The night before she and Faith were scheduled to leave, Buffy snuck over to the Calendar-Giles house and found Giles kissing Jenny on the front porch. A year or so ago, this would have led to awkwardness for almost all parties involved—Giles falling over himself to look respectable, Buffy nauseated, Jenny looking a mixture of pleased and embarrassed—but they were married now, and Giles kissing his wife wasn’t quite as weird as Giles kissing his girlfriend, so Buffy mostly just smiled a little and looked down to give them some privacy. Giles pulled away, gave Jenny a last quick kiss on the cheek, and murmured something to her about the children, to which Jenny responded by patting him on the shoulder and heading inside.
Buffy loved her own mom, obviously, but sometimes she was a little jealous that Willow and Xander and Faith all got to be Giles and Jenny’s children. These feelings never had enough time to take root, though, because Giles would always turn to look at her with that fond, proud look that she knew was only for her—much as he was doing right now—and she’d remember that she was always his kid too. “Last I recall,” he said, “you and Faith were leaving in the morning. Weren’t we all planning to see you off then?”
Buffy shrugged, smiling a little awkwardly. “I wanted to stop by and say hi,” she said. “In a non-goodbye context.”
Giles opened the front door and stepped inside. Buffy followed.
The living room was a little bit in disarray. Xander and Cordelia were packing Xander’s suitcase for Paris, and seemed to be in a playful argument regarding which terrible shirts he would and wouldn’t be taking with him. Willow and Jenny were packing up some of Giles’s books in an already-overstuffed suitcase, and having a cheerful conversation about magical theory as they did so. Faith, sprawled on the couch, was making no attempt to pack at all, and grinned hugely when she saw Buffy. “Hey, b,” she said. “Ready for tomorrow?”
“Just about,” said Buffy, fluttering her fingers in a shy wave as she followed Giles into the kitchen.
There was a photo on the fridge that caught Buffy’s eye and made her smile—a new one, from Giles and Jenny’s wedding, and the complete perfection of the shot made it clear that Cordelia had taken it. Jenny and Faith were laughing, Jenny’s arms thrown around Faith’s shoulders from behind, Faith’s head turned towards Jenny. They were both rumpled, dirt smudging Jenny’s cheek and Faith’s white shirt, but they both looked so happy—
Giles saw where Buffy was looking, and smiled. “They really do love each other quite a lot,” he said.
“No, it’s—” Buffy waved a hand, smiling a little herself. “I know that. I just sometimes—you know Jenny never used to smile that big till she became a Scooby?”
Giles’s smile softened, and he glanced quietly over through the open doorway. Buffy did too. Jenny was taking books off the shelves, laughing at something Xander had just said, and—she did look happy. Really happy. Buffy liked that.
“Would you like hot chocolate?” said Giles abruptly, going all pink in the way he did whenever he’d snapped back from gazing moonily at his wife.
“Honestly, that’s pretty much the only reason I came here,” said Buffy, swinging herself up to sit on the kitchen counter. Giles pointedly tapped her knee; she pretended not to notice. “And with marshmallows, obviously—”
“Buffy, do not sit on the counter,” said Giles, “I have enough trouble getting Faith not to do it, and if she sees you—”
“Then she’ll know I’m your favorite?” said Buffy, giving Giles a winning grin.
Giles rolled his eyes a little and took out the hot chocolate mix, beginning to work on a mug. “You are a world of trouble,” he said, but Buffy could see the small smile tugging at his lips. “I fear Faith won’t get any of her summer homework done with you and your bad influence.”
It was strange, but stuff like that didn’t sting even a little bit when Giles said it. From other adults, it had always felt like a knife to the gut, but Giles said it…laughingly, like the thought of Buffy being a bad influence was the biggest joke in the world.
“You know, I’m gonna miss you over the summer?” she said.
Giles looked up, a touched grin blossoming. “I can always write,” he said.
“I’d actually really like that,” said Buffy. “Can you tell me about England while you’re there? I only went once, and it was when I was eight, and all I remember was that I kinda puked on some guy’s shoes because I ate an entire jar of marmalade at the hotel when my mom wasn’t looking.”
Giles pressed his lips together, eyes sparkling with mirth. “Well,” he said. “Good to know you were always terrifyingly determined.”
“Oh, totally,” said Buffy. “The strength is mystical, but the go-getter attitude is pure, undistilled Buffy.”
