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


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PART ELEVEN: 2nd to 5th October 2004
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Chapter Thirteen: The Road to Hell is Paved With Good Intentions

(A/N: Troy's poem isn't mine. Apparently it was written by some dude called Anacreon (570-488 B.C.) and I respectfully nabbed it from here: http://www.blackcatpoems.com/a/upon_cupid.html )


Mr. Lehane was waiting alone under the big arch of the temple door, hands in his pants pockets and rocking back and forth on his heels nervously when they came out.

"Everything okay?" He took his hands out of his pockets and stood up straighter. "Your, uh, lady best man friend looked like she was about to burst into tears when she came outta there just now."

"Everything's fine," Buffy said automatically until his words sank in and she stared at him in dismay. "She did? Really? Crap!"

"She's just tired," Faith said quickly. "So's B. They've been working their asses off getting this wedding organized for us."

Buffy nodded, trying to find some resolve. She had no choice but to deal with Toni's hurt feelings later because they had just started playing the music.

"This is it. I have to go." She could feel herself panicking and forced it down, concentrating on Faith instead. "Do you remember your vows?"

"I think so. If not I'll wing it."

"Well, if you go completely blank I have a copy on me."

Grinning, Faith looked her up and down, knowing full well the dress didn't have any pockets. "Where?"

Buffy pointed vaguely at the strapless bra hidden under her dress. "I also have a clean hanky and a fifty euro note for cab fare in case, you know, you change your mind again halfway through the ceremony and want to make a run for it."

Disgruntled by that comment, Faith countered it by tilting her head to look at Buffy's chest. "Lotta guests out there, guess I can see why you'd wanna pad your bra for the occasion, babe."

"Faith!"

Faith grinned, happy her hit had landed. "You're a good Maid of Honor, B."

"I'm a freakin' awesome Maid of Honor, F!"

With one last glare, Buffy held her posy out in front of her like a short, flowery broad sword and counted the beats of the music in her head before stepping from the foyer and following the heady path of rose petals slowly through the temple to the altar.

Xander was tucked behind a pillar at the back, doing the usher duties Andrew had refused, and ready to give Faith the signal to walk. He asked Buffy how she was doing with a simple look and she returned it with a grim nod. He gave her two thumbs up and a little encouraging smile.

She turned the corner and there was the altar, with Troy and Toni and the old priest guy about forty feet in front of her. It seemed a lot further. Buffy tried to keep her gaze fixed straight ahead but because all of the guests had turned to the door the second the music had started, she kept catching strangers' eyes anyway. At least they weren't looking at her deficiency in the boob area that Faith had so kindly picked a great time to point out.

The temple wasn't like churches back home. It had been designed centuries ago as a sacred monument to the Gods - the very Gods that were now standing inside it, most of them looking bored as hell - not as a place for congregation and communal hymn singing. Babies had never been baptized in the font here, although Buffy wouldn't be surprised if one or two had been sacrificed in it. It was probably the priest's first wedding. So there were no pews for guests to sit on during the service, just open space between the pillars lining the aisle and the far walls. Buffy had had to haggle for hours in Greek with a woman in town - okay, so Toni had done the haggling, Buffy had actually been sat in the air conditioned car watching - to get enough white wooden chairs for the first three rows but everyone after that had to stand.

Most of the guests on both sides of the temple were Troy's, but Buffy was pleased to see that her friends had managed to commandeer a row and half at the front on one side for themselves. She noticed Hera and Zeus perched awkwardly on chairs on the other side; actually Zeus was perched on two because he was so big and muscley that one wasn't enough. The King of God's seemed happy enough to be there but the Queen not so much. She was glaring haughtily at Buffy as if she was offended by her very presence in their domain.

As she reached the first lines of chairs she felt all of the attention shift from her to the door again - obviously Faith had timed her entrance perfectly. Relieved, she almost ran the last dozen feet to her place on the opposite side of the altar to Troy and Toni.

