Author notes: "Distance" did not turn out quite as I expected…here is a shorter, more serious version. Oneshot. Post Chosen.

"I love you," Faith breathed, her words slightly slurred, her breath warm and slow against the back of Buffy's exposed neck as she loosely wrapped her arms around her waist, pulling the blonde Slayer back close into her body. "I love you, B…"

Buffy's heart beat faster, her palms grew sweaty, and her stomach twisted in discomfort. She felt her muscles tense, her breath stagger out unevenly, despite her attempts for control, and her mouth went dry as she swallowed several times, struggling to moisten its insides. She licked her lips, keeping her voice as even as possible as she responded, not yet pushing Faith away.

"You're drunk, Faith."

"Yeah," Faith replied, nodding slightly, her voice still low, slightly raspy, and Buffy shivered, a thrill rolling down her spine that had just as much to do with the huskiness of Faiths' voice as the impact of her breath on the nape of her bare neck. Faith's arms tightened just slightly around her waist as she continued, and Buffy swallowed again. "Yeah…and I love you…"

Her skin was too warm, her face slightly flushed with the combined effects of alcohol and rising amorous- or maybe just plain horny- mood, and every inch of Buffy's bare skin that touched Faith's felt as a result as if it were on the verge of burning. Even through clothes it was too much contact, much too close, and Buffy felt nearly suffocated by the taller girl's mere presence…and yet, she was not entirely inclined to pull away.

All around them the club's music pounded, the beat fast, rapid, and energetic in its tempo; people yelled over it to each other, talking and laughing, dancing and grinding, and no one so much as glanced at Buffy and Faith among them; no one seemed to find another couple in a partial embrace the slightest bit odd among the activity surrounding them. With Faith's breasts flattening against her back, her crotch pressed into Buffy's backside, her joined hands locked just under Buffy's breasts, every boundary that Buffy had always kept clearly defined, every part of her that she had always made sure had its own persona, Faith-free space, was now being very obviously violated.

And yet…the softness of Faith's voice, the gentle, almost tender nature of her touch, even as closely as she was grabbing Buffy, uninvited, up against her…Faith was drunk, yes, but this was not the first instance that she had indicated such feelings.

This was merely the first time she had put words to them…and Buffy suspected that rather than putting words in her mouth, Faith's drunkenness had instead allowed for them to finally emerge.

All this crossed her mind within moments, and Buffy knew that this could be an opening, a turning point for them both. She could take this moment seriously, use it to change everything, to stop the endless games and hurting and denials that had endured almost since the day they had met, for nearly five years.

She could make it different. she could make them different. She could cover Faith's hands with hers, turn her head to look her in the eyes, and whisper in return the words that Faith wanted…that Faith needed…to hear.

But instead, Buffy reached up and pried Faith's hands away from her torso. Instead, Buffy turned out of Faith's arms and faced her, pulling her out of her grasp.

"I'm going home, Faith…give me your keys, and when you're ready, get someone else to drive you home."

She turned away, her heart still pounding with erratic rhythm in her chest, her stomach twisting itself sharply as she reached the front door, leaving Faith behind. It occurred to her as she opened the door to Faith's car that she should have taken Faith with her and drove her home, made sure she got in safely. But by then she was too committed, unable to swallow her pride enough to turn back, and she simply put the car in gear and drove off.

The next day, Buffy saw Faith in the Slayer's headquarters and tensed, wanting to avert her eyes, just waiting for her to say something in reference to the night before. Whether serious or in sarcasm, she waited, prepared to defend herself, to deny feelings that she was not ready to admit existed.

But Faith said nothing. Her eyes met Buffy's for one split second, and she gave not so much of a nod of acknowledgement before she turned away, continuing to walk down the hall. Buffy bit her lip unconsciously, strangely guilty without letting herself know or realize why. She knew neither would speak of it again.

Some things would never change.