Handing her the mug, Giles curled her fingers around it, resting his hands over hers in a way that kind of felt as big and meaningful as a hug. “I’m very proud of you,” he said. “You’ve come incredibly far in the last three years.”
“You too,” said Buffy, the words bubbling out of her exactly as she thought them. At Giles’s surprised look, she clumsily elaborated, “I—I wouldn’t have been able to grow if you hadn’t grown a little too, you know? I mean, the Giles I met would so not be okay with me and my girlfriend driving off on a summer-long road trip.”
“The Giles you met was also a Watcher,” said Giles, and made a little face. Buffy laughed.
“Giles?” said Willow, poking her head in. “Jenny wants to know—oh, hi, Buffy,” she added, giving Buffy a grin and a little wave. “Giles, Jenny wants to know if you’ve seen The Illustrated Compendium of—”
“Infamous Cursed Artifacts?” Giles finished. “Tell her it’s in our bedroom, she was using it to cross-check that article last week.”
Willow gave Giles a thumbs-up and ducked back out of the kitchen.
“Why do you need seventeen thousand books, anyway?” Buffy asked, taking a sip of her hot chocolate.
“Summer reading for Willow,” said Giles. “I’ve instructed my aunts not to teach her advanced magic under any circumstances, as they’re far too flighty and irresponsible to give her a proper and thorough lesson.”
“You think that’ll work?” said Buffy doubtfully.
“Oh, no,” said Giles, and grinned. “They’ll do their damnedest to prove me wrong. Willow could stand to learn a lot from them, but they won’t take it seriously unless they feel like their abilities are being doubted.”
“Sneaky!” said Buffy, giggling.
“Jenny says it’s not in the bedroom—” Willow informed Giles.
“Has she looked?” said Giles. Directing a wry, apologetic look in Buffy’s direction, he added, “You’ll excuse me, but my wife—” (he blushed, grinning) “—requires my assistance.”
“No big,” said Buffy. “I was really only here for the hot chocolate.”
Giles rolled his eyes a little, leaned down, and gave Buffy a quick, gentle hug, careful not to jostle the hot chocolate. “Do try to get to bed at a reasonable hour,” he said. “Your mum knows you’re here?”
“Uh,” said Buffy.
“I’ll phone her,” said Giles, letting go of Buffy to smooth down her hair. Following Willow out of the kitchen, he called in his wife’s direction, “Dear, if you had looked—”
And then it was just Buffy, alone in Giles’s kitchen with her hot chocolate. She was going to miss this kitchen, she thought; she’d been at Giles and Jenny’s house a lot lately, mostly to sneak in and see Faith and knock things over and inevitably get caught by Giles or Jenny anyway. But there was something really silly and wonderful about the subterfuge, even if it wasn’t necessary: it felt so deliciously normal, sneaking out of the house late at night for girlfriendly smooches. Patrol had nothing on Faith.
The girl in question stuck her head round the door, then grinned. “Watcher’s pet,” she said. “Giles gives me so much shit when I try and do that.”
Buffy scooted over on the counter; Faith hopped up next to her. “How’s that summer homework going?” she asked.
“Fair enough.” Buffy scooted closer to Faith, resting her cheek on her shoulder. She felt Faith’s arm slip around her side, and that now-familiar rush of warmth, and god, she was so looking forward to a whole summer with just this girl. Her girl. “You all packed for tomorrow?”
“Uh,” said Faith. Buffy couldn’t help but start giggling. “Stop—stop,” objected Faith, a laugh in her voice, “it’s under control!”
“Yeah, I can tell!” Buffy giggled. “That’s why you’re not packing right now, right? Because it’s all under control?”
“Y’know what?” said Faith. “I don’t want to talk about this,” and caught a laughing Buffy’s face in her hands, kissing her softly. “New lip gloss?” she murmured.
“Mm,” said Faith, a pleased little noise that might have been about the lip gloss but was probably about the kiss. “Hey, we’re gonna have three months of hotel rooms, b. You ready for that?”
“What?” said Buffy very loudly, jerking back and hitting her head on one of the cabinets behind her. Faith’s eyes widened, full of concern, and Buffy tried to tell her racing heart to calm the hell down already. “What—um, I—I mean, you—”
“Everything okay in here?” said Jenny, peering into the kitchen. Her worried expression gave way to one of mild annoyance. “Okay, see, this is why Rupert and I don’t want people sitting on the counters. Those cabinets are recipes for a head injury, and I feel like my husband already has the monopoly on that.”
“Ha ha,” said Giles from the living room.
