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


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PART NINE: 5th July to 23rd September 2004
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Chapter Twenty Four: Maybe I Should . . .

Standing up and gripping the top of the windshield, Buffy yelled out, "Are you crazy?"

"Yeah, B, thanks to you, once again, I am most fuckin' surely fuckin' crazy!" Faith still had a dangerously manic grin on her face as she brought the solid metal tool down again into the already trashed light. "You don't wanna take the blame? Fine, I'm the queen of denial, I can appreciate it in other people, but you still ain't going nowhere until I'm ready."

As Faith brought the tool down on the centre of the hood, making a big dent, Buffy scrambled out of the car.

"Until you're ready?"

"That's right." Faith cocked the lug wrench again. "We've got a shit load of unfinished business to deal with here, B." She gave her another bright, scary smile. "And you're not leaving until it's finished."

Looking around, unsure, Buffy asked, "Leave the country or leave this field?"

Faith brought the lug wrench around in another swing and took out the right headlight. She shrugged afterwards. "Both now, I guess."

Buffy shook her head. "You're fucking insane."

"And you're a fuckin' bitch," Faith added without any animosity. "Still think we're a match made in Heaven?"

Buffy had to wonder. "Faith, calm down."

Faith pointed the long tool at her, but not in a threatening way. If she had, Buffy probably would have wrapped it around her neck.

"Calm down? You expect me to be calm when you say you're leaving! That's funny, B. Wanna hear something else funny? I have never loved you more than I do right now."

"Do you think acting like this is gonna make me stay?"

"No, Buffy, I don't! I never think anything I do is gonna make you stay! But I've tried everything, but this, so where's the harm in cutting loose for a while, huh?" Faith brought the iron down hard on the hood again, making another dent. "It was always gonna happen one day, right? At least now you can go knowing you're definitely doing the right thing."

"Faith, is that what... You're scared I'm going to leave you?"

"You are leaving me!" Faith swung the tool again, cracking the bumper. "I thought at least I had you 'til after the wedding, but I even managed to screw that up!"

She raised the bar high over her head to take another, possibly fatal, shot at her car. Buffy did the only thing she could think of and lunged up to grab it herself; stopping its descent.

"Stop beating up the love of your life because of me!" she shouted, trying to wrench the tool away.

Faith laughed; but now that Buffy was closer she could see the wet trails on her cheeks, and she didn't quit trying to jerk the lug wrench free.

Faith got donked on the head by it in the tussle, but if she noticed, she didn't care. Buffy also got donked by it, and although she cared - it hurt! - she didn't take any notice.

"You are not doing any more damage!" Buffy said through gritted teeth as she finally yanked the wrench from Faith.

Her victory surprised her and her grip wasn't tight. The long metal L-shaped bar flew away from her hands and hit the windscreen dead centre. There was a cracking sound followed by a spider web pattern fracturing the glass.

They both stared at it in surprise.

"You were saying?"

"That wasn't meant to happen," Buffy admitted slowly, realizing there was no way she was driving back to Rome tonight now.

There was a crunching ping followed by a dull doing as Faith sat on the hood of the Mini, giggling hysterically.

"Aw, man," she wheezed softly, scrubbing her cheeks with her fists; the tears just kept coming.

"Faith?"

The other woman looked up as Buffy said her name, but seeing her standing right in front of her, covered her face with both hands and fell back on the hood, her head coming to rest on the windshield just below the cracks.

Buffy watched her for a moment or two before stepping even closer to the bumper.

"Faith, please stop crying."

"I'm not fuckin' crying," Faith sniveled, wiping the evidence from her cheeks over and over.

"Fine. Well, would you just stop swearing then?"

"Fuck off!"

Buffy grinned, but said sternly. "Okay, that's it, sit up." Faith ignored her completely. "Don't make me make you."

"Like you could," Faith mumbled.

"Fine, make me make you."

Buffy tried to pull Faith's hands away from her face and pull her up at the same time, but Faith made herself go rigid and unmovable, and Buffy, thanks to the angle she was leaning at, only succeeded in pulling herself down over her.

"Told you ya couldn't," Faith chuckled.

"I'm not done yet," Buffy promised, placing her hands either side of Faith's shoulders to boost herself back up.

Faith's arms curled around her neck. Buffy thought she was about to make another pass, but she just pulled her down until Buffy's face was nuzzled beneath her chin and hung on.

The almost silent gulps of air and the occasional sniff right in her ear let her know Faith was still crying so she didn't make a move to pull away. She couldn't exactly hug Faith back because the car was in the way, but she lay as comfortingly over her as possible and didn't complain about the way the unyielding metal was punishing her knees.

"Sorry," Faith murmured a short time later.

Buffy simply nodded, moving her face to the crook of Faith's neck.

"It's just... you were leaving... like really going, ya know, and... I kinda lost it."

Buffy smiled. "Scared I was going to crash your car again?"

"No, well, yeah, but I don't give a shit about the car." Faith took a big, shuddering breath, but she was starting to sound a lot calmer. "I just didn't want you to leave. I don't want you to leave... ever."

"Do you think it's going to be easy for me to walk away?" Buffy asked. "I'm not just going to hurt you; I'm going because you haven't left me another choice."

"That's not true. I can't leave, B, I can't! I haven't stopped thinking about it all week, but whichever way I cut it, I know this is the path I've got to follow right now. I can't turn my back on that, no matter how much I wanna be with you." Faith loosened her hold slightly and turned her head so Buffy could meet her eyes. "But, you do have a choice. You could..."

"Don't say...." Buffy tried to lift her head, but Faith wouldn't let her.

"...Stay."

"...it." Buffy let her forehead fall to Faith's shoulder, the energy zapped from her with the end of the sentence. "I can't."

"I don't just mean as friends. I mean as lovers," Faith said softly into her ear, making Buffy close her eyes and grit her teeth. "Properly... just not exclusively."

Buffy clenched her eyes tighter. She wanted 'exclusively', but if that was totally unattainable, was a compromise really so bad? If this was a glass half full or half empty debate - which side did she take?

"And what do you think your future husband will say about that arrangement?"

"Well, I wasn't planning on telling him."

"So I'll basically just be... what? Your secret little living, breathing whore-bot?"

Faith grinned at her. "You say that like it's a bad thing."

"Maybe not, but that present you bought me for Christmas last year can do the same job with none of the heartache, and it doesn't feel it has to hide our relationship."

"Okay, you know the deal; we'd have to be discreet." Faith admitted. "Troy probably wouldn't freak that much if he found out, but his asshole family finds out the murderous Slayer mortal he married is playing away from home from day one, what do you think's gonna happen?"

"They'll probably smite the pair of us into next month. Maybe the month after."

"Exactly. But I figure we can come up with a code, something subtle, that we can use. So if you get the overpowering urge to kiss me when we ain't alone, you can just use the code and we'll make a run for the nearest storage closet."

"That's not very discreet."

"I haven't ironed out all the wrinkles yet, but I think even with the downside..."

"You being married, you mean."

"Yeah, even with that, I think we could have something really great. Don't you?"

Half full or half empty?

"You'd never respect me if I stayed," she murmured against Faith's shoulder.

"Are you kidding me? With a punch like that?" Faith chuckled.

Buffy smiled sheepishly. "Hurt my hand."

"Good. Bet it hurt my face more."

"I win," Buffy sing-songed quietly.

Chuckling, Faith tilted her head down at the same time as Buffy looked up. They smiled at each other and then, ever so slowly, Faith leaned in to kiss her. Buffy's lips parted as she accepted the kiss. Why did this always have to feel so damn natural? So damn right? Because it wasn't!

"No, get off." Buffy raised her head, trying to pull away completely and stand up.

Faith restrained her at first, trying to hold her close. "B, it's okay."

"No, please, just let go of me."

Faith released her immediately and Buffy pushed herself up, running shaky hands over her face once she was pacing back and forth.

Faith sat up and watched her. "Sorry. You looked... I thought you wanted me to."

"I did."

"So, where's the fire?"

"I'm supposed to the good guy. The occasional slip up because you're in a bikini is one thing, but I can't willingly start a life-long affair with you with my conscience clear. That's bad guy stuff. What will everyone say for one thing?"

"They won't say anything, 'cause they're never gonna know. Far as the rest of the world are concerned, we're just good friends. But when we're alone..."

"I pave my way to Hell?"

"Hey, would spending eternity with me really be so bad?" Faith grinned. "Think of all the bad people down there whose asses you can kick."

Buffy grinned reluctantly back. "Could you stop sitting there like this is the greatest idea you've ever had?"

"I would if I could, B, but it is the greatest idea I've ever had." Faith stood up and walked to her. "It's not perfect, but we get to be together. Isn't that really all that counts?"

