The warehouse above was in darkness, abandoned to the outside observer. Troy did not know if there were any outside observers but he was taking no chances. Below street level, however, the small, secret bunker was very much occupied, his angry presence permeating the air, filling it to the walls until even he felt overcrowded on his own.
He was losing his mind over this, he could feel all of his power and all of his rage channeling into this one thing, stripping him of everything: reason, common sense, mercy, and he knew it was very dangerous but he could not stop. When a god went crazy he either imploded soundlessly, never to be thought of again, or he exploded noisily taking many of his followers and perhaps some of the world with him. Troy was starting to think he was reaching that point and he did not want to hurt anyone who didn't deserve it, but by his own sacred name if the last of his sanity bled from him over this he wasn't going quietly. He was exploding all over Buffy-fucking-Summers.
He stabbed a shaking finger towards a recent photo of the blonde slayer. She smiled back at him, arrogant and victorious. Ripping it down, he screwed it up in his hand and threw it so hard the flimsy paper caused a fine rain of brick dust when it hit the far wall. Still she stared at him, she was everywhere. All of the postcards depicting his favorite places on the planet were blotted out with her captured image. He had underestimated the despicable mortal more than once but he had no intention of making that mistake ever again.
He turned from that wall completely before he gave into the urge to beat it down with his bare fists, to remember what was at the heart of his torment, and the reason why he had to keep it together. On another wall were prints of digital photos taken of Faith. Troy smiled as he touched one, it was easy to see how much his son had grown from the first surveillance photo taken a few days after the Thanksgiving holiday to the latest picture taken just an hour ago, standing in the doorway of her shack, while Summers had been busy with his reindeer.
If only he had been able to snatch Faith then! But while Gargoyles made great aerial surveillance teams and were impervious to many forms of magical protection, their hulking stone bodies and blunt masonary talons did not make them ideal kidnappers. He did not want his son bruised and battered before he was even born, although he had half a mind to batter Faith himself after she had given birth!
Until then Faith needed to be treated with as much care as a fragile bird egg, this was a must, but the thought of her with that woman made his emotions raw, and it was very difficult to be patient. The very idea of Buffy Summers being in his newborn's life - holding him, caring for him, even being physically close to him - made his fists curl and caused the vengeful wrath that came so naturally to his kind to surge up inside him. He could not let it happen, he would rather be dead -- actually he would rather she was dead -- than let her taint everything he had waited his entire existence for.
And so he turned to a third wall of his underground bunker. Gone were the maps of the world that had pinpointed every new slayer's location across the globe and the last known resting places of all the artifacts he'd needed to bless the conception of his son. In their place were much more detailed maps of a much more specific locale. High resolution aerial shots were lined up with ordinance survey maps of the surrounding area. A few nights ago he had painstakingly re-drawn one of these maps by hand and, over the fine pencil lines, he had marked in ink where he was fairly sure traps were set - red pen for physical defenses and green pen for the mystical defenses.
He had a plan to take Faith right from that beach hut she was calling a home. It was possible. He was a god, anything was possible for him, but he knew it wouldn't be an easy feat; he couldn't act until he had every pawn in place.
Once she was in his custody everything would be okay. He would keep her comfortable. Faith would have everything she needed and desired to make the last few weeks of her pregnancy and the birth of his son as effortless and enjoyable as was possible. She would be treated as if she had become his wife and she would soon realize that he could offer her so much more than a freezing, isolated shack on the beach. And then, after the birth, he would discard her, throw her back to the pathetic mortals she had chosen over him. She would not be permitted to return and that was unfortunate; Troy shared a close relationship with his own mother and he was unhappy about denying his son the same, but after Faith's threats to deny him access he could not risk allowing their association.
After she was gone they would go back to Greece, just he and his son, and everything would be right with the world once more . . . quite literally.
There was still much to accomplish before that glorious day however. Faith was constantly guarded by ten slayers or more as well as all of the mystical wards their witch could think of. Marco would eventually unpick those and young slayers, especially bored and cold ones, were easily charmed, but with Buffy Summers nearly always in attendance and doing her own foot patrols around the property all of Troy's inside knowledge was useless.
