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


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PART THREE: 20th January 2004
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Chapter Six: Wishes Can Come True

"Who the fuck did that? I ain't doing this if I can't see shit!"

Buffy nearly slipped onto her ass at the sound of Faith's voice carrying loud and clear over the general hub-bub of the dark room. Well at least it meant she hadn't left completely, but she didn't sound too thrilled to be here either. Buffy started to skate towards the edge with her hands held out in front of her, having to rely on hope that no one would get in her way considering she couldn't see anything.

She'd spent a lot of her time in the dark this evening and most of it not metaphorically.

A dim light returned. Not the bright overhead fluorescents that had been on previously, but the fairy lights around the bar, the doors and the dj booth which Buffy now noticed for the first time was situated in a far corner of the room. They gave enough light for her to make out the crowd that had been by the door were now coming closer to her.

The second thing she noticed was that she was pretty much alone on the ice right now and she hadn't been when the lights went out.

She caught snatches of whispered conversation as the crowd came even nearer.

"You have to," that was her sister speaking. "You haven't even said happy birthday yet."

"Said it this morning." Came a sullen-sounding reply.

"This was all your idea." Was that Xander?

"Don't remind me."

"Just hold on real tight..."

Buffy didn't catch the rest of the advice Andrew was whispering because Kennedy interrupted.

"Just stop being such a wuss and get out there before she feels like an idiot and skates off."

Already feeling like an idiot Buffy was too curious to know what was going on to skate off. Her patience paid off thirty seconds later when a strange shape detatched itself from the main crowd and rolled onto the ice.

It took even Buffy's sharp eyesight a moment or two to realise what she was seeing in the soft glow of the fairy lights, but as the singing started again it all became clear and Buffy gasped as she got her first look at Faith all evening or it may have been at what she was bearing, because they were both stunning.

Faith, wearing a gorgeous red dress that fitted her perfectly to the waist before flaring out just ever so slightly and reaching to the ice skates she also had on, awkwardly skated across the ice to her; pushing in front of her a small waiters trolley with a huge two tiered cake on it.

Caught completely breathless by Faith's appearance, Buffy bought herself time by looking at the cake. The icing was white and on the top tier was a tiny blonde skater with a ...stake in her hand? An inch in front of the tiny blonde skater was a patch of icing that had been speckled with grey.

"Food colouring. Andy's idea." Faith said to Buffy's raised eyebrow. "And Xander made the Buffy. So you said on the way here you wanted cake. Cake." Faith looked like she was about to push the trolley to her, but changed her mind.

Looking down Buffy could see the brunette's knuckles were white as they clenched the handle. Faith obviously wasn't much of an ice person then. This just made the fact that she'd done this, that much sweeter.

"I did." Buffy looked back up and smiled. "Thank you. You're beautiful."

"What?" Faith's eyebrows dipped low over her eyes.

Buffy choked on her own spit. "I said the, the cake, it's beautiful. I mean, not that you're not, but then you know that, but I meant... the cake is...well you get what I mean."

Faith smiled a little nervously. "Thanks. Like I said, Andrew did it. They just made me bring it out here." She scowled over her shoulder to where everyone had thankfully stopped singing and were now just ogling the pair like they were doing more than having an awkward conversation in front of them.

"But you did everything else, right? Will and Xand said this is all down to you."

"Yeah, I guess. Everyone helped though, but yeah, I guess." Faith repeated, still with that almost shy smile. "So do you like it? You'd better like it considering all the shit I had to go through to get it set up without you knowing nothing."

"Faith, of course I like it. I love it even. I just can't believe..." Buffy shook her head a little, unable to express what she wanted to say in words. Feeling brave she slid towards the brunette and wrapped her arms around her neck.

She felt Faith tense up the second she made contact. The chosen two hadn't been very physical with each other since the New Year's Eve kiss that had gone wrong, or maybe just 'on too long' might have been a better way of putting it. They'd spent a lot of time together in the last month trying to get their new friendship off the ground, but they'd kept to their own personal space. Until right now.

Buffy didn't let herself enjoy being pressed up close to Faith because it was so obviously wrong, in all the right places. Hence the wrong. However that didn't stop her lingering that close for as long as possible.

"Thank you." Buffy said again into Faith's ear.

"Uh, your welcome, B. Could you let go now."

Buffy let go really fast, completely embarrassed, and skated back a little. "Oh sorry, I just wanted..."

"No, Buffy it's cool," Faith was quick to reassure her. "I just can't let go of this trolley and I was starting to worry you'd tip us all over."

"Oh." Buffy grinned a little. "Why can't you let go?"

"Because if I do then just I'll fall over and that's not any better." Faith explained with a little embarrassed chuckle. She was so cute like this.

"I thought you'd be a natural at this, what with growing up in Boston. They get cold winters right?"

"Oh hell yeah, and if I was just in my sneakers I could slide rings around you, but the manager says I have to wear these stupid blades and I can't make them work right. I've was trying all afternoon in-between setting up, but I just can't balance on them properly." Faith explained.

"You're over-thinking it..." Buffy began but was interrupted by a shout from the side.

"Will you two stop gas-bagging and cut the cake; some of us would like to get some skating in this evening."

Faith and Buffy both looked over before cracking up together.

"Giles ice-skates?" Buffy picked up the cake knife on the trolley as she giggled.

"You guys don't have to stand over there." Faith shouted back to the Watcher. "Get your asses on the ice."

