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 Five: The Pleasures and Pitfalls of Promises

"It was their fault!" Willow, Xander and Dawn chorused when they were met at the entrance to the large terrace by Faith and Troy.

Faith gave Buffy and Toni a once over and snorted, "Figures."

Buffy blushed, hoping the reason for their lateness wasn't too obvious. She looked fairly fresh, having not gotten dressed until after but Toni's dress was more than a little wrinkled thanks to all the rolling around and she hadn't had anything as nice to change into on short notice.

She was trying desperately not to notice how good Faith looked right now too - all dressed up in a satin red shirt and nearly knee-length tight black skirt - and took Toni's hand tightly hoping it would help.

"I am sure Buffy could not help making you late," Troy said smoothly.

She gave him a forced smile, keeping the 'It takes two, you know?' locked behind her gritted teeth. A waiter circled around them with tall glasses of white wine on a tray. Buffy grabbed two and gulped from the first one a little too fast. Toni automatically tried to take the second, assuming it was for her. After a short noticeable tug-of-war, Buffy reluctantly let the glass slip through her fingers.

Smiling, Troy continued, "I am sure she was simply putting the finishing touches to her speech."

Buffy choked on a mouthful of wine, gurgling out, "Speech?"

"Of course, it is customary for the Maid of Honour to make a toast, is it not?" he said smugly.

Buffy wanted to shake her head in horror but found herself nodding mutely instead.

Realizing everyone was looking at her she found herself blurting, "Oh, speech! Sorry, couldn't understand your weird accent there for a second, Troy. Of course I have a speech."

He laughed delightedly. "I look forward very much to hearing it." So did she. "Come, mingle, meet some of my family. We have held up the formalities so that you would not miss any of them."

"Thanks," she muttered as he moved deeper into the group to greet Willow and Xander and the others like old friends.

"You do not have a speech," Toni whispered, smiling just a little.

"I know that!" She groaned. "I hate public speaking at the best of times."

"What are you going to do?"

"What I always do." Buffy shrugged. "Improvise with whatever's laying around."

Toni pulled away a little without letting go of her hand and gave her a playful glare. "You are not stealing my speech!"

Buffy grinned "Damn!"

Toni stiffened suddenly and drew closer again. It only took a second to figure out why. Faith was approaching them from behind. Now what did she do? The choice was impossible as well as ridiculous. She could blatantly flout Toni's demands within the first few minutes of arriving, or she could act like a crazy rude person at Faith's rehearsal dinner.

"Hey guys, don't sweat about being late. Troy's folks only turned up five minutes before you did." She hiked a thumb over her shoulder and Buffy saw the bulky, bearded King of Gods sat in the centre of the head table.

"Isn't that where the Bride and Groom are supposed to sit?" Buffy directed her comment to Toni at the last minute.

Faith chuckled. "Yeah, that's what I thought. We decided to take things a little more casual tonight, but Troy's gonna have a word with him about it before the wedding."

Buffy nodded, still not looking at Faith. Out of the corner of her eye she saw Faith's curious expression but didn't - couldn't - offer any explanation.

Toni took the heat off of her. "You look very nice tonight, Faith."

Faith looked down at herself, almost bashfully and sounded self-conscious as she answered. "Um, yeah, thanks. Not really my style, but ya know. Uh..." She struggled returning the compliment but got through it by adding a little something extra. "You too, that's a cool dress. A little creased... but we both know how Buffy can do that to a girl, right?"

Buffy blushed, actually wincing a little as Toni squeezed her hand.

Toni's smile turned cooler but she answered amiably enough. "Indeed."

"You look great too, B."

Buffy nodded. Oh, God, this was killing her! Without so much as glancing at Faith she started to walk off, pulling Toni after her.

"Come on. Troy said we should mingle."

They left Faith staring after them. This was not good but she would find a minute alone later, somehow, to explain and Faith would have to forgive her, given the circumstances.

