Faith crashed through the window of her apartment again, Buffy hot on her heels. The fight proceeded in a blur as the two girls fought on the rooftop, finally ending with Faith standing on the edge of the rooftop with her own dagger stuck in her stomach. She looked up at Buffy and prepared to fall, but couldn't because she was chained in place in Melitherion's lair again, but this time Buffy was there instead of Mel, slicing her with the knife again and again, never saying a word, just looking at her with that expression of cold fury she'd had that night in the apartment. Faith felt each slash, each sudden spurting wound like someone had poured salt on each gash, but she didn't say anything, didn't even feel angry, just terribly sad. She couldn't move as Buffy raised the knife one final time over her heart and then descended in a glittering red arc to pierce straight through her sternum. Faith felt herself dying, felt herself trying to lift arms that wouldn't move before but now more eerily lacked the ability to respond even as Faith begged herself to get up, begged Buffy to stop, struggled and at last cried out futilely for help as the blackness took her over.
She woke up with a terrible ache in her chest that faded with the memory of her dream. She took several deep breaths and blinked into the midnight blackness of the room. The pain faded further, and Faith dared open her eyes completely on the night-clad space around her, hearing her own breath and the faint humming of the air-conditioning as the only sound. She fought back an unreasonable wave of terror and slowly reached out her hand to the lamp next to her bed and switched it on, flooding the room with light. She shut her eyes until her eyes got used to the brightness and then sat up, looking around the empty space. She knew there was nothing to be afraid of, nothing that she couldn't face anyway. The images of the dream drifted past her mind's eye as she huddled against the headboard, trying to recover some shreds of composure.
At long last she took a final deep breath and stood up, carefully as her leg twinged. She lifted the crutch and leaned on it wearily, then picked up her pillow and headed for the door. She looked out down the hall, irrationally suspicious of the darkness there, lit faintly from her doorway. She swallowed her strange fear of walking down the hallway and shut off the bedroom light and made herself take the few steps down the hall and into Buffy's room, slipping quietly through the other girl's partly open door. She looked down on the sleeping Buffy, serenely unaware of her presence and completely alien to the knife-wielding image from her dream. She sighed softly to herself and let her pillow fall to the floor next to Buffy, resting herself next to it. She wanted most of all to lie next to the other girl, to find comfort in the warmth she knew would be up there. Instead, she stared into the darkness for a while, comforted by Buffy's breathing just a few feet above her, dream or not.
* * * * * *
Buffy felt Faith's hands upon her, sliding around her waist as the other girl kissed down her throat. She groaned low in her throat and turned into Faith's embrace, feeling the heat of the other girl's touch run through her in a wave of exhilaration. She pressed herself against Faith's body and kissed her firmly, hands entwined in the other's long brown hair. She let silken strands fall between her fingers as she broke the kiss at long last, looking into Faith's eyes to see a matching want there. Faith smiled at her and held her close, her strong hands immeasurably gentle against the skin of Buffy's back beneath her shirt. Faith started to lift the baggy T-shirt from Buffy's shoulders when a faint pounding caused the scene to dissolve. Buffy protested and pulled the covers over her head while the faint shreds of sleep still clung to her, but she was firmly awake, and so she sat up.
She glanced at her clock to see that it was almost nine again, early, but not too early. She wondered who it was for a moment until the memory of Eddy and Sand came flooding back from the night before. She muttered under her breath about pesky foxes and stood up, feeling her foot brush with something warm on the way down. She took in a quick breath of surprise when she saw that it was Faith, fast asleep on her floor without even a blanket. She frowned a little as she crouched next to the other girl- Faith didn't look serene, like people were supposed to when sleeping. She looked upset, disturbed and afraid, like she was having the mother of all bad dreams. Buffy gently smoothed the hair from Faith's face as she heard her mother answering the door. Faith uncurled herself slightly at Buffy's touch, losing some of the tension from her face. Buffy hesitated a moment and then gently leaned down to kiss Faith's temple, then stood up and pulled her blanket from the bed and spread it over the other Slayer. It wasn't terribly cold, but the AC kept the room at least slightly chilly and Buffy slipped quietly out the door into the hallway as she heard her mother heading up the stairs. She met up with Joyce there and waved cheerfully as her mother put a hand over her heart in surprise.
"Buffy! I didn't expect you to be awake yet. You have a visitor- someone I've never seen before." Joyce sounded suspicious, as she often did these days with anything related to Buffy and her Slaying.
"I know mom. He's come here to get for mine and Faith's help- I'll go talk to him in a minute, after I've gotten dressed and such." Joyce nodded and looked down the stairs at the top of Sand's head, which was all that was visible. "Would he know anything about where that fox went? I've been looking for it, but I can't find it, and there are no messes or broken things in the house so I am guessing it just escaped." Buffy nearly smacked herself for having forgotten to tell her mother that, but instead she just nodded.
"He's the owner of the fox. He came by for it last night, but I guess you were asleep or something. Anyway, I'll be down in a minute." Joyce didn't look entirely pleased with Buffy letting strange people in at night, but she just nodded and descended the stairs again to go speak with the visitor. Buffy moved carefully back into her room and pulled out some clothing for the day and tiptoed into the bathroom to get dressed. She finished her daily rituals as swiftly and as quietly as she could, then headed for the stairs. She changed her mind at the last second and turned around, figuring that Faith would want to be a part of this meeting, and she headed into her own room again and crouched once more next to the sleeping brunette. She gently shook Faith's shoulder until the other girl opened sleepy eyes and gazed up at her.
"Morning. Any particular reason you wanted to sleep in here with no blanket?" Faith didn't respond, just raised her hand and clasped the collar of Buffy's shirt and pulled the other girl down and kissed her firmly. Buffy was too surprised to react and Faith's mouth was soft and warm. For a moment, Buffy didn't resist, simply returning the kiss. Finally, her former sensibilities reasserted themselves and she pulled up abruptly, looking down into Faith's eyes.
"Don't, Faith. We have to go." She started to stand up, but Faith didn't let go of Buffy's collar, lifting herself onto her elbow.
"Why not? You started it." Faith sat up slowly, unclenching her hand from Buffy.
"Just because. This is...is something else we have to talk about, again. Sand is downstairs and it is time to go to Giles's." She stood, and offered Faith a hand up. Faith took it and stood slowly, fitting the crutch under her arm. Buffy had rarely been so confused in the course of her short life as Faith had been making her lately. She had felt some inklings of this before, but had been able to suppress or ignore it in favor of Angel. Now Angel was gone and there was little to keep Faith out of her mind.
"I don't see what there is to talk about, but whatever." Faith didn't say anything else and just left, heading down the hall to the guest room and her bags. Buffy always wanted to complicate things that seemed terribly obvious to Faith. She dressed quickly and made herself ready while Buffy went down to greet Sand. The little Asian boy was sitting quietly in the living room with a dozen little foxes around his ankles, all staring up at her as she descended the stairs. Buffy briefly wondered if Alfred Hitchcock had ever been through something like this as she stepped into the room, still under the unrelenting stares of little green eyes.
"Good Morning. I see that when you said early, you meant early by real world time rather than youth-culture time." She smiled cheerfully as Sand merely spread his hands in a shrug and grinned.
"We do not need much in the way of sleep, but I am sorry to have awakened you. Where is Faith?"
"Here." Faith made her way down the stairs, a bit more slowly than Buffy, but she had gotten herself ready in a hurry and came to a stop next to the other girl.
"Good morning to you also." Faith nodded a little to the short Asian boy who was absentmindedly stroking the fur of a little fox which sat in his lap.
"I didn't think there was such a thing as a good morning, but thanks." She favored him with one of her small sardonic smiles and sat down on a chair facing the boy. Buffy just stood next to and slightly behind Faith with one hand resting on the back of the other Slayer's chair. Sand smiled as well and remained seated, still stroking the little fox.
"Well, mornings are useful for productive things sometimes. Now, didn't you say that you wanted me to visit a friend of yours for something?" Buffy's imminent reply was interrupted by a knock at the door. All faces in the room (including the foxes) turned to look at the door as Buffy rose to answer it. She pulled it open without looking through the peephole and revealed Xander with hiking gear strapped to his back. She lifted a brow as she let him inside, staring at his outdoorsmanly attire. Xander stepped inside and stopped when he spotted the cluster of foxes on and around the living room couch.
"You're harboring those...those trash-scattering foxes!" Xander well remembered his late-night awakening and he stared at the large group of foxes who blinked in unison and then barked with foxy laughter. "And there's...lots of them, working in cahoots! A whole gang!" Sand had started to chuckle then too, and he gently nudged the fox off his lap and stood, stuffing his hands in his pockets.
"I'm sorry if my little siblings have caused you any problems. They're...energetic, one might say, and I can't always watch them." Buffy cut in there, slipping in front of Xander as he took a slow step towards the still-yipping foxes.
