The Kitten, the Witches and the Bad Wardrobe - Willow & Tara Forever

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 Post subject: Re: Time and Time Again
PostPosted: Tue Nov 22, 2016 12:04 am 
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6. Sassy Eggs
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Joined: Sat May 17, 2014 7:19 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: Okay I'm taking too long to write some of these. Might have a few shorter chapters coming up. Anyway, we're back in the Dark Ages. I hope you guys like the surprise twist in this entry. Also one character was inspire by this comic.

********************

Dark Age Chronicles: Unless of Course War Were Declared

“Commandant! A caravan approaches through the pass.” The ranking Southern Claw officer sighed as one of his many subordinates called for his attention. When he had first been assigned this remote outpost by the guild masters he hadn’t questioned the promotion. Though now that he had spent a year in the isolated box canyon he had come to understand just what the post meant to the leaders of the slaver guild.

“What?” The Commandant cried out in exasperation as he glanced over the delivery schedule spread out on his desk. “They’re a day early.”

“Should we release the hounds?” The lieutenant asked. The Commandant considered the suggestion for a moment before shaking his head in annoyance.

“No.” The leader said after a pause. “No. We can’t just release the hounds on every caravan that slips up on the schedule. We’ve had to cut back on them as is and double security on the ones we are sending through this territory. It’s probably just another shipment to the Mad Queen’s flesh carvers anyway. Let them through. Oh, and call my little brother up from the scullery. It’s high time he learned about guild law, even if he can’t summon a hellhound to save his life.” The Commandant’s last remark was uttered in a tone of embarrassment and disgust.

“At once Commandant Wells. I’ll fetch Andrew right away.” With that the Lieutenant was off and on his way to the ground floor of the small outpost. The Commandant stood and walked over to the small balcony attached to his office. He could see the lead wagons of the caravan coming into the remote box canyon the guild had chosen as one of its main way stations.

His guild outpost and canyon were located less than an hour’s ride off the main road at exactly the half way point between the port city that was Southern Claw’s headquarters and the walled capital of the Mad Queen’s small empire. The slaver guild had chosen the site specifically to prevent any roving packs of bandits or demons from making camp there. Their failed ties with the Dread Warlord Maclay were bad enough for business in the region. The last thing they needed was to give perfectly good hiding places over to the thieves that plagued Southern Claw’s cargo routs. No matter how boring he thought the mission was the Commandant followed his orders to the letter.

Tucker Wells’ duty was to defend his guild from the unorganized rabble of brigands and thieves that kept stealing whole caravans. Mysterious thefts aside the guild still had yet to get any concrete information on the newest player to enter the region. Commandant Wells had heard about the fall of Maclay at the hands of the Witch King. Months later he had even been at the meeting where the guild master decided to hire an outside contractor to test the new “royal” by kidnapping his favorite wench.

Nothing had gone smoothly for the guild after that night. Southern Claw’s stock of live product was in freefall. Monthly and weekly rumors of the occasional missing caravan had turned into almost daily reports of wholesale theft. If something didn’t happen soon the guild Tucker Wells had served for years would run out of viable product. Auctions would cease and the coffers would run dry.

With another far too weary sigh the Commandant turned from his balcony view and began the walk to the central courtyard that would house the caravan for the night. As he stepped out the front doors of his outpost a raven perched on a nearby post screeched at him. The Commandant flinched once before angrily waving the bird off.

“Tucker.” A small voice drew the Commandant’s attention away from the fleeing bird. Tucker turned and sneered at the boy waiting for him.

“How many times do I have to tell you Andrew?” Tucker growled at his younger brother as he descended the front steps of the outpost’s central keep. “In front of other guild members you call me Commandant! I didn’t sacrifice our parents and build up a pack of over a dozen hellhounds just to be called Tucker!”

“Sorry.” Andrew said as he cringed. “I was almost done cleaning the kitchens when your guy came to get me Commandant. What did you want me to do Commandant?”

“It’s time you understood what happens to people who fail the guild.” Tucker said as he led his brother over to the head of the caravan. “And what happens to the dregs we can’t unload in the meat markets.”

“Oh, okay I guess.” Andrew trailed off in disappointment as he followed along. The boy had no stomach for most of the depravity his brother reveled in. He didn’t like the idea that his livelihood depended on the sale and subjugation of others. Unfortunately Andrew had no idea how to strike out on his own without falling victim to his brother’s guild. “So where is this one heading?”

“That’s what I’m going to find out.” Tucker said as the lead wagon pulled up to them. “Driver! Where is the guild officer in charge of this caravan?”

The man with short wavy black hair sitting at the reins bowed his head as he spoke to Tucker. “Oh he was just seeing to the ruckus in the back of the line boss. He’ll be up here to see you in no time.”

“Sloppy.” Tucker muttered. “And you’ll address me as Commandant while you’re in my outpost.”

“Oh of course Commandant.” The driver replied with another submissive bow.

“Good, now where is this caravan heading.” Tucker asked before taking another long look at the line of wagons. “And why the hell are all the cages covered by those canvas tarps?”

“Special order your Commandant-ship.” The driver said as he spared a glance at Andrew. “Rush delivery for the Mad Queen. Apparently she wanted all the albinos left in stock for one of her schemes. We’re not to let any sunlight touch the cages before delivery.”

“First she takes three of my hounds and now this? What the hell could that daft bitch want with this many albinos?” Tucker wondered as he looked up and down the two lines of a dozen covered wagons that were forming in the middle of his outpost.

“No clue Commandant, sir.” The driver said as the last wagons in the lines came to a halt.

“There sure are a lot of birds out today.” Andrew muttered to himself in a quiet voice. The soft tone did little to stem Tucker’s annoyance at his little brother’s inane musings.

“Quiet Andrew!” Tucker shouted before turning back to the caravan driver. “Where is your master?”

“Oh, she’ll be right up.” The driver assured the Commandant as the sound of hoof beats and cackling ravens filled the air.

“She?” Tucker asked. The last time he had heard from the guild headquarters no women had even been considered for promotion to any officer rank. Something was not right.

“You know this place is kinda hard to find.” The driver said as the hoof beats drew near. “It’s a great hiding place.” The hoof beats stopped no more than a few feet away from the Commandant and his brother, but try as he might Tucker saw nothing. A soft huff of warm air hit his face and for the first time since mastering his hellhounds Tucker Wells panicked. “It will make a great staging point for our war.” Xander said as the air before Tucker rippled and quaked. “Not that you’ll be alive to see it.”

Tucker Wells fell backwards with a shout of terror as the nose of a massive black warhorse appeared only a few inches from his face. Atop the dark steed sat a figure in even darker jet black armor that seemed to cut through the daylight filling the canyon. The figure’s arms rose into the air and with a flick of the wrists the canvas shrouds flew off of each wagon in the caravan.

Tucker watched in shock as heavily armed men and women burst out of the now open wagons. Archers fired arrows into each and every guild member lining the courtyard. “Release the hounds!” Tucker shouted as he scrambled along the ground away from the Witch King.

Cages all around the outpost were thrown open and hellhounds charged forth. Before the demons could even reach the intruders female archers still standing in each wagon bed drew their long bows back and fired. Two thirds of Tucker’s hounds were felled in the blink of an eye. The Commandant looked up in time to see the Witch King raise one gauntlet in his direction. A glowing purple orb formed in the air above the ebony gauntlet and shot forth. The mystical projectile struck Tucker in the chest.

“What!” Tucker cried in a shrill voice. “What did you just do to…?” His question was cut short by a cry of pain as one of his last hellhounds lunged forward and sank its jaws into his arm. “No!” Tucker screamed as his remaining hounds turned on him.

All around the box canyon soldiers of the Witch King slaughtered Southern Claw guild members one after another. Slayers cut down any hellhounds still on the loose. The last demon to die was one of three that had been nearest Tucker when they turned on him. It had ripped off one of his legs, trying to carry the limb into the nearby bushes. Slayers’ arrows pierced the creature’s back long before it could escape.

“Search the buildings!” The Witch King called out to her troops in a deep, resonant voice. “We need to free anyone they kept here.”

“And any slavers still in hiding?” Xander asked as he stepped down from the wagon and drew his sword.

“We can’t have any word of this getting back to Southern Claw.” The Witch King said as her eyes drifted to the blonde boy still staring up at her in awe and terror. “I know you, don’t I?”

“No.” Andrew said as he realized the dark knight was speaking directly to him.

“This kid one of yours boss?” Faith asked as she strolled up to the Witch King’s side. “Or is he gonna try to stab us all in the back?”

“I’m not sure yet.” The Witch King admitted as Andrew cowered before her. “Something about him seems familiar.”

Before Andrew could even think up a plea for mercy or any kind of escape plan one of the many ravens flitting through the air came in to land on the armored figure’s shoulder. In a soft feminine voice it spoke directly to the Witch King. “Baby, don’t hurt him just yet.”

“Do we know him Sweetie?” The Witch King asked the bird in that same deep, masculine tone that the helmet seemed to project.

“It’s Andrew.” The bird replied as it looked back and forth between the Witch King and the boy. “You know.” It went on as Faith, Xander and the armored figure just gave it blank stares. “Tucker’s brother. The guy who summoned all those hellhounds. He sent three of those demons to the senior prom in our first life.”

“So he’s Southern Claw then.” Xander said as he glared at Andrew.

“Maybe.” The bird admitted. “The first time through he was part of Warren’s trio.” Andrew couldn’t help but notice the venom in the bird’s voice as it said the name Warren. He couldn’t help but wonder what everyone was talking about.

“Well he won’t be joining Warren here.” Tara said in her normal feminine voice as she removed her helmet.

“Yeah you took care of that guy.” Xander agreed in an overly amused voice. “Done chopped him up real good!”

“So we’re bringing him back home?” Faith asked as she saw the rest of the Slayers and soldiers coming back out of the now cleared buildings around the small canyon.

“Maybe not.” Tara said before kneeling down to look Andrew in the eye. “So Andrew, be h-honest, what did you think about your brother and the guild?”

“I didn’t like that he was hurting people.” The boy said as he cowered before Tara. “I never really even liked him, but with our parents gone I had nowhere else to go.”

“Good enough for now.” Tara said as she stood back up and reached out to offer Andrew a hand. “How would you like to lead Xander and Faith all around this outpost and tell them where things are hidden? It will make our search go a lot faster and help them trust you just a little bit more.”

“Okay.” Andrew latched onto the offer as quickly as he could. Tara pulled him up to his feet and he quickly looked up to Faith and Xander. “Come this way, Tucker had a hidden store room in the back of his office. I know where the key is.”

With that the Slayer and General followed the boy into the outpost. A moment later Tara turned to the nearest Slayer who was still standing by. “Rona please tell everyone that as soon as we’re d-done loading the wagons we’re setting fire to this place. I don’t want either of our enemies using it against us.”

“Of course Lady Tara.” Rona said with a polite bow. “I’ll tell everyone to loot as fast as they can before breaking out the torches.” Then the girl was off and spreading the news. Soldiers and Slayers alike picked up the pace as the now empty wagons began to fill with pilfered cargo.

The raven on Tara’s shoulder hummed at the flurry of motion going on in the background. “So should we make room in the Citadel for Tucker’s brother?” Willow asked through the bird.

“Actually I was thinking Larry could use a new squire up at the mine barracks.” Tara replied as she favored the raven with a smile.

“How thoughtful.” Willow said as she watched the soft expressions play across the face of her always. She adored the way the mirrored surfaces of the observatory walls so easily captured Tara’s beauty.

********************

“We should definitely be getting ready for some kind of attack from Southern Claw.” Gunn said as the inner circle gathered at the round table in the heart of the library. “We’ve been hitting them hard for over a year now. They have to be planning something.”

“Actually,” Giles chimed in as he skimmed over a stack of documents on the table before him, “according to these records Lady Tara liberated from the outpost it looks like they have yet to connect the dots.”

“Do what now?” Buffy asked as she managed to pull her eyes away from Faith’s for one rare moment.

“They don’t yet know that our charming monarch is responsible for the nearly constant raids.” The watcher elaborated for the group.

“How is that even possible?” Xander asked. “We’ve cut off almost all of their trade routs. They literally can’t ship people over land anymore. They have to know we’re the ones doing it.”

“Apparently their guild master has yet to figure that out.” Giles said as he flipped another page. “They know that the Dread Warlord Maclay is no more. It would seem they’ve been trying to gage whether or not they can make a client of the one who vanquished him.”

“They want to sell Tara slaves?” Alonna shouted in disgust as Faith began to cackle with laughter.

“So they like, really, don’t know what the heck they’re doing then.” Buffy added after Faith began to quiet down to a low chuckle.

Willow and Tara paused as they looked to one another before chiming in with the most likely explanation. “Well…” Tara said after a long, nervous pause. “We haven’t exactly been leaving any of them alive after our raids.”

For a moment no one responded. None of the member’s of the Witch King’s inner circle felt the urge to denounce Tara’s harsh actions on the battlefield. Few even understood just why the deaths of their enemies seemed to weigh so heavily upon both Tara and Willow.

“And that’s a bad thing?” Anya broke the silence with an incredulous huff.

“Killing humans hasn’t worked out too well for us in the past.” Willow admitted. “It’s not a habit we wanted to get comfortable with.”

“They were kidnappers, murderers and rapists.” Alonna added in a harsher tone.

“One could argue that they were barely human to begin with.” Doyle said.

“We know.” Tara relented as the concerned and questioning looks all around the table grew harder to ignore. “But we still don’t like the idea of sending any Slayers out to kill humans.”

“That really backfired on all of us the first time it happened by accident.” Willow told the group.

“So that’s why you had the girls on today’s run hold back until the demons came out?” Faith asked just before Buffy cut in with an even more confused statement.

“But we killed all those guys from Mad Queen-sylvania who tried to camp out at our front gates.” The Slayer said. “They were human and we led the charge. It’s not like Slayers don’t kill people in self defense all the time.”

“Okay, yeah, but all those guys were surgically altered by a mad woman who likes to stitch pieces of demons onto half dead bodies.” Willow said. “We couldn’t be sure they were all run of the mill soldiers.”

“Plus th-that was to defend your home.” Tara said as she held Willow all the closer to her. “W-we wouldn’t a-ask any of you to kill for us otherwise. A Slayer isn’t a killer.”

“Yes!” Giles jumped in to support the two women who seemed to grow all the more uncomfortable as the questions dragged on. “Quite right. There was a time some decades ago when the council had strict guidelines against collateral damage. Though in retrospect that may have just been another means of control. Regardless, the young women of the Academy are willing and able to defend the lives of each and every soul in this kingdom. That being said we should return to the issue of what to do about Southern Claw’s inevitable reprisal.”

“We also have another issue to deal with long before that happens.” Cassie said at the first sign of a pause coming from the watcher. All eyes turned to the young blonde at Dawn’s side. “We’re going to have visitors very soon.”

“You’ve seen something Babe?” Dawn asked as she held her girl’s clenched fist and stroked her thumb over Cassie’s knuckles.

Cassie sighed before she began to explain the convoluted mess that would soon unfold within the very walls of the Citadel. “The secret tunnel in the throne room is about to be compromised.”

“There’s a secret tunnel in the throne room?” Buffy, Faith and Alonna all shouted in unison.

“Um, yeah.” Xander said as he and many of the others around the table shared concerned looks. “That was like the first thing we put in during reconstruction. You guys didn’t know?”

“No!” Faith shot back. “Where is it? Is it a decent make out spot?”

“Oh yeah.” Gunn said as he and Fred looked to the Slayers. “I was wondering why we never saw you sneak in and out of there.”

“You knew about it and didn’t tell me Charles?” Alonna snapped at her brother.

“We kinda thought you knew Al.” Fred said in a slightly intimidated tone.

“Oh sugar plum. Please tell me that the Academy girls know about the other secret tunnels.” Lorne said only to draw concerned looks from the Slayers yet again.

“What other tunnels?” Alonna gave voice to the matching bewildered looks held by her fellow senior Slayers.

“The ones connecting most of the farther out neighborhoods to those hidden alcoves all along the town square.” Anya explained.

“She knows!” Alonna complained as she shot withering glares at both Xander and her brother.

“Wait, you Slayers don’t know about the emergency tunnels all over town?” Willow asked as she and Tara shared a worried look.

“I spent months designing this whole city all around making sure each and every person here had easy access to an entry point in case of invasion!” Xander cried out in exasperation. “How can you guys not know about the thing that has literally taken up three fifths of my time since the day we finished the wall?”

“That’s going to be a problem.” Tara remarked as it became clear the meeting was about to take an unexpected turn. She and her always knew that their family could more than handle the events plaguing Cassie’s mind.

********************

“There is a hidden entrance along the Northeast stretch of the outer wall.” The tall, muscular man with stark white hair and one glowing yellow eye told the General standing before him. He leaned over the table set in the middle of the General’s command tent. Across its surface were spread several maps of the Witch King’s realm. “A hidden door that will be impossible to find without my help. Behind that door is a tunnel that leads directly to the throne room in the heart of the Citadel. Once inside your strike team will have no trouble finding your quarry.”

“How did you come by this information?” The General asked in a deep voice that belied his altered physiology.

“I’ve been inside their city.” The old mercenary said as he ran one gloved hand through his snow white hair. “I also happened to be passing by the area when they were building that wall. I saw their architect place the cornerstone in the archway himself.”

“How convenient.” The General muttered. He ran one yellow claw over the largest map. The area pointed out by the mercenary was easy enough to reach. His men would surely succeed in their mission. Provided the secret entrance was actually there. “Once they’re inside the Citadel how will my men find their targets?”

“According to the villagers I spoke with all the bedchambers are in the hall just a few paces down from the throne room.” The white haired mercenary said. “They take up most of the second floor of the tower.”

“Good.” The General admitted as he rubbed a clawed hand over his dull yellow jaw, just below the line of stitches running across the lower half of his face. “Good. They’ll be able to retrieve the empaths and slaughter the Witch King and his inner circle. I’ll be sure to fill the strike team with the Queen’s stealthiest agents.”

“And will you be joining them on the mission?” The informant asked in a slightly too interested tone for the General’s tastes.

“That is no business of yours mercenary.” The heavily scarred soldier snapped. The mercenary thought for a moment that he saw the mottled patchwork skin along the top and bottom of the general’s face throbbed in the dull lantern light within the command tent.

“My apologies General.” The mercenary backed down immediately. “I didn’t mean to overstep.”

“See that it doesn’t happen again.” The glare in the General’s eyes was more than enough to cow almost any soldier in the Mad Queen’s forces. The fact that the mercenary hadn’t so much as flinched was an unexpected surprise. “I shall be observing their progress from the rendezvous point. Someone needs to maintain the feed back to the Queen’s laboratory.” As he spoke of the Mad Queen’s inner most sanctum a sneer curled his ebony lips.

“Of course General.” The mercenary said. He watched as a scowl hardened the General’s dark brow and stretched the stitches that held the sickly yellow demon flesh covering the top of his skull. “Glory to the Queen.”

“Yes.” The General muttered in disgust. “Glory to the Queen.”

********************

“Fred? What in heaven’s name are Charles and his soldiers doing to the throne room?” Fred’s mother asked as she and her husband came up to their daughter. Trish and Roger Burkle looked nervous as they watched the stream of soldiers filing in and out of the throne room. Each man leaving the large chamber carried one of the Throne room’s many pieces of furniture to another part of the Citadel.

“Oh, they’re just getting everything ready for the big showdown tonight.” Fred told her parents. The slender brunette’s oddly cavalier tone did little the ease their worries.

“What showdown?” Trish asked in a half panicked voice. “It’s not more of those soldiers from last time?”

“Looks that way Mrs. Burkle.” Gunn said as he joined them at the entrance to the throne room. “Mr. Burkle, sir.” He finished with a nod and the slightest hint of a bow.

“Now Charles, what did we say?” Roger asked in a far warmer tone as he faced the young man and smiled.

“It’s Roger and Trish to you mister.” Trish added with a mockingly stern waggle of her finger before leaning in to hug the nervous general. “You’re family after all.”

“Of course Trish.” Gunn said as he relaxed into the embrace offered by his girlfriend’s mother. Once Trish released him Gunn was quick to take up the hand offered by Roger. “It’s good to see you both. We don’t expect the fighting to break out of the throne room, but it never hurts to be prepared.”

“And just how would the fighting get through the walls, let alone all the way to the throne room here in the castle?” Roger asked as he looked back and forth between his daughter and the young general. He and his wife both wore matching stunned expressions.

It was a brief moment before Fred recalled that her parents had missed the last inner circle meeting the day before. “Oh.” She said before a playful smile broke out across her face. “Oh that’s the easy part. Cassie had one of her future knowledge thingies that she has and told Lady Tara that more of those stitched up goons from the Mad Queen’s army were gonna use the secret tunnel to sneak into the throne room in the middle of the night. So Charles and the boys, and Alonna and the girls are gonna set a trap.”

“We sure are Babe.” Gunn said as he let an arm slip around Fred’s shoulders.

“There’s a secret tunnel in the throne room that leads all the way out of the Citadel?” Trish asked.

“No Mama.” Fred replied with an even more amused smile. “It leads all the way to a hidden door just outside the outer wall.”

“Somewhere along the Northeast stretch of the wall according to Xander.” Gunn added.

“That’s over a mile away from here!” Roger all but shouted as he tried to grasp the scope of the previously unheard of construction project. “How did they keep that kind of work a secret?”

“Well it helped that everyone who was looking was distracted by the wall itself and the aqueduct.” Xander admitted as he came up and joined the group. “Hey, Chuck. How are the guys doing with moving everything?”

“Almost done Xander.” Gunn said as he nodded to the thinning stream of soldiers carrying the last of the extra banquet chairs. “All the big tables are gone. Next is the bandstand from the last ball. You know? The big party that your new girl and Gary’s wife turned into a circus.”

“To be fair Tara said that her mom would have loved to watch Anya and Hallie’s cat fight.” Xander protested as he rolled his eyes at the matching smirks worn by Gunn and each of the Burkles. “Goddess knows the Slayers all enjoyed the show.”

“Oh we all did Sweetie.” Trish added with a laugh at Xander’s expense. “That Anya made quite the impression. And here we were wondering when you’d settle down with one of the nice girls in town.”

“Or when the academy girls would start passing you around like a half eaten sandwich.” Roger quipped as his elbow lightly nudged the young man in the ribs.

“Daddy!” Fred shrieked as Gunn burst out laughing.

“Trust me.” Xander said with a shudder. “If you saw the way the girls fight over the last tray of pastries that comes out of the kitchen in the morning you’d realize that no man is crazy enough to volunteer to be an Academy chew toy.”

“And don’t you go getting any ideas mister.” Trish chastised her husband as Gunn continued to chuckle. “The best you can expect from one of those kids is a heart attack.”

“Oh now Trish. I was just joking with the boy.” Roger said with a suitably chastised grimace that soon gave way to another sly smirk. “Besides, we both know you’re more their type. What with the way they all seemed to clue in after watching Faith and Joyce’s eldest carrying on all over town.”

“What can I say?” Trish Burkle sighed as she held her head up high. “I’ve got it going on.”

“I can’t be here for this.” Fred muttered to herself before turning and fleeing down the hall and through the nearest entrance to the library. In her wake both Gunn and Xander stared in shock at the far too playful banter going on between the older couple.

It was another long moment before the two generals tore their attention back to the throne room and their remaining preparations. There was much still to do and neither young man was willing to let a single detail slip their notice.

********************

“Ahh! Where? Wha….” Andrew cried out in terror as he materialized in the center of the writhing conspiracy of ravens. The boy looked around at his new surroundings and could not believe his eyes.

Massive trees lined the edge of the clearing he stood in. Trunks wider around than Andrew’s arm span stretched towards the sky. A break in one part of the tree line revealed a wide open vista. Andrew saw that the clearing he stood in was half way up a small mountain. Beyond the foot of that mountain were gentle rolling plains and in the distance he spied a walled city arrayed around the base of a massive stone tower.

To the rear of the clearing stood the base of a cliff face. In the center of the pale stone wall was the opening to a small cave. The boy stared at the set of metal rails that ran along the ground and into the cave.

He realized they were tracks for a mine cart. He was at a mine. His eyes followed the tracks away from the mine entrance and over to another structure that stood off to one side of the clearing. A modest cottage with a large pen full of pigs sat against the edge of the tree line. Andrew stared in confusion at the dozens of pigs loitering about their fenced in pen.

Movement off to one side caught the boy’s attention yet again. His head spun around and he saw a large rectangular two story tall building that ran along the far side of the clearing. In the middle of the arched roof was an exposed lookout tower that seemed to be covered in little alcoves full of bird nests. A few dozen ravens sat on the roof and watched his every move.

Before Andrew could contemplate the watchful gaze of the conspiracy two men came up to him. “Well hello there.” The taller and more muscular man of the two said. “We were expecting a new recruit.”

“Hold on a second Larry.” The shorter bald man said. “This boy used to be a slaver. We don’t know if he can be trusted.”

“Snyder, look at him.” Larry replied with a dismissive shake of his head. “He’s barely older than the King’s squires. If not younger. Give him a chance to prove himself.”

“Alright.” Snyder grumbled as he eyed Andrew over once more. “What’s your name boy?”

“Andrew.” Andrew replied with a yelp as he stood up straight. “I’m not a slaver. That was my brother Tucker. He got promoted after he summoned a pack of hellhounds. Even if the guild went and sold three of them to the Mad Queen Tucker still had enough to run his own outpost. I tried summoning once. Flying monkeys are harder to control than you’d think.”

“Whoa now kid.” Larry waved off the almost panicked rambling with a laugh and a smirk. “Take it easy. There’ll be plenty of time for stories once you’re sorted here.”

“And just where are we putting him?” Snyder asked. “He’s too small for lifting the hogs into the mine carts and I refuse to take a child into the mines with our guests. It was bad enough he last time one of your boys almost walked across the threshold when Drusilla gave him the eye. I’m not risking anymore hypnosis incidents.”

“He shouldn’t go near the mines anyway.” Larry admitted as he looked Andrew over yet again. “So Andrew, if you weren’t a summoner like your brother what did you do at the outpost?”

“Oh, I was the cook.” Andrew answered with some noticeable pride in his voice. “I took care of the kitchens and made sure everyone was well fed. Even if Tucker and the other guild members didn’t want me taking food out to the carts that passed through.”

“There, see!” Larry said with relief as it became apparent where Andrew would go. “He can work in the barracks. The mess hall needs a decent cook. I’m tired of getting food poisoning every time it’s Percy’s or Hogan’s turn to cook.”

“Then stop putting those two idiots on cooking duty for their chore rotations.” Snyder snapped in exasperation.

“And then what? Have them take care of the Aviary? You know they can’t be trusted with Lady Tara’s birds.” Larry dismissed the notion as he pondered what duties to assign once Andrew was settled in as the new cook. “Knowing them they’d forget which job they had that week and scramble the eggs or bake the fully grown ravens into a pie. Can you imagine what would happen then?”

“No.” Snyder shuddered at the thought of the Witch King’s wrath should any needless harm befall the ravens that regularly roosted in the barracks. “No, I don’t even want to think about that.” Snyder quickly shook off the lingering dread and turned his attention back to the boy. “Alright Andrew. It looks like you’ll be our new cook. Come along. General Larry and I will show you around our little mining camp.”

“Okay.” Andrew said as he followed Larry and Snyder. Things were looking up for once in his short life. The boy could only hope that his cooking skills would more than earn his keep in this new place.

********************

“So tonight is going to be serious right? I mean, with everything Cassie said we have our work cut out for us. I know everyone can handle the initiative soldiers.”

“Mad Queen soldiers.” Tara interrupted her always as the slender redhead flitted around their bed chambers. Willow was so busy fetching various pieces or armor and strapping them to Tara’s body that she had let her nervous babble carry on and on. Normally Tara would have let the endearing babble fill the idle hours before the coming battle, but the mood was soured by the fearful turn Willow’s words had taken over the last few minutes.

“Right!” Willow latched onto the correction. “Right. She’s the Mad Queen here. There is no Initiative. Goddess, this is going to get confusing if we keep running into the same faces going by different names.”

“When Sweetie.” Tara amended with a soft smile as she pulled Willow into her arms. “When we keep running into the same faces. I’m going to spend as many lives as possible with you.”

Willow froze and raised her head for the first time since her nervous babble had taken over. The redhead fixed her honey blonde with a perplexed look before realization set in. Fear turned to confidence and then pride as Willow rushed to reassure her everything. “Of course. Of course we will. That isn’t even a question. You’re my everything.”

“No question Sweetie. I’m yours for as long as you’ll have me.” Tara said with a coy smile. “Or until the stars turn cold and fall from the sky. Whichever works for you.”

The smile was back on Willow’s face as she lost herself in deep sapphire eyes. “Always. Always will be just a hair short of long enough.” With that affirmation Tara leaned in and captured Willow’s lips. For one brief moment before the coming battle the two women found true solace in one another. No matter the dark premonitions hinted at by the young seer they knew their love would weather any challenge.

********************

“Cass, you okay?” Dawn asked once she found her girlfriend hiding out in her own bedroom. The vacant look that haunted Cassie’s gaze was beyond any Dawn had seen from the young blonde. “Honey?”

“Huh?” The seer gasped in confusion that only lasted a moment before she realized Dawn had tracked her down. “What? No, I’m fine Dawn.”

“Babe, please.” Dawn pleaded. “I know your whole future visions thingy is a pain. I can’t imagine going through what you do every day. But that doesn’t mean I can’t be there when you need someone to talk to. I’m here for you. No matter what.”

Tears built in the corners of Cassie’s eyes and for an instant she wondered what she had done to deserve such devotion. “I just…” Cassie’s words were choked off as a sob broke free from her chest. “Oh Goddess, I can’t believe I kept this from you.”

“Kept what from me?” Dawn asked as she wrapped her arms around Cassie’s shoulders. The blonde practically quaked with fright as she fought between giving into her girlfriend’s comforting embrace and withdrawing into herself to spare the young brunette from inevitable heartache. “Talk to me Cass.”

“There’s something I didn’t tell Tara and the others.” Cassie admitted as she fought back tears. “Something big. It’s going to change everything.”

Dawn was surprised by the confession. She had never known her girlfriend to withhold anything important that had been revealed to her. What’s more the secret was something so serious it troubled Cassie far more deeply than any that had come before. “Why didn’t you tell them? You don’t hold this stuff back so it must be important.”

“It is.” Cassie admitted as she looked up into Dawn’s pale grey eyes. “It’s going to change everything.” There was a long pause before Cassie could finish. “For us.”

“It’s something about us?” Dawn asked with far more interest than Cassie was comfortable with. “What did you see? Is it about our life together? Our wedding? You aren’t allowed to peek into the future just to look at my dress. Oh, it was about the first time we’re gonna sleep together wasn’t it? I’m gonna be so pissed if you’ve been keeping that from me. It’s not fair that you get to look ahead and perv out on all the things I’ll do to you.”

“No Dawn!” Cassie finally managed to interrupt Dawn’s incessant speculation. “It wasn’t any of that. This is important!”

The slim brunette caught the edge to her girlfriend’s voice. Whatever was bothering Cassie was far more serious than she had expected. In an instant Dawn’s carefree curiosity was gone. It was soon replaced with a dour expression and firm support.

“Okay.” Dawn managed after steeling herself. “This is serious. Tell me what’s going to happen.”

“That’s just it Dawn.” Cassie said once she settled her fraying emotions. “It’s already happened. What’s been set in motion can’t be stopped. Not by any of us.”

“How bad is it going to get?” Dawn whispered.

“Worse than you can imagine.” Cassie replied. “The war that’s coming, it’ll be worse than anything we’ve ever seen. They’ll come at us from all sides. We’re going to lose so much. The only…” The young seer was cut off by the emotion tightening her throat. It was a long tearful moment before she spoke again. “The only upside is that you’ll finally get to meet.”

“Meet who?” Dawn asked as she tried in vain to wipe the tears from Cassie’s cheeks.

“Him.”

********************

“I’ll admit it Anyanka, this is quite the shop.” Hallie said as she walked along the shelves that lined the wall across from the front counter of the shop. “Even with his rank in the army and the Citadel your boy toy must have pulled some strings to get it for you. Very impressive.”

“Well I’m sure your boy toy has a nice setup set aside for you.” Anya replied with just a hint of sarcasm. “Oh, by the way, how is the fruit stand doing Halfrek? We are living in a rudimentary communist society with a heavy emphasis on a modified reciprocity system. I’m sure he does well for the two of you.”

“Oh Gary does just fine.” Hallie snapped back before reigning in her tone. “It must be a relief to have such an influential man vouching for you around town. What with the fiasco you turned the anniversary ball into.”

“I’m sure your ball and chain has been talking you up around town.” Anya quipped back. “He’d have to, knowing how distrustful humans are.”

“Ladies we’re standing right here.” Xander protested as he and Gary finished sorting through Anya’s latest shipment. “Could we please put all this drama aside and move on as friends. Please?”

Anya and Hallie both glared at Xander for a long moment before letting out matching sighs of exasperation. They turned back to each other and couldn’t help but share small, almost imperceptible smiles.

“You are so lucky you’re cute mister.” Anya told Xander in a slightly raised voice as she went back to looking over her inventory records.

Gary gave Xander’s shoulder a reassuring pat. “Knowing those two I think things are going as good as can be expected. I’m just thankful the mourning period for their dead boss demon is over and done with.”

“Yeah.” Xander agreed in a quiet voice as he went back to helping with the stock. “Yeah, hopefully things will settle down for a while.”

Little did either man know the drama fired out whenever their former demons were in the same room was about to be eclipsed by much more pressing concerns. Secrets were about to be revealed. Lives changed. Enemies slain. Had Xander and Gary known what was to come they would have been thankful. In a few short hours no one would even remember that two former mass murdering vengeance demons lived within their city walls. The coming drama would be far more intriguing.

********************

“I just love the tile work Willow and Tara chose when they designed this bathroom.” Joyce said as she looked in Giles’ mirror and straightened the bodice of her dress. A sly smirk covered her face as her panting boyfriend struggled to recover from their latest play session.

“Ah.” Giles let out with a gasp as he finally stood and leaned against the counter beside Joyce. “Yes… I found it rather… Yes.”

“I also love the way I take your breath away Rupert.” Joyce smiled playfully as she ran one hand over his bare chest. “Makes it that much more fun when I send you a little wink in public and you almost trip over yourself.”

Giles took a moment to get his breathing under control. As the moment passed he leaned over and wrapped his arms around Joyce’s waist. “Anything for you my Dearest.” He whispered into her ear before placing a string of gentle kisses at the base of the lobe then down the length of her neck.

“Oh Rupert.” Joyce practically swooned into his embrace. “If only we had a few more hours to ourselves.”

“Alas, duty calls.” Giles muttered as he pulled away from the woman he adored. He was quick to help Joyce straighten her dress and tie the laces that ran up her back before righting his trousers. The couple walked out of the bathroom of Giles’ private flat and went about clearing the trail of discarded clothing that ran from the front door all the way to the bathroom they had just made such vigorous use of.

“The girls are ready I take it?” Joyce asked as she found her light jacket and his tweed blazer.

“More than ready.” Giles assured as he handed over her shoes and took his jacket in return. “I’d dare say they will acquit themselves impeccably.”

“Oh careful with that accent Rupert.” Joyce replied with a chuckle as she watched Giles pull on his shirt and then his blazer. “I’m liable to drag you back in there.”

“Or perhaps upstairs to the bed.” Giles added as he leaned in and kissed his girlfriend on the cheek.

“Now that is an idea.” Joyce admitted as she slipped her shoes back on. With the pair of them fully dressed he put his arm in hers and they strode towards the door. As Giles pulled his door open he and Joyce were startled to find a hand raised and ready to knock.

“Ah!” Vi exclaimed as she jumped back. Rona and Molly let out matching chuckles at the slender redhead’s expense. “Mr. Giles! And Ms. Summers! What are… never mind.”

“Indeed.” Giles said with a forced serious expression as Joyce stifled a giggle of her own. “How go the preparations for the intruders?”

“Everything’s in place watcher man.” Rona said as Vi failed to pull her eyes away from the older couple’s clasped hands. “The Academy girls are all ready and itching to show the Mad Queen all you’ve taught us. We’ll do you proud.”

“Here here!” Molly cheered as Giles favored the trio of Slayers with a grin.

“Excellent!” The watcher couldn’t help but feel pride at the way each Slayer had taken to the training after coming into their powers. “I have the utmost faith in each of you girls. I’m sure Lady Tara and Lady Willow do as well.”

The three Slayers nodded before turning and marching down the corridor Giles relaxed as he felt Joyce’s free hand come up to stroke his arm. “That was impressive, if a little on the drill sergeant side.”

“Ah, yes well.” Giles stammered for a response as he faced his girlfriend. “Old watchers trick, to convey authority with a new charge.”

“And that works on Buffy?” Joyce asked in stunned disbelief.

“Oh good heavens no.” Giles let out with a small chuckle. “No, Buffy has always been far too willful and headstrong for any such parlor tricks. No with her I had to depend on a good watcher’s absolute last resort.”

“And just what is that?” Joyce asked as they began the short walk towards the Library.

“A mix of frequent appeals to her innate sense of duty which she hides so well and praising her often hidden perceptiveness and intuition.” Giles stated as they walked. “Your daughter is rare even among Slayers Joyce. As often as not I felt like she was the one guiding me on our journeys.”

“I always knew she could apply herself.” Joyce muttered with a mix of exasperation and pride. “If only it didn’t take her being kidnapped by a sour faced jackass to find out.”

“I am truly sorry Joyce.” Giles whispered as his steps faltered. “There’s no excuse or justification for what the council has done to your family.”

“Our family Rupert.” Joyce corrected him without missing a beat. “That is always going to include you. I can’t thank you enough for finding and protecting her after that son of a bitch Merrick got himself killed. You showed me that you are nothing like him. You proved that I could always trust you.”

“Always Dearest.” Giles said just before Joyce leaned in and kissed him once more. The couple barely noticed the presence of three Slayers peeking from around the corner. They paid the trio of young women no mind. Everything they needed to concern themselves with at that moment was right there, within arms’ reach.”

********************

“Is it just me or has everyone hooked up around here but you and me Lorne.” Alonna asked as she watched people move around the cleared out throne room.

“Oh sweet pea, ain’t that the truth?” The green lounge singer agreed as he sipped from the drink one of Gunn’s soldiers had mixed for him. “Mmm, that boy knows how to mix a sea breeze.”

“It’s not like I’m jealous or anything.” Alonna protested as she looked to one side of the throne room and saw Willow perching in Tara’s armored lap. She looked towards the other side and saw Faith smirking at Buffy. A moment later the brunette winked broadly enough that anyone in the Citadel could notice. The dark haired Slayer then nodded her head towards the nearby archway that led into the corridor circling the second floor of the Library. Buffy’s eyes widened before she reached out and grasped Faith’s hand. In a blur the pair of Slayers sped out of the throne room.

Alonna could only roll her eyes in exasperation at the blatant display. “Those two are ridiculous.” The Slayer muttered to the demon. “And don’t tell me I’m just jealous. I’m not jealous.”

“Wouldn’t dream of it Sweetie.” Lorne replied with no hint of condescension or disbelief. “You’ll find yourself a girl soon enough.”

“But will she even be willing to date someone like me.” Alonna asked as doubt crept into her voice. “A super powered freak.”

“Honey, if your brother could land a catch like Fred you’ll end up married to some queen before you know it.” Lorne dismissed the Slayer’s doubt before taking another sip of his drink. “Or maybe one of those warrior princesses the bards are always singing overtly erotic songs about.”

Alonna let out a genuine laugh at the idea the demon had just planted. “Thanks Lorne.”
She said as she turned to face him. “You’re the best, you know that?”

“Try telling my mother that.” Lorne laughed off the Slayer’s praise. “Now that woman is hard to please, but she still managed to find a mate and splorch out a brood. You’ll do fine kiddo.”

“I know.” Alonna agreed as she took in the activity filling the throne room. With her moment of doubt settled and brushed aside the Slayer returned to the last bit of work that needed to be done. She would find her special someone, and no rag tag group of thugs stitched together by some mad scientist was going to stand in her way.

********************

“Where is he?” The General seethed as he looked around the small clearing just beyond the tree line.

His strike team stood by his side, anxious to start their mission. Each of the horribly disfigured soldiers looked up at the massive wall that stood just two dozen yards past the edge of the forest grove where they hid. The outer wall of the city loomed over the surrounding countryside. The sun had long since passed behind the battlements, casting the open ground outside the wall and much of the forest in shadow.

The General grumbled to himself once more as he flexed his gnarled yellow claws and ground the jagged fangs of his lower jaw against the round human teeth of his upper jaw. He had waited in the darkening forest for an hour already. The strike team had searched the base of the wall for half of that time and found no trace of their alleged entrance. The mercenary had promised to open the door for them. His absence vexed the General to no end.

“My apologies General.” The mercenary called out from a bush behind the strike team. “Did I keep you and your men waiting long?”

“Make me wait for your arrival again and it will be your last mistake Mercenary.” The General seethed as he spun to face down the mercenary. “This enemy is a threat to the sovereignty of the Queen! It must be wiped off the face of this world. Do not let your own petty concerns stand in the way of our goal again.”

“Sure, sure.” The white haired mercenary said as he walked through the crowd of misshapen soldiers. “Glory to the Queen and all that.”

“Glory to the Queen.” Each and every member of the strike team moaned as if the words overwrote their very wills.

“Glory to the Queen.” The General muttered before shaking his head clear of the apparent haze. “Don’t do that again!”

“Of course General.” The mercenary agreed as he hid his smile. “We should really get underway. Your men…” He paused to look around at the assembled “soldiers” before looking back at the General. “Well let’s just not keep them waiting for their mission.”

“Agreed.” The General growled as the mercenary examined the strike team.

The half dozen “men” standing around the mercenary were barely recognizable as such. Most had far more severe alterations than the General’s patchwork of yellow and ebony flesh or his superfluous claws and fangs.

Two appeared almost human save for the oversized arms hanging limply from their shoulders. Scaly brown and green flesh stretched over the muscular biceps of the short upper arms and proceeded to cover the far too long forearms that ended in clawed hands. The Mercenary recognized Polgara demon arms when he saw them. The fact that both men’s legs bent backwards and ended in cloven hooves did little to help their appearance.

Two more “soldiers” appeared even less human. Mangy fur covered their bodies in uneven clumps and patches. Their heads truly set them apart. One had the head of a large wolf sitting atop his shoulders. The other bore the visage of an oversized house cat.

Beside them the last two members of the strike team stood side by side. One was tall and emaciated. Far too slender to be human. Even the slimmest of women or young men the mercenary had ever seen were barrel-chested in comparison to this gaunt wisp. It wore a long black cloak that hugged its frail frame and form fitting black leather over its boney legs. The face was covered in an ebony shroud. Long slender snow white fingers with two extra knuckles on each digit clutched a metallic box with one long hose coming from it.

