PART FIVE: 17th March 2004
Chapter Four: Preparation, Preparation, Preparation
Faith was standing in Buffy's bedroom doorway underneath the mistletoe, wearing nothing but a stiff-looking green jacket with bright shiny buttons, little green pixie boots, and a grin.
"We don't live here anymore." Buffy looked around her old Revello Drive room. "We've changed."
Faith was shaking her head. "I never changed, love, that was all you."
Buffy shook her head in return. "You did. You embraced your inner moppet so you could spank me."
Faith just grinned at her.
"Come here," Buffy commanded from her comfy position on the bed.
"Doesn't work over there," Faith reminded her. She pointed above her head. "Gotta have the magic ingredient."
Buffy's eyes swept up and down Faith's body. "Your coat doesn't cover all that much."
"Cover isn't what it used to be."
"That's true. Aren't you cold?"
"Do you want me to be cold?"
"Then I'm fine, thank you."
Buffy shook her head again. "No you're not."
Faith regarded her silently for a moment or two, her head tilted to one side. "Tell me."
Buffy shook her head sadly this time. "I can't. It's something you can only know when you want to know."
Faith reached up and plucked the mistletoe from above her; she studied it closely.
"Once upon a time I knew." She picked one of the tiny berries off and rolled it between finger and thumb. "Such a little thing, with so much power."
"Are you talking about the plant?"
Faith smiled at her. "You."
"Oh." Buffy ducked her head. Looking back up, she met Faith's eyes. "I thought you didn't believe in me anymore."
The bells on the Faith's green boots jingled as she walked the few steps from the doorway to the bed. She stopped and held the mistletoe above where Buffy's head rested on her pillow.
"You don't need that to believe in me." Buffy promised, sitting up and gently taking the mistletoe from Faith.
Faith leaned down until they were almost kissing, making Buffy gasp in surprise.
"That all depends, Buffy; do you believe in Leprechauns?"
One hand gently gripped the back of Faith's neck, drawing her lips close enough to kiss and Buffy's other hand slipped beneath the hem of Faith's stiff, green coat and between her legs.
"I believe in you."
Faith's lips turned non-corporeal as they neared Buffy's own and the scenery changed to show Buffy's new bedroom in their new home just outside Cleveland. It even had the finest details, like the alarm clock inches from her nose. The digital display showed 7:23.
Buffy groaned aloud and rubbed a hand over her eyes.
Not only were the hot dreams not going away, they were getting weirder by the day. She was going to be plagued with lesbian Leprechaun fantasies for the next few days now, she just knew it. And that was just...
Words didn't come close.
Well it was St Patrick's Day; maybe Toni would be wearing green in honour of it.
Shit! Buffy twisted around to look at the alarm clock again. Shit! 7:26!
Toni was going to be arriving to pick her up in less than five minutes.
Crap! Crap! Crap!
Buffy jumped off the bed and ran for the shower, stripping clothes as she went.
Her walk down by the lake that afternoon had left her feeling sleepy, so she'd decided that a quick nap could only be a good thing. After all, she didn't want to be falling asleep too early that evening! Her planned thirty minutes of shut-eye had turned into two and a half hours.
She had to get Willow to meet Toni at the door and explain.
Buffy charged out of her bedroom and down the hall in just her panties to hammer on Willow's door. She held one arm to her chest and prayed that her friend would open up before anyone else came along.
"Just a second." She heard Kennedy call out.
No! She tightened her arm across her. "Is Willow in there?"
"No, she's out back with Xander," Kennedy's voice was coming closer. "Can I help?"
"Don't open the door!" Buffy yelled. Backing up, she was all ready to dash back to her own room.
"Why not?" Kennedy opened the door too soon. She looked Buffy up and down. "Care to tell me why you're knocking on my girlfriend's door when you're naked?"
"I'm not naked, not completely," Buffy began before sighing unhappily: "Toni is coming to pick me up in about three seconds."
"Wow, you really take the third date rule seriously, huh?" Kennedy chuckled. "So much so that you're not even bothering with the actual date. What's it got to do with Willow?"
If Buffy could move an arm without flashing the younger Slayer, she would have given Kennedy a hard cuff on the head for that remark, but she had to make do with glaring.
"I need someone to let her in and keep her entertained while I get ready."
"Sure, I can do that." Kennedy sauntered past her down the hall. "Hey Faith."
"Hey kiddo," Buffy heard Faith say from the stairs.
"Buffy's up there looking for you." Kennedy's voice floated up to Buffy's ears, full of mischief.
Oh, that girl was gonna get it one of these days! Buffy turned on the spot and went dashing back to her own room, just as Faith bounded on to the landing.
"Heard you were looking for me B...Whoa!" It looked as though Faith hit an invisible barrier a few feet from Buffy and rebounded back a few steps as she checked the blonde out. "Uh, why were you looking for me exactly?"
Buffy's arms were firmly crossed over her breasts again as she inched around Faith to get to her bedroom door a few feet away.
"I wasn't, that was just Kennedy's way of asking for a painfully slow death." Buffy made it into her doorway, hyperaware that Faith was very deliberately not looking at her mostly naked body, making it all the more obvious that she probably really wanted to.
Buffy thought about flashing her just for the hell of it and then slamming her bedroom door shut. "When's Toni picking you up?" Faith had moved into her doorway too, forcing Buffy to retreat into her room to keep her personal space.
The doorbell rang on cue.
Buffy nodded her head. "That would be now."
"You want me to tell her you're looking for her up here?" Faith asked with a grin.
