“How come I feel as though I’m being thrown under a speeding train?” Giles asked suspiciously, as Buffy stood with him at her cabin’s door.
“Giles, c’mon,” She rolled her eyes at him, “there’re no trains in the ocean.” Smiling innocently, she turned her head toward her still sitting girlfriend. “Don’t believe me, ask Satsu. Seen any, honey?”
Satsu blinked, seeming to take a second to realize she was being spoken to. “Not yet?”
Buffy turned back to the British man. “See? No trains.” She practically pushed him out. “I’m glad you’re back--said that, right?”
“Yes, you did,” Giles acknowledged, now in the submarine’s corridor, “and only now do I understand why that is.”
After that somewhat dry remark, he looked up the corridor then back in, calling, “Satsu, which ‘Korea’ was this ah, borrowed from, if you don’t mind my asking?”
“North,” she replied, getting up to go be beside Buffy. “Sir.”
“Well done then,” he approved, nodding. “Though I think we’ve moved beyond formality at this point. Especially given the circumstances.”
The circumstances being the peril they fled in this North Korean tin can, as well as Buffy having fallen in love with the Japanese girl. She hadn’t the last time they’d seen one another, but Buffy’s whole demeanor gave it away--she was happy. She was trying not to be because of the peril, yet it was there.
If Satsu meant that much to her, he was relieved.
“It’s her thing,” explained Buffy with a teasing smile meant for her girlfriend. “Being uber-respectful. All the time. Dunno where she gets *that* from.”
She could see the wheels of sarcasm turning in Giles’ head. “Don’t even.”
“I suppose I ought to go before the depth charges begin,” he said, bracing himself for the next conversation he was going to have.
“The what-charges?” Buffy asked in confusion.
He didn’t answer her. He simply focused his gaze on Satsu as he offered, “Good luck.”
The words Satsu heard were, “Hurt her and there will be consequences.” At least he was more subtle about it than Dawn.
***‘Before I left, she never...she didn’t used to just cry like this,’ Satsu had whispered to Dawn in the castle’s crowded “war room” as Buffy tearily hugged her watcher. “Did she?”
‘My theory is she sprung a leak somewhere and...’ Dawn quipped, and when the Japanese girl grinned, she regretted it. ‘Oh my god--yuckblecchgag. I so didn’t just s...hey, y’know what’s weird? How you’ve got this giant sword collection, but you’re gay.
‘Cause, incompatible much? Did you even realize? Kennedy thinks it’s disturbing and a cry for help and that you have issues, by the way. Ohh!
‘Unless it’s like some twisted around, woman power thing where if you hurt my sister your pillow’s gonna smother you ‘til you’re dead.’
When Satsu left the memory this time, Giles was gone, headed to talk to Willow about Buffy’s spontaneous, new plan. Since Willow’s reaction might be less than good, Buffy nominated him to do the telling. Had Buffy not explained what happened in her absence, Satsu would’ve thought she was scared of her best friend.
Her girlfriend had traveled to a future where she’d killed an unbelievably still-alive, older, darker version of the witch. That Willow, as she had once before, apparently became consumed by magick. And because Buffy feared she might be the one who made Willow go off the rails...she nominated Giles.
Besides all that, it was clear to Satsu that the two were still trying to find their footing with each other. Loving and caring for someone didn’t automatically make it easy to talk to them. Satsu could relate.
But what Satsu personally took away from hearing the story? She was glad she hadn’t known at the time, otherwise she would’ve been worried as hell and able to do nothing. Also, she bet this future slayer Buffy met was hot. But she tried not thinking about that.
“Where’ve you been?” Buffy asked her with a sincere smile.
“Too many places,” answered Satsu fairly honestly.
The blonde’s hand touched her cheek. “Think you can stay in this place? With me? Need you here. Need to know where exactly you’re standing with this great plan I’ve been inventing for the last, whole five minutes,” she smirked. “Before we go do this.”
“Who’re you asking? Your girlfriend or your squad leader?” Satsu posed to her.
Buffy planted a kiss. “Thought they were the same person.”
“You know what I meant.”
“I do,” nodded Buffy. “And there’s the ‘You being sweet’ answer, or there’s the answer that’s reality. But, uh, the ‘reality’ answer probably ends with ‘Ma’am,’ which also makes it the ‘automatically sexy’ answer.” She looked faux-torn.
