Bloodlines

Act Three

Fade in
Int.
Wormwood Acres – Motel Room – Later, near Dusk

"What a dump," said Lorinda.

"Can't you just…" growled Dawn.

"She's right," said Grace.

Dawn stared at her.

Grace gestured at the motel room, its unadorned walls and plain furniture as well as the drab, dirty carpet. "It is a dump. Still, what do you expect from a cheap motel? And a cheap motel in the middle of absolutely nowhere?"

"Well, it could be worse," Dawn replied.

"No," said Lorinda, "If there were rats, at least Marsha here could have a fresh snack." The dragon was in Lorinda's arms and gave a purring chirp.

Rolling her eyes, Dawn put her small suitcase on one bed. She looked inside the bathroom, flicking the light 'on' with a switch. A grunt was the only comment she made. Her inspection of the mini-fridge and the one, tiny closet didn't even get that much response.

Meanwhile, Grace was looking at the two beds while Lorinda sat herself down cross-legged and turned on the TV.

"What are we going to do about sleeping arrangements?"

"Um…" said Dawn, "What do you mean?"

"No offense," said Grace, "but you're not my type, and neither is the pint-sized terror," she tilted her head towards Lorinda.

"Marsha and I should get one bed," Lorinda said, "Because we're two."

"But you're also smaller than either one of us," pointed out Dawn.

"Yeah, but you're used to sleeping with someone else."

Grace lifted her hand, "Never mind. We can share a bed or we can order a rollaway. Your call, I'm just tired." She wearily lay down on other bed, the one with Dawn's suitcase.

After a moment, Dawn said, "If that dragon has to take a walk, you're the one doing it."

Lorinda waved an assent, her attention on the huge remote control and the TV screen. She stopped it at a specific channel. "Ew, they're having a marathon of that stupid Battlestar Galactica thing? Gross!"

Grace's head raised up.

"I mean," Lorinda continued, "wasn't it bad enough they made that show to begin with, but then they made it again for some reason? How lame can you get?"

"You…evil…bitch," Grace said, quietly but firmly.

Cut to:
Int.
Cleveland – Alleyway – Same time

"Four hundred years," Janna let her hands drop to her side as Faith, still stunned, looked at the much older vampire. "Believe it or not, I've learned a thing or two in that time."

Faith still clutched the stake in her right hand, but her stance was suddenly more guarded, her footwork more tentative. She shifted her weight back and forth between her two feet, and turned slightly sideways relative to the vampire before her, presenting the smallest target possible.

"Not as much fun going up against someone you could lose against, is it?" Janna asked playfully. "I bet it's been a long time since you've been in a fight you seriously thought you could lose."

"I don't know if you missed the memo," Faith replied through gritted teeth, "but I managed to get my ass killed in the last apocalypse."

"Big deal, a demon comes up and impales you through the back. You didn't even see it coming," Janna almost looked amused as Faith tentatively inched her way towards the vampire. "A fight against an opponent who's just beating you, not because they're stronger, or faster, or have more friends, but simply because they're better? That's something I imagine you haven't experienced in awhile."

"So you think you're better than me 'cause you got a lucky shot in?" Faith injected as much spite as she could into her voice. "That's a little arrogant, don'tcha think?"

"Arrogant or not," Janna dismissed the comment, "I can't help but notice that you're not attacking."

"Just catchin' my second wind," Faith said tightly.

"Would this help?" Janna deliberately placed her hands behind her back, clasping them.

Faith's eyes narrowed into slits for a brief instant, and she jumped forward, swinging her right leg in an arc at the vampire's head.

Janna's hands never rose to block the kick. Instead she dropped into a low spin, pivoting on her left foot as her right leg swept out at knee height, catching Faith behind her supporting knee. The knee buckled and Faith's full weight dropped on it, slamming it brutally into the asphalt. She looked at the slayer, disappointed. "Faith, I gotta say that I expected a lot more from you."

"Me? I'm just gettin' warmed up." Faith launched herself at the vampire, throwing a flurry of strikes at Janna's ribs. As Janna brought her hands down to counter them, Faith executed a perfect kick at Janna's right hip followed by a punch across her undefended jaw.

Janna stumbled backwards a few steps. She rocked her jaw back and forth a few times, loosening it up.

"Not bad," she said simply.

"Scared now?" Faith asked, still in a defensive posture.

"Nope," a thin smile appeared on Janna's lips. "But at least I'm not bored." In a motion that almost seemed casual in its smoothness, Janna lifted her right hand into a high guard, inviting Faith to come closer.