She kept her eyes on her posy as she took a few deep even breaths and then looked up to watch Faith walk down the aisle. It only took her a second to realise she couldn't. She looked so beautiful and even relaxed now that she was in the moment, smiling as she came close enough to lock eyes with Troy - who looked a little awestruck as he smiled back at her - and it was all so wrong that Buffy couldn't look. She turned her gaze to her friends, hoping for some moral support, but every one of them was beaming at Faith. She glanced at the three musicians on the other side of the temple next. One was playing a lyre, she could remember that much. Toni had taught her the name of the other stringed instrument and she wanted to say...guitara? She frowned at the thing that looked nothing like a guitar and shook her head, dismissing it. The last instrument was almost an exact replica of Andrew's panpipes. Buffy wasn't sure whether she hoped they would also bring forth demons or not; it might be one way to put an end to this charade.

As beautiful as the music was, it didn't hold her interest long before her gaze shifted inevitably to Toni. Predictably Toni was already looking directly back at her. She tried a smile. Toni tried one back. Neither of them really worked. Which, in a weird way, made Buffy smile more easily.

Toni mouthed, "Are you okay?"

Buffy grimaced and mouthed back, "You?"

After all, Toni was the one who had just walked in on her kissing Faith, again.

Toni nodded and mouthed, "You look very beautiful."

Buffy's smile slipped into a smirk as she mouthed back, "You look really sexy!" making Toni finally smile back.

Buffy was distracted then by Hera muttering just loud enough for those closest to her -- and those with enhanced hearing -- to hear. "The dress is a disgrace. How dare she shame my Son in such apparel on his wedding day? And where is her veil! She cannot give herself to him so unadorned!"

She saw Faith cringe, her cheeks coloring as she heard everything Hera was saying. Buffy turned to glare at her, ready to tell her to shut up, and saw Toni vigorously shaking her head no. But...! Buffy felt her insides start to boil; she couldn't let her get away with talking like that. Faith looked beautiful and everybody but the Bitch-Queen of God's could see it.

As Hera continued to mutter disparaging remarks, Buffy could feel an angry torrent of words clawing up her vocal chords trying to get out. She knew saying something would make things worse, but she couldn't just stand by and...

Troy finally tore his eyes from his bride and said firmly, "Mother, you are here as Faith's guest. I beg of you to show her due respect on our wedding day."

Hera's mouth formed into a tightly pinched line and Buffy breathed a sigh of relief, thinking she was going to shut up now, but then the Goddess stood.

"Aristiedies, if she wishes to marry you, the mortal must abide by our rules. The wedding will be null if she does not wear a veil for the ceremony."

Faith had finally had enough and turned to her. "I'm not covering my face to make you feel better. This is the twenty-first century. Get up to date or get out."

The look on Hera's face scared Buffy and she wasn't even the recipient. Faith quailed slightly too but Buffy wasn't sure if that was because she knew how powerful Hera was or because she'd suddenly realized she'd basically told her mother-in-law to fuck off.

Aware everyone was watching, she turned to Troy and whined quietly, "I don't have a freakin' veil."

Troy looked lost and embarrassed like all little boys scolded by their mothers in public, so Faith turned to Buffy.

Buffy shrugged helplessly. "I have a clean hanky?"

Troy looked at Toni who also shrugged. "You are welcome to put my jacket over your face if you like."

"Thanks," Faith muttered sarcastically.

It was Dawn who saved the day in the end. Standing up and coming nervously to the altar, she took her gauzy shawl from around her shoulders and held it out to Faith.

"It's not white but you'll be able to see through it."

It wasn't even kind of white, it was bright orange. Faith looked at in horror before forcing a smile out and accepting it. "Thanks, Dawnie."

"You're welcome." Dawn suddenly seemed to realize she was centre-stage and all the guests were staring at her as much as Faith now, and she bolted back to her chair between Christian and Xander, who was just slipping into his seat after finishing his usher duties.

"B, give me a hand with this," Faith held the shawl out to her.

Buffy shook it out and then gently arranged it so that it hung evenly over Faith's head.

"It's bright freakin' orange!" Faith murmured to her.

Buffy smiled. "I think its karmic payback for your tangerine tutu threat."

"Should have been your job to tell me I needed a veil."

