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



Chapter Three: A Fool For the Kiss

Spike paced inside the stone tunnel, muttering to himself.

"How could she, after everything she said? That bitch has done more to hurt her than I ever could - she told me herself. She's got to be playing some kind of game. She's gonna get Buffy off-guard and then she's gonna do something, something bad. It's the oldest trick in the book. I have to stop her."

He stood, staring out of the grating. "Not long now."

Buffy knocked lightly on her bedroom door. There was no answer. 'Why would she answer? I've just accused her of blowing up some potentials and she just said she wished she'd never met me. It's hardly conducive with active socializing,' she thought as she opened the door and slipped in.

At first she thought Faith was asleep. Her breathing sounded heavy, her face turned towards the window and one arm slung across her eyes. Buffy approached the bed silently, not wanting to wake the other girl. She hesitated between sitting on the bed as she had before or going around the other side to the chair. Deciding on the bed, she was about to climb on when Faith spoke, startling her so much she almost slipped to the floor.

"What the hell do you want?"

Buffy froze, completely. Faith's face was still turned away and her arm, casual looking at first, was placed tightly across her eyes. Buffy realized she was crying. She had never seen Faith cry, she'd thought the sentiment was beyond her. Now here she was trying her best to stifle the noisy sobs betraying her tough girl exterior.

Buffy went ahead and climbed on the bed, fully expecting a punch to the nose. When it didn't come, she spoke.

"Faith, I'm sorry."

"Yeah, you said," came the muffled reply.

"No. I mean, really sorry. I jumped to the wrong conclusion, again. It's one of my many faults. I know what happened at the school."

"And what was that?"

"That it was Kennedy who went charging in and you tried to stop her." Buffy was fiddling with the edge of her comforter, not looking at Faith, giving her a chance to compose herself. It wasn't happening. If anything she seemed to be crying harder. Her breath was now coming in hitching gasps.

"Faith, I really am sorry, I should have got your side of it first."

"Whatever. I don't care."

"Then why are you crying?" Buffy asked softly.

Faith moved her arm and revealed her red eyes and tear-stained cheeks. Buffy, sensing the movement, looked up at her.

"You really don't get it, do you?" Faith asked. She sounded more surprised than angry.

"I get that I hurt you by accusing you."

"Don't flatter yourself," Faith sneered and went to cover her face up again.

Buffy caught her arm and pushed it gently to the bed between them. "Faith," she said a little bit impatiently. "If I don't get it, it's not because I don't want to, so explain it to me. Treat me like I'm stupid."

"Shouldn't be hard," Faith said, but there was some of the old twinkle returned to her bloodshot eyes.

Buffy gave her a goofy grin and let herself go cross-eyed, when she received a quiet chuckle she put on her version of resolve face and said: "Splainy."

Faith began, her voice low and raspy, the voice that had always attracted Buffy's attention and now seemed to be attracting other parts of Buffy as well. She pushed this thought away before it made her blush and concentrated on what Faith was saying.

"I know I've never given you much reason to trust me, so why would you? And I know you don't believe I've changed, and I can't keep just saying it. You either have to take that on trust or not. So I guess we're at a bit of an impasse. Buffy, I'm trying my best, but I'm never gonna be you, not even close. I'm gonna keep making mistakes, I don't think I can escape that."

"No one can," Buffy put in.

"Maybe, but the point is, I know that's not the important thing. The important thing is how I deal with the aftermath. You've seen me at my worst. I was like that because I was running away from my problems, myself, you. Everything. I couldn't deal and I kinda went postal on you all."

Buffy smiled, "Yeah I remember, I kind of lived it with you."

"Yeah, I guess you did. But that's the point, see. I'm not running any more. If a problem comes and bites me on the ass, then I'll turn around and bite it back. I get it now. I used to think being a Slayer meant I didn't have to take any responsibility for anything, but now I see that being a Slayer means having the ability to deal with the responsibility. Giving me what I need to face life head on. I guess I wanted to be like all the regular joe shmoes, buryin my head in the sand, but not about vampires and stuff. About the everyday stuff - like right and wrong and knowing the difference between them. I wanted to ignore all that and have super-powers, but we can't, can we? If I want the perks I have to do the job, and that means facin up to reality. All of it."