"You get the best of both worlds and I get visitation rights for weekends and every other Thursday? Does that really sound fair to you?"

Faith shrugged. "No, but we'll see each more than that and, look, I'm just trying to come up with a way for us to be together. If you're not interested, say so and I'll save my breath."

Not saying anything, Buffy walked away. Leaning on the side of the car, she stared down into the dark back seat, trying to work up the words to tell Faith to go to hell.

"I can't be second best," she muttered. "Not when it comes to you. I'm sorry, but I'd rather not be with you than be that."

Faith was standing right behind her. "You'll never be second best. You know I'll be thinking about you even when I not with you. That's just the way it is. If you leave tonight and I never see you again that'll still be the way it is. Just, you know, this way we get to have mind-blowing sex now and again too."

"How do you know it will be mind-blowing?" Buffy asked softly.

"Do you want me to give you a little reminder?" Faith's voice was husky in Buffy's ear.

Buffy closed her eyes at the suggestion and the light pressure from Faith's hands on her hips and inhaled deeply.

"How do I know Troy won't be better than me?"

Faith sighed and dropped her forehead onto the base of Buffy's neck. "We were switching positions."

"What?"

Faith raised her head again as she gestured in front of Buffy. "Well, the seats aren't that big, and Troy's a big guy, and I was getting a cramp, so we were trying to move to something more comfortable, and I kicked the lever off." She sighed again. "It wasn't exactly the best screw ever."

Buffy started giggling. "Really?"

"Yeah, I swear. I mean, the boy's not bad, usually, but he doesn't make me feel like you do."

"How do I make you feel?" Buffy whispered, still staring resolutely into the back seat.

Faith pulled Buffy's hair to one side and slowly kissed her way up her neck to whisper in her ear. "Like I can make it to Heaven after all."

Buffy ducked her head, chuckling. "That was corny."

"Yeah, well you also make me feel that. An' I hate it. I'll hate it even more if you're not around to make it worth it."

"Nothing like pressure."

"No pressure. If you really have to go..." Faith was close enough that Buffy felt her shrug against her back. "I won't keep asking you to stay if it's not what you want. But, it's an open offer, okay? You ever change your mind... I promise not to break your foot if you come find me."

Buffy huffed out a laugh, but then said seriously, "Stop it. You can't start being sweet like that just when I'm about to lose you!"

"You're never gonna lose me." Faith brushed some hair back behind Buffy's ear, warm breath sending pleasant shivers down her spine. "I'll always be yours, B. You know that. Nothing either of us can do about it. But maybe we're just not meant to make it this time around. Or maybe we are. What do you think?"

"Oh God," Buffy groaned. "Okay, that's it, I can't do this."

"Fair enough," Faith said gently, obviously disappointed. "I get it."

"No, you don't." Faith started to move out of Buffy's personal space, giving her the room to turn around, which she did so swiftly. "You really, really don't."

She pulled Faith in close by her t-shirt and surged forward to meet her, their lips crashing together in the middle. She held Faith there, kissing her thoroughly, kissing her finally!

And now she'd started she wasn't going to stop. Ever. Well, maybe eventually, but it wasn't going to be tonight. Now she'd made this leap she couldn't stop, because as soon as she did, she'd start wondering what the hell she was doing, and then she'd have to feel bad about this kiss, and that was just senseless, because there was nothing bad about this kiss.

"Buffy."

Her name on Faith's lips was mostly an unintelligible mumble and she felt comfortable ignoring it. It probably wasn't important; after all, this was what Faith wanted. It had better be what Faith wanted. If Faith changed her mind after this, after encouraging her to leap into this lunacy with eyes wide open; after convincing her that being Faith's part-time lover was better than never seeing her again...

Faith tried to say her name again, lifted hands to her cheeks and gently tried to pull away, but Buffy wouldn't let her. She moved in tighter, wound more of the t-shirt around her bunched fists and tried to tie her tongue to Faith's to keep it there. Now it was important that neither of their next thoughts entered this moment, because that way it couldn't be ruined.

Eventually, though, Faith prised her off with hands tightly on her upper arms. Her face was flushed and despite the darkness her eyes were shining, but she was trying to look serious as she held Buffy at almost arms length.

"What?" Buffy asked impatiently when Faith just looked at her.

As far as she was concerned, they'd done the 'looking, no touching' portion of their friendship and now it was time to try it the other way around.

"Not that I mind you on me like that, but would ya mind telling me what's happening here first?"

She took a deep preparatory breath, knowing this was where it all went wrong, because if she tried to explain her decision making process out loud it would reveal its fatal flaw - its complete lack of logical reason.

"No."

Faith smirked. "Try again."

"Alright." Buffy unhooked her fists from the Faith's top and smoothed out the damp creases with her hands. "Stop me if you don't understand any of the big words, okay? I love you."

Faith waited for more and Buffy waited for her to get it.

"That's it? Didn't you love me last week too; ya know, before all the ultimatum crap?" Faith looked downwards. "And could you stop feeling me up until after we're done."

"I'm not feeling you up!" Buffy blushed, but only a little; she knew exactly what she was doing. "I'm smoothing out the wrinkles I put in your top."

"Yeah, okay, whatever." Faith gave in a little too quickly, but as it meant Buffy was able to keep 'smoothing' she didn't mention it. "Last week?"

The countdown had started when they'd stopped kissing and when this conversation was over it was very likely to be the end of this whacked out little fantasy - and them - once and for all. Therefore all opportunities had to be grabbed with both hands. She smirked - literally both hands in this case.

"Last week. That was my pride talking... and they say pride comes before a fall, so we probably shouldn't listen to it."

She hooked her fingers under Faith's top and started to slowly draw it upwards.

"And is that your real reason? Or are you screwing with me here?" Faith didn't seem to notice the gradual passage of her tight t-shirt until it was level with her breasts, then she caught and held Buffy's hands steady where they were. "Only, it wouldn't be the first time you've lulled me into a false sense of security by taking my clothes off."

"Fine. Don't kiss me. Keep your clothes on." Buffy said, holding her hands in the air as she took a very deliberate step back. "Ya know, so far, being your official secret girlfriend isn't any different to being your unofficial secret girlfriend.

"What did you say?" Faith looked wary and uncertain, but she took a small step closer.

The car at her back, Buffy stepped to the side, but stayed facing her. "Well it hardly matters if you're not interested anyway."

"Say I'm interested. What's changed since last week, or an hour ago?" Faith asked casually.

Buffy flicked her eyes down from Faith's face to the top still rucked up around her breasts. Getting the message, Faith's smirk was hidden for a second as she dragged her top over her head and off. With a little flourish she threw it into the Mini and repeated,

"Say I'm interested. Your turn."

Buffy smiled at the bright white glow of Faith's bra in the moonlight as she tried to put her feelings into words. "The truth is, nothing's changed. Everything I said last week still stands, except..."

Faith waved a hand to interrupt her and then pointed at her shirt. "No, I mean, your turn. How interested are you?"

"I thought you wanted..."

"You can't talk and unbutton at the same time?"

Buffy gave an amused sigh as she started to work her buttons loose from the bottom to the top.

"Except," she continued. "I don't care about it anymore. You were right, I don't want to live without us, without this; and if that means throwing away my pride, my principles, my morals, my sanity..."

"Your pants?"

Buffy stopped in the act of shucking her shirt from her shoulders. "How does me taking off my pants prove I wanna be with you?"

"How does me taking off my shirt prove I wanna be with you?" Faith countered.

Damn, there was just nothing logical about this at all, was there? Not answering she threw her shirt into the Mini and started to unzip her jeans.

"You too," she nodded.

Faith shook her head. "Not yet."

"What does that mean? How come I have to do this if you don't?" Buffy asked as she pushed the jeans over her butt and let them fall to bunch around her ankles.

"That's just the thing, B. You don't have to do it." She walked confidently closer and offered her hand to help Buffy step out of her jeans. "You just have to want to. I want you to do it, but you gotta want it that much too."

Buffy thought she understood. "So is you not wanting to take your jeans off a sign that you don't want this as much as I do? Because if you don't tell me that before I take off my bra, there is going to be one hell of a bloody death in your future."

Chuckling, Faith pulled her closer by her hand. "I want this." And then she kissed her fears away to prove it. That particular fear anyway.

"But..." Faith continued to kiss and speak at the same time; full lip contact every few words or so. "Last week you left me hanging, B. Seriously hanging. Not to mention practically nude."

"I didn't tell you to run off."

"No, but you gave me good reason to and it wasn't until I was outside Tone's place that I realized the door was locked and my clothes were on the other side."

Buffy smiled against her lips. "Why didn't you just come and ask me for the key?"

