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


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PART SEVEN: 2nd June 2004
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Chapter Seven: When Love and Hate Collide

When they'd returned to the house it was quiet. Dawn was out, Xander was out and Giles was in his study reading.

He'd popped out for just a moment to ask how the day had gone and the look on his face made it clear he was really asking if Buffy knew about her supposed pregnancy. His eyes had grown very concerned when she'd headed straight for the kitchen and poured herself half a glass of scotch - which she hated -- but Giles was the only one who kept hard liquor around the house, and she wasn't drinking because she fancied a glass of wine.

"Its fine," she'd told him. "I'm not the one up the duff, although thanks for that little heart attack. This is just sleep medicine, because the last thing I want to do tonight is lie in bed and think about my day."

He'd started to say something, maybe sympathetic, maybe work (baby) related, but as she'd downed the nasty drink in one, he'd stopped and just looked at her in distress.

She'd poured herself another couple of fingers of the tawny liquid before replacing the cap and putting the bottle back in the cupboard. It was tempting to take the bottle to bed with her, but she knew it wasn't a wise decision. She'd done enough drinking to block stuff out today; this, now, really was just about its sedative qualities.

Giles was still hovering and now Willow and Kennedy were in the kitchen too. Buffy was pleased Kennedy didn't give her drink a disapproving look because that might really have been the last straw between them, and she wasn't up for a brawl with someone nearly as strong as her.

"These guys will fill you in on the fun-ness of today. I'm going to bed," she'd said before picking up her glass and doing just that.

Now she was sitting beneath the covers - hair brushed, teeth brushed, jammies on, lights off - but she wasn't sleeping.

She was nursing her drink, which was a weird expression, after all she wasn't cuddling it, or burping it or holding it to her breast - she was just sitting there resting it on her blanket-covered thigh.

In her other hand was her cell phone.

She'd spent a couple of minutes before getting into bed topping up her credit and deciding that it was really time Giles got them all pre-paid contract phones. After all, what would happen if she had been in the middle of a Slayage-related call for help when her talk time had run out? She'd made a mental note to talk to her Watcher about it in the morning along with all the other things she knew she had to discuss whether she wanted to or not.

For the past minute or two she had been sitting there, looking at her call list, flicking constantly between Toni's number and Faith's, but no closer to choosing who she was going to call, if either.

She wanted to call them both, for different and similar reasons, but she was scared to call either one for those exact same reasons. She'd be better off if she just put the phone down, drank her scotch and tried to get some sleep, but she seemed to be having an OCD moment.

If she called Toni, what would she say? Demand answers to what Troy was hiding? She already knew that wouldn't work and by doing it she'd only get Toni's back up further about the whole thing. Which would drive a deeper wedge between the two of them and make it harder to find out subtly on Sunday when they talked.

She could phone her just for the sake of talking. She'd done it plenty of times before, during the week when it wasn't so easy to find time to spend together, but tonight it didn't feel right. Too much was going on in her head to have the type of silly-casual conversation they normally did.

Calling Faith just seemed pointless, even though Buffy would quite happily speak to her at the moment just for the sake of speaking to her. What was the use though when Faith wouldn't pick up anyway? It would just make her more miserable and if Troy picked up instead and gave her more of his Faith-wisdom, she'd be angry and miserable.

She held the phone tightly in her hand as she lifted her glass to her lips for a small sip and closed her eyes; letting the burning liquid do its best to sooth her.

A few moments later the phone rang in her hand, jerking her out of her almost-asleepness and she had to stick her other arm out straight so that she didn't spill her drink all over herself with the unexpected jolt.

She was so annoyed at being brusquely woken from her approaching blissful oblivion that she didn't bother checking the caller id before pressing the green button on the phone and holding it to her ear.

"What?"

"You'd think someone who's been trying to call me for six weeks might be happier to hear from me."

Buffy sat up straight at the voice on the line. A little drink spilled onto her comforter, she didn't even realize.

"Faith?"

"The one and only, Twinkie."

Buffy's mind went into hyper drive, asking a million questions, but all she could do was sit there speechless. Was this real? Or had she actually fallen deeply asleep and this was just another dream that was would start out great and then turn nasty, leaving a bitter aftertaste in her brain all day?

