Buffy padded down the long corridor of the residence wing of the castle, her pink cotton socks muffling the sound of her steps as she crept along. She wasn't proud of what she was going to do but she didn't feel like she had much choice left at this point. Faith had been gone for four long and lonely months and hadn't even called to check in. She'd spoken to Giles a few times and each time had told him to say hi to Buffy, but never once had she even tried to call the castle.
It was time that Buffy finally broke down and did it.
Finally reaching her destination, she stood in front of the large wooden door and took a deep breath. Steeling herself, she raised her arm up and knocked three times, hoping not to wake any of the nearby slayers. She heard shuffling on the other side of the door and, after a moment, it creaked open to reveal a topless Xander on the other side.
Buffy looked him up and down, taking notice of his new and improved svelte body.
"What's up, Buff?"
Buffy paused, biting her lower lip before looking up into his eyes through her eyelashes.
"I need it, Xan."
Xander's friendly smile fell away and he suddenly looked wary, concerned.
"I'm not sure it's a good idea, Buffster."
"Xander, I've been all but abandoned by the woman I love, my horse ran away . . .."
"Dawnie's a centaur, not a horse, and she didn't run away - she'll be back tomorrow."
". . . whatever. The point is, I'm blue, and you have what I need right now."
"Buffy," Xander began, sighing deeply when she put on her resolve face. There was no talking her down when she was resolved. He nodded in compliance before reaching over to his stereo and pulling something from the top.
Buffy eagerly snatched it from his hands and slid it into the pocket of her hooded sweatshirt, glancing both ways down the hall to make sure no one witnessed the transaction.
"Thanks Xan, I owe you."
"Anyone sees you with that? We never met," he said, hiding his smile. He leaned forward and kissed her on her forehead before stepping back into his room and closing the door behind him.
Buffy hurriedly made her way back toward her own room, slipping inside the door easily without being noticed along the way. She locked both the doorknob and the deadbolt, not wanting anyone to disturb her. This was something she had to do alone.
She walked over to her entertainment center, pulling out what Xander had given her and opening it with ease. Holding the slim case in her hands, she took the disc out and slid it into the CD player. It only took a few moments for the familiar twang of country music to start playing and Buffy sighed in relief. She turned around with the CD case marked "Xander's Country Music Mix for the Super Depressed" and clutched it to her chest, letting the dulcet tones soothe her body.
Grabbing the stereo remote control with her other hand, she made her way over to the bed and perched on the end. If Xander knew anything, it was the right music to play when feeling mopey and depressed. She'd heard the CD before, most recently when he was getting over Anya. He didn't have the need for it any longer though so Buffy was happy to take it off of his hands.
Faith had been gone for four months. No calls, no letters, no post cards. For some odd reason, Giles got the occasional update but Buffy apparently didn't warrant one. Buffy chuckled quietly as a song by the Dixie Chicks, "Without You", began to play.
Who was she kidding? She knew when Faith left that there was a good chance the girl wouldn't come back. Maybe now, four months later, it was finally time to accept that.
"I've sure enjoyed the rain, but I'm looking forward to the sun
Without you I'm not okay
Buffy sighed and laid back on the bed, her legs dangling off the end. Yep, this was perfect. The last step she needed before she could accept the cold hard facts and move on.
Over the sound of the music, she heard a tentative knock at the door. She tried to ignore it but whoever was on the other side was being persistent.
"Buffy? It's Willow."
"Go away!" Buffy yelled. She grabbed the comforter and rolled onto her side with her legs curled up on the bed, effectively wrapping herself up like a little cocoon.
"Okay, I can do that. Just . . . hand over the CD and I'll be on my way."
"No! I need it!"
"Just let me break down the door and get it," came a second voice from behind the door. Kennedy.
Willow quickly shushed her and tried again. "Buffy, wallowing and listening to country music isn't going to make it any better."
Buffy wasn't listening to reason though. She stuck the remote out from her blanket cocoon and turned the music up louder, completely drowning out Willow and Kennedy's pleas. Another new song began, "I'm Moving On" by Rascal Flatts, and Buffy closed her eyes tightly, listening to the lyrics.
"I've dealt with my ghosts and I've faced all my demons
And that's what she was hoping for; some strength in this, her moment of weakness. This was the last day she was going to sit and wait for Faith; the last day of keeping high hopes for something that wasn't ever going to happen. Faith had told her to live, but she couldn't do that when a small part of her died a little more every day in her absence.
