.

"But before you do go back we must--should-- fully discuss everything
that has occurred, so you can prepare for what's coming, and there is
no reason why we can't do it and then go to the shops. Of course
that's just my opinion. It's a good day for shopping. It seems to be
clearing up," Giles said.

"Okay, maybe it's like half-bizzaro world, but I can live with that
if it means Giles wants to shop," Buffy made herself smile.

Actually, if it were a bizzaro world it would explain why Spike had
given her cab money to go to the airport to be with Giles. She had
come back when Spike thought he would never see her again, and he
threw money at her and ran away. Of course, that was what Buffy had
asked for- the money part to go to London- not the running away part.
Well, Spike did have a reason for taking off. He said he had to save
Faith. That was a good thing. He also said he loved Faith, well, he
didn't deny it.

That was not a bad thing, but was it really good? It wasn't that
Buffy really cared that much. She did care very much about the saving
Faith part, but Spike seemed so sure he could do it. It was the
loving Faith part, could Spike really do that? Of course he could do
it without Buffy being upset. She wasn't upset. Well, she was upset
she lost two years of her life in a dimension she couldn't remember,
and life here carried on without her but, Buffy wasn't upset that
Spike said he loved Faith. Or he didn't deny it. Buffy just wondered
if Spike could love Faith without something awful happening. The
vampire/slayer thing didn't seem to go well with Buffy. Buffy
couldn't imagine how bad it could possibly go with Faith. Buffy was
an expert in how cruel Faith could be. She wasn't going to put up
with a love sick vamp beyond occasionally giving him grindage , even
if he did have a soul. People could end up hurt, or dead, or
soulless.

"So, tell me about all the misadventures of Spike and Faith on the
Hellmouth. How the hell did it manage to open up again right under
their noses? They probably just welcomed the smell of more fight,"
Buffy smiled.

She admired both Spike and Faith's bring-it-on attitude. So what if
they were too busy fighting to notice something like the Hellmouth
opening again. At least fighting was what Buffy hoped was keeping
them busy- and by that she didn't mean fighting with each other. Oh
boy.

"Actually, Spike has been training quite hard with Faith over all
this time. It seems she became quite disciplined with him," Giles
said.

"Faith may have wanted to become something with Spike, but I'm pretty
sure it wasn't disciplined," Buffy scoffed.

"What? Are you referring to the Rhoshobi Joining Prophecy?" Giles
asked.

"The who-what prophecy?" Buffy asked.

"The Rhoshobi Joining Prophecy," Giles said again.

All Buffy recognized was the word prophecy. That was never a good
word except when it had the word Sanshu before it, and even that was
kind of a mixed bag.

"Ungh!" Buffy groaned and sunk down on the couch.

"You said Faith wanted to become something with Spike, and that was a
theory we had for the prophecy, that Faith would somehow change when
Spike's soul was burned into her. Many theorists feared that because
she had also taken more of the Slayer demon's power from the shadow
dimension she would become an entity with the power of a vampire's
soul. Of course, from what we know in the past, this amount of demon
inside a Slayer would make them mad with power," Giles said.

"What? Faith is evil again? She went to those Shadow guys and got
more demon power! The funny thing is I'm actually surprised. I
thought she had changed. Why are we just sitting here?" Buffy
demanded.

"Didn't Spike talk to you about what was happening?" Giles asked.

He didn't seem concerned. Neither did Olivia who seemed to know
shopping was on hold and went back to her computer, and barely looked
up when Buffy said the word "evil."

"He said that Faith was in trouble, she was down on her Slayer power
due to Wes doing something and that she went off with Angel, but
Spike needed to find her. He said not to worry about it. He said he
had it under control," Buffy told Giles.

Then, Spike kissed her or she kissed him and there was crying and
hugging. He said he loved her. Spike said he loved Buffy, but then he
didn't deny that he loved Faith. How had that even come up? Buffy
brought it up. Somehow she had known. She couldn't remember how.
Spike always made everything into a whirlwind. Of course, he wouldn't
mention some doom prophecy, or that Faith wanted to steal his soul,
or that Faith had become some evil being because she went to the
Shadow guys for more power. So, now Faith was doing that whole mad
with power thing again, and she was trying to take yet another
vampire's soul. With all this Spike couldn't say he didn't love the
crazy bitch? Maybe he really was just in love with pain.

"Spike? Under control?" Buffy laughed now, "Why in God's name did I
believe him? Can we just chalk this one up to inter-dimensional
jet-lag stupidity? Well, c'mon, Giles. There is no way I'm letting
Spike and Angel handle this alone, even if they could. Angel will
probably feel too guilty to do anything to Faith because of that
whole saving his soul thing, and Spike told me he...We totally can't
rely on Spike when it comes to Faith anymore. He'd probably die
before he'd hurt her now. To think before I left he would have
kil--"

"You're right; Spike was going to die to save Faith. But she-"

"--became evil again because she couldn't resist the idea of getting
more Slayer power from the Shadow guys, and she wants to steal
Spike's soul. Okay, I get the gist. Why are we standing here and not
packing, and by we I mean you. Ya know sweaters, weapons, and books
like: `Fifty ways to get your soul back & how to put a crazy Slayer
in one of those X-men super-strength jails.'"

"Buffy, you're misunderstanding the situation. It is under control.
Spike's soul is fine" Giles said firmly.

"Please don't tell me you went behind my back and you have some plan
to kill Faith," Buffy said as she stormed into the guest room for her
stuff.

Then, she realized she had no stuff, only the clothes she came in
when she realized she was standing on her old grave.

"Ha!" Olivia said.

Buffy couldn't tell if Olivia was laughing at what Buffy had just
said or if she was laughing at her email. Maybe Giles always has
plans to kill people he thinks will go crazy and start killing
people. Thank God Buffy was back.

"Good lord, Buffy! No," Giles said as he followed her, "I just
received my most recent report yesterday, and Faith is fine, though
she seems to be keeping questionable company, like some other people
we know. However, for now all is quiet. There is no cause for alarm.
If you'd like to go back to America to see everyone feel free, but
you needn't invent an explanation of urgency to spare my feelings, or
should I say hurt them. How could you think I would--"

"Huh? I wasn't inventing any urgency," Buffy said, "You were telling
with the urgency."