Buffy cut the cake as people did start to get back on the ice. The overhead lights were left off, but were replaced by some flashy disco beams that lit the ice up a different colour every six seconds as the music began pumping out of the speakers again.

When the cake was cut Faith pushed it back to the edge of the rink to find the plates she'd left by the bar. Buffy went with her.

"I don't need help B. Why don't you go back and skate some more."

"No, that's alright. I think I'll stick with. Or else you'll disappear again before I can get you on the ice properly." Buffy snagged a piece of cake as Faith wheeled it along. Andrew did good; it was delicious.

"I'm not sure that's going to happen anyway." Faith chuckled. "I'm not exactly dressed for this." She lifted the skirt of her dress up to emphasise. "I guess I didn't really plan everything as well as I thought."

Buffy smirked. "Or you planned it perfectly because you thought that dress, as nice as it is, would get you out of it. And anyway, I'm not exactly dressed for a party either." Buffy indicated her dark, comfy pants and hooded sweatshirt. "We'll just have to muddle through together."

Faith smirked back. "And if I fall over?"

"I won't let you fall."

*********

"I feel like an idiot."

Buffy couldn't keep the smile off of her face as she answered. "Well you don't look like an idiot."

"No, I look like a baby."

"No you don't. Lots of people are holding hands. See?" Looking around herself, Buffy pointed out the various couples that were skating hand in hand.

"Yeah, but they're holding hands because they want to, not because...Hey!"

Buffy winced as Faith's feet carried her off in a different direction to the blonde. She hadn't realised she'd been skating so fast when she'd yanked her hand out of Faith's death grip.

Faith smacked into the side barrier with a rush of breath.

"Sorry." Except she wasn't. If Faith didn't want to hold her hand then far be it from Buffy to force her.

"S'okay." Faith panted, gripping the top of the barrier. "Uh, you couldn't just push me to the gap, could you?"

Buffy sighed deeply.

*********

They were in the middle of the ice now with people skating around them.

"I swear I'm gonna kill you, B."

"F, get a grip." Buffy mildly snapped back "This is easy, you can do this, but you're not going to trust that until you have to. Now I'm going to be right in front of you, but you've got to do the work. Okay, are you ready?"

Finished with muttering threats under her breath, Faith gave her a curt nod. Her expression was grim and Buffy was struggling not to break into laughter again.

Buffy started to skate slowly backwards as she instructed: "Lead with your right, push off with your left. That's it! Keep your arms at your sides, you don't need to wave them about - you're not on a tightrope!"

"Everyone is laughing at me." Faith whined.

"No they're not; no one is taking the slightest bit of notice." Okay so she was lying, most of the people sitting at the bar were indeed watching the little lesson, but Buffy didn't care and she was determined to get Faith so focused on her that she wouldn't care either. "Come on, nearly half way there. You're doing great."

Or Faith had been until Buffy jinxed it. As the brunette's skates started to go out from under her, Buffy slid forward and grabbed her hips to keep her upright.

Faith didn't thank her for the save, most likely because she believed she wouldn't have needed saving if it wasn't for her in the first place. Buffy just waited for the other Slayer to regain her balance before removing her hands and skating a little further back again to give her some room.

"So this is what you find such a turn on?" Faith asked, clearly unimpressed, as she inched closer to the edge. "Can't say I get it so far."

"Yeah well I usually go a little faster than this." Buffy pointed out, peeved. She wanted to enjoy this with Faith, but if she was just going to get all whiney about it then that wasn't going to happen. Time for drastic measures. Sometimes you had to be cruel to be kind, or to get what you wanted, either way this was one of those times. "I can't believe you're being such a wuss about this. Just loosen up and you might actually be able to skate on your own two feet."

Faith shot her a look full of hurt and burning anger.

Buffy steeled herself to ignore the hurt and build on the rest. "Oh come on. Don't get all puppy-eyed on me now. You're a Slayer. A bit of ice shouldn't freeze you up this bad."

Faith lifted her head and glared at Buffy through narrowed eyes. "Yeah, I was right. I am going to kill you."

Buffy laughed tauntingly. "Oh yeah and how are you going to catch me?"

Faith tried to take a step forward on the ice, but had to stop quickly and flap her arms about to stay on her feet.

Buffy skated back just enough, smiling wickedly. Oh yeah now this was more fun. Just a little more. "You know, before you were called I had these really tough guys called the Taraka after me. Spike sent them. Anyway, one of them attacked Angel and me while we were at the rink in Sunnydale and I killed him with my skate. Just skated up, swung on this conveniently placed net and crushed his windpipe - just like that. Think you could do it?"

"If I had to." Faith shot back. "In fact, find me a net, stand real still and I'll have a go now."

"You sure, 'cause you still look a little wobbly there. Maybe you were right after all. I should just help you back to the side and you can sit the rest of the night out. I don't want you to feel out of your depth."

"Keep talking while you still can," Faith was inching forward on the ice, but she still didn't look all that safe. "'Cause as soon as I get off this fuckin' frozen pond I'm gonna hit you so hard that when you wake up your clothes will be out of fashion; and we all know that'll probably kill you off completely."

Buffy took the clothes jibe on the chin. "Yes, but F, how are you going to get off the ice in the first place, without me to help you?"

Faith growled low in her throat. "You are so asking for it B."

