"Okay, thanks, Lo'lani. This is big, there's gonna be a big end of year bonus in your next pay check."
"We don't get paid."
"Well, no, I meant the karma kind."
The Hawaiian slayer laughed as she disconnected the call.
"What was that?" Faith asked as she came through from the kitchenette with more cocoa for them both.
Buffy put her phone on the counter and stepped closer to take her mug of hot chocolaty goodness.
"It was the slayer stationed in Hawaii with Intel on Troy's next move."
"Wait, how does a slayer on the other side of the country even know about Troy?"
"Giles put out an APB after you were nearly carried away by Troy's demons. Every girl that's actively working for the council knows to look out for him and report his whereabouts or, uh, do-abouts."
"And where is he?"
"Lo'lani didn't know."
"Okay, so what's he doing?"
"Planning another kidnap attempt. Soon. And she thinks it's gonna be a major one. But he's scared to do it while I'm around apparently," she added smugly.
"So what do we do?"
"Well, for starters, I stick to you like glue for the foreseeable and hopefully that'll be enough to put him off."
Faith smirked, "Okay, I'm liking the plan so far."
Buffy smiled, "We'll get more girls in too; after the holidays. I feel bad enough about making the girls already rostared walk around on their own on Christmas Day, but the day after we'll double our patrol force. He won't get past us."
"You're not telling me everything," Faith said flatly.
Buffy was startled by the accusation; she thought she'd been laying the kidnapping thing on thick enough to keep Faith occupied. Obviously Faith just knew her too well now to be misled by lots of decisive talking. It should have been annoying, but it just made her want to smile inside.
"There is something else. You're not gonna like it."
"B, I don't like any of this!"
"Troy might be thinking about getting a lawyer. Apparently the idea is in his head anyway."
"A lawyer, why? What's he gonna sue me for? Breach of being his easy mark?"
Buffy said the word slowly, "Custody."
"Of what? Of him?!" she pointed at her stomach. "Hell no, no fucking way." She went quiet for a second. "Fuck!"
"It's okay, we won't let him win."
"This can't go to court!"
"I know, I mean who does he think he is? Threatening you with lawyers."
"He's a god, B. There are worse ways he can threaten me."
"But that's my point! He's a god! Gods can't go around using lawyers. Courts are for humans. You don't see vampires suing slayers for disregarding their human rights, why? 'Cause they're not human! Toni didn't get a lawyer when Zeus dropped his justice on her. Troy can't do this!"
Faith was as riled as she was, but more practical about it. "And are you gonna be the one to tell him that?"
"Yes. Or I'll write it on my fist and deliver the message that way if I have to."
"And you think he'll listen and not just, oh I don't know, kill you?"
"Fine, no violence," she backtracked, "if he wants civilized we'll give him civilized. You'll get a lawyer too." Agitated, Buffy began to pace as she planned aloud. "The Council must have top notch legal representation, what with all their shady dealings. Or . . . or . . . Angel's law firm, that place must be crawling with lawyers."
"Yeah, evil ones!" Faith reminded her.
Buffy didn't care about that. You fought fire with fire so maybe fighting evil with evil would work for once too. She'd tried playing nice, tried to give him the benefit of the doubt, but now, if Troy wanted a brutal and bloody custody battle . . . she was going to make sure Faith gave him one.
"And Angel and Spike have this big, old grudge against Troy so they have to be on board with this. I bet Angel will even do it pro bono. All you have to do is stand up to him in court."
"Buffy, I can't do that!"
"Why not? Come on, Faith, don't go soft on me now. I know this is daunting but you can do it."
"Daunting ain't the issue. Last time I showed up in the legal system I was getting sentenced to twenty-five-to-life, B! What? Now I walk before a judge and say, 'Hey, please let me keep my kid, oh and if you could not send me back to prison for the rest of my natural, that would be awesome too'?"
Buffy hadn't thought about that. It had been easy to forget that Faith even still was a wanted fugitive what with everything else that had happened that year.
