No Time To Choose
Prequel to the House of the Setting Sun Series


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PART ONE
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Chapter Three: Sparks Are Flying All Over the Place

Faith's mouth hung open for a moment. That bitch, how dare she? . . . hang on, why the hell was she sitting here like a goldfish? She snapped her mouth shut and jumped from the cot.

"Now hang on a minute . . ." she began and stopped. For once her brain got there before her mouth did. Maybe she deserved this anyway. Best just to go quietly upstairs and let her sleep on it. Shouting and screaming wouldn't help the sitch any; she hadn't come all the way back to Sunnydale to bitch fight with Buffy. She had better things to do.

Faith ground out the last of her cigarette in Spike's overflowing ashtray and turned to walk up the stairs but her frustration kept her rooted at the bottom, her eyes burning holes into Buffy's back. All the rehab sessions in jail may have got her to think before she spoke, sometimes, but all that seemed to do was give her more time to think how mad she was at her. She hadn't been there long enough to progress to the walking away before she spoke. There wasn't many places you could walk away to inside that box.

Buffy was still twirling the sword around trying to ignore Faith's presence. Why wouldn't she just go? She'd finished her cigarette and Buffy had made it quite clear she didn't want to talk. There was no way she was going to let Faith apologize for what she said. Then she might have to lose some of her anger and at the moment it was only the rage bubbling up inside her stomach that was stopping the tears from free-falling. She didn't want to cry in front of anyone and the woman behind her, obstinately refusing to leave, was at the top of that list of anyone.

She swerved the sword upwards to her left and brought it down hard, a clean swoosh all the way to the floor, where it pierced the blue training mat and stuck. If anyone had been right in front of her they would now be in two halves. She mentally admonished herself for wishing she'd turned round before she did it. She could feel Faith's eyes trying to bore into her back. Jeez, if looks could kill.

"Bet you were thinking of me when you did that huh?" Faith knew it was a stupid thing to say but she had to break the silence somehow and she wasn't really feeling like saying sorry any more.

"Wha- What are you, reading my mind now?" Buffy was so shocked at her guessing right that she believed it for a moment and turned to face her. She saw the trademark cocky smirk on the other Slayer's face fall and realized she'd just been caught out.

"Jeez you really don't like me do you?" Faith's grin dropped when she saw Buffy's expression and realized she'd hit the nail on the head with that one.

Buffy tried to back-track quickly. "It's not that . . . I mean of course I like . . . well it's not as if you've given me a lot to like in the past, I'm doing my best."

Faith blew up. "AND SO AM I, DAMN IT! I'M HERE FIGHTING THE GOOD FIGHT, TRYING TO BE THE GOOD LITTLE SLAYER, GETTING REDEMPTION, WHATEVER THE HELL THAT IS, BUT YOU JUST WON'T LET IT GO, WILL YOU? NOTHING I DO IS GONNA BE RIGHT WITH YOU. I COULD GO OUT NOW AND KILL THAT KOOKY PREACHER SINGLE-HANDED AND OFFER YOU HIS HEAD ON A PLATTER AND YOU'D HATE ME FOR TAKING THE FIGHT AWAY FROM YOU. ADMIT IT, YOU LIKE ME BEING THE BAD GUY COS IT MEANS YOU'RE ALWAYS THE GOOD GUY!"

Buffy had taken a couple of steps back when she had started yelling. Yep Faith, she thought as she paused for breath, really got to practice that walking away bit. "I'm sorry," she carried on at a more reasonable level "Actually, I'm not. I wanted to say sorry earlier for what happened this evening, but now I couldn't care less what you think of me. It was obviously a mistake coming back here. Enjoy your Armageddon." Faith turned back to the stairs ready to race up them and get the hell away from this house, this town, but most importantly the woman in front of her.

"So that's it, is it," Buffy's voice could have cut though solid steel. It pinned Faith's foot to the first step. "You're running away, again. Well there's a surprise. The going gets tough and Faithy splits. Forget about all the people who need you here. Forget about all the people in the entire world who are depending on us, all of us, to protect them. You just run along and do whatever it is you want to. Redemption? Don't make me laugh. You couldn't stick around long enough to redeem yourself for a parking ticket."

"What the hell do you call prison then B?" Faith sneered, trying to hide the fact that Buffy was unnerving her a bit. In all their skirmishes in the past she'd never seen Buffy look so intense or down-right deadly. She was pretty sure this wasn't just about this evening events anymore. Her green eyes were flashing and they hadn't left her own once. It was like she was caught in an underwater flashlight.

"Prison? You stayed in prison because it was easier than facing the reality outside. Don't try and kid yourself that you wouldn't have walked otherwise. It must have been bliss for you. No responsibility, no more guilt because you were redeeming yourself, not having to think about anyone but Faith."