Faith shifted the stake in her right hand to her left and took a step forward, resting the back of her right wrist against the vampire's. Almost in unison, the pair each took a step to their right, slowly circling an invisible point in between them, as if their wrists had been bound to a metal pole. For a moment, neither woman attacked. They circled each other like gladiators at the Coliseum, their eyes locked on each other, scanning each other's bodies for the tiny, subconscious signals that telegraphed an attack.

Only a very slight shift in her gaze projected Janna's first strike, but it was enough. Faith's hands were raised to block the first punch, and she ducked to avoid the second. Her fist drove into the vampire's midsection, and would have knocked the wind out of the vampire, had she any wind to be knocked out. She followed with a high kick at the vampire's head.

Janna ducked under the kick, dropping to one knee, and driving her right fist into the slayer's inner thigh, near the groin. Faith's knee buckled as if paralyzed, and she barely managed to catch herself before she hit the ground. She was only barely able to bring her forearms up to guard her face against a low kick aimed at the bridge of her nose.

Faith had the edge on raw strength and speed, but Janna's technique was a fraction better. Realistically, that was the difference between them: fractions. Each woman almost seemed to sense the other's attack before it was launched and had a defense prepared.

Faith cleared a knife-hand strike aimed at her throat and grappled with the vampire, she heaved against the much older woman, slamming her generously against the brick wall behind her, as the duo, locked together slammed to a brutal halt, Faith's fist was already drawn back to deliver a punch whose force was sufficient to crush the vampire's head against the unyielding wall behind her.

However, her fist whistled through empty space, slamming into the hard brick when Janna dropped into a low stance. As Faith instinctively recoiled from the painful impact, Janna's powerful legs drove her upwards, generating an enormous amount of force, which she focused into the edge of her right hand, aimed with pinpoint accuracy at the curve of Faith's jaw.

Faith's head snapped backwards and stumbled away from the vampire shaking her head as if trying to wake herself up. Her knees suddenly seemed to wobble under her weight.

For a moment, Faith's guard was not only down, it was nonexistent; and she wasn't allowed the luxury of time to recover. Janna charged at the slayer, and the point of her right elbow slammed across the Faith's cheekbone, twisting her head to the right.

The stake, still clenched in Faith's left hand came around to try to stab the vampire in the back, but the strike was clumsy and uncoordinated. Faith blinked, trying to force her eyes to focus.

Janna twisted around, catching the stake in her left hand, while simultaneously driving her right elbow backwards into the bridge of Faith's nose. Faith's head snapped backwards again, then almost lazily rolled forward. Her legs buckled under her and she dropped to the ground. Her hand opened and the stake rolled away from her nerveless fingers.

Faith's head rolled back and forth, her eyes rolled around in their sockets, trying to focus on something, anything. Casually, Janna bent over to pick the wooden stake up from its place a few inches from Faith's slightly-curled fingers. She then walked back around to Faith's side, dropping to one knee next to the slayer. She crossed her arms and rested them on her raised knee, looking almost quizzically into Faith's dark eyes. Faith tried to push the vampire away, but her arms flopped uselessly against the vampire's torso.

"Down, girl," Janna said, smoothly pushing Faith's arms away from herself. "Relax, I'm not gonna kill you. Not yet." Blood was pouring liberally from Faith's nose. Janna produced a tissue, and carefully dabbed at the blood. Then, in almost a motherly fashion, she reached up to brush a stray strand of hair away from Faith's eyes. "You're good," she told the slayer with a tone in her voice which could nearly be mistaken for affection. "You're very good. More of a challenge than I've had in years. Centuries, maybe."

"What say you meet me halfway, beat yourself up a little, make this a fair fight," Faith's words slurred together.

Janna shook her head. "You're not ready for a fair fight. Yet. You're good, but you're not that good." She gently laid the wooden stake in her hand on Faith's abdomen and stood up. "Don't worry," she added. "You'll see me around plenty in the next little while." She cocked her head slightly as she looked down at the barely-conscious woman. "Toodles," she said playfully. She made a show of dusting off her jacket and calmly walked out of the alleyway.

Cut to:
Int.
Wormwood Acres – Old Church Basement – Later That Evening

The basement door opened, and Mayor Hegwell – cigarette in hand – swept inside.

"How's it going?"

In the far side of basement, several persons in long robes continued chanting. One of them turned; then approached Hegwell. He pushed the cowl of his robe back, revealing a narrow face with big eyes and a straggly beard.