“Sorry, Jen,” said Faith, hopping down from the counter with genuine remorse. Turning, she extended a tentative hand to Buffy, looking almost as though she expected Buffy not to take it. “And sorry, Buffy. If that was—I mean, we can take it slow—”
Jenny cleared her throat.
“Shit,” said Faith, coloring. “Uh. We were really just talking about, um, kissing, and, um, kissing.”
“You two are old enough to make those decisions,” said Jenny patiently. “I just kinda figured you might not want me in the room for them.” With a last “Don’t sit on the counters!” she hurried back into the living room.
Faith and Buffy were left in an awkward, nervous silence. Visibly steeling herself, Faith blurted out, “I-I don’t wanna make you feel uncomfortable, Buffy. I just—”
“Oh my gosh, no, it’s totally fine,” Buffy babbled, well aware that she was talking much louder than she probably should be. “I mean, I had sex with Angel, it’s not like this is something I’ve never ever done before, just—you know, it took me by surprise! But I would totally love to have sex with you at some point. Absolutely. One hundred percent.”
Faith had gone very pink. Buffy was just about to try and backpedal even further when she realized—
“Um, maybe shut the door when you’re having really loud conversations with your girlfriend?” squeaked a furiously blushing Willow from the doorway, and stepped up, firmly closing the kitchen door.
Buffy didn’t dare look at Faith. With a soft groan, she dropped her face into her hands. “Foot, meet mouth,” she mumbled.
“The last thing I wanna do is spin you round, baby,” said Faith gently, tugging Buffy’s hands away from her face. “And I didn’t mean for it to sound like—I just like getting to be with you, y’know? I like waking up with you next to me.”
“I have bed head,” said Buffy weakly.
“Eh,” said Faith. “Can’t be worse than mine.”
“Yeah, but you make it look seductive—”
Faith grinned a little, and leaned in, pressing her mouth gently to Buffy’s.
Except the thing was, all of a sudden, Buffy couldn’t stop thinking about it. They were in her girlfriend’s bedroom, Faith lying on her stomach with an arm thrown across Buffy’s hip, and suddenly Buffy was feeling ridiculous for not thinking about it. She’d honestly been so blown away by Faith—crushing on Faith, kissing Faith, being in love with Faith—that sex didn’t really even enter the equation in the same way it had with Angel. And how did two girls have sex, anyway? How was that supposed to work? Faith was the first girl Buffy had ever let herself admit she was attracted to—she’d never had to consider what having sex with a girl might be like.
Obviously Faith wasn’t going to press the issue, especially not now that Buffy had been so visibly freaked out about it, but—
But the thing was, Buffy couldn’t stop thinking about it.
She’d had sex with Angel. Obviously. Everything with Angel had always felt amplified and huge; he’d been her first love, after all. Sex with Angel had been like that—lots of big, scary, emotional moments, but most pervasive had been the sense of safety. They’d come together after a terrible, terrifying night, and in his arms, she’d felt protected. It had been the first and only time she’d felt like everything might really be okay.
Sex with Angel hadn’t really been much about the sex. More about the Angel. And it was a little weird thinking about it, now, without all the swoony emotional baggage that made Buffy want to drop everything and run into his arms. There was still that little corner of her heart that would probably always love him, but…
Faith snorted in her sleep, rolling onto her side and wrapping her arms further around Buffy, and Buffy felt herself smile. There were so many dumb, wonderful things that she loved about her dumb, wonderful girlfriend—lots of littler things that she’d found out in the few months they’d been officially dating. Faith snored, and she sometimes laughed so hard she wheezed, and she liked Red Vines and contact sports, and she’d punch anyone out to protect any Scooby, even Cordelia for some reason.
Being with Faith felt just as big as Angel, but in a different way. If Buffy was swept up in loving Angel, she was grounded by loving Faith.
Swoony romantic talk aside, though, there was the actual problem at hand: all of a sudden, Buffy was thinking about what it might be like to have sex with Faith, and it was like some door had opened in her brain that she couldn’t shut. Because Faith already made those soft, wanting little noises when they kissed—what would it be like to hear more of those noises, more drawn-out, more longing—what would it be like if she whispered Buffy Buffy I need you I want you I love you—what would it be like if her hands were against Buffy’s bare skin and—
Buffy whimpered, rolling over and hiding her face in the pillow. This wasn’t a problem she’d ever expected to have. She’d wanted sex with Angel in terms of Angel; she wasn’t used to wanting someone so badly that she burned with it, and she had no idea how to handle it. Especially not with Faith so close, making snuffly, sleepy noises, not when Faith thought Buffy was innocent and nervous, not when Faith was holding back for Buffy’s sake—
“Buffy,” Faith whispered, voice low and throaty in that just-woke-up kind of way. “Buffy, you okay?”