"What, and ruin the dramatic statement I was making by running out like a twat in the first place?"

"How did you get home?"

"Fast!" Faith grinned. "And it means from now on, you always hafta be more naked than me. So..."

As Faith kissed her properly again, skillful tongue leading the party, Buffy figured what the hell. It was a hot night, and getting warmer too, sticky heat rolling over them as they kissed. Maybe a storm was coming or maybe it was just them, but either way, humidity was definitely rising.

She fumbled behind her back for her bra clasp, relying on Faith's lips and her hands at her hips to keep her balanced. Once it was loose Faith hooked a finger into a cup, pulling the material away from her body and flinging it into the car. Buffy shivered in the heat as fingers trailed delicately over her breasts; pinching gently off of her stiffening nipples as Faith's lips slowly pulled back. She came back for one last soft press of lips before stepping back enough to check her out.

"So, you never finished telling me what game we're playing now?"

"No game."

"Really?" Faith asked dubiously.

"Really. Unless you're planning on grabbing my clothes and running away. Although that wouldn't be a game so much as a prank, I suppose."

"Sweet suggestion." Faith laughed. "Why'd ya take them off if you're worried about that?"

Buffy shrugged, "It's a warm night and I was getting hot."

"Hot enough to take it all the way?"

Buffy smirked at the double entendre as she looked about. They weren't hidden from the road, but it was highly likely now it was dark that no one would see them unless they were looking specifically.

"I don't know. We're pretty exposed out here. Or, should I say, I am."

"I can see that."

"So I'm gonna need a little collateral before this goes any further."

Faith hooked a finger under her bra strap and pulled it forward as her eyebrow rose to a dark arch in the moonlight.

Buffy shook her head. "I'm pretty sure taking your clothes off out here isn't as big a deal for you as it is for me, so I'm going to need something more scary from you."

Faith sighed and closed her eyes, her shoulders sagging with a defeated air. "I knew this was too good to be... I'm not running away with you, Buffy. No matter how naked you get."

"Not that!" Buffy pushed Faith firmly in the chest, making her stumble back against the car in surprise. "Jeez, don't you think I learned my lesson on ultimatums last time?"

Faith stayed against the car, leaning casually - sexily - against the smooth side behind the driver's seat, but her eyes hung warily on Buffy's waiting for the other shoe to drop.

"This isn't one of those. It's a promise."

"What kind of promise?"

"One we make together right now."

So far this conversation wasn't the conversation she'd expected to have once the kissing stopped. In fact she had apparently taken a worse turn for the crazy. Standing willingly in a field - only six feet from the road might she add - in panties and strappy sandals probably wasn't something a lot of sane people did. Which kinda sucked for them, because not only was she doing it willingly, she was willfully enjoying it too.

However, whether Faith made her horny and crazy or not was never a question. The real answer she needed was to what happened when the clothes went back on.

Faith was waiting patiently for her to speak again. Buffy didn't know if she would say the right thing; if she even had the words to express the fears in her heart, or whether Faith's answer - assuming it was the one she needed to hear - would still count a year, six months, even two weeks down the line... but she had to try.

"We need to promise that we love each other and that we're serious. No more playing games, no more hiding how we really feel, no more trying to hurt each other or make each other jealous because we're feeling insecure... at least, no more than is usual in any relationship," she finished with a small grin. "If we're going to be together, no matter the circumstances, we have to promise to give it our best shot."

Faith pushed away from the car, hands up in some kind of 'whoa' gesture and then she froze as she studied Buffy's face.

"You're fucking serious!"

"Uh, yeah."

"But... "

"Did ya think I was just spitballin'?" Buffy gestured at herself. "Look at me, Faith."

Faith did so, walking a circle around her as if she would be able to spot the lie somewhere if she looked hard enough.

"I just figured you wanted one last screw," Faith said when she was in front of her again. "We had a pretty good fight, we both know shit like that gets us worked up, so I thought you were finally givin' in to temptation." She gave a little grin. "That's why I was making you work so hard for it."

Buffy's face fell as Faith's words sunk in. She had been a fool again. Worse this time, she was a practically naked fool in a field and she had no way of talking her way out of this one; or anywhere to go to get away from this moment. It was Faith's turn to see her cry her heart out, but there was no way a simple hug was going to comfort this feeling away.

Buffy turned her back on Faith while she attempted to compose her emotions. "Is there any chance we can just pretend the last twenty minutes or so didn't happen?"

"Why would I wanna do that?"

"Well, my mortification aside, it'll probably be easier to let go when the time comes if we keep scenes like this locked in our nightmares where they belong." Buffy hung her head, swallowing back a sob.

"Whoa, B, what... what the hell are you trying to do to me? One minute you're talking about us being together, now you're talking about letting go. If this is one last ditch attempt at sending me completely round the fuckin' bend, I gotta tell ya, it's working good, girlfriend."

"Of course it's not," Buffy sighed, turning around again. She rubbed her forehead in agitation as she asked, "Look, Faith, do you want to be with me... in a relationship with me, yes or no?"

Faith eyed her for what felt like ages before nodding tentatively. "Yes."

"Do you really mean that?" Buffy whispered.

"Yeah."

Buffy exhaled loudly in relief. "That's decided then."

"What is?"

"I'm not going anywhere," she promised, walking up to Faith.

"When?" Faith still sounded dubious.

"Ever."

Faith frowned. "Really?"

"Really." Buffy pushed her gently back against the car again. "Unless you actually want me to."

Faith started to shake her head and only stopped again when Buffy leaned in to kiss her. She kept it short, stepping back after only a few moments.

"And you still have to promise," she added.

Faith looked confused at first, but then it clicked. "I promise. I promise to... to not lie, and not deliberately make you jealous and not... what was the other thing? Fuck it, whatever you want, I promise it, okay? Except for the obvious, obviously."

"That's... close enough," Buffy decided, smiling in giddy relief.

Even in the darkness, Buffy saw Faith's eyes light up. "Does that mean you'll stay?"

Buffy nodded. "It does."

"You're sure?"

"Yes."

"You're sure?"

Buffy grinned. "I just said so."

"You're sure?"

"Stop asking me that!"

"Sorry, I just never had a proper Christmas morning before, ya know?"

Buffy's nose wrinkled. "It's September."

"What?"

"Oh God, I think I broke you," Buffy giggled.

Faith caught her around the waist, spinning her around as she delivered a dizzyingly enthusiastic kiss. Buffy's eyes went wide before they clamped shut - the better to revel in the soft, sweet pleasure of Faith's mouth.

"Not broken then," she panted when she finally landed back on her feet.

"Not broken," Faith shook her head and kissed her again, even more ferociously than before.

"Jeezus," Buffy drawled, caught by surprise and still light-headed from the first go around, but it was stifled by Faith's tongue and she wasn't about to pull away to make herself heard.

Faith picked her up again - still kissing - and perched her on the edge of the car. Buffy wasted no time in wrapping her legs around Faith's hips, her calves pulling Faith closer by the ass.

She smiled as Faith pulled back breathlessly, hands stroking her face, her shoulders, the length of her arms and then back to her face again.

"You're sure?"

"Yes," Buffy yelled, giggling again. "Are you trying to talk me out of it?"

"No way, but..." Faith launched herself in for another quick kiss that nearly knocked Buffy backwards into the car. "What about...? What about... well... everything?"

Buffy felt the first niggling of doubt - no not the first, they'd been there all along, but it felt a little stronger now - creep up in her mind. She told herself it was natural, this was a big scary decision they were making after all.

"We'll handle it. Or we won't. Either way I'm still sure. We can work out the details later."

"You're..." Faith had been about to say 'sure' again, but Buffy gave her a warning look and smiled. "... really gonna stay?"

Buffy just nodded.

Faith held her eyes for a beat before dropping them down her body to the only article of clothing she was still wearing.

"Prove it," she said with a grin.

Buffy looked down too and then met Faith's eyes again with a challenge. She braced her arms on the side of the car and raised her butt.

"You prove it."

Faith chuckled. "No problem."

Her panties were hanging over the gear stick before she had to blink.

"Okay then." Smirking, she lowered herself back to the car. "Now what?"

Faith's eyes burned slowly up and down her body. "Now I'm gonna fuck you hard."

"You should bottle that charm and sell it."

"I'm just keeping my promise not to lie or mislead you."

Buffy smiled as Faith kissed her feverishly again and gave a soft moan as thumbs rolled expertly around her nipples. At the first touch of fingers between her legs, though, she cupped Faith's cheek and leaned back just enough to whisper,

"Are you sure?"

"Hell yeah." Faith looked like a nodding dog on amphetamines.

Buffy waited until Faith was close enough to kiss before leaning back again.

"But are you sure?" she asked again with a straight face.

