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


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PART EIGHT: 4th July 2004
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Chapter Six: Fireworks To Remember

"Everyone left already," Buffy pulled the post-it from the front door, reading Kennedy's handwriting quickly as she unlocked. "And we have to get our butts down there quick because they're not saving any food. Hey, I prepared most of that!"

Xander followed her inside and then passed her to take the stairs two at a time. "Well let's do as she says, `cause I don't know about you, but I'm starving after spending an afternoon with only my fingernails to eat."

"I said I'm sorry." Buffy followed him up the stairs and went to her own room, leaving the door half open so that she could still speak to Xander. "It's not like I'm picking and choosing when Eostre speaks to me."

Sliding Toni's diary back out of her pants, Buffy looked at the baby blue cover and wondered what to do with it. Leaving it out in the open was bad; she really didn't want anyone else to know she'd taken it, even by accident. If Kennedy found it, she'd insist on trying to read it for clues and Willow would probably go ahead and feed it into her online translator thingy.

Buffy wasn't so much thinking of what they might find out about Troy, as to what they might find out about Buffy the girlfriend, or even worse: Buffy the lover.

She pulled open the little drawer in her bedside cabinet to hide the diary in there and winced as she saw her extra special friend from Faith. The vibrator was just sitting there in plain view of anyone who happened to snoop by - like Dawn. She really had to start hiding it better now that she couldn't lock the drawer anymore, but it was nice, having it within easy reach at night when she couldn't stop thinking about Faith...

"So did the bunny goddess make you have lots of sex again?" Xander called through cheerfully, jerking her from some x-rated thoughts.

"No!" Buffy slammed the drawer shut, nearly catching her thumb. "And I was alone anyway!"

Not that that stopped her at night, when she couldn't stop thinking about Faith.

Buffy pushed the diary beneath her mattress and put it to the back of her mind. As long as she came up with a way of getting it back to the dormitory before Toni returned it was no big deal.

Stripping off her dark burglarizing clothes, Buffy threw the papers she'd taken from Troy's onto her bed. She could show them to Giles later when they got home. Fetching her bikini, she donned the royal blue two-piece. It might be a little late for swimming, but the day was still sweltering enough to warrant showing a little skin.

"See, you should have let me come in with you." Xander poked his head around her door.

"To watch me change?" Buffy snapped, quickly wrapping a floaty purple sarong around her waist.

"No, I meant into Toni's room," Xander leered teasingly. "In case you needed a Second to have all the bunny-induced sex with."

"I already have a second: Toni," Buffy reminded him.

"I thought Toni was your first, and Faith was the second." Xander waited in the doorway, back in his bright Hawaiian shirt and boardies.

"No, Faith was my first and... wait," Buffy, blushing, held up her hand. "What are we talking about?"

"You got me." Xander ran his thumb up and down her door frame a little as if checking for splinters, and suddenly he looked far too serious. "Buffy, I know we've all been busy this year, making new friends, moving on with our lives..."

"And?" Buffy dreaded where this might be going.

"I thought you were doing okay." Xander tried to catch her eye, but she resisted. "I know the Faith stuff bummed you out for a while, but then you met Toni and we all thought you got over it."

"No you didn't," Buffy said flatly.

"We did! The crush anyway. The rest of it, all the anti-Troy stuff, we just figured you were pissed with Faith like usual and that was how it was coming out." Xander sighed. "But then I put everything I learned today into the mix and it doesn't necessarily add up anymore."

"Like what doesn't?" She busied herself with brushing her hair.

"Like, why didn't you and Faith give it a shot?"

"I don't know," Buffy said softly. "Lots of reasons, I guess. Faith's intimacy issues, my intimacy issues, your incredible sense of worst possible timing."

Xander took a step further into the room. "Wait, how did it become my fault?"

"If you hadn't barged in on us Christmas Eve when we were... kissing, she'd never have..."

"That! You can't blame me for that. It was the shock talking. We never had the first idea you liked Faith, you know, like that. I mean it was like finding out about you and Spike all over again."

"Yeah, well, it was the worst thing that could have happened," Buffy insisted as she fetched a beach towel from the closet in the bathroom. "You all forced me into verbalizing stuff I was still trying to work out in my head; and it came out jumbled and messed up and made Faith think I didn't care about her. That, that... she was just another Spike to me too." Buffy swallowed thickly against the lump in her throat. "Come on, we need to leave."

*****

They were halfway to the lake when Xander scratched at his cheek while trying nonchalantly to glance her way.

"There's still something I don't get. You and Faith got really close after Christmas, what with her being your newest bestest friend and all - and may I just say, Will and I weren't at all threatened by that little occurrence..."

Buffy chuckled, "You guys were so busy, like you even noticed who I was spending time with."

"Not true, but moving on. Why didn't you work it out? I mean, say I was - loosely - to blame at first . . . well, didn't you talk about it? Didn't you tell her it was all my fault?"

"She wouldn't give me the chance, the damage was done by then. In her eyes I'd blown it, and then she was with Troy." Buffy explained, really wishing they weren't having this conversation. In some ways it was nice to talk about Faith, but this particular line of questioning wasn't taking a route to anywhere she wanted to revisit.