"Oh please, Ripper. You tried to have the girl's lover murdered while
you distracted her with another tedious lesson. What is she supposed
to think?" Olivia called from the living room.

"You make me sound like I'm some character from a Greek Tragedy. He
was a vampire, a very dangerous vampire, who had an uncontrollable
time bomb in his head!" Giles called to Olivia.

"Then why do you tell me how much you regretted it? Didn't the
vampire save the world?" Olivia called to Giles.

"Just go back illegally getting music or whatever it is you do on
that box!" Giles said back to her.

"Hello, Giles, urgency of evil!" Buffy said, "Faith and a prophecy
and a vamp I lo- look to for back up losing his soul. Hey, it's like
fashion. When my life runs out of ways to suck it recycles itself
with a new twist. We never had all three of these before, and the
gang won't even have time to be weirded out or stressed about me
being back. We'll just have to jump in and deal with all of
this."

"Buffy, I'm sure everyone will be as thrilled as I am that you are
back with us, and that has nothing to do with your abilities as a
Slayer, which you don't need to use currently. Faith is not evil, and
Spike indeed has his soul. You see, these past two years each of them
had side effects- Faith from taking in the Shadow Demon, Spike from,
well you know, dying to save the world and resurrecting," Giles
explained.

"Oh yeah, that. I remember resurrecting after you saved the world can
make you a little mopey with upset stomach and diarrhea. What does
helping yourself to more of your share of Slayer Demon get you? Dry
mouth?" Buffy asked.

Great, so Faith was still all, or mostly, good, but really, what was
she thinking taking in that demon from those guys? It was so
obviously a bad idea. Of course, something bad was happening to Faith
because she had wanted more power. She took in a demon. What did she
expect? Spike, on the other hand, had saved the world, and it
insisted he come back to life, Buffy had to feel for him.

"The demon inside Faith was killing her. Spike, somehow, had the
power to burn his soul into Faith, so the demon presence wouldn't
kill her, but that was killing him. When Faith realized this she fled
with Angel to--"

"--save Spike's life. But, that means that she'd die," Buffy realized.

She felt guilty, like someone caught her in a lie.

"Yes, but Spike was able to save her," Giles said.

"You said he was okay," Buffy said suspiciously, "So, what is he, a
ghost or something? Because that's not okay in my book. He'd hate
that. It would kill him."

"No, he's fine, Buffy, though still a vampire--with a soul," Giles
told her.

"Okay, I know how these things work. How are they both alive?" Buffy
demanded.

"Well, there are theories. One is that of a telekinetic barrier and
auto-exorcism due to extreme adrenalin on the part of Faith, but I
favor the metaphysical neutralization reaction theory that Faith
would have also have had to been a catalyst for," Giles said.

"So, in non-occult-think-too-much-speak that means that Faith did
something--something that made it so they both could live," Buffy
said.

She felt embarrassed. Buffy had been angry at Faith again. She was
sure that when Spike saved her he had sacrificed something, but it
seems like Faith had saved them both. That only meant that Faith had
sacrificed something. Something big.

"What did Faith give up, Giles? What was the price?" Buffy asked.

She felt a little sick. Giles wouldn't lie to her, not completely. He
said that Faith was alive, but Buffy couldn't help but picture her in
another coma.

"Well, nothing really. She already had the spell done removing most
of the shadow demon, she just had to loose the remainder of it. So,
she--"

"A spell! Faith had Wes do a spell so she could save Spike, and stop
being a Slayer--for good! God, I figured when Spike said Wes did
something that made Faith powerless she was only temporarily not a
Slayer " Buffy swallowed, " I figured Wes did to Faith what you did
to me when you took my powers that time...only Faith had the luxury
of being in the know."

"Yes, well," Giles sighed, "Don't get me started on the Wyndam
Pryce's methods of `caution.' The mistakes I've made as your Watcher
pale in comparison to--"

"It was what Faith wanted," Buffy said, even though she couldn't
believe it, "I have to go back and help her, talk to her. She doesn't
know I'm here. She must be so--"

" If you care about what I think, I feel you deserve some time off
after being--"

"Us Slayers, never seem to get what we deserve, though do we?" Buffy
said quietly.

"There is little you can do now, Buffy. You should stay here with me
until your ready...At least that's what I think. You can stay here
for as long or as short as you like," Giles said.

She knew he wasn't talking about the Hellmouth. He wasn't even
talking about Sunnydale, or being dragged out of yet another
dimension, he was talking about change.

"How can I? I know there is Spike, but Faith isn't a Slayer anymore."
Buffy said it again and it sounded strange.

She never thought she would be saying that. She probably thought it
was more likely she'd be saying that Faith was dead. She couldn't
deny she thought it was more likely she'd be saying that Faith was
evil again. When Spike had said whatever he had said about Faith
having no power it never occurred to Buffy that what he was talking
about was anything different from the temporary lapse of power she
herself had experienced. Faith wasn't the kind of person that was
going to adjust to this sacrifice easily.

"Yes, but we don't know what potential Faith has. She seems quite
dedicated, that I know from Dawn," Giles said.

"Dawn," Buffy said hearing her voice get higher, "Faith has been
with Dawn this whole time I was away. She has been a good Slayer. She
didn't have to stay in Sunnydale. I have to go and help her,
Giles."

"She has Spike to help her, not to mention Willow and a new fighter.
She's secure for now," Giles said.

"Yeah that's easy for you to say, you've never had your power taken
away and suddenly been a five foot girl with nothing but--What? A new
fighter? What new fighter?" Buffy asked.

"His background is a little questionable, but--"

"A guy? Is he a demon? He's not one of those Immortal guys, is he?
Because the Mayor was one of those and he became the big snake,"
Buffy told Giles, even though she knew he knew.

"He has a soul. That much I know," Giles said.

"Oh, well that can't hurt. So, is he human? Is he cute?" Buffy asked.

"That I don't know. Willow never told me and she is my main source of
information on the boy. He seems very loyal to Faith. If you promise
to drop it for the moment, we can go to the shops," Giles
sighed.

