Be For Real
Part Two of The Damned Series

Chapter Four

Buffy held the hot cocoa in her hands and let them warm as she stood just outside the front door.

Faith had snapped all the ropes holding the tree on tight and she, Xander and Kennedy were carefully moving it off the back of the jeep.

"Uh, Faith, careful there, don't scratch the paint." Xander winced once for the paintwork, and again when Faith pulled back a springy branch and catapulted snow all over him.

Buffy smiled.

Kennedy was huffing and puffing as she struggled with the base of the trunk. Buffy was certain that she was gonna accidentally put it through the side window. "You didn't think that maybe getting one a little smaller might have been better?" Kennedy grunted.

Faith was grabbing the middle of the tree and making it look easy compared to the other two. "Hey don't look at me, that's what I told B over there, but she wouldn't hear none of it."

"Hey!" Buffy snapped, but finding it funny all the same.

"And look at her just standing there drinking her hot toddy without a care in the world, while we do all the hard work lugging her tree about." Faith grinned evilly at Buffy as the three awkwardly carried the giant pine past her and through the front door.

Buffy took one hand off her mug to give the brunette the finger. Faith blew her a kiss that was hidden from everyone else by the mane of branches she was wearing. Buffy just shook her head at Faith, a little smile on her lips.

She was about to follow Xander through the front door so she could watch them struggling to put it up, when her friend stopped suddenly making her nearly spill her drink down his back. "What is it?"

"Dunno." Came Xander's muffled voice.

"Ken, what's the hold up? Move it along, will ya." Faith called from the middle.

"I can't go any further without putting the trunk through the wall like a battering ram," Kennedy explained.

"Don't do that!" Buffy heard Willow call out.

"Just stand the tree up!" That was her sister.

Xander nearly got squashed as somewhere inside Kennedy and Faith tried to get the tree upright. "Arrrhhh!"

"Guys stop." Buffy called through before Xander was flattened to the ground. "It's not working."

"It has to." Faith didn't sound happy.

"I meant the other end." Buffy could feel Dawn rolling her eyes and bit back a giggle. "Can't we cut some off?"

"No!" Nope, Faith wasn't very happy.

"But Faith, we can't leave it like this, can we." Willow tried to reason.

"You're not cutting my damn tree in half."

Fearing an argument, Buffy ran around the house and let herself in through the back. The scene in the living room was pretty funny from an outsider's point of view, unfortunately she wasn't an outsider. It was still a little funny.

Kennedy was standing against the wall, the end of the trunk resting on newspaper at her feet. Faith was standing opposite the fireplace in the middle of the room, still holding the tree around its middle, looking like she was hugging it protectively to her chest. Xander was still somewhere in the tiny front porch, hidden by the top of the tree and a door frame.

"Faith," Giles was speaking to his second charge calmly, "if you won't let us cut it down to size what else would you have us do?"

"Knock the ceiling out," she answered quickly, defiantly.

"Don't be such a baby," Kennedy said. "Just because . . ."

"Don't you . . ." Faith began, fuming.

Buffy stepped quickly up to her, putting a hand on her shoulder. "She didn't mean it. Let's just sort this out instead of insulting each other."

"What do you suggest, Buffy?" Giles asked her.

Everyone looked at her except Faith, who shrugged to dislodge her hand. Buffy let it drop to her side and looked the tree up and down, well as much of it as she could see anyway. "You okay out there, Xand?" She asked with a smile.

"Yup."

"Couldn't we just leave it like this then?" She joked. Everyone groaned.

"You know, your plans have really gone downhill since Sunnydale," Dawn pointed out.

"Look, all we have to do is cut it in half; it'll still be a good tree," Kennedy said, looking at Buffy now, not Faith.

"Yeah," Willow backed her, "then we'll have two trees, which you know, is better anyway."

Buffy looked for Faith's reaction. Eyes downcast, lips pursed, she was obviously thinking she'd already lost the argument.