"Xander, this is Sand. He's a kitsune or something like that, a Japanese fox-spirit-guy. He and the little foxes need loving homes until we can get rid of the nasty bad animal-abusing demons that followed them all the way from Japan." Faith didn't say anything, just leaned against Xander's crutch from earlier adolescence with a faintly tired expression. "But I am guessing from your bag O' gear that you planned on leaving very shortly." Xander shrugged a little bit and let the pack fall from his shoulders with a clatter as he looked down at Buffy, Faith, Sand, and a dozen pairs of tiny green eyes.
"I think I might reconsider that decision at least temporarily. How could I resist a new mystery with many small furry trash-toppling vandals as the victims?" Xander just shrugged and put his hands in his pockets also, lifting his brows at the other two, having been the only one of them to notice the weird dynamic going on with the two Slayers.
"Good. I'm glad you're staying at least a little longer- we haven't had a proper goodbye session. We need to call Willow and Oz and then we'll find a way to get this crew over to Giles's." Buffy was blissfully unaware of Xander's strange look as she headed for the phone in the kitchen, leaving Faith, Xander and the fox-types scattered over the room. Faith just lifted an eyebrow at Xander and carefully hauled herself to her feet, seeming to radiate smugness somehow as she did so. Sand remained inscrutable in a way that would have made Oz jealous while Buffy could be heard chattering in the distance. The foxes offered nothing to the conversation but cuteness, though in some circles that would have been enough.
"Willow will meet us at Giles's, and Oz will show later after he's slept longer than three hours. The G-man himself is certainly awake, so I think we should all just drop by for a visit and surprise him in the midst of his tea and ancient sacrifice rituals." Buffy headed back into the living room with her little black bag. She had told Joyce where she was going and was now prepared to trek overland to Giles's. All the little foxes stood as she spoke and Sand gestured them towards the door.
"Let's be off then." Buffy stopped as she saw the dozen little red furry forms moving out the door and she looked back at Sand again, wondering how long before animal control showed up to snag them all and fine her.
"How are we going to explain the fact that we travel with an entourage of foxes?" Xander asked. Sand just smiled cheerfully as he stepped outside.
"We won't have to. My siblings are pretty adept at hiding and I can make them harder to notice with a little fox-magic. Don't worry, if anyone seems to be noticing, they'll just scatter like small red roaches and be gone from sight." The foxes gave him offended looks as the group proceeded out the door, but they didn't comment. Buffy paused moment as she turned back and fixed Sand with a raised eyebrow
"You and your fox-magic is why mom didn't wonder about the many little furry guys in her living room right?" Sand just lifted his brows and placed a wounded hand over his heart.
"Would I ever do more than just let an honorable woman see what she expects to see at her front door? I could have done something worse, like a pack of Jehovah's witnesses." Buffy rolled her eyes but set her feet back on the path to Giles's with Faith, Xander and foxes in tow.
* * * * * *
The frosted-blonde man strutted up and down many of Sunnydale's streets, sporting an obviously expensive leather jacket and designer shades. He had that kind of cut jawline that drove young teenaged females to poster-buying and swooning, and his walk was the exaggerated casual of those who know themselves to be cool. He sauntered along easily, surveying the quaint little town and it's quaint inhabitants. They were all very American, which was to be expected, and he himself was technically a US citizen after all. His goals were not materialistic fulfillment however, but domination. He had worked with the Oni and their Yakuza backups in Japan, and if not for those meddling foxes he would still be there. It was an opportunity at least, coming here. The gangs and mafias of the US were fractured and needed some centralization. Sunnydale was sorta small, but that was satisfactory for a starting point, especially with all the supernatural energy that just clung to this place. Somebody had either studied up on their Geomancy when laying the place out, or they just had a good eye for designs that would attract bad things.
His reverie was shattered when he spotted the objects of his hunt, moving down the sidewalk in a procession of sorts. The other pedestrians on the road didn't notice the dozen tiny foxes at all, but the frosted-blonde man had very special designer sunglasses, which allowed him to see through foxes' illusions. He ducked into a small shop selling herbal soaps and medicines and the like, peering out through the plate glass window. There were two girls and one boy along with the foxes, and then of course the acting fox-elder, at least until the main family could regroup their remnants. His eyes narrowed on the two girls, studying them closely. One of them was the Slayer, but the East Wind gang had told him that both fought like the Slayer. The vampires they had interrogated identified the blonde one most of the time, but sometimes the brunette as well. Could there be two Slayers? It was unlikely in the extreme, but he would have to look into it. Either way, better follow the little pack discreetly and see where they had made their camp.
* * * * * *
Giles was rather completely shocked to have a legion of foxes appear on his doorstep early in the morning. To have Buffy, Faith and Xander appear also was not such a big deal, though it was definitely early for them two days in a row. Willow was waiting for them when they arrived, though Oz was nowhere in evidence. She looked up from a thick red book as the others trooped into the room, looking surprised in her Willow-saucer-eyed way. The foxes flooded past a surprised Giles and immediately took up residence on his couch, eliciting a whimper from the fastidious Englishman. He shot Buffy very stern and explanation demanding look as all the others trooped in. She smiled cheerfully at Giles as he shut the door, and immediately launched into the explanation.
"They're good trash-spilling vandal foxes who have requested our assistance through the medium of their elder brother Sand here. He's a Kitsune or something like that. Anyway, those nasty horny-guys who attacked us yesterday are Oni- I think that's what they called them. That's right right?" She looked back at Sand who had followed her in with Giles still glaring over his glasses at them all. Sand just smiled a little a nodded.
"Right enough. It's a bit of a longer explanation, but she has the gist of it." Giles shut the door firmly and sighed, then tried to herd the foxes off his couch.
"Well I guess we should all sit down and try to have a coherent discussion, but without getting fur on my good furniture."
"Hope no one's allergic." Faith brushed several red furry bodies off the sofa with a single motion, ignoring the offended looks she received. She pulled Buffy by the hand and sat them both on the fur-covered couch, all the jilted foxes moving away with an air of offended dignity. It was at this moment that Willow stood up from her reading, abandoning her book to head over to the foxes, scooping one up in her arms.
"So cute!" The little fox looked at first bemused, and then accepted its fate, settling down easily as Willow started to gently pet the creature's red pelt. "Wow, we've never gotten to deal with CUTE supernatural furry things before." She smiled up at them all with the fox still in her arms.
"Yeah, those little rascals. Rambunctious vandals they are." Xander accentuated his words with an enthusiastic gesture and shuffled further in, taking up a station on Giles's end table, glancing surreptitiously to where Faith's hand once again rested on Buffy's leg. Faith noticed his gaze and lifted her brows slightly, causing him to look away and back to the little red furry types scattered over the floor. Giles ushered Sand into a chair while Willow plopped herself down on the couch next to Buffy, several foxes jumping into her lap at once, spreading themselves out to Faith and Buffy, who made no motion to expel them once again. Giles looked flustered and seemed almost ready to say something when Buffy spoke up, breaking his train of thought.
"So I guess we have a little chat session about these Oni." She made no move to rise, one hand gently stroking the upturned tummy of a baby fox whose tail waved happily while her fur was stroked. Giles nodded as he fetched his teacup and downed a larger portion than normal in one gulp, then looked expectantly at Sand. The Asian boy took a breath and looked thoughtful for a moment, then spoke.
"Well, Kitsune organize themselves into families, and we usually take responsibility for certain things in Japan's spiritual life, sometimes guardianship of temples, sometimes landforms, and sometimes even people. A few are the rogue types that cause nasty mischief and do bad things, but mostly we are concerned with keeping order, one way or another. There are other family organizations in Japan, and one of those is the Yakuza, what you might call a 'Mafia' I believe. This bunch moved into our rather small fishing city which our family guarded, and started causing much violence. The Elders didn't take kindly to this, especially when they desecrated some lesser shrines. This was unusual, in that most Yakuza are very careful about religion, as their actions bring them enough trouble without angering the gods. We investigated, and discovered that the Yakuza were in fact run by, and largely even composed of Oni, large orge-demons..there is no direct translation, but they are quite nasty, especially the older magic-using ones. We fought back, and sundered much of their group, killing many of the lessers, though the leading Four lived- and sought revenge. They scattered many of my kin and killed most of the elders, leaving me basically in charge- along with all my little brothers and sisters here. They also stole the childrens' souls, which work differently from yours, and may be intending to use them for bad things. They will not be able to return to Japan for a while, at least- we banished them with our last ritual. I expect that they want to set up shop here after they kill us, since this place is rich in the things on which demons thrive." He finished with a long breath and then looked at them all expectantly. Giles cleared his throat a little, frowning.
"So, what you're saying is that the Japanese Mafia is trying to move into Sunnydale with demonic assistance."
"Right." Sand did not seem intent to elaborate on that statement.
"What hurts them? I mean, the ones we fought with were just ugly, but that didn't stop them from prancing about in the daylight. Stakes through the heart will kill just about anything, but it is generally messy." Buffy was still petting the little fox in her lap, while another nuzzled at her free hand.
