Summary: Hearts breaking even.
The long gallery was striped with sunlight and shadows this late in the day. Too damp, too draughty and too crowded with echoing ghosts to be a popular hang out, it was the perfect place in a castle currently housing hundreds of girls if you wanted to be alone. In the middle of it, an apple fell to the wooden floor again with a dull thud, badly bruised but with only the slightest shallow cut in its green skin.
She was still too slow. She could behead vampires and stab monsters in the gut but she still lacked the lightning speed, the finesse, that would put her a cut above the rest.
Satsu had returned to Scotland for the big Slayer Assessment Week. Every squad that wasn't actively fighting a big evil had been called in. There were Slayers from Italy, Germany, Russia and Spain. From the Nile Delta to the Cape of Good Hope. There were several squads alone just from North America, as well as some roaming freelance girls, and a few from the deepest jungles of South America. China had a north and south contingent and Australia seemed to have one big squad, four or five times the size of a regular one. And then, of course, there was Satsu's own squad, all the way from Japan.
It was a worldwide Slayer convention and what did Slayers do when you gathered a number of them together? They got competitive.
It was like the castle was hosting the monkey Olympics as girls ran, crawled, climbed, jumped and, through it all, sparred all over the place; trying to show off in front of their superiors and outshine the other squads. Satsu had spoken to Kennedy about it the evening before and knew for a fact that it wasn't impressing anyone; it was just driving them crazy.
On hearing this she had only smiled. She wasn't taking part in the mayhem anyway. She'd already made squad leader and Kennedy's report on her progress had been good enough to ensure her spot wasn't about to be taken away from her. There was only one step higher to go than that one more promotion available, and it was a position she had both willingly and reluctantly walked away from six months before.
It had been a long six months but they hadn't all been miserable ones. Satsu had grown into her new role with ease, and defeating The Swell had earned her a lot of respect, especially among her own squad. So she hadn't dwelled on the past. She'd slayed hard, partied hard and moved on with her life. At least, she'd thought she had, but it had only taken that one sighting in the Great Hall during Induction for Satsu to realize she could flirt with as many other flavors as she wanted . . . she still loved cinnamon the most.
That was the reason she was up here alone. Before she and Buffy had had their fling she'd never really wondered whether the other girls knew how she felt. Even when Buffy had pointed out that her attraction was kind of obvious she hadn't cared. Her love was too strong to let anyone else's opinions get inside her head. After Buffy had 'let her down gently', and her subsequent move to Japan, though, her head had plenty of space to be filled with other people's views. Her own girls had learned better than to mention it but the way some of the other squads looked at her, always with jealousy at first and then a sort of sneering pleasure when they realised Buffy didn't even spare her a glance, it was annoying. On top of that, while she wasn't a jealous person herself, it hurt to see Buffy now treating Leah and Rowena as her seconds in command instead.
It was okay when she was up here though, alone, away from the bitchy muttering and Buffy's indifference. Satsu picked the apple back up from the floor and, extending her arm out in front of her, held it in on an open palm. She raised it to eye level and studied the fruit like it was something exotic and rather than just a regular apple. What had been smooth green skin when she'd started was now bruised a sickly light brown and was soft to the touch. The small slither she'd managed to remove oozed juice like a weeping wound. Her concentration wasn't concerned with its appearance however. She noted its weight and size, mapped its dimensions with a keen eye, and then launched it up into the air once more.
Her eyes tracked its rising course and the sword in her other hand came up and around in a powerful arc so that blade met fruit as it reached the zenith of its flight. Her aim was perfect this time, the angle she was holding her sword not so much. Again she hacked off a small slither but her strike was so forceful that the rest of the apple was batted across the room to hit the wall and then drop to the floor a pulpy mess.
Satsu sighed, "Bright side: if that had been a demonic apple trying to kill me, I'd have kicked its ass."