Faith narrowed her eyes and Buffy gave into a devilish smile.

"Just checking."

"Yeah, well how about you check your smart ass until after we're done?"

"So fierce..." Buffy gasped as Faith pinched her nipples. She licked her lips as she leaned in to kiss Faith again, murmuring on the way, "Good way to focus my attention. We'll have to remember that for research sessions."

She felt Faith's smirk against her lips and then the teasing brush of fingers was back between her legs and she wasn't stupid enough to deter them a second time.

"You ready?" Faith murmured against her mouth.

"Very," Buffy promised, opening her legs wider.

"Fuck, yeah you are." Faith breathed as she inched two fingers slowly inside her.

Buffy caught Faith's bottom lip between her teeth and bit gently until Faith stopped trying to torment her and drove them in as far as they would go.

"Oh yeah," she grunted, releasing Faith's lip so she could kiss her again.

Faith's fingers felt good, they felt too good, this was going to be over too fast, embarrassingly fast.

She'd seen something on TV, something about men slowing themselves down by thinking of unsexy stuff. She'd try it if she could think of anything but how damn good Faith was at making her see multicolored stars...

"Oh God, Oh Faith," she murmured, her voice as shaky as her arms as Faith continued to pound two, or was it three now, fingers inside her.

There was a low rumble of thunder in the distance, but the few spots of cold rain hitting her burning skin wasn't even enough to break through her overwhelming excitement. It was too late; she'd just have to go with it...

Faith was leaning into her with fingers and lips and Buffy's eyes were closed in the bliss of it all. Her hips were jerking already and her arms - clutching the car at her sides - were trembling. "Oh God... Oh... Oh... Oops!"

"Where'd you go?" Faith asked in surprise.

"I slipped," she admitted, embarrassed. "Back seats comfy, though."

"Nearly broke my wrist," Faith complained as she wiggled it in circles.

"Worry about your wrist later and get in here... now!"

Faith jumped over the side of the car, landing neatly between Buffy's legs. "So where were we?"

"Right..." Sitting up, she slid an arm around Faith's neck, drawing her into another deep kiss, while guiding Faith's hand back where she wanted it. "...here."

"Man, I could get use to you like this," Faith mumbled as she thrust her fingers back inside.

"Good," Buffy mumbled back as she rode Faith's hand. "This is...You are... so, uh..."

Everything she wanted to say slipped out of her mind as she concentrated on clutching onto Faith.

"Oh yeah... Don't...Oh...Oh...Oh, I'm... I'm gonna..." A crack of thunder drowned out the rest of her sentence and then Heaven didn't so much as come down to meet her, as opened all over her. "Fuuuuck!"

She screamed in frustration as the sudden torrential rain robbed her of her moment.

"Fuck!" she said again as Faith stopped pleasuring her to shield her face with both arms from the stinging drops. "Nooo!"

"Guess that's over then." Faith was laughing - how dare she laugh! - as she pushed Buffy away from her. "Quick, grab your shit."

She wasn't happy about it, but Faith had a point. This wasn't the soft, warm, romantic rain people made love in on the movies. This was hard, cold, unromantic rain you got the hell out of as soon as possible lest you catch hypothermia. It probably wasn't that cold, really, but it felt like it after the heat of the night - and the heat they'd generated between them.

Buffy grumbled as she scrambled around the car trying to find her already soaked clothes. "This was not how I was expecting to be spending the next few minutes."

Faith laughed some more and, after watching her struggle into her wet top, Buffy found herself grudgingly joining in.

Five minutes later they were clothed, more or less, and running through the rain.

"Where are we gonna go?" Buffy yelled over a thunder clap.

"I know a place," Faith yelled back.

"We're not making it back to Rome tonight, are we?"

"Doubt it."

The moon was blotted out by the rain clouds now and the road they sprinted down was pitch black. Shouting to each other was the only way to make sure they were still more or less side by side and neither of them had accidentally run into a field at a bend in the road.

"I need to call Dawn when we stop. Tell her I'm spending the night with you."

"Don't tell her that! Tell her you're spending the night in Bracciano."

"What's the difference?"

"My way sounds like we're staying over 'cause the car broke down," Faith explained. "Your way sounds like we're staying over to do naughty things to each other all night long."

"It's Dawn!" Buffy reminded her. "Even if she did think that she'd never say it. Okay, maybe she'd say it to me, and perhaps Willow or Xander, but she's not going to blab it to Troy, she's not that stupid."

"I was serious about keeping things secret, B. I know its not ideal, hell it sucks, but its gotta be that way."

"I get that. We can be discreet."

Faith turned her head and Buffy could just about see the cynical expression on her face through the rain. "You got busted by Xander when you and Angel were sneaking around."

"Hey, Xander's very perceptive I'll have you know."

"Yeah, he percepted you kissing with his own eyes from what I was told."

"Yeah well, what about you?" Buffy retorted, slicking the wet hair away from her face as she ran. "Willow hacked the LAPD files; you blazed a trail of gory glory around the city before Angel found you. That's not what I'd call discreet."

"First, I found Angel. Second, it's hardly the same thing."

"True; yours was worse."

"Not from where I was standing."

Buffy ducked her head as she tried not to take that as a compliment. "Okay, so, I won't kiss Angel and you won't beat up half of LA... think that'll be discreet enough?"

Faith chuckled. "We just gotta watch what we're doing when people are around. I'm pretty sure that guy spying on us won't be back, but we better keep looking out for anyone else."

"Yeah, the way you wailed on him he's probably checked himself into the nearest hospital for the foreseeable."

"He'll get over it." Faith said, unrepentant. "'Sides, if you're gonna invade someone's privacy for weeks, like a friggin' peepin' Tom, ya gotta expect a little hurt if ya get caught."

"Who do you think he was working for? It's not Toni; she wouldn't go to all this trouble to catch us out. If she thought we were, well, doing what we're doing, she'd just dump me, proof or not. Maybe Troy sicced him on us. He can't be happy with all the time we're spending together when he's not around. Or maybe he sent him as protection, like, he's getting progress reports on your safety or something. Or maybe he just wanted pictures of you in your underwear to keep him company in Africa?" Buffy grinned, but it slipped away as she considered it. "Really wish I hadn't let that thought run so far."

"Don't think he was one of Troy's." Faith mused. "For starters the dude was American."

"How can you be sure?"

"I know what an American sounds like begging for mercy."

"Right, of course, silly me. Maybe it's Troy's enemies, trying to get a little dirt to use against him?"

"He was probably just paparazzi." Faith laughed at herself. "Thought he'd stumbled on the scoop of the century catching Troy Athanasia's fiancÚ like that."

Buffy smiled. "I don't know whether we should hope he was or not. If he's a journalist of any kind, he's got a hell of a good 'Troy Athanasia's fiancÚ beat the crap out of me' story to go to his editor with."

"Didn't think of that." Faith didn't let the possibility darken her mood for long. "Come on. This way."

They were back in Bracciano now and Faith lead them down one sloping, winding rain-slick street after another. It wasn't long before they were standing at the foot of a drawbridge.

"You have a drawbridge," Buffy observed stupidly. Even though it was down already, it was still impressive.

"Easier than jumping over the moat every time you come home." Faith was still in high spirits despite that they were both soaked to the skin and shivering. Although, she sounded a little nervous as she asked, "You ready?"

Buffy felt nervous too. She was about to enter Troy's domain; and it was a pretty intimidating domain at that. She looked up at the castle and started getting dizzy as her eyes reached the distant turrets.

"I guess."

Faith took a deep breath and squared her shoulders. "Let's go."

Buffy followed her fast strides across the thick planks of the drawbridge, wondering if it might not have been better to find a B&B instead. Big iron gates were set into the stone walls, big enough to let a horse and cart through, or a tank if you preferred. They looked locked solid and she couldn't see a doorknob.

"Ciao?"

Looking around for the squeaky voice, Buffy's eyebrows rose when she realized Faith was talking into an intercom. It was tiny but still looked out of place set into the ancient stone wall.

The gates rattled open onto a courtyard large enough to hold a small hamlet. On the walls flaming torches burned unhindered by the lashing rain making the area within the castle walls a mix of bright light and flickering shadows.

"Oh boy," she muttered as she spotted several figures spaced around the perimeter watching her. "Why do I feel like I just walked into the lion den?"

"Chill, B, they're statues."

Buffy wasn't that relieved. "Statues with very big swords. Are you sure it's okay for us to just turn up like this?"

"Guess we'll find out."

Faith led the way across the courtyard to where steps rose up to a grand stone archway housing the castle entrance. In front of the arched double doors, out of the rain at last, Buffy looked around for another intercom or a perhaps a bell-pull.

"Should be open," Faith said.