"Didn't you want to fight for her?"

"I did fight for her!" Buffy huffed. "I used every sneaky tactic I could think of to get Faith to be with me instead of him, including throwing myself at her practically every time the occasion allowed. Believe me, she knew how I felt."

Xander was quiet for too long, and Buffy turned to him, snapping out, "What?"

"Just, Buff... maybe showing your feelings in sneaky ways to someone who already thinks you're ashamed of being in a relationship with them wasn't the best way to prove them wrong."

"I'm not ashamed of being in a relationship with her! I never was - I was just... scared."

"I know, I'm just saying what Faith probably..." Xander went on but Buffy had stopped listening.

She had been scared, terrified, of being with Faith. It was why she hadn't even entertained the idea of a relationship after the first time something had happened between them. The notion had been too big for her brain to cope with, with far too many possibilities for disaster to even consider.

Trust Faith with her heart? Not fucking likely with their history.

But what Faith had done to her in the past couldn't compete with how she had made Buffy's body crave her after their one night stand. Actually it had been more of a one hour sit.

It had been impossible to forget Faith's fingers slowly sliding under her skirt, Faith's voice in her ear subtly encouraging Buffy to let her get away with it, Faith's hand tight between her thighs and Faith's delicious neck under her lips as Buffy was hit with the most amazing orgasm in the history of all orgasms, ever.

And so yes, once she'd stopped seeing stars, she'd been terrified. Mostly of the vulnerability she'd shown in front of the woman who hadn't long ago made it her business to hurt Buffy any way she could.

But it had been the morning after that had really screwed Buffy over.

Believing Faith had just wanted to score with her - because she was drunk, because she was horny, or because she found some sick pleasure in getting into her ex-enemy's panties - was actually fairly easy to take; especially as Buffy was the one getting the benefits, so to speak.

Moving on from that probably wouldn't have had a high difficulty rating, but then Faith had to go and be all sweet the next morning. With all her tentative probing into how Buffy was feeling, her bashful admittance of stepping over the line and then her gentle, almost shy questions about what Buffy wanted next.

Buffy had made it clear she wanted nothing further, and it had been the easy-going acceptance tinged with the clear disappointment in Faith's eyes, that had sowed the first seed of doubt into her mind. The doubt that she was being as honest as she thought she was.

And from that one seed flowered a beautiful, ravenous Venus Faith-trap. One that was getting highly frustrated with the lack of eating any Faith.

"Why didn't I just snap her up then?" Buffy asked.

Xander, derailed mid well-meaning diatribe, asked, "What?"

"I was so scared," Buffy spoke as if he'd been in on her thoughts, "that she might actually come to mean something important to me and then she'd just... dump all over me and leave me devastated again. Talk about your self-fulfilling prophecies, huh?"

"They sure do suck," Xander agreed as he pulled the jeep up onto the grass verge behind Kennedy's little run-around. "You okay or do you need to talk some more?"

The digital clock showed she had less than an hour until Faith was supposed to call.

Buffy shook her head. "You've helped, you and Eostre in fact, but I think now this is a conversation I have to have with someone else."

He nodded his agreement as they jumped from the jeep and with their towels they walked down the grassy slope to the cabin.

It wasn't much. One story split between a bedroom, a kitchen and a living room. It was the backyard that made it fantastic though and that was where all the noise was coming from.

Kennedy was chasing Dawn along the short jetty, both shrieking. Willow was lying on a lounger on the grass, sunbathing underneath a giant umbrella, arguing with Giles, who was sitting in a deckchair out on the sand wearing... wearing...

"Oh my God, Giles!" Buffy stopped at the gate, aghast. "You're wearing Bermuda shorts!"

Giles looked up, flustering pompously. "So? There is nothing wrong with my legs."

Buffy raised an eyebrow sceptically as she walked into the beach garden.

"And where the bloody hell have you been?" Giles continued crossly, tugging a little on the ends of his shorts. "We expected you back hours ago."

"Xander called."

There was a loud splash as Kennedy and Dawn both bombed off the end the jetty.

"Yes, hours ago!" Giles shook his head. "Did you at least learn anything useful?"

"Boy did we." Xander went to the grill that had been fired up for a while, judging by the redness of Andrew's face. "Tell him Buffy."

"What can I get you?" Andrew asked them both, wiping at his hot forehead with one arm as he waved his tongs over burgers, steaks and shish kebabs.

"One of each, my man." Xander told him, thrusting a paper plate in Andrew's direction.

"Well eat quick," Willow told him, shutting the book on her lap - apparently the one she'd been arguing with Giles over. "Now that you guys are finally here we can get the memorial over with." She winced. "Not that I'm callous, it's just, well, the fireworks will be starting in an hour or two and it doesn't seem appropriate to have the memorial then; that's all."

Xander was holding the plate of food Andrew had given him, not looking at it. Giles was tugging at his shorts again. Andrew had taken off his big white chef hat and even Kennedy and Dawn had emerged from the lake just in time to look sombre.

"Do we have to do that now?" Buffy glanced at her watch. It was nearly 5:30 already. "I mean, don't you think they'd like fireworks? It might make it more memorable..."

