Chapter Nine

The days passed by faster than anyone could have anticipated. Before everyone knew it, Giles was off on a plane to England, ready to start the Council anew and get the ball rolling for all of the new slayers. Everyone else was abuzz with making their own plans, booking train and plane tickets, arranging rides to and from the airport, and placing all of the last minute phone calls that they could manage.

Buffy and Dawn had done much of their own planning, most of it over the internet. They took virtual tours of apartment buildings and, with a bit of finagling, managed to find and rent a really nice apartment. They would work on getting Dawn into the school of her choice when they got there; it wasn’t exactly as if they could contact Sunnydale High School and have her records sent over.

Dawn had been bopping around excitedly for days now, ever since she found out that they were going to Italy. She even coaxed Angel into buying her a “Learn to Speak Italian” CD, which she played constantly in her CD player.

Buffy, on the other hand, found herself becoming sadder and sadder as the days passed. Sure, the prospect of having a nice and normal life sounded good to her. But in having that, she was pretty much leaving everything she knew and had become accustomed to behind.

Her home, even though it was buried underneath a million pounds of rubble. Her friends. Her father-figure. Her calling.

Her Faith.

And that was where it seemed to hurt the most . . . the fact that she was leaving Faith behind.

She wasn’t sure exactly when or how it happened, but she had really grown close to Faith. After years of pretending that they had been friends, they finally were. But it was so much more than that. So much stronger than could be attributed to any friendship or slayer bond.

In fact, she was pretty sure that it had something to do with her heart, but she could barely begin to let herself think about that, let alone say it aloud. She had spent some alone time with Willow and Xander one night, just hanging out like old times while Faith and Kennedy did some type of job for Angel. Willow didn’t want to come right out and ask Buffy how she felt, but she had hinted and insinuated as much as she could without making it seem like she was pressing.

Xander, on the other hand, basically sat there with a big grin on his face, lost in his own fantasies.

Buffy told Willow that yes, she was pretty sure that she felt something stronger than friendship for Faith, but that she couldn’t really put her finger on what it was. She explained that it wasn’t like what she had with Angel, or Riley, or even Spike.

And that’s when Xander finally chimed in with something useful and mentioned that maybe it was because she actually loved Faith; it wasn’t some teenage infatuation or her pretending to feel something just to be normal.

The conversation freaked Buffy out more than she could say; still she was more than grateful for having such open-minded friends. They didn’t jump on her back, or scold, or even act overly-surprised. But she didn’t dwell on the conversation.

She couldn’t dwell on it. She knew that in a few short days she’d be leaving, leaving everything behind, and she couldn’t do so with a clear conscious knowing that she was leaving something that had the potential to be so good behind in her wake.

And now, after several days of planning and over-thinking, and perhaps not thinking enough where it counted the most, the group of friends was getting together for what was their last night in LA.

Buffy and Faith tried to pretend that everything was okay. That it was just another day, another stage in their lives. That they hadn’t spent the last several days feverishly making love at every chance that arose because they knew that they were going to lose what they had.

They went to the final get together, held in the same room where they had had their previous group meeting, side by side. It was almost as if they were trying not to touch. Trying not to remember what their skin felt like when they touched, as it caused their hearts to flutter yet drop at the same time.

Still, they couldn’t fight what their bodies were trying to tell them. What they both wanted so badly. As they walked across the threshold into the conference room, they clasped their hands together and didn’t leave one another’s side for the rest of the evening.

There weren’t that many people left on that last night. Many of the slayers had already been sent home, others were busy training with Angel and his gang, leaving only the older, familiar slayers to attend the shindig. Willow and Kennedy were there, as well as Xander, Dawn, and Andrew.

Andrew was supposed to have left with Giles, but Giles found that he didn’t think he could stand a 13 hour flight with the boy. Instead, Giles booked him on a flight with a few of the younger slayers bound for England as well; told him that his first job in training to be a Watcher was to . . . watch over the girls.