"Well, I guess I'll have to give Willow a call to find out about
everything. She--she'll be able to handle it. Me being back. She'll
understand if I want to stay here in England with you. But I don't
think I can," Buffy told Giles, "I mean Faith, no Slayer power. I can
imagine how depressed she is. I mean, when I lost my powers I was
more than a little wigged. But Faith, being a Slayer, power, it's her
whole thing. She won't know who she is without it. Meanwhile, here's
Buffy totally thinking she went all evil again. She probably feels
totally alone and miserable. She doesn't know how to be powerless."
**

"I think I know how to do this," Faith said.

Her lip was twisted in determination, her eyes were utterly focused
on the handcuffs Spike had placed her lightly in. She looked at just
the lock. Her sparkling russet pupils narrowed in on it, then, they
widened to look over at Spike. Her eyes could hold a life time of joy
in a second. Perhaps, one needed superhuman reflexes to catch
everything her eyes said. They flashed it all so quick, and they were
constantly changing. Maybe her eyes weren't changing so much as it
was all one truth, but Spike was just a man, he had to break up what
they showed him into pieces otherwise they would overwhelm him. Her
eyes were now back to being part of the determined girl.

She took a bent tiny paper clip into her mouth, and brought it to the
handcuffs that were around her wrists. She stuck the paper clip in
the lock hole. As Spike watched her work her mouth with her wrists
bound he began to wonder why they weren't making love here on this
huge brass bed. True, the bed wasn't theirs. It belonged to The Evil
incorporated that Angel had gotten his ass bound up in, but proper
ownership had never stopped Spike from pleasing his girl.

Then he remembered, he had handcuffed her because she kept
distracting him from the job he set out to do. All he wanted to do
was settle his mouth between her legs for as long as she could
possibly stand, but her bad little hands and arms kept distracting
him, blinding him with pleasure and such. So, the handcuffs were a
good find, and fixed the problem. The pleasure became deafening
instead of blinding when he cuffed her to whatever it was that had
been handy outside the bathroom they were trying to clean. That was
all he wanted for the morning , to listen to her and feel her
pleasure. Of course, she had the best sultry moans with that throaty
voice she had, but what the average person might not know is she also
had quite the shriek. When she was done with all that she whispered
something, hiding her eyes. She said it had been "wicked mean" of him
to make her remember that she couldn't bust through handcuffs by
dangling the thing in front of her that she wanted most--to touch
him. That was when he had opened his big gob and said something about
how he knew how to open handcuffs without powers, and how it would be
a good thing for her to learn- some time.
So, this is how he ended up in such situations. Naked with the woman
he loved doing a training exercise. Spike wasn't an idiot. He knew
that Faith was the most dogged girl in all the world, and that
sacrificing her Slayer power would only make her train harder, and he
would be along for the ride posing as some kind of guide. He just
thought that maybe she would want to take a complete vacation until
they got back to home sweet Hellmouth, but of course Faith could
never really rest entirely. He had just had to handcuff her to do it,
hadn't he?

Spike settled up behind her. He felt the sunlight on her back as he
moved his hand lightly over it. She had suggested they move in here
because this room had a sky light, and she wanted him to experience
all the sunlight he could. Yes, she really wanted him to take
advantage of this special glass Evil Incorporated designed so blood
sucking murderers like him could go about and do business for them in
the daytime. Of course, she wasn't thinking of it like that. She only
thought about the present, the simple joy he could gain from being
here. He didn't give a toss about sunlight. He just wanted to be with
her, but he was starting to see how she looked in the sunlight now,
how she enjoyed it, and he did enjoy it. He would follow her example
and take nothing for granted. He hooked his chin over her shoulder as
it was busy moving to open the handcuffs.

"That's it twirl it `round. Don't be afraid to use your tongue," he
said.

Faith laughed and the wire fell out of her mouth.

"Fuck!" she snapped, "You did that on purpose."

She leaned back on him. Her back was a bundle of sunlit warmed meat,
bone, and energy.

"Did what? I'm helping. Wasn't this my idea?" he said.

"No, it wasn't. I was the one that wanted to use them to learn how to
be a self sufficient damsel, you just wanted the played out damsel in
distress," she said.

"It didn't seem like you were in distress to me," he said as he
nuzzled her neck. He felt her loosen as she exhaled. She leaned all
of her weight on his chest. He smelled a new shot of desire pour out
of her after he spoke.

"Are you sure you found these here, or do you just carry them around
in case a kink session breaks out?" she pulled up her body to turn to
him.

She was back at the handcuffs now. He knew he could probably seduce
her into another round, but she would tire and be distressed that
she couldn't put her hands everywhere. He decided that he had bound
her up enough for now. He'd rather watch her wrestle with the
handcuffs.

"I swear, I found them when I was looking for towels after we broke
the tub," he said.

"Yeah, I didn't know you could break a tub. Leave it to you," she
said with the wire in her mouth again.

"Me? It was your fault!" he said as he flopped his lower half on the
bed.

"How could it be my fault? The only things I can break now are my own
bones," she said.

"Not quite. All the damage done was your fault. You made me do it,
with all the things you did to me. Your roar is nothing but passion,
but you have quite the little skilled claws," he said.

He really didn't know how she did it. It had to be like rubbing your
stomach, patting your head, and screaming in glee all at once. She
had been in the tub shaking under him, and shaking him. It was when
she seemed to only be able to take him, she gave, by working her
little fingers in the best of places. It had made him kick at the tub
faucet, which had been surprisingly weak for a pipe in a place like
this.

"Really?" she smiled, turning to him as she had the paper clip wire
settled in the lock now.

"Let me put it this way. I trashed a house shagging before, but it
was already condemned. It never had a chance. Without you, I could
never have made a dent in this sodding palace. Together we could
probably rip out the foundation this place stands on," he said.

Her eyes flashed at him: lust, happiness, pride. She loved
compliments when they were dressed right. Then her eyes ached. There
was always some aching. Before he could think much about it she
kissed him, drinking his mouth in. He went to put his arms around her
but she had already broken away and was back at the handcuffs

"Mmm," she sighed as she jiggled the paper clip wire with her mouth,
"Well, we can't do that. We gotta be careful. Angel would kill us.
He's probably gonna bitch slap us already for the bathroom
thing."

