Return to Don't fear the Reaper Chapter Twenty-One

Don't fear the Reaper

Author: Useful_Oxymoron
Rating: PG-13
Disclaimer: Well, I don't own Willow or Tara. If I did, I wouldn't have made certain... questionable decisions in the later seasons. In any case, Joss Whedon and Mutant Enemy own these characters and I don't intend to make any money off them.
Note 1: I make some fun of PnP roleplaying here. If any of you here PnP or DnD regularly, please don't kill me. It's meant in good fun, and besides, I've seen a lot in my PnP days. Might as well make fun of it, no?
Note 2: As promised, this is a Faith/Buffy chapter, but our girls are in the story, at least.
Italics are thoughts and in this case, story segments.

"Is this okay, Joyce?" Faith asked while she was stirring the dough with an eggbeater. Though she was doing so rather clumsily at first, she quickly got the hang of it.

Joyce smiled as she saw Faith concentrating at the task. She'd been surprised when Faith had asked her if she could help out in the kitchen, but it seemed that, in many ways, Faith was still trying to prove to her that she was worthy of dating Buffy.

Together, while chatting about all sorts of things, Faith and Joyce worked on this evening's dinner. Today was the day Willow and Tara returned from their holiday, having spent a weekend together in New York recovering from the jetlag from their intercontinental flight from Switzerland. In fact, Buffy was on her way now to pick them up from Sunnydale airport.

Joyce liked Faith. It was as simple as that. Sadly, Buffy had been very unlucky with love. Her first boyfriend Angel was all nice and cute, until he had taken Buffy's virginity and changed completely, leaving Buffy devastated. Then came Riley, a seemingly nice enough boy, but Joyce had always been wary of him. Her suspicions were confirmed when Riley had taken off suddenly, leaving Buffy alone without so much as a message after a relationship that had lasted longer than a year. Again, her poor daughter had been devastated. Then there was Parker... the least said about him, the better.

And then, some months ago, she noticed Buffy had fallen in love again. A mother always recognized that in her daughter: Buffy's smile had been a little brighter, her eyes sparkled whenever she thought of her new honey and generally her mood had been exceedingly cheerful. Joyce, however, had never expected Buffy's new honey to be another girl... especially not when she saw them kissing on the bench in front of Willow and Tara's apartment and promptly fainted.

Joyce freely admitted to herself that she had had trouble accepting this relationship at first. In fact, had she not known Willow for years, she probably wouldn't have dealt with her daughter's new-found bi-sexuality as she did. For the first few weeks, Faith had been under her careful scrutiny.

At first, Joyce had been worried that Buffy's heart would be broken yet again, since Faith was so radically different from her daughter. Faith was impulsive and brash. She was legally emancipated from her parents and more than a little closed about her past. On top of that, she drank alcohol and had several tattoos.

But as she had gotten to know Faith a little better, all her apprehension had molten away. Thanks to witnessing Faith's actions towards Buffy and good words from Tara, whom Joyce trusted, she came to see that Faith was truly dedicated to make her relationship with Buffy work, something Riley and Angel did not have. Faith certainly was around the house a lot, making Buffy happy... and Dawn practically worshipped the ground she walked on.

Though Faith was silent about her childhood, it was easy enough to figure out that her family life hadn't been cheerful, so she was only to happy to introduce Faith to a family life that was relatively stable and loving. The only friction in the house was between Faith and Joyce's new boyfriend Rupert. It wasn't really his fault, Rupert had a bit of a habit to probe, and with Faith being guarded about her past and her job, well... the result wasn't always peaceful chatting. Usually, they got along fine, though, and Joyce had quietly told Rupert that she thought only Buffy would eventually crack through Faith's shell.

And the tattoos, well... Faith's arm sported a message of love to her daughter, so it wasn't all bad. Buffy had gone with Faith to the final inking. Undoubtedly a romantic gesture, if a little extreme. Still, it was done out of love for Buffy, and Faith had been more than willing to endure the pain of having her skin inked.

So Joyce had come to accept her daughter's relationship with Faith, though she had to admit that she still thought that seeing Buffy and Faith whispering and kissing in the living room was weirder than seeing Buffy to the same with Riley. Not to mention the... very healthy physical relationship the two girls were enjoying.

