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


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PART NINE: 5th July to 23rd September 2004
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Chapter Two: Flight Planning

Bad airport. Too busy. Buffy was not up to coping with it this morning. On no sleep and with a broken heart, it was asking too much. If one more person tried to cut in line - they were getting slayed; if one more person tried to check in a bag that weighed more than it should - they were getting slayed; if one more person ran over her feet with a stupid wheelie suitcase with a pullout handle - they were, well, getting it stolen, because they were actually kinda cute.

Sighing, she shuffled forward as everyone else did.

"Signor Allessi was a fine Watcher, very dedicated. Ran the entire branch almost single-handedly, well I say single-handedly; there were rumors of a silent partner of sorts -- a surviving member of the deposed royal family, apparently -- who helped financially. Not uncommon; in fact, the Council has always been an organisation more than happy to accept the charity of well-intentioned members of the public, providing they can be discreet about it, of course."

"Is this important?" Buffy asked vaguely.

She was trying to listen to what Giles was telling her, really she was, but the constant squawking announcements about unattended luggage and tardy passengers were scraping her last nerve, along with Dawn's sulking and Andrew's unremitting enthusiasm.

Giles ignored her. "Signor Allessi used the private funding well, his branch was one of the best equipped, after London naturally, but he did allow himself one or two luxuries," Giles smiled. "As you'll see when you eventually move into his flat. It's just a case of getting the paperwork sorted out, and then I'll have the keys couriered to you."

"Okay," Buffy nodded, hoping Andrew was taking more notice of the details than she was.

"If we have to stand in this line much longer, I'm not going." Dawn griped.

"Yes you are," Buffy countered.

"You'll have fun once you're there," Giles promised her.

"Bwonjerno, me camel Andrew!"

Looking behind, Buffy asked for all of them, "You camel Andrew what?"

Andrew had his nose in a red and black book. He peered over the top when he heard his name, before flapping the book around excitedly.

"It's a phrase book, an Italian one. So we can figure out what people are saying to us, and can, like, converse back with them and stuff. I thought it might be useful. It has a dictionary at the back, and there's this real neat section on how to pick someone up in a bar, not that I'm planning..." he hurried to explain. "But some of the lines could be useful for the international Slayer too... like," Andrew flicked back a few pages. "Uh, 'Do you come here often?' and 'Would you like to go somewhere quieter?" He beamed at them, pleased with his inventiveness.

Buffy wasn't listening to his blather, but she did eye the little book thoughtfully.

*****

They'd been up in the air for nearly four hours now, and the plane was finally quiet enough that Buffy could hear all the suspicious workings of the engine right down to the very last cog...

Or at least, she imagined she could.

She pressed her head back against her seat - still very much in the upright position - and tried to meditate all the little noises away. Her hands nervously checked her seatbelt - even though the sign had blinked off well over three hours ago - and wished for the plane to hit a worm hole... but not - and she couldn't stress this enough - the kind that would break them apart. Just the kind that would get them to where they were going a few light years faster would be good.

Her flight-nerves hadn't been too bad to start with; when there had been stuff to focus on. The flight attendants had organized activities for everyone to take part in: Safety instructions, take-off, the screaming when the wing-thing had dipped towards the ground so far Buffy's face had been pressed against the pressurized window - okay, that one might have been just her - and then drinks and snacks, followed by a movie that had actually been released in the last twelve months. Buffy had already seen it with Faith sixth months ago, but she'd spent the one hundred and twenty minutes focusing on that memory, so it counted.

Now, even though according to her watch it was the middle of the day, night time had come to the plane. The tiny plastic shutters were down and the lights were muted. Hushed conversation coming from the attendant cubicle was the only sound other than the frightening plane noises.

Dawn had eventually sulked herself to sleep in her aisle seat and Andrew, sitting between them, was drooling on himself as he slumbered the flight away, so they were no helpful distraction.

Buffy wished she could sleep too. She needed it, that was for sure; she hadn't had a wink since waking up the morning before, and now she was in forced downtime the emotional exhaustion of the past twelve hours or so was starting to fuzz up her brain.

She tried a meditative chant Willow had taught her and used her fingertips to keep her eyelids closed, but gave up after seconds. She couldn't clear her mind right now, and she couldn't calm the sick feeling in her tummy.

And there was just no way her eyes were staying closed without the use of staples when she was thirty-seven thousand feet in the air, even blinking had been difficult at first.

So if she couldn't shutdown for a few hours then she might as well get ready for whatever was coming next. The landing...

Oh, God, don't think about the landing. Deal with that hard tarmac-y surface only when you have to.

What came after that bit was the big question and in some ways just as scary.

What was she going to say to Faith?