Her chin dropped to her chest, ashamed that she was prepared to put talking to Faith ahead of the big thing they'd planned. "Not that the occasion needs anything to make it more memorable. Okay, we agreed on a ceremonial pyre, right?"

Willow nodded. "With the girls all coming from different backgrounds it seems logical that their religions would differ too. For instance, Spike was probably Church of England and Anya was..." she looked to Xander.

"Officially..." Xander did the finger quote action. "...Presbyterian, but I heard her mention, uh, Odin one time."

"There ya go then." Willow nodded some more.

"I'll collect some beach wood." Buffy offered, walking away.

"I'll help." Kennedy jogged to catch her up.

'Great,' thought Buffy, as she scanned the beach for burnable stuff.

"You were a long time." Kennedy said as they walked along.

"We ran into some stuff."

"Like?"

Buffy didn't know why she was even being reticent, except that she didn't want to take the time to go into it all now, but Kennedy deserved to know some of it at least.

"Demons at Troy's.

"So demons at his place, he's definitely up to something dodgy then."

"With a capital D. We also bumped into Quantiaro."

"Troy's mysterious foe?"

"The one and only. Not sure what I make of him yet, but he is definitely not on the side of Troy. We'll get into it later. And then I went to Toni's." Buffy walked a little away to pick up a couple of sun dried branches.

"Find anything juicy there?" Kennedy asked.

Buffy thought about the diary. "Nothing connected with the... case," she smiled slightly. "I did have a very weird conversation with Eeyore though."

Kennedy stopped in the process of picking up some sand-crusted boards. "Well yeah, I heard chatting with cartoon characters can be a little weird."

Buffy chuckled. "Turned out to be Eostre. Goddesses manifest in mysterious ways."

"Who'd she make you have sex with this time?" Kennedy grabbed some more drift wood.

"No one!" Buffy snapped. "And when are people going to start letting that go?"

They walked back towards the cottage in silence, but eventually Kennedy asked:

"So what did she say?"

"That the world will tremble and wither and fall if I don't follow my heart, at least that's the bit I think I understood." "So are you going to?"

Buffy asked a question instead of answering. "Tell me, honestly, if you had to choose between Faith and Toni... who would you?"

"Toni," Kennedy replied without even having to think about it.

"Oh." That was not the answer she'd been expecting.

"Because I know if I chose Faith you'd hunt me down and beat me with the hilt of the Scythe." Kennedy continued, completely serious. "What I really wanna know is: why doesn't Troy have any scythe-shaped scars to show off yet?"

"She loves him," Buffy muttered, hating the words even before they left her mouth.

"Bullshit; and you know it even if she doesn't." Kennedy dropped her armful of wood onto their private beach.

"What's bull?" Dawn joined them with a bundle of short sticks for kindling.

Kennedy let Buffy off the hook. "Nothing. Let's do this thing before all our dearly departed think we've forgotten them."

*****

"Time encompass all and bring us close on this day." Willow's voice rose beautifully over the surge of the tiny waves as she spoke words she'd memorized earlier in the week. "Let the walls fall at this time and allow us to reach out to our beloved souls so they may hear our tender remembrance and know that even though the curtain of life has closed, taking their faces from our eyes, they have not been taken from our hearts."

Buffy, eyes closed, listened, holding Willow's hand on one side and Xander's on the other. The words washed over her as she pictured the faces of the names Willow recited. Anya, Amanda, Molly; potentials Buffy had never even learned the name of came to her minds eye as Willow mentioned them and when Spike even got a mention - somehow surprising her - Buffy felt her chest get tight.

The list went on, not just people that died last year, but Jenny and Jonathan too. As Willow spoke Tara's name Buffy felt her hand grasped tighter than it ever had been before, and when the last name to fall from the witch's lips was Joyce, Buffy returned the favour and only worried later that she could have broken Willow's fragile hand.

"As you pass on through the life hereafter, take with you the memory of our love and know that we will be with you always as you shall be with us."

Buffy slowly blinked her eyes open as Andrew broke the circle to pass around the sprigs of Rosemary - the flower of remembrance - and taking hers, Buffy kissed it briefly, thinking of her mom and Spike, Tara and Anya. Tears hung in her lashes.

When Andrew was back in place, Willow continued. "Take our offering into the night and path the way for our return to you as we will hold strong to the bonds you forged in life."

Willow touched her Rosemary to her lips and threw it into the fire. Around the circle everyone did the same. Almost as one, seven heads bowed for a minute of silence.

Thirty seconds into it, Buffy's cell phone rang.

Mumbling, "Shit," she surreptitiously checked her watch.

Dead on six, meaning there was only one person it could be. Everyone was looking at her and Buffy forced herself to ignore the ringing with a quiet apology.

The phone rang and rang and rang.

"Oh would you just answer it?" Kennedy finally snapped.

"Sorry." Buffy pulled the cell out from where it was tucked into her wrap-around skirt.

Flipping the phone open with a flick of her wrist, Buffy half turned her back to the circle as she whispered urgently, "Hey, please don't take this the wrong way, but now really isn't a good time."