She selected another apple from the bowl she had brought up with her and set about steadying herself again. She would get this, eventually, even if she had to go through one hundred apples to do it because this wasn't about being better than them - the other girls all clamoring like boisterous puppies to have Buffy notice them - it was about reminding Buffy, who would have to give her some recognition eventually surely, why she'd considered her special in the first place.
Satsu had calmed her breathing and centered her focus on the apple in her palm, ready to toss it into the air, when she noticed the subtle change in the room. She hadn't heard the door open or close, couldn't even be sure she'd heard a soft footstep on the wooden floor but she was suddenly very aware she wasn't alone. The quiet, unobtrusive entrance made her heart race even as she forced every cell in her body not to outwardly react. She knew she hadn't been disturbed by any of the other girls. None of them yet had the years of practice it took to get this stealthy. There was only one person she could think of that might feel an urge to watch her without giving away their own presence. Only one person who might have snuck up here to have a conversation - a reunion - they didn't want to have in public.
Trying to act naturally, Satsu ignored the subtle sign that she had company and went back to what she had been doing, deciding just to let the other slayer speak when she was ready. It was easier said than done, her nerves were thrumming now and however evenly she breathed her concentration was definitely not focused on the apple in her hand.
Still, she threw it in the air anyway, otherwise she would just look like an idiot staring intently at an apple and . . . well, it wasn't exactly unsuccessful.
Her over-eager strike had struck the fresh apple dead in the center of its pale green body, cleaving it easily in two, but once again there was more force than skill in the move and while one half flew off across the room behind her, the other half plummeted, landing juicy side down onto her upturned face. Acute embarrassment made her hastily scrub her hands over her face to brush the apple chunk off and she nearly lost a nose in the process thanks to the sword still being in her hand.
Growing still again, eyes scrunched shut against her discomfiture, she waited for Buffy to start laughing or say something cute but the only noise to reach her red ears was that of the other apple half being bitten into with a juicy crunch. The sound made her swallow, shiver and grow wet.
Eyes still closed she was breathing deeply for a very different reason now as she summoned the nerve to turn around and find out if this desire was going both ways.
"Instead of trying to obliterate it with one swipe, try imaginin' you're just stroking the inside of the fruit to slick your blade in her juicy bits . . ."
Satsu's eyes popped open at the unfamiliar drawl - not the voice she had been expecting at all.
Trying not to show her surprise, she slowly turned on the spot and recognized the freelancing slayer immediately even though they'd never spoken, or even been in the castle at the same time before. In fact, she was pretty sure this particular slayer had been banned from the castle the last time Satsu had lived here. The Slayer Assessment Week really had brought everyone out of the woodwork. She stared at the other woman unabashedly now, thrilled with the chance to finally see Buffy's arch-nemesis in the flesh.
Satsu found she could only stare for so long before she needed to break the silence, because the other slayer was staring right back at her and despite the fact that she was still munching on the wedge of apple, her scrutiny was much more intense. She cast around for a suitable thing to say to this woman that rumor had taught her to both fear and revere; her mind would only settle on the most obvious one.
"Slick my sword in her juicy bits?"
That earned her something between a smirk and a leer, the expression was as infectious as it was intimidating and Satsu found herself smirking back.
"Well, I ain't much of a teacher but I learn best with the use of strong mental and visual aids, yunno? If you can taste the knowledge it really sinks in." The woman grinned as she threw the remains of the apple core out of one of the deep set windows. "Anyway, didn't mean to barge in on ya. I was just looking for some peace and quiet."
The older woman was about to walk back out of the gallery without another word.
"Wait! You're Faith, right?"
"One and only. Guess that means my rep is still preceding me, huh?"
Satsu smiled, "I've heard your name mentioned a few times . . . usually in dark corners."
That caused a chuckle, "And you should believe every word of it, kid."
Another chuckle, this one more delighted than the first and enough to make Faith turn around and step deeper into the shadowy room. "Glad to hear it. So, you got a name too?"