"What? I went there because it was the right thing to do and it was the only way . . . it was what you wanted!" That night on the roof in L.A. had been one of the things that had kept her sane in prison. She'd thought as she was walking to the precinct that the only way to make Buffy see how sorry she was would be to do her time. No complaints. Let Buffy see for real that she'd regretted everything she done; it was the only reason she hadn't busted out of the stinking hell hole the first time some butch mama with an hankering for some fresh young Faith had held a homemade knife to her ribs. Now the blonde bitch was telling her it hadn't meant jack to her.

"It was not what I wanted, none of it was what I wanted, Faith, so don't start using me as your excuse," Buffy raged. She could see the color rising in Faith's cheeks as her anger rose. How dare she? How the hell dare she be mad! She was not going to let her act like the injured party here. It was she that had caused the damage not her.

"Then what the hell did you want because I remember you telling me not to run, and I didn't run. You said I should be in jail and guess what,? I handed myself in." Faith threw her arms up in frustration. "You see where I'm coming from with the whole 'Can't do a thing right' theory? I think if maybe you knew what you wanted in the first place I coulda saved myself three good years in the big house, y'know."

"I did know what I wanted, I didn't want any of it to have to happen. I didn't want you to go all wicked dark Slayer on me. You were my friend, Faith, even if you did push me away and play the loner. I didn't want to have to fight you or hate you and I especially didn't want to fight you when you were me, that was really freaky. I didn't want . . ."

"Yeah, well I keep hearing what you didn't want but what about what I didn't want?" Faith interrupted.

"What?" Buffy snapped, wondering what crap was going to come out of Faith's mouth this time.

"I didn't want to be listening to how wonderful little miss goody two shoes was every freaking day, I didn't want to hang around watching you and your little friends play all buddy buddy when I wasn't worth shit to any of you . . ."

"It wasn-"

"AND I DIDN'T WANT YOU TO STICK A FRICKIN' KNIFE IN MY GUT!" Faith shouted over Buffy's interruption. "For all your holier than thou act, that didn't faze you too much, did it?"

"Didn't faze me! What fazed me was you poisoning Angel, my lover. I didn't really think much beyond that at the time. It was wrong but nowhere near as wrong as you were." Buffy took a step closer too.

"Why did you care? He was leaving you anyway. In fact, he left you less than twenty- four hours after you saved his life. Shows how much he cared about you, doesn't it?" Faith had stopped listening to what she was saying now, like she always did when she lost her temper, these words were coming straight from her core.

"Shut up!" Buffy hissed violently

"What's up B, truth hurts. Aww, and then when you came to save him from big bad me, he took my side and kicked you out of LA. Ouch B, that must have really stung." Faith chuckled

The taunting Slayer had been expecting it but was still too slow to block when Buffy's left foot kicked high and connected with her chin, snapping her head back. She allowed her body to roll with the impact, flipping herself over backwards. Landing upright, facing the fiery blonde, with her back against the wall. Buffy was already throwing a punch by the time she cleared the hair out of her eyes. She dodged to the right and heard Buffy's fist punch through the wooden wall. She'd missed that but now she realized she was trapped in the corner. The only way to go was either straight through Buffy or up the stairs.

Buffy punched her in the cheek and Faith roared with anger rather than pain. She charged at Buffy meaning to push her back so she had some room to maneuver but Buffy, despite being shorter, managed to get her small hand and around Faith's neck and pushed her roughly back into the wall.

Faith raised her fist and back-handed Buffy across the mouth, splitting her lip. Buffy's grip loosened enough for the dark Slayer to try and headbutt her but Buffy anticipated the move and quickly stepped back. Faith took the opportunity to run up two steps then and, placing one hand on the banisters, vaulted over it and landed behind Buffy. Faith kicked her hard in the side while the blonde was still spinning around.

"Good to know I can still get you all fired up B." Faith danced around on her toes as it was Buffy's turn to be slammed against the wall.

Buffy dropped and swept her leg round but Faith was too quick and jumped high to avoid them. As she jumped Buffy sprang up and planted a fist in the other Slayer's solar plexus. Faith gasped in mid air as the blow knocked the wind from her. She managed to stay on her feet when she came back down but staggered badly. Buffy took the advantage and with an uppercut to her chin sent Faith sprawling across the room on to her back.

"Good to know I can still kick your ass, F." Buffy smiled cheerfully. The sword was still stuck in the mat, inches from her right hand. She reached for it and hefted it in the air. Walking over to the younger girl, she stood over her, the point hovering just above her stomach.

Faith sucked her breath in. She didn't for one second think Buffy would use the sword on her - there was a reason after all why she was the good one - but right now with that long blade just above her skin and history echoing all around them, she didn't want to do anything that might make her forget that.