"Mayor," he said respectfully.

"How is it going?" she repeated.

"Fine, fine. Another day or so at the latest." He smiled.

"Damn."

"Why? What's wrong?"

"There are visitors."

"Visitors?"

"Yep."

"Here?"

"Of course 'here'! If they were in Paris, I wouldn't give a rodent's posterior!"

"Well, it isn't like visitors per se make much of a difference…"

She interrupted. "Members of the Watchers' Council."

He took a beat. "Uh-oh."

"One little piece of work is almost certainly a slayer. And get this – she has a dragon."

Now he blinked several times. "A dragon? There's a real live dragon in town? Right now?"

Mayor Hegwell nodded. "Not much of a dragon, but still."

"Not much? Why? What's wrong with it?"

She snorted. "It's only about the size of a big house cat."

The man in the robe and cowl grinned. "Really?" He started to giggle. After a few moments it graduated into a full sized laugh. She joined him, smiling even more intensely than she had with her visitors.

Wiping tears from his eyes, he said, "A house cat, huh?" And began to laugh again.

Cut to:
Ext.
Wormwood Acres – Motel Parking Lot – Night

Dawn and Grace each had a cell phone. They stood on either side of their car, talking.

"All I want to know," Grace said, "is how do you keep from killing her?"

"Well," said Jeff's voice in her cell phone. "You might begin by remembering you're the adult."

"Yeah, but she's a hellspawn."

"No she isn't."

"Is too!"

"Grace, by now you've actually met some actual hellspawn, Dawn's girlfriend, for example."

"No, Skye's just a bitch."

"She can be, yeah. Me, I like Skye. Call me evil too, but I think she did the world a favor by offing Bonnie. But she's a demon, Lorinda is not."

"Maybe, but maybe we should double-check that premise. Isn't there something weird about Lorinda's family?"

"They've had almost a half a dozen slayers over the years. No one knows why."

"Anyway," Grace sighed, "we met the Mayor and she comes across as a big liar even for a politician, like Baltar."

"Baltar?" asked Jeff after a moment. "Is he a member of Congress?"

At this, Grace just shook her head, "You are so ignorant."

"Uh, okay."

"We're gonna hang out another day or so, poke around."

"You do that."

"And we'll check in again at six in the morning. Or Dawn will. Me, I hope I'm still asleep then."

"Okay, and if you don't mind…"

"What?"

"Please tell Lorinda I said to do well."

She sighed, "Whatever." She pressed the button to hang up.

On the other side of the car, Dawn leaned against the door, cell phone to her ear and eyes totally unfocussed on her environment. Grace approached her quietly.

"You know I do," Dawn said with a mildest of wicked smiles. She continued in a teasing tone, "Like I told you before – only where no one can see. That's why I got those big full skirts in the first place. I know they heal almost instantly now, but I got used to…" She noticed Grace beside her and saw the look on Grace's face. Dawn coughed, "Okaygottagonowbye." She hung up and put her cell phone away.

Grace looked at her. "Never," she said after a moment, "never let me hear any of those details ever again."

"Stop eavesdropping, then." She headed away from the car.

Cut to
Int.
Watchers Council – Infirmary – Same time

With a single, wild convulsion, Faith jerked awake, instinctively pushing Dr. Miller's hands away from her.

"Well, she's awake," the doctor said, pointlessly.

Faith's left eye was swollen almost shut, and a bruise occupied a sizeable portion of her left cheek. Dried blood caked her upper lip and stained the front of her pale green shirt.

"Faith! It's alright," Buffy ran forward to gently restrain the wildly flailing slayer as Robin tried from the other side. "You're okay," she added. "You're safe. You got her."

"Didn't…didn't get her," Faith said weakly. She tried to sit up in the bed.

"Easy," the doctor cautioned. "You've had a concussion. A pretty bad one, too. Don't try to move too fast."

"Gotta get up, she's still out there," Faith moaned at the doctor.

"She's not out there now," Dr. Miller countered. "The sun's been up for hours."

"Hours? Do you have any idea how many people she could've…" Faith sat bolt upright and groaned, bringing her hand to her forehead. She fell back onto the pillow.

"See what I mean?" The doctor asked. "Even slayers need an hour or two to recover from a beating like this."

"Faith, relax. She must've put up a hell of a fight, but you won," Robin said quietly. "Get some rest."

"I didn't win," Faith said, her voice starting to develop a little more coherence.

