Sweet Tyranny

Written: April 18, 2014

Rating: PG-13

Pairing: Buffy/Faith, Buffy/Other

Disclaimer: I don't own these characters, nor do I make any money from writing about them.

Summary: From friends with benefits to just friends, Buffy and Faith find that calling it quits isn't exactly as easy as it sounds. Post-Chosen.

Notes: Inspired by the song "Liar" by the Dragonette. Story gets its title from the proverb, "Love is a sweet tyranny, because the lover endureth his torments willingly."

The sheets were still damp against Buffy's skin as she relaxed in her bed, trying her darnedest to make her legs work again. Not that she was complaining, exactly. Sex so good it made her legs numb was generally considered a good thing.

A very, very good thing.

But the fact remained that she needed to get up out of bed and get dressed before the shower in the next room turned off and the whole vicious cycle started all over again. And really, it was a cycle she was usually more than happy to repeat, but not today. Today the fun had to stop and a discussion needed to be had. An important discussion. A life-altering discussion.

Honestly, she knew it was probably the reason why she'd been putting this whole thing off for four days now.

She suddenly found herself worrying her bottom lip between her teeth, the writhing ball of uncertainty in her gut making her question her decision once again. Was she making the right choice? Did she even know what she really wanted?

Did she even know who she really wanted?

The text message alert on her cell phone pulled her from her thoughts and she reached over to the nightstand and hastily grabbed it. She held the phone in her hand for a moment and just stared at it, not quite sure she wanted to see who it was from. Actually, she knew who it was from without even checking. It was part of their routine, and she didn't know whether that made the coming discussion easier or more difficult.

Hitting the power button, the screen came to life and she swiped her thumb over the lock so she could read the message. She hesitated for a moment when she looked at the background of the phone, a picture of her and Jake from a few weeks back when they'd gone to Cedar Point with a group of friends. He'd grabbed her phone while they were riding up the hill on the Magnum roller coaster and had taken a self-portrait of the two of them, not realizing until after it was too late that Faith and Dawn were flipping the camera off from the seats behind them.

Buffy smiled as she looked at the picture, running her thumb over it to remove a smudge from the screen. It had been such a fun day, and she knew there could be a lot more like that if she could just get this over with . . .

Taking a deep breath, she opened up the text message and smiled softly when she saw that it was, indeed, from Jake.

hey babe, just finished work. gotta shower. dinner and a movie tonight? lmk. did u tell ur friends yet?

Buffy turned the phone on its side and, hearing the shower stop in the other room, quickly replied.

It's a work in progress. I'll meet you at your place at 7.

When she heard the shower curtain pull back, she knew she was out of time. She quickly stood up on wobbly legs and grabbed her panties from the floor, stepping into them while she hopped around looking for her shirt. When she finally managed to pull it on over her head, it was inside out and backwards but at least she was mostly covered. She was still searching for her pants when she heard the bathroom door open and felt the steam billow out into the room in a thick white cloud.

Buffy's gaze became transfixed on the cloud as Faith stepped through it wearing only a tiny white terrycloth towel and a pair of giant Scooby Doo slippers.

The sight was both hot and hilarious and Buffy couldn't stop herself from laughing.

"Yuk it up, princess," Faith said, unable to hide her grin.

"I can't help it. Those look ridiculous on you!"

"Look ridiculous on you too," Faith said, her back turned toward Buffy as she dug through a pile of clothes on the floor to find her bra.

Buffy watched her dress, way past the point of trying to act coy around the other girl. No, these days she took the time to appreciate every inch of skin, every dip and every curve. She was itching to repeat the cycle - to walk over and touch and kiss and find their way back to the bed again, but she couldn't do that today.

Pulling her gaze from Faith, Buffy made her way to the bed - alone - and sat down on the edge, tucking one leg up underneath her as she did so. She fiddled with some random fuzz on her blankets before finally finding the nerve to speak.

"So there's, uh, something I've been wanting to talk to you about," she began, figuring that as good a place as any.

"Yeah?" Faith asked. She turned to face Buffy and began combing her fingers through her wet hair, trying to detangle her wavy locks. "Go for it."

"Okay," Buffy said slowly, suddenly feeling unsure of herself. She cleared her throat and took a deep breath, trying to find her resolve.

Before she could even speak, Faith was at her side and taking a seat on the edge of the bed next to her, mirroring her position.

"What's up?" Faith asked. "Know a cat ain't got your tongue 'cause ya were using it on me about ten minutes ago."

Her eyebrows wiggled a bit and Buffy couldn't help but laugh quietly.

"No, no. That's not it. I just . . . I don't really know how to start. We've been doing this for a while now, haven't we?"

"What, you mean sitting here waiting for you to get to the point? Nah, it ain't been that long. It only feels like forever." When Buffy swatted Faith's arm none-too-gently, Faith laughed, "Jesus, I was kidding! White flag, yo. If you're talkin' about the tongue thing, yeah, we've been doin' that a while."

She stood up and grabbed her towel from the chair, using it to catch the water dripping from her long dark hair.

"And it's been fun," Buffy continued. "More than fun."

"No arguments here."

"I know," Buffy replied, smiling. But then she felt her resolve start to slip and she knew she couldn't let that happen. Her smile faltered and Faith must've sensed Buffy's unease as her own smile started to slip.

"Just say what ya gotta say, B."

Buffy took a deep breath before replying, "Jake asked me to move in with him."