"We're not cutting the tree in half," Buffy told them simply, looking at each of them in turn, even out the door to where she couldn't see Xander.

"But . . ." The same protest came from at least three different people.

"You don't understand, this tree and I got pretty up-close and personal this afternoon." She felt herself going red, damn tree metaphors. "Uh, anyway, it very nearly killed me . . . Which makes it practically part of the family." She risked a grin in Faith's direction and got a little confused smile back.

"So what then?" Kennedy asked, weary of the topic.

"Uh, if someone could come grab my end, I might have a suggestion," Xander called through the door.


"And you are sure the ceiling is not going to come down on us?" Giles checked for like the third time.

"No. I'm mean yes, I'm sure. The wood is doing all the supporting; I've only tied it to the ceiling to keep the end all perky and upright." Xander wedged another length of wood under the trunk of the Christmas tree and wiggled it until he was happy it was secure. "Just don't put any breakable presents around that side." He pointed under the leaning tree.

"It's awesome Xan, thanks." Faith pulled his head towards her and kissed him on the lips.

"Merry Christmas," he replied weakly.

Buffy looked at the huge tree. The furniture had been moved to accommodate its hulking form and now the base resided in a hastily found tub on one side of the room. From there, the tree rose at a forty-five degree angle, held up firmly by planks of wood in differentiating sizes until a foot below the top. One of the uppermost branches had a piece of string looped around it which was nailed into the ceiling. This was on the other side of the room to the tub.

"Well, it's certainly unique," Buffy added with a smile. "Bet no one else has one like it."

"That's because it's crazy." Kennedy smirked.

"Yeah well in that case you won't want to help decorate it will you?" Faith shot back, rummaging through the piles of shiny stuff she'd gotten at the mall that week.

"Is that supposed to piss me off? What do you think I am, eight?" Kennedy started walking away.

"I was thinking four actually." Faith didn't spare her a glance, looking at Dawn instead. "You're gonna help though, right?"

Dawn looked anguished for a minute. "I want to, really, but Gwen's mom is picking me up in a minute. We're going to mass."

Faith just looked blank and it was Buffy who caught hold of her sister's shoulder. "And when were you going to tell me about this?" She asked.

"Mrs. Eyshane, Gwendoline's mom, called you three days ago; I know she did, because I was here." Dawn rolled her eyes and got ready to go when she heard a beep.

"Oh. Yeah, well I was just testing." Buffy smacked a laughing Faith on the shoulder.

When Dawn was gone, Buffy looked at Willow. "If you thought she was part of a satanic cult, you would tell me right?"

Willow looked at her weirdly. "Um, yeah, right away. I'm going to go and see if Kenny's alright. Nice tree Faith." She smiled brightly and left.

Buffy knelt down next to Faith and Xander to look at the decorations.

"Are you helping, G-man?" Xander asked, holding some gold tinsel out to him.

"Ah, no, although thank you for asking. I have some books to go through before the holidays finish, but I will join you for some eggnog before I retire." Giles left for his study.

"You've gotta watch Giles," Xander said to Faith, "he's a nog monster. Ain't that right, Buff?"

Buffy just smiled and hung some pretty silver baubles on the tree, watching Faith's distorted reflection in the shiny surface and marveling over how clueless she had been for the past five years. Five years! That was the crazy in all this.


"Does anyone want any more, or shall I start packing all this up?" Dawn, still in her mass-going clothes, rose from her patch of floor by the coffee table to gather up the multitude of Chinese food cartons.

"Nah, I'm stuffed." Xander leaned back in his comfy arm chair and stretched.

Buffy took a second to smile indulgently as Faith's hand snapped out and grabbed a carton from her sister's fingers, while her other still chopsticked rice and fried chicken into her mouth. Faith happened to glance up and caught the affectionate gaze. She smiled back as she upended the carton of spicy noodles onto her plate.