"Look, she played basketball with your head, it's okay if some of the details are foggy," Buffy told her.

"She beat me," Faith said. She squinted, trying to block out the room's harsh fluorescent lights.

"Come on, Faith, you're saying that she beat you senseless, then, what, just left you lying there?" Robin asked.

"That's exac'ly what I'm saying," Faith said.

"Why?" Buffy and Robin both asked in unison.

"'Cause she thinks she can get me any time she wants to," Faith replied. "An' for the first time in my life, I'm not sure that she's wrong."

"C'mon, Faith, you've lost one fight in your life," Buffy said, "and that was against me."

"Thanks for the reminder…but she was good," Faith offered as an explanation. "And I think she's fought slayers before. Maybe even killed a few." She let out a sigh as she looked around the room to a number of skeptical looks. "Look," she said with a sudden flash of anger. She gestured at the bruises on her face. "Does this look like someone who's kiddin' around? I'm tellin' you, she's out there, and she's a serious threat."

Buffy looked at Faith for a moment. She crossed her arms in front of her chest.

"Can I talk with Faith privately, please?" she finally asked.

Faith's eyes darted around the room as everybody except Buffy silently, but quickly, filed out of the room.

"B, I think she's going to try to track me down again. She's fast and she knows slayer fighting styles pretty well, but she's not that strong, so…"

"Faith, just what the hell do you think you were doing going after her alone?" Buffy's expression hardened as she leaned on Faith's bedside.

"My job," Faith snapped back. "Killin' vamps is still what we do here, isn't it?"

"Damnit, Faith, now is not a good time to be glib with me. We lost two slayers at this branch alone this year," Buffy countered, "One of them didn't have enough left of her to bury…"

"I know. I was there. Remember? You were coolin' your heels in the Caribbean while we were bein' cut up, burned and exploded," Faith retorted.

"Well I'll be damned if I'm gonna bury you alongside Marly and Vi," Buffy told her.

"B, what's the point in havin' all these powers if we're not gonna use 'em?" Faith demanded. "That's the whole reason we have them. At least for now."

"I'm not telling you to stop using them, but use them in a way that makes sense," Buffy said. "You damn near broke the first rule of slaying tonight."

Faith locked eyes with the blonde. "Stay alive," she muttered softly. "She wasn't gonna kill me." Faith told her. "If she were, I'd be dead. She coulda done it too. Bitch didn't even bother putting on her game face."

"You had no way of knowing that," Buffy replied. "You took an unnecessary risk, and you could've been killed for it."

"But I wasn't, so quit worryin' about it," Faith told her.

"I'm not the only one that's worrying," Buffy said softly. When Faith didn't respond she went on. "Robin says you went on a solo patrol the other night. You sent Hadley home, he said."

"So?" Faith crossed her arms in front of her, looking defiantly at Buffy.

"So, you're acting reckless, Faith," Buffy said, her tone softening slightly. "Faith, this isn't like you, not anymore. What's happening?" She reached out to take Faith's hand, offering it a gentle squeeze. "Talk to me." Faith's jaw clenched for a moment and her body tensed. "Ease up a little, F," Buffy said with a slight smile. "I just want to know what's going through your head."

"I needed to know that…I could still do it," Faith said slowly.

"Do…what? Slay?" Buffy looked at her, confused. "Is there really any doubt on that account?"

"Look this is all gonna end soon, and sometimes I wonder what place there'll be for me," Faith said softly.

"Come on, Faith, you know there'll always be a place for you here," Buffy said.

"We said the same thing to Lori," Faith pointed out. She looked down at her left hand where the small diamond on her ring finger caught the light. "I mean, I turn thirty, then what? I turn into Ace's little wife?"

"So you go rogue because you're getting cold feet?" Buffy said. "Faith, come on, powers or not you'll still head of the slayer division. And if you don't want to do that we'll find something for you." Her expression suddenly brightened. "Oh! You could teach."

"Oh yeah, I really see that happening. Faith Lehane, schoolmarm," Faith rolled her eyes. "I mean, you handled it when it was still that whole one girl in all the world thing. I needed to know that I could take care of one vampire, on my own."

"But you're not on your own anymore. And if teaching's not your thing, you'll find something else," Buffy said. "Back when it was one girl in all the world, do you have the faintest idea how gladly I would've given my left kidney to just be able to walk away from it someday? I had to deal with the fact that the only way I was gonna step down was in a body bag."

