Chapter Six

Buffy looked into the full length mirror for what felt like the hundredth time, giving herself one last once-over before deciding that she was indeed ready for her date with Faith.

Her date with Faith.

She said it again in her head, unable to stop the shy smile that appeared on her face every time that she repeated it.

How exactly had they come to the point where they agreed to actually go on a date? Together, with the dateyness.

Buffy shook her head almost wistfully as she played out the last six or so months in her mind. So much had happened. So many changes had been made, so much growing had been done. She and Faith had forged a close friendship, and now there was the possibility of there being something more. Something better.

Something written in the stars.

A laugh escaped her throat when Buffy realized how corny she was being.

Until the day before, she wasn't sure that she believed in destiny. She believed in people; in their drive and in their ability to change their lives if they were determined to do so. Buffy had changed her fate on several occasions. Faith had strived to change her life after she paid her penance. Willow was able to turn her life around after taking a dangerous path.

Yes, Buffy believed in people, and that they could sometimes surprise you and do good.

But after visiting the other dimensions, she had to admit that there was maybe something more than determined people. Maybe there was something out there, pulling strings and guiding events so meticulously that it goes by unnoticed.

Maybe that was why she had fallen into friendship with Faith so easily since they'd left Sunnydale. It was meant to be, perhaps.

Still, Buffy believed that her original thought - that people could change their `destiny' with strength and determination - held true. She'd seen it firsthand.

Perhaps that was what had kept she and Faith from having a friendship - or more - years before. If she thought about it good and hard through all of her prior years of repression, maybe Buffy had felt something for Faith back then. It was true; she had.

But Buffy wasn't ready to accept it then. Couldn't come to terms with the fact that maybe she was having feelings for Faith -- who was very much a girl and very much uninhibited - when she was busy trying to have a normal life. She'd just wanted to be your average everyday high school student. Being a slayer made her weird enough; dealing with the stigma of having the hots for another girl just wasn't something she was ready to accept.

So yes, she'd fought her feelings, put up her walls, and denied Faith her true feelings and any type of warm friendship that would have been offered to anyone else without hesitation.

She'd come close to losing her resolve on more than one occasion. When Faith drew that heart on the window of her chem. class, Buffy had felt her own heart constrict in her chest. Later that night they'd danced hand in hand at the Bronze, and Buffy knew that if Faith had made a move, her walls would've collapsed and she would have given in.

Cue Angel and his impeccable timing.

And of course, things had gone sour soon after that, which had made Buffy feel all the more justified in her decision to keep Faith at arm's length.

Yes, Buffy had regrets from her past. She wished that she could go back and make Faith a friend, save them from years of hate and heartache. But when they'd moved from Sunnydale, she and Faith made a conscious decision to leave it all behind them. The past was the past, and they were trying to build a future.

As the sound of the doorbell chimed downstairs, Buffy was pulled from her thoughts. She smoothed her hands over her sides one last time and opened up her bedroom door, ready to face the future.

For some reason, she couldn't keep a silly smile from creeping up on her face. The more she tried, the bigger the smile got. She put her hands to her face, urging her muscles to relax, hoping to god or whomever else was listening that Faith wouldn't pick on her for it.

Buffy slowly began to descend the stairs, anxious to see Faith standing there. Then something occurred to her; when did Faith ever use the doorbell? Hell, when did she ever even knock anymore?

She stopped dead in her tracks, wondering if it was too late to turn around and run back up the stairs. Instead, she found herself looking at an annoyed Dawn and a very confused Maya.

"Yep, there she is," Dawn said, shooting Buffy a death glare. "Obviously, the fever is getting to her." She walked over to Buffy, leaving Maya stood at the threshold to watch the spectacle. "You're sick, sis. Remember what Doctor Rosenberg said? Lots of sleep and no wandering around until you're better. Now get back up there, change that ridiculous outfit, and get into bed."

Dawn made sure to squeeze Buffy's arm extra tightly as she pretended to help turn her around and up the stairs. When they reached the top, Dawn grumbled a few choice words to Buffy about ten thousand favors before returning to the caring sister act and jaunting back down the stairs to Maya.

"Is she gonna be okay?" Maya asked, trying to peek over Dawn's shoulder up the stairs.

Dawn put her hand on Maya's shoulder and turned her around, leading her back out onto the front porch.

"I think that with some extra attention and a healthy dose of faith, she'll come through just fine," Dawn said with a big fake smile, beaming at her own subtle joke.

As they reached the front porch, Dawn nearly leapt out of her skin to find Faith stood there, locking the front door of her own apartment.