This had been going on all night - the looking, not the eating. Buffy finally felt that maybe for once in their lives the two Slayers were on the same page.

They hadn't had a chance to speak privately since they'd left the jeep, Christmas Eve was manic that way, but Buffy felt like they'd been communicating silently all the same. It was a nice feeling, kind of exciting.

"I'm really sorry I didn't finish the dinner, you guys," she apologized again as she relinquished her plate to her little sister. "The tree took longer than I thought."

"That's quite alright, Buffy. You know, it's not compulsory that you cook every meal we eat." Giles smiled at her. "You are allowed the occasional night off."

"And besides, what's the point of religious diversity if you can't take advantage of it on the holidays?" Willow grinned, referring to Yong's Take-out and Fish Bar, the only place that had still been open at nine-thirty that night. Luckily for them, it was also the best take-out joint for miles.

"You are cooking tomorrow though, right?" Xander checked, getting to his feet to help Dawn.

Buffy nodded. "Uh-huh, but after presents."

Xander came back from the kitchen. "Well I'm going up; I'll see you in the morning." He climbed the stairs to a chorus of 'Goodnight's and 'Merry Christmases'.

Kennedy drained her glass of the frothy eggnog and pulled herself and her girlfriend to their feet. "Come on, the sooner we get to sleep the sooner the Hanukkah fairy will come."

Faith finished her plateful and leaned back on her hands. "Yeah, 'cause I'm sure it's the fairy you're wanting to come." She smirked at the younger Slayer, even more so when Kennedy gave her the finger and pushed Willow up the stairs faster.

Giles cleared his throat. "Yes, well, goodnight all of you, and Merry Christmas." The Englishman was up the stairs like a rocket. Faith always flustered him when she got a little bawdy.

"That kid's got no respect for her elders and betters." Faith waved Dawn away and took her own plate into the kitchen.

Buffy grinned. "Really? That reminds me of someone else I used to know. Now who could that be?"

"Real funny, B." The door swung shut behind the brunette and Buffy smiled at it.

"I'm going up, Buffy."

Buffy turned her head towards the stairs, registering her sister was still there. "Oh okay. Sleep tight."

"Wake me if you're up first?" Dawn asked.

"Definitely," she promised. "Ooh could you get the lights? I want to look at the tree."

On her way up the stairs Dawn hit the light switch and the overhead lights went off, leaving the room bathed only in the glow of the green, red and white fairy-lights that had been meticulously untangled and wrapped around the tree. How they'd got tangled straight out the packet was a mystery to them all. They'd had to use three sets in the end, just to get them all the way up.

It was pretty. Very christmassy.

Faith came back through the swing door holding a tall glass of the creamy, bourbon-laced, Yuletide drink in one hand and a big bunch of shiny green leaves in the other.

"Oh, you're still here. For a second there I thought every one had upped and left me." Buffy watched as she took a healthy swallow from her glass before setting it down on the table and wiping the back of her hand across her mouth to clear up the froth. "Why'd ya put the lights out?"

Happily stretching out on the couch, she lifted a languid hand towards the tree. "You can see it better like this. You were right, it is perfect."

Faith joined her in staring at the leaning, propped-up Fir and they both started laughing.

"Well maybe perfect is going too far, but I like it. I think it fits, in a loopy sort of way." Buffy sat herself up a little more and reached for her own glass. "What have you got there?"

Faith held the bunch of leaves out in front of her and Buffy could see the little white berries. "Can you believe this stuff actually grows out here? Willow picked this earlier from out back. I thought she was shitting me, but it's true. It's not plastic, taste."

Buffy leaned away from the greenery thrust under her nose. "I think this stuff is poisonous so I'll just take your word for it."

"It is?" Faith frowned.

"Faith, tell me you didn't . . ."

"Ah screw it, hasn't killed me yet, so it's probably not gonna." Faith went to the side board and collected up a couple of drawing pins. "So you think it should go here, in the doorway?"