"That's . . . good, right?" Faith asked uncertainly. Hair no longer dripping, she tossed the towel to the floor and walked back over to the bed, plopping down beside Buffy. "Chicks dig that kind of thing, right?"

"So I've been made to understand," Buffy replied with a nod. "And I think I should probably try it to see if I might, too."

"Good for you, B. Get your domesticity on. Don't see why you were so worried to tell me about it."

Faith started to get up from the bed but Buffy caught her wrist before she could go very far and tugged her back down so she was seated again. Faith raised an eyebrow but rather than talking, she let Buffy speak.

"Because it means I have to make a decision, Faith. I can't keep doing this with you if I want to give Jake and I an actual shot."

"I don't see why not," Faith replied easily. "We've both dated lots of other people over the last two years. Never stopped us from hooking up when we wanted to."

"I know," Buffy said quietly. "But the thing is, Jake wants to be serious. He said he loves me and that he thinks we might have something. I may not be an expert in successful relationships but I'm pretty sure they don't involve having a side piece."

Faith chuckled but quickly pressed her lips together, trying to suppress her amusement.

"Or maybe they do. Maybe that's part of the success." At Buffy's scowl, Faith took a deep breath and ran a hand through her wet hair. "Look, I don't know much about relationships, B. All I know is, me and you? This works for us. We ain't ever gotten along better."

"I know," Buffy replied quietly, looking down at her lap. "And we're . . . drawn to one another. It's been that way ever since we decided we make better teammates than enemies."

"And it's certainly been fun having you play for my team," Faith said playfully, but then sobered up and continued. "I don't know what it is about us. When we're in a room full of people, we always end up standing together. When we're alone at night, we end up at your place or mine. It's like this slayer magnet, but not really because I've never looked twice at any other slayer but you."

Buffy looked up at that, raising her eyebrows.

"And that slayer from Sweden? Or the one from Mexico? And how could we forget Svetlana from the Russian cell?" she teased.

"Said I never looked twice. Never said I was an angel," Faith answered, trying to hide her grin. "Those were just one-offs. Me and you, we're different. We tried to deny it a long time ago. Remember? I tried to kill your friends and you pushed me off a building."

"Let the record show that I never actually pushed you. I merely . . . stabbed you and you fell."

Faith scrunched up one side of her face and asked, "You think that actually sounds any better?"

Buffy thought about it for a moment before exhaling loudly.

"Let the record show that we were both dummies."

Faith chuckled but didn't let herself get pulled too far off track. "I dunno, B. I'm not gonna stand in your way if you wanna play happy family with the guy. He's a decent dude and he treats you good. If it's my blessing ya want, ya got it."

"Well, thank you," Buffy said, smiling softly. "I kind of stopped believing in happily ever after with all of the crazy badness in my life. Now that there's less badness and more of the good, I figure it's time to give it a shot."

"At least ya can say ya tried," Faith agreed with a nod. "So, this is the end then, huh."

"We'll still be friends," Buffy replied, putting on the most reassuring smile she could muster. "Just with less tongue. And fingers. And thighs. And . . . other various parts that have no business being involved between just friends."

"Answer me two questions?" Faith asked. When Buffy nodded, Faith asked the first. "You think we're really gonna be able to stop, cold turkey, after two years?"

Buffy laughed softly. "Only way to find out is to try, right? I mean, I'd try to wean us slowly, but we're adults, and also - not drugs."

Faith couldn't help but chuckle. "Alright, fair enough. Last question then." She took a deep breath and ran her teeth over her bottom lip before asking, "You love him?"

Buffy took a deep breath of her own and swallowed hard. Well if that wasn't the million dollar question! Hell, it was more like the trillion dollar question. She wished she knew the answer, but the fact was that she didn't. Faith was right; Jake was a decent guy and he treated her great. He wanted to take things to the next step and she owed it to him to try.

She owed it to herself to find out the very answer to Faith's question.

"I could," she replied after a few moments of silence, hardly able to hold Faith's intense gaze.

However Faith felt about her response, she didn't let it show. She simply nodded her head and smiled, then leaned in a planted a quick kiss on Buffy's lips. It took Buffy by surprise, but before she had a chance to respond, Faith pulled back and was looking at her intently.

"Well okay then. That's settled. But if you think that last round fifteen minutes ago was our last goodbye, you're dreamin'. If this is over, we're seein' it out with a bang. Now take your clothes off and let's do this."

Faith stood up from the bed and quickly undressed, shedding her t-shirt, bra and panties to the floor in record time. She stood there completely naked, hands on her hips, waiting for Buffy to catch up.

Buffy sat with her mouth open in shock, trying to speak. Words needed to be said. Protests needed to be made! But . . . nipples. Nipples and skin and Faith. It was like looking at heaven, which she once did for almost five months, but this heaven had a killer rack and a great body.

No. No! She needed to find her resolve.

"I made p-plans with, um, Jake . . ."

"Cancel 'em."

She couldn't do that. Definitely not. It would put her whole decision off to a bad start! But . . . couldn't she? It wasn't like they had reservations somewhere or anything. And besides, he was probably tired after working all day . . .

A naughty smile found its way to Buffy's lips and she tilted her head to the side, her gaze making its way around Faith's side and to her pert, naked behind.

"Will you let me try that thing you said you'd only ever do if you were drunk?"

She looked up at Faith who had narrowed her eyes and was having a good old-fashioned stare down with her. Buffy kept her smile firmly in place while Faith silently mulled it over. If it meant they got to spend a little bit more time doing what they did best, she was pretty sure Faith would take the bait . . .

