A/N:And that's all she wrote. Thank you to everyone who has been so supportive with feedback and emails while I've been writing this fic. It's definitely my feel-good fic, so now I'm gonna try something new and dark(ish). But really . . . you guys rock my rainbow socks. Thanks for reading along. :)
Oh, and: A girl who doesn't like sports (besides hockey . . . Go Sabres!) can only do so much sport research before she loses interest. Please keep that in mind when you stumble upon errors in my baseball facts. ;) For instance, I don't know if the game really happened in Boston, but for the purpose of this fic . . . it did. :D
Faith took her time driving to no place in particular, hoping to buy a few extra minutes as she formulated her thoughts.
When she had invited Buffy to come and see her, she figured that it could have gone one of two ways. Either Buffy would come there intent on preserving their friendship and friendship only, or she would come because she wanted to restore what they had in LA. Faith honestly wasn't sure if Buffy would want to keep their sexual relationship a part of their past and continue being friends as with the other Scoobies, or if she would want to revisit the past.
And there was no doubt that Faith wanted to revisit the past with Buffy.
The thing was . . . she didn't want to have a casual 'friends with benefits' type of deal with Buffy. It wasn't something that she had ever thought about with anyone else, but after the time they spent together in LA . . . she couldn't think of anything that she wanted more. She wanted the whole enchilada . . . the hand-holding and sweet stuff, and the romantic stuff, and the happy stuff, and of course – the sex stuff.
She wanted it all.
But while she had been planning Buffy's visit, she refused to let herself work out any speeches or thoughts that she wanted to give to Buffy. She didn't want to assume that Buffy would automatically say yes to being together, then have her own heart break in half if Buffy gave her a different answer.
So, she tried to put it out of her mind. She planned things that they could do together, as friends would, that would pass the time during Buffy's visit. Shopping on Newbury Street. There was a restaurant near there named Charlie's that Faith was sure Buffy would love. Boston Commons. Faneuil Hall. Clubbing on Lansdowne Street. And of course, there was Fenway Park. What kind of Bostonian would Faith be if she didn't take Buffy to the home of the Boston Red Sox?
In fact, it was a pretty big time in Boston at the moment. The Red Sox were one game away from making it to the World Championship. They had been down three games but in a sweep, they tied it up by winning the next three games.
And in a stroke of pure luck, Faith had won two tickets to game seven in a contest on the local radio station. She had picked up the tickets just before going to pick Buffy up at the airport, and they were stowed safely away in her inner jacket pocket.
Faith figured that she could take Buffy to the big game that night, and then out to celebrate a possible victory. If the Sox won, there would be pandemonium in the streets, and as a native Bostonian, Faith was obligated to participate. However, if the Yankees beat the Red Sox . . . well, Faith didn't even want to think about that. Buffy would have to nurse her back to life over the next days of her visit, and as tempting as Buffy in a nurses uniform seemed, she would have rather spent their time together in a better way.
And now, as Faith was driving down some random street in her neighborhood, she was trying to put her thoughts together in a way that would neither scare nor push Buffy away.
"So, what's this big surprise?" Buffy asked as she stared out the window, taking in all of the local sights and sounds. She turned and looked to Faith for an answer, and that was when she noticed that Faith was looking kind of nervous. She looked down at Faith's hand; her knuckles had gone white from gripping the gear-shift so tight.
"Uh, funny thing about that surprise, B. It's kinda not until later tonight," Faith began. She figured that she could use the baseball game as a surprise, seeing as that it was a pretty big event.
"Oh?" Buffy asked, and Faith nodded. "So, what are we doing now, besides burning gas and wearing out your tires?"
Faith was silent for a moment, and she hesitated when she tried to speak. Buffy could see that Faith was struggling with her words, but she was so proud that Faith was actually trying to sound out her feelings.
Casually, Buffy moved her hand from her lap and laid it atop Faith's hand on the gear-shift, interlacing her fingers over the tops of Faith's.
Faith smiled softly and turned to look at Buffy through her tinted sunglasses.
"Thanks," she said softly as she gripped Buffy's hand gently. "I think that . . . with the way we were headed in my bedroom . . . things might have gotten a bit x-rated before we had the chance to talk."