Okay, she was getting ahead of herself. She had to find Faith first, and that was going to be mission enough. Despite spending hours searching, Willow hadn't been able to find a Rome address for Troy. Buffy's only plan at the moment was to find a phone book when she landed and see if he was listed. If that didn't work, she'd have to hit the strange streets and see what she could turn up. If Troy was as famous over there as his online fan base seemed to suggest, someone would surely be able to point her in the right general direction.

And after that hard bit, came the harder hard bit...

What did she say to Faith?

'Hi, Honey, I'm on your doorstep' lacked the finesse Buffy wanted but any other ideas were evading her at the moment. She knew what she wanted to say, but she also knew it wouldn't be welcome, and she wanted to be welcomed. If she wasn't welcomed, this whole trip would be a waste of time and would make things even worse.

Worse! How could they be worse? Faith was getting married. As in, taking Troy to be her lawfully wedded demon and... forsaking all others!

Forsaking her!

Buffy leaned even harder back in her seat, breathing evenly to try and rid herself of the sick feeling. She had to get this urge to vomit every time she thought about Faith being betrothed under control before she saw her. She couldn't help Faith choose a wedding dress if there was a danger she might puke all over it, that wouldn't really be fair. Although if the wedding went smoothly, Buffy might feel justified in puking all over the dress at the reception.

Enough with the puking already... Buffy took a small sip from the beaker of lukewarm water on her tray.

This would have all been easier if her reasons for traveling half way around the world made a little more sense. She knew they didn't. She knew her friends, Kennedy especially, thought she was crazy, and maybe they were right. Why was she going all this way to help the love of her life marry someone else? If she was going with plans of sabotage in mind, it would make perfect sense, but she wasn't.

Okay, so they were in her mind a little. If the sight of her made Faith drop Troy like a pile of steaming demon guts, then great, Buffy was certainly not going to look that wedding gift horse in the mouth; but when she weighed up the odds of that likelihood, they didn't leave her with a happy feeling.

Nope, the feeling she had was that this wedding was going to happen whether she liked it or not, but... that didn't mean it would stick. Divorce could happen too; and if Buffy was around for the unhappy event she could also be around for the happy event that came after.

She knew she was clutching at some very short, very slippery straws with that hope, but that was okay, because it also wasn't the real reason she was putting herself through this. The real reason, the one that maybe made even less sense, but was like a physical force pulling her across the Atlantic, was: Faith had asked her.

Faith wanted her at the wedding, and her hints about being motherless and sisterless surely meant she wanted her there pre-wedding too. If Buffy was the one getting married - like that was ever going to happen - she'd be having a few tearful nights over the fact that her mom couldn't be there; and she'd be relying on Dawn and Willow and Xander to help her plan it and execute it.

Faith didn't have that, not in Rome anyway, and if this wedding was going to be as inevitable as it felt, Buffy wanted her to have it. To have her best friend there, helping arrange what Faith was, assumingly, hoping would be the greatest day of her life.

"Are you okay, Honey?"

Buffy looked up to see a pretty blonde flight attendant peering down at her from the aisle. She realized her cheeks were wet and, wiping them quickly, tried to smile.

"Uh, yeah, fine, sorry, just... my best friend's getting married soon," the last few words rode out of her on a sob.

"Aww, that's nice, Hun." The attendant gave her a big, congratulatory smile and moved on.

"Yeah, nice," she sniveled to herself.

Buffy sniffled quietly, wiping yet more tears from her cheeks, as she willed herself to be strong enough to follow though on all her noble ideas. Faith had said she was getting married in three months; that was a long time to stay strong.

She wondered, not for the first or thousandth time, if she was doing the right thing by breaking up with Toni. Having someone of her own would probably make this more bearable. And it wasn't as if she didn't love Toni, at least a little. Maybe seeing Faith married and settled and totally unattainable once and for all, Buffy would finally be able to give herself to Toni fully instead of always holding that bit of herself back that was waiting for Faith.

No, she couldn't. It wasn't that it was an impossible dream, because it could happen somewhere down the line, but Buffy couldn't excuse staying with Toni in the interim months or maybe even years. Toni deserved better than being second string. Toni deserved a lot better than Buffy could give right now. Also, if she didn't accept that fact and tried to make things work, then Toni would almost definitely grow to resent her over the next couple of months. Buffy could be strong when she was around Faith, in the spot light so to speak, but she was going to need her quiet time, her me-time, her time when she could let down her walls and weep her heart out over the entire situation - and Toni knew her well enough now to know exactly where those tears would be coming from.

Although, breaking up with Toni was proving difficult. Buffy wanted to do it quick now, rip the band aid off before she could dwell too long on the thought of being all alone again, but seeing as Toni wasn't answering her cell or her home phone that wasn't happening.

