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 Post subject: Re: Time and Time Again
PostPosted: Wed Dec 05, 2018 10:52 pm 
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6. Sassy Eggs
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Hello, Dragon. Welcome to the party. I'm always glad to hear more people are enjoying the story. Yes, it will continue. I have not abandoned it. I have not stopped writing, even though it may look like it at times.

My writing output has merely been reduced due to several personal factors. I mentioned a six month long bout of writers block a few posts ago, but another issue is the fact that I have had to go down to Florida three times in the last year and a half to help my younger sister move from one apartment to another.

There have been other issues but I'm getting back into the trenches and very eager to get the rest of the chapters in this act written and posted for all of you to enjoy. Hopefully without anymore six to twelve month long delays.

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Time and Time Again


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 Post subject: Re: Time and Time Again
PostPosted: Thu Dec 20, 2018 2:33 am 
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9. Gay Now
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Location: Beyond the orbit of Mars and accelerating...
Think i'm up to 20 or so, now.

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 Post subject: Re: Time and Time Again
PostPosted: Fri Jan 11, 2019 8:53 pm 
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2. Floating Rose
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Well, Helloooooooo! I am still with you for the long haul, Citanul, but real life DOES tend to stick it's ugly neck out occasionally.
Great work on the most recent update, and as always, keep up the good work and keep it coming!!
Love and Blessings

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 Post subject: Re: Time and Time Again
PostPosted: Sun Mar 10, 2019 8:41 pm 
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6. Sassy Eggs
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Time and Time Again.

Author: Citanul

Feedback: Be kind, rewind? Seriously though all feedback is welcome.

Spoilers: Just about all of them. Go watch the show. And Angel too. Also Agents of Shield a little bit. You know what, if a name you don’t recognize pops up most of the time you can find dozens of pages of character bio if you type that name and the word comics into Wikipedia. It’s almost scary how much page space comic book fans have taken up on that site.

Rating: NC-17 = Smutty smut smut smut. Seriously though they make love quite often.

Pairings: W/T, B/F, G/J, D/J, F/G, A/?, X/A. Also D/C (Though not till they’re older and even then maybe not so much with the graphic detail.)

Disclaimer: You all know I don’t own the rights to characters you’ve seen on TV.

Summary: A story of reincarnation and interdimensional travel made possible through the power of love. What misfortunes will our two favorite love birds be able to prevent with the aid of experience from countless past lives?

Author’s Note: And we're back. This one ran long so it's split in two parts. You guys are probably used to more vulgar language from some of the characters in my works, but be warned. There are some guest characters in this chapter that use particularly vile slurs here and there. I'll have the second part up in a few days. Just need to go over it once or twice more with grammarly and spellcheck.

*****

Chapter 40: Family Part One

“Well, she's gone.” The infuriated huff was far too obvious in the gypsy's voice. The brunette paced the length of the cramped motel room, never once sparing a glance to the Englishman sitting at the small table between the dresser and television. “Angel is back at the hotel. His ex isn’t going to single him out anymore. That new Slayer is keeping him on a tight leash. All our allies are dead, and we have absolutely nothing to show for it.” She came to a stop and glared at the Englishman sitting across the room. “Well? What are we still doing here? What was the point of all this? What am I supposed to tell the clan now?”

Ethan Rayne smiled as he stood and approached the gypsy. Jenny scowled as he came up to her, gently placing his hands on her shoulders. “My dear, though it may not look it, things are going exactly according to plan.” The incredulous look she gave him drew a sly grin. “The vampire is going to slip right back into his old routine, none the wiser. He’ll think himself free and clear right up until the next big surprise comes up and pulls the rug out from under his feet. Trust me. In time he will suffer unimaginable anguish. The likes of which not even your clan could inflict upon him.”

Jenny was skeptical for a moment before she looked into Ethan’s eyes and asked the obvious. “Just what are you going to do to him?”

“Me? Do something to the vampire?” The smarmy Englishman asked with faux innocence. “Why I’ll do nothing of the sort. The misery coming for our dear boy is entirely of his own making. He’s already set things in motion. All we need do is sit back and watch the show.”

The man’s answer surprised the former computer teacher. She did not expect the laid back response or the confident tone that accompanied it. “What’s coming for him?”

Another confident smile surfaced as Ethan Rayne put an arm around Jenny Calendar’s shoulders. “My dear, I believe it’s time I brought you in on the much larger schemes at play, but to sum it all up in a single word,” his unsettling smile grew as he paused to lean in and whisper. “Family.”

*****

“So dorm or downtown apartment?” The brunette asked with a cocky smirk as she walked through the graveyard hand in hand with her girl.

The question caught the petite blonde off guard. “Huh?”

“Living conditions, B.” Faith said as she felt a strong demonic presence off to their left. The Slayers veered in the direction of their new prey, not once worrying about the outcome of the coming battle. “Where do you want us to live next year?”

Buffy’s head tilted to the side in confusion. “We’re moving in together?”

The question took Faith by surprise. The Slayer stopped in her tracks, turning to look into confused hazel eyes. “You don’t want to live with me, B?”

“What? No! I mean yes! Of course, I want to live with you, Honey.” The blonde stammered out her quick reply as she noticed the tiniest of tears building in the corner of her girl’s expressive brown eyes. “I always want you with me. I just, I didn’t think you’d want to move out of your home.”

“You’re my home, B.” Faith’s response was firm and unquestionable. She took her girl’s hands in hers and pulled her close. “I love you, Buffy.”

Buffy all but melted at the devotion and warmth behind Faith’s words. “I love you too, Faith.” The Slayers took a moment to stare into each other’s eyes.

Eventually, they went back to their hunting. Faith still held Buffy’s hand as they moved through the graveyard. “So where are we moving for our freshman year of college?”

“I didn’t know if you wanted to leave your home with Will and Tara,” Buffy admitted as she walked along at her girl’s side. “I’d be fine wherever you were, but this is the first time you’ve ever had a real home with a real family who loves you. I didn’t want to take that away from you by demanding we get a student apartment or something.”

“Shit, it ain’t like I’m moving across state lines or nothin’.” Faith laughed as she and Buffy’ came to the back fence of the graveyard. The Slayers wordlessly scaled the length of wrought iron fence, landing in the sparsely wooded area along the rear perimeter of the cemetery they had been patrolling. “We’ll still be in town. Still be patrolling every night. I don’t know about you but I ain’t about to miss out on any of Jen’s, Tara’s, or your mom’s cooking. We’ll leave our college campus pussy palace, do a quick patrol over to Rovello Drive and check in with whichever part of the Mom Squad cooked that night, then we finish up patrolling the rest of town before heading back to our pussy palace, showering together, and getting in a little down and dirty before calling it a night.”

“Pussy palace?” Buffy asked as she sported an even more confused expression.

Faith smirked before putting on an unconvincing innocent expression. “I mean, what else would you call the one bedroom, one bath, half a kitchen shack where I go to town on your pussy, B?”

“Fine!” Buffy huffed even as a smile spread across her lips. She and her girl walked into an open clearing with three demons covered in dull blue scales loitering around a picnic table. “We can move into a pussy palace our freshman year and mooch meals off Mom and Jen.”

“Awesome!” Faith shouted as she leapt forward, butterfly swords out and ready to carve into demonic flesh. One demon was dead before the other two even knew there was an obvious threat.

“Slayers!” A demon growled as it reared back and readied its claws.

“Demon!” Buffy imitated, mocking the two remaining fiends. The petite blonde smiled as the second demon squared off against her. The third demon was already dead by Faith’s hand. The brunette smirked and sent her girl a sly wink as the last of the trio lunged in Buffy’s direction. A sidestep. One quick slice with Buffy’s longsword. A thud as a body fell to the grass at their feet.

Buffy let out an annoyed sigh as she eyed her favorite magic sword. She and Faith both fished out the handkerchiefs they kept specifically for demon gore that didn’t burn away within seconds of contact with their magic blades. “I hate it when they leave gunk behind.”

“Yeah, sucks don’t it?” Faith agreed as she cleaned and sheathed her blades. She looked around and spotted the quick fix she was looking for. “B, there’s a manhole cover right over there. Since these guys ain’t melting away how ‘bout we toss ‘em in there for Lenny.”

Buffy smirked as she thought back to one of the earliest Slayer related conversations she ever had with Faith.

*****

It had been a week since Willow and Tara made Faith a Slayer. Buffy could not be happier about the changes the young brunette brought to her life. One night the Slayers were patrolling the warehouse district around the Bronze when they came across a pair of demons lurking in an alleyway. Before the demons could attack anyone walking by the alley the Slayers went to work. In no time at all, the deed was done. Two scab covered bodies lay motionless at their feet, causing Faith to look around in confusion.

“B? These ones ain’t melting or dusting. Did we do something wrong?” Buffy had to hold back a small laugh as she rolled up her sleeves and began to drag one demon corpse deeper into the alleyway. “Seriously, what do we do now? No one said that we’d have to bury a bunch of dead bodies just so the oblivious townies don’t catch on.”

“It’s fine, Faith. Just grab that one and come this way.” Faith didn’t know how Buffy could be so sure that disposal was a minor issue. “There should be… here!” The upbeat tone in Buffy’s voice threw Faith for a loop. The newest Slayer could only watch in confusion as the girl she lusted for removed a manhole cover near the back of the alleyway and shoved one dead demon into the hole. “It’s best to just let Lenny handle these.”

Faith had blinked in utter confusion as she watched Buffy dump the second dead body and reseal the hole. “Who the hell is Lenny?”

“Demon garbage disposal,” Buffy said as she brushed off her hands. “Large, eater, non… something, something… I forget what the other letters stood for but most large cities have a huge sewer monster that eats dead bodies left underground for too long.”

“Holy shit!” Faith cried out as she imagined the most hideous monstrosity that could possibly exist in the sewers beneath a hellmouth. “When do we kill it?”

“We don’t,” Buffy said as she took the brunette’s hand and began to lead her out of the alleyway. “Come on, let’s finish patrol and head home. Mom has been all antsy since she learned about my night job.”

“What do you mean we don’t kill it?” Faith had no idea how to move on from the topic of body eating sewer demons. “Isn’t that what Slayers are for?”

Buffy stopped as they came to the mouth of the alleyway. The petite blonde turned to her newest ally and held the girl’s attention with a firm glare. “Okay, I was wondering when this would come up. I’m glad it’s now and not later when you meet up with Alonna’s Crew.”

“That’s the other girl Red and Blondie gave the full-on Slayer upgrade to, right?” Faith asked as Buffy held her hands and stared into her eyes.

“Right.” Buffy agreed before taking a breath and making sure she had all of Faith’s attention. “Listen to me, Faith. Not all demons are evil.”

Faith laughed for a second before the serious tone in the blonde’s voice sunk in. “Wait, you’re serious. Demons are killer monsters. How do you have not evil killer monsters? Ain’t that against the rules?”

“Most demons are evil monsters, yes,” Buffy admitted before moving on with more conviction in her voice. “Most of the demons you and I will meet on patrol are as evil as they get. That’s why we’re here. The hellmouth attracts the absolute worst of the worst. If they spend enough time here most demons and just about every vampire will cause the death of innocent people… but not all demons come to the hellmouth.”

“Yeah, that’s what Red and Blondie set up this Al chick in L.A. for.” Faith agreed, not quite getting the point. “To kill the ones that hide out in the big city cause they don’t got the stones to try shit here.”

“That’s part of it,” Buffy admitted. “But not all of it. You weren’t there so this may come as a shock but you’ll need to learn to play nice if you’re gonna work with some of the people Will and Tara are having Alonna work with. Not all demons are evil monsters that eat people and try to end the world. Yes, a lot of them are, but for every vampire and death cultist, there are a hundred nonviolent demons that are just trying to live their lives. Most of them have small homes in the bigger human cities and some even pay taxes.”

“Okay, now I know you’re messin’ with me. I get it, B. Pull one over on the new girl. I gotta take my lumps. Ha, ha… ha?” Faith scoffed at the notion of tamed and mild-mannered demons. Her incredulous tone started out strong but soon tapered off as it became clear the other Slayer was not joking.

“They spent a week drilling this lesson into the heads of all the boys Alonna and her brother order around.” Buffy went on, ignoring the derision in her new friend's voice. “There are innocent people who need protecting from the world-enders and the people eaters. Some of those people are not human. Some of them are here because their worlds no longer exist. Some because they ended up here by accident and have no way to get home. They are trying to make the most of their lives. We don’t bother people who are just trying to get by in human society without actually being human. We Slay monsters. We don’t murder immigrants and refugees. That's the difference between a Slayer and a killer.”

“You’re serious about this.” Faith said as she finally realized some of her assumptions over the last week had been wrong. “Okay, I can deal.” Another long uneasy moment passed before Faith connected all the things Buffy had said. “So what is this Lenny demon, and how many demons are working with the L.A. Crew?”

“Oh, I’m not actually sure,” Buffy admitted as they began to walk down the street. “The way Giles explained it “Lennies” are a nickname for anything big that lives underground, eats abandoned dead bodies, and doesn’t fight back unless you actually go into its lair and back it into a corner. Most places have them and the demon and magic communities all agree that feeding the dead to the local Lenny is the best way to keep regular people in the dark about the whole monsters and magic thing. The last thing anyone wants is a bunch of dead bodies lining the streets. That’s how you get angry mobs with torches and pitchforks marching down the street. No one wants the witch hunts to start up again. You and I could probably fend for ourselves, but what about Will, Tara, and Jen?”

“Fuck that noise.” Faith growled back as they came to the entrance of one of Sunnydale’s smaller graveyards. “Any pissed off townies come after my girls, I’ll start crackin’ heads.”

“And I’ll help.” Buffy agreed with a smile. “But it’s easier if the ridiculously high mortality rate in this town gets overlooked by feeding the Lenny.”

“What about Al’s pet demons?” Faith asked again. “You said Red and Blondie had her workin’ with some domesticated types. Who do I have to not stake when I meet them?”

“Well, one is Doyle.” Buffy began with the easy explanation. No sense in scaring her new friend off before she could explain herself. “He’s half human and half demon. He has all these hangups about his demon side, and how he lost his job and his wife after finding out his absentee father was a demon, but he’s actually a really nice person. Alonna likes to joke that he’s her sensitive biracial friend.”

Faith cocked her head to the side as she pondered Buffy’s words. “He had a human job and a life before all this demon shit went sideways on him?”

“Uh-huh. He used to be a teacher. Willow and Tara even helped him get his license back, and now he’s making sure Alonna’s friends all get their G.E.D.s.” The pride and hope in Buffy’s voice set some of Faith’s concerns aside. If her new housemates had really gone to bat for the guy and vetted him as much as they had with her, gotten him on task and helping a fellow Slayer, then there wasn’t any need for her to worry.

“And then there’s Angel,” Buffy said. The sullen tone in the petite blonde’s voice cut through all other thoughts going through the brunette’s head.

“He a half demon too?” A part of Faith knew the answer had to be worse.

“Vampire.” Buffy let out in a whisper.

“Whoa, okay hold up.” Faith pulled her fellow Slayer to a halt. “Vampire? Like the things we Slay? I get that some demons might not be all that bad, but that ain’t the case with vamps, B.”

“You’re right… usually.” Buffy added a qualifier that did little to ease Faith’s nerves. “He was a normal evil vampire, until about a hundred years ago when gypsies cursed him and forced him to live with his human soul. Since then he hasn’t been able to feed on humans without serious melodrama and regret.”

“But he still drinks blood.” Faith said with only a slight questioning tone.

“Pig’s blood.” Buffy defended the vampire to Faith’s utter shock. “He gets it from butchers’ shops and slaughterhouses. Warms it up in a microwave and… why are you looking at me like that?”

“You actually care about this soul vamp?” Faith asked as she tried to fight off the unseemly fears crashing through her mind.

Buffy threw her arms up in exasperation. “It’s not as bad as it sounds!”

“Then explain it for me, B.” Faith pleaded with her new friend. “And keep it real simple for those of us who dropped out of middle school.”

“He helped me,” Buffy said as some of the wind left her sails. “There were other vampires that he knew about and he told me how to find them and stop them. He even fought them with me. We saved each other’s lives. We got close…”

“Shit, B. Tell me you didn’t sleep with a vampire.” Faith moaned as she began to fear the worst.

“No!” Buffy snapped before she deflated further. “It never got to that. Willow said…”

Faith fought the impulse to scoff at Buffy’s emotional struggle. No vampire was worth this much concern. “Red stopped you from sleeping with a vampire that had an extra sad sob story?”

“She made him move to L.A. with Alonna because if he had stayed here he and I would have broken his curse and he’d become a monster again.” Buffy felt a few tears slide down her cheek before brushing at them and turning away from Faith. “I know, pathetic, right? I don’t even start really dating a guy and my best friend puts a stop to it because in her past life he lost his soul five minutes after I lost my virginity. He and I can’t even be in the same city for more than a few days because if he turns into a monster then this big prophecy won’t come true and he’ll never be turned human again. If anything good is going to happen I need to wait a few years, or find someone else.”

Faith froze. She had no idea how to work through the tangled web her crush was weaving. She was only certain of two important facts. First, there was a serious conversation she needed to have with both of the witches. They knew her feelings and had neglected to tell her certain devastating facts. Secondly, she had time to win her crush over. If Buffy was still hung up on this worthless vampire that needed to wait years or even decades for some big damn cosmic reward then that gave Faith years or even decades to convince Buffy that the Mr. “Right At The End Of The Rainbow” she was holding out for was a poor substitute for Ms. “Right Here Right Now Check Out This Rack.”

Buffy began to fidget as Faith stood still. Moments of tension and regret passed before Buffy could speak again. “Okay. I get it. I’m a freak. If this is a problem then you don’t have to patrol with me. I can go back to Slaying alone. I’ll just…” Buffy turned and began to wander off, only for Faith’s hand to whip out and grab her wrist.

“Whoa, hey. Where you goin’, B? What do ya mean, patrol alone?” Faith asked as she pulled her crush closer to her and puffed out her chest ever so slightly. Deep down Faith really hoped putting her girls on display for the blonde would speed up her romantic plans. “Ya ain’t gettin’ rid of me that easy. You and me are a team.”

“Really?” Buffy asked as Faith saw hope blossom in hazel eyes once more. “I didn’t freak you out with the whole “My almost ex is a two-hundred-year-old vampire with a gypsy curse?” I’d get it if that was a deal breaker. You shouldn’t have to put up with…”

“I’m on your side, Buffy.” Faith maintained steady eye contact as she spoke.

The fact that Faith said Buffy's actual name was not lost on the blonde. She only needed one hand to count the number of times Faith had addressed her as “Buffy.” Buffy smiled more brightly than she had all week. Faith felt a matching smile overcome her as her crush pulled her into a tight embrace. “Thank you, Faith.”

“Ain’t no big, B.” Faith whispered back as she wrapped her arms around her crush. “You’ll always have me watchin’ your back.”

*****

Buffy smiled as she recalled Faith’s acceptance the first time she brought up her ex. Faith's easy compliance with their use of the local Lenny, her casual friendship with Doyle, even her begrudging acceptance of Angel had done wonders to earn Buffy's respect in the early days of their partnership. Respect, which only doubled after they met Kendra. The fourth Slayer was so militant and judgmental she had to be watched like a hawk, lest she try to burn one of their witches at the stake.

“Sounds like a plan, Honey.” Buffy had a bounce in her step as she skipped over and helped Faith dispose of the slain demons. “So, got any other ideas about our “pussy palace?”

Faith shivered as she dumped the last body and dropped the manhole cover back into place. “Goddess, the way you say that is so fuckin’ dirty. I got half a mind to go to town on ya right here.”

Buffy smiled and tilted her head to one side. She brought a hand up to her chin as if she were giving the suggestion its due consideration. “Tempting, but no. We’re at our quota for public park sex for the month. Also graveyard sex, Bronze sex, and school bathroom sex now that I think about it. Plus those last three demons were full of gunk that I need to shower off before I touch your lady parts.”

“There ya go, B.” Faith shook her head in feigned exasperation as she took her girl’s hand. “Always gotta be the responsible Slayer. Keepin’ me from getting Demon guts all over our pussy palace.” The Slayers shared a smile as they walked hand in hand through the night. “What about a dog?”

“I so want to get a dog,” Buffy said before a frown took over her entire face. “But not in an apartment without a yard and not on a hellmouth. I don’t want to let our dog out to pee one night and then find them eaten by a stray hellhound or one of those big slouchy alligator-like demons that always drag their tails behind them.”

Faith held back her disappointment at the very obvious and heartbreaking logistical problems her girl laid out. “One day, B. One day we won’t have to guard this shitty town. Red and Blondie say it’s just around one or two corners, but it’s comin’. One day we’ll leave this place and live our life together on our terms.”

“One day.” Buffy agreed as she squeezed her girl’s hand. The promise of their life together was all the petite blonde and the brunette needed to face the darkness. No matter what the world threw their way they would face it together.

*****

“Ghaaa!” Doyle shouted as the vision filled his mind and wracked his body.

“Doyle!” Alonna was across the room and at his side in an instant. “Charles!”

“On it!” Gunn was quick to signal orders to Chain and Rondell. The two quickly started shouting to other teens all around the lobby and sent several others off to knock on all the occupied rooms in the hotel. Once he knew the rest of the crew would be ready he joined his sister at the side of their half demon. “How bad is it, Irish?”

Several moments of agonizing mental clarity passed before Doyle was able to open his eyes and address the Gunn siblings. “It’s bad. It’s so bad.” He muttered as he realized just what was at stake. “They’re coming for her.”

“Who?” Alonna asked as she rubbed the Irishman’s shoulders. “Who’s in danger?”

Doyle looked up for a moment. Then his eyes began to flit back and forth between the siblings. “I have to go to Sunnydale. They’re coming for her.”

“We have to go to Sunnydale,” Alonna said as she gripped the man by the shoulders. “We’re in this together.”

Doyle’s vision cleared for the first time and he took in the concern both Alonna and her brother clearly showed for him. “Thank you.”

Rondell came up to Gunn’s side. “Everyone’s here,” he whispered loud enough for the trio to hear. “What’s the mission?”

Doyle looked out and saw the concerned faces of each and every member of the Hyperion Crew. He knew they were expecting a fight. He just hoped they would still be ready once they knew how personal the coming fight was going to be. A moment passed as he let himself hope for the best.

“It’s Jen,” Doyle admitted at last. “Her husband is coming to Sunnydale and he plans to drag Jen and Tara back to his farm.”

No one spoke. Several heads began to turn, looking around the room as if their fellow crew members had heard the punchline. One person in the back laughed. “So you got a vision of your girlfriend’s ex getting skinned by the angry little redhead that gave us this setup?” A few light chuckles spread through the crowd before Alonna silenced them with a glare.

“Look, I know it’s not rescuing people from random demons…” Doyle began, only to be cut off by the Slayer.

“No,” Alonna said as she looked from the half demon to the members of her and her brother’s crew. “No, it’s not some random demon this time. It’s something much more important.”

“All y'all know what Tara and Willow have done for us,” Gunn shouted out as the humor and amusement drained from the crew. “How many of us would be dead if it weren’t for what they gave us?” A few hands went up. They went back down when Alonna stepped forward and spoke.

“Each and every one of you know what Tara and her mother mean to our people in Sunnydale. I know we all know what Jen means to Doyle.” The Slayer’s voice grew in strength and force as the speech continued. “This isn’t saving some rando townie from a vampire in a back alley. This is family! Are we gonna let some piece of shit slap his soon to be ex-wife around?”

“No!” The entire Hyperion Crew shouted back in unison.

The Slayer continued to shout questions at her loyal soldiers. “Are we gonna let some backwoods redneck come in and take the people we love?”

“No!” They shouted in turn.

“Are we gonna let some asshole from bumfuck Arkansas break apart our family?” She screamed to the all but cheering crowd.

“No!” The Crew roared.

“Actually, I think they’re from Alabama…” Doyle whispered only for Alonna to shout “Same fucking difference!”

“Yeah! Fuck that hillbilly!” Someone standing in the back shouted, drawing more cheers from the rest of the riled up Crew.

“Okay! You heard the lady!” Gunn shouted before the energy in the room could steer anyone off course. “Gear up and grab an overnight bag! I want everyone who’s combat ready on the bus in an hour!”

As the crew began to disperse and prepare for the road trip, Alonna turned to Doyle and smiled. “No one's gonna take our girls from us.”

The Irishman choked up for a moment before nodding his thanks to the Slayer. “Thank you.”

Alonna turned and saw two concerned faces standing in the wake of the dispersing crew. She knew the reservations one of them had about going back to the hellmouth and she knew the other could pick up on those fears. The Slayer took three long steps across the hotel lobby and put her hands on the shoulders of the nervous blonde and the redhead.

“Alonna…” Anne whispered as Bethany began to look nervous.

The Slayer spoke, cutting off the nervous question before it could surface. “I know how you two feel about going to the hellmouth and confronting abusive fathers. I need to go and look after our people. Can I count on both of you to take care of this place and the non-coms while I lead Charles and the boys into battle?”

“Of course,” Bethany assured. Anne quickly nodded her head and smiled at the simple fact of being left in the relative safety of L.A. One look between the two young women was all the assurance Alonna needed to know they would be fine.

Bethany and Anne wandered off leaving Doyle and the Gunn siblings in the nearly empty lobby. A beat passed before a slight throat clearing drew their attention. They looked to see both Wesley and Angel standing beside them. After adjusting his glasses the Englishman spoke in clear, if slightly hesitant, tones. “Well, it would appear we are all heading to the hellmouth then.”

“You up for this, English?” Gunn asked as he eyed the watcher. “This ain’t some demon throwdown Alonna has to break up ‘cuz she’s the chosen one and all that. We’re strictly going there to stop some redneck from breakin’ up our family.”

“Yes, yes, Charles.” Wesley rolled his eyes at the young man. “I’ll admit the way Ms. Maclay and Ms. Rosenberg initially recruited me was a tad heavy-handed, but I bear them no ill will and would never wish for Doyle’s companion to be coerced into anything against her will.” He turned to Alonna and straightened his tie. “As always, Ms. Gunn. I am at your service.”

“Good,” Alonna said before turning to the vampire.

“I’m in too,” Angel said as he turned to look Doyle in the eye. “I know I’ve lost sight of what’s important recently, but Jennifer has always given me the benefit of the doubt. I’ll be there for you and for her no matter what.”

“Good to hear,” Doyle said as he clasped hands with Angel.

“What about Fred?” Alonna asked only to jump straight into the air when a voice chimed in right behind her.

“Oh, I’m in,” Fred said. “I had my Khopesh out the second Doyle’s vision started.”

“Goddess, don’t do that,” Alonna growled at her friend as she spun around. “Does that thing let you turn invisible now too?”

Fred looked at her curved blade with a speculative eye for a moment before returning her gaze to the Slayer. “I don’t think it does.”

The Slayer eyed the ancient sword before shaking off her skepticism and returning to the matter at hand. “Okay, everyone knows if they’re coming or not. Meet at the bus in forty-five minutes. We have a milf to save and a redneck to put in his place.”

*****

The worn and ragged camper came to a stop just before passing the large decorative “Welcome to Sunnydale” sign. The two angry and clueless men inside it shared gruff and pointless reassurances.

“The women are here.” Donald Maclay muttered as he looked from one side of the street to the other. “I can practically smell their sin.”

“Dad, we got a plan for their magic?” A harsh glare from the old man nearly silenced Donny Maclay. Yet still, the question remained valid.

A sneer crossed Donald's lips as his eyes returned to the road. As the camper rolled into town, he gave his son the most empty reassurance possible. “Your mother has had her fun. She won't cross me again.”

“And Tara?” Donny asked as his hand came to rest on the ragged and crumpled issue of Time magazine folded and shoved in his jacket pocket.

“She'll get what's coming to her.” Donald seethed, his hands gripping the steering wheel all the tighter. “She'll learn her place. The shameful things she's done. No one embarrasses our family and gets away with it. No one.”

Donny sighed as his father drove past the gaudy welcome sign and into town. Along their journey, several realities had become apparent to the young man. Firstly, his father’s certainty in their success had not waned in the slightest. Even as they scoured the east coast in vain, Donald Maclay had been adamant that they would find the women and drag them back to the farm. Finding Tara’s face on the cover of some liberal rag had thrown them off balance for a few weeks, but that same rag gave up the lead which finally brought them to the unassuming town on the west coast. Secondly, his father still had no real plan other than to show up and demand the women fall in line. This didn’t worry Donny in the least. Until that one rebellious morning, his sister had always been a weakling and a doormat. She would always be weak. No amount of indulging in her magic or perversions would ever change that. His sister was a pushover through and through. She just needed a reminder of that fact.

Thirdly, and perhaps most troubling of all, they still had no way to counter any magic that might be thrown their way. This was a problem. Though he would never admit it, Donny was still terrified by the evil forces Tara had called up the morning she stole their mother away. They should have dug up some way to undo or block witchcraft. Anything that would give them an edge if Tara surprised their father and refused to go quietly. Unfortunately, Donald had dismissed the very idea of defending themselves from the women as soon as Donny brought it up. The very notion that they would have anything to fear from the weaker sex tempted Donald to slap some sense into his boy. The older man’s blatant disgust at Donny’s cowardice, the successive and casual questioning of Donny’s masculinity, and the ever-present sneer that accompanied the threat to “Beat your mother’s influence out of you, Boy!” served to silence any further complaints from Donny. His father would do what his father thought best, and there was no questioning the matter. Donny was just along for the ride at this point.

They drove through the quiet streets as the sun began to rise. They would find a place to park the camper. Then their search would continue. Donny knew they were getting close. The nearly two-year long search for the Maclay women was about to come to an end. Though he put up a decent imitation of his father’s blind confidence, deep down Donny knew that things would not be as easy as either of them thought.

The only silver lining was that Tara and their mother were most likely on their own. Neither woman had ever managed to form strong or lasting friendships back home. Neither man thought to question whether that had changed in their time apart. The assumption that there would be no opposition would prove their greatest miscalculation. Setting out on a doomed quest to reclaim their wayward kin, their greatest mistake.

*****

“Is Snyder trying to steal that guy’s lunch?” Tara’s question drew a surprised head turn from her always and a laugh from the Slayers sitting across from them. The Scoobies had taken to eating lunch at the picnic tables in the open school courtyard ever since Buffy’s fleeting brush with telepathy soured the new school’s lunch room for her. That decision, in turn, offered them small amusements and distractions, like the scene playing out at a table just across the courtyard.

“Nah, Blondie,” Faith chuckled as she shook her head. “The troll thinks it’s a bag of drugs.” The girls turned to watch as Snyder opened the brown paper bag and then sunk his head in shame. He closed the bag and handed it back to the student. Faith burst out laughing as Snyder snapped at the other teenager at the table before scurrying off. “He just told Dingus over there to sit up straight.”

A smile graced Buffy’s lips as she took in her girl’s good cheer. “I really needed this today.” The Slayer sighed in relief as her girl put an arm around her shoulders and pulled her closer.

“What’s the what, Buff?” Willow asked as she turned away from the distant picnic table and towards her petite blonde friend.

“Mom is on the “I’m so proud of you.” train again.” The Slayer admitted to the witch as her girl began to massage her scalp. “She’s also back on the denial train… again. I'm probably gonna have to disappoint her tonight when I tell her I can't go… again.” From the blank looks across the table, Buffy knew she would have to elaborate. “Acceptance letters came today. I got into Northwestern.”

The witches smiled genuinely, and even though Faith joined them Buffy could tell the expression was forced. Tara barreled ahead with all the encouragement she could. “Congratulations, Buffy. That’ll help a few years from now when we transfer.”

“Transfer?” Both Slayers perked up at the blonde’s last word.

“Uh huh,” Willow elaborated for her everything. “It’s way easier to get into the upper tier schools after you take your first-year prerequisites at a smaller school. Once the four of us are done with Sunnydale we’ll be able to pick any school we want to finish off our degrees. Seven Sisters, Ivy league, any of the U.C. schools aside from Sunnydale, MIT, Cambridge, Oxford. Any school you guys want to go to, we’ll make it happen.”

“Will, you already got into Oxford!” Buffy said with no small amount of cheer before her own mood dampened. “Are you sure you want to just put your life on hold for us? I mean, you and Tara can do anything. Go anywhere. Faith and I are stuck here, but you guys…”

Before the blonde Slayer could go on the redhead reached across the table and clasped her hands. “Buffy, no! Of course, we’re staying with you. You and Faith, you guys aren’t getting rid of us. Ever! We’re family.”

“Plus it ain’t like their giant computer company and their giant law firm are going anywhere.” Faith snickered as Buffy and Willow shared teary-eyed expressions.

“Faith has a point, Buffy,” Tara joined in the snickering as Buffy rolled her eyes at her girl. “You’d be surprised how many tech company CEOs don’t bother to finish high school. Let alone college.”

“I happen to enjoy academia,” Willow spoke in an almost haughty tone that drew laughter from both Tara and Faith. The redhead then turned back to the Slayer and continued her reassurances. “Buffy, as far as money and school go, Tara and I are set. We could walk into any advanced placement program, take a quiz on what we already know from all the centuries of higher education we had in our past lives, and walk out with associates degrees that could easily be transitioned into doctorates after auditing a few classes. Add in all the money we get every hour from our corporate shenanigans and there’s nothing for us to worry about. We’re not leaving you and Faith to defend the world on your own while we run off to stress over Freshman orientation in England or the east coast.”

“We had this talk a long time ago, Buffy,” Tara said in slow and meaningful tones that drew the Slayer’s full attention. “Given the choice between globe-trotting for our own amusement and standing by our true family, we choose family every time. Nothing is more important than family.”

For a moment Buffy almost teared up as the witches smiled at her. Before she could bask further in the warmth and affection from her friends, another kind of amused warmth made itself known through the connection between the Slayers. Buffy sighed and silently prompted her girl to ask the burning question dancing across her mind.

“Speaking of family,” Faith began to speak with a knowing smirk and reassuring fingers working their way across her girl’s scalp. “How did the G man take the news?”

“Giles was proud of me as usual.” Buffy sighed and relaxed further into her girl’s embrace. “He smiled and told me it was wonderful news. He knows I can’t go, but he’s still… proud.”

“That’s Giles for ya,” Willow said as she relaxed into her own girlfriend's embrace. “And of course he didn’t try to talk down to Joyce about your destiny.”

“Oh my god, never.” Buffy laughed before realizing the vast difference between the two main romantic relationships she had thus witnessed from her mother. “He never talks down to her or dismisses her points. He never calls her out on her denial. He just listens and calmly says what he needs to say. I don’t think I’ve seen them fight once. It’s nothing like it was with my dad.”

“That’s Giles alright,” Tara added before a frown surfaced. “Has he ever brought up the drinking?”

“She’s not…” Buffy began only to stop herself as she thought about her mother and the changes in the woman’s behavior over the last two years. “No, she actually, I think she stopped drinking.”

Faith actually paused her scalp massage at that comment and moved to look her girl in the eye. “What? Like she joined AA without telling us?”

Buffy shook her head at the implication. “No, I just think she doesn’t drink anywhere near as much as she used to when I was… When we first moved here. Back in L.A. and before I told her what I am she would always have a glass of wine or three after work. I think it was to deal with the fighting over the divorce and the denial of whatever she thought I was doing at night. She’ll still have a glass of wine at a party or a Lifetime movie marathon if her and Jen open a bottle, but now she…”

“She’s happy, she’s with someone who respects her, and she’s proud of all the great things her daughters accomplish every single day.” Tara’s plain assessment drew a wide smile from the Slayer. That smile was quickly replaced with a frown when Tara turned to her love and said the oddest thing the Slayer had heard that week. “Much better than a cursed-band-candy-induced hookup on the hood of a police car.”

Faith almost shot forward at that curvy blonde’s words. Only a faint tensing from her girl stopped the brunette from breaking physical contact with the petite blonde. “Oh, that is a story we need to hear.”

Willow sighed as she turned back to Buffy. “You remember the giant snake in the sewers? Well the first time through, the ritual to call it was done by the old mayor who was going to feed it four or five live babies.”

“Fuck me running.” Faith muttered as the smile left her face.

“So in order to actually steal the babies from the hospital, they needed to distract the whole town.” Willow went on with the now somber tale. “They hired Giles’ old boyfriend who did the cursed Halloween costume thing, and he cursed the candy bars that Snyder had everyone in school selling all over town to raise money for the band. Your mom bought half of your box and Giles bought the other half, Buff.”

“What did the cursed candy do?’ Buffy asked, dreading the answer.

“It made them all act like teenagers again,” Tara said as she fought back the urge to laugh.

“All the adults in town started acting like spoiled eight-year-olds on a sugar rush.” Willow went on to tell the story in only mildly enthused tones. “A few people, like your mom, Giles, and Snyder kept some of their wits, but still regressed to their rebellious teenage years. I’ve always maintained that it was because of their awareness of this town and the supernatural. The last time I had this argument Xander asked if it wasn’t just all the booze they had at the Bronze, but there were adults acting like drunk idiots all over town with nothing in their systems but the candy, and Giles and your mom kept it together even after raiding Giles’ liquor cabinet, and well, let’s just say Giles has a cigar box full of “special cigarettes” if you know what I mean. Anyway, Buffy, your mom, and Giles helped you save the day and a lot of live babies from being eaten by that giant sewer snake, but not until after they had… umm… explored each other’s bodies?”

“They what?” Both Slayers shouted.

Tara added the final stinger on the end of the story before Willow could go into another babble. “On the hood of a police car. Twice.”

The redhead’s long babble had several devastating and immediate effects on the other girls at the table. Tara began to chuckle at the ribald end of the story, the way her always told the tale, and the devastation playing out before her. As the story progressed Faith stopped massaging her girl and began to lean over the table. By the end of the tale, the brunette was cackling as loudly as she could. She carried on for a full minute before falling backwards off of the picnic table bench and onto the grass of the school courtyard. For her part, Buffy’s reaction was simple and understated. The Slayer leaned forward until her head fell to the surface of the picnic table with a dull thud. Faint moaning did little to draw attention away from the uproarious laughter coming from the brunette on the ground.

Several minutes of resounding embarrassment and uninhibited cackling passed before an aggravated grumble worked its way out of the petite blonde. “Are you done? Did you get it all out of your system, Faith?”

“Oh, Goddess.” Faith wheezed as she tried to pull herself up from the ground. “Oh, wow. That was…” She started laughing again as soon as her eyes locked on her girlfriend’s exasperated glare. “Oh shit, B!” Faith almost doubled over again as she fought to hold back her laughter. “Don’t look at me like that. You’re gonna get me goin’ again, and I’m about to piss myself this is so fucking funny.”

“You’re sleeping on the couch this week.” Buffy’s deadpan response did little to temper the brunette’s laughter as they turned back to face the witches. “Okay, seriously! No more talk about my mom and her stevedore fetish. We’re moving on to someone else’s relationship issues. What about you guys? Or Xander? What’s Xander getting up to?”

Tara raised her head as Buffy asked about their lone male friend. She looked around the school courtyard and quickly found the young man in question. With a nod and a crooked smile, she pointed the Slayer towards the obvious answer.

All four girls looked across the courtyard to see Xander and Cordelia arguing with each other. Again. Like they had been arguing all week. The argument seemed to reach a boiling point, and both teens stormed off in a huff. The ceasefire did not last long. Once they reached a distance of no more than thirty feet both teens spun on their heels and stormed right back into the fray. The Slayers and witches noticed the former couple’s spat had attracted a sizable audience. All the Cordettes, half the jocks in the school and about twenty other teens were watching the tumultuous back and forth from the sidelines. One guy sitting on the nearest stone bench was casually eating handfuls of popcorn from a large bowl in his lap. The argument carried on for a full five minutes without either Xander or Cordelia even noticing or acknowledging their audience. The crowd only dispersed when Jonathan and Larry came in and began to shoo spectators away. Snyder’s scowl was enough to disperse the rest, but when he turned his ire on the bickering couple he froze in his tracks. Buffy followed the principal's terrified gaze and found Willow sending the irate little man a vicious glare of her own. Snyder turned on his heels and scurried away.

“So that’s still happening.” Tara sighed as she began to clean up what was left of her and Willow’s lunches.