"That's deep," Buffy said, meaning it.

"Yeah well, like I said, I had a lot of time to think when I was banged up. Most of it doesn't make sense, I guess my brain isn't used to the work, but it's starting to."

Buffy leaned over Faith very carefully and wiped one of her still wet cheeks with her fingertip. "That still doesn't explain why you're crying."

"God, you don't ask for much do ya? Okay well this is the funny part." Buffy sat back again, waiting to be amused. "When we... when we switched bodies, I felt something."

"You did what?" Buffy exploded, sitting up so quickly she got a head rush.

"What? Oh God Buffy, not that. Jeez, get your mind outta the gutter for a minute. I meant I felt good about myself. For about five minutes I felt really good. I saved some stupid bitch from a vamp outside the Bronze and she was thanking me and that, and at first I was like, shut the hell up. Then I realized that was because I felt weird, all outta place. I've never had anyone look at me like that, like I'm some kind of hero."

Buffy settled back against the pillows, acutely embarrassed for gaffe and also feeling monstrously guilty. Faith had helped her out for months before her defection, easing Buffy's workload a whole lot. Had she ever once said thank you, had Giles or Willow or Xander. She couldn't remember, but she suspected probably not.

Buffy shook the shame away as Faith began to speak again.

"I'm not saying I'm some kind of hero; nah, that's your gig. But it made me, I don't know, it sounds sappy, but it made me wish I was a better person. And I knew I wasn't and never could be. I am what I am, kind of thing. The reason I went through with the switching thing was because I figured the cops and the Watcher's Council would be after me and if I didn't look like me then I'd be a bit harder to find. That and I knew it would majorly piss you off." She smirked.

Buffy nodded with a 'duh' expression. "Yeah you're right, that is funny."

"But what I didn't realize until afterwards was that maybe I wanted to escape being me. Like I'd tried to escape everything else that was bad. I wanted to shake off what was rotten about me by slipping into a new skin. And well, what better skin than yours, huh."

This time Buffy did blush, looking up she realized with surprise that Faith was too.

"And now?" Buffy asked.

"And now I guess I'm growing me a new skin, or starting to. Angel taught me I could change. I could be a better person. I mean I'm never gonna win the Nobel peace prize or nothing. And redemption ain't as easy as he makes it look sometimes, but one day at a time hopefully I'll get there. I was wrong when I said one life didn't matter in the balance of things. It does, every life matters, and it's the little lives that need protecting the most. You always understood that, I'm just beginning to."

"I'm not as good as you're making me out to be, Faith. I've made mistakes, big ones sometimes," Buffy said in a small voice.

"Yeah maybe, but you never lost sight of the big picture. You never lost sight of what was right."

"Oh, I have done. If it wasn't for my friends and my family I could just have easily taken a different path. I nearly did a few times."

"Oh don't tell me that." Faith mock groaned and rolled over on her side to face Buffy. "You're flattening my whole belief system."

Buffy laughed. "Sorry, but you've put me on some kind of pedestal since you got back - when you're not beating on me that is - and I don't really get why. I'm no saint."

"Buffy, it's not just since I got back," Faith said softly.

"What do you mean?"

"See, this is what I meant. You really are clueless sometimes, you know that?"

"Thanks," Buffy said sarcastically.

"I mean it. I told you all this last night. I would never have handed myself in if you hadn't suggested it."

"It wasn't really so much a suggestion as an order."

"Yeah well, whatever. I wouldn't have listened to anyone else, probably not even Angel. I'd have just thought he was trying to palm me off. And I broke out of jail for Angel, sure, but I came here for you. I didn't know if you'd want me here. At first I thought you didn't but I still would've come."

"To start with I wasn't sure I wanted you here. I knew I needed you, you know for the fight, but when Willow told me you were on your way, I freaked. I don't know if I've stopped yet," Buffy told her honestly.

"Yeah well I've been freaking a bit myself," Faith agreed.

The smiled at each other.

"So what does all this mean?" Buffy asked.

"I don't know, maybe things between us will always be confusing..."

