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


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PART FOUR: 14th February 2004
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Chapter Two: Secret Admirers

Okay, so she would have opened it by now.

It had been nearly an hour since Buffy had ran away from the mailman to hide in the bathroom. She'd indulged in a long, hot shower hoping it would relax some of the tension she was feeling, but that had been a vain hope. Her mind wouldn't stop reminding her of how silly she had been; and how by running away she'd made it even sillier.

She found a comb and turned to the fogged up mirror as she started to pull it through her wet hair. It took three seconds before the urge was too strong. Using the index finger of her free hand, Buffy drew a big heart before printing BUFFY LOVES FAITH inside.

As soon as she'd finished the H she wiped it all away with her palm so the image wouldn't reappear when someone else had a shower.

She was hating this. Had she ever felt this way about someone she couldn't have before? Was it simply because Faith was playing so hard to get that Buffy wanted her so much. Not that Faith seemed to be playing, she was genuinely hard to get.

Ever since her birthday Buffy had been waiting for Faith to admit she had feelings for her still. To tell her that she hadn't really chosen Troy over her, but she just hadn't wanted to dump him on the spot. Faith hadn't told her either of these things and Buffy was beginning to realise that she wasn't going to.

Perversely, their friendship was going from strength to strength. Faith met her most afternoons for coffee once Buffy was finished with her shift at the diner, they patrolled together when the schedule allowed for it and late night movie marathons had become so regular that Buffy could barely hold her eyes open before her first jug of coffee in the morning. And throughout all of these activities they talked. More often than not it was about trivial things that had happened during the day or comments on the film they were watching or comments about the diner's other customers and Buffy's co-workers or about vamps, demons and slay tactics. Sometimes though, the most simplistic topic could draw Faith into a conversation about something deeper, something more important.

Faith was still Faith though and much readier with the BS than she was with the honest emotion, but Buffy was just touched that the other woman would open up to her at all; and thankful that she was at last letting someone get close to her. Even if that someone was Troy.

Which brought it all back to him again. That was another constant topic of conversation. Although to be fair it wasn't Faith that usually mentioned him. It was Buffy's apparent need to twist the knife and pour the salt that meant he kept popping up. It was her way of letting Faith know that she supported her decision to make a go of it with Troy, that she was behind her one hundred percent in her pursuit for monogamy and that she was over all that stupid crush business and couldn't be happier for her best friend.

So why the hell had she...? She should have at least disguised her handwriting.

Buffy put down her comb and got ready to brush her teeth. She could probably hang that out for twenty minutes and then she could make a mad dash to her bedroom along the hall and stay there for the day.

Good plan!

The rest of the house were up and about now, she could hear noisy banter coming up through the floor boards from the kitchen and Dawn was carrying on a gossipy conversation on her phone in the next room, she heard Christian's name mentioned more than once and wondered briefly where the well-mannered private-school boy was taking her little sister that evening. Probably an illegal demon rave; it was always the quiet ones you had to watch.

After five minutes of having a froth filled mouth Buffy was starting to feel a little ill, so she spat, rinsed and prepared to make the dash earlier than anticipated.

No one was in the hall as she left the bathroom and she breathed a deep sigh of relief as she made it into her bedroom and pushed the door shut behind her. The door was stopped before it could fully close and Buffy breathed another sigh of disappointment.

She turned; expecting to see Faith standing there looking either pissed or confused, but instead Willow was in her doorway.

"Hi." Buffy greeted, pleasantly surprised.

"Hey Buffy, just checking you hadn't been sucked down the plug-hole." Willow entered her room and pushed the door to.

Buffy sat on the edge of her bed and her friend followed suit. "Nope, not today. Just feeling extra achy. I thought the hot water would help."

"And did it?" The red-head inquired.

"Yep." Buffy answered brightly enough but didn't meet her eyes.

"Buffy?"

Buffy gave in. "It helped with the physical achy's. Didn't so much touch the rest?"

Willow took her hand and Buffy knew just what was coming. "Buffy, I'm only saying this because I love you and I hate seeing you like this, but she's with Troy and the sooner you accept it and..."

Buffy pulled her hand away. "I have accepted it! I know she's with him, Will, that's the problem."

"I don't understand."

"And you think I do? I still can't believe I even feel like this." Buffy stood again and began to pace her bedroom. "Three months ago I could easily go a month without even thinking about her, even though we were living under the same roof. Now...now I can't stop thinking about her."

"Do you ...do you maybe think you're in love..." Willow started.

