Damned If I Don't, Damned If I Do
Part Three of The Damned Series


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PART EIGHT: 4th July 2004
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Chapter Five: Straight From the Donkey's Mouth

The traffic was even heavier now than it had been before; not something Buffy was surprised by, but it made it slow going trying to get out of Cleveland. It had already gone past two, and if they didn't get on the open road soon, they wouldn't be back in time to leave with everyone else for the picnic. It wasn't like they'd miss the fireworks if they were a little late, but it was supposed to be a special family day.

"I need to go to Toni's dorm," Buffy said suddenly.

Actually, it wasn't suddenly. She'd been thinking it for at least ten minutes, but as she'd been silent for those whole ten minutes, leaving Xander to concentrate on the road while she tried to get her thoughts in order, her saying it seemed sudden.

"Buffy." Xander pointed at the dashboard clock and then waved at the cars in front, behind and around them.

"I know, I'll be quick," she promised, aware that that was hardly the point. "I just want to make sure that guy hasn't trashed the place since she's been gone. I don't want her getting into trouble."

*****

"Can you call Willow?" Buffy asked as she climbed from the jeep. "Tell her everything you can remember Quantiaro saying so they can add it to the big board."

"Like how Troy's evil plan is to save the world?" Xander asked lightly.

They hadn't touched on the subject yet; Buffy was starting to think she'd imagined it, or misheard. Xander saying it out loud squashed that hope.

"I'm not just going to take the word of a handsome stranger," she said eventually. "Especially seeing as how we know he's Troy's arch nemesis."

"Yeah, attributing someone with saving the world? Great way to slur their name I always say." Xander joked.

Buffy didn't have an answer for that right now. "I'll be quick," she said instead and closed the door with a bang.

The building that housed Toni's dorm room looked asleep under the hot sun. The perfectly coiffed grass and dazzling walkways felt alien to Buffy with no students around to make the place look lived in. For a second she was worried the entrance would be locked; that all the students had found better places to be while school was out, but high up on the third floor a window was open and the Beach Boys singing 'Cotton fields' came floating down to her.

Somebody was home then, but she doubted that would be enough to stop Quantiaro from snooping around if he felt like it, especially if he'd already snuck in once while Toni was right outside being shaken half to death by his demons.

The shame was a hot, sick feeling inside - she'd been so sure of her theories about that night even if she didn't like them, and she'd taken Toni's anger over the accusation as a sign of guilt, when perhaps it was just anger borne of being accused in the first place.

The Hall's interior was shadowy, cool and still, and it took only moments to walk to Toni's first floor room where she encountered her first problem. No key. She'd never come here before unless she was with Toni, or meeting Toni, and as all guests only had a limited welcome back at chez-Scooby, they'd never even mentioned swapping door keys.

With a subtle look around at the empty corridors, she tried the door handle, but it was locked. She'd known it would be because she'd been with Toni when she'd locked it. It was only an ordinary lock though; Buffy could still open it if she wanted to, but even she could see the giant hole in the logic of 'I busted into your room to make sure no one had busted into your room'.

But maybe there was a less obvious way than just snapping the lock; after all, Quantiaro had found a way in at least once. She just had to step out of herself and walk in someone else's shoes for a while. People without superpowers broke into apartments all the time according to the news; Buffy just had to figure out how.

In the movies they used tools; with this in mind she searched her pockets.

"Must have left my lock picking kit in my other pants," she realized when all she found was her purse. She wasn't even wearing any pins in her hair that might - if she knew what she was doing - have done the job.

"Who knew burglars had it so hard," she muttered, looking through her purse for inspiration.

Some bills, some small change and a stick of gum didn't offer much in the way of help. The only thing that did look plausible was her Council credit card.

"This is so not going to work," she pulled the card free from its little slot in her purse and gave it a look before sliding it between the door and the jam high up by the lock.

Slowly, holding her breath, she moved the card upwards. How could she tell if it worked? Was there a click she was supposed to listen out for? Did she have to apply a lot of pressure? Because this was her first very own credit card, and while it wasn't limitless - it was more financial freedom than she'd even been trusted with before.

Also it was pretty; it had an orange and white Angel Fish blowing bubbles on it. She didn't want to break it.

The card caught on something and Buffy gingerly applied a little more oomph to it.

"Hello, can I help you?"

Buffy was startled badly at the woman's voice right behind her. "Um, no!"

Her head bumped the door jam she was leaning into and her pretty credit card dropped from her fingers to land half in and half out of the door. Buffy nudged it with the toe of her sneaker to hide it from curious eyes and then gasped as she made it disappear altogether.