Even though they had spoken on the phone about once a week since Toni's departure, Buffy had never called her. She'd never sent the first text of the day either, although until yesterday she'd always replied. She had been distancing herself, mentally and emotionally, ready for when Toni returned to the States, hoping it would make it easier to break up. So Buffy didn't know if Toni's lack of availability was normal, or something to be concerned with. Perhaps she was always hard to reach during the week; the hours she was putting in at her dad's company were long, Buffy knew that much, and she got along well with the people she worked with, spending much of her free time out socializing with them...

What if she'd met someone else? What if she wasn't returning her calls because she was with someone else right now?

Buffy looked at her watch, as if that could answer her questions. She was being silly. Toni wasn't with anyone else, and even if she was, what right did Buffy have to be mad?

I have every right, she thought. She's still my girlfriend until I break up with her!

Choosing to leave that irrational path behind for the time being - after all, even if Toni was sleeping with every woman in Tokyo, what exactly was Buffy supposed to do about it when she was stuck on this tin can heading to Rome - she came up with a more likely theory for Toni not returning her call.

She knows about the wedding!

That made much more sense. Toni had probably known about it before even Faith did. Troy probably went to his best friend for advice on how to propose. That was why Toni didn't want to speak to her right now; she didn't want to have to deal with Buffy freaking out about it!

Ha, who's freaking out about it? Not me! I'm just taking my little sister on vacation. Buffy frowned. And Andrew, for some reason.

Toni would be the one freaking out when she found out where Buffy was. Maybe it would even be enough to make the Italian initiate the break up, leaving Buffy free of guilt and Toni free to whore around with all her Japanese... whore-women!

All her Japanese whore-women - and no, not my finest creative moment - currently only exist in my imagination, Buffy reminded herself. But Toni knowing about the proposal is a very real possibility. What else does she know that I don't?

Buffy had one way of finding out.

Giving both Dawn and Andrew long, hard looks, she determined they were both still good and asleep; nothing short of a crash landing was going to wake them up until the little tiny tinfoil meals were served.

As gently as was possible, she tugged the little red and black book out of Andrew's hands, stopping when he mumbled something beneath his breath and tried to turn over in his seat. When he was still again, Buffy flicked through the book until she found the dictionary at the back. It had Italian to English as well as English to Italian. That was useful.

Vampire's weren't big on air travel, too high a risk of sun exposure, but for some, the lure of a can of humans all strapped in tightly with nowhere to go was too tempting. With this in mind, Buffy had kept her hand luggage out of the overhead compartment; it was no use packing a stake if she was going to be too far away from it when it counted. The bag, a smaller version of the pink holdall she had in the plane's trunk, was nestled under the seat in front.

Pulling it out with her feet, she reached down awkwardly - she still had her seatbelt on - and opened the secret back zipper. Okay, not so much secret, it wasn't like it was hidden from the naked eye, it was just less obvious that the zippers on front, and the back section was the perfect size to fit...

Buffy pulled the baby blue hardback book out and glanced around again to make sure her travelling companions were still asleep before she sat back again with the book on her lap. She stroked the plain cover. What she was about to do would be less awful if she was looking for something about Troy's mysterious abilities, or Quantiaro, or the Book of Japheth...

Okay, so that's what I'm looking for, she thought, opening up the diary to the first day of 2004. And anything I find about Faith will be purely circumstantial.

She opened the phrase book back up at the dictionary section and then looked at the first paragraph of Toni's handwriting.

Un altro nuovo anno. Io non può più contare quante ho visto. Tempo tagliate a misura snack che sono costretto a ingoiare ancora e ancora. Persone diverse, di musica diversi, ma lo stesso bestie e gli stessi balli. Almeno questo anno ci saranno dei cambiamenti portati, eventualmente anche compimento, e dopo tanti anni di monotonia che posso aspettare quasi ad abbracciarla.

Oh boy, this was going to take a long time!


Chapter Three

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Part Nine Quick-Jump:

Chapter One || Chapter Two || Chapter Three || Chapter Four || Chapter Five || Chapter Six || Chapter Seven Chapter Eight || Chapter Nine || Chapter Ten || Chapter Eleven || Chapter Twelve || Chapter Thirteen || Chapter Fourteen || Chapter Fifteen || Chapter Sixteen || Chapter Seventeen || Chapter Eighteen || Chapter Nineteen || Chapter Twenty || Chapter Twenty One || Chapter Twenty Two || Chapter Twenty Three || Chapter Twenty Four || Chapter Twenty Five || Chapter Twenty Six || Chapter Twenty Seven || Chapter Twenty Eight || Chapter Twenty Nine || Chapter Thirty || Chapter Thirty One


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