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



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PART TWELVE: 5th October 2004 - 25th November 2004
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Chapter Seven: It Comes Down To This

Toni had chosen to shower alone and Buffy hadn't tried to change her mind. The bathroom door was open though and Buffy went in once or twice, taking in a new toothbrush for her and some fresh, warm towels. Each time she listened to make sure Toni was managing okay.

In her room she changed the musty, unused sheets on her bed and tried not to think about how she'd done this once in a dream with Faith. She was trying not to think about Faith at all, especially the hopeless look in her eyes as she'd walked away.

The shower switched off as Buffy finished plumping the pillows on Toni's side of the bed and she straightened up but stayed where she was. Should she go and see if Toni needed help getting out of the shower or would that come across as over-protective and annoying? After all, Toni was a healthy twenty-one year old human, not an invalid. Then again, she was exhausted, so maybe a little coddling was exactly what she needed right now.

Faith probably needed it more but would be even less inclined to accept it, not being known for her love of coddling. So it was a good thing that she was up here with Toni, and not down there getting in Faith's way with her neediness.

"Do you have to go?" Toni was leaning in the doorway, wiping toothpaste foam from her lips with Buffy's damp face cloth.

"No. Why?"

"You are staring at the door."

"I was just thinking. Do you want my bathrobe? Might be more comfortable than having a wet towel wrapped around you."

"Actually I was wondering if I could get straight into the bed."

Buffy grinned, "Not all that exhausted after all, huh?"

Realizing what Buffy had thought, Toni looked away uneasily. "Or the air mattress is fine."

Realizing that Toni hadn't been thinking what she had, Buffy said, "Oh." But she didn't look away. "Sure, get into the bed whenever you're ready. Do you want me to take the air mattress?"

Toni looked back at her in surprise. "You are staying in here with me?"

"Unless you don't want me to."

Toni smiled, "I would like that very much."

"Okay then." Smiling back, Buffy pulled on the drawstring of her pants and pushed them down.

She was pulling her sweater over her head when Toni asked, "Could I borrow a nightshirt to sleep in?"

"Huh?" Buffy asked from deep inside her top. Oops. She reinserted herself inside her sweater and bent down to grab her pants. "I'm just gonna pull these back up."

Toni chuckled at her pink cheeks, a little of the light back in her eyes. "I have no complaints if you wish to sleep in your underwear."

"I was actually going to take it further than that," she mumbled, still embarrassed.

Toni began to look through a drawer for her favorite nightshirt. "It is your bed, Buffy; you may sleep in it how you wish."

In the end Buffy followed Toni's lead and, grabbing her own favorite - but not really warm enough - nightie, went through to the bathroom to wash and change.

When she came back out Toni was already in the bed, covers pulled up to her chin and for once Buffy didn't think it was because the room was cold. She'd never seen Toni looking less in the mood and she kicked herself for being stupid enough to think she might be. It wasn't as if she was feeling particularly up to it herself, it was just that, well, she didn't know what else to do.

She pulled her curtains across the window to shut out the grey day, dimming the light in the room without making it completely dark and slipped into the other side of the bed. They lay in silence for several minutes as Toni stared up at the ceiling and Buffy, curled on her side, stared at Toni.

"Do you want to talk about it?"

Toni shook her head and another few minutes passed before she said, absently, "Shall we just get it over with?"

"What?" Buffy frowned, confused, and then assumed that Toni was going back to their earlier conversation. "You think I just got into bed with you because that's how I break up with people?"

"No," Toni sighed. "You got into bed with me to see if I could still satisfy you sexually."

"What?" Buffy said again, louder than before, and started laughing. When Toni's expression remained serious she cleared her throat uncomfortably. "That is not why. It didn't even cross my mind." Toni gave her a look. "Honestly."

"Then why else are you here?"

"I love you."

"Then you choose me?"

Buffy hesitated long enough that Toni's eyes slipped away to the sheets but she couldn't help it, her brain was screaming so many different things at her in that moment that it was deafening inside her head. And then, like so many times before with Toni, she went on a whim and leaned across the bed to kiss her. And at least now she knew her snap decision wasn't the result of any seductive powers Toni might have - because she didn't have them any more. This all came from her, whether it was the right decision to make or not.

Toni's hand crept up to lightly cup her cheek and then she moved back. "Buffy?"

"I choose you," she whispered.

Toni smiled and all the sadness that had been in her eyes since Zeus's visit just melted away. "Davvero?"

"Si," she said softly, desperately hoping Toni wouldn't ask again because she couldn't be a hundred percent sure that the answer wouldn't be different if she had to think about it too much. "It's you I want to be with now."

"Grazie." There were tears in Toni's eyes as she grasped both of Buffy's cheeks and tugged her closer for a series of quick kisses. "Ti amo, Buffy, ti amo."

