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


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PART ONE
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Chapter Five: Sharing and Caring

"Hot damn!" Faith howled, punching her arm in the air.

Buffy suspected Spike was about to hit her and she slid unconsciously into a defensive stance, but instead he turned on his heel, duster flaring dramatically, and stomped up the stairs. She finally exhaled when the door slammed above. Her shoulders slumped and she blinked rapidly to rid her eyes of the tears threatening to spill.

"You okay B?" She looked over at the other woman. Faith was still on the cot. Her triumphant grin had been replaced by a look of concern, so foreign to her usual expression that Buffy was inclined to assume it was all part of the act. She watched her scoot forward so her feet were on the floor, her forgotten cigarette dissolving to ash in the ashtray.

"Do you really care?" she asked.

"About what your little lover boy thinks? No. About how you are, yes. If you want me to. Or we can go back to hating each others guts. Whatever you want, whatever makes it better for you." Faith ran her fingers through her hair, trying to find the right words. "Do you want to sit down and talk about it?"

Buffy looked at the space on the cot next to Faith. She didn't trust Faith to keep her hands to herself. The lust she had been feeling ten minutes ago had all drained out of her with the Spike confrontation, and she felt too weak to fight her off.

Seemingly reading her thoughts Faith said, "It's okay. Whatever happened earlier, that's on hold. Not forgotten you understand, but put to one side for now." She smiled at Buffy's skeptical face. "When I said talk I meant talk, not grope, okay? I can control myself, you're not that hot!"

Buffy laughed and plonked herself down next to the dark Slayer. "Yes I am. I have it on good authority that I'm a cutie."

"Yeah B, who's been telling you these lies? I'll kick their ass for you." Faith smirked.

Buffy's face fell again and she buried it in her hands. "Actually, it was Spike." She gave a cheerless chuckle. "Hardly the most credible source, is he."

"He loves you, it kinda makes you blind to the flaws in a person."

"Is that supposed to be cheering me up?" Buffy asked, raising her head to look doubtfully at Faith.

"Okay, that came out wrong. I'm not very good with this sharing and caring deal. I'm kinda playing all this as it comes," Faith apologized. "I meant, I think, actually I don't know what I mean. You should talk to someone else about this. I don't have the people skills."

Buffy smiled at her. "I don't think it's you. No one has the people skills to cope with mine and Spike's relationship, or lack thereof. I don't even have the skills. That's why it's not discussed. Oh, Dawn and Willow have made half-hearted attempts to bring it up and Xander is always ready to use Spike's name as a means of venting his own anger, but it all comes back to that. Anger. Anger at me for keeping it secret, anger at him for . . . They even go through periods of being angry at themselves for not noticing it and protecting me."

"Would you have wanted protecting?" Faith asked.

Buffy shrugged. "I wish that night had never happened."

"But that was the end of it right? What about what had happened before? Do you wish someone had found out and put a stop to it?"

"God no! It was no one else's business anyway. It was between Spike and I. They would never have understood."

"They would have stopped you?"

"They would have tried. I'd have found a way though. I'd have just gotten sneaky, or sneakier. None of them understand. They think it was all him being big and evil and taking advantage of me, but it wasn't like that. I took all the advantages. He was in love with me, or at least he thought he was, and I used that information to scratch the itch. I instigated the whole thing. That's what none of my friends could ever understand."

"He raped you, Buffy."

"He didn't. He tried to but he didn't. Everyone keeps getting that confused."

"Same diff in my book. You gotta appreciate your Scoobs are gonna be a little bit pissed. Hey man, if I'd been here, I'd have run him through, Vamp kebab style." Faith acted out staking a vampire. "He'd have been dust."

Buffy shook her head. "Don't get me wrong. I'm not condoning what he did, but I helped push him there."

"How can you say that? He's got free will. He knew what he was doing."

"You don't get it. I spent months treating him like my own personal plaything. Whenever I got horny, I went to him. I didn't care about his feelings. Hell, I didn't even care about my feelings. Then when I'd had enough, when I was so disgusted at myself I couldn't do it anymore, I just dropped him. Told him it was over. Told him I was using him and now I'd finished and I didn't want any more to do with him."

"So you told him the truth. Can't do more than that. He should have been grateful he got to have you at all."

"How would you feel if someone said that to you though? Someone you loved. Wouldn't it send you just a little bit crazy?" Buffy questioned. She knew it would her. Parker had used her for one night and she turned into a cave girl. That was pretty crazy.

"Hey B, you're forgetting who you're talking to. You more or less just described my philosophy on life. Get some, get gone, remember? I wouldn't have stuck around long enough to give him as detailed an explanation as you did. Probably not long enough for him to fall in love with me either, come to think of it," Faith replied cockily.

"Don't you get lonely?" Buffy looked into Faith's eyes so she could gauge the honesty of the answer. She expected Faith to come up with some glib comment or an outright lie. She was pleasantly surprised.

"Yeah, sometimes," was her reply. She looked away from Buffy, down at her lap, reached for Spike's smokes and pinched another one. When it was lit she looked up and met Buffy's clear gaze again. "But who doesn't, y'know? Anyway, it's all part of being a Slayer; we're supposed to be alone. And besides, nearly three years in prison, alone time was rare so loneliness was the next best thing." The smartass was back.

"I get lonely but then when people try to get close I push them away," Buffy confided.

"Nah, you're reading too much into it, B. You got your buddies, they'd do anything for you. And you could have your pick of the guys. You might want to try one who can get a sun tan without self combusting next time."

"You mean like Riley?"

"Pfft, soldier boy? Hardly. I meant a real man, not G.I. Joey," Faith said.

"Did you hear he's married now?" Buffy asked, remembering that disastrous night hunting for the Suvolte eggs. That had been the beginning of the end for her and Spike.

"Nah, but it's good. Means you can't make that mistake again."

"Or Ben. Ben was nice and normal for a while. Well, to start with, anyway. Who knows how that would have worked out if it hadn't been for the whole key thing. Pity about the whole Evil HellGod of the underworld, wanted to kill my sister and use her to open the front door to the Hell fires of home parasitical skankbitch, too."

"Sorry?" Faith laughed. "I'm assuming the Hell bitch chica is Glory, but who's Ben?"

"Oh, Ben was Glory and Glory was Ben. It was a whole big mojo-y transformy type thing. I never really got it to tell you the truth."

Faith chuckled. "Well hang in there girlfriend. Things can only get better, right?"

Buffy looked at her in mock horror. "Well it might have if you hadn't just jinxed it. Now my love life is doomed!" she wailed.

Faith socked her lightly on the arm and they both grinned.

From above came the sounds of the front door slamming followed by a loud chorus of hello's.

"Sounds like that could be Xander home." Faith stood up and pulled Buffy up after. "Come on, let's go join the party."

Buffy looked apprehensive. "I don't know what to say to him, to any of them. I came up with another idea while I was training. I don't think anyone's going to like it, but I don't see we have any other choice."

"What is it?" Faith was curious. Buffy hadn't let on to any master plan while they had been chatting.

"I'll tell you upstairs. Everyone together, okay?" Faith nodded. After all she'd only have to wait a few more minutes. Buffy caught her hand in her own, pulling her closer.

"Whoa B! You want to get hot and heavy again now?" Faith gasped.

"No silly. I just wanted to say thank you."

"What for?"

"Listening, talking, taking time. Whatever. Thanks for coming back." Buffy smiled coyly. "Thanks for taking my mind off of all this mess for a little while." She leaned forward and gave Faith a kiss on the cheek, then released her hand and started up the stairs.

"Any time," Faith answered softly.


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