Shortly after everyone had arrived, the catering staff brought in several trays of hot food, letting the group of friends eat and drink and enjoy the night at their own pace. Dawn spent half of the night trying to teach Andrew the Macarena, and Andrew spent half of the night complaining that he was rhythm impaired.

Buffy and Faith sat together, silent for the most part, just watching everyone have fun around them. They tried to have some fun too, of course. Faith had fun flinging peanuts at Xander from across the room, and Xander had fun trying to protect his remaining good eye. When a rogue peanut thwapped him on his forehead just above his good eye, he panicked and called the game off, truly worried that Faith might maim him with her slayer-strength peanut flicking skills.

Buffy tried to be active in conversations, tried to voice enthusiasm about the big changes that were coming up in her future, but she found that her heart just wasn’t in it. She was too focused on the way her hand felt in Faith’s, soft and warm and safe.

She never wanted to let go.

Faith, too, found herself almost completely distracted from the festivities that were going on around them. With the exception of the peanut-flinging incident, she sat back almost the whole night, only half-listening to the conversations going on around her. She focused instead on how she felt sat next to Buffy; content, and happy, and . . . as if she had finally found her place in the world. Her home. Her self.

As the night began to wind down, people started making their way back to their rooms one by one. Mostly everyone was leaving pretty early in the morning, save for Faith who had a late afternoon flight. Kennedy and Willow were the first to leave as they had an exceptionally early flight. They wanted to make sure to get some good sleep to be rested properly for their travels.

Buffy and Faith, however, made a pact the night before that they wouldn’t sleep on their last night together. ‘I’ll sleep when I’m dead,’ Faith had joked, earning a smack on the butt from Buffy. Instead, they agreed that they could sleep on their respective flights.

They didn’t want to waste their last night together sleeping. Not when there was so much else that they wanted to do, needed to do . . . needed to say.

Hand in hand, they made their way back to their room, dragging their feet the whole way. They knew that once they entered that room, the next time they would leave it would be to walk away from each other, and that thought was almost unbearable.

Faith took her keycard out of her back pocket and opened the door, standing back so that Buffy could enter first. Buffy turned around and walked in backwards, hooking her finger in Faith’s belt-loop and pulling the girl along as she treaded slowly into the room. Before the door even had time to close behind them, Buffy had wrapped her arms around Faith’s neck and pulled her close. And just like that, they were kissing, soft and slow and deep.

Buffy whimpered softly as she tasted what was distinctly Faith . . . cinnamon and spice and everything that she had grown to love.

Faith kissed her more passionately yet still soft and gently, hoping to push down the tears she knew they were both fighting now. She didn’t want there to be tears; tears could come when they were all alone. She wanted their last night together to be memorable, and beautiful, but most of all happy.

She slid her hands up Buffy’s sides, over her shoulders, and to the sides of her face, holding it gently as they continued to kiss. After a moment she pulled back so that she could look at Buffy’s face. She wanted to remember every inch of it. Every dip and every curve. She traced her thumbs over Buffy’s kiss-swollen lips, over her cheeks, softly over Buffy’s closed eye-lids and over her brow before leaning in and kissing her gently.

Her forehead. Her eyebrows. Her eyelids. Her cheeks. The corners of her mouth. Her chin. Her upper lip. Her bottom lip.

Buffy’s breath caught in her throat, her eyes still closed as she memorized every single one of Faith’s kisses. Every press of her lips to her heated flesh. She waited for the moment when she felt Faith’s lips press softly to her own, and then she kissed back, with everything that she had.

Still gentle, yet more insistent now. She wanted more. She wanted more than just Faith’s kisses. She wanted her touch, her body . . . her very soul, if it was possible.

And Faith was feeling exactly the same way. She walked them toward the bed, her fingertips pushing under the hem of Buffy’s shirt as they walked along slowly. She traced her fingertips along Buffy’s sides, earning a small giggle from the girl. Faith smiled against Buffy’s lips, her heart beating hard in her chest.