Faith shook her head as she and Buffy began clearing lunch debris as well. “Shit, they didn’t even stop fightin’ like this when they was sneakin’ off to grope each other in the janitor’s closet.”

“And the boiler room, and the basement, and the clock tower, and that one ventilation access room that we kept having to clear giant mantis eggs out of.” Buffy sighed as she took the trash Tara collected and combined it with her and Faith’s piles. “Did I ever tell you guys how much I don’t miss the old school that got blown up that night the smurfettes tried to open the hellmouth?”

“Every day.” Willow chirped happily as she took Tara’s hand in hers.

“Think Xander will have better relationship luck in college?” Buffy asked before her eyes widened in terror. “Oh my god. Did he even get into U.C. Sunnydale? Please tell me someone has a plan for keeping Xander from ending up homeless, stripping, or some rich perv’s buttmonkey.”

“Don’t worry, Buffy,” Tara smirked as she gave Willow a sly wink. “You know how those bohemian anti-establishment types are. I’m sure he’ll land on his feet.”

Before Buffy could ask what Freddie Mercury and the rest of Queen had to do with Xander’s education a loud moan from her girlfriend drew all her attention. “Goddess, please don’t bring that up!” Faith’s sudden mood change confused Buffy for a moment until the brunette carried on with her own frustrations at Xander’s new lifestyle choice. “If I have to hear any more of that “Kerouac’s school of the open road” bullshit I’m gonna scream. Seriously, B! He’s been mouthing off about takin’ some stupid year long road trip for weeks now. It’s all he talks about, and I’m all like, “Dude, being homeless fucking sucks!” Don’t matter what some dead guy wrote in a book about how to be a beatnik. Especially when that dead guy drank himself to death at the ripe old age of forty-five.”

“Forty-seven.” Willow chimed in.

“Whatever!” Faith waved off the redhead’s correction. “The Xand-man is still planning to spend the next year or so living out of some clunker he’s gonna borrow from his deadbeat uncle, or his other deadbeat uncle, or his deadbeat cousin, of his piece of shit old man. He’s either gonna end up getting himself eaten or working a mop at a donkey show dive bar in Tijuana.”

“Okay, yeah.” Buffy agreed before turning to Willow. “The parts of that I understood sounded terrible. Please tell me there is a plan for saving Xander from his awful road trip idea.”

Willow just smiled at her always before turning back to the Slayers. “Don’t worry, guys. In all the hundreds and hundreds of times Xander has planned his little road trip, his car has left the Sunnydale city limits exactly one time.”

Tara nodded as she added context to the lone worrisome exception. “And that time he only got about an hour’s walk into the desert before the car broke down and he needed to spend the summer working off the towing bill. Xander’s road trips never pan out, but he always survives them.”

“That one gave us a scare, but it ended the same as all the other post-graduation road trips. It’ll all be okay. Xander is our family.” Willow said as they all walked through a doorway and came into the halls of the new high school. “He’ll tucker himself out on this one bad idea of his, and then he’ll learn a valuable life lesson. Nothing bad is gonna happen to him.” The Slayers could only hope that the witches were as right about this as they had been about every other major event in the last two years.

*****

“So I called your aunt Arlene in Illinois.” The overt cheer in Joyce’s voice was enough to break the Slayer’s heart. “She wanted to congratulate you, but I could tell she was so jealous. Her boys only got into Wheaton.”

Buffy sighed as the conversation over the dinner table of the Summers home drifted back to the future she couldn’t have. She put on a forced smile as Joyce went on to say how proud she was of her daughter. After a while, it became apparent to everyone just how little the Slayer enjoyed the praise. Luckily her watcher stepped in with his own encouragement.

“Yes, Buffy. It’s really quite wonderful news. I’m so proud of you.” Giles was just as enthused as Joyce, but even Buffy could tell the man was holding back due to the simple fact that he, better than anyone, knew her responsibilities. “I’m sure you’ll love attending classes there. One day.”

“One day?” Joyce’s tone shifted as soon as the words were out. “She got accepted to one of the top universities in the midwest. Of course, she’s…”

“I have responsibilities, Mom,” Buffy said. Her tone obviously implying that the matter was already decided and there would be no turning from the path laid before her. “It’ll only be a few years. Plus, the guys and I were talking, and Willow said I could get all the basic first-year prerequisites out of the way at U.C. Sunnydale. Then I could transfer to just about any college I wanted.”

“But Northwestern…” Joyce’s protest died before it could fully form.

“Joyce,” Giles’ voice was soft and reassuring as he gently took his girlfriend’s hand. “You know how I feel about the dangers Buffy has to face. If I could change anything it would be the unfair burden her destiny weighs upon her shoulders.” He slowly brought her hand to his lips and held it there for a moment as the formerly single mother held back tears. He cleared his throat once before speaking again. “But there are things none of us can change, and things only the Slayer can change. She must do that which no one else can do. All we can offer is our support and love as we stand by her side and face the darkness.”

“As a family.” Dawn chimed in for the first time since her mother began gushing about colleges. “We’ll face it together. As a family.”

Giles smiled at the confidence behind the girl’s voice. “Well said, Dawn.”

Dawn smiled before ruining the moment with a far more unsettling observation. “Plus, if closing down the hellmouth is anything like what Xander and those Zombies did to the old high school then we’re gonna need to buy a house in another state about a year before Buffy and her girlfriend blow up this whole damned town.”

“Dawn.” Joyce snapped at the light profanity from her youngest daughter.

“What? That’s the right word for it. This town is literally damned.” Dawn went on to protest her mother’s reprimand. “What with all the evil, and the more evil, and the really really evil going on under our feet.”

It was at this time Cassie decided to join her girlfriend’s ramblings. “Closing the hellmouth is gonna be quite the show. I’m pretty sure Buffy’s exact words will be, “I'm standing on the mouth of hell, and it is gonna swallow me whole. And it'll choke on me.”

“Oh my god, can you two stop helping? You’re just freaking Mom out more.” Buffy rolled her eyes at the younger couple before turning back to her mother. “Willow said the big colleges will accept transfer applications from students of other universities easier than they do high school graduates. Once I’m done with U.C. Sunnydale, and literally everyone is done with Sunnydale, Willow said I could go to any major university I wanted. She told me about the Seven Sisters Universities and the Ivy League. All the other U.C. campuses.” There was a pause before she looked to Giles. “Willow even gave me the acceptance pamphlets and the promo booklets she got from Oxford in case I wanted to carry on a certain family tradition.”

Joyce gasped as she took in Buffy’s meaning. She turned to her boyfriend and found tears in the man’s eyes. Giles did his best to act the part of a reserved Brit. “Oxford is wonderful, Buffy. I’m sure you’d love the campus. My time there wasn’t the best example, but it is a lovely place. My only wish is that I had enjoyed it more while I had the opportunity.”

The obvious impact Buffy’s words had on Giles helped Joyce ease herself into the plan “the universe” and the girls next door had already laid out for her daughter. “I’m sure Oxford is spectacular.” She paused before turning back to the two younger girls snickering at one end of the dinner table. “Now what is all this doom and gloom talk? You girls are acting like Buffy is going to blow up the whole town.”

“Oh, she for sure is gonna blow this whole place to hell,” Dawn said as she scooped up another spoonful or Giles’ mushy peas and covered them with the Tabasco sauce and peanut butter mixture she used the way most people used salt and pepper. “Just look at her old school and her old, old school’s gym. Sorry, Buffy, but you have an M.O., and it involves liberal use of fire. It’ll be fine though. Willow is probably already buying up businesses all over town and hiring people just so she can “transfer” them out of Buffy’s blast radius.”

“Ugh.” Buffy let out a groan as she let her head smack against the table. “I just realized that is totally what she’s been doing.”

Warm laughter filled the dining room in the wake of the Slayer’s distress. The Summers family and all those caught in its gravity knew the dangers. They knew the risks. More importantly, they knew how to face the odds stacked against them. It was as Dawn said. They would face the darkness together, as a family.

*****

A small private jet rolled to a stop by a closed hangar. The door to the plane opened. An imposing figure stepped out of the open hatch, surveying the darkened tarmac of the Sunnydale international airport before stepping onto the stairs built into the plane door. At first glance, the figure looked human. Looming tall, with waning muscle just beginning to encroach on flabbiness from the passage of time. A thinning hairline was pulled back in a graying ponytail. A fine snakeskin jacket and matching boots did little to draw the eye away from a large black tattoo of a serpent winding its way from the chest, up the neck, vanishing into the hairline. Another serpent tattoo emerging from the hairline on the other side of the face, working its way back down to the chest. The figure looked human enough, though a more trained eye could easily spot the subtle signs that gave away their true nature.

The snake bearing a striking resemblance to a man descended the stairs, clutching a massive box made of aged metal, tinged green after centuries of corrosion and neglect. One of the handles on the side of the box was handcuffed to the snake’s wrist. The box rattled and hissed with each step the snake took towards the waiting limo. As the snake approached the limo one of the rear doors opened. The snake came to a halt as a slight but confident man with wavy hair stepped out. The man extended a hand to the limo’s unseen occupant, a tall slender woman with light brown hair. The woman took one look at the hand, rolled her eyes, and cast a glare at its owner as she stepped out of the limo without anyone’s assistance. The snake sighed as the pair of sharply dressed lawyers turned and offered perfunctory greetings.

Lilah wore a patently false smile as she spoke. “Mr. Ophidian, lovely to meet you.”

The Snake dismissed the woman’s pleasantries with a gruff sigh as he spoke to Lindsey. “They in the car?”

“We’ll be taking you to the meeting site,” Lindsey assured the snake with a gesture to the open limo door. “Hop in.”

One snakeskin clad boot whipped out and struck the car door, closing it with a bang. “The senior partners were supposed to be here. In person. With the money.” The snake leaned back, its arms still firmly holding the ancient metallic box. “Well, the price just went up. I don’t like surprises.”

Lilah gave a faint smirk as she looked the snake up and down. She had known the meeting would not go according to plan. The snake had called to change the meeting time and the price at least a half dozen times. Always finding some flimsy excuse to make new demands. With every passing second, there was less and less chance they would be able to talk the courier into handing over the box, no matter how much they offered above the price they had already agreed on. Lilah and Lindsey knew this going into the meeting. Thankfully there was always at least one backup plan. Lilah smiled at the snake. Then she turned and smiled at Lindsey. She brought up one hand and brushed nonexistent lent off the shoulder of the other lawyer’s suit jacket. She gave Lindsey one last smirk before opening the limo door and climbing back inside.

Lindsey just sighed and waited. He looked to the snake. “So what’s the deal with the tattoos? Why bother trying to look that human if you’re just gonna slap a giant snake cult logo all over your face?”

Confusion filled the snake’s eyes for an instant. It was immediately replaced with shock and horror as a soft popping sound came from the shadows several yards behind the snake. The snake looked down to see a dark red stain spreading across the tacky Hawaiian shirt worn under the snakeskin jacket. The figure staggered, slumped, and fell to the airport tarmac with a wet thud.

“Good work, Bob,” Lindsey called out as the mercenary stepped out of the shadows of the cargo containers by the closed hangar.

“Thank you, Mr. McDonald,” Bob said before looking up to the roof of the hangar and sighing wearily. “Steve, get your ass down here and help me secure the package.”

Shrill crooning filled the air as yet another figure emerged from the shadows, dropped a line from the roof of the hangar, and began to rappel down to the tarmac. “Dun Nah Nah! Duh Nah Nah! Dun! Dun! Dun! Dah! Dun! Dun!”

Bob shook his head, bringing a palm up to his forehead as Steve spent far too much time unhooking himself from the rappelling harness. All the while arrhythmically chortling the theme song to some terrible movie.

“Dun! Dun! Dah! Nuh! Dun! Dun! Dah Nuh!” Steve jogged up to Bob’s side as the two walked over to the fallen snake. As they arrived, the obnoxious mercenary performed an excessive jazz hands maneuver that drew a laugh from the lawyer.

“Don’t encourage him.” Bob pleaded before glaring at his insane partner. “Are you done now? Was that really necessary?”

Lindsey managed to stifle his laughter before addressing the men. “Fellas, the senior partners are waiting. They’ve got a box of infinite face eating bugs to destroy.”

“Right away Mr. McDonald,” Steve said as he pulled a hacksaw out of his tactical bag. The mercenary moved towards the body with the jagged teeth of the saw blade poised to strike.

Upon seeing the grizzly tool Bob immediately slapped his partner across the back of his head. “What are you? Twelve?” Bob then proceeded to pull bolt cutters out of his bag. “We’re not mutilating any more corpses this month. Go get the body bag from the trunk.”

Steve’s shoulders slumped in disappointment as he trudged off to the rear of the limo. Lindsey smiled as he climbed into the vehicle with Lilah. The last sounds he heard before closing the door were Bob’s exasperated mutterings. “I swear. This is why we can't have nice things.”

*****

Lindsey hit the button on his cell phone just as the ritual was completed and the Box of Gavrok dissolved before his eyes. “The boys just called. Your local Lenny enjoys our patronage.”

Jennifer perked up as she put away leftover spell components. “Why is it called a Lenny again? Is that the type of demon it is?”

Willow perked up at her future mother in law’s question. “Lenny stands for Large Edacious Non-aggressive Nether Yielder.”

A brief laugh from Lilah drew more than a few glances from around the room. “What does that even mean?”

Tara smirked as she helped her always up to her feet. “It means some desk worker in the watchers council really wanted the initials to spell out Lenny.”

Willow laughed while the joke only drew a light chuckle from both Faith and Jennifer. “You’re so funny, Sweetie. Isn’t she funny, guys?”

“Oh, oh yeah,” Lindsey said as Lilah rolled her eyes. “You’re a riot, Ms. Maclay.”

“Settle down, kiss-ass,” Lilah muttered to her partner before turning back to the witches and Slayer. “So how exactly does a box of infinite face eating bugs draw such a high asking price from its current owners?”

Willow smiled as she helped Jennifer finish cleaning up after their ritual. “The Box of Gavrok was a crucial step in the ascension process. Sometime between the dedication ritual to become physically invincible until the day of the ascension, and the eclipse that starts the ascension process, the individual attempting to become a pure-blood demon must consume the entire contents of the box.”

“How the hell does some jackass actually eat an infinity’s worth of bugs?” Faith’s question was actually on the minds of both lawyers and Tara’s mother.

“It’s not actually infinite,” Willow said as she and Tara put away the last of the spell components and supplies. “The Box of Gavrok only had about fifty billion or so giant face eating bugs in it. At least that’s what the old Mayor said when one of them broke free and tried to eat his face.”

Faith just shook her head in disgust. “Gross.”

“You have no idea.” Willow agreed with the Slayer before turning back to their lawyers. “Lindsey, how is Anne’s shelter going? Does she need any more help or advice?”

“Ms. Steele’s project is moving at the pace we laid out.” Lindsey was relaxed and calm as he reported on one of the minor assignments he was managing for the senior partners. “I put her in contact with the appropriate realtors. I’ve been touring properties with her. Alonna and Ms. Chaulk have tagged along for all but one of the property viewings, but that one was never a serious option. She’s narrowed it down to three potential sites…”

The lawyer’s report was cut off as light filled the room. The instant he uttered the word potential he triggered the strangest sequence. Mystical runes came to life along every hard surface in the library. Arcane sigils glowed with power and purpose so strong their presence seemed to weigh physically on the lawyers. Light poured from every wall, bookshelf, piece of furniture, and corner of the very floor as a low hum filled the air. Lindsey and Lilah both looked terrified as they scanned the Scooby Gang’s headquarters with newfound terror. Their fear was only slightly abated as they saw the honey blonde laugh and the redhead roll her eyes.

“It’s okay guys,” Willow assured as the room began to quiet down once more. Light faded from each and every hidden rune engraved in every nook and cranny of the library. “It’s just our anti-scrying wards. We don’t want certain topics coming up on our enemies radar until it’s too late for them to stop Buffy and Faith from slaying them.”

Blank stares and more than a little fear still occupied the faces of both lawyers. Light chuckling could be heard coming from both Tara and Faith, while a slight smile was the only sign that Jennifer was still paying attention to their houseguests.

Before any further amusement could be had at the expense of either lawyer, Lindsey’s phone rang. The lawyer sighed before answering. “McDonald.” He listened to the voice on the other end of the line. Faith perked up for a moment before growing tense. “You’re on your way here?” Another pause. “All of you?” Pause again just as both Jennifer and Lilah grew concerned. “Oh, just most of you. Really? Doyle saw what?” Faith flinched as she and Lindsey listened to the voice on the other end of the line. “They’re here?”

Faith moved closer to Jennifer and Tara as the lawyer listened to the person on the phone line. Overt defensiveness in her stance. She locked eyes with Willow and Tara before putting an arm around Jennifer's shoulders. The move was more than enough to clue the couple into the perils ahead.

“Okay, I'll tell them. Yeah, they're right here.” Lindsey looked to Lilah and the two nodded in unison. “Okay. We’ll see you soon.” The lawyer hung up the phone and straightened himself. He put on a practiced and obviously forced smile before turning to fully face the senior partners and their housemates. “So that was Gunn. He says hi.”

“Oh for fuck’s sake,” Lilah muttered as she and Faith rolled their eyes.

Tara and Willow shared a look before the honey blonde raised her head and addresses the lawyers. “So they found us then. It feels like it happened quicker in this dimension.”

“Plastering our faces on the covers of dozens of magazines and industry periodicals probably gave them a clue.” Willow’s voice remained soft as she held one of Tara’s hands. “We’ll take care of them, Baby. I’m not letting anything take you from me.”

“I know, Sweetie.” Tara smiled briefly before looking to Lilah. “But I’m not going to stand by and be a helpless damsel. Lilah, I think we’ll need that paperwork we talked about.”

“Of course Ms. Maclay,” Lilah snapped to attention as the young witch addresses her. She held up the small leather briefcase that had been at her side all evening and began to sift through its contents. “Everything is in order. The documents you requested were among my first priorities when you promoted us. If Mrs. Maclay is ready I can walk her through all the places that need her signature.”

Lindsey rolled his eyes at his partner’s instant shift in tone. “Now who’s a kiss-ass?”

“What… What’s going on?” Jennifer asked as Faith glared at the two lawyers.

“Your ex is in town.” Faith said. The visible shudder that went through the woman’s body was offset by the firm grip the Slayer had on her. “I ain’t gonna let him touch you, Jen. Not gonna happen.”

“None of us will let that happen,” Willow added. She and her always held hands as they stared into each other’s eyes. The steel in her voice was only matched by the warmth in her gaze. “No one is going to break apart this family.”

*****

“Finally! A respectable establishment in this godforsaken liberal hell hole!”

The odd shout rang through the late afternoon gloom of Willie’s Bar. Regulars of the bar turned to look at the bold and clearly unwitting man standing in the open doorway. The man’s confident strides betrayed the fact that he didn’t notice any scales, fangs, tentacles, or “nonstandard” skin tones as he approached the bar. The same could not be said for the younger man following in his wake. Donny Maclay looked around the bar and flinched. He noticed one drunk hunched over at the bar, a few vampires in the back of the room, and a half dozen demons scattered among the booths and tables. The young man dismissed most of them as either disfigured or just plain ugly. The demon with gray skin and jet black razor-sharp quills in place of hair was harder to dismiss. Especially after the creature turned its blood red eyes on the pair of humans and gave Donny a wicked smile full or jagged black teeth.

Willie looked at the two humans now standing just on the other side of his bar. He noticed the handful of demons and about a half dozen vampires in the room watching the men with clear interest. He could easily spot the fear coming off the younger one and the soon to be fatal obliviousness of the older man. He put on a forced smile as he waved off his other clientele for the moment. “What can I get you, gentlemen?”

Donald Maclay smiled at Willie. He was pleased to have finally found a bar that fit his taste and a barkeeper that fit his definition of respectability. “Pabst Blue Ribbon, Barkeep. Two of them.”

“Ah, that explains it. Coming right up.” Willie muttered to himself as Donald Maclay’s eyes roved over the shelf behind Willie. The diminutive barkeeper knew what he was dealing with just from the drink order. It wasn’t the first time two rednecks had wandered into the hellmouth. It wouldn’t be the last. It was a shame, but Willie knew these men would probably be dead before tomorrow morning. The locals weren’t known for letting ignorant tourists slip through their claws. Hell, it would be a miracle if they managed to pay for their redneck swill before the vampires dragged the young one into the back room and one or two of the demons literally split the old man in two. “So, I haven’t seen you fellas around before. New in town? Just passing through?”

“Rounding up wayward family.” Donald’s boast was far too loud for a man about to be devoured by the handful of demons that were just standing up. “Women!” Donald went on to complain. “You know how they can be when they get ideas.”

“Oh. Yeah. Ideas.” Willie went along with the rant as he pulled out two cans from one of the less used mini fridges below the bar and poured what could easily be the two men’s last meal. “My ex had ideas. Always worrying. “That bar is too dangerous, Willie. It’s not safe, Willie.”

“Wives! What do they know? They know nothing about our business. Nothing! She’s supposed to be in the kitchen all day. What’s a wife know about the things we men do, huh?” Donald shouted as he went on to rant, clearly oblivious to both Willie’s eye roll and the demons approaching his back. “You give these women an inch and they’ll take every square acre of land you’ve worked your fingers to the bone to claim. The nagging, the questions, and just look at the way the goddamn, jew run, liberal media coddles weakness and questions authority! A woman gets ideas and before you know it the only solution is for a man to lay down the law! See, Donny? This is what I’ve been telling you since that wretched girl ran off with your mother. This man gets it! We’ll give those ungrateful women what’s coming to them!” Donald’s voice rose along with his belligerent ranting.

Donny was surprised at the ripple of amusement that went through the crowd of demons. What really struck his curiosity were the cries of “That’s right!” and “Damn Slayers!” from many of the hideous men behind the row of what were now obviously demons.

Willie smiled at the loud, hateful, and ignorant rant. It was clear he and this man had two very different definitions of what it meant when women “got ideas.” Though he took no joy in the deaths of humans at the hands of his regulars, Willie knew that these two men would not live long enough to “lay down the law” for the women who had escaped whatever hell these rednecks put them through.

“Here are your drinks, gentlemen.” Willie smiled as he stepped back from the bar and walked down to the far end. He wanted to avoid as much blood splatter as he could until the carnage was over and he had to mop up the mess.

“Dad, I don’t think…” Donny began to whisper as his eyes nervously traced the slowly tightening circle of demons around the bar.

“I don’t think. I don’t think.” Donald sneered as he took a gulp of his favored swill. “Damn it, Boy! Don’t you see that’s your problem? Donald Maclay Junior, I did not raise you to be such a weak little bitch!”

The bar went silent at the mention of one word. Though Donald Senior couldn’t be bothered to notice, and Donny couldn’t tell which word triggered the silence, everyone else knew the only important word in Donald Senior’s rant.

“Well so much for that.” One of the demons muttered as he turned and shuffled towards the back door of the barroom. Several answering mutters of resignation came from the other demons as they all followed suit. Even a good number of the vampires cleared out at the mention of the notorious Witch’s last name. After a few minutes of quiet muttering and trudging the bar was empty save for Willie, the Maclay men, and one slumped figure whose head rested on the bar.

“Oh.” Willie let out a whisper as he tried to parse what was sure to happen once the men left the bar and continued their search. All roads still lead to their untimely deaths. Though now it looked like those deaths would be at the hands of two enraged Slayers and one terrifying redheaded witch. “Oh, that’s not gonna be pretty.”

Before the Maclay men could respond to either Willie or the sudden departure of nearly everyone in the bar, a sullen grumble came from the hunched figure beside them. “Oy! Maclay. You lot wouldn’t be lookin’ for a girl… dirty blonde hair, long dresses, more tits than brains… hangs out with just the worst lot of sodding wankers…”

“Spike…” Willie tried to quiet the drunk vampire but was too late.

“You’ve seen my daughter?” Donald snapped. He was on the leather-clad drunk in an instant. “We’ve been running all over this town! Where is that ungrateful bitch? Tell me, you drunk!”

A smile played across Spike’s face as he slowly but firmly removed Donald’s hands from his favorite leather coat. His trophy of long past conquests and better times. “Yeah. Yeah, I’ve seen her around. Her and her little red bird.” As Spike was beginning to sober up, his British accent wavered from slurred cockney to the posh tones he once favored.

“She bought a parrot?” Donny asked. Like many things, the details and meaning seemed to fly right over the heads of the Maclay men. Willie rolled his eyes as Spike laughed.

Though he hid it better than Donny, Donald was left just as confused by both the drunkard’s words and accent. Donald did his best to hold back a sneer. He would go to great lengths to round up his wayward family. Even if it meant putting up with some good for nothing foreigner. He just had to get the man talking in plain English.

“Now you listen here, Frenchie.” Donald seethed, oblivious to Spike's incredulous grimace at the sound of the word “Frenchie.” “I haven't traveled all over this great country just to get the runaround from some illegal alien with a funny accent. You're going to tell me where to find that ungrateful girl so that I can finally teach those useless witches some respect.”

It was slow, curious, and just a tad bit vindictive, but eventually, the smirk worked its way across the entirety of the bleach blond vampire's face. This was going to be the most fun Spike had since the moment he realized he had no bloody idea how to track down his wayward sire.

“Blimey, but of course, Guv'nah. No need to be a tosser now is there?” Spike did his best to look chastised. All while laying on the thickest accent he could manage and still maintain his pride as a Victorian Era Englishman. “I was walkin’ down this street by the name of Rovello drive, and I comes to this great big proper manor home with no one livin’ innit save for these two blonde trollops and this ginger slag what keeps runin’ ‘er mouth all the time.”

By the end of the cockney gibberish, Donald Maclay was both bewildered and furious. “Damn you, Frenchman! This is America for fuck's sake! Learn English!”

Donny was quick to hold back his father's outrage with the only actual useful information Spike had given them. “Dad, I think he's saying they're in a big house over on Rovello drive.”

“What? How can you tell?” Donald shouted in disgust. “When did he say Rovello drive?”

“Somewhere between calling you an asshole and your wife and daughter whores,” Willie muttered just quietly enough from the far end of the bar so that the only one who heard him was the now grinning vampire.

“They'll be livin’ it up on Rovello drive, Guv'nah.” Spike went on to slight the Maclay men in a language they should’ve had a better grasp on. “You and your bell end may be a right pair of pillocks, but I ain't one to steer ya wrong. I ain't no dodgy git.”

“I don't have time for this!” Donald shouted in disgust. “Boy, you're going to tell me where you heard that street name while we drive over there. Barkeep, give us those beers for the road.”

“Yeah, sure. Why not?” Willie muttered to himself as he lifted up the unopened remainder of the Pabst Blue Ribbon six pack and slid the cans down the bar. “Not like I'm running a business here, or there's any open container laws in this state.”

Donald ignored Willie's mutterings as he had from the moment he set foot in the bar. “To the camper, Boy.” As the Maclay men hurried out the door their exit was witnessed by the incredulous bartender and the far too amused vampire.

As the door closed Spike finally let loose the laughter he had been holding back. “Did you see the looks on those two sodding wankers’ faces? How do you Americans keep ordering other countries around with pikeys that bloody stupid filling the streets?”

Willie just sighed as he came out from behind the bar and walked towards the storage room in the back. “Hellmouth notwithstanding, there's a reason I moved out of a small hick town and came to a blue state, Spike.”

With that, Spike gathered up his oversized black blanket and made his way to the side door leading to the partly shaded alley where his newly stolen eighty-seven Yugo awaited his drunken return. Willie watched the door close behind the vampire. He counted to ten as slowly as he could. As his lips formed the last syllable in the seven he ran back and leapt over the bar. He grabbed his phone and dialed a number he had hoped he would never need to use.

“Hello?” Willie asked after the line was picked up on the second ring. “This is Willie. From Willie's Place. Can I speak to Ms. Rosenberg… please.” He held his breath at the sound of laughter from the other end of the line. Soon enough the voice responded to his question. “Oh. Oh, this is her speaking? Hello Ms. Rosenberg. No, I was just calling to warn you and your family. Two men just left my bar. They were complaining about, well… “women” getting “ideas.” Yes, that's how he sounded when he said those words. The older one said he named the younger one Donald Maclay Junior. Soon as he said her last name all the demons and vamps got up and left the bar. Yes. Yes, I thought you would want to know right away. Oh, and umm… on the way out… one of the vampires muttered something about Rovello drive, and Junior picked up on it so those two rednecks are on their way. Of course, they're rednecks. They snatched up my last few cans of Pabst Blue Redneck Swill. I was about to throw it out, it's been so long since anyone ordered the stuff… Yes. I… you'll have the mayor's office fast track my liquor license renewal? Thank you, Ms. Rosenberg. That's so incredibly kind of you... No, it's my pleasure being helpful. Okay, tell the Slayers I said hi, and maybe ask Faith to go easy on the nose next time?” There was a pause as more laughter filtered in through the phone line. “Thank you. Thank you. Okay, I will. Bye, bye.”

Willie hung up before he could say anything that might draw attention to his regulars or have unwanted attention drawn to himself. He knew the vampires and most of the demons didn't like anyone giving info to the Slayers, but he wasn't an idiot. He knew where the true power on the hellmouth resided. What's more, all his regulars knew it too. They proved it the second the redneck said one of the two last names that you just don't say anymore.

Nobody wanted to draw the wrath of the senior partners or their family. Doing so at best lead to getting a wooden stake rammed into your heart. At worst… no one talked about the “at worst.” Not anymore.

*****

“Ha!” Steve shouted in triumph as he watched the two men exit the bar. Donald Maclay looked up for a moment as if he’d heard a distant noise, only to shake his head and continue walking towards the camper. Bob glared at his partner only to be ignored in light of what the man had seen through the binoculars. “I told you they were a Pabst Blue Redneck Swill household! Look at chin strap over there! Look at that loose three pack he’s waving around. I knew it!”

“Of course they’re drinking redneck swill.” Bob sighed as his partner did an unnecessary celebratory dance. He stowed their gear and climbed down from the roof of the small mausoleum they had used as a surveillance perch. “Those two idiots are living examples of every stereotype about brain dead rednecks in the book.”

The two mercenaries had spent the day following the Maclay men around town. Even Bob had laughed at how clueless their search pattern seemed. The Maclay men clearly had no idea what either of the senior partners did with their time. Nor could they have any clue about Jennifer Maclay’s habits and activities. Sunnydale wasn’t a large or sprawling town, yet the two rednecks had managed to look for their former family members in every wrong place the town had to offer.

Bob gave a dismissive huff as he and his partner climbed back in their van and followed the signal from the camper they had tagged hours ago. “Now whether or not these two pricks stumble into a vampire nest and get themselves eaten, that’s worth betting on.”

*****

“So… How are you holding up? Really.”

The gentle question shook Jennifer Maclay out of the detached haze that had hung over her since the moment Faith broke the news. She looked at her friend and sighed. She tried to answer, only for the raw emotion to catch in her throat. Looking back down at her kitchen sink, she did her best to hold back the hideous grief-stricken sobs that threatened to drive her to her knees. After a long heart-wrenching moment Jennifer Maclay finally managed to speak through the tears that were building in the corners of her eyes.

“I feel like, for the first time in my life, I’m finally content. Maybe even happy. I love the life I’ve built here, even if it’s all going to end in a few hours.”

“Jen, no.” Joyce did her best to reassure her friend. The two mothers clung to each other with all the strength they had. Neither willing to give up the connection they made after finding out about the war their children fought each and every night. “This isn’t the end for you. Your husband isn’t going to take you away from here. Tara and Willow would never allow it. Hell, Faith and Buffy would never let him lay a hand on you. He’d draw back a stump if he even tired.” A brief laugh burst from the distraught blonde only to be consumed by heart-wrenching sobs. It was all Joyce could do to hold Jennifer close, running a hand through pale blonde locks as grief and mirth struggled for dominance.

“I just…” Jennifer took another moment to gather herself before diving back into the emotionally tumultuous and devastating conversation. “I just don’t want them to look at me differently. My girls. Your girls. The kids from L.A. Even you and Giles. I don’t want them to see him and think that he’s the man I used to love. I don’t want them to think I’m some pathetic cow who can’t stand up for herself. I don’t want them to pity me.”

“No one is going to judge you for surviving an abusive relationship,” Joyce promised. “Look at me, Jen. They all love you. None of the kids will turn on you just because you went along with the lies of some manipulative ass. Lord knows I have no room to complain after putting up with Buffy and Dawn’s father and his man whoring for so long.”

“He was different when we were young.” Jennifer paused for a moment. “He was kind in the beginning.” Another pause drew her last words into question. “To me, anyway.”

“They always are.” Joyce nodded along as she heard an all too familiar tale.

Another long moment passed before Jennifer could speak again. “Do you think I’m a terrible mother?”

“What?” Joyce could hardly hold back the disbelief in her voice. “Why would you even ask that?”

“I abandoned my son.” Jennifer went on as tears began to fall freely. “I just left Donny with his father. I didn’t even hesitate when Tara asked me to come with her. I chose one of my children over the other and never looked back. What kind of mother does that to her only son?”

“You didn’t choose one of your kids over the other, Jen. You chose yourself.” Joyce realized it was the wrong thing to say as soon as the words left her mouth and the tears streaming from her friend seemed to double. “I mean, not like that! You chose survival. You were dying in that house, and if you didn’t make it out when you did you wouldn’t be alive right now. You did what was best for you and your daughter, and you knew your son would eventually be handed everything by his father anyway. The only voices questioning your decision to leave with Tara when you did are the ones trying to convince you that submitting to your abuser was the right thing all along.”

“It wasn’t…” Jennifer tired to protest only to be cut off by the other blonde.

“It was.” Joyce’s voice held firm as she locked eyes with her friend. “You need to accept the truth if you ever want to move on with your life. Say it with me. My marriage was an abusive nightmare.”

Jennifer pauses for a second before letting out a strained whisper. “My marriage was an abusive nightmare.”

“My husband didn’t respect me.”

“My husband didn’t respect me.”

“I did not deserve to be treated the way he treated me.”

“I did not deserve to be treated the way he treated me.”

“He was never going to change.”

“He was never going to change.”

“Leaving was the right choice.”

“Leaving was the right choice.”

“I deserve all the love and respect my new family gives me.”

“I deserve all the love and respect my new family gives me.”

“If he ever lays a hand on me again Faith will chop that hand clean off.”

“If he ever…” Jennifer stopped and stared at the other blonde. “Joyce!”

“What? You know it’s true.” Joyce chided as Jennifer stared at her in shock. “You may have lost one son to his father, but you gained so many new children. All the kids love you, but Faith most of all. You’re the only real mother that poor girl has ever known. Don’t think for a second that she’d let anything happen to you. She would do everything in her power to protect you. All of our girls would, but especially the Slayers.”

“Goddess, you’re right.” Jennifer finally admitted as she let go of several unhealthy regrets she had been holding onto. “I still miss Donny so much, but he has too much of his father in him. Even if he could be trusted to treat his sister with respect, he’d never fit in with this family.”

“That’s putting it lightly.” Joyce nodded along as Jennifer’s tears finally stopped. “There are days when I even wonder if Xander is too much of a hormonal teenage boy for the girls to put up with for much longer, but then I remember that Willow has been training him since kindergarten and that he actually might be smart enough to not end up like his parents.”

“Xander is a sweetheart.” Jennifer was quick to leap to the boy’s defense. “I had my doubts when the girls first asked about inviting Xander to live in this house, but he’s been nothing but nice and respectful since he moved in. He doesn't even look at Faith when she traipses around the kitchen in nothing but a white tank top and those lacy black panties your little sexual deviant keeps buying for her.”

Joyce let out a dismayed groan at the easy comparison between her eldest daughter and a horny teenage boy. “There are days when I just want to grab that girl and throw her in an ice cold shower. I can’t even claim Xander as a bad influence when we both know Willow is the biggest horndog of their little Scooby trio.”

“So they’ve finally got you using their “gang lingo?” Jennifer smiled as she traded exasperated barbs with her friend. “Did they show you the sketch of the flag Dawn and Cassie are making for the L.A. kids’ hotel?”

“Of course they did.” Joyce smiled back. “Doyle’s already signed off on it, right? I can’t wait to see Wesley’s reaction to all the rainbows, pink and black triangles, and double battle axes on a bright purple field. They really went overboard with the LGBT pictographs in their first five designs. I’m actually surprised Dawn didn’t just draw two of the women’s restroom stick figures wearing strapons or something equally terrifying.”

“Hopefully one of the older girls will tell them to put a big wooden stake somewhere on the flag to actually tie things back into the vampire slaying.” Jennifer sighed as she heard the front door open and close. Voices flowed down the hall and into the kitchen.

Joyce and Jennifer shared a laugh as Xander pleaded with the Slayers to help him carry in the few dozen pizzas still waiting in the car. Joyce caught another hesitant look in her friend’s eyes before pulling the other blonde into yet another reassuring hug. “No matter what happens tonight we will all be here for you.”

For the first time in what felt like weeks, Jennifer Maclay sighed in relief. She knew the coming confrontation could utterly destroy her. Yet she took solace in the fact that no matter the damage, her family would be there to help her pick up the pieces.

*****

“What is that sissy doing? Letting two little girls carry all that food in the house for him. That just goes to show you, Boy. There are no real men in this limp-wristed, liberal, hippie commune of a state!” Donald Maclay groused as he pulled the camper to a stop in front of sixteen-thirty-two Rovello Drive. It had taken them until nightfall, but they finally figured out what the strange man from the bar had meant when he said “great big proper manor home” in a slurred “French” accent. “This is what happens when those god damn queermosexuals get to vote!”

“Sure, Dad,” Donny muttered as he took in the largest house on the block. As their search narrowed the young man grew all the more nervous. They still had no plan to deal with Tara’s magic, and now there were at least three strangers to contend with while they confronted the Maclay women. “So are we just walking in there or…”

Before Donny could even finish the question his father’s fist slammed down on the dashboard. “That tears it! I have had it with these women! They think they can just move across the country and live it up in some huge mansion bought and paid for with my taxes? I’ll show them!” The nonsensical rant was punctuated by shifting the camper into park.

“Your taxes?” Donny began to ask only to be cut off again.

“Tarnation, Boy! Don’t you see?” Donald could only shout in frustration at Donny’s continued bewilderment. “Your mother and sister are a pair of god damn welfare queens! That’s the only explanation for how they swindled the taxpayers out of the money to buy that god damn mansion. Well, the buck stops here! I’m am gonna go in there and put my foot down!”

Donny watched in complete confusion as his father got out of the camper and stormed his way up to the front door. Finally catching on to the old man’s outrage and reckless approach, Donny did his best to catch up.

Neither of the Maclay men noticed anything strange as they began to pound on the front door of the large house. Neither spotted the eyes watching them from the far side of the street. Neither saw the front door of the house across the street open as they barged their way into the Rosenberg-Maclay home. They never saw the thirty or so armed and aggravated figures file out of the house, walk across the darkened street, and climb the front porch steps of sixteen-thirty-two Rovello Drive. The Maclay men were far too busy preparing a lesson about the negative consequences of “living it up.”

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Time and Time Again


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 Post subject: Re: Time and Time Again
PostPosted: Tue Mar 12, 2019 1:06 am 
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9. Gay Now
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Location: Beyond the orbit of Mars and accelerating...
Dayum. Who pissed you off recently?
Were they perhaps of the necked, and reddish persuasion? :)

Well, i think we might be about to see our first human combustion brought about by pure furious glares.
Bring it on! :bounce

R :flower

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How i Met Your Mother - By Ariel


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 Post subject: Re: Time and Time Again
PostPosted: Tue Mar 12, 2019 2:19 am 
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Hi Azirahael.

Oh don't worry. There's so much more redneck shaming to come. Just wait till all the characters are crammed into one room together.

Considering the depths of the abuse and lies Tara, and presumably her mother, had to suffer through, I've always thought the show didn't go anywhere near far enough to demonize Tara's relatives. They hinted at the Maclay's "Redneckitude" by having Donny be dumb as a brick in two scenes, but then went right back to having Tara's father put on a Father Knows Best / all knowing 50's TV Dad tone.