Buffy smiled between kisses, feeling more secure in her decision in the face of Toni's happiness. She was doing the right thing. Just like she always did eventually. And Faith would be okay; she was carrying Troy's child which guaranteed her soul a place in Heaven. The other slayer was bound to feel that escaping eternal damnation was a fair exchange for them never being able to be together. . .

Buffy swallowed hard against the traitorous sob rising in her throat and Toni pulled back, instantly worried.

"Are you okay?"

"I'm fine. Better than fine. In fact, I'm so fine I'm the finest." Buffy rolled until she was hovering over Toni, lips just an inch away from kissing her as she breathed, "Want me to prove it?"

"I do not want you to do something only because you feel you must."

"Me, that selfless?" Buffy grinned. "Hardly. Now that I've committed I just want to make sure you can still seal the deal."

Toni gave a hurt laugh. "That was not nice!"

"Hey, you're the one who put the idea into my head. I was happily not thinking about it. But now I've got to look after my investments."

"And if I can't?" Toni's tone was light but there was genuine worry in her eyes.

Buffy pressed her lips sweetly to Toni's, kissing away her doubts and pushing a few of her own further into the shadows.

"I'm thinking practice makes perfect. And if not I'm sure there's manuals and videos and classes and. . . .stuff for this kind of thing."

Toni grinned now, finally relaxing. "You would really go to a class to help improve our sex life?"

Buffy's eyes went a little too wide as she really considered it. "Or the internet! I meant the internet! The internet has everything. You know, except teachers grading our performance because somehow I really don't think that would help. I always hated Show and Tell and. . ."

Toni thankfully stopped the babble with her lips and Buffy gratefully sank into its tenderness. This was nice, this was. . . not filling her with burning desire, but that was okay. They could build up to the burning; even hot, flamey fires started small. All she had to do was strike a spark and then throw a few logs on Toni.

Okay, she'd obviously taken that metaphor as far as it would go.

She pulled back from the kiss and gave Toni her best sultry smile. "So, you wanna give it a shot right now."

Apparently her best needed work.

"You make it sound so very romantic," Toni replied dryly.

"We can have romance if you like," Buffy offered. "I could light a few candles, put some music on, recite you some poetry."

"That will not be necessary," Toni promised, which was a relief because Buffy still didn't know any poetry.

Well, except the limericks Spike had taught her, but they weren't exactly romantic, being less about being in love and more about the physical act of love, to put it a lot less crudely than Spike's limericks did.

"Okay, let's do this," Buffy smiled encouragingly and then swooped down a little too eagerly to kiss her.

Their teeth bumped and then their noses bumped as they tried to remember how they usually did this - didn't it normally come naturally? - but Buffy was prepared to put that down to nerves. Or pressure. The perseverance paid off; Buffy concentrated on the feel of Toni's lips and the dip and roll of her tongue until the kissing was coming easy again and her mind was able to drift to other things. . .

. . .Actually, thinking about it, Faith would probably find them romantic. Half a dirty limerick and she'd would be putty in her hands. Unless it was about Troy's penis, because then she got ridiculously defensive. Damn, she really shouldn't have thought about Troy's wiener; that was hardly going to get her in the mood. She forced the thought out, tried to focus only on Faith again. . .

. . .And pushed up to arms length fast, breaking the kiss and making Toni's hands slide from her shoulders down to her elbows, which she held onto as she raised her head questioningly from the pillow.

"What is wrong?"

"Nothing, nothing, everything's fine. You're here, I'm here, everyone's present and correct."

She waited for the knowledge to appear in Toni's eyes, for the accusation that Buffy couldn't deny because it was shining from her soul like a blazing clifftop beacon. Except it never came, and Buffy realized that now Toni was human she was unable to pick up on the nuances of her desire. Her libido had liberty again.

But with great freedom came great responsibility, or something, like being responsible enough to not think about another woman while making love to her girlfriend. Faith was off limits as a guest of honour in her fantasies from now on. Not that being twenty months pregnant, or whatever Faith actually was already, was something that turned Buffy on. Seriously, what was she gestating, a pygmy hippo? She'd heard you were supposed to eat for two but Faith had been in Hell. Had she really started craving the fried demon steaks enough to ask for second helpings. . .

"Buffy?"

She blinked out of the fantasy of Faith sending Hades down to the corner shop in the middle of the night to buy her deviled eggs and hot sauce to realize she was still hovering over and staring vacantly at her concerned girlfriend.

She trusted in her re-found liberty again and lied with a smile on her face. "I was just remembering how beautiful you are."

Toni looked a bit suspicious but smiled anyway. "Grazie."

She leant up on her elbows but Buffy decided she had to take it up a notch before she could get distracted again. Pushing the covers down, she dropped a kiss somewhere in the region of Toni's mouth before scooting down the bed until she was lying comfortably between her legs.

"This is gonna be great," she promised with an enthusiastic grin before ducking her head to the apex of Toni's thighs.

