Summary: Sometimes a slayer seeks comfort in battle, but sometimes that just isn't enough. Planned two-parter. Buffy/Satsu/Faith.

Timeline: Season 8, after the Faith arc, and after Buffy sleeps with Satsu.

Femslash. Chapter Two will undergo some editing to fit the rating here. Unedited versions of my stories are - as always - at my website.

Chapter One

A red glow hugged the landscape as sounds of grunting, clinking blades and cries of terror pierced the usually serene hills of a Scottish hideaway. The night was unusually warm - sticky and oppressive - making movement more difficult as the heat made heavy limbs heavier.

"To your left," somebody shouted over the heads of fighting slayers as they clashed with the advancing army.

Buffy twirled round to look to her left and spotted another hoard of angry demons hastening towards them. They were quickly becoming overwhelmed and she wondered if a retreat would be in order. There were many slayers on their side, but the demons were big, and tough to take down.

"Satsu, hold the left with your crew, we need to start getting control back," Buffy yelled, pointing to Satsu and indicating where she needed her to be.

They'd known it was going to be hard to stop this new threat, but they had no choice but to try. The army of demons were descending on them through a portal Willow was doing her best to close. A prophecy had given them the warning about it – a long rambling text that basically foretold of yet another attempted apocalypse that would land on Buffy's doorstep. Buffy wasn't about to let it come true, and she had plenty of slayers slicing their way through hard demon skin - they just needed to get their focus back.

"Willow, I need to know when you can close that damn thing," Buffy shouted up to Willow who was hovering above the throng of slayers fighting under the shadow of their castle retreat.

"It's tricky, but I think I'm almost there," Willow responded, her eyes glowing white as her hand crackled with electric blue sparks shooting out towards the big black portal ahead of them all.

"I think that portal leads to the nearest sewer system. . .these guys stink worse than Xander's socks," Satsu bellowed as her team struggled to hold back another wave of grunting demons.

"Hey, no need to get personal," Xander griped over the headset. "Some of us have problems that don't need to be talked about amongst a bunch of impressionable slayers."

"Like the little problem you have with Mr Winky when you get nervous?" Faith added with a sly grin as she dropped down beside Buffy after hurling herself over the back of the demon she'd just killed.

They all heard the stuttering mumble that came over the headsets as Xander tried to deny Faith knew anything about his Mr anything. . .but the slayers were too busy laughing to make out what he said.

Buffy handed the scythe to Faith so she could grab hold of a thick, scaly neck; twisting hard until she heard a crack. The advance was slowing, demons dropping left and right as each slayer found her groove and made her mark against evil. All they had to do was keep them contained.

"Their necks are weak," Buffy shouted. "Go for the neck."

Leaving Faith to use the scythe for a while, Buffy pulled a sturdy sword from the sheath on her back, slashing out with it and feeling satisfying tingles rushing through her as sticky demon blood spilled at her feet.

She'd missed this. Missed the battles, the heat and the blood. It'd been months since the last big threat and dusting random vampires just didn't cut it anymore. They were a slayer-army and they needed an army of opponents to stretch them and test them, to charge them up and give them life. Being a slayer wasn't about wanting the evil to end, it was about wanting the evil to keep coming. . .to quench the thirst for victory and death. Buffy had long since realized that ignoring the basic need of the slayer within her was a mistake; it needed its freedom, and it needed the fighting and the rush, and all that came with it.

There was no ignoring who she was anymore. There was only doing what she'd been born to do, and she truly felt like she was born to spill oceans of demon blood the world over, with her army behind her.

"Don't let them escape," Buffy yelled to her slayers. "Kill them all!"

There was a resounding cry of courage and strength behind her and she knew this was another apocalypse averted. The portal was dwindling, and the demons were beginning to fight sloppy with their fear.

Satsu glanced to her right towards Buffy and smiled as she saw how focused her lover was in the fight. She didn't need to worry about Buffy getting injured or missing a beat in the battle; she was unstoppable. It made Satsu yearn to be closer to her, to feel the distinct energy that rippled from Buffy as she slid so easily into the pureness of the slayer within. It was intoxicating and addictive. . .but she had her own job to do, with her own team of highly trained killers.

Though it had been months since Satsu had stayed behind in Tokyo after their unofficial break-up from their unofficial relationship, Buffy and Satsu had jumped at every opportunity they could to get together. Satsu was under no illusions about what it meant for Buffy – it was about sex, and connecting, and taking pleasure and comfort when it seemed like all that was left was the never ending fight against evil. She knew Buffy wasn't in love with her, but at least it was her that she came to. It was her that Buffy sought out when she felt alone and needed something to make her feel, other than the slaying. And she had a feeling that somewhere inside. . .there was more to it.