Willow will most likely comment on this in a later chapter, but they've faced off against many different versions on Donald Maclay Sr. The one in this chapter isn't the most brazenly ignorant, and the one in the original show wasn't the most reserved and seemingly rational. But deep down the same prejudice and arrogance is the driving motivation behind most versions of the man.

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 Post subject: Re: Time and Time Again
PostPosted: Wed Mar 13, 2019 4:05 pm 
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Time and Time Again.

Author: Citanul

Feedback: Be kind, rewind? Seriously though all feedback is welcome.

Spoilers: Just about all of them. Go watch the show. And Angel too. Also Agents of Shield a little bit. You know what, if a name you don’t recognize pops up most of the time you can find dozens of pages of character bio if you type that name and the word comics into Wikipedia. It’s almost scary how much page space comic book fans have taken up on that site.

Rating: NC-17 = Smutty smut smut smut. Seriously though they make love quite often.

Pairings: W/T, B/F, G/J, D/J, F/G, A/?, X/A. Also D/C (Though not till they’re older and even then maybe not so much with the graphic detail.)

Disclaimer: You all know I don’t own the rights to characters you’ve seen on TV.

Summary: A story of reincarnation and interdimensional travel made possible through the power of love. What misfortunes will our two favorite love birds be able to prevent with the aid of experience from countless past lives?

Author’s Note: And here's the conclusion. Fair warning, Donny is a racist redneck and Donald is the kind of puritanical, homophobic, bible thumping hate-monger that you only see in reruns of Duck Dynasty, the halls of congress, and political rallies where everyone paid triple market value for ugly red hats. So what happens when you put them in a room with at least 5 lesbians, around 15 to 30 non white teens, and 2 "foreigners" with funny accents? Spoilers, It ain't pretty.

*****

Chapter 40: Family Part Two

Loud banging filled the air. All eyes shot towards the hall leading to the front door. Every member of the odd but close-knit family knew who was responsible for the racket. The Slayers turned to the adults in the room. Joyce and Giles shared resolute glances before putting reassuring hands on Jennifer’s shoulders. Only once Jennifer Maclay nodded to the Slayers did they turn to face the other teens. Xander gave a nod and a military salute which only drew eye rolls from both Slayers. Cassie mirrored the young man’s salute as Dawn let out a huff and skipped off towards the front door. A moment later the banging on the front door was replaced with outraged shouting.

“Out of my way!” Donald Maclay roared as he brushed Dawn aside. “Where is she? Woman!” He shouted while coming around the corner and into the main living room of the Rosenberg Maclay household. His voice only stilled once his eyes landed on the woman he married. A sneer curled his lips before twisting into a sinister smirk. “Well, look at that. I’ve finally found you.”

“Dad,” Donny half growled, half pleaded to his father as he came into the room and looked over the crowd they had not accounted for. He blinked in surprise as his eyes focused on his mother. “Hey, Mom,” he said with a small wave.

“Hello, Donny,” Jennifer said, completely ignoring her husband. “It’s been a long time.”

“Enough of that!” Donald snapped as he took another step forward. “We’re all leaving! Where is that ungrateful girl? It’s time for the both of you to come home!”

Jennifer let out a sigh before straightening her shoulders and looking her husband in the eye. “This is my home, Donald.”

“Woman, I have had it with…” He took three more angry steps forward only to come up short as both Buffy and Faith stepped in his path. “Is this a joke?”

“Yeah.” Faith smiled at the intruder. Those who knew her recognized that smile as the one reserved for the monsters she hunted each and every night. “It’s a real funny one too.”

“Dad.” Donny’s plea once more fell on deaf ears. Though the danger flew over Donald Maclay’s head, for once Donny Maclay was smart enough to see the threat for what it was. The two girls standing before his father were more dangerous than any witch or demon the fool had ever ranted and raved about.

“Quiet, Boy!” Donald snapped as the last of his limited patience ran out. “I have had enough of this insolent little tantrum from all of you. I am here for the women. They’re coming home where their sinful urges can be put down. Now, where is Tara?”

“Right here, Dad.” All eyes turned to the archway behind the Maclay men. Tara stood just a few paces behind her father and brother. She smiled as she walked into the living room, hand in hand with Willow. The redhead scowled at the intruders as she held the hand of her always. They made a wide circle, coming to stand in front of Jennifer, Joyce, and Giles. Following along in the wake of the two witches were a pair of smirking lawyers who cast forced smiles at the Sunnydale residents, and more than a few scowls at each other. The male lawyer looked to the Maclay men and barely held back a laugh. He shook his head as the taller lawyer rolled her eyes.

Tara smiled at the assembled members of her family before turning to face her father and brother. Before she could speak a soft knocking came from the front door. The honey blonde witch smiled and nodded to Dawn who skipped off down the hall again.

“Well, it looks like the gang’s all here,” Tara spoke in calm even tones as the front door opened and the sound of dozens of footsteps filtered down the hall. “We can begin.”

“Damn it, girl,” Donald muttered as he ignored the footsteps coming from behind him. “Of all the shameful things you could have done. Did you think you could hide from us forever? Did you really think I wouldn’t notice your disgraceful behavior? Flaunting your sin on newspapers and magazine covers! Shaming our family!”

The redneck’s rant was cut short by a commanding feminine voice. “Well, it’s good to know I ain’t the only one here with shitty biological parents.” Donald and Donny spun to see a large and overtly diverse group of teens standing in the archway they had come through. The teens were all armed with some kind of melee weapons. They filed into the room, taking up positions all around. Buffy noticed Jonathan standing with Chain and Rondell. She cast a questioning look to Alonna, only to receive an eye roll and a shrug before both Slayers turned all their attention back to Tara’s father. Jennifer’s unwitting ex.

Towards the back of the new group of arrivals, three men stood, blocking the archway connecting the hallway to the living room and any hope of escape. One dressed in glasses and tweed held up his nose at the Maclay men. Another man dressed in black leaned against the wall while a small smile played across his face. The shortest of the three held Donald with a hard glare before glancing across the room to Jennifer.

Any further complaints from Donald Maclay died in his throat as it became apparent that he and his son were now surrounded by roughly thirty people who would not let them have their way. For once, he was speechless. If only the same could be said for his son.

“Wow. Dang, Tara.” Donny let out a whistle as he surveyed the mix of angry and annoyed faces glaring at him. “This is more people than you met back home. Might be more people than went to our high school. Definitely more of a mixed bag, what with all the coloreds too.”

“Ooh…” Xander let out a groan of chagrin as more than a few hands gripped weapons all the tighter. “Beard-guy, know your audience.”

“Donny, I spend a lot of my time trying to convince my friends and loved ones that not all people from Alabama are racist, inbred, rednecks.” Tara’s soft rebuke almost flew over her brother’s head. “Please don’t make me look like a liar by acting like your usual self.”

The young intruder stiffened at the insult before he noticed the young black woman that lead the second group into the room was staring at him. Her eyes held a dangerous, predatory look. The same look as the two girls who had stood in his father’s path. Angering any of those girls would lead to nothing but suffering and death. Wisely, Donny decided to hold his tongue.

Seeing the redneck with a chinstrap suitable chastised, Alonna turned her attention back to her extended family. She walked arm in arm with Dawn, around the Maclay men and the other Slayers, her brother close behind. As Dawn broke off to rejoin Cassie, the Gunn siblings approached Jennifer and Tara. They hugged both blondes before Gunn went to stand beside Xander and Alonna joined her fellow Slayers. The intimidating trio began to circle Donald Maclay. No one in the room even batted an eye at the sheer malevolence pouring off the Slayers in nearly palpable waves.

With Donny suitably cowed it fell to Donald to once more plead their case. The intruder ignored the trio of apex predators circling him, waiting to strike. He took in a breath, straightened his shoulders, and locked eyes with the only obvious figure of authority that had been there when he stormed in. “Mister, I don’t know what your game is with all these gangbangers and uppity little girls, but the fact remains. Jennifer and Tara are dangerous. They need to come home where they belong. Where they can be controlled. Before their evil spreads.”

A moment passed with the disgruntled southerner staring at the Brit before Buffy finally spoke up. “Giles, I think he’s talking to you.”

“Figures he’d think the middle-aged man was the one calling the shots.” Faith muttered as more than a few laughs came from around the room.

Giles for his part simply smiled and took one step forward. Before speaking he removed his glasses and began to polish them in an almost languid manner. “Ah, there’s the rub, isn’t it. Ever so sorry to disappoint you, but where Tara and Jennifer go is simply not up to me to decide.”

A sneer curled Donald Maclay’s lip as the posh accent poured from the foreigner. Donald’s voice rose as Giles returned the glasses to his face. “It’s for your own good. The women in our family are different. They have demon in them. They need to be quelled.”

The room was silent for a long moment. All eyes staring at Donald Maclay. For an instant, the intruder thought they would see reason. Then the quiet was broken by a giggle from the little girl that had opened the door for him. The giggling was met by a few chuckles, and eventually outright laughter. He looked around the room. Even as the laughter died down it was clear none of the adults were taking him seriously.

Faith eventually drew the laughter to a close with mockery and a particularly menacing threat of her own. “Check out the stones on Jed Clampett over here! Anybody with brains, anybody who knew what was gonna happen to ‘em, would have turned around and started running the other way. But not you,” the Slayer smirked wickedly as she circled Tara’s father. “Ya just can’t stop with the daddy dearest act. Can ya?”

Before either of the Maclay men could plead further Doyle walked around them to stand in front of Jennifer. He faced Donald. He took his measure of his girlfriend’s husband and let the glare drop for a moment. He looked around the room and seemingly spoke to everyone except for Donald Maclay. “Now come on, everyone. Let’s hear them out. They could be onto something with all this demon nonsense.” He looked back to Donald and addressed the man directly. “How much demon are we talkin’ about here?”

Donald and Donny blinked at the question. Of all the rebuttals he imagined, that was not something he ever expected. Donald could only shake his head as he failed to answer the shorter man. “What?”

“How much demon do they have in them?” Snickers filtered in from the teens spread around the room and Jennifer began to blush. “Come on now, man. It’s a simple question. How much demon is inside your wife?”

“Does it matter?” Donald asked as he became lost at the oddity of the questions. “Evil is evil.”

“Oh, well, of course, it’s all evil.” Doyle shrugged off the non-answer. “Still, it comes in all shapes and sizes. Doesn’t it?”

A faint “That’s what she said.” could be heard before a slap quieted whoever had spoken up. Donald Maclay was growing more suspicious as the amusement and questions kept coming. He stared at the shorter man with what he thought might have been a German or English accent and failed to come up with a more detailed answer for the amount of demon inside his wife.

“Okay, okay. Maybe if I rephrase the question.” Doyle said before turning to look around the room. “That’s fair? Right, guys? Give him one more chance to figure out just how much demon we’re talking about?”

“Go for it, Irish,” Gunn smirked as the Irishman returned his attention back to the interlopers.

“Okay, so, how much demon do you think is inside Jen over there?” Doyle asked with a thumb thrown over his shoulder towards the woman he would do anything to defend. “Is it this much?”

Donald and Donny gasped in terror as the diminutive man standing before them changed. His skin rippled and shifted as he threw his head back and rolled his neck. Pale Irish coloring darkened into a dull green hue as hundreds of tiny blue spikes erupted from every square inch of the man’s face. The demon before them opened his blood red eyes and fixed them with a menacing yet quizzical glare.

“Is this about how much demon you think is inside your wife?” Doyle’s accent fell away as his words grew harsher. While he spoke Jennifer walked up behind him and put one arm around his waist. Two of the fingers on her free hand began to walk their way from one spike to the next across the surface of his altered face. “More demon than this? Less? Come on, man! Give us something to work with!”

Laughter again filled the room as Jennifer began to fawn over her half-demon boyfriend. Whistles and catcalls filled the air until Doyle turned to look his girl in the eye. “Jen, Darlin’, I don’t think he gets it.”

“He always was a bit oblivious, Sweetie.” Jennifer’s casual remark was all it took to stir Donald from the stunned and terrified stupor Doyle’s transformation had inflicted. He lunged forward only to halt abruptly. Faith stood in his path and planted one firm hand in the center of his chest.

“Get away from him you stupid woman! He’s a demon!” Donald shouted as Faith forced him back, nearly throwing him into Donny. “Jennifer, what the hell are you doing?”

“Living my life, Donald.” For once the derisive and condescending tone in Jennifer’s voice did not fly over Donald’s head. He was about to lunge forward again until a light kick to the back of his knee sent him to the floor. Donny was about to move to his father’s aid until a harsh growl from Faith stopped him in his tracks. “Don’t even think about it, chinstrap.”

Donald seethed as he managed to prop himself up on his knees. His eye cast about the room, taking in the mocking, disdainful, and hateful expression aimed his way. Finally, his gaze landed on the short blonde who had been staring daggers at him from the moment he barged into the house. The girl’s glare had only intensified after she stepped in his way. He could see that she was waiting for his next move. Donald climbed back up to his feet and straightened his back. Whatever the little girl thought she could do to stop him wasn’t a concern. All that mattered was getting the women to see reason. “This is insane. You people have no right interfering in our affairs. We are blood kin! Who the hell are you?”

Buffy stood firm against the redneck’s incredulous outrage. She stood taller than her diminutive stature would have ever suggested she could. She answered for the group, never once noticing the tears that seeped from the corners of Tara’s eyes. Tears that came forth each and every time the Slayer unerringly told Tara’s father two simple words. “We’re family.”

“Dad?” Donny couldn’t help but stare in confusion as he saw his headstrong father flinch. “What are you… You’re just gonna let them? What the hell?” He shouted as he turned to address the group. “Don’t you people get it? They’re demons! This is the only way! There’s evil in their blood!”

A chuckle came from behind the Maclay men. “Funny you should mention that.” Donny turned to see the black-leather-clad man step forward. A casual smirk on his face. “Their blood is the problem? That’s what I’m hearing? That’s the main point you’re trying to make?”

“Yes!” Donald agreed as Angel stalked his way up to the Maclay men. The Slayers casually parted for the smirking vampire. The expression never faltered as he came to stand within a few inches of Donny.

“See, I just wanted to clarify a few things, because I’ve tasted their blood,” Angel spoke in calm tones as Donny and Donald began to pale. “They were very kind to offer so long as I answered truthfully, and I can tell you that Tara and Jennifer are fully human.” He smiled as he leaned in, his face mere inches from Donny’s. “And I’d know human blood from demon blood…” Both Maclay men gasped and fell backwards as Angel revealed his true face. “Because I’m a big scary vampire!”

Angel let out a melodramatic chuckle and had more than a few of the Hyperion Crew laughing along with him at the now terrified rednecks. Laughter which only intensified as Angel made a show of menacing the two intruders. The display carried on for almost a full minute before Buffy and Alonna cleared their throats. Angel drew back to a respectable distance, never dropping his vampiric visage. “Now don’t get me wrong. Witch blood…” The undead shuddered as he addresses the Maclays. “It’s exquisite. Unlike anything, you’ve ever tasted. Almost as good as Slayer’s blood, but that’s something few of us bloodsucking demons get away with. Demon blood, on the other hand, tastes like a mix of raw sewage and warm piss. So you can trust me when I tell you that those two women are in fact purebred, grade A, human. Accept no substitutes.”

“Says the guy who lives off microwaved pig’s blood.” Gunn and a few of the other boys chuckled as the vampire gave them an unrepentant and mostly shameless look.

“What can I say?” Angel shrugged as he walked over to Jennifer and Doyle. He stood where he could easily shield the couple if either of the Maclay men tried anything. “The witches and Slayers keep me on a tight leash, but the upside of their diet plan is not getting turned into a pile of dust. So I call it a fair compromise.”

As the various members of the Hyperion Crew laughed at the vampire’s antics Doyle, Wesley, Lilah, the Slayers, and all of the Sunnydale residents kept their eyes on the Maclay men. As they watched the intruders they noticed a change. It started off as a small flinch. Then a straightening of the shoulders. Posture growing rigid closed off. Eyes hardening as one redneck saw the other in a new light. They watched as a young fool lost all illusions about the old fool who raised him.

“You lied to me,” Donny whispered as he turned to face his father.

“What, boy? Not now.” Donald tried to cast his son’s mutterings out of his mind. He had more important problems at the moment. Primarily the obvious demon and vampire standing between himself and his wife.

“You fucking lied to me!” Donny’s shout filled the room and put an end to any laughter from the teens. “You made me believe my own fucking mother was a god damn demon! You lied to me like I was some fucking woman! My whole fucking life you fucking told me I had a duty to keep our family on god’s fucking path! You told me I had to “quell” their fucking sin or else their demons would get loose and fuck up our lives!”

“Damn it, boy!” Donald shouted down his son. He had to get things under control or else he would never get his wife and daughter back to the farm. Donald was so preoccupied with his own delusional goals that he never saw the hit coming.

Donny’s fist connected squarely with his father’s jaw. The old man went tumbling to the floor. The strike drew stunned gasps from the boy’s mother and most of the adults in the room. A few of the teens were actually impressed by the fact that Donny had laid out his old man in a single hit. The Slayers were not. They saw all the flaws and problems in the young redneck’s form.

“I’m done with you, old man!” Donny shouted as he turned to leave Willow and Tara’s home. “Never fucking lie to me again!”

Quiet awe settled over the living room as Donald Maclay once more clawed his way back up to his feet. The stunned mood was only ended when one of the many teens lining the room questioned the scene that had played out.

“Did that white boy just make his mom and his sister being tortured for years all about him?” Rondell’s quiet utterance drew an exasperated eye roll from Tara and an almost shamed lowering of the head from Jennifer.

“Donny always did act like the world revolved around him.” Tara sighed as she turned away from the archway her brother had exited through and towards the leader of the gang she and her everything had befriended and financed. “Charles, I’d really appreciate it if my brother didn’t come back here in a week as a vampire and try to convince one of us to invite him in. Could you please take the boys and follow him. Make sure he makes it to the train or bus station in one piece and leaves town. Please?”

Gunn looked to the honey blonde witch and smiled. “Sure thing, Tara.” His eyes circled the room. One finger went up and spun in a circle. The teens lining the room all nodded and filed out of the house. Gunn threw one arm over Fred’s shoulders. The couple walked towards the front door. Giving Alonna a few light fist bumps on the way out.

Jonathan perked up as he went with Chain and Rondell. “Oh, I know the way to the bus station. I’ll lead you guys.” His friends laughed and clapped the shorter teen on the shoulders.

“I shall accompany them,” Wesley said as he nodded to the witches and then to Alonna. “Just in case they run into any local law enforcement and need someone “respectable” to plead their case.” The others could tell by the derisive tone around the word respectable that the watcher held no respect for any officer or official who would take the word of Tara’s brother over that of Gunn. Or even Chain and Rondell for that matter.

The room nearly emptied as the Hyperion Crew left in pursuit of Tara’s short-sighted and belligerent brother. Donald Maclay nearly felt a sense of smug satisfaction as his boy’s antics had cleared out all but a few of the obvious threats. The notion quickly died a violent and ugly death. The smugness lodging somewhere in the back of his throat as he realized the demon and vampire remained to bracket his wife. More vexing was the fact that the three girls still circled him.

“Enough of this!” He snapped as the Slayers continued to circle. “I’m not going to be threatened by three little girls.”

Giles let out an exasperated sigh as he and Joyce came to stand beside Doyle. “Mr. Maclay, you are not just dealing with three little girls.”

“You’re dealing with all of us,” Xander added before Giles could go on.

“What’s more, you seem to have overlooked one simple piece of information.” The Englishman smirked in a way that almost gave the redneck pause.

The sneer could be heard in every word the man spat back at Giles. “And what pray tell is that?”

“Not to put too fine a point on it, but we have a demon and a vampire arrayed in defensive positions around Jennifer.” Giles smiled at the man as he spoke in his most refined English accent. “Knowing what these men are and what they can do, you should really have asked yourself one very important question.”

“What?” The snide flippant retort just drew sinister grins from the Slayers.

Giles simply smiled as he faced down the belligerent intruder. “If we have literal monsters protecting her then how powerful are the, as you put it, “three little girls” who have been circling you like hungry wolves?”

“Nah, it’s more like sharks.” Xander chimed in from where he stood beside Dawn and Cassie. “And from the looks of it, there’s definitely blood in the water.”

The truth dawned on the man in all of a single heartbeat. He had ignored his son’s warning and every instinct left in the modern human psyche. He finally saw the danger he was in. The predators slowly closing in. Jaws at the ready to snap, tear, and gnash. He had slathered himself up in honey and barbecue sauce, then blindly walked into a bear cave. Fear blossomed as Donald Maclay saw just where his prejudiced and ignorant lifestyle choices had taken him.

*****

“What the hell are you Darkeys still followin’ me for?”

It had not been the first racial slur of the night, and from the looks of things, it would not be the last. The Hyperion Crew trudged along through the darkened streets of the hellmouth, following a scant five yards behind Donny Maclay. Though many of them chafed at protecting the offensive redneck, none would act on those impulses. None were willing to betray the trust placed in them by Tara and Jennifer.

“Be thankful we’re here to watch your ass, chinstrap.” Chain shouted back.

Mutterings of agreement came from others in the Hyperion Crew until an unexpected voice addresses Donny directly. “You’re gonna want to take the next right at this intersection.”

Donny scoffed and spit on the ground before replying to Jonathan’s casual directions. “What the hell is that supposed to mean, race traitor? I ain’t takin’ lip from some pussy who pals around with this many spooks.”

“Hey man, if you don’t want to make it to the bus station alive and in one piece that’s fine.” Gunn shot back before either Chain or Rondell could leap to their friend's defense. “But we got orders to make sure you make it out of this town alive. So shut your mouth and keep walking towards the bus station. You can get yourself eaten after you cross the state line.”

“You threatening me, boy?” Donny’s abrasive retort actually drew laughter from several members of the Hyperion Crew, and a sly smile from Gunn.

“Nah, son.” Gunn laughed off Donny’s racist nicknames. “If I was threatening you, you’d be able to tell. What with my foot being planted up your narrow ass and my girl here holdin’ her blade to your throat.”

“Oh, that’s it!” Donny shouted as he turned to face his unenthusiastic guard detail. “It’s been too long since I skinned a coon.” The brash redneck stormed up to the calm gang leader, only to come up short as a curved sword almost shaped like a question mark, and a battle axe forged from a hubcap came to rest on either side of his neck. Donny looked around to find no less than five crossbows aimed directly at his head. Sweat dripped down his brow as Gunn took a deep breath and spoke with all the calm and restraint he could muster.

“I get it, Donny-Boy.” Gunn locked eyes with the redneck as he eased back on his axe. “You don’t like us, and we don’t like you. That’s fine. We don’t got to like each other. We can hate on you and you can hate on us all you want, but we got a job to do. Your sister asked us to make sure you don’t get eaten by any of the monsters in this town. She asked us real nice like to walk your ungrateful racist ass to the bus station and watch you get on the next bus out of the hellmouth. So that’s what we’re gonna do.”

Donny was once again at a loss for words. He had known all his life how dangerous gangbangers and hoodrats were. Here he was, facing off against a small army of them. Each of them armed with weapons he never expected to see. Where had his sister dug up three dozen thugs who’d choose swords and crossbows over handguns? Then he recalled the demon and the vampire. Before the redneck could ponder the gang before him, red and blue lights flickered on and a high pitched blaring noise filled the night air. Donny smiled as he stepped back from the gang and glanced over to see the oncoming squad car. “Oh, you boys are in for it now. Officer! Hey! Officer! Over here!”

Weapons were stowed as the police car came to a stop and two uniformed men stepped out. The older of the two looked back and forth between the Hyperion Crew and Donny Maclay before raising his voice. “What’s going on here?”

“Oh thank god you’re here, officer!” Donny went on to draw all the attention of the cops. “I was just walking along when these gangbangers assaulted me for no reason.”

Before Donny could spout off any more nonsense, Wesley stepped forward. “Officer, I believe this young man is mistaken about a great many things.”

The cops looked to each other and nodded before turning back to the odd group. “Okay, you with the beard. You go over there with my partner and he’ll take your statement.” Donny looked offended that the cop wasn’t already pulling out handcuffs to arrest thirty or so people on his word alone. The look was dispelled by a harsh word. “Now!”

The second cop and the redneck walked a dozen feet back towards the car as the first cop turned all his attention back to the Hyperion Crew. “Now, you, Mr. Belvedere. What are you and all these urban youths doing in this neighborhood at night?”

“Mr. Belvedere?” Wesley was flummoxed as a new wave of chuckles went through the group of teens behind him. “Officer, I can assure you that my associates here meant that young ruffian no harm.”

“Uh-huh.” The cop’s reply did little to hide his disbelief. “Alright, I’m gonna have to ask you all to cooperate while…”

“Wait!” Gunn said as he stepped forward in front of Wesley. “Officer, I’d like to apologize for my friend here. He tends to beat around the bush if you know what I’m saying. The truth is we’re a private security firm contracted by Rosenberg and Maclay.”

The cop was all to disinterested in Gunn’s spiel until the very last three words. “What? What did you just say?”

“That’s right, maybe you’ve heard of the fine works Ms. Rosenberg and Ms. Maclay have done for this fine town.” Gunn went on, laying heavy emphasis on the two names that he knew would rattle the cop more than anything else they could say. “Now we don’t normally divulge contract details, but seeing as how you’re obviously in the know I can tell you why we’re out on your streets on this fine night.”

“Rosenberg and Maclay.” The cop whispered as Gunn’s speech drained the color from his face.

“That’s right. We were seeing to a separate issue at the behest of Ms. Rosenberg when the young Mr. Maclay over there barged into their home and started making demands.” Gunn held back a smile as the cop’s head spun around to look at Donny before looking back to the Hyperion Crew in terror. “Luckily Mr. Maclay was dissuaded from causing too much of a scene. As he left the Rosenberg and Maclay household, Ms. Maclay asked us to ensure that her brother made it safely to the nearest bus station and exited this fine town. She was worried, seeing as how Sunnydale’s nightlife has a reputation and all that.”

The cop swallowed any reply that may have fought its way to the surface of his mind. The young man before him had very clearly name dropped all the right names to make both he and his partner run for the hills. Even with their oddly specific knowledge of local politics, at least part of the group’s story had to be verified. The cop turned and briskly stomped his way over to his partner.

“So then the one spade…”

“Sir! I’m gonna ask you to refrain from using any more derogatory terms! Now, what happened before…” The second cop’s innocuous question was cut short as his partner barged in on the interview.

“Are you Donny Maclay?” The older cop barked, startling both his partner and the redneck.

“What’s that got to…” Donny’s annoyed rebuttal was cut off again.

“Answer the goddamn question! Are you Donald Maclay Junior?” The older cop was furious as his eyes darted back and forth in panic.

After Donny looked between the two cops and saw the obvious tension, he finally answered the question “Yeah, I’m Donny Maclay. What’s that got to do with me being assaulted by those gangbangers?”

The cop grit his teeth before looking at his partner. “Get in the car. We’re leaving.” The second cop did not question or hesitate. The second his partner asked to verify the young redneck’s full name he knew they were in far over their pay grades. He simply nodded and climbed back into the passenger seat of the squad car.

“Hey!” Donny shouted as the cops began to leave. “Hey! What the fuck? Get back here and arrest these coons!”

The older cop stuck his head out the window of the squad car as he snapped at Donny. “Listen, you dumb redneck! I don’t know what you’re doing in this town, and I don’t want to know. Just do the smart thing for once in your life and take my advice. Let these boys walk you to the bus station, get on the first bus out of town, and don’t come back. The last thing I need is the brother of one of the Senior Partners getting eaten because he doesn’t know the rules.” The lights and siren blared once as the cops pulled out and sped down the road. In their wake remained the amused Hyperion Crew and one woefully confused redneck.

“What the fuck?” Donny called out as the cop car disappeared around a corner. His confusion was made all the more troublesome by the laughter coming from the group following him.

Donny turned to see the leader of the gang smiling, taking two steps closer to where he stood in utter disbelief. “That should clue you in, chinstrap. The only colors that matter in a town like Sunnydale are green and red. Your sister has the green, and if you know what’s good for ya, you’ll get walkin’ before some bloodsucker comes along to take all your red.”

*****

“So are we throwing him out the door or what?” Faith’s casual remark caused Donald Maclay to flinch. He looked around to the Slayer’s still circling him. His eyes only left the predatory young women once his daughter spoke.

“Not yet, Faith.” Tara gave her friend a reassuring smile. The expression melted away as she looked back to her father. “Lilah, if you could get that papers we talked about.”

“Of course Ms. Maclay.” The tall lawyer pulled up her briefcase and began to rifle through papers. In no time she pulled out a small stack of documents and a clipboard. Lilah set her briefcase aside and walked towards the bewildered man. “Mr. Maclay. I am Lilah Morgan, a representative of the law firm of Rosenberg and Maclay. I’ll be representing Jennifer Maclay in any future legal proceedings. If you wish to contact your own legal representative you may, but in all honesty, things will go more easily for you if you just sign these documents and cooperate with your wife’s limited requests.”

“What the devil are you rambling about, woman?” Donald snatched the stack of papers out of Lilah’s outstretched hand. The move drew a harsh glare from the Slayers. His eyes skimmed the documents, incomprehension complete and overwhelming as he grasped for meaning amidst the legalese. “What is this nonsense?”

Jennifer’s gentle voice shocked the man and drew every ounce of his attention. “They’re divorce papers, Donald. It’s for the best.”

“You’re insane.” Donald scoffed as he dropped the clipboard and documents to the floor. “You thought I’d allow something like this? You’re both coming home and you are going to learn the cost of running off to indulge in sin and depravity.”

“No, Donald.” Jennifer sighed as she felt Doyle squeeze her hand. “No. This is where I belong. This is my home now. I’m sorry, but it has no place for you in it.”

The outraged redneck glared at his wife. The other people in the room all but faded away as his ire came to rest on the woman he had tormented and controlled for so many years. “Woman, I am out of patience. You know your place. If you know what’s good for you, you’ll get in the camper and put this shameful insolence behind you.”

“I really think I’m being more than fair, Donald.” His eyes bulged as his wife ignored every blatant threat and demand he threw at her. “I’m letting you keep the house, the land, the joint account, everything we earned and bought back in Alabama. I’m not even going to bother with alimony. All I’m taking is my freedom and my life. Things that should have never been yours to give.”

Donald felt an outraged scream building in the back of his throat. Before he could roar his defiance and indignation a surprising thought crossed his mind. He looked around the room and realized several important details. A sinister smirk curled his lips. “I see what’s going on here. You thought you could pull one over on me. No, no I won’t just be walking away from this with nothing to show for it. I know what I’m entitled to.”

An exasperated sigh escaped from Giles as Doyle and Angel tensed. “What the bloody hell is this cretin on about now?” The Englishman’s question only drew a sinister grin from the redneck.

“You people can’t fool me!” Donald snapped. “I know my rights. Selling this eyesore of a house will just about cover all the money I wasted tracking down you women.”

No one spoke for almost a full minute. As the quiet wore on Donald began to wonder why no one looked the least bit concerned with his threats. A laugh behind him broke the silence. It was joined by more chuckling from the demon and vampire. Perhaps most concerning was the fact that the tall lawyer burst into laughter, nearly doubling over as she tried and failed to draw breath.

“Oh.” Lilah’s laughter came in staggered bursts. “Oh, my. Wow. That’s precious. Really. Do you really think you have any legal standing in this state? Do you think you could actually get away with trying to sell this house?” Lilah’s cackling only served to further enrage the redneck.

“Woman, I don’t know what you think is so funny.” Donald straightened up as he looked back to Jennifer with a smug grin. “As Jennifer's husband her possessions are mine. That includes this house.”

Lilah paused in her laughter. She looked at the man just to check if he was serious. As soon as his arrogant assumptions and undeserved pride became clear the lawyer couldn’t help her response. Lilah’s cackling filled the room and was soon followed by similar laughter from Lindsey and all three Slayers. The lawyer turned her back on the redneck and threw one last remark over her shoulder as she walked back to Lindsey’s side.

“Have fun with this one, Slayers.”

Donald’s confusion became clear as the laughter continued. “What’s so funny? Any house my wife buys is rightfully mine.”

Jennifer sighed as she leaned against Doyle’s side. “They’re laughing because this isn’t my house, Donald. You really don’t need to make such a fool of yourself.”

“Then it’s Tara’s?” Donald asked before looking at his daughter. “Trying to hide behind a name on a deed won’t work, girl. You’re still my daughter and still under my legal authority.”

“Funny,” Lindsey said from the sidelines as he and Lilah continued to snicker at the redneck. “But even if that was how the law worked, Ms. Maclay isn’t a minor and this house isn’t in her name.”

“Then who owns this house? Some cult?” Donald’s question caused the laughter to slow. As it died out all eyes in the room turned to one person. The slender redheaded girl who had not spoken since she walked into the room at Tara’s side. Donald took his measure of the girl. The redhead had done nothing but glare at him, hatred, venom, and disgust dripping from her steady gaze. He sneered right back as it became clear that Tara had latched onto the first useless feminist dyke she came across in this liberal hell hole. “And just who the hell are you supposed to be?”

The redhead paused before answering. A smirk crossed her face, growing into a bright and far too sunny smile. “Oh, how rude of me. It’s so nice to finally meet you, Mr. Maclay.” Even Donald could grasp her obvious sarcasm. “I’m Willow Rosenberg. The redheaded, Jewish, lesbian, witch that has been sleeping with your daughter outside of wedlock. We’ve been doing all sorts of sinful things together. I’d invite you to the wedding, but, well, we wanted to keep the guest list to just family. No reason to invite every Tom, Dick, and ignorant piece of trash to our big day.”

Donald could not hold back the rage boiling over as Willow spoke. His furious response was hasty and ill-advised. The reaction from the Slayers was brutal and swift. Donald Maclay lunged forward, arms outstretched. He covered a small fraction of the distance between himself and the redhead at his daughter’s side. He came up short. Faith’s fist impacted the center of his chest, sending him sprawling backwards faster than he could have moved on his own. Before he could impact with the floor or the far wall his stomach came in contact with a solid knee. Alonna smirked as she picked the crumpled redneck off of her knee and tossed him across the room. He went flying for the briefest of instances, only stopping when his torso slammed into an outstretched arm that felt like it was forged from solid iron.

The arrogant fool struggled for breath after having it beaten out of him three times in rapid succession. Gasping, he barely noticed as he was pulled back and lifted into the air. A hand wrapped around his throat in a viselike grip. Blinking back tears, Donald’s vision was filled by furious hazel eyes. When the Slayer spoke there was just as much iron in her word and her gaze as there was in her arm. Fear gripped his mind just as surely as the hand around his throat gripped his windpipe. No one spoke up to challenge the petite blonde. No one came to his rescue. No one batted an eye as he was threatened with three simple words.

“Behave. Or else.”

*****

“I say, that was rather quick thinking on your part, Charles.”

The watcher nodded his unnecessary approval to his Slayer’s brother. Gunn leaned against the wall of the Sunnydale bus station. His arm draped over Fred’s shoulders. His Crew openly mocking a shaken Donny Maclay. The young redneck was climbing onto a bus that would take him east to Los Vegas, where a connecting bus would take him back home to Alabama. Or just anywhere that wasn’t southern California. Realistically, they didn’t care. All that mattered was they had done their part to follow Tara Maclay’s wishes. Hopefully, they would never again have to deal with Donny Maclay.

“Shoot, English.” Gunn laughed as Fred smiled into his side. “Name droppin’ our “bosses” ain’t nothin’ special. They’ve got the law in this town on a tight leash. The fact that we knew their names and chinstrap gave up his own name was all we needed.”

“You guys should see them at school,” Jonathan chimed in from where he stood by Chain and Rondell. “Principal Snyder is terrified of them. Whenever he’s going to bother Xander or Faith or Buffy, all it takes is one look from Willow and he turns and runs off to pester someone else.”

Wesley nodded and raised his head. “I can’t even imagine the chaos this town would be suffering if not for those two young women. What’s more, after having met the men of her family, I’m finding myself full of newfound respect for Ms. Maclay. To think she had to cope with those… “people” while growing up.” The nearby members of the Hyperion Crew smiled at the overt disdain in the Englishman’s voice.

“Yeah, the boss is a saint,” Rondell added as he watched the rest of the Crew tauntingly wave their farewells to Donny from the curb. “Don’t know how she came out so nice having to listen to shit like “that” all day every day.”

“And the things he said.” Jonathan shook his head in disbelief. “I’ll admit. I’ve got an uncle that we only see at holidays and no one ever discusses politics with. So I’ve heard a lot of those words, but this guy. I mean, he called Chain a… you know… a,” he paused, looked around, and whispered the rest of the sentence. “A “gook” at one point. Chain, are you even part Asian? One eighth? One sixteenth?”

Chain actually smiled at the questions. “Nah, holmes. All my great grandparents are from Honduras. Maybe one was from Puerto Rico or El Salvador. I don’t know where chinstrap got the idea I was Filipino or Vietnamese or whatever. I’d have thought he’d be making jokes about tacos and asking how wet my back was.”

“Shameful.” Wesley shook his head as Rondell and Gunn laughed at Chain’s remark. The bus began to pull out of the station lot and onto the road out of town. “Our benefactor must be a woman of remarkable character to have survived such ignorance and vitriol.”

*****

As Donald hung in the air, teetering on the verge of blacking out, a soft voice broke the tension in the room. “Buffy, you can put him down now.” Donald blinked back tears as the petite blonde looked over her shoulder and smiled at his daughter.

“Sure thing, Tara.” Buffy released her grip and Donald Maclay went tumbling to the ground. The man landed on his ass, gasping for breath as the trio of Slayers loomed over him. As he finally caught his breath Donald looked up from his place on the floor. He could see nothing but contempt and disdain in the eyes of those around him.

“Dad.” Tara’s voice drew his attention. He looked to her as he climbed up to his knees. The calm resolve he found in her eyes set his blood to boiling once more. When she looked upon him there was nothing in her gaze save for pity. “Mom and I are happy. Finally, happy. For the first time in our lives. That should be enough. You should accept the truth and let go.” He climbed back up to his feet, a furious retort ready to be thrown at the girl. Her next words stopped him just as surely as the Slayers had. “But I know it’s not enough to convince you. So I’ll just state the obvious. This is Willow’s home. She’s easily the most powerful witch on the planet, and right now I can tell how hard it is for her to be holding all that power back. So for your own safety, just go.”

Donald’s eyes wandered back to the redhead. He all but gasped in shock at the nearly visible waves of power rippling off the girl. There was nothing but sheer hatred in her gaze. Hatred for everything Donald Maclay was. For everything he did. For everything he believed. As their eyes met he could feel just how small he was compared to the undeniable magical force hiding within the slender redhead.

A chuckling behind the intruder broke the terrifying spell the redhead’s gaze cast. He did not turn his back on the witch, but he could easily hear the smirk coming from the brunette at his back. “Ooh, I ain’t never seen Red this riled up before. Think there’s gonna be anything left of Jed Clampett here when she’s done?”

“No,” Alonna smirked as she kept her eyes fixed on the redneck.

Buffy smiled as she too stared down the man. “Will really doesn’t like to get Jen’s nice clean floors all messy.”

Before the Slayers or the rest of the peanut gallery could chime in with any further quips, Willow spoke in a calm voice that belied the rage Donald felt coming from her. “Tara, this has always been your decision. Do you want to leave me?”

Tara smiled as she looked back to her always. “Never.”

The faintest sigh came from Willow before she spoke again. “Jen, do you want to leave my home?”

“No, Sweetie,” Jennifer said. “I don’t even want to think about how much trouble you’d get into without me.”

With a small nod at the reassurances of the Maclay women, darkness filled Willow’s eyes as she spoke. “There’s your answer, Donald. You know where the door is.”

Donald hesitated for a moment. In that moment all three Slayers took a step forward. Their menacing presence was only held back by Tara as she raised one hand. The girls looked varying flavors of chastised and exasperated as they eased back from the intruder. When Tara spoke, her father knew he had no choice but to listen.

“We aren’t going back to the farm. Ever. That isn’t in the cards.” Tara spoke with more conviction and steel than Donald had ever heard from her. “You have a choice. You can sign Lilah’s papers, and we can all move on. You can walk away and get back to your life. Or my friends can throw you out the door. You may not like it, but those are your only options.”