"Getting more confusing by the second," Buffy whispered, half to herself, as she let Faith take her hand again.

"...But," Faith continued, "whatever happens in this fight, I'm gonna be by your side. Like I always should have been."

"The Chosen Two," Buffy said with a sweet smile.

She lay next to Faith with her head on the pillows, their hands clasped between them and gazed at each other in the dusky light. Drawing strength from each other, from their unique and confusing bond.

Finally, there was enough shadow for him to risk making a break for it. Grabbing the blanket to him and slipping it over his head, he pushed the grate up and climbed out. With a quick dash he was under the Summers' back porch, the blanket smoking only slightly.

He wrenched the back door open and stalked inside. He'd had hours down in the sewer since Dru's visit and that had given him a lot of time to get worked up. He'd convinced himself that at this very moment Faith was trying to follow through on a plot to kill Buffy. He had reasoned she must be working for the First. Why else would she show up again all of a sudden? It was a well known fact that there was no love lost between the two Slayers. Buffy had recounted the whole sordid history to him that morning. And the First was desperate for a way in to Buffy's inner sanctum. It had tried to use him for the purpose, but thanks to the strength he drew from the blonde Slayer, it had failed. It had infiltrated the potentials, masked as Eve. It made perfect sense that it would try to use Faith for the same end, and Faith was just ripe for the picking. He couldn't imagine her wanting to go back to jail any time soon. The First had probably promised her freedom if she took down Buffy. And the psycho most likely didn't even need that much encouragement. Sure she had helped Angel, but then Angel was a nut job most the time too.

With all this in mind he charged up the stairs to Buffy's bedroom. Taking no notice of the puzzled stares that followed him. Without knocking he barged in.

Seeing them both lying on the bed just blew his temper further out of proportion.

"Buffy, get away from her," he snarled. "She's working for the First."

"What?" Buffy asked, shocked by his unexpected entrance. "What are you talking about?"

"Her. She's working for the First. Dru told me. Well not Dru. It was the First I suppose, but anyway its got Faith in its control." His confidence in his theory had started to wane, seeing the Dark Slayer looking equally as nonplussed as Buffy by his outburst.

"No I'm not!" She retorted. When Buffy looked at her, slightly wary, she added. "Buffy I'm not. I swear. Please."

Buffy saw Faith's eyes start to shimmer with tears again. "I know Faith, I know. Spike's got his wires crossed somewhere." She jumped off the bed, facing Spike. "You're wrong Spike, the First lied to you. It knows which buttons to press now and that's all it's doing."

Spike wasn't sure. He looked between the two Slayers. Faith looked like she was about to bawl her eyes out. Could that be because she was scared she'd been found out or was there something more going on that he was yet to find out about? Buffy just looked angry, but strangely enough not actually at him.

"Why, what could it gain from this?" He asked

Buffy spoke to the air, as if just giving sounds to her thoughts. "It wants a Slayer out of the way. It already tried to take Faith out of the game once today." She looked directly at Spike. "There was an explosion at the Hellmouth. Faith and some of the girls got caught up in it."

"Why was she there?" He asked, thinking it was all starting to fall in to place.

"No, don't go there. We did, and it got messy. It had nothing to do with Faith, it was just a... a... a communication lapse. We're good at those. Anyway, it tried once today and failed. It obviously wanted another go and used you as the ammo."

"How can you be so sure?" Spike asked, still not totally sold on her idea.

Buffy turned back to the bed and looked down at Faith. Buffy could see she was battling to put up her old defenses but too much had been said in this room for it to work.

"Because I trust Faith." There, it was said. If she was wrong then there would be hell to pay later, so fingers crossed.

"Don't say it if you don't mean it," Faith replied with a hint of her old bravado.

"You know I wouldn't," Buffy responded.

"Well, okay then." Spike sank down on the edge of the bed. If Buffy believed Faith, and he generally trusted her instincts, then that was the end of it. Well except: "I was just looking out for you. A fella hears something like that, he can't just ignore it."

"It's alright Spike, I get it. You were the perfect person for the First to use. You had a reason to have a grudge against Faith and the power to do something about it. Well more chance than any of the others anyway," Buffy told him with a sly smile.