Buffy concentrated on being the perfect girlfriend after that. She didn't let go of Toni's hand at all while they moved around the room. She tried to only mingle with the people she already knew and they spent a while talking to Nonni and Benedetta. Toni's younger brother and sister were there too and that killed another twenty minutes. She was not impressed to discover Serena had been invited, and even less impressed when the snobby Italian greeted her like a best friend. It made her smile inside though when she realized Toni didn't seem to like her much either and was less inhibited about letting it show. Serena didn't stay talking to them for long.

Toni knew everyone, of course, and inevitably introduced her to quite a few of them. Some were her family, most were Troy's, all of them seemed to be linked in some way or another through blood, marriage or birth-rite. The majority of them Toni genuinely liked, the rest she whispered their secrets to Buffy as they moved on to the next group of people.

Eventually Buffy gravitated gladly back to her own friends and Toni seemed happy with that too.

"So you guys having fun?" she asked Xander, Melissa and Andrew as they themselves separated from a large group of ex-strangers.

"Yeah, Troy certainly knows how to throw a shindig," Xander grinned easily at her. He'd found a glass of beer from somewhere. Buffy wished she had one. She preferred the taste of wine, but she'd had three glasses already and could feel it going to her head. Not a good idea tonight. "You?"

"It's not bad." She looked around as if appraising it and accidentally caught Faith's eye across the room. She looked back to Xander quickly. "I don't suppose any of you have a speech up your sleeves?"

"I thought you said you wrote one." Andrew said.

"I lied. I didn't know I had to write a speech! Now I'm stuck..."

"Troy, three o clock!" Melissa, who was closest to her, whispered suddenly.

Buffy looked to where she supposed three o clock would be and sure enough Troy was striding over to them, his usual charming smile gracing his handsome features.

"Would you like to make an escape?" Toni murmured, nodded her head in the opposite direction.

"More than anything but I'm not going to spend all evening running away from... Hey, Troy!" Wow, that had come out more enthusiastic than she had meant. "Enjoying your big night?"

"Saturday is my big night, but yes, this is quite nice. I wanted to thank you again for all of your hard work, Buffy." Thank her again? He hadn't thanked her a first time - well, until now. "Even this small affair would not have been possible without your tremendous dedication."

"Uh, no problem," she said weakly. She wanted that escape now. "Anything for Faith, you know."

"Of course. I know she wishes to thank you again herself too."

Buffy smiled. "I'm sure she'll thank me later."

Toni squeezed her hand too tightly again and Buffy shot her a 'Give me a break' look. She was dealing with enough right now; getting a tiny dig at Troy should be the least she was allowed.

"I'm sure." His smile turned slightly predatory - oh yeah, he got it - and then he turned curtly to Toni. "May I have a word with you inside?"

Toni didn't answer immediately and her face showed both defiance but also a small amount of worry and Buffy realized her comment might come back to bite her on the ass in ways she hadn't thought of - like by biting Toni's ass instead, or forcing Toni to bite her ass, and not in any kind of kinky-fun way.

Sensing Buffy's concern, Troy turned his head back to her. "Relax. Buffy, I only wish to discuss the arrangements for tomorrow night."

"Oh, the bachelor party." She did relax and kissed Toni lightly on the lips before releasing her hand. "Don't be long."

Toni eyes sought Faith out of the crowd and she muttered, "I won't be." Before following Troy into the villa through a side door.

Buffy turned back to her friends, resisting the urge to run to Faith for the few minutes she might have spare.

"What was that about?" Andrew asked.

"Which part?"

"All of it?" Melissa chuckled, not having a clue where the tension had come from.

"Is Troy being a jerk?" Andrew asked, looking oddly fierce. "Because if he is..."

Buffy grinned at him. "It's fine."

"Ah, Troy's not so bad," Xander said, making Buffy do a double-take at him.

No, he didn't appear to be being ironic. Obviously the magic was working again.

"You're gonna tell me now he's just misunderstood, aren't you?"

Xander chuckled awkwardly. "No, b..."

"Don't say but."

"J..."

"Don't say just!"

"Can I say anything?"

"Troy's an asshole!" Andrew said and that ended the conversation nicely.

Faith was standing alone by a table fast filling with trays of food. It was going to be a buffet meal tonight so that people wouldn't get bored of the big, fancy menu laid on for Saturday. It was just as well really, considering things were running so late. They didn't have to wait for everyone to finish eating before starting the important part of the night - the speeches.

