PART NINE: 5th July to 23rd September 2004
Chapter Six: Wish I Was Sober, So I Could See Clearly When . . .
The room was a mess. Clothes lay over every surface, shoes littered the limited floor space and makeup and accessories were strewn across the bed.
Buffy struggled out of a pair of black jeans. "Pants aren't gonna work. I need something more..."
"Skanky?" Dawn smirked.
"Well, I was going to say sexy, but as it's your clothes I'm choosing from..."
Buffy ignored Dawn as she stripped back down to her underwear. She'd felt a little uncomfortable the first time with Andrew being in the room. Six wardrobe changes later though, Buffy felt nothing but alarm that time was running out and, tonight of all nights, she couldn't decide what to wear.
"Here, try this." Andrew handed her a dress on a hanger. "It has all the S components: sexy, skanky, short and silky. Or maybe its satiny, I'm not sure, but it feels nice."
"No, not that one!" Dawn cried, jumping off of the bed to try and take it back.
Buffy avoided her grab, spinning around and holding the dress at arms length to get a good look.
It was everything Andrew had promised, maybe more. Blood red in color, it would be short even on her. The neckline plunged front and back from tiny little spaghetti straps and a diamond cut-out in the back would show an awful lot of skin.
Holding the garment close to her chest she turned back to face Dawn. "What are you doing with this? You are not old enough to wear something this revealing!"
"Which is exactly why you were never supposed to see it," Dawn grumbled, falling back on to the bed. "Thanks a bunch, Andrew. I'm setting fire to your authenticated George Lucas autograph if we ever get home."
"It's perfect for me though," Buffy continued obliviously as she started to slip it on.
"It's not like I'm doing it deliberately. She's the leader," Andrew explained worriedly to Dawn. "No, the other way..." When Buffy didn't immediately get what he meant, he stepped forward and twisted the dress around her waist. "...This way `round."
"This is a little more familiar than I like... you," Buffy tried to lean back from the way Andrew was manhandling her. He started pulling the dress up her chest and she slapped his hand out of the way. "Okay, you made your point; I can take it from there."
He stepped back, half-rubbing, half-wringing his hands, "Sorry, I got a little carried away."
"I thought you were gay?"
Andrew looked sheepish and shrugged a shoulder. "I'm still waiting for that definitive experience that will lead me on my true path."
Dawn laughed. Buffy thought about what she could say to his confession, but nothing was coming to mind, well, except one thing, but asking: 'So seeing me half naked didn't make or break it for you?' didn't seem constructive enough to be worthy of the time.
Instead she looked into the mirror as she straightened the thin little straps out and smoothed the material over her stomach.
"I've never worn a dress quite this..."
"Classy?" Dawn asked.
"Clingy." It was true, if she'd had any protruding moles, they'd be visible through the dress. She looked down at her nipples with a little grin. "Let's hope the club isn't too air-conditioned. Does it look okay?"
There was one large diamond of material missing that showed her tanned and toned stomach from naval all the way up to the centre of her chest, where there was a little silver buckle. The neck plunged down to the same buckle.
"You don't have the boobs to pull it off," Dawn said snidely.
Buffy, horrified that her sister might be right, looked at herself in the mirror, cupping her breasts comfortingly until she saw Andrew looking curiously over her shoulder.
She dropped her hands quickly, looking even more worried when he didn't seem especially impressed.
"There's nothing wrong with my boobs," she said in a small voice. "Just because they're not humongous and hooter-y, doesn't mean they're not..."
"Okay, fine, I was kidding," Dawn groaned.
"Lots of people like my breasts," Buffy continued to mutter as she did her makeup again, going all out this time instead of just the light 'work day' application she'd done earlier. "Angel once said they were like soft hills of ripe..."
Seeing Dawn laughing her ass off on the bed and even Andrew not bothering to hide his smirk, Buffy trailed off with a scowl.
"Yeah, well, never mind what he called them, the fact that he..."
"Called them?" Dawn howled as she rolled over the stuff on the bed. "He had names for them?"
Buffy's lips twisted shut as she hurled a small, expensive container of blush at her sister.
"Buffy!" Dawn squealed in outrage as she was showered in light pink dust.
"Oops." Buffy looked at the lid still in her hand before throwing that at her too.
"Okay, now for the finishing touches!" Andrew stepped up behind her.