"Circle around them, they're cut off from the portal," Satsu called out, seeing the portal finally closing in on itself.

Her team followed her orders and charged at the enemy, crushing and killing as the demons panicked and tried to flee. She felt the buzz of victory begin to well inside her and tore through the enemy with her blade held firmly in her hands. Every slide of the sharp weapon into rigid flesh made Satsu fight stronger and faster. She'd learned a lot from Buffy – not just about how to be strong, but how to be smart with it. There was no fight she didn't think she could win. No demon or vampire she didn't think she could fell.

"Round 'em up and take 'em down. Show them what slayers are made of," Faith shouted, her dark hair catching the breeze within it as she span and dashed, carving into the crowd with the scythe Buffy usually held close to her.

Buffy felt the rousing call lift her further. She felt suddenly connected again. . .to Faith, to Satsu, to all the slayers. It was brief but it was there. She was one with them all as they took the demons down easily now they had no more coming through the portal to fill their ranks.

Looking to her right side, she watched as Faith powered her way through hulking monsters intent on killing as many as they could before they lost the battle. She looked as magnificent as ever as she fought. All heat and rage rolling into a strong, unstoppable force. She'd grown so much in the last year, taking on the responsibility of holding the fort at the Cleveland hellmouth, helping troubled slayers find their way, and following the path a slayer should follow.

They'd settled the misunderstanding that had happened between them when Faith had gone undercover for Giles, but Buffy knew they'd never really be friends. It just didn't seem possible. There was too much going on between them for it ever to be simple, and Buffy didn't even know what half of it was herself. They'd learned to respect each other as slayers over the past few months when Faith would step up to the plate to help out, and that was a start at least. It was something to build on.

As Buffy felt her knuckles cracking on faceless foes, she filtered out the cries and snorts around her, searching with her ears for Satsu's voice. What she had with Satsu was something she couldn't define, much like her complicated relationship with Faith. With Satsu she'd given in to her basic urges, feeling comfortable allowing herself to take what she needed from Satsu in a way she'd never allowed herself to with Faith. She had never gone down that road with Faith; they'd been too busy fighting to try anything else. . .but Buffy could now accept that she'd wanted Faith in the physical sense. In the sense that had terrified her at the time.

Hearing Satsu calling out orders to her team of slayers, Buffy relaxed a little into the fight as they cleared up the remaining demons. She could see Faith out of the corner of her eye, and she could hear Satsu pummeling foes to her left. She felt strangely safe and warm between them.

As demon blood washed across the ground and injured slayers were helped away from the action, Buffy heard a crackling noise rising from the diminishing portal. It wasn't much more than a swirling speck of light, but it sounded like something was trying to burst out from within it.

"Watch out!" Faith cried out, the scythe held aloft as she shielded herself from a flash of bright light.

Buffy turned towards Faith; seeing that she was ducking away from the portal Buffy did the same, throwing herself to the ground just quick enough to avoid the arcing bolts of lightning that spouted from the portal like white tendrils. They spat and hissed, jumping along the ground - bullwhips of electrical energy.

"Get back!" Buffy commanded, watching slayers scramble out of the way as demons burst into flames upon being hit by the slashing beams of electricity.

She whipped her head around just in time to see Satsu falling to her knees as a shaft of lightning struck the ground by her feet. A lone demon - one of the last – took that opportunity to lash out at her. It grabbed Satsu's sword, knocking the pommel soundly into the back of her skull before swiping it powerfully down at her as she stumbled forwards.

Satsu rolled away as fast as she could into the fall, her eyes wide as searing pain burned across her leg where her own sword dug into her flesh. The demon had her head pounding and had cut her good and deep in her thigh, but she watched him crumble to the floor with a thud as a shiny red scythe whooshed over her and plunged into his chest. She instantly thought it had been Buffy's doing, but hearing Faith yell out in triumph corrected her.

It was Buffy who was now at her side inspecting her thigh, however.

"I'm sorry, I didn't see him until it was. . ."

"It's ok, Buffy," Satsu assured, mumbling through the haze of pain in her skull, allowing Buffy to help her to her feet. "I was too slow."

"You weren't," Buffy assured. "I should have warned you."

They rushed back away from the portal as best they could, but Satsu was limping badly. She was glad to have Buffy at her side supporting her, and surprised to see Faith showing apparent concern for her. She could tell how much Faith liked Buffy. . .she'd seen it so obviously in the way she looked at her, but she didn't know if Buffy was totally aware of it. Satsu had worked hard not to be jealous, and it seemed Faith had worked even harder. Their last meeting – teaming up to clear out a large vamp nest after Faith had traveled to Japan to find a rogue slayer - had been a far more prickly affair.