She knew how Satsu meant it, but Buffy had been battling feeling like two people for years, and couldn’t help taking the words another way. Satsu wasn’t the same as when she’d left. The girl had become a leader in Japan, had become *the* Slayer there. Having dealt with that, she’d hardened just enough for it to be noticeable.
“I’m asking my squad-leading girlfriend. So as long as it’s the truth, I don’t care what answer you wanna give. Or, ‘cause m’ still in the ‘I’m way too happy I have you to retreat with’ phase, you could lie even,” she continued, grabbing Satsu’s hands and telling her she wasn’t walking into a trap.
“And, if you have, going in there with a counter-plan wouldn’t be the worst idea. Might stop them from wanting to kick my ass,” she added sourly.
With a slightly pissed off look in her eyes, Satsu grabbed the front of Buffy’s shirt, and pulled her into a crushing kiss. She’d definitely changed. She never used to be this forceful. Unless she was slaying something.
“Do you want me to say your plan sort of sucks? All right, fine, it does. But we both know what happens if we face Twilight head on, *everybody* knows how much the world doesn’t want us around, and girls are dying. Girls I knew. Girls who trusted me.”
In that moment, Satsu confirmed for Buffy what she’d seen in her face. They weren’t mentor and protégé anymore. They weren’t captain and lieutenant. They weren’t ranked at all. They were on an even field, both understanding what it was like to be the One. They’d probably never talk about it. They wouldn’t have to.
It didn’t matter that Satsu’s experience was over months compared to Buffy’s years. You only had to experience it for a day, to know. Now that Satsu did, it made her the newest member of a really depressing club. A club that was about to meet.
“You made us a family, and you want us to stay together. To stay alive,” continued Satsu, not giving Buffy the chance to react or interrupt. “They’re gonna understand. The others probably won’t, but they will.”
“Maybe. Except I don’t even know how much time it would buy, or what I’m buying time for,” Buffy sighed. “When the best thing I can come up with’s sort of sucky? That’s...”
“It isn’t like I have a better plan. Ma’am,” Satsu started to grin, lightening the mood again. “Which is why we’re doing this, right?”
“So stop trying to kick your own ass. You don’t deserve it,” Satsu told her, and grinned a little more. “And, Buffy? The next--no, *every* time you feel kicked,” Her hands wandered to her girlfriend’s posterior, “blame me, because I did it.
“If anybody else touches you, I’m sure they’ll be sorry--after the pain.”
Buffy swallowed. “Isn’t that what you say to your weapons?”
“Yeah. But that’s just because I love them.”
Matching the earlier kiss, Buffy crushed her lips to her girlfriend, and when she needed to breathe, she gasped out against Satsu’s lips, “Love...too. Whole lot.”
Satsu then rested her forehead against the blonde’s, and after a few all too short seconds started to say, “Um, what-whatever we decide in there--”
“--should get decided fast,” finished Buffy softly, agreeing but regretful. “Let’s go.”
When she told Satsu and Giles her plan and sounded less than sure, it was Satsu’s idea to powwow with the others. It seemed so obvious after the fact. They both decided how to handle it, who to bring in...she was definitely in a relationship. For real.
As they left the cabin together, she asked, “Are you sure you don’t have a better one? ‘Cause, you being strategic-girl kinda makes me...well, you’ve seen.”
Buffy had asked Faith to round up the squad leaders who made the trip, and have everyone meet in the galley. Besides Buffy, Buffy’s chick, and herself, there were six others. Three--Vi, Rona, Kennedy--were from the Sunnydale days, and the three others she didn’t know. Faith kept herself out of the loop on purpose.
Helping the lost, un-enlisted girls one-on-one had kept her plenty occupied. She certainly preferred that over getting dragged into this. But this? This was bad. Bad enough that Buffy had called even her and Giles back into the fold. The blonde actually seemed to be letting the past lie this time.
Buffy should’ve switched to automatic years ago. Would’ve saved Faith a beat-down or two.
Funny thing was? Satsu hung back here with her, while the rest crowded around one table and argued it out. As soon as Buffy told them to drop the formality/army crap, they didn’t hesitate. Of course they all crapped on her plan. But just for a second, just a second, they felt the weight leave their shoulders.
Giving up their power, being normal, they couldn’t have imagined wanting that in the beginning. Being a slayer made most of them feel strong for the first time. Confident, in control. But they’d long since realized they never needed superpowers for that.