Buffy cringed at the thought again and decided to take a chance. She took a furtive look around and Toni was nowhere in sight.

"Guys, if Toni comes back tell her I went to get us some food."

"I don't think they've finished setting it out yet," Melissa said helpfully.

Buffy shrugged. "If it wasn't for me there wouldn't be any food, that must mean I get first dibs."

"And we can ride on your dib-getting coat tails?" Xander asked hopefully.

She went to shut him down flat, and then realized that might actually work in her favor. "Sure, just give me two minutes head start, okay?"

She left without waiting for an answer, eyes fixed on Faith as she crossed the floor. Faith saw her coming - she'd been looking at her for ages after all - and waited, a small smile on her face.

Buffy smiled back as she approached, right up until Willow popped up from nowhere in front of her face. "Gah!" She was forced to take a step back.

"And where do you think you're going, Missy?"

"I, uh." Over Willow's shoulder she could see Faith's disappointment. Join the club. "Look, Will, I've promised Toni I won't speak to Faith at all tonight, and I'm gonna keep the promise, but I need just two minutes to tell her what's going on."

"That doesn't really sound like keeping the promise."

Her eyes narrowed. "Willow, please, just help me out here."

"I am, Buffy."

She scanned the room quickly, Toni still wasn't in sight but her time had to be running down.

"Willow, I will go through you."

Willow grinned. "No you won't."

"Okay, I'll go around you!"

"Everything okay?" Great, she'd brought muscle. Kennedy came to stand beside her girlfriend.

"Everything's fine. I just want to speak to Faith for five seconds."

"Okay." Kennedy moved aside.

"She's not allowed," Willow said.

"Who says?"

"Toni," Buffy said through gritted teeth.

"Oh." Kennedy tilted her head slightly to regard Buffy and then very slowly she broke into a big grin.

"What's so funny?" she growled.

"Nothing." Kennedy held her hands up in surrender without losing her grin. "Just wondering what you're going to do about it."

Buffy shot her best friend a pleading look. "Will, please!"

"Too late, Buff, Toni just came back out."

She glanced over her shoulder to see Toni on the other side of the terrace looking around for her. She turned urgently back to Willow.

"Can't you just throw up a diversion? A smoke-screen or something? I only need a minute!"

"I'm only supposed to use my magick for good now, Buffy," Willow's wicked grin belied that sentiment totally.

"Oh, I'm sure it'll be good," Kennedy drawled and only grinned harder when Buffy glared at her. "Too late anyhow, she's on her way over."

Buffy sent an apologetic look over Willow's shoulder to Faith and then focused on her friend again, schooling herself to not act jumpy when Toni arrived.

As a hand slid up her back to her shoulder she turned into the touch as casually as possible. "Hey, did everything go okay?"

Toni nodded. "It was just about tomorrow night. Are you okay?"

"Yeah, I was gonna get some food but..." She gestured towards the buffet table. Toni looked over and saw Faith. "...I decided to stop and talk to Willow and Kennedy instead."

Toni took her hand and quietly said, "I sense you are thinking about Gucci again."

Buffy looked down, muttering, "I'm trying here, okay?"

Toni brushed a kiss against the side of her head. "And I appreciate it, cara."

Buffy nodded. That should have made it easier. It didn't. Somewhere a small bell tinkled pleasantly, just loud enough to carry above the many conversations in the room.

It was Felacio, dressed in his finest butlery garb. "Ladies and-a Gentlemen, the food is-a now served."

Faith was still by the now stacked buffet table. Buffy rested her head on Toni's shoulder and looked up at her.

"We can wait a few minutes if you like."

"And miss the best food?" Toni shook her head. "Let us all go."

She gestured for Willow and Kennedy to walk to the table with them and Xander and pals were already on their way. They all converged at the food table at the same time. Even Giles, Dawn and Christian must have had their watches synchronized because they met them on the other side of the long table.

Toni had to let go of Buffy's hand so that they could both put food on their china plates. Buffy subtly moved along the table, grabbing bite-sized delicacies at random as she moved closer to Faith.

