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


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PART THREE
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Chapter Nine: Operation Intervention : FAILED

Buffy stomped down the stairs, the anger radiating off of her and permeating the rooms below.

Looking into the living room, she saw only Andrew was left laying on the couch. When he noticed her, he curled into a fetal position and covered his head with a cushion.

Harrumphing at him impatiently, she continued to stomp to the kitchen. Giles, Xander, Anya and Willow were all gathered inside; every one of them flinched when they noticed her expression.

Harrumphing at them too, she took a seat at the table and grabbed an open whiskey bottle.

"Looks like everyone is starting to party without me," she growled.

"Hey Buff, do you want a glass?" Xander asked, holding one up.

She looked him in the eye and answered with a big swig of the bottle.

Followed by a coughing fit and a 'blargh' face. "This stuff never tastes any better, does it."

"I could make you a cup of tea if you like?" Giles all but stuttered.

"No thanks, I've learned the trick to getting over the taste is to get your taste buds drunk." She took another swig and made another face. When her eyes stopped watering she said "See, better already."

She set the bottle down on the table and kicked back so her chair was resting on two legs, her upper back supporting it against the cupboards.

Staring at the ceiling, she said "So you guys knew what I was going to walk in on and yet you thought it would be funnier not to tell me, is that right?"

"I didn't," Willow and Giles both asserted hurriedly.

Xander gave them a disappointed look. "So much for sticking together like we discussed, guys."

"You discussed that, I never said anything of the sort," Giles told him.

"It's not like it matters, guys, it would have just been nice to have a heads up so I didn't embarrass myself." Buffy continued to stare at the ceiling, hoping with the power of her mind she could make the ceiling crumble and drop Faith and Robin in a messy pile of their own blood and bones.

"It sounded like it mattered, all the shouting and yelling normally indicates something that matters. That's why we're all cowering in here like the place is surrounded by bunnies," Anya said with her usual tact.

"Well it didn't matter, nothing matters. I don't care if they're up there getting bouncy on my bed right now." Buffy looked down long enough to grab the bottle of drink and have another mouthful. Her grimace was slightly less now.

"Maybe you should take it easy, Buffy, don't want to get drunk after all." Willow moved the bottle further away from her.

The other two legs of Buffy's chair hit the floor with a loud clonk. Everyone except Anya jumped just slightly.

"No Wills, this is a celebration." She picked up the bottle once more and this time poured a generous measure into one of the glasses littering the table top. Raising it she continued, "Here's to beating the bad guy, and Xander not going to Oxnard and Faith getting a new . . . a new orgasm partner." She winked at Anya as she said that bit. "Angel finally admitting he's fallen out of love with me and just wants to be friends and...and...and whatever." Buffy drained nearly all her glass and slammed it down on the table, then slid it across to Xander. "Hit me again, Sam." She chuckled to herself.

"Angel said he doesn't love you anymore?" Willow finally couldn't take the silence anymore.

"Oh, you know Angel, he didn't put it quite like that, but he said that he thought everything had worked out the way it was supposed to for us. Which obviously means the same thing." Buffy used her finger to draw circles in a puddle of spilled liquor. "He said he could never be with me, the way . . ." She caught herself before she said anything incriminating.

"The way what?" Willow asked.

"The way someone else could," Buffy finished, not meeting anyone's eyes. Although if she was honest she might not be able to meet anyone's eyes anyway. She risked a quick glance at Anya. "Yep, that's cool, I can still only see one of her."

"Would that someone possibly have dark hair, a sexy smile and be right, ouch! Again with the kicking Harris. You are so asking for it." Anya glared at him.

Buffy looked at her suspiciously. "What are you going on about now Anya"

"Oh nothing, just your attraction to . . ."

She was cut off by Xander yelling, "For the love of God Ahn, will you give it a rest?"

"Why? What is everyone so scared of? If I'm right then so what? No big deal, and if I'm wrong then we can all laugh at it and go ha ha ha."

"Oh this is ridiculous. Buffy, Anya has this absurd idea that you and Faith are somewhat more than friends." Giles didn't add that he too had his suspicions.

"What?" Buffy grabbed the glass from in front of Willow and added more drink on top of what was already in there.