The last creature stood out as particularly hideous. It crouched on all fours. Its forearms were extended, ending in distinctly hooked demonic claws. Its hind legs were short, stubby little appendages with backwards bending knees and wide flat circular feet that the mercenary swore wouldn’t look out of place on a tiny rhino. The squat beast’s torso was wrapped up in strips of brown leather. The mercenary took this all in but was most shocked by what he saw on the creatures head. An oversized bonze sphere encased the entire skull. A thick hose ran out the back of the creature’s orb shaped helmet and connected to the box in the clutches of the gaunt figure. At the front of the sphere was a large glass lens covering where the face should be. Peering into the lens showed little until the mercenary caught the briefest glimmer of reflected light. For that instant he swore he saw a red honeycomb pattern that wouldn’t look out of place on a fly’s compound eyes.

“So about that secret door.” The mercenary said once he finally pulled his gaze away from the misshapen strike team. Without further hesitation he marched out of the tree line and towards the base of the looming wall. He reached out to the stone surface with one hand as if he was searching for something. The general and his team watched in silence and exasperation.

A moment later the white haired man’s knuckles curled and he began knocking on one particular stone in the wall. A second later he reached out to another stone six rows down and three to the left. He pressed and the stone block receded into the wall. A loud clicking resonated from within the stony edifice. The strike team watched as a section of wall folded inward and slid to one side. It revealed an opening just wide enough for one large man to walk through.

“Okay let’s go.” The mercenary said as he took one step inside the tunnel.

“Wait!” The general ordered. “This wasn’t part of the deal. You are staying here with me to monitor their progress.”

“What?” The older man asked as he spun to look at the misshapen soldier in disbelief. “That won’t work. They’ll need me to open the second door and to get them through the last stretch of the labyrinth.”

“What? You didn’t say anything about other doors. Or a labyrinth!” The General growled.

“Of course there are other doors!” The mercenary shouted back. “Once this tunnel gets under the heart of the city there will be junction points. I need to walk them through the twists and turns until they get to the gate that leads into the Citadel. Then I need to go down the specific side tunnel that unlocks the last three gates from this side. You didn’t think the tunnel led right to the throne room without any other branches or barriers did you?”

“You are to return here once the gates are opened then!” The general ordered.

“No can do.” He shot back with a smirk. “The mechanism that unlocks the doors and gates from the outside also closes the doors that lead back to the Citadel. Once I clear the way for them I’ll be stuck in a tunnel that leads to the middle of a field just inside the Western stretch of wall.”

“Why wasn’t any of this mentioned before?” The General asked in a cold voice that did little to hide his fury.

“You only asked if I could get your team inside. Which is what I’m trying to do right now! If you don’t want to get in there and take what you want then we can close this up and go our separate ways.” The mercenary stood his ground in the face of the outraged General. Both men glared as the last dregs of daylight gave way to the twilight.

“Fine!” The General shouted. “Just go. But be warned. The next time we contract your services we will be discussing all the details in advance.”

“Good, let’s go boys.” He called out to the strike team before turning and marching into the darkened tunnel.

The General glared and fumed as he watched his men follow the white haired old fool. The next time they met he would be sure to instill proper respect in the man. No one made a fool of one of the Mad Queen’s main generals. As the hidden door closed behind the last member of the strike team the General turned and began the short march to the rendezvous point. Before the night was over they would have the prizes their queen had been denied for so long.

********************

“Everything will be alright Sheila.” Tara assured the mother of her always. Both of the Rosenbergs stood by the entrance to the throne room. Both listened as their daughter ordered the soldiers within to prepare for their uninvited guests. “Cassie told us everything. We’ll show them they can’t just walk in here and take the people we love.”

“Of course.” Sheila said as Ira rubbed her shoulder. “Right, of course. You and Willow and the girls will protect us all. I just worry sometimes. I can’t stand the thought of anything happening to my daughter in law.”

“The fact that we have so much support from the both of you means so much to Willow and me.” Tara said as she held Sheila’s hands in her gauntlets for one long moment. Ira and Sheila smiled and gave Tara one last hug before turning and being led back to their chambers by the guards who would be tasked with protecting the main entrance to the living quarters. Tara watched them go, holding back a swell of emotion before turning towards her throne room.

“That’s good work everyone!” Willow called out to the soldiers and Slayers as Tara walked up the dais to stand at her side. “That should be the last of it. Oh, hi Baby.” The redhead’s greeting was cut short as the honey blonde pulled her lithe frame against her ebony armor and captured surprised yet eager lips in her own. Willow let out a soft moan as Tara’s reassuring embrace drove all thought from her mind.

The kiss only lasted long enough for every Slayer and most of the soldiers to notice and chuckle quietly amongst themselves. The mild laughter lasted long enough for Alonna to cast her glare around the room. The ebony Slayer’s withering gaze only ceased once it landed upon Buffy and Faith who were tucked in one corner of the throne room already lost in each others’ embrace.

“Alright.” Tara said after she broke off the kiss and let Willow stagger into her arms. “We’re so proud of the work each and every one of you has put in. Tonight we will show the Mad Queen that she has no power over any citizen of this kingdom.”

“Right.” Willow whispered before pulling herself together. “That’s right! Great work guys! We’ll show those poopy heads what for.”

“We better.” Dawn said as she and Cassie walked up to the dais that still held the throne in its center. In one hand she held Tara’s black helmet. In the other she clutched Cassie’s trembling hand. “They are not taking my girlfriend.”

At the sound of the young woman’s angered voice Buffy’s head broke away from Faith’s and shot up. “Dawn! What are you doing here? You can’t be here when the fighting starts. Take Cassie and go hang out with Mom and Giles.”

“Cassie needs to be here for this one Buff.” Willow said as she gave the young seer one lingering look of concern.

“And there is no way you are going to keep me from her while those animals are in our home.” Dawn added as Cassie finally stopped trembling.

“Sorry Buffy.” The young blonde said at last. “Things won’t play out right if I’m not here to send the right message.”

“Alright.” Buffy relented before looking to her little sister with an exasperated glare. “If you get killed I’m telling.”

“Noted.” Dawn said as she handed Tara her helmet.

All around the large chamber the citizens of the Witch King’s fledgling nation readied themselves for the coming fight. As the light died down they grew ever quieter awaiting the enemy. None doubted their victory.

********************

“Okay that should do it.” The mercenary said as he undid the last mechanism that barred the strike team from entering the catacombs under the Citadel. “I thought those mangled dimwits would never leave.”

“Ain’t no thang Nate.” A horribly gravely voice said over the comm. nestled in the mercenary’s ear. “We got this shit on lock. Those foos won’t know what hit them.”

“Didn’t we agree to use codenames while in the field? Medievalpool?” He asked his closest friend.

“Oh like it really matters at this point “Cable!” Medievalpool quipped back. “You know they already figured out who you are right?”

“Who knows?” Cable shot up from the hidden mechanism he had just unlocked. “They can’t know about me! If they know then how am I ever going to make it up to them? How am I gonna face them after this is done?”

“Relax you big doofus!” Medievalpool scoffed at his friend. “I’m talking about the readers. They totally saw you coming. Especially if they saw my movie. You know? The huge megahit that came out last Febuary and totally saved the studio from having to lease the franchise rights back to Disney. All it’ll take is a quick Google search and they’ll figure your whole shtick out in twelve seconds flat.”

“Wade, what the hell are you talking about?” Cable asked as he failed to grasp the incomprehensible string of out of context references his friend had made. “What do half of those words even mean?”

“Oh like you can’t figure it out future boy.” Medievalpool quipped back in a huff. A moment passed before he spoke again in a more serious tone. “Are we still doing this thing or what?”

“Of course Wade.” Cable said as he shoved the cover stone back over the locking mechanism. With every trace of his presence covered he prepared for the next phase of their horribly convoluted plan.

Cable removed his left sleeve to reveal his organic steel arm. The metal skin let off a silver gleam in the dim torchlight. The bright yellow glow from his left eye illuminated the multiple light scars around his right eye. He then removed his other glove and ran his flesh and bone hand through his short white hair. He stood and listened to his friend’s last remark.

“Those Frankenweenie rejects are walking into a meat grinder aren’t they?” Medievalpool asked over the comm.

“Oh yeah.” Cable agreed as a rare smirk worked its way over his face. “Not a one of them is walking out of this fight. No one threatens family and gets away with it.”

“Says the guy playing both sides before his big dumb reveal.” Medievalpool deflated Cable’s bravado with a single quip.

“Just get ready to teleport in Wade.” Cable muttered as he nursed his pride.

“Ready boss!” The madman answered far too gleefully.

“Bodyslide by two.” Cable spoke out loud before disappearing in a cylinder of bright white light.

********************

The hidden door slid open to reveal the darkened chamber. The members of the Mad Queen’s strike team peered into the darkness. They saw nothing in the quiet gloom. With some hesitation they took their first steps into the throne room of the Witch King.

As they slowly made their way out of the hidden tunnel a strange sense of foreboding came over each of them. As the last of them stepped into the room the smallest of their disfigured lot began to panic. The short squat creature that crawled along on all fours began to squeal. The lens on its spherical helm darted back and forth as if it was aware of countless objects hidden in the darkness but still unable to actually see them. It fidgeted while shifting its weight back and forth between each of its four limbs. As the rest of the strike team took notice of its fear the small beast began to lunge away from them. It got to the end of the hose linked to its helm before it was harshly yanked back by the deceptively strong gaunt figure holding the metal box it was tied to.

“Quiet the beast you fool!” One of the Polgara armed soldiers snapped in hushed tones. “We can’t afford to be noticed.”

“A bit late for that.” The wolf headed being said in a hissing voice as a single light flickered into being at the heart of the chamber.

“I was wondering when you would finally show up.” Cassie remarked in a bored tone. She was holding a single lit candle and standing in the only pool of light within the throne room. The young seer looked over the intruders with disdain before setting the candle on the ground and taking one step back.

“Sir, that’s the primary target.” The other Polgara armed soldier said as he shifted on his cloven hooves, ready to strike.

“Hold.” The cat headed figure hissed as it eyed Cassie for a long moment. “This is wrong.”

“You know I so rarely get the chance to see one of my predictions play out right in front of me.” Cassie mocked the intruders as she took another step back.

“What did she say?” Wolfhead asked. His pointed furry ears flattened back against his skull as panic set in.

“She’s one of the empaths we were sent to capture!” One of the Polgara armed soldiers said.

“Seize her!” The other Polgara armed soldier shouted. The duo nodded to each other as they began to advance on Cassie.

“Wait!” Cathead ordered as the two soldiers took more deliberate steps forward. “She knew we would be here.”

“Uh huh.” Cassie nodded with a truly sinister smile for such a young teenage girl. She stepped out of the small pool of light that the tiny candle cast.

As the young seer faded into the darkness another voice came from their side. “Okay that was worth the trouble of setting up this whole ambush.”

“The Witch King saw us coming.” Cathead said with a hollow raspy hiss that did little to bolster his men’s confidence.

“That’s right.” Cassie whispered from the darkness as a heavy iron portcullis slammed shut over the passageway they had snuck through. Hoods, shrouds and shutters were pulled from lanterns all around the massive chamber. Light pierced the darkness. As it revealed the others present the small band of assassins grew terrified.

Dozens of heavily armed and armored men stood in rigid formations blocking off all the exits and lining the walls of the throne room. Each man held a lit lantern aloft. Their light put the true threat on full display.

All around the intruders were young women in flexible leather armor. Each wielded at least one deadly weapon that was already drawn and poised to strike down their enemies. One small blonde from among the armed women stepped forward. In her hands she grasped a sinister looking weapon. One end of the weapon’s shaft ended in a wooden spike. The other in a heavily stylized red and silver blade that was curved with barbed tips that betrayed sinister and lethal purpose.

“This is the part where we chop you to messes.” Buffy said as she casually twirled the Scythe in slow circles.

Cassie had retreated towards the throne. She stood next to Dawn who had taken up a rigid stance beside the throne and its two occupants. Willow preened as she sat in the lap of the fully armored Witch King. As the King stroked her long red locks she looked to Cassie and nodded.

“You really shouldn’t have come here.” Cassie said in an almost apologetic tone. “You might have lived longer.”

With that the Slayers surged forward. In the blink of an eye both Polgara armed soldiers fully extended the long bone spikes hidden in their wrists. They were to no avail. Buffy flew through the air swinging the Scythe in a wide arc. The blade cleaved right through both their necks before they could even bring their skewers to bear.

The stubby creature went into a fit as terror set in. It finally yanked the control box out of the hands of the gaunt creature manipulating it. Its spherical helm swung wildly back and forth as it galloped between the legs of two Slayers. As they turned to chase the fleeing creature into the wall of soldiers led by Xander and Gunn the gaunt figure rose to its full height. It stretched long spindly arms out towards the two distracted girls. A slight hissing filled the air around the emaciated creature.

“Not so fast asshole!” Faith shouted as her short swords sliced through air and then flesh and bone. The gaunt figure let out a high pitched wail as its severed arms fell to the floor, writhing as their former owner screeched its last cry in agony and despair. The dark haired Slayer was only too eager to end its suffering by freeing its head from its shoulders.

The wolf panicked just as Alonna and a half dozen Slayers surrounded him. He drew a long thin rapier from the sheath at his side only to wince in pain as the ebony Slayer batted the weapon from his hand with her massive morning star. The wolf screamed in anguish as he clutched his now ruined hand. Alonna raised the weapon she had claimed from the first general’s corpse high over the kneeling wolf. He managed one last pained whimper as the oversized mace came down on him with a vengeance.

The cat faired only slightly better. With his fencing daggers he parried blows from two of the four Slayers circling him. His defense was undone the instant Buffy swooped in. The Slayer swung the Scythe, cleaving through both daggers and part of the cat’s right hand in the process. The cat fell to his knees much like the wolf. He hissed in defiance one last time before the Scythe cleaved through the ring of stitches around his neck.

“Got you now you son of a bitch!” Rona shouted as Vi grasped the metal box linked to the stubby creature. Both Slayers nearly cheered as the beast faltered. Rona’s sword pierced its shoulder, pinning it down as she went in for the kill.

“Wait!” Cassie shouted just as Rona was about to claim the twisted creature’s life. The young seer quickly made her way across the throne room. The Slayers watched in bewilderment as the girl knelt beside the downed creature. A muffled wheezing emitted from the bronze sphere encasing the creature’s head. The shudders of the dying beast only increased as Cassie grasped its helm and dragged the lens around to focus on her.

“Can you hear me Maggie?” Cassie asked the dying creature. “It’s time we had a chat. I know you’re the one who caused the deaths of my parents. I know that you’ve hunted me for my powers. I also know that this is the only time you’ll ever hear my voice.”

All eyes were on the young blonde as she mocked the Mad Queen through the dying beast. None save for Willow and Tara could understand why Cassie believed Maggie Walsh could see and hear through the odd helmet bonded to the creature’s head.

“I want you to know what I’ve seen.” Cassie went on in a cold voice. “You took my family from me. So my new family is coming for you.”

“Damn right we are!” Faith shouted as Slayers all around the room nodded and muttered in agreement.

“I’ve seen it happen.” Cassie said as she glared into the darkening lens. “It’s already too late for you. For your rule. For your kingdom. We’re coming for you. You will die. Your city will burn. The abominations filling your dungeons and slaughter houses will be put down, and that woman over there will personally ransack your labs.” As she spoke Cassie leaned to one side, exposing the creature’s view to Willow, and pointed one finger at the redhead. “She will make sure no one ever finds any trace of your research. Your life’s work will be undone. Your city will become the Witch King’s new trade outpost. You’ll be noted as a minor mercenary that fell in the early years of the Witch King’s expansion and forgotten immediately afterward. No historian will even bother to write down your name. Your whole life is for nothing.”

As she spoke Cassie reached down, resting her hand on the tubes leading into the dying creature’s headgear from the small metal box still in Vi’s hand. “Just thought you should know beforehand.” Cassie said with a smile. “You don’t seem like the type who’s smart enough to see it coming.” As she finished her speech the blonde gripped the cable tightly and yanked it free from the bronze orb. The creature let out a deafening screech before falling to the ground, motionless.

********************

“Damn it!” The General shouted as his clawed hands nearly crushed the radio relay device he peered into. The audacity of the young seer mocking the Mad Queen was bad enough. The fact that he knew the message would be received by his ruler only served to worsen his mood.

Before He could thrash and rage further a light on the side of the transmitter came on. The darkened screen that once showed Cassie looming over the dying beast now held a much more imposing visage.

“Forrest!” Maggie Walsh screeched at her general. “Did you hear what that little bitch said to me?”

“Yes my Queen.” Forrest said. There was no possibility he could even conceive of lying to the woman who transformed him into what he had become.

“How dare she?” Maggie Walsh went on in an outraged huff.

“Shell I go in there and remove her spine this night my Queen?” Forrest asked. Had she given the order he had no doubt that he would do everything in his power to comply.

“No.” Walsh said as she rubbed the bridge of her nose. “No. Come back to base. I’ll need you for the next mission.”

“What of the mercenary my Queen?” Forrest had to ask. He knew the white haired man had been complicit in their failure somehow. If only he could think more clearly.

“Forget that incompetent wretch for now.” The Mad Queen said before looking back up at her second general. “Just get back here on the double.”

“At once my Queen.” Forrest snapped to attention before standing up and sprinting in the direction of the Mad Queen’s city. In his haste he dropped the transmitter to the floor of the small clearing where he had awaited the strike team.

The face in the device sighed once more before shaking her head. “So… Alright. Fine.” Maggie Walsh muttered to herself as she powered down her own transmitter. “She wants a fight we’ll give her one. Won’t we Riley?”

The prone being continued to lie motionless on the workbench before her. Her greatest creation had perhaps the most egregious augmentations while somehow turning out the least deformed of any of Maggie’s soldiers. Not a single scar or stitch marred his face.

“I’ve worked too long. Too long, to let some little bitch and her petty tyrant threaten this project. Threaten me. The Witch King has no idea who he’s dealing with. Once he’s gone the empaths will beg to follow me. They’ll come around. It’s for the greater good. They’ll see that.” The Mad Queen picked up a surgical saw from the tray table beside her main workbench. As she loomed over her third general she continued to mutter to herself. “And if they don’t, well, first things first. Remove the complication, and when they least expect it… Break them down.”

********************

“So we’re gonna sing the song right?” Medievalpool’s voice came in over the comm. link as Cable tried to sneak through the upper levels of the library. The rare records he could actually find told him Lady Willow kept her secret research notes under lock and key in the depths of her lab. Fortunately primitive scientific discoveries were of no concern to him. What he sought was a far more elusive artifact. One he hoped could bring about great change in the future.

“Why do you always have to make these jobs weird?” Cable asked as he shook his head.

“Come on.” Medievalpool whined. “It’s our song. Our song! Nate. Nate Dawg. It’s our song.”

“Alright, fine.” The older mercenary muttered as he resigned himself to his fate. At the very least the distraction would make the search more entertaining. “We’ll sing our song.” Cable brought his metal forearm up so the inside of his wrist could be easily reached. He rubbed a small circle on the silvery surface with his free hand. The soft blue glow of a holographic display screen flickered into existence in the air before him. “Graymalkin, bring up my music files please. Play the instrumental track for Closer.”

Two quick beeps signaled that the command was recognized. A moment passed before the opening beat of the song poured out of the holographic display. Notes filled the air and Cable took a deep breath before letting out his surprisingly lyrical voice.

Hey, I was doing just fine before I met you
I drink too much and that's an issue
But I'm OK

Hey, you tell your friends it was nice to meet them
But I hope I never see them again

I know it breaks your heart
Moved to the city in a broke-down car
And four years, no calls
Now you're looking pretty in a hotel bar
And I, I, I, I, I can't stop
No, I, I, I, I, I can't stop


As they approached the chorus Medievalpool joined in. Cable couldn’t help but smile at the more humorous quirks his friend possessed.

So, baby, pull me closer
In the back seat of your Rover
That I know you can't afford
Bite that tattoo on your shoulder
Pull the sheets right off the corner
Of that mattress that you stole
From your roommate back in Boulder
We ain't ever getting older

We ain't ever getting older
We ain't ever getting older


Cable stopped singing as he rounded one of the larger bookshelves tucked along the back wall of the library’s top floor. He all but cheered in triumph as he saw the artifact he sought for the first time. Hundreds of copies of one leather bound tome filled the shelves tucked away in this back corner of the stacks. With reverence and a shaky hand Cable picked up one of the fabled books. Just as he silently read the cover his friend belted out the words to their song in his abrasive off key voice.

“You look as good as the day I met you, I forget just why I left you, I was insane!” Medievalpool hollered over the comm. link. Cable smiled, both at his odd friend’s joy and the prize he clutched with reverence. “Stay and play that Blink-182 song that we beat to death in Tucson, OK!”

“I know it breaks your heart! Moved to the city in a broke-down car!” Medievalpool practically yodeled as he mangled the song. “Four years, no call! Now I'm looking pretty in a hotel bar, and I, aye, aye, aye, I can't stop! No, I, aye, aye, aye, I can't stop!”

“So, baby, pull me closer in the back seat of your Rover that I know you can't afford! Bite that tattoo on your shoulder, pull the sheets right off the corner of that mattress that you stole from your roommate back in Boulder! We ain't never getting older!” By the end of the chorus Medievalpool’s lines were nearly shouted out.

“Wade this is a stealth mission.” Cable said over the comm. as he tucked the tome under one arm and turned to flee the library. He knew the Mad Queen’s soldiers wouldn’t offer the Slayers much in the way of resistance. It was just too bad that the General hadn’t fallen for the trap.

“We ain't ever getting older, we ain't ever getting older!” Medievalpool chortled as the sounds of metal clashing against metal filtered in over the comm. link.

“Wade? Are you fighting someone?” Cable asked in a panic as he raced to the lower floors of the library of the library and ran out, towards the nearest of the large spiral staircases that led to the base of the Citadel tower.

“Slayers found me Nate.” Medievalpool cried out as more clashing sounds erupted in Cable’s ear. The madman was caught in a sword fight with some of the deadliest creatures in history and Cable had no idea where in the sprawling Citadel to find them. “Just keep singing with me! It tilts them like you would not believe!” Cable had no choice but to lend his voice to his friend’s fight.

So, baby, pull me closer
In the back seat of your Rover
That I know you can't afford
Bite that tattoo on your shoulder
Pull the sheets right off the corner
Of that mattress that you stole
From your roommate back in Boulder
We ain't ever getting older

We ain't ever getting older
No, we ain't ever getting older
We ain't ever getting older
No, we ain't ever getting older


Cable sang his heart out as he sped through the Citadel. Had he relied more on his earliest training he would have remembered just how much of a target that made him.

“No you ain’t getting older asshole!” Faith shouted as she brought her blades down on Cable.

The old mercenary brought his metal arm up just in time to block both blades. A swift knee to the gut sent the world’s second greatest Slayer sprawling across corridor. Cable would have been proud of himself for holding off such a powerful Slayer if not for the dire circumstances.

“Oh you are so dead.” A voice he hadn’t ever expected to hear cut through Cable’s focus. He turned to see the petite blonde standing at the end of the corridor. She raised the legendary Scythe and for an instant Cable almost panicked.

“Hi Buffy.” Cable said just as the greatest Slayer in history took her first step towards him. “I see you’ve already found the Scythe. I knew the history books got that part wrong.”

“And just what do you know about my Scythe?” Buffy asked as she halted her advance.

“I spent over a decade of my life searching for it.” Cable admitted. “Once I gave it to your latest successor She saved my tribe. It really is an honor to meet you in your prime like this. Fray is never going to believe it.”

“What the hell is any of that supposed to mean?” Buffy shouted as she took a few more steps forward. As the Slayer advanced she noticed the book still clutched under Cable’s arm. “What did you take from the Library?”

“Something that will save countless thousands of lives.” Cable replied as he slowly began to step back from the Slayer. “But that can’t happen if I let you stop me right now. I really didn’t want it to come to this.” The mercenary slowly let his metal arm reach for one of the pouches at his belt. He didn’t want to cause permanent injury to the legend herself. But he knew holding back against such a threat would cost him his life. Thankfully their fight was sidetracked by a young girl’s voice.

“Everybody stop!” Cassie shouted. Buffy and Cable looked up to find the young seer standing at the end of the hall, blocking off cable’s escape. An instant later Cassie was joined by the Witch King and a dozen more Slayers. The old mercenary had no chance of reaching his friend now. “No body move!” Cassie ordered as she took a step towards Cable.

“Cassie don’t!” Buffy shouted as she watched the girl move. “He’s dangerous!”

“Not now Buffy.” Cassie said as she stopped several paces from Cable. The old mercenary looked down at the girl and couldn’t help but fail to choke back a sob building in his throat. This was not part of his plan. He never wanted their first meeting to be anything like this.

Cassie glared at the man for a long moment. Silence filled the hall as the Witch King and many of the Slayers facing Cable noticed tears building in his eyes. With a firm tone the young seer spoke to the intruder. “Nathan Dayspring Askani’Son Summers! You come over here and give your mother a hug right now!”

Eyes all around the hall widened in shock as Cable crumbled under Cassie’s scrutiny. The overly muscular man was all too quick to rush towards the girl and fall to his knees before her. He wrapped both is arms around her back and buried his face in her shoulder as his tears finally broke free.

“Oh Goddess Mom.” Cable sobbed as Cassie hugged him right back. “I’m so sorry. I, I didn’t want to meet like this.”

“It’s okay Baby.” Cassie murmured in his ear as one hand came up to rub his short white buzz cut. “It’s okay. You didn’t get anyone killed. You probably saved a few lives by having them fight us on our terms.”

“Wait.” Willow said as she and Dawn came around the corner. “What’s going on? Is he the one that tripped the alarm wards in the tunnel?”

“He did.” Cassie said as she continued to hold the sobbing mercenary. “Even if I didn’t see the attack coming he would have given us plenty of warning. We might have lost a few chairs and tables but those freaks would have been caught just as easily.”

“What’s going on?” Buffy demanded. “Cassie who is this guy?”

“Dawn.” Cassie called to her girlfriend as she ignored the Slayer. “Come say hi.”

“Cass? Babe?” Dawn was shocked as she stepped towards her girlfriend and the strange intruder. “What’s going on?”

“This is the big secret I couldn’t tell you earlier.” Cassie admitted as she turned slightly to face her girlfriend. “This is what will change everything for us.”

“Who is he?” Dawn asked as she finally met Cable’s eyes.

“Say hello to our son. Nathan Summers.” Cassie said yet again as the bottom fell out of Dawn’s world.

“Our son?” Dawn whispered in shock. “Our, we can’t have a son. We haven’t even, and we’re both girls. How would we ever… Who is this?”

“I knew I should have held this meeting off longer.” Cable whispered to himself as he took in Dawn’s reaction. “I’m so sorry Mom.”

“Stop apologizing Nathan.” Cassie ordered before turning back to face Dawn fully. “He’s our son Dawn. You need to accept that this is just another weird thing about our lives and give him a hug.” Dawn blinked in confusion as she stared back and forth between her girlfriend and the stranger. “Now!” Cassie snapped.

“Okay.” Dawn replied as she stepped up to the kneeling mercenary. “Hi.”

“Hi Mom.” Cable said as he and Dawn awkwardly hugged. “I’m sorry. I had this big dumb plan for the first time we were going to meet. I just, Goddess I didn’t expect to cry this much.”

“It’s okay Baby.” Cassie assured him. You’re our son and we love you. It’s just going to take Dawn a few hours for that fact to sink in. You probably get that from her and her sister. The Summers side of our family is full of stubborn people.”

“The stories did say “The Slayer” was a real hard head.” Cable admitted with a chuckle as he choked back another sob.

“Hey!” Buffy and Dawn both protested in perfect synchronicity.

Faith laughed as she came to stand beside Buffy. “Guy’s got a point B.” She then turned to the two younger girls with a confused look that was shared by everyone else around. “But seriously though, what’s the deal with you kids being this old guy’s Moms? How does that work?”

“Time travel.” Cable and Cassie said at the same time.

“No way!” Willow cried out in excitement. “So you’re saying you’re from the future. How far?”

“A few thousand years miss…” Cable paused for a moment as he looked to the redhead beside the Witch King. “I’m sorry who are you?”

“That’s Willow.” Cassie said as she waved in the direction of her slack jawed friends.

“Oh okay. One of the Witch King’s wives. That makes sense.” Cable nodded in understanding.

“Wives?” Willow shouted in outrage at even the notion that she would have to share Tara with any other woman. “As in plural? Tara isn’t getting any other wives! Not while I’m around darn it! Right Baby?”

“What? No! Willow is my everything!” Tara shouted as she quickly removed her helmet. “Of course it’s just you Sweetie! There’s no one but you. After everything we’ve been through how could I even look at someone else? You’re it for me.”

“Promise?” Willow asked in a mildly placated pout.

“Always!” Tara swore as she pulled Willow to her side.

It was a long moment before anyone realized that Nathan was staring at Tara with his jaw hanging open. “The Witch King is a woman.” He let out in a hushed whisper. “It all makes sense now. Boy the polygamist are going to hate this.”

“The what now?” Dawn asked. “Why would you think Tara had multiple wives?”

“The historical records that remain of this time in my future are spotty on most details.” Cable explained as Tara pulled Willow into a deep unquestioning kiss. “Everyone knows there was a figure named the Witch King. His empire rapidly spread across this land, bringing the light of knowledge and progress to the hordes of primitive savages.”

“Hey now!” Buffy protested again as Faith put an arm around her waist.

“I don’t think your time jockey nephew is a fan of our century B.” The brunette muttered in her girl’s ear.

“I’m just quoting what the records say.” Nathan said before turning back to his parents. “The Kingdom of the Witch King spread across the land. It stood for over a thousand years as a beacon of all that mankind is capable of achieving. When it fell it was centuries before civilization was able to rebuild and recover even half of what was lost. And at the heart of every myth and legend about the enigmatic Witch King there are his two wives. Lady Willow and Lady Tara. The smartest woman in recorded history and the wisest woman in recorded history. There are even a few skeptics who say the only reason he was called the Witch King is because he managed to take two politically powerful women as his brides. Even with all the troubles we face in my time many people refuse to accept that magic is a thing. Better the historical messiah be some sex crazed polygamist than a wizard or sorcerer.”

“I still don’t get it.” Buffy protested as her apparent nephew’s story veered off course. “How are you Dawn and Cassie’s kid? How did you get sent so far into the future to begin with?”

“The story I heard is kinda hazy.” Nathan admitted. “I’m not sure how much is secondhand hearsay.”

“Many years from now, on the day I give birth to you, there will be an attack.” Cassie said in a firm tone that drew everyone’s attention. “They’ll curse you with a plague that we have no hope of curing. I’m sorry Nathan. There won’t be any other way.”

“What other way?” Dawn asked as she suddenly grew more concerned for the son she hadn’t even thought of conceiving yet. “What’s going to happen?”

“You send me to the future Mom.” Nathan said as he and Dawn locked eyes once more. “Where I can survive. You give me up so that I have a chance at life.”

“But, that’s not fair.” Dawn tried to hold back fresh tears as she realized how much she was going to lose. “We can’t just send you off. Alone! We have to stop them from hurting you.”

“Right!” Buffy said as she looked back and forth between her sister, Cassie and her new, old nephew. “We have enough Slayers here to put anything in the ground. Who ever comes after you will just have to be slain long before you’re born.”

“It’s not that simple Buffy.” Cassie said in a forlorn tone. “Some things have to happen. No matter how much they hurt.”

“Mom is right Buffy.” Nathan said as he stood up for the first time in several minutes. “It sucks that I never got the chance to grow up with my family, but I survived. I was taken in by the Askani. I married. I have a life I wouldn’t give up for anything. My job in the future is too important to chase a past I can’t have.”

“Then why are you here?” Buffy all but shouted at the man she had come so close to slaying. “Why come back at all if you’re just going to leave again?”

“She has a point.” Joyce said as she and Giles came into the hall. “If everything Cassie says is true coming back here had to have been difficult.”

“It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do in my life.” Nathan admitted as he ran a thumb over the spine of the book still clutched in his organic steel hand. “But the rewards are beyond worth any risks.”

“What are you doing with one of the Slayer handbooks?” Willow asked as she and Tara realized what he was holding.

“I hope you don’t mind.” Nathan said as he held up the large leather bound tome with the word Slayer embossed across the cover. “Everything else in the great library of the Witch King survives. Except this. For some reason all copies of the Slayer Manual disappeared a few centuries ago. Right around the same time as the last Slayers.”

“There aren’t Slayers in the future?” Buffy asked as she stared at the newly serious man.

“There’s one.” Nathan admitted. “The first in over five hundred years. The wielder of the Scythe you’re holding. I think you guys would like her. Now that I’ve met you both it’s clear that there’s so much of Buffy in Melaka Fray that the poor kid never had a chance to be anything other than a hero.”

“You’re her watcher aren’t you?” Giles said as he pieced together just what the man was hinting at.

“Got it in one Mister…?” Nathan began before looking to his mothers.

“Giles.” Dawn said. “He’s kind of engaged to my mom.”

“Rupert Giles.?” Nathan said as he looked back at the watcher. “The only watcher to survive the purge? The man who rebuilt the council to serve the Slayers that emerged from the chaos of this era.”

“Oh actually that was us.” Willow chimed in only to cringe as Nathan’s head spun around to face her. “The multiple Slayers thing. We unlocked their potential.”

“Of course.” Nathan said with a slight chuckle in his voice. “Of course that was you guys again. Should have guessed the Witch King and his... sorry, her wife did that.”

“You’re taking the book to your Slayer aren’t you?” Tara asked as she finally relaxed. She could tell by Nathan’s aura that everything he said was true. There was no deception coming from him or from Cassie.

“I’ve been getting by with her training as best I could.” Nathan admitted with some reluctance. “Duty to the family and all that. But to have one of these books in my hand after searching the whole world over for nonexistent copies… I can’t tell you how much this means to my time. Oh, speaking of my time.” He turned back to Dawn and Cassie with a playful smirk in his eyes. “Mom, Mom, would you like to meet your grandson?”

“Grandson?” Dawn shouted as Faith started to cackle and snort at Buffy’s side.

“Yes!” Cassie cried out as she practically bounced off the floor.

“Graymalkin!” Nathan said as he pulled up his metal arm and spoke into his wrist. “Give me a holofeed of home base.” Light poured from the palm of Nathan’s silvery hand. Before the eyes of everyone assembled a young man around Buffy’s age appeared in the hallway. He had short blond hair and wore a tight navy blue jumpsuit much like the one his father was wearing. He stood next to what looked like the edge of a table as he picked up various tools, strapping them to the tactical harness he wore.

“Graymalkin!” The young man called out as he readied himself for battle. “Bring up a real time holofeed of the outer perimeter. I don’t care what my father and Fray said about prophetic dreams or that the son of a bitch is her twin brother. If Harth comes for us again I’m dusting him myself!”

“Tyler.” Nathan called the boy’s attention. Tyler’s head shot up as he spun around looking for his father.

“Graymalkin, put up a projection of my Dad’s location.” Tyler snapped at the super computer. “Dad!” He cried out as the hologram of Nathan formed in what was essentially their living room. “You’re still in the distant past. What’s going on?”

“That’s a real time, two way communications channel between two distant points in the time space continuum.” Willow whispered as she tried to wrap her head around how advanced Nathan’s technology was. “That’s unbelievable! Do you guys know how impossible it is to pull off this thing we’re looking at right now?”

“Dawn’s grandson is as old as I am.” Buffy muttered to herself. “This time travel stuff is giving me a headache.”

“Tyler.” Nathan spoke again amidst the stunned mutterings of his mothers’ friends and family. “I want you to meet the family.”

“You didn’t!” Tyler said in disbelief. “After all the lectures you’ve given me about messing with timelines and destiny.”

“The mission went sideways.” Nathan admitted as he rubbed the back of his head with his normal hand. “But we’ve hashed out the main points. Say hello to both of your grandmothers.”

“Hi.” Cassie said as Dawn stared at the image of the young man. She smiled as she recognized something in Tyler that she truly adored. “Babe he has your eyes.”

“Hi.” Tyler said as he turned slightly to look at the two girls. “Okay wow. This, this is weird.”

“Tell me about it.” Dawn said as she finally wiped the stunned look off her face. “So Tyler… Read any good books lately?”

“We don’t have books in the future.” Tyler deadpanned. “We have these giant spikes that we jam into the base of our skulls so we can download dick and fart jokes from the collective’s municipal hive mind.”

“What?” Dawn shouted as Nathan just shook his head.

“Son, please don’t tell them jokes like that.” Nathan said as he squeezed the bridge of his nose. “They have no frame of reference for our era or technology.”

“Oh come on Dad.” Tyler protested with a laugh. “It was funny.”

“You’ve been spending too much time talking to Wade.” Nathan told his son.

“He’s your friend Dad.” Tyler replied as he too shook his head in annoyance. “So you met Grams and Gammy. How about Auntie Buffy, Auntie Faith and Great Gam Gam?”

“They’re all here too.” Nathan said as Buffy and Joyce came closer to the hologram of the young man. Giles was close behind. “You’ll never guess who your great grandmother is seeing.”

“Great Aunt Buffy’s watcher?” Tyler threw out a guess in a mildly disinterested tone.

“How’d you know?” Nathan asked.

“What for real?” Tyler suddenly looked up in horror. “Damn, that means I owe Fray fifty credits and a new spoiler for her hover bike.” Before he could say anything else a siren went off and the wall behind Tyler lit up. Those watching through the hologram were shocked to see several bright red dots circling an image of an outer fence with strange turrets lining the top of every other post. “Damn it. We got another couple lurks sniffing at the outer perimeter. Dad I have to take care of this.”

“Be safe Son.” Nathan said as he locked eyes with the image of his boy.

“You too.” Tyler quipped back. “I’m not the one cavorting around the dark ages with a madman who won’t stop talking about pop culture references only he gets.”

“Wade isn’t that bad.” Nathan defended the madman.

“Yeah, he is.” Tyler replied before looking to his grandmothers one last time. “It was good to meet both of you. Maybe next time won’t be such a mess on one of our ends.”

“I hope so Tyler.” Cassie said as she kissed he fingers and blew on them in his direction. The young man’s hand flew up to eye level, catching the kiss in mid air. He looked stunned at the automatic gesture before looking back to Cassie.

“How did you know Mom used to do that?” Cassie’s grandson asked in genuine wonder.

“Your Grams has a few tricks up her sleeve.” Cassie said before looking to Dawn. “Or am I Gammy?”

“You can be whatever you want to be Babe.” Dawn replied as she finally found her runaway train of thought. “Be safe Tyler. Don’t let the… lurks? Don’t let those things do whatever they do.”

“Wouldn’t be much of a member of the fabled Summers family if I let those bloodsuckers get the best of me.” Tyler said with a smirk before waving and turning to the display on the far wall.

“Vampires.” Buffy whispered as the hologram faded away.

“Yeah, we have a few tricky ones causing trouble in our time.” Nathan admitted as a strange sound echoed down the corridor. Loud, off key singing followed by rapid footsteps filled the air.

“We ain't ever getting older. We ain't ever getting older. No, we ain't ever getting older.” Medievalpool screeched as he came up behind Buffy, Faith, Joyce and Giles. “We ain't ever getting older. No, we ain't… Oh, hey you guys! Nate we gotta go man. I think I really pissed them off this time.”

“I just can’t take you anywhere can I Wade?” Nathan said as he shook his head in exasperation. “Things went a little off book here.”

“Yeah I really expected the Slayers to take less time catching up with… wait… You told them didn’t you.” Medievalpool said as he took in the furious glares from most of the young women standing around him.

“They know I’m their son from the future, yes.” Nathan admitted just as Alonna, Vi, Molly and Rona came running down the hall with Gunn and Xander in hot pursuit.

“So, are we not fighting anymore? Did you get yelled at by your jailbait mom for all this dumb cloak and dagger stuff?” The masked man asked his friend.

“I may have used his full name.” Cassie admitted.

“Ooh Nate. Your mom used your full name in front of all the neighbors. Damn but you must have messed up good and proper this time.” He turned back to the group of Slayers that had chased him and put his hands up. “Great hustle ladies! Red, keep that guard up. English girl, don’t lead with your chin next time. Soul Sisters, you both got that mad skill goin’ on. No notes for you.”

“I’m going to rip out your spine you son of a bitch!” Alonna shouted just as Faith grabbed a hold of her arms. “Let me kill him damn it!”

“I think she’s taking this a little personally.” Medievalpool stage whispered to Cable. “You stole their fancy schmancy how to guide right? Why you didn’t tell me to grab one last time I’ll never know.”

“They would have noticed the book in your hands as you fought your way out.” Nathan said as he walked over to his friend. “And I didn’t want your hands full when you took out all those other teams that thought they hired you.”

“That was your idea?” Buffy shouted as she fought the urge to deck her nephew. “Dawn could have been killed by this psycho!”

“Oh please, like I would ever let anything get to the handsy little brunette over there.” Medievalpool snapped back at the outraged Slayer. “Little Sis is safe with me. We tight like that.”

“How can we possibly believe that after what you did?” Tara asked the masked mercenary.

“You kidnapped her!” Faith added with a sneer.

“I was trying to teach her an important life lesson about not pressuring her girlfriend into premarital relations.” Medievalpool quipped, only to receive stunned looks from the girls and a strangled gasp from Dawn. “Don’t have kinky barn sex with your underage girly girl or else a costumed weirdo might appear and carry you off into the night. It’s an important life lesson. A lesson I say! Why else would it be in the ten commandments?”

“I don’t think that’s one of them Wade.” Cable whispered over his shoulder.

“Well it’s in the bible somewhere!” The mercenary retorted. “Besides, those two kids are safer with me than they are with anyone other than you guys.”

“What makes you think that psycho?” Faith snapped.

“They’re the moms of my very bestest best friend in the whole wide world.” Medievalpool said. “My best friend who they haven’t even gotten around to making yet by getting all horizontal with each other. You better believe that I ain’t letting any harm come to those kids. Not until the little blonde over there splorches out my friend over here.”

“Wade!” Cable shouted at his friend. “Stop talking about my mothers like that.”

“Oh like you don’t know where babies come from you big dumb time travelling weirdo.” Medievalpool replied with a bark of laughter.

“Yeah but still.” Cable grumbled.

“But nothing.” He shot back before a giggle escaped his mouth. “I said butt.”

“Yes you did Wade.” Nathan sighed before taking one more look at his parents. “I really wish we could stay.”

“I do too.” Cassie agreed as Dawn felt a sob build in the back of her throat.

“I love you guys, never doubt that.” Nathan told his mothers before turning to his aunt and grandmother. “Buffy, don’t ever blame yourself for what needs to happen to me. I’m in a great place in my life and I’d never have gotten there without all the hardship that happened along the way. Grandma, you raised two great women. Sorry you didn’t get to help raise me, but don’t lose any sleep over it. You deserve to be happy.” He glanced over to Faith and Giles for a moment as a sly smirk spread across his face. “Take care of these two. If they’re as bad as me they’ll be a nightmare at times, but my wife always said I was worth it.”

