DISCLAIMER: Buffy the Vampire Slayer and all the slayerettes belong to Joss Whedon and Mutant Enemy. No infringement intended.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
FEEDBACK: To thedatajunkie[at]gmail.com
By The Datajunkie
Buffy read the letter again and then let it fall to her desk. Damn. This couldn't have come at a worse time. She spun her chair around and stared at the elaborate window behind her desk. Still, there's no avoiding it. The council representative will be here in a week.
The door to her office swung open and she couldn't stop a smile from easing her somber expression. Willowscent filled her nostrils and she turned back around to watch her lover enter.
"Hey there. You ready for lunch?"
Buffy shrugged off her concerns and rose. "I sure am." She looped her arm through Willow's. "Are you on the menu? Cause I'm gonna gorge myself if you are."
Willow giggled as Buffy's hand slid around her waist and up to lightly fondle her breast. "I think we're having chicken but I could be persuaded to provide desert."
Lunch was a relaxed affair for the most part, though Tara noticed Buffy's attention wandering at times. She glanced at Willow and saw her watching their mistress curiously.
"Buffy? Is everything alright?"
"Huh? Oh yeah, everything's fine Will. I'm just " Buffy rolled her eyes. "I'm just trying to figure something out without talking to you guys about it. Which is a mistake that I should know better than to make."
Tara leaned forward and laid a gentle hand on Buffy's arm. "What's wrong?"
"Faith is coming here."
"Oh no. When?" Willow's tone was bordering between outrage and dread.
Kennedy cleared her throat. "Um, Faith?"
Standing, Buffy walked to the French doors that were open to catch the afternoon warmth. "Faith is the other Slayer."
"Whoa. Other Slayer? I thought there was only one?"
"Usually that's true, however a loophole was discovered. I died."
Kennedy's eyes widened at that calm announcement. "I take it that you got better?"
Tara couldn't stop the laughter that bubbled up with the scribe's sarcastic question. "It was only a light case of death. Nothing t-terminal."
Buffy shook her head as the other women dissolved into giggles. "I have comedians for an entourage." She waited until the laughter subsided before continuing. "My heart stopped for a few minutes. Xander brought me back with CPR. But it was enough for another slayer to be called. That's Faith."
"Okay, so there's two slayers. What's the problem?"
"Faith is a little wild."
"Wild? As in.."
"As in she's a bitch." Willow's sharp exclamation surprised Kennedy with its fierceness.
Buffy held her arms wide, calling Willow to her. "Come here, Will."
Willow let the Chosen's arms surround her and forced herself to calm down. "I'm sorry."
Buffy cupped her face and kissed her tenderly. "Don't apologize. You have every right to be pissed with her. But you know that I'm not going to let anything happen to you right?"
"Of course. She just makes me so mad."
"Um, I'm kind of lost here. Is there something about Faith I should know?"
Buffy sighed mightily. "Willow was still my scribe when Faith was here the last time. She made it known that she wanted Willow in a more than scribely manner. Willow told her no but Faith didn't take no for an answer."
Willow's glare let everyone know exactly how she felt about that. The dark slayer had cornered the scribe in her bedroom, overpowering her and pinning her to the bed.
Afraid and angry, Willow had bitten the lips attacking her own and screamed, bringing Buffy. The door had splintered at her entrance and Buffy had simply picked Faith up and threw her out the window. She had jumped after her and they had fought in the garden below.
"Buffy kicked her ass and sent her back to New York." Willow's delight in that was apparent.
"So why's she coming back here?"
"Not sure. The letter from her scribe simply said that Faith and her entourage would be arriving for a visit next week and that they expected to stay three days."
"But you don't have to let her stay here, right?"
Buffy rubbed the space between her eyebrows. "I'm not sure. With Faith, sometimes it's best to have her close at hand where we can keep an eye on her."
Tara rose, drawing everyone's attention. "Let her stay here. Willow is your Handmaiden. If Faith tries anything then you have the right to call challenge."
"I knew letting you loose in the library was going to have interesting results." Buffy looked at Kennedy. "I don't know why she's coming but there is a possible danger from her. While Willow and Tara are protected by their positions as my shieldmates, you aren't."
Kennedy wondered what she was getting at. Since the night Buffy had seduced her two weeks ago, she had not been approached by the slayer since. Truthfully she was a little disappointed and somewhat saddened by the thought that Buffy had only used her.
"I've been patient these last weeks, letting you choose the pace of any possible relationship, but we're running out of time." Buffy's words were a revelation.
"You were waiting for me?" Color rose in the scribe's cheeks. "I thought I thought you "
Buffy knelt by the brunette's chair, taking her hands. "Thought that it didn't mean anything?"
Kennedy nodded, causing Tara to chuckle. "Buffy is many things, but she would never be that callous."
So Buffy had truly wanted her that night. But what did she want from her now? "What do you want from me? What am I supposed to say here?"
"Fair questions. I want.. whatever you care to share with me. If you wish to join my house then I would welcome you as my third. Or if you want nothing more to do with me then I'll respect that. Either way you're still my scribe."
Kennedy was confused and unwilling to make a decision that could affect her life like this without more thought. "Can I think about this?"
"You can take as long as you need Kennedy. Forget about Faith. Forget about the council. Focus on what you want to do, okay?"
Willow sat down on the edge of Kennedy's desk and waited for her to look up.
"I was just wondering if there were any questions you wanted to ask me or Tara about the whole Handmaiden thing."
Kennedy immediately blushed, much to Willow's delight. "Ah. Actually there was." She straightened the papers in front of her nervously. Then picked them up and slid them into her current box. The stapler was crooked, so she lined it up with the edge of her desk lamp. Which was tilted slightly. Kennedy straightened that as well.
Willow waited, knowing that it would get out eventually.
"Doesn't it bug you? Her wanting to sleep with other people?"
"If I tried to look at it through normal eyes, then yeah it probably would."
"Eyes that don't see what's really going on in the world. Ones that are blind to vampires, werewolves and demons and all the other wacky ickyness that the Hellmouth spits out."
"So you're not jealous cause there's vampires?" Kennedy' expression was doubtful.
"No, I can share the Slayer because she is the Slayer." Sad knowledge filled her emerald eyes, making Kennedy's heart lurch unexpectedly. "You've had the same lessons I had. You know that no Slayer has survived beyond her twenty-fifth year. Buffy's twenty-two. She knows that every night when she steps out of this place to patrol that she may not come back." Willow's gaze hardened. "Mind you, I intend on doing everything I can to make sure she breaks that record, kind of my personal quest."
"So, it's a carpe diem type thing?"
"Yeah." A pause. "I love Tara. Even if I had never become Buffy's scribe, somehow I know that Tara and I would have met. It probably makes me a terrible person but knowing that if when something happens and Buffy doesn't make it back one night, that I won't be alone makes it a little easier to let the Slayer go out and be the Slayer."
"You're not a terrible person. I get it, ya'know? I see how its okay. Cause losing Buffy that wouldn't be an easy thing to survive." Kennedy let her head fall forward into her hands. "God. Even now I can't wrap my head around the thought of her dying. And I only slept with her once!"
Willow's sympathetic chuckle made her look up. "Sounds like Buffyitis. Its highly contagious, spreads fast and there's no known cure."
Fiddling with her pen, Kennedy asked, "So Tara's okay with this too?"
Willow nodded. "Yep. Though I was attracted to her from like the second we met, it was Buffy that brought her in so to speak. Some days I think that Buffy planned it this way on purpose."
"To have two beautiful women falling all over her? Not a great stretch of the imagination there."
"Not that well not only that. I mean, it's almost like she's making sure that me and Tara will have somebody in case you get my drift."
"Yeah. She obviously cares for you both a great deal." Her doubts about whether that could extend to her were apparent. Willow was quick to reassure her.
"Hey, don't kid yourself. She really likes you. You stood right up to her and got in her face. Not many people have the guts to do that. She respects you."
"Good to know. Thank you." Kennedy tapped her pen against the desktop nervously. There was one other question she had to ask. She drew a breath and let it out.
Willow felt herself blush, but answered. "Ah. The... sex. Well, it depends."
Feeling herself grow steadier as the redhead grew more flustered, Kennedy stood and hopped onto the desk next to Willow. "I mean, do you take turns with Buffy, or do the three of you just kinda go at it?" She was closer now, her breath stirring the strands of Willow's hair, touching her cheek.
"Um.. I both?"
"Really?" Kennedy brushed the scarlet hair back behind a rose tinted ear and smiled. "Wow. Blushing ears. I don't think I've seen that before."
Willow laughed nervously, wiping her damp palms dry on her jeans. "Well, I, uh what was the question?"
Kennedy caught the delicate flesh between her lips and nipped it gently. "So if I join Buffy's house I get to sleep with you too?"
Willow's gulp was audible. "Yee..ssss. I think, Buffy " She trailed off as Kennedy ran her tongue up the curve of her ear. "Goddess!"
