Story: A Cinnamon Girl (all chapters)

Authors: Pat Kelly

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Chapter 1

Title: One-Three


"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.


"You too."

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 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?"

"Yes, Ma'am."

"Smart ass."

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, what?"

"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 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'," 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."

Sleep. Yes.


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.

Chapter 2

Title: Four-Six


"It's our best lead. *Only*," Buffy said a week or so later, trying to convince Satsu as she used the punching bag in the gym. "We should recon it."

Satsu held the other side, remembering their portal-ing into the well-funded, California military base. "We did. Sort of."

"Doesn't count while you're battling," replied the blonde as she round housed the bag.

"They don't like us--learned that much okay." The dark-haired slayer understood Xander's fear. "And if a girl got caught, or worse..."

"I'd make ‘worse' happen back," Buffy admitted, punctuating that promise with a hefty uppercut.

Satsu's brown eyes expressed a silent, ‘Exactly.'

"Mr. Harris wants to be careful. Wants *you* to be." She then said with concern, "So do I. Twilight knows you, Buffy. What if he was trying to get you angry and throw you off because--?"

"Because he knew I'd look for any excuse to rush in with a ‘Schwarzenegger'-style attack plan? From pre-politics?" Buffy questioned, interrupting. "To use on people."

She lowered her fists and stood there, out of breath. "Fine. *Mr. Harris* has a point. But hey, aren't you supposed to always agree how better *my* points are?"

Coming around the bag, the younger's gaze found its way to certain points, a pair of points, which due to the workout seemed to be pointing quite well. Then Buffy looked down at herself, and feeling a surge of self-consciousness and something else, crossed arms to cover them up. But in so doing, there was nothing to hide her reddening face with.

"Other points. Different points. Verbal points," Buffy clarified, noticing the towel draped over the horse and going to grab it. For to wipe sweat. "I need a yogurt."

"I'm sorry." Satsu lowered her head.

Seconds passed, and there was a finger under her chin, guiding it up again.

"For what?" Buffy asked.

"I made you uncomfortable."

"You didn't," assured the blonde. "Don't ever apologize for the looking at and the wanting. Causes a massive happy...honest. And makes me think I might actually be attractive."

Satsu wondered how Buffy could be such a confident slayer while having such a poor self-image. Not just physically, but also of herself as a person. Satsu could see it in her eyes--beyond her inspiring resume as a superhero, Buffy didn't think she had much to offer anyone.

She saw herself as this black hole, so she kept herself apart from most people in order to not bring them down. How much of that was a self-fulfilling prophecy? Probably too much.

"Tessa only took me down when we used to spar because she knew I'd always watch, um..." It was Satsu's turn to redden, but she concentrated on her point. "I'm kind of attracted to you. If I wasn't, my face wouldn't have bruised as easy."

"Or, you could've, I dunno, fallen on it maybe less?" Buffy gave her lips a thankful peck. "I wanna believe. Least, the hormones on parade, do. But my brain just remembers sex equaling pain."

Whatever she remembered, she winced because of it. "Anyway, there've been serious trust issues between mind ‘n body since. Nothing to do with--"

"Daniel Craig my patootie," a voice said abruptly from the doorway.

It belonged to a hurt-looking, Willow Rosenberg.

Satsu was willing to follow her girlfriend's lead at this juncture. As always. Miss Rosenberg was her friend--the redhead scared most everyone else. They respected her ability and were grateful for its help, while fearing at the same time.

Buffy wasn't scared of her, though. "Satsu, can you...? Willow and I hafta talk."

"Yeah." Satsu's hand slipped into the blonde's, and she felt it squeezed before exiting the room.



More silence.

Then, "You have girl-smoochies? Since when d'you have girl-smoochies?"

And with that question, and the way Willow asked it, Buffy again felt returned to high school. "How long've you been there?" She asked in return.

Willow looked guilty. "Long enough to see you and smoochies. With a girl." The next thing she said almost sounded like, well, the slayer couldn't tell. "She loves you, Buffy."

But it didn't sound approving, that's for sure.

"What's that supposed to mean?" Buffy wondered, defensive.

The redhead flinched. "Well, uh, you said how it's been a long year, and--"

"Yeah, it has. But you weren't here to know that; you have no clue what it was like. For me or Xander. Any of us. And just because you don't..." Buffy stopped herself, trailing off.

She was going to say things if she continued. Things she wouldn't be able to take back.

Willow obviously wanted to tear down what remained of their...whatever they had between them these days. "Wha...what don't I?" At least she was hesitant about it.

"Forget it, Will." The blonde went over to the small sofa underneath the window.

Talking was hard.

Willow suddenly just sat down on the spot where she'd been standing, apparently unable or unwilling to support her own weight anymore. "I don't like here. How're we here?"

"I'm guessing life," Buffy said in a sigh directed at the window. "You got witchy and gay and powerful...I got dead, some girl came back after and got Tara dead...and then somewhere, we stopped knowing each other. So shutting up? Safer."

The redhead's objection to that took a little too long to arrive. "She died because of me. I did it."

"Which you couldn't've if you didn't pull me out, ‘cause then there'd be no me for Warren to shoot," Buffy pointed out. "Tara would still be alive, you'd be happy. And now you're keeping Kennedy away so I can't kill her too."

She finally looked the witch in the eye. "That isn't what hurts, though. Know I'm a curse; not new, or wrong. But even we are, I'd still choose my best friend. No matter what."

She watched Willow's eyes avert from hers. "Thought it'd always be vice-versa'd."

"'t not versa'd," came Willow's soft, confusing, double-negative answer. "That was for ‘Girlfriend Only' ears. You weren't supposed to hear."

Buffy asked cynically, "That makes it not true?"

"I dunno," Willow sighed. "Nothing makes sense anymore."

Hearing this, the slayer had the feeling that she'd been right about something. The same something that made her bite her tongue a minute ago. Screw safe. Where had it gotten them?

"This is the right club then," she told her friend, trying for a small smile. "But just because you don't love your girlfriend doesn't mean I can't love mine. Does she know about ‘Snake Lady'?"

Willow's head snapped up and her mouth opened, but nothing came out. For someone so powerful, she had nothing to fight back with. "No. Goddess no."

Both women quieted a while until she asked, "I'm gone a couple weeks and she's your girlfriend? You can't be gay now. I'm gay now."

Because of course, she thought it made her unique. Made her special. Same with the Craft. Before them, Willow had never thought very highly of herself. At least they had that in common.

Anyhow, clearly further discussion of Kennedy wasn't to occur, which was just fine.

"If I am, somebody better clue my dreams in," Buffy blushed. "I dunno know what I am--kinda the point. But I know I like her."

