If Buffy had been eating or drinking anything, whatever had been entering her mouth at that point would have undoubtedly ended up sprayed across Faith's face. As it was, she choked on her own saliva, sputtering and coughing and struggling with wide, almost bulging eyes to rework in her mind what she had just heard.

"You….you what?! You WHAT?!"

"Oh, come on, B, don't tell me it wasn't obvious," Faith chuckled, but there was no surprise in her tone or expression. If anything, she looked rather gleefully amused by her reaction, her dark eyes glinting, dimples deeply inverting her cheeks. "You ain't that dense, are you?"

Buffy was too flustered to respond to the "dense" comment like she normally would. In fact, she didn't even hear it. It was all she could do to form understandable words as her face, chest, and ears flushed and she sputtered, stunned.

"You…you wanted…NO! No, it wasn't obvi- you…you wanted-"

"Your hot little body, yeah," Faith helpfully supplied, unable to hold back another snicker, and when she nudged her knee deliberately against Buffy's leg now, Buffy jumped, immediately inching back and staring at Faith's leg as though it had managed to light all her nerves on fire. "And I wasn't the only one, case you didn't notice….it's the one place where I did fit in with the crowd, pretty much."

"You…" Buffy tried again, but then trailed off, losing steam as the implications of this continued to flood through her thoughts, and again Faith took over, almost laughing now.

"Seriously, you're that oblivious? You didn't connect the grunting, the comments, the dancing and touching, the hostility and violence every time you pissed me off? I called you twinkie, I asked you to prom, I wore a dress for you…I called you girlfriend! What did you want, a neon sign reading "I wouldn't say no to you sliding under my sheets and into my pants?" Faith snorted, shaking her head.

Hearing it all laid out like that, it did seem obvious…but then again, that had been pretty much the way Faith acted around everyone else. Minus the twinkie and the girlfriend part, anyway…hadn't it been?

"But…you did that all the time with me!" Buffy protested, and Faith rolled her eyes upward, almost disbelieving herself now.

"Paging Blondie, come in, Blondie…."

"So you're…gay?" Buffy tested the words out, trying but failing to keep the shock out of her tone and expression, the mental images of Faith plus gay out of her head. She knew her cheeks must still be red as she attempted to process this, to reconcile this with everything she had ever thought she had known about Faith…since number one Fact About Faith, in her own mind, had been that Faith was into guys. Very, very, very into guys.

"More like unclassified," Faith corrected, swallowing from the glass by her elbow and wiping the back of her mouth with her hand afterward. "It's the 2000s, B, not everything has to have a label. And as far as the girls go, you were really the only one that stuck. So yeah, no labels."

Buffy shook her head slightly, letting out a slow breath as these entirely new to her ideas continued to slowly tumble and click into place within her mind. All she could manage to say aloud as she struggled to gain control of her own thoughts, her own feelings on the matter, was "Wow…"

"Damn, Buffy, you got some serious denial going on or what?" Faith laughed aloud, and she poked Buffy's shoulder with one finger, inclining her head towards her and dropping her voice slightly. "Don't tell me you never felt something for me too."

"What?" Buffy's head jerked up, and just as her cheeks had begun to resume a normal coloring, they immediately flushed again. "Me? Why would you-"

"Yeah, you, and don't even try to deny it," Faith insisted. She pulled her legs up onto her stool so she was sitting cross-legged and leaned one elbow on the bar as she swiveled towards Buffy again, facing her without touching now as she continued to drive her point home. "You danced too, all you needed was a little nudge and you were rubbing on me just as much as I was rubbing on you. I saw the looks, I saw the blushes, and whatever you wanna pretend around your friends or now, I know you ain't that shy and sweet. Please, B, which of us screwed the dead guys, plural, you, or me? You had your own special little kinks too, you just didn't want to talk about 'em. Still don't, do you?"

"Yeah, well, privacy and private parts, there are two words in common there…and tell me I didn't just say that in front of you of all people, that was one door I just opened wide for you to walk through," Buffy muttered, as Faith grinned, finding even more opportunity for her own enjoyment in the teasing.

"By that wide open door, you talking about your legs or some other private part of your anatomy?"

Buffy socked Faith in the shoulder, without holding back even a little of her Slayer strength. Faith just laughed, her dark eyes glinting.

"No use with the denial, B. You might've been more subtle than me but I wasn't that dumb, I saw it even if you didn't even want to see it yourself. That was what was so friggin' frustrating, you know. I could practically see all the little thoughts you didn't even want to know you were having, and you never acted on them. Not really."

"There wasn't anything for me to act on, Faith," Buffy muttered, but the protest was weak now. Even as she looked at Faith she was remembering, her mind tumbling back in time five years before, seeing the younger, wilder Faith, the charisma of her gleaming eyes, her wicked smile. She was seeing herself at eighteen, remembering the attraction that Faith had represented to her, symbolically as much as anything.

Faith had seemed to be everything that Buffy wasn't, or wouldn't allow herself to be. Reckless and wild, carefree and fun, with no responsibilities, no expectations, no concern, no reputation….all about the fun, all about the power, all about the pleasure. It was something that had been sorely missing in Buffy's life, and seeing that she could have it, if she chose, that Faith seemed to have it…yes, it had been tempting for a time.

And even if she didn't want to admit it to Faith now, it hadn't helped matters that yes, Faith had been very attractive. Not that Buffy thought like that, or felt like that, or…had she?