"Well, their physical forms can be killed with enough force- piercing the heart with holy swords or jade anything seems to be particularly effective. Their spiritual manifestations are more troublesome, and they are usually bottled up inside rocks and held in place with magic charms. Destroying them outright requires some pretty heinous magic, but jade tends to be imbued with the strength of the land- you'd call it geomancy I believe, and so hurts their unnatural forms more grievously."
"Great, so we just find an unused magic sword, or a large, sharp piece of jade and we're good to go." Xander was too...jaded.. to flinch from the nasty looks he received, but Sand spoke up again to fill the space for retribution.
"Well, I know that such things are not easy to find- what I would suggest instead is a stone natural to the region, such as granite, or even metals like silver or gold- they did mine for those here yes? The lesser Oni you don't really need to worry about, since they are not powerful spirits, but the greaters would likely be able to find or make new forms pretty quickly unless we manage to stifle them. If you can get the cleansing object into their mouths, the essence would reach their spirits quickly." The group looked pensive for a moment after this, until Giles spoke up again.
"How can we differentiate the lesser from the greater?"
"The Greaters are mad-ugly, and there are four of them, in this case. One for each of the winds you know? They each also control one gang of lessers, though we destroyed most of the West and North groups. The lessers have horns, in the center of their heads, but the greaters are truly hideous looking, with scales, feathers, claws, poor dental hygiene- much like all demons. None of them look quite the same, but they tend to wear traditional sorts of kimonos, since they consider themselves to be integral and indeed rightfully masters of Japan."
"Does it make any difference about day or night with them?" Willow looked up with her question, the fox she had scooped up still nestled in her arms, enjoying the attention. Sand shook his head in answer and looked around the room.
"No, not really. They tend to come out more often at night simply because people scream and run when they see them, and that is sort of bad for ruling-the-country sort of thing. I guess that makes them different from many demons- they will kill and torture as it suits them, but their main fun-point is power, owning and commanding."
"Well I guess we better oust them before they start trying to make Sunnydale into the new Lower East Side."
* * * * * *
While the frosted blonde man was making his way back to the warehouse to report his findings on the foxes, the East Wind Gang broke into one of the sleeping houses for the remaining vampires left over from the Mayor's reign. Sleepy eyes opened wide as sunlight started pouring in from the busted door, and the East Wind wasted no time in beating the vampires senseless, then staking them. A few they kept alive, tossing them into bodybags that they carried out into the daylight with them, heading for the warehouse. Two of the gangs had been woefully depleted, and the vampires of this continent would serve nicely until more Lesser Oni spirits could be summoned. This far from Japan, it was terribly difficult, and the Four had greater and more immediate worries than creating new servants right away. Instead they would just enslave the vampires for now. They made their way back the way they had come- along back alleyways and side streets, keeping themselves as out of sight as they could. The South Wind was currently engaged in stealing some cars for the use of the Four and their servants, but it would take a little time to make sure those were properly taken care of.
They dropped their now-wiggling cargo onto the floor of the warehouse and unzipped them, releasing several very confused and angry vamps onto the waiting baseball bats of the East Wind and what was left of the West. After the vamps had been laid out again, the Lord of the North came to speak with them awhile, laying out their new options. Vampires were very much creatures of opportunity, and the choice of dying or working for a possibly profitable new master was a simple one. It was really not that different from the Mayor's recruitment methods. The Lord of North had new servants, if only seven instead of twenty.
* * * * * *
The Scooby gang quickly conceived a plan and executed it. They went to breakfast in Giles's car, leaving the foxes behind with several large bowls of food set out on the floor, and several hastily-worked spells of protection to keep them from being noticed or otherwise tracked down. On the way, they stopped to get Oz and packed him in the back seat with the rest. The group settled in at a local IHOP, the seven of them wedged into one of the blandly decorated booths, girls on one side, boys on the other. Willow felt mildly uncomfortable shoved against the side of booth, hemmed in by Faith, but the brunette Slayer had been nothing but behaved, if not always totally polite, since her unfortunate accident(s). Buffy leaned into Faith subtly, and the other Slayer leaned subtly back, neither of them daring look at the other for fear of one of the others reading their minds. Xander gave them a strange look now and then, but had the good sense for once in his life not to say anything.
"So, we have to like figure out where these Oni are making their base. I'm betting it would be somewhere in the docks or warehouses, since that seems to be where most unsavory characters congregate, err, present company excepted of course." Willow gave Faith an appeasing look, but Faith just smiled a little and nudged Willow's shoulder gently, nearly getting a wince out of the smaller redhead.
"No offense taken. I think 'unsavory' is about the nicest thing anyone has ever called me." Willow smiled in some relief and seemed to relax a little in her seat. The waitress arrived at that moment to take their orders, and there was much menu-shuffling as everyone finally made their order. When the waitress had retreated they reverted to the subject at hand, or were about to when Xander's stomach growled forcefully. He just grinned a bit and shrugged.
"Man need food. Seek meat. Eat charred animal carcasses." That got a smile out of the others, even Giles, and then seriousness could resume.
"Right, so we need to find some small pieces of gold or silver that we can fit in their mouths by force. I think ordinary swords for you two Slayers should be enough for the subduing part, and Willow and I will look into banishment rituals. Xander- you and Oz can help with the research, which shouldn't be long, and the searching for the Oni, which should be. The lesser Oni appear to be making themselves known through random acts of violence against the local underworld, such as it still is, but catching one and getting them to admit anything would be hard. Sand could translate of course, but there is still the fun of catching them." The group looked faintly relieved to have a plan, and then Willow spoke up, gesturing with a forkful of Harvest Grain n' Nut pancake.
"I have a few old jewelry type things that I would never wear- they were presents from old Jewish relatives for like, every Hanukkah and birthday and stuff. We can use some of those for the Oni-chow." Buffy furrowed her brows and looked at Willow across Faith's shoulders.
"Are you sure about that Willow? Like, old presents and stuff?" Willow nodded enthusiastically, not speaking since she was chewing up a large mouthful. Faith didn't say anything, still going over the fact that she had been automatically included in this little operation. She wasn't sure whether that made her happy to be forgiven enough to be part of the group, or annoyed at the presumption. For the moment, she would go with happy since annoyed made her leg hurt.
"Alright then, let's be off. Buffy, Faith, Willow- I'll drop you off to see how much metal you can acquire, and I'll take the others back to my apartment. Meet us there, and then we can begin hunting. Sand, Xander and I will begin looking for anything that might help us in the way of magic." That pretty much finished the conversation for the balance of the meal, and soon they were all traipsing out to Giles's pathetic excuse for a car, the sodden grey thing slowly coaxing to life after they all piled into it. A brief drive through Sunnydale's twisted avenues left Buffy, Faith and Willow on Willow's doorstep. They piled out and headed up the walk to the front door. Willow's parents were gone, which was no surprise to anyone. The young wiccan unlocked the door and gestured them in, Buffy gazing idly over the familiar surroundings, while Faith looked on somewhat in awe. It was no Chase mansion, but it was a very nicely appointed home.
"Wow Red, your parents are loaded." Willow looked a little flustered at that, casting a glance back at Faith as she made her way up the stairs, with Buffy assisting Faith to follow.
"Not really. You should see Cordelia's house..or what used to be Cordelia's house, before that whole Repo-man special." She pushed open the door to her childhood room and headed inside, the other two shuffling in after her.
"Nice and...femme.." Faith silenced whatever might have continued her sentence as Buffy gently elbowed her in the ribs. Willow shrugged a bit self-conciously and headed over to her closet. What Willow had termed a "few old jewelry things" turned out to be a box full of shiny trinkets that were obviously not her style, heavy pearl-butterly-swirly-flower things that she might have worn if she were over forty and married happily in a normal upper-class Jewish home. She handed the box to Buffy with both hands, causing it to jingle softly. The two Slayers looked at her in disbelief as she gave it to Buffy, a small treasure horde by all appearances.
"Willow.. we can't take all this. You've got like, your own weight in gold lizards and modern art here." Buffy furrowed her brows and tried to hand it back, but WIllow would have none of it.
"It's for a good cause, and whatever we don't use I'll take back. All I've been doing is selling a little of it here and there to buy occult merchandise, since my mother won't fund my "juvenile rebellion phase" as she terms it." The redhead looked around and grabbed a couple of books she had been borrowing from Giles and headed for the door. The other two girls exchanged glances and shrugged, heading back out and down the stairs. As she was heading down she spoke over her shoulder.
"While we're here Faith, why don't we do the leg-spell again?" It was a nearly daily ritual, and it had healed most of Faith's injury in record time. Faith just shrugged and didn't answer, instead offering her free arm to Buffy as they headed down the stairs.
* * * * * *
Giles was in the kitchen making tea and Sand was there with him, feeding and caring for his siblings, leaving Xander and Oz poring over his books in silence, at least, that was until Xander looked up searching for some human relief from Romanian Blood Rituals, and accepted Oz instead. He was still obsessing over the 'thing' he percieved between Buffy and Faith, and this was just the sort of thing which would occupy his mind forever.
