PART FOUR: 14th February 2004
Chapter Three: Statistically Speaking
Buffy sat alone in the living room, staring at the window sill. Well not exactly at the window sill, more like at the eight cards balanced on it.
There was the one she'd received, smaller and simpler than the rest which somehow served to make it more noticeable, the blood red heart stood out against the plain white background. Xander had received a manly-looking card from Melissa in the post that morning, which had put the carpenter into a bit of a frenzy because he'd thought they were exchanging cards that night and hadn't actually bought hers yet. Willow and Kennedy had inadvertently gone for almost identical cards with abstract representations of hearts and flowers across the front.
Then there were the other four cards on show. All of which were Faith's. Obviously it was those that had captured Buffy's attention so fully. Four cards?
'Why is this happening to me?'
Standing, she surreptitiously looked about her to make sure she was still alone before walking over to the window. On one card, a young man and woman were walking hand in hand along a beach, the scene was captured in black and white and there were foreign words below which Buffy couldn't read. She tilted her head enough to look inside.
The message read: To my Darling Fai. Happy Valentine's Day. Yours Eternally, Troy.
"Well that's original." Buffy muttered nastily. She desperately wanted to know what Faith had written in Troy's card, if she'd even bothered to get him one. She was pretty sure it wouldn't be as goopy as that. Yours eternally? What was he, immortal?
Moving on to the next card, one depicting a cute cat and an even cuter dog staring goofily at each other, Buffy re-employed the head tilt trick. Faith's name at the top in a barely legible scrawl, standardized six line poem about mush and then a giant question mark at the bottom bracketed by 'guess' and 'who'. Buffy had no idea who might have sent this card, but judging by it, she was pretty sure whoever it was wasn't a threat.
The third card in Faith's line was black with a red rose embossed on the front. Reading the words written inside, Buffy chuckled out loud. Okay, so she knew straight away who this card was from. Even if he hadn't signed his name, she'd seen the handwriting on dozens of things the year before. The poem he'd written inside was funny and touching and made it clear to her that he knew the score and that the card was merely a gesture. Just as well considering Faith had probably forgotten all about Robin the second he'd left the Hyperion for Beverly Hills the summer before.
The last card in the line was unmistakably girly. Not in an overly way as such, just in the way that it was pink and had a cartoon drawing of a cute bunny with floppy ears hugging a fluffy pink heart to it's chest. It wasn't disgustingly cute though, it was just the right amount of cute. So not Faith's style, so definitely hers.
Buffy pretended to be absorbed in something outside the window as she glanced down to see her own handwriting, distinctive despite being upside down. God, she'd even drawn a tiny heart to dot the 'I' in Faith's name.
She wanted to rip it up now as her ears began to burn, but Faith hadn't mentioned the card or any of her cards, to Buffy and so maybe there was a chance that she didn't know it was her who had sent it. To rip it up might cause more hassle than just trying to forget about it. Especially if Faith thought Buffy was just ripping up her Valentine's cards willy-nilly.
Forget about it? Yeah she could do that. No problem. Jerking herself quickly away from the pink card to prove herself right, Buffy picked up the card she had received and studied it once more.
She was still getting no clues from the neat handwriting. She tried to remember if Mr. Clydsdan had neat handwriting, but she couldn't recall having ever seen his writing. Giles would probably have some evidence of correspondence with him but Giles was in England, visiting with his old friend Olivia, and she didn't feel right about snooping through his private papers; not anymore anyway.
She put the card back on the sill and left the living room for the kitchen. Xander was cleaning some tools at the table. He looked up as she entered.
"Oh hey, Willow said you were baking your head tonight. I was just wondering if there would be enough to go three ways?" He asked her brightly.
Buffy stared at him, nonplussed. "I don't want to sound stupid, but...Huh?"
Grinning, Xander finished what he was doing and pushed his cloths out of the way. "Well I'm assuming you were joking about the head part, but, you know, I haven't actually booked anywhere for me and Mel to eat tonight, so if you were going to be cooking something delicious then would you mind if we joined you. Unless you already have someone in mind to come over, but Willow said you didn't, so..." He gave her a one shoulder shrug and a smile.
"Xander, do you need to borrow money or something? 'Cause I don't mind lending you fifty bucks to take your girlfriend out." Buffy eyed him suspiciously.
He looked insulted, actually he probably was insulted. "I have money, it's just that, well I left it too late, and now everywhere good will be booked and your cooking is better than good, I just thought it'd be nice to..."
Buffy cut off Xander's rambling by walking to his chair and putting her arms around his neck. She hugged him tight and he hugged her back.
"I don't know what I'd do without you Xan, you know that?" She really didn't.
"Well yeah, who else would spend an hour hunting for a non-existent spider just to save your dignity?"
Buffy smiled against his hair. "You've had the reservation details for tonight up on the calendar for the past three weeks."
"Ah, yeah, well, see..."
"I've heard it's a really nice restaurant. I'm sure Melissa will love it." Buffy kissed the top of his hair and stepped back to perch her ass on the edge of the table.
"Maybe I can get them to put an extra chair at our table." Xander smoothed his hair around his elastic as he wondered aloud.
"I'm sure Melissa won't love that!" Buffy laughed. Now if it was Faith and Troy, she might have been tempted to use her three-wheel-ness to try and overbalance them. Probably not, but maybe.
Her best friend looked pained on her behalf.
"Xander, it's okay. So I spend one Valentine's night alone. What's the big deal? I'm sure thousands of other people will be doing it and surviving the night too. I'm happy just knowing that all the people I love are happy, okay?"