Tara watched this from the doorway, wondering for a moment if she should save Willow or help Kennedy. She smiled wickedly. It would be more pleasurable to help Kennedy.
Kennedy saw the blonde witch approaching but didn't stop what she was doing.
Tara moved to stand between Willow's legs and began unbuttoning the redhead's shirt. "One other thing you should know about, Kennedy." She pushed the material off Willow's shoulders, but didn't pull it off completely. "Here."
Kennedy looked down at Willow's bare breasts. "Beautiful"
Tara chuckled and gripped Willow's left breast. "Yes, but I was talking about this." She outlined the small tattoo marking the smooth flesh. "The mark of the Handmaiden"
Kennedy wondered how she could have missed seeing this before. Tattooed in red ink were two cuneiform symbols.
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Tara slipped her own blouse off and unclasped her bra, letting it fall to the floor. Ignoring the leap in her pulse, Kennedy focused on her left breast and saw an identical mark. "What does it mean?"
"Quite literally 'Her Hand'."
Tara waved a hand and everything on Kennedy's desk floated to the floor, leaving it clear to push Willow onto her back. She reached out and lightly pinched Willow's nipples, making the young witch gasp.
Kennedy met Tara's eyes and realized that she was being asked a question. No words were spoken but still she understood. She smiled slowly and nodded.
Willow felt her jeans being tugged off but had no time to consider this as her left breast was taken into Kennedy's mouth. She arched up, but found that her arms were bound by the shirt still around her arms. Tara slid the tiny flower-dotted panties off and pushed their captive's thighs open, exposing the damp curls to the afternoon light. She caught Kennedy's hand and moved it to the inviting spot. "Willow flows like a waterfall when she's excited."
Kennedy couldn't believe what she was feeling. Her head was about to explode and as she plumbed the soaked folds she sensed Tara moving to stand behind her. Strong hands encircled her, gripping her breasts as an avarice mouth latched onto the back of her neck. Kennedy clenched her hands in reaction, electing an answering cry of pleasure from Willow.
As her own clothes fell away under Tara's insistent hands, Kennedy felt herself falling as well; under the spell of the moment. In the back of her mind she acknowledged the fact that she might come to regret this decision but here and now what she and Tara and Willow were doing made perfect sense.
Tara urged the scribe to join Willow on the desk, maneuvering the brunette until she was lying across the redhead, able to taste the sweet delights waiting between her legs. Within moments, she felt herself being lifted slightly and realized that Tara had somehow managed to climb onto the desk with them. A stray concern about whether or not the desk would support them was chased away by a mouth on her own center. She moaned into Willow's flooding core, making the woman under her jolt.
Straddling Willow's head, Tara wasn't surprised to feel a familiar tongue sucking the source of her pleasure. She pushed two fingers into Kennedy and began separating them, twisting them, making room for the addition of a third. A strangled moan was encouraged her and she stroked faster.
A movement beside them caught her attention and she looked up to find Buffy standing beside the desk. "Mistress."
Buffy's smile was pleased and she ran her hand across Kennedy's ass. "Add another finger, Tara. Make her feel it."
Dimly, Kennedy heard the words, but they didn't make sense until she felt herself being stretched wider. Releasing the tight suction she had created around Willow's clit, she cried out. "Oh my God!"
Tara watched her Mistress, seeing her pleasure in Kennedy's response. Buffy muttered something Tara couldn't hear and she saw the top of a hobgoblin's head as he passed something to her.
Buffy ordered him away and raised the bottle of lubricant over Tara's busy hand. A cold stream poured out and Kennedy jumped. Buffy wrapped an arm around her waist, holding her still. Tara saw what her mistress wanted and folded her fingers against each other before pushing forward again. The extra fluid eased her passage and steady pressure soon pushed her deeply into the whimpering scribe.
Kennedy was going to die. She had to be. No one could survive sensations like this. She heard Buffy's voice in her ear, encouraging her, even as she felt the Slayer's fingers touching and pinching her clitoris. Kennedy screamed against Willow as she came, sending the redhead off as she convulsed.
Buffy held Kennedy up, preventing her from collapsing and squishing Willow. Tara carefully eased her hand out of the brunette and climbed off the desk. Buffy eased Kennedy down beside her First, aware that the scribe was no longer conscious. She kissed Willow's sweat dampened forehead and turned to Tara.
"You are in for a serious reward." So saying, she tossed the blonde witch over her shoulder and ran out of the office and up the stairs.
Willow tiredly kissed the knee beside her and let herself drift contentedly.
The night's patrol was over and dinner was a distant memory. Kennedy sat uneasily in an oversized chair near the fireplace and watched as Willow and Tara prepared the bedroom for Kennedy's thoughts derailed and hyperventilating was starting to look very appealing. She was still reeling from the events of this afternoon, but she could not say she hadn't enjoyed herself. Blushing at the memory, Kennedy tried to pull her thoughts back to the present as Willow cast the protection spell on the bedroom.
Tara lit the last candle and began undressing, her eyes fixed on Kennedy's. "I recommend b-breathing once in a while Kennedy."
Willow giggled as she laid her pants aside, leaving her clad in a miniscule pair of red silk panties. "I seem to recall that you fainted the first night Tar. Twice."
Tara stuck her tongue out at the redhead. "Exactly. Breathing would have helped that night." She held her hands towards Kennedy, urging her closer.
Kennedy approached the women, fully aware that her face was flaming as her mind kept insisting on replaying the incident on her desk. "I, why am I so nervous? After today-." She fell silent as Tara touched her lips.
"Cause this is different." She looked at the bathroom door and Kennedy followed her gaze to see Buffy standing there. Drawing in enough air became a problem as the scribe let her eyes wander over the naked and glistening form.
Buffy strolled into the room, completely comfortable in her nudity and not a little pleased at the reaction she was causing in the others. Stopping before Kennedy, Buffy clasped the brunette's shoulders. "I'm happy you're here." She moved closer, capturing the scribe's lips, pushing into her mouth and claiming her.
Kennedy's knees disappeared on her and she could feel herself sinking against the Slayer, lost in the intensity of the kiss.
Powerful arms encircled her waist, keeping her standing as the Slayer began tasting her way down Kennedy's neck. The low moan that escaped couldn't have been stopped even if Kennedy had wanted to.
Willow was smiling indulgently at the scene, remembering her own journey into the delights that the slayer could provide. She felt Tara's arms around her and leaned back against the taller witch, her head rolling back as her breasts were seized in a playfully rough grasp.
Buffy had picked Kennedy up and placed her on the large bed, sliding next to her, letting her hands wander freely across the willing girl's body. Tugging and teasing the breasts before her, Buffy brought Kennedy closer and closer to climax, yet keeping her from going over. "Willow."
Willow was beside her a moment later, and Buffy could feel the harness being buckled into place around her.
Kennedy felt the blunt width pressing against her opening and cried out, clutching Buffy close as she was slowly and steadily invaded. "Oh God! Buffy!"
Buffy began an unhurried pace, her eyes locked on Kennedy's face, wanting to see her, wanting to learn her expressions as she was pleasured.
Her hips rising to meet the Slayer's thrusts, Kennedy could feel her mind separating from her body until there was only the awareness of the woman taking her body higher and higher.
Buffy increased her pace, driving the scribe over the edge in a sudden rush and then dragging the orgasm out, prolonging it with untiring plunges and forcing the body under her to crest again in pleasure.
Kennedy was writhing against Buffy, pinned in place and unable to escape the continuing onslaught. Again and again she was thrown over the precipice until time had lost all meaning and her body was shaking uncontrollably. Her sobbing cries were finally answered as Buffy shuddered to climax above her, collapsing on top of the scribe as the waves of ecstasy crashed through her.
As they lay there, lungs straining for air, the bed's other occupants were carrying on with their own pursuits as Tara continued her assault between Willow's legs. The redhead was returning the favor with cheerful abandon.
"Tara, you aren't hunting tonight." Buffy took the bracers from the blonde and undid the thick collar. She unbuttoned the silk shirt and tugged it off. The bra followed. Buffy wrapped Tara's cloak around her shoulders and drew it closed. "Willow your job is to protect Tara tonight, understand?"
Kennedy watched all this in confusion wondering at the Slayer's motive. Willow was just smiling, the kind of smile that made one's mind go to naughty places. "I understand."
Kennedy didn't find out what Buffy was up to until later in the cemetery. Buffy flipped over a headstone and staked two vampires simultaneously. The dust settled around her and Buffy returned to where Tara was waiting.
The Slayer pushed the blonde back against the side of a mausoleum and opened her cloak, exposing her breasts to the chill of the night. Her nipples hardened instantly in the cold and Buffy cupped the bounty before her, bringing it to her mouth, tasting and sucking. Tara threw her head back, gasping as the wet trail from Buffy's mouth cooled in the night air. Buffy thrust her knee between Tara's legs, pushing against her center, taking over the witch's body and making it dance to the tune she was setting.