"So Oz.." Oz looked up from his book and lifted his eyebrows slightly. "Have you noticed anything, say, unusual between Buffy and Faith lately?" Oz looked thoughtful for a moment and then shrugged.
"If you mean outside of not trying to kill each other, no, but they say that near-death changes people."
"I think it's changed them a lot, in the bonding-happy-Slayer sort of way." Xander flipped another page in his book, not really reading it.
"What do you mean?" Oz inspected the black polish on his nails, noting a chip that needed to be repainted sometime soon.
"I mean like in the snuggly-girl-girl way." At that, Oz lifted a brow and managed to look slightly surprised.
"I can't say as I've noticed anything." Oz had forgotten his nailpolish for the moment at least.
"I have- like, Faith's hand on Buffy's thigh, for extended periods.. I can't even get my hand there without having bones broken, with three years of trying to boot. They also spend a lot of time together too, but that I could chalk up to Faith staying in Buffy's house except for the other mitigating circumstances. I guess my point is that there is something going on besides mere Slayer-bonding, if you know what I mean, not that I object to any such activities or fantasies...err, nevermind that, but I do think that Faith is a bit unsuited for our dear Blonde Slayer." Oz remained unmoved by this little statment, which was unsurprising considering his track record. Xander cocked his head to the side slightly as he looked at the other boy. Oz finally shrugged a little as he set his book aside, stretching his arms behind him.
"I need not remind you of the dangers of idle speculation, but I do think that such an occurence is well within the veil of probability."
"Really? You mean, I'm not completely alone in noticing such things going on." Oz nodded very slightly.
"I also think that if so, Buffy is completely incabable of not telling Willow about it at some point soon. I advise the course of Patience." Xander sighed and nodded a little as well. Anything further he might have said was forestalled by Giles coming back with a steaming porcelain pot and three cups on a silver tray, Sand and a dozen tiny foxes trailing after.
"Sure." They answered in unison, both of them felt the need for a little caffinated boost, and Giles wasn't notorious for keeping soda around.
* * * * * *
Faith was stationed on one of the designer couches in the Rosenbergs' living room. Buffy carefully took the splint off her leg and gently traced the muscles with one hand, no longer feeling the injury as she had been able to just a few days previously. Willow moved about and prepared her things, then set her usual supplies on the coffee table next to Faith's foot. She glanced at the two Slayers, then gestured Buffy out of the room.
"I need utter silence and concentration to do this spell, and it isn't that I don't trust you or anything, but this isn't an easy ritual..so like, please wait in the kitchen for just a few minutes." Buffy frowned again and seemed about to object when Faith chimed in.
"Just go B- it only takes a few minutes, and I think Red is nervous enough already with all this." Willow looked a mite affronted, but Buffy stood up an departed as requested. Willow took a deep breath and prepared to perform her spell. Faith held herself still and waited, fighting her impatience to get the results. Willow intoned the chant sonorously and waved her hands over Faith's leg, finally scattering the smelly powder over the Slayer's skin. Faith flexed her toes and felt little of the ache in the tendons. She stood experimentally and placed her weight on the foot. Still a little tender, definitely not at full strength, but it wasn't broken anymore. She limped a few steps until Willow pushed her gently, causing her to lose her balance and fall back on the couch. Faith looked momentarily angry, but Willow placed her hands on her hips and looked defiant.
"You aren't completely healed and I know for certain that you shouldn't walk on it just yet." Faith took a breath and then fought her anger down and let Willow resplint her leg. She picked up the crutch and made her way to her feet as Buffy re-entered the room and assisted her again. Faith didn't resent Buffy's help, since it involved Buffy's hands on her, and she rested against the crutch with a sigh, then nudged Willow's shoulder again.
"Thanks Will." That was about as close as Faith ever got to speaking Willow's full name, and the redhead smiled gently, justifiably proud of her healing spell.
"We better get going." Buffy turned towards the door, and the other two followed quickly after, since they had to walk back to Giles's place.
* * * * * *
It was still daylight, but that was fine with the pack of dark-clad figures that turned to follow the three young women. They were the South Wind Gang, the strongest of the four, and their masters had sent them to kill the Slayer(s) and the Fox Elder, then capture the younglings for sacrifice. The Kami had been unsuccesful at locating the foxes, but it had been able to find the two girls Spectre said were important to stop. It would be convenient if the foxes were still there, but if not, they would simply beat whoever currently resided there into submission and then ask them nicely where the Kitsune were.
* * * * * *
Oz, Sand, Giles and Xander were all resting on the couch, foxes sprawled on and around them in various postures of relaxation, and even the stodgy Englishman was idly stroking a furry head. All fifteen pairs of eyes in the room were trained on the TV, where Dexter's Laboratory was playing from Giles's surprising Cable selection. The search for good banishment rituals had yielded little, and it looked like they were going to be trying to feed demons gold in order to defeat them. Sand wasn't sure that non-Japanese minerals would have the desired effect, but defeating the physical forms would at least cast them out of Sunnydale. Finding this out hadn't taken too long, and it was only after a short time that there was a knock on the door. Giles rose, dumping an indignant red furball of his lap as he answered it, trying vainly to brush clinging hairs off his once-neatly pressed trousers. He opened the door to admit the three girls in succession, Buffy, Faith and Willow trooping in with a little wooden box. Buffy turned after she had surveyed the scene of relaxation on the couch and raised a brow at Giles's new coat of fur.
"Been making our aquaintance with the unwanted red pests have we?" Giles gestured her away with an annoyed British-guy sound, trying to look at her over his glasses severely.
"Did you get the gold? Oh my, how piratish we all sound. ARrr matey." That was Xander, also standing and scattering little foxes from his person. The small creatures managed to look horrendously ruffled for as long as it took to gain some pity, then they shook their fur back into place. Faith took Xander's abandoned couch spot and was immediately foxed, a condition she didn't particularly mind, stroking a furry red head thrust into her hand. Buffy sank down next to her, and was quickly rewarded with a fox or two of her own, all competing for attention.
"We got as much gold as we could need...Willow apparently has a lot of very wealthy relatives with very bad taste." Willow nodded as she opened the jewelry box to reveal the horde beneath. All of the males blinked in surprise and Oz whistled.
"Got yourself a little smuggler's stash there Will. You sure you're willing to use it?" Oz stood up now, scattering his own load of foxes as he sank down on the floor next to Willow and kissed her cheek gently. Willow just smiled and nodded a little, staring into his eyes.
"Well then, I suppose all that follows is to find the lesser Oni and-" Giles was cut off abruptly as his door was kicked in to admit several one-horned thugs. The foxes immediately vanished as if they had never been, and even Sand scrambled for the kitchen. Buffy and Faith stood up in unison, Faith hefting her crutch while Buffy lifted one of the knives Giles always had sitting out as show pieces on the end table. Xander dashed for the real weapon cabinet in the back corner while Willow and Oz stood and backed away, edging towards Xander. The Oni wasted no time in engaging the Slayers while Giles pulled a stake out of his jacket- not the ideal weapon for ogre-fighting, but better than his hands. Buffy moved forward and kneed one demon in the crotch of his ripped jeans, and toppled it to the floor, raising her knife to stab another in the shoulder. Faith was farther away and had time to bash one over the head with her crutch before a second charged into her, winning several punches to the skull for his trouble. She pushed the semi-concious demon off herself in time to see Giles desperately trying to fend off another. She stood and kicked it hard in the side, knocking it into the wall. She looked over at the other Slayer and saw that she was having some troubles.
Buffy was being driven back by three opponents, all of them moving like experienced fighters as one moved in and attacked, then backed away to draw her into the others. She warily tried to keep her position until Faith limped over and picked up her crutch and hefted it, coming at them from one side while Giles lifted a chair and threw it at another. He was rewarded for his efforts with a punch from yet a fourth, but at that moment Xander, Willow, and Oz charged up, swinging long axes taken from Giles's cabinet. They hacked into two of the Oni nearby, opening long wounds that oozed greenish blood, and in that moment Buffy and Faith both whacked theirs in unison, tumbling them to the floor. They looked around at the pile of unconcious or dying Oni on the floor, then Giles ran for the kitchen and returned with a roll of paper towels.
"Don't let the blood get on the carpet please. I've just shampooed it not long ago." Faith rolled her eyes as Buffy and the boys bent to cleaning quickly, while Willow grabbed a bunch of her jewelry and started feeding it to the Oni on the floor, with the exception of the one Faith had punched into unconciousness. Once their mouths were shut around the metals, a pale green glow spread over them, slowly washing down their forms and back up again, and then again, the Oni growing fainter each time until nothing was left. The eeriest part of the process was the absolute silence in the air, except for the cleaning crew. The Oni faded like they had never been.
Sand chose this moment to reappear, along with his fox siblings, all peeking out from heretofore unnoticed hiding spots in and around the room.