“Uh, yeah,” said Buffy, a little high-pitched. “Just—you know—excited! For tomorrow!”
Faith tugged at Buffy’s hip, rolling Buffy over to face her, and gave her a soft, slow, toe-curling kiss. She pulled away only to nestle her head in the crook of Buffy’s neck, letting out a sleepy little sigh that felt like an electric shock against Buffy’s skin. “Get some sleep, b,” she mumbled.
They set off pretty early the next morning, and since they were the first of the Scoobies to leave, everyone was there to see them off. Giles pressed a wrapped summer-vacation gift into Buffy’s hands (it was pretty obviously a book), Jenny, Oz, and Xander helped Faith with the luggage, Cordelia sort of stood around making snarky comments about what everyone was doing/wearing (which, Buffy was quickly learning, was her way of being friendly), and Willow tugged Buffy off to the side to give her a giggly hug.
“You and Faith!” she said excitedly. “Road trip! That’s completely the stuff that all the best rom-coms are made of.”
“About that,” said Buffy, and tugged Willow farther off to the side, pretending that they were examining the little patch of flowers Giles had planted a few weeks ago. She hesitated, then said, “Will, I think I might—um, I think I kind of want to—”
Willow turned a little pink, but still grinned. “I mean, I did hear you talking to her last night,” she said. “You were kinda loud. And flustered.”
“I know,” Buffy groaned. “It was terrible. I got all panicky, and now she thinks I want to take things slow, but now that she’s brought it up, I just—” She looked over Willow’s shoulder; Faith, wearing an obscenely tiny pair of jean shorts, was loading a particularly overstuffed suitcase into the truck with effortless dexterity. Oh boy. “Will, I like Faith,” she said helplessly. “And not just in the—you know, obviously she’s adorable and wonderful and the best girlfriend ever, but all of a sudden there’s a part of my brain that really wants to—um—”
“Jump her bones?” Willow finished, blush deepening.
“Yeah,” said Buffy ruefully.
Willow considered this. “I mean, I get it, a little bit,” she said shyly. “We came out at around the same time, you know? I think part of it might be because Faith is the first girl you’ve ever admitted you want to even kiss, and that’s such a long time to keep all that girl-related crushy stuff under wraps.”
“Yeah,” said Buffy again, emphatically. “It’s like it’s been all bottled up and now all of a sudden it’s there! And I never had to deal with that when it came to Angel, but now I’m feeling, like, a year’s worth of Faith-related feelings that I didn’t even know I had!” She huffed, frustrated. “And now we’re going on a road trip, and I’m going to have to spend the entire time not jumping her, because I’m pretty sure she thinks I want to take things slow, and she’s being so nice about it that I can’t just tell her I’m a total flip-flopper—”
“Um, Buffy,” said Willow, “Faith’s pretty much wanted to jump your bones since day one. If you tell her you’ve changed your mind, I don’t think she’s going to be all that upset about it.”
“Yeah, but—” Buffy sighed. “I don’t know,” she said. “I just really don’t want to mess this up.”
“You won’t,” said Willow, squeezing her hands. “You’re the least messy-uppy person I know.”
“What about Angel?”
“Totally extenuating circumstances,” said Willow emphatically. “You’re going to kill it, okay? You’re going to have a great summer and you’re going to have great sex with your great girlfriend and you’re going to tell me all about it so I know how to do it when I have a girlfriend.”
That made Buffy giggle. “You have fun in England, okay?” she said. “Make sure you get at least five embarrassing baby pictures from Giles’s aunts. I need blackmail material.”
“I heard that,” said Giles mildly, but he sounded more amused than annoyed. “Buffy, the car’s ready, if you—?”
Buffy hugged Willow, then Giles, then skipped over to the car to throw her arms around Jenny and Xander. Waving to Cordelia and Oz, she said, “I hope you guys all have an amazing summer,” and clambered into the front seat.
Faith tugged at Buffy’s arm, then, when Buffy turned to look at her, gave her a quick, smacking kiss—the kind of playful hello kiss that Buffy had always wanted. “You ready?” she said.
“The readiest,” said Buffy, and tried her best to believe it.