Almost at once she was pleasantly surprised. This was easy. For some reason she'd expected to have forgotten how oral sex worked, or to suddenly discover that she hated giving it, but so far so definitely good.

She toiled away, licking here, sucking there, making her presence felt everywhere, spurred on by a soft moan from Toni, a quiver of her thighs or a twitch of her hips. It wasn't the same as with Faith, where just the thought of going down on her was enough to have Buffy dripping with arousal herself, but it never had been and it didn't need to be. This was fun and enjoyable and. . .was it just her or was this taking a really long time?

She couldn't exactly look at her watch to find out and on surreptitiously trying to glance at her alarm clock - half expecting it to say an hour had passed since she'd headed south - she caught Toni's eye.

At first she thought Toni was frowning at her - maybe she had retained some of her ability to read Buffy's essence after all - but then she realized Toni was just concentrating really, really hard.

Buffy gave her another smile, trying to get her to relax, and tucked her hand under her chin so that she could use her fingers as well, pressing one inside with maybe just a little more effort than usual. She was worried about hurting her for a moment but Toni responded promisingly with a widening of her thighs and a shaky smile.

See, she could still do this. It was good, she was good; they were good. It was just going to take a while to get back into their groove, that was all. Wow, her feet were cold. She'd never realized how short her bed was. Her legs were sticking out from the knee down and her bedroom was freezing. She was going to lose her toes to frostbite at this rate. She pulled a leg in and tried to hook the bottom of her comforter around her foot to pull it down over her bare skin but it just kept slipping away. Not wanting to stop what she was doing, she was sure Toni had to be getting too close to want her to quit now, she tried using her butt - thrusting it up and down to wriggle the comforter further down the bed.

It was just starting to work when Toni asked, "Are you having a seizure? Should I call for help?"

Buffy stopped moving her butt and popped her head up. "No. I just have cold feet."

"Ah," Toni said, suddenly looking sad. "Va bene. Thank you anyway. I do not blame you. In fact. . ."

"No, Toni, literally cold feet. They're like ice. I was just trying to get the covers over them."

"Oh." Toni looked embarrassed. "I thought you were upset with me because I cannot. . ."

"You can," Buffy cut her off firmly. "Just let me put my bear claw slippers on and I'll prove it to you."

Toni chuckled softly, "Please, no bear claw slippers. Just come and lie next to me. And bring the covers with you, I am feeling unusually cold myself." She shivered to prove it.

"But you didn't. . ." Buffy began, looking down at her unfinished project.

"I do not wish to right now."

"Really?"

Toni looked away without answering and that was probably a good sign not to push it. Grabbing the top of the comforter she moved back up to her side of the bed and pulled it snugly over both of them.

"Would you like me to try and. . ." Toni started as Buffy scooted closer to her for warmth.

"No, I'm good just like this," she promised, wrapping an arm around Toni's middle and resting her chin on Toni's shoulder. "We should sleep. You'll feel better after that."

"Si."

"That's probably why you can't. . .you know?"

"Si."

"It was selfish of me to even expect you to want it right now."

Toni nuzzled the side of her head, murmuring, "No it was not. I wanted to want it."

"But you didn't?"

"I am just very tired, as you said."

"So it wasn't that I was bad?" Buffy asked, hoping her playful tone turned her self-consciousness into something that sounded like a joke.

Toni sighed, "It is not you that I am worried about being bad."

"You're not going to be bad. And even if you are," she grinned to show she was joking, "we can just be bad together."

"I love you."

Reacting to the sincerity in the whispered words, Buffy wiggled closer to her girlfriend, cupping her cheek delicately and bringing their lips together, perfectly this time, that awkward feeling was gone but. . .

All love, no passion, what's the point?

She didn't know where the words in her head came from but it was definitely Faith saying them and it was enough to make her pull back. She grinned to cover her sudden uneasiness and stroked some hair gently behind Toni's ear.

"And if the worst comes to the worst we can just do this instead. Often. Like all the time."

"As a substitute, I do not find it disagreeable."

Buffy smiled and kissed her again, too briefly to start hearing voices, before settling back onto her pillow. "We should get some sleep first though. You're exhausted."

"Va bene."

She didn't need asking twice this time. As Buffy rolled onto her back, sliding one arm under her invitingly, Toni curled against her side, head coming to rest on Buffy's shoulder as she closed her eyes and murmured goodnight. She was asleep almost at once.

Buffy tightened her arm around Toni shoulders, holding her close, and lay there, staring blankly at the ceiling.


Buffy didn't remember dozing off but she felt disorientated when there was a soft knock at her bedroom door. She moved only enough to pull the covers more closely around Toni before softly calling out. "Come in."

Willow's head poked around the doorway, the bright electric light of the hallway giving her a halo and dazzling Buffy's dark-accustomed eyes. "Is everything okay?"

"Yeah, what's up?"

