Damned If I Don't, Damned If I Do
Part Three of The Damned Series


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PART TEN: 24th to 25th September 2004
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Chapter Eight: Glitches

"What the hell?"

Buffy sat up fast but although she hadn't been asleep long, it had been deep. She was disorientated in the dark room, aware only that Faith was in a loud struggle of some kind.

Until a helpful flash of lightning flashed, anyway.

The soggy, dripping, shiny, bright green figure illuminated in the stark glare was so unexpected it actually drew a little scream of surprise from Buffy. It turned to her, long, dark hair bedraggled around its face and eyes threatening with barely contained fury as it easily held Faith against the wall.

Buffy's nose wrinkled in astonishment. "Toni?"

Faith was picked up and shaken, hard. "What were you doing on top of my girlfriend, stronza?!"

"I'd have thought that was pretty obvious." Faith's teeth clacked together as she was forced back against the wall.

Buffy could see Faith was struggling against the grip on her shoulders, but somehow since they'd last seen each other, her girlfriend had turned into the Incredibly Slim Hulk.

"That was not a good answer for you."

"Tough shit, Tone. Abbiamo scopata tutta la notte, stronza!" Faith said in slow but fluent Italian.

Toni backhanded her across the face.

"Toni!" Buffy leapt from the cot and slapped the light on. "Faith, what the hell did you say?"

"Not my problem if she can't handle the truth," Faith's tongue was probing her split lip but she was laughing derisively in Toni's face.

"What truth?"

"That we've spent all night fuckin'."

"But we haven't!"

"Details, B."

Toni was muttering something low and menacing in Italian that sounded a lot like a curse, but considering Faith's defiant and unbothered smirk, it was probably just a death threat.

"Toni, what are you doing here? And what... how are you... what's gotten into you?" She looked her up and down, just wanting a clue where to start. "And... what are you wearing?"

It was big and voluptuous and shiny and bright, bright green... and that was just the hat. She looked like Rainy Day Bear at a St Patrick's parade.

Toni snapped from Italian to English as she turned to her, eying her up and down this time, her eyes widening and then narrowing. "What are you wearing?"

Buffy looked down at the leather bondage teddy thing self-consciously and zipped her breasts up.

"Why so shy? It is nothing I have not seen many, many times before."

"Motherfucker!" Faith powered her fist forward into Toni's jaw. "Gonna make you regret every one of those fuckin times."

"Oh my God!" Buffy ran both hands through her hair in dismay as Toni laughed and threw Faith into the far wall by her head.

Toni stalked across the room. "I find that very hard to believe."

Faith bounced off the wall and into a spinning kick with the ease of a slayer. "Believe it, bitch," she grunted as her foot sent Toni back across the room again. "You really wanna go?" she asked as soon as Toni started circling her. "'Cause God I hope so."

Toni frowned, the phrase apparently unfamiliar, but her stupidity was obviously speaking the same language as Faith's because it only took her a second to figure it out and she smiled viciously.

"Ah, si, stronza, I want to go, " Toni assured her, her hands curling into fists as she kicked the camp bed across the room out of the way. "I have been waiting to go for a very long time now."

"There will be no going anywhere." Buffy got between them. "Except to opposite corners of the room." She glanced at each of them in turn. They were circling her, their eyes locked on each other. "You're just going to go right over the top of me, aren't you?"

"This is happening, B."

She stood her ground. "This is not happening!"

"Oh, la mia Buffy, this is so happening."

A part of her just wanted to stand back, cross her arms and let them at it while secretly grinning like a loon on the inside. But she couldn't. This wasn't a fantasy where they fought over her and then all three of them had sex. This was real and someone was going to get hurt. Her money would have been on Toni, but after the ease with which she had held Faith off the floor and then thrown her across the room, she wasn't so sure.

"If either of you make a move, I'm walking out there, tapping Troy's nearest demon on the shoulder and introducing myself." They didn't even spare her a glance. "You're not seriously gonna fight?"

"She has been sleeping with my girlfriend," Toni said evenly.

"And she's been sleeping with mine," Faith replied, taking the time to give her a quick wink.

That was all the opening Toni needed and she skirted around Buffy with a high kick. Faith was ready and blocked with her arm, then sent an underarm punch at Toni's midriff. Toni blocked it with ease, but they were in close quarters now and the attacks came fast and hard from both women.