"Serious?" Faith asked. "Our last day together and you wanna do that?"

"Uh-huh," Buffy replied playfully. "I can text him right now, tell him we'll have to push our plans to tomorrow because I'm not feeling well. The happy family plan can be put on hold until tomorrow, Faith. I mean, unless you're chicken."

And if there was one surefire way to get Faith to agree, that was it.

"Fine, do it."

It was almost too easy.

Buffy grabbed her cell phone and started texting Jake, doing her best to ignore Faith's mock-grumbling while trying to come up with a convincing message to send. Sure, she probably should have felt guilty about it, but honestly, she just didn't. If she took some time to look into that she might have figured a few things out for herself, but she was too busy trying to rush through the text before Faith could change her mind.

Thinking bad, action good.

Faith climbed onto the bed and laid down on her stomach, wrapping her arms over one of Buffy's pillows and trying to make herself as comfy as possibly. Buffy watched with excitement in her eyes as she stripped off her own clothes and climbed onto the bed beside Faith. She let her fingertips glide up and down Faith's skin before leaning down and placing a series of small kisses at the base of her spine. Faith did her best to suppress her shudder but it rolled its way over her body, leaving a trail of goosebumps in its wake.

"Just remember that I ain't a puppet, yo. One finger. That's it."

"Uh-huh," Buffy mumbled as she continued to press kisses against Faith's skin.

"I mean it. Just one."


Then Buffy's lips were gone and ten fingertips were gently caressing over Faith's naked buttocks, fingernails lightly tracing over her soft skin. That didn't last long though; moments later Buffy's fingers were gone too, leaving Faith to wonder exactly what was going on and why Buffy was prolonging the inevitable.

"B?" Faith asked warily.

Buffy didn't reply.


Again, no reply.

Faith closed her eyes and braced herself, waiting for it . . . but instead felt a hand slap her hard across her bare ass. Exhaling with relief, she released her death grip on the pillow and turned her head, looking questioningly back at a laughing Buffy.

"Oh, come on," Buffy said, smiling. "You didn't really think I wanted to do that, did you? I just got a manicure!"

"Thank fuck for that!" Faith laughed.

She rolled over onto her side and lunged for Buffy, trapping the blonde beneath her on the bed. Buffy didn't try to squirm free; she was perfectly content right where she was.

At least until the morning rolled around and they headed their separate ways for good.

Three weeks had passed and the big day was finally here: Buffy and Jake were moving in together.

As expected, Buffy's friends had reacted happily, congratulating her on a step in a right direction with a guy they were all pretty crazy about. Not even Dawn minded the planned move; their new apartment complex had a pool, a gym, and was within walking distance from the mall. Add to that it was close to the new slayer headquarters in Cleveland which meant she was close to all her best buds but still had a private place to go home to at the end of the day.

Moving day was a group effort with all of the gang chipping in to help. Having been rescued by a slayer from a group of vamps more than a year before, Jake was in on the whole deal and more than happy to accept the help from a group of young girls who could toss him around like a beach ball if the mood struck. Instead he stayed at the new apartment and helped direct all of the new furniture and items into their places and was sure to have cold drinks for everyone who was helping. Kennedy, Rona, Vi, Buffy and Faith were making the last trip from Buffy's old apartment, having saved the biggest and heaviest items for last.

Buffy was surprised when Faith had offered her assistance but she'd gladly accepted it. They still saw each other several times per week due to slayer duties and all, but now there was no more running back to one of their places after patrol to have naked fun. Things were amiable if not just a tad bit awkward, neither girl knowing quite how to act now that the physical part of their relationship was completely cut off.

And honestly, Buffy couldn't even lie to herself that it was difficult. She was so used to reaching out, touching, tasting; sometimes it took everything she had to remember to keep her hands to herself, to stay where she was and not follow after Faith.

Maybe weaning would have been a bit better, but it wasn't like she could go back in time and re-make that decision now!

Kennedy and Rona each took the end of the boxspring from Buffy's bed and lifted it easily up and out the door, Vi following slowly behind them with the bulky television from the living room while trying her best not to trip over the dangling cord. That left just the mattress behind on the bedroom floor with both Buffy and Faith standing and looking down over it with their hands on their hips.

"This is the last of it," Faith pointed out, taking a quick glance around the bedroom to make sure she was right.

"Thank god for that. I never knew I had so much stuff."

"Yeah, well most hoarders don't know they have a problem 'til a wall of belongings falls over on them and they get trapped for days 'til the milkman comes and hears their muted cries for help from the front porch."

Buffy opened her mouth to refute that but then stopped and tilted her head to the side.

"They still have milkmen?"

Faith laughed and bent over to pick up the mattress but changed her mind halfway down and decided to have a seat on the edge of it instead. Feet resting on the carpeted floor, she bent her knees and rested her elbows on them before taking a deep breath and looking around the now empty room.

"I didn't thank you for offering to help," Buffy said quietly. She sat down on the mattress beside Faith and wrapped her arms around her knees, enjoying the first bit of solitude they'd had in an otherwise hectic day.

"Not a problem. S'what friends do, right?"

"Yeah. Yeah, it is."

An amiable silence passed between them.

"Gonna miss this place," Faith finally said after a few moments.

Buffy looked over at her but Faith was still looking around the room, maybe trying a little bit too hard to appear casual.

