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


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PART TWO: 31st December 2003
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Chapter Six: Inappropriate Fireworks

Buffy had been acting the happy party-goer for another hour when she saw Xander bear down on her from the side. An unfamiliar woman was following him. "Hey Buff, where'd Bobby go?"

Buffy gave her the once over, checking for horns or other demony parts. Finding none she smiled at her best friend. "Who?"

"Bobby. The guy I introduced you to earlier."

Buffy smacked herself on the forehead. "Bobby! That was his name!"

"From that I'm assuming things no go so good."

"No, he was nice, but I'm not really looking to meet anyone just yet." She wanted to launch into the whole conversation she and Faith had, had outside, just to get a second opinion, but she didn't want to do it with this woman standing here. "I see you don't feel the same." She held out her hand. "I'm Buffy."

The attractive, fawn-haired woman let go of Xander's arm to shake hands. "Melissa. It's nice to meet you. Xander's told me a lot about you."

"Ookay." Weird, 'cause she hadn't heard a word about any Melissa. And just what had Xander being saying about her?

Xander chuckled. "Not a lot about you. Just some stuff. You know: height, weight, grade point average. Melissa and I work together."

Buffy looked her over again. She was kinda tall, but there was nothing else to her. Bet she needed lots of help lifting steel girders.

Melissa smiled. She was probably used to this reaction when she told people she worked on building sites. "I'm a carpenter. I don't lift much more than a pencil and hand saw; and I don't even do that at the same time."

"No, well, those pencils can be tricky." Looking around for an excuse to escape the couple-y badness, she spotted a flimsy one. "Uh, I think Giles wants me so I better run. You know how impatient he is." Buffy smiled, possibly crazily, and went over to Giles, who was deep in conversation.

She stood there waiting to be noticed and brought into the conversation, just in case Xander looked over and caught her with her fibs around her ankles.

Giles did eventually realise she was there. "Ah Buffy, I trust you are enjoying yourself?"

"Uh huh, especially now I've had half of the bowl of punch." She grinned. It was true; after the first five or six glasses the bite turned tail and whimpered in a corner somewhere, leaving a warm, glowy feeling behind it.

"Oh dear Lord. Half the bowl, really?" He looked distressed on her behalf which was sweet.

"Well maybe not half, more like a quarter or a third, or something. Have you tried it? I could go get you some." She offered.

"No, that's alright. I had a glass earlier. I imagine I'll sober up sometime before I'm due back at work." He suddenly remembered his manners. "This is Mr. Clydesdan. He's a watcher from the north of England. He saved his potential from the harbingers last year, but was badly injured. He's only recently been released from hospital."

Buffy automatically shook his hand. Her alcohol induced high falling slightly. "I'm sorry to hear that. Was your potential...? Did she make it?"

Mr. Clydesdan wore an unhappy face and Buffy pretty much knew the answer. "I'm afraid I've no idea, lassie." Lassie - that wasn't very flattering. "Once I was settled in a cosy white bed I sent her to Sunnydale to find you, but I haven't heard from her since."

Buffy looked to Giles with an eyebrow raised. Did she come to us? What was her name?

He answered her look. "Honestly I don't know. Things got a little hectic towards the end."

"It's okay. Even if she didn't make it, she'da gone down fighting. She was a brave lass."

Buffy nodded. Time to move on now her precarious-to-begin-with good mood had deflated. "I'm just going to..." She gestured behind the two Englishmen and walked away. Fifteen minutes to New Year and she was about ready to hang herself. Or drink the rest of that punch. The end would probably be the same.

"Buffy! Buffy! Happy New Year!"

The blonde Slayer gurgled and stepped out of her sister's embrace. So that was what it felt like to be hanged. Definitely not the way she wanted to go then. "It's not New Year yet." She pointed out.

"I know, but it will be soon and you looked like you needed cheering up. Is everything okay? This party is so awesome. I can't believe we never had a New Year's Eve party back in Sunnydale. Considering we were a bunch of teenagers living in a big house alone, we really didn't make the most of it." Dawn gushed as she held onto her sister's shoulder with one hand and Christian's arm with the other.

"Do you remember what happened whenever we threw parties?" Buffy was starting to get a bad feeling about the way her sister was hanging off her date's arm. She had better be wrong.

"Pfft." Dawn waved her hand around and hiccupped. "You could have handled it. After all, you are the Sla..."

Damn it. "Dawn! I told you two drinks maximum." She cut her sister off quickly.

