What do you give the girl who has everything?
See Chapter One for Disclaimer.
They were abruptly outside, standing in the middle of the park.
In two feet of snow.
"Holy Shit!" Faith looked around in surprise. "I know Kira thinks it's pretty, but this is a little much."
The snow stopped, just stopped, like someone had thrown a switch.
Buffy was surprised into a little smile.
"Guess you need more practice with that omniscience thing, huh?"
Faith nodded ruefully.
"Well, it helps if I'm paying attention."
She walked over to where the playground equipment lay buried under heaps of white. The snow sparkled in the light of the moon, which was visible now since the clouds had vanished. Buffy stood for a moment, then followed. The two of them looked around for a minute, and the older girl struggled to find a way to break the growing silence.
Faith looked at her, and she went on.
"We're not going to be able to grow our own food for everybody you know. And it's not like we can ship it in anymore, either."
Faith dismissed that with a toss of her head.
"Not a problem. I can create it. Every morning the grocery shelves will be full."
"Oh." She thought for a minute. "Well, there's not going to be much work for a Slayer, around here. Not with you turning all the bad guys into muppets."
Faith smiled, seeming encouraged by the older girl's words.
"Don't be so sure. Remember how I said that the dimensions were like bubbles in the ocean? Well, the current that brought this world up near ours still has hold of it. Now we're being pulled deeper again. There are other dimensions down there, too. A lot of them. Right now they're so far away that I can barely feel them, but we're going to be getting closer. If there are demons or mages or whatever in charge of them, they'll be able to open bridges to here and come visit. I don't have direct power over something from somewhere else, either. If they're assholes, we'll have to fight them the old fashioned way." She grinned. "And if we want, we can go check out their places, too. Think of what we might find out there! I'm telling you, we could be in for some seriously cool shit." She suddenly became serious. "Range is important, though, and that's something I have to tell you. Since we're going 'deeper', I'm not going to be able to reach the real world for much longer. If there's anyone else you want to come along for the ride, you'd better tell me tonight."
Buffy considered that.
"Anyone? You can copy them, or split them, and bring them here?"
"Yeah. You have anyone in mind?"
Of course she did. The question was, did she really want to start all that over again. The younger girl was watching her closely.
"You want Angel."
It was a statement, not a question. Buffy looked back at her, torn by indecision. Faith could cure Angel, she was certain of that. They could finally be together. If that's what she wanted. Angel had hurt her, so many times, and so badly, that she wasn't sure she was even capable of loving him again. She had started to heal, to move on, finally. The thought of opening those wounds again was just too painful.
"No. No, I don't need anybody else."
She tried to hide it, but Faith's relief was obvious.
The other girl scuffed her foot in the snow for a moment.
"So, we're cool? You'll give this a chance?"
"Yeah. I'll give it a try. But I don't want you messing with anybody's head." She made her voice stern, trying to convey how serious this condition was to her. "I don't want you to make Giles and the others like you, or go along with you. We'll go talk to them, and explain what's happened. We can help then deal, if they wig, but no zapping. Okay?"
Faith looked uncomfortable.
"It's kind of late for that rule, B. I mean, Buffy." She shoved her hands into the pockets of her jeans. "I wanted everything to be good for you, so I sort of 'smoothed out' everybody else. I didn't brainwash them into liking me, but they don't have a clue that anything's any different than it's ever been."
Buffy stared at her, feeling an edge of horror creeping over her.
"Have you done me, too? Did you zap me, to make me agree with you a minute ago?" She took a step back. "Oh, god. Is that why I've been having all these warm and fuzzy feelings about you, since this morning?"
Faith looked hurt.
"No. There's just two people in this town that I've not messed with, to help them cope. I didn't have to do anything, because they're the strongest people I've ever known." She looked out over the snow-shrouded trees of the park. "Besides that, they're the only ones here that I love, and I'd never do anything to hurt them. One is Kira," She looked back at Buffy, and though her face was a mask, her eyes were dark and vulnerable. "And the other is you."