"Hey," Joyce told Faith, who had just finished cutting up the carrots. "Why don't you go to the living room and chat with Dawn and her friends?"

"You sure?" Faith asked.

"We're almost finished here, I only need to put it all in the oven, then wait for an hour or so," Joyce shrugged. "It's perfectly fine."

Faith nodded and smiled. Oh, yes, Joyce thought to herself, Faith is The One. And damn everyone who stands in the way of Buffy's happiness.

"You could just leave your suitcases in the trunk," Buffy said while Willow and Tara lugged their luggage into the hallway of Casa de Summers. "It's no problem for me to swing by your house later."

"That's okay!" Tara said quickly. "We'll walk home."

"Yes, um, or we'll hitchhike," Willow pressed. Buffy never noticed that Willow and Tara looked very pale and harrowed ever since they had first entered her mom's car at the airport. "How's your head, baby?"

"Better," Tara rubbed the back of her skull. "What are the odds of being hit in the head by your own suitcase, hm?"

"When Buffy's driving? 100%" Willow muttered under her breath.

"What was that?" Buffy smiled.

"Oh, uh, nothing," Willow replied quickly. "Thanks for picking us up. I'll show you the pictures later. They're on my laptop."

"Okay, cool," Buffy said, when she made her way to the living room... just from the doorway, she could see Dawn, Kit and Carlos sitting around the table. Carlos was sitting behind a screen and on it were colorful pictures of adventurers doing adventuring. Dawn and Kit were each holding a sheet and had the die and the sourcebooks handy. In the middle of the table stood miniatures on a paper grid.

"Mom!" Buffy shouted to Joyce in the kitchen. "Dawn and her friends are worshipping Satan again!"

"Stop worshipping Satan, honey," Joyce called back from the kitchen.

Dawn shot Buffy a scowl. "Playing Dungeons and Dragons is not worshipping Satan. Butthole," she muttered under her breath.

"Mom!" Buffy called out again. "Dawn just called me a butthole!"

"Don't call your sister a butthole, honey!" Joyce called back from the kitchen.

"It can't get any nerdier than this, people," Buffy crossed her arms and smirked.

Kit scowled and crossed her arms to mimic Buffy's posture. "I'll have you know Vin Diesel is a DnD player."

"Oh, yes," Buffy snorted. "And he also has his Dnd character tattooed on his body. Talk about being beyond nerdy!"

"YOU TAKE THAT BACK!" Kit shouted. "Vin Diesel is not nerdy! He's never nerdy! He's hunky and manly!"

Buffy raised her hands in apology and Kit calmed down somewhat. The subject of Vin Diesel was a very touchy one around the goth-girl... though that she had a crush on Vin Diesel rather than Marilyn Manson was a sign to Buffy that there was still hope for Kit.

"And, Buffy," Dawn grinned wickedly. "Step into the room for a bit."

Buffy frowned and did so, only to be flabbergasted to find the fourth seat behind the table taken by Faith, who was pouring over her character sheet, figuring out how to fill it out. "Oh, hey, B," Faith greeted. "Didn't notice you standing there."

"Et tu, Faith?" Buffy blinked.

"They let me be a foul-mouthed, smelly dwarf with a big axe and a viking helmet," Faith grinned. "How cool is that?"

Dawn turned to Buffy again. "See? At least some people in the room are cool, open-minded and non-judgmental, unlike a certain butthole of a sister I know."

Buffy blinked again. "MOM!" Buffy shouted to the kitchen. "Dawn's monopolizing my honey!"

"Dawn," Joyce sounded from the kitchen. "Stop monopolizing your sister's honey, honey."

Willow and Tara entered the room, passing by Buffy. "Hey, guys," Willow greeted. "What are you doing?"

"Oh, hi Willow. Hi Tara," Dawn greeted. "We're playing Dungeons and Dragons. We sorta been doing this for a couple of months now, and it's really fun."

"Oh, I've heard of that. Roleplaying, right?" Tara asked.

Willow nudged Tara. "Roleplaying, yes, we're intimately acquainted with that," Willow said, until she realized everybody was looking at her. "Uh," she blushed, "I replayed Baldur's Gate 2 a few months back... and I showed Tara."

"Would you like to join the game?" Carlos asked. "We'll help you fill out your character sheets and we'll get some playing in before dinner."

"Sure," Willow said, as did Tara.

