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this could be the real thing (i overthink it)

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The calm morning at Summers Central, or at least that’s what Dawn had taken to calling it, was suddenly disrupted by the return of Buffy and Faith from their pre-dawn patrol — something they’d gotten in the habit of doing here in Cleveland, hoping to catch any vamps slinking back to their crypts after a night on the town. 


“Listen, B, I just meant that--” Buffy put the scythe down on the kitchen island as they move further into the house, both of them moving at a leisurely pace, sore and tired from the slayage. 


"Faith, stop. You don't have to prove anything to me. At least not when it comes to Willow.” Buffy watches as Faith stops mid-defense and seems visibly surprised to hear that her tentative relationship with the resident witch is held in such esteem by Buffy. 


“Don’t look so shocked, have I really been that bad?” No, she hadn’t. Faith realized as she gave it a little thought. She knew that Willow had told Buffy about the shift in their relationship, and aside for an adjustment period and standard quips Buffy had never said anything cutting. Hadn’t hit any of the nerves Faith knew she could. And much to Faith’s surprise Dawn had confronted her about it without any prompting — undeniably smug about her own deduction and protective as ever. Of Willow of course but Faith knew, of Tara too. But no, never once had Big Sis undermined the fact that Willow had clearly decided this was what she wanted. 


That, of course, didn't mean that she and Dawn hadn’t teased them mercilessly for any remotely couple-like behavior they engaged in publically. Which was minimal and thus the bar for a good old tease-fest was painfully low from the outset. Willow letting Faith steal food from her plate at dinner, or the way Faith tried to casually put her arm around Willow when they’d taken Dawn to watch a movie, or for the first few weeks, any time they said two words to each other had warranted an ooh-ing or an ahh-ing. 


“Was I mildly whigged at first, yes but I can see how good you've been for her. It wasn't right with Kennedy, she was a spoiled brat,” Don’t hold back, B. “And you know, different... than Tara--"


"And here I am, all sunshine and puppies.” Buffy cringed. “Just, the walking embodiment of all things sweet and kind." 


"I didn’t mean it like that, you-” Buffy took a second to gather her thoughts, “You understand Willow. What she's been through. Kennedy never could, never tried.” She thought back to when Willow had first told her that she was sleeping with Faith — in an ongoing capacity. Not the one-night stand (or so they assumed) before the battle with The First. It had been a shock but also, it hadn’t.


Buffy had seen them getting closer and at first, she couldn’t help feeling a twinge of jealousy that there was a part of Willow that Faith could automatically relate to more than Buffy ever could. She wondered if that’s how Willow had felt when she and Faith had been so Sister Slayer when Faith had first arrived in Sunnydale. “You guys, have a connection I get it, it's different. It’s good she has someone. It can't always just be me or Xander, I don't envy that.”


Yeah, it’s an exclusive club, Faith thought. Evil-doer’s Anonymous. If you’ve killed in cold blood, violated or tortured people you care about, join us!


But she knew from the look on Buffy’s face she meant it.  There was a flash of something unspoken in Buffy’s eyes. Shame and remorse. At what could have been. If Faith had died that night. 


“Plus, you know, clearly there were motivations of the love kind happening and I love Will but I don't love her." Faith resisted the urge to deflect from the use of the L-word with her usual brand sexually charged bravado. Although she was sure Buffy didn’t have the moves to get Willow going quite as viscerally Faith could. 


"No big, B, we're five by five. I know I can never replace Tara but I'm not gonna play jealous at someone who ain't even here. I dig Red, Red loves Tara. We got a good thing going and I'm not about to mess it up but acting all possessive and shit." 


Buffy watched as Faith grabbed an apple from the bowl just beside them and walked off, probably heading straight for the shower to stake her claim before the others started waking up. 


Buffy wasn't really sure how serious Willow and Faith's relationship was, they were exclusive she assumed, every time Buffy expected Faith to make an advance or a crude comment when they were out the other Slayer was noticeably restrained. She was still Faith, but she wasn't looking for anything more than whatever she and Willow had going. All her overtly sexual commentary usually directed at Buffy and her lack of activity in that arena but when it came to all things Willow if Buffy was being honest, she was really kind of… sweet. 




Later Buffy found Willow in the study researching, she was seated on the sofa, legs crossed and laptop open. Buffy entering the room did little to distract Willow from the computer screen but the weight of Buffy sitting down beside her pulled Willow away of whatever had her attention. “Hey, Buff,” she smiled softly and set the laptop on the table near them. 


“Sorry to disrupt the research, Dawn have you cataloging demons again?” Buffy knew that Willow and her sister took some sort of perverse pleasure from scanning and cataloging all of Giles books and codexes? Codi? Codices? Nevermind. 


