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 Five: Andrew Earns His Scooby Snax

"Okay, okay, no more. I give!"

Buffy turned around impatiently to face her sister.

Dawn was slumped against the wall a few steps down. Her hair was even darker than usual and stuck to her forehead. Perspiration poured down her bright red face as she panted slightly for breath.

"Don't look at me like that. Not all of us have built in Super-stamina. We've walked for miles! My feet are killing me, my knees are killing me, my thighs are killing me and..." Dawn plucked at her ass. "...these shorts are seriously starting to chafe in bad places."

Buffy smiled, letting her impatience go for the time being in the face of Dawn's distress.

"I gave you the option of staying put today," she reminded her sister, offering her water bottle.

"It's bad enough I have to be here in the first place," Dawn plucked the cap off and glugged some down before she continued. "You're not getting away with locking me in that tiny room all day every day too."

"I never said I was going to lock you in," Buffy took the bottle back and had a mouthful herself. "I just made the reasonable request that you didn't go wandering around on your own or with only Andrew. Speaking of...?"

Dawn pointed her thumb down the steps and Buffy craned her neck to look around all the people coming up.

They were in the ancient centre of the city, surrounded by temples, free standing columns and gigantic arches. At the other end of the Via Sacra the Colosseum, in all its magnificent ruin, dominated the sky line, its stone looking golden in the fiercely blazing sun.

Andrew was sauntering along talking to a girl. He hadn't even made it to the steps yet, and he was eating an ice-cream with one hand and holding a tall glass of something icy and umbrella-y in his other!

Buffy crossed her arms and tapped her foot... but it was too hot for even that much irritation. Rolling her eyes, she wilted onto a big square stone beside her sister to wait for him to catch up.

"How did he get the fruity beverage do you wonder?" she asked idly, using her red ROME baseball cap to flap air into her face.

"How did he get the girl to talk to him?" Dawn smirked.

Buffy chuckled, "Also a good question. So are you beat?"

Dawn nodded, "It's not that sight-seeing at a hundred miles an hour isn't fun, but it's like I've worn my legs down by an inch since we've been here; I'm almost as short as you now!"

"And here I was going to get us a cab," Buffy smirked. "But now I think I'll make you check out St. Peter's with me."

"I would like a chance to see it again, you know, so I at least have time to finish the 'ow' bit of my statement of wow, but no way. I am not walking all the way there again this afternoon," Dawn said adamantly. She had her sneakers off and was rubbing her feet through her socks - Buffy shifted away from the smell. "Besides, we didn't find Faith there yesterday, what makes you think we will today?"

"I don't know," Buffy admitted. "It's not like Faith and big churches go together."

Dawn laughed at the joke Buffy wasn't making. Buffy looked at her funny, suspecting heatstroke.

"Never mind," Dawn rolled her eyes. "Since when do we have the money for a cab?"

Giles still hadn't come through with a new credit card, although every time she managed to get through to him he promised it was his top priority. But they'd been here a week now, and she was starting to doubt his word.

Money was tight, tighter than tight. If it got much tighter she was thinking of accidentally falling into the Trevi Fountain - she could probably scoop up enough loose change for three pizza slices before the Polizia hauled her back out again.

Some things, though, had to be done and therefore paid for.

"We don't; but you're just slowing me down now, plus the whining is giving me an earache. And Andrew's obviously reached the end of his attention span." She flicked her eyes in his direction to check on his progress.

He had lost the tall exotic-looking glass, was on his last bite of ice-cream cone and was now talking to a different girl as they climbed the steps together.

"So we'll splurge, take a cab back to the hostel and then I can set off again without losing too much time."

"You're going back out!" Dawn groaned as she slipped her sneakers back on. "What about Andy and me? Are you just going to leave us? It gets dark here at night, you know?"

"It gets dark everywhere at night, Dawn, what's your point?"

"That I might not be safe... here... in a strange place... after dark... with Andrew."

"You're worried you might not be safe with Andrew?" Buffy wrinkled her nose and looked back down at the boy.

The girl he'd been talking to was now steps above his sweaty, shaky, crawling form. Buffy swore she could actually hear his labored breathing above the general hubbub of the dozens of tourists streaming past them to the top of the Capitoline.

"Because I think you could take him," she continued.

"Well, duh!" Dawn scoffed, "It's just, you keep saying we can't be too careful, we don't know what might be around the next corner. You won't even let us go for ice-cream alone in the middle of the day, and now you're happy to go out and leave us at night."