"You wanted to handle the dress yourself!" Buffy smirked. "And at least it goes with my flowers." She finished getting the veil perfect and stepped back, picking her posy back up from the floor.

Faith turned to Hera but her tone was almost meek as she said, "Am I presentable now?"

"We have our ways for a reason, child. Troy has already allowed you to include your pagan beliefs into our sacred ceremony against my judgment."

Faith let that one go and turned back to Troy. "Can we just get on with this?"

Troy nodded. "Your...Father?" He looked at Sean Lehane as if he had never seen him before, which Buffy realized he hadn't. "Has to give you to me."

"What?"

But her Dad seemed to have a handle on this one and took Faith's arm again, after backing up a couple of steps he slowly walked her forward again.

Probably only Buffy heard him murmur. "You're a pagan now? What's that? Witchcraft and stuff?"

"No, she means Catholic."

"Huh?"

They were in front of Troy again before she could give an answer. Mr. Lehane let go of Faith's arm and then shook Troy's hand. Oh, that was rich! He punched Giles on the chin but he'd shake that bastard's hand.

"Look after her," Mr. Lehane said, his voice sounding emotional, and then he looked around unsure of where to go until Willow patted the empty seat next to her.

And then they were off! Albeit with the priest comically checking his notes every few minutes.

As the old man in the ceremonial robes made his opening speech about love and the coming together of two souls, Buffy's attention was thankfully - if grossly - distracted by the sound of something spitting a wad of cud to the stone floor near her feet. She looked for the source and saw a goat tied up on her side of the altar. Obviously the sacrifice. She gave it a sympathetic smile before looking around for a better distraction than a smelly goat.

"Not gonna say hello, Slayer," came a very low voice.

Buffy's head shot back around to the goat, drawing a weird glance from Faith. She waited until Faith's attention was back on the priest before she risked speaking.

"Mapanos?" she murmured.

"Once upon a time," the goat sighed regretfully. "Might as well call me Frank now."

"I thought you were released from goatdom?" she muttered out of the corner of her mouth, and then excitedly added, "Does this mean the prophecy didn't take?"

Faith wasn't pregnant? Did that...could that change anything at this point?

"Don't know about the prophecy," he said, making Buffy's heart drop back down. "But I know I got jacked for helping you escape."

"What? I thought as long as you were sacrificed you'd get released."

"Me too, but the Immortal One's clever, you see. There was a don't-get-out-by-trickery clause."

"But you didn't."

"But I tried."

The priest was asking everyone to sit now and Faith and Troy both knelt down on cushions in front of the altar. Buffy didn't have a cushion, plus there was goat slobber down there. Thankfully Toni stayed standing just to the side of Troy, so Buffy took her cue and did the same.

She tried to focus, she really did, but the priest was stuttering awkwardly through a psalm out of the Bible, he was even using his finger to trace the small unfamiliar words, so she zoned back out.

"I'm sorry," she murmured to the goat.

"Don't be. S'only been a few weeks. Today's my ticket out of this body once and for all."

"So you volunteered to be the sacrifice?"

"I wouldn't say I offered myself on a platter but I'm not exactly against the idea." Mapanos turned his head and spat some more of his lunch out. It landed an inch from Troy's shoes. "Damn, missed!" He looked at Buffy again. "Just don't screw it up for me this time, Slayer."

"I couldn't if I tried," Buffy muttered sadly.

Angelina, Toni's young sister, stood up from the second row and made her way to near where Buffy was standing and she paid attention again.

In her childlike but crystal clear voice she recited a poem in Ancient Greek. Buffy didn't understand a word, but it was beautiful none the less and she saw Dawn tear up and Giles reach for his handkerchief to clean his glasses. How did Dawn know Ancient Greek again?

Shaking off that concern she watched as Angelina finished, gave both Faith and Troy a kiss on the cheek and then shot Toni a wide beaming smile before skipping back to her seat.

Buffy shared a smile with Toni at her youthful excitement but then the cringing came back as Faith and Troy both stood again, turning to each other, and she realized what came next. Toni delved into the inside pocket of her jacket and then placed two golden rings on the sacred stone tablet the priest was holding.