That surprised her; she'd developed a certain amount of fame herself after all. "You mean you don't already know?"
"Should I?" Faith shrugged as her eyes roamed lazily around the gloomy, sparsely furnished wind tunnel that was the long gallery. "There's a thousand of you newbies running around here, any reason you're more special than the rest of them?"
"Uh, I guess not." She cleared her throat and started again. "I'm Satsu, I'm with the . . ."
Faith's head came around fast, dark eyes still piercing in the muting shadows as they pinned her to the spot.
"Right." There was a pause where Satsu's heartbeat seemed to get louder and louder. "Guess you are more special than the rest of us then."
The switch from 'them' to 'us' wasn't lost on Satsu, not that she knew what to make of it yet. She stood strong under Faith's curious gaze, aware that she was being assessed right now in a completely different way to the rest of the girls. It wasn't over quickly and while the silence felt like it was about to physically suffocate her, she could tell it didn't bother Faith at all.
The elder slayer walked towards her, boots thudding softly on the wooden boards beneath their feet, and Satsu couldn't stop herself from tensing up, muscles bunching as she prepared for Faith's approach. The hand around the hilt of her sword was damp and clenching, and so was the place between her legs - that just minutes before had been growing wet for Buffy - as Faith came close. She wasn't Buffy, she didn't sound the same or smell the same, but she radiated the same power, shared the same alarming and yet alluring poise as her.
The appraisal didn't end even when they were toe to toe and Faith's dangerous gaze swept up and down her body, judging her physically, sizing her up mentally. Satsu thought about pointing out the concept of personal space but she didn't step back, gave no ground, showed no weakness. That didn't mean the situation wasn't making her nervous. She was a slayer too and she had the sword but she knew instinctively that neither fact would faze Faith if she decided to make this physical.
"So you're the one, huh?"
"The one what?"
Faith smirked again, but the close proximity made it difficult for Satsu to return it. "Don't look so nervous. I got over the urge to break B's toys a long time ago."
"I'm not a toy!"
Faith held one hand up as if she was surrendering and then pointed the index finger at her, "You are B's though. You're not fiercely denying that part so I must be right about it."
"I'm . . ." The words got lost in a gulp. Faith's face was only an inch away and no one had ever given this much attention to anything she'd had to say before. "It's personal."
"Aww, look at you defending your precious Golden One's tattering virtues like a good little . . ."
She nearly gave herself a heart attack doing so, but Satsu caught Faith's wrist in mid-air, just before the older slayer could pat her head. "You can patronize me all you want, but don't ruffle my hair."
Breaking into a genuine grin, Faith laughed and let her wrist be held in the air. There was an inch or so different in their heights and it felt like the other slayer was towering over her now but Satsu didn't let go - it was too exhilarating.
"Gotta say I was shocked to learn B'd stopped driving stick but I can see why she fell for you - all cute and girly and fierce wrapped up in this hot little package . . ."
"Thanks," Satsu blurted, "but it wasn't really like that. I mean, she did like me, but . . . there was no falling; we were never serious."
"What did you expect? It's Buffy." Faith tilted her head to the side sympathetically. "But you wanted it to be. You're in love with her."
They weren't questions and although Faith's tone had been light enough Satsu felt her face flush with humiliation. She released her grip on the other slayer's wrist and stepped back.
Faith stepped forward, staying with her. "So you two ain't bumping uglies no more I take it?"
Satsu held her tongue and looked down. It wasn't that she felt she owed Buffy anything, but that didn't mean she was going to disclose something personal to her enemy.
"That why you're up here all alone? Staying out of her way?"
She kept her silence.
Faith seemed to deflate right in front of her, losing the cocky, intimidating attitude for the first time. "S'why I'm up here."
Satsu couldn't stop herself from looking up and meeting her eyes. Faith mistook her simple curiosity at the change in her for something else.
"Don't get your panties in a bunch. We never fucked or nothing. Just . . . the bitch drives me batshit, yunno?"