"B, I'm not gonna pretend I understand what those years were like, but I need to know that I can still do this," Faith said.

Buffy looked at her sister slayer for a long time before she spoke. "No more stupid risks, Faith. You hear me?"

Faith nodded. "When you get the chance, could you send Hadley in? I need to talk to her."

"Will do. Get better."

Cut to:
Int.
Wormwood Acres – Motel Room – Moments later

The TV was on when Grace and Dawn opened the door and returned to the room. "Jeff said hi," came out of Grace's mouth almost instantly, Then she did a take.

Lorinda sat on the floor, the dragon curled up in her lap, On the TV screen several people in uniform were talking and with them was a young man in what looked vaguely like a lab jacket.

"I thought you didn't like Battlestar Galactica?"

Shrugging, Lorinda said, "Better than anything else on. Besides, this Baltar guy is kinda cute. Who's the invisible blonde?"

"That's Six. She's not really there, or maybe she is. They've never completely explained that. Anyway, she's a Cylon and Baltar fell in love with her."

"I thought Cylons are robots?" Dawn asked.

"Yeah, but there are also these human-style Cylons." On screen, a buxom blonde whispered in the young man's ear. "That's her. She helped kill practically the entire human race."

Dawn watched for a moment. "Not my type, but I can see how he could fall for her." She watched for another few moments, "Or her for him."

"Oh, yeah," muttered Lorinda.

"You're both nuts," said Grace. And sighed, "I'm going for a walk."

Cut to:
Ext.
Wormwood Acres – Downtown – Later

The streets were empty and dark. Street lamps gave a periodic glow along the sidewalk where Grace walked.

Grace talked to herself, wandering suburbia.

"Baltar? Or Six?" She shook her head. "C'mon – Adama I could understand, maybe even Apollo. He's cute, whines a bit, though. Okay, whines a lot, sometimes. But Baltar and Six are villains! Come to think of it, maybe that explains it. Look at who Dawn with! And the little Slayerette Bitch – she's just looking for her own kind." All this came out as something of a mumble.

She looked up and saw the town square. Plenty of moonlight flooded the area, and a fair number of street lamps were in place. She had no trouble at all seeing three figures in full robes and hoods headed for the church.

"Robes and hoods," she sighed. "Such a dead giveaway."

All three figures went to the side of the church and headed to the back. Grace followed, sticking to the shadows of trees. The three robed figures went all the way to the back of the church. Grace managed to just barely arrive in time to see them close the cellar door behind them. She flitted into the shadow of a tree closer to that cellar door. Watching it for several moments, she said nothing.

"Local Knights of Columbus? I don't think so." She spent a few more seconds watching the cellar door while no one and nothing either entered or exited. "Okay, this is kinda stupid," she muttered to herself. Her hand went into a coat pocket and brought out her cell phone.

The hand that reached around from behind her pressed a cloth to her mouth and nose, She struggled all of three seconds.

Her cell phone fell to the ground.

As Grace collapsed back, the hood of the person behind her fell back. Mayor Hegwell caught her, or tried to.

"Oh hell," the Mayor grunted, trying to hold up the girl and failing, "I could use some help here!"

Cut to
Int.
Watchers Council – Infirmary – Later

"What's the other guy look like?" Hadley asked as she stepped through the large double doors. Faith's bruises had faded significantly, but it was still pretty clear that she'd taken a beating.

"It looks worse than it is," Faith dismissed the comment. "I'm just waitin' for the doc to let me leave."

"What happened?" Hadley asked.

"I found her," Faith said. "She hit me. A lot."

"With what, a Volkswagen?" Hadley asked, incredulously.

"No, I'm pretty sure she used her fists. At least for the blows I was conscious for," Faith sat up on the bed and turned to allow her feet to drop to the floor. "Look, Hadley, I need you to back off on this one. Leave it to more experienced slayers."

"You're benching me?" Hadley's voice rose in volume. "You're the one that gets beat up and you're benching me?"

"Just for this one," Faith emphasized. "Look at me. This is me after two hours of slayer fixer-upper-ness." She gestured at her still-visible bruises and injuries. "She did this to me, and she didn't even break a sweat doin' it."

"So you get your ass kicked and you're sending me to the sidelines? Yeah, that makes a lot of sense," Hadley's voice practically dripped with sarcasm.

"Look," Faith said firmly. "You're good. She's better. You can't beat her. I'm not even sure that I can beat her."

"So what?"

"'So what?'" Faith asked. "Hadley, I'm trying to protect you here."