“Tara…” Donald began, angry, only to still as Tara shook her head and frowned. Willow stepped forward and joined hands with her everything. As they met, Donald balked at waves of power coming from both Willow and Tara. Even with his nonexistent perception of magic, he could feel the all-encompassing power within the girl that was once his daughter. The threat she posed. The undeniable magic.

“Dad.” The gentle words coming from his former daughter cast a stark contrast with the menace of her mystical presence. “Just go.”

He could not argue. He could not lash out. He could not deny the power of the young women before him. There was nothing left for him here. With a disgruntled huff, Donald turned on his heel and stormed out. He stopped for a brief moment in the archway between the hall and living room. He turned to survey the family that stood firm and resolute against his demands. They did not falter under his contemptuous gaze. He let out a single word, twisted into a curse by his own animosity. Then he fled. Out the door, into the night, and back to the camper.

“Magic.”

*****

“I swear. He wasn’t always like this. He used to be normal.” Jennifer sat on the living room couch with Doyle and Faith on either side, doing all they could to comfort her. “He wasn’t like this in high school.”

“Oh, Darlin’.” Doyle’s arm was wrapped around the woman’s shoulders as he ran his fingers through her hair. “You don’t have to tell me about young love. I know how bad that can go.”

Faith smirked as she squeezed Jennifer’s hand. “You been holding out on us, D man?”

Doyle did what he could to hide his grimace with a small smile. “My marriage didn’t end well. Neither one of us could handle the fact that I turned out to be a demon. In the end, I didn’t want to bring her down with me.” He paused, failing to hold back the tired sigh dredged up by the memory of his wife. “I really hope Harry is doing alright for herself.”

“Oh, Sweetie.” Tears built in the corners of Jennifer’s eyes as she felt the depths of her boyfriend’s remorse and lingering affection. She knew the door to his past life was well and truly closed. She could not fault the man for his entirely too human kindness and love. “The fact that you care at all makes you the finest man I have ever known.” Doyle smiled and before either he or Jennifer knew it they collapsed into each other.

Faith smirked, and in a moment was dragged away from the couple by an exasperated petite blonde. “No more goosing along Jen’s sex life, you.” Faith could only laugh as her girl pulled her away. Before her amusement could fully end the front door opened.

“What’s good, Y’all?” Gunn called out as he and the rest of the Hyperion Crew appeared in the hallway. “The good old boy is on a bus heading for Vegas as we speak.”

“Thank you, Charles.” Tara smiled as the Hyperion Crew filtered into the room. “Thank you all for everything.”

“Shoot, girl.” Rondell laughed as the last of the crew came into the room. “After everything you did for us. This ain’t nothin’.”

The young man’s words were met with a chorus of agreement all around the room. Before a full round of cheers could break out the Slayers began to corral people down the hall and into the kitchen where dozens of pizzas awaited. Music was turned on and people began to spread and mingle throughout the house. Tara sighed in relief as familiar arms wrapped around her waist.

“They’d do anything for you, Baby.” The easy assurance caused Tara to smile. The way Willow’s nose nuzzled into her neck drew a pleased sigh. “You’re their family.”

“Our family,” Tara whispered as she melted into Willow’s warm embrace. “Our true family.”

Before long the couple was floating in the middle of their living room. Swaying to the soft music filling the air. Their open display of affection drawing no more attention than a few sly smiles and knowing eye rolls. They had their home, their mission, their family, but most of all they had each other.

*****

“Well, that’s the end of that.” The bleach blond vampire scoffed into an open bottle of tequila. He sat in the driver’s seat of his stolen eighty-seven Yugo, no apparent cares or worries as he watched the ragged camper pull onto the highway. The useless redneck was heading east, into the desert. Possibly home. Possibly to Los Angeles. In either case, he was of no use to Spike. “Leave it to a sodding wanker to waste his life chasing after women he’ll never be able to keep.”

As the glowing crimson tail lights faded into the night, the vampire knew he could not depend on humans to solve his problems. If he wanted his revenge he’d have to take matters into his own hands.

“Right then!” He called out to no one in particular. “That’s enough of that. Time for good old Spike to get what’s coming to him.”

The vampire threw open the car door, empty and discarded bottles toppling out onto the pavement. He leapt to his feet. He attempted to leap at any rate. The drunken undead joined his empty bottles in an undignified heap on the ground. A dull moan came from the pile. Things were not off to a good start.

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Time and Time Again


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 Post subject: Re: Time and Time Again
PostPosted: Wed Mar 13, 2019 6:17 pm 
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9. Gay Now
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Location: Beyond the orbit of Mars and accelerating...
I am half surprised that Willow didn't set anyone on fire.

We all remember that one guy...

R :flower

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 Post subject: Re: Time and Time Again
PostPosted: Sat Mar 16, 2019 9:34 pm 
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Can I get a WOO? And a GREAT BIG HOO!!!! Thank you and Yay for the update! Great, as always. I'm never disappointed with the ways you take the very well known arc and turn it on it's axis!
If ONLY we could have seen Snyder of the TV show cower from Willow!
Hopefully I don't irritate too much when I say,....Can't WAIT for more!

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 Post subject: Re: Time and Time Again
PostPosted: Sun Mar 24, 2019 12:38 am 
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Hi Azirahael. Hi MotherD.

I'd like to think Tara has spent too many lifetimes working on all of Willow's issues. That includes the self esteem issues that got shown off in the show, and her tendency to lash out with magic. Setting Donald Maclay Sr on fire is always on the table. And a more angry, less restrained Willow could easily do so. But the Willow in this storyline/world is confident, secure in her worldly power and more importantly her relationships, and mature enough to know that setting a live human on fire in front of her 30 closest friends and family members is a line she probably shouldn't cross... But they haven't heard the last of Donald Maclay, and the next time he pops up there might not be 30 witnesses holding Willow back.

Glad to hear you guys still enjoy the way I've been shuffling events around and shifting the main series arcs. I've had Willow and Tara outright say that there are things that need to happen. Particularly in the Buffyverse storyline, Willow and Tara are operating off of a script they've based on all their many repeated experiences. But even with that repetition there are many ways to surprise both the characters and the audience.

I'm working on the next chapter. I'm confident it will take less time to finish than the last. The upcoming Sirens entry is on the lighter side compared to the drama in this last chapter. Plus it doesn't have any scenes that have been kicking around in my brain for over a year or two. Those set piece moments tend to ruin my writing schedule.

Act 2 is coming to a close. After Sirens there are two Buffyverse Chapters covering the events of Prom and Graduation Day. And in between them is the last Dark Ages chapter of the Arc. Azirahael, you might like that one or you might hate it. Just by skimming my notes it's going to be all about Cable and Deadpool poorly reenacting "The Departed" but as a long distance Buddy Cop movie. It might even end with a musical number and a Micheal Bay-esque explosion.

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Time and Time Again


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 Post subject: Re: Time and Time Again
PostPosted: Sun Apr 28, 2019 2:39 pm 
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Time and Time Again.

Author: Citanul

Feedback: Be kind, rewind? Seriously though all feedback is welcome.

Spoilers: Just about all of them. Go watch the show. And Angel too. Also Agents of Shield a little bit. You know what, if a name you don’t recognize pops up most of the time you can find dozens of pages of character bio if you type that name and the word comics into Wikipedia. It’s almost scary how much page space comic book fans have taken up on that site.

Rating: NC-17 = Smutty smut smut smut. Seriously though they make love quite often.

Pairings: W/T, B/F, G/J, D/J, F/G, A/?, X/A. Also D/C (Though not till they’re older and even then maybe not so much with the graphic detail.)

Disclaimer: You all know I don’t own the rights to characters you’ve seen on TV.

Summary: A story of reincarnation and interdimensional travel made possible through the power of love. What misfortunes will our two favorite love birds be able to prevent with the aid of experience from countless past lives?

Author’s Note: So we're back to the world of Sirens again. What happened last time? Oh, that's right. Buffy showed up for her "one mortal day every century" and then her send off was spoiled assassins of various affiliations and dubious intent. Then Ivy said something cryptic about checking in on a pregnancy. What could it mean other than the fact that I kept you guys in suspense for way too long while seeding foreshadowing all the way back in the Superman/Lois Lane wedding chapters? Find out now by scrolling down and reading the chapter title.

*****

Primer: Sirens

Willow = Dr. Harleen Quinzel = Harley Quinn = the blonde/blue eyes

Tara = Dr. Pamela Isley = Poison Ivy = the redhead/green eyes

Xander = Bruce Wayne = Batman

Anya = Selina Kyle = Catwoman

Buffy = Death of the Endless = From Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series and a few of her own trade paperback story arcs.

Dawn = Kyle Rayner = Green Lantern

Rupert Giles = Shade

Joyce = Joyce Rayner

*****

Sirens: Atlantis

Forrest seethed as he and his new team stood in the shadows of one of Opal City’s many dockside warehouses. His return to this place was not in triumph. In the days since Riley, Sam, and Graham’s desertions his star had fallen. The Doctor had given him this one last chance to capture or kill the Star Sapphires. Cadmus needed these monsters dead to safeguard the human race.

Looking across the alleyway, it was plain to see that nothing had changed. The warehouse lair was still covered in vines and all manner of plant life. Their targets would not expect a counterattack so soon. They’d easily fall into the trap the Cadmus agents had planned to set.

“Move in.” He whispered into the comm link. The camo clad soldiers skulked their way across the alley, rifles drawn and ready. They came to the warehouse door and slipped inside just as easily as Forrest’s team had the last time. Once inside the door, it became apparent just how much had changed.

“No, we can’t call on the nearby Agorian battlecruiser for aid.” An exasperated voice came from deeper inside the warehouse. “They hate the Drophyds on principle, but they’ve never cared about what happens to the Fongoids. They won’t help the enemy in this attack, but they won’t aid us in our defense. Honestly, I’m not too thrilled at the idea of inviting one of their massive battlecruisers into upper Earth orbit.”

Forrest and his team stopped in their tracks at the sound of the deep and oddly resonant voice. They crept forward, barely noticing all the lab equipment that had once been clustered around the front door was gone. Forrest’s confused gaze landed on a row of glass display cases featuring knick knacks and memorabilia commemorating the lives of several costumed vigilantes. He wondered why the Star Sapphires lionized the last three men going by the superhero name “Starman.” The answer came when a new voice drew his attention.

“Mikaal, I promise we will save your allies.” The impassioned promise did little to hide the man’s refined English accent. “He’ll be here shortly.”

“You trust the Lanterns now, Shade?” The resonant voice asked the Englishman. Even the Cadmus agents could tell there was an uncomfortable level of skepticism behind Mikaal’s words. “I know the Sapphires gave you this place for free so long as you keep the plants watered, but still.”

The Englishman’s response was swift and almost defiant. “I trust this young man with my life. I’m dating his mother for Goddess’ sake.”

Forrest and his men crept to the edge of the former lab space overlooking the warehouse floor. The plants were all still there. The massive crystal screen was still on the lower level, surrounded by a small jungle. Rows of planter boxes still lined the main floor. The only main difference was the large round glowing table sitting near the center of the warehouse floor. The surface of the table held a holographic projector that clearly showed a large fleet of ships passing what was obviously Jupiter. Around the table stood two men. One older, more distinguished, with graying hair and a tall top hat perched on his head. His hands rested atop a silver bird head fixed to the top of a long black cane.

“You’re dating again? Why didn’t you say so sooner?” Mikaal shouted, drawing the eyes of each Cadmus agent. His features drew sneers from the soldiers. Mikaal was tall, well muscled, with a head of lustrous crimson hair and dark ocean blue skin unlike any they had seen before.

Mikaal was an alien. One that the Doctor would obviously love to get her hands on. For a moment Forrest thought the capture of this new alien would easily make up for the recent black marks in his record. The moment did not last.

“Well, well, well. What do we have here?”

Forrest and his men spun to see a figure hovering behind them. The black-haired young man emitted a bright green glow from his stylized green and black suit. This must be the Lantern the Englishman and the alien spoke of.

“Lantern!” The Englishman called out in cheer as thick tendrils of shadow shot out from all corners and bound the Cadmus agents. “So good of you to join us, my dear boy. Come meet my friend.”

“Will these guys be trouble, Shade?” The Lantern asked as he strode past the bound and struggling soldiers.

“None whatsoever, dear boy.” Shade smiled as the green lantern and the blue alien sized up each other. “This is my friend, the current Starman. Starman, this is one of Earth’s many Lanterns. The most clever and inventive of the lot by my estimation.”

“Lantern,” Starman said as he offered his hand. “It’s an honor. My ancestors told stories of your fellow corpsmen and their great works.”

“Likewise, Starman.” The Lantern smiled as he took the blue man’s hand and shook. “I’ve heard nothing but good things since you took on the Starman mantle. I rest easy, knowing that the people of this city have you and Shade looking out for them. Now, what’s the situation?”

“To business then. Good.” Starman nodded before turning back to the holographic display above the round table. “Forty-six hours ago a cargo ship full of Fongoid refugees entered this star system. They’re pacifist nature worshipers who have just survived an ethnic cleansing carried out by a more technologically advanced race. The Drophyds. Fifteen hours ago an Agorian battlecruiser entered the system and took up orbit around one of Jupiter’s moons. They’ve yet to respond to our hails, but they have no reason to either help or harm the Fongoids. Six hours ago a Drophyd scout ship entered the system and scanned Earth. The Fongoids got spooked and made a break for it. The Drophyd ship crippled their engines, but its weapons can’t penetrate the hull. They’re safe so long as we tow them back and repair the ship, but fifteen minutes ago a fleet of three Drophyd light carriers and thirty Drophyd starfighters warped into the system. If we don’t act now they’ll wipe out the Fongoids.”

“Understood.” The Lantern nodded before turning to Shade. “We’ll go now. Will you have any trouble dealing with these guys?”

“Perish the thought, dear boy.” Shade smiled as he put one hand on the Lantern’s shoulder. “Go save the innocent. I shall endeavor to secure this new homefront.”

“Mom was really excited about moving in here.” The Lantern smiled before nodding and turning back to Starman. “Let’s move out.”

With a sharp nod, the blue man was sheathed in similar bright energy to the lantern and the duo flew out one of the open skylights in the roof. A moment passed with the Englishman smiling at their departure. The peaceful mood was soon replaced with dread. The Shade turned and glared at Forrest and the other Cadmus agents. His refined English accent never wavered, though it did nothing to hide his animosity.

“Now. Gentlemen!” Shade waved one hand and the Cadmus strike team was flung over the balcony and suspended high above the main floor of the warehouse. “What precisely makes you think you can just waltz into my new home? Armed to the teeth no less!” The tendrils of shadow-stuff tightened as the Cadmus agents failed to answer. “Come now! Speak up!”

“We came for the Star Sapphires!” One of the men cried out as Forrest felt his bones begin to creak under the pressure of the shadow bindings. “The Doctor wants their heads. Please don’t kill us.”

“Marco!” Forrest shouted just before a thick band of shadow crossed over his mouth and formed a gag.

“Oh dear lord. That just won’t do.” Shade muttered almost to himself. “Well, at least you don’t know anything important. Nothing’s happened that can’t be settled over a cup of tea like proper gentlemen.”

Another of the soldiers began to shamelessly beg and plead, not knowing just how poorly his words would be taken. “Just let us go, man. We won’t tell anyone about your blue alien freak. Whatsisname? Mike? Or Green Lantern’s mom living here.” From behind his gag, Forrest screamed at the other soldier. He felt the shadow tendrils squeeze. From the stiffening of Shade’s posture, it was clear the soldier had said the exact worst thing he could have.

“Oh dear lord.” Shade sighed, shaking his head in disappointment as he began floating upwards on a pillar of concentrated darkness. “I do wish you hadn’t said that.”

Darkness poured out of the Englishman in all directions. The preternatural gloom filled all of Forrest’s senses as a chill ran down his spine. He tried to scream around his shadow gag as the last of the light faded away. Soon there was nothing but darkness.

The shadows faded and all that remained in the dockside warehouse were silent and motionless plants. A few minutes passed and the holographic display clicked off to conserve power. An hour after that a dapper Englishman sporting a top hat and cane stepped out of a dense patch of shadow near the front door of the warehouse. Giles straightened the cuffs of his dress shirt and walked back towards the stairs leading down to the main floor of the warehouse. He had work to do if he was going to secure his and Joyce’s new home, and his alien friend’s new hero clubhouse from any further intrusions.

*****

Light flared out of the cylindrical alcove as a computerized female voice droned on in a monotone. “Recognized - Aqualad, B Zero Two. Tempest, B One Zero. Beastboy, B One Nine.” Light filled the waterlogged hallway for an instant. The machine let out a faint whirring sound as the light faded, revealing three figures floating just above the floor of the hall. As the Zeta Tube began to enter its dormant state the figures began to swim down the well lit and finely decorated corridor.

“It is good to be returning home after such a long mission.” Kaldur’ahm let out a sigh of relief as the waters of his home filled his gills. “Are you certain you wish to join Garth and I, Beastboy?”

The green boy floating beside the two young mermen nodded enthusiastically before opening his mouth and letting a large bubble escape. Speech failed him as he began to flail. An instant before the boy began to drown his body shifted and reformed. In his place floated a large green salmon. The fish looked to Kaldur’ahm and then to Garth. Both the king’s apprentices resisted the urge to sigh as the emerald fish nodded enthusiastically.

“Indeed.” Kaldur’ahm said as it became clear there would be little in the way of conversation from their young teammate. “Garth, shall we present ourselves to our king?”

“Of course.” Garth smiled as the trio began to swim down the palace corridor. “What are the odds he is with the Queen and Tula?”

“Fair to high.” A confident voice sounded off from around the corner the boys approached. King Orin smiled as he and his very pregnant wife swam into view. “Greetings, Boys!”

“My King.” Both Kaldur’ahm and Garth brought a fist to their foreheads in salute and bowed to the blond monarch. The Green salmon shimmied in the water before shuddering and shifting into the form of a large green crab. Long chitinous legs flailed as the crab did its best to bow and slam a large claw against its own face. As the imitation of a salute was offered the green crab began to slowly sink towards the floor. King Orin laughed as the crab floated downwards, tipping sideways. Queen Mera hid a smile behind her hand. Halfway to the palace floor, the currents caused the crab to flip upside down, which only exacerbated the crustacean’s wild flailing. Before he could actually hit the floor, Beastboy changed once more and took the form of a large octopus. He stretched seven tentacles towards the floor and brought one up to his large bulbous head in yet another approximation of a military salute.

The King threw his head back and laughed. “By Poseidon, you boys and your surface friends never fail to amuse me. Come! It has been long since you’ve been home and I’m sure you have much to see to. Tonight you three shall join us for dinner. Oh, and Beastboy.” The Octopus floated upwards, turning so it could face the King with one large yellow eye. “Welcome to Atlantis, my boy.”

The green octopus spun in place and saluted again, drawing another laugh from the royal couple. The King and Queen turned as they laughed and swam off to some other section of their palace. In their wake, they left a slender redheaded young merwoman. The boys smiled as she fixed them with a smirk.

“Tula.” Kaldur’ahm greeted the young woman as he and Garth swam forth to embrace her. “It is good to see you.”

“It has been too long.” She said in a soft voice as the octopus shifted, taking the form of a green eel and draping itself over her shoulders like a shawl. “It will be good to have someone besides the King’s brother, Prince Orm, and the occasional general or advisor at dinner.”

“Are we to dress up for the occasion?” Garth’s question caused the eel to swim off of Tula and onto Kaldur’ahm. It wrapped the end of its tail around the ebony merman’s neck and draped itself down his sternum. The gaudy imitation of a dress tie drew another laugh from Tula.

“I doubt the King is standing much on formality.” Kaldur’ahm said as he pretended to straighten his new Beastboy-eel-tie.

Tula smiled as she looked at her two old friends. “The Queen would appreciate it if you come as you are. Her being with child has limited her formal dress options of late, and no one tries to outdress the Queen or Atlantis. Even Prince Orm has taken to parading around the castle in casual wear.”

“Then we shall join them for dinner dressed in our simpler Titans uniforms.” Kaldur’ahm nodded as the young merfolk and shapeshifter swam through the halls of the royal palace of Atlantis. Though they did not know it yet, the decision to attend dinner in active battle garb would prove all too crucial.

*****

“How much longer must we wait for Ocean Master?”

A chorus of agitated cries circled the clearing in the heart of the kelp fields just outside the palace grounds. The ragtag hoard of revolutionaries and malcontents were tired of waiting. Their masked leader had promised to appear. Yet here they waited. Cowering in the farmlands. No plan. No clear goal. No real course of action.

“He’ll be here.” One gruff voice called out over the small crowd. “You think we’re the only like-minded citizens left in Atlantis? Ocean Master has thousands of brave men just like us, just waiting to help cast down the traitor king and rise up against the surface. He’ll be here.”

The rabble was appeased by the old man’s words. For the moment at least. If their reclusive leader did not make an appearance soon that contentment would not last. The old man huffed and grumbled as he parted strands of kelp and looked up. The palace loomed tall in the distance. It would be a hard fought victory, but they would be victorious. They would make Atlantis great again.

*****

“It is good to have all our squires at home with the baby so close.” King Orin smiled as he swam with one arm around his queen. “The palace was too quiet.”

Queen Mera let out a sigh as she let her husband do most of the work of swimming through the grand halls of the royal palace. “It will be more than loud enough all too soon, Arthur.”

“True enough.” The King admitted with a sigh of his own. “Even with the palace staff, I know I’ll take many midnight feedings.”

“I didn’t know you were equipped to feed our baby,” Mera smirked as she thought of her husband breastfeeding their child.

“I figured I’d just bring the baby into our chambers and line them up with your breasts while you slept.” Arthur smiled at the shocked gasp his wife let out. “You need your rest after all. Can’t have both this nation’s rulers sleep deprived.” The Queen let out a loud laugh that drew the attention of the young merfolk following in the royal couple’s wake. The King soon joined in, and their laughter eased the nerves of many palace guards.

As the royal couple was about to pass the throne room, one of the palace’s security analysts swam towards them with a half dozen guards in tow. The merman looked terrified as he spotted the King and Queen. “Your Highness! Your Highness! Something is approaching the palace!”

“What?” All three of the King and Queen’s squires shouted as the green grouper swimming beside Kaldur’ahm morphed into a massive great white shark with a dull green hue. “What did the sensors show? Is it an object? A ship?”

“Or perhaps a creature?” Garth asked as Tula swam up to the Queen’s side.

“The sensors couldn’t make out what it was.” The security analyst shuddered as he delivered the cryptic news. “Just that it’s on a direct course for the palace.”

Just as the Queen was about to speak, the King’s half brother swam up to them. “We must retreat to a more defensible position!”

“Calm yourselves, everyone.” King Orin held up one hand to instill order. “Atlantis is the most advanced nation on this planet. Our defenses are strong. We will not run and hide. We will face this unknown entity as a united front. If it, whatever it may be, proves to be a threat it, will learn the hard way that our nation and our people are prey to no one!”

Each and every guard brought a fist up to their chests and shouted the standard salute. “Hail King Orin!”

Before the King could smile at the steadfast loyalty of his people he noticed a faint pink glow filtered in through the open doors of the throne room. An entirely different smile filled the blond man’s face as he and his wife swam into their throne room. The squires and guards could only follow in trepidation as the light became more clear by the second. King Orin and Queen Mera looked out the massive windows behind their matching thrones. An orb of bright pink light loomed just outside the palace. It was roughly the size of an orca whale and its opaque crystalline surface filled many of its witnesses with dread. The sense of nervous dread filling the throne room was felt by all save for the royal couple.

The Queen smirked as she let one hand rest on her swollen belly. “Well, it’s about time those two accepted our invitation.”

“Better late than never,” Orin whispered to his wife before turning to the giant pink orb and throwing open his arms. “Ladies! Come inside! It’s high time you enjoyed Atlantean hospitality!”

The pink orb shimmered as it drew closer to the palace’s massive windows. The guards, security analyst, and Prince Orm all gasped in shock, some even backing up a few paces, as the orb phased through the solid walls of the palace. There was no visible harm to the building or throne room as the orb came to rest before the royal couple. Spears were drawn and leveled at the strange intruder only to falter as Kaldur’ahm raised a hand to the guards.

“At ease, men. These are trusted allies and guests.” The young ebony merman spoke in a calm and assured voice as he watched the orb shimmer and fade. He knew all too well who had come to dinner.

Pink light faded to reveal two smiling forms shrouded from head to toe in sheaths of transparent pink light. “Queenie!” Harley shouted as she rushed forth and embraced Mera. Ivy simply smiled and approached Orin. She gave the monarch a slight nod. “Your majesty.”

“Ivy, Harley!” King Orin laughed as he clasped hands with both women, and they, in turn, greeted his wife. “It’s about time you dropped by. We were about to have dinner with my brother, Tula, and the boys. Join us.”

“We’d be delighted.” Ivy smiled back at Orin as Harley wrapped one arm around Mera’s.

“I’m glad we made it in time. You’re about ready to pop, Queenie.” Several guards and Prince Orm gaped in shock at the audacity of the surface world woman. To their utter shock and befuddlement, the Queen only tilted her head back and laughed.

“Oh, Harley. It’s good to have you and Ivy here.” The Queen’s good humor drew more incredulous stares from the guards as the Star Sapphires and the royal couple swam out of the throne room and towards the royal dining hall.

As the power couples left one incredulous Atlantean actually found the words to question what had just happened. “So they aren’t going to say anything about surface world foreigners invading our palace and floating right up to our King and Queen? Shouldn’t we at least talk about the obvious security risks.”

“Prince Orm,” Kaldur’ahm’s voice was firm as the young merman addressed the King’s brother. “With all due respect, those two women are among our most trusted allies. Were it not for them we would likely be embroiled in an unwinnable war with the entire surface world.”

The prince scoffed at the young squire. “You doubt the might of our military, Aqualad?”

“I doubt any single nation which thinks itself invincible.” Kaldur’ahm retorted with a calm demeanor that put the Prince’s foolish questions and assumptions to shame. “Whether we won or lost, war on the scale the out of touch old men were contemplating would have devastated both Atlantis and the world’s oceans. There would be no true victor.”

“You are young.” Prince Orm tried to discount the younger man, even as most of the guards scoffed at Orm’s posturing. “With our new island platforms and the nanotechnology our King stole from the aliens in the Justice League, Atlantis would face minimal losses.” Outright laughter from the younger merfolk and most of the guards caused the Prince to pause and question what was so funny about his staunchly held beliefs.

“Orm,” Tula was almost as entertained with Orm’s prattling as the Queen had been with Harley. “Who do you think designed the nanotechnology and the floating islands you are so overconfident in?”

Orm stared at the young merwoman, eyes widening in shock. “What?”

“Any foolhardy war with the surface would affect the forests of the surface world,” Garth spoke in knowing, almost rout boredom. “Causing needless destruction to the world’s plant life would undoubtedly draw the wrath of the two women who happen to rank among the most powerful beings on the planet and among the most powerful allies Atlantis has known since our King helped found the League.”

“You have not had the chance to speak with Cyborg, or Atom, or Professor Hamilton.” Kaldur’ahm carried on with the most polite rebuke he could give to the misguided prince. “The nanotechnology that has revitalized our nation and reopened peaceful relations with the surface world is the least of what those two odd women are capable of. To question their intent, after what they have freely given to our King, is folly. To question their power, sheer idiocy.”

The flabbergasted prince watched, jaw hanging open, as the young squires and the guards filed out of the throne room in pursuit of the King and Queen. Orm could not understand why his half brother coddled the young merfolk. Nor could he understand why so many proud Atlanteans went out of their way to defend the despoilers and animals living on the surface. Orm watched the group depart. Once he was alone he picked up his jaw from the floor and let his gaze wander to the throne. Soon things would change. Soon Atlantis would have a real King. Not some half-blood mongrel. Soon enough he would set things right. All too soon.

*****

“Sir, your forces are in position.” A Manta guard dressed in a jet black dive suit saluted Black Manta. The pirate-turned-super-villain sat in the captain’s chair of his newest flagship submarine. “We received word from our allies back at base. The Mercenary says the LexCorp Killbots are in place. A few units have gone dark, but that could simply be due to design flaws in the first batch of aquatic units. Are we certain the billionaire’s machines can be trusted?”

Black Manta grinned as he leaned back in his captain’s chair. “Lex Luthor may be gone, but his inventions still rank among the most advanced weapons of mass destruction this planet has to offer. To think a man of his intellect and foresight never pondered the threat posed by a rogue state as strong as Atlantis, no. The Killbots were made for just such a cause as ours. We would be foolish to neglect using them for their intended purpose.”

“As you command, Sir.” The Manta guard saluted before turning on his heel and scurrying away. The bridge of Black Manta’s flagship grew quiet as the skeleton crew readied the reserve units of LexCorp Killbots awaiting deployment in the ship’s hangar bay.

Black Manta felt a sly smirk play across his face. He quickly picked up his oversized dive helmet and fixed it in place. This day had cost him much in the planning, but it had finally arrived. He knew he would owe both Slade and Ocean Master for the part they would play and the reinforcements they would supply his forces. Those were minor concerns though. Slade was a true friend in a lifestyle and business were such allies were nonexistent. Even if the battle cost them a quarter of their LexCorp Killbots, if he were to ask his friend how much of the Atlantis treasury was needed to recoup their losses the mercenary would most likely scoff and laugh off the debt. Ocean Master was another matter. He would most likely take the throne of Atlantis, and given half the opportunity would prove just as much an obstacle as Aquaman. Fortunately enough, Ocean master had secrets. Secrets that Black Manta knew and would one day exploit. If the petty tyrant turned out to be half the fool his brother was Black Manta would end him just as easily. All that mattered was the mission. Once the Atlantis royal family was floating belly up Atlantis would no longer threaten their operations. He and his true allies would be free to move onto greater things.

*****

“So have you guys looked into preschools yet? My old med school buddies always complained about registering early. One of the girls even tried to book an enrollment interview the day of her ultrasound.” Harley’s outlandish question drew uproarious laughter from the royal couple. The former psychiatrist even managed a few smiles from the young merfolk and some of the nearby guards. Prince Orm had a wildly different reaction. Had the prince been drinking he would have clouded the seawater in front of his face with his beverage of choice.

“Atlantis has the finest tutors!” Orm began to protest only to go quiet as the King waved him off.

“Peace, brother. Harley’s words were meant in jest.” King Orin chuckled before turning back to his conversation with Ivy. “Speaking of surface world absurdities, how fares the empire you’ve made for yourself in the logging industry?”

“Oh, it’s doing just horribly,” Ivy spoke with calm detachment that was undercut by the smirk on her face. “Profits are nonexistent, I’ve had to transfer ninety percent of staff to branches and retraining programs owned by our business partners in Wayne Enterprises, tools and equipment are being scraped and repurposed company-wide, and not a single tree has been cut down and sold in any of the vast tracts of land we own. I just don’t know how the industry will exist once I buy up and shut down the last few holdouts who think they can compete with your recycled plastics industry.”

The king of the seas and the queen of the forests shared matching grins that soon turned into great peals of laughter. They were soon joined by the queen, who lost her composure just as Harley finished whispering something in her ear. Both couples continued to laugh long after the palace staff brought food to the royal dining table. Though their amusement easily sailed over the heads of many of those present, all save for the prince took comfort in the camaraderie their King and Queen had fostered with the Star Sapphire couple.

*****

Tula frowned as she watched both Harley and Ivy speak with the Queen. “Should we be worried about the fact that Harley and Ivy are overly interested in the Queen’s pregnancy?”

“Isn’t that a common custom among surface women?” Garth asked as the green octopus seated beside him grasped two sets of chopsticks, three forks, two knives, and a single soup spoon that clearly did not match the rest of the palace cutlery. The squire suppressed a shudder as he watched the tentacles dissect the contents of Beastboy’s plate, drawing morsels of food to the beak hidden beneath the octopus a half dozen at a time. To his surprise, Garth watched the octopus set aside all the utensils it clutched. To his horror, the young merman watched as the cephalopod morphed into a green piranha and began to savage what was left on the plate. Only once he finally managed to tear his eyes away from the gruesome spectacle did Garth address Tula directly. “Don’t most surface women flock together to gossip whenever one of their friends is with child?”

“Perhaps,” Tula admitted the point before admitting her doubts. “Though many would find it suspicious that two women so invested in surface world power politics have expressed such keen interest in the heir to Atlantis.”

“As Harley and Ivy have said before, “What affects the seas affects the land.” Kaldur’ahm spoke in calming tones as he displayed far superior table manners to the green eel sitting between Garth and himself, working its way through a large cut of seared grouper. The young ebony merman paused as a thought came to him. “Perhaps their interest lies in their station within the Star Sapphire Corps. The heir was conceived from a loving union, after all.”

The thought drew smiles from Garth and Tula which turned into laughter as the eel rose up and contorted itself into the shape of a heart. The younger merfolk were soon joined by the royal couple as the adults noticed the antics of the green shapeshifter. Harley and Ivy joined in and soon a matching eel made of pink crystal was swimming circles around the green eel. From his seat across the table, the prince finally managed to hide his indignation. He still could not grasp what these surface worlders were plotting, but he knew they would be of little concern to his plans for the evening.

*****

“So how is David’s little coup going, Slade?” Cheetah stretched as she rolled and repositioned herself on the resort style beach chair. They were sitting along the nicer stretch of sandy beach surrounding Deathstroke’s secret island base.

The white-haired man in the beach chair beside the cat-woman handed her a fresh mai tai as he fixed his good eye on the laptop resting in his lap. He skimmed the readout for the forces he had agreed to deploy and found nothing out of the ordinary. “They’ve just moved into position. All lights are green. Our dear friend Black Manta will have a sizeable fleet of LexCorp Killbots at his disposal. The Atlanteans won’t know what hit them.”

The mercenary and the thief shared a smile. They knew their revolutionary friend would stop at nothing to topple the monarch of Atlantis. Helping him with backline tactical support was literally the least they could do. Before either could engage in cliché villainous laughter, the computer in Slade’s lap let out a beep. The mercenary looked back at the screen. It took him a moment, but eventually he realized the signal from one of the Killbots had been cut. He tapped several buttons, trying to find out if a faulty sensor was behind the issue. As he failed to bring up the lost unit the laptop beeped again. Another Killbot had gone dark.

“Is it supposed to do that?” Cheetah’s question was interrupted by a now familiar sound.

Beep.

“Well, shit.” The mercenary let out a huff of disappointment.

*****

“As I was saying, the science council is making some fascinating discoveries. We’ve found a preserved specimen of unknown origin, and so far its genome is unlike anything… I’m sorry. Is there a reason you keep looking at me like that?”

Queen Mera’s head flew backwards, her laughter filling the dining hall. Orm’s question was matched with an incredulous glare he leveled at the disgraced psychiatrist. For her part, Harley simply continued to squint skeptically at the affronted prince. A sly smirk played across King Orin’s face as his half brother stared down their dinner guests. It was soon replaced with laughter to rival his wife’s as Harley answered his brother’s belligerent question.

“I’m trying to remember if you have a secret identity.”

The King and Queen’s bellows of laughter were infectious, causing more subdued chuckles to rise up from their squires and several guards. The prince was caught off guard for a moment, almost flinching at the insinuation that he held any secrets whatsoever. A beat passed before the prince shrugged off the question and forced out a high pitched laugh.

“What?” Orm stiffened as he joined the other Atlanteans in their laughter. “Preposterous. Brother, your surface friends have the most wild imaginations.”

“Relax, Brother.” Orin waved off the prince as his laughter drew to a close. “Harley, you can’t pick on Orm like that. He doesn’t have our sense of humor.”

“Yeah…” Harley drew the word out as she slowly leaned back. She gradually evened out the expression on her face, not taking her eyes off Orm until she could form a placid smile for the royal couple. “It’s all in good fun. Just some harmless jokes. Fun. Right, Queenie.”

Mera smiled as she took a sip from the sealed decanter holding her drink. “You’re a delight, Harley. It’s so good to have you and Ivy here at last.”

Ivy nodded as she took Harley’s hand. “The pleasure is ours. We needed a change of scenery and figured this visit was long overdue.”

Mera leaned closer and lowered her voice as she spoke to the couple. “The last time we spoke you mentioned the need for regular sunlight. Has that changed, or do you see this visit being cut short?”

“Oh no.” Harley smiled as she put a hand over Mera’s. “We found a workaround. It’s amazing what a masters in botany and a Lantern ring can accomplish. My baby is a genius.”

A laugh escaped from Ivy as she skewered a piece of seared anemone with her fork. “You’re pretty good yourself, Sweetie.” The botanist turned her smile on the royal couple. “We can stay as long as you both would like. We had planned to offer whatever help we could once the baby came.”

“Excellent!” Orin’s overjoyed shout caused a ripple of nervous tension to pass through the guards and servants lining the royal dining hall. He brought a hand up to affectionately slap his brother on the back. “See, Orm. Our friendships with the surface world have brought nothing but glad tidings and prosperity to our nation. Ladies, stay as long as you like. So long as I am King, you will always be greeted in this palace as honored guests.”

“We’d be honored, Big Guy.” Harley gave the king a grandiose flourish of a bow before sitting back and engaging the queen in another story of surface world shenanigans.

Orm watched the ease with which the interlopers coiled the king and queen around their fingers. He could barely hide his disgust. How dare his half brother grant these strangers open access to the seat of Atlantean power. How dare they presume they had the right to wave so much as a single hand through the waters of the royal palace of Atlantis. The sheer audacity alone was enough to reaffirm his commitment to the plot he had laid out with his brother’s adversaries. The time for change had long since come. Change he would usher into the once great kingdom of Atlantis.

*****

Tula smiled as she watched the Queen laugh at yet another of Harley’s outlandish stories. Something about the open invitation to the Star Sapphires sparked her curiosity. “Has King Orin ever extended such an invitation to our other allies in the League?”

Kaldur’ahm smiled as he glanced over to the green octopus inching closer to the plate Garth had abandoned. “With few exceptions, not many of our surface allies can enjoy the hospitality of the palace.”

“Didn’t the martian come for a visit a few months back?” Garth was eager to join the discussion after the spectacle of Beastboy’s dining habits withered his appetite.

“True.” Kaldur’ahm smiled at the memory of the brief meeting. “Though that visit was to calibrate the updated Zeta Tube network and share historical records of the first time Atlanteans met with Green Martians over ten thousand years ago. It wasn’t the social visit this night has become.”

Before the squires could further discuss the odd turn of events, the prince shot up from his seat. All eyes drifted to the oddly stiff Orm as he gave his brother a slight nod. “If you excuse me, there are matters I must see to. This meal has certainly been,” his gaze drifted to the pair of Star Sapphires and then to the green eel coiling itself around Tula’s shoulders, “an eye-opening experience.” With a nod from Orin and an easy wave from Mera, Orm bowed and turned to swim out of the dining hall. His departure was soon replaced with more laughter from the royal couple and their surprise guests.

*****

“He’s here!”

The Atlantean mob gathered in the kelp field all let out relieved sighs of relief as their figurehead swam into view. The lookouts moved back into the kelp clearing with the rest of their fellow patriots. The figure clad in gleaming purple armor came to float in the middle of the clearing. His masked face surveyed the gathered throng. The crimson lenses of his helm took in his followers. It was all the revolutionary could do to stifle the grimace of disappointment. The paltry two dozen mermen gathered in the kelp field would serve no military purpose whatsoever. Unfortunately, they were still fundamentally crucial to his schemes. Once his criminal and mercenary supporters and Black Manta’s reserves swept in and toppled the royal family, Ocean Master would need the support of the people of Atlantis to legitimize his coup. He would need the common people of Atlantis to put him on the throne.

With a deep breath pulled in through his gills, Ocean Master cast aside his contempt. “My friends! Today is the day! Today we take back our nation! Today we grasp the reigns of history! Today each and every one of us rises up! Today we save Atlantis from its worst enemies! Today we end tyranny! Today we make Atlantis great again!”

Loud cheers rang up throughout the clearing. Each and every merman gathered roared their agreement. They were eager to make history. Eager to take back their nation. Eager to end the monarchy. Eager to undo all the mistakes their King was making each and every day.

“Now is our time, my brothers! Join me!”

