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 Eight: Playing The Game

The cart ride hadn't been too hellishly bumpy but it had been cramped and Buffy clambered out gratefully with everyone else when they finally arrived at The Purple Ouzo. She helped Faith out after her, just as an excuse to hold her hand for a second.

"Are you excited?"

"Be more excited if there was a stripper waitin' for me." Buffy glared at her until Faith grinned. "Yes, B, I'm excited! Let's get it started."

Buffy gave her hand a squeeze before walking to the front of the pack to lead everyone in.

"We'll go in and get drinks but we're actually eating out here. It's the biggest table and that way we won't disturb all the other eaters."

"You didn't hire the whole place?" Kennedy asked.

"I thought about it, but while the restaurant part is small the actual bar and dance floor is kinda big. I figured with just the seven of us - well, eight of us now," she smiled at Toni, "It would feel a little weird and empty."

"It is the end of the season anyway," said Serena. "I doubt there will be many other patrons."

"Who cares either way? Long as there's room on the dance floor for me, it's all good," Faith said as they went inside.

While the others ordered drinks at the bar, Buffy spoke to the owner, paying one hundred euros up front for the tab while making sure everything was set up as she'd asked. Once they were ready he called for a waiter to guide them out to their table and take their orders.

Their table was nice, exactly the right size for the eight of them, running along the back wall of the taverna. The music from the dance floor floated through the windows but they felt completely private from the other customers. Paper lanterns in pastel shades of blue, green and pink hung from a wire above them attracting fluttering moths and creating a fire hazard, as Willow pointed out. Fat red scented candles were arranged on the table, too.

The only other table decorations had been seven pink, pointy party hats on the plates. Buffy wrinkled her nose; she didn't remembering ordering anything so cheesy, but as everyone else gamely donned them she reluctantly stuck hers on her head, adjusting the thin elastic strap as it pinged painfully against her chin. Faith got out of putting hers on by magnanimously pointing out it wasn't fair that Toni didn't have one and passing hers along the table to her. Buffy secretly wished she'd thought of that first but Faith was thwarted almost at once when the waiter reappeared with two jugs of ice water and an eighth party hat.

"Put it on," Buffy instructed when Faith just set it aside.

"Yeah, in a minute. Let's order first."

"Faith, come on, put it on," Dawn insisted. "Put it on, put it on, put it on!"

"Fine!" Faith snapped affably, shoving it on to her head. She grimaced as she suffered the same fate at the hands of the elastic strap as Buffy. "There, it's on! Happy now? But if I see any cameras or..."

Suddenly everyone but Serena and Toni had a cell phone out and pointing at Faith. Buffy laughed, snapping her own shot on her new phone as Faith groaned and tried to ignore them by grabbing a menu from the waiter's hands. Faith might have felt stupid, but to Buffy she just looked adorable - which, come to think of it, Faith probably knew and was the reason she felt stupid. Buffy shrugged and was just pleased she'd chosen to sit at the other end of the table so that she could check out the adorableness without having to strain her neck to see past everyone else.

That little perk was pure coincidence. Buffy had picked the chair furthest from Faith because after what had happened at lunch she didn't think putting herself in between Faith and Toni again was a good idea. Better to keep a little bit of distance while they ate, especially as she planned on doing no such thing once they hit the dance floor. As soon as they lights were dimmed the only time she didn't intend to be glued to Faith's side was when she was physically dancing with Toni. Even then she would keep her in sight.

This was their last night - their very last night - to be together and she intended to make the most out of it. She was also determined that however much the idea of never seeing Faith again made her want to break down in tears, she wasn't going to dwell on it; wasn't going to let it bring her down and ruin the evening. As Willow had said, there would be plenty of time for hysterical crying once the wedding was done. Not that Willow had put it quite like that.

Along with their meals Faith had ordered three bottles of wine for the table and by the time they were done with their main courses, they were nearly empty. This might have had something to do with why Willow, Melissa and even Toni suddenly started calling for Faith to make a speech - although it might have been a little mischievousness on Toni's part, too. Buffy grinned, waiting to see what Faith would do.

Eventually she caved. "Fine, uh..."

"You should stand up," Kennedy said, topping up everyone's glasses with the last of the wine ready for a toast.

"You're kidding, right?"

"It's customary," Dawn put in.

With a heartfelt sigh Faith rose to her feet. "Uh...Thanks for coming." She was sat back down before anyone had registered her words. Buffy burst out laughing as everyone else got on her case to do better. "Well, I dunno what to say, do I?" she whined under their excited clamor.

"Oh, for Heaven's..." Still chuckling, Buffy let go of Toni's hand and stood up. The noise died down as everyone turned to her expectantly. She blinked once under the sudden, intense attention and fought the urge to just say 'thanks for coming' too and sit back down herself.