"You'll be in the room, locked in the room..." she held her hand up to the imminent protest. "...with the key being on your side and you respecting the honor system in a way I never did."

"Well, how will you get in?"

"I have knuckles and I know how to use 'em." Buffy rapped them against the bill of her baseball cap to prove it before pulling it back onto her head.

"Why...are...there...so...many...STEPS!" Andrew finally arrived by their feet on his hands and knees, holding up the people behind him.

"I don't know," Buffy dragged him up by the back of his soggy t-shirt and out of the way. "But only about another..." Buffy tilted her head, squinting into the sun. "...fifty, maybe, and then its aircon cabsville for the three of us."

That had the desired effect of giving the other two a renewed burst of energy and they set off again.

"If you're going back out and we have to stay in the room," Dawn began, "what are we going to do for dinner?"

"Piz..." Buffy began.

"No!" Dawn said quickly. "I never thought I'd say this, but it is actually possible to get sick of pizza."

"No it's not, you just pick a different topping," Buffy lied.

It was totally possible to get sick of pizza, even in seven short days - that was a lie; the only things short since they'd arrived had been their tempers - when all three of your squares were made up of rounds. Another lie, seeing as the pizza slices they'd been buying from the local supermarket - the cheapest place - were in fact square.

And no, square pizza didn't make any sense. How Faith had survived in this topsy-turvy world for three months was a mystery. Except Troy was rich, so maybe they could afford proper round pizza from the pizzerias.

Buffy couldn't believe it had been three months since she had last seen Faith. She might have spent an entire month staring at a naked Faith on her phone - to the point of bumping into things when she walked - but seeing all of her flesh wasn't the same as seeing her in the flesh.

Three months was a long time, but it was nearly over now. Somewhere, in this city of 2.7 million was Faith. Buffy could feel her here, could sense her presence, could detect her essence on the sultry breeze as she stared out over the Roman forums.

The only thing she couldn't do apparently was find her.

Buffy avoided first the crowds heading for the Tabularium and then the crowds heading for the Capitoline museums - after four days of fruitlessly searching she'd gotten to know the major landmarks pretty well. Although Dawn had been right, it had been more a case of sight-glimpsing than sight-seeing. It wasn't that Buffy didn't want to do the tourist thing, she really did, but she was waiting, hoping that eventually she could do it all with Faith.

As they made for the busy Piazza Venezia, Buffy spotted a food cart and began to discuss dinner again. "Well, we could get..."

"No more hot dogs!" Andrew asserted. "I'm gonna turn into a Frank!"

"Fine," Buffy shrugged.

They were on the sidewalk now heading for a row of cabs down the road. Four rows of traffic were fitting noisily into two lanes and she wasn't going to stand here arguing about a meal she wasn't even going to eat.

"But you better decide on the way back to the room, or you're gonna be hungry while I'm out."

*****

They'd decided on toasted ham and cheese Paninis from the little sandwich shop near their hostel and were still eating them when Buffy came back from the bathroom. Which, incidentally, was still un-grungy after four days. Buffy was impressed, but would have still preferred a bathroom of her own.

Not to mention, a room of her own.

Andrew was flicking through the TV channels, one burst of loud Italian news reel after another dominating the room as he spoke to Dawn with his mouth full. Buffy pulled a disgusted face at him, and turned to share a look with Dawn.

"What?" Dawn asked, chewed up bread and ham plainly visible.

Buffy shook her head, "Nothing."

In just over a week Dawn had regressed to the girl she had been before the private school brainwashed her. It was a relief in some ways, but a gross relief.

"So are you really going to traipse all the way back to Vatican City tonight?" Dawn's nose wrinkled as she took another bite of her sandwich. "I know you have legs of steel and all that, but you must have at least one ache in your body?"

'Yes, in my heart,' Buffy thought about saying, but came to her senses before she could admit to thinking something so cheesy. She looked at her watch. "Probably not. The Cathedral will be closed by the time I get there anyway."

The sun would be down in an hour or two, meaning most of the hot spots would be closing for the night. Maybe going out again was pointless. She sank down onto her side of the double bed as she combed her wet hair through. She had thought to bring a hair dryer with her, but it had never made it out of Cleveland. Her feet ached a little, now she came to take the weight off of them.