Staring with dismay down at her foot - still pressed to the spot where her card had been moments before - she wondered why people insisted on disturbing her today. All she wanted was to be left alone to break into people's homes and everyone kept making it difficult.

"Can I help you?" The woman repeated instead of doing the right thing and going away.

"Not really," Buffy sighed deeply, turning around.

With her credit card now on the other side of the locked door, her cat burglar career was on hold for the summer anyway, as was her shopping career and -- oh yeah, her eating career.

"Hey, you're Toni's girlfriend, right? Billie, no Buffy, right?" Suddenly the woman was all friendly shiny smiles and her bobbed blonde curls bounced up and down as she nodded excitedly. "Thank God! I thought I was going to have to call security again. What are you doing here, though? Is Toni coming home early? Oh please say she is, this place has been so quiet since everyone left..."

Was she actually supposed to answer, Buffy wondered, as the woman - someone she vaguely recognized as Toni's residential adviser - talked on, because right now she couldn't see where she was supposed to jump in as one question followed another.

And then silence and the woman was smiling manically, expecting answers after all. Did Buffy start in order? Because the rapid interrogation had left her a little dizzy and she was not sure she could remember every inquiry made of her.

"Uh no, Toni's not coming back just yet," Buffy cleared her throat.

"So what are you doing here?" The woman prompted brightly.

"I was, ah, trying to look through the keyhole." Buffy winced as the woman looked at the tiny Yale lock.

"Are you missing her that much? Aww." The woman crooned in babyish voice, making Buffy have to fight the frown growing on her features. "Only joking. I bet she wants you to send something on, right? The way you two were before she left I'm surprised she remembered to pick up her suitcase, let alone put anything in it."

She started to walk off down the corridor, motioning for Buffy to follow. Buffy thought about just turning and running the other way, out of the building all together, but how was she supposed to explain her lost credit card to Giles? So with doubt still making her feet heavy, she followed the RA to her half room/half office at the end of the hall.

She was still talking as she unlocked her door, unaware that Buffy wasn't right behind her. "So, how is she doing out there? I am so jealous of her right now. She's off traveling around Japan and I'm stuck here filling tanks at the Gas-Mart."

Entering her room, she did the little finger wave thing again, encouraging Buffy to follow her in.

"She's not on vacation," Buffy explained, coming to stand just inside the doorway of the - much bigger than Toni's - dorm room. "She's working with her dad."

"Oh, I could have sworn..." The RA looked puzzled for a moment, but shook it off as she fussed about in a cupboard. "Oh well, I'm still jealous. I bet you're missing her bunches, right? I would be... well if I was into girls and she was my girlfriend I would be, anyway. Here you go."

Buffy reeled for a second on the end of the conversation and then looked down at what was being offered. It was a key, with a long plastic tag attached bearing Toni's name and room number.

"You're just handing it to me?" Buffy asked dubiously, and then, eyes widening, snatched it from the woman's fingers before she could change her mind.

"Well yeah, your name's on the list so it's okay," she explained, mistaking Buffy's surprise for displeasure.

"The list?"

"Yeah, the list of people allowed access to the rooms if the occupant is away, or dies suddenly or something. Everyone gets to put two names down and I don't let anyone in who's not on there. That's why I had to call security on her cousin last month. I mean he seemed like a nice enough guy but to just let himself into her room like that... it's rude, you know."

Buffy nodded. "Her cousin: was he by any chance about six foot, longish black hair, little pointy beard?"

"Yeah." The woman giggled. "Kinda hot in a ridiculous looking way. That really is her cousin? Should I let him in if he comes back?"

"No!" Buffy shook her head hard. "You did the right thing."

RA-lady looked suspicious with her vehemence and Buffy had to think quickly to come up with a reason for it.

"He doesn't know she's a lesbian, and some of her family are a little, um, not comfortable with... that, and there might be something in her room that..."

The woman cut her off, smiling sympathetically now. "I get it, don't worry." She pointed to the key dangling by the tag from Buffy's hand. "Just come give that back to me when you're done."

"Okay, thanks." Smiling, Buffy left the room, heading back to Toni's door quickly.

She gave the key a smile too - feeling surprisingly gleeful to learn her name was on Toni's 'special persons' list - before pushing it into the lock. The door opened easily and she pushed it inwards.