"Well, maybe we can keep your identity a secret. Or Wolfram and Hart can give you a new one, just for the court case."
"And if it was for a traffic violation I'd risk that, but facing off against Troy Athanasia for his baby? Can you imagine how high profile that's going to be? The media will be all over it!" Totally frustrated, Faith slammed her palm into the wooden wall behind her, causing decorations to wobble on the ceiling above. "It's no good. Whichever way you look at it he's got me beat, the bastard. If I fight him I go back inside and he gets my baby, if I don't fight him, obviously he gets my baby that way too!"
"No he won't, I'm not letting that happen." Buffy shook her head vehemently. "I'll get a lawyer!"
"How's that gonna help?"
"I don't know yet, but I'll get one, the best one there is and we'll find a way to fight him without putting you in danger. I can be the spokesperson for your case or something. Or they could change my identity, I could be you!" Her voice was going higher and higher as she brainstormed. "The media never learned your surname and I could change my name to Faith Something-or-other, dye my hair dark and with the right paperwork it will be just my word against Troy's. And I bet we can find a lot more people willing to lie for us than to tell the truth for him. Who's he going to get as a character witness anyway? The long line of skanks he screwed before you? Zeus? Like that would help his case."
Faith was shaking her head in bewilderment, "You're crazy terrifying right now."
Buffy smiled and tried to soften her tone while keeping her determination. "The point is, we can do this! Maybe that way, maybe another way, but somehow we will do this. Troy is not going to win here."
"You would really stand up in a court of law, in front of a judge, and fight for . . ." Faith, looking a little thrown by Buffy's passionate outburst, gestured at her stomach. ". . . this?"
"Yes! If you can't, I have to. I'm sick of being bullied by him. For six months I've been letting him have control of this situation. If I'd just told you what was going on in the beginning instead of letting him intimidate me you wouldn't be going through this in the first place. So not any more. He can drop me right into the middle of Mount St. Helen's if that's what he has to do to feel good about himself, and it's the only way he's going to slow me down this time. I promise you, baby, he can pull every sneaky, underhanded tactic that he can think of and we'll be beat it, 'cause we are not letting him take our baby away!"
Buffy froze, eyes wide. "What now?"
"You said our baby."
Now she gulped, "Oh, well, o-obviously I meant to say the baby, or . . . or your baby, th-that works too. I just forgot the Y."
Faith tilted her head to one side, watching her closely as she repeated, "But you said Our Baby."
The wind went out of Buffy's sails. It had just been a verbal typo; why couldn't Faith let it go? She looked down at her feet, shrugging helplessly, but inch by inch her eyes rose until she was staring at the baby bump.
Looking Faith in the eye she shrugged again, not so helplessly. "I didn't mean to say 'our', it just slipped out, but you were right, whatever happens between us . . . I am invested."
"And you're going to fight for us, all of us I mean?"
Buffy nodded firmly. "Tooth, nail and battleaxe."
"Okay." Faith nodded too. "Okay, you need to put your cocoa down now."
"'Cause if you don't it's gonna end up all over you."
She just had time to whip the mug to the side and fumble it onto the counter before Faith was kissing her. She was bumped by the bump but did her best to shut her mind to it. It wasn't like she could pretend it wasn't there but she could pretend to be okay with it being there, and maybe if she pretended hard enough fiction would become fact.
They'd been standing there kissing for a few minutes when Buffy couldn't take it anymore and just had to step back, hands in the air as she gasped for breath.
"You changed your mind again," Faith said, disappointed but resigned.
"No, I didn't, I . . . I . . ." She ran a hand over her face, not sure whether she felt like laughing or crying. When she took her hand away she shook her head. "Screw it, you win."
"You're right, Faith. I want to be with you. Oh, God," she groaned. "I want to be with you so much. For the past year all I've wanted is to be your girlfriend, more than I've wanted to be someone's girlfriend ever . . ."