“No, just your standard cram session for a good old bio exam.” Ah, Buffy nodded. After some intervention from the newly reimagined Watcher’s council, with Giles now pretty much Travers adjacent (in terms of leadership), they’d managed to get some mock transfer papers for Willow so that she could finally finish her degree. It seemed silly to some of the newcomers and maybe a little egotistical to others — the girl with the power to literally reshape and redistribute the essence of the Slayer line was determined to finish her college education when she really had no need for it. Just because she could. But Buffy knew it was more than that, it was all part of her recovery. Willow couldn’t be all Wiccan, all the time. She needed to nurture the parts of herself that were extraordinary even before the magic. She needed balance and learning about normal, earthly constructs gave her that. 


“What’s up?” Buffy shifted awkwardly next to Willow not exactly sure if she was overstepping. They hadn’t spoken much about Willow and Faith’s relationship beyond it existing and Buffy knew she was somewhat to blame. Willow was clearly reluctant to bring it up, tiptoeing around the matter (but never wanting to make Faith, or herself for that matter, feel like it was something they had to hide) and Buffy hadn’t done much in the way of negating that tension. But now the Slayer felt they were in need of a serious girl talk sesh. 


"I can't believe these words are willingly exiting my mouth but I need to ask you something.” Sensing Buffy’s apprehension, Willow’s brow immediately creased.


“Okay…” Willow’s words were drawn out, clearly expecting the worse from Buffy’s random appearance in the study and no current supernatural crisis that Willow was aware of. 


“No!" Buffy was quick to squash Willow's concern.


"There's no need for frowny, I don't think?” A perplexed expression suddenly clouded Buffy’s face. She wanted to support Willow no matter what but she suddenly realised she was protective of Faith. She was doing everything right and she didn’t want the other girl to get burned. 


She got the vibe this morning that Willow may just be using Faith, not abusing her affections by any means but Buffy believed deep down, Faith did want to be loved, she craved connection and it was a lack of that that had, in part, led her down such a destructive path. At first, she'd been wary of Faith's classic use 'em and lose 'em attitude hurting Willow but Willow had quelled those concerns and now, she's not so sure that the opposite isn't true. ”It's just that, I had an interesting conversation with Faith earlier."


"Oh…” There was a mixture of surprise and relief in Willow’s voice. “About me… and Faith?" Her eyebrows rise with the pitch of her voice. 


"And Tara." There was a softness in Buffy’s voice only Tara could evoke, a preciousness there they all clung to even almost two years after she had died. They were all trying to get better at not holding things in. It was okay to talk about Joyce and Tara and Spike and Anya without worrying about Willow's power flickering every light in the house or Xander fighting the urge to put his fist through some drywall. 


"Oh." Willow’s face was solemn but even more confused by the direction of this conversation as the seconds went by. 


"Is it just sex? You and Faith?" Buffy’s face scrunches up. She knows she’s behaving like a thirteen-year-old but she can’t help it.


"Gosh, no, Buffy. Is that what she said? Is it just sex for her? I know it's not what anyone expected, least of all me, but I thought--" 


"Will, no.” Buffy reached out to touch Willow’s forearm and reel her back from babble oblivion. 


“That's not what she said I just, I know you guys are doing that but neither of you is exactly sing-songing around the house making with the eyes.” Willow began to respond but was quickly shut down. “And hey, there's no judgment. This is a definite no judgment zone. Faith is you know, well you would know, she's--" Buffy feels herself begin to flush and Willow gets this goofy grin on her face. She is more then well aware of Faith’s attractiveness. 


"Smokin', I know.” It was such a Faith thing to say and they both giggle. “It's not... just sex, at least for me. I can't explain it, I know we're not all coupley but she's there for me and we just, connect. We understand each other and I know it's Faith and she's… different but it works." 


"I get it." 


She thinks about Spike, how different her feelings were for him compared to her feelings for Angel but it’s never the same. You don’t love people in the exact same way for the exact same reasons.  She doesn’t know if she loved Spike, not completely but she was telling Angel the truth when he gave her the amulet, he was in her heart. There was a connection. And it got twisted and abused but there were moments when it counted, where there was companionship, support. Understanding. A steadfastness that Faith is proving more and more capable of the longer she sticks around. And Buffy thinks, other than prison, this is the longest she’s ever committed to anything. Being here, in Cleveland with them. With Willow.


"I know." Willow smiles, grateful for the unconditional support Buffy is giving her, even now. 