"Okay," she began. "This is another speech I haven't prepared, but..." she focused solely on Faith and found it easier. "Tomorrow's a big day, obviously, what with the wedding and afterwards you'll be going off to start your new, exciting life and... and most of us won't get to see you again much. Which is fine, what with the new and the exciting and... yeah. I feel like we've only just started getting to know you this year, which really sucks for us, because it turns out... you're not so bad." She smiled. "You're actually kind of awesome and I hope Troy knows how lucky he is that you chose... that he gets to be with you. You've worked hard to overcome stuff in the last couple of years and we're all really proud of you, and while I personally never, never, never..." Kennedy kicked her under the table. Buffy winced slightly and muttered, "Thank you. ...thought you'd ever get, you know, married, I hope you'll be really happy... with him... and stuff." Buffy had to drag her eyes from the emotions playing across Faith's face before she welched on her no crying deal. Clearing her throat, she took a sip of her wine and then raised the glass up. "So let's all drink to Faith, her big day tomorrow, and giving her a wicked last night of freedom to remember."

As everyone else loudly toasted and congratulated Faith, Toni was the only one who saw Buffy drain her entire glass of wine in one hit as she sank back onto her chair.

"I thought you did not like public speaking?"

"You think I enjoyed that?" Buffy said, more roughly than she meant to. Smiling softly to make up for it, she covered Toni's hand with her own. "This is a little different to making a speech in front of an entire room full of people."

"So is there gonna be a stripper?" Kennedy grinned, eying the waiter as he came back out to take their dessert orders.

"No, B wouldn't get me one," Faith complained.

"You could always do it," Buffy said to Kennedy.

"No she can't," Willow said quickly.

"How 'bout you then, Red? After all, you owe me for this afternoon."

As Willow just blushed brightly, Buffy chuckled and leant the other way to whisper to Toni. "Order me whatever you're having. I just need to go inside."

"Are you okay? Do you wish for me to come with you?"

"I'm fine." It wasn't strictly true but it also wasn't why she was going inside. She put a hand on Toni's shoulder to keep her in her seat as she stood up again. "I'll only be a minute."

She felt Faith's eyes on her until she walked around the corner and hoped she wouldn't follow.

At the bar she couldn't speak to the owner right away and ordered herself a whiskey and coke. She sipped it slowly while she waited, hoping it would burn away the memory of the speech she had just given. Now that she was alone, every word was coming back to hit her hard.

"Miss Summers?" She looked up at the owner, grateful for his interruption. "Is everything okay?"

"Hi, yep, everything's great. I was just wondering, uh, if it was still okay to have that private room later?"

"The room out the back?" She nodded. "Of course. Twenty extra euros and no funny business," he said with a smile.

She didn't know what he might count as funny business so she just smiled and handed over the money. He came back a moment later with the key and reminded her where the room was.

Slipping it into her bag, she said thanks before heading back outside.

"Where you been, B?"

"Bathroom," she lied as she took her seat again.

"Oh, where is it?" Dawn asked, and after she gave directions half the table left to go and find it.

Seeing the mass exodus, she realized - annoyingly - that she needed to go now too, but crossed her legs and tried to ignore it. They'd be heading in soon enough anyway. Their desserts were already being set on the table.

"What did you get me?" she asked and then her eyebrows rose as the bowl was put in front of her. "Is this what I think it is?" she asked excitedly.

"It is your favorite, no?" Toni said with a smile.

"Yeah, but somehow I didn't expect them to have Pears in Brandy on a Greek menu."

"They didn't. I asked especially."

"Thank you!" Leaning over, Buffy gave her a smiling kiss before digging her fork in happily, not caring that half the guests were still in the bathroom.

She nearly choked on her first bite as Faith shot to her feet, apparently angry, and said, "Wait!"

"What?" she mumbled around her mouthful.

"You owe me a taste of that before you two scarf it all this time."

"'Kay."

As Faith came around the table to take Kennedy's vacant seat, Buffy went to hand her the fork. Faith just hitched an eyebrow. Rolling her eyes and trying to ignore the fact that Willow and Serena were watching with interest and that Toni was very deliberately not watching - choosing to play with a candle flame instead - Buffy scooped up a big forkful and, holding her hand underneath to catch the drips, held it towards Faith.

Faith bent a little to take it in her mouth, eyes staring deep into Buffy's. She savored it for the barest second, then chewed and swallowed.

She shrugged. "It's okay I guess."

"Only okay? This is the best damn dessert ever invented!"

As Faith took her seat at the other end of the table again, laughing, Willow said, "Really? Can I try?"

"Nooo, it's mine!" Holding one hand around her bowl in case Willow tried to snatch some with her fingers, she tucked in again.

"Guess it's not who you know, it's who you're sleeping with," Willow said under her breath and then dropped her eyes to the table cloth as Buffy glared at her, brandy sauce dribbling down her chin.

"That can not be true, Willow," Toni said, eyes still never leaving the flame even as she handed Buffy a napkin, "As she has not offered me any."

Switching her glare to Faith for starting this, Buffy wiped her chin and then scootched her chair closer to Toni's. "Not true, I was just saving you the last bite."

Toni looked at the fork held out to her out of the corner of her eye but when she moved her mouth, she bypassed it completely and came for Buffy's instead.