Ocean Master’s plea was met with vigorous agreement. One by one, each merman present took up arms and followed their leader to the edge of the clearing. As they swam, none of them noticed the thinning of their ranks. One by one, strands of kelp lashed out and grasped the men at the back of the line. One by one, the revolutionaries were dragged deeper into the kelp fields. Ocean Master didn’t even notice their absence as he charged towards the city. Alone.

*****

The two couples shared easy laughter and heartwarming stories as they relaxed in one of the royal sitting rooms attached to the throne room. A short distance away, the royal couple’s squires and the young shapeshifter listened in, growing more at ease with each laugh from the king and queen. The happiness was not to last.

A low rumbling vibrated through the palace. The squires looked up to see a small detachment of guards swimming into the throne room. The security chief at the head of the guard column came forward. He wasted no time before addressing the royal couple. “My King, my Queen. The city is under attack.”

“Who dares?” Aquaman rose, his hand still held by his wife and queen.

“They come from two fronts.” The security chief spoke as he pressed a sequence of buttons on a glowing computer-like device built into one of his gauntlets. The room filled with a bright holographic display, showing everyone the threat at hand. “A fleet of submarines bearing markings of the terrorist Black Manta approach from the depths of the drop off to the southeast. Several hundred automatons emerged from the rocky trench to the north. Lastly, the upstart Ocean Master has been seen in the city.”

“The cad!” Aquaman shouted as Harley rose up and swam towards the hologram displaying the robots. Her ring emitted a soft glow as she scanned the hologram and turned towards Ivy. “Do you recognize these robots, Harley?”

Harley nodded before pulling up images her ring had captured a few short months ago. “They’re LexCorp Killbots.” The security chief adjusted his own hologram to focus in on the mechanical threats. With both images held side by side, it was clear the robots were designed and manufactured by the same man. “We last saw them in that oil rig Deathstroke lead us to as a diversion the same day he and Black Manta attacked the nanite island and our Opal City hideout. These ones are adapted for aquatic combat, but they’ve clearly been stolen from the same LexCorp warehouse.

“Yes, Luthor had many safe houses and weapons caches scattered across the globe.” Aquaman nodded in agreement as he speculated on Lex Luthor’s schemes. “The League has only found a few of them. No doubt Manta and Deathstroke found some themselves.” The king turned back to his security chief and gave the orders the merman was expecting. “Stay here and guard the Queen. I shall lead our forces into the city and repel this attack.”

“I’ll come too.” Harley gave Ivy a quick kiss on the cheek before swimming over to Aquaman’s side. “Let’s go, Big Guy.”

Ivy moved closer to Mera, meeting Aquaman's gaze along the way. “I’ll stay with Mera.”

“Thank you both.” Aquaman gave a slight bow of his head as he mentally prepared for the battle ahead. When he spoke he addressed his security chief who was already entering commands into his gauntlet. “Sound the alarms and call out the troops. We shall show our foes the folly of attacking this kingdom.”

The guards cheered and saluted their king and he and the Star Sapphire swam from the throne room. Kaldur’ahm, Garth, and an energetic green guppy followed in the King’s wake. The very pregnant queen shuddered, Ivy already at her side. A twinge of pain signaled yet another problem that would soon take up more than its fair share of time during the coming crisis.

“Call the doctor!” Ivy shouted to the guards. “This little mermaid has the worst timing of anyone in the kingdom.”

*****

“So a few of Lex’s Killbots didn’t outlast their manufacturer’s warranty.” Cheetah shrugged as she sipped from the drink one of the leftover Black Manta guards mixed and served her. “It can’t be that bad.”

“It is that bad,” Deathstroke muttered as he watched another handful of killbot signals go dark. “They’re not even in attack position yet and they’re getting snuffed out like flies. We’ve lost half of them already.”

Cheetah’s jaw dropped. “Half?”

“Half.”

Cheetah took in the frustrated grimace on Deathstroke’s face. It was clear their friend would not have the backup they had hoped to provide. “Shit.”

*****

“Forward!” Aquaman called out as he lead a battalion of his personal guard towards the frontlines. The city outskirts and a clear swath leading to the city center were already under attack. The rank and file city guards and sentries already engaging the enemy killbots and submarines.

A sudden flash of inspiration came to Harley. She smiled as she turned to Aquaman. “Hey, I’ve got an idea. Call your boys back for a minute.”

“You’re certain?” Aquaman’s question was answered with a wide, almost manic grin. “Alright then. Pull back and form up!” He watched as the Star Sapphire swam ahead. He had no idea what she was planning, but he knew whatever display of force she produced would serve his forces well.

*****

An explosion rocked the building he swam by just as Ocean Master spotted his easily duped allies. “Hold!” He shouted before swimming up to the small detachment of Manta guards. “Damn you, Manta! Your buffoons almost blew my head off.”

Black Manta simply shrugged as he took the arrogant fool’s scorn in stride. “They weren’t expecting you to come alone. Weren’t you going to bring some local color to help with this revolution?”

“Of course I brought…” Ocean Master paused before stopping to look around. “Where the hell did those fucking peasants go?”

“Put a pin in that for now.” Black Manta’s calm voice was enough to drive Ocean Master mad. Fortunately, the black-clad merman’s next words stopped the rage building in the revolutionary. “The enemy has made their opening gambit. Let’s show them the folly of leading with their king.”

Ocean Master spun to see Aquaman and the royal guard approaching the nearest cluster of Killbots. He was briefly overjoyed. Victory was at hand. Then he noticed a woman sheathed in soft pink light break free from the king’s retinue. “What in Poseidon's beard is that surface whore doing now?”

“Surface what now?” Black Manta said just as one of his guards relayed a live feed to the displays inside his dive helmet. “What is that Star Sapphire doing here? This wasn’t part of the plan!”

“Apparently Aquaman issued an open invitation to that piece of jetsam and her green slug.” Ocean Master took no notice of the building horror the sight of the woman invoked in his ally. “Just one more example of surface world filth that will have to be purged once I am King.”

“This changes things.” Black Manta’s muttering went unheeded by the despot at his side. He knew this battle would not go according to their plans. Harley Quinn’s mere presence threw all their plans out the window. He gave his lieutenant the signal to pull their live troops back to his command sub. He just hoped he had enough time to slip away while the idiot Ocean Master ranted about the insanely powerful woman about to ruin all their hard work.

*****

Harley grinned maniacally as she watched the oncoming wave of Killbots. A few quick energy beams from her ring were all it took to divert attention away from the city and its defenders. She now had a captive audience as all the Killbots and a great many merfolk followed her every move. They watched her build up the energy for her next attack, clueless as to what she had in store for her foes.

“My King, is it wise to let our ally face the enemy alone?”

Aquaman smiled as one of his guards questioned the madwoman’s safety. He knew few of his people had seen the Star Sapphires in action while on the nanite island and in the wreckage of the oil rig attack. He knew that after Harley showed off whatever she had planned for this battle, all his people would know their power.

“Don’t let appearances fool you,” Aquaman spoke softly as two masses of pink light formed on either side of Harley Quinn. “She has this well in hand.”

Harley let out a cackle of laughter as the light of her ring formed into two distinct shapes. On either side, she crafted horrors out of hard pink light. The denizens of Atlantis gasped as they recognized the creatures formed from her imagination. As the giants crystallized, the battlefield was filled with quiet awe. The pair of horned behemoths floating beside Harley Quinn let out matching eerie cries as the Star Sapphire added the final touches to their forms. With the wave of one outstretched hand and a delighted laugh, Harley’s creations surged forth.

“Narwhals! Attack!”

*****

“By the gods,” Garth muttered as he watched two pink narwhals, each the size of blue whales, crash into the nearest of Black Manta’s smaller submarines. The manta ray shaped vehicles were reduced to scrap in an instant. With the closest ship ripped to shreds, the massive crystalline beasts turned on the legions of Killbots. The pair of behemoths began to frolic, skewering scores of robots on their massive horns.

At his side, Kaldur’ahm finally managed to tear his gaze away from the Star Sapphire’s handy work. “What is it Beastboy?” The green guppy floating between Aquaman’s squires nipped and swam in circles. It took a moment for Kaldur’ahm to realize what the shapeshifter wanted. “Now is not the time.” More nipping. “No, I’m not going to say that.” The fish gave the mermen an indignant glare before turning into a cuttlefish and flashing random shades of green across the surface of its skin. “Alright! Fine!” Aqualad snapped as he raised one hand and began to shout. “Release the Kraken!”

The green cuttlefish surged forth, rapidly growing in size. Before their very eyes, the royal guard and defenders of Atlantis watched in horror as the largest colossal squid they had ever seen tore through the enemy ranks. Green tentacles as thick as the body of an orca whale whipped through lines of LexCorp Killbots, leaving nothing but sparking debris in their wake. The “Kraken” was soon joined by both narwhals, and the three nightmarish behemoths began to play with what was left of the main force of invaders.

“Aqualad, Tempest.” Both Aquaman’s squires stiffened at the voice of their king. “Remind me to have the palace chef and staff prepare another feast and one of the air-filled rooms for your friend. That transformation is impressive, but I imagine it’s quite costly. He’ll need to rest after he’s done.”

“Of course, my King.” Both boys bowed to their king as Aquaman went back to watching the battle. A large number of Killbots were clustered around Ocean Master and the last of Black Manta’s subs were in full retreat. “Forward! While Harley and Beastboy have their fun we shall strike at the enemy leader.” A cheer rang out from his men as the King led them to inevitable victory.

*****

“This is madness!” Ocean Master cried out as he watched the madwoman’s pink abominations tear through his forces. “Manta! What are we going to do about… Manta?” Only then did the despot realize he was alone with a dozen of the Killbots floating where Black Manta and his Manta guards had once been. One of the Killbots turned to him and began to play a recorded message. “Discretion is the better part of valor. Take this opportunity to regroup and plan for future victories. But next time, warn me before you drag me into a fight with those lanterns.”

Ocean Master looked up to see Manta’s main Submarine retreating in the distance. A few hundred of the Killbots were putting themselves in the way of any Atlanteans or giant monsters that might have given chase. Ocean Master knew the day was lost. He began to retreat back towards the kelp fields.

*****

Anguished screaming filled the throne room as Ivy and the best of the Atlantis royal guard blocked all entrances. The royal doctor and Tula busied themselves with the Queen as the heir took their sweet time in the middle of the ongoing crisis. A pained cry from the queen drew the security chief’s gaze, only for him to cry out in shock as he saw the forms floating just outside the throne room windows.

A dozen Killbots began to slam into the large windows that overlooked the royal kelp fields. The guard chief was about to call his men to turn and prepare for battle when Ivy raised a single hand. A sheath of thick pink light crossed over the throne room windows. It repelled the robots, sending them back several yards over the kelp fields. The merman watched in shock as masses of thick plantlife shot up and grasped the robots. The machines were dragged into the kelp fields as Ivy walked up and took the queen’s hand.

“You and your child are safe, Mera.” Ivy cooed soothingly as she held the Queen’s gaze. “Focus on the baby. Your hubby will be overjoyed when he comes home to find a tiny crying bundle of merperson filling this palace with horrible shrieking.”

“Ivy! You’re such a bitch.” Mera groaned out as she clutched the emerald hand through another round of contractions.

“I know.” Ivy’s delighted smile actually drew a laugh from Mera. A laugh which was soon replaced with another cry of pain as her contractions intensified.

“The baby’s coming!” Tula shouted as the doctor added, “Push!”

Screaming filled the throne room. The cries of agony carried on for what felt like hours until the tone of the screams changed. The gut-wrenching pain of a woman ushering in new life was replaced with the high pitched cry of a tiny voice announcing itself to the seven seas.

*****

Aquaman let out a laugh as he saw a giant octopus made of pink light wrap itself around his palace. The hard-light-construct swatted Killbots away from his home and his pregnant wife with casual ease. It was clear that Ivy would allow nothing to threaten his wife and child. With all his worries cast aside, the king of Atlantis focused all his attention on the enemy who sought to bring war to his kingdom.

The end of the battle was in sight. Aquaman and his squires had pursued the upstart rebel leader to the kelp fields. Ocean Master floated just above the gently rippling mass of green plants. Even with the rest of the city guards mopping up the last of the Killbots, they knew they could take the few remaining robots still guarding Ocean Master.

“You think you’ve won, half-breed?” Ocean Master’s shouted slurs had long since lost any impact they once had on Aquaman. The mad despot gestured wildly as he shouted at the king who stood in the way of all his hopes and dreams.

“End this foolishness, Ocean Master.” Aquaman was calm and reserved as he laid down his demands. “Now.”

Ocean Master threw his head back and laughed. “You are the king of fools! To have so easily fallen into my trap.” The despot waved to the kelp fields below. He brought his hands up in a slow rising motion. Nothing happened.

“Was there a point to these theatrics?” Aquaman’s question was followed by subdued chuckles from his squires.

The chuckles ended as Ocean Master waved his arms more emphatically. Nothing happened. Ocean Master pulled out a small communications device and began to shriek into the receiver. “Now damn it! Come out now!”

The mermen watched as a slight rippling began to move through the kelp fields all around them. They watched as figures moving through the plants became visible for the first time. Garth let out a gasp of surprise as a merman breached the surface of the kelp field. Ocean Master sported a smug grin. The expression soon melted from the man’s half covered face. The figure rising from the kelp field came into clear view. He was bound and gagged with thick strands of plant matter. His weapons, gone. His movements, constrained by the creature binding him.

“What in the name of all the gods is that abomination?” Ocean Master whispered as he looked upon a beast stolen straight from a madman’s nightmares. A huge writhing mass of kelp and seaweed rose up out of the kelp fields, carrying the bound merman with it. The sight was soon mirrored by another kelp monster carrying another merman. Then another three. Then a dozen more. Soon hundreds of monstrous plant creatures were floating above the kelp fields. Many holding bound and gagged prisoners. All the thieves and assassins loyal to Ocean Master, and all the angered civilians he had planned to manipulate into supporting his claim to the throne. The last of Ocean Master’s rebel forces had been dealt with. The revolution had met its end.

“Was this part of your master plan?” Aquaman asked as Ocean Master looked around in shock and disgust. “Because these things look more like the pets of some of my allies than they do your average lackeys.” Another shift in the kelp field drew the king’s eye and he let out a laugh. “Oh look. Speaking of my allies, here she comes now. Hello, Harley!”

“Hello, your Majesty!” Harley cheerily shouted as she rode a massive creature made of kelp. The beast came closer and began to circle the unbound mermen. Its sight drew a horrified question from one of the squires.

“Is that supposed to be a surface world horse made of kelp?” Garth’s question was met with further laughter from Harley Quinn, who only rode the beast in a tighter circle around the mermen.

“It’s a kelpie!” Harley cried out in joy as the beast thrashed and bucked beneath her. “Ivy grew him for me. Isn’t he beautiful? I shall name him, Princess Sparkle Bottom, and I’ll put ribbons in his mane, and enter him in the Kentucky Derby, and we’ll show all the other horses that synchronized swimming is the best sport!” The plant beast neighed as Harley ranted about physically and logistically impossible events.

“What have you done with my men?” Ocean Master shouted as the horror and absurdity of what he saw wore off. Aquaman let out a loud laugh as his foe failed to grasp the enormity of the situation.

“Oh were these boys yours?” Harley asked as one by one the plant creatures began to hand Ocean Master’s conspirators over to waiting Atlantean guards. “I had a feeling that there shouldn’t be large groups of armed men hanging out in the kelp fields right by the palace, but Ivy and I couldn’t tell for sure. Did these guys have permits to loiter in your kelp fields, Aquaman?”

“No, Harley, I very much doubt they did.” As Aquaman spoke the last of the LexCorp Killbots was ripped to shreds in a small tug of war match between the green Kraken and the newly arrived kelp monsters. “So, Ocean Master, are you going to surrender now? Or do we have to do this the tedious way?”

The gathering circle of Atlantis guards could almost feel the tangible rage pouring from the despot clad in dark purple armor. The merman spat and snarled as he lunged towards the king. Aquaman seemed to move impossibly fast as he swam inside his enemy’s wide swing and delivered a devastating uppercut. Ocean Master was sent sailing backwards into a nearby kelp monster.

“Ooh, nice one, Big Guy!” Harley cheered as Aquaman relaxed his clenched fist. “Do we want to unmask him here, or back at the palace dungeons?”

“We don’t have palace dungeons, Harley,” Aquaman spoke in calm tones. His demeanor hid his agitation with the upstart Ocean Master well enough from everyone, save for Harley. “We have a city jail, courts, and a magistrate. No Atlantean, not even myself, is above the law.”

“Well said, Big Guy.” Harley gave a flourish of a bow that the Kelpie beneath her turned into a barrel roll. They all laughed as they began the journey back towards the heart of the city.

*****

“What do all those blank spaces on the screen mean?”

At first, Cheetah had been amused by Slade’s mild panic attack. As the undersea battle wore on, it became more and more apparent that things had spiraled out of control in the most spectacular ways imaginable. Now she sat, pressed into the silver-haired mercenary’s back as he stared at the screen of a laptop which held no good news.

Slade let out a sigh as he closed the darkening laptop and hoped David would make his way back to them soon. “It means our Killbots have been dismantled.”

“All of them?”

“Every last one.”

*****

“We demand to be heard! End the tyranny! End the throne.”

Bound men shouted in protest as their leader, Ocean Master, was led before the Atlantean Magistrate. The cries to end the monarchy and sever ties with the surface world had not ceased from the moment King Orin had ordered Harley to have the plants remove the gags. Now, with all the dissidents and saboteurs rounded up and confined to the public gardens near the city center, and the magistrate floating in front of the wreckage of his home, charges could be officially and legally levied. There was every expectation that heads would soon roll.

“Quiet down or I’ll charge you all with contempt and hold your trials in private while you rot in a surface world prison!” The Magistrate’s bellow could be heard clear across the square as all the rabble-rousers quieted down. “Now! Your Majesty. What more evidence can you provide the people beyond the fact that a third of our city is in ruins and I’m floating in front of the collapsed roof of my own fucking house?”

“Magistrate.” King Orin bowed his head. It was good to hold to formality and tradition when tempers were running high. “My royal guard and my visiting foreign allies have uncovered a number of manifestos and propaganda materials detailing the plans to overthrow the government of Atlantis and a number of ways they could destroy the palace and all its inhabitants. One of the plans matched today's attack, but lacked the army of LexCorp Killbots that aided Black Manta and Ocean Master.”

“Alright, that’s more than enough to have all these men sent to jail and await their trials until after the parliament building and courthouse can be rebuilt.” The Magistrate smiled wickedly as his eyes roamed over the terrorists. “Did the Throne wish to put forth any suggestions about sentencing and the use of capital punishment at this time?”

King Orin sighed as he addressed the Magistrate. “As I have stated many times in the past. The Throne of Atlantis is opposed to the death penalty. I ask that any charges of high treason against these men be withheld and that they merely by tried for destruction of property, causing widespread civil disorder, and any charges of assault or murder that may come up when the full damage of today is accounted for.”

The magistrate looked at the King in shock. “What of their ring leader? Surely there’s more than enough evidence for him to be charged with high treason. How many times has he tried to murder you in the last year? The last month?”

“Respectfully, Magistrate.” King Orin’s voice rose so that all could easily hear his edict. “No one Atlantean is above the law. Justice cannot survive special interests and preferential treatment! To charge this one murderous serpent with high treason would mean each and every accused man here would also face such charges. Each and every accomplice in the conspiracy and all those who benefited would be guilty of collusion. In light of the number of accused and the circumstances of this case, the Throne of Atlantis pleads the court to show mercy and refrain from charging any of these conspirators with high treason. There are more than enough serious crimes from today’s attack and records of past assaults to appease justice with prison sentences. I have no wish to see further blood spilled.”

“Very well, your majesty.” The Magistrate bowed his head in deference to the king before turning his full attention back on the terrorist bound and kneeling before him. “In respect of the wishes expressed by the Throne of Atlantis this court will show mercy! The terrorist Ocean Master and all his accomplices and co-conspirators will not be charged with high treason. He will be charged with sedition, conspiracy, attempted murder for all his previously recorded attacks on the Throne and the People of Atlantis. Along with any and all charges resulting from pending investigation of today’s attacks. His co-conspirators will each be charged with any and all pertinent charges pending a full investigation of the day’s events. At this time the court will hear the accused’s argument. The terrorist known as Ocean Master, how do you plea…” The Magistrate's words trailed off as he looked down at the sneering, half-covered face of the criminal he would gladly see beheaded. “Will someone please take that idiotic mask off his head? I’ll hear any career criminal plead their innocence with a fair ear, but I refuse to take the word of some masked coward who can’t even face his own…”

The Magistrate fell silent as a court justicar removed Ocean Master’s helmet. All eyes fell on the man who had railed against the oppression perpetrated by the Throne of Atlantis. All eyes fell on the face of the man who had attempted to murder the king on dozens of occasions. All eyes took in the features of the familiar public figure.

“Orm?” King Orin was the first and only to speak after he watched the helmet come of his half brother’s head. “You can’t be… How could you… Why would…”

“The throne should be mine! I should be King! Not some half breed mongrel unfit to…” Orm’s tirade was cut short as he lunged forward. One of the justicars brought the butt of their spear down on the back of Orm’s head.

The crowd began to murmur about the king’s own brother being a traitor and an anti-crown revolutionary. Among Orm’s own unwitting followers the murmurs carried a tinge of outrage. Their “hero of the people” was just another lying agent of the crown. Their blue collar, everyman, champion was nothing more than another entitled royal seeking his own glory while riding high off the labor of their backs. Their “people’s revolution” was nothing more than the latest in a long history of royal court backstabbing. Their rebellion and their patriot were nothing more than ugly manipulative lies.

Just as the murmurs began to grow in pitch, all fell silent. The masses watched the king swim up to the bound and kneeling disgraced prince. King Orin floated before Orm, giving the man one last look before turning his back on him completely.

“I have no brother, and you have no claim to the Throne of Atlantis.”

*****

“Well, this was unexpected.” Tula watched as squads of Atlantean guards and large plant creatures patrolled the city. Shoring up damaged buildings and helping displaced and injured citizens in any way possible. The ease with which the attacks had been shut down amazed the young merwoman. The moment the city alarms went off Tula and many of the guards expected all-out war to consume Atlantis. That the invasion was put down in a matter of minutes was unbelievable. The events of the evening served to drive home the power possessed by the two women who came to pay the Queen and King a visit. “Are all Lanterns this powerful?”

“Not even close.” Mera cooed as she bounced and rocked her tiny newborn son in her arms. “This was all Harley and Ivy. Isn’t that right, Sweet Prince? Harley and Ivy are overpowered super witches, aren't they? Yes, they are. Yes, they are. Who’s a pair of big scary witches? Harley and Ivy are a pair of big scary witches. Yes, they are. Yes, they are.”

“Yes, yes. I’m oh so frightening.” Ivy let out an almost bored sigh as she swam in close to look at the newborn prince over his mother’s shoulder. “Be sure to tell all your subject to respect plants or else the big scary witch and her plants will come for them in the night.”

Tula’s jaw nearly sank to the floor as the botanist carried on. “Is that really a lesson the Prince of Atlantis should be learning?”

“Oh, do relax, Child.” Mera laughed off Tula’s concerns as her gaze remained focused on her son. “Ivy’s just pretending. Isn’t she, Sweet Prince? Yes, she is. Yes, she is.”

Behind the queen’s back, Ivy gave Tula a light smile and a vague shrug towards the besotted queen. Tula could only let out a sigh as her ruler and mentor dotted over the child she had just brought into the world. Nothing could distract the new mother from her child. Tula sighed and let a slight smile work its way to the surface. The new prince had proven his audacity and bravado by entering the world in the middle of a life-altering terrorist attack on their kingdom. Not even a day old and already following in his parents’ footsteps. There was no doubt he would prove just as brash and unconventional as his father in the years to come.

*****

“You kids play nice now!” Harley called out to the kelpie and the green plesiosaur playfully chasing each other through the kelp fields. She knew they would only be a distraction from the emotionally fraught conversation that was about to happen. The former psychiatrist swam back to the king and his two squires, knowing full well the man’s emotional state in the wake of the day’s revelations.  

“My own brother.” Aquaman shook his head in disgust as both Kaldur’ahm and Garth looked on. “Neptune’s beard! To think I was going to name him godfather. He called me brother. Looked me in the eye. Every single day.” A long pause filled the ocean currents as the king let out a weary sigh. “I should have known.”

“He fooled everyone, your majesty.” Kaldur’ahm’s calm words did little to cleanse Aquaman’s turmoil. “His deceit is not your failing.”

Garth was quick to add his own sentiments. “None of the other members of the science council knew anything, and none of his rebels knew who he was until the justicar pulled off his helmet. He put everything into leading two separate lives. No one knew.”

“Someone knew,” Aquaman whispered as he saw Harley swim up to them. “Did you know?”

“Know what?” Harley’s cheerful tone did not help the king’s emotional state. The day’s revelations had built up a powder keg of distrust and outrage. The flippant response came dangerously close to igniting the explosive mass of raw emotions.

“Do not lie to me, Harley!” Aquaman shouted back as the Star Sapphire swam to a halt before him. “Did you know my brother was a traitor?”

For once, Harley’s face straightened and all signs of mirth and amusement vanished. “No.” The two stared each other down for what felt like an eternity. Neither giving an inch as they sought to take their measure of the other’s mental state. After seeming to reach a stalemate, Harley went on to admit the depths of her knowledge of Orm Marius. “I suspected he might have been a character from some half-remembered stories told in my past lives, but I had no prior knowledge of the man before I met him today.”

The outlandish statement was enough to derail the fury building up in the king’s troubled mind. “What in the seven seas does that even mean?”

“Ivy and I have memories from a hundred and forty-two past lives.” Harley’s admission drew shocked cries from both squires. “Superman and Martian Manhunter know the details more intimately. I’m pretty sure half the league has some strange ideas about what we told them when we defeated the Red Lantern invasion and created the giant pink crystal ball floating in orbit. You, your family, most of the people you know have shown up as stories told to children in many of the worlds my girlfriend and I have lived through.”

“So you knew Orm was evil, but you couldn’t know the details of his plan.” Kaldur’ahm tried to fill in the blanks as King Orin looked at the woman in shock.

“Oh no, I didn’t even know that much. I mean, I suspected he was trying to roleplay Macbeth or Hamlet and make himself the evil brother, scheming to claim the throne by bloody conquest, but that’s only because a few comic book writers are hacks who think nothing of cutting out all the nouns in Shakespeare to make their scripts out of his Mad Libs.” Harley’s ramble drew to a close, leaving the mermen before her no less confused than before she began. She let them ponder her words for only a moment before forging ahead. “And really, just because someone is a villain in the works of fiction written down in a parallel universe that doesn't mean anything about their personality in the worlds where they turn out to be real flesh and blood people. Hell, do you know what Ivy and me are written like in most of those insane stories? She’s made out to be some half-naked seductress who’s slept with Two-Face, half the Robins, and has seduced every straight man in Gotham City, and I’m portrayed as the Joker’s punching bag girlfriend! So why should I believe anything I heard about anyone who just so happens to share a name with a fictional character in an alternate universe?”

Shock washed over the three Atlanteans like a warm tropical current. None could grasp the very idea of either woman sleeping with the men Harley had just rattled off. Kaldur’ahm knew Dick Grayson’s taste in women came the closest to matching Harley and Ivy’s tastes, but even he stood no chance with the woman floating before them. As for the Gotham City criminals listed, a shudder ran down the young merman’s spine.

Eventually, King Orin spoke. “So you didn’t know anything, and couldn’t have reliably predicted that my brother would have done any of this.”

“Aquaman, the last version of you I saw was in a movie starring a Hawaiian guy with a full head of brunette dreadlocks playing as you and some blonde guy with slicked-back hair playing the king of Atlantis and your evil long lost half brother. Brunette dreadlock you had to travel the world and dodge thousands of red and blue laser beams in order to face his evil brother, save the surface world from the evil warmongering fish people, and become the King of Atlantis.” Harley let that settle in for a moment before moving onto another example. “The version of you I saw before that was a cartoon character with a blond mullet and no shirt who had to chop off his own hand to escape from an underwater bear trap and save his newborn son from being tossed into an undersea lava fissure by his evil half brother. The cartoon character saved his son and got a giant silver hook hand by the end of the cartoon. To this day I still have no idea why blond mullet Aquaman never wore a shirt. Plus, in the dumbest version of the story, your mirror image doppelganger cheated on his wife with Wonder Woman, and then he started world war three when Mera lost her head in the resulting catfight.” She paused for a moment before a smile came over her face. “You wanna know the funny part? No matter what the fictional Aquaman characters look like, Mera is always depicted as a hot redhead.”

King Orin ran a hand through his close-cropped blond hair. He had no idea how to process the woman’s stories. Based on the differences in each story, it was no wonder why she hadn’t opened the dinner conversation with outright accusations lobbed at his brother. There was no way to tell how things would play out with such wildly inconsistent half-remembered tales being the Star Sapphires’ only evidence at hand. And yet one thing became all too clear.

“You knew something would happen, or something could happen. So you brought your plant army down here just in case.” There was no accusation in the King’s tone. Just simple statement of the obvious. A sly smile crept across the merman’s face as from the corner of his eye he watched a pair of the plant creatures lift a collapsed section of wall that had trapped a mother and child in the wreckage of their own home.

Harley shrugged off the statement. “Something happens wherever Ivy and I go. It’s safer to plan for the worst and show up with overwhelming force. We learned that lesson the hard way. The last time I gave someone like your brother the benefit of the doubt I woke up in a cage with a barcode and serial number tattooed into my forearm. Ivy was furious.”

King Orin held back his gasp at the revelation. He couldn’t imagine the powerful couple holding back after such a violation. The very idea of their destructive power caused him to slowly look around. His kingdom had survived the assault thanks to their unexpected visit. A few buildings were in ruins and would need to be replaced, but there were few wounded and no bodies left in the aftermath. All around the city Atlantean guards and aquatic plant creatures saw to the needs of his people. A people that were better off because his allies had hidden a small army in the very same kelp fields his enemies had used as a rallying point.

With a smile, King Orin admitted he would not like to count himself among Harley and Ivy’s enemies. “I can’t even imagine what your woman did to the men who branded you. She must have made them suffer.”

“It was a woman actually.” Harley laughed off the king’s statement. “A mad scientist masquerading as a college professor. And no, I doubt her and her soldiers suffered. Ivy channeled the light of the Goddess, and they all just turned to ash.”

A long moment passed before King Orin spoke again. “Thank you for coming to our aid. I hate to imagine what I’d have lost with Mera’s pregnancy so close to the end.”

“Well, we had to protect your son.” Harley scoffed and lightly slapped the king on the shoulder. “A child conceived in true love who will one day take his father’s throne and lead the fight to save the entire planet from the ravages of pollution and the McRib. Truly, there could be no higher calling for a Star Sapphire than to protect such as a boy and his two wonderful parents.”

“It’s a boy?” King Orin let out a whisper of hope as his eyes shot towards the palace.

“Oh yeah, Big Guy,” Harley smirked as she also faced the palace. “Your wifey was busy while you and I were kicking ass. Might want to check in…” The King of Atlantis was off like a shot before the Star Sapphire could even finish her quip. Laughter filled the sea currents as she and the squires followed the king back to the palace. The one silver lining of the day was about to meet his father for the first time.

*****

Black Manta sighed wearily as the doors to the underwater hangar bay slid open on the main monitor on the bridge of his flagship. The mission had been a complete and total failure. He was not looking forward to the disappointment of his remaining allies. They had expected their fair share of losses when it came to the valuable LexCorp Killbots Slade had salvaged. They had not expected the complete and total annihilation of each and every Killbot Slade had offered to the cause. The use of the private island base was already charity enough. The destruction of what could easily be billions of dollars worth of high tech merchandise was beyond any debt that could ever be paid in one lifetime of crime. The merman truly expected to be shown the door the instant he docked his ship and collected the few soldiers he had left with Slade and Cheetah. There was even a remote possibility they would take his life, and then take his forces for themselves. He could not anticipate the welcome he was about to receive.

“We’ve docked, Sir,” one of his lieutenants was quick to relay the events Black Manta had been too lost in thought to notice. The merman stirred, looking to each of the loyal soldiers lining the bridge of his ship. Though the loyalty of each of his soldiers had long since been proven, no leader was above demotion in the face of such monumental failure. No captain was truly safe from mutiny once their blood was in the water.

With bravado he did not feel, Black Manta stood. Back straight, face grim, eyes focused. He would not show weakness. “Good. Once I reconvene with our allies I will plan the next phase of our war on Atlantis. That fool king won’t have the Lanterns protecting him forever.”

Black Manta strode from the bridge of his ship, not once glancing to the eager and genuine salutes his men threw up as he passed. Their loyalty had held true. The walk to the main hatch gave him ample time to doubt the other loyalties at play. As it turned out those doubts were unfounded.

“David!” The sound of a hatch opening and a high pitched feminine shriek echoed through the corridors of his flagship. The tall red-headed cat-woman and the white-haired mercenary came into view. Unmistakable looks of fear and worry plastered on their faces. “David!” Cheetah cried again as she and Slade rushed forward.

The merman was shocked to find himself embraced by both of his remaining allies. “What…” His fears and doubts held for a moment as he was pulled into Cheetah’s lips. “What is all this?”

“We were so worried.” Cheetah seemed to ignore his shock as she pulled back from the kiss to check him for injuries. “Slade’s dreadful computer just showed us all those useless Killbots crapping out on you. We had no idea what was going on, or if you were even going to make it back to us.”

“She’s right, my friend,” Slade said as he put a hand on the back of the merman’s neck and drew him in close. Once their foreheads came to rest against one another the mercenary spoke in a tone that washed away all of David’s prior doubts. “Next time you go on one of these undersea missions I’m using one of your spare dive suits. You’re not going into battle alone. We’re not going to lose you.”

“But I failed,” David whispered as both of his lovers fussed and began to walk him back towards the docking hatch. “I lost so many of our forces.”

“Killbots can be replaced,” Slade said with no hint of hesitation or deceit. “All that matters is you made it out unscathed and didn’t lose any of your men.”

Cheetah seemed to perk up with worry at the end of Slade’s reassurance. “The Atlanteans didn’t kill any of your boys, did they?”

“No. We suffered no casualties.” David admitted as they exited the submarine and began to walk towards the elevator to the island’s main house. “But the Lanterns destroyed all the Killbots.”

“The Lanterns were there?” Cheetah’s outrage was beyond any the merman had seen before. “That idiot Ocean Master lead you into a trap laid by those witches? I’ll kill him!”

“That explains the few flashes of pink lens flare on the Killbot cams.” Slade was more measured, but no less furious at the implications of the former ally’s bad intel. “We’re not working with that idiot again. If we need more muscle for a job we’ll figure something out, but we are not risking you and the boys on any half baked plots dreamed up by egomaniacs who stole their shtick from the playbook of Scar from The Lion King. We put up with enough of that in the Legion. We’re not going through the same shit all over again.”

“But I lost all our Killbots,” David muttered as the elevator doors opened the pair ushered him towards the bathroom attached to the master bedroom they had been sharing for months. “There were hundreds of them and I lost every single one. We can’t keep losing battles of attrition.”

“We’re fine for Killbots. All that matters is you and the boys.” Slade assured the man as Cheetah began to strip the armored dive suit plates from his body. “Come take a shower with us. Wash the sea salt from your body and then we’ll all get in bed.”

“It’s been too long,” Cheetah added as David couldn’t help but stare at them in shock.

“Are you two even listening?” He spat as Cheetah unzipped the flexible underlining of the dive suit. “I took nearly a thousand Killbots and lost them all in less than an hour of hopeless battle with that pair of Star Sapphires! I wasted billions of dollars worth of limited resources! How can you both just shrug that off?”

“We can make do without the Killbots.” Cheetah began to say as Slade held up a hand.

“Wait… What are you guys talking about? We’ve got plenty of Killbots.” Cheetah and David both stopped and blinked at Slade’s outlandish statement. “Did you guys really think we were running out of Killbots? Lack of Killbots is literally the least of our worries. I worry more about storing and repairing the Killbots that don’t get destroyed more than I ever worry about how many killbots we have left.”

David blinked at the outlandish dismissal. “How can you shrug off losing hundreds and hundreds of LexCorp Killbots when Lex Luthor isn’t around to make any more for us to steal?”

Slade looked at the pair of supervillains before him. He couldn’t help but laugh as they showed genuine concern for the state of their pool of resources. “Oh, oh wow. That’s good. You two really think we are ever gonna run out of shit I stole from Lex Luthor?”

The blank stares and utter confusion only served to make the mercenary laugh harder as he slipped off his own pants and continued to pull them both towards the lavish shower he had splurged on in the hopes of sharing his tropical island liar with good company. From the looks on their faces, it was clear Slade would have to explain his amusement.

“You both are too much sometimes.” The mercenary muttered as he turned on the hot water and grabbed the bottle of scented body wash that Cheetah preferred and both men loved to apply. “Our dearly departed friend, Lex Luthor, had over a hundred different weapons caches squirreled away. Bunkers, factories, and warehouses hidden all around the world.” He pulled his partners under the converging shower streams and began to lather Cheetah’s backside with the body wash. As David began to lather her front, she began to purr. Slade smiled as he pressed the three of them together, sandwiching the cat-woman between their chiseled abs and chests. “The League shut down a few bunkers and confiscated a lot of Kryptonite. Like a huge amount of kryptonite. But most of Lex’s weapons caches are sitting undisturbed.” Hands drifted lower and the purring increased in pitch and fervor. Cheetah threw her head back into Slade’s shoulder as David hit just the right spot. “I’ve raided two dozen of the larger caches and stole literally everything that wasn’t nailed down. I’d have taken more, but storage on our end became a little,” Cheetah let out a high pitched squeal as Slade and David both moved into her favorite position and got down to business. “Tight.”

“So your saying…” David began to pant as he exerted himself against the beautiful woman covered in soft light fur. “We’re good for Killbots?”

“More…” Cheetah purred as she wrapped her legs around the hips of one of her favorite toys, and her tail wound its way around the waist of her other favorite toy. “More…”

“Plenty more where that came from,” Slade promised in between grunts. “I’ll tell you guys when our Killbot losses reach five percent of our supply. So far, even with the oil rig distraction and this last stab at Atlantis, we haven’t even broke one percent yet.” The sheer outlandishness of that statement caused both Cheetah and David to freeze in place. David looked at Slade over one of Cheetah’s shoulders and Cheetah craned her head around to stare the one-eyed man in the face.

Cheetah caught her breath as she stared into Slade’s good eye. “He can’t possibly have made that many oversized killer robots.”

Slade smiled as he thought over the vast amount of “product” he had liberated from the secret vaults of Lex Luthor. “You guys know how people who don’t understand things like water supplies, infrastructure, utilities, resource scarcity, human decency, bare minimums, and basic living conditions say that overpopulation isn’t a real problem because you can fit all the people in the world into tiny pill box sized plots of land in Texas and still have a few acres left over? Well, from what I could tell Lex Luthor was either completely fucking insane, or he was trying to make enough Killbots to prove that a few billion oversized killer robots that don’t need to eat, sleep, drink, or even move around that much could “live” comfortably in a vast trackless expanse of desert the size of Texas.”

“By Poseidon,” David whispered as he began to grasp the sheer number of Killbots Slade was alluding to. Even if he lost as many Killbots as he had in this last failed mission every week for a solid year, they might never burn through their supply. Even if they did run out, it sounded like Slade was just waiting for an excuse to raid another couple dozen of Lex’s weapons caches. “So even with our losses, we’re still one of the most heavily armed forces on the planet.”

“Oh yeah. We’re up there.” Slade smiled at his cohorts and lovers yet again. “I promise you both. Lex Luthor made us more than enough Killbots. More Killbots than anyone could ever hope to use in a lifetime. More Killbots than even the most unstable sociopath would ever deem practical. More Killbots than the Star Sapphires could tear through even if we locked them in a big vault with all Lex’s remaining Killbots and gave them a full twenty-four hours to clear the vault before flooding it with something ridiculous like toxic gas, or confetti, or even more of Lex’s Killbots.” Slade smirked as he resumed their group efforts to “clean” Cheetah. “Making Killbots might have been his fetish.”