"Why the grudge?" Faith asked.

"You tryin' to ruin the Slayer's life," Spike said.

"The us kissing thing," Buffy said at exactly the same time, not looking at the other Slayer.

Buffy and Spike spun around to face each other. "That's not it!" They both snapped. They glared at each other.

He broke first. "It wasn't about the kissing, it was about watching your back."

"Spike it's okay. Jealousy is a strong emotion, the First knew it could use that in you. I'm not mad," Buffy tried to take the higher ground. She felt to weary for any more angst. She hadn't slept for nearly forty-eight hours.

Spike wouldn't be mollified. "You are bloody mad, completely cuckoo. I'm not the jealous type. Or okay maybe I am, but you're wrong about this. You can kiss who you like. I'm over you!" He said, dramatically.

If she had believed it, it might have hurt, but she didn't. "Yeah, course you are," she said vaguely

"It's okay Spikey, it was only a little kiss it didn't mean anything," Faith told him, her voice cocky, her tone self-assured.

Okay, so that hurt a little; best not to wonder why.

"Meant something to Buffy," he smirked. "Just talking about it got her right worked up, didn't it luv."

"Okay then, Spike, I get it; you're not jealous. I was just joking with you, you know making with the merry banter, but we'd better be going now. Work to do and all that. Faith needs her rest..." Buffy babbled as she all but shoved him towards the door.

"What was that?" Faith asked, leaning up on her elbows.

"Nothing - just Spike being Spike. Night Faith." If looks could find a way to keep the dead buried, Spike would be in a wooden box right about now. With one last hard push, she sent him flying through the doorway, followed him out and shut the door behind her.

"What the hell are you trying to pull?" She rounded on him, whispering furiously.

"I wasn't trying to pull anything, luv. I was just telling the truth, like a good vampire." Spike gave her his sexiest smile.

Ninety percent of her ignored it. The other ten percent hated itself. Why did she find him the most attractive when he was at his most annoying? It really wasn't fair.

"You wouldn't know the truth if it bit you on the ass. You're just trying to drive me crazy."

"Yeah well I can think of better ways of driving you crazy, but I guess they're out of the question. See, I get it now Slayer. Earlier I thought maybe we'd got some of the magic back but then I found some time for reflection and it all became crystal. It wasn't me that started your propellers. I was teasing you about Faith and bingo. Then I come up here and you're all cozied up on the bed together. Doesn't take a genius to work out what's going on."

"Nothing's going on and things are strained enough between Faith and me without you coming up with these stories to make things worse," Buffy growled at him.

Spike was doing his best to sound sincere, he did feel a bit sincere after all. He would have liked to pull the dark Slayer's head off her shoulders and use it a football but that part of him didn't hold the reins anymore. And if he couldn't painfully destroy his competition he could do the honorable thing and keep some dignity that way. And if it had the added benefit of pleasing the Slayer, so much the better.

"Look Buffy, there's no shame in it. I know girls these days think they invented it but women have been at it for centuries. Sure I'm a little peeved you're batting for the other team now, you don't want to see these knees in a mini skirt, but I can be a man about it."

Buffy didn't lose her growl. "I am not batting for the other team. I'm not even playing the damn game."

"C'mon Buffy, I know you better than that. You're completely into her and mmphrm..."

Whatever else Spike thought was swallowed by Buffy as she forced her lips against his and kissed him hard. It started stiff-lipped and aggressive. She sought only to shut him up. Stop him from voicing what she didn't want to hear, didn't want to think about. Wanting to prove him wrong once and for all and prove it to herself at the same time.