This time Faith seemed more relaxed - friendly even.

Satsu didn't have much more time to dwell on it as the crowd of slayers now clearly safe yelled for them to hurry. She turned to see a large plume of white light chasing down their tracks.

"Fuck!" Faith shouted as it reached their feet and engulfed the three of them.

Buffy felt the full force of it hit her back, and she was hurtling through the air before she had time to grab firmly onto Satsu. The world spun and she felt nauseous as a loud thud indicated that she'd landed hard.

Hearing Faith yelp in pain next to her, Buffy tried to shake herself free of the murky feeling that had descended over her. The powerful bolt of electricity had felt like a truck hitting them, and she needed to check if Faith and Satsu were ok.

Blinking the light from her eyes, she saw Faith not too far away being lifted by some of the girls - she looked shaken but in one piece. Looking further down towards where the explosive bolt had hit them, she saw Satsu lying lifeless on the ground. Blood was pouring from the wound on her leg, and she was clearly unconscious.

"Oh, God," Buffy muttered, trying to get to her feet as quick as she could. "Help her!"

The slayers closest heeded her call and rushed towards their friend as Buffy struggled to stand. She seemed to be hurting everywhere and her legs kept buckling beneath her. She needed to get to Satsu, but she couldn't.

"It's ok, B," Faith said as she arrived beside her. "I got ya."

She lifted Buffy up and held her solid against her, letting her stumble towards Satsu and the remains of the battle. There were no more demons now and no more bolts of electricity. The portal was gone and they'd won. Buffy hoped the victory hadn't come at a high price. She needed Satsu to be alright.

Willow was on her knees beside the prone slayer, her hands glowing red as she moved them over her body, not quite touching her but obviously doing something she thought was necessary. A few other slayers hastily brought a stretcher ready to be loaded. They were all doing their duties perfectly; looking after one another. Slayers fresh from fighting now helping their injured friends back into the comfort of the castle and the promise of hot showers and clean dressings for whatever wounds they'd sustained.

"Is she. . ?" Buffy stuttered as they reached Satsu.

"She's alive," Willow answered. "But she's not going dancing for a while, that's for sure."

One of the slayers from Satsu's gang quickly dressed the gash on her leg to stem the flow of blood, and they gently rolled her onto the stretcher. Buffy felt a tide of relief flow through her at Willow's words; Satsu was going to be fine. She was hurt, but she wasn't gone. Buffy didn't know if she could deal with her being gone.

A soft sob escaped her and she allowed Faith to hold her tighter as they followed the stretcher into the castle.

* * *

After a short debriefing once all the injured girls had been taken care of and sent to get some rest, Buffy finally felt like it was time to call it a night. She had her own injuries dressed, and her head still felt a little fuzzy, but all in all she was in good shape – if not a little worn out.

Faith was fine – ever tough and steadfast. She hadn't left Buffy's side for more than a few minutes since the last big explosion of the fight. It seemed she was more interested in Buffy's needs than her own; fetching her something to eat and drink before offering to help her up the stairs to bed. Buffy was pretty sure she didn't actually need help, but the offer was sweet, and she liked having Faith close by. It was comforting. Strange, but comforting.

They ascended the stairs in relative silence; Faith's hands floating close to Buffy whenever she felt exhaustion hinder her footfalls. Buffy didn't know why she felt quite so tired. Maybe it was more of an emotional exhaustion. She'd certainly felt all the energy drain out of her as she'd taken in the sight of her lover lying motionless in the dirt. It had struck her firmly in the stomach, knocking out all the adrenaline she'd been flying high on. She never wanted to see that again.

Buffy still felt weak from the memory even though she knew Satsu was okay – safe now. They'd hurried her inside and bound her wounds, and Willow had eased the pain. She was now resting in Buffy's bed – their usual sleeping arrangement whenever Satsu was in town – and though she'd feel woozy for a little while there was no need to worry. But Buffy couldn't help worrying. Satsu meant more to her than most. She was there for her to hold onto. She was Buffy's solace. She was. . .Buffy hadn't quite figured it all out, but she knew for sure that her heart had practically bled itself dry at the thought of Satsu dying.

It had been Faith who had held her together. Faith who was still by her side now as they reached Buffy's door. Faith that strayed into Buffy's dreams at night when her guard was down; when she felt herself yearning, needing, reaching out with everything but her hands.