And then she released her, pulling away and closing the cloak, turning to race back into the darkness, leaving Tara slumped against the cold stone wall. Willow took her arm and they followed after Buffy, keeping the Slayer in sight.
Within minutes Buffy had beheaded a demon and staked another vampire. Kennedy watched her zero in on Tara and knew that the blonde was in for another round of frantic fondling.
Tara saw the gleam in Buffy's eyes and moaned involuntarily. Strong hands griped her waist, pulling her close until she was straddling the Chosen's thigh. Her cloak swung open again and Buffy was biting her breasts, little nips that bordered the line between pleasure and pain. "G-Goddess! Please Mistress!"
Buffy's naughty laugh vibrated around and through the nipple in her teeth making Tara cry out.
Without warning she let go of Tara, pushing her into Willow's arms as she spun around, a stake flying from her hands.
The vampire that had been watching them exploded, but Buffy didn't even look. She drew the short sword at her side and turned back to Tara.
Slipping the cold metal between Tara's leather pants and the warm flesh of her stomach, Buffy pulled the blade towards her, causing the leather to split. Tara was shuddering by the time Buffy had finished cutting the garment away, leaving her clad only in her boots and cloak.
Willow was careful to stay close, seeing that the blonde was having difficulty standing. She shot Kennedy a happy grin and turned back to watch Buffy kneel in front of Tara.
Tara clutched at Buffy's shoulders as the Slayer's tongue stabbed into the sodden folds between her legs. Her ragged cry was broken as the oxygen left her body in a sudden rush, caused by Buffy's teeth closing firmly around her clit. And then Buffy was gone again.
Willow wrapped her arms around Tara, holding her up, keeping her moving.
As Buffy killed her fifth vampire of the evening, Kennedy realized that she had yet to take a signal note about the night's activities. She lifted her pen only to let it fall again as Buffy lifted Tara up, perching her bottom on the edge of a tombstone and spreading her legs wide.
Tara's eyes were clouded with desire, her breath coming in quick pants. Buffy slid her hand into the dripping curls between Tara's legs as her mouth latched onto a breast, suckling powerfully, making the blonde witch cry out. Her fingers pushed deep, flexing and thrusting as Tara began to rock against her, gripping her shoulders. A hoarse scream echoed though the still graveyard as Tara came, shuddering violently.
Willow was there when Buffy let the witch go, keeping her from falling.
Buffy laughed in delight, feeling the approach of predators that had been drawn to the sound of Tara's scream. She drew the sword from her side again and ran, the thrill of the hunt taking her, adding to the arousal that was fueling her blood.
Kennedy couldn't accurately recall what all died at Buffy's hands that night, but she did know that Tara had been brought to orgasm at least five times as the group worked their way through several graveyards.
Only when the sky began to lighten did Buffy finally stop her hunt. But Tara's torment was not over. Kennedy drove the car back to the mansion, her hands gripping the wheel as she tried to focus on the road and not what she could see in the rear view mirror.
Tara was on Buffy's lap, her legs spread over the Slayer's, leaving her open completely. Buffy's hand was deep within Tara's core, her fist rocking gently as her other hand spread the glorious globes of her ass, fingers probing and invading the narrow opening that tried to deny her.
"Mistress! Please! Aaaaa!" Tara's voice was climbing higher as Buffy delved the dark places of her body, claiming them as hers.
Buffy's teeth scraped against the smooth throat, marking it. "Who do you belong to?"
"You M-Mistress! Only you!"
Buffy's teeth sank into Tara's shoulder as her words triggered her own release. Tara felt the flare of pain and exploded, sensations bombarding her in a riot that her mind could not process. Consciousness receded and she collapsed against Buffy.
Buffy laid Tara onto the bed and drew the covers over her exhausted form. She pressed a soft kiss to the blonde's cheek and faced her other lovers. "I hope you guys aren't sleepy, cause I really need to fuck you both right now."
Kennedy's journal hit the floor at the declaration while Willow gleefully began shedding her clothes.
Kennedy stared at her reflection in the mirrors above the bed, her mind spinning with the images of the day.
Being on her hands and knees as Buffy took her from behind, Willow spread before her like a banquet.
Her cries of need as she strained against the shackles holding her down while Buffy and Willow teased and tormented her.
Holding Willow between herself and Buffy as twin dildos pierced the redhead.
The scribe saw the blush filling her cheeks and smiled a little. She had made up her mind. Kennedy rolled over and slid on top of Buffy, raining kisses across her breasts until the Slayer stirred.
Buffy opened her eyes and grinned lazily. "And you guys say I'm insatiable."
Kennedy looked down at her mistress and swallowed hard against the sudden knot of emotion that balled in her throat. She stroked Buffy's face, trying to form the words to express what she was feeling.
Buffy could see the storm in the brunette's eyes and her struggle. She traced the kiss-swollen lips. "It's all right, Tiger. I know."
"I want I need "
"Shhh." Buffy rose, getting out of bed and pulling Kennedy with her. She picked up her black cloak and pulled it on before facing her. She took the scribe's hand and held it palm up. "May I shelter you with my love?"
"I accept your shelter." Kennedy was shaking but she managed to speak.
Buffy enfolded Kennedy within her cloak.
"May I embrace you with my love?"
"I am surrounded by your love."
Buffy's arms wrapped around her.
"May I shield you with my love?"
"I accept your shield and offer you my own."
Buffy kissed Kennedy's forehead, then both cheeks. Her lips. The smooth skin over her heart. Her stomach. The dark nest of curls that hid her womanhood. And finally both her feet. Buffy stood and laid her hand over Kennedy's heart. "You are mine. Let all that challenge this fall beneath my blade. You are my hand." She placed Kennedy's hand over her heart. "Without you I am not whole. I take you to my heart and we are united.
Kennedy didn't move, unsure of what, if anything she should do. Buffy's serious expression relaxed suddenly and she smiled. "And now you are my Third."
"Awesome." Willow's quiet approval washed over Kennedy and she could feel a somewhat goofy grin spreading over her face.
Climbing out of bed, Willow opened the wardrobe beside the bed and took out a flat wooden box. She carried it to Buffy before moving to wake Tara.
"Tar? Wake up sweetie. Buffy has taken Kennedy as her handmaiden."
Tara beamed sleepily at the scribe as she got up and crossed the room to hug the scribe. "Welcome to the family."
Buffy gestured for Kennedy to sit down in the chair by the fireplace and laid the box on the table beside it. She opened the lid, removing a small stoppered bottle, a tiny, thimble-size glass and a long thin needle. Filling the glass with the red ink from the bottle, Buffy stepped aside to let Willow cast a quick spell over the liquid.
Kennedy wanted to ask but her attention became riveted on Buffy as she picked up the needle and dipped it into the ink. As Buffy grasped her breast, Kennedy couldn't help but close her eyes, not sure she wanted to watch.
She felt the first sting of the needle piercing her skin and bit her lip, wondering if it was going to get worse or if that was as bad as it would be. Opening an eye, Kennedy glanced down and watched as the blood welled from the fresh lines being made.
Buffy worked quickly, her hand a blur as it marked Kennedy as her Third. A few moments was all it took and then Buffy was drawing away, carefully handing the needle to Willow who took it and the rest of the tattoo supplies into the bathroom to be cleaned. "There. That wasn't too bad was it?"
Kennedy saw the look on the Slayer's face and realized that she really wanted to know. "No, it wasn't. I've had more painful hangnails." Buffy's relieved smile felt like a reward, warming her heart. She looked down at the new tattoo and saw that the bleeding had stopped already.
Buffy ran her fingers under the mark. "The spell Willow cast seals the wound as well as ensuring that the ink will never fade."
Kennedy caught Buffy's hand and pressed a kiss to her palm. "I'm honored that you chose me to join with you. I'll try not to disappoint you."
"As if that were even possible," Buffy chided gently. "You just be you, Tiger. That's everything I could want."
Xander dropped his cordless drill back into the holster on his hip and stood back to check his work. The huge mirror now mounted behind the hot tub was hung perfectly level and he grinned as he looked at the now empty tub. "Wish I was a fly on the wall tonight."
He picked up his toolbox and went on to the next task, checking that all of the swords decorating the walls were sharp. That one had surprised him when Buffy had added it to his list. That and the rush she had put on it. There had been something in the Slayer's voice that made him uneasy, but he might have shrugged it off if it hadn't been for Willow.
He had seen the redhead growing increasingly stressed as the date of Faith's visit approached and he again wondered if something more had happened during her last visit than he had been told.
Xander replaced the weapon and came to a decision. A little trip to the hardware store was in order.
Willow grimaced as the poultice she was mixing splashed onto her shirt staining it blue. "Great. This will never come out." She finished pouring the liquid into a small glass bottle and capped it before heading upstairs to change.
As she approached her room, she was surprised to see her door leaning against the wall. Willow peeked around the open doorway and saw Xander securing a new door into place. "Um, Xander? What's with the new door?" She rapped it lightly with her knuckles and winced. "What's this thing made of anyway?"