"Oh, crap." Buffy had to skip backwards out of the way to avoid being knocked down by accident. "You're acting like kids!"

"She is with me!" Toni yelled, kicking Faith across the room.

"Not anymore!"

Buffy still couldn't quite believe they were fighting over her. As they danced around, trying to make a punch or a kick count and throwing each other around the room at every opportunity, it was like watching a really violent swing dance routine. And Faith was still very naked! Strip Toni of her day-glo green raincoat and introduce some oil, and this had potential... aaand now Buffy was mortified that it was actually turning her on.

"Would you two pack it in? Stop it!" she yelled, her embarrassment adding strength to her disregarded pleas.

"You are not worthy of her!"

Faith sneered as she caught Toni's punch and sent her spinning across the floor. "Neither are you!"

Toni was clearly not a trained fighter - her punches landed wide of where they'd do the most damage, her kicks tended to land more on Faith's shins or thighs than anywhere that would take her down - but what she lacked in skill she made up for in speed, dexterity and furor and that left them pretty much evenly matched. Buffy could see it was confusing Faith that she couldn't get the upper hand. She was getting angrier - which Buffy knew from experience was a double-edged sword - making her both more deadlier and more sloppy.

Any second now, Toni was either going to knock her out cold or end up dead. Buffy looked around desperately for a way to separate them without inadvertently getting knocked out herself.

"She loves me!" Toni shouted, elbowing Faith in the chest.

"Not as much as she loves me!" Faith shouted back, delivering a sharp kick to the back of Toni's knee.

"She will never be happy with you!"

"Maybe not, but at least she'll get a good fuck for once!"

Buffy winced; this was getting less fun by the second.

"I satisfy her plentifully!" Toni yelled, stepping up her assault.

Faith was suddenly on the defensive, but she didn't look fazed. "Really? You ever ask her?"

"I do not need to ask her!"

"So you're vain in bed as well as selfish and, ya know, crap?"

Faith had hit a nerve. With an accompanying cry, Toni's next punch was so powerful it forced Faith's attempt to block it out of the way and smashed into her face. Faith was thrown back into the wall, dazed, but had the presence of mind to duck the next punch. It made a dent in the plaster just above her head.

Keeping her head down, Faith charged, her shoulder slamming into Toni's stomach and picking her off her feet. And they were on to the wrestling portion of the night's entertainment.

Buffy watched them rolling around on the floor for a moment and then scrambled around by her feet, grabbing the first thing to hand. Toni was trying to pull Faith's head off, causing Faith to squirm and wriggle around on top of her, trying to get away.

She admired the view with her head tilted to one side for a second and then looked down at the bottle in her hand, smirking a little at the irony of it. It was kind of a wasted opportunity, but... she coiled back her arm and threw the bottle of baby oil as hard as she could.

Her aim was as true as ever. It hit Toni on the side of the head hard enough to stun her and then had the added, slippery, deflected bonus of bouncing hard off of Faith's face, shocking her into stillness too.

They both turned their heads slowly to look at her.

Buffy gave them a fleeting grin. "Break it up now, or the bed follows it."

She saw them look at each other as if deciding, saw the fire rise in their eyes again, and marched over - cutting the moment short. She dragged Faith up by her shoulder, Toni by the collar of her bright green plastic raincoat, and she shoved them both hard in opposite directions.

"What the hell is wrong with you two?" She rounded on Faith. "We're supposed to be hiding! The noise you were making could probably be heard five blocks away and Troy's minions are on their way here en masse. And you!" She spun around and jabbed a finger at Toni. "What did I tell you about jealousy? Not attractive!"

Toni frowned in disbelief. "She was naked and on top of you, Buffy. How am I not supposed to feel jealousy?"

Buffy deflated a little. "I don't know, but that doesn't give you the right to attack my friends because of it."

Toni scoffed. "She is not just a friend though..."

"Maybe not, but..." Buffy sighed as she looked at her. Toni had a deep cut under one eye and a huge darkening bump over the other. Faith didn't look much better with her split lip and bleeding nose.

"Stay where you are," she instructed them both. "If I hear one word..."