When Buffy spoke her voice was low, but menacing.

"Let's get a few things straight, shall we, while I have your complete attention. Angel left for my good and it hurt him as much as it did me. Maybe Angel did take your side in LA, and I hope you thanked him for that, cos if he hadn't been there you would still be in the hospital. On whether you've changed, I don't know yet Faith. I'm still trying to work that out." Buffy lifted the sword away to her side but continued to stand over her, one leg either side of Faith's hips so she couldn't get up until she was done with her.

"Thanks for the vote of confidence," Faith snarled, relaxing now the sharp weapon had been removed, "I'll try not to disappoint." The sarcasm dripped from her words and Buffy felt her hackles rise again.

"What is it with you? I just beat you down! When the hell are you gonna just stay beaten? Why do you always have to come back with the sarcasm? Is it because it's the lowest form of wit? Is that all you feel comfortable with?" Buffy mocked her

Faith growled low in her throat and sat up fast, grabbing the back of Buffy's knees she pulled them towards her and grunted in satisfaction as Buffy started to topple backwards. Faith raised herself to her knees and the action made Buffy fall back further until she was sprawled on the floor in front of her, the sword clattering uselessly above her head. Quickly Faith straddled the other woman's hips.

Buffy used the flat of her hand to slap Faith across the face. The attack had taken her by surprise; she was so sure she had the upper hand. She admonished herself, if there was one thing she'd learned about the rogue Slayer it was to always expect surprises.

Faith didn't even flinch when Buffy slapped her, she tried to grab her wrist but Buffy just pulled away from her and tried to slap her head again. Without thinking she pulled her hand back and slapped Buffy hard across the cheek, much harder than Buffy had been hitting her. The blood rushed to her cheek creating a bright red mark.

"If you want to bitch slap, B, that's fine by me, I got bigger hands than you," she said through clenched teeth.

Buffy bucked under her, trying to throw her off. Faith rode her through it. "Hey B, you're finally talking my language. I always knew you had it in you."

"Get the hell off of me, before I really hurt you." Buffy said as she began bucking again, trying to dislodge the heavier Slayer.

Faith started laughing. "Oh okay, as you asked so nicely." She didn't move.

"Well go on then, move." Buffy demanded still thrashing about. Faith just stayed with her like she was rodeo queen or something. For a fleeting second Buffy wondered how she'd look waving a cowboy hat over her head.

"Oh sorry B, that was my sarcasm again, it's all I'm capable of. Sorry." Faith tried again to capture Buffy's hands in her own when Buffy started to beat them against her chest.

Faith managed to grab her right wrist in her right hand and pinned it to the ground above her head. She lifted slightly off of Buffy to do this and the older Slayer saw her chance. Rolling to her right and raising her knees as hard as she could into Faith's lower back, she yanked her right arm out from under her. She felt the skin on the back of her wrist scrape away on the concrete but the satisfaction of seeing Faith tumble over her right shoulder totally out-weighed it.

Unable to stop herself from tipping off, Faith flung her hands out in front of her before her face hit the solid floor. Buffy wriggled up quick and slammed into the side of her in a move that would have made any WWF star proud. They both went sprawling, this time with Buffy on top of Faith. She tried to push herself up so she could pin Faith's arms down, but the taller Slayer clamped an arm around her waist and rolled so she was lying back on top of Buffy.

"Oh no you don't," Buffy howled and pushed Faith's chest with every ounce of strength she had.

"OOOWWWW," Faith bellowed, making Buffy stop in alarm.

"What, what's up?"

"My arm's stuck, you're laying on it. You were trying to separate me from it."

Buffy bit her lip so she wouldn't grin. Faith looked so indignant. She lay above Buffy, her face all red and her raven hair cascading all over the both of them. Buffy's body shook slightly as she tried to hold in the giggle. "I'm sorry Faith, did I hurt you?" she asked innocently.

Faith let a sheepish smile creep over her lips. "Well yeah." She started laughing and soon Buffy joined in, both giggling uncontrollably at the absurdity of it all. Their bodies shook as the mirth rolled through them, relieving the tension of the fight.

Faith calmed down first and lay there looking down at Buffy until she too composed herself.

Buffy smiled up at her, "Not our most graceful performance." She teased, still feeling the occasional shudder passing through her and into Faith as she struggled to regain her composure. Her breath continued to hitch in her chest but it was dawning on her that she had completely recovered from the scuffle.

"You can get up now if you want," Buffy offered shyly, feeling suddenly awkward.

"Don't want," Faith purred.

"Take," Buffy breathed, remembering the brunette's old philosophy. She had a feeling it was about to get her in trouble yet again.

"Have!" Faith whispered and lowered her lips to Buffy's.

Oh yeah, she was in trouble alright!


Chapter Four

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