"It's just a place," Buffy said, still watching Faith.

Faith shook her head at that and finally looked over at Buffy, a small smile tugging at the corners of her lips.

"Was never just a place to us. Had a lotta good times here, B. Lotsa memories."

Buffy smiled sheepishly and looked down, her hair covering her face like a curtain.

"Remember the first time you spent the night?"

Faith groaned at that.

"Out of all the times I was at your place, you gotta pick that one to remember, huh."

"Kinda hard to forget!" Buffy said, barely able to suppress her laughter. "You were still so drunk from the club after patrol that you woke up in the middle of the night and peed in my closet!"

"I thought it was the bathroom, yo! Who the hell designs an apartment with the bathroom and closet six feet apart?"

"All I know is I could never wear my favorite Jimmy Choo's ever again after that."

"Laugh it up, blondie. Laugh it up."

"Fine, fine," Buffy relented. "It was an accident. Let us never speak of it again."

"Thank you."

"Sure. But I do have one question. Will you be marking your territory in my new place as well?"

And that was all it took to finally push Faith over the edge. She turned and lunged at Buffy, trapping her against the mattress with both arms held above her head. Buffy was laughing and squirming, trying to break free, and in no way was she expecting Faith's lips to suddenly land on hers. But they did, and just like old times, she began to kiss back, sighing into Faith's warm mouth. It felt familiar; it felt good.

And she couldn't believe she'd gone three weeks without it.

But quicker than it had begun, Faith suddenly pulled back and shot up to her feet at the sound of someone clearing their throat from the doorway. Buffy looked over to see Vi standing there, trying her best to pretend that she hadn't see what she'd just seen.

"So," Vi began, "the truck's all loaded except for the mattress and there's some guy complaining about us being double-parked in a tow-away zone. Rona's holding Kennedy back for now but I'm pretty sure there's about to be a no-holds barred wrestling match and I really think we should either hurry up with the mattress or just abandon it and go try to save that poor man's life."

"Vi, you help B with the mattress and I'll go throw a bucket of cold water over Kennedy's head. And, uh, hurry if you can."

Faith made her way out of the room but not before meeting Buffy's gaze for just a split second. Everything Buffy was feeling - the longing, the desire, the need - was reflected back in her eyes.

When Faith was out of sight, Buffy flopped back and took a deep breath.

Maybe she should leave the mattress behind like suggested. Maybe it held too many memories now, too.

As it turned out, just because Cleveland was a secondary hellmouth didn't make it any duller. In fact, they were lucky to have as many slayers now as they did to help out with the plethora of spooctacular incidents they dealt with weekly.

Patrol groups were usually broken up into four groups of two, but when Big Bads hit, they'd all converge into one large group and try to eliminate the threat as quickly as possible. Buffy and Faith almost never got to see one another on patrol seeing as that they were usually partnered with younger slayers, but with the Lord of the V'haerys clan on the loose, they found themselves side by side in battle in St. Gregory's cemetery while the six remaining slayers fought his minions in the sewers below.

"I don't know who has the worst deal: the girls in the sewers or us against the giant rooster," Faith commented as she parried a blow from a large talon.

A loud shriek sounded from their foe.

"Rooster? I am the Lord of the V'haerys clan! I have ruled for a thousand years and I will rule for a thousand more! My children will suck the marrow from your bones as they line the inside of my nest."

"See?" Faith said, sweeping the Lord's legs out from beneath it and bringing it to its knees. "Nest. I told ya he's a fuckin rooster!"

Their foe once again let out a piercing shriek into the night, making a flock of pigeons scatter and fly away from the branches of the nearest tree. Buffy took the moment of the Lord's distraction and started toward him, sword cutting through the air in figure eights. When she was close enough, she brought back her arm, prepared to deliver a killing blow to the creature's heart. Only too late did she hear Faith utter the words, "B, wait, not the heart!"

But it was too late. The sword struck true and no sooner did it slide into the Lord's heart did the creature burst into a million pieces. Flesh and bone - and feather - exploded into the night, drenching everything within twenty yards. Buffy had managed to protect her head in time but her clothing was a gory mess. Faith fared even worse, her face clean but chunks of Lord in her hair and running down her cleavage.

"I can't believe you just did that!" Faith said, her voice shuddering as a piece of flesh plopped from her hair and onto her chest.

"What? Stab good. Stab always good!" Buffy replied nervously.

"Didn't you read my memo on this guy? Decapitate only, butthead! Why do you think we're all carrying swords and not daggers!"

"Because the daggers were all in the dishwasher?" Buffy asked sheepishly. She reached out and picked the squishy piece of . . . stomach? No, that had to be foot . . . from Faith's chest.

Faith just slapped her hand away, making Buffy suppress a smile.

Certain that the threat from the Lord of the V'haerys clan was over, they began to make their way toward the exit of the cemetery, the squishy sound of their ick-covered clothing the only sound between them. After several long minutes of uncomfortable silence, Buffy finally gave in and stepped in front of Faith, facing her so that she had to stop walking.

"Okay, okay, I'm sorry! I didn't read the report! I meant to, I really did, but then Dawn told me there was a thirty-six hour sale at Macy's and I was distracted! There were racks and racks of half-priced goodness and I buried your likely well-written and detailed memo under a mountain of shopping bags. I have no excuse! My name is Buffy and I'm a shopping junky!"

Unable to hold on to her annoyance after Buffy's rambling apology, Faith smirked and reached out to pull a piece of intestine from Buffy's jean jacket.