"Or maybe you just like her liking you," Willow posited, boldly.

All right, so Buffy wasn't the only one with gloves off. "It's nice to have someone liking me again," she conceded. "I've been ‘Honest, Upfront Buffy' the whole time. I didn't promise Satsu anything. We're just trying this."

Here she started to grin.

"What?" Willow's curiosity made her question.

"M' just thinking about..." Without realizing it, Buffy's thinking became words. "Her grandfather? He was a fisherman. Like, the far out, And she went to live with him after her parents kinda...disowned her, so she's big on, uh, fish trivia.

"Anyway, we were watching the Discovery Channel last night, and they must've gotten their facts mix-y, because it was the first time I saw her, you know, mad. *Mad* mad. She always keeps her cool. Why she's my best slayer. It was..."

"Cute?" Now the redhead grinned too.

Oh, was Willow there? Buffy felt immediately shy. "Maybe."

That grin on Willow's face possibly meant she was starting to be won over. "Did she tell you about her grandfather?"

"Learned plenty of interesting facts and tidbits. About all the girls. Been living with ‘em for a year. It's not like Sunnydale--that's what you haven't seen," the blonde insisted. "Will, I didn't rob that bank because power's corrupting. I robbed it so every, single slayer who joins, is gonna have what they need to fight, live, not starve...and be able to have downtime when they don't die. I had to.

"Doing that spell made it my responsibility; I get what we did. Swore I wasn't gonna be the Council. I was gonna care who they were, and help them."

This was one area where she felt absolutely confident. "I'd rob it over. You can hate me for it, but I would." With a deep breath, she pushed off the sofa. "Need a shower. My smell says so."

"I don't hate you, Buf," Willow said as the petite woman walked by. "There's all this Kennedy stuff and brand new ‘You' stuff, and my brain wants to make it fit inside. I'm really trying. ‘Cause I miss you."

"I do, too. There's this best friend I miss more though," Buffy returned the sentiment, before halting at the door. "Might not've figured out who's in here, or why I'm wanted as a girlfriend, but, pretty sure who I have smoochies with doesn't answer much. ‘Gay,' ‘Straight,' ‘The Slayer'...I just wanna be ‘Buffy.'

"But however you feel about Kennedy, you have to eventually tell her the what and the why it happened. She deserves it, and c'mon, have secrets ever worked in this family?" She smiled here. "Maybe after you explain it to her, I can be next. Kinda like to get to know who my Willow is these days."

Then she walked out.



Satsu just came back to collect the last of her things. As soon as she'd stepped inside the room she'd shared with other slayers of her generation, cardboard box in hand, she was met with cold stares. All but Leah and Rowena cleared out.

"What did I do?"

"Besides shaggin' the boss?" Leah asked, her Scottish accent sounding disbelieving that Satsu wouldn't know.

"We don't...we aren't...*shaggers*," Satsu said bashfully and somewhat defensively, walking past her friends to her now, old bed. "You guys know how I feel about her."

"Sure, *ve* do," Rowena said, blonde hair escaping from under a backwards, baseball cap.

She followed as the box was set down.

Leah too, adding, "And the young ones just turn all giggly."

"But dey," Rowena resumed, throwing her thumb behind her and toward the door, "figure this is how you climbed your vay to da head of Buffy's class. Now you think you're better than us."

"Well she's not bloody better than me." Upon making that pronouncement, Leah smirked.

"I'm not," Satsu agreed seriously, very respectful of their skills. "Buffy put all three of us in charge."

Because they could handle themselves as well as the responsibility.

"So why am I the only one pissing people off?" Then here came the sarcasm. "Both must be having sex with her too, right?" And the thing was, she wasn't even. Regrettably.

"We ain't the ones off to her bedroom ev'ry night, are we?" Leah said by way of explanation.

"I just wanna help make her happy." Satsu turned and sank herself down onto the mattress. "Not my fault they don't understand."

"'Ey, me and Ro could give a rat's arse--"

Rowena continued, "--but it's not just about vhat you and Buffy vant."

"Like yeh said, we're in charge. They need ta respect you. ‘Specially her. Else it all goes to hell, and that tit in the mask wins." The redheaded native looked many levels of fearful of that outcome. "I cannae give this up, Satsu."

"Neither can I." Satsu had the same fear, she did.

Their connection, their it felt, what it meant, was indescribable. They were a family. Closer than a family. To see it splintered...


Rowena gave her a sympathetic smile. "You vanna be with her? Make them understand. Fast."

How could two people exploring such a personal, private, so far good--if still complex--thing put so much in jeopardy? Like simply beginning a relationship wasn't complicated enough. Just because she held Buffy during sleep didn't mean the other parts had gotten easier.

"I'm still just trying to talk to her without sounding like an idiot," muttered the Japanese girl.

Not to mention trying to discover what she was *allowed* to say now that their relationship had changed.

"Or scaring her away," she also added aloud.


"You? Scary?" Xander scoffed, staring at his bay of monitors. "Where would someone get a wacky notion like that?"

There was a Buffy-shaped blonde to his right, leaning back against the panel. When he looked at her, her eyes rolled.

"You wanna talk scary? Two words: ‘Doctor,' ‘Phil.' ‘Code Red' wiggins are given. Oh, he's got ‘em plenty wooled with his charming, southern-guy accent and poor man's ‘Donahue' routine...but the Eye sees all," he said ominously.

"There's why you need to get out of the castle. With Renee. Sharing Mexican. I mean, last week it was Judge Alex and how you can tell he's secretly evil ‘cause of the good-looking. Why didn't Willow ask if *you* were gay now?" Buffy teased him, then looked thoughtful. "Wait...does Europe even have Mexican?"

"Satsu holds her own." He got them off his tangent before it went out of control. "And right there? Far as he's daring to mosey into ‘Special Gal-Pal' territory, before naughty thoughts are unstoppable."

He got a light glare for that. "Y'know, you could try not worrying about how you'll mess up, and instead, try thinkin' about why ya might not want to."

"Willow thinks I just want sex."

Xander choked on his own saliva, bringing his hand to his throat. "Good god, Buffy! If I had water? Cue spit-take."

"I mean, I *do*, to an unhealthy degree, but..." She put her head in her hand. "She loves me so much. And I care about her, and like seeing her wake up, and...I'm trying a lot to like sushi."

She walked away from the panel, then turned around. "Just wanna know that if I get to where I could back, I'll be able. My track record isn't the greatest. What if I can't?"

She stared at him then, as if waiting for a response.

"Oops. Thought that was a private monologue," he grinned.

She was sheepish. "Sorry."