"Speaking of different, there may have been a classic case of major whole-leg-in-mouth on my part. I was trying to say that I, you know approved and I may have led with how wrong Kennedy was for you and how un-Tara like,"


"Buffy…" It wasn’t exactly a sore spot for them, Willow had never expected or even wanted Faith to be more like Tara, or like her at all, but she knew there must be some underlying insecurities there, she was only human and Willow and Buffy both understood more than most how much of a facade Faith’s bravado was. 


"I know." Buffy literally threw her head down to meet her palms, kicking herself at how she had misspoken earlier. 


"It’s nice, talking about her, with you. Faith, I mean.” It’s how it should be, Buffy thought, and I've been majorly neglecting best friend duties. She was upset at herself that she hadn’t made it clear that they could. Of course, they could. 


“I remember, when Faith first came to Sunnydale, I got so jealous ‘cause I just thought you had this shared experience, being Slayers, and it was this exclusive club no one else could ever join but I don't want you to feel like that, Buffy.” She looks down, embarrassed of how easily Willow can see through her when she knows what an oversimplification of the situation it is and as if to further drive that home, Willow continues but there’s no scolding in her voice, “Faith and I, we don't sit around reminiscing about all the people we killed but it's real, we can’t pretend it didn’t happen and we have to find a way to live with the things we did. That we are capable of that, that there's a part of us that liked it, and I don't ever want you to know what that feels like but you're still the person I want to come to and share things with. You're my best friend, Buffy. I love you." 


Willow blinked away the wetness brimming in her eye’s and Buffy leans across the couch enveloping her in a crushing hug. 


"Back atcha.” Her voice is low and coarse with emotion and she squeezes Willow’s shoulders once more and draws back. She feels almost a sense of relief that even with this disconnect between them lately, they’d been on the same page. Both thinking about the history that the three of them shared. 


"I take it the conversation went downhill from there? After the metaphorical self-cannibalism?" Willow seemed sympathetic, she knew that they'd been getting along so well lately and hoped things hadn't blown out of proportion. Judging by the lack of bruised jaw on the Slayer in front of her, she at least hoped it hadn't gotten physical. 


"That's actually what I came to talk to you about. To add to the list of ways our new and improved Faith continues to surprise, she was totally respectful and five by five-y about the whole thing. She wasn't mad or offended about Tara, she just seemed kinda resigned." 


Willow's furrowed, confused brow returns.


"Resigned how?" 


"Like it's you and Tara... and then Faith." 





When Faith gets back from patrol that night, Willow finds her in their room, well Willow’s room technically, but whether the others have noticed or not (and Willow isn’t so sure after the conversation she had with Buffy) they rarely spend the night apart. 


It is their room. Isn't it? Willow had suddenly found herself questioning everything during the last few hours but it was just a fact at this point that Faith’s room was a glorified storage space.


Faith is sitting at the foot of the bed unlacing her boots and she can sense Willow hovering in the doorway immediately. 


(Faith knows being the Slayer means she's, enhanced, it makes her more aware of her surroundings in general but she’s positive she can feel  Willow. It's not the same as knowing a vamp is about to jump her and she wouldn’t compare it to the connection she feels with Buffy and all the brats. It’s something more, a constant pull. Probably some wacky mojo side effect and she’s not about to get all mushy about it.) 


She pulls her boots off and sets them by the bed, watching Willow fidget out of the corner of her eye. “You good?” Faith asks the question casually, her eyes don’t linger on her for long but Willow swears she seems almost amused. 


Willow walks fully into the room, shutting the door in her wake and paces in front of Faith trying to find her words. "I think we need to, uh, clarify some things and feelings. So that we all know how some people are feeling about… other people." Willow feels her own face cringing at the total lack of smoothness she is exuding right now. 


Yep, definite amusement. 


"B, speak to you?" It seems almost pointless to ask and Faith knows both Buffy and Willow well enough to know she was never gonna get out of the conversation the two Slayers had that morning without a follow-up. She’d just been grateful Buffy hadn’t brought it up again while they’d been out earlier. 


"A conversation may have been had but--" Willow is still swaying in front of her and Faith reaches out to grab her hand, stopping her perpetual movement. 


"Willow, we don't have to do this. I know where I stand." Her voice goes from sympathetic to clipped in one breath. It’s as defensive as Willow has seen her in months and one of the few times she can think it’s happened regarding them and not just Faith being cagey about her past. 


Faith goes to gather the jacket she’d tossed next to herself on the bed and get up but this time Willow halts her movement. She steps forward placing her hand on the other woman’s strong shoulders and she’s close enough in the end that her legs rest on either side of one of Faith’s forcing the girl to look up at her. 


"I don't think you do.” Despite how nervous she is there is a conviction in her voice that demands Faith's attention. 


Resolve face. 