"Uh yeah, okay, whatever." Faith's voice sounded very neutral, bored even, but just hearing it made Buffy's heartbeat pick up and she ducked her head even further to hide her goofy smile.

"Can you call back?" Buffy asked.

"I, ah, yeah, I guess, or we could leave it, you know for some time when you're not busy." Faith offered.

"No!" Buffy said, too loudly. "I mean, unless you want to, but if it's important... is it important?"

Kennedy cleared her throat and when Buffy turned her head to glare at the younger slayer, she realized that everyone was glaring at her.

"Uh yeah actually, it kinda is."

"Then call me back," Buffy spoke into the phone again, her words even more rushed than before. "I have something important to say too, but right now I really have to go."

"Not gonna top mine." Faith's quiet reply was followed by the click of her hanging up.

"Sorry. Just love." Buffy explained cheerfully in the same manner someone might say 'just business' as she pushed the phone back between her hip and her skirt.

"Toni?" Willow smiled, apparently the only one still clinging to that notion.

"Nope, the other one. So where were we?" Buffy bowed her head again, mostly just because the smile on her face felt inappropriate for the sad circumstances.

"You and Faith are in contact again?" Willow asked, surprised. "Since when? And what about..?"

It was Kennedy who cut her girlfriend off. "Please do not ask about Toni."

Willow looked hurt and started to say something else.

"Or Troy." Xander said firmly.

Chuckling at Willow's disgruntled face, Buffy promised. "I wouldn't know how to answer either question anyway."

"But you and Faith have been in touch?" Giles asked. "You didn't seem surprised she was calling just now. Is there any news? Is Faith...?"

"She texted this morning to say she was gonna call, but I swear that's the first I've heard from her in over a month. And so obviously I don't know if there's any news yet, but..." Buffy paused, getting her theory straight before she shared. "Troy's demons suddenly didn't want me dead when they thought I was pregnant and to me that means Troy has an interest in the prophecy baby - a baby Eostre didn't mention once this afternoon by the way. What Troy wants with the kid? Who knows, it's scary, but Faith just said she has something important to tell me - and you don't get much more important than 'I'm carrying your prophesized love-child'."

"So you believe Faith is...?" Giles began.

"So are you and Faith gonna...?" Willow started.

"So do you think Faith will...?" Dawn asked.

"Guys!" Buffy shouted over them. "I don't know, okay? Every question you have, the answer is going to be the same: I don't know. Now can we please, with all due respect to our dead, finish this ceremony so I can go get some better answers?"

"Oh sorry," Willow, smiling sheepishly, closed her eyes. "Verily my lord, let our remembrance be joyful and renewed." Opening them again, she added, "Done."

Buffy's eyes had slipped closed, but now they opened, wider than before. "I hung up on Faith for the sake of one more sentence?"

"Are you gonna tell her we went to Troy's today?" Xander asked, already moving back to his abandoned plate of barbecued food. "Of course, he might already know; we didn't kill all his demons."

"I'm kinda hoping the whole 'I'm having your baby' conversation will steal the show." Buffy's grin wavered as she thought about what she'd just said. "Oh God, no I'm not."

To freak her out even more, it was Kennedy that was by her side first, grabbing her arm reassuringly. Buffy couldn't help thinking it was an omen of some kind.

"Don't be so fucking stupid, Buffy." Kennedy gave her arm a rough shake as she dragged her closer to the lake, away from the others. Okay, so maybe Kennedy wasn't being so reassuring after all, one omen nicely avoided there. "Remember what Eostre said."

"You don't even know what Eostre said." Buffy reminded her indignantly.

"Something about following your heart or the world will be in deep shit? Well, don't you think you should follow it? If you can save the world some trouble just by doing what you really want to do anyway, then just... do it; and save us all from having to clean up the crap later."

"I wanted an easy life after Sunnydale, remember?" Buffy pulled her arm back irritably. "So how are you so sure it's Faith I want?"

"Because I could see your face and hear your voice when you were on the phone with her." Kennedy smirked, but it quickly faded into something more serious. "Because I saw exactly the same when you joked about the baby and then freaked out. And you know all this!" Kennedy's hands made fists of frustration, and she was nearly shouting. "Why are you making me spell this out for you?"

"I know, I know it all." Buffy hissed back. "I'm not actually as stupid as you seem to think I am Kennedy. It's not me that needs convincing we should be together. Between me, myself and Eostre I'm perfectly convinced of that. Unfortunately, Faith is perfectly convinced of the opposite."

Kennedy didn't answer right away and they both stared into the ceremonial fire. "So convince her."

"I don't know how." Buffy admitted quietly.

"Don't make excuses, just do it."

Buffy huffed out a laugh. "You really are just one of those barrel through any obstacle kind of girls aren't you? You go from A to C in a straight line and God help B if she gets in your way."

"It works," Kennedy smiled. "I bet you never thought Willow would fall in love with me and yet here I am eighteen months later, giving her best friend a shoulder to cry on."

"I'm hardly crying on your shoulder. In fact, not even crying."

"Good, because that would be you taking my generosity too far. Aren't you expecting a phone call or something?"

Buffy pulled her cell free from her sarong again. "It's not like I'm going to miss it."