There was only one solution - well two, but even at this point he was loathe to kill her with a snap of his fingers, he really needed to get over that - but no, the only solution that did not betray everything he believed about preserving life on Earth was to have Summers removed from the picture in a non-lethal way. He would gladly do it himself, in fact he relished the prospect of hitting her so hard the so-called unstoppable Slayer did not wake up for a month, but after the debacle his Serventi had made of taking a heavily pregnant and unarmed Faith from the street, he knew he was the only person capable of conducting that delicate part of the mission and even he couldn't be in two places at once.
That meant he needed someone else's help, someone he could trust, someone who knew how to take care of Buffy Summers very well indeed.
Everything about the afternoon exuded heat, the the blazing sun, the sultry breeze blowing through the open French doors, the perspiration covering their naked bodies and, most of all, the passion mounting between the three lovers on the bed.
The sheets were on the floor and long forgotten like everything else that existed outside of the pleasure they were providing each other. Thanks to the modern wonders of room service they had not left the privacy of their beach-front room for three days and, as they rested lightly before once again seeking skin to touch and lips to kiss, it was likely they would not leave for another three days. It was amazing how a diet of fresh fruit salads, coconut milk and Sex on the Beach (both liquid and literal) could boost a human's stamina.
Toni's cell-phone began to ring as she writhed, hips pushed up off of the bed as she took gratification from Lo' lani's mouth. She ignored it -- anyone who had that number was not someone she needed to speak to in this moment -- and the Hawaiian Slayer between her legs did not take any notice of it either.
Her other companion however had already pushed herself to one elbow to drink thirstily from a bottle of water and the cell phone was right beside her. The Slayer Toni had become friends with in Tokyo - although never this close until they'd bumped into each other in the Starbucks at LAX two weeks before - picked up the phone.
"Satsu, leave it!"
She didn't want anyone to know where she was or who she was with. This was her life now and she did not wish to have anyone disturbing the tranquility she was searching for. Still, as Satsu cheerfully ignored her command and answered the phone, Toni couldn't help wishing, a little, that the person calling was Buffy.
"Can I ask who's calling?" The Japanese-American grinned at her as waited for the reply. "Well, if you don't tell me I'm hanging up."
Satsu's face froze and in that second Toni really did think it was Buffy on the line, but then she thrust the phone towards her with a look of wonder and fear.
Toni took the phone, wondering what was going through her lover's mind. She knew of Toni's connection to Buffy, head of the slayers, and there probably wasn't a slayer in the land that didn't know about Troy and his relationship with Faith by now.
"Troy, ciao. How are you?"
He did not waste time on pleasantries. "You need to come back to Cleveland."
Her simple refusal gave him pause. She could hear him pacing. "It was not a question!"
"And I do not take orders from you. I am your friend, not your subordinate."
His tone softened. "I need your help."
She pushed Lo' lani gently away from her, urging her towards Satsu, and stood from the low bed. "With what?"
"I need you to keep Buffy . . . occupied."
She crossed the room and stepped out of the doors onto fine sand, staring out at the way the sun light played across the surf of the Pacific ocean. "Buffy and I are over."
"I am aware of that. You would not need to be with her for more than a few hours."
She laughed, upset, "How can you ask this of me?"
"There is no other way."
"You will have to find one. I do not wish to see her and even if I was prepared to have my heart broken by doing so I will never betray her in such a way again."
"I will make your sacrifice worth it," he promised. "I will give you anything you need."
Toni watched the waves sparkle and felt the sand beneath her bare toes as she listened to the two girls giggling on the bed; she smiled softly. "I have everything I need right now."
"I can see that your powers are returned. You could be a Goddess again, Antonella, immortal, full of love, irresistible to your chosen one."
Despite her conviction Toni gave it thought. How could she not? Being a mortal was terrifying and if she was herself again she could go back, she could fight for Buffy and know that she had at least a small chance of winning her heart.
