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



Chapter Two: Time For Some Quiet Reflection

The potentials once again began talking over the top of each other, moaning and arguing about their situation. It was giving Buffy a headache. Too many cooks spoiling the soup or something. They were getting nowhere really fast.

If that wasn't depressing enough, she was feeling bad about Spike. He'd obviously stormed off because of what she'd said in the basement, which incidentally, she wasn't even sure she meant. She had just felt the urge to really piss him off. 'Well guess I succeeded there,' she thought. She wondered where he was, what he was doing, if he was coming back. 'No, when he comes back. He's not going to leave . . . me' she added as an afterthought. Maybe it would be better for both of them though; if he just took off and she never saw him again. Everything between them had been so confusing for, well ever since they'd met, really. Their relationship, hah, or whatever it was they shared, had always run a fine line between pleasure and pain. From wanting to see each other dead to wanting to see each other naked. And now, what were they now? She'd spent all year keeping him at arms length, telling herself and him that she could never love him. Yet a lot of that time she had spent saving him, helping him or worrying about him. Go figure. She was even worrying about him now, when she should be saving the world!

Faith was looking over at Buffy. She'd heard her quiet sardonic chuckle a moment ago and wondered about the cause. Buffy appeared lost in thought. Faith hoped she was coming up with a plan cause she'd been racking her brains and couldn't come up with zip. She watched Buffy frown and shake her head slightly.

Faith was feeling confused about what had happened between them in the basement. Not the fight - that was standard territory for the Chosen Two. Even the kiss, though shocking and unexpected, was only so because it happened now after everything they'd been through. In the past she'd made no attempt to hide the fact that she found Buffy attractive. 'Who wouldn't?' she thought, still gazing at Buffy while everyone else argued around her. More than once she had wanted to try it on, steal a kiss, maybe more. It wasn't the likely punch in the face that stopped her either, but something she knew would hurt even more.

Buffy was the closest friend she'd ever had. She'd had friends in Boston - she wasn't a total loser - but they had just been kids she hung out with. No one special, no one she could talk to - No one who was 'best'. She had never even realized she was missing out on anything until she had come to Sunnydale and met Buffy. Seeing her hero (and she would never admit to using that word, even after torture with red hot knives) hanging with Willow and Xander had made her want that so bad.

She'd never got it though. There had been moments that were perfect and Faith had really felt like she had belonged, but she knew she had made a lot of mistakes even before the 'accident' and so had Buffy. They had never made it to 'close'; their friendship was always hanging by a thread and Faith knew it wouldn't take a lot to break it and then she would lose even the little they had. So she had never pushed for anything more. She would look at Buffy after a hard fight when she was all sweaty and panting and looking even more incredibly hot than normal and their eyes would catch and she was almost sure Buffy was thinking exactly the same as she was, but almost is still only almost and that wasn't enough for Faith to risk it. So she'd come out with some flirty comment, hoping Buffy would get it and make a move but she never did. God that girl could be slow sometimes, 'Or maybe just not interested,' she thought wryly.

She'd always wanted to open up to Buffy about stuff, but her trust issues - she knew she had plenty - made it so hard. She had hoped that if Buffy did it first then that would make it easier, but she never had. She felt B had deliberately kept her out of the loop over Angel's return, when Faith, as the outsider, probably would have been the best person to talk to. In turn Faith had kept all her fears and insecurities - about Slayerhood and everything else - dammed up inside of her. Then she'd reached bursting point and she'd ended up losing it and . . . Well, everyone knew the rest of that story.

After everything had hit the fan and she was the Mayor's right hand Slayer she often wished she'd just gone ahead and jumped BUffy. After all, the whole friendship thing never really panned out and she'd felt stupid ever thinking it would.

"Faith, what do you think?"

"Huh what?" Faith asked, dragging her eyes from Buffy. She felt embarrassed to be caught staring at her but Kennedy didn't seem to notice.

"I said what do you think about going down to that seal? Doing some recon. Even if Buffy's right about the vineyard it can't hurt to check out the other options," Kennedy repeated.

