"How many people've signed your gauze?"
From her infirmary bed, Satsu broke out into a slow smile upon hearing her leader's voice. Buffy had been here an hour earlier, holding her hand. For fifty-six seconds. She counted. Did she read anything into it? Why would she do that? Oh, right--the "in love with her" thing. In love and hopeful. Ridiculously so? Jury was still out.
"Think the ink would probably bleed through. Then I'd never get out of here. ‘Cause of a pen," Satsu answered, gingerly touching the gauze on her cheek, as Buffy sat on her bed. Again. "I'd never live it down. The others wouldn't let me."
"But we'd make sure there's color choice. Your blood could be neon. Fun *and* pretty," grinned Buffy. "And they'd hafta answer to me."
The alpha slayer pulled off her shoes, and looked thoughtful. "Mm. Name-signage kinda is the ‘Have a great summer' of medically, heal-y things."
Satsu naturally felt that she had to ask at this point, "How come you're...don't you have other stuff to do?"
"Unless we're sieged, or ‘Twilight' has like, a website with his weaknesses bullet-pointed from biggest to ‘Japanese Game Show' funny...nah. I've just been outside. It was cold," Buffy said as she took off her jacket, which would seem to be counter-productive if she was combating temperature. "'Sides, we Mummy-faced women need to stick together. I didn't want you stuck here all by yourself. Without your iPod."
Satsu accepted it from Buffy, who'd taken it from her pocket. "Thanks."
Then the blonde shut her eyes tight, almost like she was trying to disappear. Satsu had no idea why, but she found it cute.
"Ma'am? Are you okay?"
Buffy opened her eyes, and they stared apologetically. "Sorry, I didn't...I mean, the game shows? They're funny, to me, ‘cause I'm American and anything not American is funny ‘cause it's not American. We're cultural ass-hats, Satsu. *I'm* a cultural ass-hat. I'm gonna take a class, though."
Aww, she actually thought...? "Nah, they suck," the girl concurred.
"Oh. ‘Kay. Scratch the class, then." Buffy then turned herself over so she was lying stomach down on the bed facing the Japanese slayer. "Hey, when it's you and me and off duty, call me ‘Buffy'? I figure after crying in front of someone in love with you, drop the formal. That can be rule three."
She gave a small smile. "And don't tell anybody else? But I kinda hate the title. M' only twenty-four, y'know."
Satsu gave a small smile in return that didn't at all express how much that simple request meant to her. If nothing else, Buffy considered her a friend. "And hot."
It apparently also meant she could give herself permission to be bolder.
"Even Mummy-faced?" Buffy's smile was one of gratitude almost, if that were possible.
Now that hand was on Satsu's. Again. "Can I...ask you something?" The girl wondered.
"As long as it's not math or math-related any at all, yes," the blonde said.
There was a long pause before Satsu got her newly-released boldness bold enough. "I, um, smell good?"
Buffy bit her lip. "Said that, didn't I?" She received a nod. "Crossed a boundary, didn't it?" And another. She planted her face into the blanket. "Stupid, run-on-able mouth."
"Do you like me, Buffy?"
Maybe that was too bold. The kind that led to imminent and swift rejection. A slower, more gradual process would've been best, but her feelings for Buffy Summers had been developing for more than a year now. With them "outted," if there was a chance Buffy could develop whatever her own feelings were at this point, she needed to know.
She was seventeen when Buffy came to her high school in Hokkaido. In the beginning, the Sunnydale survivors were separate, lone recruiters, going around the world. She was the first girl Buffy personally enlisted. She helped her talk to others. Rowena...Leah...but she was first at Buffy's side. She'd been falling in love a long time.
"Why do I feel like I'm back in high school?" Buffy picked her head up. "No, wait, you're not two hundred years old, iffy-Irish and undead. This isn't anything like high school."
She took a breath, then prefaced, "Keeping our ‘graveyard talk' one hundred percent in mind, uh huh, I do. I just dunno if it's for the right reason."
Satsu was lost. "The right reason?"
"I haven't had sex in two years, three months, and days that're still counting. And like I said before--‘graveyard talk'--m' lonely." Buffy squeezed the girl's hand. "You feel something real, with actual emotions attached. If all I feel is ‘cause of being desperate, so my ‘Hulk-angry' libido isn't the pickiest anymore, then, wrong reason. It'd hurt you. And if I can avoid, guess what won't happen?"
Satsu's quick-fire response? "What did I wear when we did the food run in town last week?"
"Your blue s..." Buffy trailed off before she even really got started. "Damn. Okay, score one your side. Looked great in it, by the way."
"I remembered from before. That you noticed."