Leaving the threat hanging, happy her glare would secure it for her; she walked out of the bedroom and into the bathroom. Leaning on the sink, she smiled in disbelief and shook her head at her reflection in the tiny mirror. That had been... there really wasn't a word to describe what that had been, but she had the urge to call Willow and tell her all about it. Getting a grip and wiping the smile off her face would probably be more constructive.

Besides, it wasn't going to stay amusing for long. She couldn't just run away from Toni now that she was here; she had to face the music. She had to break up with her if she was going to be with Faith, and she had to do it pretty much now... whether she was ready to or not. Yep, the chuckles had officially left the bathroom.

She washed her hands and splashed some water on her face, buying time she knew she couldn't afford. Any second now there would probably be bangs and crashes as round two got underway without her. She ran the washcloth under the coldwater faucet, rung it out and carried it through to the kitchen. They didn't have much in the way of freezer space, just a tiny icebox at the top of fridge, just big enough for a tray of ice cubes. Not that they had any ice cubes, but she knew Faith had stashed some raspberry popsicles in there.

She grabbed one and went through to the bedroom. Faith and Toni were standing exactly as they had been, eyes fixed on each other, seething, wanting to pounce. They were breathing heavily, steadily; if they'd been big cats it would have been called growling.

"Here." She deliberately stepped in-between them as she handed the wet cloth to Faith. "You're bleeding." She turned on the spot. "Sorry, we've got no steak so you'll have to make do with a popsicle for your bump..."

Buffy squinted at Toni's face. The bump was gone. The cut under her eye now just a red blemish on her otherwise flawless olive-toned skin. And I thought I healed fast?

Confused and still squinting, she handed it over anyway. "Or just eat it."

"Thank you." Toni took the stick and ripped the wrapper off. "I have been walking many hours."

"You walked here from Bracciano?"

"Somebody stole my scooter." She didn't say it with any apparent malice but as she sucked on her popsicle her eyes bored into Faith.

Buffy almost offered her a seat on the bed, but Faith was already looking put out about sharing her ice-pops. Offer a piece of her bed too and Toni might be blinded by a wickedly flying washcloth.

"Why? I thought you were going to stay and...and how did you find us anyway?"

"I could sense you as soon as I entered the city. I tried my best with Troy, but he is still very angry. He... he exiled me!" Toni took a large, angry bite of the popsicle.

"So you brought the monsters to the door?" Faith snapped. "Good fuckin' going!"

"I was not followed; and I am here to help you escape the monsters."

"That's nice of you, Tone," Faith began sarcastically. "But we're doing fine on our own."

"The city is overflowing with demons that want to kill Buffy and you are hiding in here because you know this." Toni's eyebrow hitched up. "This is fine how?"

"We have a plan," Buffy explained. "As soon as it's light we're gonna make a break for the airport."

"That is not a plan. It is a desperate attempt that will fail. These are not vampires. They will still be there when the sun comes up. Troy has ordered a curfew for the city. The polizia are enforcing it as we speak. They have also been instructed to shoot you on sight. Once the streets are free of civilians, Troy will have even more demonic beings stationed around the city. There is no escape."

Buffy went to the cot and sank down on it, her head falling into her hands. She had expected it to be hard, but not this hard.

"So if there's no escape. What are you doing here again?" Faith asked.

"I can get Buffy out of the country. If she is under my protection, no harm shall come to her."

"Yeah, that sounds convenient."

"Troy wants her dead because she is with you! If she is no longer with you, he will calm down."

Buffy looked up wearily. "I'm not leaving Faith."

"Buffy."

"I'm not leaving Faith," she repeated firmly. "This has all gone beyond... Troy lost, doesn't he get that?"

"Troy does not lose."

"He does this time! Faith?"

Faith hesitated, looking at her feet before meeting her gaze. "If we can figure a way to prove her wrong, we'll do it. If not, you're leaving with her."

Buffy stood up angrily. "No. Either we both go, or we both stay."

"Buffy," Toni said again.

"No! I'm not arguing about this. We've been through too much to get this far and stop. If Troy wants a last stand... I'll give him a way better fight than any penguin can."

"You will die, Buffy! You almost did!" Toni shouted. "Do you not understand? She is not worth that!"

She smiled at Faith. "Yes she is."

Faith frowned back. "No, I'm not."