Then all of the attention was back on Faith as she cleared her throat ready to offer her vow.

Buffy had tried to help her with them weeks ago, but Faith had chosen not to go with any of the hilarious limericks she had come up with. She'd been disappointed, especially after her divine moment of inspiration when she'd managed to rhyme Mount Olympus with Small Penis. Still, it was Faith's choice and maybe her wedding day was hilarious enough - if you liked your comedy dark - so she had chosen to pen something herself.

Buffy had asked for a peek but Faith had refused, and even though the curiosity had nearly killed her she had respected Faith's wishes. Even this afternoon when she'd seen the screwed up and then straightened out piece of paper on the bedroom dresser and had picked it up in case it was needed, she hadn't given in and snooped. Mostly because now that there was no stopping it, she didn't want to know them; especially not right this minute. If covering her ears wouldn't make her look like an idiot, she'd be doing it.

"For a while there I was lost. I didn't know what I was doing with my life, or how to go about figuring it out. I guess I didn't think I'd ever have much of one worth worrying about." Faith's voice had started out shaky but was growing more confident with every word. Buffy closed her eyes. "Then I met you and...and it was suddenly all...five by five, you know?" Buffy couldn't help smirking at that. "From that day you showed me I was worth it, that I could be someone, that I could be better. That I could be...me, without that being a bad thing. I'm never gonna be able to thank you enough for that, but I'm always gonna love you for it and, I guess..." She trailed off with a little chuckle, her eyes scanning the temple, the guests and the priest and then waved her hand around to encompass all of it. "...this is me letting you know I'm gonna spend the rest of my life showing you how much it...how much you...mean to me."

How Buffy was managing to cry with her eyes closed she didn't know. Surely that should have been impossible. Wasn't that why you had eyelids in the first place, to keep your unwanted emotions to yourself?

What they did do was stop her from seeing Troy lean in close to Faith's ear but she heard him whisper guiltily, "Fai, I did not write my own vows."

"What?" Faith whispered back, less quietly. "You were the one who said it had to come from the heart!"

"I did not expect you to take me so seriously!"

"So what do you have? I already told you I ain't promising to obey you, so don't pull that crap on me now."

Buffy was pursing her lips, trying not to chuckle at their whispered argument.

"I have a poem."

"A freakin' poem?"

"It's a very old poem," Troy defended himself.

The priest cleared his throat to get their attention back. "Perhaps we should just continue?"

"Fine."

Buffy opened her eyes to see Faith giving Troy a glare as she straightened her shoulders expectantly.

"Faith," she hissed. "The ring!"

"What? Oh, right." Faith snatched it off of the sacred stone and shoved it hard onto Troy's ring finger.

It probably didn't hurt him half as much as it looked, but he winced anyway. Composing himself, he took the other ring delicately between his finger and thumb and began to slowly recite his poem.

"As lately I a garland bound, 'Mongst roses I there Cupid found; I took him, put him in my cup, And drunk with wine, I drank him up. Hence then it is that my poor breast Could never since find any rest." He slipped the ring slowly onto her finger.

What the hell was that? It hardly made sense and what did make sense was a crock of shit. Those were his vows? Buffy's limericks had been better!

"I have lived for many years as a man upon this plane, Faith, but I never truly felt human until I met you. I pledge my love to you on this day and promise to make your existence a happy one forever."

Okay, she had to admit that was better. She felt the tears slipping from her eyes again and tried to discreetly wipe them from her cheeks, hoping anyone who noticed them would assume they were tears of joy at seeing her best friend get married.

"Now we will proceed to the sacrifice." The priest nodded at Toni who went into her other pocket and pulled out two short-bladed ceremonial knives.

Buffy's eyes went wide; she hadn't realized her girlfriend was packing sharp, sharp heat! Troy and Faith both took one. The old priest bent down to pick up the goat. His back made a series of popping sounds and he stumbled a little as he failed to lift him.

"A little help, Slayer?" Mapanos muttered out of the side of his mouth.

Buffy looked down at her beautiful dress and then at the animal. She could smell him from here.

"Do I have to?" she muttered back, but yeah, apparently she did. She scooped him up easily, touching him as little as possible, and placed him on the altar. "You're sure about this?"