He walked to her, and put a hand on her shoulder. "Don't got any answers, friend of me. Will either--even if she thinks she does. But keep keepin' your pointy-sword wielding woman in the whole truth and nothing but the, and she'll be glad. No matter where it ends up, stay friendly."

Others could benefit from his cardinal sin with Anya.

Next he pointed to his viewer of the world. "The Eye? It sees a heart in a right place. A happy place." Beat. "A breast place."

She slapped his arm.

In the spirit of practicing what he'd preached (re: truth) and all that, he said, "Think you should know, though? The sisterhood's been all a grumble ‘bout you two. Can see it turning ugly without some ASAP damage control."

"Damage control" was a deliberate choice of phrase, rather than, say, "break it off cold turkey." Because for one, he, an authority-kinda-figure similar to Buffy, had an interest in a fair, slayer lady himself. If he were to frown upon Buffy's budding relationship while still working on getting his buds to bloom, he would be "Xander Harris: Cycloptic Hypocrite."

For two, Buffy was smiling again. She was breaking herself out of the same, old cycle he'd been pushing her to break out of for years. His best friend had something good going in her life, and he didn't want her to lose that. If she did, he knew she'd just retreat deeper.

Yes, he was aware larger issues were arising. Everything they were building was on shakier-than-usual ground. But his best friend was happy.

After eight years of guy-people he didn't, uh, like much--except for Riley--Satsu was a girl-person he did like much. The kind of uncomplicated (yet delightfully un-normal), daylight-walking person Buffy needed. He saw the big picture--that was his job. Except he also saw the little pictures within the bigger. The blonde earned the right to be selfish once.

So, damage control was his first resort, cold turkey his last. For both of them.

"Oh," Buffy uttered, paling. "I knew this. Before we made out, I knew. Then I forgot, and didn't wanna remember."

Naturally, she immediately went to the extreme scenario. He knew that look. Inside her head, she was already starting to retreat, because she was stupid to enjoy anything or anyone with the weight of an army on her shoulders, and there was too much at stake.

Both hands were on her shoulders now, as he stared her in the face. "Okay, you're gonna make me do my ‘In case of emergency, break glass' thing." Saying that, he squeezed his lid shut and bit that bullet. "Me watcher, you slayer, so you listen...for wise as Yoda I is."

Her eyebrow arched. "Watcher?"

"Trust me, after this, the glass is meeting ye old ‘Superglue,'" he swore. "All you gotta do, is show ‘em you aren't gonna play favorites. That in the field, you won't treat Satsu any different. Be the leader you are, and remind ‘em why they oughta follow."

He let her absorb his advice.

"Now ondelay! Help pick up pieces--I think I want a scone."


A few nights later, Buffy took a squad of five slayers plus herself to give an assist to the London group. A sizeable nest of Tarmac (or was that Tarnak?) demons holing up in a rundown flat in the Surrey suburbs, were picking off locals regularly. The slayers were nearing the end of what'd been a grueling fight against a bulky species with skin apparently as hard as rock.

Though their brains squished easy, provided they were jabbed proper.

Satsu had hers on the ground and looked down at it a second, before she thrust her blade into its face. She removed the sword swiftly and cleanly, already paying her victim no mind. Her eyes found Buffy struggling on the ground with the remaining--it was overtop her girlfriend.

She ran over to help just as two-inch, dagger-esque weapons shot out of its knuckles, and stabbed Buffy above her right breast, straight through her clothes.

Right before she got to the blonde, one of the London slayers was there, and Satsu felt a sharp pain in her back. Something now stabbed her, but didn't reach through to her front. She collapsed forward, and by the time she managed to turn to view her attacker, Leah and Rowena were making it pay. It was the Tarnak she'd taken down...with a gouged eye.

She didn't get the right part of the brain. But meanwhile, Buffy had recovered, and somehow, off came her demon's head. All slayers not Satsu gasped in awe.

"All clear, Ma'am," Leah declared, panting.

"Nice work," said Buffy, and walked over to her girlfriend, who was still on the floor. There was a flash of worry in her eyes. "How bad?"

"I can make it back," Satsu answered as the blonde pulled her up and inspected the injury.

"Good. Got lucky." Beat. "You're outta the rotation ‘til I decide you're in."

Satsu gaped. "What?"

"You got blindsided because you didn't make sure your guy was actually, totally dead. Put yourself and the squad in danger that shouldn't've been. Can't afford mistakes like that being made--you oughta know this. So you're benched," the leader in Buffy ordered.

"I was trying to..." Satsu began, but then straightened up. "Yes, Ma'am."

"Better move out." Buffy turned her attention to the others, pressing her palm against her wound. "Probably woke the neighborhood."

They followed the order. Well, Leah and Rowena started to approach their friend.

"Go. Give Liz the rundown," Buffy told them. "We'll catch up."

The two girls gave Satsu a "Sorry" look.

"Are you crazy?" Buffy quietly exclaimed as soon as they were alone.

"I..." Satsu took a gingerly step. "Maybe a little."

"'Cause you do know. Which means you did all that on purpose," the blonde accused. "So I'd hafta..." She tapered off. "*Are you crazy*?"

Talk about taking one for the team. Satsu said nothing. Just smiled.

Buffy did, too. Gratefully. Then she wasn't, her eyes somewhat shiny. "Never, *ever* again. And you're still benched."

Then they walked out together. Very, very slowly.



Once word of Satsu's probation spread, the girl received understanding sympathy from all corners. And for the two weeks she was sidelined, she was asked if Buffy denied her "other" things, too. It was kind of torturous--for them both.

So maybe Buffy let this happen because of having to overhear how interest in their relationship had increased. Maybe it was realizing how much the possibility of Satsu's death scared the shit out of her, and how much she...loved her for doing the crazy thing she did. Whoa.

Was that what she was feeling? Besides the cold air on her currently naked self?

"That was...that *Way* better than with clothes on," Buffy pronounced, but at low, post-coital volume.

They laid on their sides in her bed, heads on pillow, just...looking at each other.

"Truth..." In a small, insecure voice, she asked, "...was I okay? An-and remember, ‘spontaneous' means no planning, no time--"

Satsu touched her lips to her girlfriend's wordlessly, and they began trading quick kisses. Kisses that steadily grew in intensity, and could've led to where they'd just been. But the blonde used what little, higher brain function she had access to at this point, to not let her body make her forget the question. The important question.

"You aren't answering. Why aren't answering?"

‘Finding took too long. I know it did. But I wasn't expecting all the complicated. What's funny? Went in sorta confident. Mean, I have, she has...we both have. So, um, familiar. Especially lately. The problem? Forgot about angles and where they're different. She coulda been *so* easily pulling a ‘Meg Ryan'...probably was...probably sucked, or...oh. Should've more, maybe...'