"Half price, huh?"

"Uh-huh!" Buffy said excitedly. "And I had a coupon to save an extra twenty percent!"

"Well," Faith said slowly, "hope ya saved a boatload, B, cos you're buying me a whole new outfit tomorrow to make up for the one ya ruined with rooster guts tonight."

Buffy hung her head in resignation and stepped back alongside Faith so they could continue their slow stroll toward the exit.

"That's fair," she relented. "We can go first thing in the morning. The sale will still be on. We'll have to go bright and early if we want to get good deals."

"Sounds terrible," Faith joked. "Wanna stay at my place to make sure we're up on time?"

Her voice was light, joking even, but her words brought a very awkward silence between them. Buffy didn't know quite how to respond, and after several moments of her mouth opening and closing like a fish, Faith finally spoke again.

"It was a joke, B. No way would I think of comin' between the happy family."

"Oh," Buffy said, sounding both relieved and upset at the same time. "I know. I was just . . . surprised, is all. I mean, it's not like we've seen a lot of each other since I moved and . . . and . . ."

"And you thought that probably meant I didn't want ya anymore?" Faith filled in for her.

Buffy shrugged as she walked and finally asked, "Doesn't it?"

But Faith didn't reply to that, and Buffy didn't push. The truth was, Buffy thought about it a lot. As well as things were going with Jake - and they were, honestly they were! - she couldn't stop thinking about Faith. Wondering what she was doing, who she was doing it with, and if she was thinking about Buffy when she was doing it.

They'd never had an issue with jealousy between them before, maybe because of the secret arrangement they'd had and the fact that they'd always ended up together anyway. But now that she didn't have that with Faith anymore, it drove her nuts to think of anyone else having it with her.

And, god, how messed up was that? Buffy was happy. Things were good. Why the hell was her brain trying to sabotage her!

As they neared the exit, Faith ran a hand through her squishy hair and tossed a chunk of flesh onto the grass before them with a wet plop.

"God, I can't wait to hit the shower. Gonna scrub until I'm red like a lobster."

Deciding that if they ever wanted to be friends again, real friends, they'd have to fall back into their usual friendly banter, Buffy decided to push a little.

But just a tiny bit.

"I wouldn't mind seeing pictures of that."

Faith glanced over at her and smirked, picking up on her playfulness. "It's a deal. You buy me a new outfit, I'll send you a freshly showered nude."

Buffy laughed but smirked back, standing in front of Faith and crossing her arms over her chest.

"Are you writing checks that your ass can't cash, F?"

"God, you really got a thing for my ass, B."

"Well yeah, but the rest of you isn't so bad either."

Okay. Maybe a tad more than a bit. Oops!

But Faith didn't take the bait this time.

"Yeah, maybe when it's not covered in the Lord of the V'haerys clan's gizzard."


"What? Don't tell me you ain't ever watched the Discovery Channel." At Buffy's puzzled look, Faith continued, "It's like, the gut sack in some birds and lizards."

"Wow," Buffy said, clearly impressed. "You're very anatomically correct."

"Ain't the first time I heard that one."

And just like that, they were back like they should be, having fun and bantering, and most importantly, going their separate ways when they caught up with the younger slayers.

But that didn't stop Faith from sending the nude to Buffy's cell phone later that night, as promised.

And it didn't stop Buffy from saving it, either.

Faith's birthday just happened to coincide with a big victory by the Indians baseball team, which meant that the club was packed with wall to wall rowdy people. The music was loud, the drinks were flowing, and Buffy was pretending to laugh at something Jake and Xander were talking about while casually looking about for Faith. The girl had disappeared from sight almost as soon as Buffy and Jake had walked in; Buffy was wondering now whether it was a coincidence or entirely on purpose.

As she spotted Faith all the way across the bar - on her own - she realized it probably had to be on purpose.

But seeing as that Faith was alone, she figured that now was the perfect time to give her birthday present. Standing up on her tiptoes, she pressed a kiss to Jake's cheek and excused herself, saying she'd be back in a little bit.

Getting to Faith was easier said than done. She was wedged in the very corner of the bar, a solid wall of people in front of her and blocking Buffy's way. Still, Buffy was small and she figured she could break out some stealthy slayer moves if needed. Half way to her destination, she looked up and noticed that Faith was watching her with an amused look upon her face. When she finally reached her, she heard Faith's slow clap over the sound of the music.

"Nice job, Jackie Chan. Really liked that move where you elbowed the guy in the ribs to make him step back."

"What can I say? Never get between a slayer and what she wants," Buffy replied easily.

Faith looked at her for a few moments with an unreadable look on her face before chuckling and shaking her head. Maybe Buffy was expecting a different reaction, so when Faith turned to the bar and started sipping at her drink, Buffy felt a hint of awkwardness creep up.

And really, it wasn't like things were all puppies and rainbows between them. Sure they worked together and had to deal with slaying issues together, but for the most part Faith kept to herself and avoided Buffy when she could.

To say it gave Buffy a complex was an understatement.

She didn't understand why the avoidance. She liked seeing Faith. Seeing Faith made her happy. Sure, the sex part was over, but was that all they ever really were?

Deciding not to let it get to her, Buffy squeezed up against the bar between Faith and a group of rowdy guys in Indians jerseys, trying her best not to feel a case of claustrophobia settling over her. Instead she smiled at Faith who . . . was still not looking at her. Dammit!