Buffy smirked. "Shut. Up. So, that's what I want, but now being your girlfriend comes with . . . extras."
"And you can't handle the extras?"
"No, I think I can. No, I know I can. It's . . . We'll make it work, but I just need to deal with a few . . ." she pointed both index fingers at Faith's stomach, ". . . related issues first."
Faith took a small step back, giving her some space, as she rubbed a hand over her stomach. "So what? You need a week? A month? Longer?"
Buffy shook her head, "Just give me five minutes." And then she squatted down until her face was level with the bump. She looked at it, and then at the floor, then at it again, then back to the floor. "Okay, maybe an hour."
Faith laughed, picked her cocoa back up and walked away. Buffy was disappointed; that was supposed to be a grand gesture and Faith had just dismissed it. The other slayer went through to the bedroom and Buffy straightened up and followed her to the doorway. Faith put her mug down on the bedside cabinet and plopped down onto the covers of the queen bed. It took her a minute or more to pull her legs up and shuffle back until she was sitting comfortably against the pillows.
"Okay, come over here."
Buffy was dubious, but grabbed her cocoa and did as she was told. When she was settled on the bed beside Faith, sitting up against the pillows on the other side, it felt weird. She and Faith had never done the bed thing. Unless you counted the tiny camp bed they'd shared for a night in Rome and really, that bared no resemblance this.
"So now what?" she asked.
"You tell me, you're the one with issues to sort out."
"Oh, right." She sat up straight and looked down at Faith's stomach. "So . . ." She looked back to Faith's face. "Is it weird if I talk to it? The books said it was good."
Faith shrugged. "Go for it, but I think he's asleep. Hasn't kicked in a while."
"That might actually make this easier." Buffy grinned as she realised what she'd said. "Not that I think he's gonna interrupt me if he's awake."
Faith smiled, "Just do your thing, B."
Buffy nodded slowly and focused on the bump again. "Hi, I'm Buffy . . ." She paused, frowning, but after a few seconds got up the guts to push Faith's top up to expose her rounded belly.
"Okay, now you can see me, let's start again. Hi, I'm Buffy. You don't know me yet, obviously, but hopefully you'll like me. I'm going to like you and I promise I won't let the horns or the tail put me off; you know, if you have them. And red is like practically my third favorite color," she added enthusiastically, "so if you come out red, that's okay too."
"B, what the hell are you talking about?"
"Effie, let me bond, okay!" Faith chuckled but kept quiet. "Where was I? Right, I don't care what you look like, I'll still love you." She surprised herself a little using the word love but didn't let it slow her down. "And I don't know exactly what our relationship will be yet. You already have a great Mommy and you have Daddy, even if he is a . . . well, a word you're too young to hear."
"Your Dad's a jerk-wad!" Faith interjected.
"What? I could have called him a lot worse."
Buffy rolled her eyes and went back to her one-sided conversation. "So I expect I'll be like a special Auntie or a . . . or a . . ."
"Another Mom," Faith murmured.
"What she said," Buffy nodded. "So we'll be spending a lot of time together and that will be good. I'll, uh, look after you and be there, you know, if you need me and stuff." She looked up at Faith sadly. "I don't think this is working."
"Buffy, if you meant everything you just said, it's working."
"I did, but, I don't know. Maybe it's stupid but I expected some kind of response."
"You can't expect him to be real chatty for a couple of years."
"Not a verbal response! Just some kind of cosmic sign."
Faith half rolled over to reach into the cupboard in her bedside cabinet. She rolled back with a bottle of moisturizing oil; there was a happy baby frolicking on the side. She set the bottle on the bed between them without mentioning it.
"So keep talking, maybe you'll get one."