Buffy's smile faltered. "Faith, look..."

"No. This isn't a self-esteem issue, B. I know I got my good points. And you wanna die sometime to save my life, maybe I'll take you up on it. But you're not dying just outta some misplaced..."

"It's not misplaced! God, do you still think what I feel isn't real?"

"I didn't mean it like that! You said it yourself, we've come this far. I don't know about you, but I like the idea of going further. How we gonna do that if you die in the morning?"

"How are we going to go further if we're not together?"

"I don't know, but we weren't together a month ago and we made it to here."

"No." Buffy shook her head. "This isn't how it's supposed to be!"

"None of this is how it is supposed to be," Toni said quietly. "But it is how it is."

Buffy looked at her desperately. "If you really want to help me, you have to help us!" Toni looked away and Buffy stood up again, going to her. "Look, I'm sorry. I'm really sorry. God, you don't know how sorry I am, but..."

"You have made your choice," Toni whispered, still not looking at her.

"No!" She caught Faith's expression out of the corner of her eye. "Yes! Oh fuck! I don't know, okay? But I do know..." she looked Toni dead in the eye, hoping that would help. "...that Faith can't go back to Troy and this is the only way to stop that."

"What does that mean?" Faith asked.

"You didn't want to know until later, remember?"

"I think I'm startin' to change my mind."

"Tough." Buffy kept her eyes locked on Toni's. "Please? Surely if you can get me out of the country, you can get us both out."

Toni looked defeated but her answer sounded genuine. "I do not know of any safe way to do that."

Faith took a deep breath and let it out slowly before turning to Toni. "Okay, can you think of any unsafe ways that might work?"

Toni shrugged helplessly.

"Leaving the country will only be the first step in a war that will last the rest of what will be your very short lives. It is not only Troy who is angered by this. The rest of the Gods are also; they feel they have been made fools of for trusting a mortal, and they will not only come after you, but Faith too."

"What if we go somewhere really out of the way?"

"Like a jungle or the North Pole," Faith put in.

"It may give you an extra week or two, but Zeus and many of his brethren are omnipotent."

"A week or two." Buffy looked at Faith hopefully. "A week or two gives us time to plan the next week or two. We can keep ahead of them like that."

"Yeah, but the shit side to that means we really will be on the run forever." Faith ran a hand through her hair and grimaced. "I need to take a shower and put some clothes on. Keep brainstorming. If ya come up with something that's gonna work I'll be ready in twenty, okay?"

She stepped to Buffy and gave her a kiss on the lips without sparing Toni a glance. Buffy did though, as Faith walked out of the room. She met Toni's eyes guiltily and just had time to see the hurt in them before Toni turned away.

"I'm not gonna feel guilty," she said quietly, even though she did. "We'd have been together all along if you and Troy hadn't gotten involved."

"I suggest you enjoy it while you can," Toni said icily.

Buffy dropped back down onto the side of the cot, begging wearily, "Please don't make this harder."

"Harder? How is this hard for you?" Toni demanded.

"You're not an innocent victim!"

Toni paced away from her to stare out at the rain-lashed window, far enough back that she wouldn't be spotted from the outside.

"All I ask is the chance to make that up to you," she said quietly.

"Help me and Faith get out of the country and we'll call it even."

Toni was silent for a long time. Buffy watched her whilst listening to the shower rush in the next room. She just wanted this to be easier. She wanted Toni to be okay with her decision but it wasn't fair to ask her to be. It wasn't fair to ask for her help in this either, but what choice did she have? If only there was a way for all of them to be happy. Or at least a way to make Toni see how much she was going to miss her. How, although this was her first choice, it wasn't one she had chosen easily in the end.

Another minute of silence stretched on before she spoke. "Toni, come here."

Toni looked over her shoulder but didn't move.

Buffy held her hand out. "Come here."

The Italian did so this time, watching Buffy's face. She didn't take the offered hand so Buffy reached for hers and pulled her gently down beside her. She took it between both of hers and squeezed it tenderly before moving one hand to slide beneath Toni's hair and around to the back of her neck.

"I'm sorry..."

Toni tilted her head up so she could look away, chuckling softly despite the shiny threat of tears in her eyes.

"You are breaking up with me," she said matter-of-factly. "I suppose that is thoughtful, at least."