Buffy took a deep breath and relaxed, warm and safe in her little cocoon. The music continued to play as she drifted in and out of consciousness, but then something changed.
A sensual, pulsing beat began to thump from her speakers. Irritated at the thought that someone had broken into her room, she poked her head from the covers, ready for a verbal battle, but instead found herself at a loss for words.
Her bedroom was draped in soft pink, from the silk drapes and scarves placed over dim lamps right down to the satin pink sheets on her bed which had been beige cotton just a few moments before. Even she herself was suddenly dressed in silky pink lingerie.:
"This episode of the Twilight Zone brought to you by Pepto-Bismol," she said to no one in particular.
Something in the corner of the room suddenly caught her eye, standing out in contrast from the pink-washed room. It was a person, long dark hair cascading over an even darker knee-length black trench coat. Was that . . .? It couldn't be.
Right on cue, the figure turned around and smiled, the kind of seductive smile that used to make Buffy nearly melt back when they were younger.
"In the flesh," Faith answered, her voice sultry and seductive.
"How . . . why . . . what are you doing here?" Buffy was confused, that was a given, but she was also excited and a bit shocked.
"You didn't forget about me, did you baby?" Faith asked, slowly making her way toward the bed.
"Of course I didn't forget about you! I thought about you every day. You're the one who forgot about me!"
"I could never forget you, baby," came a second voice. Buffy looked to the other corner to see Echo approaching, wearing something completely different from Faith. She was clad in a sheer black camisole with matching black panties which completely showed her goodies.
"Echo?" Buffy asked incredulously. She quickly grabbed the satin sheets and pulled them up over her barely-covered body. "What, umm . . . what are you doing here?"
"Aww, not happy to see me too?" Echo asked, her voice just as low and sultry as Faith's. She too was now approaching the bed.
"No, no . . . of course I am. I just didn't expect to see you. In my room. With Faith!"
"We wanted to surprise you, baby," came yet another voice. Buffy's head quickly turned to see Satsu approaching from another corner, her smile seductive and playful. She was wearing a dark purple nightie with feathery trim and a matching purple thong.
"Well, you succeeded. I'm officially surprised!" Buffy said, squirming back onto the center of the bed. Her eyes were wide as they drifted from Satsu to Echo and Faith. Something was definitely not right here . . .
"Then consider it a surprise party, baby," came yet another voice. Buffy turned her head again to find Sierra stalking toward her from the fourth corner of the room, her lacy dark blue bra and panties barely covering her.
"Definitely, definitely surprised," Buffy said in a daze, looking between all four of the rapidly approaching women now. "It's, umm, getting a little bit crowded in here, don't you think?"
"Well you know what they say," Faith began, slowly stripping off her black trench coat to reveal a black leather corset with thigh-high stockings, clipped to her silky black panties with a thin garter. "Two's company, three's a crowd, and four's a party."
"And what's five?" Buffy asked with a loud gulp as the women finally approached the bed and began to climb onto it.
Faith smiled, climbing right up between Buffy's legs as the other women began to caress her arms and stomach.
"Five's a really fuckin' lucky day."
Buffy looked nervous but her fears and anxiety began to slowly fade away as Faith leaned forward and placed her hands on the bed on either side of her, bringing them dangerously close together. She could feel Faith's warm breath on her face and three pairs of hands gently caressing her body. Just as Faith began to lean in and Buffy's eyes closed, practically able to taste her kiss, a loud noise jarred her.
She quickly opened her eyes to find herself swaddled in a sea of beige cotton, her heart beating hard and fast. Grimacing, she reached down and slipped her hand under the waist of her pants and into the confines of her panties, pulling them out to find them covered in her arousal.
"Ugh, not again," she sighed, flopping her head back onto the mattress. She rested there for just a few moments before she tossed the blankets off of herself and climbed off the suddenly very empty bed. The country music had stopped, though she wasn't sure if it was because the CD had ended or Willow had intervened.
Whatever the case, it didn't matter to her. The only thing that mattered was a nice and long shower to help cleanse her dirty mind . . . and the aftereffects still lingering between her legs. She walked to the bureau next to the door and pulled out a fluffy cotton towel before approaching the door itself and making sure whatever disturbance out in the hall had now disappeared.