"So you're over here all alone on your birthday?" she shouted over the music.

"Was with everyone else earlier," Faith shouted back. "Just wanted some peace and quiet for a while."

"In a club?" Buffy questioned, laughing.

Faith just shrugged and focused her attention back to her drink, using her thumb nail to play with a drip of condensation on the glass.

Something was definitely not right but Buffy didn't know what to do about it. This wasn't like Faith. Faith was usually the life of the party. The belle of the ball. The stripper in the giant cake! To see her sitting solo at her own damn party? Yeah. Something was off. If Buffy could breach the awkward and cool exterior, maybe she'd get to the heart of the situation.

"Aren't you even curious about your birthday present?" she asked mischievously.

And just like that, Faith's interest perked right up.

"Is it something good?"

"You'll have to be the judge of that," Buffy replied, smiling.

Taking a deep breath, she opened up her small clutch purse and slid out her cell phone. Before she could lose her nerve, she opened it up and went to the 'Drafts' section of her messaging box, found the message she'd prepared earlier, and, with a cringe, clicked send. Just a few moments later Faith's cell phone beeped and she lifted it up from the bar to investigate.

Faith's smile wavered and then faded away as she looked at the fresh nude Buffy had sent her.

"Surprise!" Buffy said, watching as a range of emotions played over Faith's face.

After several long moments, Faith clicked her phone shut and placed it back on the bar before finishing off her drink in one huge gulp. Then she waved over the bartender and held out two fingers, tossing a few bills on the bar as he brought two more glasses of amber colored liquid.

"Not exactly the response I was anticipating," Buffy said meekly, sliding her own phone back into her purse.

"Sorry. Not exactly the present I was expecting," Faith replied between sips.

"What exactly were you expecting?"

"Not . . . that."

"So you don't like it then?"

Faith couldn't help but laugh at that. "No, I like it, B. I like it heaps. But it's like sending someone a picture of a birthday cake. It's great and all but you can't eat it, yunno?"

And that in turn made Buffy laugh. "Well maybe if you play your cards right..."

It was said as a joke. Or at least she swore it was. Still, she was really pushing it this time. What kind of happily involved person flirted so shamelessly with her ex? Not that Faith was her ex, but whatever they'd had was definitely over now, so really, they were ex-something-or-others.

Faith didn't seem to find the funny though. Instead her smile melted away and she finished off one of the drinks before quickly starting on the second. Buffy waited awkwardly, hoping Faith would ease the tension. It seemed, however, that the tension was finally spilling over for Faith.

"What are you doin', B?" she asked, her voice coarse. She pressed her lips together and then looked right at Buffy, adjusting their positions so that they were facing one another and looking right into one another's eyes. "What are you doin'?"

"Celebrating your birthday?" Buffy asked warily.

Faith shook her head almost violently, a slightly manic look creeping into her eyes.

"No you're not. Kennedy's celebrating my birthday. She got me a pair of tickets to an Indians game versus the Red Sox. Xander's celebrating my birthday. He got me a Red Sox cap to go with the tickets. But this?" She grabbed her phone and opened it, flashing the nude shot at Buffy. "This isn't you celebrating my birthday. This is you torturing me."

Buffy quickly grabbed the cell phone from Faith's hand and closed it before anyone else could see the picture. She placed it down on the bar and took a deep breath, trying to fight the anxious feeling developing in the pit of her stomach.

"Why do you think I want to torture you, Faith? You're the one who sent me a picture like that first!"

"Yeah, two months ago, B. Back when you and Jake were still getting settled into whatever and I thought I still might have a chance."

"A chance?" Buffy asked, confused. Faith tried to turn back toward the bar but Buffy grabbed her arm and pulled her back, looking up at her with pleading eyes. "What chance, Faith?"

"A chance at you picking me," Faith said plainly. "A chance that maybe you realized that what we had was good, and that maybe you'd see that you bet on the wrong pony. But that chance is long gone, and I get it. I ain't pushing. You guys are happy and things are working out, and in no way am I enough of a douchebag to try to come between that. But then you go ahead and flirt with me at every chance you get, so I took a step back. And now you're sending me nudes for my birthday and . . ." she ran a hand through her hair, ". . . god. It's torture, B. How do you want me to react? What do you want me to say?"

Buffy swallowed loudly and looked down, shaking her head gently.

"I don't know," she murmured.

And really, she didn't know, because Faith was right. Buffy did try to flirt with her, and she did try to be around her, and she did think about her, and she did use that nude picture stored on her cell phone in many of her daily fantasies.

But she'd already made her choice three months ago. How could she just go and un-make it now?

"Is this what you wanted?" Faith asked, her voice low and raspy as her hands found Buffy's hips and pressed her back against the bar. "Is this how you wanted me to respond?"

She pressed her body against Buffy's, thumbs rubbing circles over her hips. Buffy's hands found Faith's biceps but instead of pushing her back, she gripped onto them tightly, not letting Faith move an inch.

"Do you want me to tell you how I still want you?" Faith asked, her words a whisper in Buffy's ear. "That all I can think about right now is taking you back to mine and showing you exactly what you're missing? Show you exactly how I miss you?"

"Faith," Buffy whispered, her eyes closing and breath catching in her throat as she felt Faith's lips press against her ear.

"You want me to tell you that I miss you?" Faith continued, moving back so that her lips were just a hair's breadth away from Buffy's. "That I miss the way your hair smelled? The way you laughed when I'd kiss your stomach? The way you felt against me when we slept? That it's taking every ounce of my strength right now not to give in to all of this and just kiss you right here; try to convince you that you made the wrong decision?"