*****

“Here they come.”

Kyle Rayner and Starman gathered energy around themselves and prepared for the oncoming assault. Behind them, the broad hulk of a cargo ship retrofitted to transport large families of refugees from one star system to another. Its engines, dead. Its crew and passengers, on their last legs after being chased from one hyperspace warp point to the next. Its prospects, hopeless, save for the two heroes floating between the cargo ship and certain destruction.

Before Kyle and Starman floated the remains of the Drophyd fighters and light carrier ships they had torn to shreds. The Drophyds would not cease firing on the downed cargo ship. They left the Lantern and the blue alien no choice. Before victory could be assured, a warp rift opened in the distance beyond the ruined ships. Kyle and Starman sighed in exasperation as a much larger Drophyd battleship entered the star system.

Kyle’s ring picked up a hailing frequency from the new threat. “Lantern Scum! Stand down and allow us to cleanse this filth, or the Drophyd empire will begin purging the inhabited planets of this star system.”

“You’d really go to war with the Green Lantern Corps?” Kyle could not believe the idiocy of the Drophyd commander. “You know the Guardians will just quarantine your planet, take away your ships, and remove all technology more advanced than the steam engine.”

“The age of Lantern tyranny is over!” The commander shouted back just as Kyle felt Mogo shift into position behind the Fongoid’s cargo ship. “A new age is dawning! The age of the Drophyds!” The guns of the battleship turned to lock on Kyle and Starman. A trio of missiles erupted from the frontmost cannon battery. Kyle readied his shields for the impact. It never came.

The missiles detonated mid-flight as a wide energy beam sliced through them. Starman let out a gasp as he and Kyle watched the Agorian battlecruiser rise up between them and the Drophyd ship. Before they could respond three more ships emerged from hyperspace warp rifts. These ships matched the Agorian battlecruiser in style and design but were truly massive in comparison to the already impressively huge but smaller Agorian warship.

“Drophyd Scum!” A new voice came in over the hailing frequency Kyle’s ring had received. “The comms on our battlecruiser are damaged so we’ll overlook your idiocy this one time. This system and all its inhabitants are under the protection of the Agorian Military. You are now being targeted by the full weapons payloads of three Agorian Dreadnoughts. Leave this sector, or die.”

The hailing channel was filled with shrieking from the Drophyd commander. The battleship fired another salvo at the Agorian battlecruiser. Another beam came from the Agorian warship. The missiles detonated harmlessly long before reaching their target. A laugh came over the hailing frequency. “Heh, heh. Good! I was hoping you’d do that.”

The four Agorian warships opened fire. The Drophyd ship was obliterated in a nearly blinding flash. All that remained were bits of slag and ash floating through space. Kyle and Starman held their ground as the Agorian ships held their positions. A moment later the same voice came in over the ring’s hailing frequency.

“Alright, Sergeant. Contact Agoria Prime. Tell the Matriarch that we just declared war on the Drophyds. Then call up the Battleplex and ban all Drophyds from the audience and concession stands. If the little fish buggers wanna keep getting slaughtered in the arena that’s fine, but we’re not letting them walk around like they own the place.” There was a pause before the voice cleared its throat and began to speak in a much more formal and rigid monotone. “Lantern Mogo. Greetings from the Agorian Military. I am Warmaster Aggreck. Do you or your junior Lantern require any assistance with that refugee dinghy?”

Kyle felt a surge of calm emotions come through his ring and could only assume Mogo was telling him to handle things in a calm and professional manner. “Warmaster Aggreck. This is Lantern Rayner, speaking on behalf of Lantern Mogo. We can handle the refugees. I’m going to need you to state your business in this star system. Earth, Mars, and Mogo have no prior conflict with your people. Please know that the Guardians, the Green Lantern Corps, and the Star Sapphire Corps will not tolerate any attempts to invade or conquer this system.”

“Greetings Lantern Rayner.” Kyle had to hold back a sigh as it seemed like the Agorian Warmaster was reading off a prepared script. “The Agorian Military has no war plans for this sector or the Lantern Corps you just listed. We are on a peaceful diplomatic mission of peace, to promote, peace… or something.” Another pause filled the channel before the Warmaster took on a gruff, less formal tone. “Listen, kid, can I level with you?”

Kyle could feel a smirk forming before he calmly answered the alien warlord. “Please do.”

“Thanks. I was getting tired of these lines the Matriarch's advisors cooked up anyway.” The Agorian let out a relieved sigh before diving into the conversation. “We’re not here to start some shit or run roughshod over any of the squishy little races that live in this system. Our battlecruiser was just sent ahead to scout out the system and report back any trouble that might be brewing on the outer rim. See, back on Agoria Prime, we’ve been going through a cultural change thing with the new Matriarch and her advisors taking over after the last Matriarch died trying to eat her weight in Thanagarian Snarebeast steaks. A lot of our people want our government to start honoring the memory of the Great Savior. So our military is holding back on starting random fights and start protecting weak, endangered, squishies. Or at least giving that whole thing a try.”

“So you came here to protect that Fongoids from the Drophyds?” Kyle and Starman shared a concerned look. Maybe the sudden appearance of four massive warships wasn’t as bad as it seemed.

“Oh no. That was just a coincidence.” Aggreck laughed off the idea before coughing and seeming to pull himself together. “No, we were sent here to make sure the locals wouldn’t have a problem with the pilgrimages the folks back home are planning.”

Kyle’s head cocked to the side as he took in the odd statement. “Pilgrimages?”

“Yup, pilgrimages.” Warmaster Aggreck sounded pleased with himself as he explained the uncharacteristically pious behavior of his infamously warlike race. “Everyone’s got their hearts set on paying their respects to the Great Savior. What with his last surviving great-grandkid living on Earth, and the power players from two Lantern Corps living in the same star system, now seemed like the best time to try that whole “peaceful first contact” thing.”

Kyle’s mind was reeling with the logistical nightmare the alien was proposing. Even with the Agorians all on their best behavior, Earth would still be skittish at the sight of… He pulled up the info his ring had on Agorians and was both surprised and horrified to see that they were a race of seven foot tall, orange and red scaled, bipedal lizards. There was some variety but many sported rooster-like crests, or feathery fringes running down the backs of their heads, or even a pair of massive horns curving down and forward from the base of their skull in line with their wide jaws. This would not be pretty.

“And blowing up the Drophyd ship?” Kyle had to ask.

“Oh yeah. That was fun.” Warmaster Aggreck laughed again at the memory of the recent carnage. “We saw them facing off against our scout ship and saw you Lanterns guarding the dinghy. Figured it was as bad as every other situation that involves Drophyds. Plus, we’ve got standing orders to try and follow the example set by the Great Savior and his great-grandkid. So while we’re on this peaceful pilgrimage we won’t hesitate to blow any hostile force out of the sky. Especially if they look like they’re getting ready to attack the little squishies protected by the great-grandkid of the man who saved our species from extinction.” A round of cheers and hoots of agreement came over the comms channel before the Warmaster could settle his boys down.

Kyle felt a slow creeping sense of dread wash over him as he tried to think of all the ways the resulting culture clash would shake his homeworld in the coming months. No matter what he came up with, he knew the end results would be far more strange and outlandish. This was far from the worst outcome possible when he and Starman initially planned how they would save the Fongoids, but it may eventually prove to be much more devastating than even their worst estimates for the battle.

_________________
Time and Time Again


Last edited by Citanul on Sun Apr 28, 2019 7:28 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Time and Time Again
PostPosted: Sun Apr 28, 2019 3:04 pm 
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Whee!

Off to read! :bounce

Edit: found some typos:

The cameo clad soldiers skulked...
Probably should be 'camo clad' or just 'camouflaged.'

but fifteen minutes ago a fleet a three Drophyd light carriers
Probably should be fleet OF three.
Or even just 'three light carriers...'

'half the Robbins,'
'robin's' perhaps?

And now a Ratchet and Clank crossover?
Hmm.
But, nice to see the three villains are at least in a loving relationship.
And i guess it's good that Cheetah is... accommodating.
She seems to be... fulFILLed. In her... relationship needs.


Good to see what high level characters can do when they put their minds to it.
Roll on next Ep! :bounce

R :flower

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PostPosted: Sun Apr 28, 2019 8:54 pm 
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Hi Azirahael.

Nice catches. I was wondering how soon it would be before anyone noticed I borrowed the Aliens from the PS3 Ratchet and Clank games. I'll be honest. I don't know or care to know about DC comics alien races. I know theres the one fish/bird head guy's race, the big pink under bite guy's race, the red skinned sinister goatee guy's race, and the beach ball with 4 legs guy's race. I should have probably learned the names of those races before making Lantern Rings and Star Sapphires such a core part of this story line. But here we are.

On the plus side I know all you wonderful readers can do a google image search of the word "Agorian" and find more than enough pics for the point I'm trying to make to come across. Specific pics too. Not a random grab bag of 50 years worth of poorly image grabbed comic panels that may or may not tell you what an average member of the species looks like.

The same problem goes for Marvel too. I know the name of the blue people the fantastic four have to deal with. The green people the fantastic four have to deal with. The pyramid-shaped-hair people the X-Men have to deal with. And the hive mind bug race that the X-Men also have to deal with. But if you put a gun to my head and told me to name any of the specific alien races in any one or two scenes in the Guardians of the Galaxy movies I probably wouldn't be able to do it.

That and I have plans for the Agorians and the descendants of their Great Savior in the next Act. Ratchet and Clank won't be making an appearance, but a few Amazons, Lanterns, and League members might fight a giant spider in a Gladiator Colosseum shaped space station.

It's almost always fun to play with the girls' power levels and point out the fact that DC comics never do the math involved to figure out how strong their characters are. At some point, everyone in the Marvel office has had to consult a chart or spreadsheet or something that has every character on a well thought out power spectrum from Aunt May to The Hulk. Meanwhile, and this is especially apparent if you watch the Death Battle series on Youtube and Rooster Teeth, DC characters seem to randomly fall into the camps "Scales with Superman" and "Doesn't Scale with Superman." Especially the recent Captain Marvel vs Captain Marvel video. Shazam not only apparently "scales with Superman" so he can dead lift and infinite amount of weight, but for some insane reason one of the guys whose initials makes up his name is so strong that his punches are equal to 20 or 30 Big Bang level explosions. Honestly, if that's the kind of nonsense Shazam is allowed to get up to then there's no reason why Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn shouldn't have 20 to 30 levels of Wizard/Sorcerer under their belts, or that they wouldn't send an army of plant creatures out two weeks in advance to wherever they plan on traveling to set up shop deep behind enemy lines.

As for bad guys in loving relationships... Black Manta and Deathstroke are certainly in a loving relationship. Cheetah... well... a girl has to have her favorite toys, right?

I think Samuel L Jackson's character in Glass and Unbreakable said it best. A common theme in comics is the villain being the opposite of the hero. Batman is stoic and thoughtful while the Joker is a sociopath in the middle of a manic episode. Superman is the epitome of strength and direct physical confrontation while Lex Luthor is an intellectual who manipulates things from behind the scenes.

So what is the exact opposite of a princess/goddess from a magical island of ageless, eternal, gold star lesbians? Apparently, in my mind, it's a jaded, no strings attached, former archaeologist, who enjoys being sandwiched between two buff middle aged men. Maybe that says something about me more than it does about the characters, but who knows.

We're getting down to the wire on Act 2. Next up is the Prom, then the last Dark Ages chapter of this Act, then Graduation Day. The ending I have planned for this Act will either come completely out of left field, or you've all already seen it coming and know exactly where I'm going with Act 3.

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 Post subject: Re: Time and Time Again
PostPosted: Sun Apr 28, 2019 9:25 pm 
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Well, i had no idea, so i googled the Agorans. Because they sounded kinda fun.

A lot like some of the Gao, from The Deathworlders.
Which is a HFY [Humanity Fuck Yeah] sci-fi series. Free online. Google it if you like military-themed sci fi.
There's enough there to keep you busy for weeks.

Well, the problem with the comics people, is that they never played RPG's.
Because if they had, the first thing they'd do is work out the stats.
They didn't.
And so, they ended up with the same issues that Buffy canon did: they are as strong as they need to be to do story [x] right now. Same with the magic.

And so in the comics, the characters were operating sorta in a vacuum, doing whatever their writers needed them to do right now, with no real thought as to how it would affect the future.
And then they ran into other heroes, or villains that had the same problem.
And if it's already been established that character X can take a hit from a freight train, and not even get mussed hair, you now have to live with that.

And sadly, so few of the writers no how to deal with it well.
So you get red kryptonite, sunspots and other ass-pulls to fix it.

Glad you managed not to fall into that :P

R :flower

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How i Met Your Mother - By Ariel


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PostPosted: Fri Jun 28, 2019 2:50 pm 
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Happy June everyone. :pride :pride :pride :pride :pride

I'm glad to say the next chapter is just being finished off and will be posted in the next few hours. It's Prom night, give or take a few days, and there will be a few surprise faces gracing the dancefloor. Fair warning, the first scene and the last scene are pure, unfiltered, free range, smut. You've been warned.

Glad I could at least come in on the tail end of the month with a new chapter. I hope you all enjoy it. :pride

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 Post subject: Re: Time and Time Again
PostPosted: Fri Jun 28, 2019 4:34 pm 
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Time and Time Again.

Author: Citanul

Feedback: Be kind, rewind? Seriously though all feedback is welcome.

Spoilers: Just about all of them. Go watch the show. And Angel too. Also Agents of Shield a little bit. You know what, if a name you don’t recognize pops up most of the time you can find dozens of pages of character bio if you type that name and the word comics into Wikipedia. It’s almost scary how much page space comic book fans have taken up on that site.

Rating: NC-17 = Smutty smut smut smut. Seriously though they make love quite often.

Pairings: W/T, B/F, G/J, D/J, F/G, A/?, X/A. Also D/C (Though not till they’re older and even then maybe not so much with the graphic detail.)

Disclaimer: You all know I don’t own the rights to characters you’ve seen on TV.

Summary: A story of reincarnation and interdimensional travel made possible through the power of love. What misfortunes will our two favorite love birds be able to prevent with the aid of experience from countless past lives?

Author’s Note: Happy June everyone. We've come to Prom Night on the hellmouth and I don't know about you but I doubt anything could get in the way of the girls enjoying the dance, and what comes after. This one ran long so the Final Scene is in a follow up post.

The first scene is brief smut. The final scene is prolonged smut. Enjoy

*****

Chapter 41: The Prom

Early morning sunlight filtered in through the skylights and open bedroom window. As it fell across the Slayer’s face she began to stir. Deep brown eyes fluttered open to meet besotted hazel. There was her girl, head propped up on one hand, watching her as she slept. The affection in the petite blonde’s gaze was more than enough to warm her heart and put a smile on her face.

“What’s up, B?” Faith asked as she stretched and began to scoot closer to her girl. “I drool on you or somethin’?”

Buffy smirked as her eyes drank in Faith’s each and every sensuous move. “Or something.” The smile sported by the Slayer was all the motivation Faith needed to get up and face the day.

Faith chuckled as her stretching not so subtly ended with her hands wrapped around Buffy’s slender frame. She smirked as their naked bodies pressed together. “Damn, we had a good workout last night, didn’t we?” Her rhetorical question ended with her nose pressed into Buffy’s neck and her lips tracing over the long healed marks she had made only hours ago.

“We definitely got carried away with the whole post slayage “nap” thing.” Buffy squirmed as she all but collapsed into her girl’s wandering hands.

The brunette moved to capture her girl’s pouty lips. “Give us a kiss.”

“Mmm, Babe.” Buffy tried and failed to resist Faith’s advances. A shyness overcame Buffy as her girl began to take charge like she had so many times the night before. “I have morning breath.”

“So do I, B.” Faith laughed into Buffy’s jaw and neck as she continued her assault on all the Slayer’s sensitive spots. “And in a minute I’m gonna have pussy breath.”

The ribald comeback was enough to spark Buffy’s competitive side. She would not follow an evening of Faith’s tongue worshiping the lower half of her body with a morning encore. “Mmm, none of that, F.” Buffy captured Faith’s lips with her own and then rolled them, putting Faith flat on her back. She pulled Faith’s hands up over the brunette’s head, all the while swallowing the cute little moans and sighs her girl let out as the kiss deepened. With her girl just where she wanted her, Buffy broke the kiss and waited for lust-filled brown orbs to meet her own lurid gaze. “We had enough of that last night. It’s your turn to be the pillow princess.”

“But, B…” Faith moaned and whimpered as Buffy threw one leg over her stomach and sat up. The needy begging continued as Buffy straddled her girl. “Your pussy is my favorite food. I’m a growing Slayer. How am I gonna get big and strong if don’t get my daily F.D.A. recommended dose of pussy juice?”

“Now, now. None of that, Honey.” Buffy chided the brunette as she began to rub her already soaking pussy lips against Faith’s abs. Buffy could not get enough of the chiseled, rippling muscles her girl sported each time she went out with her midriff exposed. “I need to,” Buffy shuddered and let out a little moan of pure bliss as her clit found a slight crevice between two of Faith’s pronounced abs. “Fuck, that’s good… I need to mark you.”

Faith smirked as she used her diaphragm to roll into Buffy’s quivering center. “Mark me, B?” Faith had to suppress her own aching shudder of need as she felt her stomach grow slick with Buffy’s nectar. “That what we callin’ it now?”

Buffy let out a deep, almost guttural moan as her hips rocked and her pussy found the bumpiest path it could take while moving between Faith’s breasts and belly button. “Mine…” Both Buffy and Faith threw their heads back in sheer blinding pleasure. Buffy’s hands began to knead Faith’s breasts, giving an especially merciless kind of attention to Faith’s taut pink nipples. Faith’s moans of pleasure joined Buffy’s as she did her best to make her stomach meet each rocking grind of Buffy’s hips. Squeals of surprise escaped the petite blonde as her pussy lips ground into each well-muscled bump and groove lining her girl’s torso. The slickness of her own arousal as it coated the woman she adored. The flashes of pleasure as her clit impacted on rolling stomach muscles that hit just right. The thrill of swollen lips as they mapped every curve and contour of Faith’s writhing body. The feel of those same lips parting in a vain attempt to wrap around one knot of muscle that teased her entrance.

Buffy came with a surprised squeak and a flood that covered Faith’s taut body. She leaned forward into Faith’s arms, and then further into Faith’s lips. Buffy sighed into the kiss as she felt the brunette squirm beneath her. She smirked. Buffy realized she may not have played the role of pillow princess, but she had still taken her pleasure without giving in return. Hazel eyes looked down to find a writhing, whimpering, mess of brunette lust and need. “Buffy,” Faith begged as her hips rocked upwards in desperate need of attention.

“Oh, Honey,” Buffy smirked again as she leaned back and began to grind her pussy across the rugged terrain of Faith’s taut stomach muscles. One hand went down to rest against Faith’s breastbone. The other trailed behind Buffy, sliding over Faith’s arousal and her quivering pussy. “I think you’re gonna enjoy this.”

Faith shuddered in partial relief as Buffy cupped her molten core with one hand. The petite blonde’s fingers slid down and pressed into Faith’s aching wanton lips. A sigh escaped the brunette as Buffy’s palm ground into her maddeningly sensitive clit. The sigh shifted into a high pitched cry as Buffy’s middle and ring fingers plunged into Faith’s silken folds. Buffy began her assault without warning, delving as far as she could into Faith while she continued to grind herself up and down the rest of Faith’s body. Fingers twirled, flexed, and scissor-kicked into Faith’s depths in ways that always stole the brunette’s breath away. In no time Buffy found the familiar bumpy patch deep within Faith and showed no mercy.

“Buffy!” Faith screamed as she came, spraying her essence over Buffy’s hand and across the lower third of her own bed.

Before Faith could come down from her high she felt Buffy plunge into her again. Faith let out a long series of pained and pleased moans as her girl continued to fuck her through multiple orgasms. She swore she blacked out at multiple points. When she finally regained her senses, Faith found Buffy laying on top of her with their full bodies pressed together. The petite blonde had captured her lips in a long drawn out kiss, all while continuing to stir and spread the fingers still tormenting Faith’s sodden folds. Faith couldn’t help but chuckle into Buffy’s lips.

“You back yet, Honey?” Buffy asked as she thrust into Faith once more.

“Mmm.” Faith whimpered as uncontrollable pleasure threatened to overtake her once more. “Buffy.”

“Don’t worry,” Buffy whispered before she began to kiss her way down Faith’s jaw and neck. She stopped to suck on Faith’s collarbone. “I’m not done yet. Not by a long shot.” A playful nibble at each of Faith’s nipples caused the brunette to scream and laugh just before Buffy’s mouth began to nip and peck its way across the well-defined stomach muscles she had spent so much time riding. When Buffy finally arrived at her destination she did the one thing she knew always caused Faith to lose control. Buffy’s tongue wound in tightening circles around Faith’s clit, eventually closing her lips around the over-sensitive bundle of nerves as she began to suck.

Faith’s screams filled the air as Buffy’s work truly began.

*****

“So I’m guessing patrol went well,” Willow said as the faint sounds of a screaming orgasm came from upstairs.

“I’m sorry you boys have to listen to Faith carrying on with the neighbor girl like we didn’t have guests in the house.” Jennifer’s apology was only met with a smirk from Doyle and a laugh from Rondell.

“Trust me, Jen. This is nothing compared to the way Alonna flaunts her relations in front of the boys.” Doyle could only laugh at the look of horror spreading across his girlfriend’s face.

“For real.” Rondell agreed before looking up from his plate of breakfast pancakes to address the smiling half demon. “Wasn’t it just two weeks ago that she cleared out that vamp nest then dragged her girl upstairs the second she got home? You guys should have seen Ginny the next day. That curly red hair of hers all over the place, half ripped up clothes hanging off one shoulder, hickeys all over her neck, walkin’ around lookin’ like she just got mauled by a cougar, and the widest smile you’ve ever seen on her face as she got two cups of coffee from the pot by the front desk and ran right back upstairs to Al’s bedroom.”

“That’s a Slayer for ya. Frisky little buggers, the whole lot of them.” Xander said as Tara and Willow burst into laughter.

When her laughter finally died down, Willow chimed in with disturbing news for the entire table. “Yeah, that’s not something that ever really mellows out with age. Once a Slayer starts enjoying sex she never stops enjoying sex and tends to go overboard with it. You guys should have seen Buffy after her useless college boyfriend bailed on her. The idiot got tired of not getting to play “the big strong man”, having to listen to other people during Scooby meetings, and not running all over town with a loaded gun. So he gave Buffy an ultimatum that was basically, “Give me a reason to stay, aside from you already giving me more orgasms than I could ever deserve, or else I’m leaving you to go fight demons in some South American jungle.”

“The nerve of some people.” Tara shook her head in feigned indignation. “Turning away all those perfectly good Slayer orgasms.”

Xander raised his glass of orange juice and saluted both Willow and Tara. “Thank the Goddess and sweet merciful Zeus that you guys finally won Buffy over to the pink side of the force.”

“Amen.” Rondell agreed with his raised glass of milk. There was another round of laughter before everyone got back to enjoying breakfast. A few minutes passed before Rondell spoke up again. “So Amy keeps telling me Prom is coming up. Xander, you got a tux already?”

“Oh, yeah, but I know a good place,” Xander said before he stuffed another fork load of syrupy pancake in his mouth. “How about we pick up Jonathan after school and the three of us can go get you sorted out?”

“Thanks, man.” The boys nodded and shared knowing chuckles as another scream of pleasure came form upstairs.

Willow perked up at the obvious reminder of their regular high school lives. “Oh!” Tara had to stifle a laugh as her always nearly shot up in her seat. “Oh, that reminds me. We have to make sure Faith has a dress. Buffy already has hers ready to go and Faith always lets these things slide till the last minute.”

“We’ll take Faith shopping after school while the boys have their fun,” Tara said while gently patting the redhead’s thigh. “Mama, do you think you or Joyce could distract Buffy for a few hours?”

“Of course, Sweetie.” Jennifer smiled before frowning at the sound of a loud moan echoing through the ceiling. She leaned back against Doyle’s side. The half-demon put his arm around her shoulders as he finished the last piece of pancake on his plate. “And I’m sure Doyle and I can find plenty of ways to entertain ourselves while you kids are at school.” The blatant innuendo and the firm grip on his inner thigh caused Doyle to cough and nearly choke on his last bite of breakfast.

Willow and Tara laughed while Xander and Rondell grew pale at the blatant admission of sexual intent from the older witch. Even Doyle was shocked by the casual openness around the topic of sex within the Rosenberg-Maclay household. Though he knew he really should have expected as much with three-quarters of the household being an extremely sexually active Slayer and two witches whose souls had been bonded at the deepest spiritual levels for who knew how many lifetimes. Eventually, he and the boys joined the women’s easy laughter. The day was off to a wonderful start. If only it could last.

*****

“Xander!” The cheerful shout drew the young man’s attention. He looked up and was more than a little surprised to see a beautiful young brunette jogging towards him. She was wearing a gauzy light pink sundress, with a matching long sleeve shirt left open to highlight assets which drew most of Xander’s attention.

It took Xander a moment to place her as the pretty girl approached with a smile. “Well, hey! It’s demon Anya!” The smile fell and her notebook came up to shield her chest from the male gaze. “Punisher of evil males. Still haven’t got your powers back?” As they began to walk towards the front entrance of the school a terrifying thought struck the young man. He stopped, reaching out to gently rest his hand against Anya’s elbow and raise an almost fearful finger to ask what was suddenly the most important question in the world. “You haven’t? Right?”

“No!” Anya dismissed his fearful question as they began to walk again. “I will though. It’s just a matter of time.”

The smile returned once Xander was safe in the knowledge that the pretty girl at his side could not use magic to castrate him, disembowel him, turn him into something furry scaly or slimy, or wish him into the cornfield. “So, now how did that work? Women would wish horrible things on their ex-boyfriends. You’d show up and make it happen.” He almost laughed as he caught her rolling her eyes at the mention of her former profession. “Amy was light on the details aside from evil magic bauble, and Will and Tara just laughed and gave me the weirdest grins.”

Anya’s back straightened with pride as she answered the young man’s idle curiosity. Even with the recent and unwilling changes to her life, Anyanka was still proud of her many accomplishments. “That’s right. The power of the wish made me a righteous sword to smite the unfaithful.”

“Well hey! Good luck with that.” Even the former demon could easily spot the sarcasm oozing from Xander’s each and every smug word. “Hope it works out for ya.”

The casual dismissal and cocksure grin set the former demon off again. “You know, you can laugh, but I have witnessed a millennium of treachery and oppression from the males of the species, and I have nothing but contempt for the whole libidinous lot of them!”

Xander’s head cocked to one side. A slightly confused, but curious, frown twisting the bored expression he had just sported. “Then why are you talking to me?”

Anya turned her head and let out a dejected huff. A moment later she turned back to him and batted her eyes just enough to ignite a treacherous little spark in the young man. “I don’t have a date for the prom.”

The admission caught Xander off guard. When she called his name he had no idea why or where the conversation would take him. This turn of events only served to raise further questions regarding the former demon. “Well gosh. I wonder why not. It couldn’t possibly have anything to do with your sales pitch.”

“Men are evil.” Anya fired back with a cold, ruthless, certainty that was distractingly offset by the way she batted her eyes and pivoted the conversation in the opposite direction. “Will you go with me?”

“One of us is very confused…” Xander admitted as he felt even more distracted by the way Anya was looking at him. There was vulnerability and sadness in her eyes and in her graceful yet slightly seductive posture. He honestly could not tell if she was genuinely interested in him or putting on an act because she had no idea how to pretend to be an ordinary human. “And I honestly don’t know which.”

His response only served to irritate Anya. “You know this happens to be all your fault!”

Her rebuttal put Xander back on the defensive side of the brewing argument. “My fault?”

“Your relationship with Cordelia imploded so I took on the guise of a twelfth grader to tempt her with the wish. When I lost my powers I got stuck in this persona, and now I have all these feelings! I don’t understand it! I don’t like it! All I know is I really want to go to the dance, and I want someone to go with me!” Anya’s voice rose as she listed off all the reasons why Xander’s bad dates and worse timing had negatively affected her personally. Being human was hard, and she was going to make sure the clueless boy standing before her knew just how much of her suffering he needed to atone for.

“Be still my heart…” Xander paused and brought an open palm up to the center of his chest. “Oh, wait. It is.” He looked at her in exasperation and did his best to ignore certain confusing urges he was feeling while looking at the pretty but perplexing woman. “How come I got the short straw?”

“You, you’re not quite as obnoxious as most of the alpha males around here.” Anya began softly only to turn things around on Xander yet again as she pointed out how he obviously needed her more than she needed him. “Plus I know you don’t have a date.”

“I haven’t settled on anyone yet!” Xander snapped back, only to feel another confusing urge as he fell into an oddly familiar argument with the former demon.

“Fine!” Anya scoffed as she leaned back and moved her notebook away from her chest. “Look, I know you find me attractive. I’ve seen you looking at my breasts!”

Xander let a slight smirk play across his face as he took the opportunity to blatantly glance down to Anya’s chest and then slowly back up to her exasperated face. “Nothing personal, but when a guy does that it just means his eyes are open.”

“Whatever…” Anya said as she let out another pouty huff that confused Xander yet again. “Look, do you want to go with me or not?” Their eyes met and Xander could plainly see the need and vulnerability in the former demon. He may not have understood every single confusing stirring he felt while gazing at the former demon, but he was certain Anya saw a similar need while looking back into his eyes. The odd couple stood, staring into each other’s eyes for a long and tenuous moment. Eventually, they both shared a slight smile.

*****

“So… Anya, huh?” Tara’s coy smirk and the way Willow’s face was buried in the honey blonde’s hair set fire to the imaginations of the other Scoobies at the picnic table in the school courtyard. “Interesting choice.” The not so subtle inflection Tara put on her words caused the redhead at her side to giggle into her locks and the brunette near Buffy to continue rolling on the grass in another fit of laughter.

“Choice is kind of a broad term for my situation,” Xander spoke with calm ease as he ignored the cackling Slayer on the ground. “See, it’s either Anya or the sock puppet of love for this boy.” As he sat on the picnic table he propped one elbow on his knee and pantomimed a mouth with his curled thumb and fingers.

“I love you, Xander.” The boy’s hand spoke in a slightly higher pitch that served as an abysmal parody of a woman’s voice. “I’ll never leave you.”

“Anya can’t be that bad… Can she, Will?” Buffy was just as eager to ignore her girlfriend's uproarious laughter, only to cause the brunette’s cackling to double as very real and possible fears regarding Xander’s dating history came to her mind. “Amy would have said so after the thing with the ghost necklace and my evil clone, and you would have sent us to stop her if she was bad, right? This isn’t like the time Xander almost got eaten by a substitute teacher? Or the time he almost got eaten by the Inca mummy princess? Or the time he almost got eaten by that one blue scaly demon that kept batting her eyes at him while she was fighting me? Or the time that one red demon with the circle of tiny horns on his head asked us if Xander was seeing anyone? Or the time that one demon spell backfired and the next day half the teachers were all over Xander? Or the time…”

“Oh fuck, B!” Faith cried out in between bouts of laughter and gasps for breath. “I can’t. Fuck me, I’m dyin’ over here.”

“Okay, no!” Willow perked up as Buffy’s fears continued to mount. “No, Buffy. Anya isn’t like all the other times Xander almost got eaten. She only ever did the fun kind of eating when it came to Xander.”

“The good kind of eating,” Tara added with a smirk and an eyebrow waggle. “And yes, Anya’s is the type who will be more than happy to tell you all about her plans to eat Xander once you guys get to know her.”

Willow could only nod along with her everything. “At great length. Whether you want her to, or not.”

The conversation was clearly agitating Xander's hand while at the same time several key points seemed to fly right over his head. “Who’s this Anya? Is she prettier than me?” The hand screeched in a foul accusatory tone that drew a few giggles from the witches.

A moment passed before Willow turned her attention back to the worried Slayer. “Anya is… complicated. Xander makes a lot of bad decisions when it comes to the subject of women who might be interested in his penis. He also has a very specific type. A type that is almost always trouble after the first date goes sideways, but Anya just so happens to tick off all his boxes.”

“She ticked your boxes!” Xander’s hand let out a shrill cry of fury before turning in the air and storming off. “I’m leaving you, Xander!”

“No! Baby, don’t go!” Xander cried out as his outstretched hand reached in the direction it just mimed going. “Baby, please! It meant nothing to me! It was only physical! I swear!”

“Funny,” Buffy muttered before turning back to Willow. “Now how is “little miss vengeance demon” Xander’s type, and what even is his type?”

“Oh, you know,” Willow said to the Slayer as she began to tick off important qualities with her fingers. “Older than him. Smarter than him. Prettier than him. High maintenance. Strong-willed. Some kind of demon or incredibly powerful magic critter.”

“Slayers.” Buffy deadpanned while sparing a stray glare in Xander’s direction.

The witch just rolled her eyes at the Slayer. “I said incredibly powerful magic critters.” Willow’s retort drew a shocked gasp from Buffy and a burst of laughter from Tara.

“Hey, I’m not that…” Xander began to protest, only for his eyes to widen in shock at the far too obvious realization. “Sweet merciful, Zeus. I have a type.”

“Xander, one time you went on a date with this gorgeous woman you met in a hardware store,” Willow spoke calmly as she recounted what had been a depressingly reliable trend by the time it happened in their first life. “She turned out to be a demon. She tried to sacrifice you to her evil overlord thingy, and the whole time you were suspended from her hanging torture wheel you were muttering to yourself about how you always end up dating demons. After Buffy saved you and brought you home you even asked me to, and I quote, “Willow! Gay me up! Come on. Let’s gay!”

“Buffy and Dawn even laughed about how funny it’d be if you started attracting boy demons.” Tara’s sly addition renewed and quite possibly doubled the loud peals of laughter coming from Faith.

For a moment a desperate sort of terror filled Buffy’s eyes. “But Anya’s not like that, right? She’s a good demon. Like Lorne or Doyle?”

Willow stopped smiling. The witch looked to the Slayer with grave seriousness. “Buffy, I know it’s hard to tell with some of the stuff we’ve been doing, but Anyanka the Patron Saint of Scorned Women was an objectively evil demon. For over eleven hundred years she granted wishes that did horrible things and ended the lives of thousands of people. One of her wishes caused a massacre that ignited the revolution that killed off the Russian royal family, and kicked off the rise of the Soviet Union.” All laughter at the table stopped as Willow’s words sank in.

The honey blonde was quick to offer some small reassurances that could limit the scope of Anya’s atrocities. “But th-that century was f-full of royal families getting beheaded. Anya may have lit the match, but Czar and ha-half the country w-was responsible for stacking the w-wood and pouring gas on everything. The lich Rasputin alone spent decades plotting the deaths of the royals. If Anya’s wish didn’t kick off the rebellion a dozen other things would have.”

Faith chose that moment to climb back up to the picnic table and question the witches directly. “So if this skank is some big bad why is she going after Xander and why are we not making with the slaying?”

“Because Anyanka might have been an incredibly powerful and entirely evil demon, but Anya is not.” Both Slayers looked to Willow in confusion. It was clear the redhead would have to do more to justify Anya’s inclusion in their family. “Do you guys even know what happens to a person when they pop up on the vengeance demon recruitment radar? D’hoffryn shows up in a moment of personal heartbreak and tragedy and offers them the chance to make the world a better place through vengeance. They have to literally be torn up inside, or else D’hoffryn wouldn’t be able to harvest the shattered pieces of their soul and form those pieces into a new power center.”

“They lose their souls?” Buffy whispered. The shock and the painful reminder of doomed relationships past were more than enough to derail the threat she had been planning in case Anya proved too dangerous to date Xander.

“Not the whole thing,” Tara said. She paused for a moment before going on to answer the questions she saw in the eyes of both Slayers. “A piece of their soul gets pulled out and put inside their power center necklaces. That’s why spells to retrieve the necklace with temporal folds don’t work. When their power center is destroyed their soul shard just goes right back into them. D’hoffryn can’t even give them a new necklace and make them a demon again until they suffer another massive personal tragedy.”

“When Anya became a demon, the part of her that was capable of things like kindness, empathy, love, and compassion was ripped out of her and locked away. Now that she’s human again she has all those parts back.” There was a pause as Willow made sure all eyes were on her. “Whether she likes it or not. The fact is Anyanka the vengeance demon is dead and gone. Anya is not a demon. She’s a scared and confused young woman who has no real place in the world and no clear path for herself. Right now she’s struggling with the loss of her powers, her own mortality, and all the regular teenager stuff that everyone has to deal with at some point. She’s lost and looking for answers. Treat her like a monster and she’ll become a monster. Treat her like a person and… well.”

Before Willow could go on, Tara took Xander’s hand and spoke to him directly while ignoring the shocked and confused expressions on either Slayer. “Just see how the dance goes, Xander. She might surprise you.”

“This one is all on you, Xander,” Willow added. “You may not have magic or super strength, but in this one case you have the greatest power of them all.”

Xander’s mouth fell open as he looked at the two witches in shock. Almost a full minute of stunned silence passed before he asked the important question in a hesitant whisper. “What power is that?”

“Your penis may not be able to turn a gay woman straight, but apparently it can turn an evil demon neutral.”

Tara’s crude utterance and the matching wicked grins on both her and Willow’s faces brought back the easy atmosphere that had left once the conversation veered into the topic of demons and souls. Faith once again fell out of the picnic table while laughing. Buffy stared at the witches in seeming disgust before a wicked smile of her own overtook her face.

Xander simply leaned back and stared off into space. He could not believe that Willow and Tara had so easily given him the green light to date Anya. He knew Willow was holding something back, but for the life of him, he had no clue what the secret could possibly be. As his body slowly fell backwards to sprawl across the picnic table, only one clear thought came to Xander’s mind. He was in far over his head.

*****

“Sweetie, are you…” Jennifer came through the open door to Faith’s bedroom. She had expected to find the brunette Slayer goofing off after forgetting that Tara and Willow had promised to take her dress shopping after school. The figure she found moving around the room caught her by surprise. “Oh. Hello, Buffy.”

“Hi, Jen.” The Slayer gave the witch a bright smile as she bounced around the room. Jennifer watched as the girl stripped Faith’s bed and began to bundle the sheets into a laundry basket. “Is it cool if I use your washing machine? I was gonna clean these and then get the room nice and romantic. Ooh, and I was going to ask Will and Tara if they could light some candles right before we get back from patrol.”

“Sounds romantic.” Jennifer gave the Slayer a sly smirk as Buffy wore the same dopey lovesick grin she always did when talking about Faith. “So then… You and Faith. Your relationship is good. You’re keeping her happy?”

“Oh my god.” Buffy all but squealed in delight as she thought of how good things were going in their relationship. “So unbelievably good. I can’t even tell you. Faith is like the perfect girlfriend. She really gets me. She gets our destiny. I don’t know what I’d do without all the love and support she gives me every night. Plus, two Slayers, you wouldn’t believe half the things we can do together.”

Jennifer did her best to steer her mind away from the more terrifying mental images conjured up by the clueless blonde. “I’ll bet.” The witch went back to smiling as she watched the neighbor girl happily clean Faith’s messy room. “So she’s happy? You both are happy?”

“I’m the happiest I’ve ever been. I’m at peak happy.” Buffy stilled as her chin tipped down towards her chest and her wide grin turned into an almost embarrassed smirk. “Even with the whole messy secret identity thing and all the townies being completely oblivious to all the work I do, Faith gets it. We’ll never get any kind of reward or praise for all the good we do, but that doesn’t matter so long as we have each other. So long as I have my Faith.”

The witch watched as a shudder ran up and down the Slayer’s spine. A moment passed before she saw the younger blonde center herself and renew her efforts to clean the messy bedroom. When she spoke again it did not hold half the dread the Slayer had failed to notice in the earlier questions. “That’s good. She’s not going to run away from us again. That’s really good, Buffy. Thank you.”