"Hi Faith, fancy meeting you here," Dawn said in a rush, nearly pushing Maya down the stairs.

"What's up, kiddo," Faith asked, taking a quick glance at Maya before looking back to Dawn. "Looks like you've got your hands full. Your sister ready?"

Dawn merely glared at Faith before throwing her arms up in the air in defeat.

"You people are unbelievable." She turned and walked back into the house, leaving the front door wide open. She mumbled under her breath, "Ask me to cover for your asses and then can't even play along. I'm the best sister EVER."

Faith simply arched an eyebrow before following Dawn into the house. She closed the door behind her, leaving an even more confused Maya stood there alone, wondering exactly what the hell had just happened.

Hearing the door finally close, Buffy cautiously descended the stairs yet again, passing Dawn who was on her way up.

"There will be favors owed, oh yes there will," Dawn grumbled as they passed by one another.

"Sorry Dawnie, I didn't realize . . ."

"Bah!" Dawn said, effectively cutting Buffy off. "And I meant what I said about the outfit!"

Buffy stopped yet again on the stairs, looking down at her outfit. Was it really that bad?

"What's wrong with my outfit?" she asked, not actually expecting an answer.

"Don't listen to her, B, you look great," Faith said, nervously shoving her hands into her pockets.

"Thanks," Buffy replied, the silly smile making yet another appearance on her face. "I wasn't sure what we were doing, so I kind of went for nice-casual. Is that . . .?"

"It's perfect, actually," Faith interrupted. "I thought we'd head on over to The Flats. Catch some grub down on the West Bank, then maybe hit up Old River Road on the East Bank for some good old-fashioned fun."

"Sounds good. I almost thought you were gonna pack me up and steal me away to Cedar Point again," Buffy said with a chuckle.

Cedar Point was a theme park that Dawn and Faith liked to go to on occasion. Sure, Buffy liked her share of roller coasters and spinny rides, but being there with Dawn and Faith made her feel more like a mother than she ever had in her whole life. There was something about Faith and Dawn eating Dipping Dots and Pizza, then going on The Magnum three times in a row to see who puked first that made Buffy think that maybe it wasn't so much a `date' kind of place.

"Nah, figured we'd save that for the second date," Faith replied and winked.

Without any further hesitation, Faith held out her arm, an almost shy smile on her face. Buffy walked down the remaining two steps and approached her, offering her a genuine smile before hooking her arm through Faith's.

"Time to motorvate," Faith said, ushering them toward the front door. "We've gotta hit the road or we're gonna be late."

"Be late? There are official plans and times now? Wow, plus ten points for last-minute planning," Buffy joked, giving Faith's arm a gentle squeeze.

Faith merely smiled in response, happy with her own cleverness.

Whereas Buffy was once hesitant to hop on the back of Faith's motorcycle, she now looked forward to it whenever she got the chance. Maybe it was the wind blowing through her hair, or the way it felt like freedom. Hell, if she thought about it hard enough, maybe it was because she got to sit with her arms wrapped around Faith.

Whatever it was, Buffy eagerly hopped onto the back of the bike and they sped off, making their way across town to their destination.

The Flats was a popular area on the Cuyahoga River, a frequent hotspot for the Cleveland population. There were restaurants, clubs, and all sorts of fun places to visit on both sides of the river. The West bank featured many more restaurants and mature places, whereas the East bank is where most of the younger crowd flocked to.

Buffy had long talked about how she wanted to check the area out. When they first arrived in Cleveland, Kennedy took Willow there on their first real date. Willow raved about the fancy Italian restaurant they went to, and about how Kennedy was so eager to take her to every fun place they could find.

Needless to say, Buffy had been waiting for the day that someone would offer to take her there on a `real date'. Never did she think that person would be Faith, but as they made their way down the busy streets of the West bank, she was happy that it was.

She wondered exactly what Faith had been able to plan with their last minute decision to go on a date. There was no way that they were getting into any of the fancy places with such short notice; surely they wouldn't be taking reservations that late in the day. They would probably end up having burgers somewhere, which surprisingly didn't bother Buffy at all. She was just happy to be out, with Faith.

That didn't surprise her or make her feel weird for some reason.

When Faith pulled the motorcycle up to a lot and began to search for a parking space, Buffy's eyes nearly bugged out of her head.

"Why are we parking here?" she asked, her voice muffled by her fashion-challenged helmet.

"Cos it's close to the restaurant," Faith answered easily as she pulled into a spot and kicked the stand down. She pulled off her helmet and shook her head, letting her long dark hair spill freely over her shoulders.