"Dinner's up, or it will be in an hour anyway."

"Oh. Dinner?"

Willow chuckled at her dazedness. "Don't tell Andrew you forgot, he's been slaving over getting it ready all day."

"It's Thanksgiving," Buffy finally remembered, wiping the sleep out of her eyes. "Oops. I was supposed to help him with that."

"He's got it under control, but we didn't want you two to miss out on all the yummy goodness."

"Thanks, Will. We'll come down in a little while."

Toni needed to rest for longer and besides, Buffy was totally comfortable and snug in Toni's sleepy arms. The thought of having to leave the warmth of her bed was not appealing. Not to mention that the rest of the house was probably even colder than her room - in attitude if not atmospheric pressure. Her disappearing for the whole day with Toni probably hadn't pleased everyone.

"Actually, Buffy, there was something else too."

Buffy groaned softly. "What?"

"Could you come out here. It's kind of, uh, private maybe."

"Is it 'you' private, or 'someone else' private?"

"It's, well it's. . . Buffy, please?" Willow pleaded.

Groaning again, she gently extricated herself from Toni's arms and as she sat up on the bed she made sure to tuck the comforter around her girlfriend before any cold draughts could reach her bare skin.

Buffy made her way to the door, shivering as she whispered, "What is it?"

"Faith's locked herself in the bathroom," Willow whispered back.

"So? She's probably just taking a bath."

"She's been in there three hours!"

"So it's a long bath," she said, but felt a trickle of anxiety run through her. "Did you call through the door?"

"Only for the past hour and a half."

"And hasn't she answered?"

"She does sometimes."

"Well, she's okay then. What did she say?"

"The kind of thing a good Jewish Wiccan girl doesn't like to repeat."

Buffy smiled despite the uneasy feeling in her stomach. "Don't worry, Willow. She'll come out when the food's ready."

"I'm serious, Buff. She doesn't sound good." Willow dropped into an even lower whisper. "And by good I mean mentally stable. I'm really worried about her and I'm pretty sure you're the only one she'll listen to."

Buffy slipped outside the door now, pulling it almost closed behind her. "What do you want me to do? I already got her rescued from hell, at personal cost, what more can I do?"

"But I thought you really lo. . ." Willow began and Buffy held a hand up fast to shut her up, looking back through the door to make sure Toni was still asleep.

"I do, you know I do, but Toni has just. . ." she took a deep breath, running a hand over her eyes. ". . .she put everything on the line for me, Willow, more than I even realized she was. Now it's my turn to do that for her."

"I get that, and honestly, I'm really happy you feel that way, not just 'cause of what you just said but 'cause I really think she's the better person for you, but. . .but I still think you need to come and talk Faith out of the bathroom."

Buffy stared at Willow, her eyes pleading to be let off the hook. Knowing Faith was in distress of any kind made her want to run to her and make it better, but she couldn't, not this time.

"I'm sorry, Will, but. . ." her heart hurt saying the words but she had to. ". . .she's Troy's responsibility now. I can't do it."

"But she doesn't care about Troy!"

"Shhh! You'll wake Toni. I'm sorry but I had to make a decision, once and for all, please just try and be happy that I'm doing that, Willow, please? I should get back inside." She squeezed back into her bedroom, trying not to let in too much light.

"Is this because. . .?"

She closed the door before she could hear the end of Willow question and walked back over to the bed. Sitting on the side she buried her head in her hands before sniffing back a few tears and lying back down. She snuggled carefully back into Toni's arms, taking comfort - but not quite enough to calm her - from her girlfriend's warmth.

After not quite a minute Toni curled some of Buffy's hair sleepily around her finger and cuddled deeper, brushing a drowsy kiss over her temple. "You should go and speak to her."

"You heard some of that, huh?"

Toni chuckled into her ear. "I am human now, not deaf."

Buffy smiled against her neck, placing small kisses against her skin. "I don't want to leave you alone."

"And I don't want to have gone through this only to have Faith's drown herself in the bathtub."

Buffy pulled back and leant up on her elbow. "She's not stupid enough to do that."

"But you are worried about what she is stupid enough to do."

"Faith's style is more go out slaying and get gutted by a demon. Of course, now there's a whole lot more gut to get through so even that probably wouldn't be a viable suicide attempt."

Toni chuckled but leaned back to look at her; it was barely possible in the darkness but she must have seen something that made up her mind.

"Go and talk to her."

"Do you want me to?"

"No," Toni said honestly. "I would be happy if you never spoke to her again, but I am not foolish enough to disagree with Willow. You are Faith's soul mate. . ." Buffy's eyes widened in surprise. ". . .If anyone can talk her down from the ledge it will be you."

"She's not on a ledge!"