Buffy's breath came out of her in a whoosh, sounding like a strangled sob from her throat. She could feel the tears in her eyes and knew they were threatening to spill over. This wasn't something she'd ever had with Faith before. This openness, this honesty; this complete and total outpouring of emotion. It was choking her up and she couldn't do anything but stand there, her heart beating so hard she could feel it from the tips of her toes to the top of her head.

"I'm not lookin' for your love," Faith said quietly, her nose bumping against Buffy's. "I know it belongs to someone else. I just . . . think we woulda done it well. And every time you flirt, every time you walk into a room, every time you look at me; fuck, every time you breathe, that's all I can think about."

The swarm of people in the club didn't seem to notice them. It was like they were in their own private world and . . . and Buffy wanted to stay there forever. It was wrong and Jake was somewhere in the club, probably looking for her now, but all she could do was grasp onto Faith's arms tighter and keep pulling her closer until their lips finally met.

It was soft, it was chaste, it was beautiful, and then it was over.

Faith stepped back and closed her eyes, shaking her head.

"Don't make me be that person, B. I don't wanna be the bad guy."

And then Faith turned around and walked away, leaving Buffy standing there dazed as she watched her retreating form. She watched as Jake walked up to Faith, obviously looking for Buffy now, and offered her a high-five and a pat on the shoulder. It was a friendly birthday gesture and Faith took it well, which made Buffy's heart just about break in her chest.

Because for three whole months now, she'd been parading around with Jake while Faith was watching from the sidelines.

And Buffy had never even given her a chance.

"There you are!" Jake called as he approached Buffy. "Thought I'd lost you. Everything cool?"

Buffy did her best to pull herself together and smiled, hoping he wouldn't notice the tears in her eyes under the dim club lights. She turned and faced the bar, as did Jake. He called over the bartender and ordered two drinks for them while Buffy's eyes scanned the club, looking for any sign of Faith. She was too preoccupied to see Jake pick up Faith's forgotten phone, but she certainly noticed his reaction when he saw the picture it opened up to.

As far as breakups go, this one wasn't bad. No one was sent through a portal to a hell, no one left town via car or helicopter, and no one burned up wearing a mystical amulet and collapsed an entire city. Buffy dared to say it was her best breakup ever!

But that didn't mean it had been easy. She'd been willing to do the adult thing and work at her relationship, but Jake wouldn't hear it. And that wasn't because he was stubborn and mad.

It was because he loved and respected her.

"Buffy, it's okay," he'd told her. "We weren't one hundred percent serious until we moved in together, and if you tell me you weren't with her physically while we were together, I believe you."

"I wasn't," Buffy had assured him. "But maybe I was emotionally, or mentally."

"You certainly had the visual images to aid with that one," he'd joked. Because apparently he'd seen the nude of Faith weeks before the club incident but had figured it was some kind of . . . weird slayer thing.

But Buffy hadn't felt very joke-y about the situation and couldn't laugh at his playful jibe.

"How are you not making with the screaming and yelling? Aren't you mad? I'd feel better if you were mad!"

At that, Jake had just shrugged. "Am I mad? No. Upset that it didn't work out? Maybe a little. But I can't hold it against you, Buffy. You can't force a square peg into a round hole."

"...is that some kind of gay sex joke?"

"No!" Jake had laughed and pulled her into a friendly hug, pressing his lips against her hair. "It means I won't let you pretend to be happy with me when you'd be happier with someone else. I'm not that selfish. I'd rather both of us be happy than just me."

"Sometimes I feel like the people around me are trying so hard to make sure I'm happy that they don't take their own happiness into account."

And then Jake had pulled back and rested his hands on her shoulders, making her meet his gaze.

"So maybe it's time you return the favor. We already know what would make you happy, and I think you know what would make Faith happy. Go give it to her."

"...that's definitely a gay sex joke."

And just like that, their relationship was over. As much as Jake loved her, he wasn't going to give up the apartment he'd had for four years, which meant Buffy and Dawn had a sudden homelessness problem. He'd offered to help her find a new place but Buffy wouldn't have that.

She had other plans.

Having tucked Dawn away with the young slayers at headquarters, Buffy grabbed a backpack and stuffed it with as much as she could carry and promised to have the rest of her stuff out of Jake's as soon as possible.

It took her twenty minutes to drive to Faith's, and she'd needed every single one of those twenty minutes to psych herself up for what she was about to do. She bypassed the broken elevator and climbed the three flights of stairs to Faith's apartment, pausing just outside the door. Taking a deep breath, she knocked three times and waited patiently.

The look on Faith's face wasn't exactly welcoming when she opened the door, but Buffy ignored it and walked in without an invitation.

"Uh, hi?" Faith said, still standing with her hand on the doorknob even when Buffy was standing in the kitchen with her bag on the table.


"You lost?"

"Nope. Not this time."

Faith raised her eyebrow at that and crossed her arms over her chest, waiting for an explanation. She had no choice but to close the door and follow along as Buffy grabbed her bag and walked into the bedroom. Buffy set about picking up strewn pieces of clothing, arranging them in a more orderly fashion over a wooden chair. Faith watched her from the doorway, arms still crossed over her chest as she leaned against the wooden frame.

"You mind telling me exactly what in the hell is going on here? Pretty sure I didn't order maid service."