Yet while they’d love to be normal, to take their confidence and inner-strength and make lives for themselves, it was a selfish dream they couldn’t afford to indulge in.
“It just seems a little...half-baked, Buffy,” Vi said with everyone starting to calm down. “Sure, we might throw Twilight off for a few days, a week maybe, but what happens when he finds us? We’re sitting...carrots.”
They all looked at her, and Rona asked, “Isn’t that ‘ducks’?”
“Ducks can fly away.”
“I’m with her on the ‘carrots’ thing.”
“Rowena? Kara? Mickie?” Buffy asked the others.
So those were their names.
Rowena spoke for them. “Sorry, Buffy.”
Their leader next turned her attention to Kennedy, who shockingly, had remained rather quiet. “Red’s gonna be gonna be pissed. If she isn’t already. And I’m gonna hafta hear about it.”
“But you’re still not-so-much hating that part of the plan, are you?” Buffy prodded, knowing Kennedy was as worried about Willow as she was.
“Wish we didn’t have to go see her ex with the, ‘Why the hell would you want that in your crotch?’ to make it happen, but...no,” admitted Kennedy, “that part doesn’t suck.”
The plan was to go to Tibet, and with Oz’s help, to learn how he was able to suppress his wolf. Suppress the magick inside that made it possible. If Twilight was using their magick to hunt them--the slayerness, the witchiness--then if they turned it off, it could give them breathing room to work on an offensive.
“There has to be something better though,” Mickie spoke up. "Really."
“Then help me figure out what it is. Please, you guys,” said Buffy somewhat desperately. “I don’t have any answers. This is big--*too* big. I can’t do it alone; I don’t want to. I’m tired of feeling like I’m turning into everybody’s general again. I’m tired of armies and their stupid lingo and orders and...
“Once we make it through this, I promise, we’re changing things up. But starting now? We decide together. We all find that something that’s better, or we all go with my less-than-better and sell it to the rest of the girls. Agreed?”
Yeah, Buffy definitely should’ve switched to automatic years ago. As they began getting into it, Satsu shared a smile with her and was ready to go join the group-think. Faith’s voice stopped her.
“Don’t put up with her shit.” Faith noticed the surprised expression aimed her way. “Watching out for Buffy is the fam’s job, ain’t mine. 'Don’t put up with her shit’--only thing I'm sayin'. She’s good people, but sometimes she’s, yunno, full of shit.”
“Isn't everyone?” Satsu asked rhetorically, feeling defensive on her girlfriend's behalf.
“Okay, so you’re gettin’ my point,” replied Faith with an impressed grin. “Probably didn’t even need a pep talk, did ya, O-Ren? Bet ya hold your own.”
“I do,” Satsu assured.
They both watched Buffy silently until Faith wasn’t anymore.
Satsu had no idea what that was supposed to mean, but she didn’t have to wait long to find out.
“You slayed B’s Vamps. And the bitch is, they don’t even know it.”
Some chicks had all the luck.
For some reason, even though she’d heard Buffy say she loved her since she came back, twice, the momentousness of that hadn’t hit. Which was odd. That was what she’d been waiting for from the second they’d met. But when Faith said what she just said, Satsu got hit hard.
She’d known she was up against Buffy’s past. She always worried that if Buffy ever did love her, it wasn’t going to be completely. It was going to be because Buffy couldn’t have them. But when Faith said what she just said, when there was no reason to, Satsu knew she’d won Buffy’s heart. Completely.
How in the name of a porcupine’s prickly pussy did she manage that?
“Satsu? Honey? You okay? Did Faith say something? Because if you wanna chop--”
Satsu hadn’t noticed that Faith was over there, and that Buffy was over here. Once she did, they were kissing again. Not forceful, not crushing. It was the kiss of very happy, grateful people in love (despite perilous circumstances). It was also long enough that they were startled when Faith asked, low but sharply--
Spread out on the table was their minimal Twilight intel. She referred to a drawing.
“That’s the jackass’s symbol,” Kennedy said.
“You didn’t know?” Vi asked, surprised.
The Bostonian looked instantly ill.
“Faith, what is it?” “Have you seen it somewhere else?” Buffy and Satsu asked respectively, now by the table also.
Faith didn’t say anything for a long, long moment. “Shoulda kept Giles closer, B.”