Buffy took a deep breath.
"Faith, I know you say that now. But what if you ever get mad at me? Or if I don't... meet your expectations, or return any... feelings that you might have for me?" She stumbled through it, but it had to be said. "With the power you have, you could change my mind around without even meaning to, couldn't you? If you wanted something badly enough, couldn't you do something without knowing you'd done it?"
Faith looked away.
"Maybe. I don't know. I'm new at this."
Buffy reached out to the other girl, touching her hand.
"Then I'm not sure how I can trust you. I'd like to, but I don't know how. Not when things are like this."
The other girl studied her silently for a long minute, then turned and walked a few paces away. Buffy watched her, wondering what she was thinking. She didn't have to wonder for long. Faith turned around, and her eyes suddenly blazed gold.
[ [ [ [ [ [ SHIFT ] ] ] ] ] ]
Buffy staggered, and a rumble of thunder shook the entire world as a flood of power ripped through her. It wasn't pain, exactly, but it was an inconceivable amount of force. It passed through her in an instant, and then it was gone, leaving her shaken but unhurt.
"W-what was that?"
Faith's eyes faded to their normal dark brown.
"I just made you immune to my power. I set you outside of my domain. From now on, I have no claim to you, except what you give me willingly."
Buffy looked around, then down at herself. She didn't feel any different, but something had certainly happened. Still, even if Faith was telling the truth, that left an interesting question.
"Can a Goddess make a rule that she, herself, can't break?"
"I don't know. I tried, for whatever that's worth. It's for damned sure I won't break it by accident."
"'Kay. Guess that's good enough for me." She looked around at the quiet playground. "What now?"
The other girl shrugged.
"Why don't you go home. You're mom and dad are getting worried about you."
Buffy nodded, but she didn't move to leave.
"What about you? What are you going to do, go back to your place?" She couldn't help but smile. "You've got a very bright, beautiful little girl waiting on you."
Faith nodded in agreement, but her eyes were shadowed.
"I'll head back there in a little while. Right now, I think I've got to go burn off some energy. Guess I'll make some monsters to fight." She took a couple of steps backwards, raising a hand in an awkward half-wave. "See you tomorrow." She turned and headed off towards the big entrance to the drainage tunnels, on the other side of the park. Buffy watched her walk away, thinking of everything Faith had given her. A real family, again. Her friend's happiness. New worlds to explore. The rogue Slayer had changed drastically, and with her new power she'd gained something that Buffy had once thought she would never have: compassion. She watched the solitary figure trudging through the snow, and she came to a decision that would have amazed her, just twenty-four hour ago.
"Hey, wait up!" She jogged after the other Slayer, and Faith turned in surprise, watching her come. When she reached the other girl, Buffy grinned at her. "The monster-fighting thing sounds like fun. Besides," She tried her best to imitate the younger girl's voice. "We don't know how many are down there. If I don't come with you, you might die!"
Faith got a small, disbelieving grin on her face.
"Buffy! Wait, stop, think!"
"No, no, no!"
They both broke into giggles as they walked. Buffy looked sidelong at the other girl. Faith was so beautiful, especially with the hint of a smile softening her face.
The young Goddess turned to look at her.
Buffy had second thoughts about what she was going to say, but she went ahead and said it anyway.
"You've been so good to me, even after what I... did... to you. How could you do that?"
That seemed to surprise Faith, and she thought about it for twenty or thirty steps before shrugging. "I hurt you, you hurt me back. That's how things work." She shook her head sadly. "I'd rather not think about that stuff. All of that belongs to some other place. That other Buffy and Faith might have to live with it. We don't."
Buffy blinked back sudden tears.
"Sounds like a plan. But you know, there's one thing we need to finish. One thing between us that's really bugging me."
Faith looked at her warily.