"You cannot promise that."
"I can, you know I have the power to find a way."
"Then do it now. Return me to my true self tonight, not because you need something from me but because you are my friend. If you can do that I will come to Cleveland at once and help you."
"I will need some time. You know something of such magnitude cannot be prepared in a single day."
"How many days?"
Troy hesitated and Toni knew for sure what she had already known. He could not make good on his promise. This curse was permanent, until she died anyway.
"I cannot help you, Troy. Buffy and Faith have chosen to be together and you will have to accept this as I have."
"I don't give a damn if they are together. I care not that my pride has been wounded, I care only for my son. Faith is refusing to let me be a part of his life and that is not something I can ever accept."
Toni didn't say anything, it wasn't something she had expected to hear.
"I propose to take her by mild force and contain her until my son is born. Then she can go back to her precious Buffy and my child will remain with me. It is the only way forward, but Buffy guards Faith at all times and I cannot carry out my plan with her in the way. I need you to come back here, to distract her while I escort Faith to a secure location. If I have your cooperation I can ensure that Summers will not be harmed, otherwise . . ."
He left the threat hanging in the air but while it made Toni go cold inside she did not rise to it. "I cannot help you, my friend, I am sorry. You will have to do it alone."
"I cannot do it alone!" he shouted down the phone, his anger hurting her ear.
"Then you will have to talk with Faith, reason with her. She is upset that you lied to her but she loved you once, I am sure she will come around."
"And if she doesn't?"
"Then I recommend you find a highly priced lawyer, an expert in custody battles. You will beat her easily in court."
He was obviously giving the idea some serious thought and Toni decided it was the best time to end the conversation.
"I must go now, but good luck. I hope all works out well for you, my friend."
"Do I have your word that you are not going to call Buffy and tell her of our conversation? Our bond is older, stronger, than what you feel for that woman, yes? You will not inform her of my plans?"
It was audacious of him to even ask but Toni was not surprised, she had broken his trust before where Buffy was concerned. Things were different now though.
"I have no wish to speak to Buffy about anything. Just the thought of hearing her voice pains me in a way you could never understand."
"Thank you, Antonella. I hope you enjoy your new life. And if I ever find a way to restore you . . ."
She cancelled the call and after taking a moment to breathe in the warm, salty air, turned and walked back into the room to where the two slayers were kissing on the bed. She admired the sight of them for a moment before interrupting.
"How much of that did you hear?"
They parted, both rolling onto their backs to look up at her.
"All of your side," Satsu said.
"I caught most of his too," Lo' lani said. "He sounded very angry. Was that really him?"
"Yeah, did we really just overhear a call from the boogieman?" Satsu asked, excited. "This is huge!"
"It was Troy, si. He wanted my assistance."
"To do something bad?" Lo' lani asked. Toni didn't respond. "Are you going to do it?"
She shook her head.
Satsu sat up, all seriousness now. "You have to tell Buffy."
"I cannot do that. My allegiance is split evenly. I can no longer betray one to benefit the other."
"Your allegiance should be to Buffy!"
"No. I am not a slayer like you. Your allegiance should be to Buffy. If you had such knowledge then that would be your duty to inform her, but it is not something I can do."
The slayers stared at her for a beat and then turned excitedly to each other, Satsu backhanding Lo' lani's arm as they both caught on. They raced to reach their clothes first and find their cell phones; Lo' lani was able to dial the fastest and Satsu looked disappointed while still being excited too. This was a big moment for them, having information on Troy to pass along to the Head of the Slayers.
Toni could not listen though, not wanting to risk catching the slightest hint of Buffy's beautiful voice though the telephone, and went to stand back outside. She could do no more than she had done and she had probably done too much. Keeping the boy from Troy was wrong but her heart put its weight in Buffy's happiness.
She could only hope that, if it came to it, the child would find his way to his true destiny even without his father's influence. The fate of the world's continued existence depended upon it, and she still truly believed in that even if she would no longer live long enough to appreciate it.
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