Caught by surprise by the hungry kiss, Buffy dropped the fork back into the bowl to clutch at Toni's bare shoulder with sticky fingers. She pushed the bowl across the table, mumbling, "There ya go, Will!"

She heard Willow say, "Thanks..." and then, "...Ooh, that is good."

"Oh, God. Are they at it again?" Dawn groaned as the others came back out. "All I've seen since I've been here is them making out!"

"Tell me about it!" she heard Faith mutter.

Grinning, Buffy pulled away from Toni's lips. "I think that's our cue to save it for the dance floor."

"No way, Summers, you're mine on the dance floor," Faith said adamantly.

"No," Toni said just as adamantly. "She is ours!"

It sent an inappropriate shiver through Buffy while everyone else just blinked in surprise.

It wasn't much longer before everyone had finished eating -- Buffy bouncing in her seat probably encouraging them to eat faster -- and they filed back inside to the bar. It was after eight now and the main lights had already been dimmed, the flashing reds, blues and greens of the disco lights taking over the large room instead. Buffy had paid extra to choose the DJ tonight rather than have the owner's brothers band playing traditional and modern Greek music, and some people were already up and enjoying the tunes the English girl was spinning.

Buffy waited behind her friends at the bar, holding Toni's hand, when suddenly Faith grabbed her other hand from behind.

"Come on, dance first, drink later!"

"Okaaaay!" she yelped as she was dragged along.

It was only when they were in the middle of the dance floor she realized she hadn't let go of Toni's hand, or maybe Toni hadn't let go of hers. Either way, the three of them were bunched together and she was attached to both of them.

"So, what?" She was grinning, despite being genuinely unsure of what came next. "Are we literally all going to dance together?"

Faith and Toni sized each other up, neither letting go of her.

"It's my night. I should get first dance."

"She is my girlfriend. I should get first dance."

"You wanna flip a coin?" Faith asked, digging into her pocket for one.

"You are not flipping a coin over me to see who gets first go! What do you think I am, a pool table?" Laughing at their insanity, she pulled her hands free from both of them and turned around. "It's early so let's try this first, shall we?" Then she raised her voice to carry to the bar. "Hey, guys, remember how you all love this song? Quick! Come dance to it."

Willow and Kennedy needed no second call and Buffy relaxed now they could dance in a larger group. Dawn dragged Melissa over a minute later too until it was just Serena who wasn't dancing. Instead the classy Italian moved from the bar to a table with a good view of the dance floor and sipped her drink slowly, eyes never leaving their group.

Buffy felt they were mostly on her. She danced her way over to Toni, close enough to speak without shouting, and nodded her head back to the seated woman.

"Why do I get the feeling she's just here to spy on us?"

Toni looked over her shoulder to Serena and shrugged. "It is not impossible. I believe she was only invited because Troy asked Faith to make it so, and she is his General. But do not fret over what she might see tonight, Buffy, I can... persuade her to forget it all before the morning."

Buffy took a tiny step back so that she could look up into Toni's face better, smirking slightly. "Okay, two things about that sentence worry me. What is it you think she might see?"

"I was referring only to you dancing with Faith. If anything else happens I do not want to see it either."

"Okay." Buffy nodded. "And how exactly do you plan to persuade her?"

Laughing, Toni caught her hand and spun her around until Buffy's back was pressed to her chest.

"I have my ways."

Buffy looked across the floor at Serena who was still watching them, but if she was aware they were talking about her it didn't show.

"I thought she was straight."

"She is."

"Then how..." As Buffy turned her head to look up at Toni she was silenced with a kiss - a good kiss. "I-ya, okay, I see how."

When she opened her eyes again, Faith was right there. "My turn."

Buffy almost leaned over to kiss her before she remembered herself. "Oh, a dance. Yeah, just hang on, we're talking." She turned in Toni's arms to speak to her. "I don't think we need to go to that level of persuasion."

Smiling, Toni backed away. "I am sure you would wish me take whatever precautions are necessary."

"B, come on."

"Wait a minute. I'm not necessarily sure I would. I think maybe just a nice conversation might be enough."

Toni let go of her hands, still backing up. "You are right, it always begins with conversation."

"No, not begins with! Ends with!"

"Dance with Faith. I will be back to claim my next dance soon enough."

As she winked and turned to walk towards Serena, Buffy called after her, "This isn't over, we haven't finished discussing this. Toni. Toni!"

"What's with you two?" Faith grabbed her wrist and pulled her around; doing everything she could to get Buffy dancing. "Arguing already?"

"No, we're fine." Buffy was straining her neck to see Toni and Serena at the table, so when Faith flicked the back of her earlobe it was painful and unexpected. She scowled at Faith. "Ow!"

Faith was unrepentant. "Had to do something to remind you I was here."

"I know you're here."

"Then what's going on?"

Buffy explained absently, still trying to get a look at what Toni might be saying - or doing - to Serena. "Toni's going to make sure that Serena knows that what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas."