"You still there?"

Buffy shook her head in the dark room, trying to clear it. "Yes. Yes I'm here."

"S'good," Faith sounded more than a little drunk, slurring the occasional word. "So, why'd ya call fo'?"

"What?" Buffy couldn't make sense of her own thoughts right now. "I mean, I called a lot. Which time do you mean?"

"All of them," Faith started but then seemed to change her mind. "S'afternoon, Troy told me to call you, said it was important."

He did? Buffy was surprised he'd even passed on the message, let alone suggested Faith might want to call her back.

Reluctant to give the real reason right away, Buffy tried to stall. "Uh, how are you?"

"H'dya think I am, B. Why'd ya call?"

"I don't know, how you are Faith? It's been a long time."

"I'm shit, B, thanks for asking. Why'd ya call?"

"What do you mean? What's wrong?" Buffy sat up even straighter, putting her glass down on her side cabinet.

"What d'you care? I'm just low level scum right? Betcha pleased I'm outta your life once and for all, huh?" Faith's chuckle sounded tired and empty.

"No! Faith, I don't think that. I never meant... Look, what I said, I was just upset and jealous and angry and scared... "

"Whatever," Faith cut her off. "S'not important. You gonna tell me why I called or should I just hang up?"

"Why did you call?" Buffy asked, adding quickly, "Don't get me wrong, I'm glad you did, but... I thought, or at least Troy said, that you weren't interested anymore."

"Well, a'course he's gonna say that, ain't he? He's my honey; I ain't gonna tell him I'm still interested in you - I may be scum but I ain't stupid with it," she chuckled some more.

Buffy felt like she'd swallowed her tongue. Did Faith mean to say that or had her drunkenness caused a miss-step? Either way, Buffy couldn't seem to catch her breath enough to answer.

"So, B, what's this big emergency?"

Buffy bit her lip gently, trying to come up with the one way that would cut through all this crap and get to the heart of the problem. Something that would make Faith see how sorry she was and wouldn't be that easy to blow off.

Thinking she may have found it, she took a deep breath and began, "When I was fifteen, before I moved to Sunnydale, I burned down my school gym."

"Yeah, heard that, so what?"

"I did it to kill a pack of vampires; they were after me and planning on snacking on the school dance to piss me off. They succeeded and I got mad, didn't think first and set the place on fire."

Silence on the other end.

"Not everyone got out," Buffy went on quietly. "I thought all the people would run for the exits once I hit the alarm, and most did, but there were two... Their bodies were found in the equipment closet. I don't know if they were making-out or smoking or planning to blow up the Hemery Pig as a big dance finale, but I do know that they wouldn't have died that night if it wasn't for me and my rash behavior syndrome."

"What's your point, B?" Faith sounded far away on the phone, like maybe she was falling asleep. Buffy quickly calculated the time difference as best she could and figured it had to be about four in the morning in Rome.

"That I killed them," She could still remember the horror she'd felt when the police had told her the next morning. "The cops treated it as accidental death - they shouldn't have been where they were so no one could have known - but it was still my fault." Buffy had never even told Xander and Willow that; Giles probably knew but he'd never brought it up. "My Watcher died too, the day before - killed by a vamp while trying to save me."

Buffy listened to the silence for a long time before Faith said, quietly, "I know how that one feels."

"I know," Buffy sifted through all her bad memories, trying to find the ones that would resonate the strongest in Faith. "When I was sixteen I kicked my mom's boyfriend down the stairs and broke his neck. Turned out he was a robot, but I didn't know that until after I went though the ordeal with the police and my mom and everyone at school."

"So what you're saying is: You only ever killed people by accident whereas I did it for real?" Faith spat.

"NO!" Buffy shouted into the phone. "I'm saying I've done things that I'm not proud of; things that make me feel sick! But through luck or something I've not had to face up to them the way you did. I'm proud of you Faith! Proud of the way you turned your life around. You messed up, that's an understatement, but I remember Faith; I remember what you were like back then and that girl you were would never have taken responsibility for what she had done. And... and I don't know what Angel said to you in LA that turned things around in your head, but you did just that. You could have run, but you didn't, and instead of wasting your life in prison you improved it. Faith, you got better SAT scores than me! And I did okay." She added wryly.