Xander began installing the deadbolt into the precut opening. "Reinforced steel."
Willow blinked, completely confused. "Ah, and you're putting up a steel door to my bedroom why?"
He shrugged but didn't answer. Handing Willow the key, he stepped out of the room and pulled the door shut. "It's all finished. I'll go get started on Tara's next."
Willow caught his arm as he turned. "Xander?" He looked up and she saw barely hidden anger in his eyes. "What is it?"
"I don't know what happened the last time she was here, but I remember how you were when she left. How Buffy was. And now she's coming back and you're afraid." He thumped his fist against the solid strength of the new door. "I'm not a fighter. I'm not as strong as a slayer. But I'll do whatever I can to help keep my friends safe."
Tears were falling unchecked down Willow's face and she hurled herself into Xander's arms with a muffled sob. "You are my best friend Xander Harris. Don't you ever change."
Buffy sat down next to Xander on the stone bench and watched him deftly rewire one of the floodlights. "Willow told me about the doors. Thank you Xander."
He shrugged, keeping his attention on the damaged wire he was splicing. "No biggie."
"No, it was a biggie. It was huge and Willow needed to know that you cared more than she needed slayer-proof doors, but those were cool too." She gripped his shoulder, dreading what she had to do next. "You saved my life Xander, you've been here helping me to pick up the pieces when it seemed like everything was crumbling around me. But now I have a favor to ask you. You're not gonna like it, but I'm asking you to do it. For Willow. For me."
"You want me to go."
"Yeah. Just until the council goon is gone."
"The council? But I thought Faith ?"
Buffy chuckled. "She's a problem but not as big as what's brewing with the council. I took Kennedy as my Third."
Xander gulped as his mind happily supplied a collage of images to illustrate that little bit of news. "Oh. Guess they're gonna freak?"
"Oh yeah, but they're not going to make Kennedy step down over this." Buffy laid her head against Xander's shoulder and gave him a one-armed hug. "Trust me Xan. You don't wanna be here for this mess. There's going to be hair-pulling and bitch slaps. I can feel it."
"I guess I could find something to do for a few days." He shot her a wry look. "But you'll fill me in on all the juicy bits, right?"
"I'll even let you read Kennedy's journal."
"Ooooo. You got a deal!"
Buffy watched Faith pace the length of the great hall and back again. The unusual display of nerves surprised her. Faith had always been one to hide any anxiety she might be feeling, making Buffy wonder what had brought the other slayer here. "Something on your mind Faith?"
The dark slayer stopped, opened her mouth as if to speak and then fell silent as she glanced at the others in the room.
Her new watcher was involved in a deep discussion with Giles and she couldn't help but smirk at Wesley's eager fawning. Fred, her scribe was chatting with Buffy's new scribe Kennedy, which made Faith wonder what had happened to make Willow lose that position. She couldn't figure out the blonde at all. No one had explained her presence beyond introducing her as Tara. Big help that was. She shoved her hands into the back pockets of her pants and jerked her head towards Buffy's office. "Can we do this somewhere a little more quiet?"
Buffy nodded, leading the way and trying to put her finger on what was bugging her about Faith. As Faith closed the door behind her Buffy was startled to see the other girl's expression change as she dropped any pretense of bored indifference. Fear. Faith was afraid. "What's going on, Faith?"
Sinking into a chair, Faith rested her elbows on her knees and hid her face in her hands. "I'm in trouble B."
Unnerved, Buffy perched on the edge of her desk in front of Faith. "Okay, you're wigging me out a bit here. Want to tell me what kind of trouble has you this freaked?"
Faith raised her head and Buffy realized that the dark slayer was on the verge of tears. "I fucked up."
Buffy waited, sensing that this wasn't going to come out easily.
"I was out hunting, ya know? Doing the slayage thing and having a wicked time." Faith's grin was sardonic. "I was in the zone, everything was rockin and I was taking out a vamp with every swing, ya know?" Buffy nodded, but didn't speak. "My kill rate was going through the roof and I was pretty jazzed. I had cleaned out a nest and was heading back to Fred when somebody grabbed my arm " Faith broke off, gripping her hair as if she would pull it out. "God B. I didn't even hesitate, I just moved."
Oh hell. She didn't.
Faith was pale, a fine sheen of sweat breaking across her face. "I staked him B. I nailed him right through the heart only it wasn't a vamp. It was just some guy I killed him." Faith buried her face in her hands, muffling her next words. "They're coming for me."
"The council. They want to take me to England for 're-training'." Faith was rocking back and forth, her arms wrapped around herself as if she were freezing. "Only I have a feeling that this training thing is my one way ticket to a shallow grave."
"They wouldn't do that Faith." Would they? "What does Wesley say about this? Doesn't he know what they're doing?"
"Wesley's a rat. He says there's nothing to worry about but he won't meet my eyes when he says it."
Buffy straightened and opened the office door. "Giles! Get in here now!"
The watcher appeared a second later and Buffy glared as she saw Wesley behind him. "Ladies? Why don't you take Wesley on a tour of the grounds?" The watcher wasn't happy but with Tara gripping one arm and Kennedy the other, he wasn't left with much choice.
Buffy shut the door and moved to sit at her desk, feeling the need to demonstrate exactly who was in charge here. "I have some questions."
She told him what had happened and what the council was proposing. "So what are they really going to do, Giles?" Buffy watched his glasses come off and sighed. "That bad huh?"
Faith laughed, but it wasn't a humorous sound. "Look's like you're back to being the one and only B."
"Chill out Faith. You're not dead yet." Buffy glared at her watcher. "She made a mistake Giles. It was an accident. Why the hell is the council reacting like this?"
"Policy for this type of situation was set down centuries ago Buffy. It was believed that once a Slayer had drawn human blood that she was tainted, in essence corrupted."
"Bullshit." Buffy was on her feet, fists clenching and unclenching as she paced. "Okay, the council has their heads up their asses. No biggy, that's not exactly a surprise. But what will be a surprise is what happens if they come to take Faith."
She yanked one of the swords off the wall near the door and eyed the blade. "No fucking way are we going to let Faith die because some asshole ages ago decided it was a good idea."
Giles was nonplused. "Buffy. You can't oppose the council on this. It-it would be.."
"Suicide? I don't think so." Buffy threw the sword, watching it sink into the wall with a satisfied smirk. "We are the Slayers, Giles. We who are Chosen above all others to fight the forces of darkness, remember?"
"And you can be replaced!"
Buffy chuckled at the thought. "They can try. The council is coming here to reprimand me for taking Kennedy in two days." She ignored Faith's gasp. "When they get here we'll all sit down and discuss both problems reasonably."
"And if they still want to take Faith?"
Buffy leaned back against her desk and met Faith's eyes. "Then the council had better get their affairs in order because we won't live in fear of being assassinated."
Giles paled at the implication. "Y-you don't mean?"
"I do. The council will back off or else the council will be destroyed."
It was quickly decided that Wesley had to go. His adamant refusal to allow the others to meet in private again was getting on everyone's nerves, as was his continuing recital of council rules. After a particularly long-winded lecture of why the council would be removing Kennedy as scribe, Buffy slapped her hands down against the dinning table. The thunderous sound made everybody jump. Buffy stood and grabbed the annoying little man by his collar, dragging him out of his chair and out of the room.
Hobgoblins appeared out of nowhere, carrying the watcher's bags and holding the door open as Buffy hurled Wesley outside. "You are officially fired. Don't call us, cause we certainly won't be calling you."
The door slammed shut and Buffy spun around at the sound of clapping. Faith was leaning against the doorway, holding her sides as she laughed uncontrollably. Tara and Willow ended their applause and Buffy could see Kennedy and Fred dutifully recording the occasion for posterity.
Taking a bow, Buffy sauntered back to the dining room, feeling upbeat for the first time in days. She sat back down and shot a questioning look at Giles, who had not moved. "Are you going to pick up where he left off?"
Giles picked up his wine glass and studied the contents for a moment. The council rules were drummed into every watcher from the first day of their training and he had to admit that some of them made no sense whatsoever in this day and age. He met the Chosen's waiting gaze and smiled. "Not bloody likely."
Willow ventured into the garden the next morning, enjoying the cool chill of the breeze and the warmth of the sun. She wandered past the low hedge that encircled the fishpond and along the high wall that surrounded the mansion grounds. Last night's events were tumbling around in her head and she was still trying to figure out this new side of Faith that everyone was now seeing. This thing with the council has her scared. Faith afraid is not something Willow had ever considered before. She continued her stroll, wondering if it was possible that there was more to Faith than meets the eye.
Faith was sitting motionless against a tree, which is why Willow didn't see her until it was too late to avoid her. "Hey Red."
Willow froze her hands automatically coming up in defensive position. "Faith."
Faith saw the redhead's reaction and hung her head. "Go ahead and blast me, Red. God knows I deserve it."
