PART NINE: 5th July to 23rd September 2004
Chapter One: Putting Your Best-Friend Foot Forward
"Dawn. Phone. Now!" Buffy whirled into the kitchen, one hand out for the phone as her other released the large pink duffle bag she'd been carrying with enough force that it skimmed across the kitchen table.
Xander lifted his bowl of cereal just in time to stop a cornflake catastrophe and the bag thumped against his chest. Buffy didn't notice as she clicked her fingers by her sister's ear.
"No!" Dawn glared tearfully at her before turning her back and retreating into a corner with the phone.
"An hour ago she was jumping with joy," Buffy shook her head impatiently. "Where did I put my list?"
"An hour ago she hadn't told Christian," Willow pointed out, looking up from her laptop. "Buffy, sweetie, you're doing it again."
Buffy found her list still on the table, fluttered to the edge by the passage of her bag. "Hmm?"
"Buff, stop with the swaying, you're making us all seasick." Xander grumbled.
"Sorry, I don't seem to have my land legs yet," she looked up at him. "Xander, what are you doing with my bag?"
"Trying to pull it out of my chest cavity," he snapped mildly. Pushing the bag away, he stood up. "It's too early for this amount of mayhem-iness."
"Agreed." Kennedy came down the stairs, dressed but still rubbing her eyes, and made a beeline for the coffee pot. "And you weren't even the one who spent three hours cruising around with the Guardians of the Great Lakes."
It was probably supposed to be a pointed comment, the point pointing at Buffy, but the big yawn halfway through ruined its effectiveness. Buffy still felt it though, the point driving through the rest of the crap in her brain.
"Sorry," she murmured, her eyes going back to the list again, focusing on the words she'd jotted earlier without really reading them.
She did feel bad that her friends had been worried enough about her lengthy disappearance that they'd called in the Marine Safety Unit to search Erie for her. She'd thought it was a pretty intuitive leap on their part, until Willow had explained they'd caught glimpses of her floating out there in the brilliantly bright flashes of the fireworks.
Buffy didn't even remember the fireworks. She vaguely recalled some loud bangs that she had been too numb to react to, but her face had been buried deep in her arms preventing her from seeing the colorful displays going on all around the lake. She couldn't remember hearing her cell either all the times Willow said they'd tried it, and she certainly hadn't heard them all shouting to her from the beach.
All in all, though, while she felt bad about inconveniencing Kennedy - and the United States Coast Guard, who needed to work on their boat-side rescue manner in her opinion - it was so far down the list of stuff she felt bad about, it barely even rated the murmured apology she offered now.
"Dawn. Phone!" She shouted again, making everyone in the kitchen jump slightly. "I need to try Toni again," she added softly, looking at Toni's name on her list.
Not quite as sweet as the list Toni had her name on.
"What time is it in Japan?" Xander asked as he made more coffee for all of them. "Maybe she's already gone to bed."
"If she has, she's about to get a rude wake up call," Buffy muttered.
She was swaying from side to side again, she could feel herself doing it, but didn't care enough to stop. She was still freezing too; the hot shower and the warm clothes weren't fighting off the chill she'd been wrapped in for four hours. Maybe when the sun was actually over the horizon she might feel better, but she doubted it.
"Did you get any sleep last night?" Kennedy was looking slightly more awake now, frowning at Buffy's continual motion.
Buffy shook her head. "I have nine hours to kill later, I'll sleep then."
Dawn was finally off the phone and she handed it forcefully to Buffy with a weak, snivelled, "I hate you."
"Get in line," Buffy snatched the receiver away. "And go get dressed or I'm dragging you there in your pajamas."
With another nasty look, Dawn stomped up the back stairs.
"What is her problem?" Buffy muttered as she searched the phone book for the number to Toni's Tokyo apartment. "This is exactly the kind of opportunity she's always whining on about."
"She's in love for the first time, Buffy," Willow reminded her gently. "You remember what that's like, and now you're making her leave him for goodness knows how long without even a proper goodbye."
"She's my responsibility," Buffy found the number. "She should be with me. And I can't be here right now so she'll have to deal."