"You think this place really belongs to Angel? Try it the other way,
love They pulled his strings, and the walls will come tumbling down
and the machine will collect his blood to keep running," he scoffed.

"You don't really think that." she said out of the side of her mouth
like when she talked with a cigarette in it.

She rolled her eyes after her forehead creased in concern. He'd have
to go out for more smokes soon. Faith had long run out. He was
surprised he hadn't thought of it until now.

"Like hell I don't. I've been saying it since the beginning, and you
know it too. You know a life like this doesn't come for free," he
said.

Of course she knew. It was just too hard for her to think about Angel
in the belly of the beast. He was the great hero after all. Spike
found he really didn't mind. He couldn't imagine being Faith's hero,
up in some murky tower. Spike was the one Faith really wanted on the
ground with her, and Spike knew all too well it was better to be in
reach.

"This place is filled with trophies. Whose handcuffs do you think
those are? Whose bubble bath? Whose sexy little useless
undergarments? Whose bloody awful CDs and trashy novels? They're all
past victims of the Evil Incorporated who thought this was their
house to holiday in," Spike said as he watched Faith work on the
handcuffs. .

He was trying to be gentle about it, but he knew he had to get her
ready for whatever price the big poof was going to pay for going
corporate. "Fuck," she sneered at the handcuffs, "I bit my lip. I
don't think you realize how lucky you are, Billy boy."

Faith glanced at him as if he were an amusing pet, but then looked
back at her bound wrists ruefully.

"Oh, of course I do, love! To be here with you on holiday after I was
supposed to die for you is the best thing to happen to me yet, and
I've been alive a while. I know I'm the luckiest man alive, but being
able to crash in some bloody greenhouse has nothing to do with it.
It's the company," he said.

He got up off the bed and tried to catch her eye as she worked the
wire with the handcuffs. "That's not why you're lucky," she
laughed, "See, you don't even know. You always have control of your
demon. Even if you were someone's bitch it was because you wanted it
that way. You call the shots--you got the soul. The rest of us--not
so lucky. Our demon gets the better of us and we have to back-petal.
You don't know how close I came to being a junior
what-ever-they-call-em' at W&H. At least Angel did it in a way where
he's in control. I'd have totally fucked it," she said.

"From what I heard the only thing you were trying to fuck was
yourself." he said, "I don't think you took the job of trying to off
Peaches from Evil inc. to get the corner office. I think you thought
it was a suicide mission."

"Nah," she grinned, her eyes flashing horrible pain at him, "I'm not
that deep. You're the one that went to get a soul. Me I-I had one
and I wanted to hurt Angel."

"Are you kidding? My deepest plans and thoughts were all around
trying to hurt Angel. It's a real thinker's hobby. Most of my plans
just ended up with the big poof dead, but you-you had a whole life
plan worked out, no matter how it went. I don't really see you as the
yuppie type though, you'd get sick of all their memos that you could
only show your tattoo and bludgeon people in the common area on
casual Fridays."

"No, that's the thing. I'd sell out. I'd have stayed with them. I
figured they were the real power, and if I stayed with the real
power, joined up with it, I'd be safe. The only reason I didn't is
`cause of Angel," she said all of this as if she were talking about
what they would have for dinner, between working the wire with her
mouth in the handcuffs.

"No!" he grumbled, "You're the reason you're not a bloody sell-out,
not Angel. You were the one that decided to go to the clink and spend
all that time alone. I don't know how you managed it. I'd have gone
mad by myself like that inside those walls. At least when I had the
chip I could go where I wanted. True, all I could do was annoy
people, but it turned out to be a worthwhile pass time."

"Don't talk about that chip," she closed her eyes as if the chip was
buzzing in her head, "I liked jail. I was safe from myself and from
people doing things to me because of what I was--things like the
chip. I was never alone. I had the company of about two thousand
other chicks, and Angel visited me, so he did more than decide not to
kill me. He brought me popcorn and drew me pictures for my wall."

Spike didn't know whether to roll his eyes or wipe tears from them.
Angel brought her popcorn and drawings when she needed--no
deserved--intense care! Someone had given her five dollars worth of
their money and a few hours of their time after she had tried to hurt
them, and she thought that made them a hero. Spike had hurt Buffy and
she had given him so much more than that. Again, he realized that
taking Angel down from his pedestal would be like taking out a piece
of the sky to Faith. He'd have to be careful not to do that, but he
wouldn't let Faith's belief in Angel interfere with her belief in
herself. The poof wasn't some old testament God that she could never
live up to. Angel was someone Faith had surpassed in saving people.

"The reason I'm in the light isn't because of this sodding house that
Angel or anyone else sold themselves to," he said as he knelt down by
her lap and put his hand in it.

"I've gone to the light for love before, but it burned bloody awful.
I'm not saying I would have done it any different, but I thought it
had to burn--had to hurt. But with you, light just feels good. I
think it's because you never tried to hide your dark. You glow just
right--not too blinding. I can see it all. It really makes you the
most beautiful creature to look at in sunlight like this. It kind of
does hurt to look at something so perfectly effulgent. You're eyes
are like living stained glass, and it does hurt to know I can only
see that in a place like this."

"Boy, have you got the wrong girl," she cackled and was the one that
rolled her eyes after touching her handcuffed hands briefly with
his.

"That all sounded like some Shakespeare thing. I did the plays in
prison `cause I was bored, but I never knew what half that shit
meant. It's wasted on me, and I' m no angel. If you're right about W
and H, I obviously have no problem using all their shi--"

"The only thing that's wasted on you is all this bloody self doubt,
and I'm right sick of it!" he snapped, but he did it too loudly.

It startled her. It was something he'd begun to notice, and probably
one would only notice if one had studied Faith for two years and had
super senses like him. She had jerked back just a little and frowned
after the fear flashed in her eyes. Then she quickly laughed at him
and drew her head towards him with eyes that dared him to strike her.
He was very familiar with that pose. It was better to demand a hit
when you knew it was coming anyway, then it was you that had the
control, or at least you could tell yourself that. Maybe he'd
understood a little bit before, but Spike understood it all so fully
now. Attacking Angel, and even Buffy, and running off to Evil
Incorporated. And he was right positive that he never loved anything
more than her.