Buffy took off her helmet at the same time and closed her eyes, basking in the sweet scent of Faith's hair. When she opened them again, Faith was stood next to her with an amused grin on her face, holding her hand out.

"Here? Are you serious, Faith?" Buffy asked, looking over Faith's shoulder to the fancy building behind them.

"Yup. You talked my ear off about this place on more than one occasion. Figured we should give it a go, check out the grub, the atmosphere, all that junk you like."

Buffy accepted Faith's hand and lifted off the bike, setting her helmet down on the seat.

"But this is Ponte Vecchio, Faith. It's expensive, and so difficult to get a table on the weekends, and in case you haven't noticed, it's Sunday," she said as she straightened out her slightly rumpled clothes.

"Yeah, but I made reservations earlier cos I really hoped you'd change your mind," Faith answered, smiling. "Glad you did too cos I'd kinda look like an idiot if I showed up alone."

"Still," Buffy said as she looked upon the beautiful building, "it's just expensive. We could go to Shooters if you want, there's no reason to spend . . ."

"You deserve it, B," Faith interrupted, making Buffy look at her. "Any random stud can take you to a burger joint, right? So I want this to be special, cos I've never done the dating thing and I wanna get it right. So yeah, let's go in there and have some overpriced spaghetti and meatballs, cos there's nothing more I wanna see than a smile on your face."

Buffy couldn't help but smile almost shyly at Faith's little explanation. It made her feel a little warm and fuzzy that Faith was willing to do something just to make her smile. Even more, Faith had remembered the exact name of the restaurant Buffy had been longing to go to. As far as Buffy was concerned, Faith had already nailed the first date and passed with flying colors.

Smiling, she held out her hand to Faith. Faith looked down at it for a moment before taking it softly in hers and giving it a little squeeze.

"I feel like I'm in second grade again," she said as they began to walk to the front entrance.

"Lucky for you," Buffy replied. "In second grade, I was known as the class kisser. Used to steal all the boys away and try to kiss them in the coat room. My teacher was always sending notes home with me. My mom was less than thrilled to find out that her little girl was making with the smoochies."

Faith laughed, a sound that Buffy learned to love in the short time they'd been friends.

"Looks like that goodnight kiss is a sure deal then, huh." She offered Buffy a small wink, making sure to let her know that she was kidding and that there was no pressure or expectations as far as first date intimacy went.

"We'll see about that," Buffy said with her own wink, stepping through the front door of the restaurant as the greeter held it open for them.

Faith smiled and followed Buffy into the restaurant, her hopes high despite the fact that she was trying not to build herself up for a letdown.

As expected, dinner was fabulous. From the appetizers, through the main course, right down to the dessert, Buffy and Faith left Ponte Vecchio feeling extremely satisfied. Even the wine selection was great, with the waiter recommending them something that was nice but not too pricey. Faith couldn't have cared less about the cost if she'd tried, but Buffy was anxious about their bill the entire time. She'd even offered to pay half, but Faith said that it was out of the question.

They'd shared a piece of `chocolate lasagna' for dessert, and they'd enjoyed it so much that they ordered two pieces to go. They figured that their slayer metabolism - if there even was such a thing - would burn up their dinner quickly, so they took the small guilty indulgence with them for later.

As they made their way back to Faith's motorcycle, Buffy couldn't help but make a happy `mmmmmm' sound as she looked up to the sky and closed her eyes.

"What?" Faith asked, wondering why Buffy seemed so content.

"What?" Buffy repeated, questioning Faith's what. "I've got a belly full of the most delicious food I've ever had in my life, it's a beautiful night, and I'm so relaxed that I feel like I could fall asleep on your motorcycle, that's what."

Faith chuckled, "Am I boring you that much? Damn, I thought I had skills."

"Not bored at all, just relaxed, which I guess is pretty odd seeing as this is not only my first date with a girl, but my first date with you. And as far as first dates go, yes . . . you have skills," Buffy complimented Faith, which earned her a little grin.

"That's what I like to hear," Faith replied. "So, you're all tired and junk . . . did you wanna call it a night? We can always save the east bank for another night . . ."

"No," Buffy interrupted. "No home yet. I'm enjoying myself. But maybe we can save the East bank for when I'm feeling more party-like. That okay?"

"Of course," Faith answered. "So . . . what's the what then? We could check out some cafes or something, or, uh . . . I dunno. Guess I didn't plan too good past the whole dinner thing." She ran her hand through her hair, looking a bit nervous at their sudden lack of plans.

