Buffy sat on the floor with her back against the couch, looking around her very empty apartment.
Her very empty and lonely apartment.
Sure, it was in a beautiful part of Rome. Sure, they were quite lucky to have snagged it at the rental cost that they did. Sure, it was exactly perfect for her and Dawn.
Except for the fact that Dawn wasn’t there, and Buffy was going stir crazy with looking at the same four walls day in and day out. Alone.
The plan was for Buffy and Dawn to move to Italy so that Dawn could begin her schooling there the following school year. They had the summer to do the touristy stuff and explore the city and surrounding areas, and they had their share of visitors in that time. Willow and Kennedy, Xander, Andrew . . . even Giles.
But the one visitor that Buffy had been looking forward to the most was never able to make it.
When Buffy and Dawn began to look into the local schools, they realized that all of the ‘great’ schools that Dawn had read about online were, in fact, not in their neighborhood. Of the three schools that Dawn had narrowed it down to, the closest to their apartment was over 100 miles away.
“Dawn, that’s not exactly walking distance, and I’m pretty sure we’d kill your moped if you tried to trek that every day,” Buffy had told her.
They went back and forth about it, Buffy trying to reason with Dawn to choose a local school, and Dawn begging Buffy to get an apartment closer to the school of her choice.
They had signed a year-long lease though, and Buffy wasn’t sure that they could afford to get out of it and pay for the move as well.
After much argument and debate, they finally found a middle ground. Dawn would go to the school of her choice and dorm there, but would come home on the weekends. Buffy would find a job during the week, leaving her free time to spend with Dawn every weekend.
But as most teenagers do, Dawn always found excuses to stay at school for the weekend. Buffy was sick of hearing about Angelo’s birthday party, and Paolo’s poor stuffy nose and need for nursing, and Gina’s uncle’s mother’s funeral, and the other hundred excuses that Dawn always had in store.
After about two months, Buffy finally gave up hope on Dawn coming home for a visit, save for holidays and special Scooby occasions.
And just like that, she found herself utterly alone. Her sister at school, her friends scattered around the world, her parents and family long gone, and the missing half of her self in Boston.
She worked, of course. With a bit of finagling by Willow, Buffy managed to get a job in a school-like setting, teaching English as a second language. She enjoyed her job and found it pretty rewarding, but that only took up eight hours of her long and lonely days.
Opportunities had come her way, of course. One of her fellow teachers, a woman from England, was always trying to get Buffy to go out and do things. Buffy had gone to a few clubs and met a few people, but her heart wasn’t in it. She was living in Italy, but she may as well have been living on the moon; she felt that isolated from everything that she knew.
Most evenings were spent in her apartment feverishly cleaning the place, always prepared for surprise visitors which never seemed to come anymore. She’d taken to sitting on the balcony with a glass of wine and a book, but the weather began to change in the fall and she had to switch to indoor activities again.
When she wasn’t cleaning or reading, she’d spend time on her computer, writing to Dawn, to Willow and Xander . . . and to Faith. They exchanged emails back and forth and had even chatted using an online messenger a few times. Their conversation was always light and friendly, but it always seemed to leave Buffy with a heavy heart. Like she knew she was missing out on something, but had let it slip past. That Faith had moved on.
Of course, she had convinced herself that had Faith ever showed up, she never would have let her leave. Conversely, she knew that if Faith called and asked her to come to Boston, she would be there in a minute. For a visit, for a year . . . for however long Faith asked her to stay.
Because she knew that’s where her heart was; with Faith.
Sure, it had taken her a long time to come to terms with that. The long summer of exploring and traveling with Dawn had served as a distraction, but once she was settled, it was pretty much all that she could think about. Buffy had put her feelings aside so that she could get Dawn settled, and now that Dawn was gone, it was time for Buffy to focus on what she wanted.
It was about damned time.
As any other Saturday evening, she was sat in her living room, watching TV, gazing around the room on occasion and noticing how cold and empty it felt. And as always, she had her cordless phone in her hand. Ready to dial. Ready to answer. Waiting for something inside of her to spark; to gain the courage that she needed to dial the number she had committed to memory.
After hesitating for a few minutes, she took a big gulp of her red wine, finished the glass off, then stared at the phone in her hand.
It was time.
Biting her lip gently, she turned the phone on and dialed the long number, waiting as the international operator connected the call.
One ring. Two ring. Three rings. Sigh. Four rings. Five rings. Sigh.
Buffy smiled and held her breath, almost elated to hear the voice that she hadn’t heard in nearly five months.