"Yep." Buffy smirked. "And you, for once, can't do anything but take it." Buffy grabbed Faith's hips again and started to push her backwards. Faith's instinctive flinch nearly upended them both, but Buffy had enough skill to avoid a tumble and neatly pushed the brunette back into the very centre of the rink.

"Hey!"

Buffy, grinning, did a twirl, forcing Faith to do the same whether she wanted to or not, and considering the language coming from her, Buffy was pretty sure she hadn't wanted to.

"Right that's it."

Skating gracefully out of the way of Faith's lunge, Buffy started to giggle. It became unstoppable when the brunette suddenly realised that she had nobody to grab hold of and she panicked. Trying to over-compensate by throwing her arms and shoulders back just made things worse and Faith cursed loudly as her skates went right out from under her. Landing straight on her ass was all that she could do.

Buffy had tears her eyes as she clutched her stomach and tried to catch her breath and laugh at the same time. It really hurt to laugh right now, but she just couldn't stop! Looking at the disgruntled Slayer at her feet just induced a fresh round of giggles. She hadn't actually meant for that to happen, the falling over thing, but... As the fire started to rise in her friend's eyes, Buffy had to decide it was worth it.

Especially when Faith, still sat on the ice in her pretty red dress, noticed that everyone really was watching the Chosen Two's antics in the middle of the rink. Buffy could practically hear the thoughts going through Faith's head. This was going to take a lot to live down. Faith would be thinking payback.

Buffy thought she had a little time to enjoy this though, at least until the end of the night if she didn't leave the ice. The blonde was so busy grinning and poking her tongue out at the helpless brunette that she was caught off guard when Faith suddenly jumped up and came at her in one fluid movement.

Shrieking in surprise and delight that the tottering Slayer had finally actually remembered that she was the big, bad Faith, Buffy turned quickly and skated away. She expected to be able to easily out-distance the other Slayer, but a look over her shoulder showed that Faith was running on the ice towards her.

'Running? She couldn't stay upright a second ago without hanging on to me.'

And why had she wanted that to end again? Clingy Faith was so much better than Hockey Player Faith. Maybe she'd overdone the taunting a little bit.

Buffy whizzed past friends and almost-strangers alike with Faith hot on her heels. How did she get so good so fast? Was she faking it the whole time? That didn't make sense. Faith would never show weakness if she could avoid it and she would have avoided the ice all night if she'd been given the chance, but Buffy had insisted. No, Faith's new found confidence was all down to just how mad she was.

Buffy grinned some more as the speed at which she skated made her cheeks tingle with the cold. They'd already made one lap of the rink and Faith couldn't have been more than six feet behind her. Her voice sounded pretty close anyway.

"You are so dead, B. When I get my hands on you I'm gonna make you suffer so bad."

"Yeah, yeah, Faith. You gotta catch me first." Buffy shouted back without looking over her shoulder.

Racing like this with the other people on the ice was, well, precarious for the other people because when they saw her coming they tried to stop and flailed their arms about like she hadn't already seen them, but she sailed in between and around everyone safely enough and she was really beginning to enjoy herself despite the constant stream of death threats coming from behind.

Feeling strong fingers graze her shoulder caused Buffy to give another little eep of surprise. She turned her head to see Faith right on top of her, manic grin lighting up her features as she neared her prey.

"Got you now, Blondie."

Buffy, laughing, put on an extra burst of speed to stay just ahead of Faith's grabby hand as she faced forward again.

Her laugh turned into a horrified "No!" Someone was right in front of her blocking her path, arms flailing and a look of terror on his own face.

Too late to swerve, Buffy dropped into a crouch, tucking her arms in as well, and went straight through the obstacles legs.

She heard Faith hit the obstacle.

Buffy turned, ready to see if there was any bloodshed and waiting for someone to yell at her for starting the silly game. There was no bloodshed. Faith had stayed on her feet, just barely, and she'd kept the other person upright too.

Buffy straightened back up, breathing heavily. The game was over, but at least Faith knew she could skate. Maybe they could do a few laps holding hands with Faith actually wanting to now.

Faith was speaking: "Mr Clydesdan, I'm glad you could make it. Try the cake. Sorry I can't stay and chat I just have to..."

And maybe not. Buffy's eyes widened as Faith grinned evilly at Giles' friend and nodded her head over his shoulder.

"Now Faith, don't you think..." Faith was already skirting Mr Clydesdan. "...okay truce Faith..." Buffy started skating backwards so she could keep talking to her sister-slayer. "...I said truce..." Faith's expression was determined. "...Oh shit!" Buffy turned and faced away from the brunette again as she made her legs work harder and faster.

"No truce, B" Faith called to her. "This isn't over until I manage to stick your tongue to the ice."

"But it's dirty." Buffy called back as she weaved in and out of the people not clever enough to have already gotten to the edge of the rink.

"So's my dress now, and it's wet."

"You can wash a dress."

"You can wash a tongue. Cheaper too." Faith pointed out.

"I'll pay." Buffy promised, meaning the dress.

"Damn right you will." Faith promised, not meaning the dress.

"Faith please." Buffy was skating and laughing so hard she could barely catch her breath to speak.

Before this became a problem all her breath was forced out of her in one big huff.

Faith had gained that oh-so-important extra inch and her fingers grabbed the hood of Buffy's top, nearly choking her in the process.

As she tried to turn to relieve the pressure she slammed into the barrier around the edge and Faith then slammed into her.

The wind knocked out of her, Buffy could do nothing but gasp as she leant over the obstruction.