"God Mom." Dawn shot back sarcastically, crossing her arms and actually looking a lot like their Mom herself. "I've only had two drinks!" She swayed just slightly and the boy she was with, Christian, steadied her. "Okay maybe three, but that's all."

Buffy sighed exasperated. "Let me guess. You had to have the punch, didn't you? Couldn't stick to the wine coolers like I said. Fine. Just don't ask me to hold your hair when you throw up." I'll be too busy holding my own, she thought. She turned to look up at Christian who was looking a little green at the mention of Dawn throwing up. Wimp. "You. Behave yourself. If I think you're not treating my little sister with the care and respect she deserves, you will not know what hit you. So I'll give you a heads up: It'll be me."

"Buffy!" Dawn shrieked in embarrassment.

"Happy New Year." Buffy smiled sweetly and left them to it.

She wasn't too worried about Christian. Willow had gone through his file as soon as Buffy had pried the new crush's name from Dawn's lips. He was clean. Or he was good at covering his tracks. She was taking Willow's advice and giving him the benefit of the doubt.

Ah, the kitchen. She pushed through the door. The place where all sad, miserable losers end up at parties. This was where she would feel at home sitting out the last ten minutes 'til the big bang.

Except, she realised, either there were a lot of miserable losers here tonight, or the kitchen was the happening place to be. She hadn't been out of the party scene long enough for all the rules to change...had she? Was she now supposed to go and sit next to the stereo, because that put her a little to close to the punch bowl for safety.

"Hey guys. What'cha all doing in here?"

Willow and Kennedy looked up from arranging colourful things on the table.

"We're getting the party bangers and streamers ready for midnight." Willow gave her an over-sized smile and held up some miniature fireworks. "It's gonna be lottsa fun. We'll make loud bangs and throw coloured paper in the air and the ball will drop and we'll all sing and go around in circles dancing."

Buffy raised an eyebrow at Kennedy.

"If she needs her stomach pumped, I'm going to kill Faith." The small Slayer's teeth were gritted and Buffy believed every word. Or at least she believed Kennedy would try.

"Will'll be fine. Besides, it's not Faith's fault. Willow even helped her make it so she knows what she was letting herself in for. If I were you, I'd just enjoy it." Buffy winked at Kennedy.

The smaller girl shrugged in a 'like-I-have-a-choice' way. "Come on baby; let's go get ready for the count down."

Willow giggled and scooped as many party poppers and balls of streamers up in her arms as she could manage. A lot fell to the floor. "Buffy you have to come dance in circles with us, 'kay? At midnight. With trees." She squealed the last bit as Kennedy dragged her out the door.

Buffy nodded. "Gotcha. Wouldn't miss it for the world." She let out a deep breath and went to grab a glass of wine. "Andrew. What are you doing?"

The blonde man was lying on the kitchen floor between the sink and table. "I didn't feel so good and it's nice and cold down here."

Buffy grimaced almost in sympathy. "You had the punch too, huh?"

He groaned, sitting up to lean against the cabinets. His face was all sweaty. "No. Wine coolers."

Buffy laughed out loud, only having the decency to try and hide it when she saw his hurt expression. "I'm...sorry." She stepped over him and went to the sink. A few suspicions were confirmed when he didn't try and look up her dress. She almost laughed again. What did they put in the water around here? She poured him a glass of cold water from the tap and handed it too him. "Drink that. You'll feel better."

"Thanks." He gulped it all down in a series of lengthy swallows. When he'd finished, he sat back, letting his head hit the cupboard behind him.

Buffy took the empty glass. "Do you feel better?"

"Mmmm, sleepy." He mumbled with his eyes closed.

"Maybe you should go to bed. There'll be another New Year next year. Well, assuming we do our jobs right."

"No, I wanna stay awa..." The last word was part snore and he slowly slid over sideways.

Stooping, Buffy checked his pulse. Yep, he still had one. Shrugging, she straightened up, actually quite pleased that he'd fallen asleep and she didn't have to make conversation with him.

The whoosh of the door opening caught her attention. "Hey F."

Faith grinned at her. "B. Why're you hiding in here? There's only a couple of minutes to go until two thousand and four. Get your ass out there."

"You go. I'll be there in a minute." Buffy smiled at her.

"Why not now?"

Because I don't want to see you kiss Troy at midnight, she thought. "Andrew's passed out. Someone should keep an eye on him." She nudged the unconscious blonde with her toe.

Buffy could tell Faith didn't believe her. The dark woman went to the fridge and pulled out a strawberry wine cooler and a beer. She brought them over to Buffy, handed the wine to her and opened the beer with her teeth.