"And by Vegas you mean The Purple Whozit?"

"Ouzo. Yes."

"So what you're saying, basically, is that..." Faith paused as she thought it out. "Your girlfriend is fixing it so that you and I can do whatever we want here tonight."

"Actually, I think she's fixing it so that if I get drunk and do something stupid - like you, for instance," Buffy added with a grin. "Serena won't tattle to your fiance and get me smited the second I walk outta here."

Faith gave the table they were talking at a long look before finally grinning too. "Ya know, as much as I can't stand your girlfriend, I kinda love her right now. Sez is no slouch though; do ya really think Tone can take her?"

Buffy sighed. "Unfortunately, I'm sure of it."

"Huh?"

"It's the kinda taking I'm worried about."

"What?"

"Never mind." She danced in close enough that she could put her wrists loosely over Faith's shoulders but not so close that they might attract any raised eyebrows. "Hey."

"Hey." Faith's hands found her hips. "So we never really finished our conversation from earlier."

They had to talk loud to be heard over the music, but she couldn't hear what Willow and Kennedy were saying to each other so it was a safe bet they had a little privacy too.

"What conversation? Oh, the pre-Jaws one? What else was there to say?"

Faith looked embarrassed to have brought it up now. "Uh, I was just... I dunno... I thought maybe... I mean I told you how I felt."

Oh, so that was it. "You know how I feel, Faith."

"Maybe, but it wouldn't kill you to tell me."

"Oh my God, you are such a girl!" She laughed at Faith's instantly disgruntled expression.

"I am not!"

"Oh really? Suddenly you're all hand-holdy and want to talk about your feelings - sounds pretty girly to me."

Faith pinched her sides, making her squirm as she danced. "Take that back!"

"You'll be braiding my hair and asking to borrow my clothes before you know it."

"Yeah, I don't think so, Twinkie. I'll never be that girly!"

Buffy slapped at Faith's hands, trying to stop their assault on her sides. "Hey, I'm not girly. I'm butch!"

"Yeah, that high-pitched giggling? Not really helping the butch image."

"Then stop tickling me!"

Wrapping an arm around Faith's neck, she grabbed one of her hands and chest-bumped her to try and dislodge the other one from the soft bit under her ribs. Laughing, Faith relented and slid that hand around to her back. And, boy, were they suddenly dancing closer. Not that it mattered; even with the way they were wrapped around each other now and the fast tempo of the song they still danced great together. Better, even.

"Wanna know something?"

Buffy shrugged. "Sure."

"If we were alone right now I wouldn't be able to stop kissing you."

Buffy smiled. "Really?"

"Yeah. Guess I'll have to save it for later, huh?"

"What if I don't want you to?"

"Ooh, pouty!" Faith laughed. "Are you sure you're not the girly one?"

"How girly is this?" Buffy lunged for her, lips first, taking Faith by surprise, but changed direction for her cheek at the last second.

Faith sounded like her heart was beating too fast after Buffy's sudden move, but she still managed to mutter in her ear. "Chicken shit,"

"Toni," Buffy muttered right back, smiling.

"What? Will you quit calling me that?"

"My dance now, I believe," Toni said from right beside them, making Faith jump a little.

Buffy laughed at her expression as she let Toni pull her from Faith's arms. Faith stared after them for a moment, looking like she was going to argue, but then shrugged and spun around, barely missing a beat, to dance with Willow and Kennedy instead.

"So how did things go with Serena?" she asked, not completely sure she wanted the answer.

Toni smiled and pulled her to dance closer. "Very well, I believe."

"That's what I was afraid of."

"Relax, il mio amore, I do not need to cheat on you to ensure you are able to have a good time with Faith tonight."

There was no edge to Toni's voice as she said that. That was worse. An edge Buffy could have argued against. She eyed her suspiciously for a few moments anyway.

"Okay, then. Thanks, I think."

Toni chuckled, kissed her forehead and then concentrated on dancing. Buffy, feeling slightly off-centre now, did the same.


An hour later when Toni went to the bathroom and Faith was at the bar, Buffy collapsed gratefully onto a chair with her friends. She was a hot, sweaty, panting mess. Her head was spinning from the constant motion, her arms were aching from being pulled from one partner to another and she really hadn't worn the right shoes for this much dancing. She wasn't sure they made shoes that were right for this much dancing.

"Drink, I need a drink!" she croaked.

"You looked like you were having fun." Willow grinned at her.

"Yeah, for the first twenty minutes maybe!" Buffy griped but she had a big smile on her face. "Seriously, any kind of liquid will do before my tongue permanently welds itself to the roof of my mouth!"

Dawn pushed a jug of Pina Colada towards her.

"Glass?" Buffy asked, but instead of waiting for an answer, stole Kennedy's straw and stuck that in the jug itself.

Ignoring Kennedy's protests, she took a few long sips and felt marginally less dehydrated. Almost at once though she saw both Toni and Faith bearing down on her with determination in their eyes.

"No, I can't," she wailed. "My feet. Somebody save me."