"Judging from the state of this pigpen, I'm thinking maybe you should have."

Buffy pulled open one of the dresser drawers and removed the contents, temporarily setting them on the floor. Next she unzipped her backpack and started removing her clothes and placing them neatly in the drawer.

"Buffy?" Faith said, clearly losing her patience.

Buffy stopped packing and finally faced Faith, meeting her gaze across the room. Without looking, she reached into her bag and pulled out Faith's cell phone and tossed it to the girl.

"You left that at the club."

Faith caught and looked at it before tossing it onto the bed. "Kinda did that on purpose."

"And Jake kinda found it, which is actually good. No one's dead and no one is injured. I'm just suffering from a sudden onset of homelessness and figured I'd kill two birds with one stone."

Faith's face went blank, and then she was moving toward Buffy and pulling her clothes from the drawer.

"B, you're not moving in here because you guys had a fight. Take your stuff home and work it out. That's what adults do, right?"

"You'd think so, right?" Buffy said brightly as she began putting her clothes back in the drawer as Faith was pulling them out. "Turns out, adults know when to let go. You let me go when I said I was choosing Jake, and Jake let me go when he found out I'd really chosen you."

Faith stopped taking the clothes out and looked at Buffy, completely silent. Buffy took that as her cue to continue.

"You see, it turns out I'm a bit of a dummy. I tried to do something good when I already had something great. My first mistake was that I didn't realize it at the time. My second mistake was that I made my decision without talking to you about it first. My third mistake was letting this whole thing go on as long as it did, especially after I'd realized somewhere in there that it was you I really wanted. And well, if I'm being completely honest, I've made a fourth mistake as well."

Faith was silent for a moment but she finally bit. "And that is?"

"I'm going to need much more space than one drawer and this apartment doesn't even have closets, not to mention the elevator is broken. We're gonna have to find someplace new, stat."

Buffy's gaze was unwavering as she looked at Faith, trying to show her just how serious she was. Not about the apartment, but about everything else.

But really, she was serious about the apartment too. Where was she supposed to put her stuff? Who designed an apartment without bedroom closets?

"B, I appreciate you saying all that, I really do, but . . ."

Buffy didn't allow her to continue. She put her fingertips over Faith's lips to stop her speaking.

"Don't," Buffy said, shaking her head. "Everyone always wants to make Buffy happy. Well, you know how you can make Buffy happy now? You can be happy with me instead of for me. That would make me the happiest slayer in the history of slayerdom."

Faith was quiet for too long. Buffy wanted her to say something, needed her to say something, but she was afraid that maybe this wasn't enough. Maybe they'd missed their spots on the happy train and would have to settle for the bus to Awkward Friendshipville.

But after a few moments, Faith reached out and put her finger through Buffy's beltloop, tugging her closer.

"You really gonna make me get a new place?"

"Oh, absolutely," Buffy said, relief washing over her and making her heart flutter. "Besides, Dawn can't stay at headquarters forever and you only have one bedroom. We need two bedrooms. And plenty of soundproofing. Proximity to a mall would help."

Faith laughed and put her fingers under Buffy's chin, tilting her face up to plant a soft yet lingering kiss on Buffy's lips. It was filled with forgiveness and promises and Buffy instantly knew that she'd finally made the right decision.

"Mmm, B?" Faith murmured against her lips. "You don't have a monopoly on mistakes in this. Think I made one too."

Buffy pulled back and looked up at her, raising an eyebrow in question. "Oh?"

"Yeah, oh," Faith said. "The night of my party I called Giles and told him I needed to get outta Cleveland for a while. He approved my transfer to New York City. My flight leaves in six hours."

"Well, cancel," Buffy said easily.

"But the ticket's already bought and paid for and they're waiting for me!"

Buffy opened her mouth to dissent, to tell Faith that she couldn't just up and leave now, but then she remembered a tried and true method to get Faith to do something she wanted. Instead she grinned sexily and looked up at Faith through her eyelashes.

"I'll let you try that thing I told you I'd never do, not even if you got me drunk."

It was a bluff. Buffy was not going to let her actually do that, but she knew that as soon as she was naked, that would be forgotten in favor of other things that weren't so . . . that.

Faith slowly grinned. "You strip, I'll text Giles the bad news."

Buffy did as she was told, stripping off her clothes and leaving them in a neat pile at the foot of the bed. By the time she was done, Faith was finished texting Giles and already half naked herself. She was eying Buffy up and down, especially appreciating her firm backside.

"On the bed," Faith ordered, and Buffy decided to play along. Faith would forget all about their deal any second now.

"You'll be extra gentle, right?" Buffy asked as she climbed onto the bed and laid on her stomach, looking at Faith over her shoulder.

"Oh yeah. Careful's my middle name."

"I thought it was Bridget?"

Faith laughed. "Well that right there got ya two fingers, smartass."

Buffy laughed too and then rested her head down on the pillow, smiling as Faith started kissing her lower back and the backs of her thighs. It felt good, really good, and she was positive that Faith had forgotten all about their deal. Finally relaxing, she closed her eyes and waited for the playful slap that she knew was coming. She'd allow Faith her comeuppance. It was the least she could do.

She opened her eyes just in time to sneak a quick peek over her shoulder at Faith, who was . . . grinning way too mischievously. Why was she grinning mischiev. . .

Buffy suddenly gasped and grasped the pillow tightly, her eyes opening wide in surprise.


The End.

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