Well that was unexpected. "What are you doing out here?"
Faith shrugged, finding herself unable to meet the witch's eyes. "Just sittin." A small flare of light as she took a drag from her cigarette. "Wondering how I could manage to fuck up so many lives in such a short time."
Willow didn't know how to respond to that so she said nothing.
"I know I know it doesn't mean shit to you now, but I'm sorry about what happened last time I was here." Faith forced herself to look at Willow. "You can hit me with a fireball if you want."
Something in her voice made Willow ask, "Why did you do it? You had to know that Buffy would stop you."
Faith flicked the ash from the tip of her cigarette and resisted the urge to press it into her flesh. "It's stupid."
"Figured that you were the closest thing to what I really wanted."
Willow rolled that over in her mind a few times, sorting through the meaning. "Oh Goddess. You didn't want me you wanted Buffy."
Faith grimaced. "I'd appreciate it if you didn't mention that to her, Red. She'd probably hand me over to the council wrapped in a freakin' bow."
"No. Buffy wouldn't do that. She might kill you herself but she wouldn't let the council have you no matter what you did."
"Yeah. B's like that I guess." Faith crushed her cigarette out on the ground next to her and pocketed the butt before standing. She moved around Willow, careful to give the redhead plenty of space as she left.
Willow watched her leave, wondering at the surreal conversation she had just had with a woman she had hated for almost two years.
Faith sat up, letting the covers fall from her naked form. There it was again! She climbed out of bed and tugged one of the robes the servants had left before stepping into the hallway.
She made her way through the long hallway connecting the separate wings, straining to hear. Faith thought she had imagined the scream last night and had chalked it up to her current mental state. But she had definitely heard it again. A long wailing cry that sent chills down the slayer's back. What the hell is goin on? B's torturing somebody?
As she drew closer, other sounds reached her. Agonized moans and whimpering. Jesus! What the fuck is this?
She drew to a halt outside Buffy's suite of rooms and gripped the knob. Twisting it slowly, she eased the door open and peered inside. Holy shit! Stunned, Faith could only stare at the scene before her.
Kennedy was lying sideways across the bed, giving Faith a clear view of what was being done to the scribe. Willow and Tara were holding her arms down as they attacked her breasts and Buffy Faith blinked as she realized that Buffy was thrusting wildly between Kennedy's wide-flung legs.
"Yes Mistress! Please Mistress!"
Faith closed the door and leaned her head against the wood, taking a moment before turning back to her own rooms. Jesus B! No wonder the council is pissed with you.
Kennedy gingerly took her seat at the table, trying not to wince. Faith hid a snicker and held out a pitcher of juice. "O.J.?"
Buffy could see a certain knowing gleam in the dark slayer's eyes and wondered how much she actually knew. "So Faith. Sleep well?"
Faith shot the blonde a mischievous grin. "Pretty good, though you might want to have the servants sweep the grounds. I think there's some stray cats in heat around here."
Willow choked on her coffee, causing Kennedy to pound her soundly on the back. "I-(cough) I'm okay. Thanks."
Tara's smile was serene. "Really? I hope they didn't keep you up?"
"Naw, once I figured out what all the screaming was I could finally get back to sleep."
Apparently oblivious, Fred nattered on about several discoveries she had made in her own studies of the Slayer history. The meal resumed but Faith kept shooting little smiles at the table's occupants.
Buffy watched the color surge into Willow's face again and sighed. As much as she enjoyed watching that blush, she felt the need stirring to protect her shieldmate. "Faith. That's enough. In case you haven't figured it out, Willow, Tara and Kennedy are more than my entourage. They're my Handmaidens."
"Handmaidens? What the hell is a handmaiden?"
Fred chimed in excitedly. "Oh! I know! I read about that in one of the original slayer's histories. It was in Babylonian which made the reading rather dull but," She hesitated as she realized that all eyes were focused on her. "Um, anyway, a handmaiden is the chosen mate or wife of the.. Chosen."
Faith's eyes widened at the implication. She looked at the three women in question and couldn't stop a wicked smile from parting her lips. "A harem? You've got a harem? Damn B!"
"Not a harem Faith. They're more important than that."
"Oh yes! The ceremony for taking a handmaiden is as old as most of the wedding ceremonies known to man." Fred's enthusiasm was getting away with her. "Did you perform the whole ceremony with the cloak and the vows? Ooh! Did she mark each of you with the ritual tattoo?"
A hand covered Fred's mouth. "Fred! Chill!" Faith let go of her scribe and laughed. "She gets high on the book stuff, goes right to her head."
Fred was embarrassed but Willow was quick to reassure her. "That's fine; babble mode is a requirement for scribes."
Kennedy's glare expressed her disagreement with Willow's sweeping statement and sent Buffy and Tara into peals of laughter.
The council representative would be there that evening and tensions were running high. Tara and Willow had been preparing several spells to have on hand just in case things got nasty, while Fred and Kennedy compiled a list of all known watchers and council members. Kennedy jotted down another name and winced at the size of the list. "It's a little weird, doing this."
"Yeah. I don't think Buffy and Faith want this list so they can send Christmas cards." Fred opened another book and began flipping through it though she didn't really see the pages. "Does ." She shook her head.
Kennedy tossed her pen down. "Spit it out."
"Aren't you scared of the council?"
"A little. But I believe in Buffy. She'll kick them back into line."
"You must be joking." Quentin Travers glared at the Slayers, wishing he had brought more people with him.
Buffy stared the loathsome man down, her gaze never wavering. "You only wish I was joking Travers. Did you really think we were going to let you waltz in here and take Faith?"
"She murdered a human-."
"It was an accident and you know it!" Pointing at Faith, Buffy continued. "She is not corrupted you little toad, she made a mistake. It happens. Get over it."
"The laws plainly-."
"Forget the laws! You can't possibly apply a rule that was written centuries ago to this situation. There's something else going on here. Some other reason you're pushing this nonsense." Buffy circled her desk, picking up the dagger she kept there. She began tossing it into the air as she paced, catching it with the absentminded skill that only a true Slayer could wield.
"We've searched Faith's history and there's nothing there other than a few negligible infractions of your precious rules. So what is it? Why the rush to kill her?"
"Don't be ridiculous. The council is sworn to uphold the laws. She broke the law. It's that simple."
Buffy flung the dagger, watching it imbed itself into the wall beside Travers' head. "You really think we're going to believe that? We may be warriors Travers but that doesn't mean we don't have brains. You've got something else up your grubby little sleeve and you're going to tell us what it is."
Scoffing at her audacity, Travers ignored the bead of sweat that was sliding down his temple. "The council-."
A small fireball rocketed past his face, singeing his eyebrows before striking the wall. He looked at the smoking hole and then turned to see Willow holding up her index finger and blowing on the tip. "You should probably stop invoking the council. We aren't too happy with them as it is."
"Yes. You could even say that some of us are holding grudges." Buffy leaned back against her desk and crossed her arms over her chest. "Let's cut to the chase, all right? You want Faith dead. Why?"
Travers jerked to his feet and moved to the door. "I refuse to be interrogated. Perhaps a full council inquiry will bring you people back into line."
Buffy waited until his hand was on the doorknob. "Be warned Travers. Any attempt to harm Faith's house or mine will be taken as a declaration of war."
He yanked the door open and fled.
Giles cleared his throat. "What happened to calm and reasonable discussion?"
"I bypassed it in favor of furious and belligerent defiance."
Buffy sighed, rubbing her temples as the argument escalated. It had seemed like a perfectly reasonable request at the time.
"Look, just because I hold a pencil and not a sword is no reason to make me leave. She's not!" Fred pointed an accusing finger at Kennedy. "Why doesn't she have to go?!"
"Because Kennedy can hit anything she aims at with a crossbow." Tara's calm voice brought a much-needed ease to the tension in the room. "Buffy's been training her to shoot since she got here. It's nothing against you Fred. No one wants to see you get hurt."
"I'm Faith's scribe! How can I do my job if I'm hiding?"
Willow cleared her throat. "I can help Kennedy with that until you get back, Fred."
"I knew it! You want my job!" Her wail of dismay was interrupted by Xander's arrival.
"Hey Buffy." He waved at the rest of the room's occupants though he did spare a glare for Faith before turning to Buffy. "You called, I came. What can I do for you?"
Buffy gestured to Fred. "Xander this is Fred, Faith's scribe. Fred this is Xander Harris, my Fixer. Xander, we kind of threw down the gauntlet with the council and there's a very real chance that we could find ourselves under attack here. Could you take her with you and protect her until this is over?"
Xander's smile was wide as he realized the amount of trust the Chosen was placing with him. "Of course." He looked at Fred. "I'll guard her with my life."
Fred closed her mouth with a snap and tried to summon her outrage at being sent away, but it kind of faded under the warmth of the young man's smile.
A servant appeared with Fred's bag and Xander took it with an easy flex of muscle that made Fred blink. He held his arm out to her. "Shall we go?"