As the two women reached the table, Melissa shouted, "Drinking games! You can't have a bachelorette party without drinking games. Let's all sit here and play one."

Buffy shot her a grateful smile. She was loving Xander's girlfriend more and more.

Faith and Toni were both instantly agreeable as they pulled chairs around to sit either side of Buffy as close as they could get. Buffy groaned but held both of her hands up. Toni took one. Faith gave her an 'As if' look, but Buffy felt a leg subtly entwine with hers under the table, making her chuckle.

Melissa and Serena came back from the bar with a bottle of vodka and eight glasses.

"No," Buffy said quickly, plucking Dawn's glass away.

"What? You can't just not let me play!"

"Watch me."

"That's not fair."

"I have an idea." Willow went to the bar and came back with the European equivalent of a strawberry wine cooler. "You can do shots of this."

Buffy was still skeptical but Faith said, "Go on, B. It's my party, let her have some fun."

"Fine, but after that bottle you're going on a long lemonade break."

"Done!" Dawn squealed excitedly.

"So does anyone actually know any drinking games?" Buffy asked.

It turned out that between them Faith, Kennedy and Toni knew lots. They settled on one that didn't involve cigarettes, playing cards or ancient rune tablets - whatever the hell they were.

It wasn't long before the bottle was half empty and Buffy was staring at it in trepidation. Not because she'd had most of it, but because Faith and Toni had.

"I can't think of anything that isn't lame," Dawn grumbled when it was her turn again. Then she shrugged. "I've never climbed a mountain."

Toni and Serena did shots. Then it was Serena's turn. "I've never ridden a horse naked through a busy, built up area...In daylight."

Toni glared at her with undisguised hate and did a shot.

Buffy choked on her tongue as Faith laughed delightedly next to her. "Really? Go, Tone."

"There were extenuating circumstances," Toni said through gritted teeth.

Serena smiled. "Not that extenuating."

"Moving on," Buffy said quickly, feeling Toni tense beside her. "Faith, your go."

"I've never... I've never... tried to destroy the world."

Willow did a shot, grumbling, "That was aimed at me. You're passively aggressorsizing at me because of the beach thing."

"I was almost used to destroy the world," Dawn said hopefully. "Does that count?"

"Nope," Buffy told her.

"Oh come on. I haven't done anything and I want to have at least one shot!"

It was her turn and Buffy took pity on her. "I've never had a crush on my sister's boyfriend!"

Rather than be embarrassed, Dawn happily downed her weak shot. "Ooh, I had a crush on two of them. Does that mean I get two shots?"

"No," Buffy said laughing, wondering who the other one was. "Kennedy's turn."

Kennedy thought for a moment. "I've never dated two women at the same time."

Buffy's eyes darted around and, dammit, no one else was drinking. She subtly tried to sip her shot, impossible when all eyes were already on her, so she gave up and knocked it back brazenly.

"Yummy," she said, trying to wiggle her eyebrows like Faith did, and she wasn't talking about the vodka.

As she refilled her glass, Willow took her turn. "I've never had web cam sex."

Buffy set the bottle down harder than necessary as she looked at Willow. "Are you kidding me? She's the one being all passive-aggressive to you," she said, pointing at Faith.

"But I haven't," Willow said, grinning wickedly.

Buffy sighed and threw back her shot. At least Toni was drinking with her this time.

All eyes turned to Melissa for her turn. "I've never, uh, had a threesome."

Buffy's head swiveled fast first one way and then the other as both Faith and Toni had a shot. "What?" Kennedy did one too, which Buffy didn't think too much of, until Willow did one as well. "WHAT? Will?"

"What?" she asked sheepishly. "Kennedy's adventurous."

Buffy did a shot.

"You've had a threesome, B?"

She shook her head. "I just really needed another drink after that."

Faith laughed, pressing a kiss to her temple. Obviously she was feeling a little drunk now, not surprising with all the things she'd done.

"Toni's turn," said Melissa, perhaps eager to get away from the conversation her 'I've never...' had started.

"No, that is okay, maybe Dawn would like to go again."

Faith fixed her with a grin. "Come on, Tone, don't be shy. Gotta be something you ain't done, right?"

"Fine." Without looking at anyone, Toni muttered. "I have never agreed to marry someone else just to save the life of my true love."

Buffy's mouth dropped open a little and she deliberately stared down at the table to avoid everyone's eyes. Faith tensed a painful amount beside her; her fingertips were white where they gripped the shot glass and her face was probably the same shade of pale. Buffy held her breath, waiting for bloodshed. Or denial. All Faith had to do was not drink.

Instead Faith knocked back the shot in one fast movement, set the glass carefully back on the table and stood up.

"Just going for a smoke." Her voice came out normal but Buffy could feel her trembling where they touched. "Back in a minute."

The table remained silent but Buffy ignored everyone to glare at Toni. "What the hell?"

Toni didn't answer; wouldn't even look at her in fact. Buffy sighed, pulled her hand free from her girlfriend's and left the table without answering anyone's questioning glances.