Buffy almost pulled her back in alarm when she reached for the door handle.

It was so weird seeing her be all familiar in a place like this. It wasn't that she didn't think Faith deserved to move up from cheap motels, of course she did, but this - and Troy's swanky Rome apartment - were way, way more steps up than she could get her head around.

Faith was marrying into money in a way Cordelia Chase never even could have dreamed of; and Cordy hadn't dreamed about a lot else in high school. Had that in any way affected Faith's decision? Had the promise of a comfortable, financial-worry free life been as alluring as making amends for her past? It made more sense than the insistence that Buffy would somehow impede or prevent her quest for redemption. And, just as a matter of interest, how many redemption points would you actually clock up for cheating on your husband?

They were walking through a big entrance room now - big big. Again flaming torches were the lighting of choice, bright enough to turn the shadows between them into dancing darkness. Buffy could make out doorways and passages and staircases, but everything was indistinct in the gloom.

"Cheery, isn't it?" she whispered.

"It gets better," Faith promised.

They reached a wall long before they got to the other side of the room. It was made of demons and it loomed out of the murk in front of them.

One of the demons stepped forward as they stopped. The way he was formally dressed, Buffy figured he was whatever castles had that passed for butlers.

"Miss Lehane," he said in an irritating, vaguely familiar, voice. "How-a nice to see you again."

"Hi." Faith gave him a polite wave.

"Hey, it's you!" Buffy pointed at him in surprise. "I kicked your ass."

It was the demon from Troy's warehouse.

"Indeed, Miss Summers. I remember it-a well."

"You two know each other?" Faith asked suspiciously.

"Yeah, he tried to kill me for trespassing. So I kinda kicked the crap out of, well," she gestured at the demons lined up behind him. "...all of them."

"You tried to kill her?" Faith asked the demon angrily before turning back to Buffy. "Where the hell were you trespassing?"

The demon looked triumphant as he too waited for Buffy to answer.

"In a gym, uh, in a dream, in a dream gym, and these guys were there and we fought, in the dream."

"So it was a dream?" Faith asked uncertainly.

"More like a nightmare," Buffy muttered, remembering the knife to Xander's throat.

"Think it was prophetic?" Faith asked, eyeing the demons. "Like it's gonna happen for real?"

"God, I hope so." Buffy eyed just the head-butler. If she was in the habit of cracking her knuckles, she'd be doing so now.

He gave them both a bright smile. "You are-a in needing of a place-a to stay the night, si?"

"Yeah." Faith shook her wet hair out behind her as she explained. "Stupid car blew a tire on the way home and we ploughed into a field. We need some place to crash and I'll call a mechanic in the morning."

"I can-a send someone to fix-a the tire for you right-a now if you wish." He took in her wet face and dripping hair.

"Nah, it got kinda smashed up too when we hit the field. Tomorrow will be fine. Besides it's nasty out there."

"Is it-a raining outside?"

"Just a little bit," Buffy said through grit teeth.

Her hair was matted to her head, her mascara had to be running down her cheeks, this guy really made her want to punch him and she knew she couldn't, and now she was stuck here until morning.

She'd been resigned to staying in Bracciano when she'd thought they were going to be spending the night in Faith's car - hot, naked and horny under a dry sky, but spending the night in this creepy shadow-filled fortress wasn't her idea of a good time.

"Ah, no, but you must-a get dry before you get-a sick. I will have-a Troy's suite prepared for you and a guest-a suite for Miss Summers." The demon butler sounded nothing but courteous, but Buffy still felt like he was trying to provoke a reaction out of her. "Shall I be having some clothes-a flown in for Miss Summers?"

Flown in? He must mean teleported in or something. No one chartered a plane just to bring someone dry clothes. Or maybe it was a helicopter. She could actually see Troy having a helicopter. There was probably a landing pad on one of the turrets.

Faith was shaking her head. "Last time everything had talon marks in 'em. I got plenty of stuff up there; she can wear something of mine. Don't worry about a spare suite either. Couch in Troy's is as big as a bed anyway, just get someone to stick some sheets on it."

"Are you sure? It is-a no trouble and Mr Athanasia would want his-a guest to be treated with-a great hospitality."

Buffy narrowed her eyes at him. He sounded genial enough, but she was sure there was a threat in his offer. "I'll take the couch, thanks."

"As-a you wish." The demon turned to the rest behind him and fired orders at each in turn. They scurried off as he finished with them. "My staff will-a take very good care of-a you. Please come-a this way."

They followed him - or rather Faith walked next to him as she followed - into a sparsely furnished but beautifully decorated hall. It was easier to see in here what with the electric lights and all; Buffy had been starting to think the whole place ran on oil soaked rags.

"I have asked-a the chef to prepare a meal," the demon said as he walked slowly from one side of the room to the other. "Would-a you care to eat in the banquet hall or perhaps-a the kitchen?"

"I'm not hungry." She was still full from lunch anyway and she was convinced that wherever they ate the demon would be hovering around doing intrusive butler-y things.

"Yeah we'll I'm starved," Faith countered, but maybe she got where Buffy was coming from, because she added. "Send it all up to Troy's suite. We'll eat there after we've changed."

"As-a you wish," the demon said again. He stopped at the foot of a wide stone staircase. "Would you like-a me to see you up to the room?"

"Nah, I remember the way." Faith smiled at him. "If you could get something sorted with the car though, I'd really appreciate it."

"Consider it-a done." He gave them a polite little bow and started to back away. "If you take a slow walk the suite should be-a ready when you arrive."

"Thanks," Faith nodded. They waited until he'd disappeared through a door at the far end of the room before ascending the stairs side by side. "So when did you beat him up?"

"I told you. In a dream."

Buffy didn't look at her until Faith's pinkie curled subtly around hers.

"What did you say about lying to each other?"

Buffy winced. There was so much she couldn't risk saying at the moment; lying was inevitable. "Will you settle for 'You really don't want to know.'?"

Faith did, for now at least. She let go of Buffy's finger as they reached the top of the staircase and Buffy pulled her cell phone from her bag. She might as well call Dawnie now.

"Hey, Dawn. Guess what? Faith's driving is as bad as mine. She drove into a field on the way back."

Her attention was already divided between the artwork on the bare stones walls, the statues standing at every turn, and on memorizing the way in case she had to run out of here in a hurry with Troy's demons after her, but she still caught the uprising of Faith's eyebrows at her remark.

"No, we're fine. A few bruises," she said truthfully as she admired a shiny full coat of arms. "But we're both very okay."

At the top of another staircase she stopped for a second to wow at a huge stained glass window.

"The car didn't make it out as good as we did though," she added into the phone. "So we're spending the night in Troy's castle and we'll be back in the morning."

There was no sun to shine through the vast window, but the torches from the courtyard made the different colors blaze. There was no virgin mother here, though. No angels, no Christ on a cross. The scene was as elaborate in savagery as it was in fine details and not for the fainthearted. Gladiators and demonic beasts locked in an eternal battle for victory. It wasn't beautiful, but it was certainly breathtaking.

"You should see it in the morning," Faith said. "When the sun hits it just right you can almost see the blood flowing."

"I'll bet." Buffy followed Faith up another set of stairs. "No I was talking to Faith. So you and Andrew are going to be on your own tonight, okay, but if there's any trouble, call me and... I'll run there or something."

"Have them call Serena if they need anything," Faith offered and then gestured for the phone.

As they made their way down a few more wide stone passageways and up yet another staircase, Faith relayed Serena's number to Dawn and the number of her favorite Chinese delivery place. She handed the phone back as she pushed open a studded wooden door and suddenly the whole atmosphere of the place changed. The walls were still made of stone, but they were painted a dark blue and wall to wall a thick deep red carpet covered the equally stone floor.

"I gotta go," Buffy said into the phone. "Stay in and be good, okay? I'll see you tomorrow."

She hung up before Dawn could argue about staying in or being good.

"This is Troy's suite," Faith said needlessly as she ushered her all the way in and closed the door behind them. "Pretty impressive, huh?"

"Yeah." Buffy nodded as she looked around. "42" flat screen televisions don't really fit the whole medieval theme, though."

Faith grinned. "Nah, but what else ya gonna do for entertainment once the jousting is over?"

Buffy walked slowly around the main room, trying to ignore the demon making up the couch, as she took it all in. It was like a cross between Troy's warehouse and his apartment in Rome, but... better, somehow. Maybe it was the painted stone walls and refurbished antique furniture that gave it that mix of old-world and quirky, maybe it was the so-state-of-the-art-it-wasn't-even-available-in-the-stores yet media technology he'd installed in the large living room, or maybe it was just that she had Faith now, sort of, and everything in the world just looked better.