“Way ahead of ya future boy.” Faith waved off Nathan’s concern with a smirk of her own. Giles simply nodded his head in agreement as he held back a slight smile.

“So we’re just letting them go?” Vi asked as several of the Slayers standing behind Tara and Willow shook their heads to warn her off.

“Ha! Like you had a chance of keeping all this deliciousness locked up for your kinky little self.” Medievalpool laughed at the very notion of being caught again. “Smell ya later y’all! Bodyslide by two!”

“Damn it Wade I was going to…” Nathan’s words were cut short as the two mercenaries vanished in a pillar of blinding light.

“What the hell just happened?” Alonna growled at Faith as she finally calmed down.

“Our son has a penchant for the dramatic.” Cassie told the bewildered and agitated Slayer. She turned to her girlfriend with a coy smile before whispering in the brunette’s ear. “I wonder where he got that from?”

“Oh like I’m the drama queen in this relationship.” Dawn huffed as she glared back at Cassie. “Little Miss I Know Everyone’s Future But I’m Not Going Say Anything Until I Can Turn It Into Some Big Dumb Production Number!”

“Fair enough.” Cassie said as she pretended to be suitably chastised. “Does this mean I’m gonna have to talk you into conceiving our son a few years from now?”

“A little groveling wouldn’t hurt.” Dawn replied as she fought the urge to wrap her arms around her girlfriend.

“Noted.” Cassie said just as Gunn and Xander’s idle speculation drew their attention.

“But how do they… I mean they’re both… You know.” Xander whispered as Gunn looked on, equally confused by what had just happened.

“There’s plenty of ways for two women to conceive a child.” Cassie said before waving one hand in Willow and Tara’s direction. “Just ask those two.”

Willow looked to Tara with a curious but neutral expression. “She’s not wrong.”

Tara only smirked as she patted Willow’s arm that was intertwined with her own. “One day Sweetie. One day.”

********************

“Okay but seriously.” Nathan said as he stomped into the cabin in the woods. “No more fighting with the Slayers. Now that they know we’re on the same side there’s no reason to pick fights with the people defending my mothers.”

“There’s always a reason Nate.” Wade said as he followed close behind his best friend. “Is the occasional sparing session going to keep those junior Slayers on their toes? Yes. Is it my duty to give them that opportunity each and every time I break into that giant fortress? Definitely. Does the prospect of all out, balls to the walls, close quarters, hand to hand combat get me sexually excited? Most assuredly. Am I going to chase that dragon in the near future? You bet your sweet finely chiseled ass I am.”

“I’m beginning to regret introducing you to my folks.” Nathan muttered to himself.

“Yeah, yeah, I’m an embarrassing disappointment. Big whoop. Wanna fight about it?” Wade grumbled as he slouched into one of his cushioned lounge chairs.

“You’re not a disappointment Wade.” Nathan said as he looked to his friend for the first time in several minutes. “Far from it.”

“Yeah, fine, whatever.” Wade continued to ignore Nathan’s concerned gaze. “I gotta go refill my health potions. There’s food and beer in the fridge. If you’re heading “back to the future,” wink, wink, nudge, nudge lock the door on your way out.”

The masked madman pulled himself back to his feet and began to trudge towards the concealed hatch in the middle of his kitchen floor. Along the way Nathan halted his movement by lightly grasping his arm.

“You were never a disappointment Wade.” Nathan promised. “Never. You’re the only person I know I can trust in this time.”

“What about your family?” Wade asked as he took a moment to look his friend in the eye.

“I love them.” Nathan said before going on with the sad fact of his life. “But there are some things I need to do here that they wouldn’t understand. If my mother has the same gifts I do then she knows I held things back. I don’t want them to know how far I’m willing to go to do what needs to be done.”

“Like they haven’t killed to protect their own.” Wade scoffed at his friend’s obsessive light touch when it came to the Witch King’s inner circle. “Half of them are Slayers. Also the little blonde’s gift is stronger than yours will ever be. By a lot.”

“A Slayer isn’t a killer.” Nathan countered as he failed to grasp how Wade knew both his and his mother’s limits.

“These ones are.” Wade assured his friend. “Each and every one of them. This side story is named after the dark ages for a reason Nate.”

“There you go again.” Nathan said as he looked to his friend with concern. “This isn’t a story Wade. It may be one of countless alternate dimensions and timelines in the multiverse but it’s as real as they come.”

Wade looked to his friend with sadness and resignation. He put on a forced smile and nodded along with the lie everyone else accepted. With a heavy heart he went along with the grand deception Nathan and all the rest put so much faith in.

“It was good seeing you again Nate. We should do this again soon.”

“We will Wade.” Nathan promised. “Just not tonight. I have to make sure Tyler and Fray are safe. I’ll be back before you know it.”

With that halfhearted promise Nathan stepped back from Wade and brought his hand up to his metal arm. His fingers trailed along one line of organic steel muscle before a soft hum filled the air. In an instant the mercenary from the future was gone and the mercenary from the present was standing alone in a cabin furnished with all the amenities his friend had brought back from that distant era.

“Not a word from you.” Medievalpool whispered to the voices clawing at the back of his mind. “Not a single fucking word.”

_________________
Time and Time Again


Last edited by Citanul on Tue Nov 22, 2016 12:13 am, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Time and Time Again
PostPosted: Tue Nov 22, 2016 12:12 am 
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Woohoo!

Dibs!

And now i shall savour this reading :)

[Post savouring]

Well, Medievalpool was way less annoying in this ep :)

You had me worried there with Cassie being all dramatic. I was worried someone was going to die :(
Glad to see everyone is well, if feeling a bit awkward.

Though, i find myself wondering how this world becomes Fray's world in 1000+ years.
And how did Cable know who his moms were, if she was thousands of years in the past, and they didn't know much about the era of the Witch King?


TBH, i find myself itching to have the Witch King in an RPG campaign.

Could be hilarious for the PC's to hear about the Witch King crushing everyone, and all the soldiers scary black armour, and then discover that they are really progressive, and generally goodies :P

Looking forward to the next Ep now! :bounce

R :flower

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“All I feel is sunlight. All I hear is music.” Willow
How i Met Your Mother - By Ariel


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Last edited by Azirahael on Thu Nov 24, 2016 9:32 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Time and Time Again
PostPosted: Tue Nov 22, 2016 5:42 am 
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Yay for excellent update-y goodness! :banana Too bad (or not) that Tucker ended up as a glorified scoobysnack... Yay for Andrew finding a new job... I really really really hope the Scoobies don't lose too many people in the coming war.... Big yay for Dawn & Cassie finding out that Cable is their son... I'm guessing Melaka comes from the Summers-Lehane branch of the Summers clan...

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PostPosted: Fri Nov 25, 2016 12:36 am 
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Hi Azirahael, hi Zampsa.

Yup Tucker ended up as kibble n' bits. Andrew is in a much better place. Be it on the extreme periphery of everything else that's going on. Cable's origins are established for now but Fray may not necessarily be descended from Buffy and Faith. It's probably more to do with "The Slayer Line" giving her a strong connection to several past Slayers and her connection to Buffy just happens to be the strongest.

I'm glad Medievalpool is starting to grow on you Azirahael. He'll have a few big scenes scattered throughout coming chapters. Mostly for comedic effect, but also some showing how deeply broken he is.

Cassie having a fit of the "Dramas!" was a good red herring. No major main character deaths yet... maybe.

Also about the tech levels in Dark Ages world. Willow has only had a year to science up Tara's capital city. They already have electric street lights, indoor plumbing, and a few other niceties that never existed in sword and sorcery type settings. If that rapid level of progress is allowed to continue for a thousand years the world will be irrevocably changed.

Cable being destined to be sent about five thousand years into the future presents an odd conundrum. At some point down the road when they are older Cassie and Dawn conceive. The day the kid is born badness happens and he is sent off.

Was there someone there they had only moments to hand the newborn off to? Did Cable get a locket with their names and faces hidden inside? Does his limited telepathy give him the inside scoop on who his birth parents were? Is most of his info coming from Fray's random and infrequent Slayer dreams?

Cassie probably knows all these deets but can't say anything since it might change the future and ruin/end his life. Whatever the info source is the specifics about Cassie and Dawn's extended family and support structure might not have made the cut.

Over the course of 5,000 years the Witch King became shrouded in mystery. Maybe even a few religions sprang up around Tara's "Secret Identity." The only facts that survived are that the historical Witch King built an empire filled with strong women and this random time baby was sired by members of the "messiah's" inner circle. Cable probably grew up around a lot of adults that worried he was the second coming. That's fine for being relatively safe in a troubled world, but it's not the best for getting straight forward answers out of people.

Feel free to use this setting for a campaign. The evil overlord that turns out to be the beloved local savior isn't used often enough. The setup probably has everything that your standard adventuring party would need to be distracted for a few game sessions.

Walled medieval cities, happy townspeople hiding a few secrets while seemingly indifferent to the handful of obvious demons walking around in broad daylight, a dark mine filled with slaves who are not what they first appear, sinister cabals meeting in the heart of a massive Citadel, mystical warrior women armed to the teeth. Sounds like a good time.

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Time and Time Again


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 Post subject: Re: Time and Time Again
PostPosted: Fri Nov 25, 2016 1:58 am 
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Also (i forgot) every time you describe the tracker/dog/demon, i see this:
Image

Was that your model?

R :flower

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How i Met Your Mother - By Ariel


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PostPosted: Fri Nov 25, 2016 5:54 pm 
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Yup, you hit it on the head Azirahael. The squat "creature" with the camera face was modeled after that thing from that one Vin Diesel movie. Only mine had more of an old timey bronze dive helmet head. Maybe if Andrew Ryan and the engineers behind Rapture from the first Bioshock game made the trackers used by the Necromongers. Also Walsh gave it stubby little rhino hoof shaped hind legs. It's butt is literally 5 inches off the ground, and of course "Goth Rock Slenderman" was holding the leash.

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PostPosted: Wed Dec 14, 2016 10:17 am 
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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: The law of Chekhov's Gun states that if a plot device (a gun or some other such doohickey) is displayed prominently in the first chapter then it must certainly go off by the second or third chapter. It's come to my attention that I've violated this most sacred of scriptures by including hot tubs in multiple early chapters and not doing a thing with them. Well this little trip down clip show lane aims to fix all of that.

Also there's a handful of sex scenes scattered throughout this one so...

********************

Chapter 36: Not Quite a Hot Tub Time Machine

“So whose idea was it to put in a hot tub?” Buffy asked as she slid into the bubbling water. The yellow string bikini the Slayer wore put her slender, muscular frame on full display.

“We’ve learned to appreciate a few little luxuries.” Willow said as she leaned into Tara’s side. The redhead’s skimpy green bikini and her honey blonde’s more conservative black bikini were less revealing than the Slayer’s but neither witch could complain. Both reveled in how much of their lover’s skin they had free access to. “Plus Slayers always seem to behave themselves around us if we let them soak after rough patrols.”

“I’m behaved!” Buffy complained with an exaggerated pout. Tara could only giggle at the affronted blonde’s antics. “And what’s this about Slayers, plural? Are you guys gonna ship the Jamaican girl you told me about up here to help?”

“We have a few tricks up our sleeves Buffy.” Willow replied with a coy smirk. “I won’t spoil the surprise but the next few weeks are gonna be busy.”

“Busier than telling my mother all about how much of a freak I am? Can’t wait.” Buffy deadpanned as she sunk lower into the bubbling water.

Before either witch could jump to the melancholy Slayer’s defense they heard the back door of their house open and close. A moment later their singular male friend came around the tall shrubbery and large vertical hydroponic planters that formed multiple walls within the garden that sprawled over most of their back yard.

“Hello ladies.” Xander said as he came up to the hot tub. “Thanks for the trunks Will.”

“No problem Xand.” Willow replied with a warm smile. “We’ve got a drawer of spares in one of the upstairs closets for whenever you want to take a dip without running back to your parents’ house.”

“Awesome.” The young man said as he slid into the tub beside Buffy. “So this is where Scooby meetings are gonna happen from now on right? Less mind numbing study sessions with musty old books and more laid back bikini clad jam sessions.”

“Not likely.” Willow said as she scowled at her childhood friend.

“But Will! Hot tub!” Xander protested.

“Do you really want to see Giles in one of those little Speedos that European men wear to public beaches all the time?” Buffy asked in a grim tone that shed new light on just what their frequent hot tub use would bring about.

“Oh god.” Xander whispered as his eyes widened in horror. “Oh god. Oh god! Now that’s all I can think about! Oh god, make it stop!”

Tara and Willow could only laugh as their two friends continued to cringe visibly at the very thought of what kind of swimwear Giles would eventually surprise them with. Willow and Tara were truly thankful that the tumultuous revelations that afternoon had been taken in stride. Their plans to quell the trouble brewing for the Night of Saint Vigeous would soon remove another stumbling block from their path. Though many perils awaited them, they had faith life would turn out all the better for their efforts. Until then the couple basked in the simple joys of their closest friends, their luxury hot tub, and the love they shared.

**********

“You sure Faith is asleep Baby?” Willow asked as she and Tara stood on their hotel room balcony, overlooking the Boston Public Garden. Both witches were dressed in the large fluffy white bath robes that were complimentary with their suite.

“I’m sure Sweetie.” Tara replied with a coy smile as the hot tub on their balcony began to steam and bubble. “We have all the privacy we could ever need.”

“Just the way we like it.” Willow said as she let her robe slip over her shoulders and down her naked body. The plush white fabric pooled at the redheads feet. The sight of her everything on full display stole Tara’s breath away. It was several tantalizing moments before Tara could form an adequate response.

“Vixen.” The honey blonde whispered as she let her robe fall as well. Willow all but choked on her own tongue as she took in each and every one of Tara’s luscious curves.

Without showing the slightest bit of modesty Tara brushed past Willow and climbed the steps into the hot tub. She stood on the bench that lined the inside of the tub and faced the city lights just beyond their balcony. This put her back to Willow, a position she took advantage of by bending down at the waist so her hands could test the waters she was already standing in. The strangled gasping behind her was all Tara needed to know her seduction was complete.

“Mmm, this is so nice.” Tara breathed out in a husky voice while still bent over. “If only someone would join me.” She said just as she felt delicate hands trail up her thighs and over her exposed rear. As the kneading of her buttocks began Tara spared a glance back to her always. Willow was already sitting on the edge of the hot tub with her legs spread wide for balance as she leaned forward. The softest whimper of pleasure escaped Tara’s lips as she felt Willow’s tongue grace her center.

“Oh, oh Willow.” Tara moaned as her always dove inside. As Willow’s face pressed deeper into Tara the honey blonde’s eyes fluttered shut. She couldn’t help but lean back into her everything as the eager redhead’s tongue swirled within. What proved her undoing was the hand Willow reached between Tara’s legs to fondle her clit. The curvy girl let out a cry of ecstasy as her always fought to hold her up. Several breathless moments later Tara found herself all but sitting on Willow’s face as the redhead sunk deeper and deeper into the tub.

“Sweetie.” Tara admonished in even huskier tones as she pulled herself up to face and support her always. “That was amazing, but you were so eager I almost slipped and hurt one of us.”

“I’m sorry Tara.” Willow said in a voice that exaggerated how chastised she felt. “That was so very naughty of me.”

“It was.” Tara agreed as she sat down on the inner bench lining of the tub. “You know what happens to naughty girls don’t you?” She asked as she pulled Willow into her lap.

The redhead all but squealed in delight as her knees came to rest on either side of Tara’s thighs. Tara felt Willow’s throbbing core press into her stomach for a brief instant. “Mmm, Vixen.” Tara husked as her left arm slipped behind Willow to hold her waist. With her right hand she trailed down the pale stomach that always delighted her so. As her fingers dipped under the steaming water and through soaked crimson curls Tara couldn’t help but capture one taut pink nipple in her mouth.

Willow writhed in Tara’s embrace. Her head flew back, sending a lurid moan up to the night sky. With one breast all but engulfed in he mouth Tara decided to take her love even higher. Her middle and ring fingers on her right hand straightened as she drove them home. Willow’s near constant moans turned to a shout as Tara delved deeper and deeper. Her arms wrapped around Tara’s shoulders, her hands wove through long honey blonde locks.

“Fuck me Baby!” Willow screamed as they clung to one another in the roiling hot tub.

Tara’s only reply was a throaty rumble that failed to squeeze past the breast that was still in her mouth. While Willow found the vibrations on her chest a pleasant distraction she was soon blown away by Tara’s actual response. Before Willow’s screams died down Tara renewed them by adding her index finger.

With three fingers wriggling, stretching and twisting inside her aching pussy Willow’s cries broke down into incomprehensible gasps of raw pleasure. Tara stirred and twirled with each thrust, all the while tightening her grip on Willow’s waist. It was over far too quickly.

Willow screamed to the night sky yet again as her inner walls strained and convulsed around Tara’s fingers. Each and every violent shock of Willow’s climax was felt by Tara as she clutched her everything to her body. Only once Willow’s head came to rest against her shoulder did Tara relent in the slightest. She let Willow’s breast and nipple slip from her mouth as the lithe young woman came down from the high Tara had eagerly provided.

Moments passed in relative silence as Willow regained her senses. Emerald eyes fluttered open as she sought the sapphire pools of her everything. “Baby.” Willow whispered as she looked into the face of her love. “You were amazing.”

“So were you Sweetie.” Tara replied as she leaned in to kiss her always. The kiss only deepened once Tara realized her essence still coated much of Willow’s face. Tongues fought for ground only to concede and then renew their struggles as Tara sought out all of the nectar Willow had eagerly lapped up. Tara nearly lost herself in Willow’s lips only to recall there was still much more she wanted to do. With only a moment’s hesitation the kiss was broken and Tara was seeking out the gaze of her always.

“Baby?” Willow whimpered as she realized Tara’s arm was still wrapped tightly around her waist and her fingers were still nestled deep within her folds.

“Amazing Sweetie.” Tara assured as she looked into green orbs clouded and hazy with lust and desire. “But I’m not quite done fucking you just yet.”

Willow’s response was swallowed in another series of gasps and moans as Tara’s fingers renewed their exploration of her quivering pussy. It wasn’t long before the orgasms began to blend together and Willow struggled to remain conscious as Tara drove all thought and reason from her mind.

Their brief stay in Boston proved more than enjoyable.

**********

“Oh man you guys.” Buffy moaned in a far too erotic tone as she eased herself into the hot tub in Willow and Tara’s garden. “We needed this after that patrol. Right Faith?”

“Huh, oh! Yeah, yeah! Yeah.” Faith agreed, trailing off as she once again lost herself while gazing at the petite blonde that stole her heart. It certainly didn’t help that each swimsuit Buffy owned proved to be little more than flimsy spaghetti straps bound to thin scraps of bright fabric. The brunette gulped as she watched Buffy’s arms reach towards the night sky. The Slayer stretched and flexed sore muscles before completely relaxing into the tub.

“So, what’s on tap for Halloween?” Buffy asked once she opened her eyes and finally noticed Willow, Tara and Faith were each watching her with oddly bewildered expressions. “Guys?”

“Oh shi… Yeah, Halloween!” Faith said once she finally pulled her jaw up from the floor of the hot tub. “You guys talked about a party right?”

Willow took pity on the overtly aroused brunette and did her best to change the subject away from Buffy’s blatantly sensual display. “We have something fun planned.” Willow assured both Slayers. “It’ll be real rewarding for everyone.”

“Finally some fun.” Buffy said as she leaned back and closed her eyes. “Faith deserved some after all she’s been through her first week. Now you’ll see that life isn’t total suckage on the hellmouth.”

“Never crossed my mind B.” Faith replied in a distracted tone as her eyes were glued to the petite blonde’s pert breasts. Buffy’s nipples were clear to see as her chest floated just slightly above the steaming surface of the water. Buffy was completely oblivious to the effect her absent minded eroticism had on her newest fellow Slayer.

“Buffy!” Joyce’s voice came from the back porch of the Summers house next door. “It’s a school night Honey!”

“Sigh.” Buffy moaned the word before raising her voice. “Coming Mom!” The Slayer opened her eyes and sat up. “We have to do this again soon.” Buffy said before standing up in the hot tub and looking around for her towel.

In her search Buffy failed to notice that her bikini bottoms were now at an even level with Faith’s hopelessly lost brown eyes. Faith sucked in a breath as she got an eyeful of Buffy’s thighs and front. The skimpy bikini robbed all speech and thought from the brunette as it displayed just the barest hint of camel toe. Even worse was the shock Buffy delivered to Faith’s system once she spun around. Faith all but passed out as her eyes trailed over the bikini bottoms that rode up, revealing one entire ass cheek as they bunched up.

The Slayer finally saw her towel lying off to one side of the rim around the tub. Without a thought she bent down at the waist to grab it and never knew just how close she came to shoving her toned buttocks onto Faith’s transfixed face. It was all Faith could do to keep herself from grasping the petite blonde by the thighs and biting her perfectly sculpted glutes.

“Okay ladies. I gotta go.” Buffy said once she straightened up and wrapped the towel around her athletic torso. “Same time tomorrow night Faith?”

“Huh? Wha…” Faith trailed off as she fought to meet Buffy’s amused gaze.

“Patrol silly.” Buffy said as she stepped out of the hot tub. “Tomorrow night. You and me.”

“Oh right.” Faith whispered before realizing just how her slack jawed reactions were coming off. “Yeah of course we’ll patrol B! Wouldn’t miss it.”

“Good!” Buffy cheered as she stood by the hot tub. The Slayer turned to leave but halted before spinning around and leaning over to pull the stunned brunette into her arms.

“Thanks again for being with me Faith.” Buffy said as she held the girl that was falling even harder for her by the second. “Having you in my life means so much to me. More than I can say. Thank you for sharing my whole messy destiny nightmare.”

The brunette couldn’t help but lightly wrap her arms around the petite blonde. “You’re worth it B.” Faith whispered in a genuinely touched voice before reigning in her emotions and adding a stilted, “Five by five.”

“I’ll see you three tomorrow.” Buffy said as she released Faith. With a smile and a wave Buffy was across the garden and over the fence. Faith couldn’t help but watch as her heart ran off without a second thought for the turmoil stirring within her. Once the sound of Buffy opening and slamming the back door of her home wafted through the night air Faith finally turned back to the stunned pair of witches. With a shrug Faith said the only thing that could possibly dismiss her lovesick expressions that went unnoticed by the object of her affections.

“Fucking straight girls. Am I right?”

**********

“Whoa. So this is where the party ended up.” Rondell said as he, Chain and Jonathan walked up to the hot tub in the garden behind the home of the two witches who had turned around his life and the lives of all his friends.

“Seemed like as good a spot as any.” Alonna said as she Buffy and Faith sat clustered in one corner of the hot tub. Next to them Willow was perched in Tara’s lap. Beside the couple Fred and Amy were making small talk a respectable distance from each other. Beside them Gunn and Xander were sitting with smug grins on their faces, trying desperately not to ruin the comfortable atmosphere the bikini clad young women were enjoying.

“We’re just getting a handle on all the stuff we each got from the costumes.” Fred told the boys.

“Yeah!” Xander agreed far too eagerly as Amy, Alonna and Faith rolled their eyes. “That’s all we were doing.”

“Oh, that reminds me!” Buffy cried out as she jumped up to her feet, once more putting her lower half tantalizingly close to Faith as she climbed out of the hot tub. “I have to go check something.” The Slayer turned to see that all eyes were on her as she exited the tub. A slight scowl came over her face as she noticed the gazes of most of the young men were lower than they should be. “My eyes are up here you pervs!” She said while giving each and every boy a death glare that sent chills down their spines. A second later she turned back to Faith and Alonna with a smile, still oblivious to the fact that Faith’s gaze had never left her ass.

Faith watched the Slayer go, never taking her eyes off the petite figure. Once Buffy was out of sight she finally noticed the concerned looks of everyone around her.

“So… It’s all Slayers then?” Chain asked as Gunn shot him a glare and Rondell rolled his eyes. “I mean we’ve known Al’s style since forever ago. It ain’t like being into girls is all that rare but two out of three Slayers we know seems like a pattern.”

“Ignore them Faith.” Alonna said as she put an arm around the angry and embarrassed brunette. “Buffy will come around.”

“This is so fucking pathetic.” Faith muttered to herself as several of the other teens took the hint. Amy and Fred were quick to take Rondell and Gunn back towards the house. At Xander’s behest Jonathan and Chain soon followed suit. “What’s wrong with me that I let her twist me up like this?”

“Nothing is wrong with you Faith.” Willow assured as she and Tara broke eye contact for the first time in several minutes.

“You’re in love Sweetie.” Tara added. “You feel that w-way because that’s h-how much you want the relationship to work.”

“Buffy will come around Faith.” Willow went on. “She needs you.”

“Goddess, I hope so Red.” Faith replied as she looked up into the night sky.

**********

“So when do you guys think Will and Tara will get back from Prague?” Buffy asked as she, Faith and Xander relaxed in the garden hot tub. The three Scoobies had been left to their own devices for one rare weekend and decided a nice long soak was in order. “What’s in Prague anyway?”

Buffy wondered why Faith had insisted on letting Xander horn in on their girl time. Faith for her part was desperate for any sort of buffer that would keep her mind off the soaking wet petite blonde within arms reach. With two out of five members of their gang out of town the Slayer was stuck with inviting him and turning their duo into a trio. Xander knew he was purposefully playing the roll of third wheel, but couldn’t seem to care as he enjoyed a soak with two absolutely gorgeous Slayers and no one else.

“No idea B.” Faith admitted as her eyes began to wander. “Soon I hope. They always give us a good heads up when the shit is about to hit the fan.”

“Amen to that.” Xander agreed as he leaned back with his eyes closed. “Still, if anyone deserves a vacation after the two of you it’s the two of them.”

“Damn straight we deserve a vacation.” Faith said as for once she was able to tear her gaze away from Buffy’s raw, sensual form.

“Maybe they’re planning their wedding.” Dawn chimed in with an eager smile as she looked to the three older Scoobies. “Maybe they’re flying around scoping out honeymoon destinations before settling on one that they’ll spend an entire week together, with just each other, no cares or clothes as they…”

“Dawn!” Buffy snapped as she glared at her little sister. “Stop talking about our friends like that! They deserve their privacy. Not a bunch of random pervy speculation that I’d expect from Xander.”

“Hey now!” Xander complained as Faith let out an amused cackle. The day was going by much more smoothly than their previous hot tub sessions. Faith decided that inviting both Dawn and Xander had paid off. The two non Slayers made the perfect buffer to quell the amorous urges she felt whenever a string bikini clad Buffy wandered into view. With those and many other worries set aside the four young Scoobies continued to relax in the tub where they had each spent half that Sunday morning. In a few short hours the witches would return home. Each knew they had much to thank the couple for, but none knew just how much. Least of all the youngest Scooby who was currently sitting in the hot tub glaring at her older sister.

**********

“Buffy? Faith?” Kendra called out in her thick Jamaican accent as she searched the garden behind Willow and Tara’s home. “It be time for patrol.”

“Over here Special K!” Faith called out. The ebony Slayer turned a corner and all but shrieked at the sight awaiting her. Both Buffy and Faith sat in the Hot tub on either side of a still recovering Xander. Kendra couldn’t help but stare at the two bikini clad Slayers and the young man who still sported a massive bruise across most of his chest. She felt a sudden spike in temperature that had nothing to do with the steam coming from the Jacuzzi.

“Shoot.” Buffy muttered as she sat up. “Is it that time already?”

“Looks like it B.” Faith said as she sat up on Xander’s other side. “We should change and then head out with Kenny.”

“I hate it when you’re the responsible Slayer.” Buffy muttered. “It’s so hard to pout and blow you off.”

“Yeah, yeah, you love me for it B.” Faith dismissed Buffy’s complaints with a sentiment that she hoped to be true with all of her heart.

“Yeah.” Buffy admitted as she climbed out of the tub and unknowingly gave Faith another agonizing view of her backside. “You’re right. I do.”

The petite blonde was wrapped up in a towel and over the fence before Faith could find the words to describe just how amazing her love’s ass truly was. One glance over to Kendra confirmed that the Jamaican Slayer was far from comfortable with either their swimwear or their affectionate banter which still eluded the petite blonde. Faith couldn’t find it in herself to care which it was.

“Before we go there’s something I need to tell the Xand man.” Faith said just loud enough for Kendra to get the hint. As the other Slayer fled the garden Faith leaned in close to whisper in Xander’s ear. “Just this once, it’s cool if you want to picture all the things I’m gonna do to Buffy. You earned it big guy.”

A pained moan escaped Xander’s lips as Faith smiled wickedly. The brunette stood and exited the hot tub with a lurid wiggle of her ass, leaving a still sore Xander to his own devices. Some fifteen minutes later, after it was clear that all three Slayers were gone on patrol, the young man realized he was still far too sore to enjoy the physical aspects of picturing Buffy and Faith’s inevitable union. He let out another strained moan as the roiling waters of the not tub did their best to sooth his aches and pains.

**********

“Finally.” Jennifer said to herself as she eased into the hot tub behind her home. “A chance to soak without horning in on Tara’s time with Willow.”

The warm California sun was high overhead and Jennifer knew the shopping trip would take her girls most of the day. As the formerly single mother lounged in the hot tub her thoughts shifted from her new boyfriend’s sweet romantic gestures to the situation her neighbor was falling into backwards and blindfolded. Joyce had mentioned getting ready for a date earlier and when Jennifer asked what Giles had planned for them the Slayer’s mother just looked at the older witch in complete confusion.

That Joyce didn’t clue into the timid behavior the watcher exhibited in her presence wasn’t necessarily her fault. The English fuddy-duddy was no better. The witch had laughed herself to sleep for the first few weeks after meeting the Scoobies and their closest adults. The sheer amount of time the watcher wasted on the lying gypsy computer teacher was too precious not to chuckle over with Faith. Jennifer knew Joyce and Giles would need a good shove in order to get things going between them. No matter how much of their chemistry was noticed by all those around save for the petite blonde Slayer.

Jennifer sighed as she dwelled on the cluelessness of Buffy and the two most important parental figures in her life. With the sheer amount of extra hurdles the oblivious girl was putting Faith through a vindictive part of Jennifer almost felt like the family wide case of tunnel vision was contagious. But the brunette from Boston which Jennifer had all but adopted had her heart set on the clueless Slayer. Jennifer in the end could only pray that the Goddess would soon clear away all of Buffy Summers’ distractions.

These thoughts and many others flowed through Jennifer Maclay as she settled ever deeper into the steaming water. Her eyes fluttered shut for what seemed a moment as she pondered the nearly soap opera worthy webs woven by the love lives of her new friends.

The loud bang of a door startled Jennifer from her reverie. The witch looked to the sky and nearly cried out in shock at the darkened heavens. Where had the afternoon gone? The question was soon replaced with fright as something was hurled over the fence that separated the Summers’ back yard from the garden Willow and Tara had built. Jennifer failed to hold back a cry of terror as she saw a man’s body curve in the air over the fence and come down right next to the hot tub with a loud metallic thud.

Before her screams could wake the rest of the neighborhood two Slayers vaulted over the fence and ran up to the side of the hot tub. “Mrs. M! Whoa there girl, it’s just us!” Faith called out as Buffy tried to get her arms around the terrified witch’s shoulders.

“Mrs. Maclay it’s okay!” Buffy tried to sooth the woman. “It’s all okay. Everything is going to be fine.” Jennifer settled and there was a pause before the Slayer continued with a statement that only served to further disturb the witch. “It’s just my mom’s new boyfriend.”

“You killed Joyce’s boyfriend?” Jennifer all but shouted as she wriggled out of the Slayer’s grasp. “Buffy how could you even think of such a horrible…”

“Jen! Chill!” Faith cried out as she hoisted Ted’s remains. “It’s a robot. See? The face and all his fleshy bits come right off.” Jennifer stared in wonder and disgust as the brunette played with the loose flaps of rubbery looking “skin” that now hung from the face and chest. The hideous mechanical visage was sure to feature a prominent roll in her nightmares for weeks to come.

“Faith, please stop playing with that thing like it’s a frog you’re dissecting for school.” Jennifer pleaded as she fought the urge to vomit all over the lavish hot tub.

“And not around the hot tub!” Buffy added as she grabbed the “manbot” by the arm that still dangled freely. “It could throw off sparks or something.”

“Oh shit.” Faith muttered as Jennifer scrambled out of the tub to stand on the far side from the Slayers and their prey. “Sorry Mrs. M.”

“That’s quite alright Sweetie.” Jennifer assured the worried Slayer as she let their earlier comments sink in. “That thing was Joyce’s new boyfriend?”

“Oh yeah.” Faith replied. “Apparently Mrs. S looks just like this prick’s first wife and the last four or five women it kidnapped.”

“Yeah it was gonna take her away until Willow took him out with one of her toys.” Buffy said with no small amount of scorn for the newly deactivated Ted. “I really hate robots.”

“Oh no.” Jennifer whispered as she thought of her friend and the sinister implications of the ruined automaton. “Is your mother alright? Did that thing hurt her?”

“Nah, Jen.” Faith assured with a dismissive wave as she helped Buffy move the robot towards the house. “Red and Blondie put his metal ass down hard before Mrs. S could even give up the goods.”

“Faith!” Buffy growled in shock and embarrassment as the Slayers maneuvered the limp machine through the back door of Jennifer’s home.

“Come on B.” Faith moaned in annoyance. “You know your mom likes to get down. She had you and the Brat didn’t she? Where do you think you Summers gals came from?”

“I was holding out hope for some kind of stork related hijinks.” Buffy pouted in a tone that only made Faith laugh all the harder.

Jennifer listened in shock as the pair disappeared into the kitchen and presumably down the hall to Slayer Central. As the morbid horror of what might have been flooded the witch’s mind she had only one thought. Her poor oblivious friend needed her.

“Oh Joyce.” Jennifer whispered as she grabbed a robe and flung it over her shoulders. In an instant the witch was racing through her home and across her front yard. She had to be there for the odd little family her daughter had dragged her into.

**********

“Sweetie, are you sure everyone’s asleep?” Tara asked as her always pulled her through their garden.

“Of course I am Baby.” Willow assured her everything as they came to the side of the hot tub. “You think I’d ever let anyone else get a good look at your beautiful body? No! I call girlfriend privilege. Seeing you all naked and wet in our hot tub is only something I’m allowed to do.” Willow leaned over the hot tub to set the temperature and jets to their favorite levels and as she spoke her ass swayed back and forth, letting the hem of her short bathrobe ride up just enough to tantalize Tara with a heavenly view. “Dibs!” The redhead finished as she stood straight up and spun to reveal even more of her upper thighs.

Tara just shook her head and let her robe slip off her shoulders and pool at her feet. “Just come here you Vixen.” She said as she stripped Willow’s robe from her slender body. The honey blonde and the redhead basked in the sight of each other, naked, under the gorgeous night sky that the Goddess had blessed them with. Tara smiled her special smile that melted Willow’s heart and always built up the arousal pooling in the redhead’s center. Hand in hand the couple stepped into the hot tub.

“Ooh Sweetie.” Tara moaned as she maneuvered Willow to sit down on the bench lining the inside of the hot tub. “I’m going to enjoy this, and so will you.”

“Please Tara.” Willow whispered in a daze as her always crawled into her lap. Tara placed a knee to either side of Willow’s thighs and brought her body flush against Willow’s. The redhead let out a desperate moan as she felt soaked curls rub against her belly button. “Goddess.”

“I love you Willow.” Tara whispered as her fingers ran through short crimson locks. The honey blonde pulled her always in close. Willow’s lips came to rest against Tara’s breast and another moan flooded with arousal and need escaped her lips. Tara all but purred as Willow’s mouth worked its way around her sensitive areola. She let out a moan of her own that turned into a delighted laugh as Willow’s hands slid around to grasp both of her ass cheeks.

Tara was in heaven as the woman she adored suckled her breast and used her fierce grip on Tara’s ass to grind the honey blonde’s aching pussy against the lower third of her stomach. Tara let a sly smirk play across her face as she felt the death grip on one of her ass cheeks disappear. An instant later she felt Willow’s wandering hand trail over her thigh and slip between their bodies. As slim, delicate fingers traced her center and a familiar palm came to cup her sopping wet curls Tara let out even more lurid moans and whimpers of ecstasy.

“Yes Willow!” She cried as she felt Willow’s middle and ring fingers pull her lips apart. Tara almost lost herself to the pleasure Willow was building within her as she felt those same fingers slip inside her folds. As she felt the hand on her rear slide over to brace the base of her spine Tare grasped a handful of red hair and yanked Willow’s head back. She crushed their lips together in the hopes that her shouts of pleasure would be muffled by her always. Anything to avoid waking the neighbors.

Tara felt her body reach ever higher peaks as Willow guided their journey to climax. Willow’s palm ground into her clit with ever more delightful pressure as her fingers twirled and curled within molten folds. Just when Tara thought she couldn’t be driven any further the hand at her back moved down slightly and Willow’s other middle finger entered her from behind.

Tara screamed as she came hard and fast. The roar and every ounce of pleasure that came with it were eagerly swallowed by the redhead she straddled. Their bodies shook as every quake and tremor to cascade through Tara reverberated through their link and tore through Willow with just as much force and fury as it had for the trembling honey blonde.

Eventually Willow’s fingers stilled within Tara. As the intrusion grew to a gentle pressure Tara and Willow both slowly opened their eyes. Their lips separated and for a moment hey just basked in each other’s gaze. Emerald pools gazed up into sapphire depths as Willow and Tara luxuriated in the connection that spanned eternity.

“That was amazing Sweetie.” Tara said with a voice that dripped with just as much arousal as she was certain they had both poured into the streaming waters of the hot tub. “I love having you inside me. In.” Her last words were punctuated with a light kiss on the nose. “Every.” A nibble on Willow’s lower lip. “Way.” Tara’s tongue dove just as deeply into Willow’s mouth in a mirror of Willow’s fingers still nestled inside Tara.

Another long moment of tender and needful reconnection passed before it became clear that if Tara didn’t speak up Willow would begin to stir her depths yet again. Tara honestly didn’t know if she wanted to stop the redhead.

“Mmm. Willow.” Tara moaned as she pulled herself back slightly. “So I take it by your wandering fingers that we’re ready to broaden certain horizons.”

“Goddess Baby.” Willow moaned as she flexed the two fingers nestled in Tara’s pussy. “You know I’m yours. Completely.” The assurance was punctuated by Willow dragging two digits along the lower back wall of Tara’s insides. Tara let out a squeal as she felt the finger in her rear try to make contact with the fingers probing her from the front. “Any of our boundaries you’re ready to check off, I’m there for you.”

“There in me more like.” Tara agreed with another delighted giggle. “Goddess.”

The quiet assurances and whispers of unrivaled pleasure were cut short as an odd sound came from the second floor of their home. Both young witches looked up as they heard Faith’s bedroom window open. They watched as the brunette Slayer scrambled up to the roof to face the Summers’ home. She turned away and began to walk, then spun and sprinted back towards Buffy’s house. In one breathless instant Faith leapt across the space between the two homes and landed on the roof. They watched as she disappeared over the side and presumably jumped down to the awning just outside Buffy’s bedroom window.

“And Joyce wonders how Angel snuck in to see Buffy the first year they moved here.” Willow muttered in exasperation as her fingers began to stir again.

“Willow.” Tara moaned as she let her head come back around to rest on Willow’s shoulder. “Sweetie. That might be something we have to help with.” She whispered as the finger in her ass nearly robbed her of all coherent thought. “They might have just had a Slayer dream.”

“They probably did.” Willow agreed as she trailed her fingers over the rough spot along the front of Tara’s inner walls. The shudder that ran through Tara only served to drive the redhead all the wilder. “But let’s give it another minute or two.” She stirred both of Tara’s entrances in just the way she knew Tara couldn’t resist. “If it can’t wait till morning it can wait until I’m done making you come.”

“You’ll never be done making me come.” Tara let out with a giggle that gave way to a pleased squeal as Willow worked her body up all too quickly.

“And don’t you forget it.” Willow growled as she plunged a third finger into Tara’s pussy. Their night was off to a wonderful start.

**********

“You guys sure about this?” Buffy asked as she sat in the hot tub with her back to the path that curved around to the back door of Willow and Tara’s home.

“Trust me B.” Faith assured her fellow Slayer. “It will be awesome.”

The petite blonde just nodded along. She looked between the brunette and their two friends. The Slayer just rolled her eyes as Willow and Tara continued to make out, ignoring all that was going on around them. She turned back to Faith only to feel her eyes widen in shock. The brunette was wearing the skimpiest black bikini Buffy had ever seen. A moment later she finally pulled her eyes up to meet Faith’s and the smirk awaiting her dew out an unexpected blush.

“Damn B.” Faith said with a laugh. “No need to be shy.” The brunette continued to smirk as the petite blonde stared down at her own chest. Faith couldn’t help but appreciate just how skimpy Buffy’s own bikini happened to be.

Moments passed in silence between the two Slayers. The only noise between them was the bubbling of hot tub water and the lurid sounds Willow made as she sucked on Tara’s lower lip. The quiet was finally broken as Buffy addressed her fellow Slayer.

“You’re sure about the line you gave me?” Buffy asked with an oddly nervous undertone. “You don’t think that’s all a bit much?”

“Nah B, trust me.” Faith replied with ease. “After the week our boy has had there ain’t no way he’s gonna climb in here with us.”

“Well that’s even worse.” Buffy complained. “I don’t want to give Xander, like, I don’t know, war flashbacks or something.”

“He’ll be fine.” Faith assured just as the sounds of the back door opening and closing came over the garden walls. “He’s here. Get ready!”

“You are so bad.” Buffy muttered as she pulled herself out of the water and sat on the edge of the hot tub. She twisted so that the thong running high between her ass cheeks and the tiny scraps of fabric barely covering her nipples were on full display to anyone coming around the corner. As expected the dark haired boy was the only one to come into view.

“Hey, guys.” Xander said as he came into the main part of the garden. “I just got done with the last treatment. Guess who has two thumbs and zero percent fish DNA. This guy!” He called out with both thumbs pointing to his own face. His cheer evaporated as he saw the four young women in the hot tub. As usual Willow was perched in Tara’s lap with her tongue working its way down the curvy honey blonde’s throat. Faith was sitting back with one hand under the water and another tracing slow circles around one of her barely covered nipples. Buffy was propped up on full display, giving Xander more of an eyeful than he had ever expected.

“Hey there big boy.” The petite blonde purred into the space between them. “The water’s just fine.”

Xander froze. His eyes focused not on the gorgeous women lounging before him. He stared with horror into the bubbling waters of the hot tub. The steam rising into the air. For an instant visions of what might have been danced through his mind in a horrific procession that grew all the gorier as time passed. The mental image of loose skin sloughing off his own body to pool at his feet filled Xander with dread. The prospect of what that would fully mean had eluded the rest of the swim team, but Xander was well versed in the horrors of life on the hellmouth.