"Having a good time?" she asked her sister as she inched along the table.

"A great time!" Dawn assured her. "Christian and I met this really cool couple from Transylvania. We're going to meet them for lunch tomorrow at this sushi place they told us about."

"Transylvania? Dawn!"

"Relax, Buff. They're not vampires! They wouldn't be meeting us for lunch if they were. Ooh, mini pizzas!"

Dawn darted a few feet further up the table and Buffy darted a few inches closer to Faith. They were a foot apart now.

"What's going on, B? You still angry at me about earlier?"

"Don't look at me!" She leaned the other way to grab a crab puff.

"Okay. Why not?"

She held the crab puff up in front of her face but her eyes were seeking Toni. She was talking to Giles about the coleslaw and Melissa and a stranger were standing between them now.

She spoke out of the side of her mouth. "Toni's forbidden me to have anything to do with you tonight."

Faith scoffed. "And you're going to listen to her?"

"Yes I'm going to listen to her! What else am I going to do? It shouldn't matter anyway, right? This is yours and Troy's night."

"Yeah, but..." Faith shrugged helplessly.

"Put some food on your plate so it doesn't look obvious we're talking," Buffy demanded.

"I can't fit any more food on my plate."

Buffy glanced quickly over and chuckled. Faith's plate was already piled higher than any of the trays of food on the table.

"Glad to see me not talking to you doesn't affect your appetite."

"Didn't know you weren't talking to me until two seconds ago."

"I am, I just... can't."

"So that's it? Our goodbye deal is just done? I thought she was cool about it."

"She was never cool about it; she just accepted it because she loves me." Buffy shook her head. "And even I think that's crazy. Anyway, she stopped accepting because I missed lunch." She took the risk to glare pointedly at Faith before showing an unusual amount of interest to a miniature lamb cutlet - although not that unusual because how did they get them so small? "Anyway, not done, just done for tonight. Tomorrow we're allowed to pick back up where we left off."

"That's good of her," Faith muttered.

"Very good of her!" Buffy pointed out. "But for tonight we have to be no-talkie, no-lookie. Think you can handle that?"

"'Course I can handle that." The easy acceptance hurt a little but she didn't have time to dwell on it before Faith added in a whisper, "Head's up."

Buffy turned automatically and still holding the lamb cutlet in her hand nearly shoved it in Toni's face.

"How do they make them so tiny?"

Toni pulled her face back from the meat. "I do not know." And then glared at Faith over her shoulder.

"I take it you're the reason she won't even look at me?" Faith snapped quietly. "Let alone talk to me. Oh, what-the-fuck-ever!" And then she stormed away, her over-piled plate dropping chicken wings and sauerkraut as she left.

Buffy tensed hard as Faith spoke, but as Toni relaxed with her departure, so did she.

"I am sorry for putting you though this," Toni said, looking deep into her eyes.

Buffy melted inside and dropped the cutlet onto her plate. Giving Toni a kiss on the cheek, she took her hand again and promised. "You have nothing to be sorry about."

They stood awkwardly at a side table to eat, both knowing where they should be sitting and feeling uncomfortable doing so. It had all been thrown out of whack anyway with Zeus still refusing to give up the seat of honor. Troy was seated next to him, looking small and kinda inconsequential beside his father. Faith was devouring her food three chairs down, not seeming as bothered by the seating arrangements as she should.

Between Zeus and Faith sat a tall, stunningly beautiful woman with a thick head of intensely curly black hair. Buffy got the feeling she should know her from somewhere but couldn't place her.

"Who is that?"

Toni looked up from her food. "Hera."

Buffy continued eating until it sunk home. "Troy's Mom?"

Toni nodded as she nibbled away on a buffalo wing. Buffy watched the cuteness of it for a moment, smiling, before getting back on track.

"That's Troy's Mom, sitting all casually next to Faith? No wonder Faith is eating like it's her last day on earth."

"You're not supposed to be..."

"I'm not! I'm looking at Troy's Mom. Wow, she's pretty. Have those two met before?"