"Which would be...?" Buffy turned, spotted the nail scissors in his hand and took a step back. "What do you need those for?"
"I don't think so." Buffy backed up again, holding a protective hand to the back of her head. "Come any closer with those and you'll need help getting them out of your stomach, and I won't be using any of your natural orifices to get them in there."
"But I've seen the styles here and I really think..." Andrew took a step forward, reaching out for a lock of her hair as if to demonstrate.
"Uh-uh," Buffy put her hand up to stop him. "You've been very helpful, but don't push it."
Obviously disappointed, he let his arm fall to his side.
"I guess I'm ready then." Buffy took a deep, calming breath and looked into the mirror once more. The dress really was beautiful, but... "Can you see my underwear?"
Andrew dipped at the knees and Buffy smacked him with her hand bag. "Not you! I meant Dawn."
"How deeply disturbing," Dawn muttered with extra snide. She was still trying to brush powder from her clothes and hair and... everything else around her.
"You can't," Andrew offered anyway.
"Thanks," Buffy rolled her eyes. She looked to Dawn. "Here's the key. Don't let anyone but me in, okay?"
"I'm not stupid."
"Are you gonna wish me luck?"
"Sure, bad luck," Dawn gave her a sarcastic smile.
"Fine, keep being a selfish little kid," Buffy went to the door. "It does you so many favors."
"Okay, fine, have good luck, what do I care? I just want you out of the room so we can watch Italian Jeopardy in peace."
Buffy looked back over her shoulder, not saying anything.
"I hope you find her," Dawn finally said sincerely. "And you look great." Buffy turned to give her sister a hug, but Dawn suddenly flung a hand over her eyes. "Oh, but it turns out you can see your underwear."
Buffy stopped, mulling that over for a second, and shrugged, "Well, they're nice."
Opening the door, she walked out into the muggy corridor.
"Skank!" Dawn called out just as the door closed. Buffy laughed.
Getting to Trastevere had been no problem at all. Her Italian had been getting... no better at all, but luckily all the cab drivers in Rome could understand English even if theirs was no so good.
So getting there had been fine, but walking around the area wasn't proving a whole lot of fun so far. Firstly, because she was wearing Dawn's only dressy pair of shoes. The heel was of a height she was probably more acquainted with than her sister, but they were a size or two bigger than she wore. Standing still she was fine, but walking made her feel like she was eight again and sneaking a go in her Mom's party shoes.
Secondly, she was all dressed up with nowhere to go. Well, she had somewhere to go; she just didn't know where that somewhere happened to be yet. Standing around amidst all the couples and groups of clubbers, she looked like she'd been stood up.
It had been half an hour and so far no one had handed her any fliers either.
The street she was on was lined wall to wall with clubs, bars, restaurants and coffee shops and packed with people. It was all a little dizzying and maybe this hadn't been the best idea after all. Any one of these places could be the new big thing Faith and Troy were attending at some point that night. She didn't have the time or the money to check all of them out, and what if she went into one just as Faith was going into another?
Okay, so she'd been given an opportunity here, but it obviously wasn't going to be handed to her on a plate. Such was life. She had to think it through. Standing on the corner, feeling herself slip down her shoes until her feet were wedged almost painfully into the open toes, she did just that.
Maybe she didn't have to find Faith; maybe Faith would come to her, unintentionally. People-watching was her opening. There were plenty of alfresco opportunities, a latte wouldn't cost much and she could sit back and scan the crowd. It would also give her feet a break.
Heading for a caffè in the middle of the street so she had more of a visual range, Buffy breathed a sigh of relief as she sank into a wicker and metal chair. She scooted it around a little so that she could see better and by the time she was comfortable a waiter was ready for her order.
"Food is must, too," he told her, handing over a menu.
Great, she'd picked a fussy place. Her eyes grazed the menu quickly, and she chose the cheapest thing she could see.
Five minutes later he was back with her coffee and ice cream. The strawberry dessert came in a little glass bowl balancing on a round pink china dish. As she dipped her big spoon in for a little dab of ice cream and sucked it genteelly into her mouth, her eyes scoped out the boisterous international crowd for any sign of Faith.