Scooping up her credit card with relief as she entered, she let the door shut behind her and then leant back against it, not only to make sure it was shut properly but also to catch her breath. The quick little look-around she'd planned for her and Xander this afternoon had been way more energetic than she'd expected, both physically and mentally. So she took a minute to just lean there and look around the room.

It wasn't ransacked and that was a good sign, but according to the RA, Quantiaro had been here again since Toni's departure the month before. Either he'd tidied up before he left or he'd been caught before he had a chance to ransack in the first place.

After nodding to herself a few times and scanning the room once more, Buffy dived into action.

"He'd have tried the obvious places," she muttered as she shuffled through all the textbooks on the cheap wooden desk as fast as she could anyway.

Nothing was there that looked like it shouldn't be, so she went to the bookshelf next, also of cheap wood and with distant memories of being a flat pack. Again, nothing out of the ordinary drew her eye. Not that she knew what she was looking for, but she was pretty sure 'Quantitative Approaches in Business Studies' and 'Trends in Financial Decision Making' weren't what the mysterious Quantiaro was after.

Jeez, how could Toni stand to read all this dry crap? Just scanning the titles was making Buffy want to lie on the bed and take a nap. Smiling fondly at the thought, she went to the bed next and got down on her knees to make a good check of underneath it.

And regretted it immediately. Toni was as big as slob as she was; she just apparently hid it better.

"Oh gross, cara, we haven't had pizza in ages!"

Wrinkling her nose she pulled the large box that had once held a Pepperoni Deluxe out from the chaotic space beneath the bed. Knowing she was going to regret it, she lifted the lid as if something was going to jump out at her.

"Molto ew." She regarded the greeny-blue slice with disgust before letting the lid drop again. "Enough penicillin there to cure just about everything."

She almost didn't want to look under again, but she steeled herself and started pulling the rest of the stuff out. Shoes, socks, a pair of panties and a baseball cap made up half her haul and the rest was more books. Lots of books, not textbooks this time, but not what she was after either.

She raised an eyebrow as she studied the first cover, her second eyebrow joined it at the top of her forehead as she inspected the next cover, and by the third cover one corner of her lip was trying to head up there too.

"Romance novels, really?" Buffy chuckled softly. "You and Faith really are chalk and cheese aren't you? Or maybe mild cheese and strong cheese seeing as how I like you both and chalk isn't really that appealing to me."

There was nothing else under the bed and Buffy resisted the urge to throw the worn paperbacks out with the pizza box and shoved them back where she'd found them. She went through the drawer in the bedside cabinet next and then the tiny cupboard below it and still came up with nothing that looked like it might be called the Codex of Japheth.

She was running out of places to look, not to mention time. Even if the RA didn't come to check on her soon, Xander was still waiting outside in the jeep.

The closet was pretty much the last stone unturned - the room wasn't big by anyone's standards. Buffy walked the few steps towards it and pulled open the door, making the Winnie the Pooh poster tacked to the front rustle.

Half of Toni's clothes were still hanging inside - she really hadn't packed that well. Plus knowing she was getting a big allowance off of her dad as soon as she arrived in Tokyo had made packing her old clothes seem unimportant when there were better things to do.

There were several shoe boxes in the bottom, but after opening each one Buffy discovered only shoes.

She closed the door, turned and leant against it as she tried to remember all the times she had been in this room, all the little places that Toni would wander to collect personal bits and pieces as they talked or watched DVDs. Was there an unusual corner of the room that Toni might have dallied in once? A comment made or a lingering glance that Buffy hadn't consciously taken any notice of?

Possibly. After all, who really chose the next day's footwear before going to bed each night?

But she'd looked through all the shoe boxes in the bottom of the wardrobe and found nothing but what they were designed to contain, and the flimsy wardrobe was pressed right against the wall. Any attempt to build a false back would have been blatantly obvious even to someone not checking for it.

Keeping her back to the closet door, Buffy slid down until she was squatting against it and wriggled her fingers into the inch gap underneath. Sure enough her fingers brushed something immediately, something remarkably like a tail and she jerked her hand back a little - the old pizza box in mind.

"Please don't be rat." Buffy's lips twisted distastefully as she slid her hand back under and grabbed the 'tail' between her first two fingers. Whatever it was attached to was heavy and she had to draw it slowly out into the open so that she didn't lose her grip.

It turned out to not be a rat, or any kind of rodent, but a book. It was roughly the size and shape of a hardback novel, the cover was a plain pastel blue and looked worn - there were creases around the spine - but not that old.

This was the Codex of Japheth?