"Faith and Hera? Do you not know?"

Buffy shook her head. "I can't remember. Okay, this could be funny."

"Do you not wish to rush in and protect her?"

"Sure." Buffy grinned. Her eyes were darting between the soon to be mother and daughter in-law. "But I'm not allowed remember? Besides, I'm sure Hera can hold her own."

Toni chuckled. "She can do more than hold her own. She could crush Faith to pulp merely by looking at her if she wished." She sounded way too happy with that knowledge. "Or you from over here. Even me if she chose. She is almost as powerful as Zeus."

"Good to know." Sarcasm was laced weakly between Buffy's words. "How do we make her not want to do that?"

"There is no way. She is a very fickle Goddess and follows only her own whims. Do not worry, though, her one weakness is Troy and she will do nothing to cause him heartache."

Buffy nodded, not sure if that was a good thing or not, considering her feelings for Troy's fiance.

They continued eating in silence, one-handed, their other hands clasped loosely together at their sides, until Felacio rang his annoying little bell again.

"Will everyone please be taking their seats now? The speeches are-a about to start."

Alarmed, Buffy turned to Toni. "I still don't have one!"

"It is okay, Buffy, I will get you out of it."

"How?"

Toni's confident expression wavered. "I do not know... But I will."

Buffy nodded, trusting her. She looked around uncomfortably though. "Uh, I have to go sit next to Faith now."

Toni nodded slowly. "It is okay, I trust you to uphold your promise."

"I'm gonna be sitting next to her!"

Toni looked grim but continued to nod as she said again, "I trust you."

Oh boy. With her nearly empty plate in one hand she held Toni's with her other until they had no choice but to let go in front of the main table. Toni gave her a sweet kiss on the lips - which felt weirdly wrong right in front of Zeus - and then went to take her seat next to Troy. Staring at her feet, Buffy walked around to take her place at the far end of the table next to Faith.

For a while neither of them spoke although Buffy caught Faith sending her as many sly glances as she was sending Faith. Buffy ate steadily if slowly, keeping her mouth busy. Faith went from shoveling her food in to picking at it. Eventually Felacio - apparently the Master of Ceremonies - started to speak and all eyes turned to him. Except for her and Faith, who were both still staring straight ahead.

"So, you allowed to speak to me now?" Faith asked out of the corner of her mouth.

"No."

"You realize that's crazy, right?"

"Yes."

"So?"

"So, I made a promise."

"Break it," Faith said simply.

"I am breaking it!"

Buffy was startled out of her clandestine conversation with Faith as Toni's full name was announced. She looked over to see Toni standing up. She looked perfectly poised if you didn't know her that well. Buffy still wasn't sure how well she knew her, but she could see the nervousness in Toni's eyes as she cleared her throat and began to speak.

"I do not wish to give away my full speech tonight because I do not want you all to talk over me on Saturday." A few people chuckled and Toni gave them a strained smile. "So for now I will offer only the anecdote I cut from the final version because I did not want to embarrass Troy on his wedding day." She paused to take a sip of wine. "I am sure many of you will remember the year 963 when Troy realized his true destiny was to become a Viking..."

More people laughed, some of them uproariously.

Troy grinned good-naturedly. "I never actually told the wench I was Thor. She just assumed."

Toni smiled. "And so began the three month war with the Northern Gods. A war Troy could not participate in because... he spent the duration skipping around the forests as woodland nymph!"

Everyone else was laughing as Buffy whispered to Faith, "What's a woodland nymph, exactly?"

Faith was grinning like a fool, but whispered back, "No fucking idea."

That made Buffy laugh, so at least she looked like she was joining in. Toni went on for a little while longer, with Troy defending himself at intervals. Buffy focused on Faith again - without actually looking at her - and waited for Faith to focus on her.

It happened soon enough. "So Willow and her magick?"

"Not our biggest problem tonight. Probably will be tomorrow though."

Faith nodded. "Think we're gonna get a minute alone?"

"I highly doubt it."

"Probably for the best."

Buffy forgot to be subtle and turned to stare at her. "Really?"