Faith smiled playfully and continued to pin Buffy between the barrier and her body. "Looks like I caught you B. Now what you going to do?"

"Wheeze." Buffy said truthfully. "And this." She started to struggle against the other woman. For real. A look over her shoulder let her see the glint in Faith's eyes and had her believing that she really might be in trouble here.

"Ah ah ah, B. We're playing this game my way now. You lied to me, that's very naughty."

"How did I lie?" She still struggled, but being mashed between Faith and the barrier meant that was all she could do.

"You told me I wouldn't fall and I did. In fact you made me fall and that's even naughtier."

"It was for your own good." Buffy stressed.

Faith shook her head. "Doesn't cut it. Now how can I make you understand the seriousness of what you've done?"

She pretended to think about it while Buffy's eyes darted around for an escape route, there wasn't one near. Now everyone was watching her squirm. Straining to look behind her again she saw Faith's expressive eyebrows do a little wiggle and the blonde knew for definite she was in trouble.

"I should give you a spanking, B!"

"What?" Okay where the hell did that idea come from? Faith wanted to spank her? 'Buffy get that thought out of your head right now.' She must have meant something else surely.

"You heard me. A good old fashion birthday spanking'll make you think twice about messing with me again."

Faith wrapped an arm around her waist and tried to lift her over the barrier and for one scary second Buffy thought she was serious. She tried to joke it off: "No, corporal punishment won't teach me Faith. Think of something else."

"Come on lets get you over this wall so I can get a good, strong angle." Faith actually succeeded in lifting her feet a little off the ground.

Buffy could hear the brunette's skates scraping like chalk on a board as she fought to get a better leverage. "Crap, you are fucking serious!"

Faith continued to more or less drag her over the plastic wall, grinning evilly, and this time Buffy really struggled as hard as she could. There was no way this was going to happen. People were watching! "Cut it out Faith." She couldn't get away but she managed to wiggle around until they were facing each other.

During Buffy's efforts, Faith's skates went backwards and her upper body went forwards and she had to let go of Buffy, thank God, to grab the barrier with both hands before she ended up face-first on the ice. Buffy grabbed her hips and pulled her up again until Faith re-found her balance. She had to stop touching her!

Faith was still grinning at her when they were finally eye to eye. "Shoulda seen your face B. Now that everyone's seen you about ready to pee your pants too - we're even."

Buffy pouted. The two things were hardly the same. "I just wanted you to be able to skate with me on my birthday without being a nervous wreck."

Faith smiled back teasingly. "And I just wanted to spank your ass."

"Really?" Buffy asked hopefully.

Faith obviously didn't notice the eagerness in Buffy's voice or she mistook it for something else for her tone was still playful as she answered. "Yeah, B, 'course. You got a sweet little ass. Just right for spanking."

Buffy bit her lip to try and hide her growing smile. "Well you should know. You were groping it for long enough earlier." Faith looked blank. "When you kidnapped me."

"Oh, that," Faith's dimples blinked into life. "Just didn't want you to fall is all. I didn't want to be responsible for you cracking your head open."

"That's very kind of you."

"That's what friends are for B."

"Groping and spanking?" Buffy teased.

Faith's eyes twinkled. "Sometimes; if they're lucky."

Well aware that they'd been staring into each others eyes throughout this whole little exchange and that no one else was anywhere near them, Buffy's pulse picked up even more than the fast-paced ice-chase should allow. She licked her lips and swallowed. It was her turn to say a small leading sentence, but her mind had gone blank.

"Buffy, you okay?" Faith brushed some blonde hair away from her face with soft, cold fingertips. It was a very romantic gesture. "You've gone space cadet on me."

Smiling, Buffy shook her head slightly from side to side, careful not to break the eye contact. "I was just wondering, uh, how lucky someone's birthday made them."

"I guess that would depend on whose birthday it was." Faith cleared her throat like she'd just cottoned on to just how this scene could go.

"Say, for example, mine." Buffy said softly. If Faith wasn't already backing away from this situation, there was no way she was going to.

Faith stared at her for a beat. "I don't know...". She started softly.

"Faith, I am so sorry I am late."

The brunette's gaze went to a place over Buffy's shoulder and the blonde was pissed at the interruption even before the Greek accent sunk home.

******

"I wonder if whoever invented the 'sausage on a stick' recipe ever got any money for it." Dawn pondered as she took a seat beside Buffy.

"What...why?" Irritated at having her intense stare-a-thon interrupted, Buffy turned her head to the side to regard her sister.

"Well," Dawn held up one of the snacks, "they are the ultimate finger food, aren't they? Everyone loves sausages on sticks. Name one party you've been to that hasn't served sausages on sticks."

Buffy looked back over to the ice. "Do I have to?"

"Well, no, not really. It was rhetorical or whatever. Buffy, are you okay?"

"Uh huh, never better."

"Okay." Dawn sounded viably skeptical. "So, do you like the party?"

"Uh huh."

"Faith did a really good job, don't you think?"

"Why aren't you sick?"

"Excuse me?"

Buffy turned a pointed stare at her sister. "You were still ill earlier and now you're all bouncy. Did you take some super-powered vitamins or were you just faking it all along; and I should warn you that if you choose option number two, there will be no allowance this month."

"I wasn't faking it. You can't fake sneezing."

"Bull shit." Buffy fake-sneezed into her hand to prove her point.