Convinced that the coast was clear, she opened the door and made a b-line towards the bathroom, hoping to find it empty. Just as she was about to enter the bathroom, Willow popped out from the adjoining hallway and stepped in her way.
"Glad to see you're finally up, Buff," Willow said all too cheerily.
Buffy could barely form words, the stickiness between her legs completely distracting her. "Nnn, shower." She quickly hobbled past a suddenly sympathetic Willow and slammed the door shut behind her.
"Oh, not again," Willow said more to herself than anything. It wasn't the first time that she'd passed Buffy in the hall after one of her dreams that the girl refused to elaborate on. She didn't need to though; Willow pretty much got the gist of it from her flushed skin and the funny way she was walking.
At this rate, the world was going to have a severe water crisis soon.
Freshly showered and dressed, Buffy made her way down to the main level of the castle to see what was going on. Her hair was still wet but it didn't bother her; the castle wasn't as drafty as it looked. She bounded down the steps and into the main parlor to find several slayers sitting around and relaxing while a few others playfully sparred and otherwise goofed around.
She made her way towards the kitchen, most of the greetings directed at her along the way, and opened the fridge to get a bottle of water. The cap came off easy enough and she tilted the bottle back against her lips, letting the cool water put out the rest of the fire that the cold shower couldn't.
Her thirst finally sated, she meandered over to one of the smaller training rooms when she heard what sounded like a really good sparring session going on. She peeked into the small round window to find Satsu and Sierra sparring against one another, barely able to tell them apart from one another even after four months.
Sierra was an eager student, just as Satsu had been when she first began training as a slayer. And just like Satsu, she was determined to be the best. Satsu had found it annoying at first, having a carbon copy of herself following her around and always studying her, but she'd come too appreciate the girl like someone would appreciate their twin. Their sparring sessions became a spectacle, attracting every girl in the castle to the training rooms whenever they'd fight. The interest had died down after four months though and Buffy found herself the only person watching them.
Watching them fight was like trying to fight her own mirror image. They matched punch for punch, kick for kick, always trying to one-up the other. They laughed almost continuously, really enjoying the way they could unleash with one another.
Buffy continued to watch, her head slowly tilting to the side as she observed the way their muscles jumped and flexed, the way each drop of perspiration pooled on their skin, the way their shirts lifted up just enough to reveal their pert . . . bad thoughts!
Squeezing her eyes tightly shut, Buffy stumbled away from the door and banged into a countertop. She finally opened her eyes and made for the exit, hoping to get up to her room without much ado.
This was insane! How long was Faith going to make her wait? She was done with the waiting, done with the wondering if she'd ever be back. She needed to get out of the castle and have a break from life and everyone that reminded her how much she was missing Faith.
Taking a back staircase that was rarely used, she finally made it to the residence wing and eventually to her room without being caught. She practically flew into her room, not even taking notice of the fact that her usually closed door was wide open. Slamming it behind her, she walked over to her bed and pulled a large duffle bag out from under it.
There was no way she could sit around any longer . . . she was going nuts!
Just as she began to hastily pull some clothes from her dresser drawer and toss them into the bag, she heard someone clear their voice behind her. She spun on her heel to find Faith standing awkwardly in the corner of the room, a small black rain coat on.
"Ugh, not again!" she said aloud, wondering when she'd fallen asleep again. Maybe she'd never woken up from her first dream; heck, maybe she'd dreamt up the shower and the sparring match. "I am beyond sick and tired of having to take showers every time you decide to pop on by. For your information, wet dreams are no longer just a thing for men!"
Her frustration getting the best of her, she took a rolled-up pair of socks in her hand and whipped them at the image in the corner of her room, paying no attention as the Faith-mirage caught the thrown item.
"Umm, B?" Faith began, confused and amused at the same time.
"Don't 'B' me! Think you can just disappear for four months without calling, without sending a post card, without anything and still have the right to invade my dreams and try to talk to me? Think again, chicky!"
She was angrily stuffing the clothing into her bag now, taking no notice of a slowly approaching Faith. After a moment or two she finally looked over and saw Faith standing closer, the rain coat ditched to reveal not a black leather corset or anything naughty; she was wearing a plain old pair of worn blue jeans and a black tee-shirt.