Buffy agreed, still worried about Faith's stomach more than the Mistletoe. "Why did you eat it?"

"I thought it was plastic."

"So you eat a lot of plastic?" Faith gave her a look. "Hey, I'm not judging, this is good, all this getting to know each other better. Now if we were ever to say, I don't know, go out for dinner one night, then I'd know we have to go somewhere that serves . . ."

Faith turned from hanging the plant in the doorway. "Are you talking about a date?"

"Um, no, of course not, because obviously that would be . . ." Buffy backpedaled a little.

"I don't do the whole dating thing, B."

"Well no, that makes sense. Dating is bad, real bad, and we shouldn't encourage it," she teased lightly. She tried not to feel upset at being shot down so fast.

Faith sighed heavily. "I mean, I don't . . ." She trailed off, gesturing wildly with her hands as she tried to come up with the words and failed.

"It's okay, I get it." Buffy didn't get it. She should probably just let Faith off the hook and talk about it some other time.

"No you don't." Faith lowered her voice so it wouldn't carry upstairs. "I mean, I haven't done the dating thing in a long time. Never really, not properly. I wouldn't know where to start. If someone took me out to dinner I'd embarrass myself by spilling soup down my cleavage or using the wrong fork . . ."

Buffy stood up to face Faith in the almost dark of the living room. The tree lights glimmering to the side of her made everything seem kind of surreal and dreamy, and she couldn't believe she was having a conversation about dating with Faith, about dating Faith. "So don't use a fork to eat your soup."

"Buffy, I'm serious."

"You're worrying too much. It's just dating. Just a centuries old tradition, like Mistletoe. It's ingrained in the psyche, anyone can do it. You can do Mistletoe, can't you?"

Faith smiled sheepishly. "Well I can eat it."

"F."

Another deep sigh came from the brunette and Buffy wondered for the first time if this conversation was as hard for Faith as it was for her.

Faith looked up at the green stuff hanging above her. "I've never waited for Mistletoe to kiss someone, just like I never waited for dating to screw. I guess I don't have a lot of patience when it comes to all that romantic crap." She smirked at Buffy who was casually covering the short distance between them. "You're the one who understands all that, not me."

Buffy stopped in front of Faith and gently took a hold of her hands. "So let me show you how it's done."

She glanced up at the Mistletoe that was right above them and then lowered her eyes until they met Faith's. Without waiting for a verbal answer she leaned forward for a slow, lingering kiss.

Faith moaned deep in her throat and Buffy smiled slightly, lips parting to allow her tongue to flick sensuously across the other woman's. When Faith tried to lean more into her, to deepen the kiss and consume her with its fire, Buffy pulled back, whispering: "We're just kissing."

Faith nodded, her nose grazing Buffy's own, and then their mouths met again. It was way chaster than the kissage they'd shared in the snow, but it was no less effective to them both.

Faith tugged gently on her hands and Buffy reluctantly released them and ran her own up to the brunette's shoulders, murmuring again: "Just kissing."

Faith's arms circled her waist and pulled her closer. "Uh huh."

Buffy's back met the door jam as Faith leaned into her, smooshing their bodies as close together as possible and her own hands stopped softly kneading strong shoulders and slid up Faith's neck. She finally let the insistent tongue enter her mouth and returned the favor. The low sounds they were making sounded loud, battling with the tick of the clock in the otherwise silent room.

When Faith eventually let her lips slide away from Buffy's to kiss her cheek and rest her forehead against the blonde's, they were both panting and their hands continued to glide over backs, necks and shoulders, unwilling to lose the contact while they waited for their breath to come back to them.

"So is this . . . are we . . ." Faith started in a whisper, her voice going even sexier as Buffy recovered first and laid a line of tiny little kisses from her ear downwards. "Are we for real here? 'Cause I want it to be, but . . ."