No one moved until they heard the front door close behind them and then they all dissolved into laughter.
Faith was trying to glare at Buffy but failing. "Damn it, B! You may have just lost me my scribe!"
"Or lost her own Fixer," Kennedy was quick to point out.
Buffy sobered at the suggestion. "No way. He wouldn't would he?"
"I'm telling you it's gone beyond that now! They're threatening war with the council!"
Travers poured the scotch into the glass with a shaking hand. "No! There's only one thing we can do now. If they die then new girls will be called and we can prevent this kind of thing from happening again." He drained his glass and filled it again. "Send in the special team."
"Okay, the grounds are warded against demons and dark magic."
"The early warning spells are in place."
"The vulnerable areas into the mansion have been reinforced or blocked altogether."
"Weapons have been placed in key areas."
"Food and water have been stocked."
"Okay then. We're ready."
"There is one other thing we need to consider."
"What's that Faith?"
"Hm. You have a point."
"Bullets? What bullets?"
"Easy Will, Faith is right. We need to prepare in case they send armed humans."
"There are bullet-proof vests in the armory."
"Really? I had no idea."
"They're under the blessed suit of armor."
"Good eyes Tara! You and Kennedy go grab those. Faith and I will finish setting our little surprise by the front door and meet you in the great hall. Willow? Can you go talk to the hobgoblins? Make sure that they're not going to disappear on us?"
"Hey, don't pout. You know they like you best."
"Gee, popular at last."
Willow's fingers danced across the keyboard as she worked her way through the layers of security surrounding the council's network. "Uh uh, going to have to try harder than that to stop me." She ran one of her custom made password breakers and chuckled evilly as it unlocked her way almost instantly. "Oh come on guys! 'Watcher' in Sumerian? What kind of lame password is that?"
Buffy watched the redhead work, unsurprised to find herself feeling more than pride in at her lover's skills.
"What? You can't be serious? A dedicated group of intellectuals sworn to fight the forces of darkness and that's all the security you use to protect your system?!" Willow glared at the screen, her disappointment evident. "A nimble-fingered orangutan could have gotten through that!" She trailed off as she realized that the others were staring at her. "Um, I mean, Yay! We're in."
Buffy ruffled the hacker's hair. "Good job Willow. See if can find any reference to their plans for Faith. And just because I sympathize with your disappointment about it being too easy, I'm going to give you a harder goal to shoot for. I want you to copy every single file within their systems. And then I want you to seize all the council assets and funds before locking them out of their own network."
A distinctly roguish gleam appeared in Willow's eyes as she turned back to the monitor and cracked her knuckles. "Avast me hearties! Prepare to be boarded!"
Willow read the report again, just to make sure she wasn't imagining it. "Buffy! You better come see this!"
Buffy entered the office with Faith right behind her. "What have ya got, Will?"
"Project Lazarus." Willow jabbed a finger at the screen, her expression disgusted. "They want to take Faith back to England all right. And they want to kill her. And then bring her back."
Faith was decidedly alarmed. "What? Like a vampire?"
"No. They want to stop your heart long enough to call another slayer and then start it again. Then stop it again, call another slayer, and so on and so on."
"Why?" Buffy's outrage was warring with her puzzlement. "What good would it do them?"
Willow was scanning through the report, reading the closing summary. "An army of slayers either brainwashed or intimidated to follow their orders without question."
Furious, Faith began to stalk around the room, wishing she could get her hands on Travers for just five minutes. "I'm thinking that taking out the council is lookin better and better, B."
"Yeah, but is every member of the council behind this plan? Any way you can find out if there was anybody against this little plot, Willow?"
"Pretty easily actually. There's a notation at the bottom of the file about several formal protests." She called up the new files and skimmed the contents. "Hm, this guy was protesting cause he felt the whole thing should be handled under his department. Jerk. Ah, hey! This woman, Maggie Pryor. She was like completely against it, called it immoral and monstrous. A betrayal of all that it means to be a watcher."
"Sounds like our kind of watcher."
"Two other women on the council filed similar protests." Willow shot Buffy a wry look. "I guess it's really true."
Buffy jokingly punched her lover. "Willow! You sexist thing!"
Willow wrinkled her nose at the slayer. "So, do still want me to lock them out?"
"Yes. We'll keep our three supporters off our hit list until we can find out more about them." Buffy looked at Faith. "What I don't get is why you?"
Faith shrugged. "Easy. You're more experienced and are already in place in the worst trouble spot. I'm pretty much doing busy work in New York. Nobody'd miss me."
Resigned acceptance of her position was evident in her voice and Willow found herself speaking without thought. "Why not move back to Sunnydale where the action is?" She blinked in shock as she realized what she had just suggested.
Buffy resisted the urge to reach out and check the redhead for signs of a fever. "Something to talk about after this mess is straightened out."
Willow could see Faith's distressed face over Buffy's shoulder, silently pleading with her to keep her mouth shut. She whirled back to the keyboard and went back to work. "Right."
Buffy stood at the head of the long table in the dinning room. "Faith and Tara will take the first watch, then Willow and I." She saw Kennedy's protest forming and headed it off. "Kennedy, you'll be taking the third watch by yourself. Admittedly there's less of a chance that an attack will come during the day which is why you should be able to handle this alone."
Willow held her hand up. "The memory spell is going to need some pretty special ingredients that we don't have here Buffy."
"Already ahead of you, Willow. Giles is dropping off what you need later."
Faith was sitting silently at the other end of the table, as far away as she could get from the others and still be in the same room. She was spinning a knife like a top, the fine point scratching the smooth wood. Waiting was the hardest thing in this kind of situation and she was glad that Buffy had assigned her the first watch. She sheathed the knife and stood with quick, sharp motions. "I'm gonna run another check around the walls." She strode out, wanting to put as much distance between her and Buffy as she could.
Buffy's exasperation at the dark slayer's attitude was obvious. "Okay then, anything else we need to cover? No? Then I'm off for a nap. Wanna join me Will?"
"Yeah. I'll be there in a minute. Got to finish something first." She hurried after Faith, catching up with her outside near the side door. "Faith, wait."
Faith hooked her thumbs in the pockets of her jeans and adopted an indifferent stance. "What?"
"I'm sorry about before. I spoke without thinking."
"Yeah well, scribes tend to do that kind of thing a lot."
Willow leaned back against the door behind her and realized that she could see right through the cloak of bravado that Faith habitually wore. "Do any of us know who you are?"
Startled at the question, Faith stepped back. "Uh oh. Out comes the psychobabble. I'm outta here." She dashed off, disappearing around the corner.
"Slayers." Willow's quiet comment was both a question and a curse.
The night found Tara and Faith keeping watch together. Faith leaned back in her chair, booted feet resting on top of Kennedy's desk. "So what's it like?"
Tara looked up from the book she was reading and smiled. "What's what like?"
"Come on T. The handmaiden thing. Must be pretty wild, the four of you."
Faith's salacious grin faded a little. "Naw, just wondering who plays top bitch. Or do you all take turns?"
Tara's book closed with a snap. "Buffy is the Chosen. Our mistress and our mate. You should guard your tongue while in her house. You might just lose it."
Hands up in surrender, Faith backed off with a snigger.
One of the candles on the desk flared to life, bringing the witch to her feet in a rush. "Faith."
Faith glanced at the drawing of mansion grounds that was laid out under the candles and nodded. "South wall. Stay put. I'll be back in flash."
"Wait! We're supposed to be working together. Or not." Tara wondered if recklessness was a slayer requirement. Another candle lit and then another. "They're coming in force." She ran down the hall and up the stairs shouting, "Buffy! Willow!"
Faith had knocked the first black-clad intruder out and tossed him back over the wall before her slayer hearing picked up the sounds of someone else coming over. She let him reach the ground before striking, a roundhouse kick that sent him face first into the wall. There was a muffled sneeze and Faith felt something burning her upper arm. Rolling behind the bulk of a tree, she traced the deep gouge that had been left by the bullet. "Shit. Now I'm pissed."
Buffy could hear the silenced shots being fired at her and the members of her house and her anger grew. She yelled in the direction Faith had gone. "Faith! Play hardball!"
Faith heard the order to start killing the invaders and found she didn't have as hard a time doing that as she had thought she would. She hadn't started this fight but boy she sure was going to enjoy finishing it. Grabbing the rifle from an attacker, she smashed the butt of the gun into his face, hearing the distinct crack as his skull shattered.
Discarding the gun, she drew the two short swords she had slung across her back and began cutting a path back to the mansion.
Buffy dropped her assailant with a quick wrench of his head and then heard her next target coming up behind her. Her sword swung in a high arc, and the body fell one way while the head went another.
Three more intruders approached but she didn't have a chance to take them out. A spray of knives shot in front of her, skewering the attackers with enough force to pin two of them to trees several yards away. Buffy looked in the direction the weapons had come from, unsurprised to see Willow coming towards her at a brisk jog. "Nice move."