Finally, Buffy realized that she should probably speak. That was what people did on the phone, after all.
“Hey,” she said softly, the smile on her face apparent in her voice.
The voice on the other end softened up too as soon as it recognized Buffy’s voice.
“Hey back,” Faith answered. “Was just thinking about you.”
Buffy smiled even more.
“Oh yeah? What about?” She asked in a relaxed tone, falling easily into the all-too-familiar banter..
“Well, first I was wondering what you were wearing and if you were naked. But then I remembered that I’m pissed at you for not answering me on messenger, and then I switched to thinking about giving you a nice kick in your non-message-answering ass, mostly.”
Buffy was almost sure she could hear Faith grin as she spoke, and it made her heart flutter. She stood up and walked over to her computer, then pulled out the chair and sat down on it.
“You never stop thinking about my ass, do you?” Buffy teased. That’s when she definitely heard a grin on the other end of the line.
“You know it, B.” Faith answered. “So . . . did you get the messages or what?”
Buffy woke her computer up from sleep mode then to see about seven messages from Faith.
“Just reading through them now,” she said as she perused the messages. She read through them quickly one by one, noticing that they were all friendly and teasing, until she came upon a link. She clicked the link and was redirected to a page for an airline service.
A confused look crossed her face.
“Were you trying to send me porn and got the link screwed up?” She asked, unsure of what she was looking at.
“Yeah, that’s exactly what you’re looking at, B. Porn. Ignore the flight confirmation info while you’re feverishly searching for hidden T-and-A.”
Buffy rolled her eyes at Faith’s comment, but then she realized what Faith had said.
“Flight confirmation . . . you’re coming to see me?” She asked as she studied the page more intently.
“We really need to work on your reading comprehension skills, Buffy. For real. Continuous passage from Italy to Boston . . . you’re coming to see me.”
Buffy smiled. It was all the invite that she needed.
“When do I leave?”
Three weeks and a seven-hour flight later, Buffy stepped off of the plane onto tired legs. She was glad that she didn’t have to make the trans-Atlantic trip ritually, knowing fully well that she’d never be able to tolerate a flight so long that often.
Then again . . . she knew that if Faith asked her to come back again in the near future, she’d be on the first flight that she could find.
Of course, she’d be sure to spend the extra bit of money the next time and buy first-class tickets. Listening to little Tommy and Katie Paininthebottom, -- 10 and 8 years old respectively -- fight from across the small aisle for seven hours while their parents slept or wholly ignored them earned coach class a particularly angry red mark in Buffy’s book.
She chuckled to herself as she walked along the passageway from the plane to the terminal, realizing just how ahead of herself she was getting. She hadn’t even seen Faith yet, let alone got to see what lay in store for them, and she was already planning repeat visits.
Buffy shook her head and cleared her thoughts. There would be no thinking about the future, or planning next visits or any of that. She was just going to let events unravel as they would, and she’d play it by ear.
If Faith wanted to see her again after their visit . . . she was sure that it was something that they could arrange.
Buffy followed the crowd of people, not exactly sure where she was going, but confident that they would eventually lead her to the baggage claim area. She kept telling herself that she wasn’t nervous about their reunion, yet she still managed to stumble onto the moving walkway and cause a big scene.
Tommy and Katie Paininthebottom giggled and laughed at her, but Buffy did her best not to let them bother her. She smiled politely at them, and as soon as their parents looked away, she graciously stuck her tongue out at them and made a face.
After about five minutes, Buffy finally arrived at the baggage claim area. It was very crowded and busy, several planes having landed at just about the same time. Masses of people swarmed the area, reuniting with their loved ones as they awaited their luggage. She looked around anxiously, eager to find a familiar face, but all she found were the grinning faces of Tommy and Katie.
“Are you lost or somethin?” Tommy asked in his Boston-accent, his finger planted firmly in his nose.
“I see the Scarecrow is still searching for his brain,” she responded sarcastically, watching Tommy really digging away now. She was sure that if he dug any further, he’d poke his brain out. “Not lost. But I can’t seem to find Toto, and I’ve come such a long, long way!” She said in her best Dorothy voice, laughing when the reference went right over Tommy’s head.
“Are you calling me a dog, B?”
Buffy turned around to see Faith stood there grinning, a pair of sunglasses still on her face. She had her hands deep in the pockets of her blue jeans; it looked as if she was keeping them there to stop them from picking Buffy up and spinning her around.
“Will you kick my ass if I am?” Buffy responded with a mischievous smile, feeling the tension melt away.