"Great work. I'm very impressed- especially the immediate attention to cleaning up the messes. Yet another unnatural evil cleansed from the world." He looked slightly ashamed for a moment, then finished his statement. "I'm sorry about the frantic vanishing act thing, but my siblings and I are most adept at hiding and fleeing, rather than fighting back. " The others slowly straightened from their tasks as any dangers to the carpet were quickly thwarted. Buffy shrugged.
"It's alright. Faith and I are Slayers, made-to-fight type things. Giles and these others are just our crazed cultish followers. Note the gleam of insatiable bloodlust in their eyes." The Scooby gang stood there with paper towels in their hands, large axes on the floor.
"And we're very absorbent." Xander smiled serenely as he spoke, then winced as Willow hit him. "Observant, I of course meant."
"We're big into no-muss-no-fuss supernatural combat. It takes forever to get dried monster gore off tile." Oz spoke quietly, as he always did, and then headed into the kitchen to throw out his paper towels, the other Scoobies following him. Buffy looked at where the pile of demons had been just moments before and then at the unconcious one, slowly reviving.
"I guess now is when we begin the forceful questioning."
* * * * * *
It had taken a little while, but the group had gleaned the location of the hideout from the Oni. He had been unwilling to talk at first, but then Sand had spoken to him at great length in Japanese and finally the creature relented, informing them of the warehouse that his bosses were staying in. He also mentioned a "Spectre" who was working with them, but little more than that. They shoved a gold brooch in the shape of a stylized pair of doves in his mouth, letting him vaporize like the others. Then they made plans for the attack.
"So, Faith and I go in whatever entrance we can pry open first, Xander and Oz follow with axes, Willow, Giles, and kitsune do mop up of any fleeing survivors? Sounds risky to me, even with these funky chamr bracelet things." Buffy held up her arm to let the series of little bells jingle. Sand assured them that the bracelets would protect them from any direct magics used by the greater Oni against them, but there were still a lot of them according to the one they'd interrogated. The Oni were at least fairly wimpy by Slayer standards, though not complete pushovers. That only meant that Faith couldn't charge in alone, not that she was really much of a charger at present.
"Well, we can throw in some flashbombs and firecrackers just before you make your entrance, providing some distraction and surprise." Giles adjusted his glasses as he spoke, and Oz blinked a couple times.
"It just so happens that I had a stash of illegal fireworks left over from last July that I would be willing to use. Unfortunately they were all ruined when my basement got flooded." Willow gently stroked his hair and smiled at that, sitting very close next to him. Faith rolled her eyes a little at their cuteness, though she and Buffy were back on the couch, hip-to-hip and covered in foxes again.
"How helpful. Anyone else with explosives lying about unused?" The group shook their heads. Xander clapped his hands together and looked around. "So I guess we have a go plan, unless anybody needs to do anything further?" Buffy spoke up quickly before any other objections could be made.
"I want to pick up some stuff from home and change before we go romping into battle, so Faith and I can meet you a block from there say, an hour from now?" Giles looked a bit annoyed as Buffy suggested that, but he simply nodded.
"Very well. In an hour, and please hurry if you can."
* * * * * *
When the South Wind didn't return, the four Greater Oni flew into a rage and struck down several of their servants. This was intolerable, that these gaijin girls and their little fox allies could defeat their strongest gang. The leaders calmed somewhat, however, when Spectre offered to try and kill the girls early, since, after all, they weren't immune to bullets and he looked like a normal human. The Greater Oni assented to his plan, and the frosted-blonde gangster tucked two pistols into his long coat, strolling out into the late afternoon whistling cheerfully.
* * * * * *
Buffy and Faith pushed through the front door and looked around. Joyce's car was not there, and she didn't answer Buffy's calls, which meant she probably went to do some gallery thing. Buffy headed for the stairs and helped Faith up them with her, though the brunette Slayer was walking much more easily by this time. The blonde Slayer moved into her room with Faith close behind, and she immediately headed into her closet and started digging out apparel for the evening- cargo pants and a tight black t-shirt. Faith just sat back on the bed and leaned the crutch nearby, watching Buffy as the other Slayer changed, not even asking Faith to look away. Faith admired the older Slayer's muscular curves, imagining her hands running over them softly, but she shook that out of her mind as Buffy finished and straightened her hair into a ponytail. She looked at Faith with a strange expression, and then came and sat on the bed next to the other Slayer, folding her hands in her lap.
"So.. I know that we.. are.. different now than we've been before." Butterflies leapt from her stomach, threatening to block her throat and prevent her from speaking. She knew they wouldn't have much time to discuss this today. "I mean.. I've never felt the way about another girl as I do now." The implied and it would have to be you wasn't spoken, though Faith seemed to catch it with the sardonic lift of her brows.
"Relationships work in strange ways B."
"Would that be what you call this, a relationship?" Buffy asked, fighting the quaver in her voice.
"Would you let me kiss you right now, if I tried?" Faith's voice was low, huskier than normal.
"I don't know." Buffy looked down at her lap, definitely confused, but the thought of Faith kissing her was terribly erotic.
"Well then, try and stop me." With that, Faith turned and pulled Buffy down onto the bed, sliding halfway atop her as she pressed her lips to the other girl's, inhaling the soft perfume Buffy always seemed to like wearing. Buffy didn't try and stop her, and instead slid her arm over the other Slayer's back and then opened her mouth to let her tongue gently brush over Faith's teeth. She pressed back into the kiss hard, feeling the larger Slayer's weight atop her pleasantly, Faith's curves fitting against her own. Finally she broke the kiss and slid to one side, staring into Faith's eyes with one hand draped over the other Slayer's waist.
"I'm just confused." She spoke quietly, earnestly through the air between them. "I mean, I've always liked being near you, though I didn't always know why, but...for a while there, we were hellbent rivals...and I still don't completely understand why." Buffy looked into Faith's brown eyes, searching for the gentle part of the Slayer's soul she knew existed somewhere. Faith looked back, her expression clouding a little though she didn't pull away. She wanted this chance too much.
"I was jealous, I guess, of Angel and of your friends and normal life outside of Slaying..I love being the Slayer, but there never seemed to be any reward in it. Kill the monster, get sent back to the hotel room." She stopped there and shrugged a little, her eyes seeming to say water under the bridge "So at first I thought to try and upstage the rest of you, working for the Mayor undercover..except that he was the nicest guy, besides the demon thing.. just like I imagined my real father was. I wanted so badly to win your attention.. and I wanted so badly to keep his- in the end, he had me try to kill Angel, which I didn't mind doing really, at that point.. I was really upset with you, and with myself..." She stopped and shrugged a little again. "I didn't know how to stop. The thing..the thing with Allan was a mistake, as hard as that is to admit." Her voice had faded almost to a whisper, and she suddenly surged against Buffy's shoulder, hugging the smaller girl close and buried her head against her shoulder. "I'm sorry..." The words came out as part sob, and another shook the younger Slayer's shoulders as Buffy embraced her tightly.
"It's okay..I forgive you, if you can forgive me." Buffy spoke softly held Faith gently, stroking her long brown hair with one hand. "I never wanted to hurt you Faith.. I never meant to treat you that way." Faith looked up slowly, mastering her voice carefully as she stared up into the Blonde Slayer's eyes.
"And that thing with Xander..was.. my stepfather used to do that, strangle me until I was unconcious, talking about how powerless I was. I hated it every time, but all I could think of with him, that time, was how he was the powerless one..the one who needed me and was in my power.. it was so.. wrong." She was shaking slightly now, remembering how Buffy had held her after Mel had kidnapped her and hurt her again, how the Blonde Slayer forgave her now. Other memories flooded up, of their fights, of her stepfather, of Allan's face when she killed him, but she pushed those away with long practice.
"You'll need to tell Xander that. I think he deserves an apology. Angel's gone, and I think he already forgave you. But Faith, I'm glad you talked to me...It scared me when you held all that anger inside, all that hurt.." She traced the other Slayer's cheek gently with one fingertip. "I want you to be happy. To have a normal life like mine. With me." The last two words came out in a rush and Faith slowly leaned up and kissed Buffy again, gently, letting their lips linger together longer this time.
"I want that too." She spoke softly and breathily into Buffy's ear, sliding her hand over the other Slayer's stomach and nuzzled gently into her neck. She still couldn't believe that Buffy would accept her, after who she was and what she'd done, but Faith wasn't one to question windfalls too closely. A small part of her wanted none of Buffy's pity, but there was precious little of that in the other girl's voice, just a genuine sympathy. She felt Buffy's arms wrap around her tightly and the Blonde kissed the top of her head, sending another small shiver through Faith. She kissed the side of Buffy's neck gently, nipping at her earlobe and was rewarded with a gasp from the older girl who tightened her arms around Faith, running a hand up the Brunette's back gently. She paused a second and just looked at the taller girl now tightly in her arms, drawing a slightly frightened glance from Faith as the Brunette sensed her sudden stillness.
"Second thoughts already?" She spoke softly, but not inaudibly. Buffy shook her head slightly, though a small blush crept onto her cheeks.