Faith shrugged. Hera slowly, regally, turned her head towards them. Faith kept looking straight ahead but Buffy could see a muscle twitching in her cheek. Buffy gave the Goddess a quick, friendly smile and then looked down at her plate and stuffed a tiny egg into her mouth to avoid having to speak. Hera looked back at Toni who was just wrapping up her practice speech.

Felacio spent a minute or two commenting on it and then, with great aplomb, introduced Zeus. The God stood, his great presence sucking everyone but Buffy in.

"Why's the Father of the Groom giving a speech?"

"Hell if I know, but you wanna try and stop him?" As she dunked a chicken leg into some barbeque sauce, she whispered, "Kills me sitting this close to you and not being able to..."

"What?" Buffy asked, although she had a pretty good idea. When Faith didn't answer, she added, only half joking, "We could always make a run for it right now."

Faith chuckled. "Think we'd even make it as far as the doors?"

"I doubt we'd even make it as far as the dessert table but I'm up for trying if you are."

Faith snorted quietly and bit into her chicken leg, mumbling. "Yeah, that's why I went back, so you could kill yourself a few weeks later."

Buffy was about to give a standard flippant response but stopped herself when Faith's words sunk in. It wasn't a gigantic surprise, Faith had said on the phone that she had done it for her, but maybe Buffy's anger had stopped her from really hearing it or something. It didn't change much. Faith still should have chosen a life with her over choosing to give her a possibly longer life.

Zeus finished his speech before she could answer. She clapped along politely with everyone else. Faith chose to attack her chicken leg instead. As Zeus sat down, Felacio announced there would be a short break for wine before Troy's speech. Buffy stiffened. As soon as Troy was done it was time for her speech. She leaned forward so she could look down the table at Toni, hoping for some reassurance. Unlikely seeing as Toni was talking - flirting! - with one of the pretty Greek waitresses.

Buffy faced front again. Toni wasn't flirting. Toni didn't flirt! Okay, she had with her when they'd first met but that was different. Toni had flirted with her because she liked her and there had been an immediate attraction; that and the whole having to seduce her thing. But Buffy had never seen her flirt with anyone else since. She leaned forward to look past Hera, Zeus and Troy again. Toni was still talking to the slutty waitress!

'Okay, you didn't think she looked slutty two minutes ago, so she probably doesn't now. Chill. Toni is allowed to speak to other women!'

Buffy still wasn't happy about it though and she had to force herself to sit back and ignore the blatant display of talking going on at the other end of the table.

"You okay?" Faith whispered, sensing her agitation.

"Yes, I'm fine. Shut up!"

"What?"

"Nothing... and I said 'shut up!'"

Faith laughed and signaled a waiter. When he approached the table she asked him for a glass of beer. Buffy cleared her throat and nodded her head until Faith got the message and asked for one for her too.

"You coulda just asked for yourself," she said once he was gone. "Not him you're forbidden to speak to."

"Yeah, I'll be back in a minute," she muttered and left her seat to walk to the other end of the table. Draping her arm around Toni's shoulders, she fixed the waitress with a bright smile. "Hey."

The waitress smiled back, said something to her in Greek and then said something longer and involving a bigger smile to Toni. Toni nodded, chuckling, and answered her in Greek. Buffy, still smiling even though she didn't have a clue what the joke was, grit her teeth and tightened her arm around Toni's neck until she practically had her in a headlock. Their conversation continued for another minute before the waitress apparently remembered she was supposed to be working.

"She seemed nice."

Toni nodded, smiling.

"So what were you talking about?"

"The wedding."

"Oh." Buffy chewed her bottom lip for a second. "Is that all?"

"Mostly, si."

"Mostly?"

Toni sighed but she was obviously finding this amusing. "She also commented that I have a very possessive girlfriend."

"Oh." Well at least the waitress knew who she was. "And what did you say?"

"That it made a nice change."

Ouch. She let it go though. Now that the waitress had moved on she had more pressing worries.

"It's nearly time for my speech. Did you come up with anything yet?"

"No. Have you?"

"Run away screaming."

Toni laughed softly. "That would probably work." She looked at her watch. "It is nearly ten."