Standing back up holding the book, she took a look out of the window, worried that Quantiaro had followed her here or anticipated she would want to seek out what he wanted so badly. He might be waiting outside to take the prize away when she left. She didn't know what fighting skills he might possess. For all she knew, he was the Bullet-proof Monk and could walk on air and move himself out of normal time to dodge blows.

Quantiaro wasn't outside the window and the campus looked as deserted as when she walked in.

The book did not look like she had come to expect ancient important books to look like, not just its apparent newness set it apart, but the color. Baby blue? Not many demonic volumes were so girly, which was weird because there had to be girl-demons.

If this book held the secrets to the universe, it was a let down. But then she didn't know it held the secrets to anything, not yet; she was just guessing that it held something juicy because Quantiaro seemed so desperate to get his hands on it.

Only one way to find out. She flipped the cover over and saw the single silver word printed on the first page. It didn't say Codex of Japheth, it said Diario.

Brow furrowing, already realizing something wasn't quite right with her discovery, Buffy turned to the next page, which was a printed list of Italy's holidays. She wasn't at all surprised by this point, when the next page was titled: 1st January 2004.

Buffy sighed. All she'd found was Toni's diary. Below the date the page was filled with Toni's handwriting, as was the next and the next. Nothing interesting, certainly nothing useful, just a diary, just a... Buffy looked at the book in her hands. ...Just a record of her girlfriend's innermost thoughts, that was all.

'Put it back. Put it back right now. This is Toni's personal private sounding board for her thoughts. Anything in here she wants me to know - she'd have told me.' Buffy tried to tell herself as her finger stroked New Years Day. 'Put. It. Back! Well at least close it, close the book before I accidentally read some of it... I wonder if I'm in it?'

Stupid question. Of course she'd be in it; she and Toni had been together for ages now, she was bound to get a mention. Buffy flicked the pages along her thumb and couldn't see a single day that wasn't filled until she got to June, and then the entries stopped completely after the first week.

'Well of course they did, she's in Japan. A bit hard to write in this particular diary every night when she's on a different continent. Okay, I'm putting it back now. There is nothing in here that I need to see. If I'm feeling insecure I can just call Toni up and tell her. I don't need to sneak behind her back and read her diary. We have a better relationship than that... Or at least we do until I get around to breaking up with her.'

She had to keep reminding herself that she and Toni wouldn't even still be together if Toni hadn't had to go away. Being here, in this room with everything so familiar, was making it even harder to remember.

"We do have a better relationship than that," Buffy murmured softly to herself. "And if it wasn't for all the secrets and lies this would be the healthiest relationship I've ever had. And I'm about to throw it away for a woman who doesn't even know if she'll ever want to be with me."

'I'd choose Faith in a second," she thought. In fact it wasn't even something she had to actively think, it was a truth that was always there. 'But she has to be available for me to choose. How many times has she not chosen me? I need some sign, something other than a late night drunken phone call before I can put myself out there again. I've been trying to show Faith how much she means to me for the past six months and its not enough. What makes me or her think anything I can do in the next six months will be? Especially with her being in Italy for the foreseeable future.'

Buffy huffed a little with irritation. What did Faith exactly expect her to do to show her love when they were so far apart? FedEx rose's everyday, or teddy bears, or balloons? She didn't have the money for that and besides, Faith would just think she was lame anyway.

'But Toni on the other hand,' Buffy thought with a small forlorn smile. 'Toni loves me and wants to be with me and why is that such a bad thing? Okay so my toes don't curl at the sound of her name, so what? It'll probably just save me from having bad feet later on in life. There is heat, we have heat, just because it doesn't threaten to consume us every time we kiss doesn't mean there is no passion. It's just... subtle, and that's okay too; neither of us are horny teenagers, we don't have to be going at it like monkeys every time we make love. Faith won't even make love! God, she does have the monkey sex perfected though!'

"What's wrong with me?" Buffy groaned out load, exasperated with her inability to make this decision once and for all.

"Why can't I finish things with Toni? Why can't I stop thinking about Faith? Why couldn't I have just stayed happy being single and celibate forever? That's it, I've had it. I'm not choosing. I refuse to make this decision. If fate doesn't throw me a bone pointing me at the right girl, I'm just gonna stay with them both. I'll move to Vermont and marry Toni and we can take vacations in Italy at Troy's, where Faith and I can flirt heavily behind our partners backs and be all in love without ever actually doing anything about it. So, 'Beings more powerful than me', unless you want your warrior of the people too busy living her secret double life to go out warriorizing, throw me that freakin' bone!"