"Uh I guess not." Faith looked over to see what Buffy thought of the idea but the blonde was still staring off into space.

Then she realized what had her confused. Downstairs something had changed and it wasn't the kiss; it was what came after it. Buffy's trust. She and Buffy sat down having an honest heart to heart. That was a first. Downstairs the other woman had told her things about Spike she hadn't even discussed with Willow. That was the friendship she had craved since first meeting the Chosen One and her Scoobies. That's what she had been missing. 'Shame we reach this stage just as we're all about to die,' she thought, 'but better late than never.'

'I'm not worried about him, I'm just damn annoyed. Where is he?' Buffy sat there studying her fingers. She didn't know what he was playing at. Tonight was important; this discussion was important. 'Yeah, that's why you're paying such close attention,' her inner voice taunted her. She told herself that wasn't the point. He had found out what could be some vital information tonight and he'd disappeared without telling anybody. It was just lucky that Andrew had remembered it and she didn't like having to depend on the limp ex-super villain. He hardly instilled any faith.

Faith. As soon as she thought the word, the name kept repeating over and over again in her mind. God! What had that all been about? Faith had kissed her! Faith had kissed her! Faith had kissed her! 'Okay my record's stuck.' It occurred to her that the dark Slayer kissing her was not really a huge deal. Faith had told her long ago that gender wasn't so much an issue for her, especially when in the throes of post-slayage arousal. It had surprised and intrigued Buffy at the time. The whole lesbian thing being new to her. But after being around Willow and Tara for any length of time it had just become every day life. Natural as maple syrup on pancakes and apparently just as yummy, although she'd begged Willow to not go into to much detail.

The huge deal was that she had kissed back. With great enthusiasm. She may have had initial reservations but she was wise enough to know that that had been for show. She hadn't wanted to stop. God if they hadn't been interrupted they would probably still be down there now, kissing and maybe . . . 'No let's not drive myself crazy.' She knew it was just a blip, it didn't mean a thing. Just a reaction to having the impetuous Slayer back in her life. The fight they'd had . . . well, she had always denied she was affected by the hungry/horny dilemma but she knew it was there. She just normally controlled it a lot better than Faith. Tonight she hadn't. It was as simple as that.

She assumed Faith was thinking the same thing. Yes, in the past she had flirted heavily with the blonde, but then she flirted with everyone. Before their conversation tonight Buffy had been convinced that the other woman only had three modes of conversation - flirting, arguing and sarcasm. More often than not she managed to roll all three into one. She had never taken the flirting seriously before. She'd enjoyed the attention and found it funny, bantering right along with her. They'd built up a light repartee which could keep them both amused during the quiet hours spent in the cemeteries.

Thinking this, Buffy realized that was all they had ever had as friends. Their first serious conversation had come about after the death of Allan Finch but even then Faith had been defensive and accusing, not willing to deal with the accident. Buffy felt a twinge of guilt. Maybe if she had taken more time to talk to the younger girl all that sorry mess could have been avoided. Buffy herself had freaked when she'd been chosen and it was only with the help of Willow and Xander that she had managed to keep her head straight. That and Giles' unwavering support and guidance. Why did she assume that Faith would be any different? Be able to handle it any better? For God sake, the girl had seen her watcher killed only months after being called; that had to mess her up. She felt terrible that she hadn't taken the time to talk to Faith about it. 'The girl probably should have had counseling but instead we all ignored it,' she mused. 'I was all caught up in having Angel back from hell. How selfish is that?' p> She looked over at Faith as she sat there berating herself for failing the girl. 'Damn!' And looked away again fast. The brunette had been staring straight at her, her face open and unguarded, but Buffy couldn't read the expression. 'Shit why did I look away? I coulda just smiled,' she thought. 'Now she's gonna know I was thinking about her.' Buffy felt her cheeks begin to color. 'Oh great. One okayish kiss and a bit of soul searching and I can't even look at her without going red.'

"Uh Buff, are you okay?" She forced herself to look in Willow's direction. "You're a bit pink."