Buffy stopped to the side of the bedroom door, looking in at the large bed and wondering if she was going to get to try it out with Faith. Or would she be reluctant to fool around on her fiancÚ's bed?

Actually, maybe she was reluctant to do it in Troy's bed; it wasn't really the most positive start to their new life together. Besides, the couch looked more than big enough to take them both comfortably.

Hearing the main door close, she realized they were alone at last and walked purposefully around the couch to Faith. She stopped almost close enough to touch, watching Faith look through some mail, wondering if she was allowed to just jump on her now. Or did she still have to work up to it?

"Hey," she said hesitantly.

Faith dropped the mail and turned to her. "Hey."

"So...?" Buffy began, but trailed off in favor of sidling closer.

"We should get changed," Faith took a step back and nodded for Buffy to follow her.

"Yeah," she sighed, watching Faith walk into the bedroom. No to the jumping then. But alone time in the bedroom, any bedroom, might lead to jumping. After a few seconds of deliberation, Buffy went after her. "Ooh, fire."

"Yeah, cool, huh?" Faith called from inside a walk in closet.

"Actually, welcomingly hot," Buffy called back as she walked over to the large open fireplace at the far end of the room to the bed.

She'd been shivering slightly due to her wet clothes and the coldness inside the castle, but they went away instantly when she stepped in front of the leaping flames. She stood facing it with her eyes closed, her legs and arms spread, letting the heat dry her off.

Faith's voice came again from behind. "You wanna take a shower before you change?"

"Only if you take one with me." Buffy grinned, feeling braver with her back turned.

"Ah, escuzie me, I-a bring for you-a the food."

Buffy spun to face the doorway in horror at the unexpected voice. Over the crackling of the fire she hadn't heard anyone come in and she was too focused on Faith to sense anyone else approaching.

Faith was handling it though, steering the demon back out through the bedroom door as she spoke to him.

"Thanks, dude. Smells delicious. We're gonna eat and then hit the sack, been a long day, ya know? So tell Felacio I'll talk to him in the morning about the car, si?"

Buffy stayed where she was missing the rest of the conversation.

When Faith came back she shook her head at Buffy. "That's what you call discreet?"

"I didn't know he was going to barge in here, did I?" Buffy replied guiltily. "Do you think he understood?"

Faith shrugged. "Doubt it. We're lucky it wasn't Felacio; he'd have understood and he'd woulda been straight on the phone to Troy."

"Is that the demon butler?"

"Yeah."

"Is that really his name?"

Faith grinned. "Yeah."

She firmly shut and locked the bedroom door and Buffy took that as her cue to jump, but before she could Faith instructed, "Stay there."

She watched as Faith walked back into the walk-in closet and squatted down in front of a small black door set in the wall.

"What are you doing?"

"Trying to figure out which of these buttons turns the camera onto relay or whatever it's called."

"There's a camera in here?" Buffy looked around trying to spot it. "Troy really is into the kinky stuff, huh?"

Faith laughed. "There's security cameras all over this joint. True, we've used the one in here a few times for fun, but usually Troy hits a button in this box and it makes it record the same empty room shots over and over, ya know, for privacy."

"Can you remember which one?"

Buffy was craning her neck to see into the little box from where she stood, but the only electric light on was the one in the closet and Faith's body was blocking it. The rest of the room was lit only by the fire.

"He's never told me but I've watched before and I'm pretty sure it's... this one." Faith jabbed her finger at a button. As small red digital display appeared in the box, she added, "Got it!"

"You're sure?"

"Yep." Faith closed the little door and stood up again. "Don't know how to turn off the cameras in the other room though, so if you go through that door make sure you have clothes on."

Buffy grinned. "Will do. So, you wanna eat first... I mean, now?"

It was Faith's turn to grin, but she said, "No. I can eat later."

"I thought you were starving?"

Faith's grin grew as she walked around the bed to Buffy. "Had to say that. Felacio would have gotten suspicious if not."

"Oh. He knows you pretty well then?"

"I spend quite a bit of time here, yeah. We should get you out of those wet clothes."

Buffy smiled. "My clothes are pretty dry now; you're the one who's still soaking."

"Can't help what you do to me, babe."

"Good. Don't try."

She stepped closer, her hands finding Faith's waist and then sliding to her hips, but then she stilled herself, waiting. Faith's hands mirrored hers and they just stared at each for what felt like a long time. If they kept this up, Buffy expected her eyeballs to burn out with the heat they were passing back and forth, but what a way to go blind.

Just as Buffy was about to say something, she didn't really know what, possibly a joke about a priest, a vicar and a rabbi because the intensity between them was getting a little much, Faith leaned in and kissed her.

It was slow, exquisite, and tender, everything she didn't expect and it took Buffy by surprise. She'd been ready to smash her lips to Faith's and give her everything she had, but this wasn't that kind of kiss at all.

Faith pulled away too soon and let her forehead rest against Buffy's.

"That was nice," Buffy said dreamily.

"Yeah," Faith breathed.

For a few more minutes their breathing and the crackle of the fire were the only sounds in the room.

"So...you wanna do this?" Faith asked casually, like they were talking about getting a slice of pie.

Buffy smiled. "What do you think?"

Faith returned the smile as she slowly unbuttoned Buffy's shirt. Buffy waited until the shirt was hanging open before she hooked her fingers into the hem of Faith's top and pulled it up. Faith raised her arms, making life easier.

Buffy hadn't wasted time putting her bra on in the rain and Faith took hers off as Buffy shucked her shirt from her shoulders once again, letting it pool at her feet. Faith put a hand behind her head and pulled her in for another beautiful kiss.

Now this was something she could get used to. Faith's hands gliding over her fire-warmed skin from her neck down her back, up her tummy to her breasts. Buffy made an 'Ahh' sound as Faith's palms brushed over her firming nipples.

"You like that?" Faith whispered in her ear as she did it again.

"I like anything that means you're touching me," Buffy told her tenderly, before grinning impishly as she recalled the trick she had seen earlier. She gave a slight tug on the top button of Faith's jeans, the rest tumbled open one after another. "Yep, still sexy."

Smiling at her, Faith toed off her sneakers, dropped her jeans and panties fast and kicked them all away from her. Buffy was too busy watching her to do the same, but Faith soon took care of it for her. Releasing the button and easing her zipper down as she kissed her again.

When Faith could drag herself away, she knelt down, taking Buffy's sandals off first and then slowly pulling her jeans down her legs.

"Hey, you went commando!" Faith chuckled, her face mere inches from the evidence.

"Told you I could," Buffy grinned as Faith stood up again.

"Wait." Faith pulled back from Buffy's questing lips. "Does that mean they're still hanging over the gear stick in my car?"

Buffy groaned as she nodded. "I swear I can usually do 'covert' better than this."

Faith held her at arms length while she thought, but then with a shake of her head she relaxed. "No worries, Felacio will just think they're mine."

Buffy arched an eyebrow. "Do that a lot too, do...?"

Faith kissed the rest of the question away, pressing closer until you couldn't have slid a dollar bill between their stomachs.

"Oh boy, we're both really naked here," Buffy murmured, unable to keep the coy little smile from her lips.

"Been a while," Faith agreed.

"Not since April. How did I go so long?" She grinned as her palms ran circles on Faith's butt, but then she pulled back with mock affront. "Why did you make me wait this long?"

"I had a reason, I know I did, I just can't remember it right now." Faith shrugged against her and Buffy shivered from the tingle it triggered. "Did I really leave you hanging that long?"

"Well, I got by," Buffy assured her before opening her lips to another kiss.

She tried to keep her breath steady and not snort through her nose as Faith's hands started skilfully roaming lower on her body. And was pleased for once when Faith's mouth drifted down to her neck instead. No, actually, she was always pleased about that; or actually, she was happy wherever Faith's mouth was as long as she was part of the equation.

"But yeah," she continued, arching her neck so that Faith could nibble better. "The last time we were this naked and this relaxed was Easter, remember?"

"I remember sixty-ninin' with you in a magic cavern." Faith smiled against her shoulder. "Think we'll get that relaxed tonight?"

Buffy smiled. "Probably not if we stay standing up."

Faith chuckled. "Well I thought doing it in front of the fire would be all romantic, but we do have a bed right there if you prefer."

Buffy pulled a face as she turned to look at it. There wasn't a lot that could take her mind from Faith when they were this close, but she knew that bed would do it. And the last person she wanted to be thinking about right now was Troy.

"Which side do you sleep on?"

Faith pointed to the closest side and Buffy went to the head of the bed. Faith followed her, obviously thinking they were getting in, but she just grabbed the pillows and, lightly catching Faith fingers, led her back to the fire.

"I like your idea," she said when Faith raised a questioning eyebrow. "Not often I get to see your romantic side."