“Ahh! I don’t want my dick to fall off!” Xander all but shouted into the early evening sky as he turned and fled the garden and the hot tub at its heart.

Loud cackles filled the air as Buffy slipped back into the tub and returned her gaze to Faith. The petite blonde’s laughter was cut short as her eyes caught Faith laughing while playing with her own breast. Buffy didn’t know what to make of the strange new feelings that sight stirred within her. It was all she could do to repress those thoughts and force fresh laughter to the surface.

A few minutes later the Slayers’ laughter was finally interrupted as the redhead’s lips broke free of the honey blonde she straddled. “Hmm, what’s, oh! Hey you guys! When did you get here?” Willow asked only to receive fresh laughter from both Slayers.

**********

“So how is the Buffster doing?” Xander asked as he slid into the hot tub.

“Bad.” Willow said as Tara nodded along. “Terrible. Devastated wouldn’t be overselling it.”

“She misses her girl.” Tara agreed as she stroked Willow’s hair. “It’s horrible. What she’s going through.”

“But she’ll get over it right?” Xander asked. Both witches just glared at him. “I mean she’ll be back to her old self eventually, right?”

“Loosing the person who is the best part of you isn’t something you just get over Xander.” Willow ground out in a restrained tone that belied how similar her own suffering had turned out. “You don’t just move on from having your heart and soul ripped out of your chest.”

“Okay, I get that Buffy and Faith were soulmates or something.” Xander began only to be cut off by the agitated redhead.

“No you don’t get it!” Willow snapped. “If you did you wouldn’t use that word in the past tense. Just because your thing with Cordy is on hold for the summer don’t pretend like you know what we’ve gone through.”

“Sweetie.” Tara’s simple utterance put a halt to the tirade Willow was starting off. The redhead froze and turned back to her everything. A moment passed where Willow lost herself in deep blue eyes. “It’s not Xander’s fault that he hasn’t had his heart broken yet.”

“I know Baby. I’m sorry.” Willow whispered as her head sunk lower. She paused to breathe in before looking back to her friend. “I’m sorry Xander. I didn’t mean to be all grr, argh… I just hate when people use the word soulmates like they understand what it means. No one really gets it. What it means to be bound to one other person who is the best part of you. What it means to have to lose them and then go to the trouble of finding them all over again. The years where I don’t have my Tara… I just, I can’t tell you how awful that time is. There is no were or was or used to be when it comes to what we have. She’s my always.”

“Sorry Will.” Xander said. The young man threw an appreciative smile to the honey blonde under her best friend. He was all too eager to leave the sensitive subject behind them. Unfortunately the source of that subject decided to come walking around the corner at that very moment.

“Okay guys, I’m heading out on patrol in a few.” Buffy said as he came into the garden. “Anyone want to join m…” She froze as she saw the trio sitting in the hot tub. They all noticed the tears building in the corners of her eyes.

“It’s still early Buffy.” Tara tried to ease the tension. “Maybe you want to join us for a few minutes?”

“Plus you know you’re always welcome here after patrol Buff.” Willow added.

“I..” Buffy stammered to a halt as she stared into the waters of the hot tub. Her mind was filled with every moment spent lounging with a certain brunette. Every skimpy bikini the pale but well endowed girl ever squeezed into. Every time their thighs touched while sitting beside one another. Every time Faith’s arm came to wrap around her narrow shoulders. Every time her body all but melted into Faith’s side. “I can’t! I… It’s just too much!”

The Slayer turned and fled into the night. Her long sword was out as she raced towards the nearest cemetery. The regret and heartache threatening to strangle her from the inside were soon twisted to fuel the rage that would see a massive swath of the town cleared of any undead presence. Many demons fell that night and many more in the weeks to come. Through it all the Scoobies could only pray that their wayward family member would find her way home.

**********

“I almost forgot how rough patrol can be.” Faith muttered as she and Buffy came through the front door. “How’d you do this by yourself for so long B?”

“A few watchers telling me “You’re the only one, you’re the only one.” for years.” Buffy admitted as she set her weapons aside and flexed her tired shoulders. “Then you came along and things got so much better.”

“Until I ruined it.” Faith let out in a whisper that stopped Buffy cold. The Slayer turned to her new girlfriend and sighed. Buffy made short work of taking the leather jacket and weapons from her girl. Faith offered little protest as she looked up in confusion. “B?”

“Come with me.” Buffy said. She took Faith’s hand and led the girl through the large home. In a moment they were through the kitchen, out the back door and waking into the garden. Buffy fiddled with the controls to the hot tub and smiled as the water began to heat and bubble. Faith could only follow along in silence until Buffy turned on her. The petite blonde was quicker than the brunette expected.

Faith couldn’t help but cry out in surprise as her top was whipped off. Her hands flew up to her chest as Buffy dropped low to pry off Faith’s boots and tight leather pants. “B! What the hell?”

“I love you Faith.” Buffy assured as she looked up from her knees to take in Faith’s nearly naked form. “I don’t care how many times I have to show you.” Buffy’s fingers curled around the waist line of Faith’s white panties. The grip the brunette held on her black bra began to loosen.

“B?” Faith let out in a husky breath as arousal threatened to override all else. “We just got off patrol.”

“And I can smell just how much you want me.” Buffy purred as Faith’s panties slipped down to her ankles. The Slayer let her face rub against pale, muscular thighs as she neared the soft brown curls over her girl’s burning center. “You’re mine Faith. Let me show you.”

“Goddess Buffy.” Faith whispered. The soft plea was all the permission Buffy needed. The Slayer dove forward, burying her face in Faith. The brunette let out a strained cry as she felt the nose she adored part her lips. It trailed up to rub against her clit and Faith’s senses soon exploded as Buffy’s tongue found its home.

Faith staggered as pleasure filled her world. She almost didn’t notice as Buffy’s arms wrapped around her thighs and her girl lifted her up into the air. Faith could have panicked if not for the dance Buffy’s tongue performed inside her. In an impressive display of Slayer strength and coordination Buffy stood with Faith’s legs still draped over her shoulders and down her back. The Slayer walked them up the short steps and into the hot tub.

“B?” Faith whispered in a lust fueled daze as she felt herself lowered into the steaming waters. “Jesus Buffy you’re gonna drown on me!”

A blonde head popped back out of the water and hazel eyes fixed on brown. “Let me show you just how long I can hold my breath.” Buffy purred before sinking back below the bubbling surface.

Faith felt Buffy press into her once more. How her girl did it she could hardly tell, but Faith wasn’t about to let fear hold her back anymore. “Fuck me you are the best girlfriend in the world B!” Faith moaned to the night sky as Buffy’s tongue performed miracles. Her Slayer senses picked up on Faith’s eager encouragement and Buffy renewed her efforts. She wanted to see how many times she could make Faith come before coming up for air. Of course once she found that out there were countless other things she wanted to try out for their very first time in Willow and Tara’s hot tub.

**********

“I’m so sorry for being such an oblivious fool Faith.” Buffy said as Faith led her by the hand. “I don’t know why you put up with me.”

“We ain’t really gonna go over this every other week are we B?” Faith asked as they came into the garden and the brunette began to start up the hot tub.

“Go over what?” Buffy asked as new concern spread out across her face. “What did I miss this time?”

“Nothin’ B.” Faith assured as she walked around behind her girl and began to remove Buffy’s shirt. “You are mine Buffy. I love you. I don’t care how many times I got to prove it. You’re my girl.”

By the end of her heartfelt declaration Faith had stripped Buffy to her panties. The words had filled the petite blonde’s heart so thoroughly that she hardly noticed. “Faith!” Buffy protested as her hands shot up to cover her breasts. “It’s not even night time yet.”

“I cleared it with my roommates.” Faith promised as she removed her own clothing. “We got all the privacy we could ever want.”

“And the neighbors won’t see?” Buffy asked as she felt all too exposed.

“Red said something about magic and it being “somebody else’s problem.” Faith answered as she scooped Buffy up in her arms and carried her into the hot tub. “Now let me show you that no limp dicked jock with Buster Keaton tickets is ever gonna be able to rock your world like I can.”

“I already know that Faith.” Buffy said as the brunette laid her down on one wide shelf that ran along the side of the hot tub. “You’re the best thing that ever happened to me.”

Faith stood in the roiling water, naked, with Buffy lying before her, legs pointed skyward. The brunette smirked as she gripped the lacey black panties her girl had worn for her. “Can’t let these delicate little things get lost in our sex tub.” Faith purred as Buffy’s panties were pulled up her long toned legs. Faith brought the lacy garment to her nose for an instant. “Fuck but they already got your scent nice and soaked in.” She said before she set them down next to Buffy’s head. “I wonder who that was for.”

“You!” Buffy cried out desperately as she lost herself in her girl’s predatory glare. “For you Faith. Only ever for you.”

“Good answer Buffy.” Faith whispered as she gripped Buffy’s ankles. The Slayer let out a gasp as her legs were forced apart. The gasp turned to a needy moan as Faith began to nibble down the inside of Buffy’s calves and thighs.

As the brunette sank lower she was sure to tease the wispy patch of blonde curls between her girl’s legs. First with a thigh that caused Buffy to squeeze her eyes shut. Those hazel pools flew open to lock with Faith’s hungry gaze as Buffy felt the heat coming off Faith’s own core. Faith smirked as she ground their hips together just right for one tantalizing moment. Were this any other time she would have luxuriated in the contact between her and Buffy’s quivering pussies.

But Faith had other plans that night. She needed to make her claim as boldly as she could. She needed Buffy to know who she belonged to, just as surely as Faith knew she belonged to the petite blonde spread before her. She needed her girl’s body to understand that claim, by devouring every inch of her if necessary.

“Faith.” Buffy moaned into the night sky as she felt her girl’s center pull away from her own, leaving her aching and wanton. “Please… more.”

“Don’t worry B.” Faith assured her girl as she kissed, nibbled, and sucked her way between Buffy’s inner thighs. “We can scissor till the cows come home some other night.”

“Scissor?” Buffy asked in a bewildered voice that was soon brushed aside as Faith’s teeth took one teasing bite into her soaked and swollen lips. “Oh god Faith!”

“You taste so good B.” Faith breathed into Buffy’s molten core. “So good I’m gonna keep this pussy to myself.”

It was all Buffy could do to hold back the torrent of pleasure that threatened to explode the second the word ‘Pussy’ left Faith’s lips and caressed Buffy’s folds. As it were Buffy knew a fresh stream of her arousal was seeping out, ready for Faith to delve through or drink up, whichever the brunette preferred.

“It’s yours Faith.” Buffy breathed out in quick, desperate pants. “My…” She paused for one hesitant moment before finishing the promise she knew in her heart to be true. “This pussy belongs to you and no one else. It’s yours Faith.”

All the teasing that Faith planned came undone as Buffy’s earnest promise wound its way around Faith’s heart. With reckless need and more than a little desperate lust Faith dove in. Face brushing through soft blonde curls. Nose smashing against her swollen clit. Lips and tongue sucking and swirling their way deeper and deeper into the now screaming blonde.

As Faith reveled in everything Buffy freely gave her the petite blonde threw her head back to hang over the outside of the hot tub. Hazel eyes opened for a moment to take in the inverted view of the garden, only to slam shut once more as Faith’s glorious tongue twirled within her depths.

Faith took her time devouring Buffy. She lapped up every drop of pleasure that gushed from her girl. She ran her tongue up and down Buffy’s inner walls, finding every hidden secret and every sensitive spot her girl held within. She inhaled Buffy with every breath as her girl writhed in her steady grip. As she dove deeper Faith’s hands had to tighten that grip just to avoid being thrown from the hot tub once the last of Buffy’s control slipped away. The petite blonde bucked with her entire body as she came undone under Faith’s brutal assault. Had anyone else brought the Slayer to such heights they would have felt their neck snapped just before muscular thighs crushed their skull to pulp. Faith merely smirked into the pussy she devoured. The pussy she claimed with every stir and swipe of her tongue.

Buffy came down from the latest mind altering experience her girl had blessed her with. It took the petite blonde a few moments to build up the strength she would need to reciprocate her desire for the brunette. Faith had no intention of letting the tables turn so early in the night.

“Faith.” Buff whispered again as she felt her girl’s tongue withdraw. “Please…” She tried to beg only to gasp anew as Faith began to suckle on her clit.

“Mmm.” Faith purred as she worked her girl’s sensitive bundle of nerves between her lips. The vibrations of that husky purr nearly drove the Slayer over the edge once more. So strong were they that Buffy hardly noticed the two fingers trailing through her folds, gathering up her essence.

“Faith.” Buffy continued to moan as he girl began to nibble and tease her clit mercilessly. “Faith.” Buffy didn’t notice as two fingers snaked their way downwards. She didn’t react until those fingers teased the entrance she hadn’t ever expected to give to another person. “Faith! Wait!” Buffy called out as Faith dove inside new territory.

Buffy couldn’t believe what was happening. Nor could she believe what she was feeling. Faith was inside her in a place she never expected another person to be. Never even contemplated letting another person see, let alone enter. It felt terrifying in a way she scarcely imagined and freeing in ways she scarcely understood.

“Oh god Faith.” Buffy whimpered as the brunette’s strong fingers stirred anew. “Don’t…” Faith paused as the serious tone in Buffy’s voice struck the last remnants of her not driven by lust. She stilled, waiting for Buffy’s inevitable condemnation.

“Don’t stop…” The petite blonde squealed as she actually fought to wriggle her ass more firmly onto Faith’s fingers. “Keep… keep… oh god fuck me Faith! Fuck me like I’m yours!”

Faith smirked around Buffy clit as she drove her fingers back to work. The brunette lost count of the number of times Buffy came in her mouth. Or the number of times she screamed Faith’s name to the heavens. Faith could only hope that any concealment spell Red and Blondie had on their back yard also worked on sound. They would need it because Buffy was a screamer when she really let go.

“That’s right Buffy!” Faith shouted as she released her girl’s swollen and aching clit. “You’re mine!” She declared as she slithered up Buffy’s body, fingers still piercing the blonde in the most unexpected of places. As she came eye to eye with Buffy Faith let her thumb slide inside her girl’s abandoned pussy. At the renewed intrusion hazel eyes shot open and stared into taunting brown orbs.

“You’re mine Buffy.” Faith whispered as she began to lightly pinch and rub her fingers and thumb while they were still isolated within the Slayer. “Mine!”

“Yours.” Buffy moaned in desperation before her arms shot up to encircle Faith’s taut shoulders. She pulled Faith to her lips and as they met for one more needful kiss both Slayers felt the passion and desire coiling within them explode in torrents the likes of which they could not foresee.

Countless breathless moments passed before Faith was able to raise her head and gaze at her girl. The sight awaiting her drew an unexpected laugh from the brunette. Buffy was all but passed out under her, head tilted to the side, eyes closed, and a far too pleased smile on her lips.

With far more tender care than she had shown just moments ago Faith gently lifted the snoozing Slayer into her arms and turned them so Buffy could rest in her lap while they both soaked in the still bubbling hot tub. “Goddess B, how did I get so lucky to have you in my life?” Faith whispered and to her surprise the Slayer nuzzled closer to her.

“Mmm. Faith.” Buffy purred, half conscious. “Fingers good. No scissors back there.”

Faith’s eyes widened at the sleeping blonde in her lap. It was clear that she would have to pace herself lest she run out of safe and sane kinks to introduce her girl to. She could only hope that Xander’s big mouth wouldn’t accidentally put any crazy ideas in Buffy’s beautiful little blonde head.

**********

“I can’t believe there was a giant snake living in the sewers under this town.” Joyce said as she leaned further into Giles’ side. The watcher had come home to find his girlfriend and neighbor relaxing in the hot tub at the heart of the garden. It only took some mild prompting from both Joyce and Jennifer to convince him to join them once the Slayers renewed their patrol.

“Part of what demons find so charming about this place I’m afraid.” Giles muttered as his arm wrapped around Joyce’s shoulders. “Several thousand miles of interconnected caverns, tunnels and crawlspaces, add in the dozen cemeteries each littered with a few dozen large crypts and mausoleums and there are no shortage of proper lairs for the unspeakably evil to hang their hats.”

“Thank the Goddess our girls are doing something about it.” Jennifer said as she and Joyce shared a knowing look. “Sorry Joyce but I’m gonna have to call it a night. Early start tomorrow while Willow and Tara are off capering in LA. You two kids have fun and lock up when you’re done.”

Giles looked up with a confused glint in his eyes as the blonde witch climbed out of the hot tub. Before he could ask what she meant she had retreated around the garden wall and left him alone with Joyce.

“Hmm.” He muttered to himself before he noticed Joyce had slipped out from under his arm.

“You know Rupert.” Joyce began with a seductive purr that drew a befuddled cough form the Englishman. “I’ve just been dying to spend some quality time with you. And this hot tub.” She finished as she slid into the watcher’s lap.

“Joyce, what are you…” He began to ask as she lifted one hand out of the water. His eyes widened as he saw his girlfriend’s untied bikini bottoms dangling between her thumb and forefinger. “Oh dear lord.” He whispered as Joyce flung half of her swimsuit to the stone pathway that wove through the garden around them.

“Relax Rupert.” Joyce whispered as one of her hands removed his glasses and set them safely aside while the other slipped into his swim trunks. “I’d say we both earned a little reward.” She smirked as her hand wrapped around its swelling quarry. “Well, a big reward really. One that I find quite filling.”

Joyce leaned in to kiss her boyfriend and was all too pleased to feel his arms wrap around her back and pull her flush against his chest. A little tug from the hand she held between them and she moved Giles just where she wanted him. As her newly freed hand emerged from the bubbling water she ran her fingers through his salt and pepper hair. With each thrust of her hips she laughed into the night sky. After all, she thought. Why should the kids be the only ones enjoying the Scooby Gang’s communal hot tub?

**********

“Tara.” Willow moaned as she threw her head back. The honey blonde just continued to suck on one of the redhead’s pert nipples. The warm waters of the hot tub were more than enough to drive off the mild chill in the late December air. Willow let out another squeal as Tara’s fingers twirled and danced to a rhythm that wound its way around Willow’s racing heart. “Yes Baby!”

“Mmm.” Tara murmured with a loud pop as her lips left Willow’s breast. “You always love coming out here to see the sun not rise Willow.”

“How can I not?” Willow asked as she yanked her head back to stare into Tara’s warm gaze. “This is a once in a lifetime event. How can I not want to share it with my everything?”

“And the hot tub sex?” Tara asked as she added a third finger that made her always practically leap into the air. “What happened to watching the snow flakes with a warm cup of cocoa?”

“Ooh, can ya really blame me Baby?” Willow asked as Tara stirred her depths with expertise gained from centuries of practice. “Goddess, I’m almost there.”

“Not yet Sweetie.” Tara whispered as she slowed down. The whimper that slipped out of Willow’s lips at the reduced pace did little to spur Tara onward. “You know I love it when you beg, but you always love to come just as the first snowflake hits your tongue.”

“Goddess you know me so well.” Willow whispered as Tara held her on the cusp of release.

“Lean back and look to the sky Sweetie.” Tara said in a sultry voice as she spotted the first flurry of flakes descending from the unnatural inky blackness of the early morning sky. “I’ve got you.”

“Oh here they come.” Willow cheered as she saw the snow flakes approaching.

“They’re not the only thing coming.” Tara added with a smirk.

“Goddess I love your spicy talk.” Willow whispered as she opened her mouth and extended her tongue to catch the first snowflake.

“And I love you Willow.” Tara promised as she sped up the pace of the fingers still buried in her always. She watched as a snow flake came in to land on the delicate pink tongue of the woman she cherished. Just as it graced Willow’s soft pink organ Tara gave Willow a command she knew the redhead couldn’t help but follow. “Come for me Baby!”

Willow screamed into the black of the early morning sky as the snowflake melted on the tip of her tongue. Tara’s rapid stokes and firm voice rocketed her up into the heavens before enfolding her as she began to glide back down to the boneless puddle that was her post coital body.

The redhead could not tell how long she melted in Tara’s steadfast embrace. All she knew was the sensation of Tara’s tongue gently clearing rapidly melting snow from her chest as she regained consciousness. “Mmm, Baby. Let me regain the feeling in my everywhere and I’ll do you.”

“Always the romantic Sweetie.” Tara murmured with an amused laugh and she held Willow all the closer to her chest. “But I had another idea.”

“What’s that Baby?” Willow asked.

“We dry up and go inside before it gets too cold, and then I’ll lay you down on our bed.” Tara began to explain.

“But I wanted to make you happy too!” Willow protested. “You just made me feel so amazing just now. You deserve more than regular snuggles.”

“Oh, I’ll get more Sweetie.” Tara assured as a playfully wicked smirk crossed her lips. “When I’m sitting on your face for the next hour or so.”

“Well what are we waiting for?” Willow all but shouted in anticipation. In a blur even Tara had trouble keeping track of the redhead was out of Tara’s arms and pulling the honey blonde out of the hot tub with her. The cover was pulled over the tub and the pair of naked witches practically raced inside their home. Neither spared a moment’s worry over the drama they knew had just resolved on the bluff that overlooked the far side of town.

**********

“No, I totally looked this up a while back.” Xander told Gunn as the two young men lounged in the hot tub set a few yards away from the hotel pool. “Willow is Chapstick, Buffy is Lipstick. It’s like two completely different things.”

“Then what is Tara?” Gunn asked. All in all he was enjoying their surprising Vegas vacation.

“Femme, I think?” Xander paused as he pondered the classifications. “In any case Faith is the Butch in our group.”

“No doubt.” Gunn agreed as he thought of the Slayer that downright terrified most of the young men in his crew. “But what does that make Al?”

“Dude, how the hell would I know? She’s your sister.” Xander shot back in exasperation and more than a little chagrin.

“Okay, okay.” Gunn relented as he pondered just how much research he still had to do. “This is gonna bug me all day.”

“Al is a Power Lesbain.” Fred said as she slid into the hot tub at Gunn’s side. She draped his arm over her shoulders and sipped the drink she had just picked up from the bar as both young men stared at her in confusion and astonishment. “Or maybe it was Power Dyke? I don’t know. The list of types I read was kinda screwy. She’s definitely a Power something. You boys know how she likes to run the show.”

The two young men shared a look before nodding in agreement. Everyone knew who ran things at the Hyperion Hotel.

**********

“Oh my god! No! Buffy that is not what she meant by “Scissoring!” Willow shrieked as she and Buffy exchanged gossip in the penthouse suite hot tub. “Why would you even think that?”

“I don’t know! It’s not like I have any idea what I’m doing here!” Buffy complained as she fought back a fresh wave of embarrassment. “I’m new to the whole girlfriends thing here Will. I don’t know all the code words and slang yet.”

“Okay, just to be clear there’s nothing involved in most normal healthy lesbianism that involves sharp edges and blades.” Willow said once she got her own horrified concern out of the way. “You and Faith are Slayers so you know what pointy things can do to a body. I’d be surprised if you two even shaved down there.”

“You can shave down there?” Buffy asked. The shock in her voice was only tempered by what Willow thought was curious interest.

“Yes you can shave just about anything, but trust me. It’s a lot of time consuming maintenance and work for very little reward. At best you’ll get one good date night out of it before stubble comes back with a vengeance, and that’s if you go to a place and have some lady wax it all off for you which hurts like hell and then you think it’ll be this fun surprise but then she sees your hairless cooch and the look in her eyes almost makes you want to cry because all she’s thinking is “Where did her nice soft muff go?” and you’re all like “No Baby I wanted to surprise you with something special.” and she’s all like “Sweetie, you are all the special I need in my life.” and then you both cry for like an hour because letting some stranger rip all the hair out of you crotch with hot wax hurts!”

“Willow!” Buffy shouted to stop the redhead’s endless babbling fit of recriminations and doubts. “It’s okay. No one has to shave their coochie if they don’t want to. I just didn’t know it was a thing people did.”

“It’s not all it’s cracked up to be.” Willow muttered as she let one of only a few early missteps cloud the otherwise cheery afternoon. “I just use conditioner down there so that Tara has a nice soft cushion to work with. What were we talking about again?”

“Scissoring things without actual scissors.” Buffy told the newly grumpy redhead.

“Oh that.” Willow said with a dismissive wave. “That’s not really the word a lot of lesbian couples use for what we actually do. Well it kinda is. Some couples call this other thing scissoring but not me. That’s really a porn term invented by straight male porn directors with very little imagination for what two women could actually do to each other. The two women usually sit on a table or kitchen counter and face each other while leaning back and away. Then they kinda awkwardly crouch into a crab walk position and just sort of…” The redhead trailed off as she clumsily rubbed her knuckles against each other for her friend to see. “…into each other with their faces as far apart as physically possible. It’s obviously something that a straight guy who doesn’t know how to work a pussy came up with. If you ask me there are way better ways to rub two pussies against each other.”

“I don’t know how…” Buffy just stared at her friend for a moment, lost in mental imagery that only served to disgust her until she replaced the participants with Faith and herself. “There aren’t words.”

“Like I said, there are much better ways for you and Faith to rub your pussies together.” Willow went on, eager to impart hard earned knowledge to her friend. “Let me tell you about tribbing.”

**********

“Are you sure about this dear?” Giles asked as Joyce led him by the hand through Jennifer’s kitchen.

“Oh I’m positive Rupert.” The Slayer’s mother replied with a playful smirk. “Dawn is spending the night at Cassie’s house for a change. Our older kids are all off on that computer thingy Willow dragged them to and Jennifer is taking the chance to spend some much deserved alone time with her plucky little Irishman. That means it’s our obligation to tend to her garden while everyone is out of town. I mean why else would she have given me her spare house keys?”

“Most likely because both your daughters and hers have made it clear we are all one big happy family.” Giles replied in a charming yet unsuspecting accent.

“Oh I’m sure that helped.” Joyce said. She clutched the tie of the trench coat she wore as she led her boyfriend out the back door and into Jennifer’s garden. They passed several well tended planters and hanging wall segments full of lush flowers and countless herbs and spices. How Willow and Tara had protected each and every plant from the recent snow and cold snap she had no idea. Magic was the most obvious of low hanging fruits to point out, but the woman had more pressing concerns at the moment.

Giles began to look over the plants lining the garden walls all around the hot tub. Joyce could only smirk in anticipation as she leaned over to turn up the water jets, and heat the oversized Jacuzzi. While clearing her throat Joyce undid the tie around her waist and let the coat slip off her shoulders.

“Did you say some…” Giles froze as he turned to find his girlfriend climbing into the hot tub. Perhaps the most distracting act was the way she swung her hips and bared her rear to the Englishman. “Oh dear lord.” He muttered as he hurriedly removed his tie and shirt.

“Come on in Rupert. The water’s fine.” Joyce purred as her boyfriend kicked off his shoes and practically tore his trousers from his body. “Of course that won’t be the only thing you come inside tonight.”

Words escaped the naked Englishman as he splashed his way over to the mother of the children that meant the world to him. Joyce let out an amused laugh as Giles pulled her into his arms. She was already enjoying the brief vacation Willow and Tara had planned for everyone.

**********

“Mazel tov!” Xander called out as Buffy popped the champagne cork. Suds spilled forth form the bottle before Willow moved two empty glasses under the stream. Tara and Faith just laughed as the assembled Scooby Gang relaxed in the garden hot tub.

Once everyone had a full glass the lone male of the group stood up in the middle of the hot tub. “To blowing Hellmouth High to Kingdom Come!” Xander called out as he raised his champagne glass.

“I seriously didn’t see you bein’ the kind of badass chick that goes around blowing up her own high school Red.” Faith cheered her housemate on as the redhead sat back down in Tara’s lap.

“Oh our Willow is a total rebel.” Xander laughed as he sipped his new glass of champagne.

“Yeah she is!” Tara agreed with a lurid smirk that only Willow and Faith caught. The redhead blushed while the brunette renewed her laughter.

“But this is big right Will?” Buffy asked as she plopped herself into Faith’s lap. “No more school means no more hellmouth right?”

“Sorry Buff.” Willow told the Slayer as the beginnings of a pout formed on the petite blonde’s face. “The hellmouth is still there. It just doesn’t have a huge publicly accessible building on top of it anymore.”

“Well that sucks.” Buffy moaned as she realized this was not the big secret plan they kept teasing. “But we’re good for now right? No more big bads coming at us sideways for a while?”

“I don’t want to jinx it, but we might be good until our freshman year of college starts up.” Willow said before looking to Tara with a worried frown. “I just jinxed us didn’t I?”

“Maybe a little Sweetie.” Tara admitted as her hands began to reassuringly stoke Willow’s sides and back. “But I hope you’re right.”

“Let’s see…” Willow looked to the sky as she counted off potential threats. “Vampire fencing cult, vampire doppelganger, that drug dealer we wanted to deal with before other things spiral out of control, telepathy, prom night dog fights and a graduation ceremony where the mayor doesn’t turn into a giant snake and try to eat all of us. Did I miss any of the big ones Baby?”

“That sounds like the old standbys for the rest of this year Sweetie.” Tara admitted before looking to the two enamored Slayers. “Of course things go so much better with Faith at Buffy’s side so I’m not worried.”

“Okay, I get it.” Faith moaned as she let her forehead fall to Buffy’s shoulder. “I used to be some crazy evil bitch. I ain’t letting that happen here.”

“No we are not.” Buffy agreed. “You’re mine Faith. I’m not sharing you with any villain of the week let alone some big bad that hasn’t even given us the courtesy of showing his withered, fruit punch mouth face this year.”

“You aren’t fighting the Master again Buff.” Willow assured the Slayer. “We’re not gonna have it easy, like ever, but for right now things are good.”

“Yeah.” Buffy said as she lost herself in Faith expressive brown eyes. “Yeah, they are.”

**********

“Ahn? Are you sure about this?” Xander whispered as he and his new girlfriend crept their way into Willow and Tara’s garden.

“Oh don’t even try to chicken out of this Xander.” Anya complained as she stormed her way up to the seemingly constantly bubbling hot tub. “It’s not fair that all your lesbian girlfriends get to use this orgasm tub and not us. You are going to jump in this thing and have sexual intercourse with me until my legs do that bendy thing that happens when your penis gets extra hard from picturing me being orgasm friends with other women.”

“Ahn!” Xander almost shouted in morbid horror and a small amount of nervous guilt. “I do not picture you with other women!”

“Oh settle down.” She said as she stripped her top and bra off faster than Xander’s brain could keep up with the argument. “If it makes you feel any better I picture you being orgasm friends with other men all the time.”

“Not helping.” Xander muttered as he removed his shirt and shoes. “What if someone catches us?”

“Everyone is busy with the thing.” Anya told him as she shimmied out of her skirt and stood before him in a pair of lacey black panties that barely covered anything. “Now stop thinking about lesbian orgasm friends and come remove my panties as is your right as my primary orgasm friend.”

“I’m not thinking about my friends Ahn.” Xander said as he stripped the last of his clothing away and sunk to his knees before his formerly demonic girlfriend. He ran his hands up and down her thighs before leaning in and grasping the lacey undergarment with his teeth.

Anya smirked down at Xander as her panties were dragged down her legs. “We’ve been over this Xander. It’s okay to think about other women giving each other orgasms, especially if it gives you a more vigorous style of love making to provide me with more orgasms.” As the panties pooled at her ankles Anya bent down and grabbed her man by the chin. She dragged him back up to within a few inches of his face and looked him square in the eye. “Plus maybe for special occasions we could invite some pretty girl to be orgasm friends with both of us. You’d only be allowed to do orgasm things to me while I do orgasm things to her though. That or you can sit at the foot of the bed and watch her give me orgasms. Sound fair?”

“I’m not going to ask you for a three way Anya.” Xander promised as he looked into the eyes of the strange yet endearing woman that stole his heart. “You’re all the woman I can handle.”

“Aww, that is so sweet.” Anya replied. Though she fought to hold back the emotion in her voice and more than a few tears Xander could tell how moved she was by his promise. She leaned forward and kissed him with all the love and passion he knew she was capable of. A moment of contentment passed before Anya pulled away and looked Xander in the eye once more. “Now put on this condom, hop in that orgasm tub and start giving me lots of nice shuddery orgasms.”

Xander followed his girlfriend’s orders as usual and before he knew it she was bent over in front of him receiving his eager, if slightly clumsy, thrusts while calling out his praises to the heavens and any demons that happened to be passing by. One stray worry caused him to pause as he stared into the back of Anya’s head.

“What do you mean “primary orgasm friend?”

**********

“Ha! I didn’t expect we’d see any of the fellas stand and deliver! This changes everything!” Deadpool shouted as he leaned back in the hot tub that sat in the middle of the deck of the heavily modified cargo ship. The plant covered freighter “Love’s Bitch” floated peacefully just a few dozen yards from the Sunnydale docks.

“So what sexy fun time antics are we getting up to gang?” The mercenary asked as he turned to the people sitting with him in the hot tub. “Come on. I can’t be the only one looking to get a little frisky. What about you Superman?”

“Married.” The man of steel replied.

“Wonder Woman?” Deadpool asked.

“Gay.” The Amazonian Princess spat before looking to the mercenary with a sinister grin. “Also I’m a power top so unless you want to get pegged…”

“Gotcha Princess.” Deadpool relented as he turned to the two people on his other side. “What about you two? Wanna expand your horizons Cap? Widow, don’t tell me you’ve never thought about being spit roasted.”

“I’m seeing someone.” Captain America said as he covered his nipples with his iconic shield.

“And you’re not man enough for me psycho.” Black Widow added as she adjusted the skimpy black top that displayed the immaculate breasts Deadpool was ogling.

“You guys are no fun at all!” Deadpool moaned before turning to look at the trio sitting across the hot tub. “And what are you looking at?”

Cassie looked up from Dawn’s inviting lips and Kyle’s wandering hands. The young seer fixed the mercenary with a withering glare as her girlfriend and her boy friend continued to explore her body. She smirked as Dawn and Kyle’s hands slipped down her stomach and disappeared into the bubbling waters of the hot tub.

“Why are you complaining Wade? You aren’t even in this storyline.” She said just as the world melted away.

Deathstroke awoke screaming. He shot up from the king size bed in the middle of his island base’s master suite. His terrified cries startled both of his companions.

“Ugh…” Cheetah grunted at Deathstorke’s right side as her eyes cracked open. “Again with the nightmares Slade?”

“What is it my friend?” Black Manta asked from Deathstroke’s left as he sat up and put an arm around his partner in crime.

“Oh god it was so real!” Deathstroke cried as he fought off the remnants of his nightmare. “That lunatic was there on their ship in their hot tub.”

“Not the hot tub again.” Cheetah moaned in annoyance. “David it’s your turn.”

“It was so real. Hold me David!” Deathstroke whimpered as he flung himself into Black Manta’s broad ebony chest.

“It’s alright Slade.” The merman assured his troubled friend. “It was just another dream. There’s no such thing as hot tubs or little girls named Dawn.” Deathstroke could only continue to sob into the other man’s arms.

“Fucking hell.” Cheetah muttered as she covered her head with her pillow.

_________________
Time and Time Again


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 Post subject: Re: Time and Time Again
PostPosted: Wed Dec 14, 2016 2:34 pm 
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 Post subject: Re: Time and Time Again
PostPosted: Sun Dec 25, 2016 11:12 am 
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6. Sassy Eggs
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Hi Zampsa.

Yup, a lot of missed hot tub opportunities were gone over in this last one. The next chapter is also going to be a trip down clip show lane. Though It'll have a darker focus in places.

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Time and Time Again


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 Post subject: Re: Time and Time Again
PostPosted: Sun Dec 25, 2016 11:21 am 
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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: A festive nondenominational end of the fiscal fourth quarter to all my loyal readers. For those who celebrate I wish you an efficient Christmas and a serviceable New Year.

For now we're back to marvels and while this entry isn't really about the season it is about Faith's personal journey through her early months at the Xavier Institute. This clip show gets a little gruesome, but I hope you all enjoy it none the less.

********************

Primer: Marvels

Willow = Wanda Maximoff = Scarlet Witch

Tara = Carol Danvers = Ms. Marvel

Buffy = Jennifer Walters = She-Hulk

Faith = Faith = X-23

Xander = Pietro Maximoff = Quicksilver

Anya = Jessica Drew = Spider-Woman

Giles = Vision = G.I.L.E.S. = Generated Intuitive Logistics Engine Source = Grumpy Intellectual Librarian Englishman Simulation

********************

Marvels: Lines Drawn and Lines Crossed

“You sure you want to put all these extra miles on this old car Jen?” Wanda asked as she and Carol helped load bags of Jennifer’s clothing into the green fifty nine Dodge.

“Old?” Jennifer all but shouted as she shot up from leaning over the open trunk. “This car is a classic! It saved my life! I even drove it through space!”

“Sure Jen.” Carol said. She tried to humor her friend’s wild stories, but the effort came up lackluster at best.

“You still don’t believe me!” Jennifer snapped with an affronted pout. “I may not have been some alien spy’s pretend girlfriend but I’ve been to space plenty of times!”

“I never dated Mar-Vell!” Carol snapped back in disgust. “I would never… after all the… Eww!”

“Baby it’s okay. I’m sure she didn’t mean anything by it.” Wanda said before casting a pleading look over to the lawyer. “Tell her you didn’t mean anything by it Jen.”

“Oh like it’s so impossible that I’ve had space adventures and stuff.” Jennifer went on to complain about how little public attention many of her adventures had received. “I saved the whole world and stopped a galactic war by helping a space trucker arbitrate his way out of speeding tickets. He even gave me alien tech doohickeys to make this car fly!”

“See, she’s just, wait…” Wanda began to assure her always only to falter as the lawyer’s words sunk in. “You’re saying this car can fly?”

“And it can go to and from space like that!” Jennifer added with a challenging snap of her fingers. “Of course getting space fuel is a pain so I only take quick trips to the moon and back. But still, I’ve been on just as many fancy cosmic adventures as anyone else on this team!”

“Okay, we believe you Jen.” Carol said as it became clear the lawyer wasn’t backing down from her claims. “No one is questioning how cool your She-Hulk adventures have been.”

“Wait, there are space truckers?” Wanda asked.

“Not now Sweetie.” Carol muttered.

“I’ll have you guys know I’ve argued cases before the high and mighty space court thingy that all the big interstellar empires have to listen to when they aren’t all at war with each other.” Jennifer went on before an introspective look crossed her face. “I bet I’m the only person on this team that has met both the Guardians of the Galaxy and the Starjammers.”

“What’s a starjammer?” Wanda asked as Carol tried to reign in her friend.

“We believe you Jen!” Carol said as she finally got the other blonde’s attention. “You’ve been to space. Probably more than me or any Avenger other than Thor.”

“Now wait. Does the parallel pocket dimension that the Asgardians keep their capital city hidden in count as space?” Wanda asked as she looked back and forth between the two blondes. “Yes, okay they’re aliens, but it’s not like they use spaceships to come and go. They use an Einstein-Rosen bridge powered by a cobbled together mess of magic and pilfered alien tech.”

“Oh Goddess Sweetie, please don’t let Thor hear you call the Rainbow Bridge his people are so proud of stolen tech.” Carol pleaded.

“Pretty sure his buddy Heimdall can hear this conversation.” Jennifer added.

“Okay borrowed then.” Wanda complained as she looked back to her love. “I saw the big fwoosh of Technicolor light Thor vanished into the last time he went to check on all his space stuff. Baby you can’t tell me that light show didn’t look familiar.”

“I just hope the species we saw use it last time doesn’t exist in this dimension.” Carol said with a sigh. “There are already too many hostile alien armies in this corner of the galaxy.”

“Hence why I keep the alien tech filled flying car on standby.” Jennifer added as both of the witches shared concerned looks. “Was that the last bag I had sitting in my room?”

“Yes Jen.” Carol said with relief as the conversation veered back to safer topics. “You’re all packed for your weekend with Faith. We hope you two have a good time.”

“A great time even.” Wanda added with a cheery smile. “The best if you can manage it.”

“Oh, don’t worry about that.” Jennifer said as she closed the trunk and walked around to the driver’s door of her fifty nine Dodge. “My girl and I always have the best time.”

The petite blonde climbed into the driver’s seat and started the engine. Her two friends waved as she rolled out of the Avengers’ private underground parking garage beneath the tower. Jennifer smiled as she thought of her girl. She couldn’t wait to pull into the school grounds and surprise Faith. With an eager grin the lawyer flipped a switch on the dashboard and activated the custom features unique to her car.

**********

“Did Jennifer just buzz the Quinjet hangar in her flying car again?” Steve asked as he flipped through the morning papers.

“Looks like it.” Natasha replied as she poured a bowl of cereal.

“Jen has a flying car?” Tony asked only to receive surprised and incredulous looks from the other Avengers in the room. “When did this happen?”

“Like forever ago.” Steve said as he folded his paper. “Hasn’t she told you about all the times she’s been to space?”

“I thought she was talking about a dream she had!” Tony protested as Natasha began to cackle at the billionaire’s expense.

**********

“So what I want to know is what’s the deal with the imaginary friend all the girls around here are always talking to?” Jamie said as he sat down at the kitchen table in the Xavier Institute.

“Dude you are never going to figure out the girls around this school.” Bobby dismissed the other teen’s question out of hand. “What we should try to figure out is who this new student is and what his code name Cipher means.”

“Oh like my imaginary friend idea is any more ridiculous that your thing with there being extra term papers on Old Man McCoy’s desk!” Jamie complained only to hear an agitated grunt from the doorway.

“I’ll have you know I’m a spry thirty five Mr. Madrox.” Hank said as he shuffled into the kitchen at Forge’s side. The blue furred man plucked a large grapefruit from the island bar before heading to the cabinets and drawers across the room for a plate, knife and spoon. “So Forge, has Faith shared any more details about her pet project with you?”

“No Hank.” Forge admitted as he went to the coffee pot to pour himself a mug. He found the sludge awaiting him to be well past its prime. With a slight scowl he poured it down the sink before retrieving a fresh filter and grounds from the nearby cabinet. “No, I’m afraid Logan’s little girl is almost as secretive about her new toy as she is about her days before coming to live in the manor.”

“Faith has a new toy?” Bobby asked.

“Yes, quite.” Hank said. “A small metal disc device that does heavens knows what.”

“I sense a conspiracy.” Jamie declared as Alex just rolled his eyes. “This has something to do with the imaginary friend and Bobby’s new secret student and all the other weird stuff going on around here.”

“You think that’s weird?” Alex said as he looked to the lanky teen in disgust. “Seriously? That is what you find most weird about life at this school? One of our classmates has a pet dragon for fucks sake! A for real, no shit, flying, fire breathing, tiny purple dragon! It’s right there on her shoulders! That doesn’t seem the slightest bit strange to you?”

“Hey don’t drag us under this bus.” Kitty said as Lockheed hissed from his perch on her left shoulder. The dragon then proceeded to breathe fire, charring the slices of bread on the plate before the girl. “Also, didn’t we all learn a lesson about leaving Faith to her own devices months ago?”

