PART FIVE: 17th March 2004
Chapter Three: Walking in Spring Sunshine
"So, is tonight the night?"
Waggling her eyebrows, Willow was more cute than sexy. Buffy mock-groaned and rolled her eyes at her best friend.
"What makes you think tonight is the night?"
"Well it's the third date," said Xander from her other side with a leer.
"Is everyone marking them off on a calendar or something?" Buffy laughed at them both.
The three of them had decided to go for a walk in the early spring sunshine and were pleasantly wandering down the boardwalk along side Lake Erie.
"Or something." Xander grinned. "You've gotta admit: it's pretty newsworthy stuff, Buff. You're dating a girl!"
"Hey, I'm dating a girl too." Willow frowned at him.
"Yeah, but that's 'olds'-worthy stuff now. And besides: you're gay, so it's kinda expected."
"Well maybe Buffy's gay now too."
"Guys, right here!" Buffy, who was walking between them, lifted her arm and pointed a finger down at herself. "And I'm going with 'bi' for now, okay? 'Gay' wigs me; 'bi' doesn't, so we're sticking with 'bi'."
"That's some pretty troll-like logic." Xander frowned.
"Like you can talk!" Buffy nudged him playfully, causing him to grab his ribs with a wince. "Sorry I don't seem to know my own strength today."
"That's 'cause you're all on edge with the third date looming over you." Willow grinned.
"Can we not use the word loom? Loom doesn't fill me with confidence."
"Okay, how about you're all on edge because of the girly sex that lies before you. That better?"
"Not really, Xander, no. Why does everyone assume that we're going to have sex tonight just because it's our third date?"
"Because it's the rule!" Willow and Xander said in unison.
"You two are as bad as Faith!" She'd come out with her friends to forget about Faith and here they were doing impressions of her.
"You talked to Faith about this?" Willow was clearly surprised.
"No, she just has the same calendar as you."
"With the kittens?"
"I don't think that's what she meant, Will," Xander chuckled. "How did she take it?"
"Fine. She was giving me advice actually." Buffy chuckled herself.
"Really?" Xander drew the word out for maximum effect. "She was dispensing with the naughty advice? Anything you want to share?"
She stopped and touched Xander on the arm so he turned to her. "Next time you and Melissa are about to, you know, have sex..." She kept her voice low so that only Xander and Willow could hear her.
"Yeah?" He asked, all eager for girl-pleasing secrets.
"...don't forget to..."
"Yeah?" He urged her on when she paused.
"...shave your legs." She finished in a normal tone and walked on again.
"After Anya and the wax fiasco, I'm leaving my legs hairy thank you. But thanks for sharing."
"Wax fiasco?" Buffy grinned.
"I won't speak ill of the dead." He said, a little sadness tingeing his smile.
"So that was all she said: Shave your legs?" Asked Willow. "Faith's not exactly a fountain of usefulness, is she?"
"Oh, I'm sure she'd have said more if I'd stuck around. Got anything you'd care to add to a newbie?"
Willow thought about it for a moment. "Did you cut your fingernails, 'cause it can really hurt if..."
Buffy held up her hands to show her very short fingernails. Slaying took care of that for her. When she'd been younger she'd tried to keep them nice, but now it was just easier to keep them trimmed than go through the mental and physical agony of breaking one on a vampire's face. Out of the corner of her eye, she could see Xander checking his stubby nails.
"Well that's all I got." Willow shrugged. "Sorry. Everything else is more fun if you learn it on your own. Just, you know, relax."
"I was pretty relaxed before everyone started harping on about the third date rule. Nothing like pressure, guys!"
Willow and Xander both just grinned at her.
"So are you going back to her place after the party?" Willow asked.
"You're bringing her to ours? Does Faith know?" Xander looked dubious about the idea. "More importantly, does Giles know? You know he's gone all secret identity guy again since we moved here."
"No, we're going back to hers; I just meant we won't be at the party." Buffy looked away while she waited for response.
"Not go to the party?" Willow started them off. "You have to go to the party!"
"No I don't."
"Buff, this is like Faith's big night. She's spent weeks organizing the St. Patrick's party at Matrix."
"I know Xan, but that doesn't obligate me to go. It's not like she'll miss me with everyone else there. It's not like she'd miss me even if everyone else wasn't there. I don't know why she's celebrating St. Patrick's Day anyway." Buffy spotted a brightly coloured kiosk. "Ooh ice-cream - come on!"
"Well she's half Irish," Xander reminded her. "Which explains the why. And besides, everyone celebrates St. Patrick's Day."
"So, it's not like she celebrated St. Poland Day." Buffy gazed up at the ice-cream menu, trying to decide between mint chocolate chip and raspberry ruffle.
"You know, I don't think they name the day after the country, or else today would be St. Ireland day and Faith's banners would be wrong." Xander grinned at her before ordering his own double cone.
"I know that doofus, the patron saint of Poland is..." Buffy screwed her face up as she tried to remember if they'd covered saints in school.
"St Casimir." Willow helpfully supplied.
"Willow how do you know stuff like that?" Xander handed her the cone he bought for her.
Willow accepted her ice cream with a shrug. "I don't know, maybe it's magic."
Buffy finally picked the mint and accepted her own creamy goodness and they walked on again. "I think that conversation got hijacked somewhere along the way. Anyway, my point is she can throw another party for St. Casimir's Day and I'll go to that one. Hopefully by then I'll have gotten over my constant urge to throttle her."
"Yeah 'cause it's the wanting to throttle her that you're having a problem with." Xander joked between licks of his drippy cone.
"See," Buffy lamented. "If I'm this obvious when I'm not around her, then how obvious do you think I'll be when I am around her, with alcohol and music and, well . . . her?"
"Probably not the best place to take Toni on the night you guys are planning on... you know." Willow agreed.
"Faith'll be bummed. Did you tell her yet that you're not going?" Asked Xander.
"Yeah, she took it okay once she realized why."
"That's a good thing, right?" Checked Willow.
Buffy would have preferred a bit of anger actually, a dash of disappointment possibly or at least a little jealousy; but deep down, she knew it was better this way. If Faith had shown any of the above, Buffy would have found it harder to stick to her avoidance policy.
"Well, you're going to miss one hell of a party." Xander popped the last bite of his cone in his mouth and did a little dancing as they walked. "Scooby elite tearing up the Matrix dance floor - it'll be something to see."
"I'll live." Buffy promised him. "And anyway, Toni really wants to go to this restaurant; she's been talking about it all week. She'd be disappointed if I change our plans without even talking to her, and I can't see her wanting to go to party full of people she doesn't know."
"You know, one way around that problem would be to let us actually meet her." Willow pointed out.
It wasn't as if she was hiding Toni from her friends. Everyone knew she existed obviously, mostly thanks to Faith, but once Buffy had decided to see the Italian again she hadn't kept it to herself. It was just that Giles really had gone all suspicious again lately and had restricted them from bringing people back to the camp unless it was pre-arranged, and Buffy just hadn't gotten around to arranging until that morning on the phone.
"You'll meet her tonight," she said casually. "She's picking me up from the house."
Buffy chuckled at the excited looks her friends gave each other as they walked on.
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