Satsu shook her head. "Why?"
A little of the smirk came back with a self-depreciating shrug, "'Cause we never fucked or nothing."
Satsu stared at her for a beat while the words sank in and then, even though she pressed a hand hard over her mouth, she couldn't stop herself from laughing. She knew it was stupid, there were no witnesses if Faith took offense and decided to kill her, but she couldn't help it. All of the tension in her body just let go in one full-out belly laugh.
"Sorry . . ." she panted. "I'm really sorry."
"Don't sweat it, kid. Glad I could make ya feel better."
A minute passed.
"Okay, it's not that fuckin' funny!"
"Sorry," Satsu said again as the giggles died away. "It's just . . . everyone else thought I was so stupid for the way I felt, especially after."
"Hey, just 'cause I get it doesn't make ya not stupid. Just means I'm stupid too."
"How do you stand it?" Satsu asked, seriously. It was still daunting, talking to Faith, but now they'd found common ground she couldn't help but open up. "I thought moving to Japan would make the feelings go away but here I am, craving her attention all over again, even though I know we're done. I knew that even before she refused to acknowledge my presence but if anything her lack of interest just makes me want her even more!"
"I know how that goes. The more she ignores you the more you need to make her see you. Word of advice: Don't go the evil route! Learned the hard way that don't work. At least not in the long run."
Satsu smiled. "So how did you get past it?"
"Took me a while, but I've learned ways to deal with it now."
"Channeling the horny elsewhere's a real help."
"I already tried that," she admitted sheepishly.
"Maybe you didn't try it with the right person."
At first she thought the leer accompanying the suggestion was generic, until Faith tilted her head just-so again.
Faith gave another casual look around the long gallery. The sun was lower in the sky now to the west, changing the angle of the shadows across the floor and making the bright stripes between a fiery orange color. The rest of the vast room was still indistinct but Satsu knew they were alone, even with their intense exchange they'd have both been aware on some level if they weren't.
Coming to the same conclusion, Faith looked back at her, rolling her shoulders comfortably, a half-smile on her lips. "So, you up for it?"
Satsu stopped breathing. This was Buffy's enemy, it would definitely be crossing a line, but then again Buffy seemed to have forgotten she was alive, so really, where was the crime?
Faith didn't waste any more time on conversation. There had only been a couple of inches between them anyway and they were swiftly decimated as hands cupped the back of her head and pulled her closer. She opened her mouth to Faith as soon as their lips met, knowing this wasn't about emotion, just sex; they'd both be thinking of someone else.
Or so she'd thought. Kissing Faith was nothing like kissing Buffy and it was impossible to pretend it was. Where Buffy had always been sweet and slightly hesitant, even in the heat of passion, Faith was forceful, enthusiastic, demanding, hungry, insistent, just the right side of overpowering; awesome!
Satsu gave herself over to it completely until she felt Faith trying to wrench the sword from her hand. Was it a trick? Was she about to be attacked with her own sword? If she was there wasn't much she could do about it. The sword was plucked from her tight grip with the ease of taking candy from a baby, making her aware of just how much stronger Faith was than her.
Her worries proved unfounded when Faith just chucked the sword across the room. It landed by the windows with a clatter of steel on wood.
"Not looking to get a tit sliced off," Faith mumbled against her lips.
"But, uh, expensive sword!" Satsu pointed out.
She forgot about it in the same ragged breath as Faith's hands gripped the bottom of her t-shirt and started to pull it upwards. She pulled her head back, raising her arms high. Once her top was removed she helped Faith with hers.
They were both impatient now, kissing, groping, removing clothes as fast as possible. When they tumbled to the floor she landed on the bottom, sucking in a hard breath as her back met the wooden boards.
"Sorry," Faith mumbled as she licked and sucked at her throat.
Satsu arched her neck. "Didn't hurt."