Faith was leaning against the wall outside, smoking. Her face looked perfectly composed but the hanging lanterns reflected off the wet trails on her cheeks. Buffy didn't say anything; she didn't know what to say, so she just walked up close and wrapped her arms around Faith's waist, resting her head on Faith's shoulder. After a moment Faith put her free arm around her back. They held each other in silence until Faith had finished her cigarette and stepped on it.

As Faith put her other around her too, Buffy said, "I'm sorry. She's just..."

"I get it, B. If she's half as jealous as I am when I see the two of you together... you shouldn't be mad at her."

"What?" Buffy raised her head. "You're not angry?"

"Oh fuck that, I'm angry as hell at her. I'm just saying you shouldn't be."

"I don't understand."

Faith shrugged. "She didn't say anything that ain't true."

"That's not the point."

"Sure it is. What are ya gonna do, B? Dump her for it? You don't really wanna do that, I know you don't, and even if you do... I still hafta get married tomorrow."

"Well, no, I wasn't actually planning on dumping her over it anyway," Buffy admitted awkwardly.

"Gee, thanks."

"You just said...!"

Faith grinned. "Yeah, but you were supposed to disagree with me... at least a little."

"Sorry." Buffy gave her a little peck on the lips. "How can I make it up to you? And don't say dump Toni."

Faith squeezed her a little tighter and said softly. "You could stay with me tonight."

Buffy dropped her head back to her shoulder and groaned. "Faith, I can't! It's not fair on Toni."

"After what she just said, fair's off the table, B. It's not just me she put on the spot in there, ya know?"

"I know that but..." Buffy sighed, nuzzling her nose into Faith's neck for a moment before lifting her head again and admitting. "It's not just her. We said two days, we've had two days. I don't think it's a good idea to go back on that."

"That's stupid! I'm not getting married until tomorrow afternoon; as long as we stop before I walk down the aisle I don't see a problem."

"You wouldn't." She could feel herself weakening under Faith's intense gaze despite her resolve. "But I don't know..."

"It's only fifteen hours until the wedding. That's nothing. We're gonna be apart for the rest of our lives, B! That's a hell of a lot more hours."

Buffy chuckled; yep that would do it. "If Toni says it's okay..."

"Don't even ask her."

"I'm asking her."

"She'll say no."

"She might not."

"You know she'll say no!"

The chance of Toni saying yes was about the same chance a frost monster had in hell. At least, Buffy hoped she could rely on that, because as much as spending the night with Faith sounded like bliss, she just knew leaving in the morning would kill her.

"Well, I'll ask Toni and we'll see."

"Ask me what?"

Buffy and Faith's heads both swiveled to the unexpected voice. Toni was standing there, looking unhappy but determined.

Buffy eased herself a little away from Faith. "What are you doing out here? We were just coming in."

"I came to apologize," Toni said, walking closer when she was sure she had their attention.

"For what?" Faith asked, her voice neutral. "We were just playing a game, right?"

"I... was not playing." Faith just stared at her, waiting for more. "I was..."

"Hold that thought," Faith cut in and then Buffy found herself whirled around until her back was pressed against the wooden boards.

It happened so fast she couldn't stop it. The full-on kiss that followed wasn't over so quick but as Faith leaned into her, one hand in her hair, the other squeezing her arm as her lips took control of Buffy's, well, everything really, she couldn't seem to stop that either.

Her first hardly coherent thought was that this wasn't the best opening to ask Toni if she could spend the night with Faith. After that she got a little lost and she just seemed to be hyper-aware of Toni standing only a foot away, watching because it had happened so fast she hadn't been given a choice in the matter. She wasn't storming off though; maybe she was rooted to the spot in horror or maybe she was just hovering so she could kick Faith across the parking lot the second she had a clear shot? Either way she was right there. Close enough that Buffy could reach out and touch her - not that she was going to, because that would be... weird. Yes, weird, weird was a good, safe word for what that would be. Hot was most definitely not a safe word. Hot was bad, hot was weird... but then if weird was good...

Oh God, was Toni picking up any of this? If she could sense how horny Buffy was from across a crowded room she would definitely be able to tell now she was practically on top of them. Was that why she hadn't left? Was she determined not to leave the two of them alone in case it went further than a kiss - oh boy, did this have the potential to go further than a kiss - or was she hoping too that if she stood there long enough Faith would tag her in?

'I did not just think that! No tagging! Weird bad, hot bad, all bad! Bad, bad, bad Buffy! Oh, it would be good, though. No!'

"Gah!" Buffy pushed Faith away hard enough that she had to back up and give her some room. She held one hand up to keep her at bay and ran the other over her mouth in case she was drooling.

"Gah?" Faith repeated. "Thanks, B."

Toni was looking her up and down. "I would take it as a compliment, were I you."

She definitely wasn't smiling but there was something in her eyes that let Buffy know she had been in on at least the essence of her thoughts. Luckily the blush of arousal was lost under the blush of embarrassment.

She ran a shaky hand through her hair. "Okay, so you two are even."