Buffy shut her up with her tongue, figuring actions speak louder than words. "Feels pretty real to me," she said softly a few minutes later, and went all tingly and a little shy at the smile Faith gave her. Her back bounced off the door frame again when the brunette's soft lips came back to her own and she mischievously pushed back until it was Faith who was pinned between a Slayer and a hard place.

"Hey!" Faith scolded, chuckling.

"Hey yourself." Buffy chuckled back. "Whoa, Faith, put me down." She was lifted under her ass and swung around so it was once again her that was pinned by a strong, slender, hot body.

Her legs wanted to wrap around Faith's waist, it seemed the most natural thing to do, but probably wasn't the best way to lead by example. So, she let her body slide down the brunette's instead, which actually was just as bad as the leg-wrapping thing. Moans were jerked from both women as their excited nipples slid together and then apart.

Faith must have been feeling just as she was, because a hand was soon under her loose shirt and heading up to her boob.

"Just kissing," she murmured again into the other Slayer's mouth while she fought the urges of her own hands.

"Yeah." And the hand trailed back down to her hip, just like that. Okay, Faithy, no need to be quite so good. Buffy smirked into the kiss. "What'sup?"

"Nothing, everything's good." Buffy's hands dragged down the back of Faith's T-shirt as they kissed again and landed on her ass. It was a nice ass and Buffy felt quite giddy all of a sudden.

Faith gasped most uncooly and her breath was warm against Buffy's cheek as she whispered: "Just kissing, B," with a smile.

Buffy nodded with a smile of her own. "Uh huh, just kissing." Her hands belied her words as they lingered with intent on the brunette's ass doing some kind of massaging/stroking combo that was really turning her on. Womens' butts felt so much sexier than guys butts, she decided now, so much more squeezable. She proved her point to herself and was delighted when Faith gasped hotly into her ear.

"Buffy . . ." Lips trailed down her neck and across her collar-bone, and had Faith always said her name like that, because it was pretty . . . Oh whoops, she'd let her mind drift and now the kissing had gotten away from her. Well not away from her exactly, just her mouth. Faith was lightly sucking at the bare 'V' of skin between the undone buttons at the top of her shirt.

Buffy reluctantly lifted a hand off of the other Slayer's butt and tangled it in her soft brunette waves, her fingertips gently rubbing against the back of Faith's head. Leaning more weight against the door frame she looked down and saw hungry eyes straining upwards to look back at her.

Buffy nodded to the unasked question and Faith moved a little further down to the right and started 'kissing' around her nipple through the warm flannel shirt. She was in control here and they both knew that, so why not enjoy the moment? They weren't going to have sex tonight, she was adamant about that, but this wasn't sex it was just, well, kissing, with a hot twist.

Faith was alternating tiny, fluttery pecks and little flicks of her tongue with closing her lips around her pebbly little nipple and sucking softly. Her hands remained virtuously on the blonde's hips, her fingers digging in tightly letting Buffy know just how much restraint she was putting in to keep them still.

Buffy's own breath deepened further as more attention was lavished on her breast and she slipped her own hand from Faith's back, around to her tummy and up.

"Faith."

"Mmgglth."

"This isn't . . . I mean we're still just with the kissing, but I . . ." She let her hand trail up until she felt the curve of Faith's breast under her fingers. Before she could panic and back away she let her palm take the weight and moulded her hand around it, just touching nothing more. "That feels so . . . and I wanted to . . ." Buffy wasn't sure whether it was fear or excitement, but she couldn't string enough words together to make a sentence right now. She toyed hesitantly with a nipple and rubbed her cheek into Faith's hair, her lips grazing her forehead over and over.

Faith pulled back enough to swallow and sigh deeply, causing a rush of warm air to hit the damp spot on her shirt. It made Buffy shiver. "Do you wanna take this upstairs?" She wriggled her tongue through the buttons of the loose shirt, touching it to Buffy's burning skin just below her breasts while she waited for an answer.