As though reading her mind, Faith leaned slightly closer. "You telling me there was never a time after patrol where you looked at me, or touched me, and felt hot all over, like your whole body had just come alive? You telling me when you sparred with me or hit me or danced with me or ran with me, fast as your legs would go…you're telling me when you slayed with me, you never felt like exploding from the inside out, like there was nothing as big or strong or beautiful in the world as us? 'Cause B, if you didn't feel all that, you've gotta be dead."

She paused, then her serious tone lightened as she cracked a smile. "And the fact that you slept with the dead ain't speaking in your favor there either."

She was watching Buffy, seeming to be taking her forthcoming response seriously, or at least to be interested in hearing what she had to say. And Buffy couldn't bring herself to laugh or shrug it off or even hit her again…she was genuinely thinking, and as the reluctant answers crept into her mind, and she felt her ears burn, Faith's voice broke through again.

"Oh come on, Buffy. We're both big girls here. You totally did and we both know it…what's the big deal here? Half the girls running around this place are straddling some portion of the rainbow and then there's Andrew. Is it really that much of a shocker that maybe Straight and Narrow Buffy has one tiny bend somewhere in that ruler?"

There was an undercurrent of tension to her tone, as though she were beginning to grow frustrated…or was it hurt? And it was this second possibility that made Buffy look up at her and make herself give her a small, secretive smile, along with a shrug.

"Maybe. That's all you'll get on that…maybe, okay?"

And Faith's answering smile, quick in coming, told Buffy that her second estimate must have been fairly accurate, because in that smile was something like relief. Faith reached out and patted Buffy's head like she was a small child, or maybe a dog.

"See, was that so hard? It's natural, B, think about it. We're both supernaturally strong chicks with no equal, we were teenagers fighting for our lives every night, getting the adrenaline going, what else could you expect? Besides," she added almost as an afterthought, grinning, " I was totally hot. How could you help it?"

Buffy did shove her this time, and Faith laughed, Buffy joining her a few moments later. There was an ease between them now, as though a weight Buffy had not known even existed had been lifted, and she marveled at this, before grasping for a way to ask the question still lingering in her thoughts.

"So…do you still…" she started, but then let it trail, knowing that Faith would almost certainly be able to finish for her.

"Think you're hot?" Faith raised an eyebrow, and as Buffy blushed, but didn't correct her, she shrugged, answering bluntly, "Yeah, sure. Little skinny now, but that doesn't do away with the hot. Want to screw you? Sure, why not. Would I? Nope."

Buffy's eyes widened as the last two questions and responses, and even as she opened her mouth, Faith was already explaining, spinning her stool almost in a full circle as she did.

"Last part surprise you? Believe it or not, B, I can think things through once in a while, and I've had a lot of time. So I kind of came to a conclusion a while back. Well, maybe as recently as two weeks ago, but that was more like a recap decision instead of like, a discovery. See…I know you. And you're relationship girl. You don't do the one night stand thing…often, anyway, I heard a few things but we can skip past that. Everyone's gotta have a few of those or again, not alive. Anyway, so even your supposed one night stands kind of end up being relationships, look at Bleachboy to see an example of that. So if that's you…well, moment that could have happened for us? It kind of passed, if it ever existed at all."

She shrugged, facing Buffy now, and her tone was calm, simply factual in a manner that was almost as shocking to Buffy as the words themselves, as the obvious thought she had put into this…how long ago, and how often, exactly?

"So yeah. Moment gone, not much of a chance, so not point in bothering now. Plus…between the two of us and our relationship track records, and the way they kinda blow…if we about kill each other when we're enemies, what the hell would we do if we were screwing?"

It was a point that was pretty damn logical, and Buffy nodded slowly, saying the one word she could think of that felt safe. "Yeah."

"But once? Five years back?" Faith shrugged, her lips curving into a small, almost nostalgic smile. "Oh yeah. And who knows. Never say never."

She stretched her arms over her head, then stood, yawning, before beginning to pad her way barefoot towards the kitchen entrance. She gave Buffy a wave over her shoulder and called out as she walked, "Night B…guess you'll have some interesting dreams tonight, huh?"

"I guess so," Buffy replied, to herself more than to Faith, and as Faith walked away, she looked down at the countertop, her heart beating a little more quickly than usual, her breath just a little more uneven. She was still thinking too much, too fast, and everything in her mind in that moment pushed her to look up and call out to Faith, before she lost her nerve.


Faith turned at the doorway, one hand on its frame, and raised an eyebrow. Buffy pushed herself back from the counter slowly and stood too, though she did not yet take any steps towards her.

"You didn't ask me," she said.

"Huh? Ask you what?" Faith asked, confused, and Buffy breathed in slowly through her nose, taking a moment to respond. But when she did, her voice was steady.

"If I do…if I would."

It took Faith several seconds to mentally think back and understand what Buffy was referring to, what she meant now, but when she did, she remained serious as she looked back at her, simply asking her what Buffy seemed to be wanting her to say aloud.

"Well…do you? Would you?"

Buffy walked forward slowly, one foot in front of the other, and as she drew closer to Faith she could see the tension in her face. The other woman almost seemed to be holding her breath.

When she was standing right in front of her, close, almost touching, her heart wildly galloping in her chest, Buffy swallowed, then lifted her chin, her own response soft, but firm. Sure.

"Maybe…never say never."

And then she reached out, her palm reaching out, cupping Faith's cool cheek in her hand. In one motion, she leaned forward and softly pressed her lips against Faith's own. The gesture was brief, gentle, not passionate…at least, not yet…and as Faith's eyes grew huge, and Buffy could hear her heart pounding even faster than her own in her chest, Buffy felt her lips curve into a genuine smile.

"Merry Christmas, Faith."

And she leaned in again, but this time, her lips were slightly parted.