"What? No." Oddly enough that had been the last thing on her mind just then.

"Really?" Toni looked her in the eye again, surprised.

"Not what I was gonna say, no, but maybe... maybe," she frowned slightly. "...you have a point."

"No I do not," Toni said so quickly it brought a small smile to Buffy's lips. "What were you going to say?"

Her smile grew before her expression turned regretful again. "That... that I love you."

Toni frowned, not the look Buffy was expecting, and waited a beat before saying, "I do not understand. Are you trying to manipulate me?"

"No!"

"Appeal to my feelings for you, then?"

Buffy hesitated. "Maybe... but I wouldn't if I didn't mean it."

"But surely, il mio amore, if you truly meant it, you would not be leaving me."

"It's not like that. You know I have to choose Faith."

"I know no such thing."

"Honestly, I love you both! I know that's not what you want to hear and maybe you don't even think it's possible, but I swear it's true. And if this was Buffyland and I got to make all the rules, I wouldn't have to choose right now. But it's not, and I do." She looked down for a moment. "And I did. But I need you to know it's not because I don't love you. Because, God knows I shouldn't after..." she shrugged. "...everything, but I do, okay?"

"You love me?" Toni nodded. "That, I think, is okay."

They finally smiled at each other and maybe now it would be okay. Even if Toni still refused to help them, Buffy felt better about things than she had five minutes ago.

After a second or two she realized Toni was leaning in to kiss her, she pulled her head back a little automatically but then the lure of a final kiss was too much - and what could it hurt? - so she went with it. Warm and delicious as ever, not like the fireworks she felt with Faith but there was certainly nothing wrong with a kiss like this.

Caught in the moment a little as Toni's hand slid up her arm to hold her shoulder, she forgot to keep it quite as short and sweet as she meant to. The clearing of a throat in the doorway jerked her out of it quickly enough though.

They both turned to Faith, an apology instantly on Buffy's lips.

"Sorry," she said, standing up fast. Then realizing how that looked, she turned to Toni, "Sorry!"

Toni didn't look pissed off, just a little sad.

Faith waved a dismissive hand at her as she came into the room in a towel. "I'll let that one go, what with this being a shitty situation an' all. Happens again though, someone's dying."

Buffy gave a sigh of relief. "It won't happen again."

She walked over to where Faith was routing through their joint pile of clothes for something to wear, figuring the best way to keep Faith in this benevolent mood was to be closer to her than Toni.

Toni sighed too, although probably not with relief.

"What do you think's best for running for our lives, B? Leather pants or cotton capri's?"

"I don't know. Leather's durable but then cotton's breathable. If we end up in the Congo or Australia, you're gonna want something that keeps you cool, but then again..." she grinned devilishly. "...leather's sexier."

"Leather it is, then," Faith smirked before giving her a kiss, and there were them fireworks.

Toni sighed again as she watched them together. Hearing it, Buffy turned from the kiss abruptly, feeling bad, to see Toni pull her cell phone from the deep pocket of her bright green poncho.

At first she thought the worst. That she'd pushed her too far and Toni was calling Troy to give their co-ordinates or something. When she heard the beginning of the phone conversation she felt even worse for thinking that.

"Nonni, it is me. I need a private jet... No, I am not going anywhere... Si... No, everything is okay, I promise. Please, trust me... Grazie."

As Faith dressed beside her, Buffy waited a moment after Toni had finished her call before speaking.

"Your Grandma isn't like other Grandma's, is she?"

Toni smirked but it fell away quickly as she stood up, shoving the cell-phone back in her pocket.

"If she is successful we need to be at Fiumicino in an hour and a half. Any delay will make this more impossible than it probably already is."

"Ciampiano is closer," Faith said as she pulled a red tank top on and zipped up her leather pants.

"I assure you it will already be closed down by now. Fiumicino has a secret runway. It is your only hope."

"Secret?" Faith asked. "In what way?"

Buffy wished she would stop being suspicious and just go with it. Toni was helping them, and that was a miracle in itself. Doubting her might make her change her mind in an instant.

Toni didn't answer her anyway. "My grandmother will go through my father. He will keep my secret because it is me. However, once he sets things in motion it will not take Troy long to learn of them. We need to be waiting for the plane but not for long. Too much time there and our presence will be noticed."