“You mean the lesson you learned after she lost all her good memories and went on rampage?” Alex asked with evident sarcasm. “No, I don’t recall that lesson at all. How did it go again?”

“It sucked ass.” Faith said as she and Logan walked into the kitchen. “But the gizmo Hank and Forge are talking about is an old Hydra toy I remember being trained to use.”

“Hydra?” Hank whispered as matching nervous looks came over the faces of the adults in the room. “Faith, we were under the impression that you lost most of those, um, experiences.”

“Nah Big Blue.” Faith said as she went to the fridge. The brunette tossed a beer bottle to her father before pulling a water bottle out for herself. “I remember everything I did and everything they taught me. Didn’t lose any memories or shit like that.”

“Then what did the witches take out?” Forge asked.

“All the “Onward Christian Soldiers” crap.” Faith answered. “Follow orders and obey the leaders of our death cult propaganda. Red and Blondie took the programming out. They left all the “Red Sky at Morning” stuff. How to field strip an assault rifle. Best ways to interrogate a hostile captive. What’s an acceptable tip at restaurants? When to hold ‘em and fold ‘em. General world info and training stuff got left in place. I can still cobble together most of the field kit Hydra trained me to use. Just got less reason to bother making neural inhibitors these days.”

“So they turned you from an obedient super assassin on a leash to an unstoppable super assassin with free will.” Jamie said. The teen almost missed the cold glare the brunette sent his way.

Before she could say anything else Faith sniffed the air. She looked around to the nearby windows before setting her unopened water bottle down and running from the room. Logan watched her go in surprise before he caught an all too familiar scent.

“Everyone get ready to fight!” Logan shouted just seconds before the kitchen windows shattered. A large hairy figure in a trench coat barreled through the glass sending shards in every direction. Jamie was quick to have a few of his dupes leap in the path of the shards heading for Alex and Hank. Bobby was already covered in ice. Forge fiddled with a device built into his arm as a personal force field flared into existence for a moment. As the glass stuck the field began to flicker before dying out. The prototype saved the man from the initial assault, but it did little to block the large furry brute that was clawing his way across the kitchen floor towards one member of the faculty.

“Logan!” The beast-man shouted as he dragged himself to his feet. “I know what she is to you Logan! I’ll kill you for what she’s done!”

“Not likely Vic.” Logan said as his claws extended. “Forge! Get the kids out of here! Beast! Back me up but don’t get in between us.”

“Is this really the time to indulge in old vendettas Logan?” Beast asked just as the Professor came into the kitchen.

“Stand back everyone.” The Professor called to his X-men. “Mr. Creed, you should have known better than to attack my home directly.” Xavier readied a psychic assault only to find most of the intruder’s mind had been shattered repeatedly through long hours of pain and anguish. This was unlike anything he had sensed from Logan’s old nemesis in the past.

“No!” Sabertooth screamed as he picked up one of Jamie’s dupes and threw him at the wheelchair bound psychic. The Professor and one of his student’s many clones tumbled to the ground. “No more mind games Logan! It’s just you and me this time! I’m done playing! I’ll kill you once and for all!”

Sabertooth roared as Wolverine prepared to strike. As the others in the room struggled to come up with ways to help or avoid the battle a soft, almost hauntingly lyrical voice broke through the air.

I've got no strings
To hold me down
To make me fret
Or make me frown
I had strings
But now I'm free
There are no strings on me


Faith sang as she walked into the kitchen. Slowly, step by step she approached the intruder. None of the X-Men could believe how steadily and calmly she took each and every step. None understood why her presence had such a drastic effect on the shabby, fur covered attacker.

“No.” Sabertooth whispered as he first caught sight of Faith. His voice rose in volume and terror with Faith’s every step. “No! Please! No! No! Not again!” He threw himself backwards as the brunette approached, scrambling back across the floor in vain.

I've got no strings
So I have fun
I'm not tied up to anyone


“No, god make her stop.” Sabetooth whimpered as Faith loomed over him. “Please…”

They've got strings
But you can see
There are no strings on me


With the deranged intruder cowering at her feet Faith let the object in her hand fall to the floor. Logan and the rest of the X-Men stared in confusion at the plain brown leather dog collar on the end of the thin plastic leash still held loosely in Faith’s hand. What surprised them even more was the reaction the collar had on the beast-man that had tried to kill all of them.

“I've got no strings.” Sabertooth sobbed as he reached down and grasped the dog collar. “To hold me down. To make me fret. Or make me frown.” He mumbled the words through tearful eyes as he fastened the collar tightly around his neck. “I had strings, but now I'm free. There are no strings on me.”

“Thought so bitch.” Faith muttered as she tugged on the leash. Without the slightest bit of resistance Sabertooth crawled along on all fours. The brunette dragged the sobbing murderer towards the kitchen door and down the hallway. As they went she sang the words he could only mumble piteously.

I've got no strings
So I have fun
I'm not tied up to anyone
They've got strings
But you can see
There are no strings on me


“Okay seriously.” Jamie said as he dissolved the dupe still tangled up with the Professor. “Did that just happen or am I way more stoned than I should be considering Logan confiscated all of my pot the first day I got here?”

“The fuck was that?” Alex and Kitty asked the rest of the room in unison.

“Logan.” Xavier muttered as Hank helped him back into his chair. “Something is dreadfully wrong with your old nemesis. I don’t even know what kind of monster could cause such damage to a sane mind.”

“Creed was never sane Chuck.” Logan muttered as he stared at the empty doorway. A moment passed before Rouge and Gambit appeared where Faith had vanished with Sabertooth.

“Umm, Sugar, your little girl just led your stalker into an elevator with one of those little dog leashes rich city gals use for teacup poodles. They got off on the hangar level.” The southern girl said with her distinctive drawl. “There something we should tell her girlfriend?”

“Hangar level? Shit!” Logan said as he realized where Faith had to be taking Sabertooth. Before he could rush through Rogue and Gambit the ground began to shake and the basketball court just outside the shattered kitchen windows split open. The Blackbird rose into the air and pivoted before flying off due east. “Fuck!” Logan shouted as he watched his daughter and his worst enemy vanish into the bright morning sky.

“For real though. Did all that just happen?” Jamie asked yet again.

“How is any of what we just saw even possible?” Hank asked.

“That’s the first thing I’m gonna ask her when she gets back.” Logan growled as he clenched his fists in helpless fury. He knew something had been going on with Faith. If only he knew when it had all started.

**********

“So how do you like your new school so far Honey?” Jennifer asked as she and Faith strolled through the vast grounds behind the Xavier Institute. “I know it’s only been a day but, oh wow, look at this view!”

The couple stopped as they broke free from the tree line and found themselves standing several yards from the edge of a cliff that overlooked a massive lake. Faith let out an appreciative whistle as she and her girl walked closer to the rocky cliff.

“Damn.” Faith muttered in approval as she peeked over the edge. “That’s a hell of a drop Babe.”

“Good thing I have you to protect me.” Jennifer replied with a coy smile.

“And I’ve got you to…” Faith trailed off as she sniffed the air. Her eyes focused on the tree line before her stance shifted. She knew a fight was coming their way. “We’re bein’ watched. Get ready to fight.”

Years of practice made Jennifer more than ready to square off at the drop of a hat. If they needed the She-Hulk to make an appearance Jennifer could call her inner monster up in an instant. She just hoped this new intrusion was nothing more than a misguided prank by one of Faith’s classmates and not some new enemy showing themselves for the first time.

A rustle from the bushes drew their focus just before overconfident laughter reached their ears. “Oh that’s good. Logan’s dipping into the jailbait now is he?” The voice called out in a depraved laugh.

“Whoever you are you picked the wrong fight!” Jennifer shouted in a high pitched voice. She knew feigning the damsel in distress would buy her an extra second to change if this threat was as ignorant as he was disgusting.

“Oh I’m pretty sure I can handle myself bitch.” A tall muscular man-like creature with shaggy blond fur and long scraggly blond hair chuckled as he stepped out of the tree line. The beast-man wore a tattered trench coat, leather chaps with black jeans and a matching shirt under his worn overcoat. Fangs protruded from his lips just enough to offset the pronounced brow ridge. Faith could easily smell the blood and grime on the vicious animal. A quick glance told her that Jennifer had caught wind of the stink coming off their new foe as well. “Now I’m all kinds of interested in you two. I didn’t expect this checkup to be so entertaining.”

“This is your one chance to back the fuck off.” Faith seethed as her claws slid out of her clenched fists and spread feet. The glinting adamantium blades caught Sabertooth’s eyes immediately. He flinched before his amused sneer returned in full force.

“Oh that’s rich.” The shaggy menace howled with laughter. “So one of Logan’s stray bastards finally caught up with him. I gotta say you’re a lot older than the last three I killed. Must have slipped through the cracks. Is that smelly bitch over there your mother? She doesn’t seem like Logan’s type, but maybe he was just slumming it.”

“Why does everyone who meets us today think I’m your mother?” Jennifer pouted as Faith tensed for combat. “Is it really so hard to believe that we’re together?”

“Oh that’s even better then.” Sabertooth smirked as he looked them both over once again. “Logan’s brat is a ditzy little jailbait dyke and she got herself a regular milf bitch to play house with. I’m gonna have some fun with this, even if that smell is killin’ my mood. Tell me dyke. Either of you bitches ever been penetrated?”

“All the time.” Faith quipped back with a sneer of her own. “Not that you’re man enough for either of us to feel anything.”

As the brunette’s insult sunk in the degenerate’s eyes flared with rage. He let out a primal roar before lunging directly at Faith. He never saw the hit coming.

“No you don’t!” She-Hulk roared as she slammed one massive green fist into the entire side of Sabertooth’s skull. A sickening crunch filled the air as the shaggy ruffian went spiraling to the ground. “Oh shit! Did I kill him? I don’t think I’m supposed to kill Logan’s minor league nemesis guys without us doing a whole team-up to save the day thing. What’s the protocol here?”

“Don’t think we have to worry about that Babe.” Faith muttered as her eyes never left their fallen attacker.

“Who you calling minor league you stupid bitch?” Sabertooth mumbled as he spit half a dozen teeth out of his mouth. “I’ll kill you for… Hurgh!” His threat was cut short as the wind shifted. A slight breeze from the cliff face blew across She-Hulk’s back and directly into Sabertooth’s face. The beast-man vomited as soon as the scent of poisoned and toxic flesh hit his nostrils.

“Eww!” She-Hulk complained as she watched the butcher empty the contents of his stomach.

“What the…” Sabertooth tried to ask before heaving again. “Is wrong with the milf bitch?” He gasped out. “That stench!”

“Oh that is it.” Faith muttered as she took several steps towards the fallen villain. “No one talks about my girl like that!” One swift kick planted a blade in Sabertooth’s ribs. Faith was ruthless as she flexed her foot outwards and tore her toe blade out after dragging it halfway across and through his torso. The beast-man gasped as he fought off both the pain of his wounds and the burn of residual gamma radiation shooting through his heightened senses.

“I’ll kill you all!” Sabertooth snapped as he grasped the slowly closing jagged wound in his side. “Everyone and everything Logan ever cared about will die. Starting with each and every bitch dumb enough to fuck one of his bastards.”

“I am sick and tired of being called a bitch!” She-Hulk screamed as she hoisted Sabertooth up by the scruff of his neck. “What I have with Faith is beautiful! And! Wonderful!” Towards the end of her outraged tirade each word was punctuated by an emerald fist striking Sabertooth’s face. “And! I! Won’t! Be! Slut! Shamed! For! Loving! My! Faith!” By the time She-Hulk paused to take a breath Sabertooth’s scruffy, mutton chop ridden face was mangled beyond recognition. There was hardly enough mouth left for the vicious animal to vomit from, though he tried valiantly as the smell of Gamma irradiated flesh struck him once more.

“Stop throwing up on me!” She-Hulk screamed as she shook the battered and bleeding villain. He heaved as the vibrations shook loose the last of his lunch and wore out the last of She-Hulk’s patience. She roared as she grasped Sabertooth by both ankles and proceeded to swing his entire body up and down in wide arcs, slamming him into the ground on either side of where she was standing. By the tenth impact with the rocky cliff he was unconscious. She-Hulk sighed as she felt her anger shift from pure burning rage to more tepid annoyance. With a sigh she grasped Sabertooth’s arms and legs one by one and snapped the long bones of each limb multiple times. As the last whimper of agony left Sabertooth’s mouth She-Hulk looked to Faith for one last confirmation. “You sure he has you and your dad’s healing factor?”

“He has to don’t he?” Faith asked in shock and more than a little arousal as she watched her girl work. “After all that hotness you just did. If he didn’t he’d be dead by now.”

“Good.” She-Hulk said before lifting their attempted assailant into the air. With fluid grace and stunning strength She-Hulk spun releasing her victim to soar over the edge of the cliff and clear across the massive lake. Faith watched his trajectory until he made a visibly agonizing impact on the rocky shore on the far side of the lake.

“This is gonna take forever to clean.” She-Hulk muttered in outrage as Faith squirmed from her girl’s almost obscene display of force.

“Goddess Babe that has to be the hottest fucking thing I’ve ever seen you do.” Faith whispered in an awed tone that caught She-Hulk’s attention right away.

“What? Really?” The green mass of muscle and emotion asked as she turned back to her girl.

“Goddess I can’t wait.” Faith said as her claws retracted and she began to rub her hands all over her body. “Take me. Right here. Right now.”

In an instant She-Hulk’s soiled top was ripped away and the sports bra barely holding back her massive green breasts was pressed into Faith’s chest and face. Faith was backed up against the nearest tree and her body was lifted up so she was level the emerald eyes of her love. “You really like me when I’m like this Honey?”

“Goddess yes Babe.” Faith gasped as She-Hulk grasped both of her wrists in one hand and began to toy with the button and fly of her leather pants with the other. “Please Babe. Fuck me with those massive green fingers of yours. I can take it.”

“Anything for you Honey.” She-Hulk purred as her hand slipped into Faith’s pants and through damp brown curls. “God you are soaking wet. Is this really because of me?” She asked as she readied her enlarged middle finger.

“All for you Babe.” Faith whispered and gasped as she felt the large tip press in just enough to part quivering lips. “Goddess don’t tease me Babe. Please.”

“Anything for you Faith.” She-Hulk whispered as she drove her green finger into the molten paradise awaiting her. Faith let out a shriek of pure ecstasy that was soon swallowed as She-Hulk crashed their lips together. Both women taking from their lover and giving of themselves in equal measure as their passion consumed them.

Hours that felt like a blissful eternity to the couple passed before Faith finally looked into the hazel eyes, tanned skin and blonde hair of the petite woman she loved with all her heart. “Babe? When did you get back to you again?”

Jennifer could only smile at the blissfully exhausted young woman in her arms. “Somewhere after the fourth time you passed out screaming “Fuck me She-Hulk! Fuck me like a gamma bomb!” But long before you begged me to shove my whole fist in you. Honey I love you, and I’m more than happy that you’re willing to try new and exciting things with me, and I know that you’re healing factor means you don’t have to worry about most permanent injury, and I really, really love you with all my heart…” Jennifer trailed off as her babble lost steam.

“I’m sensing a but somewhere in that cute babble Babe.” Faith smirked at her girl.

“But I don’t think we should ever do fisting while I’m hulked out. Well, I shouldn’t do that to you at least. You might be able to get half your forearm in there while I’m… And I don’t want to try to change while I have any more than one or two fingers inside you.” Jennifer said at last. “This was fun. Really fun. Really, really, really fun! But I don’t want to ever have any part of what I feel for you twisted by what calling out my hulk does to me emotionally. I just, I’m sorry. I don’t want to disappoint you.”

“Hey, no, none of that!” Faith said as she tightened her grip on her girl. “Not disappointed here babe. Never disappointed! We don’t ever have to do this again if you hated it! You’re enough for me. I don’t need to be the She-Hulk’s fuck toy to be happy. I just need to belong to Jennifer Walters, kick ass lawyer extraordinaire, and I’m good. I didn’t even think hulk sex would feel wrong for you. I just saw my girl kick ass for the sake of our relationship and I was gone. But I can hold it if it happens again Babe. I swear you don’t have to…” Faith’s ramble was cut short as Jennifer capture her lips. The brunette melted into the petite blonde and both women knew their relationship was stronger than ever. Only after luxuriating in the kiss for several long moments did Jennifer break it off to finish the panicked conversation they had fallen into.

“Nothing we do together is wrong Faith.” Jennifer assured her girl. “I like having sex while I’m hulked out. Hell, a part of me suspects that She-Hulk me likes sex way more than Jennifer me ever has and Jennifer me is still playing catch up. But then I think about all the times you’ve gotten me to try new and amazing sexual positions and I think She-Hulk is the one playing catch up.”

“Just in case it comes up I don’t want one of our witch friends to cast a spell splitting you into two separate people just so I can have a three way.” Faith interrupted. “I don’t need She-Hulk at one end of me and Jennifer at the other. I need you in one piece giving me all the love you always give.”

“Aww… that’s so sweet.” Jennifer let out with a teary smile before dragging herself back to what she was talking about. “But that isn’t where I was going with the whole me and other me mess. I’m just saying She-Hulk is a part of me and a part of our relationship and I am so unbelievably happy that you love both parts of me.”

“Ya make it easy to love on ya Babe.” Faith chimed in.

A moment passed before Jennifer’s eyes narrowed and she faced her girl again. “I still don’t think we should test just how fast your lady parts can heal after being stretched by a giant green fist Honey.”

Faith could only laugh at how outlandish her mid orgasm dirty talk must have been to earn so much concern from her girl. She smiled as she nodded along. “Okay Babe. We don’t have to try every dumb idea I scream about while you’re driving me crazy.”

“Good!” Jennifer said as she stood up and pulled Faith along with her. “Now let’s pick up all our clothes and figure out what we’re gonna tell Logan if he smells Sabertooth’s blood and vomit on either of us.”

“Goddess I hope he stops paying attention after he gets a whiff of all the pussy coming off you.” Faith replied as she pulled her pants up.

“Faith!” Jennifer protested in shock and no small amount of indignation.

“Crap!” Faith muttered to herself. “I swear I didn’t mean it like that. I meant my pussy! On you Babe! Cause you were wrist deep in me and he can smell when… I mean it wouldn’t be the first time we walked around smelling like each other’s pussies. I mean!”

Her panicked babble was cut short again as Jennifer pulled her into another kiss. “I get it Honey.” She said after letting the stunned brunette’s lips go. Faith blinked in relief and her girl was gone. It was all she could do to grab her discarded top and chase after her girl as Jennifer raced back towards the school. Once there they received a few odd looks from Logan that only ceased when Faith agreed to fill him in later. Though the day had turned out fine Faith knew things could easily fall apart. She was already devising a plan for just such an outcome.

**********

“You missin’ your girl kiddo?” Logan asked his daughter as they walked through the wooded pathways behind the school.

“I know she ain’t always gonna be around here Pops.” Faith admitted as she stared off into the darkening early evening sky. “Her staying here with me this first week was great, and it’s not like she’s even been gone an hour. I just…”

“Love her so damn much it makes the pain of healing through all your normal injuries feel like a cool breeze.” Logan said in a tone that convinced Faith her long lost father knew just where she was coming from. “Like it hurts so much the world could swallow you up and you wouldn’t even notice.”

“So you’ve been in love too.” Faith said as she looked to her father with more than grudging respect.

“Been around a long time.” Logan replied. “Not that I remember all of it. But I’ve loved a few women. Real love. Not what most of the kids here or with the Avengers call love. Like what Storm and her panther have. Maybe even close to what your witches have.”

“Red and Blondie are probably gonna be the yard stick I use to measure all the couples I come across until I get to be half as old as you old man.” Faith muttered with a slight smirk. “Funny how you didn’t put Goldilocks and his piece or Shellhead and Pepper on the short list.”

“Ha!” Logan laughed at the remark. “Thor is too much of a short tempered drunk to realize the commitment he’s made with that scientist. And I don’t count anything Stark is capable of feeling as love. Pepper deserves better.”

“Ain’t that the truth with most spoiled rich boys?” Faith agreed as they walked along the trails winding through the sparsely wooded grounds. “If that jackass could recognize just how good he had it with Pepper he’d have married her by the end of her first year bein’ his personal nanny.”

“Goddess, that’s the real truth isn’t it?” Logan said as he looked over to his daughter. “I’m proud of you kiddo. It took me years of being an angry short tempered thug before I got even a tenth of the wisdom you got.” He smiled as their eyes met and gave her a little wink. “Plus your girl is a hell of a woman. Anyone who can rip Vic apart piece by piece the first time they meet his psychotic ass is marriage material if you ask me.”

“That’s the long term plan.” Faith admitted only to draw more amused belly laughter from her father. “Not much of a surprise is it Pops?”

“Not even a bit Kiddo.” Logan assured her. “I’m surprised you haven’t asked her to marry you already. Not that I want you rushing into things. I just keep hearing Jessica talk about U-hauls, and I see your main examples not wasting any time.”

“Can’t rush with a fine woman like my girl.” Faith replied with more than a little smug satisfaction. “It ain’t like I’m trying to plow Q-tip’s spider chick. Gotta lay the ground work. Make damn sure she knows that at the end of the day we both need what the other is always gonna give. Can’t ever let her think I’m some dumb kid rushing into things.”

“That took me even longer to learn.” Logan agreed. “No, you got a good thing goin’ on with the lawyer, even with the whole gamma radiation mess.” He grew quiet for a moment before hurrying on. “Whenever you decide to step things up I’m there for you Faith. The way you deserve.”

“Thanks Pops.” Faith whispered just loud enough that she knew his ears would pick up on the strained utterance. “That reminds me. We got any old family heirlooms I should know about? A grandma’s wedding ring? A great aunt’s brooch? Something I need to get from you before I pop the question and hand it over to her.”

“Sorry kiddo.” Logan sighed as the wind left his sails. “Being as old as I am and as rough as my life has been you’re not gonna get much in the way of old relatives and hand me downs. Near as I can tell, what few bits of precious I snagged before the family estate went up in flames I sold for food on the trip from Canada to California. Not sure you want to give Jen trinkets left over from any of my exes.”

“Not even a little.” Faith told him. “Damn but you’re really old. What was it like when they invented the train? I bet the cotton gin was a real game changer.”

“Funny Kiddo.” Logan let her soft laughter fill the air for a moment. He was about to throw back a barb of his own when a familiar stench filled his nostrils.

“Finally found you again.” Sabertooth growled as he leapt from the bushes to block their path back to the manor. “Your toxic bitch isn’t here to stop me this time dyke! Now I’m gonna kill you right in front of Logan here and there ain’t a thing either of you can do about it.”

“Long time no see Bub.” Logan growled as his claws extended. “Faith head back to the school.”

“Nah, I’m good here.” Faith said with a sly chuckle as she let her own claws slide out. “Between the two of us we got this.”

“Don’t underestimate Vic Kiddo.” Logan muttered as the trio circled the small clearing. “He and I have always been an even match.”

“That’s why I’m not worried.” Faith quipped back. “You two may be old as hell, but of the killers in this fight I have the most combat experience.”

“Your brat is crazy Logan.” Sabertooth growled. “I’ve been killing people for over a hundred years. You should know, you slept with or fathered most of them.” He lunged at Faith only to be batted aside with one quick fluid motion of the brunette. He spun to glare at the young woman and roared as she laughed in his face. He charged again only to receive a long shallow gash down his arm and across his chest.

“Killing people for a hundred years and you still lead with your chin.” Faith taunted as Sabertooth roared again. “You and my old man are great when it comes to brawlin’ with folks who don’t know how to handle good quality rage. But I do.”

Logan joined the fray but before he and Sabertooth could properly grapple like they always resorted to Faith swung around and severed the tendons in Sabertooth’s other arm. With one limb hanging limp at his side Sabertooth fell back on his last resort. His mind.

“You think you can stop me?” He growled at Logan as he backed himself to one side of the clearing. “You’ll never be rid of me Logan. Never.” The beast-man turned and fled into the bushes. Logan had all of half a second to gawk at Faith chasing after his old foe before he too followed them towards the cliff that overlooked the lake.

“Shit!” Sabertooth screamed as he skidded to a halt on the rocky outcropping. “Shit!”

“Well ain’t that sweet?” Faith teased as she stopped just outside of the tree line. “You wanted to get sliced up on the spot where we first me. How thoughtful.”

“Don’t underestimate him Kiddo.” Logan added as he joined his daughter.

Sabertooth didn’t even bother with banter. He turned and howled before diving towards Faith once more. The brunette’s stance shifted. As the brute was about to impact she rolled back and struck from underneath with just enough force to send him flying face first into a large boulder. While he was down Faith made three more cuts with almost surgical precision. The primary tendons in all four of his limbs were now useless until they grew back.

“Where the hell did you learn to do all that?” Logan asked in wonder as he watched his daughter roll his stalker into a sitting position against the boulder.

“Is that a serious question Pops?” Faith asked as she turned to look him in the eye. “What part of “Brainwashed Hydra Killing Machine” do you people not understand? Seriously though, you want to incapacitate a guy with our healing factor for a bit you just need to know where to cut. Even with super healing tendons don’t re-stitch themselves near as fast as skin, muscle, bone and organs. Both you numb nuts would know this if either of you bothered to pick up a copy of Gray’s Anatomy in the last hundred years.”

“The mouth on you Dyke.” Sabertooth mumbled as he rolled his head forward. “You should teach your brat some respect Logan. She might attract better trim than that toxic bitch I found her with. I can still smell her stench all over this little dyke. Makes me want to heave.”

Faith didn’t so much as make a sound as the claws on her left fist were driven into one of Sabertooth’s lungs. Logan only chuckled as the blond brute howled in pain. “Best not bring up her lady friend Creed. I’m not responsible for what she cuts into next.”

“None of that matters!” Sabertooth shouted back as he struggled to lash out with his ruined arms. “I’m never going to stop. Everyone you care about will die. One by one or all at once it doesn’t matter. I’ll kill them all Logan. And I’ll kill the ones they love and the ones they love. I won’t stop until everyone you could ever turn to is gutted like a fish. First your dyke kid. Then all the people in her life. Starting with that ugly green cunt!”

Faith’s blade whipped into and out of Sabertooth’s mouth so fast neither man knew just what she had done. A second passed before blood began to dribble out of the beast-man’s mouth. Then he all but gagged as a large chunk of his tongue was spat on the ground.

“You just had to make this about my girl.” Faith muttered. As she stood back and pulled out her phone. “You couldn’t just let this stupid macho pissing contest grudge you got stay between you and my Pops.” Several pictures were snapped in rapid succession. Sabertooth blinked through a few before wondering just what she was planning. “What’s your name bitch?” She asked the beast-man.

“Suck my dick dyke.” Sabertooth snapped back before searing pain shot up his leg. He looked down to find one of Faith’s toe blades had completely severed his foot.

“I asked you a question.” Faith said as the downed murderer just glared at her. One swift kick and his other foot was sent flying over the edge of the cliff. They barely heard it smack against the rocks below as he yowled in pain.

“Jesus Christ Faith!” Logan shouted as he fought within himself for some way to stop what was going on.

“I asked you a question animal.” Faith said once more as she sliced his right hand off and chucked it into the woods.

“Vic she’s not playing around here! Answer the fucking question!” Logan shouted, not recognizing who the fear in his own voice was meant for. As Faith’s blades sank less than an inch into the whimpering brute’s left arm Logan shouted out the answer. “Victor Creed!”

“That’s going to cost you bitch.” Faith told Sabertooth as she removed his last hand and sent it flying into the woods behind her. “The next time you come at me and mine, I’ll really make it hurt.” Without so much as a glance to her father Faith drove the twin blades on her right fist into Sabertooth’s eyes. The beast-man shuddered once before going limp. The brunette sighed before pulling out. She then grabbed the body by the shoulders and dragged him to the edge of the cliff.

“Faith wait!” Logan shouted as he watched her throw his old nemesis over the edge and down to the rocks below. “Damn it he’s going to recover from that! We should have contained him. There’s places…”

“Why should I hand your problem off to some dipshit who’ll just get gutted the next time that animal breaks out?” Faith shouted at her father. “This isn’t about you old man! He’s going to go after my girl again. Mine! You hear me?”

“You think I don’t know how dangerous he is?” Logan shouted back. “Damn it Faith he murdered my wife!”

“Did you even listen to him?” Faith shot right back. “You only remember the one wife he killed! He just bragged about killing all your other kids! How many wives do you think he’s murdered? How many sons? Daughters?” She paused to take a breath. When she spoke the angry shouting and argumentative tone was gone. All that remained was calm detachment that cloaked quiet steel. “You think you’re his only victim? Get over yourself Dad.”

“We can’t just let him go.” Logan whispered as Faith stared him down. “He could go after anyone next.”

“He’ll come at me as soon as his feet grow back.” Faith assured him as she stooped down to pick up Sabertooth’s discarded foot. It was still wearing most of a scuffed brown boot.

“What the hell are you doing with that thing?” Logan asked in disgust as he watched her walk into the trees.

“Taking it and his hands to the nearest blast furnace.” Faith called back over her shoulder. “I’ll head down to the lake in the morning and grab the foot. First I gotta call in a favor.”

Logan stared into the darkened forest for a long moment. He could not believe what he had just witnessed. What was even more troubling was he couldn’t find it in himself to deny Faith’s more aggressive approach to the problems posed by Sabertooth.

Victor Creed was a menace. The mass murderer would never stop. If Logan hadn’t lost whole decades worth of his memories he would know just how many bodies were left in the wake of their feud. As it stood he knew the number was far higher than he could stomach. Something had to give. If Faith had her way Logan knew that something would be Sabertooth. He only prayed the mass murderer wouldn’t drag the girl down with him.

**********

“I’m running out of women to introduce Steve to.” Natasha said as she spun idly in one of the chairs littered around the main comms room of Avengers Tower.

“Are we even sure Steve is into the ladies? Wanda asked as she played with Carol’s hair. The more muscular and toned blonde was flipping through one of the countless magazines Stark had left around the tower. Each and every one contained a glowing, ego stroking, endorsement article and at least a five page photo spread dedicated to the billionaire’s glory. She could only chuckle at some of the outlandish claims the so called journalists had made.

“You think he’s gay?” Natasha stopped spinning to stare at the two women who had joined her for a comms rotation. “Should I start pointing out guys?”

“Please don’t.” Said one of the on duty communications officers and former Shield agents that signed on with the team. He and the other two formerly mid ranked Shield agents in the room cringed at the idea of being foisted on the American icon by the Russian spy.

“There is such a thing as asexual.” Wanda stated. “That or he just hasn’t met the right person. Plus he’s still adjusting to this century! Give him space Natasha. I’m sure he’ll…”

“Sorry to interrupt ma’ams.” One of the former Shield agents chimed in. “There’s a call coming in. It’s from an unregistered facility, but it has an Avengers code.”

“Well put it up on the big board.” Natasha ordered. She and the two witches were taken by surprise when a familiar brunette appeared on screen.

“Hey, anyone there, Red! Blondie! Other Red!” Faith began with a sullen tone that gave way to genuine excitement once she saw the three women.

“Why am I stuck with Other Red?” Natasha complained with a short laugh and a smile. “What can we do for you Fai… I mean X-23?”

“I need a favor from Shield.” Faith said. The silence that filled the comms room was almost unsettling. “I’m sending you some pictures.”

“What kind of favor are you asking…” Natasha froze as she recognized the battered and bleeding serial killer that always seemed to stay just under the bare minimum required to make the most wanted lists of several agencies. She had nearly lost her life while on a mission that the vicious animal decided to compromise. “Where did you get these photos?”

“Snapped them with that fancy phone Pepper gave me during the big shopping trip.” Faith said. “He came after my girl and me last week. She took care of him then. He came after me and my Pops an hour ago. The sick son of a bitch has a real hard on for my old man.”

“Logan knows the Sabertooth?” Natasha all but shouted as she shot to her feet and her fists crashed down on the desk before her.

“He didn’t hurt you or Jen did he?” Wanda asked with real worry in her voice.

“Not even close.” Faith bragged as she brushed some nonexistent dust off her shoulders. “She-Hulk out classed his ass by a country mile. Then she tossed him a few actual miles into the air. Me, I had all that tried and true super assassin combat training to fall back on. Kinda hard for that scrub to take a swipe at my neck once I cut the tendons in his arms.”

“Please tell me he’s dead.” Natasha all but begged the girl.

“Not yet.” Faith admitted as she caught the emotion behind the spy’s words.

“You contained him at least right?” Natasha went on. “What’s his location? We’ll have an extraction unit ready in…”

“That’s not the favor I called you for.” Faith stopped Natasha’s desperate line with the hard edge in her voice. “I’m gonna take care of things. No need for the cavalry to come rescue little ol’ me again.”

“We can help you Sweetie.” Carol said.

“And I’ll ask you to when I need it.” Faith assured the blonde. “But I only need one favor to take care of this problem, and it don’t include any of you running up here to save the day.”

“What’s the favor?” Natasha asked through gritted teeth.

“I need every scrap of information Shield has or had on Victor Creed.” Faith told them.

“We can’t just hand over classified documents to a civili…” One of the former Shield agents began to protest only to be cut off by a quick hand gesture from Natasha.

“I’m pulling it up right now.” Natasha told Faith as she ignored everyone else in the room. “Accessing one of the remote servers from here is tricky but… okay maybe not that tricky.”

“Anyone remember when I super charged the network of this building?” Wanda asked in a not quite boastful voice that drew a smile from both Carol and Faith.

“Got the files.” Natasha said as her hands sped over the keyboard in front of her. “Sending them to your terminal.”

“Thanks Spy Hard.” Faith smiled at the now grinning Russian.

“Spy Hard?” Natasha asked with a playful smirk.

“Still shopping your nick name around.” Faith put on a frown as she double checked that the file she received was in no way redacted. “I’ve got a few others kicking around the shop that I’ll try out on ya next time. If none stick I’ll call in the writers’ room again.”

“Don’t put yourself out.” Natasha laughed as Faith drew to a close. “And Faith. One last thing.”

“Yeah?”

“Get the son of a bitch.” Natasha said with so much venom dripping from each word that it was clear how far she wanted things taken when it came to the beast-man.

“I will.” Faith promised before cutting the feed.

“You think she’ll kill him?” Carol asked the spy.

“She fucking better.” Natasha seethed as she leaned over the comms terminal.

**********

“Oh my god I can’t believe I’m dating Captain America!” Clarice squealed in delight as she skipped through the woods along the back stretch of the Xavier Institute grounds. She let out another loud cry of delight as she jumped up and down. “Can you two believe I’m dating Captain America?”

“We are both very happy for you my friend.” Sooraya said in her ever calm tone. Had it not been for their years of friendship Clarice might have missed the overwhelming yet reserved joy she knew her friend was experiencing.

“And let’s not forget our first date ended with finding your mother.” Clarice added as she turned to her friend with an even brighter smile. “I’d say things can’t get any better but Steve already promised that our next date will be all about how much I mean to him.” The bright pink girl trailed off with a content sigh as her cloaked friend chuckled.

“I am indescribably happy that my mother has been safely returned to me.” Sooraya said as she walked beside the bouncing girl. “I will forever be indebted to the people who made our reunion possible. Including both of you.”

There was a pause before Clarice responded with more cheer in her voice. “From the bottom of both our hearts you are very welcome Sooraya.” Clarice said as she pulled her friend into a surprisingly tight hug. She let Sooraya go only to put her arms around what seemed to be an unseen figure standing with her and the girl in black robes. “God, Steve did so much for us right after we first met.”

“And his friend Natasha, that mildly disapproving blonde woman Mockingbird who tagged along, let us not forget the witches that guided our path.” Sooraya listed off other people who she would always be indebted to. “And of course our newest classmate.”

“Faith did introduce you to all the right people.” Clarice added with a smile that soon shifted to a delighted smirk. “Even if she sat out the rescue to plow her girlfriend.”

Faint laughter flowed from the space between Clarice and Sooraya. Though it sounded like it came from miles away they both knew how close the source truly was.

“I can not begrudge our dear friend the happiness she has found in the arms of another woman.” Sooraya replied with more neutral tones that did little to hide the joy behind her veiled, smiling face. “Plus, if I am to understand you Americans and your slang correctly, that Jennifer is quite the catch.”

“Yeah she is.”

“I know right.” Clarice agreed. “Faith is barely a year old and she already has her life together more than mine’s ever been.”

“Everyone travels at their own pace Clarice.” Sooraya advised her friend. “Do not expect to fall backwards into a happy relationship just because our new friend has been so fortunate.”

“Things take work.”

“Steve is so totally worth that work.” Clarice readily agreed with what her friends were telling her. She knew she wouldn’t have an easy road to travel with the man she had fallen for. Though she knew the journey would be worth every step.

A rustling in the nearby bushes drew the girls’ attention. Clarice and Sooraya were immediately on guard as the empty space between them grew more silent and void. As if something or someone had almost been there a moment before only to fade out of existence entirely at the first sign of danger.

“Damn but that took longer than last time.” A familiar voice came for just behind the bushes.

“Faith?” Clarice shouted in surprise as it became obvious who had interrupted them. “What are you doing out here by yourself?”

“Pinkie Pie?” Faith asked as she poked her head out of the brush. “Desert Rose! Hey what are your ladies up to?”

“Walking through the grounds while giving thanks and praise for the good things in our lives.” Sooraya said as she folded her hands together once more. “Would you like to come and join us Faith?”

“That sounds awesome, but I can’t.” Faith said as she glanced back over her shoulder to the bushes still concealing most of her body. “I got this thing that just came up. Gotta go take care of it before it becomes someone else’s problem. I’ll totally catch up with you gals next time though. We need to celebrate your mom shacking up with us and your new beau taking a bite out of that bubblegum ass.”

“You are so crude Faith!” Clarice said with mildly sarcastic indignation as Sooraya let out an easy laugh. “I love it though. Alright we’ll catch up with you later.” With warm smiles and easy waves both Sooraya and Clarice began to head down the path away from Faith and the bush she kept glancing towards. It was several minutes before Clarice turned to Sooraya with a worried frown. “Where did Alisa go?”

“Too fucking close.” Faith whispered as she watched her friends vanish into the forest. Once her classmates were out of sight Faith spun and dove back into the undergrowth. Her prey was just starting to stir before she slipped her claws out and through his scruffy neck, severing voice box and spinal column for the time being. “You really shouldn’t have come back here bitch.”

Faith reached down to pick up the body only to freeze as she caught a mildly familiar scent. The brunette looked up into the empty space she knew the smell was coming from. She recognized the fragrance that lingered in many of the common rooms around the manor and soaked one seemingly empty student dorm nestled in the back of their hall.

“I know you’re there.” Faith whispered. “I don’t know what your deal is with all the teachers and I honestly don’t need to get involved in your shit so long as you stay out of mine. I’m taking care of this okay? I don’t need you or anyone else running off to my old man or the mind walker. I don’t need a lecture about mercy and compassion for some piece of…” She paused as if she heard an almost desperate plea coming from the empty space before her.

“What’s that?” Faith asked as the silent voice filled her with new questions. “You want him to pay for what he’s done.” A wicked smile crept its way across Faith’s face as she looked to the source of the soft, feminine scent. “Okay then Casper. You’re in for whatever you got the stomach for. You can be my lookout while I drag this filth to this place I got set aside.”

Another pause as Faith listened to words only she could hear. “Girl you are preaching to the choir. By the time I’m done old Vic here won’t be a threat to anyone. Especially not my family.” Faith paused before laughing. “Of course that includes you Casper. Don’t be such a melodramatic little diva.”

**********

A groan escaped his lips as he fought his way back to consciousness. The smell of grime and cement filled his nose before he caught traces of rotting wood. Cold seeped into his flesh as the hard surface he was sprawled across made its presence known. The damp that pervaded his other senses was only made more unsettling as his eyes cracked open to reveal utter darkness. Perhaps the worst part was the singing.

Victor Creed lurched as he shot up for a single instant. Before he could even climb to a kneeling position the shackles around his hands and feet drew his limbs back to the hard cement floor. His heightened eyesight could scarcely make out the darkened and abandoned warehouse he found himself trapped within. The ever present noise only served to anger the beast-man further.

I've got no strings
To hold me down
To make me fret
Or make me frown
I had strings
But now I'm free
There are no strings on me


The recording skipped for a moment before resetting and the grating childish voice began anew.

I've got no strings
To hold me down
To make me fret
Or make me frown
I had strings
But now I'm free
There are no strings on me


“Who the hell are you!” Sabertooth roared into the dark. “Let me go and I’ll make it quick.”

I've got no strings
So I have fun
I'm not tied up to anyone
They've got strings
But you can see
There are no strings on me


A projector came on and one entire wall of the warehouse was filled with shifting patterns that the beast-man almost recognized. Traces of his time in the Weapon X program came rushing back and for an instant the mass murderer knew fear.

“I’ll kill you for this!” He roared. As the music played on and the hypnotic images sped up. “Show yourself!”

I've got no strings
To hold me down
To make me fret
Or make me frown


Faith sang as she came into his view. He knew he should have formed a better plan to take out Logan’s brat. The mess of this latest stalking attempt drove that point home. He lunged only to find the chains being drawn tighter, pulling him down to his back, spreading arms and legs in all directions. Faith continued to sing as she loomed over his now prone form.

I had strings
But now I'm free
There are no strings on me


“No!” Sabertooth shouted as the shifting images spread from the far wall to cover the entire ceiling of the warehouse. “No!”

“You should have left while you had the chance bitch.” Faith purred as she strapped a contraption around his neck and over his face. Sabertooth cringed as his eyelids were forced open against his will. “The others would have just gave you a whoopin’ and sent you on your way. Me? I’m not that forgiving. Especially when it comes to animals that come sniffing around what’s mine!”

The beast-man howled in helpless fury as the brunette left his limited view. He knew what was coming. He knew just how much this process would take from him.

I've got no strings
So I have fun
I'm not tied up to anyone
They've got strings
But you can see
There are no strings on me


**********

“Hank I just had an idea for a new, oh…” Forge froze as he walked into the lab and found someone other than the blue furred scientist already at work. “Faith?”

“Hey Forge.” Faith greeted the tall Cheyenne man with a smile as she looked up from the tools spread on the work bench before her. “Hope you and Big Blue don’t mind me borrowing some spare parts. Needed to make a few of these gizmos in case a rainy day turns into a total clusterfuck.”

As she poke Faith set the tools in her hands aside to hold up a small metal disc. Forge could only curiously glance at the object before they were joined by another member of the school faculty.

“I say, Forge, have you seen…” Hank McCoy came into the room only to halt the moment as he saw the brunette. “Oh, hello Faith. What brings you to the lab today?”

“It appears to be some kind of rainy day project.” Forge said as he looked more closely at the disc. “Is that a shock emitter in the center there?”

“Guess so.” Faith said as she slipped the disc into a bag filled with a half dozen identical devices. “Never learned the science behind any of my tools. The lessons just focused on field maintenance and salvage.”

