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


PART TWO: 31st December 2003

Chapter Five: The 'Talk'

Buffy's head didn't even have time to droop before the swing door was pushed open again and Faith was there.

"Hey." She stood in the doorway looking at Buffy.

"Hey." Buffy reclaimed her glass that had been relegated to the table when she'd been going through the motions.

Faith fussed with her hands.

"Did you want something?"

"Um, yeah." More fussing.

"And that was?"

Faith looked around the room. "You okay?"

"Can't complain." Buffy lied. Admit it Faith, you came in here to see what I was up to, she thought. "You?"

Faith, looking uncomfortable, wandered around the kitchen. "Yeah, I'm good."

Buffy realised she was looking for...him. She must not have seen him leave. "Where's Troy?"

That made her meet Buffy's eyes. "Uh, in there. Why?"

Buffy took her time opening another bottle of wine. "Well you two haven't been apart all night. I just..." ...wanted to make sure he hadn't fallen into a fiery pit and melted, she finished mentally. Shaking off her jealousy she continued. "Enjoying the party?"

"S'okay." Faith stood by the counter, tapping her fingers in time to the music coming from the other room. "I saw you with someone. He looked nice. Who is he? I mean, did you know him before tonight?"

Did you know hunk-man before tonight? Yeah she must have done, she invited him. Duh. "No I think Xander invited him."

"Oh. What's his name?"

Good question. She had to wrap this up fast. "Look Faith, can we play twenty questions later? The guy's shy and he insisted on hiding in the fridge until you go and I don't want him to freeze to death before I get him upstairs."

Buffy tried to shoo the other Slayer out of the kitchen as she cracked up laughing.

"I'm serious!" Buffy insisted.

Faith went to the fridge and opened the door, revealing plenty of beer but no man, unsurprisingly. Grabbing one of the beers, she smiled. "He cut out on you, huh?"

Faith was suddenly way too comfortable again for Buffy. She preferred her prowling around the room looking jealous. "No he did not. He had to go pick up his sister."

Faith accepted this readily enough, convincing Buffy that she thought she was lying. "I'm going out for a smoke." She went to the door and grabbed her leather jacket before heading out.

Sighing and grabbing her own warm, fake-furry coat, Buffy followed.

The sound of the party was muted out here in an almost eerie way. The snowfall was having one of its short intervals but a blanket of white still covered everything that hadn't moved in the last hour.

Buffy pulled her coat tighter around her and settled on the long bench seat next to the brunette. Faith had already removed the tarp that kept it dry and free from snow, but the wood was still icy cold under her bare thighs. Faith must have been feeling it too, but she said nothing as she lit up and inhaled deeply.

Buffy breathed in the sweet smoke. It reminded her of the past. Of Spike. Of her dad when she was small. He'd given up after Dawn was born, when the threat of second hand smoke was more widely known.

Faith seemed quite happy sitting next to her in silence, so Buffy broke it. "If my dad gave up smoking when Dawn was born, but Dawn was never really born, when did he give up smoking?"

Faith looked her way with a frown. "Maybe he never really smoked, but the guys that fucked with your memory made you remember he did even though he didn't. Or maybe he really did give up at the time she was planted in your head, but for a different reason, and the two got melded together." She shrugged like it was no big deal.

"I hate guys that fuck with your memory." Buffy lamented.

Faith shrugged again, the leather of her jacket brushing Buffy's coat. "You got Dawn out of it. Besides that shit's in the past. We've been here, what, six months now? It's time to look forwards, not back. Take tonight - New Year's all about new beginnings right? Well that and getting wasted and crappy resolutions."

Buffy nodded slowly while her brain sped through a series of thoughts. "So, new beginnings. Does that apply to us too? And just to make sure we're really clear on this, I mean you and me: us."

"I'd like that Buffy. I think...I think we're too good to lose, ya know." Buffy's heart soared. "We've been through so much and we're like, the originals. That's special and it should mean something...and I think that first swig of punch musta hit some dork switch in my head or something but I'm serious about this." Buffy's heart reached new planes of existence. "For five years we've never really tried, we did everything else but try in fact. Which was crazy. I dunno, maybe I was scared of letting you in and that was why I pushed you away so hard, but then you already had Will and Xander and I always felt like a third wheel, so it was easy to hang back and get all resentful. Now though, I think we got a real shot at it and I want that more than anything."