By the time she'd finished she must have seen a thousand different faces, but not the one she was looking for. This had been a bad idea. She'd pay her check and go back to the hostel. Dawn would probably be asleep by now after all the walking they'd done that day; Buffy could possibly translate half of another diary entry before sleep claimed her too.
Her lips were a little sticky with ice cream and Buffy lifted the glass bowl to grab the napkin on the dish. There was writing on it, but she almost ignored it - a lot of places advertised themselves this way - until she saw a glimpse of the date along with the word: Nuovo.
Her spoken Italian wasn't getting any better, and neither was her listening Italian, but she'd been reading the tricky language in short bursts every night that week.
She opened the napkin out. The name of the place wasn't something she'd heard before, but the word new was repeated three times above it. The address, as far as she could make out, was for around the corner somewhere - not the street she was staking out - and it was definitely the right date.
Could it be the place? Could it be that the information really had just been handed to her on a plate? She chuckled as she dropped some Euros onto the dish and stood up, taking the napkin with her, not that she was going to waste it on sticky lips now.
She rounded the corner, excited again, and came face to end with a long queue. That hadn't been there earlier. She checked the napkin and then the face of the building the queue was aiming for, looking for a name. Nothing. She checked the napkin and building again and was still none the wiser.
"Uh, Scoozie," Buffy lightly tapped the woman in front of her on the shoulder. "Is this, uh..." she started to read the name on the napkin but gave up after the first syllable and simply showed the tissue instead. "...here?"
The woman turned, looking slightly offended that her person had been tapped in such a way by a complete stranger. Her grey eyes ran judgmentally over Buffy and her outfit - it was like being back in high school - before a smile appeared, adding a warmth that had been seriously lacking before. "Yahs, it is opening doors for first time tonight."
Buffy breathed a sigh of relief at both being in the right place and that she had been found worthy. Extremely worthy apparently as now the woman wouldn't stop talking to her. Buffy couldn't place her accent other than to say she sounded a little like Dracula. She talked fast, like Willow on a caffeine high, and Buffy was only catching every third word or so as she was introduced to several people ahead of her in the queue.
Buffy smiled politely and tried not to look intimidated by all these women - who were all a good foot taller than her, took the same dress size as a Slim Jim and had a kinda angry beauty about them.
They all - and not just the women currently becoming her best friends, but everyone in the queue - must have been following a catwalk diversion and ended up here. Their clothes were all of the highest of the high fashions - which didn't mean they were to Buffy's taste necessarily, and just as well seeing as she didn't have four to five figures to spend on a single outfit.
Buffy was under no illusions about her own looks and despite regular periods of insecurity, she knew she could be classed as cute, was occasionally mistaken for stunning, could work up to beautiful if she had enough prep time and no natural disasters got in the way and could pull off sultry if she was in the right mood and had the correct colour eye shadow - but these people...
The crowd shuffled forward and for a minute Buffy was left alone. It was what she had been waiting for, but wasn't so good when it happened. Butterflies, gigantic ones, started flapping their stupid wings in her stomach. This was it. She was going to see Faith in... well, she didn't know how many minutes, but surely it couldn't be long until they were face to face again. She fiddled with her bag, swallowing her nerves down just to have them creep back up.
What was she going to say? She'd forgotten her speech! No she hadn't! She'd forgotten to come up with a speech in the first place!
She was going to lose it in the middle of this queue; in front of her new friends, who had to be supermodels or... or whatever came higher up than supermodel. She was going to - no she already was - fucking this up. Beautiful, dangerous women didn't hyperventilate at the thought of seeing an... old friend? Ex-lover? One time mortal enemy?
What were she and Faith anyway? When Faith had called last, she had once again bestowed the title of Best Friend on her, but was that true? Was it even fair? She didn't deserve it. Best friends didn't secretly want to get into their best friendee's pants all the time. She'd come all the way to Italy to be the friend that Faith deserved, and she was going to blow it as soon as she saw her. She was already quivering inside and out at the mere thought of possibly being in the same club as her and there was no way she'd be able to keep it to herself. Faith was going to spot the truth immediately and then they would just fight and fall out again. Buffy didn't need that and Faith certainly wouldn't want it. She was getting married! This was supposed to be a happy time for her, and Buffy was about to ruin it and even if that wasn't her intention, she still knew she was going to. She had to get out of there, completely, get on a plane and head back to America; she could call Dawn and Andrew from the airport...