Spike's shocked disbelief was eagerly replaced by hungry desire. Buffy fought to keep the kiss perfunctory and cold but the heat quickly surged up in her too. She forgot she was mad at him, she forgot why she had kissed him in the first place and she completely forgot that they were standing in the hall, outside her bedroom door, with a houseful of people wandering around. For a few short minutes, she even forgot Faith was lying the other side of the wall, not even four feet away. It had been so long since she had been this close to him and she'd missed it. Not him, not the pseudo-relationship they'd once had, but his total physicality. The way his body felt as she pressed up firmly against him, stretched up taut to capture his lips more securely. His mouth cold and tasting of cigarettes and a little of blood. It should have been repulsive but she'd got used to the tang of blood long before she'd met Spike and it no longer bothered her. His arms strong around her back, the awareness of knowing she wouldn't snap his neck like a dry twig if she held him tight, as she did so now. She had once used the power of this feeling to escape her emptiness, fill her up until all the blankness that had dominated her life was pushed out the sides. This wasn't the same. The power was still there, but it had changed its shade. There was no more emptiness to conquer and all she felt was good. This wasn't about pain or kinky sex or domination because even bad emotions are better than none at all. This was about affection and sexy smiles and sparkling baby blues. This was about his fingertips lightly stroking her back causing roller coaster flips in her tummy. In this moment she realized, all year long it had been a pilot light, always there, but rarely acknowledged. Now she'd turned up the stove and it burned brightly, her long stint of celibacy fanning the flame.

For his part Spike felt like he'd come home. Like he'd been wandering in the desert for the past year and only now, with her lips meeting his with such intensity, did he feel like he'd found the promised land. In this moment he didn't care if she never laid a hand on him again; if this kiss was the last he'd ever share with anyone. Because as they kissed, as he felt the heat of her body burn his own cool skin, as her hands slipped around his neck and held him tightly to her, it didn't matter if she was using him to lie to herself because now, right now, she was right here in this moment with him for the first time. He felt his soul soar and he half expected to burst in to flames with the warmth that flowed through him. If he thought he'd been in love before, he didn't know what to call this, but it was good.

When she had no air left in her lungs she pulled back. "There, see; now do you believe me? Still on the same team," she gasped.

Spike eyed her hungrily. Of course he wasn't even breathing heavy. He just smiled his smile and tilted his head a little to one side. "I don't know," he murmured. "I may take more convincing."

She smiled and tipped her head back as he leaned down to kiss her again. Much more softly this time, savoring the touch of each others mouths, tongues and lips.

Faith lay in the bed, her thoughts doing overtime. She could hear whispering outside the bedroom door, but couldn't make out the words.

What had Spike been going on about? Whatever it was, Buffy didn't want him saying it, that much was clear. It was half past four in the afternoon and Buffy had effectively just sent her to bed without any supper. He'd been talking about her kissing Buffy. Maybe Buffy had been freaking out about it as she'd thought she would. The other Slayer had probably been moaning about it to the bleached vampire. Faith had kind of hoped that Buffy might want to do it again. She'd certainly seemed up for it last night under the tree, but time had obviously cleared her senses.

Faith mentally berated herself for not taking the chance when it was on offer, but then there would have been more awkwardness between them. So maybe it was better if they kept it to one indiscretion. The fact she couldn't stop thinking about it was really beginning to annoy Faith. Sure the blonde Slayer had been the North to her compass for years now, but she'd never wanted to get physical before, well not really. Now one hot and sweaty moment and she felt like she was under some kind of spell.

She rolled over in the bed, feeling her strength returning to its old self and thought over Spike's words. He'd said it had meant something to Buffy. That could be good or bad. It probably meant she was stressing over it. Which would be just like Buffy to get upset over a little kiss with another girl. After all she'd tried to fight it off to begin with. She had gotten more relaxed though. That had been one hell of a kiss. Or it could mean it meant something else, more important. Like maybe the kiss had been meaningful. Although getting a package of dead puppies through the post was meaningful but not in a way you'd want to repeat. If thinking about kissing her got Buffy worked up, was that in an angry 'I'm gonna kill you' sort of way or more like a 'I want to rip your clothes off and ravish you' sort of way?

