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


PART TWO: 31st December 2003

Chapter Three: Packs a Punch

Checking her hair in the bathroom mirror one last time, Buffy deemed herself presentable and made her way downstairs to the kitchen.

The heavy wooden table was laden with edible goodies that she and Andrew had prepared earlier. It looked good, but did she have enough? How many had they invited again? And what if the people they invited brought guests, or people crashed, or zombies...Oh God, it was going to be another one of those parties wasn't it! She knew Christmas had been too quiet.

Xander was at the table snacking. Maybe she should put another tray of vol-u-vont cases in the oven just in case the zombies wanted something other than human flesh. She slapped her friend's hand. "Wait at least until our guests have seen the effort I put in before you eat it all. You didn't lock all the weapons away did you? It might be useful to have one or two handy in case we get any unexpected company."

"Already thought of, Buff. There's an axe tied under the couch and a broad sword behind the refrigerator." Pleased with his foresight Buffy let Xander get away with one more mini pizza. "And may I say you look beautiful tonight?"

Buffy grinned at him and held up the plate. "Fine, help yourself. It's your waistline."

Xander took the plate with an eager grin of his own. "I was actually just being nice, but I won't say no." He was almost through the swing door to the living room when his hand went to his tummy and he looked back at her. "Are you saying I'm fat?"

"Not if you don't want me to." She chirped.

"I don't."

She nodded as he left her alone in the kitchen. She looked over the food again and decided it would be enough. Surely not everyone would brave the snow to come to a party thrown by people they barely even knew. When they'd planned it two months ago it had mostly been for their own enjoyment anyway. The locals they'd invited were just to add colour, that and to give the single Scoobies a chance to meet some people. She hadn't planned on taking that chance herself, but maybe now she should.

Going to the counter, she selected her favourite wine from the half dozen bottles of red and white that Xander had brought and poured herself a nice large glass. Sipping from it, she hummed in pleasure at the taste and decided there was going to be plenty more of that tonight. Hangover be damned.

Her moment of peace and quiet was broken by Willow and Kennedy as they came in the back door, stamping snow off their boots and brushing each others shoulders free of the clinging flakes.

"Where have you two been?"

Willow answered her. "Moving the cars round back to make room on the drive-way." Buffy nodded. "You look nice."

"Thanks. So do you, Will, that dress is killer." Buffy looked her best friend up and down, admiring her outfit until a cough from Kennedy made her look over. "What?"

Kennedy had taken her coat off and was standing there pointing to her own outfit. "I don't even rate a not bad?"

Grinning, Buffy took in the chocolate suede pants and the creamy silk blouse that the new Slayer was wearing. She did look good. "Very..." Footsteps on the back stairs made her look up and her mouth dropped open. "...nice." She squeaked, awestruck.

Faith was half way down wearing the commonly classic little black strappy dress, but on Faith it was anything but common, and classic didn't begin to cover it. Reaching to mid-thigh it left a lot of long smooth leg open to display all the way down to a pair of little black sandals. Had she been on a sun bed? Why didn't Buffy know there was a sun bed to be on? Oh yeah, that was where her interest was coming from. A gulp was definitely on the horizon.

It wasn't until Buffy pulled her eyes back up to Faith's face, so possibly several minutes later, that she realised that the other woman was staring back at her. Her already pretty dark eyes were made up to look even bigger and, well, prettier than usual and as they raked over Buffy with unmistakable heat she felt suddenly self-conscious.

Crossing her arms over her floaty pink dress that had been bought for the summer, but was too nice not wear as often as possible, she backed up a little. This seemed to break the spell Faith had been under for she coughed with an uncharacteristic display of nerves herself and came down the rest of the steps.

Kennedy gave an exaggerated sigh. "Yes, we are all hot slayers here, no need to over-react."

"Watch it, kiddo." Faith whapped her lightly on the back of the head as she passed, causing Buffy to hide a smile at the smaller Slayer's indignant look.

"Will you not call me that? I'm not a kid."

Faith shrugged unconcerned as she wandered over to the drinks counter and inspected the offerings. "Loosen up, little fish. In fact go put some tunes on; this party is way too quiet right now."

Kennedy shook her head at either being told what to do or being called little fish. Buffy wasn't sure which, but she went through to the other room anyway. Willow stayed in the kitchen with them and Buffy was half relieved she wouldn't be alone with Faith after what had been said and done a couple of hours earlier.

Faith was looking in the lower cupboards now. "Do we have a big bowl anywhere?"

"Can't you just use a glass like everyone else?" Willow asked with her face was all scrunched up.

Buffy snorted into her glass of wine, which was so not the cool sophistication she was aiming for. Mortified when Faith looked her way with a smirk, she bent and hid her face in a cupboard while the brunette answered Willow.

"That big brain of yours tends to misfire occasionally huh? I'm making punch."

"Punch?" Willow said the word like she'd never heard it before; maybe Faith's dress was having the same effect on her that it was having on Buffy. She looked up at the red-head. It had better not be.

"You can't have a New Years Eve party with out a bowl of punch, can you B?"

Finding a large glass bowl she stood back up. "Um, I guess not. Why not exactly?"

Faith took the bowl. "'Cause you just can't. Now hand me the white rum." She gestured for Willow to pass over a bottle on the side. When it was in her hand she poured a very generous measure into the bowl. "The vodka." She held out her hand and Willow passed it to her. She looked fascinated. It probably reminded her of witchy brews. "Buff, grab me the orange juice from the fridge would ya?"

Buffy jumped to it and got the juice. "Just how lethal is that?"