"Thank you, Faith," Buffy said softly, quietly pushing at the large wooden door to her bedroom; holding onto the knob and keeping it from swinging open completely. "You've really. . ." Been surprising? Caring? Sweet? Buffy wasn't sure how to describe it, but it made her heart flutter in a slightly different way to how she normally made it feel.

There was no point in denying that Faith had always been under Buffy's skin. She'd done the denying, but she was older now, and wiser. Buffy felt Faith under the layers. She was etched into her in a way she didn't think she'd ever understand given their history.

"You've really helped," Buffy finally decided. "With everything."

She reached out and touched Faith lightly on the arm, feeling the faint twitch of a muscle under her fingers. As she kept her gaze fixed on Faith's dark, demanding eyes, she suddenly noticed just how tired Faith looked.

It had been a long few days for Faith. She'd been on the trail of another slayer night and day before Buffy had placed the call for help. Having to ditch the trail in order to get to Scotland and help out, Faith had left herself with a lot of work to do. It made Buffy even more grateful, and even more surprised at how attentive and eager the other girl was being despite her own now obvious fatigue.

Faith smiled gently – not something Buffy was used to – and shrugged.

"No big, B," she said; all Boston drawl and erotic rasp. "Just doin' my duty, like a good slayer does." She winked and tucked her hands in the pockets of her tight jeans.

Smiling and giving a little chuckle, Buffy shook her head. She knew it was more than just duty. She knew it because she could see it in Faith's eyes. She had felt it in Faith's touch.

"Well I'm grateful," Buffy pressed shyly, feeling all of a sudden awkward as they stood close to one another in the dim light of the corridor.

"Buffy?" Satsu called weakly from inside the room. "Faith?"

"Oops," Buffy cringed, realizing they'd been stood outside the open door longer than she'd planned.

She pushed the door open a little further so Satsu could see them both. Giving her lover a warm smile, Buffy apologized for waking her.

"It's ok," Satsu responded, groaning ever so slightly as she tried to sit up.

"Easy, slayer," Buffy admonished, moving further into the room and leaving Faith lingering behind. "Don't want you falling outta bed and cracking your skull again. It confuses me when you get all disorientated and start speaking Japanese."

"Bet it sounds kinda sexy though, huh," Faith commented from the doorway with a smirk.

They hadn't really spoken about Buffy's relationship with Satsu so Buffy blushed a little and tried not to nod in agreement.

Satsu huffed a little laugh and allowed Buffy to help her into a slightly more comfortable position. She glanced past Buffy and towards Faith, noticing how she was shifting from foot to foot. Satsu hadn't meant to interrupt whatever they were talking about, but now she had. . .she felt a little bad. She knew their history. She knew how hard it was for them to talk without it turning into a battle. She also knew there was more to what they felt for each other than either Buffy or Faith would probably ever admit to themselves. Any fool could see what lay under the surface of all that tension.

Sure, she was jealous that Faith made Buffy feel something she never would, but she loved Buffy enough to accept it. There was no hating Faith for what couldn't be helped. Not now anyway - especially after Faith's well timed throw had saved her skin.

"Come in a sec, Faith?" Satsu asked.

Faith furrowed her brow and raised her eyebrows at the same time; leading to an expression that even Satsu herself had to concede was kind of cute. She knew Buffy had noticed too as she glanced over at Faith and then quickly away – as if she didn't want to be caught looking.

"Sure," Faith mumbled in reply.

She sauntered into Buffy's bedroom all nonchalant and cool, but Satsu saw the way her eyes flicked from the bed to Buffy. From the floor to the comfy couch. From the hastily thrown mix of clothing upon the couch back to Satsu. There was something behind that cool and calm exterior. Something primal. Something hot and needy, and plenty enticing.

Satsu suddenly realized what Buffy saw in Faith. She was a cavern of mysterious depths, all coiled energy and violence, sex appeal and temptation. It almost seemed like Faith was the very essence of the slayer within them all. She carried the line, and she carried the yearning of a hungry soul that needed feeding. It made complete sense that Faith would want Buffy, and just as much sense that Buffy would want her right back. . .even if she didn't want to acknowledge it herself. Even if she was clueless to what Faith felt for her, and needed from her.

"Wanted to thank you," Satsu said as Faith idled closer to the bed. "If you hadn't thrown the scythe I might have. . ."

Buffy's face went pale as she stood to the side - that image again of Satsu lying lifeless in the grass. Her mind couldn't deal with the possibility of what could have happened.

"Seriously, it was no big. . ." Faith began.

"No," Buffy interrupted, "Satsu's right. Thank you, Faith."