"Yeah, well, we got here later than planned." Buffy wondered if this was going to be held against her too. "If we'd left at nine like I promised we wouldn't even have had time to eat."

"I know."

Felacio tinkled his damn bell again.

"Crap. Okay, here goes nothing. Give me a kiss for luck?" Toni nodded and Buffy bent down to receive it. "If I do run screaming you'll meet me out front, right? Not stay in here talking to busty waitresses?"

"That may depend on whether Faith runs out after you."

"I'll tell her not to." Toni's eyes gave her a playfully stern warning. "Fine, I'll write it in my food."

Toni smiled and they shared another quick kiss before Buffy took her place at the other end of the table again.

"Scare the competition off?"

Buffy grinned although truthfully she hadn't done a whole lot of scaring. "Please stop talking to me. I'd like to have sex tonight."

Faith turned in her seat towards her and began loudly, "So, B, what was that you were saying a minute ago about..."

Buffy groaned, she really should have anticipated that. "Bitch," she muttered, putting her elbow on the table and propping the side of her head on her hand so that she couldn't see Faith. She went back to slowly eating, nervousness churning in her gut as Troy began his practice speech.

Laughing, Faith went back to eating too. The fork in her right hand shoveled three-bean salad and coleslaw into her mouth without a care in the world. Why should she have a care? She didn't have to give a speech!

Out the corner of her eye she watched Faith take a long swallow from her glass of frothy beer before picking her fork back up. It was the first drink she had seen her have all night. Was she just trying to stay sober for the night around all these people she felt she had to impress or had Troy been deliberately diverting the drinks trays every time they came near and she was taking advantage of his distraction? Surely he couldn't want her drinking.

Buffy wanted to make some snide remark along the lines of 'Are you sure you should be drinking that in your condition?' but she didn't. It would invite too many questions that she couldn't answer here even if she'd wanted to. It wasn't as if alcohol could do much damage to the fetus of a Slayer anyway; the fast metabolism and enhanced healing digested it too quickly for it ever to be at dangerous levels.

It was only a few seconds later she felt a hand on her thigh. Taken by surprise she stiffened immediately but didn't lift her head or say anything. The hand traveled down her thigh to the bottom of her skirt and then tucked itself under.

"Please don't," she murmured, closing her legs tight.

"Can't have you going without sex tonight." Faith traced circles on the skin just above her knee.

"Your fiance is giving what I'm sure is a lovely speech about you right this minute!"

"And I'm listening."

"No, you're not!"

Faith sighed as if Buffy was being unnecessarily difficult. "B, remember the club." Her fingers moved a little higher. "You telling me your whole Angel fantasy." Buffy nearly choked on half a lettuce leaf as the fingers moved higher still. "About how your legs just..."

"Oh, for fucks sake!" Buffy groaned quietly and opened her legs. Please let Troy's speech be a long one. "I hate you," she murmured. "Gucci, Gucci, Gucci, Gucci..." Faith's fingers moved a lot higher. "Oh, Gucci!"

Troy's speech did last quite a while as he told a few anecdotes about him and Faith - nothing about tricking her into getting pregnant, Buffy noticed on some periphery level - and thanked everyone for being there. Not long enough though, and not just because she had to give her speech next. In fact Buffy completely forgot she had to give a speech until she heard Felacio say,

"And now, may I present-a, Miss-a Buffy Summers!"

She slammed her legs closed in alarm, trapping Faith's hand until she was able to subtly wiggle it free. She was shaky and she wasn't even entirely sure her legs would hold her right away. Even if they did, the fact that her body was still feeling otherwise engaged, causing her to hump empty air, probably wouldn't go unnoticed.

She wiped her mouth on her napkin to buy time and slowly moved her chair back. She would have to keep it simple - really simple - a toast to the happy couple and nothing more and just hope Troy would be okay with that and not shout encore just to piss her off.

She placed both hands on the table, using it to steady herself as she pushed herself to her feet.

"Hi, I..." She had to stop already to clear her throat. Faith was looking a little guilty, but nowhere near guilty enough. That running and screaming thing looked great right now. "Uh, I..."