Even with her internal doubt, to Buffy, she seemed content. Content was good.

Satsu's hand moved Buffy's hair to reveal the ear that had hidden underneath, and her nails followed along the curve. "Thought I was," she said. "You were amazing."

"I can live with amazing," Buffy said back with a sated smile, her eyes half-closing at Satsu's light touch. "What was I scared of again?"

"How do you feel?" Satsu wondered at that, somewhat anxious.

"Not in pain," came the answer.

Through all that spontaneity, Buffy's mind didn't have time to argue with her body. Sexual healing (thank you, Marvin Gaye) had begun. Being with Satsu was the absolute, polar opposite of...what was previous. She felt clean again.

"Also, top of my head? Grateful. Lucky. Relaxed/comfy." She inhaled then exhaled--yep, entirely relaxed. "Glad for you nudging, that I let myself accept it, and that I got to make me wanna be."

Buffy's hand found Satsu's at her ear, and their fingers locked together before both hands came to rest between them over blanket.

"I want us to have other fun. ‘Leaving the weapons at home' fun," she went on. "Been forever since I had a life, and you're why I all suddenly want one again. Not that sure how I'll manage, or how other, this-century people do, but ‘wanting' is a major theme."

There lay one, dumbstruck, naked Asian. "I was really that good?"

She sat herself up then, as did her partner in sex.

Brushing the hair from her face, she was more talking to herself. "Because I can't, um, remember exactly what I did." Then her lips quirked to form what Buffy could only describe as a goofy grin, which Satsu wasn't so known for. "Really?"

Possibly the girl wasn't as forgetful as she claimed.

Buffy kissed her, then smirked. "Yeah, you really"

She was noticing now, that when Satsu sat up, the blanket didn't come with. And earlier? There'd been more doing than looking, so she admired.

"Girls are pretty."

"Hey..." Satsu's attempt at a self-conscious reaction was weak. She didn't try to pull the blanket up near fast enough.

"What, you're allowed to have eyes wander but mine can't? Double standard much?" Buffy mock-huffed, playing along. "Guys are pretty too, y'know..."

"I knew you didn't just...turn gay." Apparently Satsu didn't get when her girlfriend wasn't serious.

Or the blonde was an idiot for teasing around that topic at this stage in the relationship. Buffy's eyes didn't wander from those dark ones staring back. They asked forgiveness, and for Satsu to understand that *this* was the serious part.

"Not exclusively. But until you're tired of me, I am." Then following that promise, she pulled her section of blanket down. "Here, go wander-crazy."

Satsu lost it first, but Buffy wasn't far behind. Laughing couldn't be helped. Not that Buffy wanted it helped. On the contrary, it was welcome. Her head dropped onto Satsu's shoulder once it was impossible to keep up.

"I'm not getting tired of you," said Satsu with a promise of her own.

"Can we forget that I brought my stuff into the pillow talk? It was going great." Buffy lifted her head, looking for reassurance. "I'm taking steps though, right? Forward? Like tonight. *Big*, wonderful step."

She ran it back in her head, and regretted the "step" motif. "'re not a step. You're Satsu--hot, cool, ‘n good-smelling. Now in nudity."

For the second time, she cursed her idiocy. "Steps're walked past--stay present. Please."


Satsu silenced the worried blonde with another kiss, and hoped Buffy got the message this time. This was her being reassuring, getting across that she understood. Any uncertainty about where their relationship was heading, tonight's activity and pillow talk wiped out. She wouldn't have called it "amazing" if Buffy had just done what was necessary to satisfy a long unsatisfied sex drive.

The Japanese slayer went into it half-expecting that to be the case, despite the last, close to two months. Had that been the ultimate goal, Buffy wouldn't have really needed to *do* anything. Satsu would've given her what she wanted because she loved her and wanted to give her some kind of happiness, they would've ended their...whatever, then gone on as before--straight girl and foolish lesbian.

She was honest about the details being fuzzy. What she remembered however, was how passionate. How enthusiastic, which more than made up for Buffy's learning curve. For someone with that previously mentioned, denied, sex drive, Buffy seemed more interested in her. Exploring everywhere. Satsu remembered *that*.

The single, truly vivid memory was watching Buffy watching her. Her girlfriend was fascinated. That had easily been the most intimate experience in Satsu's life.

Plus, the look in that hazel? Immediately took it beyond purely physical. She wouldn't guess to where, but she'd known then that Buffy didn't want this to be over after tonight. She didn't have to fear scaring her away. So, all amazing.

And, "Was I okay?" kind of had her wanting to cry.

"That was a ‘stay' vote," Satsu spoke up, just so there was no confusion.

"People should vote more," Buffy smiled, relieved, then glanced behind her at the panties flung over the right, headboard post, and her skin visibly flushed. "How'd they get there?"

"I wasn't really paying attention," Satsu answered, starting to grin.

Buffy leaned over her side of the bed, presumably to see where else they'd discarded in their wake. "Oh my god. Kyoko and Mr. Gordo had sex. Look."

Satsu got on her knees and crawled over next to Buffy so she could see down to the floor. Just because they were lying sort of next to each other didn't mean...

"They couldn't have. She's a...and he's You don't know that."

"Fine. They didn't. Meaning they weren't too busy, and saw *everything*."

Satsu bit her lip, seeing Buffy's point. "Yeah...they had sex."

Buffy nodded. "Can you believe it?"

The bedroom door creaked open. "Okay, probably nothing to worry about...but there seems to be a wolf and/or panther situation I should bring to your--"

That voice wasn't either of theirs, was it? Satsu gave Buffy a wide-eyed look--she was rather exposed. Buffy, quick-thinker in a crisis that she was, cleared away the sheets and blanket on the soon-to-be reoccupied side of the bed, and Satsu quickly scrambled back so Buffy could throw them across her.

"*Oh merciful Zeus!*" Xander exclaimed, now at the foot of the bed.

"*Xander, get out of here!*" His best friend exclaimed right back.

This part was amazing, too. Amazing that it was happening.


"*Oh my god! Buffy, what are you doing!?!*"

It was at this point, with Dawn's face taking up the entire window, that Satsu had an obvious yet bright idea. Instead of trying to feverishly grab clothes to protect modesty--which was all but hopeless as soon as Andrew walked into the bedroom--why not hide under the covers until everybody left? Even if that appeared to be a pipe dream.

"My girlfriend! Go away!" Though muffled, Buffy's voice carried through the layers of fabric.

In their hiding place, they were back to the same position when the pillow talk started--their heads lying next to each other.

"Geez. Wasn't ‘stuffed animal togetherness' traumatic enough?" She whispered. "Are your grandfather and my mom here too?"