"Impressive. And thanks." Buffy smirked, unscrewing her own cap with her fingers and taking a sip of the fruity drink.

Faith dipped her head, accepting the praise. "So what's really up and don't say it's anything to do with Andrew, because unless you're staying in here so you can kiss him at midnight, I won't believe you." She smirked. "And if you are. At least wake him up so he can enjoy his first kiss."

Buffy laughed and shook her head. "No. You don't have to start your best friend duties tonight. You can spend all day listening to my tales of woe tomorrow if you like, but tonight - go and enjoy the big celebration." Not that she had any intention of sharing any woe-tales, what with them mostly concerning a certain raven haired slayer who was not called Kennedy.

Faith boosted herself up on the counter with only marginally less than her usual grace. "I need a breather. It's getting intense in there."

A breather two minutes before take off, yeah Buffy believed that, but who was she to turn the chance at Faith-time down?

Faith spoke. "So Xander's got a chick. Willow's got Kennedy. I got Troy. You think you and Giles should hook up?"

"Oh God no...no...don't even joke about stuff like that. Especially not in front of Giles. He's old; he might have a heart attack." Buffy shuddered at the ickyness of Faith's brain. "Besides he's got his Mr. Clydesdan."

Faith's eyes twinkled. "You think the Brits'll get it together at midnight? 'Cause that would be something to see." She chuckled, clearly amused.

"Perv much?" Buffy grinned back, although it was certainly not something she wanted to see.

The brunette shrugged. "Only as much as I can." The music was turned off in the other room and the television blared into life. "Guess it's that time."

Buffy sadly stepped away. "Go on then; get in there."

"Not without you, B." Faith jumped down. "I'm not leaving you in here by yourself."

"Troy's waiting for you." Buffy hoped she didn't sound as bitter as she felt. She was trying to do the right thing here after all. "Don't make me be the reason you don't finish the night how you want to. New beginnings remember? I don't want to start out feeling guilty."

Her arm was grabbed. "Then come in the other room and stop being so difficult."

*Ten* The start of the countdown came through the closed kitchen door loud and clear. Hardly surprising with about twenty people all shouting it at once.

"I'm not being difficult. You are." Buffy tried to pull her arm away, but Faith held on.

*Nine*

"No it's definitely you."

*Eight*

"Let go." Buffy insisted. She was still trying to pull her arm free, but only half-heartedly

*Seven*

"Don't make me carry you in there." Faith warned, grinning.

"You wouldn't dare!"

*Six*

"Oh, wrong with to say, B." Faith stepped into Buffy's personal space and bent to scoop up her legs.

*Five*

"No!" Buffy squealed, crouching back to stop her. Faith didn't give up, she was determined to get a grip on the blonde so she could lift her up.

*Four*

Buffy fell back against the cupboards and Faith almost landed on top of her; both girls were giggling now as they wrestled with each other.

"Faith, I'm warning you. Just stop already and go kiss Troy. Quickly or you'll miss the moment." Buffy slapped at Faith's head, trying to knock some sense into her.

Faith got back up with an arm under one thigh, lifting it high in the air, forcing Buffy to hop on one leg and clutch at her shoulder for balance.

*Three*

Buffy's hopping landed her on Faith's open toe and shot their balance to pieces. They went down in a heap. Buffy had the misfortune of landing on the bottom with Faith landing on top of her. Well, in some ways it was a misfortune.

"You are going in that room!" Faith panted, getting back to her knees. She switched to trying to drag Buffy across the polished stone floor by her hips.

She slid along helplessly until she could grab a table leg. "A-ha!"

*Two*

"Buffy would you let go! At this rate neither of us will have anyone to kiss at..."

*One*

Loud cheers erupted from behind the closed door. Buffy let go of the table leg.

"The balls dropped." She hiccuped as her laughter dissolved into almost tears. Buffy felt suddenly awful that she hadn't just done what Faith wanted so she could be happy. "Sorry, it's over."

"Like hell it is!" Faith grinned and kissed her hard on the mouth.

Buffy gasped and kissed her back. She hadn't expected...but what about...did this mean..? She tried to wrap her arms around the other woman to draw her closer, but Faith was still up on her hands and knees and refused to be budged. Only their lips touched, Faith's tasting of cigarettes and the sweet, fruity punch; which was intoxicating Buffy far more than seven glasses of the stuff had done.

Bangs and crashes and singing came from the other room, but Buffy didn't care. She didn't care about the snoring that was coming from about a foot to her left either as she let her tongue slip between Faith's lips and all the sparks that had been missing when she kissed Bobby, now exploded throughout her body.