Kennedy glanced at her, sidelong, smirking again. "Do you really want to be surrounded by your nearest and dearest while you do whatever it takes to convince Faith you love her?"

"No." Smiling, Buffy felt the butterflies return as she mentally prepared herself for speaking to Faith again. "Hang on, 'whatever it takes' implies... a lot."

"Anything you wouldn't be prepared to do to convince her?" Kennedy asked innocently.

The first answer that sprung to mind was no, obviously, but that was without taking into account everything that it might take.

"What do you think it might take?" she asked cautiously.

Kennedy chuckled, "Well Faith always seemed to live by the 'actions speak louder than words' motto. So what 'act' do you think is gonna best convey 'I love you' over the phone?"

"I could recite some poetry?" Buffy hazarded, trying to back away from the path Kennedy was pointing her at. "Actually I don't know any poetry. I could make up some poetry."

Kennedy shook her head. "Standing up on a crowded bus and reciting poetry is an act. Saying the first mush that comes into your head, that's just words."

"Faith already thinks I'm just all words," Buffy confessed, kicking a stick from the sand towards the fire.

"All the more reason to hit her with something that's gonna shock her into taking you seriously again." Kennedy shrugged.

"But... phone sex?" Buffy whispered, glancing at her friends who didn't appear to be taking any notice. "I mean, that is what you're suggesting right? Don't you think that's a little extreme? I wouldn't even know where to begin. Not to mention I'm not exactly tucked up in bed here. Sex on the beach is a nice drink, but I've never heard anyone ask for a phone-sex on the beach!"

Buffy was shaking slightly, and she didn't know how much of that came from nerves brought on by Kennedy's proposition and how much came from the rush of desire the idea caused.

"Lakeside cabin." Kennedy rolled her eyes as she pointed at it. "Big bed..."

"Big chance of someone interrupting," Buffy corrected. "The bathroom is connected to the bedroom."

"Oh yeah," Kennedy chuckled. "Well, you're on a mile of private beach and I don't see anyone wandering far from the food and beer. Go take a walk, find somewhere, you know, secluded to..." she waved her hand about.

Biting her lip, Buffy scanned the beach in the distance. It wouldn't be impossible to find some privacy. The shoreline was far from smooth; there were plenty of jutting-out places and jutting-in places. If she walked east she'd be out of sight within minutes, but...

"Do you really think it's a good idea?"

"I don't know, it's the first one I had," Kennedy laughed, turning to face her. "But Faith is the most sexually self-aware person I think I've met, so I doubt you talking dirty down the phone will offend her. Give it a shot. At best it works, at worst; you've given her a little something else to think about. Something to keep chipping away at her wall."

"Oh God," Buffy rubbed at her forehead in agitation. "Is it hard?"

"Dunno," Kennedy shrugged. "I've never let Willow go long enough to need to try it yet."

"Helpful." Buffy shook her head. "You're happy just throwing me in the phone-sex end of the pool without even teaching me how to breaststroke long distance?"

Laughing, Kennedy walked back towards the cabin without answering, leaving Buffy standing alone.

"Right." She said decisively. After another minute of standing there, worrying at her bottom lip, she repeated, "Right."

Kicking off her sandals, she carried them in one hand as she walked east along the edge of the water. The beach was narrow here, scrubby and wild, edged with thick, lush foliage.

It really was beautiful, she decided, gazing out over the lake. And peaceful now that she'd left the ruckus at the cabin behind. Snatches of rock music accompanying the engine of a far off pleasure boat were the only sounds disturbing the illusion of a deserted tropical paradise.

Was it deserted enough though?

A glance backwards proved she'd walked far enough for all but the very top of the cabin roof and the rising smoke of the fire to be out of sight. There were boats out on the water, but none of them close enough to notice her unless she decided to start jumping about and waving her arms in the air. She still felt too exposed, though, to do anything more than sit and talk.

Unfortunately she was with Kennedy on that score, talking wouldn't be enough; at least it never had been before.

If she walked much further, she would reach the end of their private beach and therefore the privacy factor altogether, and surely Faith was about to call back any second. It had been a while. Buffy checked her cell to make sure she hadn't accidentally turned it off.

When she looked up again, there was a jetty sprouting from the choppy sand. Not much of one, not even as long as the one behind the cabin and it took less than a minute to walk to the end and stare down at the deep blue water eddying around the wooden struts.

This was as good a place as any to stick out like a sore thumb and do stuff that made her blush to just think about. With any luck the sun wouldn't go down too soon, and there would be no chance of lost ships mistaking her red face as a guiding light to shore.

Not that there could be many hours of daylight left, Buffy surmised, as she sat lightly on the end of the jetty and let her hot feet plunge into the cold lake. The heat of the sun was still fierce, but it was low in the sky now, making her wish she'd put her sunglasses back on after the memorial.

Her skirt dangled in the water as she sloshed her legs about so she took it off, bunched it up and put it behind her. She felt exposed for a second, but she was wearing a bikini - invented to be seen - so it wasn't like she was sitting there waiting for Faith's call in her underwear.

Idly she watched boats scudding about far away as she played with her phone. Actually she wasn't idly doing anything, she realized, as her phone-fiddling thumb made Faith's photo appear.