"How about we just take a walk?" Buffy suggested. "The sky is beautiful, the weather is cooperating, and we're on a river bank. I'd say it's a pretty perfect scenario as far as walks are concerned."

"A walk?" Faith asked, raising an eyebrow at Buffy. "Yeah, we could do that. Yunno, so long as you don't go telling people that our date got all lame cos I made you walk around in your girly shoes."

"So long as you don't tell anyone that I dropped my salad fork on the floor and was so embarrassed that I had to eat with a spoon, we have a deal."

Faith held out her hand and Buffy shook it gently, then interlaced their fingers together as she started them off for a slow stroll along the riverbank.

They stayed quiet for quite some time, just taking in the sights and sounds as they walked hand-in-hand along the walkway. Unlike Buffy and Faith, most of the people in the area were too busy headed to their nighttime destinations to take a romantic stroll or even to take notice of the two girls as they walked along with small smiles on their faces.

At one point, Faith couldn't help but notice how nice it felt to do something as simple as hold Buffy's hand. Sure, she'd held it before. When they went out with Willow and Kennedy a couple of months back, Buffy got hammered and Faith had to hold her hand to keep her from wandering off or falling over.

But it was different now. Buffy's thumb was moving gently against Faith's, such a subtle yet intimate gesture. Faith hadn't realized that she had said that it was nice aloud until she heard Buffy answer back, "doesn't suck, right?"

They walked along the bank, stopping only when a boat with festive lights made it's way down the river, causing the girls to wander over to a protective railing to watch it. Again, they stood in silence as they watched it, finally letting go of one another's hand so they could stand with their elbows rested on the rail.

"So," Buffy began, cutting the silence, "ten words or less: what's your take on all this dimension stuff?"

Faith thought it over in her head for a few minutes, counting the words on her fingers until she finally answered, "It's been a crazy ride. Lookin forward to more, sexy."

Buffy laughed and playfully pushed her elbow against Faith's.

"How about you?" Faith asked, stealing a glance at Buffy.

"Ten words?"

Faith shrugged. "Sky's the limit. Go for it."

Buffy took her time to think it over for a few moments as well before finally figuring it out in her head.

"Do you remember what I said to you before we went to the first dimension?" she asked.

"Yeah, that you were gonna put a picture of my hot little ass on your Christmas cards," Faith answered with a grin.

"Before that," Buffy said and laughed.

Faith thought about it for a moment before answering, "You said that parallel dimensions gotta count for something."

"Right," Buffy replied. "And, I mean, they did count. Or, they do count. We can't just write off the things that we saw. All of those dimensions and we were together in some form or another in all of them. It really got me thinking about us. The us in this dimension."

"And?" Faith asked, looking over at Buffy again.

Buffy took that opportunity to look over at Faith as well, an almost shy look on her face.

"And I think maybe they had it right. I think maybe we are supposed to be together."

"Yeah, maybe," Faith shrugged. "But you shouldn't base your feelings on what you saw in some other dimension. Close your eyes, B."

Buffy narrowed her eyes at Faith for a brief moment before shaking her head slightly and closing them. Faith took that opportunity to move behind Buffy and wrap her arms around the girl, holding her close to her body as they stood facing the moonlit river.

"How do you feel right now?" Faith asked as she looked over Buffy's shoulder and at her face. When she saw Buffy's eyes flutter as if she was about to open them, she continued, "Keep `em closed. How do you feel, Buffy?"

Buffy thought about it for several long moments, letting herself relax back into Faith's arms as she basked in the feel of soft breath against her neck.

"I feel safe. I feel . . . happy." She took that opportunity to open her eyes and looked over her shoulder, meeting Faith's penetrating brown eyes. "I feel right."

"Yeah, me too," Faith said quietly, wrapping her arms a bit tighter around Buffy's stomach as Buffy turned her attention back out to the boat on the river.

A few moments passed before Buffy's worries got the best of her.

"Are you scared about what happens if we're wrong?" she asked nervously. She felt rather than saw Faith shrug.

"You can spend your whole life worrying about the future and regretting the past, but it's not worth it. I think that all that really matters is the here and now," Faith explained easily.

"So, what do you want in the here and now?" Buffy asked, moving one of her hands over Faith's and rubbing it lightly.

"You mean besides that piece of chocolate lasagna that's stowed away in my bike?" Faith asked with a grin, reveling in the way Buffy felt when she chuckled against her. "I mostly wanna kiss you again, B. That's what I want in the here and now."

"And then?" Buffy asked, her final question.

