Chasing Eden

Chapter Three

"Don't think she's over you as much as you think, B."

"What makes you say that?"

They had to raise their voices to talk over the yells of mock combat and the scrape and scuff of sneakers on the flagstone floor. Andrew had found a megaphone and was shouting encouragement to his squad from the sidelines, adding to the din, and Buffy was planning on shoving it somewhere painful if he didn't quit it soon.

"The way she ain't taken her eyes offa you since she walked in here."

Buffy's eyes darted nervously to where Satsu was standing. "I'm pretty sure that's just a sign that she's angry with me. I haven't spoken to her since she arrived. It probably looks like I'm deliberately avoiding her."

"Well ain't you?"

Buffy leaned away in surprise from Faith's terse reply. "No, of course not. I just . . ." she smiled and gave a sheepish twitch of her shoulders ". . . haven't really decided on what to say yet."

"Why? You ain't together anymore, right? You can just to talk to her like a regular slayer."

"You make it sound so easy."

"That's 'cause I'm really not getting why it's not."

Buffy glanced at Satsu again. The girl had turned her attention to the action on the floor now, which was a relief. Although the angry staring had been kind of sexy . . . which was another reason to be relieved that it had stopped!

"It's just never as simple as that, is it?" she said wistfully.

"Either you're over or you ain't. Not exactly advanced calculus, B."

"Oh, we're over, we even had the break-up sex and everything," she confided with a big grin, expecting Faith to grin back. She didn't. Buffy hurried on, "But, uh, I may have been slightly less than honest with her about why we broke up. She thinks I didn't care enough about her but . . ."

"Shouldn't you be having this little heart to heart with her?"

Buffy couldn't ignore the attitude anymore. She was trying here, really trying; the least Faith could do was the same. "Okay, why are you being so touchy about this?"

"What?" Faith turned to her. "I'm not being touchy, I just . . . I don't really understand what this has to do with me."

"Well, nothing, I just thought . . ."

"Actually, maybe you're right; I am feeling kinda touchy." Faith started backing away from her. "I'm gonna go for a smoke. I'll see ya later."

"Um, okay."

Buffy watched as Faith turned around and headed out of the room and then she stepped to the doorway to see the other slayer take off down the dimly lit passageway like she couldn't get away fast enough. That had been weird. She didn't claim to be an expert on the inner-workings of Faith's brain - and thank God she wasn't! - but she'd expected Faith to get a kick out of hearing about Satsu. Instead she'd acted bored with the story to the point of irritation.

It didn't matter how Faith had reacted. It was just a little disappointing. Buffy hoped that the one good thing that could come out of the two of them being forced back into 'friend' territory was the opportunity to get Faith's opinion on the sitch with Satsu. Because she really needed a fresh perspective on it. She knew Willow's opinion, it had gone a long way in influencing her decision-making process before, and even after six months Xander still turned into a drooling fool if she mentioned their fling. She'd figured that Faith - who had more sex-life experience than the three of them put together - might have a completely different take on the situation, maybe one that gelled better with Buffy's current desires after another long and lonely six month sex-free stint.

But obviously not.

Forgetting about Faith's weird behavior for now, Buffy moved back to a spot against the wall, between the door and one of the tall bins full of bottled water and Gatorade on a bed of ice that were dotted around the outside. From here she had a good view of the Great Hall and she didn't have to wait in line for refreshments. There were four squads currently occupying the middle of the large room. It looked as though they were competing in an ultra violent cheerleading competition. She didn't remember putting this on the assessment schedule but it was cool.

She scanned the length of the room slowly, trying to take in as much of the fast paced action as possible, and when her gaze hit the far end it smacked straight into Satsu's eyes - who was back to the sexy staring thing again.

Buffy dropped her gaze like it was hot - it was hot - but that felt mean, not to mention obvious, so she hesitantly met Satsu's eyes again across the crowded room.

Shit, the other girl was already making her way over!

Buffy remained calm and composed on the outside while she ran through a million things she could and should say. It wasn't very helpful, one opening line would be more beneficial, not a million she had to choose from. The door was looking very tempting too. She could be through it and halfway across the moors before Satsu caught up with her!