"Oh yeah, 'cause that helps." She murmured, smiling at the naked beauty on the screen.

Or maybe it did, a practice run might even be a good idea. Holding the phone out a little in front of her, she fixed her eyes on the image of Faith's chest... face - oh who was she kidding, it was a small picture she could see everything at once, no need to choose - and cleared her throat.

"You're mine." She said with as much authority as she could. Photo-Faith just smiled at her silently. "Yeah, that's right, get used to agreeing without a fight F, because you are mine now. You belong with me, everyone knows it - well everyone except my girlfriend and your boyfriend, but we'll deal with that later, somehow, I hope..." Buffy gave her head a quick shake. "My point is, I want you and I'm going to have you and not just in a sex way because some rabbit-donkey is playing with our futures, but because I'm not prepared to... to not have you just so you can play happy golden couple with a centuries-old jerk with a suspicious history who could possibly be very evil and even if he's not, he's still a... a jerk."

Okay so that was still just talk, she should probably be practicing the action. "So, uh, drop your panties and get ready to imagine me fu..."

Her phone rang, and surprise and embarrassment let it slip from her fingers. "No!" She stopped it from arcing into the lake by batting it on her lap, but then it started to slip between her legs. "No!" she squealed again. Catching it in both hands, she gripped it tight and sprawled backwards on the jetty. "Damn, that was too close."

Hands still shaky, Buffy opened the phone with fumbly fingers and held it to her ear. "Hey!"

"B." Faith's voice greeted her. "This a better time?"

"Yeah, sorry about before, we were having a memorial service and..."

"Who died?" Faith demanded quickly and Buffy imagined her sitting forward, eyes wide with alarm.

"No one. No one recently anyway, it was just something we decided to do for the people we've lost, you know, before." Buffy assured her.

"Okay. Is that why you're upset?"

"What? I'm not upset. I mean it was sad, but in a nice way; and I'm really happy you called - so no upset here."

"You sound like you're crying," Faith explained. "Your voice is all hitching and shit."

"Oh, no I just nearly just threw you in the lake. Not 'you' you obviously, but the picture of you on my phone, 'you'."

"Why?" Faith's voice sounded guarded now. "What did Toni say?"

"Huh?"

"Well someone musta said something to make you wanna throw your phone in the lake before I could call back."

"No you idiot." Buffy sat up again, laughing. "I was looking at the picture of you when you rang and I got all excited and nearly dropped the phone... in the lake. I'm out of breath from trying to catch it before it went splash."

There was silence on the phone for a moment and then Faith's voice sounded a little funny as she asked, "You were getting excited looking at a picture of me?"

Buffy might not have meant that kind of excited, but there was no reason to correct Faith's error.

"Well it's a pretty exciting photo; and thanks by the way, for sending it. It's given me all kinds of... inspiration over the past month." Buffy felt herself redden and this wasn't even close to talking dirty yet.

"I'm glad I could help." Faith didn't sound very glad.

"What's wrong?" Buffy asked automatically. "I have absolutely no idea what photo you're talking about."

"What?"

"I don't remember sending you any photos and I dropped my phone about a month ago, right after talking to... you actually, I think. It's a little hazy, it could have been the pizza guy."

"Faith, are you kidding me? You sent me the picture right after we spoke that night."

"Sorry B, but unless I captured my feet by accident, then I doubt it. I wasn't exactly sober enough that night to take artistic self portraits."

"Oh, you were." Buffy couldn't believe this, she'd thought she had proof that Faith really wanted her over Troy - or else why send naughty photos - and Faith didn't even remember it. With a grim smile she asked, "Did you drop your phone in the shower, by any chance?"

"Yeah, bastard shattered all over the floor."

"And would this shower have white tiles with blue and yellow flying fish designs on them?"

"How do you know that?"

"I have a picture of you in that shower." Buffy spelled it out for her slowly. "And no, it's not of your feet."

There was a fast intake of breath in her ear, before Faith muttered. "Shit."

"No, it's actually quite flattering." Buffy smirked.

"I'm sorry," Faith muttered.

"I'm not." Buffy smirked some more.

"Oh you will be. Look..." Whatever Faith was about to say was cut off by singing and jeering in the background. It went on for a minute before Faith shouted angrily. "I'm on the phone here, go party in another fucking banquet hall. Sorry." She said into Buffy's ear when the noise had gone.

"You're in a banquet hall?" Buffy's nose wrinkled.

"Well sitting on a wall outside one," Faith explained. "Thought I'd have some peace and quiet here to call you, but Troy's retard friends are all over the place."

"Sounds like a big night over there." Buffy said softly, not too worried. After all, Faith didn't sound like she was enjoying it much.

"Yeah, Troy threw me a surprise party," Faith muttered darkly. "The surprise being I don't know any-fuckin-one here. I told him we should wait..." she trailed off. "At least the fireworks won't suck, I chose 'em, got some real bad boys too, Buff. You'll probably be able to hear them over there."

Buffy chuckled. "Well I was actually hoping we could set off a few fireworks ourselves."

There was a rich chuckle from the other end. "You wanna have phone sex?"