She gave Faith a grateful smile that made Faith look away. Was she nervous? Embarrassed? Buffy couldn't tell but it didn't really matter, just as long as she realized how thankful they were. Every slayer was precious. Every life that hung in the balance under Buffy's supervision was one she cherished, but none so much as the two slayers now in the room with her. She felt closer to both of them, for reasons that were as much different as the same. Losing either of them at this point would kill her too.

"B, you don't look too good," Faith noted, cautiously placing a strong hand on her shoulder as Buffy felt her body fluttering with grief she hadn't even been exposed to yet.

"I'm ok, I just need to. . ." she flopped backwards onto the plush couch behind her, "sit."

Satsu scrunched up her brow and tried to shuffle out of bed so she could take Buffy's hand in her own and make sure she was alright. The pain and tugging in her leg soon brought her to a wincing standstill.

"Shit," she grimaced.

"Man, you're both like a coupla old maids or something," Faith commented, grinning slightly in an obvious attempt to lighten the somber mood that had begun to descend. "You, stay," she instructed Satsu. "And you. . .take a drink."

Faith grabbed the pitcher of water from the bedside table and poured Buffy a glass, handing it to her before offering Satsu one too. Satsu shook her head and settled back into the pillows, her eyes staying on Buffy as she sipped at the cool liquid.

"Been a tough day. You should both get some sleep, heal, do whatever it is you get up to in here together," Faith stated, yawning now herself through her attempted smirk.

Buffy couldn't help but blush once more at the comment about her relationship with Satsu, but she refused to feel too bad. They were adults, doing what adults do when they find each other attractive and. . .feel the need to do something about it. The something she'd never tried with Faith.

"It's been a tough year," Buffy muttered, thinking about all the ups and downs. About the debacle with Faith.

"Yeah," Faith responded with a heartfelt sigh.

Buffy could tell there was more behind that sigh than what she knew, and she felt compelled to ask about it. She had an idea of what Faith had to do when faced with slayers who wouldn't play nice, but she hadn't spent too long dwelling on the details – too uncomfortable to think about how that would make a person feel. How it would make a slayer - the slayer that held the lineage within her grasp – feel.

"Has it been bad?" Buffy asked, raising her eyes to look up at Faith as she stood between her and the bed. "With Giles I mean."

A small grin lifted the corner of Faith's mouth as she glanced at Buffy.

"Has it been bad with Giles?" she repeated with a slight chuckle. "Well, he's kinda stuffy and leaves tea bags all over the place when he drops round, and he doesn't like it when I bring strangers home, but yunno. . .could be worse."

Buffy rolled her eyes and shook her head, placing the glass of water beside the small table next to the couch.

"You know what I meant," Buffy asserted.

As Faith shuffled on her feet, looking mildly stricken with the notion of thinking about it too much, Buffy wished she could take back the question.

"I didn't mean to. . ."

"No, it's cool," Faith mumbled as she ran a hand through the gentle waves of her hair. "It's just not something I talk about."

She blinked in the soft light, dusky makeup emphasizing her sullen and tortured eyes as her gaze drifted around the small room, leaving Buffy in no doubt that she'd had to do some horrific things - even if they had been necessary. It was a weight she wasn't sure she could carry herself.

From her position on the bed, Satsu listened. Her eyes were growing heavy and body limp, but she had the presence of mind to feel for Faith and what she'd been tasked to do. It couldn't be easy for anybody, let alone Faith.

"Sorry you have to do that," Satsu murmured sleepily.

Appearing even more uncomfortable, Faith started fidgeting with the black leather strap that wrapped tightly around her wrist.

"Somebody's gotta do it, might as well be me," Faith replied, her voice low and troubled. "It's not like I have to. . .kill them all."

Buffy wanted to reach out to Faith to ease her obvious pain, but she couldn't. Not only would it have been awkward with Satsu in the room, but well. . .they'd never been that way with each other, even though Faith had pushed a few of those boundaries in the past few hours.

"Tell me about the ones you got through to," Buffy spoke up, trying to help make Faith's work something to be proud of instead of it being a burden.

Turning to look more at Buffy, Faith raised a shapely eyebrow as if she'd forgotten she'd managed to help any slayers that would otherwise have ended up dead anyway.

"Don't know if there's anything to tell," Faith said with a shrug.

"I'm sure you can think of something, Faith," Buffy pressed, sliding over on the couch to give Faith some room to sit down. "Tell me some stories," she added with a smile, patting the seat next to her. "You were always good at the story telling."

Even as tired as she felt Buffy always had time for possible naked-wrestler-Faith stories.