“Lessons…” Hank said as he and Forge shared a concerned look. “This isn’t something you picked up from the Avengers is it?”

“Not even close.” Faith admitted before growing more tense. “It ain’t a lethal weapon if that’s what you guys are askin’. Fuck even I’m not dumb enough to try making homemade splinter bombs or something crazy like that.”

“Alright Faith.” Hank said as he sensed the agitation coming from the girl. “We trust you. If you need to make more or ever need help refining the process the lab is always open to you.”

“Thanks.” Faith muttered as she left the lab. Hank and Forge watched her go only to look to each other once more. They hoped that she wasn’t in over her head with whatever caused her to create the small devices.

**********

Sabertooth raced through the dark woods. It had taken him a full week to escape the warehouse where the dyke had left him chained to the floor, another two weeks to get his head on straight and plan his next move, a week to get things into position, and all of five seconds for his plans to go up in flames.

The beast-man huffed as he crouched behind a fallen tree trunk. He knew he was being hunted. He hated the feeling. It made him feel less like the all powerful stalker her was and more like the helpless and pathetic prey that filled the world. He would make her suffer for forcing him to feel this way. He would make them all suffer. But first he had to escape.

The beast-man sniffed the air, searching for threats. There was nothing. He peeked out from behind his hiding place to see if his pursuer was truly gone. A gloved hand whipped out of the darkness and slapped a metal disc on his forehead. Sabertooth yowled in agony as his nervous system was inundated with electricity. He convulsed, almost biting through his own tongue, before falling to the ground in a heap.

“Nice work partner.” Faith said as she approached the fallen sociopath. “I didn’t even smell you that time. Your powers must be getting better after practicing with me.”

There was a stillness in the air as Faith listened for a reply she wasn’t sure would come. When it did she smiled all the more brightly. “Nah girl. We ain’t done with him. I figure give him about a month locked up in the next place I scoped out and then let his dumb ass think he escaped on his own again. Once he’s all compliant then we can take him out for good.”

Faith began to hum as she dragged Sabertooth towards his next prison. She wondered if the melody broke through the neural inhibitor she had built. Even if it didn’t the added tune couldn’t hurt the process. The brute would soon find out just how much worse she could make things for him. She sang the closing line with pride.

There are no strings on me.

**********

Faith let out an aggravated sigh as she slipped through the darkened halls of the Xavier Institute. She was just getting back from the fifth abandoned warehouse she had stashed Sabertooth in. The murderer was becoming more and more of an annoyance as he escaped confinement only to run right back to the school grounds. Faith was beginning to doubt her plan to break him of his obsession with her father. The brute just didn’t seem to learn from his mistakes.

The brunette huffed as she made her way to her dorm room. She was mildly relieved she had more than enough privacy to deal with the beast-man on her terms. The others had been giving her more than enough space after her rampage and the subsequent reveal of her past life as a “The Slayer.” Their wariness of her left countless hours open to run interference for Sabertooth’s increasing attacks on the school. So far no one had clued in on the fact that they were all under constant jeopardy. Well almost no one.

“Anyone catch on Casper?” Faith asked the empty air beside her bedroom door. A beat passed before the most befuddled look crossed the brunette’s face. “What do you mean I’ve got company. I don’t…” She cut her protest short as the most important scent in her world tickled her nose and wrapped itself around her heart.

Faith brushed passed the empty space in the hallway and threw her bedroom door wide open. The sight awaiting her was more than she had ever expected.

“Hi Honey.” Jennifer said with a pleased little smirk as she sat in the middle of Faith’s bed. The petite blonde was wearing a large red bow over her breasts and nothing else. Aroused brown eyes traced their way up and down Jennifer’s long toned legs as they lay folded and waiting to be spread. Her gaze trailed up her girl’s firm abs and inviting clavicle before resting on the neck that was bare and inviting. She finally met the gaze of the woman who owned her heart. Hazel orbs locked with brown and for a moment Faith was lost.

“Babe?” Faith whispered in a mix of delight and surprise. “What are you doing here?”

“Well what kind of girlfriend would I be if I forgot such a special day?” Jennifer asked coyly as she sat up and revealed just a little more of her nude form to her girl.

“Whu… what, what day is it?” Faith asked a she racked her brain to come up with what she had missed.

“Sigh.” Jennifer moaned as she stood up from the bed and gave Faith a much more enticing view of her toned, athletic body. “Of course you’d go and forget your own birthday silly.”

“Birthday?” Faith asked her eyes widened in shock.

“Yup.” Jennifer said as she came up and wrapped her arms around Faith’s waist. “Today is exactly three hundred and sixty four days since the day you came into my life.” She paused as her eye caught one of the clocks set in the corner of the room. The soft red twelve, zero and five drew an amused sigh from the blonde lawyer. “Well it was three hundred and sixty four about five minutes ago. Happy birthday Honey.”

Faith was all too easily drawn into Jennifer’s lips as the petite blonde found the best way to celebrate the year they had been together. A chilling thought froze Faith before she could fully lose herself in her girl. She pulled away, drawing an annoyed huff from Jennifer.

“Babe I am so sorry.” Faith said as a horrified look filled her eyes.

“Less apologizing more kissing.” Jennifer ordered.

“But, I forgot our anniversary.” Faith said only to draw an amused laugh from the blonde still wrapping herself around her body.

“No, honey. You forgot your birthday.” Jennifer assured her girl. “I’m not counting “want, take, have” night as our first date. As much fun as it was you still have two weeks until the anniversary of our first proper date to come up with something special.”

“Two weeks huh?” Faith whispered as she leaned back into Jennifer’s embrace. “Kinda short notice. What ever shall I do?”

“I have faith in you Honey.” Jennifer replied with a soft chuckle. “After all you’re the one who thought to celebrate my last birthday by taking us to that fancy hotel just so we’d have a nice relaxing place for you to go down on me for eight hours straight. I’m sure I’ll enjoy whatever you decide to have us do.”

“And what am I gonna have us do tonight?” Faith purred in a far more seductive tone.

“Oh no.” Jennifer purred back. “This is your birthday Honey. Tonight is all about what I’m gonna do for you.”

Faith’s bedroom door closed to the sound of the happy couple giggling in each other’s arms. A soft chuckle escaped the empty space in the hall just outside. Before the eager couple could get any further underway the intangible presence made herself scarce.

**********

“Keep up on your left side Babe!” Faith called out as she and her girl circled each other in the heart of the danger room. Jennifer went in for another attack that was easily blocked by her girl. “That’s better, but you still need to take the kid gloves off.”

“Kinda hard going all out when I love you so damn much, Honey.” Jennifer quipped back as she readied another strike. Faith only smirked as she blocked yet again.

“I love you too Babe.” The brunette admitted with a warm smile and a twinkle in her eye. The cheery expression held up even through her next statement. “But you still gotta work your lazy ass if you want to get stronger.”

“You cheeky little minx.” Jennifer snapped as she went on the offensive yet again. This time she actually got past Faith’s defenses and managed to pin the girl.

“Your cheeky minx Babe.” Faith promised as she looked up at the sweaty blonde straddling her. Jennifer couldn’t help but capture those pouty lips with her own.

“No fucking in the Danger Room!” Kitty shouted over the intercom. Both women looked up to the massive see through control room overhead to find several of Faith’s classmates watching them with mixed expressions of amusement, panic and more than a little discomfort at the thought of how Faith might get back at them for interrupting her fun.

“Mind your own business Alleycat!” Faith shouted at the petite brunette in the control room as her girl climbed back up to her feet with Faith still in her arms for the ride. “Some people just don’t know when to mind their own business.” Faith muttered.

“They’re just teasing you Honey.” Jennifer said as she leaned in and nuzzled the side of Faith’s head. “It means you’re their friend.”

“I’m your friend first.” Faith muttered to herself before catching how needy her pouting might have come across.

“You’re more than my friend Faith.” Jennifer assured her girl she was holding bridal style before leaning in for a kiss. “You are my whole damn world.” Though the tender clash of lips lasted for far longer than the one on the floor had, it didn’t do as much to ease Faith’s mood as it too was cut short by a rude interruption.

“I said no fucking in the Danger Room!” Kitty shouted as she and the other students came in from the door across the main training space.

“Would you mind your own fucking business for once!” Faith shouted as Jennifer politely greeted Clarice and Sooraya.

“Hey ladies. How did the party in Latveria go?” The lawyer asked as she set her girl down.

“It went fine until someone ruined the royal kitchens.” Clarice said while casting a glare Jamie’s way.

“I still maintain that the royal chef started it.” Jamie told the lawyer as he, Alex and Bobby came up. “What are you doing sparing anyway? Doesn’t going into smash mode mean you can skip all that?”

“For my cousin yeah.” Jennifer told the now confused boys. “He gets way stronger when he changes into the other guy. Like infinitely stronger considering how much of a push over her is. I get exponentially stronger.”

“So your strength has limits then?” Kitty asked with renewed interest.

“Yeah, kind of.” Jennifer went on. “The stronger I am as me the stronger I am in green giant mode. So working out like this helps a lot. Plus Faith knows like all of the martial arts. Literally all of them. I learn all kinds of stuff from her that no one ever prepares for when they pick a fight with a giant green rage monster.”

“My girl’s best power is the fact that she keeps her mind sharp after she changes.” Faith told the other students. “Being Hulk strong makes you tough to handle. Bein’ that strong and as whip smart as my girl is makes her an unstoppable killing machine.”

“Now you’re just making me blush.” Jennifer said a Faith pulled her closer.

“Come on Babe.” Faith told her girl. “Let’s let the guys take the room while you and I head to the lockers and see how many times you can bench press me.”

“You are so bad.” Jennifer giggled as Faith dragged her out of the Danger Room. As Clarice and Sooraya burst into laughter it was all the other classmates could do to keep from staring in bewilderment at the happily retreating couple.

**********

“No, things appear to be going wonderfully in Latveria.” Sooraya said as she sat in one of the large parlor rooms that served as an informal classroom during the day. “I don’t know why you didn’t come with us to the party?” There was a pause as the Afghani girl listened for a response. “She seriously got in that much trouble while we were all at the celebration? Oh poor Faith.”

“Sooraya?” Mirah asked as she poked her head in the room. “Dear, who are you talking to?”

“Someone I hope you will meet one day soon Mother.” The young woman replied with a smile before slipping into Farsi. “Did you need me for something?”

Mirah smiled as she answered in the same language. “I just wanted to speak with you about what you saw a few weeks ago. The Professor and I.”

“Mother please.” Sooraya protested as she fought off the urge to cringe. “I do not need to know the details.”

“Sooraya I did not come to this country to live with you only to watch as our relationship falls apart due to who I choose to associate with.” Mirah said in a more stern voice. “If you have a problem with my relationship with the Professor…”

“I do not have a problem with your relationship Mother!” Sooraya all but shouted in Farsi. “For Allah’s sake I want you to be happy! If being with Professor Xavier makes you happy and he treats you with respect then I have no objections.”

“But why have you been so distant these last few weeks?” Mirah asked as she fell into the seat beside her daughter.

“I walked in on the two of you!” Sooraya shot back. “Half naked! Riding him and his chair around your room like a god damned rodeo show!” The last few words came out in English much to her and her mother’s chagrin.

“Language young lady!” Mirah chastised her daughter in English as she realized how traumatic the event must have been. “Rodeo Show?”

“There isn’t a proper Farsi word for that euphemism.” Sooraya admitted as they both slipped back into the Middle Eastern dialect. “It’s something Faith and Jamie have said on multiple occasions. It seemed appropriate given the context.”

“That boy is far too inappropriate.” Mirah said in a more disapproving tone. “I’d tell you to limit time spent with him but you already do that far more than your other classmates.”

“He and I have a perfectly respectable work relationship.” Sooraya went on. “I don’t care for anything further.”

“Good.” Mirah agreed before she noticed her daughter’s eyes were crinkled at the corners of the opening in her veil. “Sooraya are you smiling? Whatever for?”

“I can’t help but notice that you have no problem with my continued friendship with Faith.” Sooraya said with evident cheer in her voice.

“Well that is completely different.” Mirah dismissed the notion of disapproving of the young brunette out of hand. “You could do worse than being a little bit more like that brash friend of yours. She is quite charming for an American girl.”

“Well she’s Canadian so…” Sooraya chimed in.

“She is driven to succeed.” Mirah went on. “She doesn’t just sit back and expect the world to hand things to her. From my limited time spent with the girl she has proven to be wise and resourceful beyond her years.”

“Months.” Sooraya corrected.

“All the better then.” Mirah said. “On an arrogant and lazy American boy like that Madrox the things she says would be far too crude. Coming from a young woman who has had to fight and claw her way out of Gehenna itself such language is more than acceptable. If someone threatens what she cares about she stops them without hesitation. If she sees something she wants, or someone for that matter, she goes after the prize. She doesn’t let fear hold her back. If anything I wish I was more like your bold friend.”

“If throwing yourself at a romantic conquest counts you and Faith are far more alike than either of you now.” Sooraya smirked as she taunted her mother’s taste in men. “It takes a bold and brash woman to tame such a mighty psychic as the great and powerful Charles Xavier.”

“The Professor is a very considerate and kind man considering how overwhelming his powers are.” Mirah said as a smile grew on her face. “In the short time I have spent with him he has never once failed to ask for consent in our every interaction. Never once exerted any kind of control over me. After spending the last few years of my life as a kitchen bound slave I can’t tell you how wonderful it is to be asked for my opinion and wisdom. Especially by a man of such vast intellect and frightening power as the Professor.”

“Mother if you are a permanent guest in his home, spending several hours a day in his company and having a sexual relationship with the man you are more than allowed to use his first name.” Sooraya said after noticing her mother had yet to refer to Xavier by his actual name.

“I suppose I should, it’s just.” Mirah failed to hide a blush as she thought of using the man’s name in public. “The last time I used his given name we were in a compromising position.”

“Stop!” Sooraya halted her mother’s innuendo before it could give her nightmares. “Please mother. Please, don’t tell me about what you and my teacher do in private. I have to look the man in the eye every day for ethics class.”

“Of course Sooraya.” Mirah said before a sly smile emerged. “Speaking of private time spent together Charles and I are having dinner in his study this evening. We were both hoping that you could join us.”

“Dinner?” Sooraya asked as the request caught her by surprise. “Just the three of us?”

Mirah smirked again before elaborating for her daughter. “I believe Charles wanted to assure you that he was “going to do right by her mother” or some such nonsense notion these Americans have learned from their spaghetti western and their boy bands.”

Sooraya could only roll her eyes at the dreadful American accent her mother put on as she ended their conversation in English. The two Afghani women laughed before standing up and hugging. Sooraya took her mother’s hand and walked with her out of the parlor.

“Thought those fucking rag heads would never leave.” Sabertooth muttered to himself as he slipped out of the oversized antique wardrobe that stood beside the window he had used to enter the manor. “Now to find Logan’s brat and end this once and for all.”

As he walked further into the room he caught a familiar scent. He sucked in the smell of his other prey with a smirk before turning to look in the one corner of the room where the scent was strongest.

“I know you’re here you little bitch.” The beast-man said as he stalked towards the source of the scent. “Logan and that psycho can’t protect you forever. No matter who you get help from no one can stop me.”

“I’d like to test that theory.” A cold, confident voice said in an English accent.

Sabertooth’s head shot around to the doorway where he saw an unimposing figure standing. The newcomer sported bright red skin, glasses, a confident smirk and far too much tweed.

“And just who the hell do you think you are?” Sabertooth smirked as the tiny yellow gem in the red man’s forehead began to glow. Before the vicious animal could react further a beam of searing light shot forth from the gemlike portal in Giles’ forehead. The energy hit Sabertooth right between the eyes and bore a hole straight through skin and bone. The beast-man let out a groan as his brain liquefied. His body fell to the floor of the parlor.

“Way to go G-man.” Faith said as she came in and clapped the robot on the shoulder. “I knew you coming by to help the tech nerds update Cerebro would pay off.”

“Yes, well, anything to help our odd little family.” Giles said with a flustered tone as he nodded to the brunette. Faith simply smirked and threw her arms around his shoulders. The mechanical Englishman was shocked for a moment before her returned the hug. A moment later they were done and Giles cast his gaze back to the fallen brute. “Shall I assist you with that cretin?”

“Nah big guy, I got this.” Faith said as she walked up to Sabertooth’s limp body and placed a small disc on his forehead. “Do me a favor though, keep the others distracted while I move this piece of shit?”

“Of course dear girl.” Giles promised with a bow to Faith.

**********

“Gaahhh!” Sabertooth screamed as he awoke. His head and entire body was strapped to a table in another warehouse while that horrible song blared out from the speakers hidden around the room.

“Finally!” Faith shouted in annoyance as she stepped into the edge of Sabertooth’s view. “I took the neural inhibitor off over an hour ago! What the hell bitch? You think I’ve got nothing better to do with my evening than watch you snore?”

“No! No not again! Let me go damn you!” Sabertooth demanded.

“Now you know that isn’t how we talk to people bitch.” Faith said in a cold voice.

“I’m sorry!” Sabertooth shouted in fear before he could stop himself. “Please! Please let me go.”

“If only it was that simple bitch.” Faith said as she walked over to a projector set on top of a large contraption. “How many times have I captured you bitch?” Faith asked as the projector put an image of shifting lines and shapes on the far wall. “How many times have I let you escape? And yet here you are, coming back for more. Someone isn’t learning their lesson bitch. Someone is taking my good will and pissing it away. I don’t have to set these rooms up so that you can get free after a while bitch. I don’t have to give a bitch like you more chances to put their life back together. But I do it anyway bitch. Why? Because I’m a good person bitch.”

She pulled two levers on the contraption under the projector. Sabertooth watched as a large curved blade descended from the ceiling. The flat side of the blade lined up with the hypnotic image in a way that Sabertooth could not resist. His eyes were glued to the blade and its shifting patterns as it began to swing back and forth. Slowly back and forth, dipping lower and lower with each swing. The shifting images keeping pace with the blade as the contraption cradling the projector rocked back and forth in time with the fatal metronome.

“I’m on a classic lit kick.” Faith said as Sabertooth tried to struggle against his restraints. “Is it just me or is old Edgar Allan Poe one sick son of a bitch?”

Sabertooth let out one desperate yowl as he tried and failed to snap is restraints. Faith saw this and walked up to his table. Without batting an eye she shoved a small syringe in the side of the beast-man’s neck. His frantic struggles ceased immediately.

“None of that now bitch. You’re gonna sit there and think about what you’ve done. With your healing factor those tranquilizers should only last until that blade in half way to you spinal column. I know you’ll break out after that. I don’t care. You and I both know you’re not smart enough to learn the lesson here. So let me make it nice and clear for ya bitch. The next time you come after me and mine will be the last time.”

Faith stood up from her prone victim and waked out of the warehouse. Music blared as the hypnotic blade sank lower and lower with each pass. All Victor Creed could do was sob as his eyes tracked the pendulum blade.

**********

“Damn it Jamie I told you not to try jumping the basketball court in the General Lee!” Alex spat out in pure annoyance as he, Bobby and three of Jamie’s dupes snuck through the workshop attached to the school garage. “Now we have to retract the hangar doors to get the dune buggy off the damn hoop.”

“This still seems like a terrible idea.” Bobby said as he followed the arguing boys to the hidden service elevator that allowed large engine parts to be discreetly moved to the hangar level below ground.

“I still say that basketball hoop came out of no where.” Jamie said with firm conviction that fooled no one.

“Try telling that to Logan once he sees the mess you made.” Alex grumbled as they stood before the elevator door. Before Alex could reach the button the doors beeped and slid open. “Crap.”

“Whoa, what the hell are you three dipshits doin’ sneakin’ up on me?” Faith demanded answers as she stood in the now open elevator. Alex began to mumble the first lie that came to mind as Jamie’s dupes snickered around him.

Meanwhile Bobby was Eyeing the large rectangular object at the brunette’s feet. “Holy crap! Is that a giant metal coffin?”

“Never you mind what it is!” Faith snapped at the youngest of the three boys. She then bent down to lift the massive box up with the hand truck it was resting on. With the metal crate sitting at a sixty degree angle from the ground Faith cast her eyes over the three boys before letting out one low threat. “You dipshits didn’t see anything.”

Alex, Bobby and Jamie had the presence of mind to nod along as Faith turned and rolled the metal box out of the elevator. Something within jangled as Faith pushed the hand truck out of the workshop and onto the uneven pathway outside. With the intimidating brunette gone the three boys looked to each other with varying looks of shock and confusion.

“So we’re just going to pretend we didn’t see anything right?” Jamie asked, showing surprising restraint and foresight.

“I don’t know about your dumb ass but I have yet to see Faith today.” Alex said in a calm and measured tone. “She must be off training or something equally plausibly deniable.”

“What the fuck is this?” They heard Logan roar from what had to be the large curved stairs that ran off the manor’s back porch and overlooked the basketball court. “Jamie! Alex!”

“We are so boned.” Bobby said as he watched Alex and Jamie’s dupes dive into the elevator.

**********

“I’m telling you Hank. Those two dingbats are gonna wreck this entire school.” Logan complained to the blue furred science teacher as the students worked on different individual projects. “I walk out back and the first thing I see is that damned dune buggy skewered on one of the basketball hoops.”

“Yes, Logan.” Hank muttered as he looked over the quietly working students. “I’m sure Mr. Madrox and Mr. Summers will learn to be less foolhardy after your advanced Danger Room sessions.”

“If they survive that is.” Faith muttered from her seat in the back row.

“Boys are so fragile.” Clarice added as all the girls in the class began to laugh. Bobby just sat quietly, trying to be as inconspicuous as possible.

“Alright everyone that’s enough of that.” Hank said as he closed the book he had been leafing through while Logan vented. “It’s time we break for lunch and then Logan has you all for wilderness survival or some such. Hand in the outlines you have so far and we’ll pick up on your projects tomorrow.”

The girls all stood and quickly fell in line at Hank’s desk to hand in the papers they had been working on diligently. As Bobby stood to join the back of the line Faith brushed past him. The shorter boy caught the brunette’s amused smirk and wink as she passed, walking to the front of the class to slap her own paper down on Hank’s desk.

Bobby was the last as he made his way to the front. He handed in his own paper only to blink as he saw the names on the top two papers in the pile. Atop Faith’s hastily drawn outline was much more refined and well written project synopsis. He managed a glance at the name only to quirk his head at an odd angle in confusion.

“Who’s Cipher?” Bobby asked as Hank took his outline and shuffled the papers into a folder. Hank and Logan shared a knowing look while Faith, Sooraya and Clarice just laughed from the hall outside the classroom.

“I’m sure you’ll find out in due time Mr. Drake.” Hank said as he ushered the boy out of the room. Bobby could only wonder what was going on as he followed his classmates towards the dining hall.

**********

“G-man, you got a read on where the currents will take it if I drop a five hundred pound metal box into the ocean at these coordinates?” Faith asked as she set the Blackbird to hover a dozen yards over the Atlantic Ocean.

“Given your current location there is a thirty percent chance that cretin will settle on the continental shelf, a sixty percent chance of falling to the continental slope and a ten percent chance he’ll end up on the Abyssal Plain.” Giles replied over the comm. channel Faith had established with Avengers Tower once the Blackbird reached international waters. “For anyone but you, your father and this animal there would be a ninety nine point nine percent likelihood of death.”

“Repeating of course.” Natasha quipped.

“Of course.” Giles chuckled. “I’d rate that cretin’s odds of survival somewhere in the low teens.”

“I know.” Faith muttered to herself. She unbuckled the harness holding her in the pilot’s seat and began the short walk back to the small hold of the stealth jet. “I can live with those odds, even if he can’t.”

“He has it coming Faith.” Natasha said over the comm. “After what he’s done…”

“I know!” Faith snapped before taking a deep breath. “I know. He can’t be allowed to run free. Especially if he keeps making bee lines for me and mine. My girl shouldn’t have to fight his ugly mug again just because she loves me.”

“We’ll be here if you need anything Faith.” Natasha said as the young brunette let the silence drag on for a moment too long. “Shield has already sanctioned terminating the threat. Even when Hydra was running the show before the fall they didn’t issue cart blanche execution orders for just anyone. If things go sideways at your school because of this I can probably talk your way into a job as an agent. The new director may seem like a pompous, by the book, jackass, but he lets the teams that do good work and save lives get away with almost anything.”

“I don’t want to be a Shield agent.” Faith whispered just loud enough for the receiver to pick up. “I hardly get to see my girl as is. No, if I get kicked out for this I’ll get a GED and move in with her. I’ll figure something out.”

“Wanda and Carol would both love for you to live with us.” Giles assured the troubled girl.

“Goddess I don’t want them to know about this.” Faith moaned as a single tear slipped down her cheek.

“As you wish dear girl.” Giles said before the radio went silent.

Faith took a moment. She fought off the tears that threatened to undo her resolve. After far too much time had passed the young woman straightened her shoulders and fixed the cockpit door with a firm glare. “Okay enough crying over vicious killers. You got a job to do.” She told herself as she cast aside the last of her misgivings. She opened the hatch and walked into the rear hold of the blackbird.

Music blared out, filling the enclosed space as a low whimpering came from the large metal box sitting by the rear cargo hatch of the plane. Faith strode towards the box joining her voice to the song.

I've got no strings
To hold me down
To make me fret
Or make me frown
I had strings
But now I'm free
There are no strings on me


“Please.” Sabertooth whimpered from within the box. He didn’t even try to fight the chains and shackles that bound his entire body. Light reflected off the dozen padlocks lining the lid.

“You had plenty of chances bitch.” Faith said in a measured, cold voice. “It didn’t have to be this way. You could have just walked away, never come back to the school. I would have let you go. Let Shield or someone else handle you.”

She stopped, standing up straight, glancing around the room. Her eyes came to rest on one vacant corner. With a sigh she went on with what she had to say. “But you made your choice. You could have done anything with your power. Instead you chose to stalk and violate anyone who looked at you funny. Now you’re nothing. You’re just a big, selfish, worthless, waste.”

The music blared on as Faith opened the rear hatch of the plane. The whimpers continued as the metal coffin slid down the ramp. As it came to teeter on the edge Faith held her breath. She watched as the box tipped then fell. The terrified scream was only silenced by the splash of the coffin hitting the surface of the ocean. Faith listened as the wind howled. The box vanished into the depths. Deeper and deeper. In her heart Faith knew that Victor Creed would never again darken her doorstep.

“Goddess.” Faith whispered as she closed the hatch and shut off the incessant music. “Fucking hell.” She whispered as she slumped against the wall of the plane’s hold. As she began to shake her head came to rest in her hands. A long tense moment passed before Faith looked up in the hopes of finding guidance and reassurance.

“Did I do the right thing Alisa?” Faith asked.

“Yes.” A soft voice came from right next to Faith. The brunette looked up to see one of her most shy classmates materialize at her side. “He was a monster Faith.” The ebony girl with long dark braids said. “After what he did to my family. To me… I just… Thank you Faith.”

And just like that Faith knew she could weather the storm waiting for them back at the school. She had crossed countless lines in dealing with Sabertooth. Lines she never imagined herself violating, but the calming presence of the girl who had perhaps suffered most at the hands of the beast-man cast Faith’s doubts aside. “Ain’t no thang girl.” Faith replied with a smirk as she pulled the normally intangible girl into a hug. “What are friends for?”

Alisa and Faith held each other for a long moment. The ebony girl knew what she had all but begged her friend to do. She knew the girl would face an emotional toll for taking a life after escaping her old masters. She knew Faith would come to regret using the conditioning and manipulation techniques that had been used on her for so long. A part of the ebony girl regretted forcing the issue. Another part was overjoyed that she would no longer be hunted by the monster that plagued her earliest nightmares.

“Why don’t you strap yourself in a seat?” Alisa said as she offered Faith a hand. “I’ll fly us home.”

“Okay” Faith agreed as she let herself be guided back to the cockpit. “Thanks for all this. I couldn’t have done it without you Alisa.”

“And I couldn’t go on with my life while he was out there hunting me.” Alisa replied with a smile. “You’ve saved me Faith. More than you’ll ever know.” With renewed hope both young women slipped into the two front most seats in the Blackbird cockpit. Alisa took the plane out of automatic hover mode and turned back towards the mainland. They had a home to return to.

**********

“She’s coming in!” Nightcrawler called in over the comm. while the rest of the X-Men gathered in the hangar. They watched as the overhead doors slid open and the large black stealth jet descended into its usual parking spot. The front gangplank lowered to reveal one young brunette standing at the top of the steps.

“Sup y’all!” Faith called out to the stunned audience.

“What the hell have you done?” Logan shouted at his daughter.

“What you should have done years ago!” Faith shot back without missing a beat. “That mass murdering psycho was never going to stop! So I stopped him. Me! Now we won’t ever have to look over our shoulders again.”

“What did you do to Sabertooth?” Xavier asked as he leaned back in his wheelchair.

“I took old Vic on a trip down memory lane.” Faith said as she pulled a large binder stuffed full of papers out from behind her back. She slapped the heavy dossier against Logan’s chest and let him catch it. “Every nightmare Hydra did to me and Weapon X did to the two of you I gave back to him twice over.”

“What?” Logan gasped as he looked from the heavy binder to his daughter. “How, how could you?”

“He had it coming.” A new voice said as a tall slender ebony figure appeared at the top of the Blackbird’s boarding ramp. “After what he did…”

“Woah!” Jamie said as his eyes locked on the ebony girl with long jet black braids striding down the stairs to stand at Faith’s side. “Who’s the new girl?”

“Your imaginary friend.” Clarice muttered.

“Alisa?” Ororo asked as she walked up to the girl. “This is the first time you’ve fully shown yourself. Not even in our private sessions.”

“Yes Ms. Tager.” Hank added as he walked up beside Ororo. “What finally coaxed you into this revelation?”

“I’m finally safe now.” Alisa said as she stood at Faith’s side. “The monster that butchered my family is gone and I have Faith to thank for all of it.”

“So are we not getting introduced to the new girl?” Jamie asked only to get a slap from Alex.

“Dude shut up for a minute.” The muscular blond teen told the lanky brunette.

“I got it!” Bobby called out as he looked around the room. “She’s Cipher. Right? Her powers are invisibility of something. She’s the one Sooraya and Clarice were always talking to when they were alone.”

“Close.” Alisa said as she purposefully faded out of and into existence before their very eyes. “I can go intangible and invisible and I get a kind of flight so long as I’m out of phase. I can also block myself off from most psychics.”

“Oh so you’re a much cooler version of Kitty.” Jamie said only to receive a slap upside the head from the angry young girl standing behind him.

“She can’t phase other people or things like I can!” Kitty demanded as she glared at the boy. “I can get someone as strong as Piotr in and out of any room or trap. The best she can do is pop in then pop out and tell us what she saw.”

“Well yeah but Pete can just punch his way through whatever walls he wants after she tells him what’s inside, oww.” Jamie countered only to be lightly slapped by Piotr who was desperately trying to get the boy to stop pushing Kitty’s buttons.

“This still doesn’t explain why you did all of this.” Logan said without taking his eyes off Faith. “I could have handled Creed. He only ever came after me.”

“Um, Logan.” Hank said as he thumbed through the large file Faith had slapped against her father’s chest. “There were others.”

“What?” Logan asked as the wind left his sails.

“Did you ever even bother to listen to his trash talk?” Faith asked as Hank showed Logan dozens of crime scene photos, each one more gruesome than the last. “Did it ever occur to you that you’re not the only victim that animal went after? What he was doing for months in between his attacks on you? Huh?”

“Victor Creed murdered my entire family right before my eyes.” Alisa said in a cold voice. “Then he used his sense of smell to follow me wherever I went. I was helpless as he butchered anyone unfortunate enough to meet me. My best option was to hide myself beside one of his other surviving victims.”

“That’s why you came to this school.” Xavier said as he realized just what had motivated the formerly shy girl to come to him.

“I had hoped that people with powers might survive Sabertooth’s wrath a bit longer than all the other people I got killed.” Alisa said.

“This file goes back decades.” Hank whispered as he went through the document. “Wait, what is this?”

“That is a copy of every evil deed ever committed by Victor Creed.” Faith said as the blue man looked back to her. “The stuff Shield knew about anyway.”

“You called Shield into this?” Logan cried out in shock.

“Black Widow felt like doing me a favor.” Faith shrugged off her father’s confounded look. “I’ve got other friends besides all of you guys ya know.”

“There she goes name dropping the Avengers again.” Jamie complained with a bored moan. “We get it already. You know a few famous people with severe emotional problems. Good for you. Get over it already! Also hi new girl, I’m Jamie.”

“I’ve been at this school longer than most of you guys except Kitty you know.” Alisa told the lanky teen. “I already know all your names and dumb habits.”

“That probably won’t stop him from hitting on you.” Bobby muttered, drawing a knowing smile from Alisa.

“This is all beside the point!” Ororo said as she drew Faith’s attention. “Child you tortured a man. To destroy his very mind. After everything that had been done to you… How could you?”

“Okay everyone just settle down.” Faith snapped back. “First of all I kept it nice and simple. Of the five basic torture groups the only one I used regular like was Loud. I mean this one time I went off and set up this gizmo to try out Sharp but that was only the one time.”

“Five basic torture groups?” Hank gasped as he almost dropped the heavy file detailing Sabertooth’s atrocities.

“Do we even want to know the other three?” Ororo asked as she backed away from Faith.

“Blunt, hot and cold.” Faith listed off with her fingers, holding back a smirk as several of her teachers went pale at her casual words.

“You’re saying you captured and tortured Sabertooth a half dozen times over the last two years?” Logan asked as he looked at the young brunette as if he was seeing the girl for the first time.

“Nah.” Faith said with a dismissive wave. “It wasn’t a half dozen.”

“It was closer to a full dozen.” Alisa said as she and Faith shared a look.

“Ha, you wish girl.” Faith laughed off the stunned looks of all the other X-Men. “You weren’t even there for a third of his attacks. I caught him trying to sneak in here and skull fuck all y’all like twenty five times.”

“Sabertooth attacked my school twenty five times?” Xavier shouted. The mere thought of so many unnoticed close calls horrified the psychic.

“Oh it was at least twenty five.” Came a new voice from behind the group. The X-Men spun to see Jennifer strolling across the Blackbird Hangar. The petite blonde came right up to Faith and pulled the smug brunette into a familiar embrace. “Hi Honey.”

“Hey Babe.” Faith said as she gave her girl a peck on the cheek. “You just get in?”

“The drive up this time was a pain.” Jennifer complained. “Traffic everywhere and half way up I stopped to rescue a bunch of cute little critters form this burning animal shelter. My day was a chore, how was yours?”

“I killed Vic.” Faith admitted.

“He’s dead?” Jennifer asked as she spun to look around the room. “Really dead, not just decapitated and waiting for his head to grow back?”

“Oh my god, is everyone in on this but us?” Clarice asked as she looked between the two women.

“I don’t keep secrets from my girl.” Faith told them.

“This is great!” Jennifer said as she hugged her girl again. “I was so worried he’d try something smart one of the times I wasn’t here to stomp him into the ground for you.”

“I know I’m all delicate lookin’ but I can hold my own Babe.” Faith muttered as she breathed in Jennifer’s scent.

“I know that you goof!” Jennifer said as she pulled back to meet her girl’s eyes once more. “I still worry.”

“You knew this was happening Jen?” Logan protested. “What the hell?”

“You didn’t?” Jen asked as she looked to the man for the first time. “How did you not know? Faith said you were there with her the second time he showed up. Didn’t you smell him sneaking in here once every other week or so?”

“No!” Logan shouted in annoyance. “I caught a whiff here and there a few times but when I looked there was nothing!”

“Because I took care of it.” Faith said as she looked to all of the X-Men again. “You dingbats have no idea how many times I ran up on him while he was stalking you around our giant back yard! How many close calls and hostage situations I stopped before they even happened. I gave that piece of shit every chance to walk away. He escaped every one of the warehouses I left him in. And do you what he did as soon as he got free? He came right back here to kill all of us. Every. Fucking! Time!”

“He was a monster Logan.” Alisa said in a knowing voice. “He’d have killed each and every one of your students just to get to you. He’s done it to hundreds of others. Faith did the right thing.”

“Alisa!” Jennifer shouted as she noticed the girl at Faith’s other side. “You’re visible! In front of everyone! When did this happen?”

“A minute after I helped Faith deal with my family’s murderer. It was almost as much fun as watching you throw his broken carcass across the lake.” Alisa told the lawyer. “It’s good to see you again Jen.”

“Likewise.” Jennifer said as she went to hug the young woman before going back to her girlfriend. “We need to celebrate! I’m taking both of you shopping!” The X-Men watched in bewilderment as Jennifer took Faith and Alisa by the arms and led both girls out of the underground hangar. It was a long time before any of them broke the stunned silence hanging over the room.

“How did Faith’s girlfriend know about that girl before we did?” Alex asked.

“If she watched She-Hulk take down Sabertooth she may have decided that Jen can keep her safe.” Hank said as he picked up the file on Victor Creed once more. “Dear lord that man was insane.” He whispered as he looked through the crime scene photos again.

“I can’t believe this.” Logan muttered.

“This can’t be allowed to happen again.” Ororo muttered. “I have no desire to see young Faith destroy herself by taking such drastic actions on our behalf.”

“Oh like anyone here can stop her.” Alex laughed before caching himself. “Did I say that out loud?”

“Yup.” Clarice said as she and Sooraya turned and left the hangar.

“So we’re calling an audible on this then?” Alex asked.

“Forget that!” Jamie said as he Alex and Bobby began to walk out of the Hangar. “What we need to do is figure out if the new girl is DTF?”

“She’s not new you idiot.” Alex muttered as Bobby laughed. “She’s been here this whole time, and is probably on to your act already.”

“So you’re saying my old lines won’t work?” Jamie asked.

“Did they ever work?” Bobby quipped as the three boys exited the chamber.

“Logan.” Hank let out in a whisper as he closed the file on Victor Creed. “If this document if to be believed, the crimes that man has committed… Alisa was right. He was a monster.”

“Don’t you think I know that?” Logan snapped before reigning in his rage. “Faith still crossed a line.”

“As much as I agree with you Logan I can’t fault the girl for taking such drastic measures.” Xavier said with a weary sigh. “That man came here, time and time again, to kill the people closest to you. He chose to start with Faith only be stopped by Ms. Walters. You know what that woman means to your daughter. Imagine if you had to watch as a madman like that came into your new home and fought the woman you love. I can’t imagine what Faith thought in that moment but I must assume the event cast serious doubts about her safety within these walls.”

“Chuck?” Logan could only stare at the Professor. He couldn’t process the man’s unexpected turn. “You’re the one always going on about mercy and compassion. What am I supposed to do here? What lesson do I give my daughter?”

“Me t’inks the lesson here be the kind that she give to you mon’amie.” Gambit spoke up for the first time since the plane had landed. “Sometimes we do what we do for others, sometimes for our t’elves, and sometimes there be nothin’ we can do. Those times are de hardest.”

Logan just glared at the Cajun. When they had first rescued Faith he knew his life would become harder. He had no idea just how much. Sabertooth had come at them sideways, only for Faith to come back at him with every underhanded and twisted mind game the three of them had all suffered through. He knew he couldn’t take what Weapon X had done to him and inflict it on another. He couldn’t even bring himself to clearly remember what they had done in the first place. Yet his daughter had once more proven herself capable of the impossible. That frightened Logan far more than Sabertooth ever had. He had been so worried about protecting her from the world he never once considered protecting the world from Faith. Somehow Faith had stared into the abyss and forced the abyss to blink. He could only pray that his daughter would be tempered by the darkness rather than consumed.

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Time and Time Again


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 Post subject: Re: Time and Time Again
PostPosted: Sun Dec 25, 2016 12:30 pm 
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Kudos to Faith.

I would have dropped him in an incinerator on the second encounter.

Nice wrap up! :bounce

And merry christmas!

R :flower

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 Post subject: Re: Time and Time Again
PostPosted: Mon Dec 26, 2016 11:59 am 
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Excellent update-y goodness... Good job Faith...

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 Post subject: Re: Time and Time Again
PostPosted: Mon Jan 30, 2017 4:17 pm 
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Hi Azirahael, hi Zampsa.

Yeah, I might have been a little heavy handed with vilifying Sabertooth, but he definitely had it coming. Then again, Faith is trying to define herself as something (anything) other than the killer Hydra raised her to be. Same goes for Logan's view of Sabertooth and the whole Batman/Joker mess from earlier. They don't miss or particularly like their enemies, but they spend so much time trying to be anything other than a killer that when someone comes along and kills the killer that pesters them the most they can't just say thank you.

On a personal note I have to apologize for delayed responses and another posting delay. But I have really, really good excuses. First, I now have conclusive research proving that all night Final Fantasy XV marathons are not an effective treatment for writer's block. Secondly, my decade old writing/gaming laptop died quietly in its sleep about two weeks ago. I'm lucky enough that I've already upgraded/replaced it with a nice enough desktop and all the progress (about two thirds complete) I didn't have quite backed up on the Doppelgangland chapter should be retrievable by the middle of next week. The lesson is to backup my progress daily instead of bi-weekly.

Until then I'm going to try to finish and post a little side story I've been brainstorming. It might be stand alone or the first entry might be on the short side and the later offshoots will come later down the road, but It and a few other things have been kicking around the back of my head for a while now. I was saving them for a later act once Sirens, Marvels and Dark Age Chronicles were finished, but It might be fun to give you guys a few of the shorter pieces until I can get back to regular posting.

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 Post subject: Re: Time and Time Again
PostPosted: Mon Jan 30, 2017 4:49 pm 
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Looking forward to it. :bounce

Me, i have all my stuff on dropbox.
Backups, and it keeps any changes for 100 iterations, so if you save over top of it, it's all there to be rescued :)

R :flower

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 Post subject: Re: Time and Time Again
PostPosted: Wed Feb 08, 2017 8:49 am 
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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: Okay so the files for my old PC are still in transit. In the meantime here's a one shot story about things that happened in one of Willow and Tara's many, many past lives/alternate dimensions. It takes place in a fantastical space age universe where the haves and the have nots are in constant struggle. Also most of the cursing is done in broken Chinese. Some of you may already know where this is going. Major spoilers for Joss Whedon's other original show and movie franchise if you haven't seen them.

*****

Life # 517: Lines Across the ‘Verse

The captain stood on the bridge of his ship, eyeing the sight before him with no small amount of trepidation. Their destination had practically the entire crew up in arms. Few worlds on the outer rim held half the infamy of Haddyn.

"Wuh de ma Mal! Miranda wasn't enough of a xi niu mess? You had to take a job on Haddyn!" The tall muscular man leaning against the back wall of the bridge grumbled.

“Hu che." The lean yet muscular ebony woman at the captain's side snapped before going on in a more sarcastic tone. "Jayne if you keep losing your calm over old wives' tales you’ll scare the women and children."

“I’ve never seen a rim world so developed.” A pale, slim man with short light brown hair said as a woman with longer light brown locks clung to his side.