She held her ground though and decided on 'Hey, how are you?' for her opening number. So how shocked was she when Satsu reached her and just kept right on going? Shocked enough that her mouth hung open for a while, the 'hey' only half-formed. It snapped shut when she caught Satsu's satisfied smirk - the little minx had planned that!

The girl joined the rest of the Japanese squad in preparation for taking their turn on the floor. Satsu was concentrating on calling her team to order and only looked back once - over her shoulder as she stripped out of her hoodie - to catch Buffy's eye. She looked startled, but not unpleasantly so, to find that Buffy was still watching her.

Satsu gave a cautious nod, which Buffy returned confidently before looking coolly away to grab a bottle of water from the ice bin. She wasn't going to play games with her. At least not until she knew what game she wanted to play.

After taking a sip, Buffy recapped her water and let it dangle from her finger tips as she leaned back against the wall, arms folded, a picture of nonchalance, but she knew to scratch the painting would reveal a mix of messy swirls beneath. As if the menace of Twilight and the general anxiety that came with having most of the world against her wasn't enough, now she had to deal with her feelings for Satsu again.

It wasn't like her most recent lover didn't cross her mind from time to time anyway, of course she did, but the physical distance between them had allowed Buffy to keep the memory of her in a box at the back of her mind. The Slayer Assessment Week, which had seemed like such a good idea in its planning stages, had popped the lid on that box and a bunch of those springy joke snakes had leapt out and were currently slithering around her mind hissing 'Ssssatsssu, Ssssatsssu, Ssssatsssu!'

And, honestly, she didn't want to deal with it again - not if the end result was just going to be the same. She didn't want to have to hurt Satsu all over again. She didn't want to have to go through the endless days of deep thoughts again where she couldn't decide if she'd done the right thing or not. She didn't want to wade through the process of self-reflection that left her with too many questions she didn't want to answer. Like, what had possessed her to sleep with the young slayer who was seriously in love with her in the first place?

She'd told Willow she'd acted rashly because of loneliness. She'd told Xander she'd been impulsively searching for a human, emotional connection. She hadn't been lying to either of them but she hadn't been telling them the whole truth either. Everyone believed their fling was something Buffy regretted . . . it wasn't.

Shame really, she might sleep easier at night if she did regret what had happened between them.

The Japanese squad was on the floor now, along with teams from Turkey, Brazil and Buffy's very own North British Squad. Not planning on assessing herself, she had passed the reins to Leah for the duration of the week. She watched her girls go through a final series of warm-ups, crossing her fingers that they'd perform like the elite squad she had trained them to be. It wasn't that she thought they might embarrass her or anything . . . but she couldn't help being a little pleased that Faith - who would no doubt take great pleasure in nit-picking their performance just to push her buttons - hadn't stuck around to see them compete.

She sighed, knowing she had to let go of that kind of thinking if she really wanted to patch things up with Faith. She wasn't entirely sure why she felt compelled to do so anyway, except that she missed Giles and now the two of them came as a duo, apparently. Buy one slightly worn, faithful, highly lovable Watcher and get a slightly psychotic, double-crossing, overly sexy Slayer free! And she did not mean sexy in a good way!

Buffy missed her Watcher so much it felt almost liked he'd died and had not just chosen to follow a different path to her. So, after many sleepless nights, she'd deduced that if she wanted Giles back, she had to accept Faith back too.

From the moment Buffy made the decision to accept Faith back into her life - not just as a peripheral presence but actually as part of the gang - things seemed to fall into place quickly to make it happen. She saw it as a sign that she was doing the right thing, except that now that she was here, Faith didn't seem to want to be a part of the gang. She'd made herself absent as much as possible when she wasn't directly needed, and their earlier conversation showed just how much Faith didn't want to talk to her. It was aggravating . . .

. . . but Satsu was cheer-slaying now.

She and her team of girls were taking up the space right in front of Buffy's leaning spot - like that wasn't a deliberate move! - and Faith was suddenly not on her mind anymore.

With approval Buffy noted all of the ways Satsu had improved over their time apart. She had always been the most promising member of her own squad, which was why Buffy had okay'd her promotion despite her inexperience. Now, throughout her team's unrehearsed sparring routine, Buffy could see that her moves were smoother, her eye keener, her reflexes sharper, her butt tighter . . . okay; she had not just thought that last part!

