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


PART ONE: 25th December 2003

Chapter Two: The Gift of Receiving

Buffy hovered in the doorway from the kitchen, waiting for everyone else to sit themselves down around the tree before she picked her spot.

As soon as everyone was settled and Xander was pulling shiny parcels from beneath the leaning fir, Buffy made her way through her family to kneel beside Faith's cushion.

Finding Faith there that morning had been a complete shock and definitely a good one, but when Buffy had sat across the kitchen table from her ready to issue a gushing apology, the brunette had gotten up and gone to shower and change. She'd only just come back down.

The dark Slayer turned to Buffy now, smiling a little. "Hey budge up there, B. I'm gonna need some room for this."

Buffy didn't want to move. She wanted to stick to Faith like glue in case she changed her mind and left again. Faith was making shooing gestures with her fingers now and Buffy had no choice but to shuffle a little further away or look like an idiot.

"More." Said Faith with a grin.

What? Did she smell? Buffy frowned and moved until she was practically sat in Willow's lap.

"That's better." Faith began ripping into the presents that Xander had handed her and Buffy was actually pretty pleased she'd moved. If she hadn't she may have drowned in paper, or been felled by a flying elbow.

"These are yours Buffy." Dawn handed her a small pile or gifts. She looked through them. One from Xander, a small one from Giles and a way bigger one from her sister, one from Willow and Kennedy - Hey no fair, she'd brought them a present each. That was it. Nothing from anyone else.

"Um Buffy, I got you these." She looked to the young blonde man who had followed them from Sunnydale. She opened the bag he'd handed her and pulled out a pair of hot pink oven gloves.

"Uh, thanks Andrew." She tried them on and wiggled her fingers a little and made them dance like puppets.

"Well I know it's a little lame, but I didn't know what to get the Slayer who has everything and I thought at least they'd be useful." He explained. "Don't worry if you didn't get me anything, I ..."

"I have, or at least, me and Dawn went halfsies. Right?" She checked with her sister.

"Right." Dawn handed him a package and Andrew beamed.

"Faith, that's one of mine." Buffy looked up at Xander's whine, smirking as Faith tried to look sorry and handed him back his half open present.

Sitting back, away from the tree and on the couch, Buffy fiddled with her own packages, unwrapping them slowly and watching Faith turn her biggest present over and over in her hands. It was the one from her.

Faith turned almost fully around so she could see the blonde and raised an eyebrow.

Buffy smiled. "Open it then."

Faith went back to it with fingers of fury, while Buffy sat back and crossed her own. She'd brought Faith her present when things were still all weird between them. Not that they were any better now. Before though, she'd racked her brains for what to get and in the end chose something she really wanted for her herself. Thinking back on their history, unless it was pastel or paisley it was most probably going to be something Faith would like too.

Since Christmas Eve, when they'd talked and kissed and, okay other stuff too... More importantly, they'd come to an understanding, which had been shattered almost instantly it was true, but for twenty minutes there she and Faith had been in the same place. Buffy really wanted to get back to that place, which was putting extra consequence on Faith liking her present.

Then again Faith hadn't even bothered to get her a present, so maybe she shouldn't be worrying too much.

Faith finally had all the paper off and was pulling up the flaps of the cardboard box. Opening it, she just looked inside for several of Buffy's heartbeats.

Licking her lips, Buffy asked nervously. "You like?"

Faith licked her own lips and reached into the box to stroke the material. "This must have cost you a bomb."

Buffy started opening her present from Willow and Kennedy so she didn't have to look at any one. "You had one in Sunnydale, I remember. I loved it." And the blushing comes on cue. Would she ever grow out of that?

Faith pulled the leather jacket out of its box and held it up in front of her. The buckles at the waist jangled a little. "Uh, maybe you should keep it then. I mean this is too much."

"No." She said forcefully. Willing herself, to relax she swept on. "It'll look way hotter on you anyway..." The blush deepened as felt all eyes on her, all except Faith's anyway. "...Uh, I didn't mean..." Buffy felt like she was swallowing the bullet as she made an attempt to bite it. "...actually that's exactly what I meant." She turned to Willow and Kennedy who were twined around one another. "This is nice, thanks guys." She held up the case of kitchen knives they'd given her. It really was very nice, but her attention was still on Faith.

"Well we thought, you know, if you're going to make cooking your new career, then these will get you started..." Willow grinned happily at her.

"...But, you can still use them for your old career too." Kennedy finished.

When had she said she was making cooking her new career? In a way it did make sense. She had experience in chopping, cutting, slicing and dicing and she knew more than anyone about preparing a good stake.

Faith had put the jacket on. Even over sweat-pants and an Iron Maiden t-shirt it looked damn fine.

"Buffy was right, Faith." Willow told the dark Slayer as she went to the mirror by the front door to check herself out. Kennedy glared at her. "What, I, I didn't mean she looked hot, just that it suits her."

Buffy met her best friend's eyes with a smile as Faith turned to come back into the main room muttering: "Thanks."

Still smiling, Buffy waited for Faith to whip her present out from wherever she'd stashed it. After a full minute of everyone going back to their own gifts, she realised it wasn't going to happen.

Chapter Three

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