Faith grinned as she motioned for her to dump the whole carton in. "It's not lethal yet." She went over to where her Christmas present was hung by the door and pulled a brown paper bag from an inside pocket. "Irish whisky." She announced pulling a fifth of amber liquid out. Uncapping the bottle she took a swig, shuddering gleefully as she swallowed. Buffy shuddered gleefully as she watched her. Faith upended only half the bottle into her brew. "That'll give it the Lehane kick."

As she grabbed a wooden spoon from the drawer and started to stir, Buffy met Willow's eyes. Willow mouthed: "What's Lehane?" and Buffy could only shrug. Maybe it was Boston slang for something? Like Five by Five?

Faith was dipping a shot glass into the mixture now and Buffy watched with a grimace as she drank it.

The brunette's mouth puckered and she started coughing, leaning on the edge of the sink as her mouth watered. Buffy was at her side instantly, rubbing her back.

"Yeah that's good stuff." Faith spluttered. "It could maybe use just a little more juice."

Buffy heard Faith's voice float through her brain, tingling her ears on the way, but the words might as well have been French for all she understood them. Her fingers ran up and down the velvety feel of Faith's little black dress while she waited for the brunette to catch her breath. Faith didn't often wear perfume, but tonight there was definitely something enhancing the normally spicy-sweet scent that Buffy had come to know and love. She breathed deeply through her nose that just so happened to be oh-so close to Faith's exposed neck. Was that her perfume? Why did Faith take everything of hers and do it better? Oh hell, she didn't care right now.

"I said I'm okay now."

"Mmmhmm." Buffy agreed happily, still stroking her back.

She was startled from her daydream of Faith's neck and how good it would taste if she licked it by Faith turning around and gently grasping her around the waist.

She's going to kiss me, Buffy thought, everything will be alright now. She didn't even care that Willow was still in the kitchen. In fact the bigger the audience the better, if it made Faith realise how she felt.

"Wha..?" The floor had gone out from under her! Or no, Faith had just picked her up and was spinning her around and plonking her on the counter. She felt like a five year old and if Willow didn't stop giggling Buffy might just have to assume her friend had gone evil again and slay her.

"Sorry, B, but you were fazing and I didn't plan on spending the whole night stood in this corner." Faith was adding some thing else to the punch and Buffy hoped it wasn't any more alcohol. If it knocked Faith's socks off, the rest of them didn't stand a chance.

"Um, yeah, me neither." Willow was making 'aww' face behind Faith's back and Buffy glared at her until she gave it up and walked out grinning.

Alone with Faith again Buffy went for the direct approach. "So I thought about what you said earlier and I think you're right."

Faith was trying the punch again and Buffy waited for the spluttering and eye-watering to begin. It didn't. "That's better. I usually am." She was dipping the glass in again and she brought it over to where Buffy was still perched on the counter. "Which bit exactly? Try."

Taking the glass reluctantly, Buffy answered first. "I don't want to argue and fight anymore either, it's stupid." She took a really small sip of the punch, just sort of wetted her lips with it really. She liked this dress; she didn't want to spit up all over it and have to go change. It didn't taste bad, actually, just fruity. She took a braver sip and coughed, but only a little. "It still has a little kick."

"Better though?" Buffy nodded and let Faith take the glass from her. "Good. Good on the agreeing thing too. I don't want us to go back to the way things were before. I just want everything to be . . . well it sounds lame, but nice between us."

"Me too." Buffy rushed out. "That's all I want. I think if we just..."

She was cut off by Xander poking his head into the kitchen. "Are you guys going to stay in here all night? Faith, some guy called Troy just arrived. Said you invited him?" He shrugged and his head disappeared again.

Faith smiled. "Guess we got a bit caught up in here. I didn't even realise people were arriving. I'm gonna go carry this through, then I'll come help with the food if you like?"

Buffy did a bit of ass-watching as Faith left the kitchen, but her mind wasn't focused. Who was Troy? Why was Faith inviting him here? Didn't Faith just finish saying that she wanted things to be okay between them and then she goes and invites some guy called Troy? What sort of name was Troy anyway?

Barely keeping herself from muttering irritably about this new twist, she started to carry plates through to the various small tables set up around the living room. Her eyes scanned the room for the brunette and found her in a corner with the punch bowl and a Greek God. No, she wasn't kidding; he looked like a Greek God would look like if one could suddenly turn from a marble statue into flesh and blood.

Tall, olive-skinned and impressively built, he had a head of thick, black curls that ended just below the collar of his white Ralph Lauren shirt, and his face could have been chiselled in marble; only the wide, white smile and the twinkling blue eyes made it softer, human.

Buffy stopped, staring at him. It had to be Troy. If this wasn't Troy, someone somewhere had just missed a good opportunity at getting a cinematic moment on the small screen. Were he and Faith a couple? They obviously knew each other and Faith was doing her flirty thing with him, touching his arm and showing her dimples - the slut! If they weren't a couple was he single? Should she maybe whisper in Faith's ear that this was a threesome she could get behind...or in front of...or in the middle of?

Going red at her thoughts, Buffy hurried back into the kitchen with her head down. Thirty seconds later Faith came in behind her.

"I came to get some of them plates." She said in explanation. Buffy's lips twitched in the effort of not saying anything about Troy. "What's up? You look like you're chewing a hornet."

"Nothing. I'm fine." She bit off.

Faith looked at her funny for a minute, like she was going to pursue it, but changed her mind. "Okay. See you out there." Grabbing four of the plates she left again.

What? She wasn't supposed to say okay, she was supposed to ask again. Grind her down until she spilled. Buffy huffed as she gathered the rest of the plates. Obviously, she was desperate to get back to her guest. Whatever. There were other guests here. Guests that Faith hadn't already got her claws into and that were just waiting to be Buffy'd.

With a forced and scary smile she went back to the party.

Chapter Four

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