Giving herself a time-out, Buffy scanned the Turkish and Brazilian squads, checking for obvious flaws, and then turned her eye to her own girls. They were good, mostly faultless. They'd split into two to side off against each other and it was hard to see a chink in either side's defenses and their attacks were swift, calculated and brutal-looking. All in all they were doing her proud . . .

. . . but they weren't nearly as much fun to watch as Satsu!

Buffy tried to keep her observation professional but, although she wouldn't admit it to anyone later, she didn't really see the rest of the Japanese squad unless they were interacting with Satsu. The girl made the off-the-cuff sparring look as poetic as a carefully choreographed dance routine as she skipped and twirled around the floor, throwing girls over her shoulder one way while blocking deadly strikes with her feet from the other. Even without paying them as much attention as she should be it was easy to see that the rest of the squad were well-trained and disciplined - proving Buffy had made the right choice in promoting her - but Satsu stood out even so. Her moves were just so fluid and . . . beautiful!

Admiration and pride were morphing into a whole other type of reaction to Satsu's beauty and grace now, as evidenced by the increasingly slick feeling in her panties. Buffy knew she should probably stop watching now. Instead she squirmed ever-so-slightly in place as she tried to subtly press her thighs together.

This was still new to her. She'd never had the sexy feelings over a girl pre-Satsu. Okay, so that wasn't strictly one hundred percent true. There had been one other experience of it in her past, but that been a long time ago, and the key words were: 'past', and 'long', as in long past. It wasn't something she had ever expected to happen again. She'd had the same-sex crush life-experience in high school and had happily gone back to boys (if 'happily' meant 'ran back as if the Hounds of Hell were chasing her'. The gay Hounds of Hell. The gay and criminally insane Hounds of Hell.)

Buffy blinked out of that reverie before it could take her too far down memory lane and concentrated on the girl at hand. When they'd met, Satsu had apparently picked that very big lock on the very small door that led to her slight gayishness - heavy on the ish - but even though Buffy had been sort of, a tiny bit, attracted to her from the moment she'd found out it was Satsu who had kissed her awake, she'd never intended for one second to act on it.

She had, obviously. She'd gone ahead and selfishly satisfied her bi-curiosity and surely that should have been the end of it.

Watching Satsu now kinda proved it wasn't. And she could tell herself it was all to do with loneliness or the simple fact of slayer needs, but that didn't convince her it wasn't mostly about Satsu and the way the younger slayer made her feel - when Buffy gave herself permission to feel it anyway. She had to keep denying it, it was the only fair thing to do, but it was becoming clear to her that Satsu hadn't just been a thing, an experiment or whatever; Buffy actually liked her.

The current teams finished their routines while Buffy was brooding about how her love life could never just be straight-forward and easy. She barely registered most of the girls making their way off of the floor so others could take their place but snapped out of her reverie when she realized one girl seemed to be waiting for an instant assessment.

Sweaty, disheveled and still panting from the exertion of the last ten minutes, Satsu stood in front of her. She'd stopped just beyond the ring of spectators to stretch and warm-down and it might have all looked perfectly innocent if it wasn't for the little glances that kept coming Buffy's way.

Buffy knew she should ignore the attention, no good could come of encouraging it . . . She had to bite away her smirk and she thought about how much good could come from it actually, but that was exactly the kind of good that she shouldn't be encouraging. It was too late, Satsu had noticed her momentary change from uninterested to amused and was smiling outright now as she lifted the bottom of her tank top to wipe at her sweaty face.

'Oh, don't show me your abs!' Buffy's expression changed again to one of mock-dismay as she caught a glimpse of Satsu's perfectly toned tummy. 'That's not fair!'

Admitting defeat, at least until she could get her resolve back, Buffy uncrossed her arms and straightened up.

Satsu took the hint immediately and came closer. "Hi."

"Your squad was great," Buffy offered, trying to keep things business-like. "You should be proud."

"They did good," Satsu agreed, and then with shy eyes but a cocky smile she asked, "And me personally?"

Buffy nodded once. "Also great."