"That's great, B, I never had my very own cheerleader before, but do ya think you can wave your pompoms about after we finish the long-distance phone call? 'Cause this is costing me a bomb and all you're telling me is stuff I already know."

"I'm trying to apologize here for saying the things I said." Buffy grit her teeth. "The impression you got that night isn't what I think of you, okay? My words were taken out of context..."

"Buffy, I heard you saying them!" Faith's dark chuckle rankled Buffy further. "Just another low-rent Southie con, right? That's what you think of me. At least have the balls to admit it now you've been caught out."

"Look, I spoke out of context; you heard out of context... something contexty happened anyway. The reason I used that one bad description, which I never meant, is because I was trying to..."

Buffy started to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but. Long gone was the time for keeping her information about Troy to herself. If Faith just thought she was jealous and trying to come between them again, well... what discernible difference would that make at this point?

Faith cut her off mid-sentence.

"You don't get it Buffy: I don't care what you think of me. I'm not you. I can live without the validation of little miss golden boots. Maybe you can't live knowing that what you really think of me is out in the open - kinda spoils the image knowing you can never get passed my past -- but you still want to fuck me any chance you get." Faith paused just long enough to let that sink it. "That's not my problem, B. I mean, sure I was prepared to take all of your shit on, that included - figured we could work it out eventually if we really wanted to - but you just can't do the same, can you, so what's the point? I'm not gonna keep banging my head against your brick wall, B. 'Cause it turns out head-butting Buffy-brick hurts, and I've had enough of them bruises to last me a couple of lifetimes."

Faith went quiet, but Buffy could hear her quick breathing coming through the phone, proving that she wasn't done - just waiting for Buffy's reaction.

"You're not banging your head on my brick wall, Faith; you're burying it in the sand! You're more hung up on your past than I am. If you weren't, what I said wouldn't have bothered you half as much. And if you don't care what I think, why did you scream at me and use me like a squeegee before disappearing off the face of the planet?" Although that came out in a rush, Buffy was still surprised Faith hadn't hung up on her in the middle.

"I was already going to Rome, babe, I didn't take off because of you."

"Yeah, for a few days! Not this long and certainly not with complete radio silence. You complain about your phone bill, do you have any idea how much credit I've wasted on your voicemail since you've been gone?"

"I never asked you to."

Buffy stood up, pacing along the side of her bed in the darkness. Needing to move, wishing she could reach across the five thousand miles and shake Faith, do something, anything, to get more than mocking calm from her.

"I've been going crazy not being able to reach you; not knowing if you were okay after... I didn't know what to do for the best, and it's been killing me not being able to speak to you about it."

"Really?" Faith asked sarcastically. "'Cause according to Toni you're doing just fine. So are you lying to her too or just to me again, B?"

"You've spoken to Toni?" Now Buffy was really shocked.

"'Course not. Why the hell would I speak to that fuckin' bitch for? She's been talking to Troy regularly though, and seems real eager to make sure every single word of how good you two are together gets passed onto me."

Buffy wanted to dispute it, but the truth was, she wouldn't be surprised. Toni really didn't like Faith -- not an iota -- and she'd been jealous as hell ever since the phone-fiasco on St Patrick's. Still, Troy's jealousy went even further back than that...

"How do you know Troy's not just making it up to keep you mad at me?"

"Because he wouldn't do that! And besides, why would he go to the trouble of keeping me mad at you and then tell me to phone you, huh?"

That was a good point, unless... What if Troy had changed his tactics because of the conversation he'd had with Toni earlier? She'd told him to show a little discretion; maybe this was him being sneaky. If so then he was trying to throw her off the scent by playing straight into her hands which was either really dumb or... this was exactly what he wanted her to be thinking.

"So, tell me..." Faith asked, her voice softer now. If it was still meant to be mocking it was harder to tell. "Is it love yet?"