"Buffy!" Satsu was horrified, and put her hands over her face. "Stop!"

"Uh, stop what?" They heard Xander ask, and then, "Ouch." Go Renee.

Buffy brought a finger to the other girl's lips. "Ssh!" Beat. "My mom woulda loved you."

Satsu smiled. "Jiichan let me go because he saw you had a good heart...but it was sad. Between his garden when your hand touched my back, and later at dinner when you thought a shamoji was, uh, something else," An embarrassed blonde learned the paddle was for rice-cooking, "I knew I was gonna have a crush. But after he said that? I wanted to fall in love so bad."

"He was sweet," said Buffy.

And whether she was worthy or not, the girl next to her certainly made Buffy feel like she herself was.

Her fingertip touched the top of Satsu's nose, and followed down the bridge. "I remember we were still moving in, the castle wasn't uber-crowded yet, and you were outside practicing by yourself. Wearing that shirt with the midget, ninja hippo. Add a sunrise, plus fast, glint-y swords, and...I couldn't not look at you. Hello, buried crush."

Buffy told herself it would stay that, but then she liked talking to her number one fighter too much. At some point she could tell Satsu's idolization of her went away, and was replaced solely with respect. When that happened, they became friends. Close friends. Then it grew until tonight, when they became lovers.

Both girls wanted their visitors gone to become again.

"Why aren't they leaving?" Satsu asked pointlessly.


Did something just crash through the ceiling?

"Hi, ‘Why,'" Buffy greeted.

Chapter 3

Title: Seven-Nine


"It's irresponsible, Buffy," Giles admonished, having pulled her aside from the commotion as everyone prepared to send the team off to Japan to rendezvous with Xander and a hopefully cooperative Dracula. "Everything we've begun here, everything we're trying to accomplish, may be in very real danger of becoming undone. We don't yet know if those vampires tonight were acting alone, or on this...'Twilight's' command, and we cannot afford to risk..."

He stopped himself, and chose brevity instead. "You ought to know better than to get involved with someone under your charge."

"I've already dealt, okay? Before you got here, I told the girls, when we're back, if they can kick Satsu's ass, her spot's theirs. Fair'n'simple. Nobody raised hands," Buffy explained lightly, then arms crossed her chest. "I know what I'm doing, Giles. I know my team, and I know the sitch. The Dracuza have the Scythe. We *all* get what it means. That's why I had Willow teleport you."

She leaned against the wall in the long corridor they were halfway down. "She spilled, didn't she?"

He leaned against its opposite and removed his glasses, inspecting the lenses as he spoke. "No, ah...Dawn did. Then mentioned something about being scarred for life. More so."

Putting his glasses back on, he missed Buffy comically looking everywhere but at him. "I'd've thought Willow would have been able to...resize her by now."

"'Cause she's scary-powerful and with the flying?" Buffy smirked, not disagreeing. "She sorta, comes and goes anymore. Mostly goes. Guess she has better things." She took a breath. "Hey, you wanna bring up the ‘Dawn' issue? Go for it. But Buffy's past her whole ‘dying' phase."

Her ex-watcher looked up the hall to the armory where the team was loading up, then he looked back at her, with the best parental worry he could muster. "I'm only saying--"

"Not that I should--considering the plan of you trying to have the last person I slept with killed--but I'm gonna offer," she interrupted, pushing off the wall. "You get to butt in and lecture me on my new girlfriend, if I get some answers about what the hell you had Faith doing in England, why none of us were in the loop, and why you two are best pals now."

She didn't give him time to respond, though. "Ooh! Almost forgot. Both names might start similar? But Satsu isn't Spike...*don't*."

"Yes, I've noticed. And the way I chose to handle Spike...was a mistake, for which I've apologized. At the time, I was doing what I thought best for everyone. You most of all." He was silent for a long beat. "I'll continue to."

"So no answers." She turned to go back. "Figured."

"Damn it, we aren't in Sunnydale anymore," he said sharply, and tried to walk ahead of her.

But she turned before he could, catching him off guard. "Gee, thanks for finally clueing me in, ‘Obvious Guy.' How'd I miss that this whole time?"

"There are larger concerns than a single Hellmouth." He felt close to exasperation, trying to make her understand. "Larger than any one vampire, a god...even the First. We have to be cautious, alert. Personal feelings must come second to keeping all this," He gestured past her to the armory, but meant the whole operation, "from being destroyed. Dissention may not be a problem, fine. However, the last thing these young women need is their General...preoccupied."

Her mouth formed a disbelieving, O. "Please tell me you didn't just go there." Eyes narrowed, and she stared him down. "When haven't ‘personal feelings' come second? My life? I *always* do my job...and me and my ‘personal feelings' always pay for it. So sorry if I wanna be a little selfish for once. Until I hafta give her up, too."

Her smile was both sad and proud. "If it meant all this'd stay safe--which, for the record, don't see how it'd help--Satsu would walk away. Probably before me."

Felt weird to say, given how long Satsu had had personal feelings, yet she believed it.

"Being a slayer means everything to her."

He didn't mean for it to sound how it had, he just didn't know how to make it sound any other way. Not anymore. "I can imagine it does."

She looked at him as though he had no idea what he was talking about--and he didn't. "How can you if I can't? And I'm leader." Beat. "'Leader' as in ‘Not General.' People like leaders; that's why they're followed. They wanna shoot the General. That's what you want me to be? Again?"

For not being Sunnydale, Buffy thought this conversation was very reminiscent of one
they'd had a couple weeks before it was devoured. Big picture, sacrifice, tough choices...he was all about the big picture. So much so, that he didn't see the little pictures within.

Maybe she wasn't as disconnected as she assumed. Compared to him, anyways. She'd do what she had to do, and she'd hurt over the cost. She'd see faces and have memories and, like she told Willow, care. No, not Sunnydale.

Would he care?

"You used to hate them. Now you are them," she realized.


"The Council," Buffy answered, despite them both knowing she didn't need to. "Maybe you aren't trapping drugged girls in houses with insane vampires on their birthdays, but I've heard how training goes. You have a balcony. You're literally above, tea-drinking. You don't get in the middle. It's just technique and cold and..."

"You have your methods, I have mine. We each have our roles to play." He tried his damndest to come across unbothered, like he saw nothing wrong with his approach.

"That means you stop being human? That's a method?"

She was sensing a common theme with regards to certain members of her family--she didn't know him. Pissed her off that she'd been trying so hard to be human and relate to people, and he'd given it up. Or so it seemed.