Faith chuckled. “No, but I might jump up on you and lick your face.” Both she and Buffy laughed, and then she took one of her hands out of her pocket and held it out toward Buffy. “Come here, ya nut.”
Buffy smiled and closed the distance between them, letting Faith pull her into a hug with her extended arm. She melted against Faith, forgetting how much she missed being against her. How much she missed being held by her.
After a moment, Faith withdrew her other hand from her pocket and wrapped it around Buffy, holding her even closer as she pressed her face into Buffy’s hair and breathed in deep.
“I’m glad you came,” Faith said quietly against Buffy’s ear.
“I’m glad you invited me,” Buffy responded, closing her eyes and just basking in the feel.
They were pulled from their reverie when they heard small giggles behind them. Both Buffy and Faith turned their heads to see where the giggling was coming from.
Tommy and Katie stood there, pointing and giggling as their parents waited for their luggage.
“I think they’re lexbeans!” Tommy said to his sister, making her giggle even more.
“What’s a lexbean?” Katie asked innocently.
Faith raised one of her arms up to her face and tilted her sunglasses down, looking over the top of them at the two children.
“It’s somebody who calls Santa and tells him where bad little kids live,” Faith answered with a mock glare. “Now shoo,” she said, and the kids ran anxiously back to their parents, standing there on their best behavior.
Buffy chuckled and un-wrapped her arms from around Faith before straightening out her clothing.
“Nicely handled. I might need to borrow you the next time Dawn gets out of line. That is, if she ever decides to come home from school.”
“Is that an invite to visit?” Faith asked with a wink before leaning over and picking up Buffy’s carry-on bag.
“You bet it is. An open invite. Dawn’s gone so much, it’s like living alone. Which, though liberating, can be insanely boring.”
“I hear ya on that,” Faith answered. “It’s why I got a dog. All I’ve gotta do is feed him twice a day and take him for a few walks, and he loves me unconditionally. It’s a pretty good deal.” They made their way over to the baggage conveyor and grabbed a spot where it would be easy to grab Buffy’s bags. “Of course,” Faith continued, “if I don’t hold up my end of the bargain, he poops on the floor, so . . . it’s a really good motivation to keep in line.”
Just then, the buzzer went off and the luggage carousel began to move. Both girls turned their attention to the conveyor, anxiously awaiting Buffy’s luggage. They were quite anxious to get her bags as quickly as possible and escape the chaos of the airport.
Faith chuckled when, after about five minutes of waiting, two bright pink suitcases plopped onto the carousel.
“I don’t even have to ask; I already know those two that look like they were dropped in Pepto-Bismol are yours.”
Buffy smiled, “Does the pink really give me away?”
Faith grunted as she lifted one suitcase off of the conveyor belt, then the other. She wasn’t sure how long Buffy was staying for – part of the beauty of an open-ended return ticket – but she knew that by the weight of the suitcases, she was prepared to stay for at least a year. Maybe two.
“You’re such a girl,” Faith commented with a laugh.
“Just the way you like me,” Buffy beamed before leaning down and grabbing the bigger of the two suitcases. She turned to Faith, waiting with a smile to be led away.
Faith couldn’t seem to wipe the smile off of her face. Things weren’t awkward or weird . . . they had fallen right back into step as if they had never parted ways.
She just hoped that the rest of the visit would go over just as smoothly.
Grabbing the other suitcase, Faith led Buffy through the crowd and toward the exit to the parking ramp, their free hands clasped together so that they wouldn’t lose one another. Not again.
The ride from the airport to Faith’s apartment wasn’t very long at all; it would have been even shorter if not for the airport traffic. Buffy and Faith kept casual conversation while in Faith’s Jeep . . . about the weather, and the Scoobies, and Dawn, and even about Angel and the LA gang.
And in a roundabout way, they managed to bring up the fact that they were both single.
Surely, that would make the visit much more interesting.
The short drive came to an end when Faith pulled up to a large red-brick building that stood two stories high. There was a large bay in front with an old white metal door that lifted up on hinges.
“You live in a fire station?” Buffy asked as she peered out the window at the very cool-looking building.
“Well, I live above it. The bottom bay is used mainly for storage now; a few of my boxes and stuff, and a bunch of old fire department records. It’s cool though . . . basically means that I can be as loud and annoying as I want and I don’t have any neighbors to yell at me for it.”
Buffy admired the old building, noticing that it had been kept up and preserved really well. She looked up to the second floor, to Faith’s apartment, and reasoned that it had to be pretty big inside, especially if it spanned the length of the building.