"Would you care if it was?" Buffy tried to keep a tight control on her own voice, but she could feel it getting weaker. "It's not like you're here."

Faith didn't answer.

"Yes Faith, yes! I think maybe I'm falling in love with her. She's brilliant and beautiful and she makes me feel good -- no she makes me feel great -- with no strings attached and no 'oh-my-god-woe-is-me' baggage. Why wouldn't I want to be in love with someone like that? I mean what's the alternative... spending the rest of my life loving someone who hates me so much she moved to another continent?" Buffy swallowed back a sob.

"I don't hate you, Buffy. If I hated you this would be easy and I'd be having the time of my life right now instead of hiding in a cupboard and having this conversation."

"Yeah, well it feels like it a fucking lot of the time and I can't live like this anymore, Faith. I mean it! You've moved on, you're happy, woo-fricking-hoo, but one sniff of me doing the same and you're on the phone trying to sabotage it." Buffy's throat was getting tight and she took a series of quick deep breaths. She was so not gonna cry in Faith's ear.

"Whoa, B, I'm not trying to sabotage nothin'. You wanna move on..."

"Yeah, well that's what you're doing! I've spent six weeks trying to convince myself that you going is a good thing and that taking the leap with Toni might not be a bad one, so what do you do? You call me in the middle of the night to make fun of me and the way I feel about you. I don't get this game anymore, Faith. You don't want me to be in love with you or anybody else either, is that it? Just tell me what the hell you want..?"

Okay so she was going to cry into Faith's ear. She'd held back the noisy tears as long as she could but now all the day's -- no, the year's -- frustration came pouring out of her eyes. She sank back down onto the edge of her bed and put her head in her hands, unable to speak again for the moment.

"B, Buffy...shush, stop it. It's alright, B, don't..." Faith's voice started off gently but turned harsher as she continued, "Buffy, stop fuckin' crying, will ya?"

As she tried to do just that she realized why Faith was getting angry all over again, there was a half choked-back sniffle from Rome and then Faith was saying,

"I gotta go..."

"NO!" Buffy found her voice instantly. "Not yet, please not yet," she croaked, scrubbing the sleeve of her blue jammies over her eyes.

They couldn't leave it like this. She couldn't leave it like this. If it was possible she would crawl through the phone line, or airwaves - whatever cell phones used - over broken glass and hot coals if it meant she could see Faith's face and look into her eyes and know - just for once - what she was really feeling.

"B, I can't..." Faith's voice faltered with unshed emotion.

"Faith, don't... Why are you... why are you..?" Buffy spluttered, the sound of Faith so near tears bringing a fresh wave of her own.

"Just...hang on," was Faith's gruff reply.

Buffy did so, keeping her eyes pressed to her sleeve, the phone pressed hard to her ear as she listened to the rough breathing on the other end for several long minutes. Faith had obviously pulled the phone away from her mouth, but the sounds of her tears and the frustration she was feeling at said tears carried easily.

"Faith?" she asked eventually, her eyes still wet, her mouth still trembling. "I know why I'm crying, but why are you crying too?"

"What do you want me to fuckin' say?" came the muffled reply.

"Whatever you're thinking right now will do."

"That calling was a bad idea. I don't even know why... I shoulda just let it go, but..." Faith paused for a few seconds, pulling herself back together. "I knew you telling Troy you called about slaying was bullshit, ya know, but, but I thought maybe if I heard your voice - called you on it - all the crap would come back and I'd feel, I don't know, stronger or something, like a power-up," she sniffled some more.

"Did it work?" Buffy asked as she grabbed some tissues from her cabinet to wipe her nose. This was not the right moment to tell that she had actually been calling about Slayer-stuff.

"What the fuck do you think?" Faith's laugh sounded kinda broken. "Same as ever: You call; I start drinking and spend the night huggin' my phone waiting to see if you'll call again just so I can look at your name flashing on the screen."

Buffy didn't know what to say to that. In fact it was safe to say she was totally flabbergasted by the admission. Smiling a little she asked the first thing that came to mind, "And is this all in the cupboard?"

Faith's chuckle turned into a sob and then back into a chuckle as she said, "Don't make a thing out of it. Doesn't mean shit except I'm completely pathetic."