"She'll settle down when she gets there," Xander handed her a cup of coffee, which she set down immediately to dial the number. "You know how the Dawnster loves her pizza."
Buffy nodded not caring, as she waited with her heart in her mouth for Toni to pick up. She'd been trying once an hour since arriving back a shivering mess from the beach but just kept getting voicemail over and over.
As she did now. For the first time, though, Buffy waited for the beep to leave a message.
"Toni, where are you? I've been trying all night and I... really need to speak to you, kinda urgently, so please, call me back on my cell as soon as you get this, please..." Buffy paused, wondering if she should say more. In the end she hung up without adding anything.
"I thought for a minute you were going to break up with her over her answering machine." Kennedy chuckled slightly.
"Thought crossed my mind," Buffy admitted, replacing the receiver harder than necessary. "And if she doesn't call me back soon..."
"Buffy, you can't." Willow said firmly without looking up from the laptop.
"And I don't want to," Buffy stressed, going back to her list. "Part of me doesn't want to break up with her at all."
"Then why?" Xander asked with a shrug of his shoulders. "Why not take the road less pitted with emotional landmines and fly out to Japan instead? Surprise Toni. And let Faith handle this on her own. For once, Buff, give yourself the easy out, no one's going to hold it against you; not even Faith by the sound of it."
Buffy hesitated; could life ever be as simple as he was making out? She didn't need a Magic 8-Ball to tell her the outlook was not good. She looked to Kennedy, who was slouched over the table staring at her from behind messy hair.
The younger slayer took a slow sip of her coffee before leveling her eyes back at Buffy. "You know what I think," she said calmly. Lifting her hand, a set of car keys jangled from one finger. "S'only reason I'm up this early."
Willow's triumph had Buffy shaking slightly. "Do you have it?"
"I have it like a thing you have with bells on," Willow grinned at her. "The top secret, one hundred percent private and confidential, so secure even Giles doesn't have clearance..."
"Will!" Buffy said, her voice a low warning.
"Lehane." Willow said, still smiling, jubilant with her Watcher Council code cracking and file hacking. "Faith Lehane. Born 14 December '82 at the South Boston Medical Center in..." She nodded her head as if to say 'Duh.' "...South Boston. Attended..."
"Go back a minute, babe, that's a different birth date to the police report you found earlier." Kennedy pointed out.
"The police made everything up. Or got it all from the Mayor's office who made everything up. They wanted to try her as an adult." Buffy said as she turned Faith's surname over in her head, trying it silently on her tongue.
How could such a small little word cause so much gigantic trauma in her heart and mind? She liked it, she decided, the name Lehane.
"As proven by the fake surname their report was also sporting," Xander agreed.
"So I think that's everything." Willow stretched her arms high over her head; she'd been sitting in front of the laptop all night. "Reservations made, visas faked, passports glamored, my work is done. All you need now is..."
"I'm ready!" Andrew called down the stairs just before he tripped over his large suitcase and fell.
Buffy caught him before he hit the ground hard.
"Great," she muttered once he was back on his own feet. "Why are you coming again?"
"Because Mr. Giles said it might be dangerous and you should have someone to watch your back in case anyone, you know, tries to kill you." Andrew set down his case and started looking through the cupboards for snacks to take with them.
"Yeah, but, why are you coming again?" Buffy asked in the same tone as before.
"Because Mr. Giles wants a go-between, uh, between you and Scooby central, so that we can all be privy to the same network of information and... and can work smoothly together from opposite sides of the world, and because he thinks my unique skills will aid in best, uh, best achieving the..." Andrew turned to her, frowning. "What's our mission again?"
Buffy took a deep breath as she set her shoulders firmly, her chin lifted determinedly.
"To give Faith the best plate-slinging, sirtaki-dancing, toga-wearing fairytale wedding any little slayer has ever dreamt of dreaming of." Her shoulders slumped as everyone in the kitchen stared in surprise. "It'll be my last act as Best Friend before I stick my fingers in an electrical socket."
Everyone was still staring at her. Buffy shrugged, not sure what they were expecting her to say.
"Dawn!" she yelled impatiently, instead, as she reached for the phone once more.
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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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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