"You're probably right."
"And the thing is, I dunno . . . for like, the first time in my life, I guess I wanna talk things through before jumping into something. Cos I don't wanna be thinking one thing and then find out we're not on the same page and end up feeling like a major asshole," Faith explained, her eyes on the road in front of her.
"It's okay, I know what you mean, Faith," Buffy said, smiling softly at how far Faith had come along as a person since she first met her so many years earlier. "Talking is a good thing."
A few moments of silence passed as Faith continued driving down random streets, passing by several quaint ethnic restaurants and small shops and corner stores along the way. Finally, she gathered her remaining thoughts and questions and began to lay them out.
"I guess that my first question is . . . what is this to you, Buffy?" She asked, holding up their joined hands. "Is this like, something you're gonna be able to walk away from in a week and leave behind? Cos I don't know if I can do that."
Buffy took a deep breath and looked out the window, trying to organize her feelings into words. After a moment she looked back to Faith who was still looking quite nervous.
"I've been in Italy for almost a half of a year, and . . . well, I was never able to leave it behind, really. It's hard for me to understand, I think, because I don't know exactly when or how it happened. All of the big events in my life, I can pinpoint down to single moments. My calling, my past relationships . . . they all came down to one moment where I had this realization. But with us . . . there's not a moment where I can say, 'okay, that's where you fell . . . umm, that's where it all began.' I feel like we just eased into this . . . relationship . . . back in LA. Like it was the most natural thing ever. And yeah, I know we went into it saying that it was a friends with benefits type of deal, but when it came time to leave, I felt like I was being torn up inside. Like I couldn't stand the thought of walking away from what we had. But . . . I had to. I promised Dawn, and I promised myself that I would give a new life with her a try."
"And now you're here," Faith said and turned her head toward Buffy to give her a quick smile.
Buffy caught her eye and smiled at her, "And now I'm here," she echoed Faith. "And the thing is . . . I don't want to walk away. I know it'll tear me up again if I have to leave, and that I'll go back to my life in Italy where I think about you . . . about us . . . every day. I don't know if I can do that. If I can walk away again."
Faith nodded her head.
"But you also don't know that you can stay," she said matter-of-factly. "And I mean, I get that, B. You've got a little sis that you're raising, and you're being all responsible and wearing big sister's clothes and stuff."
"Yeah," Buffy agreed. "But Faith . . . that also doesn't mean that I won't stay." At that, Faith glanced over at her, a hopeful look on her face. Buffy continued, "I don't know how that would work, and I don't know how I would drop everything else, but . . . the fact that I have some other things going on doesn't necessarily mean that I won't stay."
Faith smiled gently, mostly to herself. She couldn't help it. Sure, things weren't wrapped up in a neat little package. There were things that needed further thought and discussion, but at least she knew that now they were on the same page.
She brought their joined hands up to her lips and kissed the top of Buffy's hand, letting the soft kiss linger for a moment or two. Buffy smiled, wanting nothing more than for them to be out of the jeep so that she could crawl into Faith's arms and hold her, but settled for the small kiss until they were at least pulled over.
"So . . ." Faith concluded, "we're on the same page then. We both want this, and we're both willing to see how the visit goes and what we can do from there?"
"Sounds about right," Buffy said with a nod. "We'll just do what comes natural. And I guess that when it comes time to book my return flight . . . we have the big talk."
Buffy couldn't help but laugh when she saw the grimace that Faith made when she mentioned the big talk. Faith chuckled too as she hadn't even realized she had made the face until Buffy was laughing at her.
"We have a plan then?" Faith asked, her eyes focused again on the street before them.
"Yep," Buffy agreed with a firm nod.
"Good, cos I really need to do this right now," Faith said, causing Buffy to look at her in confusion. At that, Faith had pulled the jeep over to the side of the street and put it in park. In a flash she had unbuckled her seatbelt, leaned across the seat, and was kissing Buffy passionately while holding the sides of her face in her hands.