Sure there had been that one time Angel had told her about - Faith had never mentioned it - where she had gone all suicidal and tried to get Angel to kill her, but there had been extenuating circumstances. Faith had killed a couple of people, gone all evil, fallen into a coma, woken up, pissed everyone off and then gone on the run - that was bound to make anyone want to get it all over with. But this time she'd only been to hell, found out she was pregnant and then returned home to find out the woman she loved was prepared to shack up with someone else rather than be with her. That was nothing. . .

"I have to go and speak to her."

"I know."

Buffy nodded and kissed her. "I'll be back soon. Did you hear the part about dinner being nearly ready? If you're hungry you should get dressed so we can go and eat when I get back. Help yourself to my wardrobe - mi. . .clothes is su clothes."

Toni smiled and kissed her on the cheek. "Grazie, but I think I would prefer to sleep a few hours longer. Perhaps I can eat later?"

"I'll save you a plate," Buffy promised. "Are you sure you don't mind. . .?"

"Go, Buffy. I may no longer have any special gifts but I am still secure in your love for me."

Buffy grinned. "I love you."

"That is my point."

After giving her one last peck on the lips, Buffy jumped off of the bed and left the room.

Walking along the hallway she realized she may have been reluctant to leave Toni but she'd obviously been worried enough about Faith to leave without grabbing her robe or slippers. She shivered all the way to the first communal bathroom, just down the hall, but it was empty. Getting colder by the second she walked through the upper hallway to the other end of their large house to the other communal bathroom. She knew she had the right one this time because of the crowd of people outside.

Troy was banging on the door, shouting through to Faith. He probably hadn't been cursing that much for the first hour or so, but now his anger was turning the air blue. Giles was also talking to the door, more sedately but with no less anger than Troy was. Willow was knocking on the door, begging Faith to come out and Xander was standing back against the wall, arms folded, singing,

"'Fifty-nine bottles of beer on the wall, fifty-nine bottles of beer' - Faith, I'm gonna keep going 'til you come out! Just thought you should be warned. 'Take one down. . . "

"Jeez, no wonder she's holed up in there!" Buffy shook her head as she came down the corridor. "I wouldn't come out either if I knew I had a mob waiting outside the door."

"Buffy!" Willow said relieved.

"I needed to stretch my legs," she said casually. "Xander, please stop singing that song!"

"Get her out of there!" Troy demanded.

"Say please." He glared at her and she could see volcanoes in his eyes. "Actually, just fuck off."

"Buffy," Giles began reproachfully.

"No, I mean it, all of you just back off."

Something in her tone came through loud and clear because Giles and Willow both shut up and stepped back against the wall beside Xander. Troy remained by the door, trying to stare her down.

"Do I have to tell you a third time?"

"Your threats do not intimidate me, Summers," Troy growled.

"No big." She shrugged. "Know what will intimidate you? The fact that I've got the balls to do this," she threw her weight against the bathroom door, breaking the sturdy, old fashioned lock-bolt. "And you didn't." He tried to follow her through and she barred his entry with her body. "Now I'm serious, fuck off!"

She slammed the door shut and leant both hands against it, she still hadn't turned around. "Faith, you better not be dead."

"I'm not dead."

She breathed a sigh of relief, not that she'd really thought she might be, and turned around. Faith was in the bath, the water was up to her neck but clear as a mountain spring. The very top of her stomach was poking out into the chill air. It was goosebumpy, making Buffy wonder how cold the water must be.

"So what's your problem? And haven't you ever heard of bubble bath?"

"I don't have a problem. And why? Scared you'll see something your girlfriend won't approve of?"

She thought about saying yes and leaving the room now that she knew Faith was okay, but Faith obviously wasn't okay; her tone told her that. So she shook off her misgivings and walked to the edge of the tub.

"Nope. How long you been in there?"

Faith shrugged, making the water ripple around her breasts. "A while."

Buffy dipped her hand into the bath. The water was tepid but not as cold as she'd expected it to be. She reached between Faith's ankles and pulled out the plug.

"Hey. I never said I was ready to get out!" Faith flailed, splashing water everywhere as she tried to sit up.

Buffy laughed - it was cute - and ran the hot water faucet. "And I didn't say you had to."

By the time a third of the water had drained - and Faith was looking more and more like a beached whale - the hot faucet was actually running hot and Buffy put the plug back in and poured in some of Willow and Kennedy's bubble bath.

Once she did Faith relaxed back again, looking up at Buffy curiously. Buffy looked back, not bothering to keep her eyes just on her face either. She couldn't help it, Faith's body like this. . .well, it was really weird - like carnival freak show weird.

"Just say it!" Faith sighed after an age of silence.

Buffy shrugged, "Okay, you're fucking huge!"

"Fuck you!"

"What? You told me to say. . ."

"I didn't know you were going to fuckin' say that!"

"My bad." Buffy grinned as she turned off the hot faucet. "So what did you think I was going to say?"

"That you were staying with Tone," Faith's voice was angry but quiet.

Buffy couldn't look at her now. "I am."

"Then thanks for the hot water, but get out."