"Oh, giving up on the silk and leather? Of course you are. I'm only going to let you tie me to the bedpost with those silk scarves so many times before the dream gets old, Faith. I need something more than wet dreams and horny fantasies!"
Faith smirked sexily at the little rant. Tying Buffy to the bedpost? Definitely something to set aside for a rainy day.
Realizing that Buffy was obviously in hysterics because she thought she was only a dream-Faith, Faith ever so gently reached out and placed her hand on Buffy's lower back, smiling as the girl stiffened up immediately.
"Did I ever touch you in your dreams, B?"
Buffy slowly, very cautiously, turned to face Faith, looking up into her dark brown eyes.
"No, you didn't," she answered, studying Faith's face.
Faith nodded and stepped a bit closer, effectively closing the distance between them. She ran the back of her other hand along Buffy's cheek, making the girl's eyes flutter shut. After a moment she leaned in and brushed her lips softly over Buffy's, then rested her forehead against hers.
"Did I ever kiss you in your dreams?"
"No," Buffy whispered, her mind almost refusing to believe what her body was confirming as the truth.
Faith paused, her breath catching in her throat for just a brief moment.
"Did I ever tell you that I love you in your dreams?"
Buffy exhaled a shaky breath and brought her hands up so that they rested on Faith's shoulders, trying to confirm that this wasn't some weird sex dream messing with her head for the umpteenth time.
"No," she finally whispered, a few tears falling from her eyes as she realized that this was it; Faith was really back.
Faith pulled back just a little, her fingertips grazing from Buffy's cheek to her chin and lifting it so that Buffy opened her eyes and looked up at her.
"I love you, Buffy," Faith whispered, her voice almost failing her.
Buffy smiled then and, before she could stop herself, she began to sob uncontrollably. She threw her arms around Faith's neck and buried her face against her shoulder, her heart doing flip-flops in her chest as Faith wrapped both arms around her and held her tight.
"Never leave again," Buffy whispered, tears running over her lips as she spoke.
"Never," Faith answered, her lips pressing to Buffy's temple. She began to rain kisses over her face, her words coming out in a mumble as her lips finally met Buffy's in a series of short, urgent kisses. "I'm so sorry, B . . . never leave you again."
They managed to stumble down onto the mattress, Faith resting on top of Buffy as they eagerly pulled at one another's clothes while they kissed. It wasn't long before they were completely naked and moving against one another frantically, trying to feel everything that they'd been missing for those four long months. Truth be told, they were trying to feel everything they'd been missing for over five years now. It was all coming down to this, this one perfect moment where everything finally unfolded. Where their hearts lay open and, instead of spilling hurt and confusion, they only spilled the truth.
Where they finally admitted that, no matter what happened in the past nor what lay ahead of them in the future, they would be together. That they belonged to one another no matter how much they'd denied it before.
That they were madly, truly, profoundly in love with one another. And they wouldn't let anything come between them again.
Faith could feel something building deep inside of her, something she'd never felt before. It was powerful and dizzying and it made her feel like crying. This was real; they were finally together, making love.
She felt a tentative hand on her cheek and she opened her eyes to find Buffy staring up at her, her green eyes sparkling.
"Faith," Buffy whispered, her heart beating hard and fast as she felt her orgasm approaching.
"I love you, B," Faith said, her voice straining as she too felt herself starting to come.
They stared into one another's eyes, their pace slowing to let the moment wash over them. Faith shuttered and Buffy gasped, the intensity catching them both by surprise. Faith finally collapsed down onto Buffy, both girls breathing hard against one another.
"I love you too," Buffy whispered, her hands stroking lovingly over Faith's smooth back.
Faith couldn't help but smile and bury her face in Buffy's hair, her entire body tingling.
This love thing? Really wasn't as scary as she thought.
Three Weeks Later, In New York City...
The warm breeze blew through the street and lightly ruffled the paper menus on the table, making Buffy, Faith, and Kennedy all reach out with slayer speed to stop them blowing away. Willow just looked on, amused. She was learning to find it funny when the three slayers synched up like that.
They were at a small cafe with an outdoor patio, a last-minute spot on their way back to the hotel they were staying at. Buffy and Kennedy had to travel there to deal with a few small problems within the slayer cell set up there, and Faith and Willow tagged along for the ride, deciding to make a short weekend trip out of it. They'd done the shopping that Buffy and Willow had wanted to do, and now they were doing the eating and relaxing that Kennedy and Faith wanted to do.