At the other end of the table Toni suddenly shot to her own feet looking at her watch. "My apology for the interruption, Buffy, but it is ten 'o' clock. Is your father not arriving in ten minutes?"

"Oh, uh, damn, yes he is. I didn't realize it was that late!"

"Your Dad's coming?" Faith asked in surprise.

For the first time all night Buffy was pleased she had to ignore her. She could see her friends, a few tables away, looking confused but because it was Toni who had said it they didn't look suspicious.

Everyone on the terrace was looking at either her or Toni now. She wasn't sure of the wisdom in ad-libbing for too long but she had to make it believable.

"Have I got time to give my speech before we leave?"

"No, we will already be late. It will not make a good first impression of me if we leave him in town alone." Toni was already walking around the back of the table to join her.

"Okay, sorry everyone. See you Saturday." She took Toni's hand and together they almost ran into the villa.

They didn't stop until they were on the driveway out front and then they leaned against a silver BMW giggling like children.

"Thanks for save. Inspired."

"You are welcome."

"I'm not sure what I'm going to say on Saturday when my Dad isn't there though.

"Do not worry. Most of the guests are so self-involved they will have forgotten all about it." Toni wiped laughter-tears from her eyes. "I have just one thing to ask?"

Buffy leaned back against the cool side of the car, catching her breath. "What's that?"

"Gucci?"

Buffy felt like a deer caught in the headlights. "Ah."

Someone came out of the front door of the villa, looking around.

"Hey, it's Xander!" Buffy jumped on the distraction. "Over here!"

He made his way over. "Your Dad's coming?"

"No, of course not," she whispered. "Why would my Dad be coming? Although Faith did say I could invite him," she remembered.

"Oh, thank God. Not that your Dad coming would be bad, but you haven't seen him in years! We were worried."

"You have not seen your Father in years?"

"It's only been a couple of years. I told you."

"You just said you were not close."

Buffy shrugged. "What does it matter?"

Toni shrugged too and looked away.

"So he's not coming?" Xander clarified.

"No, that was just Toni's ingenious excuse to get me out of my speech," she said, smiling.

"Well, if you're leaving do you want me to grab the others?" Xander asked. "Only, you're our ride."

Toni pulled the car keys from her handbag and handed them to Xander. "Stay as long as you wish. Buffy and I can walk. It is only ten minutes away."

"Okay. See you guys in the morning then."

Buffy stopped him with a hand on his arm. "Please make sure Dawn comes back to our villa. I don't want her sneakily staying with Christian all night."

"I promise." He grinned. "Although I think Giles is probably policing that villa pretty well already."

Buffy had to agree. They said goodbye and parted ways. She took Toni's hand as they walked down the sloping driveway.

"Everything okay?"

"Everything is fine, mia tesoro. I asked a lot of you tonight and you did not let me down." Buffy cringed inside but kept her mouth shut. "I was just wondering why you never told me the full extent of your estrangement from your Father."

"Nothing really to tell," she said honestly. "We get on okay; we're just not close anymore."

"We do not know each other very well," Toni said a few moments pause, sounding sad.

Buffy squeezed her hand tighter. "We're getting there."

They didn't speak much for the rest of the walk. When they arrived back at the villa Buffy decided to take another quick shower, guiltily feeling like she had to wash any lingering traces of Faith's touch from her skin.

By the time she entered the bedroom Toni was already curled up under the covers. Buffy finished drying off and slipped into the bed next to her. After turning off the light and she rolled until she was spooning Toni, wrapping one arm around her waist.

"Hey," she said softly into her ear.

Toni sleepily murmured back the same.

Stroking from Toni's stomach down to her hip, Buffy gently pulled her long dark hair to the side and kissed up the back of her neck.

"Not tonight, Buffy," Toni said softly.

She raised her head until she could look over Toni's shoulder and meet her half closed eyes. "Why not?"

"Gucci."

Buffy sighed silently, hating herself, and dropped a soft kiss onto Toni's shoulder.

"Okay," she said quietly and moved her hand back to lay flat on Toni's stomach, resting her head on the same pillow so that she could fall asleep holding her.


Chapter Six

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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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