"That's okay Buff, I'd finished anyway." Willow held her hands up in an exasperated gesture.

"She thinks, well okay, we thought," he amended off of Anya's look, "that you and Faith might be making merry with more than the banter, if you know what I mean." Xander kept his eyes down so he missed the bit of liquid that spilled from Buffy's glass as her hand shook.

"No Xander, I don't know what you mean." Buffy sipped at the drink, forcing her hand to not betray her.

"Oh for Heaven's sake, we thought you were Faith's new orgasm buddy, not the muscley principal," Anya blurted out.

Buffy did her best to remain calm. She swallowed her mouthful before she could spit it across the table. In the back of her mind she acknowledged the victory over her taste buds, they weren't rebelling at all now. They were probably in shock along with the rest if her. Her fists clenched slightly and she had to set the glass down to avoid breaking it.

She couldn't believe how cruel life could be. No, that was a lie. She knew exactly how cruel life could be but she figured it could give her a break once in a while. It seemed as if her friends had reached her decision before she had, but they hadn't caught the latest update: That Faith wasn't interested in any more than a casual quickie now and again. Preferring to share her bed, or in this case her bed, with virtual strangers rather than even entertain the idea of anything meaningful with Buffy. Where had her conclusion jumping friends been over the last few days when things were still uncertain and she didn't have a clue about her feelings for Faith? Instead they'd arrived just after the nick of time to make inroads on a conversation there was no way she could stomach right now. There wasn't enough alcohol in the world to drown any of the humiliation, hurt and anger, her little heart-to-heart with Faith had caused.

'Humpf, more like groin to heart. Faith's heart didn't want anything to do with that conversation,' she thought. Her eyes had glazed over slightly and as they swam into focus she realized her friends were still staring at her, waiting for confirmation or denial. 'Well at least that decision is easy.'

"I'm sorry, I think the shock and horror of that statement just sent me catatonic for a moment. Or maybe this stuff is catching up with me." Buffy chuckled and shook the bottle lightly, causing the remaining couple of inches to slosh around inside.

"Really? So there's nothing going on between you and Faith?" Willow sounded pretty relieved.

Buffy gave her a lop-sided smile and waved her hand in the air. That didn't seem to be enough, they were still looking at her with concern.

"Oh come on you guys, me and Faith? Did you really think that? Sure there's chemistry there," her smile became wistful for a second as she remembered the basement kiss, but she snapped out of it quick, "but it's the bad kind, the kind that goes boom when it gets too close, y'know? Like all my lab experiments used to."

"So I guess there goes my favorite fantasy flying out the window of reason and logic, but I guess it's for the best," Xander said. "I mean think of the hospital visits you'd have to make every time you fought over the duvet."

"Yeah," Buffy muttered vaguely.

"Well I think you're lying and I think Faith was lying when I asked her!" Anya announced matter-of-factly.

"You already spoke to Faith about this?" Buffy only just managed to keep her voice down.

"Yes, I asked her if you were having sex, but don't worry, she denied it too. She was definitely lying though. She got all red in the face and shouted at me and ran away. Those are the actions of someone with something to hide."

"Yeah Anya, we're going at it like bunnies every time your back's turned, that's why she ran straight off to find a new boy toy, is it?" Buffy spat sarcastically, downing another shot.

Anya visibly flinched at the word bunnies, but she regained her composure and agreed. "Probably."

"Hey, what are you insinuating?" Buffy asked indignantly, for a second caught up in the fantasy of her and Faith at it like bunnies.

"Absolutely nothing. What are you admitting?" Anya shot back.

Buffy went slack-jawed for a second while her whiskey-basted brain caught up with her.

"Buffy, if there is something more between the two of you, you don't have to be scared to share it with us. We're your friends and we only wish to help." Giles' soft voice filtered through her hazy thoughts and she smiled absentmindedly at him.

Willow put her hand on Buffy's arm. "And some of us might have more experience in this than you and would be happy to share," she told Buffy gently.

"Willow, there's nothing going on between Faith and I, trust me on this. But if anything does, I'll tell you." Buffy patted the witch's hand and then removed it from her arm so she could reach for another drink. The bottle neck tapped out a rhythm on the edge of the glass as she poured.