"Any sod can shoot off his gob about lightness and see it, but you
make me feel it," he said quietly. "...and I really don't believe for
a minute that you didn't know what you were doing when you went to
Wolfram and bloody Hart. You're no fool, accept when it comes to
thinkin' you should die early. You shouldn't. You won't." "Maybe
you're right, with the new skills I'm picking up," she beamed a huge
gleaming smile at him when she opened the handcuffs.

"Hey, you did it," he said and put his arms around her.

He gave her little kisses on her full, smiling cheeks. She was far
more surprised than he was at her success, but he wasn't going to
chastise her for being surprised. All of her successes were great
gifts to her because of her surprise. "I knew I could, if I just
kept you distracted and yapping. It wasn't that hard," she smirked
and tussled his wet twisted hair.

Yes, he had been shooting his gob off about nothing that was
currently important, and she had started him on that path. He wanted
to spend every second of this time on her, because God knew other
things were going to sprout up, but not now. For all it's garishness
this place was a fortress of solitude. Faith had created it, no one
else. She had spun gold out of evil glass. She had saved his life by
turning her Slayer demon, the very thing that had been created to
kill him, into a martyr for him.

"Hey, here's a new skill to practice," he said as he sprung up from
the bed "Run away from the vampire you just brassed off."

"Sorry, there has to be some realism in a training exercise," she
said as she slid to the other side of the bed and rose, "I've had
your soul in me. I know what a candy ass you are. You might as well
be the snuggle bear running after me, on a beautiful summer day like
today. Well, okay the snuggle bear with a really...thick
bundle...that he can put on the spin cycle indefinitely, but--"

"I'll spin your ass red," he said as he stomped to where she stood.

She was baiting him again, and this time he'd rise to it because that
wasn't fear he smelled on her now. He smacked her on the ass once,
and let her run away so he could see her skin turn pink. She let out
a raspy yelp, and looked over her shoulder at him with her eyes
flashing a haughty startle and then desire as she ran to the other
side of the bed. He was no teddy bear, he flipped on his demon
face.

"You only had my soul inside you. You didn't have the other half," he
told her stalking towards her.

"Well, we musta been donin' somthin' wrong then. Because I want it
all," she said licking her lips and smiling wickedly.

"Why you runnin' then?" he said tilting his head.

His demon face took her in so brilliantly. He could see all the
caramel streaks drying with the rest of her dark chocolate hair. It
made wavy trails down to her large perfectly round red nipples. Her
smooth stomach moved in and out with breath. Her eyes looked straight
into him. They flicked impishly with awe.

"I'm not. Maybe I'm waiting to see what snuggle can do, " she said.

He flipped the big brass bed that was between them up on to the wall.
Faith's eyes went wide as Spike grabbed her forearms and pulled her
to him. Spike kissed her open mouth and felt it close around his as
he heard the sound of shattering glass. Then, he twirled Faith around
by her forearms while he kissed her before the bed could come
crashing back down to where she had been standing.

She was gasping,breathing hard between short but deep kisses. She had
locked one of her hands on the back of his neck and actually looked
shocked when he encouraged her to hang all her weight on it to climb
up him. He had her back up against one of the glass walls. She
trembled up the glass wall and his body as his one hand slickly moved
to pleasure her and the other arm lifted her up. Then he realized how
badly he wanted to be inside of her as she slid down the wall,
back-lit and beautiful her legs gripping his waist.

"How am I doing? Scary. Make you scream? You want growling with that.
"

His voice shook as he moved into her.

She wailed and dug her heels into his backside as it moved.

"Yeah," she moaned, "This is the kind of talk I ge---ah! "

"You get it all," he said after he moved in her roughly, "You're just
afraid."

"Keep the face," she sputtered.

They locked hands and her silver skull ring knocked vociferously up
against the glass. He growled as she kissed him, running her tongue
around his pointy teeth. She bared his neck to him, and he nipped her
with fangs. She roared in elation. She was trembling so violently
against the window that it groaned. He slid down the window with her
as he had nothing but pleasure and scattered thoughts in his
mind:

Bloody good, bright, tight, bite, (don't really bite) don't hurt the
girl, love, tight, happy screaming so good, so much better, so much
better than killing a Slayer, more screaming, never stop the good
screaming, never let her do bad screaming again, Best bad good girl,
Slayer. Beautiful bright, so bright. Don't need the window. Don't
need the sun. Need nothing but...Get her off of that cold hard glass,
you bastard! Don't hurt the bad girl, the good girl the BEST
girl.

He had them crash to the floor as he howled.

"Lose face now," her big lips stuttered, as she lay on top of him
touching his face, her finger tips tracing his wrinkles.

He shook of his demon face, and instantly roared ,jutting up into her.

"You,are awesome," she whispered as her eyes were soft with something
like amazement.

"No, that was all you. What you bring out of me," he said as he
reached up and caressed her face.

"You really aren't human," she beamed. "You are a phoenix, like the
one in Harry Potter. You rose up from that fire and shit, so you
could heal me. Show me balance. I thought--I mean I tried so hard to
be alone."

"You mean, you didn't think you wanted the love of a creature that's
beneath you?" he asked as he held her face.

He meant what he had asked, but he wasn't unhappy at all to ask it.
Maybe it was because he had just had the shag of his life when he was
sure he had already had it an hour ago. Before that he was sure he
had it some three years back, and before that he was right positive
he had it some 104 years ago. However, he was confident that he was
happy because of the expression of the girl that sat on top of him.
Her brow creased; she was confused by the question, but her big lips
were still turned up. Something seemed to touch her eyes and make
them shimmer. She understood the question now, she was the sharpest
tool of them all. It wasn't because she immediately understood it
all, it was how fast, how willing, she was to work out what she
didn't understand.

"No," she said, "I wanted to give it, to give to you. Someone,
anyone, who wanted. I never even thought about anyone--anyone so like
you."