Buffy responded just as enthusiastically, placing her hands atop of Faith's on her face. Only when they heard a fire truck pass by with its siren on did they stop to look into one another's eyes. Faith smiled and rested her forehead against Buffy's, just taking a moment to let it all sink in. Buffy ran her thumbs over the top of Faith's hands, not wanting to lose physical contact with her for even a moment.
"You hungry?" Faith asked suddenly, interrupting their moment. She knew that she needed to break their momentum or they'd end up naked in the back seat.
"Starved, actually," she answered, listening to the sounds of her stomach rumbling quietly.
"The plan just got even better, B. We're gonna go back to my place and do the girly get-freshened-up-and-change-outfits-five-times thing, then I'm gonna take you downtown for the best steak sandwich and fries you've ever had, and then – and here's where the surprise comes in – we're gonna walk over to Fenway Park for the big game."
Buffy smiled, excitement written on her face.
"We're going to a football game?"
Faith's only reasonable response was to raise her eyebrow at Buffy, sigh with a big smile on her face, and pull away from the curb with a loud chuckle.
Four hours, three outfit changes, and two steak sandwiches later, Buffy and Faith made their way down the busy streets of the city. It was nearly game time and, unlike most of the other inhabitants of the city who had been partying around the ball park all day in anticipation of the big game, the two slayers were casually strolling up to the front entrance in hopes that the lines to enter wouldn't be too long.
Buffy couldn't help but smile as she observed how excited Faith was about the game. The Red Sox baseball cap that Faith was wearing had remained firmly on her head since they had left her apartment. Of course, no one in the restaurant cared that she was wearing a hat indoors; half of the other patrons were wearing their hats and jerseys as well.
Faith had tried to explain the pride Boston had in the Red Sox, despite the fact that they hadn't won a world championship game since 1918. Despite their bad luck and the so-called 'Curse of the Bambino', the Red Sox Nation stood strong and always supported their team.
She also told Buffy that years earlier, her first Watcher had revealed that the Curse of the Bambino was an actual curse, put on the team by a Vengeance Demon with a chip on her shoulder. The curse was set up in such a way that the Red Sox wouldn't win a Championship game again until some huge cosmic event had happened.
And for Faith, this seemed to be the year of big cosmic events. She was sure that the Sox were going to make it to the final round. The way that the Scooby gang had shut down the Hellmouth? Faith believed that since she was from Boston, the goodness that was due to her would be spread to her home town.
Buffy just laughed to herself and smiled as Faith had explained it all.
She couldn't help but notice that between Faith, and her silly baseball cap, and Harper who couldn't seem to stop wagging his tail whenever he saw Buffy, and the awesome steak sandwiches, and the lore of the city . . . she was quickly falling in love with it all.
And as beautiful as Italy was . . . it just never had the feel of home. It wasn't home.
As the crowds got thicker the closer they got to the entrance, Buffy started to feel a bit overwhelmed. The thought of getting lost in the crowd of rabid fans . . . well, it scared her almost more than any vampire ever had.
Just as she was about to enter panic mode, she felt a hand clasp around hers and looked up to see a smiling Faith looking back at her.
"Don't worry, B. I won't let you go."
From that point on, they were barely able to say more than two words to each other as they were herded through the crowds and up towards the seats. As Faith had said, she never let go of Buffy's hand for a single second. At one point they had almost been separated when Buffy fell behind a few steps and someone tried to walk between them, but Faith had pulled Buffy closer to her and yelled at the guy who was trying to carry his six plastic cups of draft beer back to his seat.
Buffy couldn't help but feel happy with how protective Faith was being of her. How every time she'd fall a step or two back, Faith would be pulling her closer and holding her hand tighter. How Faith would look back at her every few steps to make sure that she was okay.
How Faith wrapped her arm around Buffy's back so casually as they waited in line for the restroom.
It all made Buffy feel so content, so safe. She couldn't remove the smile from her face as much as she'd tried.
When they had finally made it to their seats along the third base line, they decided that to avoid being separated, they wouldn't leave their seats at all. When the vendors began to walk around the stands with their drinks and snacks, Faith made sure to order up two huge cups of beer and the obligatory bag of peanuts. Because, as she explained so carefully, you had to have beer and peanuts at baseball games.