It worked out perfectly, really.
Buffy was sitting close to Faith, close enough that the brunette had her hand on her back and was rubbing it gently. They'd fallen into small gestures like that easily, almost as if it was perfectly natural for them. Faith was still learning to let her walls down but she was doing an excellent job with it, even going so far as to actually enjoy herself on their quasi-double date.
They'd actually had what could be considered their first argument as a couple just the night before. Riley had apparently contacted Buffy when he found out she was in New York and had asked if she wanted to get together for drinks. Faith seemed almost okay with it at first, but when she saw Buffy wearing her impossibly cute yellow dress for the get-together, she wasn't a happy camper.
She'd done the only thing she could think of at the moment; she fucked Buffy hard and fast against the back of the hotel door and gave her a nice big hickey on her neck, claiming her as her own.
Buffy didn't even care; in fact, she found the whole thing pretty hot.
The meeting with Riley went well. He talked about a few new projects he was involved in with The Initiative, though it was going by another name now. Top secret, of course, but Buffy was used to things like that with him. They'd shared a few drinks and a few stories, but Buffy missed Faith. Here they were on a mini-weekend getaway and she was off having drinks with her old beau.
After about two hours, she excused herself claiming a headache and went back to the hotel so she could see her girlfriend. The steak hoagie she picked up along the way for her just sealed the deal, making Faith shower her with kisses and lots and lots of make up sex.
"Did Riley say why he was in New York?" Willow asked between bites of her Cobb salad, sans bacon.
"Mmm," Buffy shrugged as she sipped on her iced tea, "not sure. The usual, top secret kinda stuff I'm sure. He and Sam are working on a new project. He seems really excited about it though."
Faith scoffed, "Farm boy gets excited over a goat. S'probably just some boring mission that he's dressing up to look like something important just to impress you."
Buffy smiled, finding Faith's jealousy almost endearing. She leaned over and gave Faith a soft kiss right on her lips, not even concerned about who could see them.
"Did you tell him anything about the clash of the clonies?" Kennedy asked with her mouth full, earning a glare from Willow.
"That's a big with the no," Buffy answered. "He doesn't need to know anything about that, or that we were involved at least. Whatever he heard about it from the newspapers is enough, I'm sure."
And the newspapers were absolutely filled with stories about rogue scientist Adelle DeWitt and her gross experiments on humans. The FBI tried to cover up as much as they could, taking the actives into protective custody and everything. There were stories about two who had escaped though and Americans seemed to be infatuated with finding them.
Sierra was safely stashed away in Scotland with an ever-vigilant Satsu constantly at her side. Echo, however . . . she was another story. She and Faith had travelled all over the place, spanning several continents and more countries than Faith could remember. They'd finally ended up in America in a sleepy little town in the south. They'd passed themselves off as twins, though sometimes it was hard for people to believe that hotness that awesome came in two packages.
Echo didn't want to stand out; she wanted to blend into the background and just live. No more fighting, no more spying, no more hard action; just life, free and easy.
Faith wanted her to come back to Scotland so she could see what it was like to be among the other slayers but Echo had refused. She was close enough to a slayer cell in San Antonio that she could make it there in a few hours if needed. But until that day came, if it ever did, she just wanted to live anonymously. Faith, of course, knew how to get a hold of her and vowed that she would check in on a monthly basis just to make sure everything was okay.
She knew what the bigger part of Echo's desire to be alone was, though; the girl needed to learn to live without Buffy, who she knew and loved. Faith knew that feeling well; she'd spent years away from Buffy but still couldn't get her out of her system.
Moving her hand to pull Buffy a little closer, Faith smiled at the happy look that Buffy gave her. Buffy really did seem truly happy, and she couldn't believe that she was somehow the cause of that. It truly blew her mind.
"Did you see the latest news?" Willow continued. "Adelle is trying to name names of former colleagues who aided her in hopes of lessening her sentence."
"You mean there were more scientists involved?" Faith asked, her brow furrowed.
"Apparently so. There are all of these reports going around on the news now, speculating that there may have been more than one location involved in the cloning." Seeing the clearly upset look on Faith's face, Willow quickly covered, "It's all just speculation though. There's no evidence to suggest any truth in it."