"Come on, B," Faith smiled. "Give it a try. You can be an orc."

"What?" Buffy blinked.

And so Willow, Tara and Buffy, assisted by Kit, Dawn and Carlos, created their very first DnD character. Tara enjoyed the idea of being a bard, because they could sing and do magic. Willow, on the other hand, found the sorceress the most appealing character class.

"So you pick your race and class," Carlos said. "I am the dungeon master, so I usually don't play a character but lead the game. Dawn and Kit actually are the player characters."

"My character is Duenedane Lightbringer, Paladin of Helm and champion of Justice and Light. Her class is Undead Hunter, so she specializes in killing zombies and vampires," Dawn said.

"My character is Shawna-Rae Indigo," said Kit. "She's a half-Drow, half-felinoid rogue with a shady past seeking to atone for her sins."

"Okay," Carlos asked. "Tara, you're almost done, but you still have to name your character."

Tara looked up from scribbling on her paper. "Uhm, okay. How about I just be Tara?"

"You can't."

Tara blinked. "But... I am Tara."

"That's why you can't be Tara."

"But... if I am Tara, and yet I can't be Tara, then who am I right now?" Tara scratched her head.

Carlos smiled. "Well, the whole idea of Roleplaying is that you're pretending to be someone else. If you name your character Tara, you will become the character. It's not roleplaying if you're being yourself."

"Ah, I get it," Tara thought for a moment. "How about if I call myself... Amber?"

"Oh, I like that," Willow squeezed her lover's shoulder. "You kinda look like an Amber too."

"Just Amber? Hm," Carlos said. "Let's call you Amber Crenshinibon Entreri the Dragonmaster, daughter of Alyssa Stormhand. Sounds proper fantasylike. Willow?"

"Hm," Willow bit her lip for a moment. "I already got a bit of a fantasy name. Hmm, how about... Alyson?"

"Okay," Carlos replied. "Alyson Laeral Belial the Thunderbringer, most radiant of the Arcane Tower of Luskan, it is. Alright, we're ready to play."

"Oh, wait," Buffy said. "I don't have a name yet."

"Well," Dawn grinned. "You're a half-orc barbarian girl... so we can only go with Buffnr."

"Buffnr ElfSlayer Ahrimanes the Dimwitted it is," Carlos replied. "Hey, don't scowl at me, you're the one with the intelligence score of 6, Buffy."

Long ago, it was troubled time on the world of Toril. Down on the sandy, windswept plane of Zarg, near the Coast of Bone and the Field of Ghouls, where the undead monsters roamed in search of flesh and mischief, our party travelled across the arid, wicked lands along the Sword Coast. There on that same spot where once the Battle of a Thousand Orcs raged between the faction of the Beast Races and the noble paladins on Athkatla for dominance over the Empire of Zarg, son of Zarkonnen, who was begotten by Zin-zal-Kahn, ruler of the wicked East and subserviant of Thay. Their horses pounded the sand of the arid plane, sending huge clouds of dusts towards the nightsky, while the stars lit their path.

"Is that the Conan the Destroyer soundtrack?" Buffy asked after Carlos had turned up the CD-player.

"Sh, don't break the immersion," Kit hushed Buffy.

Our heroes were joined by four mighty warriors. Amber, the bard, and chronicler of their many adventures. Alyson, the mysterious and powerful sorceress from the east. Dopey FastFart, of the Bloodaxe clan, mighty and foul-smelling dwarven warrior. And, last but not least, Buffnr the dimwitted barbarian, whom they had come across in town. And so, our heroes arrived at the crypt of Krah Del-Brecht, the Lich-king of Azzad-Maheer, but before they would brave the perils of the crypt, they set up camp to rest their weary bones from the long travel behind them. The mighty dwarf did mightily swear and belch before shouting to the heavens.

"Eat my shorts!"

"What?" Faith shrugged. "Come on, that was funny."

After a long night's rest, our heroes stood in front of the dank, foreboding skull-like crypt. A huge stone door blocked their way, while the party craved the blood and the riches that lay inside.

"Uh, question," Buffy broke in. "I have an axe+1. What does that mean?"

"Oh, it just means you get a bonus of 1 on all your attack rolls, simple is that," Carlos said.

"Okay," Buffy said. "And... Reflex save 3? What does that mean? I mean, what's 3? You either miss or hit, right?"