She could quite easily stay in tonight and start again fresh in the morning. She could insist that Dawn went and washed her feet and that Andrew picked a channel with English dubbing. She could head out for five minutes and pick up a Panini for herself and maybe even a bottle of wine... that would be nice. It wasn't like she knew where to start searching for Faith at night anyway; her plan to just head for the nearest cemetery wasn't likely to pay off unless fate stepped in - Rome had way more cemeteries than even Sunnydale had had.

And the cool room is more attractive right now than the thought of prowling around in the muggy darkness, she thought as she moisturized her face.

"Do you know where I think Faith is?" Dawn was looking at their large map of Rome again.

"Pray tell," Buffy muttered as she went through Dawn's make up on the little table.

"The Villa Borghese. I mean, it's the classiest looking plot of land in the city, right? That is definitely where Troy lives."

Buffy shook her head, "No, Toni told me her dad's apartment is within walking distance of the Colosseum and that Troy got a place nearby. They used to hang out there when they were younger."

"Do you know where I think they might be?" Andrew asked.

Buffy rolled her eyes, taking a deep, patience-inducing breath, "Moon base: Alpha perhaps?"

"No..." Andrew paused, looking geekily thoughtful. "Although that would explain why we can't find them and the nuclear dumps are just a myth so they're probably safe from being flung out of orbit..."

"See where your sarcasm gets you?" Dawn said over Andrew's waffling.

Buffy rolled her eyes again as she checked there was money in her purse and pushed it into her pocket.

"Andrew!" she said when she could stand no more. "So where did you think they might be?"

"Well, no one seems to know exactly where he lives. But Abriana said that when he and his girlfriend - the woman we know as Faith - are in Rome, they spend most of their evenings in the Trastevere district."

"And what's so interesting there?" Buffy asked as she took the map from Dawn to find the area.

Andrew shrugged, "Bars and clubs, maybe?"

"When they're in Rome?" Dawn repeated him, frowning, before turning to Buffy. "Did it cross your mind that you can't find her because they're not even here? Perhaps they're still in Bracciano."

Buffy shook her head. The thought had cross her mind, but she didn't have the means or a clue as to how to get to the village where Troy's castle was. And if they weren't in the city right now, they would be one day, and then Buffy would find her. And she wasn't going anywhere until that day came.

"They're back," Andrew nodded assuredly. "Bianka was really excited because she managed to get a picture of them dancing at this club a couple of nights ago. She's going to use it as her message board avatar."

Buffy blinked as she stared at him, waiting for all the crap to trickle away and just leave the important bit behind. "Which club?"

"I tripped on a step before I could ask and she didn't even stop to ask if I was okay," Andrew's tone was a mix of sheepish and indignant. "But..." he drew the word out, a sparkle back in his eyes. "Abriana said there's a brand new club opening tonight and that Troy is always on every guest list in town."

Buffy nodded, a slow smile forming, "So, chances are he and Faith are going to be hitting it at some point tonight and all I have to do is be there."

"Exactly, Buffy."

Dawn pulled a confused face, "Who the heck are Abriana and Bianka?"

"Not caring," Buffy grinned and walked the one stride to Andrew's bed to give him an excited thank you hug. She pulled back quickly before he could eagerly latch on. "I don't suppose you caught that name?"

He shook his head, "Sorry, but Ariana had a flyer, maybe if you walk around down there enough someone will give you a flyer."

"Guess that's my best option."

"Um, Buffy, not to be the rain on your parade or anything," Dawn spoke earnestly. "They might be on the guest list, but you're not gonna be. How are you planning on getting in?"

Buffy stopped, her excitement waning slightly as her smile slipped away. "That's an annoying but excellent question. Sewers are the first route that springs to mind, but turning up inside literally smelling like crap isn't going to convince people I belong there." She shrugged, not about to let such a minor detail pose a problem. "I'm sure there'll be a fire exit I can break in through or a window..."

Andrew tutted loudly and Buffy frowned. "Something to add?"

"Buffy, Buffy, Buffy," Andrew wiped his Panini-y fingers on a napkin and got up from his bed. "You don't have to sneak in. Beautiful, dangerous women can go anywhere they want."

Dawn snorted as Buffy beamed.

Andrew waved his arms in a flourish, his excitement getting to him as he gestured her closer. "All we have to do is turn you into one."

"Wh...?" Buffy's expression twisted from confused to disgruntled. "Hey!"


Chapter Six

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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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