The buzz from the fast-paced, action-packed exercise was filling Satsu with confidence. "That's all you have to say? You looked like you were taking a special interest."

Buffy kept her voice cool. "You positioned yourself right in front of me making it hard for me to see anyone else, let alone focus on them."

Satsu's smile dropped a little at her tone but she said, "I'll take that as a compliment."

Buffy nodded again. Nodding made her feel in control of the situation. "Your performance was compliment-worthy."

"Thanks. So . . . I'm feeling a little dry with all the heavy breathing you just made me do . . . any chance I can have a sip of your water?"

Buffy smirked but pointed to the bin beside her. "Get your own."

Satsu apparently wasn't that thirsty. She looked around nervously at the crowded hall before speaking again. "Is there any chance we talk somewhere quieter? I'd like to get a more in-depth appraisal."

Buffy wanted to say yes, just for a few minutes to talk even, but it was a bad idea. Satsu had to be a no go area, because Buffy couldn't risk going there again. She shouldn't even want to! If it was too dangerous for Satsu to be in love with her, it was even more dangerous for Buffy to have feelings for Satsu.

So she shrugged in what she hoped was a casually apologetic way and shook her head. "Sorry, I can't."

Satsu's dark eyes were more daring than pleading as she asked, "Please? Your thoughts would really mean a lot to me. You know, in the way that you could help improve my capabilities as a squad leader."

Her resolve was weakening further. To offset the effect the girl was having on her Buffy gave her a stern look and used what Xander and a few of the girls called her General Buffy voice.

"Satsu, you can see I'm working here. There's still a few more squads to go. I couldn't just leave with you even if I wanted to."

Girls treated to General Buffy usually either stomped off sulking or turned into a quivering, crying mess. Judging by the small smirk on Satsu's face there may have been some quivering going on, but it had nothing to do with fear.

"Okay, I get it." Satsu put a hand on the wall beside Buffy's left shoulder and closed the gap between them.

Buffy shrank back against the wall, trying and failing to back away from the sweet heat and intoxicating scent radiating from Satsu's neck as she leaned into her. Her heart beat harder, her breath came faster as she squeaked, "What are you . . .?"

Satsu reached down and Buffy heard the scrape of displaced ice. It cleared up her confusion but now Buffy was blushing at her mistake and a little mad at Satsu this time for deliberately causing said mistake.

When Satsu pushed herself upright she was holding a bottle of water. She twisted the cap and continued like the past thirty seconds hadn't happened, "You don't want to talk to me."

Buffy looked down at her own bottle of water, it was easier than meeting Satsu's hurt brown eyes. "Like I said, I don't have time, but if you want I can see that a copy of your personal assessment gets accidentally cc'd to you."

"Don't go to any trouble." Satsu clearly decided to cut her losses and walk away.

"Where are you going?" Buffy didn't want the girl to leave completely. "You can stay and watch the rest of the squads with me if you like."

Half turning back to the weak offer, Satsu considered it but then gave a shake of her head, "Thanks, but I have things to do."

"Um, yes, and this is the thing you have to do," Buffy pointed out, gesturing around the Hall, but Satsu had already gone through the door.

Buffy slouched against the wall again. Her offer of company had been snubbed by two girls in twenty minutes and even it was for the best as far as Satsu was concerned and not exactly a big deal where Faith was concerned, it was still a blow to her pride and made her fidget irritably and take no notice of the show the squads from New York, British Columbia and Spain were putting on for her.

Nobody seemed to get just how unfun it was to be the person in charge around here. She already felt so cut off from everyone she could cry and now the two people she thought she could count on to make her feel somewhat connected didn't want to be around her either. She was going to lose it from a combination of poor public perception and the constant isolation at this rate. Go all Dark-Buffy on their asses and turn the dungeons into her secret lair and make Xander her evil henchman and Willow her wicked witch and really start planning the destruction of the human race! See how they all liked them apples!

A slayer yelling out as she awkwardly hit the hard stone floor with her elbow brought Buffy back to the here and now and she sighed as she waved for a medic. She had to do something about this remoteness she was feeling before it became a real problem - a problem more likely to involve padded walls and uncomfortable jackets than secret lairs, true, but still a real problem.

Or, at the very least, she needed to get laid.

Chapter Four

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