"I can't, everyone's worried about you."

"Not your problem anymore."

"Effie. . ." It felt like so long since she had called her that. Buffy paused, sitting on the edge of the bath and looking down at the bubbles beginning to froth around Faith. ". . .you'll always be my problem."

"Screw you, Buffy, I can take care of myself."

"I didn't mean it like that."

"Whatever, I don't care how you meant it. Just go."

"No."

"Why not? What have you got to stick around for?"

"You mean aside from the fact that you're naked, right?"

She grinned but Faith didn't miss the fact that Buffy couldn't seem to look at said nakedness again. Every time she did the cringe was written all over her face.

"Don't do that! Don't pretend we're okay, that nothing changed for you when you saw I was pregnant. If you'd rather fuck her because of it I'll deal, but don't pretend it's not like that."

"It's not like that," Buffy said, and it was only half a lie and if half a lie could make Faith feel better then it was worth telling. "Faith, I want to be with Toni because. . ."

"Are you really gonna make me get out of this bath to throw you outta the room? 'Cause I will if you don't leave on your own."

"Because," Buffy lowered her voice to a whisper, "how can I not? She risked her life to save you for me! And she's lost everything but her life because of it. I can't leave her now, can I?"

"I didn't ask her to come and get me. I didn't ask her to risk anything for me."

"I asked her. Well, I didn't ask her exactly. I wanted to come and rescue you, obviously, but it was too dangerous. Not that I would have let that stop me!" she added hurriedly, not wanting Faith to think that for a second. "But then Toni offered."

"She offered?"

"Yes."

"She offered to go to Hell, risking absolutely everything, to rescue me?"

"Uh huh."

Faith smirked sarcastically, "Were you having really hot sex at the time?"

"No! We weren't really. . . I couldn't think about anyone else but you. I just wanted you back. Toni knew that."

"So, she offered to go to Hell, risking everything, to rescue me, for you?"

"Yes!"

"Bitch!" Faith suddenly shouted, the word echoed around the tiled bathroom.

"What did I do?" Buffy asked, surprised.

"Not you; Flowerpussy! She didn't rescue me for you. She rescued me for her!"

"Who? What? I'm confused. Wait, is this where you tell me you two are moving to Vegas?"

"What?" With some more flailing and squeaky noises coming from the bathtub Faith sat up. "This is where I tell you she played us both."

"Oh." Buffy nodded, then frowned. "Huh?"

"Oh come on, B. You're the smart one. Doesn't that seem suspicious to you?"

Buffy thought about it. "Suspicious how?"

"Toni loves you! So why would she risk it all just to see us back together?"

"Uh, because she loves me?"

"Or because she knew you'd stay with her out of some kinda misplaced pity!"

"Okay, first of all, it's not misplaced pity. Second of all, it's not pity!" Except it was, a little. "I'm staying with her because I had to choose one of you and why shouldn't it be her? Third of all, she would not have chosen this even if it meant being with me. She's a wreck right now, Faith."

"A wreck who has you!"

"She's tried to break up with me twice since Zeus went all Judge Dredd on her ass! She doesn't know which way is up. She can't even have sex!" As Faith grinned delightedly, Buffy cringed. "So wishing I'd whispered that part, or not said it all."

"Hey, if it was me I'd be shouting it from the rooftops."

"That's because you're an asshole."

"I'm an asshole who can have sex," Faith said and then grinned. "Just one of many parts of me that can have sex in fact."

Buffy chuckled despite herself. "Toni can have sex. It's just, I've been sleeping with a Love Goddess and now. . ."

"You have to give me up."

Buffy did her best not to smile and made her voice stern. "I was still talking about Toni. Effie, she didn't rescue you so she could be with me. When she went down there she had no reason at all to think I might choose her but she must have already known the risks. Risks she never mentioned to me."

"So she lied to you?"

"No, she didn't want to give me any reasons to stop her. Which I would have done if I'd realized the consequences she had to face."

Faith sank back into the water. "Thanks."

"I'd have still tried to come myself," Buffy promised. "And we'd both probably be dead by now."

"Might have been better."

Buffy thought back to the dream of Faith in heaven, the dream where Faith had said they had to die to be together, and didn't answer.

"I didn't mean you being dead," Faith said, wincing at how her words had come out. "Just me."

"So you'd rather be dead than alive right now?"

Faith shrugged with a splash of water. "I guess not, just not sure what I've got to be alive for."

"Troy?"

Faith laughed, "Now you think I should go back to him?"

She didn't like that idea at all, but she didn't know what else to suggest either. It wasn't like she could make a fuss if Faith did; not if she was staying with Toni. Plus there was one big reason why Faith should stay with Troy if she wanted to. She glanced down at Faith's stomach. Big, big reason, in fact.

Faith noticed her glance. "You think I should stay with him because of this?" She pointed at her stomach.

"Only if you want to."