Faith ducked her head, looking embarrassed, but that just meant she was slanting just right for kissing. Buffy took advantage of it. Dropping the pillows at their feet, she gently caressed Faith's face with her fingertips until the kiss grew in both passion and dexterity, then she let them slide down the dips and swells of Faith's body until they were caressing her thighs instead.

Gradually they kneeled clumsily, the fervent kisses stealing their usual grace as their hands tripped and trailed over the other's body.

"I can't believe you're staying," Faith mumbled as she pulled Buffy tighter against her.

"Me, either," Buffy muttered breathlessly. "But it has its plusses."

"I keep expecting you to go, like, poof or something."

"What? Why?"

"This all feels sorta..." Faith winced even before she said it. "...magical"

"Aww, romantic and corny." Buffy grinned as she pulled Faith's face close to kiss her again.

Suddenly she froze, her tongue went rigid as her mouth made an 'O' of alarm.

"Ya know, this is really more enjoyable when both parties join in," Faith grumbled against her lips. She pulled back and saw Buffy's mouth open and her tongue sticking out. "Or you could just stay like that and give me a second to get in position and we're all good over here. Buff, you in there?"

"How magical exactly does it feel?" Buffy whispered.

"I don't know if I wanna answer that if you're gonna call me corny again."

"No, I'm serious. The last time we were both on the same page and couldn't keep our hands off each other - it was Magic. That whole cavern and everything inside it was powered by fertility magic, including us, and it was for a reason. What if it's magic now? What if it failed the first time and She's having another go right now?"

Faith let her arms fall to her sides and sat back on her heels. "Well, that sure is a mood killer. So... what? If this is magic someone's trying to make us their bitches; which, obviously, is unacceptable, but the only way to foil their plan is to not screw?" Faith frowned. "Which is, ya know, also unacceptable."

Stricken, Buffy said hopefully. "But maybe I'm wrong. Do you think I'm wrong?"

"I don't know. How would we tell?"

"Well, do you think we could stop touching if we wanted?"

"Yeah, sure, we're not touching right now."

"And?" Buffy prompted, knowing how she was feeling.

"And it's... killing me," Faith admitted and surged forward to kiss her. After a few delicious minutes, she pulled back, but her hands kept stroking the back of Buffy's neck. "Okay, I know that looked bad, but I kissed you because I wanted to, not because some voice in the back of my head told me to."

"And I'm not complaining." Buffy smirked. "But then I wasn't last time either."

"So if we can't decide if we're doing it because we want to or because we're being told to - how do we figure this out?"

"How did it start? I mean, we were arguing..."

"Just like last time," Faith put in.

"...and then suddenly there's kissing and groping! What was that about?"

"Don't ask me; you jumped my bones not the other way around." Faith reminded her, before smirking herself. "I was trying to tell you to slow down."

"That has to be a good sign," Buffy said brightly, circling her arms around Faith's waist. "You're always telling me to slow down? Nothing out of the ordinary there."

"Or you got the mojo for both of us. How often do you turn into a wild thing like that? A really sexy, fierce, wild thing."

Buffy grinned bashfully and raised her eyes to the ceiling. "Yeah, well months of verbal, and not so verbal, foreplay that never went anywhere... I think we can put my zestness down to finally being able to resolve some of that sexual tension you're always cautioning me about."

Faith waggled her eyebrows a few times as she gave a light chuckle. "So, we're probably okay, right? This is just us. We can fuck like bunnies without worrying we're being controlled by one?"

"Well I'd prefer it if we made love like bunnies, but yeah, I think so." Buffy said vaguely.

There was something bugging her, something she really didn't want to share, about uncontrollable urges leading to rash decisions made in the heat of the moment. Decisions she couldn't have imagined making five minutes before she actually made them. Had she really changed her mind or had something changed it for her?

How would she ever find out now? If they didn't have sex tonight, they could always have sex tomorrow, but she couldn't recreate the moment she'd made this decision some other time to see if she had a different reaction.

"Yeah, I'd have to be more than corny to call it that." Faith grinned as she leaned in to kiss her.

Distracted by her concerns Buffy automatically leaned back, avoiding her lips.

"You okay?"

"Yes." Buffy nodded unconvincingly.

"I know what you're thinking," Faith said quietly.

"What? Me? No, I wasn't thinking."

"You're worried you mighta jumped into something you didn't mean to because of..."

Faith didn't get any further before Buffy kissed her. Letting her lips convince Faith of something she couldn't in words right now. She couldn't tell Faith that was exactly what she was thinking. She was so happy that Buffy had agreed to stay; the smile had hardly left her face. To say she'd only said it because of the rabbit was... well, poetic now that she came to think about it, but it was still too cruel.

Besides, she was happy with this decision too, wasn't she? Why not just keep her mouth shut and go with the flow and hope that by doing so she wasn't giving any fertility Goddesses a chance to fuck them over while they were busy.

"Can't deny it's a possibility." Faith said, or something like that. She hadn't actually stopped kissing to speak so the words were a little garbled. Buffy got the gist though.

"Okay, it's a possibility," Buffy garbled back . "But do you really want to stop doing this to talk about it?"

"No, but just tell me what you're thinking. Use short words."

Buffy let the kiss taper off naturally before she answered and even then she kept their faces close, her index fingers tracing the shells of Faith's ears. She really couldn't bear to stop touching her.

"You make my heart do this little dance every time I think of you. You make me feel high all the time. Everything else is just background noise when I'm with you. I haven't felt that way since..." she trailed off, looking down for a moment before meeting Faith's eyes again. "I love you and if I can't have you all to myself... neither can Troy."

She smiled, but Faith just held her eyes, her expression inscrutable.

"And," Buffy continued, wrapping her arms around Faith's neck. "If some ancient nature spirit wants to give me a helping hand to get what I want... I think I'm okay with that."

"Okay then."

They shared hesitant smiles. Buffy wasn't as sure as she wanted to be and Faith was obviously picking up on that. Forget the threat of magic; she was standing on the precipice of something big here. To leap the inch to Faith's lips meant there was no going back. To back away from them meant there was no going forward. She couldn't have Faith now and walk away tomorrow and she couldn't walk away now and have Faith tomorrow.

This was a big decision. It was going to affect the rest of her life, and lots of other lives too; she couldn't rush it, she had to...

Dammit, she'd spent too long in her head and now Faith was kissing her again! Gentle pecks fluttering over her lips enticing her back into the moment. Parting her lips to meet the constant rain of brief kisses, she was already over the urgency she'd been feeling just before. It wasn't a big decision at all, it wasn't even a decision; it was just the way it was. The rest of world would just have to deal the best they could.

As Faith's hands drifted slowly down her back to cup her ass, Buffy went in the other direction, her fingertips resting on either side of Faith's chin, tilting her head as she made the next few kisses linger, tongues dipping and playing again.

Her eyes opened in surprise as Faith boosted her up and onto her knees, but catching on quick she wrapped her legs around Faith's slim waist and tilted her face up further, the better to kiss her deeper. Faith's hands stayed on her ass, pulling her in closer with every flex of her strong fingers.

One of Faith's hands swept up to her shoulder, the arm crossing her back like a sash and then she was tipping backwards as they took a controlled drop to the thick wine-red carpet.

"This okay?" Faith murmured against the side of her mouth.

Buffy smiled, letting her head rest on the pillow, chin sliding against cheek as Faith shifted on top of her, making sure they were both comfortable before settling her weight down.

"Yeah, but..." Buffy began as Faith took advantage of her bared neck to kiss her way up and down it.

"But what?"

Buffy's eyes rolled back in her head as the kisses turned into gentle sucking.

*****

"Uh, do you have any protection?"

Although she cursed herself for making the sucking stop, Buffy had to laugh at the speed Faith's head shot up; her expression horrified.

Faith just stared at her for a moment or two in shock and then said casually, "I could lay my hands on a stake in about three seconds, why?"

"Not quite the protection I had in mind."

Faith half looked like she wanted to bolt and maybe jump off a turret. Buffy realized with a mixture of dismay and a freaky kind of pride that she was good at making Faith fall off high things. Faith didn't run, but she was tense all over.

"Then no." Faith said just as slowly as before. She quirked an eyebrow as she had a thought. "There's probably condoms in the bedside cabinet."

"Uh, eww," Buffy scrunched up her nose to emphasize.

"Condoms are eww now?"

"Troy's condoms are."

Faith sighed. "Well, B, I can probably go snag a pair of rubber gloves from the kitchen, but to be honest, if I'm about to get you mystically pregnant I doubt even a full body saran wrap would stop it."

"True."

"Give Red a call, see if she's got a chant we can use of something," Faith suggested, kissing up the side of her neck again.

"Yes, 'cause that counts as discreet."