She wanted a reaction. Something other than "Big Picture"-speak. First she took a slow breath, then softly spoke, "There was this man once? Best man I've ever known actually, and he used to be my watcher. More than. He was the closest thing I had to a..."

Her voice cracked. Clearing her throat made that go away. "Past tense." When she spoke again, the softness was gone. "Uh, so anyway, have you seen him? ‘Cause I can't figure out where the fuck he went. Just know he isn't here."

There. Startled him.

"Yeah, cursing. I do that," she informed him despite the redundancy.

Giles pinched the bridge of his nose and closed his eyes. "What is it you want me to do?"

Buffy was more than ready with an answer. "I wanna know that when you're talking about destruction prevention, it's because you want these girls to have lives...not just because you wanna use ‘em to save lives that aren't theirs. I want you to get that me happy with someone and having fun again, isn't a reason to forget fighting, it's why I need to remember to."

She grabbed his wrist loosely. "Short version? I want you to be Giles."

When he opened his eyes, she could see him in there somewhere. "Believe it or not, so do I."

"If whatever you and Faith are up to brings you back, then loopless-ness is a problem I'll cope with," she maturely said. "Who knows? I'm in good mood, I might even thank her afterwards. Over the phone. ‘Cause she'll be far away."

This time when she turned he didn't try to stop her, and she went to rejoin her team.

"If you don't come back..." Her words simply hung there.

He watched as Satsu met her outside the open door. The Japanese girl seemed to whisper something that brought a smile to Buffy's face. Then Buffy hugged her, strongly. He couldn't help smiling himself while they continued in together, while simultaneously thinking about how she was more right then she knew.

That loop he'd kept her out of? He and Faith were going around, trying to help troubled slayers, relate to them. He was counting on it to do exactly what his surrogate daughter hoped. Perhaps then she'd consider giving him a second chance, and they wouldn't go in circles.

Though first there was the Far East.



It was over. The Dracuza exterminated, a slayer lost, Xander mourning alone at her grave. That's what he wanted, or else Buffy would've been by his side. Instead, she was in an unassigned dorm at the Japan HQ having makeup sex with her girlfriend.

Well, just finishing. It was another first for them. She'd screwed up, and Satsu didn't sit back and take it. Buffy was...was "impressed" the word? Yeah, that'd do.

"I think I should stay," Satsu announced minutes after Buffy crawled back up the bed to her.

"Was hoping you'd be thinking that. ‘Cause hey, I just was, too," Buffy sighed, much relieved. "No leaving. Not ‘til morning makes us, anyway." Her head now rested on Satsu's chest. "Guess that means you don't hate me."

She didn't expect the long beat of silence that followed.

"No, I In Japan," Satsu said softly, but not soft enough for slayer hearing to miss. "Just me."

"What? Why?" The blonde lifted her head, rolled onto her stomach, and looked at her girlfriend with panicked eyes. "I promise, I won't do that to you again. I'll think before saying words, an-and I can be sorrier. Want ‘embarrassingly'? Just ask. We don't have to--"

"Whoa, I'm not breaking up with you," interrupted the younger slayer, pushing herself up on her elbows. "The girl I've dreamt about since I met her, the girl who it's still unbelievable that I actually get to be with, wanted to protect me and I'm gonna leave her for it?"

Her face displayed the idiocy of that "logic" quite well. "If I'm ever that dumb? Then I swear I won't stop punching myself. With a closed the face. Because I'm dumb."

"Oh." Buffy was completely without a clue, then. "Dreamt? I'm a dreamt girl?"

She quickly pushed past the compliment before she got stuck there, and tried to figure this out. "So, you don't wanna break up, but you do kinda hate me, and for big picture, army morale reasons, you need time away to deal?" She knew as soon as she said it that she was wrong. "How much does our mileage vary? Little help here."

"I don't hate you, Buffy. And I don't wanna stay. Especially now that um, your tongue does *that*," Satsu grinned. "Definitely be the worst part."

Yet the look on her face said she'd thought this through. "But the Tokyo office needs a field leader. I guess I'm asking for a promotion. Hopefully a temporary one."

Buffy was glad she went with "impressed" before; she was feeling it again. Satsu was proving what she told Giles' back in Scotland correct. In order to do what was best for her sisters and their welfare, the girl was walking away. Buffy just wasn't expecting it to happen this soon. She propped herself over her bedfellow, who sank bank down, giving elbows rest.

"Give me a month. Aiko had to have a second-in-command. Let me work with her, with the rest of them, get ‘em on their feet. Then I'll come back to Scotland," Satsu continued, spelling out her request. "I won't let you down."

"I know you won't." There wasn't a doubt in Buffy's smile. "It's a lot of work though, Satsu. These girls are raw. What if it takes longer than a month?" She wasn't speaking as her leader, she was speaking as her unhappy lover. "What if...?"

Satsu reached her hand around to the back of Buffy's head, and pulled her down for a kiss. "We'll be okay."

"We will?" Buffy questioned once their mouths were through. "I'm gonna miss positiveness. You're a good influence on me. I could totally regress with you gone. You can handle it, but what am I supposed to do?"

"I can handle it? Why, ‘cause you aren't worth missing?" Satsu exhaled right into Buffy's face. Yes, the elder slayer's self-esteem still had a ways to go. "Hey, I'm in love, remember? Being away from you is gonna kill me."

"Or improve your chances of living," cracked the blonde.

To this, Satsu's expression became not unlike earlier, when Buffy screwed up and tried to order her to sit out of the fight. It was angry, and entirely too sexy.

"I'm joking," Buffy claimed. Sort of, she was. "My funny is a dark funny. Ha."

"Tell me one reason I shouldn't love you." Now it sounded like Satsu was giving orders. "Besides that."

Buffy's brow creased in thought. She knew she had many of them, she did, but just then? She didn't. "Fine, I give. I'm fashionable and witty. And under good lighting? I look adorably youthful."

"If you already knew why I do, why'd you ask before?" Satsu smirked.

"Shut." Buffy kissed that smirk right off. "Up."

"*I'm* only half-joking," Satsu felt the need to clarify. "Someday you'll love you, too."

"Working on it," Buffy assured her.

"So am I. That's my mission." Satsu put her hand on Buffy's flushed cheek, then let her fingertips slide down.

"Me, fighting evil, stepping up Got missions aplenty." Admiration joined the impressed feeling that Buffy had. "You'll be a hell of a leader."

Satsu blushed. "Learned from the best."

"Andrew?" Buffy tried to keep a straight face, but it didn't happen.

They both laughed rather hysterically, and in the midst of, came the energy to roll and switch positions.

"Maybe if things get quiet, I could teleport-visit, and remember to not eat," Buffy considered.

Probably wouldn't get quiet, though. When was it ever anymore? She thought of Xander and Renee.