The Slayer stopped in her tracks at the mention of Faith’s tendency to run. Buffy turned, ever so slowly. Hazel eyes locked with deep blues that matched the other young woman aside from Faith who had changed everything about Buffy’s life. Another tense moment passed as the Slayer and the witch stared each other down. “She wouldn’t run.” Buffy’s utterance was lined with a hard edge. An edge Jennifer knew was just as sharp as any blade or stake the Slayers used on a nightly basis.

Jennifer sighed as she came into the room. Her hands came to rest on her hips as she paced around, looking at all the little touches that proudly screamed of Buffy’s influence on Faith. Knick-knacks and baubles that confirmed the all too obvious fact that Buffy spent just as many nights in this bedroom as she did in her own. Jennifer smiled at the influence Buffy clearly had on Faith. The smile melted away as she turned to face the Slayer and was met once more with the petite blonde’s hard glare.

“She’s been running her whole life, Buffy.” Jennifer could tell that her words struck home. She could almost see the Slayer buckling under their weight. The witch could not imagine the strength possessed by Buffy. To stand, defiant, battle ready, in the face of such an emotional assault. For a moment the witch almost envied the Slayer. Almost. “Running is all she knew before she came to us. To you, and to me. It’s still the first plan she comes up with when she’s truly terrified. The first thing that pops into her head in those ugly little moments of doubt. I don’t think there will ever be a day when she doesn’t consider running.” As she spoke Jennifer slowly made her way across the room. She stopped a hair’s breadth from the agitated Slayer, taking in how tense the girl was. How angered. How close she was to pouncing on any threat that dared show itself. Jennifer did not even recognize her own bravery as she brought her hands up to rest on Buffy’s tense, nearly vibrating, shoulders. “It’s a good thing that you’re here, giving her all the best reasons not to run. To stay. I’m truly grateful. So grateful that I willingly overlook all the times you’ve obviously slept with my underage daughter. All the very loud sleeping you two have gotten up to.”

Buffy froze as she realized just what the witch was not so subtly hinting at. In an instant, the agitation turned to dread. The battle ready stance melting away under the older blonde’s amused scrutiny. “I love her!” Buffy sputtered in protest as she grasped for any defense from the woman she just realized would one day be her mother in law. “I love her.”

“We all love Faith, Buffy,” Jennifer smirked as she rubbed her hands up and down Buffy’s upper arms. “But she loves you more than anything else in this world. You’re all she can see when she looks into her future. You’re so important to her that the very idea you might reject her caused her to flee into the night, and never look back. The fear of your betrayal caused her to go right back to her life on the run. Back to the nightmare she lived before Tara and Willow dragged her out of that awful slum.” Steady blue eyes stared into fearful hazel depths. “Do you see how important your relationship is to Faith? How important your actions are when it comes to her wellbeing?”

“I’d do anything for her” Buffy let out a faint whisper of a promise as Jennifer held her shaking shoulders. “I’m never going to reject her. I’ll never make that mistake again.”

Jennifer sighed as she realized just how heavy-handed she was being with the young woman. “I’m not saying this to put pressure on you, Buffy. You have a say in your relationship too. I just want to make sure you’ve thought of all Faith’s needs. Not just her… well… bedroom needs.”

“Of course I think of Faith’s needs!” Buffy’s protest was more than enough to reassure Jennifer. “She’s the best thing that ever happened to me. She’s the one part of every new day that I can always look forward to without disappointment. She’s my Faith.”

Jennifer smiled as Buffy trailed off in a whisper. She pulled the Slayer into a gentle embrace. “Thank you, Buffy. Thank you for all you’ve done for my daughter. For all my daughters.” The two blondes held each other in the middle of Faith’s bedroom. Both basking in the gentle reassurance of one another. After a tearful moment, Jennifer decided she needed to lighten the atmosphere with a joke.

“So what’s this I’m hearing about a “Pussy Palace?”

*****

“Fuck, I look hot!” Faith let out a loud whoop as she turned and twisted to look at her own ass and breasts in several different dressing room mirrors. “B is gonna be all over me and my girls when she sees this dress. We’re talkin’ two express tickets to Pound Town!”

“I mean, she’s not wrong,” Tara said. She and Willow shared a brief laugh. The shop workers all around them grew more and more mortified with each passing outburst from the eager Slayer. “You’ll probably get a kick out of Buffy’s dress, Faith.”

Willow smirked at the playfulness behind Tara’s words. “She did say she had, and I quote, “the kick dress.” Knowing how you Slayers like to go at it like coked-up rabbits, it’s fair to say that prom night will end in multiple trips to Pound Town.”

“We doing the whole limo and hotel thing again?” Faith asked as she twirled in the middle of the half circle of full-length changing room mirrors. “Gotta say, the homecoming dance post-show B and I got up to had me buzzing for like a week.”

“Of course,” Willow said from her perch in Tara’s lap. “We’ll drop Anya off, then Xander, then Bob and Steve will drive the four of us to the hotel. I’m sure you and Buffy will have a good time celebrating…” The redhead’s babble trailed off mid-sentence as she and the honey blonde shared a look. Luckily for them, the conspicuous look and the mention of post-dance celebrations flew right over the Slayer’s head.

“Wicked.” Faith grinned as she leaned over just right and put her breasts on full display in the mirrors. “B has been extra frisky lately. I’m hoping this dance gets her in the mood to let me return the favor. Can’t let my girl have all the fun.”

The witches smiled as Faith waved one of the shop girls over and told her to start ringing up the dress. They were all too relieved that Faith had ignored the last few lines of Willow’s babbling. She had almost spoiled the surprise their classmates were planning for Buffy. A surprise which always drew heartwarming tears and a swell of pride from the Scoobys. A surprise which coincidentally proved Buffy's secret identity wasn’t so secret after all.

*****

“That’s the one alright. Very dapper. Amy will love it.” Xander’s reassuring words and Jonathan’s enthusiastic thumbs up were all the convincing Rondell needed.

“Thanks, man,” Rondell called back as he went back into the changing stall and began to remove the tux he had picked out. “You guys already got your fancy get-ups for the dance?”

“Of course,” Xander answered from the outer part of the changing room. “I’m going in the same tux Will and the gang helped me pick out for homecoming. Black, with silver trim, and a Mandarin collar. What about you, Jonathan?”

Jonathan smiled as he looked off into the distance. “Oh, my date helped me pick out something new.”

“We gonna get to meet this special lady?” Rondell asked as he poked his head out of the stall.

“And is she going to be all over you in the limo?” Xander smirked at the other teen.

“Oh, no way.” Jonathan dismissed the other boys’ questions with an odd laugh. “And it’s not like I’m even dating her. She’s just a friend from out of town and I thought she’d like the chance to go with us to the dance.”

“Nice, good for you, J Dawg.” Rondell clapped Jonathan on the shoulder as he stepped out of the changing stall dressed in his normal street clothes. “Hey, after graduation, how about you come spend the summer at the hotel with the rest of the crew? We’ll show you around L.A., hunt a few vampires, maybe Al will even introduce you to some of the ladies.”

“Oh for sure,” Jonathan said as he smiled back at the friend he had made through his loose association with the Slayers and the witches currently running things on the hellmouth. “It’s funny, Al and Charles already offered me a room in the hotel. Pretty sure she wants Amy and I doing all your magic tech support whenever Willow and Tara are too busy to swing by your hotel.”

“Shoot, she didn’t tell me or Chain. When did this happen?” Rondell was equal parts surprised and relieved that his friend was already well on his way to joining the Hyperion Crew. He and Chain had been through more than enough trouble with Jonathan and spent more than enough time with the young man to know he would fit in perfectly with the odd mix of runaways and super-powered crazies filling up the first two floors of the hotel.

“Damn, you’re practically a member of the gang already.” Xander chuckled as he and Rondell looked at Jonathan. “We’ll have to get you fitted for a body armor suit like everyone else.”

“What really?” Jonathan perked up in surprise at the mention of the nearly undetectable protective gear he knew Xander and Rondell were wearing at that very moment. “You guys would get Willow and Tara to give me my own body armor?”

“Course you’re getting body armor, J Dawg.” Rondell almost laughed at the idea of not making sure his friend had the same outrageously expensive gear the rest of the Scooby Gang and the Hyperion Crew had. “Can’t have you watching our backs if we don’t watch yours.”

Just as it became apparent that Jonathan would be speechless for several moments, Xander caught sight of a familiar figure on the far side of the store. A wicked grin crossed his face as he watched the brunette holding a slinky dress against her body while looking into one of the many floor length mirrors. Rondell and Jonathan both noticed Xander’s departure from their conversation. Soon they realized just what had caught the young man’s attention. Both quietly slipped away, heading to the cash register with Rondell’s new tux.

With a cocky tone he would soon come to regret, Xander waltzed up to his ex and fired off a snide remake lined with vicious barbs. “Okay, how long does it take you to buy a damn dress?”

“Ugh, Xander!” Cordelia spun, still holding the beautiful shiny charcoal gray dress to her chest. For a moment Xander’s mind was sidetracked by the plunging neckline and wire-thin straps that he knew would put her ample assets on full display. “I, uh… I’m considering things a little more carefully nowadays. I don’t want to get stuck with another dud.” Cordelia replied with an unsteady retort that gained confidence as she stared down the boy she had dumped.

“Well, this should work for ya.” The young man wasted no opportunity while his ex seemed to be caught off guard. He gestured to the dress still in her hands and began to outline its obvious appeal. “It positively screams “desperate rich girl.”

Before Cordelia could fire back another retort a shop girl with shoulder length strawberry blonde hair and a nametag that spelled out Rhonda came up and addressed Cordelia directly. “Are you helping this customer?” Xander noticed how the new girl’s eyes flicked back to the woman checking out Rondell and Jonathan at the cash register. Then her gaze fixed Cordelia with a certain ire that only confused him.

Xander smirked as he answered the woman for Cordelia. “Cordy? Help? Funny. No, I just stopped by for my daily helping of bile.”

“So you better get back to work and quit goofing. Mrs. Finkle so has it in for you.” Rhonda and Cordelia both glanced over to the cash register.

Xander followed their gaze, quickly noticing an older woman who must be the store manager giving Cordelia a sideways glare. She then gave Jonathan a forced smile which soon melted into another rude glare at Rondell the second he and Jonathan’s backs were turned.

It took Xander far more time than it should have to connect the pieces of the puzzle. “You work here?”

“Yes! Yes, I work here.” Cordelia let out an annoyed huff as she walked over to a rack and put the dress back in its place.

“But… uh… why?” Ever the eloquent young man, Xander asked the obvious question while ignorant of its deeply personal nature.

Cordelia did her best to stifle the growing annoyance. She did not need to explain herself to the boy who had needlessly complicated and endangered her life. “I’m trying to buy a dress.”

“But don’t you already have all the dresses?” Xander barreled ahead, ignorant of the fire his words stoked.

“I have nothing! Okay? No dresses! No cell phone! No car! Everything has been taken away because Daddy made a little mistake on his taxes… For the last twelve years.” Cordelia’s rant stunned the young man. Seeing him caught off guard for a change, Cordelia gained a vindictive and slightly morbid sense of catharsis from Xander’s dumbfounded gawking. “Satisfied? Are you a happy Xander now? I’m broke. I can’t go to any of the colleges that accepted me, and I can't stay home because we no longer have one.”

“Uh… Wow.” yet again Xander was speechless before the beautiful cheerleader. What made matters even worse was the all too familiar heat he felt stirring below his abdomen. A heat which had always been stoked each and every time the brunette lived up to her self appointed title of alpha-bitch. For a moment Xander lamented the fact that he clearly had a type. If he had another moment he would have given serious consideration to seeking counseling for his needlessly self-destructive hormonal urges.

Cordelia did not give him that moment. “Yeah! Neato! Now you can run along and tell all of your friends how Cordy finally got hers! How she has to work part-time to get a lousy prom dress on layaway.” She turned to storm off to the other side of the store, only to pivot and storm right back up to him with yet another example of her loss of social status. “And! How she has to wear a nametag. Oh, I’m a nametag person! Don’t leave that out! The story just wouldn’t have the same punch!”

Xander did not offer an apology, though it was not for lack of compassion on his part. The second Cordelia shouted the final word of her dressing down to Xander the front windows of April Fools burst inward. Shattered glass and shredded fabric rained down on the showroom floor of the formal wear store. Amidst the chaos and destruction crouched a beast with scab covered brown skin and thick patches of mangy fur. It crouched on all fours like a hound. Hideous yellow eyes scanned the room. With a burst of movement, the beast came bounding across the room towards Cordelia. Xander wasted no time.

Cordelia let out an annoyed grunt as Xander pushed her aside and stepped into the path of the beast. One hand lashed out as the beast closed on the young man. Both toppled to the floor. The beast threw its head back, ready to sink claw and fang into the Scooby. Then it caught sight of something out of the corner of its eye. Another young man with wavy blond hair was just stepping out of the changing room. He wore a higher end formal tuxedo with a classic design. The beast glanced the newcomer’s way just as it was about to ravage Xander. To Xander’s complete bewilderment the beast slowly turned away from him and locked its gaze on the blond man in the expensive tux. The beasts lunged once again only to halt in mid-air.

“Thicken!” Jonathan shouted with one arm outstretched and shaking with the mystical force of the spell he was not truly prepared to cast. The beast was frozen in the middle of the shop for a single moment.

One moment was all they needed. Xander was up in an instant. His combat knife drawn and rammed into the demon’s throat. Rondell was right behind him. His silver dirk buried in between the bones of the demon’s the rib cage. Hopefully skewering the beast's heart.

The demon let out one final whimper before its body went still. The light faded from the beast’s vicious yellow eyes. As Jonathan lowered his hand so too did the dead demon slump to the floor. The stunned shop girls and customers stared in horror at a sight most of them would suppress and forget by the end of the week. Xander knew he had to act quickly before the questions began.

“Great job on that spell, Jonathan,” Xander said as he pocketed his knife and went to grab one end of the hound-like beast. “Catch your breath, then grab Rondell’s tux and go with Cordy to get the security tape. The Slayers will need to see this. Rondell, help me drag this thing to the sewer grate in the alley out back. The Lenny will take care of it in a few days.”

Both boys nodded and followed Xander’s orders. They knew their jobs, even in the middle of what should have been their time off. Cordelia didn’t even try to protest. She knew the seriousness of what had just happened. What had almost happened. She went to the back room, grabbed the tape, handed it to a still panting Jonathan, and followed the three boys out the back door of April Fools. She didn’t notice Xander slip back to the register, pull out a large roll of bills, and start laying them on the counter, one by one, in front of Mrs. Finkle. All while pointing at the dress Cordelia had been daydreaming about and jerking his head in the direction of the store’s shattered display window. She didn’t notice the surprised look in Mrs. Finkle’s eyes turn to delight as she counted out the generous “tip” he added. None of them noticed the figure lurking by the ruined shop window, seething in impotent rage at the death of one of his summoned pets.

*****

“You say the creature just… stopped?” Giles’ question broke the uneasy silence filling the library of the Rosenberg Maclay house. The entire Scooby Gang and several of their closest friends and family sat around the large conference table in the center of the room. All eyes were glued to the TV which played the grainy, black and white footage recorded by the April Fools security camera.

“Yeah.” Xander stood and walked over to stand beside the TV as the tape played the most confusing part of the deadly encounter. “Right there. See? It’s like he just realized he forgot to put money in the meter or something.” They all watched as the demon looked up from Xander for only a moment and spotted a teen across the room. Then they watched as the beast turned back to Xander, only to swing right back around and lunge at the better-dressed teen.

“You know the part that totally weirded me out? That thing had good taste. I mean, he chucked Xander and went right for the formal wear.” Cordelia’s backhanded assessment drew an eye roll from her ex, a few knowing glances from the witches, and a dour look of concern from the watcher.

Xander could not help but scoff and dismiss Cordelia’s barbed comment. “That’s right. He left behind his copy of Monsters’ Wear Daily.”

The head cheerleader was quick to strike back while pointing out the evidence playing right before their eyes. “I’m serious. Look at the outfit that Xander is wearing. Now, look at the kid that the monster went after. Very smooth lines.”

The Slayer perked up as it became clear that Cordelia was onto something. “So this isn’t usual for whatever hell beastie this thing is, right? Most demons don’t abandon one meal for a different one in the middle of broad daylight. This is something hinky that some weirdo is making it do and we have to stop it.”

For his part, Giles let a proud smile wash away his formerly dour expression. “I dare say you are more than likely onto something, Buffy. If you and Faith are to hunt this creature we should study it.” Buffy nodded as she and Faith never took their eyes off the screen playing out the demon’s attack. The watcher was more than pleased that his Slayers so quickly deduced the likeliest threat and focused on how to track down the enemy yet to reveal itself.

Doyle perked up from the barstool by the island full of spell ingredients and ritual preparation tools. “Unless my eyes are deceiving me, we’ve got a hellhound on our hands.” Jennifer stiffened where she sat atop the island, just next to Doyle. The mention of the old demon breed caused a shiver to run down her spine.

“Yes. It’s particularly vicious. It’s a sort of ah… Demon foot soldier. Bred during the Mahkash Wars. Trained solely to kill. They feed off the brains of their foes.” Giles agreed as he stood and walked closer to the TV screen to get a closer look at the demon. “I must say, you boys did excellent work dealing with the threat so quickly.” Jonathan blushed while Xander and Rondell looked almost smug after hearing the Englishman’s praise.

“Look!” Cordelia shouted as another camera angle filled the screen. “Right there! Zoom in on that.”

Xander stared at his ex in exasperation before offering an obvious assessment. “It’s a videotape.”

“So?” Cordelia easily dismissed Xander’s deadpan observation. “They do it on television all the time.”

“Not with a regular VCR they don’t.” Xander shot back.

Dawn spoke up before things could devolve further and the two exes could start a full-blown shouting match. “Oh! Hey, Willow! Did you invent a super VCR while I wasn’t looking that can zoom in, and pan, and make the camera angle do spin-sies? Please say yes. That would be so cool.”

Willow smiled and clasped Tara’s hand before going into an apology that soon veered off into a full-blown babble. “Sorry, Dawnie. I haven’t bothered with upgrading dead analog technology like VCRs, and VHS tapes, and thingies. If our next three rollouts go according to plan then the world will start transitioning to DVDs and disc-based media by the holiday season of next year. In five years or so we’ll start pushing to phase out physical media and convert people over to digital and cloud-based storage. I’m really hoping we can get widespread adoption of core technologies up and running much sooner than they normally occurred in some of our past lives. Once people really get an idea of what the Internet can do for them society will undergo a sea change that will make…” The redhead paused as it became clear that all eyes were now on her and only a few of those eyes held any sort of comprehension of just what the hell she was talking about. “And this is all stuff that can be talked about later when there isn’t a crisis going on. Let’s get back to the hellhound and any hellhound master it may or may not have holding its leash.”

Luckily enough the tape came to a part Tara recognized. She wasted no time bailing out her everything with the distraction. “What’s that? Pause it.”

“Guys! It’s just a normal VCR! It doesn't… Oh, wait. Uh-huh. It can do pause.” Xander had the good sense to look sheepish after his outburst. “Hello, hellhound raiser!”

“Oh, hey! It’s Andrew’s brother.” Cassie surprised almost everyone else in the room and soon all eyes were trained on the young blonde.

“Andrew’s brother?” Buffy asked, dreading the answer.

Dawn beamed at her girlfriend before turning back to her sister and offering the follow-up answer. “Yup, Andrew Wells from our class.” She pointed to the screen again as Xander paused on a frame that more clearly displayed the demon summoner’s face. “That’s his older brother. Tucker. Total weirdo.”

“I think Tucker is in the same class as you guys. Maybe a year younger. Andrew might have been held back a year or two. He’s kind of a daydreamer.” Cassie added more context as the Slayers both fixated on the face of the classmate they knew they would soon confront.

Dawn scoffed at her girlfriend’s sugar-coated description. “That’s a polite way to say he has major ADD and a fetish for dressing up like the goofiest comic book villains.”

“Sounds like his big brother being a creeper ain’t helpin’ him much either.” Faith could only pity the kid for having to grow up in the same house as the grinning deviant on the screen.

“And here’s his school email account,” Willow said as she pulled up a series of text boxes on her array of computer monitors. “Okay… oh, what’s this message he sent to some kid… David Metz. “Sunnydale high lemmings have no idea what awaits them. Their big night will be their last night.” The redhead let her words trail off as she hoped the most important pieces of information would sink in quickly.

Giles walked around the table and sighed as he came to rest beside Joyce. The Slayer’s mother leaned into the watcher and one arm wound around her shoulders. “So we have a threat against the students on their big night. At least one hellhound trained to attack people in formal wear.”

“Oh, are we all catching up now?” The sarcasm in the head cheerleader’s voice could be felt by all.

“This Tucker is planning to attack the prom.” Giles did his best to hold back the disappointed groan. He knew just how much all of his children were looking forward to the dance.

“Once again the hellmouth puts the “special” in special occasion.” Cassie’s remark was oddly upbeat as she never took her eyes off Buffy. It was clear the young seer was waiting for the Slayer to speak up. Her odd tone went right over the heads of several of the young men in the room.

An aggravated outburst form Xander set a more pessimistic mood for the night that lay ahead for the group. “Why do I even buy tickets for these things? I ask you.”

For his part, Jonathan let his head droop in sad resignation. “I wonder if I can take my tux back.”

“Don’t you dare.” All eyes looked up to see the Slayer standing with bold determination and what might have been the actual flames of hell burning in her eyes.

“But this Tucker creep is gonna…” Rondell’s protest was cut short by the Slayer.

“No, he’s not,” Buffy spoke and all those present had no choice but to believe. “We are gonna have a prom. The kind of prom that everyone should have. Faith and I are gonna give you all a nice, fun, normal, evening even if we have to kill every single person on the face of the earth to do it.”

Faith cheered as she shot up and joined her girl. “Fuck yeah! Let’s go wreck this punk!” The enthusiasm and bloodlust from the pair of Slayers cast aside all doubts held by the others in the library. Unfortunately, those doubts were soon replaced with a morbid sense of terror.

“Yay?” Xander offered what little support he could as he seriously considered the likelihood that Buffy and Faith just might be able to wipe out all life on the face of the earth.

Ignoring the sense of dread in the room, Faith dove into what she thought she and Buffy would probably need to figure out first to track down the threat. “So this punk has been feeding his hellhounds brains right, G man?”

The watcher was quick to help get things back on track. “Indeed. That would mean he’s most likely buying from the local slaughterhouse”

“Yeah, Buffy should totally check out the slaughterhouse,” Dawn added as she let her chin rest on her girlfriend’s shoulder and watched as Cassie scribbled something down. “Or, you know, you guys could just go to the address Cassie is writing down.”

“Here’s Andrew’s home address,” Cassie said as she finished the last digit of the zip code. “And here’s the address of the abandoned house Tucker has his other three hellhounds chained up in. There’s a side room in the basement. It’s full of cages and a few TVs, VCRs, and a stack of movies about high school dances.”

Willow took a look at the slip of paper and smiled as it was passed around the table to the Slayers. “Yup, that’s the usual address.”

“So if you guys patrol tonight you should have no problem swinging by both places, then once Andrew’s brother is out of pet demons we’ll have all day tomorrow to get ready for the dance.” Tara did her best to cheer the Slayers on while holding back a mischievous grin.

“Thanks, you guys.” Buffy smiled as she took the address from Willow and hugged both of the witches and Cassie. Her smile turned to a smirk as she took her pointer finger and poked her sister’s nose. Faith let out a laugh, hugged the witches herself, then both Dawn and Cassie. The Slayers turned back to each other nodded and then strolled arm in arm out the library door.

In the wake of the Slayers’ departure, all eyes slowly turned to either Cassie or Willow. Before Willow could break into a long rambling explanation of just what they knew beforehand about hellhounds and the Wells brothers, Tara grasped the redhead’s hand and walked her out of the library. As the witches left most eyes ended up turning back to Cassie. This only stopped when the young seer’s girlfriend let out an aggravated huff.

“Don’t you guys have anything better to do than ogle my amazing psychic girlfriend? She’s not going to tell any of you if you’re gonna get laid after the prom.” The outlandish rebuke from Dawn came paired with an icy glare.

Once it was clear that no further answers were coming, the room slowly emptied. The boys left to escort Jonathan home for the night. Cordelia rolled her eyes and walked back to her car. She needed to check back in with Mrs. Finkle. If the woman didn’t give her a morning shift at the store she’d most likely come up short on the cash needed to buy her dress. Giles and Doyle simply watched the teens leave the library. Once the room was empty of all but the remaining adults and the two youngest girls, Joyce and Jennifer locked eyes. They turned to face Dawn and Cassie. The men could only stare in bewilderment as the mothers laughed at the sheepish look Cassie was giving them and the shameless look Dawn wore like a suit of armor.

*****

“I’ll show them. That jackass Harris thinks he can kill one of my babies.” Tucker Wells muttered to himself as he charged down the stairs of the abandoned house he had taken over. “I’ll show them all. Just wait till they see my three fiercest babies breaking down the doors. If Harris thinks they go crazy for formal wear, just wait till they see the mirror ball.”

The hateful, malicious teen continued to rant as he walked across the basement where he trained his hellhounds. The empty cage remained a sore reminder of his one failed pet. The sight of the hellhound being so easily slain by the trio shocked Tucker, but that shock soon hardened into a seething hatred that only grew as the hours passed. Tucker knew he would soon have his revenge. They would all pay.

“Harris, Levinson, and that black guy they had with them are all gonna pay.” He muttered as he reached out to the door that separated the main room of the basement from the side room where he kept his three best pets. “Once my babies get to the dance it’ll be a…”

Tucker froze as he yanked the door open. The sight awaiting him was the last thing he could have ever anticipated. The TVs and VCRs playing rented high school dance movies had been shut down. Dark brown ichor oozed onto the floor of the room from each of the cages where he kept his fiercest hellhounds. All his plans and ambitions lay in shredded piles within their cages.

“... bloodbath.” Tucker whispered as the two terrifying figures looked up from their handiwork. The longsword gleamed in the dim light as flares of light and dark energy receded into the blade. The longbow folded into itself as it was holstered. The petite blonde and the brunette smiled as they saw their new prey. In an instant, Tucker recognized the lethal intent behind those smiles. Sinister and wicked grins full of unmatched fury and conviction. The gleeful smirks of huntresses who spent countless nights stalking their prey. The terrifying expressions which had been the last sights witnessed by thousands of demons who dared to set foot upon the hellmouth.

“Oh look, Honey.” The petite blonde spoke up as she flicked hellhound blood from her blade and let it dance across the basement walls. “Here’s the maladjust who tried to ruin our big night. Lucky for us he’s an incompetent maladjust.”

“Ya got that right, B.” The brunette replied as she pulled her arrow free from the skull of the dead hellhound in the cage at her feet. She smiled as she stuck the arrow back in the quiver at her back. Without even sparing a glance back to the boy she strolled over to the nearest TV and yanked the plug from the wall.

“You!” Tucker screamed as he blindly reached for anything at hand on the nearby shelf. His hand brushed over a lamp before coming across a rusty screwdriver. “You’ll pay for this!” He drew the crude weapon only to realize far too late that the side frame of a thirty-inch television was flying directly towards his head.

A loud crash filled the basement as the boy crumpled under the massive projectile. Buffy had just enough compassion to let out a sympathetic wince at the fate of the would-be demon summoner. The sympathy was short lived as she wiped the last remnants hellhound from her longsword and sheathed the blade. The Slayer smiled as she walked over to her girl and took Faith's hand. “Let’s get out of here, Honey.”

“Yeah, B.” Faith returned her girl’s smile as she squeezed the hand holding her own. “By now Red and Blondie have called the cops. This “dog fighting ring” should be easy enough to wrap up. Even for the Sunny D police force.” Buffy tilted her head back and laughed as they walked out of the abandoned house and into the night. Moments later they were three blocks over and heading to the Bronze to celebrate a successful patrol.

As the Slayers passed the fourth block of houses and left the neighborhood, two squad cars pulled up to the curve in front of the abandoned house. They easily found and arrested the unconscious leader of the dogfighting ring the anonymous tip had said would be there. Though one of the rookies questioned the unusual breed of the dead “dogs” found on the premises, all the senior officers knew better than to look a gift demon from the Slayers in the mouth.

Tucker Wells awoke a week and a half later, on the night of his classmates’ graduation, handcuffed to his hospital bed. Unfortunately for him, he would soon learn that his parents had refused to aid his defense in light of his crimes. Fortunately, he would remain blissfully ignorant of the drama unfolding in a nearly identical hospital room a few dozen doors down the hall.

*****

Cordelia let out a despondent sigh as she closed down the cash register and began to lock up the store for the night. She hadn’t made nearly enough to pay off her dress and her boss had flatly said the store would be closed through the weekend for renovations. A voice distracted her just as she grabbed her coat and was about to storm off into the night in search of a place to mourn missing her prom.

“Hey, don’t forget your dress. Aren’t you wearing it tomorrow night?”

Cordelia sighed as she turned to face Rhonda. Her perky coworker was holding up the clear bag with the dress in it. “As much as I hate to admit it, I haven’t finished paying for it yet.”

Rhonda blinked in surprise before looking back to the tag at the top of the bag. She laughed as she read Mrs. Finkle’s scribbled threat and held the dress out for Cordelia to see. “Well, yeah, the guy you were yelling at earlier paid for it.”

“What?” Cordelia was shocked. She snatched the dress out of the strawberry blonde’s hand and glared at the sale tag.

The other shop girl just smiled in the face of Cordelia’s shock and mild indignation. “Oh yeah, he paid it off for you right when you snuck out the back with the little guy and the tall dreamy black guy. Mrs. Finkle was about to fire you on the spot for abandoning ship during that, um… “mugging?” Rhonda’s smile faded for a moment as she spoke of something just about everyone knew you weren’t supposed to talk about. A moment passed before she hurried on with a forced smile and tried to brush off Cordelia’s concerns. “Anyway he walked up to the cash register, nodded to you and your dress, and put down more than enough to pay for it. Then he just kept putting hundred dollar bills down on the counter while nodding his head over to the shattered front window and winking at Mrs. Finkle. It took her almost a full minute to understand what was going on, and then she just smiled and thanked him for being a valued customer.”

Slowly, almost painfully, the annoyed grimace melted from Cordelia’s face. It was shortly replaced with a tentative smile. The head cheerleader had never expected such kindness from the boy she dumped. The boy she spent the last few months of their senior year publicly arguing and fighting with. Even after everything they put each other through, he was there for her. When it mattered, Cordelia Chase could still depend on the kindness of Xander Harris in her darkest moments.

*****

“So the feisty brunette really just went and chucked a TV at that douchebag’s head? Hot damn! Why weren’t we called in to assist last night? I would have paid good money to see that!”

“Steve, man, you are just the worst kind of person.” Bob shook his head as he stepped out of the limo and walked up to the front door of the home of the Senior Partners. He straightened his chauffeur's uniform before ringing the doorbell. If anyone had told him he’d regularly be visiting the home of the senior partners when he first started working for the infamous law firm he would have said they were insane. The fact that his duties now included limo driver for four of the most powerful young women on the planet would have been unimaginable under the previous Senior Partners.

“Hi, Bob.” A cheerful young blonde opened the door and smiled as she waited for him to step forward.

“Ms. Newton.” Bob bowed his head to the young seer as he stepped over the threshold. “I half expected you to be next door with the young Ms. Summers.”

“I know right.” Cassie smiled as she turned and lead the man into the living room. “Dawn and Joyce sent me over here so they could focus on Buffy spazzing out while getting dressed. So high maintenance. I don’t know how Faith does it.”

“With a smile on my face and at least three fingers wrigglin’ around where the sun don’t shine.” Bob and Cassie turned to see the brunette Slayer waltz into the room.

Faith wore a stunning black satin dress. The dark fabric clung to her curves as it covered from just above her ankles to several tantalizing inches below her collarbone. There was a slit on one side that exposed the length of one leg all the way from her toes to her upper thigh. The dress ended just above Faith’s breasts, with two bands stretching up to cross above her collarbone and wrap around her neck. The open expanse of flesh between those straps was enough to make the man blush and refocus his eyes somewhere closer to her hairline. The long dark locks were pinned up in a loose bun. Two strands remained free, framing Faith’s face.

“Hey, Sam Fisher, how do I look?” Faith gave Bob and Cassie a sly smirk as she spun to reveal how well the dress clung to her assets. “Think my girl will lose her shit, or what?”

“Oh, my god, Faith. Like you even have to ask” Cassie moaned as she collapsed back onto the couch. “Your blonde nympho is going to love it.”

Bob did his best to reaffirm his composure before giving an honest and blunt answer. “If my partner were here I’m sure he’d say several wildly inappropriate things about the dress before asking if you and any other Slayers were D.T.F. Which, coincidentally, is why I left him in the car.”

“Awesome.” Faith smirked as she walked out of the room and back towards the hallway stairs. “Just what I was going for.”

“Yeah, yeah, we all know how hot you are, Faith,” Xander muttered as he came into the living room. The young man was busy fixing his cufflinks as he walked up to Cassie. “How do I look, Cass?”

Cassie’s reply was straight-faced and full of shamelessness that stunned the wet works operative. “Are you asking what I think, what I think Buffy will think, or what I think your new demon girlfriend will think?”

“Dealer’s choice,” Xander said as the struggle over his cufflinks came to a close.

“Well the Buffy ship has sailed, but she and Faith will both probably like your outfit anyway. If your demon tries to eat you on the dancefloor they might throw some pity your way and sandwich you between their hips while they do that full-body-grinding-sex-dance thing they do.” The almost deadpan delivery was not enough to hide the fact that even Cassie found the very idea of what she was saying to be utterly ridiculous. “As for Anya, it’s really hard to tell what an eleven hundred-year-old former demon is into, but if her complete lack of filter and hypersexual one track mind is anything to go on you’ll probably be able to get to third base.”

“Third base?” Xander perked up at the prospect. “Really?”

“Sure. Why not… Oh.” Cassie paused for a second before frowning. “We’re probably talking Cordelia’s idea of third base. Definitely not Faith’s definition of third base. Probably not even Willow of Buffy’s idea of third base.”

“So Tara and Joyce’s third base?” Xander asked. Cassie’s immediate reaction to his question was more than enough to tell him how far off his guess had been.

“What?” Cassie let out a loud peal of laughter, almost falling off the couch. “Oh my god! No!” The young seer continued to laugh at the teen’s expense. “Where have you been the last few years, Xander? Joyce and Tara are almost as big pervs as Willow. Their definition of third base would cause your stuck up ex to faint, and your new demon to pull out a journal to take notes.”

“Ha, ha.” Xander deadpanned as he looked up to see Jennifer standing in the archway with a video camera. “They ready?”

“Oh, you girls look so beautiful.” Jennifer was almost in tears as she recorded Tara and Willow descending the stairs.

Willow’s dress was a deep burgundy floor length gown. Sequins accenting the lace pattern that began at her waist and wove all the way up to her plunging neckline. Two thin cords trailed up from the peaks of the lacey fabric covering Willow’s breasts. The cords ran up over the redhead’s collarbone to where they were tied off at the back of her neck. Her crimson locks were tied up in a low bun similar to Faith’s, with a single strand of red hair trailing down the right side of her face to offset the slight widow’s peak. Tara’s dress was a soft gold floor length gown. The rich satin fabric came up to just cover the honey blonde’s ample breasts, leaving her shoulders and arms bare to the casual explorations of her redheaded partner’s wandering hands. Tara’s long golden locks were pulled back and woven in a loose braid that trailed down her partly exposed back.

“Wowzers,” Xander muttered as the couple descended the stairs.

“So beautiful,” Jennifer said again as she recorded Willow raising up one of Tara’s hands above their heads and spinning the honey blonde for the camera. Tara, in turn, spun Willow in a way the showed off the redhead’s dress and ended with Willow’s chest pulled firmly against her own. The witches shared a kiss that soon encroached on territory too passionate for the family video Jennifer was still recording. “Oh, enough of that you two. Faith! Come show off the dress you’re going to use to wrap that neighbor girl around your fingers.”

“Thought you’d never ask, Jen.” Faith gave out a cheer as she strutted her way into view of the camera. The brunette kicked out one leg to show off just how much skin the slit in her dress let her reveal. She then kicked up the exposed leg and gave the camera a spin before leaning forward with her hands on her knees to mime kissing the camera. The move put her cleavage on full display and caused both Bob and Xander to cough uncomfortably.

“Oh, you girls,” Jennifer muttered in an almost proud tone as the doorbell rang.

“Finally.” Cassie moaned as she went to answer the door. A moment later she led a trio of Summers girls into the living room, Dawn on her arm with a nervous Buffy in their wake. Joyce followed Buffy with a video camera in much the same way Jennifer was documenting the antics of the other three girls. Buffy and Faith both froze as they saw each other, both drinking in the sight of the gorgeous Slayer they adored.

Buffy’s dress was fairly similar to Tara’s. A soft pink satin gown trailing up from the petite blonde’s ankles to just above the swell of her breasts. The open back of the dress was punctuated by a knot of the same pink fabric that unfurled into a modest train flowing down the Slayer’s backside.

“Damn, B.” Faith whispered as all her previous flirtations melted away in the presence of her girl.

“You like, Honey?” Buffy asked as her eyes trailed up and down the provocative curves and tantalizing flesh highlighted by Faith’s dress. Buffy swallowed her last bit of saliva as her mouth went dry. She walked up to her girl and gently placed her hands on Faith’s hips. “I like, by the way. In case that wasn’t clear.”

“I like, B,” Faith whispered as she leaned in and brought her hands up her girl’s sides to rest on her exposed back. “Boy, do I like.”

“All you kids look amazing.” Joyce smiled as she panned her camera around the room to all the dressed up teens. “Where’s Rondell? Isn’t he riding in the limo? And where’s Doyle? Is he chaperoning with Giles?”

“Ms. Gunn’s lieutenant chose to ride in the other car being driven by Mr. Doyle,” Bob answered the Slayer’s mother in a calm and professional tone. “They’ll meet us there once they pick up Mr. Levinson, both of their dates for the evening, and another surprise guest that I was asked not to reveal just yet.”

“Ooh, surprises.” Xander perked up as he noticed Willow and Tara sharing a curious look. “Well, at least we’ll get to meet Jonathan’s mystery date.”

Before the conversation could be sidetracked any further Jennifer called everyone’s attention. “Okay everyone clump together for pictures before you go pick up Xander’s demon.” The young man moaned as everyone else laughed. Joyce and Jennifer handed both of their prototype Star Phones to Bob and the trained operative spent the next few minutes taking pictures of the Scooby gang. By the end, both mothers had footage and multiple photos of each teen standing solo, each couple, all four girls, all four girls standing around Xander, and every possible combination of two of the four girls hanging on either of the boy’s arms.

Once both Joyce and Jennifer were satisfied that the night was suitably chronicled Bob returned the phones, opened the front door and followed the teens out to the limo. Joyce looked to Jennifer and then both mothers looked over to the couch to see Dawn and Cassie practically sitting in each other’s laps.

“So who wants to order pizza while we wait for the girls to drop the boys off after the dance?” Joyce’s question was met with cheers from the girls and an eye roll from her friend. The two blondes laughed as they went into the kitchen to order, leaving the girls to make out on the living room couch.

*****

“So you got me a limo. With a chauffeur and everything.” Anya perked up as Xander lead her to the luxury vehicle. She was wearing a full-length dress with thin straps over her shoulders, a black lace trim, and a dark red and black floral pattern. “I really didn’t expect…” She froze as Bob opened the door and revealed the smiling witches and Slayers. “This.”

“Hi, Anya.” Willow all but cheered as she patted the expanse of leather seat beside her and Tara. “Come on in. We’ve missed you.”

“Xander?” Anya began to panic as her eyes flicked back and forth between the two smiling ridiculously powerful witches and the two mildly predatory looking Slayers staring at her. “What is this? I thought you were going to this dance with me.”

“I am,” Xander spoke with an upward inflection that could have made his statement a question. He looked confused until he heard several giggles from inside the limo. He looked inside to see Willow and Tara barely holding back their laughter while Faith began to chuckle into Buffy hair. The petite blonde just looked at Xander, waved a finger around to all the young women inside the limo, and then pointed the same finger at the former demon standing beside him. “What? Them?” He asked as he popped his head back and looked to Anya. “They’re my friends. We’re all taking the same limo. The limo that two of them own.”