The almost nineteen-year-old smiled widely now. She had confirmation, and wasn't going to push this. Inside she was thrilled, and anything but the calm, reserved exterior she presented most of the time. Her outlet was usually either slaying or music. Listening and dancing to. And on that note, she began to unravel the ear buds of her iPod.
Buffy noticed as well. "You like...Kemuri, right? I remember that, I think."
"Yeah, they're cool. I love Ska." Satsu tried to scoot herself over as much as possible to free up space on her right.
Blond eyebrows scrunched. "Didn't we kill those?"
The girl laughed. "Wanna listen?"
Buffy accepted the invitation, smiled, and moved up beside her.
Three nights gone and both slayers were absent scars. Buffy found her apprentice and friend in the common room. There was a couch, some bean bag chairs, a pool table, and the obligatory big screen TV. Satsu sat on the couch with laptop resting in her lap. Laptop in lap...made sense. She looked focused.
"Porn or MySpace?" Buffy said lightly, coming up behind the couch and looking over the girl's shoulder. "Because I don't get either."
She could see a smirking reflection in the screen.
"Email. Vi says her trainees are ready for assignments," came the answer.
Buffy picked something off Satsu's shoulder, and used her thumb and forefinger to discard it. "Had a frizz."
She walked around so she could sit next to her and read. After a few minutes, "She'd be a good fit for Andrew's group. With ‘Mohawk Girl' crazed and living the cliché off our reservation, their ranks are a little thin. Your take?"
"Same," Satsu nodded, and scrolled. "I also thought...this girl? Vi calls her ‘Robyn Hood,' which is great, because we need more long-range fighters. Who *want* to be back behind the line. We don't hate crossbows, most of us just...like getting up close."
There was breath on Buffy's cheek; she knew she felt breath. "Evil's fun to hit," she spoke, though she wasn't really concentrating on her words.
"Big Red" gum. That's what it smelled like.
She blinked. "If-if you're gonna suddenly be all flirty, some warning would be nice." She turned her head just enough to look Satsu in the eye, smiling despite herself. "*God* you have the best hair."
Satsu smiled but shrugged. "I don't really do anything..."
Jealousy entered Buffy's hazel eyes. "D'you want me to hate you for the rest of ever? I didn't hear that. And in case *you're* occasionally sometimes deaf, I'll repeat...people who love me have their lives pretty much ended. Violent."
"I'm a slayer...isn't my life going to do that anyway?" Satsu countered.
"There oughta be a ban on all logic that clashes mine. Especially when it's hanging around ‘the future dying of you' topic." Buffy was more serious there than she'd planned on being. "But flirting is dangerous. See? See how we're back to danger?"
Satsu was smart--the Japanese school system was quite good. And those "samurai"-esque sword skills existed *before* slayerfication. When she met her, Buffy became immediately determined to know her. There were lessons she still hadn't learned yet, but she did learn that knowing names, and knowing about the girls behind them, was important.
She'd created this super-extended family. Brought them together from all over the world. Unique cultures, life experiences...unique people. She wanted to be a part of that. To connect. That's why it hurt that she couldn't, not completely. No matter how much they liked her, no matter how quippy, there was some invisible hurdle.
Well, not with everybody. She was close to Satsu. How'd that happen?
"It won't be your fault when I die," declared the girl. "You'd do all you could to keep me alive. Even die instead."
"Sorta perfected it," the elder slayer deadpanned.
"And you would for any girl in any squad. They know it, too. That's why we're fighting, why we'd all volunteer for a week of monitor duty if it meant getting picked to go on a mission," Satsu continued. "Seeing what slaying means to you, makes us wanna be part of it. You're the best--we wanna make you proud. But..."
Buffy, who'd been blushing under the kindness, now sighed. "Here we go."
Over she went to the pool table, and rolled a random ball from one end to the other. It hit and found its way back to her hand.
Satsu pursued, obviously not finished. "First thing I thought was amazing about you? You're the most unselfish person. You'll give up everything to help everyone else, and won't save anything for yourself. ‘Cause you think what you want doesn't matter. It has to be hard...feeling that way. Can tell."
The eighteen-year-old was so earnest, so sincere.
"Somebody has to show you're wrong."
Buffy hopped up on the felt surface, having no power against sincerity. "By flirting with me?"
"Danger. Right," Satsu grinned coyly. "You've seen how sharp I keep my blades--I'll risk it."
She didn't understand what she was saying, she couldn't. Buffy truly believed she was love-cursed. Nor was she any great catch. There was near a decade of evidence to back that up. Though she had a feeling Satsu would ignore all of it.