"I've just..never done anything like this before.. and it is slightly scary." Faith leaned up and pressed her forehead to Buffy's gently, passing calloused thumbs over Buffy's features. She then gently kissed the other girl again, slowly letting her tongue press into Buffy's mouth as she rolled sideways again, pressing herself on top of the smaller Slayer while maintaining the kiss. The motion got a small sound of pleasure from Buffy, who finally had to break the kiss for air with Faith's weight on top of her.
"I guess you like to be on top?" She said it with a small smile, barely above a whisper. Faith just smiled back, but much more wolfishly as she gently kissed down the Slayer's jawline and then her neck, sucking gently near the base while her hand roamed gently down Buffy's body, passing over her clothed breast and stopping at her hip. Buffy bucked slightly under the touch and she lifted a hand to Faith's shoulder, gently massaging the heavy muscle there. She was still tense, unsure of what to do, and Faith leaned over to whisper in her ear.
"Just let me know if you want to stop." Faith wanted Buffy, right now and badly, but she knew that forcing the other girl was not the way to go. Buffy nodded, feeling a wave of red desire wash through her vision as Faith's breath hit her ear. She turned her head and kissed the Brunette Slayer again, fiercely this time. Faith growled softly through it and slid her hand gently under Buffy's shirt, tracing designs on the other girl's stomach gently. Buffy gasped softly and moved her hand to Faith's waist, slowly sliding downwards across the smoothness of Faith's vinyl pants, letting her hand conform to the other Slayer's curves. Faith growled again, more forcefully this time and bit Buffy's neck not so gently. Buffy gasped again, but not in a good way as she pulled halfway out of Faith's embrace. Faith grasped Buffy's forearm and looked at her closely.
"What's wrong?" She spoke softly again, and Buffy slowly leaned back into her, pressing her head against Faith's shoulder.
"It was just- the neck thing, and the vampire thing. I would be happier if you didn't do that..my last neck-biting experience was Angel putting me in the hospital." Faith winced a little and hugged Buffy closely, gently stroking the other girl's hair as she berated herself for being stupid.
"I'm sorry- I didn't realize..." Faith broke off there and shrugged, still holding the smaller Slayer close. Buffy hugged her back and kissed her throat softly, feeling the younger girl's pulse throb against her lips. Faith gently slid her hand under Buffy's shirt again, caressing the softness of her back as she slid her hand up Buffy's spine to the clasp of her bra, deftly unfastening it with a single gesture. Buffy jumped as she felt the clasp fall open, but she didn't pull away. She moved with Faith's hand to lie on her back again, feeling the other Slayer's touch glide gently up her front, lingering a moment to trace the lines of muscle on her abdomen before moving upwards again to brush over her breast, this time without the interference of clothing. Buffy took in a sharp breath, but didn't pull away. She tried to relax into the touch, as Faith's hand was warm and the Brunette had resumed sucking on her neck again, sending a pleasing sensation through the sensitive skin there. She felt her shirt slide upwards until it was up near her shoulders, exposing both breasts and fast-hardening nipples to the air. Suddenly, the sucking on her neck stopped, and Buffy looked up just in time to see Faith's mouth descend on her nipple. She gasped aloud at this, Faith's hot warm mouth adroitly toying with her very sensitive breast. Faith lifted her mouth for a moment and smiled down at Buffy, then gently blew on the area left moist by her tongue. Buffy jumped as the freezingly cold air brushed over her nipple, then Faith's very warm mouth covered it again.
Slowly, Faith's hand drifted carefully lower, sliding under the waistband of Buffy's cargo pants, caressing the softest skin of Buffy's lower abdomen, toying just above what Faith had often daydreamed were silky blonde curls. Buffy closed her eyes briefly as Faith's hands roamed over her skin. Her hands were bunched in her comforter while waves of heat flushed her skin. She wanted this, felt it wash down through her in steady waves, but she was also spine-wrenchingly nervous. Faith noticed this and withdrew her hand from Buffy's pants, tracing back up the other girl's front to her neck. She moved her face upwards to look into Buffy's eyes, silently asking if the other girl wanted her to continue. Buffy answered her with a gentle kiss, leaning up while her hands once again moved Faith's shirt up, dragging it over the Brunette's shoulders. Faith smiled fully now, eyes shining with long-suppressed lust for the Blonde as she set to making both of them naked with wild abandon.
Buffy's body was beautiful, a few scars from her Slayer work adorning her skin. Faith traced them slowly down to the golden curls between the other girl's legs. Faith smiled at that, Buffy was a natural blonde eh? She pressed close to the other girl, partially drawn in by Buffy's gentle caresses, then slid her fingers gently down to the spreading wetness between the other girl's legs. She slid one finger into Buffy, gently caressing as the other girl gasped. Buffy was tight, like a near-virgin would be, and Faith hesitated before adding a second finger. Buffy just moaned softly and kissed Faith's collarbone, one hand gripping the Slayer's shoulder tightly. As Faith's tempo increased, so did Buffy's rocking and the grip on Faith's shoulder was soon almost painful, but Faith didn't mind at all, finally pressing her thumb to grind against upraised clitoris at Buffy's center. The Blonde girl came in a rush, biting her lip to avoid shouting, even though her mother wasn't home. Faith counted the contractions around her fingers, then slowly withdrew them still soaking in Buffy's moisture. She gently licked off some of the saltiness, then leaned down to kiss the blonde girl, letting Buffy taste her own musk.
Buffy sighed slightly and hugged Faith close. She slid her own hand down Faith's body, noting the thinness that even several days of good feeding couldn't hide, finger tripping over several prominent ribs. Her hand paused again in it's exploration, lingering on the pinkish scar tissue across Faith's stomach, her expression briefly flickering to one of guilt. Faith gently kissed her forehead and pushed her hand downwards. It wasn't just that she wasn't mad at B for that anymore, but she was really hot and didn't feel like any more soulful conversation. Buffy complied quickly, her hand sliding cautiously down to Faith's opening, tracing the lips there slowly. Faith bucked her hips against Buffy's hand, finally persuading the other girl to slide three fingers inside her. Buffy moved carefully, still unsure of her actions, but Faith's body guided her well and soon she had Faith ready to foam at the mouth, hands bunched in the comforter as her breath came in gasps. Buffy searched out Faith's clit with her thumb, using instinct and Faith's soft moaning as a guide, finally causing the Brunette to come as she rubbed the sensitive nub gently, nearly jumping at the reaction of Faith's insides clamping around her hand. She withdrew when Faith's gasps subsided and slid up next to the other girl, placing an arm over her stomach as she looked into soft brown eyes.
"Did I do okay?" She asked softly, never having done anything like this before in her life. Faith smiled that predatory grin again and kissed the smaller girl forcefully, driving her tongue deep into Buffy's throat.
"Just fine." The words were whispered between them as they slowly separated, gathering their clothing from the floor. It was past time to be heading back, and they hurriedly threw their clothing back on. As Buffy was glancing in the mirror to straighten her hair she noticed a conspicuous red mark on the base of her neck. Her eyes widened and then she whirled on Faith, eyes full of mixed shock and embarassment.
"FAITH! You gave me a hickey!"
* * * * * *
Giles and the others were waiting patiently when Buffy and Faith arrived. Willow furrowed her brows at Buffy's choice of clothing- a turtleneck in this warm weather? It was sort of strange. Still, Willow knew that Buffy had her firmly beaten in the fashion department, though the Blonde Slayer never made a point of rubbing it in like Cordelia had. Buffy just smiled a little weakly at her eyebrows, and she smiled back, bending back down towards her book. Oz and Xander were spiritedly playing with all the little foxes while Sand watched from the couch. Giles emerged from the kitchen and adjusted his coat back into place. He nodded a mite impatiently as the two Slayers arrived, then clapped his hands in an incredibly techerish fashion. None of the group responded in the least, apparently having shrugged off twelve years of intensive training in respect for authority in a matter of weeks. He sighed and cleared his throat loudly. That got their attention, at least long enough for him to gesture for the door.
"Alright. We all know the plan- Buffy and Faith in the side, Willow and I in after the Slayers with the jewelry, Oz and Xander to follow. We'll go on foot since I don't think we could all successfully fit into my car, and it isn't that far. Sand and his siblings will stay here since they aren't really combat-heavy. Ready?" The little group shuffled away from all their pursuits and gathered up shoes. Sand and the foxes stood solemnly by the door, watching as the troupe set out. Sand spoke as they were about to exit.
"My siblings and I are eternally grateful for your assistance, and if there is any assistance or boon we can grant you after this endeavor, we shall eagerly grant it." Buffy nodded to Sand weakly and smiled as the group stepped out silently. The Kitsune shut the door behind them, pushing the chair against it to keep it closed as he frowned at the latch broken by the Oni. That at least he could fix with a little time, which he had at the moment.