"Just don't die. Doesn't matter how better your odds'll be."

"You either," Satsu responded in kind.

"At least not permanent, right?" Another fine example of the alpha slayer's dark funny was on display.


It was rare for her girlfriend to use her native tongue. Most of the time, you'd never know she was born in another country. Funny thing about hearing her now, and the way her eyes stared down into the blonde's?

"Huh. Didn't need subtitles," commented Buffy, and then paused a beat. "Consider yourself promoted." They kissed again. "They'll think I kicked you out."

"Because I told you off?" Satsu said impishly.

She was nowhere near imp-like during the telling off, but Satsu had finally learned what she was allowed to say. And she wasn't allowed just because she was sleeping with the boss. She'd proven herself, earned the right, moved up through the ranks.

Next time she questioned orders though, she'd try to avoid doing so publicly. And hopefully next time the orders would be more legitimate.

It wasn't like Buffy enjoyed giving them. "Or because I blew off your perfectly strategical suggestion to leave a squad behind at the castle. Choose whichever," she offered the alternative. "Sorry. Again. Bad guys invading makes me bitchy."

"Yeah, think I picked that up," Satsu teased, then addressed her girlfriend's concern. "I told Leah I was asking you. Everyone'll know it was my idea, don't worry.

"While I'm gone, you should listen to what Mr. Giles said," she continued, to which Buffy's brows highly objected. "C'mon, I don't mean *that* part, and you know it." She paused, rolling her eyes. "But with Twilight out there, then Renee and Aiko...if any more girls do what Simone did, because of us..."

The blonde didn't argue. "Hafta make sure our front's united."

Some of them might still have...issues.

The couple turned on their sides. "Oh, and I'm leaving my iPod. So you can listen to it more," added the Asian girl, and kept talking before Buffy could ask what she was implying. "I also told Kyoko to keep an eye on Willow."

Buffy asked a silent, "Huh?"

"She asked me what you were like."

"*Like* like?" Buffy looked mind-blown for several seconds. "She did? Really?" Then she suddenly understood something. "Is *that* what her whole ‘list' thing was about?"

Satsu's eyes narrowed. "What list?"

Buffy smiled, and circled her nails slow along the top of her jealous partner's left breast. "I'm not gonna have sex with Willow. Love her and all, but, not so much in."

There it was. She said it. Without actually saying it. Her baggage from relationships past was still to blame. Steps.


It was enough for the shiny-eyed Satsu. "How come?"

"She's my best friend. You're you," said Buffy easily.

That answer was more than kiss-worthy. That was make-out worthy. With gusto, they both agreed. And somehow, they still managed to exchange words while the agreeing went on.

"What'd her?"

"That I...wasn't...telling her...anything."

"Can did?"

"Let you...know in the morning."

There was going to be a month, minimum, without this, and only so many hours of night left. Thank god for slayer stamina.



"...*of the worrrrld!*" Buffy bellowed to the city of New York as she stood out the limo's sun roof on the way to Vi's squad, awe-inspired.

But she wasn't so far out that she couldn't hear her ring tone. Reel Big Fish's, "Good Thing," to be exact. "Ooh, phone!"

Much like a turtle, she ducked back into the limo's protective shell, sat back down on the seat opposite Willow and Kennedy, and hurriedly answered her cell.

"Hey, Girlfriend's Voice. How was dinner? Didn't eat any Fugu, did you? ‘Cause I checked, and s' poisonous. The Internet said."

"That her?" Kennedy whispered to her redhead.

Willow nodded. "She called her from the plane. Five times. I don't think she knew about air phones costing extra."

Kennedy shook her head, ridding it of any remaining disbelief. "Thought you were pulling my leg. But wow, here I am, seeing it."

"Took a while for my eyes, too." The witch had been there, and as they looked across at her friend now, she was not envious.

Because she had a girlfriend she didn't not love. What demon snake lady goddess?

"But they're, um, good together," she admitted. "If Tokyo had ears? Probably they'd still be ringing."

Yes, even a week later.

Her slayer was unimpressed. "Whatever. We'd make it go deaf." She picked up her girlfriend's hand and kissed the knuckles. "Right, baby?"

Her cocky exterior broke for a second, and she almost seemed afraid of the answer.

"Huh? Oh, y-yep. Sure would," Willow replied, and oh no, that smile wasn't guilty at all. "But we'd have to at least buy people those tiny whiteboards, or I'd feel bad--trust me, they come in handy."

Awkward pause for her best friend's unrelated laugh and, "It's just, Buffy's so new, you know? At the woman-lovin'. Kinda unfair that they're that good together already. I mean, it is, right?"

"After your thing tonight, wanna show her how good *we* are together?" Kennedy's cockiness was back, and Willow was alarmed. "Through the wall, Red."

"My thing? Who-who said it was my thing? ‘Cause, uh, totally its own thing. Nope, not mine."

You couldn't actually claim ownership of a temporal event.

"All I know is where it's vooshing. And really, it might even make a totally different sound." Willow then quickly added, "But I know 'cause of research. Th-that I did. By myself."

Pulling her hand free of her girlfriend's, she shook it rapidly, then sucked her thumb. "Midnight oil burns. Yeouch."

Kennedy smiled weakly at her, and for a couple minutes, they both just went back to listening to Buffy act all cute with Satsu. She didn't miss that her question went ignored.

"There's a whole month still," the redhead then commented. "They've gotta learn pacing, and how to. Like we have. We can go days without talking any."

The brunette faced the window. "Yeah. We've got it down."

How long before they were there?

Buffy was completely oblivious to the subtextual, relationship woes happening across from her. "No, m' doing good. Better. I promise. And New York is *great*. I saw the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building, and like, five different, ‘Original Ray's' pizza places..."

Chapter 4

Title: Ten


Five months. For Buffy and Satsu, one month had turned into *five* months. How? Life turned upside down. Harmony got herself a reality show on MTV, and the existence of vampires and slayers both was revealed across the globe. Vampires became the new "It" thing, slayers did not. FOX News called Buffy the 21st Century's Hitler.

It was pretty that bad, and certainly didn't help the blonde's already fragile self-image. She really needed her girlfriend at her side. But Satsu had to stay put in Japan. They'd all had to stay put in their territories, keep their heads down, and fight the fight whenever possible. A task made harder lately, because things had escalated.

Twilight was using these convenient developments, the worldwide hatred of slayers, to his advantage. He was attacking them openly now. Everywhere he could find them. They divided themselves, he was conquering. Well, not for much longer. At least as far as the "divided" part.