"Adelle was one sneaky bitch though," Faith replied. "Who knows what other samples she took from that asshole Travers? He all but disappeared once the FBI cleared him of involvement."
Buffy placed a soothing hand on Faith's arm, trying to comfort the girl.
"Baby, you saw Adelle's place. She put all of her eggs in one basket. Besides, all of her financial records indicate that there was only ever one location. There was no way she could've funded more than one operation, not with the funds she had."
Faith nodded, still not quite soothed. Buffy leaned over and gave her yet another kiss, letting it linger a little bit longer this time. Both Willow and Kennedy smiled, never having had seen Buffy this happy and comfortable before.
Faith finally smiled when Buffy pulled away and visibly relaxed.
"You're right, babe. I'm just being paranoid."
The four women settled back into an easier conversation and continued to enjoy their lunch, all but forgetting about any unpleasantness until they heard a slight scuffle in the street. They looked over to see a thief trying to grab the briefcase out of a woman's arms but the woman was fighting back, pulling on the briefcase while attacking the man with her free arm.
The thief finally ran off and several passersby stopped to make sure the woman was alright. She smiled and nodded, fixing her rumpled clothes before continuing to make her way down the street unaffected.
"Did you see that?" Faith asked, amused. "She just gave that guy a beatdown with one hand.
The woman was walking down the sidewalk again, approaching the cafe as she carried along with determination. Kennedy suddenly stood up, her eyes wide as the woman got nearer and nearer.
"That . . . that's . . . tell me my eyes are playing tricks on me!"
The woman passed by then, not sparing the four women a glance as she continued to make her way down the street. Her dark hair was pulled back in a ponytail and her dark-rimmed glasses covered part of her face, but there was no denying who she was. Buffy and Faith sat with their mouths wide open, watching her retreating form, while Willow watched with what could only be described as a pervy smile.
"Two Kennedy's," she babbled, her eyes dreamy and far away.
Riley and Sam Finn stood in the cool elevator, on their way up to the thirty-third floor. They'd taken the same trip up more times than they could count in the last almost five months. They'd had no choice in the matter; it was a direct order from one of their superiors. The very same superior who had made him contact and meet with Buffy the night before.
The elevator stopped and they stepped out, walking down a long corridor until they reached a small cluster of offices. They made their way into the largest of the offices, stopping just inside the door and waiting with their hands behind their backs until they were addressed.
Someone was sat in a big leather office chair with the back of it facing towards them, fingers tapping expectantly on the armrest.
"Did you get it?"
Riley looked over to Sam before answering.
"Yes, ma'am, I did. I'm just . . . I'm having a really hard time with this mission, ma'am. I understand fighting demons and monsters. That's my job and I do it well. I know nothing about science though, and the fact that you've put me in charge of . . ."
"Agent Finn, please stop your whining. Always such a whiner, 'this is wrong' and 'we shouldn't do that' and blah blah blah. I wasn't even around for your whining years ago but my body still recoils at the sound when I have the implanted memory."
The chair slowly spun around to reveal a very much alive Maggie Walsh, age having hardly touched her.
"I should've listened to Adelle when she offered me some of her own actives. She knew that I'd need someone to depend on and that you were just too soft for it. From the first time I met her back in college, she never steered me wrong. It's why we made a pact years ago; a pact to help one another and further our research if something happened to either of us. She provided me with this perfectly cloned body when Adam ruined my last one, and I'll provide her research and her program with whatever it needs to continue until the time she can come back and finish it for herself."
"I understand that, ma'am, and I'm not questioning your authority. I just . . . why Buffy, Professor Walsh? You above all people should know by now that she's not a foe to be taken lightly."
"And I understand this. It's exactly why we must have her. She's a foe quite like none other. Imagine the possibilities of having her fight on our side. We could change the world, Agent Finn."
Shaking his head, he pulled the gold ring from his hand and handed it over to Maggie, careful not to prick her with the small needle on it. The same needle that had pricked Buffy's hand the night before when he'd met with her.
"Professor Walsh, I think you're misunderstanding my concern. I know what a commodity she'll provide. I'm in full agreement with you on that. My concern is of what will happen if the real Buffy Summers finds out about what we're doing here.
Maggie smiled as she looked at the hollow gold ring, finding a drop of perfectly preserved blood rolling around within it.
"We'll just have to be extra sure that she never finds out."
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