"Very funny, but it's still true. Except for today. Maybe. Today I may have been faking it just a little bit, but it is a special occasion."

Buffy let it go, not even bothering to point out that it was her special occasion, not Dawn's.

"So was it a surprise? I mean, did you have any clue what Faith was planning? She thinks she's so stealthy, but her fake voice was awful. You knew it was her all along, didn't you?"

"On the phone? Of course." Actually she hadn't known it until just that second, but it made sense. Now that she had hindsight in her favour, Buffy could recall the rich traces of Faith's voice in the muffled growl of Agent Fitzpatrick. She chuckled; Faith was such a dork sometimes. Seeing the dork make another lap of the ice hand-in-hand with Mister Eurohunk killed the chuckle. 'I taught her that.' She thought childishly. 'How is it fair that I get grumpy, uncoordinated, bratty Faith and he gets smiling, graceful, people-person Faith?'

Buffy sipped her fruity cocktail and inwardly berated herself for being unreasonable. Okay, so it was her birthday and the laws of the universe itself said she was entitled to all the quality Faith time she could handle, but since when did the universe follow the law? She had just assumed, because she hadn't seen him earlier, that Troy had not been invited. Which was a stupid assumption to make considering Faith had been seeing more and more of him since New Year. Buffy wouldn't have said they were dating, mostly because Faith insisted it wasn't like that and Buffy so badly wanted to believe it that she was willing to ignore all the dates they actually did go on.

Buffy hadn't had much to do with him, but occasionally his name would come up when she and Faith were hanging out. She tried to be the supportive best friend as best as she could, but half an ear was always listening out for any incriminating evidence that might be there to be found.

So far he seemed like your typical nice guy with looks to drop-dead for. He was Faith's age, in his third year as an exchange student at USC studying Art...Something. Or Something... Art, and he was interested in Archaeology and Native American music. What he and Faith found to talk about was anyone's guess, but then looking at his body maybe she didn't feel the need to talk all that much.

Buffy tutted at herself. Faith had gone to all this trouble to throw a party for her birthday and Buffy was sitting here feeling sorry for herself because Faith had the audacity to invite her boyfriend?

Yeah, she needed to get a grip.

"You want to come and skate with us for a while?"

Buffy had forgotten her sister was even sitting next to her. She looked to her again and forced a smile. "No, I'm just having a little break while I finish my drink. You two go."

Dawn didn't get up and her boyfriend, Christian, waited patiently a step or two away. "You're not finishing your drink; you're giving yourself eye strain."

"I'm just watching the people."

"You're watching one person."

"Actually, that's not true. I'm watching two people."

"And hoping one of them will fall over?"

"Nope, both." Buffy smiled genuinely at her sister. "I know I'm pathetic, you don't have to look at me like that."

"You're not pathetic, Buffy. A little retarded maybe . . ."

"Hey!"

"Well, it's Faith." Dawn defended her accusation. "I mean, why would you even go there? Okay she's hot, but..."

"You think she's hot? Something you want to tell me Dawn?"

"Hello, I have a boyfriend standing right here. You are the one doing the orientation one-eighty."

"It's not so much a one-eighty." Buffy told her tentatively.

"Then how come you never mentioned it before?"

Buffy thought about that. This thing she was feeling for Faith hadn't come completely out of the blue, even though it had felt like it at first. With the time that had passed since she'd realised her attraction for the other Slayer, Buffy had dwelled a lot. She'd figured out that this probably had been going on since high school, which was when Faith had admitted she'd first had feelings for her; Buffy had just never let herself know it.

When she'd found out Faith had slept with Xander, hadn't she felt just a little irrational jealousy over Xander spending extra special quality time with her special friend? Hadn't she wanted to be the only one Faith felt a connection with? Not that at the time she would have ever admitted it was that kind of connection she'd yearned for, even if she had fully realised it for herself by then.

Full-blown, red hot anger had masked any other emotions after Faith had slept with Riley, but when Buffy had arrived in L.A. and seen Angel so cosy with the other Slayer; then Buffy had felt it again. That twinge of something deep inside. Faith obviously felt more comfortable with Angel than she ever had with Buffy, why else would they have been all snuggled on the bed, with his shirt undone so she could sob right onto his bare muscle-y chest while he whispered soothing words of comfort into her ear.

Buffy had wanted to whisper soothing words in her ear. After she'd kicked her ass, of course. She wouldn't have turned down a little of Angel's bare chest either.

Buffy groaned and downed the rest of her cocktail. Barely twenty-three and she was losing her mind.

"So what did cause the sudden turn around?"

Damn. Dawn wasn't giving up. Telling her baby sister that Faith fingering her in the back room at Matrix was the catalyst for this sudden deluge of lust and ...affection for want of a safer word, was definitely not the way to go here.

"I don't know, I guess I was always a little attracted to her, but I only just realised it." That was as close to the truth as Buffy could go without giving it an x-rating.

"Oh, well that's a boring story."

"Gee thanks."

"It's just, well . . . she's Faith. Her reputation tends to precede her and you've been known to bring houses down when you get a little..."

"Dawn! How would you know about that?" Buffy sat up straighter, fixing her sister with a glare.

Her sister grinned mischievously. "Spike kept a diary."

Buffy blinked. "He did?"

"Well it was more of a journal, like the one Giles keeps, except Spike's was a lot more interesting."