Buffy eyed the bottle for a second before looking back at Faith's stomach. "So, that's pretty much it for now. I'm looking forward to meeting you, although it's gonna be weird. The only baby I've ever met was my little sister and I didn't really ever meet her as a baby - long story, I'll tell you when you're old enough to understand about mind-warping monks. I think you'll find it fun 'cause my little sister is going to be your Auntie Dawn and she's gonna think you're awesome, tail and all. - but yeah, I don't know any other babies, but then I guess you've never met any adults before either so we can pass that scary milestone together. Do you like the massages your Mommy gives you? Are they nice?" Buffy geared herself up and placed her palm lightly on Faith's belly. "Tap once for yes, twice for no."
There was no tap, not that she was expecting one, and then suddenly there was a slam against her hand. Something bulged out, it could have been a shoulder or a knee or a foot but something definitely bulged under her hand.
She pulled her hand back at once. "Okay, that was freaky."
"Guess he woke up." Faith shifted a little, getting more comfortable, and ran her hand over where the protrusion had occurred. "So he tapped once, B."
Buffy nodded, staring hard at the bump, and fumbled for the bottle of oil. "So I do this now?"
"Only if you want to."
"How much do I use?"
"Assuming you're gonna keep with the rubbing until the oil's used up . . . I'd say the whole bottle."
Buffy smirked at her, "How about we just start with a squirt?"
"Well, if you want to start our family off by aiming low, B," Faith smirked back.
"Family?" she repeated and Faith tensed, clearly thinking she'd said the wrong thing and freaked her out all over again.
Buffy waited for it too but the fear she'd grown used to feeling whenever she thought about her place in the baby's life didn't come this time. In its place was a buzzing nervous excitement, it made her scalp and fingertips feel tingly.
"We're gonna be like real grown-ups," she whispered with a funny little smile.
Buffy turned the bottle over to squirt a little of the oil onto Faith's stomach, it came out a lot faster than she was ready for. Faith leered as the slippery liquid dribbled all ways down the sides of her tummy, not caring that it was staining her clothes and the blanket beneath her.
"Oh fuck yeah."
"Faith, not in front of the baby!"
Laughing, Buffy caught the rivulets with her palms and swept the oil up over the generous curve of Faith's stomach. So far this was nothing like rubbing the suntan oil into Faith's back that she had enjoyed so much in the summer, but it was okay. She even grew used to the way the baby moved under her hands while she rubbed and massaged, sort of anyway, but it was even more rewarding when the bump gave one final kick before relaxing and going back to sleep.
She put her ear to it, sure that if she listened hard enough she'd be able to hear tiny snoring coming from inside. It was all quiet and Buffy smiled softly, placing a quick kiss where she assumed his head might be.
Faith chuckled, "Pretty sure you just kissed his ass."
"So where's his head?"
"How much lower?" she asked, suspiciously.
Faith smiled innocently. "A lot lower."
"Yeah, I think if his head was as low as you're making out right now, what you're angling for would be the furthest thing from your mind."
Faith laughed again and raised a hand to stroke Buffy's hair back behind her ear. "And I think you underestimate just how horny you make me, B."
"So you're saying you'll still want me even when you're screaming 'cause you've been in labor for thirty-six hours?"
"I'll always want you whatever . . ." Faith's eyes suddenly went big. "Wait? Thirty-six fucking hours?"
Buffy chuckled as she moved up the bed to sit close beside her once more. "Might be forty-eight."
"Please tell me you're just trying to freak me out to get some action?" Faith moved too, shifting to the side until she was facing her. Buffy mirrored her position. "'And you know when you want some of this now . . ." Faith's lips brushed over hers. ". . . you can just take it, right? It's all yours."
"It is?" she whispered.
Faith leaned in the few inches to prove it with a longer, deeper kiss. Buffy happily let herself be persuaded but had to pull away when she felt Faith's hand on her lower back, pressing them closer together.
"Too much too soon?" Faith asked.
"The oil's gonna ruin my sweater." Faith sighed because it was a lame excuse, or it would have been if it had been an excuse. Buffy pulled the thick wool sweater over her head and tossed it further up the bed. "So where were we?"
Faith gave her a big, surprised smile before reminding her, in detail.
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