He could hear her heart racing as if she were afraid. She trembled
slightly as she gently fell on to his chest. He could hear something
building up in her throat. He felt her stomach bump up against his as
she sucked air in and out. Answering his question was frightening to
her--painful. Nothing should be painful to her accept what she chose
to be. Faith hadn't chosen for love to be painful, but it was, wasn't
it? It was all right. He was a master at easing hurt like this.

"Oh, Firecracker," he said, "Shame on you. You never imagined wanting
to be with a mass murdering bastard?"

"Actually," she sat up on him and grinned, "I did imagine something
kinda like that for a while. When I was just a green Slayer, I would
read all the issues of Serial Killer Hunk Magazine and pin up the
really hot ones on my wall. Richard Rodriguez was my personal
fave."

"I think he's already married, and besides, he has bad skin in real
life, and why wasn't I in this bloody magazine?"

"Well, the real good ones aren't sellouts . See, I never imagined I
could get someone that wasn't a sell out and into all the stuff I
was: mass murderer, old school and new punk, B TV and movies. And
you're as pretty as me. It's crazy."

"And, I like Harry Potter, property damage, and spicy food too," he
reminded.

"Property damage," she grinned, "Angel is going to kill us."

"Sod him," he said, "Property damage completed, I could go for some
of that spicy food."

"No," she whined hoarsely, "That would mean I'd have to get up off my
ass. Let's just wait a second."

"Well, you're not the one on your ass, but better to wait `till the
sun sets anyway," he said as his hands caressed her ass.

"Mmm," she said as she lay down on his chest.

**

"Well, there is no sense in being a lay bout. 'When the going gets
tough the tough get going.' Remember, that's what Grandmother used to
say?" Alistair said cheerfully after Robin had demanded to know what
he was doing in the basement of his school.

Robin only had the vaguest idea of what Alistair was doing down in
Sunnydale High's basement. He was probably communing with the dark
Gods and Goddesses of whatever. Robin also found that he really
didn't care. He knew Alistair well enough to know that he wasn't
interested in hurting anyone at the school, if he were there would
have been signs. Literal signs saying `free lunch here' so he could
talk to the students, get inside their minds.

"By Grandmother you mean the woman you cheated on for fifty years,
not the woman who lived in Brooklyn and who I never saw after my
mother died," Robin sighed as he sank down and sat on the stairs.

"That wasn't my fault. It was that of my wonderful son's, " Alistair
said.

He had just closed a tiny portal that had been swirling full of fog.
Robin barely noticed it. He realized the world of demons and magic
was going to be in his face anyway, and all he could do was refuse to
be apart of it.

"Actually, I don't remember Grandma Liz ever saying that. She was too
busy complaining about what a jack ass you were," Robin said

"Yes, that woman never blamed her wonderful son for anything,
everything was all my fault," Alistair said.

"No, I mean I don't ever remember her saying `when the going gets
tough...' I think she used to say: 'Up and at em' George McMatten.' I
never knew who George McMatten was," Robin said.

It was true. He never knew a lot of things that were going on with
the Crowleys. He knew Bernard was only telling him half the stories
about demons because he wanted Robin to have a normal life. Yeah, a
black kid from Brooklyn living with rich English people in Beverly
Hills. Really normal. They could make a sitcom about that. Oh wait,
they had made two sitcoms like that. Right around the time he was old
enough to be pissed off about it, but not old enough to be able to
talk about it calmly with the Crowleys. Alistair was the only
straight shooter in the bunch.

"Ah yes, it was your mother that had the `tough' expression. It is
quite an American saying, isn't it? She was a spitfire, her mind was
so spicy. There used to be a bit of fire like that in your
grandmother, that's why I chose her. I should have taken the risk and
sampled her mind first. Then I'd have known what I was in for. Always
saying if I made time for the boy he wouldn't be so awkward around
me. That woman didn't realize how much working both sides took out of
a man. I say, how was I supposed to be an Ombudsman for the Council
and The United Front of Demons, and have time to play cricket with a
boy? It wasn't until I became my own man and retired from all that I
had time. It was much too late for me and Bernard, but at least I
could spend time with you," Alistair said.

"Yeah, yeah, it's all really Cat's Cradle and by that I don't mean
the song, I mean the book about the weird cult," Robin rolled his
eyes.

He had become quite the whiney old man, hadn't he? Robin knew he
didn't have much of a right to criticize this, even if Alistair had
created more of his own problems than Robin ever had.

"Cat's Cradle?" Alistair rubbed his beard nonplussed, " You know I
don't listen to contemporary musi--Oh yes, that book, didn't the cult
turn out to be correct? Isn't it interesting that you chose that
analogy."

Alistair only shot him a brief look and a sigh, but Robin knew that
was no real brief look or even a sigh.

"Okay, Alistair, what is it? The last time you looked this ominous
you told me that Santa Claus did exist, but he disemboweled
children." Robin rolled his eyes.

"I believed you had a right to know and to think my own son kicked me
out on Christmas day. I'll never forgive Bernard for that," Alistair
snipped.

"I was eight. You showed me pictures," Robin said.

"Well, you asked," Alistair reminded.

"So, I'm asking now. What is it?"

"Nothing a man resolved to lead an ordinary life would be interested
in."

Alistair was right. Robin was done with the mission. He wanted a
normal life, and he still even held out a distant hope that someone
he loved would want it with him. He knew that sacrificing Faith had
been the right thing; he loved her so much that he had wanted to
force her to stop fighting the damned mission. He had begun to have
evil fantasies about doing whatever it took to make her stop
fighting--extreme emotional manipulation, magic, locking her in his
house. He knew these thoughts weren't right. It wasn't the kind of
guy he was. Being in love with a Slayer- or even worse- an ex-Slayer
with no powers, who insisted on fighting, was making him crazy. So he
had to end it. Even though breaking up with her hadn't helped his
worry. He wasn't worried about Spike hurting Faith. He was confident
that Angel could handle Spike. He was just plain worried about her,
and that was driving him crazy. So he had resolved not to care about
the mission, the state of the world, good and evil, any of it. He did
care about his job, though, and Alistair doing magic in the basement
of his school might affect his job.