"We both know that's not true, F, so cut it out." Buffy was finally calming down. Her skin still felt tingly and her head felt kinda light - probably because most of her mind was off analyzing everything Faith had just said and it had only left behind enough custodial brain to keep her vocal chords working and the phone pressed to her ear.

"Why didn't you just answer the calls?" she asked.

"Because I'm fucking pissed off with ya, ya dick!"

"Okay, I guess that was pretty obvious." Buffy gave a nervous chuckle. "So how do I turn that present tense into past tense... and I'm willing to be equally pathetic so just lay it on me."

"Bit hard from this distance, babe."

Confused, Buffy went back over her side of the conversation, rolling her eyes as she realized her unintended innuendo. She took the opportunity it offered though. "So come home then."

"No."

"Why?"

"Because I have commitments here now. I'm working with Troy, on some good stuff, important stuff, and I'm not gonna walk away from it for just more of your empty words. That's all it's ever been with you, B: words. Sure they might be just as pretty as you and look great on paper, but they don't mean nothing at all to me anymore. You've twisted them too many times, contradicted yourself constantly since... forever as far as I can see."

"Like how?" Buffy demanded, her head was starting to feel heavy again and she hadn't even told Faith the real reason she'd called yet.

Faith calling was amazing, and although she was totally sure this was just going to fuck things up for her even more, Buffy was over the moon and at least three of the planets, but she wished it could have been an easier, simpler conversation. Just a 'Hey, how are you? - I'm Sorry - I Love you - Let's get married and have a miracle baby' kind of conversation.

Like that would ever happen.

Faith told her how. "Like telling me you're not interested one minute and then being all over me the next. Telling me you actually want to try this thing between us and then taking it back the second things get a little tricky. Telling me you're happy trying the friend thing and then always trying to push things further..."

"You didn't seem too bothered with the furtherness any of the times I pushed. In fact I seem to remember you pushing back more than once," Buffy retaliated.

"Yeah, I know! I'm not trying to make out I'm the saint in all this and I know I started it all in the first place, but I wasn't ready B; surely you could see that. I needed to wait, to see it was genuine... real... and all you kept doing was showing me it wasn't." Faith was getting annoyed all over again.

"Well I didn't mean to!" Buffy ran an angry hand through her hair. "I was trying to do the other thing."

"Yeah? Well then you suck at it."

"So do you!"

"No argument there."

Buffy listened to Faith's heated breathing as she tried to calm herself down, again.

"So what now?" she asked eventually. "Is that it, are we done? Loving each other is too hard so we just pack up and walk away?"

"Maybe. That's up to you."

"Then I say no, we're not done. I'm not walking away this time, Faith. I love you, I want you and I want to be with you. There, I've said it. Now the ball's in your court - are you walking away?" She held her breath, waiting. After the silence went on a little too long, she crossed her fingers for extra luck.

"Just more pretty words, B."

"For God's sake, F, you were crying ten minutes ago over this. I know you feel like I do, why won't you just do a dismount from your high horse and admit it already?"

"Fine," she could hear Faith's shrug over the brunette's shaky breathing. "I love you and I want you. That better? Does it feel like a magic wand has been waved?"

Yes and no, but Buffy didn't say that.

"You missed a bit out."

"Don't feel that bit yet."

"Yet?"

Faith didn't answer

"Okay, so how do I make you feel it?" Buffy asked, managing, somehow, to keep the desperation out of her voice.

"I don't know, I guess if you ever figure it out, I'll know it when I see it."

"It kinda feels like you just want to watch me jump through hoops for you."

Faith's harsh laughter filled her ear, "Then you really haven't been listening to a word I've been saying, have you B?"

Buffy fumed quietly.

"Well it's been nice talking to you babe, but I don't see this getting us anywhere less depressing and I've had my fill of depressing for one night and I'm starting to sober up, so... bye."

"Wait, hang on," Buffy said urgently enough to keep Faith from ending the call.

She did sort of agree with Faith at the moment. As much as she didn't want to stop talking, she really didn't know what else to say either, not about them, but she couldn't let Faith go without relaying what she knew of the prophesy. Who knew when they might talk again?