"Beauty of being slayers. Rough sex can be . . ." Faith dragged nails down her side, over her ribs, to her hip while ducking her head to close teeth over a nipple. ". . . really rough."
Satsu laughed, one hand holding the mouth to her breast while her other traveled over Faith's body. "Buffy didn't think like that. Sorry, probably not the . . . oh . . . time."
"No, talk about her."
"Uh. . . "
"I . . ."
Satsu wasn't being deliberately reticent; it was just hard to think when Faith was biting softly at her ribs with one hand already pushing between her thighs.
"What did she taste like?"
"Oh God!" The question combined with the two fingers rubbing over her clit had sent her brain into an incoherent tailspin. "Butterflies!"
There was a pause in the biting, the rubbing slowed to a stop, and then Faith raised her head to look at her. "She tasted like butterflies?"
Too horny to be embarrassed Satsu slid and wriggled her body around and down until she could get her lips back on Faith's. Between kisses she said, "Yeah, hot, sweet, sexy, salty butterflies."
Faith's cynicism was blatant. "Really?"
She tried to roll them over, to be on top, but Faith was having none of that, so she settled for another dominating tactic. "Yes. Why, are you doubting me? Not like you have any way of knowing if I'm wrong."
Faith growled low in her throat, kissed her hard enough to bruise her lips and left Satsu gasping as two fingers pushed deep inside of her.
She never did catch her breath the whole time Faith was fucking her. Satsu gave herself over to it, spreading her legs, one arm tight around Faith's neck, holding her mouth against hers even after she ran out of air to kiss. When she came it was hard and the seconds felt like they lasted for minutes as she writhed against Faith's naked body.
Faith gave her about twenty seconds of recovery time before she was kneeling over her face. Satsu didn't complain, just gripped the other woman's ass tight in both hands and dived right in; and if one of the words wrenched from Faith's clenched lips as she came happened to be Buffy's name, she wasn't going to mention it.
If anything she felt a little guilty that she hadn't cried it out too.
She dropped her head to the floorboards, feeling satisfied to the point of happiness for the first time in a long while.
Dropping to the side, Faith rested on her ass beside her. "Now I definitely get what B sees in you."
Satsu chuckled, remembering Buffy's reaction after the first time they'd made love.
After a few moments Faith leapt up to pull on her clothes. "Better make a move. People tend to keep tabs on me 'round here and you might not think B sees you any more, but trust me, she's gonna notice if you ain't there." She smirked a little. "Especially if we both ain't there."
Still basking in the Buffy-memories and the Faith-sex, Satsu just shrugged as she dragged herself into a sitting position.
Faith nudged her with her foot before pulling her boot on. "Well? Come on."
"Sorry, just not ready to go back out there and face . . . everything. Especially after that," she added with a smirk of her own, "so I vote staying in here is better."
Faith dropped down across her thighs, arms hooking loosely behind her neck. "I hear ya. That rocked. I needed it, you needed it, it's all good." She kissed her, fast and possessively, before pulling back just as abruptly. "But if you ain't careful you're gonna wind up regretting it."
Satsu started to chuckle but the seriousness in Faith's eyes curbed the impulse. "What?"
"How do you think B would react to this?" Faith waved a finger back and forth between them before standing up again and stepping back.
"Buffy's made it clear she doesn't care who I have sex with," Satsu muttered.
"First of all, that's bullshit, Buffy don't work that way. But even if it wasn't, I ain't just anyone, kid." Faith selected an apple from the bowl, inspecting it as she carried on, "I'm the forbidden fruit . . . and guess what?" Her teeth crunched cleanly into the apple.
"I just took a big bite of it?" Satsu guessed weakly.
"Well, I was gonna say you fucked it," Faith admitted, chewing, "but, yeah, ya did."
"Oh . . ." Satsu stared into space, telling herself she shouldn't care, she didn't care, she wouldn't care! And then she jumped up and started dressing in record time. ". . . crap!"
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