Upstairs meant a bed, which meant lying down, which meant romance would soon lose out to wild monkey sex and Buffy still didn't feel ready for that. She was terrified of being in a bed with Faith. It was easier to lay back and let Faith take advantage and then walk away with her morals still intact even if it was a sham.

Doing all that in a bed meant more. A whole lot more. She was pretty sure at this point that she wanted all the more there was, but, she still needed time to work up to the whole making love thing with Faith.

The fact that Faith's tongue had just wriggled in between buttons lower than before was helping, she had to admit. Faith had a pretty athletic tongue. To drive the point home, it went another button lower, flicking and tickling Buffy's flat stomach until she didn't know whether to dissolve into giggles or a pile of goo. The brunette was practically squatting in front of her now and was still waiting for an answer.

"Uh no, I think," Buffy tried to clear the huskiness out of her voice and failed, "seeing as we're just, you know, kissing, we don't need to get a room." She gasped, her hips brushing against Faith's chest as her tongue licked into her belly-button. "Uh Faith," her fingers dug firmly into the brunette's shoulders, "do you remember the whole just kissing bit?"

"I am just kissing," Faith pointed out in a voice muffled by Buffy's clothes.

"Well yeah, but . . ." But what? Faith was right. Only her lips were doing anything, and the 'Amazing Miss Tongue'. Faith's hands were still squeezing her hips so tight that Buffy knew she'd have bruises tomorrow. Slayer tight was tight, tight. For a second that thought took her somewhere she'd never thought she'd go, at least not when thinking of someone other than herself, but she was shaken back to the here and now by Faith snuffling her way under the shirt and planting wet kisses down to the top of her jeans.

Buffy went dizzy, the only thing keeping her grounded was the hand she was running through Faith's hair over and over, it made her fingers tingle. In fact it made all of her tingle. The soft blinking lights of the Christmas tree played over Faith's beautiful features . . . Beautiful? Had she ever thought of Faith as beautiful before? Well if she hadn't she should have. Buffy couldn't catch her breath as Faith didn't stop at the waist but continued to put open-mouthed kisses along the stiff line of her seam.

"Faith . . ."

Faith bit into the snug material.

"Fai . . ." Oh God.

"Still just kissing, B." Faith's voice was barely audible as she pressed her mouth to Buffy's crotch, but they'd both repeated the useless damn mantra so much that it was easy for her to make out.

"I know," she whispered, trailing a hand down the side of Faith's face and away. "I think . . . later . . ." Her breath kept catching. ". . . like tomorrow, we need to have . . . a . . . a . . ." Taking a deep breath which also got stuck somewhere in her chest, Buffy moved her fingers to her own fly, just above Faith's nose. ". . . talk about kissing guidelines." She fingered the metal zipper, warm and wet from Faith's lips. She licked her own lips, breathing hard. "'Cause we left that at least three exits back."

She pulled the little metal tab down in a swift movement and deftly flicked open the button with her eyes closed.

The loss of Faith's mouth and the sound of lungs being filled almost to bursting made her open her eyes again and she was met by the warm, brown ones belonging to Faith.

"You sure?" Faith's gaze didn't waver, but she snuggled her nose into the cotton of Buffy's lingerie.

Buffy couldn't speak so she just nodded and again ran her fingers through the dark waves of hair.

Their eyes stayed locked as Faith slowly and deliberately licked a line across her panties. Buffy shook slightly. Faith did it again, even slower. Buffy had to shift her legs further apart to keep her balance. Faith started lower this time, her tongue just barely grazing the blonde's clit. Buffy trembled.

"That's not kissing," she pointed out.

Faith chuckled into her panties and Buffy's hips jerked as the vibrations washed over her. "You want me to kiss you here, B?" She asked softly, every word doing much the same as the chuckling had.

"Well I didn't get you on your knees to pray," Buffy pointed out and wound her hand into Faith's hair.