Buffy cut her off with a short, sharp: "No!" She thought about the heart on the mirror but dismissed it. That was just a thing people did when they liked someone, it didn't mean anything.

"Are you sure?" Willow echoed the question in Buffy's mind.

"Yes," she answered with as much confidence as she could muster. "It's just a crush, I'll admit I have it bad for her at the moment, but that's just because she's..." Buffy paused while she pondered the word that rose in her mind. "...unattainable." Shaking her head, Buffy chuckled and sat next to her friend again.

"I don't get the funny."

"S'okay, it's not important." Buffy forced herself to forget about Faith for at least five minutes. "So do you and Kennedy have something exciting planned this evening?"

"Well I have to have an overnight bag packed by four this afternoon so I'm assuming that we do, but Kennedy insists it's a surprise." Willow gushed. "How about you?" Her expression turned stricken. "Sorry, stupid question. Do you want me to go away now?"

"No, it's okay. I have plans." Buffy reassured her. "I was going to put the oven on about eight..."

"You're going to make yourself a nice meal?" The Witch sounded way over-excited.

"Actually I was just going to put my head in it."

Willow nodded. "Open the windows first 'kay? The smell of burnt hair is the dickens to get out."

"How hard do you suppose a dickens is?" Buffy played with the belt of her bathrobe.

Willow grinned. "Been a while since I cared."

Buffy laughed, feeling shocked. "Willow!" There was a tap at her bedroom door. "Come in."

Xander came into her room. "I thought I'd bring your mail up." He held a couple of envelopes out to her, smiling.

With a grimace Buffy took them. "Thanks but you shouldn't have bothered. I doubt there's anything interesting here." Ripping open the first she pulled out a bank statement. "Ooh that is interesting; I have thirty-seven dollars more in my account than I thought I had." Happily she put the statement to the side and picked up a second envelope.

"Well," Xander sat himself on her desk chair. "What with today being what today is, I thought one of them might be a you know."

"Well looks like you were wrong. Although this could be a match made in Heaven."

"Yes, but then your other credit cards might get jealous." Willow pointed out.

Buffy screwed the pre-approved application form up and tossed it into her fuzzy pink trash can. She gave the last envelope bearing her name closer inspection. It was white with her name and address printed neatly on the front and something obviously card like on the inside.

"That looks like..."

Buffy tore the flap up, ending Willow's speculation. Inside was a card, almost as plain a white as the envelope had been. The only design on the card was a small red heart centered on the otherwise white rectangle.

"See somebody loves you." Joked Xander. "Who is it?"

With trembly fingers Buffy opened the card, hoping to reveal the sender. It didn't. Inside two little red hearts overlapped each other. There was no mass produced message of proclaimed love, just her name in black ink above the picture of the hearts and a neat little question mark below.

"Is it from her?" Willow asked.

Buffy shrugged. "It's not her writing."

"She could have disguised it."

Xander leant forward enough to snag the torn envelope between his fingers. Sitting up straight again he studied it. "Cancellation mark is out of state. It's been smudged but I think it says Chicago. Who do you know in Chicago?"

"My Auntie Arleen and her family live just outside the city. Don't think she'd send me a Valentine's Day card though." Buffy looked at the front of the card and then back at the limited writing on the inside. She really didn't have a clue.

Willow looked like she had something to say that she really didn't want to say.

"Out with it Will." Buffy encouraged, her eyes still staring at her name and the question mark.

"Okay, don't freak out and try to remember that he is really nice and intelligent and I'm sure back in the day he was..."

Buffy and Xander both glared impatiently at the red-head.

"Mr Clydesdan has a daughter living in Chicago. He's been there the past two weeks." She cringed.

"Oh Willow no!" Xander looked sick. "Surely you can't mean..."

Buffy felt sicker. "But he's old and grey and ...and you don't really think, do you?"

"I bet if Giles found out he'd kick his British ass for being inappropriate or something." Xander sounded like he totally supported this plan.

"I'm probably wrong; it's just that I can't think of anyone else." Willow apologised.

Buffy flopped backwards on her bed. "This is just great. I suppose I should look on the bright side. At least I got a card I can show off; no one has to know where it came from." She said, meaning Faith. "Right?"

"Yeah I guess we should probably consider ourselves lucky we at least got one each." Said Xander. "We can't all be Faith and what does anyone really need four Valentine's cards for anyway?"

Buffy sat upright again. "Faith got four?!"

Xander nodded and Buffy frowned.

Who the hell were the other two from?


Chapter Three

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