“They’re Slayers,” Anya whispered angrily. “What happens when they find out I’m… You know.”

“Ahn…” Xander cocked his head to the side as he took in the worried expression on his date’s face. “They already know.”

“What?” Anya shouted and almost leapt away from the limo. Xander followed as Bob did his best to suppress a grin.

“Anya, what’s the problem? You’re human now aren’t you?” He waited for an exasperated nod from the former demon. “Buffy and Faith don’t slay humans. It’s a whole thing we all don’t talk about and try to make sure never happens. You’re safe so long as you don’t try to destroy the world in front of them. Plus, Willow and Tara vouch for you, so everything is fine.”

Anya stared at him skeptically for a long moment. Eventually, she relaxed her stiff shoulders and returned to the open door of the limo. The witches smiled at her as she climbed in. The Slayers gave her cautious but genuinely accepting looks. Xander followed and sat beside her. Once the car was underway it was clear that an icebreaker was needed. Anya racked her brain for an anecdote that would appeal to the other couples.

“So this one time in the early fifteen hundreds, there was this girl near the Black Forest who was burned at the stake for witchcraft and “corrupting” the village Burgermeister's daughter. The girl she “corrupted” was grief-stricken and wished that her father, the local head priest, and all the men working for them would feel the pain of having their hearts ripped out and their souls torn away. That combo took some creative thinking on my part, but I managed it by having a Krakanoth demon, sort of a crow demon with satyr legs, plant a larva in each of their chest cavities at night. It took a few weeks but eventually, the larval demons consumed their hearts and souls, and made the husks walk around the village in a haze until they all eventually wandered into the forest and were eaten by wolves.”

There was dead silence in the back of the limo until Tara let out an unfazed sigh. “Yup, that sounds about right.”

Anya smiled at what she took for praise while Willow laughed. Both Slayers stared in shock and bewilderment at the former demon until they simply looked at each other and shrugged off the horrifying story. Xander felt relieved that his date was at least trying to make a “good” impression with his friends. That relief would not last the evening as Anya’s stories continued to wear down and desensitize both Xander’s sense of propriety and his gag reflex.

*****

Two limos pulled up in front of the recently relocated Sunnydale High. The drivers of the first limo got out and opened the car door. Xander was the first out, offering a hand to Anya to help her out of the vehicle, and then to each of the young women in his family in turn. As the Slayers and witches gathered on the curb in front of the school they looked to the second limo and smiled at the familiar figure exiting the driver’s seat. Doyle waved as he walked around to the rear door and opened it. First out was Rondell, who offered a hand to Amy. Then, to everyone’s surprise, Angel stepped out, offering his hand to Cordelia. Last out was Jonathan, extending a hand to his mystery date. The woman that clasped his outstretched hand stepped out onto the curb, drawing gasps of surprise from half the Scoobys.

“Al!” Faith cheered as she and Buffy came jogging over to their fellow Slayer. “What are you doing here, girl?”

Alonna smiled. “Your stud here asked me to be his date.” The Slayer wore a beige gown with a provocative slit running three quarters of the way up one thigh. The skirt was embroidered with black and silver patterns that wound around her abdomen and up the strapless corset-like bodice that put the ebony Slayer’s chest on full display. The eye-catching dress and high heels almost put Alonna’s breasts on an even level with her date’s blushing face.

All eyes turned to a now nervous Jonathan who simply shrugged. “I figured, Slayer Prom?” The trio of Slayers looked at Jonathan, and then to each other. A beat passed before they all burst into laughter.

A few yards away Xander and Anya walked up to another odd couple. Cordelia and Angel had been giggling to each other about something as the Scooby and the former demon approached. Their private joke was interrupted by what had to be the fifth tale of woe and dismemberment from the former demon. “So then this one time this girl wished her ex would cannibalize himself. Even I had a hard time granting that one, let me tell you.”

“Cordy! Angel!” Xander grasped desperately for any diversion from his date’s horrifying wish stories. “My god in heaven it’s nice to see you! How are you both? And details please.”

“Oh um. We’re good, Xander.” Angel gave the teen a forced smile. “Thanks for asking.”

“Yes!” Cordelia agreed before locking eyes with Xander and giving him a meaningful look of gratitude. “Thank you.”

Xander looked his ex up and down, taking in the sight of the shining charcoal gray dress that hugged her curves and drew the eye to her plunging neckline. He smirked as he appreciated the peace offering he freely gave to the cheerleader. “It looks good on you.”

“Well duh.” Cordelia laughed off her ex’s cocky grin.

As the group began to file into the school it became clear that all the Scooby Gang and Hyperion Crew couples were ready to dance the night away.

*****

“Oh, oh, group pictures!” Willow cheered as the last of the couples finished getting their prom pictures taken. “Guys! Let’s do some group shots. Get each of the teams and all their honeys and then do one with all the Slayers.”

“Oh, then do one with all the Slayers and Angel,” Tara added, causing the Slayers and Xander to laugh.

“Okay, okay, Wills,” Buffy said as they continued to monopolize the photographer set up just outside the doors to the dancefloor. The Scoobys and Hyperion Crew took their turns, then the Slayers had fun with varying threatening poses around an otherwise stoic Angel. By the end of the session, the photographer was well and truly confused, only holding his questions back when Willow walked up with an eye-catching platinum card and paid for a half dozen copies of each photo in varying sizes.

*****

“So how did Levinson score a babe like that?” Percy asked as he watched the short boy leave the mystery girl with Buffy and Faith to fetch punch for all of them.

“Maybe she’s friends with Xander’s girl clique?” Hogan speculated. “He has been hanging around Rosenberg, Maclay, Summers, and Lehane an awful lot. Not as much as Xander, but still. Jonathan has an in with that group.”

Percy couldn’t help but wonder what was really going on with the hot new stranger that had drawn more than a few looks when she walked in on Jonathan’s arm. “Think she’s into chicks like the others, and just throwing Levinson a pity date?”

“Well, for sure don’t let Summers and Lehane hear you say that.” Hogan shook his head at his teammate. “But really you’re probably gonna have to ask Jonathan.”

“Yeah, yeah.” Percy agreed before walking towards the punch table and raising his voice. “Hey, Jonathan!”

Jonathan looked up from his handful of punch filled cups to see Hogan Martin and Percy West coming his way. “Hey, guys.” The diminutive boy greeted the taller jocks. “What’s up?”

“You’re date, is she… How did you two meet?” Hogan asked as he glanced over to where Buffy, Faith, and Alonna were dancing to the beat of one of the faster songs the band had played so far. The trio moved to the beat, arms whipping out and around each other without ever coming into unwanted contact. No one else on the dancefloor could have hoped to match their speed and ferocity.

“Alonna? We met at Willow and Tara’s Halloween party last year.” Jonathan admitted as he glanced back and forth between the Slayers and the jocks. “Yeah, she’s been besties with Buffy and Faith ever since Willow and Tara introduced Buffy’s gang to Alonna and her brother’s crew in L.A. Actually that’s also how Amy and Rondell met.” He nodded over to where the witch and the demon hunter were all but wrapped around each other off to one side of the dancefloor.

“So she’s from L.A. then,” Percy smirked as he watched the three girls move with almost predatory synchronicity. “Are you and her?”

“Oh, no.” Jonathan laughed as he began to walk over to the Slayers with their drinks. “Her girlfriend is like a millionaire CEO and way prettier than me, but still. How many other guys here can say they took a gorgeous Vampire Slayer to prom?”

The jocks’ eyes widened in shock as they looked more closely at the trio of girls. Any thoughts they had about “getting to know” the small nerd’s “girlfriend” flew out the window as they watched the Slayers greet Jonathan and down their drinks. Their eyes widened further as they saw Alonna grind into the short boy. Jonathan’s smile was obvious and only offset by the glare the Slayer sent their way. For an instant, Percy and Hogan felt trapped within the hungry gaze of an apex predator. So intense was Alonna’s glare that they could have sworn she had heard their earlier conversation and judged them lacking. As they retreated they almost missed the round of laughter coming from the school librarian, guidance counselor, and the shorter black-haired man who had joined them near the far end of the snacks table.

*****

“This isn’t bad,” Anya said as Xander held her to his chest for a slow dance. For his part, the young man was relieved that her terrifying stories had slowed down.

Xander smirked as he thought of a playful way to take his date’s mind off her past and her hatred of men. “Ouch, I’ll have to step my game up if we ever go on a second date.”

“You’d go on another date with me?” Anya perked up and she looked into his eyes.

“You haven’t tried to murder me or publicly shame me yet so sure, why not?” Xander smiled as Anya’s eyes widened in shock.

Anya could not reconcile Xander’s words with all of her centuries of experience with men and their treatment of the women in their lives. “How low is the bar if “not murdering you” counts as a bonus and not a given?”

Xander smiled as the opening for one of his horrifying stories made itself known. “Ahn, do you honestly think you’re the first demon I’ve dated?” As she blinked in confusion Xander carried on with one of his own stories. “This one time in our sophomore year, we had a substitute science teacher. She was very attractive and when she sent out some very obvious signals I asked her out. Big mistake. I ended up in chains in a cage in her basement with another boy from the class. Turns out she was a giant praying mantis wearing a human disguise and she needed to mate and eat. Concurrently. Buffy swooped in just before the big bug was about to remove my pants and at least one head. Not a pleasant first date.”

For a minute Anya stared at the boy. Slowly, a smile crept across her face. She began to laugh as she brought her forehead down to rest once more against his chest. Xander took this as a sign that things would be okay.

“So then in our Junior year, Buffy got to house an exchange student.” He went on. “At first I was like, “No way! You can’t get a Latin lover! He’ll be all over you and gross and flirty.” Imagine my surprise when the exchange student that shows up is an insanely pretty South American girl who thinks I’m the sweetest thing she’s ever seen. I’m all in for showing the girl around town and making her feel right at home in our little group. Then the dried out, withered, super dehydrated bodies of our classmates start showing up and it turns out the exchange student is an ancient, cursed, mummified, Inca Princess who needs to suck the life and fluids out of someone every other day or else she dries out and turns to dust.”

Anya cackled at Xander’s story. She couldn’t help herself. It was the first time she felt wholehearted amusement since losing her power center. It might have been the first time she felt genuine joy for something other than vengeance in centuries. Xander smiled in relief as his checkered dating history finally broke the ice. The odd couple continued to laugh as they danced.

*****

“Poor Xander.” Buffy sighed as she watched some doofus with a cluster of balloon animals on his head run up to the stage and accept the “class clown” award.

“It’s okay, B.” Faith said as she threw an arm over her girl’s shoulders. “We’ll make it up to him. Next time you come over for breakfast sit in my lap and let me feed you whatever Jen puts on your plate.”

Buffy’s head cocked to one side in a perplexed and quizzical manner. “How is that going to make it up to Xander?”

“Please, Buffy.” Alonna laughed as she poured herself a glass of punch from the fountain Giles had been hovering around all night. “Between the way you moan when sitting on Faith, and the way you moan when eating, you’ll put on a show Xander will never forget. Hell, if Faith plays it up enough he’ll have to run back upstairs and change his pants.”

Faith cackled with amusement as Buffy turned a shade of red that almost matched Willow’s hair. Eventually, the moment passed and Buffy noticed an odd change from the way the night had been going so far. “Where’s Jonathan? Hasn’t he been getting you drinks almost all night?”

Alonna shrugged. “He said he had a thing to do for the prom committee. As long as he’s safe I figured there’d be no harm in letting him talk up his “hot girlfriend” to any of the kids here who don’t know any better.”

Buffy’s eyes widened as a horrifying thought crossed her mind. “Please tell me you and the rich girl didn’t break up and this is some kind of rebound thing.”

“What? Jesus, Buffy. Have a little faith in me.” Alonna shook off the disgust at the idea. “No, Ginny and I are in a good place. Jonathan was just being nice and figured I wanted to be here with my fellow Slayers for the big dance. Plus, Jonathan is off limits.” She paused to wave in the direction of some of their friends standing in the middle of the crowd of students looking up to the main stage. “Even if I was into dudes as much as Cordy and Amy over there are, I have a strict rule against dating Charles’ friends and their closest friends. “J Dawg” is pretty much besties with Chain and Rondell. Ever since Vegas, those three have been closer than brothers. I’d ask if the three of them were dating but I feel like I’d then have to listen to a five-hour lecture on the fact that “hetero life partners” are a thing that “does in fact exist.”

One part of the ebony Slayer’s speech stood out to the brunette. “Does Chuck not have the same rule, or was he giving it to Fred before you and her were “totes besties?”

“Oh, no.” Alonna shrugged off the implied double standard. “Charles is an idiot when it comes to his love life. I make it a point to vet any girl that he starts sniffing around. If Fred wasn’t someone I trusted with my life, she wouldn’t still be dating my brother.”

The speaker on stage paused and looked around. He stepped aside. A new speaker stepped forward to the surprise of the one Slayer still watching the stage. Faith smiled as she glanced at Alonna and nodded to the stage. “Well looks like your boy is doin’ more than talking about your fine ass after all.”

Alonna and Buffy’s heads both swiveled to the stage. They saw Jonathan awkwardly lower the mic so it wasn’t almost a foot above his mouth. The Slayers watched as the young man cleared his throat and addressed the crowd. “We have one more award to give out. Buffy Summers. Are you out there? Did she and Faith…” He trailed off as the spotlights suspended over the dancefloor swept the room. Eventually, they converged on the trio of Slayers standing by the punch bowl.

Jonathan smiled as he saw the Slayers. “This is actually a new category. First time ever. I guess there were a lot of write-in ballots and…” He began to search his suit jacket pockets for something. Only returning to his speech once he pulled out and unfolded a slip of paper. “The prom committee asked me to read this.” He paused as he held the paper up and began to read the message of gratitude to the Slayer.

“We’re not good friends. Most of us never found the time to get to know you, but that doesn’t mean we haven’t noticed you. We don’t talk about it much, but it’s no secret that Sunnydale High isn’t really like other high schools. A lot of weird stuff happens here.”

“Zombies!” One voice in the back called out. “Hyena people!” A girl near the stage shouted right after. “The building getting blown up and moving across town.” Another shouted. “Snyder!” A boy in the crowd yelled, causing a round of laughter to ripple through the room. “The hellhounds she put down literally yesterday!” The Slayers smiled as they recognized Rondell’s voice in the mix. Jonathan smiled at the Slayers, going back to the speech as soon as the crowd quieted down.

“But whenever there was a problem or something creepy happened, you seemed to show up and stop it. Most of the people here have been saved by you or helped by you at one time or another. We’re proud to say that the class of ninety-nine has the lowest mortality rate of any graduating class in Sunnydale history.”

The crowd cheered and clapped at the morbid but uplifting news. Buffy was speechless as both Faith and Alonna joined the cheering and hooting audience. The cheering stretched on for several heartwarming moments before Jonathan began to speak again.

“And we know at least part of that is because of you. So the Senior class offers its thanks and gives you… um…” He looked around until another member of the prom committee stepped forward with an odd object. “This.” Jonathan held up a small novelty umbrella. It had a silver handle, a shiny green and black shaft, and a golden canopy that reflected rainbow shades under the stage lights. Lengths of multicolored tinsel garlands ran along each rib and the bottom rim of the canopy. Where the handle met the shaft there was a small engraved plaque attached.

“It’s from all of us, and it has written here, “Buffy Summers; Class Protector.”

Applause filled the room as a grateful school cheered the one girl whose deeds few of them ever acknowledged, but all knew. The crowd parted, giving the Slayer a clear path to walk up to the stage and claim her award. Tears built in the corners of her eyes, and a smile broke out as it became clear that no one was cheering for her louder than Faith and Alonna.

*****

“That was sweet. What you did for Buffy.” Alonna whispered in Jonathan’s ear as they slow danced to a generic nineties love song.

“It was most of the school who came up with the idea,” Jonathan admitted. “They just asked me to give the speech because the kids on the prom committee know I’m on speaking terms with her and Faith but not practically living with them like Xander.”

“Still, you’re a good friend, Jonathan.” Alonna smiled as she held the boy closer. “My offer stands. There will always be a room for you at the Hyperion. If you want it.”

“I’d like that.”

Across the dancefloor young heroes held their partners close. Amy and Rondell had not parted from each others company all night. Angel and Cordelia had remained surprisingly close, both recalling how easily they hit things off the few times they met at the Bronze and at Willow and Tara’s Halloween party. When Alonna mentioned the dance invitation from Jonathan Angel went out of his way to call Cordelia and ask if she already had plans. Xander and Anya continued to share horror stories, and laugh over past tragedies as they danced. Willow and Tara were floating at least a foot off the ground as they held each other and swayed to the music. The only couple not dancing were the blonde and brunette Slayers. Seeing this, their watcher excused himself from the other chaperones.

“You did good work leading up to this night, Buffy, and you, Faith.” Giles smiled at his Slayers as they held up and twirled the brightly colored umbrella.

“And I got a little toy surprise.” Buffy beamed at the watcher. “Sorry, Honey, we got a little toy surprise. Should I ask the drama club if they have the decorations to make another one of these?”

“Nah, B.” Faith just shook her head as she smiled at her girl. “This is your award. You earned all this. I wouldn’t be here if it weren't for you. I sure as hell wouldn’t be the Slayer I am if it weren’t for you. These kids, sure they know I helped, but the smart ones know you’re the reason I’m here to save them. They know you’re the reason so many of them lived to see this night.”

Giles smiled yet again as Buffy offered him the umbrella. “I had no idea that children, en masse, could be gracious.”

Buffy nodded to her watcher as she took Faith’s hand. “Every now and then people surprise you.”

“Every now and then.” Giles agreed. The Englishman watched his Slayers walk hand in hand onto the dancefloor. The songs changed and the slow dancing continued. As Buffy and Faith melted into each other on the dancefloor, Giles took a seat at the nearest empty table. He twirled the umbrella and smiled to himself. He was soon joined by both Doyle and Stephen Platt. The dancing continued and all the Slayers and the members of their teams took the rare opportunity to enjoy themselves.

*****

“We might as well stay the night,” Alonna said as she led Xander, Rondell, Jonathan, Angel, and Doyle up the walkway to the Rosenberg-Maclay home. Dropping off Amy, Cordelia, and Anya had taken little time and the rest of the group held no doubts about the fact that the Slayers and witches were most likely already making good use of their separate hotel rooms. “Xander, are the huge bunk-bed rooms still where we left them?”

“Oh, yeah. There’s plenty of beds. I kinda took over the room Doyle and Angel stayed last year, but Will pretty much had a full apartment with little blackout curtains put in the basement. That and Doyle is shacking up with Jen. So no worries, Al. You and Jonathan each have like thirty beds to choose from.”

“Sweet,” Jonathan said as they opened the door and were greeted by Tara’s smiling mother.

_________________
Time and Time Again


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 Post subject: Re: Time and Time Again
PostPosted: Fri Jun 28, 2019 4:36 pm 
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6. Sassy Eggs
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Time and Time Again.

Author: Citanul

Feedback: Be kind, rewind? Seriously though all feedback is welcome.

Spoilers: Just about all of them. Go watch the show. And Angel too. Also Agents of Shield a little bit. You know what, if a name you don’t recognize pops up most of the time you can find dozens of pages of character bio if you type that name and the word comics into Wikipedia. It’s almost scary how much page space comic book fans have taken up on that site.

Rating: NC-17 = Smutty smut smut smut. Seriously though they make love quite often.

Pairings: W/T, B/F, G/J, D/J, F/G, A/?, X/A. Also D/C (Though not till they’re older and even then maybe not so much with the graphic detail.)

Disclaimer: You all know I don’t own the rights to characters you’ve seen on TV.

Summary: A story of reincarnation and interdimensional travel made possible through the power of love. What misfortunes will our two favorite love birds be able to prevent with the aid of experience from countless past lives?

Author’s Note: Prom Night final scene. Pure smut. Read the previous post before this for the first 92% of the chapter. Enjoy.

*****

Chapter 41: The Prom: The Epilogue

Buffy let out a loud squeal of laughter as Faith scooped her up and carried her down the hall. Tara and Willow shared a knowing smile as the Slayers disappeared into their hotel suite. Tara smirked as she leaned in to whisper in her redhead’s ear. “They’re as frisky as ever.”

A pleasant shiver ran up Willow’s spine as the curvy honey blonde pressed their bodies together. “Mmm, can you blame them, Baby?” Willow fumbled with the keycard to their hotel room as Tara ran her hands up the redhead’s stomach and over her breasts. She let out a gasp and another full body shudder as Tara’s hands then trailed back down to cup the apex of her thighs over the burgundy dress. “Baby.” She moaned.

“Let me, Sweetie.” Tara purred as she grasped the hand holding the key card with one hand and her everything’s quivering center with the other. She rolled her hips, pressing into Willow all the more hungrily as she slid the key card into the lock. A needy whimper broke free from Willow’s lips as Tara mercilessly worked her up.

“Tara.” Willow continued to moan as Tara flung open the door and pushed inside. In an instant, the door was closed and Willow found her back slammed against the wall just inside their suite.

“These dresses need to come off or else I’m going to ruin them,” Tara growled into Willow’s neck as she pressed into the quivering redhead. “Either way, I’m still gonna ruin you.”

The lurid promise shocked Willow’s mind back on track and reminded her of the plans she had formed for the evening. “Mmm, not yet, Missy.” Willow reached up and grasped Tara’s braided hair. “Tonight I’m going to take you to a very special place.”

“Where’s that?” Tara husked as Willow leaned down to suck on the pulse point of Tara’s neck just below her ear.

Willow nipped at the sensitive spot just before popping back up to look the honey blonde in the eye. “Pound Town,” Willow smirked as she took a step back from Tara, let go of her hair, and brought a single finger up to tap the tip of her love’s nose. “Now you need to strip and go wait for me on the bed. I have a special treat I’ve been planning for you.” Willow grabbed the bag she had left by the door and skipped off to the bathroom.

Tara was almost speechless as she watched her love disappear behind the closing door. She shook her head in aroused disbelief as she reached back to undo the zipper at the back of her dress. “Vixen.” She muttered as the bodice came loose. The dress was tossed over a love seat in the open living room of the suite. Tara waltzed through the open doors of the bedroom wearing nothing but her heels, strapless bra, and lacey black panties. The heels were all that remained by the time she sat down on the edge at the foot of the bed.

Inside the bathroom, Willow hummed happily to herself as she removed her dress and hung it on a hanger dangling from a hook on the bathroom door. She pulled her underwear down her legs until she was able to kick them off. The heels soon followed. Once Willow was standing completely naked she began to rummage through the small bag she had packed. She smiled gleefully as her fingers wrapped around the silicone toy.

The redhead took a moment to admire the soft pink Share dildo. Willow could practically feel her pussy tingling as she recalled the many experiences she had receiving Tara’s purple Share. She couldn’t wait to give back to Tara all the wonderful orgasms she had so greedily received from her everything. Willow could already tell she was ready thanks to the titillating walk down memory lane. A slender hand slid down her stomach and through soft red curls. As fingers parted lips she felt the dampness of her own arousal seep out. Willow took the Share and used the head to catch the trickle that was about to run down her inner thigh. She teased her folds with the head before rubbing her slickness along the top of the shaft. When she was sure the toy would be nice and lubed up for Tara she turned it around and pressed the bulb into her aching center.

A lurid moan escaped Willow’s lips as she pushed herself down onto the soft saddle-horn-shaped bulb end of the double dildo. Her legs quaked as the toy slid into place and her clit was pressed against the small nook that curved up and expanded into the shaft of the toy. The shaft that she would soon use to make love to her always.

Willow leaned back and admired her faux penis in the bathroom mirror. She clenched around the bulb of the toy and gave an experimental shake of her hips. She had to stifle her own laughter as she watched her “cock” waggle back and forth. With newfound confidence and an aching need for her girlfriend, Willow began to strut out of the bathroom and across the hotel suite.

“Oh, Tara,” Willow called out with a coy flirtatious tone. “I hope you’re ready for me.”

Tara looked up from where she had been slowly teasing her pussy lips with her finger tips. She had to suppress a giggle at the sight of her girlfriend. Willow stood framed in the middle of the bedroom’s double doors. Her hands placed firmly on her hips. Legs spaced just a little further than shoulder length apart. A slight shimmy causing the soft pink phallus protruding from her pussy to wave impishly at Tara.

“Baby,” Tara moaned as she spread her legs even further to give Willow a better view of the places she hoped the redhead would soon explore. “Are you going to wave that thing at me all night or are you going to come over here and take me to Pound Town?”

Willow swallowed her own excitement as her eyes devoured the honey blonde’s damp curls and quivering folds. She was about to walk over and take her woman when she felt her own folds clench around nothing. There was a soft thud. They both looked down to see the Share bounce once off the bedroom carpet and land on Willow’s foot.

“Oh!” Willow panicked. “Oh, shoot! I’ll be right back.” She grabbed the offending toy and raced back to the bathroom. Tara laughed as she heard the sound of a faucet going off and light cursing as Willow cleaned and reinserted the toy. She took a moment to remove her heels as she waited for the redhead’s return. “Okay, now we’re ready,” Willow said as she stepped back into the open doorway with her legs held closely together. “Baby, I’m gonna rock your world.”

Tara giggled as the corny line warmed her heart. “Come here, you goof.”

Willow walked to the foot of the bed where Tara waited. Her thighs were pressed together the entire way. When she stood between Tara's spread legs Willow bent down to kiss the love of her many lives. Tara melted into a soft clash of lips as she felt a hand on her chest. Her lust clouded eyes blinked open as she was gently pushed back. She looked up to her girlfriend in confusion before she realized that the redhead was slowly sinking to her knees.

With her legs still held together, Willow sat on her knees and began to lavish the inside of Tara's thighs with kisses. She took her time, alternating between brief gentle little pecks, long drawn out sucking attempts to leave marks that would still be there by their graduation ceremony, and everything in between. When Willow finally worked her tongue over honey blonde curls that hid silken folds Tara was already teetering on the edge. She cried out as she felt Willow’s adorable nose press into her clit, and Willow’s practiced tongue dive deep into her molten core. Moans of pleasure came freely from Tara’s lips as Willow sought even greater closeness with her love. She took both of Tara’s legs and threw them over her shoulders. Willow reveled in the feeling of Tara’s thighs wrapped tightly around her head. Drowning all of her senses in Tara as the honey blonde’s shaking hips rocked into her face.

“Willow!” Tara screamed as she came far too quickly, all over the face of her lovable redhead. Her body continued to quake and shudder as Willow blissfully continued to delve her love’s depths. Willow smirked into Tara’s center as the quivering drew to a close. Slowly, almost torturously, the redhead withdrew her tongue. She sat back on her heels with a smile. The grin never left her face as she gathered up Tara’s essence from her skin. Willow stood, looking down at the euphoric body of her always spread across the bed. With a smile she began to rub the slickness she gathered onto the shaft of the toy protruding from between her thighs.

“Ooh.” Willow moaned as she stroked the toy she clenched within her own center. “Mmm, Tara. Baby.” The redhead pulled up one of Tara's knees, propping a bent leg up as she lowered her center and the wobbly shaft towards Tara’s still heated and wanton core.

A gasp escaped Tara’s throat as she felt the round tip of Willow’s faux cock press against her swollen lips. “Willow!” She writhed as Willow loomed over her, teasing her entrance with the silicone head.

“Tara.” Willow moaned in return as she slowly began to bring their hips together. She suppressed a shudder as each and every quiver of Tara’s pussy shook the toy nestled within her own depths.

“Willow.” Tara moaned as the first half of Willow’s shaft slid inside. Barely aware of anything beyond the desperate need to bring them together, Tara’s leg wrapped around the back Willow’s thighs and her hands slid down to grip Willow’s ass.

Willow let out a broken moan as her body was pulled flush with Tara’s, the full length of her shaft slamming into the honey blonde. “Ta-Tara!” Every quake of their bodies reverberated back and forth through the toy. Their breasts pressed together, sending shocks of ecstasy through both of their shuddering forms. Every inch of bare skin seeking out contact with skin just as desperate to touch and be touched.

Willow came. Her hips shaking violently. Her pussy clenching the shuddering toy. Her every quivering motion bringing Tara along with her as they rode into the orgasmic abyss together. Tara shuddered as she was once more brought over the edge by the woman who knew every part of her body better than she did herself.

Moments passed by in the hotel suite. The world beyond the edges of their bed melting away. Their senses limited only to each other. The only sound, the panting of two young women lost in each other. The only taste, ragged breaths caught as they gasped in between kisses and the salty tinge of sweat licked off exposed necks. The only scents, cinnamon, and honeysuckle and vanilla shampoos mixed together with their combined arousal and the remnants of perfumes applied hours ago. The only touch, glorious expanses of goosebump pebbled skin pressed against skin still shivering from the ravages of post-coital bliss. The only sight, besotted sapphire and emerald orbs desperately seeking each other out.

“Hi,” Willow said with a wide grin as she caught her breath and looked deep into Tara’s eyes.

Tara laughed lightly at the redhead sprawled across her bare chest. “Hi yourself, Sweetie.”

Willow joined in Tara’s laughter, only to realize how deeply they were connected when their laughter shook the toy still held between them. Tara moaned again as she rocked her hips up into Willow’s slender frame. Willow let out a strained whimper as she pulled back every so slightly. The shaft of the Share slid out of Tara until the head was all that remained nestled within her center.

“Tara, Baby,” Willow whispered as she held her hips just far enough to tease without losing contact with the woman she adored. Tara did her best to make eye contact with her everything. When blue met green a playful smirk played across the redhead’s lips. “I love you.” With that affirmation, Willow thrust her hips and rammed the dildo home.

Tara let out another scream of agonized pleasure. “Ahh, Vixen!” She gripped Willow’s ass cheeks, holding the slender woman’s body against her own. Squeezing playfully as Willow felt every aftershock and consequence from her teasing.

“Your vixen,” Willow said as she loomed over Tara. The redhead took her time. She brought her arms up to rest her elbows on either side of Tara’s shoulders. She ran her hands through Tara’s now loose and wild hair. She brought their lips together, sealing the moment with a kiss that soon gave way to questing tongues grazing over teeth and wrestling for dominance. When Willow was sure that Tara was all but swept away in the embrace she chose to strike. The redhead pulled her hips back to the point her toy almost fell out of quivering folds. Then she thrust forward once more. She swallowed a scream from Tara. Then she pulled back and rammed home again, swallowing a lurid moan.

Tara clung to Willow’s whole body as the redhead began to fuck her in earnest. The honey blonde swooned, teetering on the brink of senseless euphoria. Then she swallowed a desperate cry that bubbled up from deep in Willow’s abdomen. She felt the redhead continue to rock against her body, but Willow’s shaft remained motionless. Clenched tightly, buried as deep in Tara’s center as Willow had been able to drive it.

“Mmm, Sweetie.” Tara moaned into Willow’s lips as it became clear her everything was still riding out the aftershocks of a body shattering orgasm. “Willow, Baby?”

“Baby.” Willow moaned as she mindlessly rubbed her center against the partially freed toy jutting from between Tara’s legs. “You’re so tight, I came right away.”

“You did, Sweetie.” Tara smiled as she began to stroke her fingers through red locks. “You came so hard. Did you notice anything missing?”

“Missing?” Willow’s brow creased in that adorable way Tara always loved to see. The seconds ticked by, the redhead looking into the honey blonde’s eyes, then trailing down both of their bodies, until finally, Willow’s gaze landed on the curved bulb end of the toy. “Eeep!” She squeaked, drawing a burst of laughter from Tara. “It popped out!”

“Care to pop it back in, Baby?” Tara purred as she wiggled just enough to have the Share waving back and forth at Willow. The pet name reclaimed all of Willow’s focus, and she wasted no time in bringing a hand to rest on the curved bulb end of her faux cock. Tara swooned as Willow leaned in and stole a kiss. She moaned as Willow deepened and extended the kiss. She began to shudder in anticipation as Willow slowly extracted the toy from her glistening folds. Tara lost herself in the clash of lips and tongues, not noticing as Willow once again mounted the bulb end of the toy and did her best to grasp it with walls rendered slick by her own arousal.

“Mmm, Baby.” Willow murmured as she squeezed her legs together and began to reposition the tip of her shaft. Without warning, Willow’s hips jogged forward and Tara squealed in delight.

Tara broke the kiss as Willow’s hips danced back and forth. Tara threw her head back and shouted to the heavens when one thrust ended with the toy completely enveloped and pussy brushing against pussy.

Willow smirked as she trailed her lips down the column of Tara’s throat. She continued to thrust her hips along as she grazed Tara’s pulse point. To dance in and out of her love’s tight embrace as she nibbled on her collarbone. To hump and rut and fuck her everything as her tongue lavished Tara’s magnificent breasts.

The honey blonde let out a series of strained cries as the redhead’s mouth zeroed in on her nipples. She began to quake as the pace of slender hips quickened, matching the redhead’s desire to take an entire breast into her mouth. Tara writhed under her always as they once more approached the precipice of ecstasy, together. Then the dildo popped out of Willow’s pussy. Again.

“Shoot!” Willow moaned as Tara shuddered. “Hold on. Sorry.” A slender hand began to fumble, stirring the toy in Tara’s depths as Willow sought to remount. “Sorry, okay, okay… There! Now, where were we?” Willow resumed her pace as Tara giggled.

Laughter melted into pleasured whimpering. Tara’s legs one more wrapped around Willow’s, thighs seeking to trap slender pale hips the same way Tara’s inner walls sought to trap the shaft Willow continued to drive home. Tara cried out as she felt herself give in to another rapturous plummet. The fall was delayed as Tara heard a slick popping sound followed by an aggravated curse.

“Damn it!” Willow cried out as her own arousal caused the toy to flop out of both of their pussies. The Share bounced once before landing astride Willow’s calf. “I’m sorry, Baby. Here.” She reached down and reclaimed the toy. “Let me try…”

“Willow.” The name was spoken with a laugh and a bright smile. “Let me try something.” Willow blinked in surprise as Tara took the dildo from her hand. A hand placed gently between Willow’s pert breasts held the redhead back as Tara began to scoot backwards on the mattress. Tara reached over to the drawer of one of the bedside nightstands, her smile never diminishing and her eyes never leaving the entranced emerald orbs. The drawer opened and Tara began to rummage through it. Willow recognized a familiar harness, then another, then a new thick leather belt with what appeared to be two large silicone plugs on the inside of an attached strap. Each harness was tossed aside. Willow began to wonder what Tara was planning when her hand froze in the drawer. A smirk curled her lips and Willow was left speechless.

The accessory Tara pulled out of the drawer looked plain and simple. A small silver ring with three tiny black strips coming off it. The strips reconnected opposite the metal ring. Willow watched in wonder, comprehension dawning once Tara took the shaft of the dildo and slid it through the metal ring.

“I know how wet you always get for me, Willow.” Tara purred seductively as she motioned with one finger for Willow to approach “Don’t ever apologize for that. I love the way I turn you on. The way you love me.”

Willow moved up the bed, standing when Tara prompted. Tara sat up between Willow’s legs, lifting one foot then the other before dragging the toy and the thin strands of the harness up pale freckled legs. The redhead let out a shuddering gasp as the bulb of the toy once more grazed her entrance. Tara smiled as she playfully rubbed the curved grip back and forth across swollen glistening lips. Sapphire met emerald in a tender moment of affection and reconnection.

“I love you Willow,” Tara whispered just loud enough to hear as she shoved the toy back into Willow’s depths.

Willow gasped and fell forward, barely catching herself and holding herself up by latching onto Tara’s bare shoulders. She shuddered as Tara repositioned the ring, bringing the studded pad near the back of the shaft back into contact with her clit. She moaned as Tara tightened the straps and gave the faux cock an experimental tug. Then an experimental lick. Then an experimental suck.

When Tara began to deepthroat the shaft it was all Willow could do to keep her legs from giving out and her eyes from rolling back into her head. Slender fingers ran through honey blonde locks as blue once more met green in a moment of deepening trust and affection. Then Tara took the full length of the toy into her mouth, crashed her nose into soft red curls, and made Willow see stars. Were it not for Tara’s hands squeezing Willow’s hips and ass, the redhead would have been sprawled on the floor mid-climax.

“Baby.” Willow moaned as Tara maneuvered her down into a sitting position. She blinked in confusion and wonder as Tara straddled her spread thighs and brought her center to hover just over the tip of the faux cock.

“Let’s try this again.” Tara purred as she slammed her hips down, impaling herself on Willow’s shaft.

“Tara!” Willow couldn’t help the surprised scream that escaped her lips. She couldn’t help the shuddering gasps as Tara pulled herself back up and then slammed down once more. “I love you.” She moaned in a broken voice as Tara rode her. Willow’s lust mounted with each bounce of Tara’s ass. Gasping for breath, her head crashing into Tara's chest. Willow was once more lost in Tara as the honey blonde’s hips began to shake. Seeing her opening, Willow leaned into Tara’s chest. She captured an erect nipple with her mouth.

Tara’s world shattered. She vibrated as she clung to Willow. Lost in the sea of sensation brought on by the flexible silicone shaft and the eager tongue of the woman who embodied the center of her universe.

Minutes or possibly hours later, Tara returned to the physical confines of her mortal body. Her first realization upon regaining her senses was the still eager redhead suckling at her breasts. She smirked as she pulled Willow up to her mouth and reclaimed her lips. For her part, Willow was happy to comply.

“Mmm, Baby,” they both moaned as the kiss drew to a close. They giggled to each other, arms still wrapped around one another. Each experiencing alternating states of perfect contentment, euphoria, and bliss. Bliss, that could have sustained the average person for the better part of a year. There was no need to continue, but the night was still young.

With a smile that many would call devilish, and Willow would call angelic, Tara pressed her everything back. Willow whimpered as her shoulder blades hit the mattress. Her body curved, the dildo still fastened to her pussy causing wonderful and terrifying sensations as it flexed under the new position. Emerald orbs looked up into sapphire pools, seeing nothing but love, beauty, and just enough mischief to inspire and titillate. Mischief, which at that moment took the form of hips rocking back and forth, stirring the toy inside them both in ways that quickly stoked the flames of their passion. Flames which swelled to a towering inferno as the honey blonde uttered five simple words.

“We have all night, Baby.”

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 Post subject: Re: Time and Time Again
PostPosted: Fri Jun 28, 2019 4:51 pm 
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9. Gay Now
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Location: Beyond the orbit of Mars and accelerating...
Dibs!

Cool!
Things are advancing, and the girls are happy.
Good for them! :bounce

R :flower

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Last edited by Azirahael on Fri Jun 28, 2019 9:10 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Time and Time Again
PostPosted: Fri Jun 28, 2019 7:50 pm 
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7. Teeny Tinkerbell Light

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Great story, great relationships, great smut scenes. I am partial to W/T, but the F/B was good too. Thanks for the update.

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 Post subject: Re: Time and Time Again
PostPosted: Sat Jun 29, 2019 1:02 am 
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9. Gay Now
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Excellent update-y goodness... :bounce

Really liked how things played out... Can't wait for more...

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 Post subject: Re: Time and Time Again
PostPosted: Thu Jul 11, 2019 9:04 am 
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6. Sassy Eggs
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Hi Azirahael. Hi taranwillow4ever. Hi zampsa.

Glad everyone likes how the story is playing out and is still invested in the long rambling beast of a narrative this turned into. We're down to 2 chapters left in this act. One more Dark Ages chapter and then it's Graduation Day in the Buffyverse. I'm not gonna sugar coat this. Some of you may hate me after what I pull before the end of Act 2.

Before I start Act 3 I'm planning on going through the old chapters with a new spell checker program and updating the bad links in the table of context I put in the first post. Every time I skim through an old chapter to see if I'm accidentally re writing an old joke or redoing an old scene or conversation I find 2 to 6 typos. They bug me, but not enough to stop working on the current chapter to go back and fix my old mistakes.

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 Post subject: Re: Time and Time Again
PostPosted: Thu Aug 08, 2019 7:15 am 
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2. Floating Rose
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As ALWAYS,...YES!! Great update, excellent! Okay, I'm gushing, but I impatiently wait for every new chapter and they never disappoint.
Keep Up The EXCELLENT writing!
Blessings

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