* * * * * *
Spectre moved ahead of the group, dashing through backyards and allyways until he reached a good hiding place along their unsuspecting path. All he had to do was shoot both of the Slayers. He waited, drawing his two .45's from his coat, fingers tensing on the triggers. He preferred to kill with guns rather than the swords or claws favored by the Oni. All issues of honor aside, hand weapons were just so messy, and his coat was dry clean only. He heard the group talking softly as they walked up and he leaned forward, then stepped out and started firing. His first bullet flew past Buffy's ear as the group started to scatter, but the second hit the mark in Buffy's shoulder. Buffy yelped with the sudden pain and Spectre lowered the gun to fire a third shot just as Faith threw the crutch at him. His aim was knocked aside and the two following shots went wide, giving Faith enough time to hobble-leap forward and tackle him to the ground. She grabbed both his wrists with a growl and squeezed with all her Slayer might, hearing bones grate and finally snap as the frosted-blonde man gasped with pain. He struggled, glaring at Faith with hate-filled eyes. Faith let go of his wrists only to punch him in the face once, twice, then tree times in succession, each strike hammering his skull into the pavement beneath.
Buffy sumbled forward and hauled Faith off one-armed, but it was too late- the blonde man on the ground was no longer breathing. Faith looked at her fist, spattered with blood from the man's crushed face and then at his unmoving form on the ground, arms twisted and and broken. She swallowed a couple of times and stepped back, her eyes fixed on his form. Another one. Another accident, all because she was the Slayer and she had poor self-control. She swallowed the nausea that rose in her throat and looked instead at Buffy's arm, which Willow was already tending with bandages brought along for injuries which were supposed to have occured later. Buffy winced at each touch, but the bullet had torn cleanly through her shoulder at least, missing the artery by a hair. She wouldn't be using both arms for a few days. The other three were standing apart from Faith, looking at her with wary glances. Faith resisted the wish for the earth to swallow her up, though it nearly took her again when Buffy looked at her, eyes full of strangeness that wasn't exactly recrimination, but wasn't a happy look either. The Brunette took a step backwards and stared down at the dead man's body, and then looked back up at the others, stammering as she tried to speak.
"I-I...didn't mean to.." She stepped back once more and looked about to run when Buffy caught her arm, her gaze boring directly into Faith's eyes.
"We know. Let's go." Buffy looked back at the others to forestall any further objections and kept her grip on Faith's arm. The younger Slayer just hunched her shoulders a little and lifted her crutch from the ground, moving along next to the newly-bandaged Slayer. She figured this was another item on Buffy's neverending "Things to Discuss" list, which meant more intimacy and sharing and other gooey emotional stuff. Normally, she hated gooey emotional stuff, but it was a lot more tolerable from Buffy..especially now. Faith kept moving with the Blonde Slayer's hand firmly latched onto her arm. Giles and the others followed close behind, their disapproval boring into the back of Faith's neck. Buffy broke the silence finally, speaking over her shoulder at Giles.
"Any idea why all these supernatural badguys are cropping up this week? I mean, I would think that after the thrashing we gave the Mayor and his cronies, they would know to stay away."
"Well..actually, I would think quite the opposite- the Mayor is gone, which leaves a power vaccuum here, a level playing field if you will, and certainly most demons are egotistical enough to believe that they are quite capable of destroying a simple Slayer." Giles spoke thoughtfully, having been puzzling over this matter somewhat himself.
"So how do we stop it?" That was Willow, voice barely audible as she gazed at Faith doe-eyed, as if waiting for the Brunette to strike again.
"I'm not sure. I'll have to look into it, when we get a quiet moment.. if we do." He polished his glasses while walking, the warehouse district looming up behind them while the blonde man's body slowly vanished in the distance behind. The place they were searching for, a particularly rust-covered building, was easily found since warehouses are not noted for their ability to disappear. There were three entrances not counting windows, one set of large cargo doors which were currently closed and padlocked, and two small human-sized doors which were not locked at all, but threatened to creak horribly if moved. All the ground floor windows were composed of myriad tiny panes and were so dirty as to conceal all that passed within, a plus to the demonic residents. The little group quickly headed up to the door nearest the large cargo entrances, if only because it was closer. Xander produced some oil from the small bag he was carrying with him and doused the hinges liberally with it.
"Mr. Preparedness aren't we today?" Buffy inquired brightly and patted Xander on the head, drawing a flustered brush from the dark-haired boy. Giles shushed at her and handed a sheathed sword to both her and Faith, while the others drew the weapons they had brought along.
"Now, you all know the plan- in fast, kill them all and be done with it." The group nodded solemnly as Faith placed a hand on the doorknob.
"And then we get tacos." Oz spoke without inflection, clutching a large axe in his hands. Faith rolled her eyes and yanked open the door with only a minimum of screeching and limp-charged in, Buffy at her side with one bandaged arm.
One of the newly acquired vampire minions burst into flame as the sunlight from the door caught him full-on. The rest charged forward, Oni and Vampires both and began pummelling at the Slayers and their companions. Through the rush, they got a glimpse of four larger and more sinister figures, chanting around a diagram on the floor. Buffy brought her sword down two-handed across a horned opponent, sending him to the ground with greenish blood spurting from his body. She pulled the sword out from his neck and lifted it in time to impale another. That one was harder to knock off the blade, and a vampire nearly blindsided her only to be smacked by Oz and his Viking mode axe. Faith used her tall stature to good advantage, hacking away with one hand and liberally punching with the other, the crutch leaning sedately outside the door as she limped about. Just behind the carnage, Willow and sometimes Xander dropped pretty shiny things into the Oni's mouths, and applied stakes to the non-Oni they hadn't expected to see, but came prepared for out of long Sunnydale habit.
All told, there were twelve Oni and six vampires, and all of them fought like the demons they were. Buffy felt an Oni's horn grate against her side harshly and turned to strike down the opposition, while Faith took a vampire bite to the thigh which tore out a good hunk of flesh. The Oni dissolved into green mist as Willow fed them jewelry, darting around just under the mainstay of the carnage as she did her work. Giles swung a long stick as his chosen weapon and managed to keep his opposition well at bay, despite superior numbers.
The Scooby gang steadily began to win out, despite superior numbers, in large part due to the Herculean efforts of the Slayers. Buffy and Faith broke through the last of pack just in time to see the Greater Oni, furred, feathered, scaled and horned, complete their ritual in fervent Japanese. The ground beneath their diagram opened and a clawed hand pushed out, first one, then another as a large gray-skinned shape emerged. It looked like the Lesser Oni with the singular horn, except for the much larger part. The hole it had stepped from exploded in a fierce light as the creature stepped free, roaring out words in an eldritch tongue. The light faded slowly, leaving spots dancing in the eyes of the Scooby Gang and Slayers as they watched the huge creature step away from the magical circle, the Greater Oni keeping their distance as much as the humans did.
"What is that?" Willow held her arm in front of her eyes as the light died, looking at it with horrified eyes. Buffy and Faith shared a quick glance and then looked quickly back up at the creature as it took one step forward, footstep ringing like a hammer on the concrete.
"I'd have to say it looks like a Greater Greater Oni." Buffy took a single step forward, her arm still throbbing with the pain of the bullet wound. Giles moved forward also and adjusted his glasses as if that could make the creature come back into focus more quickly.
"I've no idea. That circle summoned it and perhaps you can send it back by destroying that.." Giles continued to stare at the beast along with the others, another step closer with a booming echo through the room.
"We'll keep it occupied. You guys break the circle." Faith spoke as she started to limp forward, sword clutched firmly in both hands as she advanced. Buffy bit her lip briefly and then followed after, the words "Wait, stop, think" echoing eerily through her mind as Faith got within ten feet of the creature- close enough for it to take a good swing. Faith dodged and the massive fist whistled over her head. Buffy charged forward after and sliced her sword into the creature's thigh. The blade slid in cleanly and came away easily, leaving a large grey tear in its flesh but no blood of any kind. Buffy didn't have long to contemplate this, however, as the grey demon kicked the injured leg forward and forced her to hop out of the way. Faith lanced in and stabbed it in the side, then scampered back from another ham-fisted swing. Each cut opened another tear in the creature, but it didn't seem to be slowed at all by the injuries, and it didn't appear to have any internal organs, just undifferentiated grey.
Xander and Oz snuck around the battling Slayers towards the Greater Oni who were still gesturing and chanting softly behind them. The Greaters were ugly things indeed, bigger than the Lessers and without any semblance of being human, each one different than the others. The two boys split up and headed for the opposite corners the Oni had placed themselves in, axes raised. The Greater Oni were not too absorbed in their chanting not to notice their attackers and two of them ceased casting spells to draw very nice looking laquer-hilted katanas and fight back. They were slow, for demons, which was fortunate since neither Oz nor Xander were exactly veteran axe-fighters. Xander's opponent was feathered all over except the face, which looked like the Lesser Oni, complete with the single horn. It didn't speak, just attacked, and he was pressed to keep up his defenses. Oz squared off with a scaly creation that let a forked tongue flicker out of its mouth mockingly with each successful parry.