"Thanks. Tara says that there's only about five of them left." Willow jerked as something struck her high in the shoulder. She glared down at the hole in her shirt. "Well that's going to bruise. They're in the trees." Willow fired a spell in the direction the bullet had come from and the top of a nearby tree was suddenly illuminated as the sniper was struck with the electrical equivalent of a lightning bolt.
Buffy had stopped breathing when she saw Willow hit and she had to remind herself that they were all wearing bullet-proof vests. Something stirred her hair and she dragged Willow to the shelter of a tree. Not that the vests would stop a shot to the head. "Stay here. I'll be back in a second."
Willow ignored the command and followed, tossing several more shock spells as she ran.
By the time Buffy reached the opposite side of the grounds, there was no one left for her to fight. She couldn't help but glare at the crumpled bodies in disappointment. "Well darn. I might as well have stayed inside."
Faith strolled into view, her face flushed with adrenaline, her blades covered in blood. "Hell of a party B."
Tara joined them, her hands glowing faintly. "There's no one left."
"Anybody get away?"
"Doesn't feel like it." Tara looked around. "Where's Kennedy?"
Inside the mansion, Kennedy was staring at the bundle that had been dropped by the intruder she had shot. Why the bomb hadn't gone off when it fell was a mystery. The rack of glass vials was filled with what she presumed was nitroglycerine and the rack itself was imbedded in an ominous gray substance that she knew wasn't the block of clay it appeared to be. The digital timer was counting off the dwindling seconds and she realized that she had about fifty seconds to either get this thing far enough away or defuse it.
A quick inspection didn't reveal any wires into the clay itself and she wondered what would happen if she just pulled the thing apart. Kennedy eased the rack of vials out of the clay-like material and set the block aside. Twenty-five seconds. She didn't see anything else in the block and she flipped the rack over to see a series of wires running along the tops of each vial. "That's bad, I think."
She ran out the side door, passing Buffy and the others. "Take cover!" The trigger sailed through the air and suddenly Kennedy found herself on her back as the explosion knocked her off her feet.
Her ears were ringing from the blast and Kennedy felt concerned hands on her. She opened her eyes and met Buffy's furious glare. She didn't have to be able to read lips to know what Buffy was saying. 'Are you crazy?' was a pretty distinctive sentence.
Kennedy felt herself being lifted and could also feel the rumbling vibrations from Buffy's chest as she was carried back into the mansion. Letting her head rest against the slayer, Kennedy wondered if she should let Buffy know that her lecture wasn't being heard. After a particularly violent rumble, she decided not to.
Tara wrapped the freshly cleaned bullet wound in Faith's arm and tried not to laugh as Buffy continued to berate her scribe.
Faith on the other hand was loving it and her laughter was beginning to undermine Buffy's tirade. Willow was patching up the various cuts Kennedy had received from both the battle and the bomb, but Buffy was still giving her down the road.
"- you could have been killed!"
Kennedy should have been cringing as the Slayer's voice rose but she wasn't. In fact she seemed pretty calm in the face of Buffy's obvious displeasure.
Willow stared at the scribe in suspicion. She reached out and snapped her fingers next to Kennedy's right ear. The brunette didn't react.
Buffy halted in mid tirade when she realized what that action meant. "Willow?"
Willow repeated the sound with the other ear. Again no response. "She can't hear you Buffy."
Kennedy saw Buffy pale and glanced at Willow who was watching her in alarm. "Ah. Guess the jig is up." She could feel the vibration of her words as she spoke but she couldn't hear herself. "I think this is just temporary so don't get all stressed out."
Buffy sat down next to her Third and pulled her into her arms, holding her tightly. "Willow, call the doctor. Let's make sure this isn't permanent."
If Kennedy thought that her temporary bout of deafness would save her from Buffy's wrath then she was mistaken. A fact that made itself clear the next morning when Buffy rolled on top of her and held her down while she proceeded to read her the riot act.
"Can you hear me now?"
"Loud and clear."
"Good. Then would you care to tell me what the hell you thought you were doing last night?!"
Kennedy squirmed under her mate's glare. "I know, I know, but there wasn't time to stop and explain."
"I... damn it. I don't want you to get hurt."
Reaching up, Kennedy smoothed her fingers over the frown lying heavily between the slayer's eyes. "But you can't protect us all the time, Buffy. We knew what we were getting into when we chose this path. We knew the risks."
"She's right." Tara kneaded her hands across the tense muscles in Buffy's shoulders. "Just being a scribe has its dangers. Look what happened to Oz."
Buffy snorted. "Oz got eaten by a demon on his way back from the movies. That was just life in Sunnydale." She ran a gentle fingertip over a scratch on Kennedy's cheek "This is different."
The bedroom door swung open and Willow entered, struggling to keep the tray she was carrying from tilting as she pushed the door closed again. "Good morning!"
Once in the center of the bed, the cloth was removed from the tray, revealing a decidedly unusual repast.
Willow chose a cherry from the bowl as Kennedy dipped a finger into what appeared to be chocolate syrup.
Buffy saw a zealous gleam enter the redhead's eyes. "My my. What do you have in mind?"
Grabbing the can of whipped cream, Tara reached out and sprayed a dollop onto Buffy's breast. "A Buffysplit of course.
Faith crouched near the tree, her eyes fixed on the crimson stain near its base. The smell of her cigarette didn't hide the scent of death that still lingered in the cool air, but she drew on it anyway. The hobgoblins had cleared the bodies away in the hours before dawn and now all that remained was the blood. And the smell.
Winter grass crackled under foot and Faith stood, turning to face Buffy as she approached. "Morning B."
"Faith." Buffy glanced at the blood and then at the dark slayer. "You all right?"
"Five by five."
"I'm feeling more like three by seven myself. Not a night I'd care to repeat." Though this morning was a place I'd like to go to again.
"Me either." Faith nodded towards the house. "They get it done?"
"Yes. The three members of the council we left intact are going to make sure that the spell worked."
"Hmm. So they just forget all about us, all about the watchers and the council they used to be part of. What if one of Willow's chicks turns on us?"
Buffy shrugged, slipping her hands into the pockets of her coat. "Then we finish what we started. Either way we're back to waiting." She started walking, unsurprised when Faith fell into step beside her. "So, what are you going to do now?"
Faith shrugged, not sure herself. "Go back to New York I guess."
"You could stay."
"Yeah, right." Her derisive tone hid how much she truly wanted to do just that. She hated New York. It was hot in the summer and freezing in the winter and there was no beach. The towering buildings made her feel closed in and she seemed to spend most of her time busting muggers rather than slaying vampires.
Buffy stopped. "I'm serious."
Faith saw the awareness in the blonde slayer's eyes and groaned. "Fuck. She told you."
"Faith..." Buffy touched her arm only to have Faith pull away.
"I don't need your pity B." She stomped off but Buffy followed.
"Can we talk about this?"
"Hell no we can't! Will you quit following me? I don't want to talk to you right now."
Buffy grabbed her arm. "Tough, because I want to talk to you."
Faith wrenched loose and turned on her. "Why are you doing this? It's my fucked up problem. Let me deal with it!"
"Damn it Faith. Can you stand still for five seconds?" They were approaching the mansion now and Faith broke into a run. She slammed the door behind her and went straight to the training room, yanking her jacket off and throwing it across the room. As she furiously attacked a punching bag, Faith fought back what she was feeling, forcing it down. I don't care. I don't care.
Buffy watched her for a moment before entering. Faith was a Slayer. She was Chosen. And despite all the perks that came with the job, Buffy knew just how hard it was to be the Slayer. "Faith."
Growling at the intrusion, Faith whirled, her fist catching the older slayer in the face, knocking her back. "Just leave me alone!"
Buffy came back swinging, sending the dark slayer spinning to the matt-covered floor. Wasting no time, Buffy pinned her down. "Enough Faith! Stop fighting me!"
Faith bucked wildly under her captor, though part of her was asking why. Isn't this where you've wanted to be from the beginning?
"Calm down Faith." Buffy could see the struggle going on within Faith, but was still surprised to see her eyes fill. "Faith."
"Can't you just let this go? Let me go B." Her plea fell on deaf ears as Buffy bent her head to kiss Faith.
Startled at the touch, Faith jerked, unable to stop a moan. Buffy plunged into her mouth, demanding and taking. Tasting and exploring.
Faith relaxed suddenly and Buffy freed her wrists. Instantly her arms embraced the blonde, pulling her tightly against her. Angry with herself, she tore her mouth free and gasped, "I won't be your fourth B. And I don't need a pity-fuck."
Buffy tangled her fingers in the chestnut strands of Faith's hair and held her still. "I'm not offering you either." She gripped the neck of Faith's shirt and tore it away, leaving her open to Buffy's intense appraisal. Going right to what she wanted, Buffy dropped her head and wrapped her lips around Faith's breast.
"Damn!" Faith arched her back, crying out as the nipple was seized between Buffy's teeth. "God!"