"Don't believe you," Anya sing-songed.

Buffy flew from her chair and banged the bottle down on the table. It smashed, the majority of the shards still held in place because of the label, the rest tinkling down onto the table. She leaned so far across the table that Anya felt compelled to lean backwards. Everyone else just watched warily.

Buffy spoke through gritted teeth, every now and then she slurred but she ignored that in the same way she ignored the glass splinters coating her hand.

"Anya, I don't care what you believe, I never have cared what you believe and this time, if it's possible, I care even less. You don't know the first thing about Faith or me or anything we do, don't do or want to do with each other and in light of that I'd be a lot happier if you keep your big beak out of it, cause I swear to the PTB that if you talk to Faith again about anything I might be thinking or feeling without getting your facts right first, then I'll break it off. Got it?"

Anya nodded. Buffy brushed the glass off her hands and looked at the mess she'd made on the table for the first time.

"I got it Buff." Willow had gotten up to get the dustpan and brush while Buffy was telling Anya off, now she shoo'd Buffy aside while she swept up the glass. "All done," she said with an overly bright smile.

"Shorry Willshm" Buffy told her. "At leasht the bottle wash empty, huh?" Buffy picked up the glass she'd just filled and began to sip.

"Yes, and the reason you smashed the bottle in the first place is because you had just drunk near enough three-quarters of a bottle of Glenfiddich forty year old single malt, which was in fact highly expensive and not one of my duty free purchases." Giles sounded more upset than angry.

"Then why were you drinking it now?" Buffy asked petulantly, a small hiccup escaped her.

"Because I think leaving it to the bloody demons if the bloody world ends is a bloody waste." Ah there was the anger. "If you'd said you wanted to drain the bottle and get yourself pissed, I'd have happily supplied you with a cheap bottle of the stuff and I'm sure you wouldn't have been able to taste the bloody difference." Giles scraped his chair back. "I need a bloody drink."

Buffy stood there swaying. "Sho...sorry, Giles." She blinked at him.

He didn't look around at her as he retrieved another bottle from the back of a cupboard, but he nodded his acceptance.

"Uh Buffy, if it's something else bothering you besides Faith, or instead of Faith," Xander added quickly when she glared at him, "you can talk about that too."

Willow nodded encouragingly at her.

"Why does everybody think there's something wrong with me all of a sudden? What, is it that time of year again already? Operation: Buffy Intervention, cause it's getting kind of old now guys." Buffy began inching towards the cupboards when Giles sat back down.

"No of course not, we just care about you," Willow told her.

"I don't.," Anya said, helping herself to some of the new bottle and not even bothering to look at Buffy.

"You have to admit you're acting out of character tonight Buffy," Giles said.

"Am not, just because I felt like kicking back for a while and having a few drinks with my friends. . ."

"A few!" Anya snorted.

Buffy ignored her. ". . . You think there must be something dire wrong with me. Ooh Buffy's falling in love with Faith and Faith doesn't love her back . . ." 'Shit! Damn! Shit!' Her voice rose shakily, ". . . Well all I wanted was to find the fun a little and you guys are ruining my party so I'm gonna go and see someone who won't." She'd managed to edge her way around to the cupboard Giles had gone to earlier and now she opened it, grabbed a bottle out, nearly dropping it in her haste and ran for the door to the basement.

There was pin-dropping silence as everyone stared after her. A few seconds later she poked her head back around the corner and jumped slightly to still see everyone gawking at her. She held the bottle up.

"This isn't too expensive is it?" She asked.

Giles shook his head, bewildered. She gave him a big smile and disappeared again.

Xander broke the silence. "Is anyone else concerned that she's finding the fun with Spike?"

"Oh yeah," Willow agreed.

"Do you think someone should go after her?" Xander shuffled in his seat.

"I'm not going," Willow made clear.

"Uh I don't think, that is to say, um, I'm with Willow" Giles replied.

"Don't care what she does with Spike" Anya said bluntly.

All eyes turned to Xander. "Well I'm not going down there. There might be straddling." He shuddered and downed his glass of cheaper and nastier whiskey.


Chapter Ten

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Part Three 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


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