Willow and Giles carefully moved behind the group and started on the circle, chanting their own countering spells and pouring arcane components on it, generating small clouds of acrid smoke. The circle appeared to have simply been painted on, and their efforts were meeting with limited success in eradicating the circle from the floor. The creature howled from their efforts, the firm definition of its form going a little fuzzy as Buffy and Faith hacked away at undefined grey flesh. Unfortunately, their unbinding spells were only effective up to that point, and they ceased chanting as the circle ceased to glow, but the creature remained. Oz and Xander were still dueling with the Greater Oni, neither one managing to score a victory while the two others chanted in the background. Willow furrowed her brows as Oz's opponent sliced the rockerboy's face and she immediately snatched up a baseball bat that one of the vampires had been carrying and blindsided the scaly thing, managing somehow to knock its slit pupils cross-eyed. Oz made a feral wolfish sound and hacked into the creature's neck with a yucky sound and Willow winced as she shoved a brooch into its mouth. The creature immediately went into convulsions, then started to melt like the Lessers had, slowly fading back into whatever it had come from.
The chanting Oni next to them took notice and turned to try and run, but Oz hefted his axe behind his head and threw it forward, clipping the thing in the shoulder hard enough to bring it down. This one was all horns, from the shoulders and elbows and even knees. Willlow lifted the bat again and hit it, beating it down until it had stopped moving and for a minute after that until Oz restrained her. Willow took several heavy breaths and calmed herself, looking down at the creature.
"That's what you get for being too horny." Oz grabbed the jewelry box and shoved something shiny into the mouth, and they watched the melting begin until a shout from Xander grabbed their attention.
Xander was still engaged with the first opponent, though Giles was trying to aid him with his beating stick. Neither one was having much luck getting past the glittering steel of the Oni, and the two Slayers were still battling away, though it was obvious they were slowing down. Oz grabbed his axe again and headed for the fight, knocking the sword aside with an unexpected attack from the sidelines. Giles and Xander quickly took the creature down, making way for Willow to feed it another shiny mineral supplement. The remaining creature started backing away as the four opponents closed on it. It did not cease chanting, and in the background they heard Faith shout a warning and then a meaty thud and Buffy's groan. That triggered it, and they all attacked at once, getting splatted in green blood from the impact. When Willow shoved the silver into its mouth it melted like the rest except for one thing- several whitish lights fled from the form and scattered in all directions. They jumped back, but nothing else happened- the corpse vanished completely.
The Scooby Gang turned to see Faith wincing away from a huge fist that she hadn't been able to dodge. The hefty blow was inches from landing when it faded from existence, sliding through Faith into nonexistence along with the rest of the creature, apparently maintained only by the Oni spells. Buffy was on the ground but still breathing, sword fallen next to her. Faith recovered as the creature vanished, looking up to meet the eyes of the Scoobies and then to Buffy's fallen form, an unexpected concern flitting through her expression before falling back under her mask. She dropped her sword to kneel next to the fallen Blonde and lifted her gently, brushing a few stray locks of hair from Buffy's face as the older Slayer groaned softly and stirred in her arms. The others moved forward and crouched in a circle around as Faith held Buffy protectively until the Blonde's eyes flickered open slowly coming into focus first on Faith, then the others. She straightened slowly and sat up, seeing the others ringed around her, and smiled a little and rubbed at her shoulder still covered with the bloody bandage.
"So bad guys go boom right?" She started to stand unsteadily, causing Faith to take her hand and rise with her.
"Gone almost like they'd never been." Giles stood, and the others followed. There was a little dust on the ground from the vamps they'd dusted on the way in, but the Oni were just flat-out gone, except for the fancy katanas and the circle painted on the floor. Faith kept Buffy's hand and started to limp towards the door.
"Then we'd best do the same." The sunlight filtering from the outside was blinding, but the group headed towards it, though they did take the Katanas as souvenirs. Usually they got nothing but bruises and lost sleep for their efforts.
* * * * * *
When they returned the foxes were no longer foxes, but a swarming group of small boys and girls ranging in age from four to twelve. Sand greeted them at the door as the children in the room raised a cheer and rushed forward to hug the returning heroes. They were tired and wounded, but it was impossibile not to smile back at the hero's welcome they so rarely received. They were quickly hustled to seats and offered drinks by the children, each one dressed much like Sand in jeans and T-shirts. Sand himself directed them all until finally he gestured for quiet, fixing everyone in the room with his dark eyes.
"Today you have done my family a great service which we may never be able to repay, but now we owe you a Fox-debt upon which you may call at any time. My siblings have their souls again and can resume their human forms thanks to you." He bowed to them all, deeply and thenstood straight again, brushing his hair from his eyes. "We must return to Japan now, secure in the knowledge that our enemies are scattered and defeated. To us, you all will be remembered as heroes." He reached into a pocket and handed them all cards with the name 'SAND' in black letters with an address, phone number and email address printed on it. "This is where I live, and should you ever need my help for anything, simply call me. For now, I and my siblings can at least heal your injuries." The children linked hands and began a soft, tuneless humming as Sand moved among them, then turned to the group as a whole. He touched each of them on the forehead with the palm of his hand, sending a tingling sensation through their bodies as all the aches and pains of the recent battle faded. Buffy lifted her bandaged bullet wound and found only dried blood and torn clothing, with a small circular scar where the hurt had been. Faith stood and didn't limp, and all the smaller cuts and bruises they had taken in the course of the battle were gone. The children ceased their chanting after Sand had touched the last of them and looked up expectantly. They all stood as Sand bowed again.
"And now we have to go. It has been a pleasure to meet you all." Sand spoke solemnly as he and all his fox-siblings trailed out the door in succession, leaving the room with an oddly empty feeling. The Slayers and Slayerettes watched them leave and then looked at each other silently, still tired. A moment of fatigued silence filled the room as no one moved, until Giles lifted off his glasses to clean them.
"Well, I suppose I should say to everyone- good job." He avoided looking into Faith's eyes as he ran his gaze over the group. She had killed another human, and it seemed to have been quite intentional. The others in the group looked equally uncomfortable, including Faith herself. The fact that he had been trying to kill them made it a defensible felony in some ways, but Faith had seemed like she was reforming, in a truthful way. "I suppose we should..get some rest, and then meet up again tomorrow morning to..discuss. I have a few theories about why so many supernatural menaces are showing up within a few days of each other."
"Shouldn't we like, have some sort of celebratory dinner or something?" Xander spoke quietly into the air, and it was a moment before anyone responded.
"No, I think that is better suited for tomorrow, when we can have another mocha bash or something, but today I just want to finish sleeping.." Buffy glanced at Xander intently, and the dark-haired boy nodded slightly, the rest of the group making small sounds of agreement. They might not be hurt anymore, but they were tired. Willow and Oz walked out first, arms locked around each other, and then Xander. Buffy stood protectively next to Faith as the Watcher's gaze fell on her directly. Somehow she didn't feel so bad about this incident, especially since Faith had started to come clean about the others. Giles just looked at them both and raised a brow as Faith gently placed her hands on Buffy's shoulders, squaring herself behind the smaller Blonde. It felt really good to have someone willing to support her, for once, especially Buffy.
"I see that you have already taken the precaution of allying against me, so I will only say that I disapprove of your lack in control Faith, but I do think that it was necessary to take immediate action and without you Buffy would likely be in a much more serious condition, if not dead. What I want from you is to restart your training with Buffy, and to work on self-control in order to avoid any more "accidents". Will you do this?" Giles spoke in an even tone and without reprimand, looking at both of them sternly.
"I.." Faith hesitated a moment until Buffy elbowed her Slayer-forcibly. "I will, I promise." And with the words out, she felt a sudden weight lifting as Giles nodded his approval.
"Good. I will see you both tomorrow with the others and we will begin again." He gestured for the two girls to go, leaving all of them to their own thoughts for a while.
* * * * * *
Faith and Buffy made their way back to Buffy's house without any further incidents. It was only just beginning to get dark out, and they walked together without speaking, enjoying the silence and the spreading sunset. Both of them were tired and dirty, but they took their time walking home, kicking pebbles and sharing glances until they reached Buffy's front door. Joyce's car was still not in the driveway, and Buffy simply unlocked the door for them both and pulled Faith inside. The minute they were past the threshold and the door shut behind them, Faith pressed Buffy against the hallway and kissed her, firmly, with the the warmth and moistness of her full lips. Buffy wrapped her arms around Faith until the kiss ended finally, looking up into the dark brown eyes of the other Slayer.
"Thanks for standing up for me B." Faith spoke softly, and she meant it in a literal sense- having the other Slayer there in front of her had made talking to Giles much easier. Buffy just kissed Faith's cheek gently, brushing a stray lock of hair back from her face.
"Anytime Faith.. but for now, lets get another shower." The prospect of being naked with Buffy was immensly appealing to Faith at that moment, but before she headed up the stairs she grabbed Buffy tightly and hugged her crushingly close suddenly very afraid of all this being another dream, but also blissfully happy. The sensation passed and she merely offered her hand to Buffy and headed up the stairs then, the only phrase running through her mind being Hungry and Horny..I think I'm in love.