"Is that because you're suddenly going all 'family values' on me or because it lets you off the hook?"

As casually as she could, she said, "I don't need to be let off the hook, because it's not my hook."

Out of her peripheral vision she could see Faith studying her face. "It could be your hook if you wanted it to be."

"I'm with Toni."

"I thought it was yours."

"What?" Surprised, Buffy looked at her. "Why?"

"You never told me otherwise." Faith sounded angry now but she was obviously trying not to. "Last I heard we were having a kid together."

Buffy looked at the bathroom carpet, not able to meet Faith's eyes. "I wanted to tell you."

"But you didn't. How long have you known?"

Damn, that was one question she'd never wanted to answer but one she'd always known she would have to at some point.

"Since a few weeks before the wedding. Remember the night Willow called the apartment and you thought something was up? Well. . .something was up. But right up until I spoke to her I honestly thought the baby was going to be ours. If there even was a baby."

"There's a baby." Faith poked her stomach gently. "Why didn't you tell me?"

Buffy was surprised by the way Faith asked so softly; not angry, just curious. The anger would probably come when she answered though.

"Troy asked me not to. And when I say asked. . .he was pretty insistent."

"He threatened you?"

Buffy nodded, feeling ashamed. "There was more to it than that though. He promised he could give you the one thing that I couldn't."

"A baby?" Faith asked sarcastically.

"A ticket to Heaven."

"Okay," Faith said slowly. "A ticket to Heaven, that's not bad. So when do I get to cash it in?"

"Uh, when you die."

"What good is it going to do me screwin' you when I'm dead?"

Buffy was confused for a moment until she got it. She smiled, although it was wasted on the floor. "That was corny and smooth."

"What can I say, I used my time in Hell to learn and grow. So what do you say?"

"I say I'm with Toni."

"B, if you're right, and she really did bring me back for you out of the goodness of her heart, she's gonna understand if you choose me."

"I can't."

"She told me she wanted to fight for you. You should give her that."

"Why?" Buffy asked, chuckling. "She doesn't have to."

"Exactly! You're depriving her of something she wanted. You should at least let her have the opportunity. I don't mind fighting her for you; you know, just to give her what she wants."

"No."

"Seriously, B, I'm gonna kick her ass and steal you away at some point anyway. Ya might as well at least give her the chance to get in the game."

"No, Faith."

"Why not?"

"I told you why not. I can't leave her now."

"So that's it? She just gets to have you? I save her ass from being smited and spend six months in Hell and yet she walks away with the main prize?"

"Are you done objectifying me?"

"I'm not objectifying you! But this sucks, B! I love you too!"

"I know you do."

"But it doesn't mean shit just because Toni's human now? Fuck that! I've been human all along!"

"Super-human," Buffy corrected.

"Whatever! Buffy, you know we're supposed to be together."

Buffy shook her head sadly. "I know we had our shot. We wasted it. Both of us. You mostly," she added, because she couldn't help it. "But we both screwed up. The only sane thing to do is move on."

"So you don't love me anymore?"

"I never said that."

"So you just don't want me?"

Buffy tried to laugh but it came out choked. "Not right now, no."

"You're lying!"

"I'm really not."

Silence fell for a minute or more. Buffy listened to the quiet noise of the water lapping around Faith as she looked down at her nails for a distraction. Damn, she was in desperate need of a manicure. Four weeks of pulling her hair out and climbing the walls in the basement had left her nails looking like crap. If she'd known this was what awaited her she would never have become such an unkempt hermit.

"Okay, so you're staying with Tone," Faith said eventually. "So we should say goodbye, right? 'Cause this thing between us can't just be left hanging."

Buffy panicked for a spilt second until she reminded herself she was doing the right thing. "Yes. I'd like that."

"Okay, so take your nightie off and get in here."

"What?"

"Come on, one last fuck. It's how we always say goodbye."

"We've said goodbye that way a grand total of once! It's not like it's a tradition."

"If Tone finds out she'll understand. I'll even explain it to her myself if you want," Faith offered a little too gleefully. "If you're determined to stay with her to do the right thing this is the last chance we'll ever get."

"Yeah, but. . ."

"Come on, B! You can't tell me you don't want to do it too."

"Of course I do. . ." Except she really didn't want to do it right now, even if it was their last chance ever. "But. . ."

Faith interrupted her search for an excuse. "What's wrong?"

"Nothing."

"B, look at me."

She glanced at Faith's face and looked away again in the same breath.

"Buffy, look at me!"

"I did!" A handful of water hit the side of her face. "Hey!"

Faith slapped some more water her way. "Fuckin' look at me."

Wiping the water away with her arm, Buffy turned to her angrily. "What is your problem?"

"My problem is that you won't look at me!" Faith splashed some more water up at her.

"Well I'm looking at you now, so stop it!" Water was trickling down her neck and soaking the neckline of her nightdress. "Why do I need to look at you? To see what I'm losing? I already know that!"