Truth be told, Buffy wanted to plead ignorance herself. In two years, three months, and way too many days, she hadn't wanted to kiss someone as much as she did at this moment. And what she was being offered sounded really, *really* nice.
"Why?" Buffy asked so quietly, she wasn't even sure she had.
"Why're you in love with me?" She honestly had no idea, and she could tell her question broke Satsu's heart.
She felt a warm hand on her cheek, and her head tilted of its own accord, to try to get more contact.
"Give me a chance to help you see," Satsu requested.
Buffy's eyes were closed because she feared her willpower would give out if they weren't. "I so want to."
"You mean it?" Satsu had been running the show until that surprised question, like she couldn't believe her amazing boss actually did.
"Thought that was in my head," said the blonde, turning a little red. "But...I wouldn't've said if I didn't."
"Better...kiss me then," encouraged her protégé with bravery that came from she knew not where. "Or I guess you could always just chicken out."
Buffy's eyes snapped open. "I'm a chicken ‘cause I want you breathing?"
"No," Satsu answered, looking a little less confident now that she'd insulted the woman she was trying to court, "because you're afraid of being happy."
In that second, Buffy both loved and hated Satsu for understanding her so well. Understanding her multileveled fear, and that she couldn't back down from a challenge. It was the "Marty McFly" influence. She used her sweaty palms to push off the pool table.
‘What am I doing, what am I doing, what am I doing, what am I doing? It's doomed. She's doomed. And, hey, she's a she. I'm a she! Two, doomed shes here. What are we doing? Leaning in...stay in moment, Buffy. Wait, I'm completely out of practice. I could have ‘Mom Lips'...why's this feel like I haven't done this before? Uh, ‘cause you haven't? You only get one, first kiss. It's not like we can take....'
‘Wow, I think I'm buying stock in that gum. Shit, this feels so good. Shouldn't feel...feel...her tongue or my tongue? Ya-huh, girl kissage is...holding its own with that other, and-and what the...? Know it's been a while, but *Jesus*. Don't wanna be doomed, don't wanna be doomed, don't wanna...oh my god. I knew she felt, you know, because of Amy's spell, but...I didn't know. I had no idea. Oh god, I can't, I need....'
She was in tears, while Satsu's arms hugged her neck. "Thank you."
Their foreheads rested against one another, and Satsu's hot, cinnamon-flavored breath blew steadily and heavily against her lips. "W...why? Are we done?"
"Morning, guys." Buffy walked down the steps into the barn, speaking into her coffee cup.
"Morning, Buf," Xander greeted.
"Yeah, hey, sis," said her giant-ized sister.
She wasn't looking at them as she entered. She was a little distracted.
"Y'know, Dawn? I think your sister's turning Japanese," he commented, conversationally.
The brunette cocked her head curiously. "You think she's turning Japanese?"
He nodded. "I really think so."
Buffy just turned back around and went back from whence she came. Halfway up, she resisted the urge to position her finger into making a rather obscene gesture. Instead, she bent down, rubbed her hand along the extremely dust-gathered, stone step, and stood again. With palm up, she gave a healthy blow.
In a matter of seconds, Dawn's nose was twitching something fierce. "Ah, ahh..."
"Oh, *hell* no." Xander's eye bugged. "Quick! Get Rick Moranis! A Kleenex factory needs to be blowed up good!"
The blonde continued on her way.
Later that afternoon, Buffy walked the grounds of their Scottish castle, just "happening" upon Satsu's weapons training. There were three pairs of girls sparring with each other. Satsu walked among them, critiquing and suggesting technique. When she saw the blonde, she navigated the fighting to her.
"They look sharp. Like a bunch of...sharp things." Buffy was running on autopilot--she was clueless as to what they looked like. "Don't wanna interrupt, I just, um, hi. I was gonna go eat at that touristy place that thinks they make real cheese steaks. Do you wanna, you know, have m...?"
She blushed. "*With* me. Have *with* me. Have food. Or are they...?"
"No," Satsu said smiling, and it took her a second to work out why Buffy would frown at this. "No! That's not what...I didn't mean..." Hell. She took a break until she got her tongue to cooperate. "Almost done. Ma'am."
Buffy nodded. "Okay, I'll go get the bike. That's fine, right? For--?"
"Yeah, it's...bikes are good." Then Satsu looked down at her outfit in a sudden panic. "Should I change, or, is-is this okay? ‘Cause I can."
"It's, you're...you-looking," said the blonde lamely. "Which, yay. Unless you wanna change."
"I think we're--"
"Overthinking?" Buffy smirked, shaking her head. "Go ahead. Finish. I'll wait."
Satsu noticed that nobody was sparring anymore. In fact, they were giggling. She crossed her arms and narrowed her eyes.