To be perfectly honest, Buffy didn't care that they were at a baseball game. She didn't keep track of sports, nor did she ever really take time to learn much about them. If she didn't learn it in Phys. Ed. class, she didn't know it. Faith had teased her mercilessly about thinking that Fenway Park was a football stadium. In fact, as they sat and watched the first inning of the game, Faith kept turning to her and asking if she was enjoying the 'foosball' game. A la The Waterboy film starring Billy Madison.
Yes, Buffy had seen the movie, and no, she didn't think she was as bad as the lady that called football 'foosball'.
She had explained to Faith over the loud cheering of the crowd, "In my defense, I've been living in Italy since May. I can't be expected to keep up with American sports," to which Faith had replied, "And before you lived in Italy, were you living on Mars?"
Their light and playful mood remained in place for the first few innings, but when it became clear that things might not end up the way Faith was hoping, she instantly became much grumpier. Even though Buffy knew that Faith was probably pretty pissed off, she couldn't help but find the way that Faith was reacting to be pretty endearing.
She watched out the corner of her eye, trying not to make it too obvious, as Faith shouted out random obscenities and razzed on fans of the other team. At one point, Buffy was pretty sure that there would be a brawl between the Red Sox fans and the Yankees fans, led by her very own companion. However, after placing a calming hand on Faith's knee, Faith took a deep breath and tried to mellow out. Faith placed her hand over Buffy's and squeezed it gently.
Neither one of the girls made any effort to move their hands after that.
Buffy chuckled. Faith would just have to show her disapproval with one hand now instead of both.
As the teams entered the final inning of the game, Faith had already pretty much given up hope. Apparently, saving the world from the opening of the Hellmouth wasn't enough of a cosmic event to kick the curse. What it was that would be big enough to do so, she had no idea.
When the scoreboard lit up with the final score and the Yankees fans cheered as if there was no tomorrow, Faith slumped lower in her chair than she already had been and crossed her arms over her chest in disappointment. There would be no World Championship game that year. Just another year of disappointment.
Buffy and Faith remained in their seats as the fans slowly began to filter out of the ball park, disappointment weighing down their spirits. Buffy couldn't have actually cared less if she had tried, but she wanted to be supportive of Faith, who was busy moping away like someone had run over her dog.
"You okay?" Buffy finally asked, once again placing a comforting hand on Faith's knee.
Faith just shrugged and tried to hide under the rim of her cap.
"Yeah, just pissed off a bit, I guess. I really thought this was our year."
As upset as Faith may have been, it didn't stop her from reaching down and taking Buffy's hand in hers, taking what little comfort Buffy could offer her.
"Ah well," Faith said, standing up from her seat and stretching her sore limbs. "I guess there's always next year. Just woulda been really wicked to see it this year . . . yunno, with everything that's happened in the past six months and all."
Buffy stood from her seat and stretched as well, then happily followed as Faith led her out of their row and up the aisle, their shoes crunching over hundreds of peanut shells as they walked.
Out of nowhere, something suddenly hit Buffy.
Between the steak sandwich and the peanut shells and the grumbling brunette leading her out of the ball park, she didn't want to go back to Italy. Dawn was a young woman; she didn't need big sis trying to fill in the role of a mother. She needed to live, and experience things, and be happy.
And Buffy needed the exact same thing.
She wanted to be happy. Somewhere between the big implosion in Sunnydale and the time spent in LA, someone had taught her to be happy; to just sit back and enjoy what you have. Without a doubt, Buffy had enjoyed what she and Faith had in LA. Somehow, she thought she could find happiness by going out into the world and trying to be normal.
The fact was, though, that she wasn't normal. She was far from it. She was a slayer, and a semi-retired slayer at that. A college drop-out. An ex-employee of a fast-food chain. She had dated a tragic vampire, a secret soldier, and an obsessive vampire. She'd saved the world more times in seven years than she could even count.
And somewhere along the line, she fell in love with what used to be her unfortunate enemy.
No, Buffy was far from normal. She couldn't understand exactly why she thought a normal life would work for her, but she knew now that she didn't want it.