"It's a way of calculating," Carlos said. "You see, you roll a certain number and I roll against you behind the screen. Now, you may add 3 points to the number that you roll. If that total is higher than my roll, you make the save. If it's lower, you fail the save and receive damage."

"Okay," Buffy replied. "When do I get to buy a vowel again?"

"It's a FEAT, Buff, a FEAT! And you only get one when you level up and then only at certain levels," Dawn sighed. "God, you're so stupid."

"Hey!" Faith scowled while Buffy pouted. "Dawn, she's trying, okay? Back off a little."

Dawn seemed somewhat embarrassed by being corrected by Faith and pushed slightly against Buffy's shoulder, an unspoken apology between the two sisters. Buffy seemed to accept it and the game continued.

"Okay," Willow spoke up. "I cast 'magic missile' at the door."

"Uh, okay," Carlos spoke.

The magic collided with the door and fizzled out without so much as doing anything.

"Ah, crud," Willow pouted.

"Hey, I got an idea," Buffy said. "Uh, that's a strength roll, right?"

And so, Buffnr took a running start. Her mighty barbarian noggin collided with the door, shattering the locking mechanism completely. Together, the entire party, minus the dazed Buffnr, managed to open the door and enter the antechamber of the crypt. The air was foul and dank, and in the distance, the party could hear moans and sounds of shambling. Surely, foul undead were nearby.

"Okay," Tara said. "Amber plays some music to soothe the party's nerves and to boost their strength."

And so Amber foolishly decided to play on her lute a song about the bravery of men of yore, certainly alerting the many undead lurking about to the presence of the party. In the distance they could hear the moans increase and the shambling becoming more frantic.

"Uh," Tara blushed. "Oops?"

"Oooh!" Willow went through her list of spells. "I cast Magic Torch."

And so, the magic swirled around Alyson's body, centering in her hand until she was holding a magical torch burning with an unnatural blue flame, illuminating the passage before them, leading into the dank, dark, stinky crypt.

"Alright, I search the room," Kit announced.

"Spot check, please," Carlos said, and Kit rolled the d20. She watched the result and calculated the total. "Uh, 23!"

"Yes, you find something," said Carlos. "You find a magic wand of Acid. It has two forms of attack: 20-foot cone, 2d8 acid damage, reflex save DC 14 for half damage and the 30-foot ray, 4d8 acid damage, ranged touch attack with a to hit modifier +2."

Willow, Buffy, Tara and Faith stared blankly at Carlos for a moment.

"Translation," Dawn grinned. "You can use it to hurt people."

"Ah," said Faith.

And so the party encountered their fouls... the foul-smelling zombie-kobolds, lizardlike desiccated corpses standing three feet tall and looking hungry to the strip the flesh of their bones.

"Alright, combat everyone," Carlos said, ignoring Faith and Tara's involuntary shudders. "Faith, you have the best initiative roll, you may make the attack roll first."

"I'll attack the zombie closest to Buffnr," Faith replied.

"Aw," Buffy smiled and lay her hand on Faith's knee.

Faith rolled and threw the d20. "Oh, a 1. Is that good?"

"Uh, no," Dawn gulped. "That's a critical fail."

"Yes," Carlos bit his lip. "You hit yourself. Roll for hit."

Faith shrugged and rolled again. "Oh, 20!"

"Critical threat," whistled Carlos, "roll to confirm."


"Now roll for damage."

"Uhm," Faith calculated. "12?"

"You scored a critical hit on yourself," Carlos offered an apologetic smile. "For double damage, so that's... 24 points down the hole."

"Crap," Faith sighed.

"And the zombie... oh, attacks Faith and... hits you... for... 15 points of damage."

"CRAP!" Faith shook her head. "I hate zombies."

And so the mighty Dwarf didst raise his mighty double-edged battleaxe over his head to cleft his adversary in twain. Oh, doom! Oh, disaster! For yon dwarf did ram the axe into his own back, spilling forth blood and gore... while the foul zombie sliced his claws across his chest, adding even more injury to Dopey's terrible wounds. But the battle was over before it had began, for a Deus ex Machina had awoken in the darkness and called out to our intrepid heroes. The sound wafted over the wind and filled every corner of the foul dungeon: "KIDS! DINNER'S READY!". For it was The Joyce, goddess of nourishment and motherly love.

