"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 meant...here. 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 fist...in 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 here...wow. 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 you...say...to her?"
"That I...wasn't...telling her...anything."
"Can we...pretend...you 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..."