Buffy worked the excited bud, teasing the crest until Faith tried to buck her off. She let go long enough to shove the brunette back down and then resumed her explorations of the body under hers.
Faith planted her feet and thrust upwards, throwing Buffy aside and then flipped to a standing position. "What the fuck do you want from me?!"
Buffy whipped her shirt off and tossed it aside. "Well your body for a start. Your fealty after that."
"Fealty." Buffy kicked her shoes off and approached her prey again. "Your loyalty. Your recognition that I'm in charge."
Startled by Buffy's words and her own reaction to them, Faith didn't react immediately. Instead she watched as Buffy removed the rest of her clothes. Now that's a sight worth seeing twice!
She shook her head, trying to dispel the lust that was clouding her mind. "You think I'm just going to agree to that? Call you mistress like the rest of your little bitches?"
Buffy nodded. "Yes. You are."
Challenged now, Faith summoned a sneer. "As if. Why shouldn't I just kick your ass and make you my bitch?"
"Because you can't beat me in a fight and you know it."
"Like hell." Faith moved, her foot barely missing Buffy's head as it snapped forward. Buffy swept Faith's other leg, bringing her down. Faith rolled away and gained her feet again.
Buffy pressed forward, throwing punches in a flurry that was almost moving to fast to be seen. Faith dodged and blocked where she could but she could feel herself being pushed back. With a roar, Faith abandoned defense and went on the offensive. She charged Buffy, knocking the blonde to the ground. Straddling her hips, Faith held her wrists against the mat. "Don't look like you're on top now B."
Buffy's leg rose sharply, her foot connecting with the back of Faith's head and knocking her off balance. Buffy twisted out from under her pushed Faith face down onto the floor, her knee pushing into the middle of her back. "Looks can be deceiving."
Unable to draw much oxygen with Buffy's knee on her lungs, Faith could feel the world begin to spin. She struck backwards with a fist only to find it caught and held fast. Within seconds, Buffy had both of Faith's hands pinned behind her. "I think we can call this little match over."
Faith strained against Buffy but she had no leverage. She tried twisting. She tried bucking, but no matter how she tried, she couldn't get loose. "Sonofabitch!"
"Like I said. It's over. Willow!"
Faith saw Willow appear in the doorway and started swearing when she saw what the witch held. "Damn you! You set me up!"
Buffy held Faith still while Willow fastened the manacles around her wrists. "Thanks. I'll take it from here." Willow left, but not before revealing a delighted grin at the dark slayer's current predicament.
Faith scowled. "Laugh now witch! Payback's are a bitch!"
Buffy yanked on Faith's hair. "None of that. You aren't in any position to be calling anybody bitch." Standing, Buffy moved to the weapon rack and selected one of the smaller daggers.
Faith rolled onto her side and watched her approach. "So now what? You think a little slap n' tickle is going to-." She broke off as the cold metal slid into the waistband of her jeans. Not daring to breath, Faith remained motionless as the material parted with an insistent hiss.
Buffy drew the blade down Faith's thigh, carefully tracing the curves of the flesh underneath. Once finished with that leg, Buffy slipped the knife into the opening of the other leg and worked her way back up. "I have to warn you, moving would be a really bad idea right now."
The blade veered inwards and Faith tensed as she felt it moving along the inside of her thigh. The tip lightly parted the thatch between her legs before continuing up across her abdomen. Buffy completed the final cut and the material fell away, revealing Faith's body to her.
With her hands bound behind her, Faith's upper body was pushed forward, thrusting her high breasts into prominence. Buffy lightly sketched her way across them with the tip of her knife, drawing invisible flowers and lines, always careful not to mark her.
Faith was trembling by the time Buffy grew tired of this and she watched the knife sink into the target across the room with relief. "Never realized that you had a knife fetish B."
Buffy pushed Faith onto her back and straddled her. She bent over her prisoner and began rubbing the hyper sensitive flesh of Faith's breasts. "You have no idea."
"When I get loose-." Faith gasped as Buffy pinched a nipple between her fingers and held it.
"When I let you loose, you're going to beg me to chain you back down again." There was no arrogance in her words, just sure knowledge. Buffy stood and dragged Faith to her feet. "Time to move this to the bedroom."
Her body was betraying her. Faith strained against the restraints spreading her across the bed and tried in vain to fight her own arousal. Buffy's patience had proved infinite and as time flew by, Faith's resolve grew weaker.
Buffy's nails raked lightly down the inside of Faith's thighs, making the dark slayer shudder. "Surrender to me Faith." Buffy sank her teeth into the soft skin near Faith's core and suckled until a mark rose. "Surrender and I'll take you places you can't imagine."
"I ah! I can't " Faith yanked on the chains holding her again, not feeling the rubber-lined metal cutting into her skin.
Buffy laid her head on her prisoner's thigh and looked up at her. Saw the desperate struggle taking place. "You really can't, can you? You can't surrender."
The rattle of chains being tested to their limits filled the room. Buffy sat up and stroked Faith's stomach in small circles. She watched the woman under her hands calm and suddenly understood what she should have seen all along.
Faith was Chosen. She was a warrior. To surrender was to admit defeat. To give up. She could no more do that than Buffy herself could.
The abrupt release of the manacles around her ankles didn't register at first. Faith felt her left hand become free and looked up to see Buffy undoing the right manacle as well. Uncertain, Faith didn't move, not knowing what to do now that she was free.
Buffy sank bank onto her heels and smiled sympathetically at Faith's confusion. "You can't surrender to me and now that I see that, I know that I don't want you to." Chagrined, she continued. "The Chosen cannot surrender. Cannot give up."
"You you're Chosen too."
"Exactly! I should have known better." Buffy held her hand out to the dark slayer. "So instead of surrender why don't we form a partnership?"
Partners? Faith eased into a sitting position. "How do you mean?"
"I mean an alliance between our houses. Between us."
"What about your Handmaidens?"
Buffy's smile was impish. "Does my having handmaidens bother you?"
"N-no, I just wonder what the hell it is you're proposing here?"
"Proposing. That's a good word. I propose that you bring your house here to Sunnydale. Considering that fact that we both like things our own way, it probably wouldn't be a good idea for us to try and actually combine houses. So you would set up your own estate and occasionally," Buffy ran her tongue over her lips, "You and I could meet for the purpose of mutual gratification."
"Fuck buddies?" Faith dragged a hand through her hair. She had to admit that the offer was appealing. While she wanted Buffy and was more than a little in love with her, she wasn't the kind of girl to settle down. "And the others?"
Buffy shrugged. "If they want to join us then they can. But it's their choice."
"You're awfully open all of the sudden to this kind of thing. Shouldn't you be all shocked and shit?"
Her eyes hard, Buffy stared at Faith. "You and I are Chosen. Do you know what that means? Truly? It means a violent and painful death at a young age. I'm in my declining years as a slayer. Forgive me if I don't feel the need to freak out over whatever moral taboo that happens to be the current fad. I don't have time to be timid."
Faith reached out to take Buffy's still-offered hand. "Okay, you got a deal." She looked around. "So now what?"
Buffy pushed her back down against the pillows. "Now we seal the deal."
Faith threw her head back, leaving her neck open to the exploring lips of Tara and Kennedy. She could hear Willow's cries of passion nearby, as well as Buffy's grunts as she took the witch. Talented fingers drew her attention back to her own corner of the bed and she couldn't stifle a cry as Tara pushed her hand between her thighs. Faith wrapped her hands in Kennedy's hair pulling her down into a deep, eating kiss.
As she savored the flavors of the scribe's mouth, Faith became aware of the presence of a tongue delving her folds with a remarkable agility. She stopped her kiss with Kennedy long enough to gasp, "J-Jesus Tara! Where the fuck did you learn that?!"
Kennedy answered her. "Willowtongue 101."
Faith trembled at the image and pulled the scribe up over her, settling her thighs around her face. "Well let's see if I can teach you Faithsucking 202." So saying, she buried her face into the dripping feast before her and began to drink.
Buffy pulled out of Willow and collapsed beside her, holding her First lightly as their breathing slowed. The sound of Kennedy's scream made her chortle. "I recognize that sound." She rose up on an elbow to watch as Faith drove her scribe mad with her lips. "Hmmm, I better get up."
Willow protested, "Why?"
"Cause somebody's going to have to catch Kennedy when she faints."
"Get out of here."
"I'm serious." Buffy sat up and managed to steer Kennedy's fall to an unoccupied portion of the bed.
Faith's hips rocked up off the bed with her own release and she bit her lip to contain her scream. Tara slid up her body, smiling in triumph. "And that's why Willow's the First."
"Damned right." Faith's exhausted endorsement was met by concurring laughter.
Willow peered at the stunned expression on the scribe's face beside her and looked at Faith in question. The dark slayer merely shrugged.
"I've got mad skills."
"Really? How about an exchange of information?"
Faith felt her body responding and once again thanked anybody listening for Slayer stamina. "I'm there."
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