"Just how many peoples diaries have you read? You do realise that they are supposed to be private right?" Buffy asked sarcastically while at the same time wondering if Spike's diary still existed somewhere or if it had been swallowed up with the rest of the town.

"Yeah, well, believe me . . . after that entry I never went back for a another look." Dawn shuddered. "I only started reading it in the first place because I liked his crappy poetry."

"Poetry?"

Dawn shrugged.

Another thought occurred to the blonde. "You haven't been reading my diary, have you?"

"No, no I swear I haven't touched it." Dawn promised quickly, obviously reading the glint in Buffy's eyes correctly. She recovered quickly enough though. "Anyway I don't need to read your private thoughts to know they pretty much center on a certain brunette who's not a hundred miles away from us right now. And I really don't need more details than that." She insisted emphatically.

"Do you really not like Faith that much?" Buffy asked with a frown.

"Faith is...okay. These days anyway." Dawn dropped her voice so Christian wouldn't overhear what she said next. "I just don't know why you always have to fall in love with cold-blooded evil people."

"Faith isn't cold-blooded or evil." Buffy shot back defensively, before hastily adding the more important part of the sentence. "And I'm not in love with her! I just kinda like her, a little."

"Yeah right." Dawn stood up and balanced on her skates. "Buffy, I love you, but you're crazy."

"Does that mean you don't approve?" Buffy waited for the answer and tried to decide if it would make any difference to how she felt.

"No, it means you should go and ask her to dance."

Buffy thought about that answer. "That doesn't make any sense."

Dawn shrugged.

Buffy thought some more. "Dancing on the ice could be tricky."

"Or fun."

"She's with Troy."

"So cut in."

"But we've decided to just be friends. I don't think she'll want to..."

Dawn cut her off. "Buffy, I'm saying go ask her to dance, not have wild monkey-sex in the middle of the ice." Giving her a smile, Dawn took hold of Christian's hand. "Or just keep sitting there being miserable, it's your birthday. We're going to skate."

Buffy turned back to the ice as Faith and Troy went past the near edge again. Troy was good and Faith was getting more and more relaxed on the ice in his company. Comfortable enough to dance with her though?

Buffy didn't know.

******
Buffy downed another of the fruit cocktails Xander had introduced her to and set out for the ice once more.

The closer she got the more she wobbled, but she steeled herself and stepped onto the cold stuff.

Faith and Troy were over at the far edge talking and looking like they were enjoying themsleves. Buffy did a lap and a half before she skidded to a stop, spraying ice onto their skates.

Faith noticed her first but it was Troy who spoke. "Buffy, are you having a good birthday?" He asked in his accented way.

She smiled brightly. "Yes Troy I am, thank you for asking. Do you mind if I dance with your girlfriend?"

"I, ah, okay." He looked surprised at her request but not unduly put out.

Faith looked even more surprised. "What?"

Buffy looked at her like she was dumb. "Will you dance with me?" She clarified.

"I..." Faith looked at Troy, who shrugged. Looking back to Buffy she asked: "Um, on here?"

Buffy just smiled, held her breath and held out her hand at the same time.

Faith looked at her hand for a beat before taking it. "Okay."

After drawing her a little away from Troy, Buffy put her other hand on Faith's waist. Faith followed suit but she didn't seem particularly at ease with it.

"I'm not quite sure how this is going to work yet," Buffy admitted, "but just follow my lead."

Faith smiled just a bit. "I'm used to leading."

Buffy smiled back. "Well get used to not."

As it turned out, skating on the ice was kind of fun, though not at all easy.

Buffy had visions of grand figure-skating moves where she could sweep up and down the ice with Faith in her arms and bend and twirl the flexible Slayer every which way to the delighted "Ooohs" and "Ahhs" of the crowd.

What actually happened was more of a sliding shuffle that narrowly missed several of the guests who were still skating normally. This was good though. Faith was being cooperative, despite the fact that this was crazy. She was even smiling and laughing about it, and the muted squeal she gave when Buffy attempted a dip was adorable.

"B. B, slow down." Faith was trying to dig in her skates. "Buffy! I feel..."

Buffy brought them both to a shuddering stop. "Like an idiot?"

Faith lifted her hand from Buffy's waist to wipe at her watering eyes. "No, dizzy. Well and a little like an idiot, but at least I'm staying upright. Could we just take it a little slower? We're kinda dancing three times faster than the song anyway. Probably looks a bit weird."

She hadn't been expecting that. Faith wanted to slow dance with her? The main reason Buffy had been piling on the speed and the crazy moves was so that Faith wouldn't get uncomfortable and think she was coming on to her. Because she wasn't. Really she wasn't.

Buffy had obviously been staring like a goofball for too long, because Faith started to pull her hand free from hers to get away. "It's okay. Maybe dancing together is bad idea anyway."

What? No! How did Faith come to such a crazy conclusion just from her surprised-face? "Why?" She snagged Faith's hand back and tightened her arm around the brunette's waist. "Why would you think that?"

"I don't know. You just didn't seem too thrilled with the idea." Faith seemed willing to let Buffy lead them in a much more dignified dance around the ice, so she did.

"Thrilled? Of course I'm..." 'Think about what you're saying.' "Well maybe thrilled is a little strong, but I want to. Yep definitely lots of want." Buffy smiled brightly at the Slayer in her arms as she kicked herself on the inside. 'I've basically just told her I want her.'

"That's..." Faith's smile looked a little strained. Probably freaked by the leer her 'best friend' was no doubt giving her. "...nice."