"We're not even close," Faith began.

"Trust me, you are. So, for tonight at least, let's all just be friendly, please."

"You want us to be friendly?" Faith waved a finger back and forth between herself and Toni.

"Well, not too friendly... unless you want to be... gah!" What was wrong with her? She shook her head. "Okay, we should be thinking up damage control plans so that nobody jumps on Faith the minute she walks back in, not thinking about menages and trois's."

"Menages and what? Whoa!" Faith took a step back as she worked it out. "I wasn't thinking that!"

"Good, neither am I. So what are we going to say to the others?"

Faith ignored her and said strongly to Toni. "I mean it, I wasn't thinking that!"

Toni shrugged. "Do not tell me, neither was I."

Getting more embarrassed by the second, Buffy held her hands up. "Hello? More important things to worry about here."

"More disturbing than you wanting to get freaky with both of us at the same time? I don't think so, Twinkie."

"For once I have to agree with Faith, mia tesoro."

"I said important, not disturbing," she muttered. "But fine, if you wanna talk about how disturbed I am instead. Why not? You've both apparently done it before."

"Yeah, but not with her!" Faith still sounded mortified.

"You are not a very appealing choice yourself," Toni retorted.

"Oh, fuck that. I'm very appealing."

Toni shrugged one shoulder. "Meh."

"Meh? You're calling this..." Faith waved at herself. "...meh?"

"Si."

"Yeah, well B doesn't think I'm so meh."

"Ah, her opinion is distorted by her love for you. It is not reliable."

"Yeah, well she loves you too, that must make you pretty fuckin' meh," she spat the word like it was a way worse insult.

"No, not as meh as you."

"Well why don't we just let B decide that?"

"Oh no. Don't drag me into this highly intellectual debate. I'm just going to sit down here and wait for the kissing to start."

"Kissing?" Faith looked from Toni to her and then back to glare at Toni again. "There's not going to be any kissing."

"Again - it was Buffy who mentioned kissing, not I."

"Yeah, well she can have whatever fantasy she needs to get her through sex with you but I wanna make damn sure you're really clear there ain't gonna be no kissing."

"I assure you I have no desire to kiss you."

Why was Toni suddenly smirking? She looked like Willow had at the beach, only way sexier from Buffy's point of view.

"Good. Glad we're on the same page. Let's keep it that way."

Toni leant back against the wall, sliding her hands into the pockets of her jeans and crossing her long legs at the ankles. Her head was tilted just a little to one side, her eyes sparkling and never leaving Faith's as her smirk slipped into a familiar little smile.

"Indeed. Let's... keep it that way."

"Exactly...just didn't want you getting the wrong idea... that I wasn't interested. I mean that I'm interested... because... I'm... not."

Buffy sat forward, aware that she was watching something weird and wonderful - and probably highly unethical - unfold in front of her.

"Not what, Faith?" Toni asked, her tone so sultry that Buffy was very nearly drawn over to her.

Faith didn't get any closer but her eyes trailed slowly down Toni's body as she checked her out, biting her bottom lip ever so slightly, a sure sign she was liked what she was looking at. Buffy was surprised she didn't just give in and make some caveman 'come-on' grunting noise. She could see in her eyes that she wanted to.

"What was it you didn't want to do?" Toni asked in that same voice.

Faith leered a little. "Can't think of anything I don't wanna do right now. Shame you wouldn't be able to handle it, Tone."

Toni pushed herself off of the wooden wall and stepped closer to Faith, halving the distance between them. Her hands were still in her pockets and she looked completely unthreatening, in a violent way anyway. Faith took a little step back all the same.

"You always sound sure that I am a terrible lover and yet you are so scared to test it. I think that is a sign that you are not so confident in your assumption as you would like to be. Are you afraid that if we lie with Buffy together you will finally have to accept that I am, in fact, a far superior lover to you?"

Buffy's eyes opened a little wider - Toni might as well have just said 'Double-dare you'.

Faith had to swallow hard and took another little step back but she was meeting Toni's gaze head on. "Sounds like a blast, Tone, but I got better things to do than teach you how to please Buffy. You'll just have to...to try and figure it out yourself and if you can't... well, B'll know, uh, where to...to find me."

Without touching her once, Toni had backed Faith against the wooden railing. "Are you sure you do not wish to stay and..."

Buffy was sure she heard Faith gulp. "And what?"

"And see what it is Buffy truly desires from... us?" Toni purred.

Faith stared at her, chest rising and falling a little more noticeably than usual. "I...I..." She squeezed out from between Toni and the railing, almost tripping over her own feet in the process. Her eyes darted to Buffy and then back to Toni again. "...I'm pretty sure I got places to, uh, be and stuff but..." backing up she regained a little composure and pointed at Buffy. "Ask her; and then come find me on the dance floor, alright?"

With a brief blast of music as the door was opened, she disappeared inside.

Toni started laughing as soon as the door was closed again. "That was enjoyable."

All Buffy could say was, "Wow."