More of the rich, dark laughter made her accidentally bump her pussy into Faith's mouth and that was apparently all the assurance the brunette needed.

Pulling Buffy's jeans a little off her hips, Faith nuzzled the damp triangle of cotton that was showing with her nose and opened her mouth to suck some inside. Her lips pulled at the material as she rubbed her tongue in luscious, lazy circles over Buffy's quivering clit.

Buffy used her free hand to hold her shirt up out of the way, the last of her coherency marveling over just how damn hot this looked, as she let herself find a soft rhythm against the brunette's mouth. "Ah, oh, yeah," she murmured, not sure who she was talking to.

So caught up in the intense desire Faith's tongue was instilling deep within her panties, Buffy totally missed the subtle signs her slayer instincts were sending her. She was too busy biting her lip to stifle her whimpers to hear soft foot-falls on the stairs in front of her. Too busy losing the fight against grinding into Faith's face to hear the creak of old wood as someone descended. Too busy trying to pull her panties aside to feel that agile tongue on her hot, wet flesh to sense the arrival of someone else on the scene.

Until . . .

"Buf, you okay?"

Startled, her head flew up and her eyes snapped open, in time to see Xander round the corner half way down the stairs. With one hand he rubbed at his fully functional eye, and with the other he fiddled to get his eye-patch in place.

"I thought I heard . . ."

In a panic Buffy pushed at Faith's head to get her away from her, and when Faith was a fraction too slow responding, she brought up a knee for good measure.

It was a total accident, she'd only wanted the room to cover up so her best friend didn't get an eyeful of exactly what they had been doing down here, but in her shaky adrenaline soaked alarm, she'd misjudged her slayer strength and Faith sprawled backwards on to the carpet, nose bleeding.

Xander slapped a hand to the light-switch, making the room way too bright for eyes that had grown used to the gentle tree-lights.

Buffy spun to face the kitchen, nearly going down on one knee in her haste as she zipped herself back up. The 'zipping' noise it made sounded really loud. "Shit, sorry," she muttered when she turned her head to look down at Faith. "Really sorry."

"What did I just see?" Xander asked, frozen one step up from the bottom with his hand still on the plastic casing for the switch.

Buffy looked down, checking out her decency, before slowly turning to face him. "Um . . ."

"No. No um. Um is not going to cut it this time. What did I just see?"

Okay so Xander wasn't sounding to happy about witnessing what was supposed to be every man's fantasy. Had they not been doing it right? It had felt pretty right.

"Um," she said again, but with more of an intelligent vibe she felt, and looked to Faith for inspiration.

Faith wiped her nose and sat up. "Nothing that concerns you, Xan. Go on back to bed."

Faith was going with vague, not bad, but Buffy had tried vague with the whole 'um' and obviously it wasn't enough.

"I wasn't talking to you." He didn't even spare Faith a glance as he addressed her.

"Um." And the award for the least helpful word in the English language goes to . . . "Um."

He took a step towards her, and she took one back, her butt hit the door-frame again. "Are you okay?" He asked gently, quietly, his voice filled with concern. "Tell me what she did."

"What she did . . .?" Ooooh, okay this was way worse than she'd thought. He thought this was all Faith's doing, that she was . . . He was right; vague wasn't going to cut it. He wouldn't stop hassling her if she didn't tell him it was mutual.

This wasn't quite how she'd wanted her friends to find this out. She hadn't even got around to deciding what she was going to tell her friends. She had wanted to speak to Faith first and figure it all out in her own head, before she invited everyone else's advice and criticism to the party.

"Hey pal, what are you . . .?" Faith made a move to get back up.

Now Xander turned to face her, finger stabbing at the air. "Faith, I may not be able to beat you down, but if you've hurt her, be sure I will die trying."

"Damn right you will. What the fuck do you mean, hurt her? Why would I do that?" Faith got to her feet.