"Mer-r-r-r," was all he said, so she stepped back with a shrug.

Moving back to her spot, she averted her eyes from the goatacide that was about to take place. She saw several of her friends do the same, although Melissa and Christian didn't seem to get what was about to happen and were staring at the sacrifice with bemused but eager interest. Faith's dad was looking on as if he thought his daughter had fully gone insane this time and was shifting his horrified disbelieving eyes from Faith to the other guests like he was expecting one of them to stand up and say 'Ha, gotcha!'

Buffy could hear the priest murmuring whereabouts to strike the animal and what sacred words to say as they did so. Mapanos' death would be the equivalent of saying 'I do'. Once his blood was spilled they were married, for better or worse.

She wanted to run back down the aisle and away from this, wailing and waving her flower posy over her head like a hysterical girl, but the furthest she got was a step back - just in case Mapanos splattered as he died. Gritting her teeth, she ducked her head to hide her anguish and just waited for it to be over.

Faith and Troy's knives were both in the air, ready, when the priest suddenly raised his hand, asking them to halt a moment as he scanned his notes for the umpteenth time in the short ceremony.

Buffy rolled her wet eyes and stared at the floor again. Couldn't he just get it over with? They'd said their vows, exchanged rings, now just kill the damn goat so she could go get very drunk at the reception. And if they thought she was posing for pictures outside they were fucking mistaken because her make-up had to be all down her cheeks by now.

"Ah, before the sacrifice, for the Bride's commitment to be, ahh, full and binding, I am supposed to ask," the priest spoke up as loud as he could in his wavery English. "Does anyone gathered know of, ahh, any reason why the Christian God would not wish to see these two joined in lifelong matrimony?"

Buffy's head shot back up again. Talk about loophole city! She could hear the majority of Troy's guests muttering unhappily that such a thing had even been included. She barely noticed it though because her gaze had become fixed on her friends the second most of them - Willow, Xander and Kennedy especially - had become fixed on her.

They expected her to say something; like this was the big moment she had been waiting for. Seconds ticked by before she subtly shook her head at them. Sure the idea of calling a stop to this and running out of here with Faith like they did on the movies sounded great on paper, but it wouldn't work in reality. She would be smited before they made it to the end of the aisle.

Xander started to raise his hand slowly. Buffy actually sobbed at how much she loved him for that offer but she shook her head a little harder at him. Faith might be everything to her, but she wouldn't take the chance of Xander getting hurt or worse just to be with her.

He lowered his hand back down and he, Willow and Kennedy all seemed to slump a little as they realized it wasn't going to happen after all. Buffy sniffed against her tears, not as discreetly as she would have liked - in fact it had sounded obvious and pretty disgusting - but she didn't care as she ducked her head again.

The wait after his question seemed to last minutes but she knew it couldn't have been more than ten, fifteen seconds. It was definitely dragging though. The moment of possibility had passed and she was distraught again, so would he please just get on with it! She actually felt relieved when he started to talk, killing that treacherous hope once and for all.

He only got one word out before someone said, "Wait!"

Buffy's head shot up for the second time in a minute; water-logged eyes wide as she wondered what was happening.

"Yes?" the priest asked politely.

Toni took a deep breath and stepped forward. "There is a reason."

She sounded clear and poised but Buffy knew her well enough to see the fear she was trying to hide in her eyes. Not sure what she was doing, Buffy just stared at her, eyes still wide and her mouth kinda hanging open as she waited with everyone else.

Troy muttered, "Toni?" at the same time as the priest asked,

"And that is?"

Toni took another deep breath and her eyes were slightly unfocused as she looked at the priest. "They are not in love."

"What the hell?" Faith spat, frowning.

Troy's voice was louder now. "Toni!"

She continued as if they hadn't spoken, "And it is spiritually unlawful in both of our cultures to marry without love. So they should not be wed."

"Antonella!" Troy shouted it this time and behind them the mutterings were louder than ever at the sudden turn of events.