It was Faith's turn to say, "True."

They looked into each others eyes while their brains mulled over the problem and it wasn't long before Buffy knew they were both thinking the same thing.

"What are the chances, really?" Faith asked.

"Giles did say he'd never heard of a same-sex mystical baby."

"Even with magic involved, if there is, it's got to be a million to one shot at best, right?"

"And we'd have to be really unlucky, and I'm not feeling that unlucky tonight. You?"

Faith smiled. "Not even a little. Besides, we've had sex before and nothing happened."

"And I've been sleeping next to Eeyore for over a month now and he hasn't said a word."

"Exactly..." Faith frowned. "...What?"

Buffy grinned. "I'll explain when we're less about to make love. Just know it's a good sign."

Faith's frown deepened over her eyes, but her lips quirked in a rather disturbed little smile. "We're not making love."

Smiling, Buffy started to pull Faith's lips back to hers, saying on the way, "Yes, Faith, we are."

"Whatever," Faith mumbled against her mouth, making Buffy smile on the inside even more.

It was a long while before either of them spoke again, their increasingly passionate kisses barely even leaving enough concentration for roaming hands. The naked writhing sort of made up for that anyway, Buffy decided, although even that was unfocused and merely a by-product of the intense kissing.

When oxygen deprivation became a real danger, Buffy let her lips slide away from Faith's just enough to breathe freely for a few seconds.

"Wow," she murmured breathlessly, mostly because they'd been kissing for that long and neither one of them had attempted to go for third.

"Yeah." Faith sounded as breathless as she did.

Her body was still moving subtly over Buffy's and her fingertips were tracing a deliciously light pattern over one shoulder and the side of her neck.

Buffy found herself raising her hips, moving herself less subtly under Faith. Now that her brain wasn't too preoccupied with the kissage, her body was thinking of other things.

"Ya know," she whispered into Faith's ear. "If you really wanna recreate the scene in the Easter cavern, one of us should probably switch ends soon."

Faith shivered at the hot breath in her ear and pressed more tightly against her, obviously liking the idea, but she shook her head. "We got all night, babe, an' I'm not done kissing this end of you yet."

"Okay," she agreed, her voice coming like a seductive purr as she arched up into Faith while pulling her down.

*****

They hadn't actually made it all night, but once the kissathon ended, actually before it had even ended now she came to think of it, the orgasms had started, and that many could even take the stamina out of the Slayer for a few hours.

They were laying blissed out together now, wrapped in each others arms in front of the slowly dying fire, both still buzzing inside and out but too exhausted to do anything more about it.

The dreamlike light of pre-dawn was brightening the leaded windows, but Buffy had no idea how long they had actually been making love. Six or seven hours probably wasn't much of an exaggeration. If they hadn't had such a busy day, she thought, they probably wouldn't have stopped yet.

"What are you smiling about?" Faith murmured, her fingers twirling in the messy blonde waves hanging down Buffy's back.

"You have to ask?"

"Guess not." Faith smirked, but it soon melted into a smile as warm as Buffy's. "That was way beyond awesome."

"We're way beyond awesome."

Faith nodded, the tip of her nose grazing the tip of Buffy's. There were two pillows on the floor, but they were sharing one between them.

"We're gonna be okay, right?" Faith asked, her voice low.

"Yeah," she said just as softly.

"We'll make it work?"

"Yeah."

"I don't wanna..." Faith hesitated, but only for a second. "I can't lose you. Not after tonight."

Buffy thought about the ultimatum she'd issued the week before. Now would be the perfect time to say it still stood - because now it might actually work. She closed her eyes, swallowing hard and releasing a long breath through pursed lips. When she opened her eyes again, Faith's, just inches from her own, were filled with worry, but they weren't shuttered or defensive despite her lack of answer.

"I get that I'm asking a lot. If you wanna change..."

Buffy soothingly kissed her into silence.

"We'll be together," she promised, telling herself her heart was only heavy because of all the love in it. She smiled. "We'll be together until they smite us."

Faith laughed softly. "Well, if we ever get a head's up on the smiting, we should make sure we're screwing at the time. Really go out with a bang, ya know?"

Buffy grinned. "Done."

Faith kissed her drowsily for a minute or two more before untangling herself from Buffy's body. "Okay, that was great, Twinkie, really, but I'm past beat."

One of Buffy's eyebrows rose at the sudden change from 'Faith-the-loved-up-girlfriend' to 'normal-Faith'. When she realized the other woman was shifting away from her completely, she pouted playfully.

"I take it snuggle time is over then."

"That wasn't snuggling," Faith said, as she dragged the other pillow under her head.

"Really? 'Cause it felt a lot like snuggling."

"Nope." Faith shook her head as she lay down facing away from Buffy. "You just fucked me so good I couldn't move for a while."

"Whatever." Buffy rolled her eyes. "And that wasn't fucking, it was making love."

"Whatever," Faith answered in the same tone as Buffy and then chuckled, making Buffy roll her eyes again.

Silence fell then, bar the occasional crackle from the fading fire. Faith shifted a little, getting comfortable and Buffy stretched out on her back, staring at the ceiling. It was warm enough to sleep nude with no covers and the carpet was certainly soft enough, but she thought it might be a while before sleep came to her.

She had absolutely no idea if she was doing the right thing. Her heart was saying yes and her head was saying no, and she was so sick of listening to her head when it came to her heart.

Ever since she'd accidentally turned Angel into Angelus, she'd never trusted her heart's instincts. It was what had kept Riley out and - if she was one hundred per cent honest within the confines of her own head - Spike too.

It had stopped her from risking taking things further with Faith, the first time she'd known there was something to take further. Although to be fair to her head, she hadn't thought for one moment that the lust Faith had roused in her that night would turn to love just a short journey down the road.

She had pretty much followed her heart since she'd admitted it was love, though, and that hadn't really led anywhere good either. Apart from the sex... the sex was really good.

Or maybe it had led somewhere good, but her head was just stubborn. Could they be okay? Could she really cope with playing second string to Troy for the rest of her life?

Knowing Faith loved her the most didn't take the sting out of her refusal to commit entirely. Faith seemed convinced that if she did Buffy would be her downfall. How could that possibly be considered a healthy start to a relationship? And even if being with Faith was worth it, smiting didn't sound like a fun way to go.

She couldn't even talk to anyone about this. Her sister, her best friends, even Willow would be out of the question if she was going to be fully discreet. Not that she thought any of them would breathe a word, but walls had ears and all that. She had to keep it completely to herself. Even if the sitch made her crazy enough to play chicken on the freeway and Faith was with Troy and unavailable, she couldn't tell anyone why she was suddenly chicken-shaped roadkill.

She'd be eating fat-free ice-cream alone for the rest of her life.

She couldn't even bring herself to think properly about Toni. She'd made another mess there. She should have just finished things between them when she'd first arrived in Rome. Like she had planned. Before she'd realized she was in love with her. It would have been so much easier if throwing herself into a secret relationship with Faith annulled her feelings for Toni, but it didn't.

She would keep Toni in her life for as long as she could. She knew that with a feeling of shame she refused to totally acknowledge. She would be as good a girlfriend to Toni as Faith would be a wife to Troy. Better even. Maybe Toni would figure things out, maybe she'd willingly be the cause of the smiting when she did, but she'd never be able to say that Buffy hadn't truly loved her with at least half of her heart.

Oh, God, what was she doing?

"Buffy." Faith's sleepy voice stopped her imminent hyperventilation in its tracks.

"Yes?"

"I love you."

Buffy laughed silently, feeling her eyes grow wet. "I love you too."

She rolled closer and kissed Faith's shoulder before resting her forehead against the warm skin, feeling it calm her slightly.

"Buffy."

"Yes?"

"That wasn't an invitation to spoon."

Buffy laughed out loud this time as she kissed Faith's shoulder again and rolled back the other way, wiping the tears from her eyes. She really didn't know what she was doing, but at least she could still laugh about it.


Chapter Twenty Five

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Part Nine Quick-Jump:

Chapter One || Chapter Two || Chapter Three || Chapter Four || Chapter Five || Chapter Six || Chapter Seven Chapter Eight || Chapter Nine || Chapter Ten || Chapter Eleven || Chapter Twelve || Chapter Thirteen || Chapter Fourteen || Chapter Fifteen || Chapter Sixteen || Chapter Seventeen || Chapter Eighteen || Chapter Nineteen || Chapter Twenty || Chapter Twenty One || Chapter Twenty Two || Chapter Twenty Three || Chapter Twenty Four || Chapter Twenty Five || Chapter Twenty Six || Chapter Twenty Seven || Chapter Twenty Eight || Chapter Twenty Nine || Chapter Thirty || Chapter Thirty One


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