Buffy blinked. How did Faith know? Had Kennedy been secretly nagging her too? That didn't make any sense, but was it possible this had been Faith's reason for calling all along? It wouldn't resolve any of the questions Giles and Willow had, but it would make her current - Kennedy assigned - mission easier.

Her heart was beating a billion times faster at the thought that this actually might happen for real, and she couldn't help glancing around again to make sure she was still blissfully alone.

Struggling to keep her voice casual, she said, "Sure."

Faith chuckled again. "I wasn't actually offering, you know."

"Oh," Buffy blushed furiously, and her voice was quiet with oncoming defeat as she asked, "Does that mean you don't want to then?"

Faith made a groaning noise deep in her throat, warming Buffy's ear and making her breath catch as a trickle of excitement worked its way down from deep inside her.

"Does that mean you do want to then?" she squeaked; quickly she cleared her throat so as not to make that embarrassing noise again.

"B." Faith drew the nickname out softly. "That's not why I called."

"I know, but surely we have time for a quickie," Buffy teased, the affection in Faith's tone relaxing her, reminding her this was supposed to be fun.

"A quickie?" Faith chuckled.

"Yeah a quickie, as in a spur-of-the-moment phone... boink! Don't waste time laughing at my terminology F, just start picturing me in my blue bikini." Buffy insisted, trying not to laugh herself.

She'd been right; phone seduction was so not her thing. Give her someone to rub up against, make lingering eye contact with and give her sexy as hell half smile to and she could hold her own, but her verbal skills alone just weren't up to scratch.

"Buffy, what's got into you?" Faith's voice was full of amusement. "Not that I'm complaining about the bikini visual, but it's not like you to throw yourself down the phone at me."

"I just want you Faith." Buffy decided to go with honesty and go for broke. "And I'm sitting out on the lake, with the sun on my body and your sexy voice in my ear and it's driving me insane, so... tell me what you're wearing."

"Uh, B..." Faith began.

"Tell me." Buffy demanded, taking on a little of the assertiveness Kennedy had advised.

"Uh, short black silk dress with red dragons stitched on it, but Buffy..."

"Are you wearing any underwear?"

"B!" Faith gave a short, shocked laugh.

"Come on, baby, it's a valid question, you don't always wear panties." Buffy was beet red, but determined to go on.

"True, but this is a really short dress."

"I wish I could see you in it."

"I do look fuckin' good."

"I'm wearing a bikini." Buffy reminded her, trying to get a little of the heat back that she was offering out.

"You said, a blue one."

"Do you want to see me in it?"

A quick pause and then, "If you made a calendar I guess I'd buy it."

"Faith?"

"Yeah?

"Do you wanna, I don't know, go out and slay something and then call me back?"

"Why would I wanna do that?"

"Because then you might actually be horny enough to tell me to touch myself for you..."

There was a sudden rough scrambling sound from the phone, followed by Faith's muffled swearing.

"Faith! What are you doing?"

"Dangling off a castle whatjamacallit... turret thing." Faith was panting.

"Why?" Buffy snapped. "I'm trying something here you know, for the first time too, you could at least pay attention..."

"I was paying attention, that's why I slipped! I'm not hanging by my fingernails two hundred feet above the ground just to piss you off!"

"Yeah, well, I wouldn't put it past you." Buffy muttered, before adding conversationally. "Two hundred feet is a long way down."

"Shit, you got that right." Faith grunted. "Hang on."

There was more scrambling, some scraping too. Buffy listened to it as she cringed into her palm. 'I made Faith fall off a castle! Flattering, sure, but so not good.'

"Okay I'm back." Faith panted eventually. "And sitting nowhere near the wall now."

"That's good." Buffy said quietly, not sure if that was an invite to continue with her previous thread or not. She tested it with: "So are you sitting comfortably."

"You gonna read me a bedtime story, B?" Faith was still out of breath.

"Faith, I swear to God..."

A dog bark made her look behind in annoyance. Two kids were running along the beach, with a collie trying to snatch the Frisbee they were throwing back and forth. Buffy thought about standing up and shouting that this was a private beach and could they kindly fuck off, but that would probably spoil the mood - more than Faith already had.

Damn, she had to move.

"B, you know you turn me on, girlfriend." Faith was saying.

Damn, she had to move fast! Trust Faith to get in the mood just as company arrived.

There was a boat tied halfway along the jetty, she'd noticed it before, but not given it much thought - not being a big boat fan. It wasn't like the big expensive sail boats she could see dotted further out but a plain old rowing boat. It didn't even have an outboard motor, just a couple of oars stashed beneath the wooden boards masquerading as bench seats.

Buffy gave it a dubious look, wondering if it was watertight and lake-worthy. She was a self-confessed land-lubber. She loved the ocean from the point of view of the beach, and maybe for a quick dip now and again to cool off, but she'd seen too many nasties come out of the deep to wanna spend much time in it or on it.

"Damn, just the thought of you in a blue bikini, any fuckin' color bikini, makes me want you more than you know." Faith continued.

'Ahoy me hearties,' Buffy thought, hopping in and squatting quickly when the boat rocked precariously from side to side. The kids - two girls - were almost level with her now and she could hear them talking as she used one hand to tug at the rope knotting the boat to the jetty.