Buffy was just standing there with her jaw somewhere near the floor now, frozen to the spot, dazed, not sure she hadn't gone catatonic at the vows and was just hallucinating all this. Faith looked like she didn't know whether to stab the goat to get it over with, stab Toni to shut her up or run for the hills.

Toni ignored them all now as she and Troy rounded on one another. "You do not love each other," she repeated. "This is a mistake!"

"How would you know how we feel?" Troy demanded. "You have been feeling love again for two weeks. You are hardly an expert."

"I am an expert," she shot back. "You are not. You have never felt a day of real love in your life!"

"I love Faith!" The words sounded strange on his tongue to Buffy, like he hadn't said them before, or not enough to get used to them anyway.

"What you feel is not love. You care for her well-being. You want her sexually. You need her for what she can give you. None of that is real love, Troy! If it was, you would respect the fact that her heart belongs to another."

Troy struck her, the back of his hand connecting with her face hard enough to send her to the floor. Several people gasped; Buffy was one of them and then she was stepping forward to hit him hard on her girlfriend's behalf. Toni was back on her feet before she could, and without even glancing at her waved her away.

"You know I am right, Troy. You have your destiny assured." She waved a hand at Faith. "There is no reason to shackle her to you for life as well!"

"I want them both with me," Troy said, his voice low in anger. "You know I need to be sure."

"What the hell are you talking about?" Faith asked, but no one was listening to her right now.

"No, you have done all that is necessary. All that you can. Now let her go while you are able."

"I will take care of her!"

"You will grow bored of domesticity fast, Troy! It is a new and exciting adventure for you now, but in one year will you still feel the same?"

She was still in a state of shock that any of this was happening, but Buffy was aware enough to see something falter in Troy's eyes.

His slight hesitation backed that up. "I-I will."

Toni was relentless. "Before long you will feel weary of it all. Your eyes will stray. Your entire body will stray. You have not been faithful to a woman for more than a month in three thousand years! Is this one so different that once you have what you desire you will still look only upon her?"

Another hesitation as Troy glanced at Faith.

"You better not fuckin' cheat on me!" Faith said angrily, if a little hypocritically.

"I would not," he promised, but his voice was sounding a little lost now.

"You will!" Toni insisted. "And the older she grows the less you will be interested."

"Her reward will be worth it!" he said, sure of himself again.

Toni stepped closer, softening her voice. "Worth a life time without the one she truly loves? Even you know that is not really true, my friend."

"I can make sure Faith is happy," his voice was a whisper now.

So was Toni's as she laid a gentle hand on his chest. "Not as happy as she can."

They were silent now - so was the rest of the temple as they strained to listen - as they gazed intensely into one another's eyes. Perhaps they were talking telepathically, or maybe just trying to stare each other down, but either way Buffy was holding her breath now waiting to see what would come of it.

"Why are you doing this?" he asked, not much more than a murmur. "Why?"

Toni didn't even blink as she murmured back. "Because we were wrong to take this much away. You have what you want. I have what I..." now she paused painfully for a moment, but with another steady breath continued. "...I have what I entered into this for. Nowhere is it written that you must be married. Let her go, my friend. Then you can be free and she can be... happy."

"But my son," he said, and it was more just the words mouthed on a breath than an actual vocalization.

"Will still be yours," Toni promised.

After a few seconds Troy nodded and his shoulders slumped as he dropped his eyes to the stone floor. If Buffy had thought she was holding her breath before, now she was about to die from a complete lack of being able to breathe in.

"Slayer, do something!" Mapanos bleated at her urgently.

But she couldn't; she couldn't do anything. She was completely frozen.

The other Slayer, not so much.

"What the hell is happening here?" Faith ripped the orange veil from her head and grabbed Troy's shoulder, trying to pull him around to face her. "What are you two talking about? Are we getting married or not, for fucks sake?"

Troy took a long time answering, but eventually said quietly, "We are not."

Buffy's breath came back in a big whoosh and she nearly fell to her knees. The congregation started up a loud clamor for the reason why not. Toni stepped back, her normally tanned complexion was chalky and she was visibly shaking. Troy's head was still down.

Faith was just really confused. "Why the hell not? Someone tell me what's going on, now!"