"You never told me what you want for Christmas." She looked around at the night sky. "It's early yet. If you tell me, I still have a couple of hours to go get you something."
The other girl looked surprised.
"I don't know... I hadn't thought about it."
Buffy suddenly slapped herself on the forehead.
"Duh, what am I thinking?" She waved at the trees around them. "You made all this, you can zap up anything you want."
Faith gave her a long look, then turned her head forward to stare at the path.
"Don't believe it. Even a Goddess can't make everything she wants, or needs."
That came out in a whisper, and Buffy had that uneasy feeling again.
"What is it? What do you want?"
Ten steps passed in silence. Twenty. Thirty. Buffy looked at the other girl, waiting. Fifty steps passed before Faith's quiet reply.
"All I've ever wanted... was for somebody to love me. There were a couple of times when I almost thought...." She shook her head angrily. "Sometimes I just have this daydream kind of deal, where I wonder what it would be like, is all."
Buffy was looking inside herself, looking at feelings she'd felt before around Faith. They were vague, unformed feelings, but they were there, dusty from being locked away for so long. She never would have been able to hate Faith so much, if she hadn't felt something else for her first. The betrayal wouldn't have cut her so deeply, if not for the sense of violation it brought forth in her. She looked up. Faith was carefully not looking at her. She seemed willing to let the whole thing pass, and be forgotten. If that was what Buffy wanted.
Buffy stopped walking, and a moment later the other girl stopped too, facing her.
"If you had a wish, any wish... what would it be?"
The other girl regarded her, and the mask of her features trembled slightly, showing a glimpse of the fragile young woman inside that tough shell.
"I.... I would wish to not be alone anymore. I know that's not fair. I've got Kira, now, and she's more than I could ever deserve. But I'd love for someone...." She looked around, anywhere but into Buffy's eyes. "I'd wish for someone to be with me. To care about me for more than just being a Slayer, or being a good lay, or being like a big sister. If there was somebody who knew what it was like to be different, and who could catch me when I'm trying to pull a fast one on them." She smiled faintly, sadly. "If there was someone who could put up with my bullshit, and who could take care of themselves when I got pissed and tried to slap the snot out of them." She looked at Buffy, meeting her eyes at last, brown facing green. "If somebody like that could love me, if they could even just give it a try, then no matter how crazy things got, I think I would be okay. That's what I would wish for."
"That's about what I thought."
She lowered her head and turned away, pacing a few steps off the trail. The deep snow crunched under her feet, and she paused when she reached the nearest tree. She thought it over, but in her heart she knew that she'd decided even before she had asked the question. She turned around, looking up to see a shadowy figure standing there in the moonlight, waiting. Hoping. Putting on her best Anya-voice, Buffy smiled.
She walked back to the other girl, and with every step she took, Faith grew clearer, the darkness falling away. She was glowing, soft gold light surrounding her in a shimmering aura as her emotions overcame her. It only made her more beautiful. Buffy reached out to touch her cheek, then she brought her lips to the other girl's in a gentle kiss. It was only a beginning, she didn't know where, if anywhere, it would lead. But it felt good. It felt right. She held Faith tight, squeezing her eyes shut as the gold light grew brighter and brighter, until it seemed like she was holding on to a piece of the sun. The sun had never been this gentle, though. It had never pressed it's warm body against hers, and held her with such tender strength.
The people of the world of Sunnydale looked out at the golden glow, and marveled at its beauty, as the warm, living light of their Goddess washed over them.
So ended the first day, but there were endless others, stretching off without end into infinity. After all, Goddesses live forever, and so do those that they love, and who love them back.
* * * * *
We shall lay our hands upon the basilisk, and see the jewel in the toad's head.
Champing his gilded oats, the Hippogriff will stand in our stalls,
and over our heads will float the Blue Bird singing of beautiful and impossible things,
of things that are lovely and that never happen,
of things that are not, and that should be.
--Oscar Wilde, from "The Decay of Lying".