"And you talking dirty to me..." Faith went quiet.

Getting the rope undone, Buffy used an oar to push away from the side, and then had to tuck the cell between her shoulder and chin to free up both hands for rowing. It was only as she was on her way out into the open lake at a fairly speedy clip that she started to worry if Eerie had shipping lanes or if she was supposed to file a sail plan before launching into the water.

"Hot, B, wicked hot."

Buffy, beaming at Faith's disclosure, decided she was far enough from the shore now to safely drift for a while. Laying back against the bow... or the stern - she wasn't sure - she took the phone in her hand again and smoothed the other onto her pale stomach.

"Okay I'm ready." She panted, out of breath from her fast paced rowing.

"Ready for what?"

"The sex. I had to make a fast getaway from the beach, but luckily, I apparently have mad seaman skills and so now we're alone again."

"Semen? You're dirty talk has just gone down hill, B." Faith chuckled.

"I meant... not that." Buffy shook her head. "I'm in a boat, floating on the waves, stars starting to come out above me, it doesn't get more romantic than this soooo..."

"Soooo?" Faith echoed her.

"Fine I'll start," Buffy bit her lip, momentarily psyching herself up.

'Shit, how do people have phone sex?' She'd seen it on movies and stuff, but her mind had gone blank and Faith would so definitely call her bluff if she recognized something from an American Pie film. Spike had occasionally thought he was funny to growl filth in her ear when he wanted her to come out and play, but she wasn't using those words.

"Uh, so..." Buffy wriggled further back against the boat, letting her fingers flutter over her tummy as she did her best to turn her voice from a squeak into a sexy purr. "I wish you were here with me right now, in this boat, so I could see you and, uh, feel you lying here next to me in your short, sexy dragon dress, uh..."

"How do you know it's sexy?" Faith's voice was lower now too.

"Because you're wearing it, baby. What...what would you want me to do if you were here with me right now?" Buffy asked, and held her breath.

"I don't know."

"Okay, well I know what I want to do..." Boy did she! "...I want to kiss you, really slowly..."

"Oh yeah, where?"

Faith's playful return dramatically increased the heat between Buffy's legs. Squeezing them together a little she fluttered her hand down to the top of her bikini shorts.

Giggling a little, she continued. "Well, your lips - to start with - as I... as I... slide my hands up your thighs under your dress... Faith do you know how much I love sliding my hands up your thighs?" her voice was husky without her having to try as she remembered the last time she got to do it and the first time before that.

"Not really."

"A lot! So here I am with my hands sliding up your thighs, and by this point you're really wishing you'd gone commando tonight," Buffy giggled some more, the nerves at being this open not quite burned away by her arousal yet. Maybe if Faith was being a little more vocal it would help. "So what are you doing to me right now?"

There was a big, no giant, intake of breath and the sound of Faith clearing her throat, but she didn't say anything. Buffy was pretty sure she had her on the edge now though.

"Okay, I'll tell you what I want you to do," she said huskily. "Obviously you're kissing me back..."

"Obviously." Faith murmured, sounding amused.

Buffy grinned. "Uh huh, and you're pushing me back so you're on top of me, in complete control..." Faith would like that touch even if it was pure fantasy. "...and then you kiss my neck and... and.... my places a little lower than there," Oh God, she sucked at this! "which naturally drives me kinda wild, and I have to start touching you before I die from not touching you - so you know, the usual..." Buffy's hand drifted between her legs as she spoke and she lightly teased herself over the thin blue shorts. "And then... and then," Buffy swallowed, between the talking, her rising temperature and her increased breathing, her mouth was going dry. "And then... you slowly remove my bikini so I'm just here for you, all naked and quivering... for you..."

"Wait a damn minute B," Faith sounded breathless and suspicious.

"What's wrong?" Buffy asked, not wanting to wait a damn second.

"This is your Angel fantasy; did you think I wouldn't recognize it?"

The bitterness in Faith's voice made Buffy stop what she was doing altogether and sit up. "My what?"

"You, Angel, on a boat under the stars. He takes off your panties and leaves you all naked and vulnerable? Do you really think I'm going to fall for the same spiel that got me into this mess in the first place?"

"This is completely different." Buffy was so shocked by the sudden u-turn that she wasn't even pissed off, yet. "I am on a boat for starters; and secondly I never asked to do your half of the narrative too, Faith. If you want to rip my bikini off in a completely different way, I'm more than happy to hear about it, but you're being all creepy sex-line pervert quiet, so I went with what I know."

"Why the hell anyway?" Faith demanded angrily.

"I'm trying to show you how much I love you." Buffy tried not to get annoyed despite Faith's tone.

"No, Twinkie, you're trying to get yourself off!"

"I'm trying to get both of us off!" Buffy shouted, giving up on patience.

"Well I don't want you getting me off!" Faith shouted back, sounding angry enough for tears.

"Why?!"

"Because I'm getting fucking married!"


Chapter Seven

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Part Eight Quick-Jump:

Chapter One || Chapter Two || Chapter Three || Chapter Four || Chapter Five || Chapter Six || Chapter Seven


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