Buffy stretched as the morning sun warmed her cheeks. Her eyes fluttered open as she turned around to face her sleeping lover. Faith lay on her stomach, her face mushed against the pillow and her body half-covered by the sheets. Last night was such a wonderful night... after Xander and Anya had shown up, the entire gang was together for a night of movie-watching and playing games. Together, they'd watched the pictures Willow and Tara had taken, and enjoyed the gifts the two girls had brought from Switzerland... plus, it was also fun to watch Willow blush when she admitted to having stolen towels, washcloths, bathrobes, slippers, soaps and little bottles of schnapps from the mini-bar of the posh hotel they'd stayed in.

And after everybody had, Faith had taken her to bed. She had been so gentle in their lovemaking last night. She reflected on how beautiful Faith really was until a slight knock sounded at the door.

"Buffy?" sounded her mother from the other side of the door.

"Just a second, mom," Buffy said, loud enough for her mother to hear, but not loud enough to wake up Faith. She briefly covered Faith with the sheets, but even though she was asleep, Faith seemed to notice that her girlfriend was leaving the bed, so Buffy silenced Faith's mewing protests with a kiss to the lips.

"What is it, mom?" Buffy asked after she'd found her slippers and exited her room, closing the door behind her.

"Mister Myagi just called," Joyce replied. "I don't know what it's about, but he said he wanted to speak with you as soon as possible."

Fifteen minutes later, Buffy stood in front of her sensai in the martial arts school, after having bowed in respect.

"I came as soon as I could, mister Myagi," Buffy said while the elderly grey man smiled at her. "You wanted to see me?"

"Somewhere today, yes," mister Myagi replied. "It was a request, not an ultimatum."

Buffy blushed. "Um, sorry, I was just..."

"It's okay," mister Myagi replied. "Buffy, there is something I have to tell you. Yuki has been diagnosed with cancer."

"Oh, god," Buffy replied. Yuki, mister Myagi's kindly wife was someone Buffy had known ever since she had joined the school at a tender age of six. Yuki was like a mother to all the students here, always ready with a kind, encouraging word, a ready smile and, if need be, a well-stocked first-aid kit. Buffy had received many a bandage or an icepack from her, to say the least. "Is she going to be..."

"It's terminal," Mister Myagi looked at the ground. "So, no..."

"How long?"

"Anywhere between now and two years," Mister Myagi replied. "But Yuki is a fighter, so who knows how long... But, we are returning to Japan as soon as possible to spend our last days together there. I want to leave the school in capable hands."

"What about Shayla?" Buffy said, referring to one of the instructors. "She's always had a nack for..."

"I was thinking of you, Buffy," Mister Myagi broke in, only to watch Buffy's jaw fall to the ground. "Uh, close that, Buffy, or you'll catch flies."

"Me?" Buffy sat down in the chairs in the lounge of the school. "But, I..."

"Buffy, don't sell yourself short," Mister Myagi put his hand on Buffy's shoulder. "You are a person with a kind heart, and I have come to know you well over the past 13 years you have trained here with us. Plus, you know martial arts inside out, you have earned a black belt and you are an excellent instructor. And you always wanted to have your own martial arts studio. Don't deny it. I've talked it over with the other instructors and they all agree. I will sell the school to you for 25,000 dollars. An intrepid girl like yourself should have no trouble raising that money."

"... so that's when mister Myagi told me he'd be selling the school to me," Buffy said, blurting out the news to both her mother and Faith. "And for a price like that! I mean, it's an established school with a prime location, steady clientele, good instructors and resources. For that price! Mister Myagi is practically giving it away. God, I'll never get an opportunity like this again," Buffy raved while sitting at the kitchen table. "This is what I've always wanted, and now it's here... bit sooner than I expected, but it's here. And it is sad that Yuki..."

"Go for it, B," Faith squeezed her girlfriend's shoulders.

"Whatever happens," Joyce said kindly, but sternly, "you stay in school until you get your college degree. So that means evening classes for you, young lady."

Buffy nodded. "Okay, mom. I promise I'll stay in school, no problem. God, I have to tell everybody! I have to tell Willow and Xander. Dawn! When's Dawn coming home?"

"Three o'clock, so..."