"Just tell me what you're doing here. You know what? Don't tell me.
Let me come out and say we have a policy at the school: No loitering
and/or living in the basement. Being that it's on the mouth of Hell
it never works out well. Though, if I'd been in the know when Spike
was staying down here I may have made an exception," Robin said.

"Made an exception for the classless ruffian that killed your mother
and not me?"

"He was insane when he lived here. He had just gotten his soul, and
he had time to think about what he did. But like a lot of kids, when
you make them sit alone and think about what they did, they get over
it. Still, maybe if Buffy Summers had never gotten him out of here, I
could come here and get in a full days work, and know right were he
is. Beneath me, crazy and suffering...Of course, it couldn't be like
that since if he stayed that way the world would have ended."

"Poor Robin. You were always looking for a perfectly just world, and
you could never have it. How do you live in this world, my dear
boy?"

"It's not easy. You're right, this isn't my world, but I have to live
in it. I really think the best thing to do is to remove yourself from
all of it. That's what I'm trying to do. It's best to realize it's
not your world, and then you just stop caring. You realize all the
things that kept you going were never yours to begin with, you know,
stuff like that. Then you can just become an average working slob, do
you're job and go home. Unless your adoptive gramps comes by your
workplace and starts messing around with black magic, that kinda puts
a dent in the plan."

"I don't believe this poppycock that you are sprouting for a moment.
All of the differences that I've had with my family over the years,
I've alwaysknown that there was never any Crowley that was a
quitter," Alistair said.

He was drawing something on the basement wall with chalk. Maybe he
was responsible for the graffiti down here, and not the kids.

"Well, like I keep trying to tell you people, I'm not a Crowley. I'm
a Wood, and we're quitters," Robin said as he watched Alistair
draw.

He knew he should be stopping the old man from drawing on the walls,
but he just didn't care. Robin had been like that lately. He saw kids
with cigarettes clearly evident in their back packs and just let it
go. They were going to smoke and screw and fail and die. What could
he do about it?

"I had differences with your mother too, but for everything she was,
she was never a quitter," Alistair said with his back to Robin.

Alistair was more interested in what he was drawing.

"What do you--- " Robin felt his head get tight, but then he just
sighed and let it go, "Sure she was. She rolled over and died for one
vampire--one! That never happens to a Slayer. She had to have stopped
trying. I-I think I remember her inviting him into the house. Maybe
she even became his friend---"

"Maybe more. Who knows what kind of physical exchange she and Spike
were having on the L the night she died. Maybe the vampire got too
carried away, or maybe he meant to, that would make more sense,
wouldn't it? You're mother liked having men in her life. Bernard
allowed it, I never--"

"What the hell are you trying to say to me? What are you trying to
suggest?"

Robin heard his voice become a low growl. He felt his hands ball into
fists.

"See, you are no quitter. Some of it's in the genes, but most of it's
in the breeding, I always thought."

Alistair was looking right at him now. He really did look like a
little old man with the basement wall of countless grey bricks rising
behind him. Maybe he looked a little like the disemboweling Santa
Claus, but thin. Gramps liked to keep a good appearance.

"This is just another one of your tricks," Robin smiled.

He was amused at how hard the old man was trying. "Well, I'm not a
freshman in college anymore, Alistair. You can't dangle Spike out in
front of me saying that we are going to get him, but in the meantime
I have to do whatever it is you have in mind," Robin said.

He welcomed back the comfortable amused numbness he had been feeling.

"This isn't like before, Robin. I'm done with wanting followers,
making my name in the world or worlds. I'm not a young man anymore,
and I want someone to carry on my spirit when I die," Alistair
said.

He was the one that looked tight-faced and desperate now.

"Carry on your spirit? Okay, why does that sound just a little
creepy? What are you going to propose to me? We kill Spike and then I
do some black magic spell to revive you when you die?"

"You were always such an imaginative boy. No, I didn't say that I was
interested in carrying on my soul, just my spirit. I'd like someone
in the family to remember me fondly, carry on the work I began. It's
good work, Robin. Not everything I've done is horrible, you know? I'm
just someone who understands the cost of things, as do you. I gave up
my family, you gave up Faith. We aren't quitters. We did it because
we made a choice to go for greatness," Alistair told him strongly.

"Greatness. I'd settle for some decent Thai food, and one good
night's sleep, " Robin chuckled.

"I really do not like this new attitude on you. You are at your
strongest when you're fighting for justice...When you're angry."

"Well, I wouldn't be the only one here with an attitude problem. I
think I'll go check on the kids in detention," Robin said and turned
to leave.

"You still have some fight in you, Robin. You want justice, and
things are more unbalanced now then they've ever been," Alistair
said.

"My fight is dead. You're right, I wanted justice, not vengeance.
There is no justice if I kill Spike now. And we made our deal. Faith
is safe and you got to do your black magic in my school. Thanks for
the heads up that it would reopen the Hellmouth, by the way. We
already had one student death, they said it was a suicide but I knew
that girl, she would never--"

"I can give you back your fight. Make you angry again, you'd be the
son of a Slayer again, if not the lover of one," Alistair smiled.

"If you even attempt to put some kind of spell on me I'll--" Robin
growled as he turned back to the old man.

"I'm not your enemy, son. I truly only want to give you what you
want, truth, justice, and the American way. Isn't that little saying
adorable? However, I'm serious. I'm involved with people now who are
interested in justice. If only you saw what was going on now with
Faith and that thug you'd have your spirit back, that's for sure,
but--"

"What? Spike got Faith?" Robin demanded as he walked down the stairs.

"You might say that."

"Oh my God! No, it can't be true. We did that spell to protect her."

"You can't protect people who don't want to be protected. "

"She went to him in the end, of course. Like a moth to a flame. Not
even that other vampire could stop that. So, he killed her. I-I'm
glad I wasn't there to see it. I'm glad I got out."

"Faith isn't dead, dear boy."

"What? Oh God. Thank God. Feel free to be more forthcoming with any
information like that."

"I will indeed."