She had never felt like this before. So much emotion . . . she was so happy, so excited just to be touching Buffy, yet she wanted to fall to the floor and cry at the same time. She wanted to scream about fairness and the lack of it in her life, yet all she could do was continue to kiss Buffy, to touch Buffy, to slowly free Buffy of her confining shirt.

Buffy, too, was trying to undress Faith, her fingers fumbling as a rush of emotions passed over her again and again. She managed to pull off the offending shirt just as she felt the back of her knees hit the bed, sending them both toppling onto the soft mattress.

They laughed as they landed in a heap, Faith sprawled over Buffy, and Buffy clinging to her as if she were the most precious item in this world.

“You’re holding on pretty tight there, B, you can ease up if you want. Don’t worry, I won’t let you fall off.” Faith said with a chuckle, holding herself up so that she could look down into Buffy’s eyes.

Buffy’s smile faded into a much more serious look as she finally admitted, her words shaky and uneven,

“I don’t wanna let go. I . . . I don’t wanna let go, Faith.”

Her eyes began to well up with tears, but before they could fall, Faith was kissing her again. Kissing her with everything she had. With everything she felt.

“Don’t let go, Buffy,” she said breathlessly as they shimmied up the mattress, pushing off their remaining clothing as they struggled to find the center of the large bed.

When they finally found themselves naked and in a suitable position, Faith propped herself up above Buffy and looked down at her, just staring into her eyes and lightly brushing her hair away from her face.

“You’re so beautiful,” Faith whispered, her warm breath tickling softly over Buffy’s flushed skin. “I . . .” love you, she thought but her voice caught in her throat so that she couldn’t finish her sentence.

“Shh,” Buffy interrupted Faith, shaking her head slightly, “I know . . . I know, Faith.” She moved her hand up to Faith’s cheek and looked deeply into her eyes, giving her a small nod so that Faith knew she understood.

Almost hesitantly, Faith leaned down and pressed her lips to Buffy’s, afraid that if she didn’t occupy her mouth, the words that she was dying yet terrified to say would come flying out.

Slowly, she moved her lips to the corner of Buffy’s mouth, over her cheek, down her jaw, and began descending her body, placing soft, lingering kisses on every inch of Buffy’s skin along the way.

Buffy closed her eyes and braced herself, not because of Faith’s unyielding lips, but for the tears that she knew were dying to fall from her eyes.

The sound of a vacuum running in the next room over stirred Buffy from her slumber. She lifted her head from the pillow and glanced at the alarm clock, noting that she should really be up and getting herself situated. She stretched for a moment as she lay on her stomach, working out all of her sore muscles, then rolled partly over . . . and then completely over as she realized that she was alone in the bed.

She closed her eyes and sat up, straining her ears to hear over the buzzing of the vacuum cleaner. Upon hearing nothing, she called out into the room.


A few moments passed before she opened her eyes and allowed herself to survey the large room.

No boots. No leather jacket. No black duffel bag.

And most importantly, no Faith.

Buffy furrowed her eyebrows, barely able to believe that she was waking up alone. She swung her legs over the edge of the bed and stood up, grabbing a crumpled tee-shirt from the floor and hastily threw it on.

With one last ounce of hope that maybe Faith hadn’t really taken off, she made her way to the bathroom and, after pausing a second to listen, pushed the door open gently. Alas, there was no Faith to be found, but there was a piece of hotel paper left on the vanity. She picked it up and read it aloud.

“Never was one for goodbyes, guess that never changes. Take care of you, B. Thanks for giving me a second chance; I’ll never forget it. –Faith.”

Buffy sighed, trying hard not to let it bother her as much as it was. She and Faith had no commitments. Friends with benefits. She never should have expected a teary finale or even a kiss goodbye. Still, it didn’t stop her from bringing the note up to her face and breathing in deep to take in any last remaining traces of Faith.

After a moment, she walked across the room and held her arm out, letting the note fall like a feather into the garbage bin. She sat there are looked at it laying in the pale-colored bin, noting in truly dramatic Buffy fashion that she may as well have thrown in her heart.

However, her dramatic thoughts finally caught up with her and she chuckled aloud before stripping off her shirt and making her way to the shower.