"What is it, B?" Faith sounded really tired now. "And make it fast, Troy will be home soon and turns out my waterproof mascara ain't."

"It wasn't bullshit, I did call about work. There's a prophesy, something to do with what happened to us at Easter," Buffy blurted out as quick as she could.

"Oh, is there?" Faith didn't sound all that interested, choosing to comment on her surroundings instead of listening. "You know, for a big cupboard, this one's pretty bare. No bones for the doggie in here, B. Which is, you know, probably a good thing considering some of the places I've found bones around..."

Buffy ignored Faith's ramblings, obviously she wasn't sobering up as quick as she thought she was.

"The mojo..." she felt her face get red as mentioning it brought back a sweeping deluge of memories - it had been doing that all day, but her fear at what the outcome may have been had helped to distance them. Now she didn't have that luxury. "The sex-mojo... it had more of a purpose than just pure physical pleasure. The Easter Bunny, she's a master at conception."

"Huh?"

"Faith, there is no way to make you believe this - you either will or you won't, but ... You're pregnant and I'm the daddy."

Buffy closed her eyes tightly at the explosion of sorts on the other end of the line.

"Shit; Buffy, what the hell? You just made me go and spurt beer outta my nose! Shit, I'm fuckin' covered in it." Faith was laughing so hard Buffy could only just make sense of her words. "Babe, nice try and all, and top marks for the original, but somehow I don't think the key to my heart is gonna be found in shitty diapers. Christ, I really gotta go now, I'm soaking wet."

"Faith I'm being serious! And... I already have your heart; you're just scared to let it go. You're being all clingy with it." Okay, so she wasn't totally sober yet either, but after going over the sentence again she decided it didn't suck, even if it was a little corny.

Buffy could hear Faith moving around now, walking towards a bathroom most likely. "B, I think I'd know if I was 'with child', don't you? It's been six weeks; I'd be showing or at least have skipped a month by now."

"But it's not me, I did a test, and the prophesy says..."

Faith was now pulling off clothes judging by the amount of rustling going on, but she was still holding the phone at least more or less to her ear as she said, "Then the prophecy's obviously wrong, B, and I need to get in the shower, and I'm kinda worried that this phone will electrocute me if I don't hang up first so..."

"Okay," Buffy could hear the water running in the background and she thought of Faith standing there naked, waiting to hop in the second she hung up. "I wish I could see you..." She froze as the words left her mouth.

She'd only meant to say the last couple of words of that sentence, the 'see you' bit. Luckily, Faith didn't seem to be listening properly now.

"Yeah, well babe, good things don't happen unless you make 'em. Why don't ya grow a pair and do just that, huh?"

There was the sound of a kiss being blown in her ear and then the dial tone as Faith's last words rang a bell in her memory. The similarity with dream-Faith's parting shot on the mountain was too close to miss, but Buffy couldn't for the life of her work out what it was telling her - other than to grow a pair obviously -- but that was pretty vague. She thought she'd been trying to do that all day and each time just made her life more complicated.

She sank back against her pillows once more, realizing she was covered in perspiration and her muscles were aching from the amount of time she'd just spent all tensed up. So tense she was practically vibrating on the bed. She set her phone aside and pulled off her pyjamas. It was a warm night anyway and now she was way overheated. The fantasy image of Faith in the shower wasn't going to cool her down any time soon either.

Stretching out once more beneath her light covers, she reclaimed her glass from the side cabinet and sipped some more scotch, hoping it would help her mellow, but doubting it at the same time.

Now what did she do?

Well that all depended on whether she was prepared to jump through Faith's hoops in the hopes she'd get her grand prize at the other end. The thing was she didn't know what these hoops were or where they might be and she was pretty sure that Faith didn't either. And random hoop-jumping wasn't one of Buffy's favourite sports at the best of times, even less so when the goal post was liable to keep moving further back if Faith didn't like her performance.

Only one thing she did know right now, for sure: her conversation with Toni on Sunday was now going to go in a hell of a different direction to the one she'd planned.