She groaned in disapproval when Faith lifted her head just enough to cause her tongue to slip back out, and then lowered it again with her mouth almost closed, making it clear to a disappointed Buffy that continental kissage was not on the menu. Damn, she liked Faith's tongue.

The kitchen door burst open and slammed against the side. Faith tried to pull away, but Buffy got a hand around her neck and kept her where she wanted her; the other slayer didn't make a second attempt to get away.

Giles came into view through Buffy's half closed eyes, kicking out at Faith's head and only narrowly missing. Just what the fuck was he trying to do? Her eyes opened wider and swivelled until she was watching him through her upper eyelashes as he kicked out his other leg just missing the table.

"Da-da-da-da-da!...Da-da-da-da-da-da!...Da-da-da...da..."

Willow followed also making the funny noise, her hands around his waist.

Closing her eyes again Buffy tried to block them out as she concentrated on the softness of Faith's lips and the feel of her hair beneath her twirling fingers, but an extremely loud "Da-da" flipped them open again. Dawn's date Christian faltered his high kick as he caught sight of the two Slayers on the floor and nearly sent himself and Kennedy, who was behind him, to the ground.

Buffy broke into giggles again despite herself and, Faith, groaning, broke away and rested her forehead on the cold floor beside Buffy. "Shit."

Still giggling, apparently uncontrollably, Buffy tilted her head up and watched as Mr. Clydesdan, at the back of the train, disappeared out of the back door. A stream of coloured paper was caught in his hair and hung down his back.

"That was surreal." She could barely catch her breath.

"I didn't mean for..." Faith's head still rested face down on the floor beside her. "Any chance you can accept that as a friendly kiss? Ya know; just a happy new year thing?"

Did she have any choice? The giggles evaporated in a puff of imaginary smoke. If she said no, would Faith kiss her again or would things go back to bad? "If that's all it was, sure."

Faith lifted her head again and laid a gentle kiss on Buffy's brow: "Happy New Year." She jumped to her feet and her eyes caught sight of something on the other side of the room that made her frown. "Oh hey. Sorry I didn't come back in, we were..." Faith seemed reluctant to say kissing.

Buffy lifted her head and shoulders from the floor and saw Troy in the doorway. "Wrassling." She ad-libbed. "I get a little violent when I've been drinking." She smiled sweetly at the gorgeous guy. He looked uncomfortable which wasn't a problem for her. "Faith was just making sure I behaved myself." Faith was looking at her like she'd grown flippers. Buffy gave a little shrug.

Troy didn't seem unduly bothered by this. "Fai, the snow is bad tonight. I hope it's not too late to take you up on the offer of a bed?"

Fai? Buffy shook her head.

Faith, stretching and twisting, didn't look at anyone. "Yeah sure, I'll go get you a blanket." The linen closet was in the basement which had both inside and outside access; it made it easier making up the dormitory beds. She headed for the small door under the kitchen stairs.

"Blanket?" Buffy and Troy asked the same question, did a double-take at each other, and then turned inquisitive gazes back to the brunette.

"I have a headache." She disappeared into the dark.

Giles burst through the kitchen door still conga-ing for all his Watcherly worth, with assorted Scoobies and guests behind him. They wound their way around Buffy and Andrew who were both still lying on the floor, but Troy stepped politely to one side. Before the door closed behind Mr. Clydesdan's back, Buffy caught sight of Dawn and Christian making with the enthusiastic smoochies in the living room.

Faith came back up the basement stairs just as the train disappeared out of the back door once more, missing all of it. "You'll be alright on the couch." She told Troy handing him a blanket and a sheet. The guy was privileged, Buffy thought; Faith must really like him.

But if she really likes him, why is he spending the night on the couch?

"Thank you, Fai. I will see you in the morning. I hope your head feels better." Troy's face was blank with confusion as he took the bedding. With a last look at Buffy he left the kitchen.

Looking up at Faith as she rested on her elbows, Buffy waited for her to speak, but she didn't. She just looked at the door, which was now shut again. Buffy couldn't take it anymore. "Faith, why did you...?"

She never got to finish her question. "Happy New Year, Buffy." Faith turned and went slowly up the back stairs.

Buffy let her head fall to the stone floor again, which hurt. Andrew snored loudly not far from her ear and she could hear a very irritating 'da-da-da-da-da' coming towards her again, but none of it touched the surface of what was going on inside her head. "Happy New Year, Faith."


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