Surely though, if Buffy had been mad at her then she wouldn't have woken to find the blonde Slayer holding her hand, looking real concerned. Even when she'd thought the explosion had been her fault she'd sounded more disappointed than angry. Like Faith had let her down again, and that was what Faith couldn't handle. She was working so hard to change and be more responsible. To be someone who could be liked, be someone who Buffy could like. She was sick of peoples faces clouding over when she entered the room. It had been like that in L.A. and it was like it here in Sunnydale. People looked at her and all they saw was the monster she had been in past. She had no doubt it was gonna take a lot to change those looks but she was trying, dammit. And seeing that same old look in Buffy's eyes made her want to run away again. What was the point? If Buffy never thought she could be any good and was always gonna be waiting for her next screw up, what was the point? She'd said in L.A. that Faith would get over the guilt and come back to make another mess for her and her friends to clear up. Is that all she was doing? Creating another mess for Buffy to deal with? Would they all have been better off if she had just gone back to jail and let the real superheroes do their jobs?

The voices had stopped out in the hall. She listened hard for telltale signs anyone was still out there. She thought she could here breathing, but wasn't sure. It was probably her own. Her head still felt a little fuzzy.

Thinking over her negative reaction to Buffy's accusation made her feel a bit silly now. Even if Buffy never did believe in her, Faith knew Angel did and Gunn and Fred and Connor, none of whom had know the old Faith anyway. Even Wesley was impressed with her and he, after Buffy of course, had the most reason to hate her.

The conversation she'd had with the blonde prior to Spike's arrival had alleviated a lot of those fears anyway. Buffy wanted her here, she was freaking but that was understandable. They had a lot on their plates here in the Dale and Faith's arrival was bound to cause some waves, but the worse was over and Buffy wanted her here.

She thought about the feel of Buffy's hand in her own. It was so soft compared to Faith's callused hands, dry and rough from her job in the prison laundry. She'd always thought making number plates might be kinda cool, but no, she got stuck with dirty sheet duty. Still Buffy hadn't complained so maybe they weren't too bad. She loved holding her hand. Always had. Today wasn't the first time. Back in the day it was a regular occurrence. Dancing at the Bronze, sneaking through pitch black sewers, pretending to be a couple at the Fish Tank so none of the creeps there would try and hit on them while they were spying on a couple of demons, suspects in a Siamese kitten racket. All good times. After her "accident" she never thought she'd be able to do it again, yet here she was, or had been ten minutes ago, lying in Buffy's bed, next to the blonde Slayer herself, holding hands.

She cursed Spike under her breath for walking in. Buffy had wrenched her hand away so fast when he had flung the door open, she would have snapped any ordinary mortal's wrist. Faith tried not to feel jealous. She had no call to feel jealous. There was nothing going on between Spike and Buffy, she said it pretty clearly last night. Plus there was nothing going on between her and Buffy. Even if Faith wanted to be more than friends, 'which I don't', she thought defensively just in case any one was listening in on her thoughts, Buffy would never go for it. Not after everything Faith had done to her in the past. Buffy was only interested in trying to rebuild their rocky friendship. And that was more than Faith had dared hope for not so long ago. So she would be happy with that.

'But I'm not happy, I don't want to go back to holding her hand, pretending to be a couple,' she admitted to herself, reluctantly. 'And I don't think she does either.'

But Faith didn't have the courage to say anything to Buffy about it for two reasons. Firstly she was scared of the blonde's rejection. If Buffy laughed at her there was no way she'd be able to stick around and do the right thing and that led her to the second thing. She really didn't want to come in to Buffy's life and cause another mess, especially not when she was in the biggest fight of her life. And she had a feeling declaring her feelings were a little more than platonic might cause a tsunami sized wave.

'God, I'm going crazy laying here.' She decided, moving to get out of the bed. 'I must have bumped my head really hard to consider taking things any further with B, but hell, we might only have a few days left and I'm done being a coward about this. If B don't feel the same, then we'll get through it,' she thought as she pulled herself upright and made her way to the bedroom door. After all, this was small fry compared to stealing her body, right. With the memory of Buffy's hand in he's, smiling at her, whispering the sacred words that had kept Faith going in prison, Faith decided to go find the woman who had affected every decision she had made since leaving Boston five years before, and have the conversation she'd been dreading since last night. Since she'd realized she couldn't hide from how she felt any more. Since she realized why Buffy Summers had dominated her life since before they even met, even when they were separated by miles and mistakes.

Hoping she hadn't read this completely wrong and was about to make another huge mistake to go in the Buffy/Faith files, she opened the door and said, "Here goes nothing".

Chapter Four

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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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