“Heard stories of this place. Fully industrialized and as much tech as any developed core world but no security or Alliance to speak of. Only downside is the people that settle here never seem to make it out alive.” The woman at his side said. “Can’t say I disagree with Jayne about taking a job here Captain. Never thought I’d say that.”

“We ain’t takin’ a job.” The captain told his anxious crew. “We’re takin’ on crew.” The shouts of surprise from all over the bridge only served to drive home the point that this might be more than what his still ragged crew was ready for. “Ta ma de! Ni men dou bi zui! This ain’t up for debate! Got this introduction straight from Fanty and Mingo. Our new pilot was a friend of Wash’s.”

The utterance of that name cut through all protests. None were willing to question the associations of their fallen pilot. Especially not in front of the lean ebony woman clenching her fists in the middle of the bridge.

“Sir.” She muttered through clenched teeth.

“Zoe.” The captain replied as he avoided eye contact.

“You sure about this source?” She asked once with barely restrained emotion. “He never mentioned anyone on Haddyn.”

“Would you?” The captain asked.

“Mal, we’re ready to land.” The slender brunette sitting at the helm said as she maneuvered the ship.

“Great work River.” Captain Malcolm Reynolds told the young woman as he turned to face down the rest of his crew. “I’m not the one who’s been sayin’ we need to hire a new pilot, but I sure as hell ain’t gonna turn down aid from any friend of the men we just buried. You all know your posts. Best get to ‘em.”

One by one the crew vacated the bridge. Zoe was the last to leave Mal and River. She gave the captain she had served for years one last questioning look before turning her back. Mal let out a tense breath as he faced the forward window that was now rapidly filling with an aerial view of the small city covered moon of Haddyn. He looked to the young woman piloting his ship and forced a smile. He had lost much defending the girl and her brother from the Alliance. Yet with all that loss he could not regret having River Tam join his crew. As the landing pads of the starport came into view Mal knew his day would only grow ever more complicated.

“Couldn’t wait a few more weeks before falling off the edge of the map again, could we?” Mal muttered to himself.

“Here there be monsters.” River said with far more conviction than she should have.

*****

The Slayer let out an annoyed huff as she stood in the center of the abandoned warehouse. Dust settled all around the grimy interior of the building. Her dark olive skin was highlighted by long locks of jet black hair that ended in swaths of vibrant purple. The seemingly skin tight black suit she wore put her previous body armor to shame. She decided to petition the council to make the new model standard issue.

Though she had cleared the nest and slain its master she knew Haddyn would never be safe. Demons and vampires flocked to the small moon in such numbers that many watchers speculated Haddyn itself was one continuous hellmouth. What the Slayer found even more vexing was the star Haddyn’s planet orbited. The dim light from the red giant proved harmless to any vampire that called the remote star system home. Wiping out the local undead population was simply not possible, even with all the advances the council had made in the centuries since leaving Earth That Was. The Slayers settled for observation of the moon's one functioning starport and routine sweeps of the nearby slums and warehouses. The solution the Slayers and council came upon was to crack down on any vampires setting up shop near the starport. In the century since Haddyn was terraformed no vampire with delusions of master status had managed to get so much as a single one of their spawn off-world.

The vast expanse of run down warehouses where she had cornered her prey lay on the outskirts of the densely packed slums near the starport. Familiar territory for the young woman. She had managed to leave this dreary moon shortly after being called. Yet circumstances always seemed to drag her back to the place where she had been forced to slay her only family.

“Tian sha de e mo.” She spat as she sheathed the crimson and silver bladed scythe at her back and holstered the sleek matching laser pistol at her side. “Gorram lurks! No matter how many I dust they keep cropping up here.”

The Slayer stormed out of the abandoned warehouse, into the night. Even though her mission had ended before any of the vampires could lay a finger on her she had no desire to loiter in the rundown slums of Haddyn. As she rounded the corner she came face to face with one more reason why she detested the small moon where she was born.

“Well, well, well. Xiǎo mèimei, what brings you out tonight?" An oily man in an ill-fitting suit asked as he and his two thugs leaned over the Slayer's bike.

Before the matching smirks on the three men’s faces could grow any more lurid she drew her laser pistol and fired twice. The two thugs fell to the ground clutching wounded knees. The demeanor of their leader changed in an instant. Gone was the bravado and condescension. In their place was cold fear that left room for little else.

“Hey, now we didn’t mean anything by it!” He pleaded as the Slayer advanced on him with the pistol aimed squarely at his face. “It won’t happen again!”

“Get your gou cao de ass off my bike!” The Slayer seethed as the barrel of her pistol pressed into the man’s forehead. He fell back immediately and scrambled along the ground until his back hit the brick wall that lined the narrow alleyway. The Slayer smirked as she holstered her pistol yet again and straddle her bike. She entered the access code and fired up the engine. The bike let out a roar as thrusters ignited.

The Slayer smirked down at the man as she and her bike rose three feet off the ground. She revved the engine twice before blasting off into the night with a loud cackle. The alleyway grew silent, save for the pained whimpers and terrified panting of three men who never knew how close they had come to being eaten by the undead that infested Haddyn.

*****

“Reckon this new pilot will try somethin’ stupid?” Jayne asked as he and Zoe stood watch at the loading ramp of the Serenity.

“No more than you would," Zoe replied as her eyes scanned the poorly lit area beyond the loading ramp.

The central Haddyn starport was a far cry from even the more industrialized border worlds like Persephone and Beaumonde. Dimly flickering light posts did little to illuminate stacked crates of abandoned cargo and neglected refuse. The only things that seemed to be regularly maintained were the few robotic security devices that moved around the starport. Zoe had taken a closer look at the tiny hovering robots and been surprised to find no sign of alliance identification branding or the normal security cameras littering the core worlds. Instead, she found the monitoring robots loaded with what seemed to be heat and motion sensors. Tiny crosses were painted all along the surface of the robotic sentries. A simple logo on the side told her that the robots belonged to an organization with the initials I.W.C.

“This place don't feel right," Jayne muttered. "Feels wrong somehow. Like..."

“Like Miranda," Zoe said as she clued in on what the easily spooked mercenary was saying. "Only here the death and desolation isn't pristine."

“Wo de ma, what the hell are we still here for?" Jayne complained just as a dull roar sounded off from the far side of the darkened landing platform. Zoe and Jayne both watched in surprise and more than a little worry as a slender young woman on a hover bike drove right up to their ship.

“Oy!" She shouted as she stopped the bike less than a yard away from Jayne. The large man faltered and stepped back with his hands on the sawed-off shotgun resting in the holster at his hip. The woman glared at Jayne before growling out one warning. "Draw that and I'll split you up the middle merc!" She turned to Zoe and visibly relaxed. "You Zoe Washburne?"

“I am," Zoe replied in a terse grunt.

“Goddess you are just like he described in his reports." The young woman said as she hopped off her bike and walked up to the taller woman. "Hoban was a great man. Sorry for your loss."

“Reports?” Zoe asked as Jayne shouted out, “You’re the new pilot?”

“Get my bike stowed on board merc!” The girl ordered as she took Zoe’s arm and began to walk up the ramp. “And if you touch anything in the saddlebags I’ll shove a wooden stake through your heart.”

Jayne watched in confusion as the two women waltzed into Serenity’s hold. Zoe and the new pilot were halfway to the stairs that led up to the galley, crew quarters and bridge before the younger woman turned and glared his way. Jayne wasted no time in following her harsh orders.

*****

“She’s here!” The young dark haired brunette shouted out as she hopped out of the pilot’s seat. “She’s here, she’s here!”

“Who’s here River?” Her brother asked.

“The new pilot?” The other young woman at the man’s side asked.

“My sister!” River shouted as she jumped up and down before running out of the bridge.

“Simon?” The young woman with lighter brunette hair began to ask. “You didn’t say ya had another sister.”

“I don't," Simon replied as he looked to the empty hatchway where his sister had vanished. "We don't have another sister Kaylee. I don't know what she's even talking about."

“Should we..." Kaylee began to ask as River's shouts of joy rang through the corridors of the small Firefly-class spaceship.

“We should.” Simon agreed as they both moved to find out what had excited River so.

They made their way down the crew quarters corridor and through the galley to the gangway above the hold. River’s confusing shouts of “Sister!” were only made more confusing as Kaylee and Simon stepped out to find the disturbed young woman kissing another girl they had never seen before. Zoe stood beside the pair, watching in shock as they made out. The odd greeting was only drawn to a close with a far too eager chuckling coming from behind Zoe.

“I'll be in my bunk," Jayne said as he turned and walked over to another hatch that led back up to the crew quarters.

“I can still kill you with my brain!" River shouted after the retreating mercenary. She turned back to the woman she had so thoroughly kissed and whispered in a conspiratorial tone. "If anyone asks, you tell them we can kill people with our brains."

"Huh?" The young woman with olive skin and dark purple highlights whispered before shaking her head and coming back to the conversation. "You must be River Tam. Goddess I am so sorry we couldn't get to you sooner."

"It's okay." River replied with a slight pout as she began to play with the lapels of the armored suit the new pilot wore. "You're here now. Things will be better. Plus we need the extra help what with the baby on the way."

"Baby!" Simon shouted in horror as he looked his sister over once more. "River you can't be… Please god, tell me it isn't Jayne's."

“Eww! Simon!” River said in disgust as she shook her head. “He is by far the least attractive person on our crew. Plus Jayne is a girl's name." Kaylee and Zoe couldn't help but laugh at the matter of fact tone the girl used to dismiss her brother's terror.

"You're sure she's pregnant?" The new pilot asked River. With a nod from the odd young woman the newest crew member of Serenity steeled herself for the long conversation she would soon have with these people, but first, she had to make sure they were safely on their way. "Okay, that speeds things up. We're getting off this miserable rock before anything can happen."

“Captain hasn’t even accepted you on board yet.” Zoe protested before matching glares from both River and the intimidating new woman silenced her.

“What the great Malcolm Reynolds doesn’t know yet is that he’s already dragged each and every one of you into a much stranger world you can’t even imagine.” The pilot told them as River took her hand and led her towards the bridge. “And once I bring the Companion up to speed on her new guild orders he won’t have much time to complain.”

As they passed Simon and Kaylee the pilot gave the young engineer a closer look. “She yours?” She asked River. The bark of laughter from the slender barefoot brunette drew a smirk from the new pilot.

“No, Kaylee isn’t mine silly.” River said as they vanished through the hatch. “She owns my brother Simon.”

“I wouldn’t say she owns me.” Simon began to protest only to sigh as Zoe shook her head.

“Trust me Doc.” The ebony woman said. “You could do much worse than being Kaylee’s plaything.”

“Besides.” Kaylee chimed in. “I always take real good care of what’s mine.”

Simon could only offer a weak grin as he followed the four women back to the bridge. He could already tell things on board the Serenity would never be the same.

*****

“It’s not like I have much choice in the matter Mal.” The Companion said as the captain paced the inside of her shuttle. “My license won’t be of much use to you now that I’m just as much of a fugitive as the rest of the crew.”

“I never said I wanted you to lose your license or stop your… Companion… ing.” Mal’s protest started out strong but quickly unraveled.

The Companion scoffed at the man’s flubbed assurance. “You’ve never been shy about calling me a whore before Mal. Why stop now?”

“We've done this dance a time or two Inara," Mal said as he pinched the bridge of his nose. "Just ‘cause I don't respect the profession don't mean I'll stand any disrespect thrown your way."

“Come on Mal," Inara muttered half to herself. "There has to be more to it than..." Her plea for more from the man was cut short as the ship rumbled. "We're taking off."

“We're taking off," Mal said as he looked around the shuttle filled with Inara's possessions. "We're taking off! Why the gorram hell are we taking off?"

They ran out of the shuttle, across the gangway and through the galley on their way to the bridge. What Mal and Inara found there only served to confuse them further. A strange olive skinned woman with black and purple hair sat at the helm. An oddly chipper River was perched in her lap. Zoe, Simon, and Kaylee stood by looking on in a mix of curiosity and bewilderment.

“What the gorram hell is going on here?” Mal shouted.

“Howdy Cap’n.” The strange woman greeted Mal as she spun in the pilot’s seat. “Heard you needed a pilot. Though I can’t much see the need with this little firecracker up for the task.”

“Who the hell are you and where are ya takin’ my gorram ship?” Mal hollered yet again.

"The name is Melaka Fray, the vampire Slayer." The young woman said as she stood from the pilot's seat with River still held aloft in her arms. "I'm here to deliver the message you didn't know you waited your whole life to receive."

“What message?” Zoe asked as Mal and the others stood staring at their new pilot.

"You've made powerful enemies when you declared war on the Alliance," Fray said as she let River slide back to her feet. "Fortunately for you, the enemies of the Alliance are now ready to take you and your crew into the fold."

“Who sent you?” Mal asked. “What are you doing on my ship?”

“You know who sent me Mal. You buried them on Mr. Universe’s broadcast planet two weeks ago.” Fray said as if the revelation was both obvious and apparent. “Now I’ve set course for that Companion guild house you and Inara left in such a hurry. If you and the rest of the crew want the full story I’ll be happy to give it in the galley.”

“Just like that?” Mal asked. “New job for some cloak and dagger lot who might be just as bad as the Alliance brass.”

“Not a job Mal," Fray told him in a clear and intimidating voice. "A mission. The mission. Now, if you want the details, get everyone rounded up in the galley while the Companion and I wave Sheydra."

“You know Sheydra? How?” Inara asked as several pairs of eyes shot back and forth between the Slayer and the Companion.

"Take me to your shuttle and find out Companion," Fray said as she led Inara off the bridge.

“This is strange right?” Kaylee asked as she looked to Mal and Zoe. “This isn’t the kind of introduction we were expecting was it Cap’n?”

“It’s all so wonderful.” River said as she came up and clasped hands with the engineer. “She’s just like me.”

“What’cha mean by that sweetie?” Kaylee asked as she suddenly grew nervous. River leaned in close and whispered the words that had once struck fear into the mechanic’s heart.

“No power in the ‘Verse can stop us.”

With an out of place smile, the slender brunette skipped out of the bridge and down the corridor, leaving a confused crew in her wake.

*****

“Please trust that this is all for the best Inara.” The Companion house priestess’ voice came from the speakers built into the wave console in Inara’s shuttle. “I had thought you’d take this better. I know you’ve grown attached to your captain.”

“I am not… He’s not my...” Inara tried to protest but her spirits fell short. “Sheydra, I would never forsake my duty to the guild.”

“Sweet cheeks this is your duty." Fray cut in with a slight laugh. "Hell, you've already been doing the job. Now we're just asking you to make it official like."

“But what about the clients I’m contracted with?” Inara asked. She knew what they were asking was the right thing. She knew her involvement with the broadcast that revealed the atrocities of the Alliance had put an end to her former work for the guild. What they were now asking went against what she had been trained for. All she had known since adolescence. “We are not supposed to get attached.”

“Inara..." Sheydra said over the wave broadcast. "You already are. Plus you don't necessarily have to cancel out all your clients. Captain Reynolds seems like the kind of man who wouldn't mind if you kept ties with the Councilor on Ezra. Or that Governess on Persephone. Who else? Wasn't there a Madam Ambassador who worked relations between Boros and Kerry?"

“You can't be serious," Inara muttered as Fray began to cackle.

“Ol' Mal seems like the type to let you have your fun with your girlfriends, so long as you tell him all about it afterwards." Fray couldn't help but chuckle at the Companion's expense.

“Sheydra why are you taking orders from this girl?” Inara all but shouted in the face of the Slayer’s continued mirth.

“Core world girls." Fray chuckled as she shook her head.

“Inara there are things you don't know about the guild," Sheydra said. "When you get back to the guild house I can give you any answers that you don't believe from Fray. You'll see that they make it here safely Slayer?"

“Of course Companion," Fray told the woman on the wave screen. "See you in a few days."

“Of course, keep safe.” Sheydra signed off with a slight smile. The screen on the shuttle console went dark and left the Companion and Slayer to the silence between them.

“Who are you?” Inara asked. She stared at the Slayer for a long moment, waiting for any response. The one that came did little to answer her question.

“I'm the Slayer." Fray brushed off Inara's concern and skepticism. "And you're the Companion. Sorry sweet cheeks, but I don't get where your reluctance is comin' from. High bred girl like you, if you weren't sweet on the Cap'n you wouldn't have stayed on his boat. Besides, Companions go exclusive all the time. 'Fine war hero like Reynolds, a girl could do worse."

“I didn’t set out on my own looking for love.” Inara protested weakly.

“Still found it by the looks of things," Fray replied while resting one hand on Inara's shoulder. "We're not sayin' you have to get hitched. All the council wants is for you to keep him in line. Keep him on mission. You know how to manipulate menfolk. It’s basic Companioning. There's still more work to be done."

“Fine," Inara said after taking in a deep breath. "Fine. I'll do it, but you have to tell me what the gorram hell a Slayer is."

“I will," Fray promised. "Just as soon as we get back to the others."

*****

“I'm worried about River Kaylee," Simon said as the engineer led him into the galley. "She's never acted like this before. Never shown an interest in..."

“Kissing?” Kaylee asked as she turned to face the doctor. “That’s surprisin’. I figured she’d of had at least one sweetheart in school before the Alliance came and took her.”

“No, I mean.” Simon tried to come up with a tactful phrasing only to sigh and state what was now obvious. “I mean in women.”

“Oh.” Kaylee didn’t know how to take the man’s words. After a moment she tried to gauge his reaction. “Is that a problem? I thought Osiris was more accepting. I know on some worlds they don’t...”

“What?” Simon asked before realizing just how his worries sounded. “No! Of course it’s not a problem. She’s still her. She’s still River. I’ll always love my sister.”

“Oh sweetie. I know that.” Kaylee assured. “So does she.”

“Simon! Kaylee!” River shouted in joy as she raced up to the couple. “Isn’t this wonderful? The stars are singing. The chaos is being fought back. No power in the ‘Verse can stop us.”

“River, you're starting to scare us." Kaylee all but whispered as she looked into her friend's eyes.

“River, how do you know that girl," Simon asked.

“She’s like me.” River told the couple. “Slayers.”

Simon and Kaylee could only stare at the girl. Neither could grasp just how their new pilot had changed River. Neither knew how the strange connection between the two would affect their lives.

*****

“Is it just me or is she a different kind of crazy than she was when we all first met her and the good doctor?” Mal asked his second in command. He and Zoe were standing off to one side of the galley. Neither could figure out just what angle the new pilot was working. Nor could they understand the effect the young woman had on River Tam.

“Seems that way sir," Zoe said in a tight voice.

“And you said they kissed?” Mal asked.

“Little bit," Zoe admitted. Mal, in turn, let a much longer pause fill the air between them. Almost a full minute passed before he continued their hushed conversation.

“River said somethin’ about bein’ in the family way?” The captain went on to ask.

“She may have mentioned as much," Zoe replied before taking a moment to pause and consider the earlier conversation. "Didn't say who was “burdened with child” though."

“Is it just me or does it seem like we’ve been hijacked?” Mal wondered as they watched River bounce with joy in front of her brother and closest friend.

“Wouldn't exactly disagree with that assessment sir," Zoe said.

“Well at least we're all on the same page," Mal muttered as he saw Fray and Inara step into the galley. Answers were due and the captain felt he had been more than patient.

*****

“So..." Fray said as she looked to each of the people standing or sitting around the ship's galley. "Y'all want the long version or the short?"

“The one where you explain why you went and hijacked my boat without so much as a "How do ya do?" Mal said as he did his best to reign in his agitation. At his side, Inara put a reassuring hand on his shoulder. The gesture was not lost on the Slayer or the rest of the crew. Though Mal might not have noticed their reaction since his glare never left the Slayer.

“I'll start with the short version," Fray said after taking a moment to lock eyes with the captain. "My name is Melaka Fray, you lot can call me Fray. In addition to fillin' in as your pilot, I'm a Slayer. We're heading back to the Companion guild house you took Inara out of a few weeks back. She's to report in with the headmistress and get her new orders all official like. Also needs a primer on what her guild was meant to do when we founded it.”

“What new orders?” Several crew members asked only to be drowned out by Inara shouting “What do you mean you founded the guild?”

“So long version it is then," Fray said with a chuckle. She took a few steps away from the long table in the heart of the galley. She walked around to the cabinets and pulled out several cups and mugs. "River you already know this part on account of your visions. Be a doll and head down to my bike in the hold. The left saddlebag has a bottle I've been saving."

“Fermentation is the chemical process resulting in the breakdown of a substance by bacteria, yeasts, or other microorganisms.” River replied as she stood and left the galley.

“Yes it is.” Fray agreed with the retreating girl. A moment passed before her gaze returned to the rest of the crew and she brought the cups back to the table. “So stop me if you’ve heard this story. About a year before he signed on with your crew, back when he had that ridiculous mustache, Wash and I spent about six weeks on a remote little backwater moon where the only form of entertainment was juggling geese. The locals would all gather around the fire each and every night and take up these little baby geese.”

“Goslings," Zoe whispered in a stunned tone as she recalled the night her husband told her the same story.

“Right, goslings!” Fray pointed to Zoe with a knowing smile. “And they would take two or three of these terrified little baby birds and just start juggling. You’ve no idea how weird staying on that little moon was for us. At the end of the mission Wash flew us back to the council. Once our ship hit the black we just looked at each other and started laughing. Goddess that man could find humor in the darkest corners of hell.” A few chuckles came from all around the room. Each person there had a story of a time when the cheery pilot’s sense of humor brightened their day.

“What was it?” Zoe asked in a voice few could hear yet those that did hear couldn’t help but straighten up at the dead serious tone.

“Huh?” Fray asked in turn.

“What was the mission?" Zoe stated more clearly and with a noticeable edge.

“Demon cult," Fray said as she looked down at the empty mugs before her. "Big ugly green scaled things that wanted to use dark magic to crash that moon into its planet. It took us five whole weeks to track down the convergence point they needed to do the ritual on, and by that time they had a whole cargo vessel full of human sacrifices lined up and ready to go. I went in. Did my thing. Wash got the sacrifices to safety by boosting the ship. Saved a whole damn world that night." Fray gave Mal a knowing look and a smirk. "Of course the little slip of the girl I met at the after party was just so grateful I saved her whole family, but she wanted to keep things casual. I got my play on without finding a stowaway bride on our boat the next day."

“He told you...” Mal began to ask before the words escaped him.

“Had a good long laugh about that back at the council’s main library.” Fray laughed as she went on. “We looked little Saffron up on the cortex. Good thing you’ve got a decent doctor on board. The joke got funnier with each of your co-husbands we found until it got downright horrifying.”

“I’m sorry, are we just glossing over the part where this woman just told us there are demons running around the galaxy?” Simon asked as he tried to shake off the outlandish claim.

“Lots of things running around this galaxy Doc," Fray told him. "And before you get the notion I'm talking about aliens drop it. Never seen an alien myself but I've slain a few thousand demons on more moons and planets than I can count."

“Demons can't be real," Simon said.

“Wait till we get back to base.” Fray went on. “Got a few locked up in the basement for training the new girls. Plus there’s a few house trained ones on staff who know how to play nice.”

“You’re talkin’ about actual demons? From hell?” Mal asked.

“Yeah but it's more complicated than that," Fray added. "What do any of you know about multiverse theory?" She received nothing but blank stares until a voice chimed in from the hatch that led to the hold.

“Hypothetical universes that exist outside of and adjacent to the universe we inhabit.” River droned on in a monotone that was soon replaced with an uncharacteristically bright smile. “I got the bottle.”

“Thank you River," Fray said as the slender girl skipped back to her side and handed over the alcohol. "Aliens, if they exist, would come from the worlds that float around in this reality. Demons are travelers from other realities that slip into this reality through cracks and portals that have a nasty habit of making the local mortality rate shoot through the nearest moon."

“And they always try to crash moons into planets?” Kaylee asked, drawing an incredulous look from the doctor at her side.

“No, most of the time they just eat people," Fray explained. "Most just eat our flesh. Some eat brains and other organs. A few suck out your soul. You have no idea how many drink our blood."

“This is insane.” Simon protested.

“And finding out the Alliance created the Reavers made all kinds of sense?” Kaylee asked him.

“Where do you think they got the additive they put in the terraformers on Miranda?" Fray said. Her question was greeted with an almost oppressive silence. "Ever since your broadcast, the watchers have been looking into what and wherever the hell the PAX came from. We haven't narrowed down a species yet but we're pretty sure they used demon blood or brain matter to do what they did. As if my job isn't hard enough. The gorram Alliance has to go and infect humans with demon crap and make point one percent of the population into gorram cannibals half as smart as gorram vampires."

“Vampires?” Jayne shouted in surprise.

“Not possible.” Simon dismissed the notion out of hand.

“Again, vampire Slayer," Fray said while pointing to herself and then to River.

“What does that even mean?” Inara asked.

“Merc! Come over here for a bit." Fray ordered. Jayne was reluctant to move but after a few nods and stares from Mal, he complied. As soon as he was in reach Fray's hands whipped out and grasped the much larger man by the belt and the front of his shirt. She lifted him over her head without any sign of strain. She casually tossed the man at River who caught him and tossed him back. The two tiny girls giggled as the man's screams of terror filled the air. By about the tenth toss Fray took pity on Jayne and
set him down on his feet. He staggered and instantly fell on his ass, looking up at Fray with newfound panic.

“Listen to me good Merc.” The Slayer said in a cold voice. “I don’t care how funny the “Hero of Canton” story is. You’re the only one here who hasn’t fully proven his loyalty to the cause. Behave and you’ll get along fine with all us Slayers. Betray any of us and I’ll split you up the middle with this.”

As she spoke Fray took the long and shrouded object from her back. She began unwrapping it to reveal the gleaming shaft of a melee weapon that ended in a sharp wooden spike. As the rest of the shaft came into view the crew saw it was mostly wrapped in well-worn leather that gave way to studded metal connected to a curving red and silver blade. The room was silent as the Scythe came free of its shroud. No one noticed how River's eyes locked on the ancient weapon.

“Shinny?” Fray asked as she held the blade closer to the man’s face.

“Shinny.” Jayne agreed while scrambling back a few paces and returning to his seat.

“So aside from what you just saw, any questions?” Fray asked the rest of the crew.

“Huh," Mal said before going on with the obvious questions. "How? What? How? Huh?"

“All the way back at the dawn of history on Earth That Was there were demons," Fray told them. "To fight the demons some men made a rule. One girl would be chosen. Given immense power. Then left to fight the darkness on her own until she died and a new girl was chosen. This went on for a few thousand years until the Slayer, the historical Slayer that is, changed the rule. She gathered allies that helped her push back the dark. In her time she was unparalleled in strength and skill. Yet some of her friends were even more powerful. With the help of the Red Witch and the Earth Mother, the Great Slayer changed the rule. Instead of one girl in all the world, there would be a few thousand. The witches made it so one Slayer line that stretched all the way back to the dawn of history became thousands of lines that stretch across the whole ‘Verse even to this day. I am one line. River is another. When we fall other girls will rise up in our place."

“This is why the Alliance took River," Simon said as his gaze fell on his sister. Not a day had gone by in the years since he first received River’s coded letters where the young doctor hadn’t wondered why his sister had been chosen to suffer the barbaric tortures inflicted by Alliance scientists.

“They like to get their hands on any potential Slayers they can," Fray admitted as she put an arm around River's shoulders. "We think they've even managed to track a small number of the bloodlines on the core worlds. It's a struggle but every year since the end of the war we try to sneak more and more girls out from under their thumb."

“Why didn’t you fight them then?” Mal demanded an answer as he stood up. “If the independents had even a dozen soldiers who could do what River can we might have won!”

“Until we found out just how far the Alliance was taking their experiments on Slayers the council didn't want to get involved in human conflicts," Fray told the outraged captain. "We slay demons. We don't kill humans."

“Unless they're Reavers," Inara said.

“Reavers ain't human anymore," Fray stated with firm conviction. "They're no better than lurks."

“Lurks?” Kaylee asked.

“Vampires." Fray clarified. "It's what we called them on Haddyn. That whole damn moon is teeming with demons. Like there's a hellmouth hiding in every patch of dirt under those blood red skies. Best the council can do is monitor the starport and slay any vampire ballsy enough to make a nest within fifty miles."

“What is this council you keep talking about and what does it have to do with the Companions guild?” Inara asked. Fray blinked before looking to the Companion and laughing.

“Oh, wow.” Fray chuckled in between breaths. “I forget that they don’t tell you core world girls jack in case you do something stupid like siding with the alliance. We go by the interstellar watchers council these days but the watchers council has existed in one way or another for as long as there have been Slayers. The Slayer slays while her watcher studies threats and provides support in the field and at home. Some of the more senior watchers choose to protect girls that might become Slayers. Potentials we call ‘em. A little bit faster and stronger than average but not by any huge stretch. You wouldn’t even know one if you saw her walking down the street.”

“Wash was your watcher," Zoe said. Her eyes never left the young woman's face as Fray nodded. "How did he become a watcher? Why did he retire?"

“The fancy core world flight academy he went to is one of our oldest recruiting centers. Council has a might powerful need for spaceship pilots. The watchers snatched Wash up just as soon as he aced his entry tests. Same thing with the Companions guild. Slayers set the whole guild up generations ago to make it so no one bats an eye if a few beautiful young women breeze through security checkpoints. Plus the whole liberated view of sex helps us deal with urges that crop up after a good Slay, but to answer you other question, he didn’t retire and he wasn’t the only watcher you had on this ship.”

“What?” Mal asked as Fray began to pour drinks in the cups and mugs she had gathered.

“You are a dangerous man Malcolm Reynolds." Fray went on. "You spit in the face of our enemies with no thought for our ongoing missions. You take jobs with little regard for the mess the work leaves in your wake. You fight and run and squander resources and you get our agents killed."

She passed drinks out as she spoke until she came to stand at the head of the table beside River once again. "To Hoban Washburne, Sheppard Derrial Book, and Mr. Universe. Great watchers lost in the war with the Alliance and the demons they unleashed on the ‘Verse." She and River drank ignoring the stunned looks from the rest of the crew.

“Sheppard was a watcher?” Kaylee whispered as Mal, Inara and Jayne drank. The engineer and doctor looked to each other before drinking as well.

“Sheppard Book was River’s watcher?” Simon asked after they had each toasted the lives of their friends and allies.

"Yes and no," Fray said as she collapsed into a seat. "The council are the ones who first helped you pull River out of that Alliance chop shop Doc. Goddess that whole op was a yi da tuo da bian. You barely got her out and then the watcher recruits that helped just left you to find your handler while a fed was already on your tail. Wash barely got the message that he was pulling double duty by transporting both the Tams and the Sheppard. I don't even know if he was told you had your sister locked in a hibernation box."

Fray paused to look around at the faces that all begged her to continue the already overlong tale. “Before he was a Sheppard, Derrial Book was one of the watchers council’s most successful deep cover operatives. He did great work for us by infiltrating the Alliance and working his way up through the ranks in the years prior to the war with the independents. Then things went sideways and he went into retirement. His service alone made the council grant his request. Then things got tight. The Alliance started cracking down on some of our less hidden financial assets, looking for any secret organizations they wanted to stamp out just in case. Sheppard Book had spent enough time in the abbey. He volunteered to meet Wash and guide the Tams to a more isolated council safe house. But then that Fed showed up and shot Kaylee, then Mal ordered Wash to divert to Whitefall, then Ravers and before you know it Wash has a Slayer crippled by the Alliance, a retired watcher, and an uptight member of the Slayer's bloodline all on board his ship for months on end. And no clue as to how he's supposed to tell any of this to the potential he's dedicated his life to protecting."

“What?” Mal all but shouted. “Who’s the potential? Why didn’t we have another Slayer helping us fight the Reavers and the Alliance?”

“For whatever reason, she hasn't been called," Fray said as she stared directly at the tall ebony skinned woman standing by herself. "It happens. A woman in a known Slayer producing bloodline never gets called. Sometimes it skips a few generations."

Zoe began to shake as she felt the girl’s eyes bore down on her. “Why didn’t he ever tell me?”

“Zoe is a Slayer?” Jayne asked. “girl you’ve been holdin’ out on us this whole time?”

“No Jayne, Fray just said she had the potential but never the power.” Inara snapped at the mercenary.

“What was he gonna tell you, Zoe?" Fray asked. "Honey I love you and cherish you and it's also part of my sworn life-long duty I never told you about to protect you and look out for your well-being? You'd have either laughed in his face or left him."

“I wouldn’t have left him.” Zoe shot back at the Slayer. “I’d have thought he was crazy but I wouldn’t… Is this why he didn’t want children?”

“That was me." River said with one raised hand and a sullen look at the floor. "Sorry."

“He was terrified that he'd give you a daughter and then lose her to the same Alliance monsters that took River." Fray defended the fallen pilot. "And it's not like you knew the dangers. He tried to get you to visit one of our safe houses on Ariel but you and Mal only let them leave the ship for the big hospital heist. He joined this crew to protect you and ended up falling in love. He was a great man, a great watcher, and a great husband."

“And soon he’ll be a great father.” River’s soft words widened the eyes of everyone present save for her fellow Slayer. Fray smirked as she slowly walked up to Zoe’s side.

“River and I can sense her.” The Slayer said while one hand slowly went to the woman’s stomach. “That only happens with demons and other Slayers. She’s going to be so strong Zoe. Your little girl. Wash’s daughter. Whatever happens with the Alliance and the Reavers, you’ll have an army of Slayers ready to defend you and yours. You’re part of our family.”

“Oh my god Zoe," Kaylee said as she and Inara both jumped up to hug the terse woman. It was several moments before the taller woman could shake them both off and back to their seats. Another moment hadn't passed before Mal was up and hugging the woman that had fought at his side for more years than he deserved. Through it all Zoe just rolled her eyes while hiding the faintest smile.

“Not that I’m not happy for Zoe, but why did Sheppard Book stop being River’s watcher?” Simon asked once the ruckus around Zoe’s news died down.

“Book was never trained as a field watcher meant to guide a Slayer," Fray explained. "If anything he was a shining example of what the council's wet works teams can be. By the time you all met him he was well into his retirement. He tried to help River, tried to fight for you all, but in the end, Wash agreed to take a second charge and Sheppard Book went on to build council bases on some of the most remote moons he could find."

“Which the Alliance destroyed looking for us," Mal whispered as he realized why Fray had been so hard on him just moments ago.

“The Sheppard set up a few of our newer safe houses and training camps, Wash occasionally ferried people to and from them and Mr. Universe oversaw council communications across the ‘Verse.” Fray went on. She looked to Mal once more and began to chuckle. “You are a funny man Cap’n Reynolds. Flitting across the ‘Verse with absolutely no knowledge of Slayers or our council, and yet you give aid and shelter to the most vulnerable members of our family. You fill almost all the ranks of your crew with our operatives. You use our resources and agents to move almost as freely as we do. You live your life by our laws, strike out at our most hated enemies, and wage our war as if it is your own. You even bedded a Slayer.”

“Saffron was a Slayer?” Jayne asked only to receive exasperated eye rolls from everyone else in the room.

“No Merc! Nandi was a Slayer.” Fray said. The Slayer appreciated the stunned looks that statement drew from both Mal and Inara. “She was called half way through her Companion training. Did a few big missions for the council, then she retired after a string of rough missions and we let her set up shop on that barren rock where she built her Heart of Gold. Shame that Petaline girl had a son and not a daughter. Could use a few more active Slayers in a few years when I’m ready to hand off the stake."

“But the guild told me to shun her.” Inara protested as she recalled the judgmental glares of certain guild members. “Why do that if she was a Slayer?”

“Because you are a core world girl on record supporting unification and neither the guild nor council could tell for sure where your loyalties went until you helped this outer rim space pirate disgrace the entire Alliance!" The Slayer shot back at the Companion while jabbing one finger at the captain. "A lot of Companions don't know how things really work. Too many are swayed by the Alliance propaganda machine. If you had asked your house priestess for a guardian you probably woulda been told all this stuff years ago."

“What’s a guardian?” Kaylee asked Inara while Mal gave the Companion a newly questioning look.

“Some Companions choose to take on guild trained body guards to protect them while traveling." Inara began to explain. "I could have asked for one but I chose to strike out on my own, and I was always skeptical about their usefulness as bodyguards because the only guardians I ever noticed escorting the other Companions were all young… women… Oh..."

“If you had asked for one and told your house priestess about Mal, Wash, the Tam’s and some of the work this crew regularly does you would have probably been given five guardians just to make extra trouble for any purple bellies that crossed your path.” Fray laughed as Inara’s face grew pale and then suddenly darkened to a fine crimson. “Think about that for a second Cap’n. Five nubile young Slayers in you passenger quarters ready to throw down at a moment’s notice.”

“We could have replaced Jayne," Mal muttered while shaking his head.

“Hey!” The merc cried out, only to draw further laughter from the others.

Once their laughter died down the Slayer turned back to the captain. “You are an interesting man, Captain Malcolm Reynolds," Fray said as the crew of Serenity returned their attention to her. “For what it’s worth you are in. The rest of your crew too.”

“In what?” Mal asked as he blinked in confusion.

"The council. The family." She told them all. "You are the kind of watcher most girls would kill to have assigned to them. Even without the training and the knowledge, you're everything the men in our order hope to be. You're all now officially members. The Serenity is officially an unofficial watchers council flagship. Wherever you go watchers and Slayers will open their doors to you and your people. We’ll stand by you no matter how bad the odds. Plus the pay ain’t half bad.”

“So you're offering my crew a job," Mal said as he realized where this was all heading.

“More than a job but not quite a crusade," Fray told the now smiling man. "More like a mission. No more scrounging the outer rim for petty crimes handed out by shady go-betweens. From here on you have your pick of council ops."

“Crime will still be a part of it though, right?” Mal asked the Slayer.

“Of course," Fray assured. "By alliance standards, everything any Slayer does is a crime. You'll still all be criminals and fugitives. Just now you've got corporate sponsorship."

The wicked smile on the Slayer’s face was soon met by a matching expression on both the captain and his first mate. The almost maniacal grin sported by the tormented Slayer was matched by relieved and happy smiles from both her physician brother and the ship’s talented young mechanic. Even the Companion and the mercenary joined in the morbidly cheerful moment. Their worlds were about to change in terrifying yet exciting new ways.

*****

“And you need to take these daily for at least the next few months," Simon said as he followed Zoe onto the bridge.

“Alright Doc.” The ebony soldier said. She had grown weary of his premature doting over her condition. “Baby ain’t even kicking yet. Plenty of time to worry about her later.”

“I’m just making sure you’re aware of all the changes that will happen soon.” Simon tried to placate Zoe. “This is a big change we’ll all help you through. Oh, and no more going out on missions until after the baby gets here.”

“Zhe shi shen me lan dong xi!” Zoe shot back in disgust.

“Listen to the Doc Zoe," Mal ordered as he looked over the secondary pilot's console on the bridge. "No sense risking our new family member when we got Jayne ready to take the bullet instead."

“Hey!” They heard the merc shout from down the crew quarters corridor.

“Fine.” Zoe huffed as she relented.

“Also you don't have to do it now or even this week but you'll want to move some of your possessions into the floor-level passenger cabin next to the one I shared with River." Simon plowed ahead in the face of Zoe's outraged and incredulous glare. "Once you start to show you won't want to climb up and down the ladder that leads into your personal crew quarters. Also, the Slayers will be right next door in case you need anything.” He paused as the most perplexed look overtook his face. “I can't believe I just said that."

“It's kinda funny, getting used to using that word to talk about the people we care about," Kaylee said as she entered the bridge and slid under one of Simon's arms.

“Well get used to it," Fray called from the pilot's seat. "Once we get to a proper council base and introduce you guys around you'll know dozens of Slayers. Should probably get used to staking your claims too now that I think about it."

“What's that supposed to mean?" Simon asked in a nervous tone.

“Slayers run hot and ain't shy about showing affection," Fray explained.

“Ain’t it funny how a good Slay always makes you hungry and horny?” River asked in an accented voice that might not have been her own.

“After a good bit of action, your average Slayer will get all manner of urges that need seein' to." Fray went on to explain for the now surprised and horrified crew. "Doc, you'll have River to back you but you'll want to make sure your intentions with Kaylee are clear. I can name thirty Slayers off the top of my head who wouldn't mind steering her pretty little self around the curves."

“Oh my," Kaylee said as her mind filled with all manner of thoughts she had never entertained before.

“No, no, no.” Simon began to panic. “We just started... River!”

“Don’t worry Simon. Kaylee and you are mine. Territory marked!” The slender girl said as she slapped her brother on the ass. Mal, Inara and Zoe couldn’t help but laugh at the horror on the doctor’s face.

“Zoe, you’ll wanna keep that wedding ring on until everyone gets clued into the fact that you ain’t just gonna move on to the first warm bed you get offered.” Fray went on. “The grieving widow act will work on some girls but there’s more ‘n enough that will take it as a challenge.”

“Ha!” Jayne called out from the hatchway. “What about me? Am I gonna be able to get sexed at this fancy Companion fighters school?”

"Oh there's more than a few girls with judgment bad enough to take a shine to you Merc," Fray said with a sly smirk. "Course all of those girls are power tops. Might want to get used to taking orders while on your knees is all I'm saying."

"Ha!" Mal laughed at the way Jayne's expression twisted from smug joy to arousal before plunging into sheer terror. As the crude man fled back to his bunk the captain looked back to his new pilot. The smirk she cast his way robbed him of his mirth. "Oh no."

“Relax Cap’n,” Fray said after letting out another light chuckle. “All the girls know that Companions are off limits unless they come sniffing around a Slayer. Makes mission work easier that way. Plus Slayers tend towards the jealous and territorial type. We don’t like to share our bed warmers with any of the spoiled rich twats on the Companion registry.”

“What?” Mal asked as he stared at the Slayer. “We ain’t even… I mean… Huh?”

“Mal...” Inara tried to calm him only to flail helplessly as the words refused to come.

“You two have a love that will last forever.” River declared in a firm voice that clearly wasn’t her own. “A miraculous love.”

“No, we ain't." Mal protested only to falter at the shaking heads around the bridge.

“You kinda do Cap'n," Kaylee told the man.

“Are we allowed to talk about this now?” Simon asked while doing little to hide his own smile. “I figured it was a sore subject and didn’t want to give you another reason to kick us off the ship, but if we’re talking about your love life now I’d say you two should have made things official months ago.”

“They ain’t wrong Captain.” Zoe rolled her eyes as Mal looked to her for her opinion.

“I would have taken her rent out in trade if it were my boat.” Jayne’s lurid voice carried up the hall from his quarters.

“Hell even if it wasn’t in Wash’s reports on you people I knew you had a thing going on the minute I saw you both rush in here.” Fray chimed in. “Plus it’s not like it matters now.”

“What's that mean?" Mal cried out as he looked from the Slayer to the Companion.

“In light of my fugitive status and the way the Alliance will be hunting all of us the guild has made it clear I can change my availability in the registry if I so choose," Inara explained in as restrained and proper a tone as she could manage. "Since I won't be granting us access to certain worlds by claiming the need to dock there and meet with clients I have the choice to retire to one of the guild houses or declare myself exclusive to any acceptable client I may desire."