"No, I want you to go down there and be a friendly face so she doesn't run off screaming when the vultures attack . . . if that's okay?" Buffy smiled as she started to inch her door shut.
"Okay, okay, just a second." Faith dug into one of her pockets while Buffy waited impatiently. "Got it." Faith pulled something out and flicked it open. "Say cheese, B."
"Wha..?" Buffy didn't have a clue as to what was going on for a few seconds. By the time she recognised the camera phone in Faith's hand, the other Slayer was already gone. Only her laughing could still be heard.
"FAITH!" She yelled after her. "I'm gonna...!"
What exactly? She couldn't give chase undressed like she was.
Grumbling to herself, she slammed the bedroom door shut and headed for the adjoining bathroom she shared with Dawn.
Pushing her underwear off, Buffy flicked the shower on and ran her hand under the spray, checking the temperature. An image of Faith in her little green leprechaun coat assaulted her mind and, grimacing, she turned the dial towards 'cold'. She was pretty sure she could count on Toni warming her back up when it was time.
She hopped in and washed in record time, rubbing shampoo into her hair with one hand and shower gel onto her body with the other.
This was not the start she had wanted for tonight. She had planned on having at least an hour of preparation time, not none at all!
She lifted her face to the water spray and washed the white bubbles out of her hair, wondering why she was so frantic. Between them, Faith and Kennedy would make Toni feel welcome and...okay that was enough reason to be frantic. She rubbed conditioner into her hair and thanked the Patron Saint of Third Dates that she'd waxed earlier in the week.
Smiling at herself, she finished up as quickly as she could and jumped out of the shower, grabbed a towel and ran back into her room, still dripping water all over the place.
Her 'date' outfit was already picked out and hanging on her wardrobe door. She'd spent even longer deciding on what to wear tonight than she had on Valentine's Day, which was crazy seeing as it was more or less the same outfit! If something wasn't broke, why fix it? Toni had seemed pretty into her that night, and Buffy wanted her pretty into her tonight as well.
Wrapping her hair in the towel, Buffy searched through her top drawer for her special occasion lingerie. Loud laughter drifted up from downstairs and one of the laughs sounded like Toni's. Okay, so the laughing was good, but also bad. What were the odds that Faith was regaling the Italian with Buffy horror-stories?
"High." Buffy muttered as she dressed quicker. She couldn't leave Toni unattended for much longer or else her friends were going to drive her away in fear, or possibly hysterics! She just knew that right now, Toni was sitting unprotected in the middle of her poking and prodding yet well-meaning friends.
Xander was probably making sure she wasn't a vampire. Willow would be gushing with the Gaylove! Although probably not literally, what with Kennedy standing behind her. And who knew what the hell Kennedy might say about her. And Faith, who had been jealous enough to scream horrible accusations at Buffy the last time she'd been in the same area code as Toni...
Doing up her leather pants, Buffy reached for her pink shirt and slipped it on before shaking her hair out of the towel. Oh yeah, there were plenty of reasons why Buffy didn't want to take Toni to the party, not just the obvious distraction that was Faith.
Buffy had twisted the truth a little earlier. It wasn't so much that she didn't think Toni would be comfortable at a party with her friends, who, yeah were intense but also wonderful; it was her who wouldn't feel comfortable at the party with her friends.
She liked Toni a lot, but this woman-dating stuff was still so new to her and she was consciously aware of her every word and move around the Italian.
When they were alone it didn't bother her too much. and She was more relaxed every time they met up and less scared of making a complete fool of her herself and/or putting Toni off her for good.
Throw her friends into the mix, stir well, and leave to party for several hours left Buffy feeling she'd be back to the nervous babbling of their first 'alone' date within minutes.
That's why she hadn't even mentioned the party, and why she should probably be happy with just lipstick and mascara tonight and get her butt down the stairs, now-ish.
Toni was sat at the table with a glass of wine and, just as Buffy had suspected, all of her friends gathered round, even Giles.
"Hey Toni," Buffy gave her a big smile as she came down the back stairs. Her smile froze as she realised she didn't know what to do next.
Did she give her a kiss? In front of her friends?
Would she be even asking if it was a guy sitting there waiting for her?
Well no, but then if it was a guy sitting there right now, then she probably wouldn't want to kiss him so it would be moot. She did want to kiss Toni though, but indecision kept her rooted at the bottom of the stairs.
"Sorry I wasn't ready when you arrived." She walked a few steps closer, stopping next to Xander.
Toni stood up. "It is fine, Buffy," she smiled. "Your friends were keeping me well entertained."
"Oh, I bet they were." Buffy studiously ignored all the grins her friends were wearing because she was too aware that Toni had stood up! Which implied she was expecting a greeting other than the verbal one. She swallowed.
"Are you ready to go?"
"Actually..." Toni began.
The sinking feeling started in Buffy's stomach and spread as she saw the proud smiles the assembled group wore, with the exception of Xander and Willow who both looked a little guilty.
"...Faith has been telling me of her party tonight; I would much like to go and get to know your friends a little better." Toni gave her a hopeful smile.
"Of course you would." Buffy smiled ruefully.
'Oh to hell with it!' she thought as moved closer, going up on tiptoe to kiss Toni quickly on the lips. "I'll let you get started while I cancel the table and book another cab."
Toni put a hand on her shoulder before she could walk into the other room to use the phone. "You look amazing tonight, Buffy."
Buffy blushed and walked away without answering, hiding the big idiot-sized smile on her face from her gawking friends and family.
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