"Three laps. Two miles each." Beat. "Well? Anytime."
When she began to reach behind her for the hilt of her favorite sword, they chose to start running.
"Do I learn? Is it different *any* other time? Even slightly?" Buffy groused, her back pressed up against the underside of a thick, oak table that was turned on its end. "I tell myself, 'Avoid the tourist traps. You know the locals can't not get into a pissing contest with the Ameri-demons. One slur and it's fireballs all over.'"
She paused briefly there. "I'm craving anything close to home-like lately. But then they sneak the haggis in," she complained, turning metaphorically green. "I don't trust Scotland anymore."
"Do we have a plan?" Satsu said after a moment.
"People are clear, so we keep them contained inside." The blonde risked peeking. "They're pretty involved with scorching each other, but one of us is probably gonna hafta draw literal fire before we're paying damages."
She paused again for the screeching, and wore an apologetic expression. "Welcome to the wide, wild world of ‘Buffy dating.'"
"It," Crashing noise, "seems a lot like that world where," Satsu winced upon hearing bone snap, "I wasn't. Except..." Then she made the spontaneous decision to kiss her girlfriend. "...for that. When I'm awake."
"The differences're subtle yet many." Buffy had her top lip run along her bottom. "And in the history of awesome ‘thats,' yours wins."
Now it was time to leave.
"Kitchen on three. Do your thing, then be behind me," instructed Buffy.
"From now on? *Always* be behind me is most definitely rule four. I order zero moving."
Satsu's hands expertly massaging her neck was an activity that would quickly leapfrog the consuming of chocolate.
There was a protectiveness to their touch that she could find herself getting used to. Was already getting used to. Part of her sang that same, old, pessimistic song, but then hands kneaded it far away. All tender-like.
She had the standard objections: Satsu was too young, Satsu was lacking a penis, she was Satsu's boss, it could divide their ranks, doomed...Satsu *couldn't* love her. But she was trying this thing where she just shut up.
Because she could *feel* the love. Every time fingers applied pressure, every time her hair fell in the way and had to be brushed aside, every time her tank top's strap moved millimeters so Satsu could lay kisses around her shoulder. The girl clearly grasped the emotional ins and outs much better than Buffy herself did.
In this instance, she was the student. She could learn by example. And did she love her back?
Being that she still had learning to do, she wasn't prepared to say. But knowing she made Satsu happy (however she was managing it), caused happy feelings inside, and she wanted them to continue. So no more sleeping with other girls. No way. Er, platonically sleeping, of course.
Damn it, she was in a relationship. And damn it, her floodgates were opening wide, which was bad timing. As much as she trusted her body to find its way around new territory, as much as she was considering...if it happened tonight, then their gestating relationship would become stillborn. At least, in her mind it would.
Sex would happen because they'd slain today and because she was in bed with a girl who had nice hands and smelled nice and who would be making love. Buffy made love once upon a time, and until she was ready to again, she wouldn't have sex for sex's sake. Again.
The best kind expressed something, had meaning. Huh. "Romantic Buffy" yet lived.
Sex was the ultimate share-all. You were trusting someone enough to show how imperfect you really were. For her, sex and love had to go hand in hand. Her "Spike-capades" got it twisted in her head; she had yet to recover.
Would Satsu wait?
"This is going too...something," Buffy contentedly said, her head drooping forward.
Satsu's mouth was by her ear. "We can sleep."
Just like that, Satsu wasn't massaging. She was crawling up the bed and turning down the covers, leaving Buffy whimpering like a deprived puppy. Contact was (or had been) good.
By the time they were both comfy, Buffy had contact back, spooning her bedfellow, nose buried in dark, soft, long locks of great hair. Safe, warm, not alone. Yeah, she was hooked.
"Kyoko's gonna be jealous," realized Satsu.
How adorable was it that Satsu, her cool, bad ass girlfriend (whose "thing" at the restaurant chopped many pieces), still had her stuffed, magenta hippo from childhood? Rumor was, she had a whole collection of various-sized hippopotami, including the one hair-worn. Buffy suddenly needed Mr. Gordo.
"Once he's moved in, he'll deal better," Buffy assured her.
"*She's* moving in?" Satsu emphasized the proper pronoun, surprised.
"Well...s' a big bed," said Buffy, smiling apologetically for her faux-pas. "That we're sharing."
Tomorrow she'd ask herself where that offer came from.
"We...? Oh. Okay," spoke Satsu, the smile evident in those three, short words.
Rushing into sex was one thing, but rushing into this part? Buffy could see no downside. Technically they were already living together anyway, and she *did* have a big bed...
Damn it, she was in a relationship. Thank god.