When she felt the back hatch open up, Buffy turned and realized that she was alone in the jeep. Faith stood chucking as she unloaded Buffy’s luggage from the car, amused with Buffy’s interest in the building.
“Don’t worry B, it’s not shitty inside or anything. And honestly . . . can you think of a safer place to live? How many times have you heard of a fire at a fire station?”
Buffy stepped out of the car and closed the door before joining Faith at the rear, grabbing one of the suitcases to make herself useful.
“None that I can recall,” she answered. “I was just thinking that you must have tons of room up there. It’s a far cry from the old motel room.”
Faith slammed the hatch shut and grabbed the other suitcase, then led the way to the small white door around the side of the building. She talked casually as she reached in her pocket and pulled out her keys, fumbling with them to find the right one for the door.
“It worked out pretty nicely,” she began. “The guy that was fixing the place up after the last tenant moved up was doing some work on my Gram’s house. He told her about the place about two weeks after I arrived, which was just about a week after I got a job. I checked out the numbers to make sure I could cover the rent and it all added up, so . . . I got lucky.”
She twisted the key in the lock and turned the door knob, then pushed her knee against the door to shove it open.
“It sticks sometimes,” she said to Buffy, who watched her in amusement. “Anyhow,” she continued as she began to make her way up the stairwell, “it’s got two big bedrooms, a pretty big kitchen with a breakfast bar, a nice living room and a killer bathroom with a jet-tub and everything. And I had so much room left over that I was even able to make a work-out area with a few free-weights and stuff.”
They finally reached the top of the stairs and Faith jangled her keys again, finding the one she needed to open the second door. She opened the door easily and stood back on the landing, giving Buffy room to step in first.
Buffy smiled and walked by Faith and into the apartment. Her jaw pretty much dropped when she caught her first glimpse of the place, noticing how big and spacious it was.
“You could fit my whole apartment in your living room and workout area,” she commented as she looked around in awe.
Faith had it decorated nicely, but in quite a minimalist manner. The walls were painted, there was decent furniture around, and a few decorations were scattered here and there – a wall with a few daggers hung on it, a magazine rack, a bit of wall art – but it still managed to have the same ‘empty’ feeling that Buffy’s apartment in Italy had.
She thought that maybe it was because Faith never felt really at home there, just as Buffy had never felt completely at home in Italy. Not when such a big part of her was missing.
“Yeah, I guess it’s a bit more than I need,” Faith responded, closing the apartment door shut behind her. She walked further into the apartment and put the suitcase she was carrying down on the kitchen floor, which was somewhat connected to the large living room. “I think maybe I was planning on having visitors and stuff . . . I dunno, wishful thinking, I guess.”
Buffy smiled and trailed after Faith, stopping alongside her in the kitchen.
“Well, here I am, a guest and all . . . do I get the grand tour, or shall I explore on my own and get lost in your gargantuan living space?”
“Guided tour it is.” She held her arms open and indicated the room around her. “Kitchen,” she said.
Buffy grinned. “Never would’ve figured that one out.”
“I’m thinking someone wants to explore alone,” she said with her eyebrow raised, the playful tone in her voice evident.
“I’ll behave,” Buffy said with a shy smile.
Before they moved on to the next area, Faith opened the refrigerator and pulled out two cans of Pepsi, casually tossing one to Buffy. Buffy smiled and thanked her, then carefully opened the can over the sink, where it fizzled all over. She grabbed a paper towel from the dispenser and wiped the can clean before turning to face Faith again.
“Make yourself at home, B,” she commented as she watched Buffy easily make her way around the kitchen. She couldn’t help but notice how good it made her feel that Buffy seemed to be fitting in already.
She then led them through the living room and work-out area, which had several types of free weights, along with a punching bag and several mats for floor exercises.
The apartment then became more divided; the open flow of the previous three rooms ended at a corridor, which led to three other closed off rooms.
They made their way into the spare bedroom, which was currently serving as Faith’s computer room. Besides the computer desk and chair, there was barely anything else in the room except for a metal-framed futon and a tall lamp in matching metal.
Buffy wondered if that’s where she would be staying, but she didn’t want to bring it up yet.
Faith then took her into the bathroom, which was really large and spacious. There was a long round-ish jet-tub in the middle of one wall, surrounded by black tiles. Several types of lotions and bath products surrounded the tub, and instantly Buffy realized that the bathtub was probably Faith’s favorite part of the apartment. A glass-enclosed shower stall was in the corner near the bathtub, and the toilet and sink sat on the other side.