"That's too long!" Buffy grinned. "I'll go past the school and tell her. I'll be going to the bank this afternoon, Anya's going to help me draw up a solid business plan."

Faith watched Buffy practically bounce off the walls in sheer happiness and couldn't help but smile to herself. A happy Buffy meant a happy Faith.

That afternoon, Faith stood in front of Casa de Summers and unlocked the front door. Today, she'd Harvested a couple of thugs from downtown, an easy assignment. Still, it was amazing how dangerous a spinning DVD could be when forcefully ejected while still spinning inside the machine. Yes, Faith had used the power of her scythe to make the whole thing even more dangerous, but still, she was proud to have been able to decapitate two rapists with one single killer DVD, adding yet another entry to the long list of things that Conan the Barbarian was good for. Though the man in question had never used a DVD to decapitate a couple of filthy rapists, Faith was sure that Conan would have approved.

She had already given their stained souls to Tara and even did the necessary paperwork... something which really surprised Tara. She's returned to her apartment in LA to walk and play with her pooch and finally went back to Buffy's house.

Faith stopped dead in her tracks when she heard crying from the kitchen. After some sneaking, Faith stood at the doorpost, listening to Buffy crying on Joyce's shoulder.

"... of course the business plan wasn't enough. Mister Trebor said that I didn't have a college degree, no collateral..." Buffy sniffed and Faith immediately knew what had happened: the bank had turned down her loan application.

"Sssh, honey," Joyce replied. "We can get the money another way. I could cash in my life insurance policy or funnel some funds from the gallery. If the businessplan is as good as you say it is, maybe we could even dip into Dawn's college fund somewhat."

"No, no," Buffy shook her head. "I don't want to get our family into trouble and I don't want to gamble with Dawn's future. I guess... it was just too good to be true."

"What about your father?" Joyce tried. "I could always ask..."

"I want nothing from him," Buffy replied coldly.


"No," she replied, more resolutely this time. Faith wasn't surprised, since Hank Summers had recently given Buffy a stepmother that was one year younger than Buffy herself.

Still, Faith was torn. Part of her wanted to rush to Buffy to comfort her and hold her... while another part of her, had something quite different in mind. And so Faith did not rush in to comfort Buffy, but snuck out of the house to get her cloak and scythe.

Faith stood in the living room of Sal Trebor's house, all properly gaudy and from the window, Faith could see the man's Bentley parked in the driveway. The man in question himself sat sprawled in front of the television, watching the financial news.

Faith grinned as she moved in front of the TV and dropped her ethereal form to appear in front of him.

"Ho-hey, mortal!" she shouted at the top of her lungs. "For thee, thou bell did tollest and stuff!"

Though the power of her Scythe, Faith appeared in front of him as the classical image of Death : a black-cloaked seven foot tall skeletal walking corpse with a deep booming voice. Like most Reapers, Faith disliked announcing her presence, but in this case, she was willing to bet that the end result would be worth it.

And sure enough, the man threw his popcorn in the air and shouted the lungs out of his body. "Wha? Who... who are you? What are you doing in my house?!" he shouted before reaching out to his phone. "I'm calling the police!"

Faith quickly showed she meant business by slashing her scythe, deftly decapitating the man's phone and part of his couch. "I am Death come for thee and all that shit. Now stand still so I can Reap your soul!"

"No!" Trebor fell to his knees and begged. "It can't be my time yet... I just can't! I've got so much more money to make!" Faith was seriously weirded out when he grabbed her feet and started kissing her shoes in an attempt to win her sympathy... she quietly promised to herself she would never, ever appear before a mortal she was supposed to Harvest.

"Alright, alright!" Faith said, taking a step back. "So," she started. "You like money, ey? You also like refusing loans?"

Trebor, sensing a reprieve and perhaps a chance to weasel out from under his impending demise, took the opportunity with both hands. "Oh, yes, we've got a few nitwits in today. Some boy wanted money so he could put an engine on an iceberg and boat the damn thing to the Middle East to sell the fresh water there. Completely preposterous idea."

"I think it's a very clever idea," Faith crossed her arms.

"Uhhh," he gulped. "Well, I suppose, but... Uh, yes, yes, a very clever idea indeed. You're right, I should approve his loan immediately. But there was this other one, this silly blonde girl who wanted to use the money to buy a karate-chop shop or something like that. Sound businessplan, maybe, but... come on, what does a twenty year old know about running a business anyway? Besides, the city council'll let us bid on the land if the school is not sold... and that school's been standing on some pretty fine prime development land, let me tell you, miss Death. Worth a chance, no?"