“Drama Queen much, Buffy?” she said aloud to herself. “Get a grip . . . you have a long day ahead of yourself.”

With that said, she shook her head and focused, determined to tie up the loose ends that needed to be tidied before they left for the airport. She couldn’t be losing her head at a time like this; not when Dawn was depending on her, not when she had a whole new future to be looking forward to and planning.

She stepped into the shower and let the warm water beat down on her, letting it wash away the last remaining traces of Faith from her body, but not from her mind.

Buffy made her way down the hotel corridor, her simple red duffel bag slung over her shoulder. She stopped at Willow and Kennedy’s room and knocked, knowing fully well that they had already left, but taking her chances anyhow. After a moment, a stout little cleaning lady opened the door, a feather duster in her hand.

“Umm, hi!” Buffy said, a bit surprised. “You’re not Willow. I guess she’s gone too, then.”

The short lady smiled and shrugged, obviously not understanding a word that Buffy said.

“Right, you don’t speak English,” Buffy commented, feeling a bit foolish. “I guess it’s better that way.” Then a thought crossed her mind: Maybe the cleaning lady had seen Faith leave. Maybe it had just been a while ago, and maybe Faith was still in the hotel somewhere. Her eyes grew wide.

“Umm . . . I’m looking for my friend . . .” she fumbled, trying to recall the Spanish lessons she took when she was in middle school, but came up completely blank,” . . . my friend-o? She’s about this tall,” she held her arm up just a bit over her own head, “brown hair . . . umm, el brunetto . . . mucho attitude-o . . . nice butt . . . nice-o butt-o?”

She paused to see the stout woman giving her a bewildered look.

“Yeah, you’re not getting any of this, are you?” She asked, looking around the hall to see if there was anyone that could help her translate. She all but froze when she saw Dawn watching her with a very amused look on her face.

“Freak much, Buffy?” Dawn asked with a grin, watching how uncomfortable her sister became upon realizing that Dawn had witnessed the interaction. “Yunno, the Spanish language consists of more than just adding ‘o’ to the end of words.”

Buffy sneered at Dawn and gave her a fake laugh.

“I thought you were the expert on Italian, Dawn.” She paused as a thought crossed her mind. “Hey, you took Spanish this year . . . ask her if she’s seen Faith.”

Dawn frowned.

“Buffy, I took Spanish in a school that closed down early because demons kept popping up out of the basement before it, you know . . . imploded. I hardly think I’m capable of . . .” she trailed off when she saw Buffy’s desperate face. “. . . oh, fine.”

Dawn turned to the stout woman who now looked both confused and slightly scared. She put on her best smile and, after choosing her words carefully, asked the woman the question in her best Spanish.

After a moment of trying to understand Dawn’s bad and broken Spanish, the woman shook her head and nodded.

“Si, vi a su amiga. Ella dejo temprano esta manana. Ella parecia muy triste.”

Dawn smiled at the woman. “Gracias,” she said, then grabbed Buffy’s arm and pulled her down the corridor so that the frightened woman could go back to her job.

“Okay,” Dawn began, “she either said that she saw Faith leave early this morning and that she looked really sad, or that Faith’s a DJ with a bad temper and a thirsty parcel.”

Buffy thought it over.

“Well, she does have a bad temper sometimes.”

Dawn chuckled, then began to slowly walk alongside her sister as they made their way down the hall toward the elevator.

“So, she didn’t say goodbye then?” Dawn asked, trying hard not to open up what was possibly a painful would.

Buffy smiled wryly.

“I got a letter. At least that’s something.”

Dawn stopped, her mouth open wide.

“She Dear John-ed you?”

Buffy stopped and turned to look at her sister. “It’s not a big deal, Dawnie. Whatever happened is over now, just as we planned from the beginning. It was a good solution to a persistent problem, and . . . the problem is over now. No need to linger.”

She was trying really hard to convince herself of that as well.

Dawn stared her sister down for a good minute, then rolled her eyes before starting down the hallway again.