“You think I have some fantasy where Tara somehow comes back tomorrow and what? I'd be all, well thanks for the smooches and the hot sex, but see ya later?" Faith practically flinches at Willow’s ability to pinpoint her insecurity but Willow’s voice softens, "It’s not that simple.”


Willow is looking at her so intensely, she finally gets what people mean when they say someone's eyes are piercing, but she stares back. A challenge in her gaze, the little girl that no one loved screaming isn’t it? 


Willow straddles her, it’s not a sexual advance but she moves her body flush against the Slayer’s rigid form. Feels the reluctance to trust radiate from every fiber in Faith’s body and yet, like she has no control over it, Faith’s arms wrap around her. Securing her position, keeping her close. Keeping her safe. 


“Tara's not coming back and if I learned anything from what I put her through it's that I shouldn't be so arrogant as to think that if she were here we’d just live happily ever after. That I was entitled to that.” Willow has opened up to Faith more than anyone about the reality of their break-up. The lines she’d crossed.


“Things are different now, I'm different. I miss her so much, sometimes it makes my chest ache,” she’s trying to hard not to cry but a few stray tears fall, “but you make it ache a little less.” Faith blinks and watches her for a moment. Willow presses her hand to Faith's chest, lightly gripping the tank she’s wearing in her fingers. 


“You make me happy, Faith.” It sounds like the most obvious and the most ridiculous thing in the world. Willow still finds herself in a daze some days, that of all people, it’s Faith. 


It’s Faith.


And for Faith, the idea that she is capable of contributing something good and worthwhile to the world. That she isn’t just the dirt on someone’s show waiting to be wiped off. That’s the hardest part. Of all of this. Feeling worthy. 


“And I'm terrified." Terrified is a generous term for how she feels, for why she’s been avoiding a conversation like this one for months. Everything she and Tara had, how much she loves her, she doesn’t know if it was worth it. You hear people talk about how the pain was worth it for the moments they shared, the love you had and Willow thinks that’s crap. She’s not evolved enough to just be grateful for the time they had together. People who say they’d do it all again, wouldn't change a thing? Liars. 


Faith swallows and clears her throat but her voice still cracks with emotion and lack of use, "Terrified of what?"


Moment of truth.


And as scared as she is, Willow knows it has to be her. Because Faith, who Willow thinks has never truly loved and been loved in return — unconditionally, by anyone (except maybe Angel) will not take this leap. 


She leans forward places the softest kiss she can muster against Faith’s lips. Leaving them nose to nose when Willow pulls back. "Falling in love with you.”


“It's no use. I feel it.” She says it so quietly Faith thinks your average human would struggle to hear it. 


Willow’s breath tickles her face as she speaks. “Every time you go out to patrol with Buffy, every time you touch me and kiss me and when you share your hot pocket with me."    


Faith can’t help but chuckle as Willow’s humor cuts through the pressure in her chest.


"Okay, that last one sounded less dirty in my head."  She is eternally grateful at that moment for how well Willow knows her. The gravity of what Willow has just done is met with no expectation of a grand reciprocation. She knows she showed her hand to Buffy this morning and now Willow is giving her this gift and without even saying it, not placing any pressure on Faith to do the same. No grand pause, no “Don’t you love me too?”


"It was plenty romantic, Will. Trust me.” Her hand's trail across WIllow back, “You know I'm no good with all the touchy, feely shit--"


"You do better than you think,” her lips brush Faith’s cheek, “but don't worry, I won't damage your stone-cold street cred." Willow-mockery is always soothed with the sweetest inflection. 


"Appreciate that, but I uh,” she steels herself, she’s never been in love, with anyone, but some things she hopes, even for abused, fucked up, reformed ex-cons, you just know . “If that fluttery feeling I get in the pit of my stomach when you walk in the room and uh, my chest being all tight when we're apart and wanting to share my hot pocket with you is love then I guess, I'm your girl." 


Willow hums in approval at the sentiment, "I guess you are." And she is sure that the flush on Faith’s cheeks is the absolute most adorable thing she has ever seen in her life. She smiles brightly pulling Faith in for another kiss and then leaning forward with all her weight to propel them down onto the bed. 



Faith’s head is resting on her chest as Willow runs her fingers through her hair. She might stab anyone if they found out but it might be her favourite thing. No one’s ever played with her hair before. She’s never let anyone, for that matter but she’s pretty confident the intent had rarely been there. 


Willow stops stroking and tugs her hair lighting just to get her attention.


"I am too, you know?"


Her own hands momentarily stop tracing patterns across Willow’s torso. 







You and me, babe, been a really long drive

Falling asleep on the passenger side

When we get home, will you hold me close?

Eye to eye and nose to nose

the real thing, Wrabel