"It's not about what you're losing, it's about what you're running away from."

"I'm not running. . ."

"Look at my stomach, Buffy! Look at it for one full minute and then I'll know that's not why you're giving us up!"

Buffy held her gaze defiantly. She was breathing hard but she didn't know why. She could look at Faith's stomach, it wasn't a big deal. She'd looked at it earlier for long enough.

Yeah, when she'd been freaking out about how to deal with it, and before Toni's demotion to human had given her an easy out.

Eventually her courage welled enough to let her eyes travel south - normally it was much more fun when Faith was involved. She bypassed her breasts, which - hoo mama - were much bigger than usual and went straight to the stomach. She stared, because she had been told to, but her brain was trying to crawl up the back of her skull to escape.

"You're pregnant, so what?" she asked lifelessly. "That has nothing to do with. . ."

Faith surged up out of the bath, splashing Buffy again accidentally. The way she caught her upper arms and dragged her down into the tub probably wasn't an accident.

"Faith? What the hell?" Buffy yelled as she was pulled into the water. "Let me go!"

"No way, B!" Faith grabbed either side of her face, pulled her down and kissed her.

It was fierce, it was painful, it was glorious, it was a long time coming and for a minute at least Buffy tried to ignore the fact that she was beached on Faith's oh-so-large stomach. Seriously though, they'd need a crane to get her back out of this bath. She could barely touch the bottom with her floundering hands.

"I can't do this!" she apologized frantically when her tongue was her own again.

Faith grinned up at her. "That's cool, B. I'll do it all."

"Huh?"

Confused, Buffy didn't protest when Faith's hands circled her waist, assuming she was helping her back out of the bath. Until the hands slipped down, over her swell of ass, down below her nightdress to her thighs, and the next thing Buffy knew, she was being dragged forwards and onto Faith's waiting mouth. . .

"Oh fu. . !" Faith's tongue made instant contact with her clit and Buffy grabbed the sides of the bath. "Oh! Faith, don't. . . Oh! Please, don't. . .Oh, oh!. . .Ohhhh Godddd!"

Buffy shifted her grip to the back of the bath as Faith slipped further into the water, further under her, and bit her lip against any more sounds because there was a good chance there were still people listening outside in the hallway, but her mouth hung open in a litany of silence as Faith's tongue danced around her pussy.

Oh fuck, oh fuck, oh fuck, she thought and at some point her thoughts became less thoughts and more sounds but by then she didn't care. "Oh fuck, oh fuck, oh fuck!"

She forced herself against Faith's mouth and Faith switched from licking to sucking and Buffy exploded, and. . .damn, it felt so fucking good! One hand left finger-dents in the enamel, the other held Faith's mouth to her center.

When she came down, she came down fast. She shot backwards and her butt touched Faith's baby bump which freaked her out even more.

"Sorry!"

"I'm not."

Buffy jumped out of the bath all the same. "That shouldn't have. . . That was not okay!"

"None of this is okay, B." Faith licked her lips and then washed her face with a handful of bathwater. "But you didn't hate me doing that all that much, did you?"

"What gave it away?" Buffy grumbled, still breathing heavy. Then her eyes pleaded with Faith. "But it was wrong!"

Faith rolled her eyes. "Didn't feel wrong to me when you were wriggling around on my tongue."

Buffy felt her insides melt all over again at Faith's crudity. Why could she do that to her? Especially now?

She shook her head slowly. "I'm sorry. I wish things could be different. Actually, you know what? I don't! I really wish they could have been different six months ago, but now. . .now things are just the way they are, and we're all to blame one way or another, so we just have to get on with it."

Feeling suddenly exhausted and completely at a loss as to how to explain her wet nightdress to Toni, Buffy walked to the bathroom door.

"You love me more than her!" Faith blurted.

Buffy turned back to the bath. "It's not about that anymore, Faith. It's about doing the right thing. You know what I mean. It was why you were marrying Troy."

"I was marrying him for you!"

She shook her head sadly. "Not at first you weren't. You agreed to marry him because you thought it was for the best. You weren't right, but you set the ball in motion when you said yes to his proposal. Now I'm doing this because it is right. It's the only thing left to do that's right."

"And what if you're wrong?"

"Then I'll have to live with the consequences, same as you do."

She left the bathroom then, expecting a torrent of questions the second she opened the door. They didn't come. Everyone but Troy had vacated the area, either because they had trusted her to get the job done, or because they had heard some of the conversation and didn't want to face her mood when she came out. Whichever it was, Troy was the only one waiting outside.

"Thank you," he said sincerely.

On any other day his unexpected gratitude might have touched her, made her think better of him.

Right now it just made her hate him more. "Why won't you just fuck off!"

He looked surprised, and hesitated, and she didn't give him a chance to get his act together before she walked away.


Chapter Eight

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