"Isn't it?" Buffy agreed in an overly bright way. Sensing she was about to blow this big time, she changed gears. "Why don't we just shut up and dance."

Chuckling, the other Slayer nodded and pulled Buffy in a little closer so she could whisper in her ear. "Okay, but I'm leading."

With a happy sigh Buffy gave in to the taller woman's insistence.

Three minutes later, Buffy had to ask. "When did you learn to dance like this? Not on the ice, just - like this?"

"Why, do you think I'm good?" Faith smirked at her.

She was better than Angel. Angel knew his dance steps, but he'd been a block of nervous wood compared to Faith. Not that she'd ever tell him that, of course. Riley had been relaxed enough and Buffy had enjoyed being in his arms while they danced, but for someone trained to be so stealthy, he had a hell of a clumsy streak when it came to dancing. After more than one occasion of getting her small, sandled feet squashed by his much larger, solidly booted ones, Buffy had told him she much preferred to simply sway in time to the music.

Faith certainly seemed to know what she was doing as she lead Buffy in a slow waltz around the ice. She wasn't quite so tense since she had taken control of the dance either.

"You're not bad." Buffy conceded. "So spill. Does Troy take you dancing?"

Faith snorted. "If he did, then I doubt he'd let me lead. He's kinda old-fashioned about things like that."

"Then . . .?"

Faith rolled her eyes, but Buffy didn't let her off the hook. She knew Faith could dance. You just had to look at Faith to know she would be able to dance. The picture that came to mind was nothing like this though. Faith dancing should be all kinetic energy and moshing. Everything a far cry from Strictly Ballroom.

"You promise you won't tell?" Faith eventually gave in.

"Double promise." Buffy replied eagerly.

Faith wouldn't meet her eyes, but she was smiling ever so slightly. "I took lessons inside."

"Inside where?" Confusion showed on Buffy's face.

Faith's eyeballs were getting a lot of exercise tonight as she rolled them yet again. "Inside prison, B."

"Really?" Buffy's high pitched shout of astonishment made several people look over.

"Shush!" She was scolded by the brunette. "Keep it quiet."

"Sorry, I just didn't know you could learn things like that in 'there'."

Faith shrugged. "It's just a way to stop the cons from having too much free time on their hands. They couldn't keep us locked up all day every day, but they couldn't afford to let us socialize too much either. Never knew what we might cook up between ourselves." Faith, with a sly wink, dipped Buffy much more professionally than Buffy had tried to do to her earlier. "And the Latino hottie teaching the class didn't hurt none either."

As Buffy thought about this new side of Faith she was seeing, she let herself just sink into the music. She didn't even realise when she rested her chin forward onto Faith's shoulder. Her feet did what they had to do giving her the time to just enjoy her birthday wish coming true. Not that her wish had actually been to dance with Faith, but in a way this was even better.

It wasn't long though before Buffy's meandering thoughts lead her in a circle. She lifted her head up to look Faith in the eye, but the other woman was looking over her shoulder, a little chuckle of disbelief caught on her lips. She looked a bit dazed actually. Like a deer caught in someone's headlights; a deer that was happy to be there, oblivious to the on-coming Buffy-truck.

"Was it a man or a woman?" Buffy asked.

That snapped Faith back to reality pretty quickly. "What? Was who one of them?"

"The Latino hottie?"

"Oh." Faith chuckled out loud this time. "It was a guy. Why?"

Buffy wasn't even sure herself. "Just wondering. I'd like to hear more about ...y'know, stuff."

"Stuff?" Faith slowed their dance down even more. "What kind of stuff?"

"Well, you know, you stuff." She never got any better at this, did she? Buffy decided to plow on. After all they were definitely dancing slower than the music allowed for now. They were practically just holding each other. "I want to know everything you want to tell me." There, she'd said it.

Faith didn't falter in her steps, or slides, and she didn't make a move to pull away from Buffy, but she did ask: "And if I don't want to tell you anything?"

"Then you don't," Buffy's smile did falter, but only for the briefest of moments. "Which is good, because it means I have more time to bore you with all of my life stories. And believe me, I have a lot."

"I can believe that."

Buffy grinned. "So, do you want to tell me anything?"

"Not really much to tell."

"Oh what? So you were born and now you're dancing with me?"

Faith laughed. "You know most of it already."

"Do not."

They danced quietly again for a short time before Faith offered:

"So go on then, what exactly is it that you wanna know?"

This was too good an opportunity to waste on trivia, but all the big questions that had been lining up in Buffy's brain for the past three weeks or so got stuck on the way to her vocal chords. They all lead to the same place; the same ultimate question. The same question she was already supposed to have the answer for.

"What?" Faith teased. "All that buggin' and you can't think of one now?"

Buffy opened her mouth to speak, but hesitated again. Faith was watching her closely, her grin uncertain as the silence stretched on.

If it was true, that the big question had already been answered, then how come they were dancing so close, so naturally, together now? How was it Faith's eyes, which were firmly locked on her own, seemed so full of ...passion? Willow had been her best friend for so many years and yet not once had Buffy seen her wiccan friend look at her like this. Xander, yes, a long time ago, but that had been indicative of something more. Was that the reason for the look in Faith's eyes, or was she just reading too much into it? Did she want it to be more so bad that she was projecting her own feelings onto something completely innocent?

"Do you...?" Buffy swallowed the dryness in her throat.