"Haven't thought that far," Faith answered honestly.


Their conversation appeared to cease then, both girls deciding instead to focus on the ships and boats out on the water.

Just when Faith thought she'd ruined their date, she heard Buffy quietly say, "Go for it." She raised her eyebrow and stole a glance at Buffy's face to see if she'd heard her right. Buffy let go of Faith's hand long enough to turn around in the girl's arms so that they were now facing one another, still pressed closed together.

Faith dipped her head down just a little, waiting for one last go ahead. When Buffy nodded slightly, it was all the sign that Faith needed. She lowered her head the rest of the way, closing her eyes only when she felt Buffy's lips brushing softly over hers.

The kiss grew from a gentle caress to a much deeper kiss, still soft and slow but filled with need and years and years of finally letting go. Buffy slid her hands around the back of Faith's neck, earning a slight giggle from the girl that actually broke their kiss.

"Guess I found your ticklish spot," Buffy said, placing a small kiss on Faith's upper lip.

"Got a few of `em," Faith replied as she ran her hands up and down Buffy's back. "Play your cards right and I'll show you where the rest are," she said and winked.

"I might just take you up on that some time," Buffy said, then turned around and faced the river again.

She snuggled back against Faith and they stood there watching the boats travel up and down the river for a while longer, neither of them wanting to upset the moment.

When they both realized that it was starting to get late and that Buffy had work the next day, be it Monday morning and all, they decided to call it a night and head for home. Buffy clung extra tightly to Faith as they rode back on the motorcycle, even daring to feel the girl up a little bit over her shirt. Hence the tight clinging, as Faith nearly drove them off the side of the road when Buffy did that.

When they finally arrived back at their house, Faith took Buffy's hand and helped her off the motorcycle and up the steps of the front porch. They paused there for a few moments, sharing several small kisses and a couple of revenge gropes on Faith's part. Buffy merely laughed and batted Faith's hands away, knowing fully well that she deserved it for their near crash.

Without too much more ado, Faith kissed Buffy one last time and stood and watched as Buffy walked into her side of the house, waving a bit before closing the door behind her. Faith walked into her own house, resting back against the door with a stupid smile on her face.

She couldn't believe that the night had gone so well. Not only was their first date a success, but she was pretty sure that there would be a second and third. It would be her first real relationship, but she was looking forward to the ups and even downs of it more than she could say.

It was Buffy. What more could be said? She was finally getting her second chance with the girl, and there wasn't a chance in hell that she was gonna screw it up.

Faith wandered through her apartment, taking off her restrictive date clothing and throwing on a pair of track pants and a Red Sox sweatshirt. She briefly considered sitting at her kitchen table and eating up the dessert that she'd brought home, but she decided instead to grab a beer and head out to the back porch.

No sooner than she sat down and situated the blanket around herself did she hear Buffy's back door open and see a pajama-clad Buffy step out onto the porch.

"There room for two under that blanket?" Buffy asked coyly, knowing fully well what the answer was.

"I dunno, B. I ate a lot of food tonight. Might only be room for rollie-pollie me now. Think you can squeeze in?" Faith asked as she moved back to the corner of the couch and rested one leg up on the wicker table, leaving room for Buffy to sit back against her.

Buffy smiled and walked over, carefully seating herself in front of Faith and resting back against her. Faith pulled the flannel blanket over the both of them, letting Buffy adjust it as needed. Their position was comfortable, but didn't leave much in the way of room to move around.

"I think we're gonna need a bigger boat," Buffy said playfully as she leaned fully back against Faith again, her head resting on the girl's shoulder.

"We could always go inside if you wanted . . ."

"No, it's okay," Buffy interrupted. "This is nice. Different, but nice."

Faith wrapped an arm around Buffy, her nose pressed against the top of her head so she could breathe in her scent.

"Defo with the different. Last time someone was this close to me, I had `em in a chokehold." She paused for a moment before adding, "This is way better though."

"Mmm-hmm," Buffy mumbled, perfectly comfortable and relaxed.

Faith looked up to the clear night sky, wondering which of the millions of stars up there was her lucky star. No way did she ever think she'd end up where she was right then: with Buffy Summers snuggled up against her, trying her damnedest not to fall asleep.

Sleep did, however, claim Buffy after about twenty minutes or so. Faith briefly considered waking Buffy up or even carrying her up to bed, but she too was suddenly overcome with how tired she was.

Her last act was to kiss the top of Buffy's head, pull the blanket tighter around them and whisper, "Night, B" before succumbing to sleep as well.

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