Buffy couldn’t help but smile thinking about the trouble that they could make in the bathroom.
But before she could ponder it too much, Faith was walking into the last room in the corridor . . . Faith’s bedroom.
As the other rooms, it was also really spacious. And again, like the other rooms, it was sparsely decorated. There was a large bed against the back wall, covered with dark purple blankets. A large dresser with a mirror stood against one wall, and there was one of those contemporary half-sofas on the other wall, covered with Faith’s clothes.
“Now, that was one of my impulse buys,” Faith said as she pointed out the sofa. “I saw a similar one on TV and I said, ‘I have to get one of those.’ I barely sit on it, but . . . it makes a really nice clothes-horse.”
“Very nice,” Buffy said with a smile. She leaned back against the dresser and looked around, taking a deep breath before having a sip of her Pepsi.
She waited for Faith to say something . . . for the next logical progression . . . but they sat in silence for a few moments. Faith sat on the small sofa, picking lint off of the clothing that lay on it.
“So,” Buffy finally broke the silence, “where exactly will I be putting my bags?”
Faith shrugged and stood up, taking a few steps toward Buffy.
“Wherever you want, I guess,” she said, not taking her eyes from Buffy’s.
Buffy laughed nervously.
That wasn’t the answer she was looking for. Faith had asked her to come visit; no, Faith had told her that she was coming for a visit. She had to have had something in mind when she asked . . . she had to have planned something for them. Was it a simple friendly visit? Or was it for something more.
Buffy took a few steps away from the dresser and toward Faith, looking up at her through her eyelashes.
“Well, should I leave them in the kitchen? Or did you want me to put them in the guest room? Or,” she paused, fighting back her nerves, “should I put them in here?”
At that point, they were only separated by a couple of feet. Both girls looked quite nervous now, as if they were both waiting for the other to make a move. To decide their fate.
“I think that, maybe, you should bring them in here,” Faith said quietly, taking another step forward before stopping. Leaving Buffy to take the final step, if she wanted to.
“I think that maybe I should,” Buffy said just as quietly before taking a final step forward. The final step to finally bring them together.
Faith smiled and moved her arms to Buffy’s, letting her fingertips trace down her arms. She took Buffy’s hands in her own and held them as she slowly leaned in, their lips finally coming together in a soft kiss.
Buffy shivered, all of the anticipation in her building up in a perfect crescendo. This is what she had been missing; this is what she had been waiting for.
They kissed softly, slowly, their lips barely moving against one another.
But before the kiss had the chance to turn into anything more, the girls heard the door opening up in the living room.
“Fai? You here?” A young voice called out from the living room, followed by the sound of feet scampering around the floor and heavy breathing.
Faith and Buffy chuckled, both of them used to having their moments disturbed. Just as they pulled apart, a large dog came running into the room, instantly running to Faith’s side.
Faith leaned down and began to pet the dog, laughing at his excited whimpers and cries.
“Yeah, Joey, I’m in here. Thanks for looking after him for me!” She yelled.
“No problem,” the young boy answered from the living room. “I’m out, Faith, gotta get back home. See ya tomorrow!”
And with that, the door closed and Buffy was left with Faith and a very excited golden retriever that suddenly noticed there was someone else in the room.
“B, I want you to meet Harper. Harper, this is Buffy. She’ll be sharing the bed with us.”
Harper took that opportunity to shuffle over to Buffy, anxiously sniffing her hands for any sign of hidden treats.
Buffy laughed as she pet him, instantly falling for the friendly dog.
“I have to warn you, Harper,” Buffy began as she scratched the top of his head, “I hog the blankets. You might want to sleep in the other room.”
Faith laughed too.
“It’s true, buddy. We may have to kick you out every now and again.”
They laughed as the dog seemed to get the hint and scampered off out of the room, leaving them alone again.
“So . . .” Buffy began again, not exactly knowing what happened next.
Faith smiled and held out her hand.
“Come on . . . there’s something I wanna show you.”
Buffy obliged and took her hand, letting Faith lead her out of the room and out of the apartment onto some yet unknown adventure. There was so much that still needed to be said, still needed to be talked about, but she put all of that on hold until later. For now, she just wanted to enjoy the feeling of being whole again, of not feeling so lonely, and to bask in the excitement of the unknown.
She wasn’t sure what was in store for them for the next couple of days, but she was surely enjoying the anticipation. And when the time came to make decisions or part ways if the need be, she promised to keep an open mind and listen to whatever her heart told her.
She just hoped that Faith’s heart was on the same track as hers.
Back to Chapter Selection