"So, she isn't dead, but you said he got her? Faith said this would
all come to an end. That weird ass prophecy said something about
Spike burning Hell into her. So, what is it, Alistair? Is she a
walking 3rd degree burn? Is she some walking Hell dimension now, and
if you touch her you experience Hell? Is she some kind of
monster?"

"Indeed."

"Okay, you know how I hate that word. If you are going to be like
this I can easily find out elsewhere."

"Where? From those children? The best source of information of Faith
is Mr. Wyndam-Pryce. I've actually started working on a project with
him myself, rebuilding the Council. I know he wants to make it more
`egalitarian' and `proactive.' Now there are words I hate. You might
be interested in the concept though."

"Why? What does it have to do with Faith? Where is she? What happened
to her?"

"I'm afraid you wouldn't believe me if I told you. You have to see
it."

Alistair gestured to the basement wall, and now it seemed to be
leading into a room of a brightly lit house. Robin knew, of course,
that the basement wasn't suddenly leading to a beach view condo. If
magic worked like that, it would be worthwhile to take it up like the
old man wanted. However, Robin realized actual magic wasn't really
magic at all. It was like a really expensive hobby. It was like box
kite flying, or photography. Only some people were really good at it,
and the cost was high, and it was mostly a waste of time. Watching
other people do it who were good at it could be entertaining. Robin
touched where the opening to the room seemed to be, and the pattern
of the basement bricks showed up over it.

"Stop it!" Alistair chided, "Why must you always do that?"

"It's cool," Robin shrugged.

Funny how your family always treated you like you were seven years
old, and then you acted like it. Robin hadn't seen this trick in
about twenty years, so there was no way he was "always" doing
anything. But he always touched the "screen" when he was a kid.
Alistair would show him things, like untelevised baseball games or
what Kim Fields was doing at her house. Robin had a crush on the
actress that played "Tootie" when he was little, and Alistair would
show him what "Tootie" was doing at her house, that was until Bernard
came in and put a stop to it. Bernard explained about "abuse of
power" and "privacy violations." Of course, he was right, but Robin
was only 10, and he told Bernard that if Tootie really knew him she
wouldn't mind that he looked at her. Now Robin was looking at
Faith. He wasn't sure if she would mind with the way they had left
things, but he had to know she was safe. He had to know what was
going on. She looked much better than whatever Alistair had been
alluding to. Robin was sure that this was some attempt of Alistair's
to remind him of how beautiful Faith was, so Robin would want Faith
back. If Robin had a life with Faith, Alistair probably assumed that
Robin would need him more, and be more open to getting back into the
family.

Who knows? Alistair's idea may work. Faith looked radiant. She looked
more like a Beverly Hills wife than some down and dirty fighter who
left Robin to have Hell burned into her by some evil demon. She was
brushing her cinnamon and chocolate hair with a new brush, not the
one where the handle was cracked that she refused to throw away. She
was wearing new clothes too. Well, almost clothes. She had on an
amazing satin bustier that wasn't at all loud like some of the others
she wore. It tastefully showed off what she had. She looked more
serene than he had ever seen her. There was no occasional staring off
at nothing or frowning. Maybe that was because there was no one else
there to bother her. No bratty teens or twenty-somethings reminding
her that she had to go slice things up.

She looked so completely free of any trouble he began to wonder what
great change had occurred. He knew it was Faith. Her body, her face,
they were burned into his mind like his mother's was. Maybe he tried
hard to remember her because he knew she wouldn't last like his
mother. Faith was definitely different though, and it wasn't just the
clothes. He now saw that she had stockings with seams and a garter
belt. She went into a huge closet that was mostly empty and took a
black suit off of a hanger as she giggled. It had to be Chanel or
Barney's. It was something she could never afford, nor anything she
would let him buy for her. He had tried to buy her some clothes once.
He wanted to see her in something else besides ratty jeans or skimpy
cheap things. She said if she wore the clothes he suggested she would
feel like she was "in drag or posing as someone else."

Well, she would be the best drag queen poser he had ever seen. She
looked amazing in the suit, even though it was a little tight around
the bust. She seemed to know it too as she looked in the mirror. He
saw a hint of the familiar Faith come back as she gave the mirror a
sharp jerky grin. Then she guzzled down a whole cup of water, belched
and wiped her mouth as she straddled a chair backwards in the skirt.
Robin shook his head and smiled. Yes, it was her, and Robin loved
her. If Alistair was trying to remind Robin of that, it had
worked.

"So, what is this really?" Robin laughed as he watched Faith bend
over in the mirror to see if her garter belt showed when she did
it.

"Some vision of the future that'll happen if I do some magic thing
with you or something? I always told Faith she'd fit right in with
having the best things in life. Looks like she finally believed me,"
Robin said to Alistair as they both watched Faith hike up the skirt
so the garter belt did show.

"Not quite," Alistair said.

"So, what do I have to do to make this happen? You're gonna say move
back to Beverly Hills, aren't you?" Robin sighed, but happily.
"This isn't what could be. This is what is. This is how we get your
fight back. I'm sorry it has to be this way, but you do always want
the truth, don't you?" Alistair said this dramatically.

"Right, Oh great spirit of Christmas present," Robin rolled his eyes.

"Watch," Alistair said.

Sure, this was fun to watch. Faith was straddled on the chair and put
on a color of lipstick he'd never seen her wear. It wasn't overly
dark or red, it looked better, more grown up. Robin knew that was
part of the problem with them. Faith was young. She had some growing
up to do. Maybe Alistair was showing Robin Faith could grow up. No
matter what he knew the old man had an angle.

That's when Robin saw him. It was only the back of his head as he
looked at Faith looking into the mirror. He had no reflection, but he
was there. His hair was wet and curled up at the ends. It pointed in
different directions, but it was that horrible pale yellow.

"I'm ready to play," he said, "What is it? Shoots and ladders. We
haven't done shoots and ladders, have we? We've done Go fish, we did
Lick the flag pole. Of course we could do Rock `em Sock em Robots
again, but I vote for Shoots and Ladders."

"I was afraid of this. Look, if you can't act in a professional
manner we'll just have to forget the whole thing," Faith said.

She got up of the chair,
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