"Buffee."

She yelped at the mournful voice coming from behind her right shoulder and leapt away from the wardrobe. Landing on the bed, she swiveled around on her knees to face the closet with Toni's diary pressed tightly to her chest.

The room was silent except for her shaky breathing. "Hello, is there anybody there?" she called out softly, feeling the incredible triteness of it, but really what else was she supposed to ask?

Her eyes skirted the room over and over, but always jerking back to the closet door as she waited to see if it was just her overheated imagination playing tricks on her. She'd been so engrossed in her own thoughts it wasn't that far-fetched to have conjured the voice herself too... was it?

"Buffee!" The voice came again, more urgent this time but no less melancholy and Buffy's eyes bugged out.

No, it couldn't be.

"Do not be afraid, I have tidings of great importance." Said the - now she came to think of it - familiar voice.

"Eeyore?" she breathed, not believing what she was seeing even as the character on the Winnie the Pooh poster opened his mouth to speak again.

'This is it.' She thought dispassionately. 'This is the moment I've been dreading ever since the last time I went insane.'

And this time there was no icky demon-probe to blame for it, so it must just be her. And so far it wasn't too bad: no dribbling, no banging her head on the wall and no scary needles - although they might come later.

"Buffee, you are not insane," Eeyore promised her solemnly.

"Save that for the person not being spoken to by a cartoon," she shot back. "And anyway, if you're not a figment of my imagination - then how do you know what I was thinking?"

Eeyore was silent and Buffy thought manically, 'Ha, got myself there didn't I?'

"How can I convince you you're not crazy?" Eeyore eventually asked.

"Stop talking to me." It was a good sarcastic come-back, but Buffy was still too wigged for sarcasm.

"If only I could." There was a deep hard done by sigh from the two-dimensional donkey. "But the fate of the world lies in your heart."

"That's not unusual," Buffy shrugged a little. "Wait, you mean hands, right?"

"No."

"Oh."

Buffy stared at the poster. Winnie, Piglet and Tigger didn't seem to be feeling talkative - did that make her more crazy or less?

"Okay," she said at length. "What's the problem in Hundred Acre Wood that my heart can help you with? Is Christopher Robin stuck down the well?"

"There is grave peril ahead," Eeyore started to explain. "The balance within the universe is about to be distorted irrevocably. It must not come to pass. Only you can stop this Buffee, do you understand?"

"So far..." she nodded a little. "...No. The balance is out of whack, again - nothing new. Tell me something I don't know or I'm just gonna go look in the yellow pages for a good shrink."

"The prophecies are intermingled, but only one must be fulfilled. Love has come too late for one, yet not for another or another, although another may believe so. The destiny of the many lies in the destiny of the two and another's destiny is not love but a blot on the landscape of mankind." Eeyore droned sorrowfully.

"See, this is why I don't read my horoscope anymore," Buffy told the poster donkey for boredom. "It's always so non-specific."

That said, she had a feeling she knew who was animating the cartoon now and it wasn't Walt Disney. Love and Destiny - two key themes of a certain small time deity she'd recently met.

It didn't make her feel any less crazy though - talking to Eeyore like this.

Shifting around so that she was sitting on the end of the bed with her feet on the floor, she demanded, "Clarify."

"I gave you the chance to cure the ache of your heart and you chose to hide behind fear and complaisance. Now the world will tremble for it." Said Eeyore. "Another has forsaken her destiny because of your failure to embrace that which should be yours. Now the world will wither for it. The time has passed for the dominion of the old dynasty, and yet because of your thoughtlessness they will flourish once more and the ways of the darker ages will be upon the world and it will bleed for it..."

"Okay," Buffy interrupted. "Is clarify not in your vocabulary? Because so far the waters are just getting muddier than ever."

Eeyore bared big donkey teeth in annoyance. "Your insolence is not helping matters."

"What are you going to do? Pelt me with Easter eggs? Yeah, I'm on to you Eostre. We know who you are: Goddess of Spring and Fertility - big name in a small circle and all that."

"Actually small name in a big circle," Eeyore corrected her. "But I'm the only one who cares."

"Then if you're the only one who cares about whatever the hell it is you're talking about, why should I believe it's so important?" Buffy asked impatiently. "And why are you suddenly a talking donkey anyway? You were the Easter Bunny last time."

"Hares can't speak," was the gloomy reply.

Buffy took a second to digest that before asking, "And donkeys can?"

"Cartoon donkeys can."