She wanted Faith. She wanted to be with her and laugh at whatever life and the Powers That Be threw at them. And for some reason, she knew that, together, they could handle whatever was thrown at them.
Her sudden realizations caused Buffy to stop moving, her feet taking a last few steps before she came to a stop just outside the front entrance of the ball park. The slight feel of Faith tugging on her arm roused her from her thoughts. She looked up with a soft smile to come face to face with Faith who was watching over her carefully.
"You okay?" Faith asked her, taking a step closer so that she could inspect her properly.
Buffy couldn't help but smile, a nervous laugh escaping her.
"I am," she began, "I really think I am."
Faith gave her a slightly confused look and tilted her head to the side. She began to think that maybe Buffy had had a bit too much to drink.
"You wanna sit down, B? I can get you some water, or I can carry you if you're wobbly and stuff . . ."
Buffy laughed at Faith's concern. She tentatively took a step closer to Faith, closing up the remaining space between them. After a moment of hesitating, she looked up at Faith's face and smiled, letting both of her hands rest on Faith's upper arms.
"I loved dinner," Buffy began nervously. "And Harper's so smart, he makes me smile. And I have peanut shells wedged in the bottom of my shoes, and my small supply of vacation money is gonna run out soon, but . . . I don't care."
Faith still looked confused; Buffy really wasn't making any sense to her.
Buffy couldn't help but laugh, both at how little sense she seemed to be making and at how confused poor Faith seemed to be. She tried to clarify herself as best as she could.
"No, I mean . . . I haven't even been here for a full day yet and . . . I love this place. I love the air, and the atmosphere. I love how you know so much about it without really having to know it. I love how you're making me feel, like you really want me here, like you really just want me. But most importantly, I love how I feel like I'm at home after only a half a day."
Faith listened with her brows furrowed, trying not to be too distracted by Buffy's proximity and the way her simple touch affected her. After a few moments of silence, sharing each other's gaze, Faith finally got it. She understood Buffy's rambling.
She grinned, feeling her whole body relax but tense up in anticipation all at the same time.
"How long are you gonna stay for, B?" She asked quietly, dipping her head down a bit to bring her face closer to Buffy's.
Buffy smiled and, very carefully and slowly, lifted Faith's cap from her head and put it on her head backwards so that the rim wouldn't get in the way.
"Well," Buffy began, "I guess I have to give my notice to work, and cancel the lease on my apartment. It may take a while to get settled, but . . ."
"How long are you gonna stay, Buffy?" Faith asked again with a little smile, her head dipping down that last inch so that their lips were nearly brushing together.
Buffy smiled, Faith's warm breath tickling over her lips almost enough to render her unable to speak.
"'Til the Red Sox win the Championship?"
"So, forever then, huh," Faith said with a wink.
The chuckle that they both shared was cut short by their kiss. It was soft and deep, both girls trying their hardest not to smile too big into the kiss. Faith wrapped her arms around Buffy and pulled her close, actually lifting her up about two inches and taking a small spin around with Buffy in her arms.
After a few minutes, Faith set Buffy back down on her wobbly legs. They smiled at one another, Buffy trying to fix Faith's hair under the backwards baseball cap.
"So, does this mean you want me to stay?" Buffy asked with a playful grin.
Faith grinned back and took the hat from her head, putting it carelessly on Buffy's head and laughing as it nearly covered her eyes.
"I'll make a proper Bostonian of you yet, B."
She took Buffy's hand in her own and led her down the street they had been down earlier, not at all fazed by the crowds of people pushing and arguing in the streets trying to find a way home.
They had already found their own way home.
One Year Later . . .
Buffy and Faith lay on the couch in their apartment, surrounded by empty beer bottles and crumpled packets of peanuts. They stared at the TV, almost in shock, as it was formally announced that the Boston Red Sox had won their first World Championship since 1918.
"So, when you said that you'd stay until the Sox won a Championship . . .?" Faith began and let her voice trail off, unable to take her eyes from the TV which showed the pandemonium in the crowd.
"Oh no, you're not getting rid of me THAT easy."
Buffy and Faith chuckled as they continued to watch the TV in amusement, both knowing fully well that their 'forever' would last much longer.