Whether or not she was going to end things with the Italian - which she supposed could be considered the first hoop - she didn't know right this second. It was probably the right thing to do, but she wasn't going to make a decision that important while she was a little drunk and a lot emotional over both her conversations with Toni earlier and her one with Faith just a minute ago. She'd sleep on it and see how she felt in the morning and if that didn't help she'd sleep on it the next night too; she had until Sunday.

She did definitely need to know as much about Troy as she could possibly learn from her girlfriend though - that much was very clear now. His behavior today seemed totally at odds to what Buffy thought she knew of him and she couldn't help but wonder what he was doing out at three in the morning without Faith and what he thought about Faith drinking herself stupid and hugging her phone all night... over her. Surely he couldn't like that very much, yet he'd still bothered to persuade the stubborn as hell brunette to return her call.

Oh yes, there were plenty of mysteries surrounding Troy. More seemed to crop up every time his name was mentioned, and Buffy was at the point where she was fully prepared to push her girlfriend as hard as it took to get the answers to them.

If Toni was adamant about not giving them up, if she would rather defend Troy's secrecy than help her girlfriend out with something this important, then maybe hoop one wouldn't be so difficult to hop through after all.

She was taking another sip of her drink as her cell gave a tiny beep. Curiously she picked it back up, wondering who would be sending her a text at this time of night.

Faith.

Obviously she'd had something else to say after all. Maybe she'd just done a pregnancy test and was letting her know the results - Yeah because of course she probably has loads of those just lying around! - Or maybe she'd thought of a way for Buffy to prove her love and was eager to share.

Buffy pressed the button to pull the message up and her eyes widened at the picture it contained as the last mouthful of scotch - on its way to her lips - splashed over her breasts instead.

"Holy..." Buffy whistled through her teeth, her eyes about to pop out.

Faith obviously had heard Buffy's last words, all of them, and had taken steps to make her wish come true; as an incentive maybe.

On the tiny screen Faith smiled coquettishly from the shower, presumably only her hand holding the phone wasn't in the water. Her hair already hung in wet dark tendrils down her face, reaching to the tops of her breasts. The picture cut off half way down her wet, slightly parted thighs and Buffy felt her face heat up - no, all of her - as she noticed that.

"Fucking hell Faith," she swallowed thickly.

The text at the bottom of the picture read, "I have one of you, now you have one of me. Show me you mean it babe xxx."

XXX was right.

Buffy used her discarded pyjama top to wipe the spilt whiskey from her chest with one hand while she speed-texted "Okay" back to Faith with the other. She felt she should probably write more, like say thank you or something, but she just wasn't prepared to waste time that could be spent looking at Faith-porn right now.

After spending a couple of minutes of staring, imagining the real thing and trying to imagine what Faith must have been thinking as she took it, Buffy gave in to the impulse throbbing throughout her body.

One-handed she tried to pull her bedside drawer open and then remembered she'd locked it and thrown away the key the night Toni had stayed. She was about to give it up, but then she looked at the picture again and used brute strength to pull the wooden compartment open - snapping the lock. Fumbling in the small space, her hand closed around the pristine box she was looking for and she triumphantly pulled out her Christmas gift from Faith.

Just the thought of it was making her even slicker - the throbbing more localized between her legs - and she tore the never-opened box in her haste; sucking in a breath when she was finally holding it in her hand for the first time.

Faith had been right, it didn't feel plasticy.

She had a brief thought that she should look for instructions in the box, but hey, how hard could it be? There was the button right there and she was pretty sure she'd figure out what that little twirly bit did all in good time...

*****

... A long time later, Buffy lay on her back, her legs still spread and bent at the knees, Mr Buzzy still deep inside of her although not actually living up to his name right this second because Little Miss Twirly had finished her off that fourth time.

She was panting, her body still shuddering deliciously from time to time as she lifted the phone - still in her fist - to her damp face for another look at the picture.

"Merry Christmas baby," she grinned, planting a big kiss in the center of Faith's nude body. "Merry Christmas," she repeated, her eyes slipping closed as she rested the phone on her chest, totally exhausted.


Continue to Part Eight

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