"What B?" Faith's hand slid upwards from the small of Buffy's back and then back down in an agonizingly casual stroke. "Come on - you got one free question. Ask me anything you want and I'll tell you the truth."

Was that a hint of fear in Faith's eyes? Or was it just a reflection from Buffy's own? The proposal had been made offhandedly enough, but the brunette's lips had a slight quiver to them right now; making them even more kissable than usual. Did Faith have any idea of the can of butterflies she had just opened in Buffy's stomach with that simple challenge?

Buffy gently extracted her hand from Faith's and wrapped that arm around her neck, bringing them so much closer together. Faith didn't resist at all, sliding her now free hand around to meet her other on Buffy's back.

The music was like the background chatter of crickets to the blonde Slayer now, as she slowly moved the hand that had been resting on Faith's waist up, running her fingers up her arm, over her shoulder, her neck, until they lightly caressed the other Slayer's cheek.

Faith's loud swallow was both satisfying and arousing.

"What's your question, Buffy?" Faith asked, and now there was a tremor in her voice to match the quiver of her lips.

"You know." Buffy insisted as her fingers continued to play over the soft skin of Faith's jawbone.

Another swallow accompanied a shaking of Faith's head. "I can't."

"For my birthday?" Buffy somehow asked calmly. Like she wasn't asking for what she was asking. Like she wasn't setting herself up for the biggest fall ever.

"It'll end in tears." Faith joked with a shaky smile.

"I'll take my chances." Buffy's hand moved into the softness of Faith's hair and for a second, she died inside in the best way possible. "I'm just asking for now; nothing more."

Faith was quiet as she gazed at Buffy, but her hands stroked ever so lightly up and down the blonde's back, making it clear she was merely fighting with herself and not completely repulsed.

As Buffy gave her the time to think, her eyes caught someone fast approaching over the brunette's shoulder. 'No! Not now. Not him.'

Troy, obviously intent on cutting in, was skating over. Just as Buffy's heart began to deflate again, because the spell was about to be broken, a flash of something else swept in from the side.

Before Buffy's eyes, and completely hidden from Faith, Xander skated at high speed towards the Greek student. His arms were flailing wildly and his feet were pretty much doing the same as he hurtled at high speed straight into Troy. Both young men went flying across the ice sideways a few feet before crumpling to the ground with Xander on top.

Buffy's eyes widened in shock until she saw Willow skate up to the pile and give her a thumbs up. It took all of Buffy's willpower not to bust up laughing and the only reason she managed it in the end was because Faith chose that moment to lose her inner struggle and kiss her.

Amusement forgotten, Buffy wasted no time in kissing back. Oh God, she'd forgotten just how good it was to kiss this woman! She pressed herself even closer, hands gripping and releasing whatever they were laying on.

Faith's arms tightened around her and, reveling in it all, Buffy couldn't help the excited whimper that escaped her.

Pulling back, gasping for air despite the fact that they hadn't been kissing for long at all, Faith shook her head again. "B, I'm sorry..."

"No, no!" Buffy said softly, urgently, pressing her lips to Faith's again for a couple of tiny enticing kisses. "Don't be sorry, just..."

Faith kissed her back for a couple of seconds before pulling away once more. "This..." She was almost panting. "It's too late. I'm...I'm with Troy now."

"Since when do you have morals?" Buffy had meant is as a joke to cover the pain she was feeling, but apparently the pain was too strong for the words came out bitchy and cold.

"B, don't do this." So this was what Faith sounded like when she begged.

Buffy dropped her head to stare at their skates. Their arms were still around each other and anyone watching probably had no idea what was really going on. That thought held little comfort though.

Lifting her head again, Buffy tried to implore Faith with her eyes, but seeing the glistening in Faith's own realised just how unfair she was being. Trying for a smile, she changed tactics: "Do I still get my question?" She asked in a strained attempt at levity.

Faith lifted a hand to stroke back some of Buffy's hair. "Yeah, but not tonight."

Buffy was taken by surprise when Faith leaned in again and lay a chaste kiss on her lips. "Happy Birthday, Buffy." Now the brunette let go completely and skated backwards awkwardly. "I'll see you tomorrow."

Buffy stood in the centre of the ice and watched her skate towards her once more upright boyfriend without a backwards glance.

Ignoring the freezing trails on her cheeks, Buffy sighed and made her way back to the bar. Things may not have gone wholly to plan, but at least her birthday wish came true.

As she ordered a drink and took a seat facing away from the ice, Buffy thought about Faith's latest transgression. It was obvious there was still want there. Buffy was pretty sure that she would be able to spot it if Faith was faking and why would she anyway? If Faith didn't want to kiss someone then she just didn't kiss them. So where did that leave her?

In a good place hopefully. After all, Buffy may have lead them to the point of kissage, but it was Faith who took the high dive into the kissage pool.

She shouldn't be worrying about where this was going; she was just making herself crazy. Faith was with Troy right now, she'd made that clear, but Buffy had hope that maybe one day that would change and that would have to be enough.

That wasn't all she had. Remembering the feel of Faith's lips on her own made Buffy smile ever so slightly. Lightly biting her own lip as she day-dreamed, the taste of the other Slayer's lipstick nearly tore apart her senses. She bit down on her straw hard to muffle the tiny whimper that bubbled up as she felt herself getting wet, okay wetter. This was not good!

Her dreams tonight were going to wake up the whole house!


Continue to Part Four

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