She looked at Buffy, and Buffy tried to find the words to explain, if she even could at this point. Before she got the chance to try Hera stood up. She looked a lot bigger and more powerful on her feet.

"This is preposterous!" she shouted. "Of course you shall be married. Aristiedies, make the sacrifice!"

"Yes, come on, arsehole, stab me," Mapanos muttered.

"I cannot," Troy said, addressing his mother, not the goat. "It would not be right."

"Right? Nothing about you marrying this mortal is right!" she screeched. "But I have waited nearly three millennia to see you, my son, married! You will not make me wait any longer! This is right enough."

"Mother, Antonella is correct, and you should know, marriage without love is...I cannot do this to Faith."

"Who on our Earth cares about her?" Hera said, her voice full of the vilest disdain.

"I do!" Buffy said strongly.

Hera glanced at her like she was just an annoying insect, and not even one worth swatting. Which, in a way, was an upside.

"I care," Troy said, even more forcibly than Buffy had. "I do not wish her to be unhappy. So we will not marry."

He turned to Toni then in a somewhat childish 'See, I told you I could care' manner.

"Someone tell me what the fuck is going on!" Faith demanded again.

"This is all your fault!" Hera pointed a threatening finger at Toni. "You ungrateful little half-breed!"

Toni stood her ground, but she was still shaking. "I did what was right."

"You have no concept of what is right! You have betrayed us, disgraced us again! You do not deserve to exist on this plane. You should have been condemned to Tartarus long ago for your misdeeds." Hera suddenly snatched the golden staff from her husband's unsuspecting hand. "But late is better than never!" she shouted as she pointed it at Toni.

As Toni flinched back, a strong shot of panic hit Buffy, reminding her how to move, and jumped instinctively in front of her girlfriend. "No!"

A spark was already forming at the end of the staff as Faith screamed, "Buffy, no! You..." and leapt in front of her.

There was a bolt of lightning, that sizzled as it struck and then a big puff of cloud-white smoke. Buffy darted forward, arms out reaching blindly to grab her, but in the second the smoke took to clear it was obvious Faith was gone.

"What...?" she began, not able to believe it, and then she lunged for Hera.

Toni tackled her to the ground and tried to quell her struggles with a litany of, "No, no, my love, no, don't, no, please, my love, don't."

Buffy did her best to shake her off, running on pure fury, kicking and screaming to get at the Queen of Goddesses. Within seconds Willow and Kennedy were kneeling by her side, also trying to hold her still and calm her down.

She managed to wriggle onto her back, shouting abuse at everyone to let her the hell go and then her eyes caught something that surprised her enough to stop yelling.

Troy was on his knees, tears streaming down his face.

Zeus finally stood and his voice boomed off the walls, echoing. "See what you have done with this foolish quest?"

Troy looked up at his father, his face defiant despite his tears. "My son is not a foolish quest!"

"You have condemned a mortal girl to an eternity of suffering. If your conscience does not consider that foolish, then perhaps I was right all along and you do not have one. Come along, dear." He ushered Hera towards the aisle, but then turned back. "I do not wish for any trouble in my country. What is done is done. If you do not all leave Greece tonight then I will send you all to join Faith."

He looked at Toni and then Buffy, pointedly, before turning the same glare on Faith's guests - most of who were still sat in their chairs in complete and utter shock.

Lastly, he gave Troy an even more pointed look as he reiterated, "All of you."

Then Zeus swept down the aisle with Hera just in front of him looking smug.

Buffy held it together for about three seconds before starting to cry in big, throat-aching sobs. She felt Toni lay down so that she could hold her tight from behind, and Willow, Kennedy and now Dawn too were placing hands on her comfortingly. She hardly felt any of them as she shook with the force of her crying and watched Troy, just a few feet away and still on his knees, shake with his.


Continue to Part Twelve

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Part Eleven Quick-Jump:

Chapter One || Chapter Two || Chapter Three || Chapter Four || Chapter Five || Chapter Six || Chapter Seven Chapter Eight || Chapter Nine || Chapter Ten || Chapter Eleven || Chapter Twelve || Chapter Thirteen


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