“Keep telling yourself that, Buffy. Denial isn’t just a river in Egypt. We all saw the schmoopy-ness between the two of you. Call it what you want, but don’t play like it didn’t mean anything. You’re only fooling yourself.”

Buffy stood for a moment or two before following after Dawn.

“Oh, this is gonna be a really fun 14 hour flight,” she mumbled under her breath.

The bumper-to-bumper ride to the airport in the incredibly smelly taxi didn’t help Buffy’s mood at all. She kept fluctuating between sadness, frustration, and sadness again. A few times she felt herself close to tears, unable to believe that she actually had to leave. That Faith had actually left.

But this was the path that they had chosen. This was what they had to do.

Still, that didn’t mean that they couldn’t have had some closure. That they couldn’t have said goodbye with respect, as two adults should do.

Then again, she wasn’t sure what she would have said had they found themselves in that position.

What exactly do you say to the person that you l . . . lust after . . . when you know that your lives are leading in two separate directions?

Maybe things were better as they were now. Maybe Faith was smarter than Buffy had given her credit for.

But she didn’t have any more time to mull it over in her mind, as the taxi finally pulled up to the bustling airport and was dropping them off at the curb.

“Dawn, make sure you have everything,” Buffy called out from inside the cab as Dawn jumped out, taking a huge breath of fresh air. Buffy stepped out of the cab too, situating herself as she looked for her sister. “You don’t want to leave anything . . .” she paused as her eyes landed on Faith, leaning against the building and wearing a pair of dark sunglasses, “. . . behind.”

She did her best to appear unaffected, but couldn’t help the small smile that appeared on her face as Faith smiled sheepishly and began making her way over.

Dawn intercepted Faith first, who pulled her into a big hug.

“Be good, ok kiddo? Take care of your big sis, and watch out for those Italian guys, they think they’re all kindsa smooth. Remember: kick first, ask questions later.”

Dawn hugged Faith tight and replied, “I will. Take care of yourself too. Alright, Faith? I mean it.”

She pulled back and looked into Faith’s eyes, happy that the girl had decided to come and do the right thing after all.

“You know it,” Faith said with a smile, then watched as Dawn grabbed her bag and made her way into the building. After a moment, she dragged her eyes back to Buffy, who stood watching the scene with a small smile on her face. Hesitantly, she took a few steps until she was finally face to face with the girl.

“Hey,” she said, shoving her hands deep into her pockets.

“Hey back,” Buffy answered, trying hard not to let her emotions take over.

“I may have mentioned that I’m not too good with goodbyes,” Faith began with a nervous chuckle.

Buffy smiled, trying to offer Faith a bit of comfort so she wasn’t so tense. “Yeah, you may have.”

A moment later, Buffy saw Faith take a step forward, and then she felt a pair of strong arms holding her tight. She surrendered to the hug, resting her head snugly on Faith’s shoulder.

Faith breathed in deep, inhaling Buffy’s sent. It intoxicated her, making her forget herself for a moment.

“God I’m gonna miss you,” she said before she could censor herself. She stiffened up, but realized that it was too late to take back. Instead, she ran her hands up and down Buffy’s back, caressing her gently.

“I’m gonna miss you too,” Buffy admitted, lost in the scent of Faith’s perfume mixed with her shampoo. Unconsciously, she let her lips press to Faith’s neck, just tasting her skin lightly. One last time, she thought.

Faith shivered, then brought her arms up to Buffy’s face and held it softly in her hands before leaning in and giving Buffy a soft, chaste kiss on her lips. She rested her forehead against Buffy’s and closed her eyes, allowing herself just one more moment to bask.

“It’s always been you, Buffy.” Faith whispered before she stepping back and allowing herself one more look at the girl. A moment later, she turned and walked away down the busy sidewalk. It only took a few moments before she disappeared within the masses of people getting into and out of taxis, as if she had never been there at all.

Buffy held her fingertips softly to her lips, overcome with such emotion that she could barely stand it.

And finally, she let the tears come that had been waiting so long to fall.

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