"You're coming with us?" Faith asked, half pissed off, half amused.

Buffy looked up sharply. That hadn't even occurred to her! Sure it would mean this mess in her heart wouldn't exactly be resolved, but the prospect was appealing all the same.

"Of course not." Toni snapped. "But I must risk my existence to ensure you are safely boarded. The two of you will not know if there is a trap until it is too late."

The big, sharp point in that sentence wasn't lost on her and Buffy looked away again.

If Faith got it, she wasn't bothered by it. "B, you should shower and get changed."

"Yeah," she said absently. "In a minute. What will Troy do to you if catches you helping us?"

"He's not gonna do anything to her," Faith insisted. "She's his best friend, for christsake."

Buffy ignored that and kept her eyes on Toni.

Who gave a little shrug. "At best I will be exiled from Rome as well as Bracciano. At worst... I will be exiled from the mortal planes altogether."

"He'll kill you?!"

"No, he does not have the power to do that."

Buffy wasn't quite sure what being exiled meant then and Faith didn't give her time to dwell.

"B, come on! We have a ninety minutes and it's gonna take most of that to get to the airport."

"Hang on a minute!" she snapped. "Toni, if there's a chance you'll get caught at the airport, you can't come with us!"

"I have already explained, if I do not come with you..."

"Then you have to come with us!"

Toni gave a surprised chuckle. "I can not do that."

"Yes, you can. I'm not saying it's perfect or... or that it'll work long term, but if you're with us you can't be exiled!"

"Buffy, I will not put myself in that position!"

"You have to. Just until you're out of the country. It's a way better plan than us putting you in a whole lot of unnecessary danger for helping us."

"It's not unnecessary, B!" Buffy shot her a hard look, but Faith didn't back down. "Hey! Either you and me are in this together one hundred per cent or we're not. And if you're not..." she left the sentence hanging.

"I am!" Buffy insisted. "But..."

"But what? We're running into a shit deal here, B, whichever way you look at it. And if you can't even let her go, what the hell are you gonna be like later down the line?"

"What do you mean?"

"I mean Red and Xander. Remember what we talked about? If you can't even say goodbye to Tone when ya need to, how the hell are ya gonna say goodbye to them? Or are you really planning on bringing them with us too?"

"No! I told you I'd deal!"

"How?" Faith demanded.

"I just will!"

"If you truly wish to disappear," Toni said. "You cannot see your friends again."

"I know we can't take them with us!" Buffy said, exasperated. "We'll make a really quick stop in Cleveland. Just an hour if you think that's all that's safe. Get some help, some money and some clothes and then we'll take off again. I can explain and say my goodbyes in that time."

Toni shook her head. "No, my love, I mean never again. You cannot go to Cleveland. That will be the first place Troy will look for you. In fact he probably already has people there waiting for your arrival. If you wish to hide from him then you need to truly disappear."

"Where's the best place?" Faith asked, business-like.

Buffy wasn't listening, her brain stuck on another part of Toni's doom-laden speech.

"Give me your cell-phone," she suddenly said. "I need to call home."

"That is not wise," Toni said but handed it over anyway, responding to the urgency in Buffy's voice. "Anywhere for now that isn't somewhere he would expect," she added to Faith. Buffy quickly dialed the number for their house in Wendigo Hollow.

Faith watched her worriedly as she said, "So not Cleveland, or Boston, Southern California or here. That leaves plenty of places." She sounded kind of upset as she added, "Is Troy really this pissed off?"

Toni nodded once. "He wants you back and he wants to hurt Buffy for taking you away. Lethally."

"No one's fucking picking up!" Buffy half-shouted.

Faith glanced at her before looking at Toni again. "This sucks! Troy's never been... what's gotten into him?"

"He loves you," Toni said simply, not knowing whether she was lying or not. "Buffy, Troy may have the telephones tapped anyway."

Buffy cut the call quickly, the endless ringing just agitating her anyway. "Then what do I do?" she asked helplessly.

"You get on the plane and call 'em from wherever we land first," Faith said, but her tone wasn't convincing. "If you want to, that is."

"Of course I want to call them! I need to tell them what's going on at least!"

"I meant, are you sure you can handle not saying bye in person?"

She was doing her best not to think about it. "I have to handle it."