Faith slammed the end of her scythe in the ground. "I HATE that kind of underhanded crap, Trebor! I think it's time for us to go... downstairs."

"NO!" shouted the man again, falling at Faith's feet. "I don't wanna die, I don't... Hey," he scrambled to his feet. "HEY! We play chess! Yes, chess for my life! That's the rules, isn't it? We get to play chess, and if I beat you, you'll have to let me live."

"No," Faith replied.

"No? What do you mean, no?" Trebor said angrily. "You have to! It's the rules!"

"Hey, who's Death around here? I make the rules, bub! Me! And I say no chess! But..." she looked around the room and saw a Playstation 2 connected to the television.

"Ah, yes, that," Trebor said. "Been meaning to get rid of that. My son plays around on that thing and all that violent gaming is bad for him, so..."

"I LOVE Playstation," replied Faith.

"... but on the other hand, it does improve his hand-eye coordination and keeps him from joining street-gangs," the obsequious toad continued merrily.

Faith grinned and picked a game from the son's library. It was one of her favorites, Gran Turismo 4. Trebor, however, gulped loudly.

And so the challenge began. With sweaty hands, Trebor held the controller, while Faith started up the game. Soon enough, the game started, in split-screen.

"Wait," shouted Trebor as the race was about to start. "I don't even know the controls!"

"Your own fault for not taking an interest," Faith shrugged.

Faith's car sped from the starting line while Trebor was still figuring out how to accelerate. Faith played controlled, kept her car on the road with precision and took turns with easy. Trebor however, was all over the road, crashing into poles, other cars and even the audience. He did briefly cheer when he noticed Faith's car was behind him, but this turned into bland panic when he realized that Faith was actually three laps ahead of him. In fact, Faith bumped into his car for good measure.

And so the match ended, Faith being the decisive victor and Trebor being a very sore loser.

"Please, you gotta give me another chance!" he was once again kissing her shoes. "Please, I don't wanna die."

It was time for Faith to snap the trap shut. "Hm, okay," she said. "I see you're eager to keep your life, mortal. How about I offer you a straight deal?"

"A deal? Great! What do you have in mind?"

"Hmm... how about, you approve all the loans you turned down today and we call it quits?"

"Done! I'll give them the money..."

"NO!" Faith corrected forcefully. "These are loans, not gifts. The bank will be paid back in full."

"Of course, of course," Trebor replied. "I'll go to the office and call everybody back right now."

"See that you do," Faith grinned wickedly. "Until next time... mortal. Until next time... and you'd better give me a more challenging match!"

Faith returned to the Summers residence and stepped inside... only to be greeted by a Buffy that was bouncing off the walls from sheer happiness.

"Faithy!" Buffy rushed up to her girlfriend for a hug and a kiss that would make many a couple jealous. "God, I'm so happy," she said after finally breaking the kiss.

"I can tell," Faith smirked. "So, I guess you own a martial arts school now, hm?"

"Oh, yeah!" Buffy grinned. "First I got turned down but mister Trebor just called and told me he'd had a change of heart and approved my loan!"

"Hey," Faith hugged her girlfriend again, "nice going, B."

"Weird thing, though," Buffy replied. "Mister Trebor said he'd be quitting the bank and start a career as a professional gamer. He said 'next time, I'll be ready for her'. I wonder what that means."

"Really?" Faith raised an eyebrow. "Weird."

"Oh, I can't wait to tell mom and Dawn when they get back from the supermarket! I have to call Willow! I have to call Xander! I have to call everybody I know!"

Faith smiled brightly when she watched her deliriously happy girlfriend. Oh, Buffy has a long road ahead of her running the school, but Faith was glad to have had a small part in Buffy's happiness.

"Hm," Faith embraced the sugar-rushed Buffy from behind and kissed her neck. "I love you, B."

"Love you too, Faith," Buffy replied, slowly calming down somewhat.

And Faith loved Buffy a lot. Not just because Buffy was Buffy, but because she was able to make Faith feel good about herself... something she hadn't been for a long time.

Continue to Don't fear the Reaper Chapter Twenty-Three

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