She had never seen Faith so... awkward. She normally exuded confidence and poise in all flirty and sexual situations. To see her lose her cool if only for a minute was pretty funny, not that she'd ever tell Faith that. It was a pity it hadn't worked though. She was finding it hard to put the fantasy of the three of them out of her mind after that, plus it would make the night's sleeping arrangements easier to organise if Toni and Faith would just get on board with each other, or in bed with each other might be a more accurate way to put it.

"I did not expect her to have so much self-control," Toni said, coming over and bending to take Buffy's hand before pulling her to her feet. She grinned. "She is more of a challenge than I imagined. Or I am out of practice."

"Okay, for the record, I have to say I don't condone you using your seduce-y powers on anyone, but I also gotta say, that was fun." Buffy smirked. "And thanks for trying."

"For trying what?"

How could she still be able to blush at this stuff? "To, you know, seduce her for me, us, whatever."

"Oh, I was not..." Toni looked guilty. "Buffy, I would do almost anything to make you happy, but Faith is right: the three of us will never be together in such a way. I was simply..."

Buffy drew back from her a little, raising an eyebrow. "Practicing?"

Toni still looked contrite as she shrugged slightly. "Proving her wrong?"

Buffy narrowed her eyes. "About what?"

"About not wanting to kiss me," Toni's voice was very small all of a sudden.

She actually sounded adorable but Buffy wasn't letting her off the hook that easy.

"And if she had, would you have gone nyah na na na nyah in her face?"

She smiled sheepishly. "I do not know what that means exactly but it sounds similar to what I would have said."

Buffy rolled her eyes. "Well, in that case, now seems like as good a time as any to ask. Can I stay with Faith tonight?"

Toni laughed and then stopped abruptly. "You are serious?"

"Kinda."

"In that case, no."

It was the answer she had expected, wanted even, but the simple dismissal naturally irked her.

"You won't even discuss it?"

"Let me see. You wish to spend the entire night with your not-so-secret lover, who is marrying my best friend tomorrow. Presumably in his bed..."

"Well I was trying to get her into our bed but apparently you're not down with that so..."

"... Making love, while I spend the night alone..."

"Again, there is a solution to that."

"...Which is not only deeply disrespectful and hurtful to your real girlfriend, but also once again goes back on the arrangement we made when I first agreed to your absurd request - twice!"

"A simple no would have done," Buffy muttered.

"I tried a simple no, you did not accept it."

"Fine! You were the one who said you would do anything to make me happy, but fine. If you don't want me to stay with her I won't."

"I said almost anything."

"Whatever."

She was surprised when Toni wrapped her arms around her waist, holding her loosely.

"Buffy, if this is very important to you... I will not stand in your way."

"Really?"

Toni shrugged. "Just do not expect me to be in a good mood tomorrow."

"But you'll still be there tomorrow?" she checked.

"Of course, it is Troy's wedding. Where else would I be?"

That wasn't quite the affirmation she had been looking for but pressing further might make Toni change her mind. Didn't she want Toni to change her mind? Yes and no at this point. Now the idea of staying with Faith was a reality it was kinda hard to not want to do it.

"Okay, thanks. I swear I'll start making it up to you the second the wedding is over."

"There is a way you can make it up to me tonight."

"Anything."

Toni leaned in slowly and kissed her. Buffy was a little surprised, but thought, 'Fair enough.' It was a little open out here on the decking for her, but hey, who was she kidding? Risky sex was apparently her thing these days anyway.

With that in mind she started edging them towards the wall so they had something to lean against but Toni broke the kiss, murmuring, "Not that."

"Oh. What then?"

"After the wedding... Move in with me."

Buffy leaned back to stare at Toni. "I'm sorry...what?"

"I would like us to live together. It is not so strange a request; we already know we are co-habitable."

"Yeah, but this was... I mean our living arrangements here were more spur of the moment necessity than a major life decision. Well I suppose it was a major life decision seeing as I wouldn't have had a life if we hadn't made it but, this is, I don't know, bigger, and..."

Toni stopped her babble with a gentle finger over her lips. Buffy took a breath and tried to think about it rationally. It wasn't easy.

"You want me to move into your dorm room? Will the college even allow that?"

"No, no, not the dorm," Toni said hesitantly. "I... there will be no need for me to return to college."

"So that was all a lie too? How did you swing that? I met your RA."

"Not a lie. I was enrolled. I went to classes."

"But you were just doing it all for the greater evil," Buffy surmised.

"No, I was doing it all to be with you."

"That's pretty much what I just said."

"Perhaps we should not discuss this now," Toni said, looking disappointed.

"No, we can discuss it," she said quickly. With any luck the discussion alone would get her the green light to go home with Faith. "But if not the dorm then where? Do you mean you wanna get a place, an apartment or something, together in Cleveland?"

Toni looked down at their embrace and then back up to meet Buffy's eyes, bringing a hand up to delicately trace the line of her cheek. "No, I would like to return to Rome. I would like you to live with me... in Rome."

Buffy blinked. "Oh."


Chapter Nine

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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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