Buffy stood up and took a step towards the poster tacked to the closet door. "Okay, but what is the point of you speaking if I don't understand a word you're saying anyway?"

Eeyore sighed deeply once more - and it was weird because Buffy actually saw his flanks heave as he did so. "Your past experience of love has made you timid. You never thought you would again, but you do and it has woken a hitherto unknown fearfulness in your heart. You must overcome this. The heart your soul now fits with has demons of its own and they are being pacified by the unworthy one whose destiny is not to be. Let this come to pass and the fates of all will hang in an unbalanced state of perpetual..."

"You just can't do simple, can you?" Buffy cut the goddess donkey off. "Just tell me what you want me to do and I'll tell you if I can accommodate..."

A sharp knock at the door cut Buffy off.

"What?" she barked out, the surprise making it come out harsher than she meant.

The door opened quickly and a curly blonde head poked around it. "Sorry I didn't mean to interrupt, but you were a long time and I just wondered if I could help."

"Help?" Buffy asked the pleasant resident adviser.

"Well you were looking for something, weren't you?" The woman came into the room.

"Oh yeah," Buffy looked down for a beat, breathing slowly. When she looked back up she had a smile on her face. "I found it already, her address book." She held Toni's diary up.

"Oh that's good." The RA smiled back, but didn't go like Buffy hoped. "Were you talking to someone?"

"What? Oh yeah," Buffy pulled her cell phone out of her pocket. "Toni. I had her on speaker phone. I called her to get directions for her address book and... we were bickering because I couldn't find it right away." Buffy rolled her eyes good-naturedly.

"I miss being in a relationship!" The RA whined jokily.

"Oh yeah, it's nothing but fun." Buffy's smile turned a little grim.

"So are you done here?" The woman asked nicely. "Not that I'm trying to rush you, but I have to go out in a bit and I need the key back before then - house rules."

"No, we're done." Buffy shot a look at the Winnie the Pooh poster, but Eeyore was as quiet and motionless as a two-dimensional character should be. "It's all a little overwhelming in here anyway."

"Oh you really love her, don't you?" The RA's eyes were going all puppy dog. "I don't care what my mom says about gay people - you and Toni are so meant to be."

"Uh, thanks."

It was time to go. The resident adviser was creeping her out and Eostre was only sending her round in incomprehensible circles anyway. And poor Xander was still waiting in the car; Buffy didn't even know how long she'd been in here now.

She ushered the other woman out of the door and pulled it closed behind her. Together they walked back to the main entrance with the RA chattering about gay rights stuff Buffy barely listened to.

At the door, Buffy handed her back the key. "So thanks. Toni's really pleased she's going to get this." Buffy tapped the diary again, realizing for the first time she'd actually brought it with her. "Now she can send you all postcards."

"Oh no problem," the woman assured her. "It's nice someone on the list actually came for a happy reason and not because someone's dropped out or, you know, died."

"Oh, good then," Buffy smiled, and she knew that she should have just walked out the door then, but she couldn't stop herself from asking. "Just out of curiosity, who's the other name on Toni's list?"

"Oh, you should know," the RA grinned. "Who else is she inseparable from? Her best friend Troy."

"Right." Buffy tried to keep her smile. It didn't work so well, but before the other woman could comment on it, Buffy left.

So what the heck had that all been about? She'd learned a thousand things and none of them actually useful. She could go to Giles and tell him that she'd spoken to Eostre, but what else could she tell him? Nothing, because she hadn't understood a damn word.

If the goddess had been speaking of her and Faith and Troy, which seemed pretty likely taking their previous encounter into consideration, then that probably meant everything she said was wicked important, but... Just what the heck did it all mean?

"Your destiny is their destiny is my destiny and the others destiny and the world will fall, and fall and... fall." Buffy murmured as she walked back across campus towards the road where Xander was waiting for her. "And shit, I still have Toni's diary!"

She opened it up idly as she walked along and tried to read from the first page. No dice, it was all in Italian anyway.

"Should have expected that," she mused as she came in sight of the road. The jeep was still waiting at the curb. "At least that means temptation alone can't make me read anything I shouldn't."

Xander was listening to the radio, his head back against the seat and his eye closed. Buffy stuffed the diary down the front of her pants before climbing in. It was uncomfortable, but not as uncomfortable as Xander's questions would have been.

"Buff, where the heck have you been, it's three-thirty!" he said as soon as she was sitting in the passenger seat. "Did you at least find out anything?"

"I have no idea." Buffy sighed as Xander started the engine.


Chapter Six

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