"How the hell do I know, because it's your goal in life maybe, or because you just like fucking with peoples heads?" Xander was shouting now and Buffy could hear the others moving around upstairs.

No, no, no. This was supposed to be the start of a beautiful relationship and it was not supposed to be like this. "Enough you guys. You're going to wake everyone up."

Faith looked over Xander's shoulder at her. "Well tell this dick I wasn't trying to force you or whatever. Tell him what's going on," she demanded.

"Um." Oh for heaven's sake, just spit it out already, if only to save Xander's life.

"You think I'm gonna believe Buffy wanted you're grubby paws all over her? I don't think so. She's straight, Faith, and you know it, so just . . ." Xander took a step towards her, arms up like he was trying to herd her away. ". . . leave her alone."

Giles appeared at the bend in the stairs with Kennedy, both held weapons. "What's going on?" He asked.

"Faith's up to her old tricks again," Xander said matter-of-factly.

Faith had a look in her eyes that Buffy knew all too well. "Dude, you are asking for a world of hurt." Her eyes flicked past him again. "Buffy?"

She was asking for an assist and Buffy couldn't leave her stranded. "Um . . ." More, come on, you can do it. ". . . It wasn't just Faith." Wow, a sentence.

She flinched as Xander spun to face her. "Huh?"

"What wasn't?" Kennedy asked. Dawn had appeared behind her and was eagerly listening now.

"The, uh . . ." She stammered over the next word, "st-st . . . uff that she, I mean, we, we . . . were, um, doing." She knew she was red, she was pillar box red, whatever that was.

"I don't believe you, you're covering for her." Xander wouldn't be swayed.

Buffy swallowed and got her voice under control. "I'm not, Xand, it was as much my fault as hers."

"Fault? What do you mean fault?" Faith asked angrily. "There was no fault."

"What were you doing?" Oh great, Willow had come out to play. Why didn't someone go on out to the boys dorm and get Andrew in here?

"We were kissing." There she'd said it.

"From what I saw, you were doing a lot more than kissing."

"Xander!" Buffy turned on him. "Do you mind?"

"But, why? I mean, are you and Faith, like, no, no, my brain just won't go there. Forget I asked." With a dazed look on her face, Dawn turned slowly and walked back up the stairs.

Buffy sent a pleading look after her and was met by Willow's wide eyes.

"It's a good question, Buffy. Not that I, you know, mean any offense Faith, but you and Buffy don't exactly project 'perfect coupleage material'."

"Why not?" Faith asked defiantly.

"So what brought this on?" Xander took the fore again. "You just woke up today and decided to be gay, 'cause I gotta say . . ."

"I did not just decide to be gay, I just . . ." Buffy trailed off as everyone in the room stared at her, waiting, even Faith. "I just don't know what happened. There was Nog and Mistletoe and we were talking - me and Faith, I mean - and things just got out of hand. Nothing was supposed to be like this."

"So you didn't mean for it to happen?" Xander asked hopefully.

"No." Buffy answered with a sigh of relief, finally a question she could answer easily. "It just did. We were talking about romance and everything was okay and it was nice and then the Mistletoe worked evil magic and things got a little carried . . ."

The slam of the front door cut off her last word.

Buffy looked wildly around the room, but her first fear was the right one. Faith had gone and she doubted she'd just gone to fetch Andrew from the boy's room. Running quickly to the front window she looked out into the falling snow in time to see Faith jump in the jeep. By the time she was at the front door the jeep was already rattling down the drive.

Feeling frustrated and jaggedy, Buffy slammed the front door and turned to face her interfering friends. "Now look what you made me go and do!" she yelled at them.

Ignoring their spluttered questions and comments, she swept up the stairs and slammed her bedroom door behind her too.

Throwing herself on top of her bed, she bit down hard on her pillow and wondered where Faith was going to go on Christmas Eve; and more importantly, was she coming back?

The End


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