"Protect me? Faith, you're training me to fight vampires. Undead critters that like nothing more than to kill people and eat them for lunch. Exactly how do you plan on protecting me?" Hadley pointed out. "This job is dangerous, Faith. I'm gonna get hurt. I might get killed. If you can't deal with that reality, then you should find yourself another job, or hand me off to someone else."

"Hey, I can deal, okay?" Faith snapped. "But I'm not gonna send one of our most promising students into the field where she's gonna get slaughtered!"

"I hate to tell you this, Faith, but if we only fight the fights we know we can win, we're gonna get our asses kicked by something huge while we're taking care of a piddly Burel Demon," Hadley countered. "That's why we're here. We fight the fights that nobody else can. Sometimes that means we win. Sometimes it means we die." The two women glared at each other in silence. It was Hadley who spoke first. "Look, I know what Vi meant to you, personally," she said softly.

"Don't you dare make this about…" Faith hissed.

"But she won't be the last girl you helped train that we lose. If you can't deal with the fact that you're gonna lose slayers on your watch, then maybe it's time for you to step down and let someone who can deal with that take over." Hadley told her. She turned to leave the room. "I'll be in the training room if you need me," she called over her shoulder.

Cut to:
Int.
Watchers Council – Robin and Faith's bedroom – Later

Faith looked at the small notebook in her hand. On the page in front of her was a five-year calendar with all the days up to the current one crossed off in red. She idly flipped through the pages, finally arriving at the only other page, which had anything written on it. On July 10th, 2010 she'd written in red, "Last day, 2:07 pm." She flipped back to the current month, and sadly crossed another day off on her calendar.

"Hey," she looked up to see Robin leaning against the doorframe.

"Hey," she replied softly.

"Feeling better?" He asked.

"Yeah, physically," Faith answered.

"Otherwise?"

"Let's just say that gettin' chastised by a seventeen-year-old slayer-in-training ain't much fun," Faith said wryly.

"Faith, come on, she was just trying to get a rise out of you," Robin said.

"I lost to a vampire, Ace. And not some kind of super-vamp, either. Just a normal, run-of the mill vampire," Faith told him.

"Yeah, the average one that's not just decades old but centuries old, right?" he retorted. When Faith didn't reply he continued. "So you had an off night. It's like when Rocky fought Mr. T in the movie. He didn't even bother blocking for the longest time until he was almost unconscious. Then his instincts took over and he kicked butt."

"That's the plot of every Rocky movie," Faith replied.

Robin ignored the comment. "The point is you just need to get back in touch with your instincts." he told her. "And it probably doesn't help that you have a slayer-in-training pushing your buttons."

"No, she was right. I've been so terrified of losing my job, I haven't been doing my job," Faith said. "I've been too careful, too cautious."

"Those aren't bad things, Faith," Robin told her. "Actually, I'd kinda hope that my fiancée would be a little careful out there."

"That's not the way you fight a war," Faith said. "You fight it tooth and nail. Literally. If we wanna beat them, we need to be ready to risk everything, put everything on the line. The life, the glory of the slayer lineage, all this." She gestured around the room. "We need to be ready to give all this up if we have to. I haven't been willing to do that since…Vi. And now I'm trying to show up a seventeen-year-old."

"Faith, what are you saying?" Robin asked.

"I'm goin' after Janna," Faith said. "And one of us is gonna die."

"Faith…"

"I need you to hold something for me," she said softly.

"What?" Robin asked.

She walked up to him and took his hand, and held it flat in front of her. Then, her hand shaking slightly, she dropped the diamond engagement ring into his palm.

"Faith, what are you…"

"I'm not – I'm not givin' it back," Faith told him quickly. "I just…want you to hold on to it for me. When I think I deserve it, I'll take it back."

"Isn't that my call to make, Faith?" Robin asked.

"Half of it is. You think I deserve to have this, and I can't tell you how much that means to me. But I'm not sure I deserve to take it from you. Not yet," Faith told him. "I'm askin' for time. That's all."

"You're asking for a lot more than that, whether you realize it or not," Robin said softly.

"I know," Faith said softly. She closed his hand around the ring. She looked up at him, her eyes glistening in the dim light. "I gotta go to work," she said softly as she stepped away from him.

"You'll be back, right?" Robin asked from the bedroom as she walked towards the living room door.

"If I can," Faith answered as she stepped into the hallway, closing the door behind her.

Fade Out.

End of Act Three
On to Act Four