Buffy's Scotland squad had fallen back for the second time to yet another castle (Scotland loved castles), this one surrounded by water. Willow put a glamour up so it didn't look like there was anything there. Magickal shields and other defenses were in place as well. Buffy hoped they'd stay hidden, that everyone would, until she figured out what to do.

Once all the members of their large family were finally here, she'd be able to concentrate on that. Giles, Faith, Andrew, the girls who made it from the other squads...and Satsu. Where was Satsu? She...she had to--

"Buffy, geez, come inside already. It's freezing out here," Dawn was saying to her, having walked out of the castle to where she paced. "If you don't, you're gonna turn blue. And then, for like a week after you do? I'm so gonna keep asking, "‘Hey, Blue, got any clues?'"

She amused herself. "Hee."

Buffy stopped and stared at her sister. "I don't get you."

"Yeah, tell me something I'm not used to," replied Dawn, stepping beside Buffy and hugging her with one arm.

If there was one positive that happened in the middle of the upside-down-ness, it was that Dawn was her normal shape and size again. The sisters were also back to comfortably relating as such, with one, big difference: Buffy had begun seeing her as an adult. If only she'd had it confirmed sooner that Dawn *did* sleep with a guy.

Slept with a guy, and then made a mistake afterwards. Basically the same thing which grew Buffy up real fast. Except Dawn's mistake was a lot smaller than not killing her new lover before he murdered innocent people. Still, the two of them should've bonded a long time ago. Better late than never, though.

Never would be bad. And she wasn't thinking about Dawn anymore.

"Is-is Willow still awake? Maybe we can do another sweep," Buffy said anxiously. "Tell her I won't even complain about the airsickness this time."

"Satsu's coming, Buffy," Dawn tried to say reassuringly. "She's completely on the way. Right now, even."

"But things can happen on the way. Things like Twilight. And death. And let's face it, the first thing will probably cause the second thing. She wouldn't be able to..." The blonde looked panicked, and so afraid. "What...what if she's dead?"

"Willow would know," Dawn told her. "But she's not. An-and she won't be, okay? She'll be living. Here. Soon."

"You can't know for sure," refuted Buffy, her eyes glassy. "She could. She could, and I'm an idiot ‘cause I didn't..." Tears started rolling down her cheeks, but she smiled a little. "It isn't scary or dangerous or anyplace near close to. *At all*. God, how wrong was I?"

No, wait, there were two positives in all this.

"What were you wrong about?" Dawn asked, a little thrown.

She hadn't seen her sister cry for years.

"Love. Loving *her*," Buffy elaborated, choking on her own words. "I'm in love with her, Dawn. I can feel it. Really can."

The younger brunette couldn't think of how to respond, but thankfully, she didn't have to, because Buffy completely broke down at that moment. She just took her sister fully into her arms and held on. She was suddenly trying not to cry herself.

Buffy went on. "I was in the car with Andrew driving to that village Simone practically kidnapped, and he was being nerdier than his usual." Though they came to an understanding by trip's end, Andrew and close quarters were never a good idea. "Over this guy on some doctor show. And I was barely trying to *not* gag him inside the trunk..."

Dawn giggled as her sister continued.

"...when it just, BOOM. Have no idea why it picked then, but I, uh, kinda broke the seatbelt because I sat up so fast. Andrew almost had a heart attack, and there might have been swerving." Sniffling, she chuckled herself. "Don't think I can even explain what it was like. How huge a deal. For me.

"I knew I liked spending time, I knew I hated when we didn't, I knew the sex," She wasn't able to see her sister's, "TMI" face, "and..."

She was right--she couldn't explain. She couldn't explain how ever since Angel, she'd seen love as something that could destroy you. She couldn't explain how, after their mom died, she found it hard to love, period. Not simply in the romantic sense. So much so, that she thought something in her had broken even before she came back from the dead.

She couldn't feel love. It wasn't in her anymore. Of course, compounding that problem was Spike and sex and pain. A psychological issue she'd been happily cured of months ago.

Her other psychological issue? Well as time wore on, friends-and-family love? That wasn't nearly as risky, so it came back. The other kind? That didn't. Until the car ride.

Now able to have some perspective, she realized she hadn't felt it because she didn't want to. She was afraid. Love was scary and dangerous and could destroy you. But so was slaying. Hell, so was a rusty nail. And maybe during all this unplanned separation from Satsu, with everything they were dealing with, she realized what was scarier.

Hence, BOOM. Now if only she could love herself.

"...and you'll *never* in a tragillion years finish that sentence around your traumatized baby sister?" Dawn asked with a smirk as she released Buffy from her arms. "Thank crap." Beat. "It's awesome you're in love and all--"

Something that would no doubt make it easier when she and Xander got the nerve to tell her that they were.

"--but can we *please* go be warm inside the big, damp castle now?"

"Dawnie, I hafta tell her." Buffy stubbornly still didn't budge.

"You're gonna get to. I promise. Probably in the morning once you do that thing people do called ‘sleep,'" said the brunette pointedly. "And when Giles comes, you'll tell him, too. But ugh, hopefully not the same way."

Giles. She'd heard about what he'd been doing. She'd heard about Germany. The thought of their last conversation actually being their last, made Buffy sick to her stomach.

"Did he and Faith ping the beacon thingy yet?" Buffy wondered, almost as anxious as she was over Satsu.

Dawn sighed. "Nope, not yet." She waited several seconds then blurted, "Holy shit monkey balls."

"What'd you say?" Buffy was shocked right out of her tears.

"Huh? I didn't say anything. The cold's totally frozen your brain, sis," evaded a snickering Dawn, now able to lead her too-stupefied-to-resist sister towards the castle. "Alligator anal beads."


"Crocodile cock ring."


"Flamingos fuck on Fridays."

"I mean it! Seriously!"

"Never prick a porcupine's puss--"

"Gah! Shut up!"


It was just before sunup when Buffy, having previously been mortified all the way into her bedroom by her sibling, awoke with a start.

"No, Mr. CinnaStix! Don't prick it," she exclaimed. Hold it...CinnaStix? "Satsu?"

"Hey," said a confused, entertained, and very alive Satsu sitting on the bed. "I didn't wanna wake you, but Dawn said--"

The blonde slayer crushed her in a hug, and the tears returned.

"Loveyouloveyouloveyou," she mumbled repeatedly into the overwhelmed-but-pleased girl's neck. "I don't know what the hell I'm doing and I need you so you're never allowed to stay anywhere else again which means you're demoted and I love you."

Satsu was kind of floored. She couldn't even really react, because the frantic kissing began. She became so focused on getting her bearings that out of all the questions she had, she could get only one to stick in her head.

"Um, Buffy?"

"Yeah? Yes?"

"Don't prick what?"

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