Xander leaned back in his chair. "I'm not sure I'm buying it." He sat forward again as a thought occurred to him. "Do you remember Bobby?"
"From New Year?"
Light dawned, but it was a hazy light. "Sorta."
"I know he still isn't seeing anyone. Want me to give him a call? See if he's free tonight?"
Buffy shook her head fast. A pity date on Valentine's Day, no thank you. She cocked her head a little. Footsteps were heading for the stairs.
"Are you sure?" Xander persisted. "Granted he doesn't have Faith's breasts," he grinned, clearly loving the embarrassment that showed on her face. "But he's not bad looking for a guy; he has nice white teeth and big strong arms." He coaxed. "Not that Faith doesn't have nice teeth and strong arms, and well, the aforementioned breasts of course, but Bobby, what can I sa? He's a prince among men."
As feet came into view on the staircase Buffy sank down into the chair next to her friend's and buried her now burning face in her palms. Way to go Xander; perfect timing as ever.
She heard him yelp as Faith must have clapped him on the shoulder and then her husky whisper of: "I expect tits my size would look damn silly on one of your boyfriends, X."
"He's not my... no, we're just friends, not even that really, we barely know each other. I'm just trying to help Buffy out, like friends...do...." He was so obviously squirming.
"Well you sound pretty into him to me. Does he dazzle you with his nice white teeth? Do you long to be in those big, strong arms of his?"
"No! You're taking it the wrong way! I'm just saying all that because I want Buffy to give him another shot, not because I find him attractive. Because that would mean I was gay, and I'm not gay. I'm not!"
"So it was all for Buffy? You seem awfully invested in setting her up with someone you barely know. Did you pledge her in a bet or something? 'Cause I don't think she's gonna like being hired out for screwing to all your construction buddies."
"Who said anything about screwing? I was just thinking dinner and a movie."
"Is that where he takes you? Does he feel you up when the lights go down?"
"You sound disappointed."
"Doesn't it make you feel dirty, treating Buffy like an object to cover your gambling debts?"
"Damn, I thought you were all noble and shit, but really you're no better than the rest of us. You lie to your best friends about your sexuality, you cheat on your lovely girlfriend with a guy whose tits are smaller than mine, you obviously suck at poker, but you still gamble with your friend's body as the stake. Shame on you!"
"Have you quite finished, crazy lady?" Xander sounded on the way to crazy-land himself. "Good, then let's just get one thing straight: I'm not gay! I'm not cheating on Melissa! I haven't played poker in years, but I'll have you know I'm a damn fine player when I want to be and I didn't lose Buffy in a bet! I would never do that to any of my friends; except you maybe."
Buffy risked pulling her palms away from her face. As Xander ranted Faith stood there with her arms folded like she didn't believe a word he was saying. She was so full of shit.
"Xan, she's messing with you."
"Yeah, I was kinda cottoning on to that by the end there, but I'd started so I figured I might as well finish. I'm gonna go and leave you two..." he paused deliberately, smirking. "...y'know, birds alone." He exited sharply and Buffy wanted to throw something after him but nothing was to hand.
Once alone Buffy looked over at Faith and started giggling.
Faith grinned back. "You know, I think he protests too much."
"What you think he's secretly in the closet, no I don't think so. He watches Queer Eye strictly for the fashion tips." Said Buffy.
"Or maybe that's just what he told you."
Buffy thought about it but the idea was ludicrous. "If Xander was gay I'd know about it, or Willow would or someone anyway."
"Not if he's in the closet like you said. He's probably just got real good at hiding it over the years."
"Faith, stop! Xander can't be gay."
"Why not? Why's it such a far-fetched notion to you? After all Willow's a lesbian and you have lesbian tendencies..."
"I'm not a lesbian!" Buffy said a little too quickly. She waited for Faith to argue the point, but thankfully she didn't.
"Never said you were, just said that you've grazed on the other side of the fence. Who's to say that at some point Xander hasn't too?"
A face and a name sprung up in Buffy's mind: Larry Blaisedale, another kid from Sunnydale high she hadn't been able to save in the end. By senior year it had been well known that he was gay, rumour had it that his grandma set him up with his boyfriend. For a couple of months when they had all been Juniors, Xander had been really weird around the football star. Awkward and babbling, and always in a rush to get away. At the time she'd just assumed it was because Larry had bullied Xander most of the way through grade school, but what if it was something else? What if hate had turned to lust, which it did way too often, and something had happened between them?
Fingers clicked in front of her face and her gaze came out of the past and focused on Faith again. "Sorry, I was just remembering something. I suppose it's not completely impossible, but still highly unlikely."
"Well if Mel's a front, then he's got a fine taste in fronts. And that dude you were with New Year had a pretty nice behind if I remember right. So either way his world turns, the boy's got it made." Faith winked and went to the fridge for a beer. "Want?"
Buffy nodded. "Why not. I should probably marinate it for a while first." She meant her head but Faith didn't have a clue what she was talking about. "Never mind."
"So... you gonna go out with Xander's buddy tonight?" Faith took the seat he had recently vacated. "Nice teeth guy?"
"God no." Grimacing at the thought, Buffy took a long pull on her beer. The idea of getting good and toasted was probably the best one she'd had all day.
"Good," Faith rested her elbows on the table, her foot tapped beneath and her fingers played with the label on her bottle.
Something was obviously up, Buffy waited as patiently as she could to find out what.
Faith continued to fidget. "So, that means you've got no set-in-stone plans then?"
Buffy started to shake her head but Faith wasn't waiting for an answer.
"Would you like to go out to dinner tonight?"
Buffy blinked. "Say that again?"
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