Faith turned away, using the act of running a brush through her wet hair a few times to not look at her.

"You're really okay with never seeing them again?"

Buffy hesitated, briefly. "Yes."

"You sure I'm worth it?"

This time there was no hesitation, although there was a tiny guilty glance at Toni. "Yes!"

"Even Dawnie?"

"What?"

"Your sister."

"I know who Dawn is!"

"Well?"

She looked at Toni again, who gave a sympathetic smile and then looked away, obviously not prepared to get involved in this particular discussion.

"Maybe we can send for her. Wherever we end up. I know it won't be quite as romantic, but..."

"You wanna do that," Faith said. "I'm cool with it, but how safe is it gonna be for her?"

"She'll be safe with us," Buffy hated the doubt in her voice.

"What about her fancy school? What about her getting into a good college? Even if they have Ivy League schools in the Congo we might be on the run for a while before it's safe to settle anywhere. I know that's not what you want for her."

Buffy stepped back, getting angry. "Then what do I do?"

"I don't know," Faith said helplessly.

Neither did Buffy. Could she leave Dawn? Leaving her best friends would be hard enough but she knew they would understand, eventually anyway. But Dawn? She'd promised her mom she would take care of her. She had promised herself she would always take care of her! It was her little sister, for Gods sake! Taking her with them was the only option, but Faith was right, it wasn't fair to her. Even if she understood it, she'd hate it.

Dawn hadn't even wanted to come to Rome, and okay, she'd had a good time once she was here but that was worlds away from having to be on the run forever, or for the unforeseeable future anyway.

"I can't," she said under her breath.

Faith ran a frustrated hand over her face. "Great."

"I mean I can't uproot her!" Buffy snapped.

"Does that mean you can leave her?" Faith asked doubtfully.

Buffy just breathed hard for a moment or two. "I don't know."

"So... great!" Faith shouted it this time.

"This isn't easy, you know!"

"I know," Faith said tiredly. "God, I know!" She took a step back, running a hand back through her hair. "Fuck, I need some air."

As she started to walk past, Buffy grabbed her arm. "I'm not saying..."

Faith turned towards her. "I know you're not. And maybe we'll figure this out, but I..." she shook her head as her fingers rubbed her forehead. "...I just need to get out of here for a minute."

Toni checked her watch. "We must be there for the plane in seventy-five minutes."

Faith seemed to ignore that and pulled her arm gently from Buffy's grip. "I just need... I just need a minute."

Buffy grabbed her arm again, with both hands and tighter than before. "Faith, don't go."

"I'm just gonna go down to the phone box and call Giles."

"Really?"

Faith nodded. "Yeah. Storm's probably fuckin' up the cell signal. Got more chance of getting through on a normal phone."

"Really?" Buffy asked again, not letting go.

"Yeah, and I'll tell them the sitch. You better get yourself ready soon or ya gonna miss the plane."

"You mean we'll miss the plane?"

Faith gave her a half-smile. "No, I'm ready to go, Chica."

"Oh, right." Faith pulled her arm away again. "Faith!"

Faith suddenly got up close, brow to brow, with one hand on the side of her face. "I love you, B, okay?"

"Okay," Buffy murmured.

Faith kissed her firmly and afterward she stayed close, gazing into her eyes and breathing her in.

Eventually, she said, "You and me, forever, right?"

"Totally," Buffy breathed.

Faith nodded and then gave her another kiss on the lips before stepping away. Buffy stood there motionless, fearing the worst. Faith was out of the room before her limbs started working again. She ran out of the bedroom after her.

"Faith! Don't go!"

Faith stopped at the front door and looked back. "Jeez, B! Quit freakin'. I just need some time to fuckin' think and so do you."

"You can think here!"

Faith looked down at her feet. When she looked back up her eyes were full of resolve.

"Just get changed, yeah? I don't like Tone ogling my chick in that outfit." And then she was yanking the door open and going through it.

Buffy raced after her, one hand slamming the door jamb as she skidded half out of the door on her bare feet.

"Faith!"


Chapter Nine

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Part Ten Quick-Jump:

Chapter One || Chapter Two || Chapter Three || Chapter Four || Chapter Five || Chapter Six || Chapter Seven || Chapter Eight || Chapter Nine || Bonus Chapter


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