'Okay, so scratch that - I don't even have to look at her.' Buffy's face was burning now and to cover her discomfiture she leapt to her feet.

"Uh yeah, er . . . fine Wills, just a bit warm . . . uh, er, in here. Don'tcha think? Think I'll grab some air." Buffy bustled out the front door and stood leaning against the porch railings, sucking in a deep lungful of cold night air.

What was wrong with her? One minute she had been thinking sane, sobering things about how she should have helped Faith and then one look into the woman's uncloaked eyes and she was turned into a blathering idiot.

This had to be some kind of a plot. All part of Faith's revenge. New and improved for the twenty-first century. What was the aim? To weaken her defenses and then kabaam! But kabaam what? To tell all her friends they had kissed? Surely even Faith was more mature than that. Like anyone would bat an eyelid anyway, with Willow and Kennedy all over each other twenty-four/seven. No this just had to be some personal one-upmanship, an extension to their everlasting dance. 'Just like the good old days,' she thought wryly.

'Well it ends here.' She had already told Robin she had no time for his vendettas and the same applied to her own. Faith would have to keep her petty vengeance schemes on the back burner until they had defeated the First. And if they didn't defeat it . . . Well that made it all kinda moot anyway.

Beating down the little voice that kept asking her why, if the kiss was so unimportant, did just thinking about it rob her of oxygen, she took a few deep breaths to correct the problem and let herself back in the house.

Faith watched Buffy go out the front door. When the blonde had looked at her a second ago she'd gulped and stopped breathing. 'Smooth man, real smooth,' she chuckled inwardly. She'd watched Buffy quickly snap her head back round and the way she'd blushed had just been hilarious. No question what little miss goody goody had been thinking about. It was all the brunette could do not to burst out laughing, but she realized everyone would think that she was insane - again.

She wanted to follow Buffy outside. Talk to the girl like she had been earlier. Maybe open up a bit if Buffy was interested. You know, let her know it wasn't a one way deal. That Faith trusted her too. She figured it might look a bit odd though, her bailing for the blonde's company in the middle of an important meeting. Not that she gave a rat's ass what they thought, but she knew Buffy would. And there was no point going out there just to get into a row about the correct etiquette after you've just frenched your nemesis.

She shook her head at that. Everything had gone crazy since she'd been back in Sunnydale. 'I don't know why I'm surprised,' she reflected. All she had wanted was to come back and help save the world. Earn a few points for the good side for a change. Kick some demon ass and maybe, if possible, make amends with everyone she had messed with four years ago. Instead she had come back and got sucked straight back into the freak show that was her and Buffy. 'God damn!' Arguing, fighting, kissing! What the hell had she been thinking? So B had looked really tempting lying beneath her, all disheveled and still breathing heavy from their fight. That was no excuse. 'Ya don't piss on yer own doorstep.' How many times had she heard her mother shout that at her dad? She had found the expression comical until she'd learned what it meant and why her mother said it all the time. Isn't that exactly what she had just done?

Buffy had obviously had time to freak out about it since their tête-à-tête below. That's why she was quiet, that's why she couldn't look at her and that's why she'd bolted. The situation didn't seem as funny as it had a minute ago. She'd wanted to make nice with the other Slayer, not make out. Now Buffy would just think she was the same loser trash she had been before. Well she'd just have to stay out of her way. It wasn't as if they didn't have more important things to think about. Buffy had thanked her for the distraction, which was clearly all it was; now the fairest thing Faith could do was not try and distract her further. She would find an opportune moment later to apologize for not keeping it in her pants and then it would all be about the big battle.

She felt herself slip into resolve face, 'God, a week around these guys and I'm babbling the same crazy language as them,' she thought. This was both equal parts comforting and disturbing. As she saw Buffy let herself back in the front door her stomach went wiggly - 'Okay, now even more disturbing.'

Chapter Three

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Chapter One || Chapter Two || Chapter Three || Chapter Four || Chapter Five || Chapter Six || Chapter Seven

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