Buffy had never heard such a long speech from the brunette, not one about actual feelings and stuff anyway. "I want that too Faith, I really do." She took the hand that wasn't holding the cigarette and squeezed it.

Faith squeezed back. "Well good then." She chuckled. "I thought you were going to laugh at me."

"Why would I laugh at you?" Buffy chuckled back, bumping her shoulder against the other woman's.

"I don't know. I've never really had a friend before, not like you have with the Scoobs. I never knew how to make them. Who knew it just took being honest? This'll be great though, you'll see. I'm not promising slumber parties or nothing, 'cause I still think that's kinda lame, but all the other best friend stuff like the talking and shit; I can do that, or I can learn, right? I mean if Xander can do it." She chuckled again to show she was joking. "Not that I wanna get in their way or nothing. I know how important they are to you, but you never know; enough time goes by they might actually wanna be friends with me too." She let go of Buffy's hand to light another cigarette.

"You want to be best friends?" Buffy asked in a small voice.

Faith continued oblivious. "When you put it like that I want to roll on the floor laughing, but yeah I guess that is what I'm saying. Fuck, this conversation is weirding me out. Sorry. I'm gonna be asking to braid you're fricken' hair next." She nudged a numb Buffy on the shoulder. "Slap me if I do huh, I don't want to walk before I can run."

Buffy did consider slapping her. Then felt bad. Faith was asking for the simplest thing in the world and she was right; the chosen two should be good friends. Buffy hadn't even contemplated the thought of being friends with Faith since senior year in high school and even then she'd never really bothered making the effort.

Why couldn't Faith have asked her this before Buffy had fallen for her in the biggest way ever?

Faith must have noticed Buffy's less than ecstatic mood. "If...if stuff that's happened is going to get in the way, that's okay. I know you might not want to be friends with me after the way I've treated you in the past, and last week was...fucked up at best. But you not talking to me this week helped me put it in perspective. If we just give into the hornies every time we're together we'll never have anything real. We'll just go around and around hurting each other, messing up the others, creating little dramas we could all live without. I've proved I'm not cut out for the long haul relationship and you ... I don't know, maybe you were right with the whole 'staying single' thing for a while. You've been in one heavy relationship after another since you were, what, seventeen?"

"Sixteen really."

"There you go then. And your heavy relationships redefine the words heavy and relationship. No offence, but Angel? - Dude, that guy's emotional baggage outweighs the fricken Empire State Building."

Buffy's tears froze on her cheeks and she knew she'd have icicles hanging off her chin by the time she went back inside. The worse thing was, Faith was probably right, and, as a rule, she always hated that.

"Hey don't cry! Damn good start I'm making to being a best friend, huh?" Faith put her arm around her and the leather creaked. "I didn't mean to make you feel bad. I was just...shit I'm bad at this."

Buffy wiped her eyes dry and took a deep resolving breath. "You didn't, well you did, but I know you didn't mean to. It's just...Maybe you're right, maybe we aren't Romeo and Juliet, or Juliet and Juliet, I just thou..." Swallowing she changed direction. After all Faith had just made a big admission and offered up another huge part of herself. Last week Buffy had thrown that back in her face, albeit without meaning to, she wasn't making the same mistake twice: not again anyway. "So I get to be your first best friend, huh? That's pretty cool. There is so much to teach you. You do realise that whenever I call, you have to come running."

Faith shrugged. "No problem, I pretty much do that anyway." She flicked her cigarette away.

The shivers getting to them both, the two stood up and headed back inside out of the frigid night.

"But I mean whenever," Buffy stressed, "even when it's three in the morning and I'm snivelling so loud down the phone you can barely make out a word I'm saying and even if it's raining cats and dogs outside, you still have to stop and get Chocolate-berry ice-cream and rent Bridget Jones on your way."

They were entering the party room again as Faith looked at her with a pained expression. "Yeah but Red's still the one, right? I mean, I'm only first reserve."

"Chocolate-berry, don't forget. And tissues. Best to keep some in your car." Buffy smiled at her. She noticed someone's head jerk in their direction at the sound of their voices. "I think someone's missed you." She indicated Troy with her head. "Go on."

Faith caught and squeezed her hand before making her way over to the gorgeous guy waiting for her.

Best friends. She could live with that. As Faith said, it might even be better. Buffy sighed deeply and headed for the punch table.

Chapter Six

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