"Buffy, come quick!"
Buffy's eyes were darting around for the quickest way out, but she was suddenly surrounded by her Eastern European friends again and found herself swept past two big bouncers - who didn't even glance at her - into a dark crowded foyer, and further, into a room that was loud with music and chatter. The lights were strobing out of control, disorientating Buffy enough that she found herself down the stairs and across the room at a bar without knowing how she got there.
"Okay," she said, knowing no one else would hear her unless she shouted. "I guess running away is out then."
She looked around, but with the strobe effect seemingly on constant it was hard to see anyone clearly. She faced the bar again to get away from the black and white stop motion effect before she had a fit of some kind and had a champagne glass pushed into her hand by one of the women she'd entered with. She couldn't remember any of the names she'd been told, but it seemed like she'd been adopted for the night. Models were big on charity events, right? Maybe it was 'Take a confused Slayer under your wing' day? Or maybe they were all lesbians and had clocked that her underwear was visible?
"Thanks," she had to shout to be heard.
The women all raised their glasses at her before calling out a phrase Buffy had never encountered before and downing their drinks in one. Buffy didn't bother trying to copy the words, but she did finish her drink in a couple of gulps. The bubbles went up her nose, stinging like crazy, and she coughed a few times.
"Good stuff," she said weakly, wiping her eyes.
It could be worse, she supposed; they could be Russian and encouraging her to drink 90% proof vodka. She didn't mind being a little giggly when she saw Faith, but she'd prefer it if her first words weren't, "Oh my God, I'm going to be sick!"
She was given another glass and a woman who vaguely resembled Cordelia with black hair all the way down to her ass grabbed her hand and pulled her towards some tables.
She went, because what else was she going to do? Her plan to get a glass of wine and sit quietly in a corner observing wasn't going to work in here. There were no quiet corners and the amount of people meant she'd only be able to observe those stood literally right in front of her.
As she sat in the only unoccupied seat at the table she realized the group was up to ten or twelve now, including a few extremely good-looking men. One of whom, with dark hair and brooding brown eyes, smiled her way, reminding her that she did actually find men attractive. She smiled back.
"Nice dress." His accent was familiar at least; she had no trouble understanding him.
"Thanks," she shouted back. "It's my little sister's."
His eyes widened at that and as he just nodded and joined a conversation further up the table, Buffy cringed and downed her champagne again - unsurprisingly, with the same results.
As she tried to hide her spluttering and rubbed her nose to get rid of the tingle, she listened to the conversations going on around her. The majority were in English. Probably the common language for the multitude of nationalities at the table.
"I was doing a shoot for Gaultier..." One woman was saying. "...But the photographer has developed heatstroke."
Buffy grinned - she'd known they were all models - and lost interest in that conversation. She focused instead on two beautiful boys talking in hushed tones.
"You have a lovely arse. Join me in the toilets in five minutes. I want to fuck..."
Ohhkay! Blushing, Buffy quickly swiveled her head away. Call her double-standards girl, she didn't care, it was still more than she wanted to hear.
"Oh si, he will most definitely come. Have you ever known him to not attend a premiere if he is in the city?"
Buffy let her ears relax into the safer topic being discussed between an Italian brunette and a woman with spiky red hair.
"Do you think she'll tag along?" The red head was English.
"Of course, they can not bear to parted, they are, like, joined at the hip, as you say."
"Joined at both hips most of the time," the red head laughed.
The Italian sneered.
"Oh sorry, darling, you still fancy him, don't you?"
"Ahh, Buffy! You need more alcohol!" The woman she'd met outside was leaning heavily on her right shoulder; trying to pour champagne into the glass in Buffy's hand.
"Uh, thanks," Buffy attention was still on the conversation going on to her left, but she held the glass up.
"I do not fancy him! The bastardo can rot in hell!"
"Well, I hope you mean that, luv," the English girl said as she tilted her bottle of Carlsberg lager towards the other side of the room. "Because here comes the tramp."
The Italian turned angrily to face the door and Buffy, caught up in it all, did the same.
Faith and Troy were standing at the top of the steps.
Icy champagne hit Buffy's bare thighs.
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Part Nine Quick-Jump:
Chapter One ||
Chapter Two ||
Chapter Three ||
Chapter Four ||
Chapter Five ||
Chapter Six ||
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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