“You don’t mean...” Mal whispered before turning a harsh glare on the Slayer. “You put her up to this?”

“Not as much as it sounds like.” Fray dismissed the man’s outrage. “I told her the council orders were to “keep your boyfriend in line.” But guild law is a real stickler for free will and only dealing with the clients the girl wants to deal with so this is all up to her. Why she’s dragging it out like this I have no idea. If it was me I’d have just fucked you out of my system the first week or chained you to my bedpost and used you whenever I wanted.”

“Wait… You don’t mean… We ain’t talking about...” Mal tried and failed several times to grasp what the Slayer was very clearly saying. “Me?” He asked Inara while pointing a surprised finger at himself.

“Mal!" Inara called the captain to attention with the slightest stern whisper. "I'm not being forced to do anything I don't want. If you'd care to join me in my shuttle there are matters we need to discuss."

“Okay,” Mal whispered before catching himself. “Yes. Let’s do that. In your shuttle. The talking I mean. Discussion and such.” Inara couldn’t help but smile as she took his hand and guided him back to the hold gangway and her shuttle.

“If that ain't love I don't know what is," Fray said as she and Zoe chuckled to themselves.

“Finally.” Kaylee moaned as she sank further into Simon’s embrace. “I thought those two would never get their act together.”

"Core world girls," Fray muttered.

“I know right?” River chimed in. “Bunch of moody bitches and teases.”

“Ain’t y’all from a core world?” Kaylee whispered to Simon who wisely kept his mouth shut.

"River can you do me a favor and hand me the Scythe?" Fray asked as she fiddled with the console before her. "It's kind of an ancient relic and symbol of Slayer power and now that I don't need to threaten the merc with it I should really put it back in its shroud."

“Of course.” River said as she grasped the ancient weapon of the Slayer line.

As her fingers wrapped around the leather and metal shaft an explosion of light filled the bridge. Eyes slammed shut as the glare burst outwards. Minutes passed before anyone could see again. Once they blinked the haze from their vision they were met with another strange sight. With Scythe in hand, River hovered a foot off the floor of the bridge. She slowly came back down to the cool metal surface and opened her eyes. A dull orange glow emanated from the orbs. She took in the sight of her friends and smiled more brightly that she had since Fray came on board.

“Hi, I’m Buffy. The vampire Slayer.” River said in a voice not her own that was eerily similar to one she had used moments ago. “Don’t worry it’s not a demonic possession dealie. My spirit has been in the Scythe for a long time. Like really long.

"Wo de ma he ta de feng kuang de wai sheng dou!" Kaylee shouted as she stared at her friend.

“Sorry sweetie, I don't speak Chinese," Buffy said. "I know right? Southern California girl and I don't even know light Spanish."

“What’s going on?” Simon demanded.

“This can't be happening," Fray whispered.

“Oh don’t worry guys. River just caught me up with all the big stuff that’s been going on.” Buffy said as she casually twirled the Scythe like a baton. “Those Alliance guys are real jerks huh?”

“Understatement," Kaylee muttered as she looked to Fray. "Who is this if it isn't River?"

“I'm Buffy," Buffy said again. "Summers. The Slayer. The one Fray was telling you about earlier."

“The historical Slayer?” Zoe said as she looked to Fray and then back to what had been River. “You’re a ghost from Earth That Was?”

“Seems that way," Buffy said as Fray fell to her knees. “Cute name by the way.”

“This is impossible," Fray whispered as her eyes roved over River's slight frame. "You don't feel like River anymore. But you're definitely a Slayer. Only more."

“Every Slayer that has ever wielded my Scythe left an imprint of their power when they handed it off to another Slayer," Buffy said while holding the ancient weapon aloft. "Even you Melaka. I was the first to ever wield my Scythe and I passed it back and forth between Faith and a few of the Sunnydale veteran Slayers a whole bunch of times before I finally died. They're all in here too, but my imprint looks like it's the biggest."

“What have you done with my meimei?” Simon shouted as he grew more and more panicked. The idea that he had lost River after all they had been through was unfathomable. “Bring her back!”

“Huh?” Buffy asked.

"It means little sister," Kaylee said.

“Oh yeah sure," Buffy said as she took in the young man's grief-stricken face. "She's fine Simon. I'm not permanent. You can talk to her in a minute. I just, thank you. Everything you've done for her, everyone in my Scythe knows, we all appreciate it."

“Please bring her back.” Simon all but begged the ghost possessing his little sister.

“Right. Doing that." Buffy said as she turned back to Fray. "If you need me just hand River my Scythe and I'll be here. But probably not for like, shooting things, cause I don't really do guns."

“Of course General Summers," Fray said as she looked to the legendary Slayer in admiration.

“Oh no, please just Buffy," Buffy said. A beat passed before she recalled the doctor's pained insistence on speaking her host body. "Fray please take my Scythe. River really wants to talk to her brother."

"Yes Ma'am," Fray said as she grasped the Scythe that was being handed off to her so casually by it's most legendary owner.

"It's just Buff..." The glow left the girl's eyes and River's normal dark brown orbs came into focus. "Simon?" She whispered in her own voice before a new, even brighter smile took over her whole face. "Simon isn't it wonderful? We got to meet Grandmummy!"

“I don’t...” Simon began to argue before seeing the sheer joy filling his sister’s entire being. “It’s great, I never expected that. Really, ever, but are you okay? She didn’t hurt you did she?”

“Of course not silly.” River chastised her concerned brother. “Grandmummy loves all of us.”

With that, the overjoyed Slayer skipped out of the bridge. She was soon followed by a still worried Simon and Kaylee. Fray watched them go before turning to the only person still present for the madness that was the last few minutes.

"I really hope it's just the crap that the Alliance did to her that let River do whatever that was." The Slayer began. "But just in case it was something else we're not seeing I don't want you to touch this thing until after the baby gets here. Even then we probably shouldn't let her play with it until she's older and comes into her powers."

“My daughter is never going to touch that thing.” Zoe seethed as she watched Fray wrap the Scythe in its shroud.

“She might have to, but only in a life or death situation," Fray replied. "It gives the Slayer using it a huge power boost. We try to give every girl at least a little training time with it. I've just got it for the Haddyn mission. That may change once the watchers find out River can channel the greatest Slayer in history. I might be assigned to carry this thing around for her."

“I'm going to bed," Zoe said as she turned and nearly fled the bridge.

Fray sighed to herself as she looked down at the covered Scythe and then up to the pilot's console. She smirked as she saw the line of small plastic dinosaur dolls resting atop the control panel. She picked up a blue stegosaurus figure and smiled. "Damn it Hoban, why did you have to leave it to me to tell your wife all this crap?" She muttered as tears began to trail down her cheeks. Her brash entrance had bought her some leeway with the crew, but her work was far from done. In truth, it was just beginning.

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Time and Time Again


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 Post subject: Re: Time and Time Again
PostPosted: Wed Feb 08, 2017 9:45 am 
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8. Vixen
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Dibs-y Goodness! :banana :applause :bounce

Yay for excellent update-y goodness... Big yay for Firefly action...

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 Post subject: Re: Time and Time Again
PostPosted: Sat Mar 11, 2017 2:35 pm 
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Hi Zampsa. Sorry for the late response. Yup, Firefly goodness was had by all.

Sorry for the delay everyone. Getting my computer troubles sorted out took way longer than expected. But we're back and I'm hoping to finish up the last of this Act with a more rapid pace.

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 Post subject: Re: Time and Time Again
PostPosted: Sat Mar 11, 2017 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: Finally. What took me so long? Oh, wait. Anyway, here's the next Buffyverse chapter. Doppelgangland was a fun episode, but I went in a different direction. Hope you all enjoy.

*****

Chapter 37: The Road Her Shadow Took

“Maybe we should just try to make the most of this bad situation.” The curly haired brunette said as she sat on the dingy bed in the middle of the rundown motel room. “Haven’t you ever wondered what it would be like to be human again?”

“No!” The brunette with short straight hair shouted at her only remaining friend. “I can’t believe you are just giving up Halfrek!”

“Oh don’t be so dramatic Anya,” Hallie gave a small dismissive wave of her hand. “It’s been months and we haven’t gotten a summon through to him. We have to face reality here. D’Hoffryn is gone.”

“He can’t be gone!” The former vengeance demon snapped at her only friend in the world. “He is eternal. He is the master of the wish. He can’t just be gone!”

“He’s gone, Anya. No amount of failed summoning spells cast on this dreadful little hellmouth will change that.” Hallie sighed as she shook her head. “I managed to contact a few of the other girls. They’re powerless like us and spread out all over the Earth in places either near where they were working or near where they used to live. Well, the younger ones anyway. I don’t know why I popped up here. I was in Sierra Leone killing men that were busy burning down elementary schools and recruiting child soldiers for whatever dreadful war they started over there. Of course, the wishes the children made also took out most of the regular townspeople, but we can’t have everything now can we?”

“This is serious Halfrek.” Anya went on, ignoring her friend’s lackluster pleas for reason. “If we can’t call upon D’Hoffryn then we’ll just need to get our power centers back.”

“What good will our power centers do us without D’Hoffryn to power them?” Hallie cocked her head to the side as she looked curiously at the other former demon.

“Well, they can’t hurt!” Anya snapped.

“Anya,” Hallie said in a calm tone. “Please think about this before you throw yourself into another binge of failed spell castings. We may never get our…”

“No!” Anya cried out. “I am getting my powers back, and if you won’t help me then by the pestilent gods I will find someone who will.”

“Oh don’t be like that.” Hallie dismissed Anya’s outrage. “Of course I’m going to help you, Anya.”

“Stop calling me that!” Anya shouted with renewed fury. “I am Anyanka! For a thousand years I wielded the powers of the wish. I brought ruin to the heads of unfaithful men. I brought forth destruction and chaos for the pleasure of the lower beings. I was feared and worshiped across the mortal globe, and now I’m stuck at Sunnydale High! Mortal. Child. I’m flunking math.”

“Sweetie,” Hallie said in a resigned voice that only served to infuriate Anya even further. “We aren’t Anyanka and Halfrek, great and powerful vengeance demons, anymore. We’re just Anya and Hallie, mortals with great hair and the luck of being stranded in America instead of the third world. Or do you want us to go by Aud and Cecily for old times’ sake?”

“Fine.” Anya let out in a huff. “We need someone else to help conjure our power centers. One of the witches at school maybe.”

“Oh, maybe the redhead and the honey blonde who are always together?” Hallie suggested only stare in confusion once more as Anya dismissed the suggestion.

“Not them,” Anya said as she felt an inkling of lost memory surge to the surface at the mention of the odd couple. “There’s something about those witches. We need to trick someone else into helping us. Someone more naive.”

“Fine.” Hallie relented as she stood and prepared to leave their ratty motel room. “Did you have anyone else in mind?”

“As a matter of fact, I did!” Anya assured her friend.

**********

“So this is the new place,” Doyle said as he took in the sight of the small two-room office space. He and Wesley watched as their former ally moved boxes into the second room. Through the open door to the second office, the half demon noticed an old service elevator and a small staircase that led down to what had to be the vampire’s new lair.

“Seems adequate,” Wesley muttered as he looked around the room with mild disdain. “There’s a basement with sewer access yes?” The watcher looked to the cursed vampire without expecting an answer. “Of course there is.”

“Angel,” Doyle said as he tried once more to get the Vampire’s attention. “You don’t have to go through this alone.”

Angel simply continued to shift inconsequential objects around the small office space. He ignored Doyle’s emphatic pleas just as thoroughly as he did the barbs lobbed by the smug Englishman.

“I’m afraid he does Doyle,” Wesley said with a slight smirk that almost verged on a sneer. “Angel has taken this quest for vengeance upon himself. I doubt there’s anything we could say to make him see reason. After all, it’s not like he’s some champion of the light, destined to help the helpless. He’s perfectly justified in turning his back on Alonna’s calling and your visions.”

“Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. That’s not helping Wes.” Doyle grumbled as he fought the urge to slap some sense into both of the other men in the room. A moment passed before he looked to the cursed vampire. “Angel you’re hunting two other master vampires. You don’t think having a Slayer on hand will help?”

Angel simply stood from the box he had just placed on the ground and turned to face both Doyle and Wesley. He stared at them with vacant, uncaring eyes for several long moments. Eventually, Doyle got the message.

“Right!” The Irishman snapped as he clapped his palms together, rubbing them up and down in exasperation and no small amount of defeat. “Well, I tried. If you ever pull your head out o’ yer arse you know where we are.”

Doyle spun on his heels and walked out the front door of Angel’s new office. In the diminutive man’s wake, the watcher only grinned humorlessly. “Well, I can’t say it’s been a pleasure,” Wesley remarked as he straightened his tweed blazer and put his hands behind his back. “At first I didn’t feel comfortable having the Slayer rely on a vampire, but you almost had me convinced.”

Angel simply stared at the indignant watcher. Wesley barreled ahead, heedless of the negligible impact his words had on his former ally.

“I was so close to believing you could be more. More than just some vile vampire. It’s a pity my initial impressions turned out to be correct.” Wesley turned to walk out of the office door. He paused in the open threshold, chuckling to himself before looking back to Angel one last time. “It’s ironic, isn’t it? In death, the watchers council’s special operations team achieved something they never could in life. Those men isolated the cursed vampire from one of the Slayers the council seeks to dominate.” He paused and all pretense of humor left his voice. “Bully for them.”

Angel watched as Wesley shut the door and chased after Doyle. He knew the Crew would be fine without him. He knew they would keep to the mission. He had more important matters to deal with. Without a moment’s hesitation, Angel stalked over to the elevator at the rear of his new office. He stepped inside and pulled the metal gate closed. He knew what he had to do next. He would stop Drusilla and Darla at any cost.

**********

“So tell us, Will,” Xander said as he and Faith sported matching grins. “What’s the big bad on tap for this week?”

“I hope it’s something I can really cut loose on.” Faith added. “I need to get in a few good Slays.”

The redhead just rolled her eyes as her everything suppressed a grin. The Scoobies had gathered at the Espresso Pump during their lunch break. Over time their conversation drifted away from the reactions of their various classmates to the new school building and towards general patrol recaps. The Slayers had noticed their patrols getting lighter and lighter over the last few weeks. The novelty of not being attacked at the start of every patrol had worn off after the first fruitless night. Buffy and Faith were practically climbing the walls after the second night of no action whatsoever. The close call on their third night had been chilling, to say the least.

“Clem was so scared when we jumped out of the bushes last night,” Buffy told her friends.

“He’s a demon, and you guys are the biggest n’ baddest Slayers since ever. He should be scared.” Xander remarked with an exasperated smirk. “Why does he get a free pass again?”

“Because he was polite and respectful and in no way a condescending jerk when we first met him,” Buffy told Xander with even more exasperation evident in her voice. “Plus he’s harmless. We don’t go around murdering harmless guys who happen to be a little weird looking. A Slayer isn’t a killer.”

“B’s right dude.” Faith added. “Ol’ Mr. Floppy Ears is a meek little cream puff. Second he knew who we were and what we wanted he rolled over and gave us the info the walking corpse was holdin’ out on. Not worth putting him down if he’s already house trained.”

“Plus Clem was alright to have around when things went sideways in our first life.” Willow chimed in with a pleased grin as the questions veered away from predictions only she and Tara could make. “He even babysat Dawnie a few times when we had all hands on deck type situations.”

“You left my sister with a demon!” Buffy shouted, drawing startled looks and a few snickers from the tables all around the café.

“No Buffy,” Tara replied in a more restrained tone. “You did.”

“Why would I do… that?” Buffy was almost at a loss for words. The sheer insanity of leaving Dawn in a crypt with even a polite demon was beyond her comprehension.

“Okay, there is a lot of baggage around the problems we dealt with that led to you letting Clem and Spike babysit…” Willow began to explain only to be cut off once more as Faith and Buffy both shot to their feet.

“Spike!” The Slayers shouted in unison.

“No! Never! A whole fuckin’ lot of not gonna fucking happen!” Faith growled out as she thought of the bleach blond vampire and the trouble he always brought to her family.

“Even if you cursed him with a soul he’s still… Spike!” Buffy flailed her arms in search of some explanation as to why they would leave Dawn with any of the monsters sired by Angelus.

“He was slightly more useful once they captured him next year and put a control chip in his brain.” Willow went on with little concern for the stunned and devastated looks her explanation was accumulating. “And for as long as you were with us it was always your idea to include him, Buffy.”

“What do you mean as long as I was… oh.” Buffy realized what they weren’t saying. “You’re talking about me dying.”

“It’s a really complicated story Buff,” Willow said without specifically confirming the Slayer’s suspicions. “We lost you for a bit and when we finally got you back you were emotionally fragile. In the months before that Spike became obsessed with you and since he’s always been a hopeless romantic he was convinced it was true love.”

“Eww!” Buffy shuddered at the mere thought of the bleach blonde vampire harboring any such emotions for her. Faith glared into the distance as she put an arm around her girl.

“I’m not letting that piece of shit touch you B.” Faith promised with a whisper in the petite blonde’s ear. “Don’t care how much of a jealous possessive bitch it makes me. You’re mine. He’s dust if he ever tries anything.”

“He never tried anything did he?” Buffy looked to the witches with widening eyes as the thought of her and Spike in any sort of relationship ran laps around her mind. It sickened her.

“He tried, you shut him down hard, he thought up a way to kill you even with the control chip. He was going to do it, but he found you crying on your back porch right after you heard about Joyce’s condition. He couldn’t do it. A while after that we lost Joyce and we all took it hard. We’re pretty sure he actually missed her. They talked a lot the few times he came by your house either looking for a fight or looking for help betraying Angelus.” Willow paused for a moment as if she was considering just how much more she wanted to disclose. “Then you fought a deposed hell god and won the war but lost yourself. It took us months to get you back. After that, you were in an emotionally fragile place and things fell apart. He babysat Dawn a few times because he blamed himself for not doing more in the big fight, and then once we got you back we waited too long to try and get him out of your life completely.”

“I think I’m gonna be sick,” Buffy whispered as she burrowed further into Faith’s embrace.

“Not gonna happen B.” Faith assured her girl. “I’ll dust him long before any of that goes down. No worthless vampire is taking you from me.”

“If it makes it any better the things going on between you two finally spiraled out of control so hard that he went half way around the world to a demon shaman.” Willow charged ahead with what had to be the most unbelievable part of the story. “He went through a bunch of trials and a whole lot of pain so that the shaman would give him something he lost.”

“What did he want?” Xander asked as Willow and Buffy’s eyes remained locked.

“He wanted to prove a point,” Willow told them. “So he went and got his human soul permanently restored.”

“That bloodsucker went and got his soul back out of spite?” Faith was floored. She couldn’t grasp why until she looked down at the petite blonde in her arms. She thought what she might do if things between them ever soured beyond her repair. Faith realized that she would do anything for Buffy. Faith had gone above and beyond to convince Buffy that she was worthy of her love. It wasn’t so hard to believe someone else was capable of going to extreme lengths to prove themselves to the Slayer.

“I know right,” Willow said with a small grin. “It was kinda romantic later when we all sat down and figured out what he’d done. Not enough though. At the time all we knew was that Spike was crazy, sleeping next to the hellmouth in the basement of the newly rebuilt high school, and talking to himself. Literally talking to himself. A major Big Bad was playing mind games with Spike for weeks on end until he was brainwashed. It got so bad that the control chip stopped working and he could kill again.”

“Okay, you said that three times now. What the hell is a control chip and why did the vampire get one?” Faith couldn’t hold back the question anymore. She had no idea why Buffy would let such a deadly vampire go unstaked for years.

“Oh, did I skip that part?” Willow asked and Tara chuckled. “The Big Bad we have to fight next year kidnapped spike and put a chip in his brain. Think of it like a shock collar on the inside of his head. It zapped him whenever he tried to hurt a living human.”

“Way too much effort for no fucking reward.” Faith muttered. “What dumbass came up with that idea?”

“The new head of the psychology department at U.C. Sunnydale,” Willow told her friends. “She’s a literal mad scientist and has this insane obsession with Operant Conditioning. Oh, that reminds me. No one take freshman psychology next year. Either set the time aside for Scooby meetings or take another elective. We don’t want to tip our hand to that bitch too early in the school year.”

“She’s that big a threat?” Xander asked as both Slayers visibly perked up. They were alert and ready at even the mention of future threats.

“The people she works with and the monsters she creates will be trouble,” Willow admitted.

“She has to be stopped,” Tara said with far more venom in her voice than any of them, save Willow, had heard before.

“Whoa, Blondie.” Faith said as she took in the curvy girl’s suddenly rigid posture. “This bitch try to mess with you or somethin’.”

“She was the main threat to my kingdom,” Tara admitted as some of the anger left her voice. “I didn’t like killing back then but if I had marched on her capital sooner and cut her down some people who became important to us back then wouldn’t have suffered at her hands. I should have gathered the Slayers to raid her city and buried my great sword in her chest the day after her first general showed up on our doorstep with a legion of partially dissected freaks.”

“That sounds like a yes.” Faith let out in an awed whistle. “You and me are gonna have our hands full next year B.”

“She’s human, though, right?” Buffy asked.

“We w-won’t ask you to k-kill a human Buffy,” Tara assured the Slayer.

“Right!” Willow added. “Of course. If we can take out her political connections she’ll be easy enough to handle ourselves.” Willow assured the Slayers. “If we need to we can have Bob and Steve take her out quietly.”

“Whoa,” Xander whispered as both Slayers just stared at the redhead. “That’s a little harsh Will.”

“She’s a serious threat,” Willow stated in no uncertain terms. “But we’re way ahead of ourselves here. She won’t be on our case for months and months. You guys wanted to know what was gonna try and kill us this week.”

Blank stares all around did little to derail Willow’s abrupt change in topics. The redhead smiled as she and Tara leaned back and shared a look. “I can’t say for sure but we might get a slightly insane visitor.”

“I’d say quirky.” Tara quipped with a playful smirk.

“You guys remember my Halloween costume?” Willow asked her friends.

“The red lace and black leather dominatrix outfit?” Faith asked as Buffy gaped in horror and Xander spit out the coffee he was drinking.

“That’s the one,” Tara answered with an appreciative smile cast Willow’s way.

“Well, that’s the everyday outfit a version of me from a parallel dimension wore when she came to our first dimension right about now.” Willow went on, ignoring the shock and awe held by her friends. “Someone made a wish to a vengeance demon and the result was a slightly creepy and easily bored vampire version of me. The demon lost their wish granting mojo and tried to summon it back but caught the vampire in the spell instead.”

“Fuck me that is gonna be freaky as hell to deal with.” Faith muttered as she and Buffy both focused on the grim prospect of staking Willow.

“Will… I don’t…” Buffy tried to find words only to falter a moment. Once she knew what she had to say she fixed her gaze on the redhead and continued. “I don’t think I can stake you.”

“I won’t ask you to Buffy,” Willow said as she reached across the table and held Buffy’s trembling hand. “I’m an incredibly powerful witch, and vamp me has always been lacking in the magic department. Also, the restraint and forethought departments now that I think about it. I couldn’t dust her the first time and I made you help send her back where she came from. Since then I’ve gotten a lot less squeamish. If she actually shows up in this dimension I’ll burn her to ash myself.”

“I thought you swore off dark magic,” Buffy asked. There was renewed worry in her voice.

“Yeah but basic elemental conjuring doesn’t need darkness,” Willow assured the petite blonde. “It’s something Tara helped me pick up a long time ago. Plus, fire, pretty.”

“Okay Will.” Buffy smiled as she relaxed back into Faith’s side. “I trust you. If you want first crack at dealing with your evil doppelganger you’ve got it.”

“Thanks, Buffy.” Willow smiled at the Slayer before sharing a look with her always. She couldn’t help but smile even brighter at the love, devotion, and support she found in Tara’s eyes. Though it didn’t always come up both witches knew they could easily handle young, inexperienced and nearly powerless vampiric versions of either of themselves. The undead doppelgangers didn’t always show up, but when they did their visits were brief, to say the least.

**********

“I see her.” The raven haired vampire whispered as she sat on her knees in the middle of the darkened apartment. What had once been the watchers council special operations team’s fallback site now served a much more sinister purpose. It now housed two vampires, clothed only in the blood splatter of their latest meal.

“Who do you see Dru?” Darla asked in a bored tone as she paced around her kneeling minion. “The nosy realtor that keeps coming by? We can just eat her next.”

“The Slayer.” Drusilla moaned as she rocked back and forth in a daze. “The one that could have been. That can not be. She’s coming here.”

“What?” Darla snapped. “That little bitch giving orders to my Angelus is coming for us?”

“No, not her.” Drusilla let out a gasp as she rubbed her hands up and down her slender body. “The outsider. The shadow. She’s lost. So very lost and far from home.”

“Is the Slayer coming for us or not Dru?” Darla asked as she fought the urge to shake the dazed vampire.

“Not us,” Drusilla whispered. “Never us. She won’t make it that far.”

“Good. I have enough on my plate without some Slayer trying to stop me.” The blonde straightened up as she came to stand in front of Drusilla. With almost tender care she began to caress raven locks.

“Mmm.” Drusilla moaned yet again. “Grandmummy wants a treat.”

“Don’t call me that Dru!” Darla snapped. “Recruiting a legion of demons is stressful enough without you making me sound old and withered.”

“He won’t leave us be you know,” Drusilla said as she began to rub her face against Darla’s exposed thighs.

“I don’t want to hear this.” The blonde muttered.

“We could have a thousand soldiers and still he’ll come.” The delirious vampire went on. “Galloping, galloping. Still, he’ll come.”

“Why is everybody trying to make this about Angel?” Darla shouted. “I mean for god’s sake. Can’t a woman wreak a little havoc without there being a man involved?”

“You miss him,” Drusilla said from between Darla’s legs. She began to run her long slender fingers up and down the blonde’s thighs to maddening effect. “Like a heartbeat.”

“I don’t miss my heartbeat, Dru,” Darla muttered in disgust. “It was a symptom of a disease I have since been cured of.” She paused to look her minion in the eye. The vacant gaze she received only served to further irritate the blonde. “You know, in a perfect world, Angel would be here right now helping me burn this city to the ground. This is his job I’m doing, but where is he? Probably flogging himself in a church somewhere.”

“Ooh, flogging. Eww, churches.” Drusilla whimpered in delight and then disgust at the idea of her sire’s possible new hobby.

“In a perfect world, we’d be flogging you!” Darla went on as she gripped Drusilla’s long raven locks. “We’d all be slaughtering the innocent, laughing as we rain destruction on this whole miserable town. I’d even let Spike tag along for old times’ sake.”

“My poor Spike,” Drusilla whispered as she went back into a daze. “The King comes for my good little boy only to bring death and pain. The fire...”

“Death, pain, fire.” Darla went on ignoring Drusilla’s vacant ramblings. “Lots of fire. Conflagration. In a perfect world, there’d be nothing left here but ashes.”

“Ashes to ashes for my poor lost Spike.” Drusilla moaned. “He’s been spared her fire and wrath only to lose his glory. What once ended in a blaze and a roar will falter with a hiss and a whimper. So unfitting my poor lost knight. He won’t get to see how it ends. The witches will save that fate for another only to let it be stolen by the Son.”

“What?” Darla asked as she clued in on Drusilla’s rambling.

“I see such pretty fire.” Drusilla chuckled into the tuft of blonde curls between Darla’s legs. “And pain. So much suffering. The flames are lovely. They dance and the fire licks like a cat. And the screams, oh it’s like star music.”

“That’s nice Dru,” Darla said as she gripped the seer by her ebony hair and shoved Drusilla’s face into her pussy. “But I don’t want to hear about the boys anymore today. Now show me just how a cat licks.”

Darla’s sour mood lightened as Drusilla went to work. She rocked herself up and down on the insane vampire’s face until she knew her point had been made. Long decades of experience had taught the blonde that Drusilla could eventually be pulled out of her dazed and dream-like trances. No matter how much the daft girl’s “visions” robbed her focus Drusilla’s tongue would eventually get back to work. Darla smirked as she felt the slick muscle worm its way inside. She knew just how to get what she wanted from her minions.

**********

“So how have you been Amy?” Buffy asked as she stopped by her locker and looked to the witch that happened to have the one right next to hers.

“Oh, hey Buffy,” Amy replied as she looked up to see the Slayer. “Alright, I guess. I found the last of my Mom’s spell books and handed them over to Willow. I’ve been dark magic free for about a year so I’m pretty sure they won’t try to bind me or anything.”

“What?” Buffy asked in surprise. “Amy, you’ve been a huge help to us. Willow and Tara would never hurt you.”

“So long as I behave right,” Amy said with a slight chuckle that couldn’t manage to draw even a little amusement from the Slayer.

“Amy you’re a part of the team,” Buffy assured the taller girl. “Whenever we need you for big stuff you always come through. I may not know much about magic but I know Will and Tara and Tara’s mom aren’t enough for all the big group action. Sometimes you need a lot more hands to get the mojo flowing.”

Amy cringed at the lurid phrasing that seemed to fly over the petite blonde’s head. She shuddered at the thought of being asked to help Willow and Tara do anything with their “mojo.” She didn’t think she’d ever be comfortable lending her hands to any such activities between the two all-powerful witches.

“Please call it a ritual circle Buffy.” Amy pleaded with the oblivious Slayer. “I’m happy that they’re happy and whatever, but I’m not interested in sticking my fingers in anyone’s mojo or whatever else is in that whole scene.”

For her part, Buffy simply quirked her head to the side and continued rifling through her locker. “Sure, no prob. Plus I like totally owe you for looking after Dawn when Spike showed up again.”

“She’s a good kid,” Amy replied as if her own heroics didn’t bear repeating.

Buffy perked up as a new idea popped into her head “Hey, Prom is coming up. You ask anyone yet?”

“What? No!” Amy couldn’t help but flinch at the question. “No, I’m not interested in any of the clueless brats around here. Besides, I already have someone special.”

“Really? Oh my god who?” Buffy leapt at the opportunity for fresh gossip about something other than her and Faith’s tumultuous relationship. “Is it someone I know? Tell me, tell me!”

“Okay settle down super strength.” Amy laughed as the Slayer bounced up and down at her side. “He doesn’t go here and he’s from out of town so I don’t think I’m gonna have much chance getting him to go to Prom with me.”

“Long distance thing?” Buffy asked. A brief nod from Amy told the Slayer all she needed. “Well, you can still ask him. I’m sure if he really cares he’ll make time to be there for you.”

“I wish.” Amy scoffed at Buffy’s reassurances before a worried look passed over her eyes. “I mean, we call a few nights a week and he sends me gifts with the allowance his job gives him. I think he cares, but… What if it’s not as serious for him?”

“If you never ask you’ll never know,” Buffy said as she pulled the textbook for her next class out of her locker. “Where does he live and what kind of job does he have? He’s not like way older is he, because believe me, that isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.”

Amy laughed at the odd concern in the Slayer’s voice. “He’s not some old ass vampire or even a creepy old guy. He’s just a year or two ahead of you and me I think.”

“And what kind of job gives him an allowance that he can spend all on you?” Buffy asked. She was growing all the more interested with each dodge and deflection the young witch offered up.

“I think the title he came up with was “executive vice president regarding local resource obfuscation and development,” Amy said after giving Buffy an amused glance. “He and his buddies each decided to come up with meaninglessly convoluted job titles for their paperwork just to screw with the lawyer that has to file all their stuff. I think his best friend calls himself their “paradigm management and lateral shift extrapolation administrator.”

“The hell does that even mean?” Buffy asked as Amy laughed at her bewildered expression.

“It means they’ve had too much fun with a couple different word of the day calendars,” Amy replied with a genuine smile before a remorseful frown took its place. “Goddess I miss him.”

“Where does this dream guy live?” Buffy asked.

“L.A.,” Amy answered. She almost missed the way Buffy brightened.

“That’s perfect!” The Slayer cheered immediately. “I’ll call Alonna and have her and the boys look your guy up. They have plenty of rides they can lend your honey for the commute. This is perfect. What’s his name? How can they find him?”

“Rondell,” Amy whispered before she could stop herself. Both Buffy and Amy’s eyes widened in surprise at the admission.

“Gunn’s friend?” Buffy asked as she stared at the young witch. “Why didn’t you say so sooner? When did this start?”

“Pretty much the night of the big Halloween costume cluster fuck,” Amy admitted. “He was just so sweet, and I was terrified that Willow and Tara were going to take me out back and kill me, and he just came up and talked to me like I was a normal person who didn’t have a family tree full of insane dark witches. Plus he has the most amazing abs. I just… I can’t wait to move to L.A. as soon as we graduate.”

“Wow,” Buffy said as she took in the heartfelt ramble Amy had released. “We are definitely getting him to take you to Prom.”

“I don’t want to impose.” Amy protested as she clung to the lingering fear of what might happen if she relied too heavily on Willow and Tara’s connections. That fear was only superseded by the chance she would one day succumb to the lure of dark magic.

“Amy if there is anything Willow and Tara know it’s love,” Buffy said.

“Actually it’s computer engineering and interdimensional soul translocation sorcery.” Amy quipped.

“Very funny witch girl.” Buffy deadpanned before fixing her gaze on the taller teen. “Seriously, you’ve been long distancing with the same guy for about a year and a half. If anyone will understand being separated from love it’s Willow. She won’t stop talking about how much losing Tara the first time sucked. Just call him up and ask him to Prom. We can handle the rest.”

“You’re sure?” Amy asked the now exasperated Slayer.

“Yes!” Buffy cried out. “Go on and have a good time with your honey. You’ve earned it.”

“Thanks, Buffy.” Amy smiled as she was pulled into a warm hug by the Slayer. A moment passed before she opened her eyes and happened to glance into the other girl’s locker. “Oh, what’s that?”

“Huh?” Buffy said as she let go and turned to follow Amy’s gaze. She saw the tiny bronze object shining in the bottom of her locker and rolled her eyes. “Oh, that’s nothing. Just some jewelry I have no use for since it clashes with this ring Faith gave me on our Slayerversary.” She fished the small bronze ring with the dull translucent stone out of her locker.

“It looks just like a ring my grandmother wore before my mom went all…” Amy trailed off as the memories of her mother’s descent into madness came rushing forward.

“See? It’s all bronzy and doesn’t go with my Silvery Faith ring at all. Plus I’m not in the mood for mood stones ever since I figured out how to have my Slayer senses broadcast all my emotions directly to Faith. I don’t need a little rock to tell my girl how much I love her. I can just show her what I feel whenever I think about her.”

A goofy grin played across the Slayer’s face as she closed her eyes. A long moment passed before she looked up to find Amy still there, looking at her with a mix of concern and amusement. “She’s thinking about me too by the way.”

“That’s pretty amazing,” Amy said as she watched the Slayer silently commune with her girl.

“Here,” Buffy said, handing the ring over to Amy. “You should have it.”

“What? I can’t.” Amy protested.

“Take it.” Buffy urged. “I never wear it and it’s not like it’s some great Summers family heirloom. If it reminds you of better times with your grandma you should have it.”

“Thanks, Buffy,” Amy said as she let the Slayer slip the ring on her finger.

“Don’t mention it,” Buffy said before a bell rang. She slammed her locker closed and began to head off down the hall “Crap, I have to get to class. See you later Amy, and don’t forget. We’re bringing your honey to town for Prom even if we have to drag him here in a burlap sack.”

With that, the Slayer was gone and the witch was left to laugh at her locker. Amy never expected to be allowed into the Slayer’s confidence. But now that she was she hoped the odd friendship would never end. The witch closed her locker door and began to walk towards her next class. She was halfway up the stairwell when an anxious voice drew her notice.

“Uh, Amy!” Another young woman called out. The witch turned to see a girl with short brunette hair looking at her expectantly from the base of the stairs. “It’s Amy right?”

“Um… yes?” Amy replied.

“Anya. I’m sort of new here. I know Cordelia.” The brunette introduced herself.

“Oh, fun, good luck with that.” Amy deadpanned as she prepared to turn and leave.

“Yeah, so um, listen,” Anya said while climbing the steps to stand beside Amy. “My friend and I have this little project we’ve been working on and I heard that you might be able to help us.”

“What do you need exactly?” Amy asked as a slight sense of dread began to take root.

“Oh, it’s nothing dangerous,” Anya assured the witch. “We just need another circle member to stabilize a temporal fold. I heard you came from a powerful line so.”

“Nope. Nu-uh. Can’t help.” Amy said as she tried to flee. “I don’t do time folds anymore. Too messy.”

“Wait. Please.” Anya reached out and lightly grasped Amy’s hand. “We just need to recover a pair of stolen necklaces. Really old family heirlooms. Please help us.”

Amy sighed before looking at the insistent girl once more. “This isn’t something minor. Have you tried asking Willow and Tara for help? They just love helping people.”

Anya noticed the sarcastic drawl towards the end of Amy’s statement. She smirked to herself before going ahead with her plea for help. “Oh those two are a little much don’t you think? Besides, you seemed like you have everything together in your life. I’m sure you’d be a perfect. For helping with the spell I mean.”

Amy thought the request over once more. On the one hand, a temporal fold attempt could go sideways on them in so many ways. On the other, with the way Buffy had spoken of her, she was practically a member of the Scoobies. Maybe if she showed more initiative in helping people Willow and Tara would pull some strings with the Slayer they had put in charge of Rondell’s hotel. Maybe she’d get to see him more often.

With that unlikely hope in mind, Amy smiled at the strange new girl and nodded. “Okay, I’m in.”

**********

“You sure we had to do this on school grounds?” Amy asked the two young women who had lured her into assisting their spellwork.

“Oh don’t worry,” Hallie said with a far too toothy smile. “We just wanted some place where no one would interrupt us. Besides, it’s not like we’re sneaking into the old school to tap into the hellmouth.”

“What?” Amy shouted as Anya snapped, “Halfrek!”

“Kidding,” Hallie assured both girls. “Oh, you two are so uptight. Relax and live a little.”

“After we get our necklaces back, Hallie.” Anya seethed at her friend. Amy couldn’t help but notice the annoyed tone.

“Are you sure those little doodles on the plate will be enough to get Eyrishon to find your family jewels?” Amy asked as she looked askance at the large white dinner plate with two hastily scribbled pictures of necklaces scrawled across its surface. One showed a dark emerald gem in its center. The other pendant sported a dark blue stone with tiny red flecks all throughout.

“Of course,” Anya said as she set the last of the ritual items in place. “Now let’s get our amulets back.”

Amy and Hallie raised their hands to meet just over the plate as Anya brought one hand up to theirs and with the other clutched an open vial of dark purple powder. As one the three young women began to chant.

“Eyrishon, K’shala, Meh-uhn.”
“Deprect, Doh Tehenla, Nu Eyrishon.”
“The child to the mother.”
“The river to the sea.”
“Eyrishon hear my prayer.”

Their eyes closed as power built within the spell. Amy saw flashes of things she couldn’t comprehend. She watched in awe as Willow prowled the hellmouth cloaked in darkness. Tara wandered the desert just outside of town wreathed pure sunlight. Buffy going on fruitless patrols in a town that had long since been purged of demons.

Tara flying through the skies over New York city wearing little more than a black bathing suit, thigh-high boots, and a red sash. Willow in a tight red corset sitting at the side of a throne in an empty metal plated throne room.

A curvy redhead with green skin sitting at the heart of a horrific garden. A blonde version of what might have been Willow holding a baseball bat as she paced back and forth in front of the door just outside that garden.

A necromancer and a black knight leading armies across the wilderness to sack town after town. Eventually clashing in an open field, stepping out from the armies they led in order to duel to the death.

Infinitely smaller glimpses of other worlds raced through Amy’s mind in a flash. She saw the devastation one poorly worded wish could bring about. She saw the light and love return to countless worlds. Each one different in both small and profound ways.

She watched as the blur faded to a collage outlining the likeliest conclusions where her journey would lead. Amy saw both wonders and horrors she could not fathom. Darkness and suffering the likes of which she hadn’t felt since her own mother had stolen her body. Joy and pride she had never before experienced in her short life. She saw herself take a place of power and authority within the new watchers council Willow and Tara helped Buffy rebuild a thousand times over. She saw herself repeatedly leading armies of fools and monsters into war with nearly identical versions of those same watchers council and Scooby Gang members. She witnessed herself building lasting friendships and hated rivalries with countless copies of the very same people who walked the halls of her school. She watched, helpless, as a dark and sinister Willow drained the magic from her body. She watched herself fall to the ground. Her body shook, wracked, desolate, broken. Amy had one last glimpse of the dark witch stepping over her dying husk before darkness filled her vision.

As the visions tore through Amy’s mind her hands shook. The vial of powder in Anya’s hand was batted around. None of the young women present noticed as the purple grains flew out over Amy’s hand and then pooled around her ring. The stone flashed with color for one instant as it drank in all of the mystic powder that had fallen near its wearer.

Light flared in the darkened classroom before guttering out. Anya and Hallie were on the plate, sifting through purple grains the second they regained their senses. Their efforts were in vain.

“Where are they?” Anya shouted as Hallie resigned herself to her renewed humanity.

“Oh no,” Amy whispered as she backed away from the former vengeance demons. “Oh fuck this.”

“It’s not here!” Anya shouted.

“I’m out.” Amy stood and was halfway to the door before Anya cried out to her.

“Wait! Come back here and help me try again!” Anya demanded.

“Anya,” Hallie whispered as she took in the witch’s now furious stance.

“You think I’m ever going to help you?” Amy shouted in disgust. “You think I’m some idiot child who can’t spot a demonic power center when I’m asked to conjure it up from the depths of hell?”

“Amy please.” Hallie tried to soothe the outraged witch. “We just want our necklaces back.”

“Then do it without me,” Amy said as she turned back to the door.

“Damn it girl come back here!” Anya shouted.

Amy flung one hand over her shoulder and growled a single word. “Thicken!”

Anya and Hallie were frozen in place as they watched the witch disappear through the doorway. It was several tedious minutes before they regained full mobility. “Damn that child,” Anya muttered as she stretched her muscles. “What are we going to do now?”

“Well it’s obvious we aren’t going to try anything with those two witches and their pet Slayers camping out on the hellmouth,” Hallie said. “I’m not sure about you Anya, but I’m going to give being human again a try.”

“Why?” Anya asked in complete bewilderment. “Why would you even bother being mortal after wielding the power of the wish for centuries?”

“What choice do we have?” Hallie asked as she stood up from the mess their spell had left. Anya seethed but deep down she knew there was little she could do. For now.

**********

“Huh?” Buffy moaned as she awoke in a daze. She found herself kneeling at the side of the street a short distance away from the Magic Box. “What’s going on?” She whispered as she looked around the busy street. The sun was just about to set and dozens of people were going about their evenings.

“This is wrong.” The Slayer muttered as she looked up and down the length of Main Street. The nearby Espresso Pump was packed with customers. A large crowd was pouring out of the brightly lit Sunnydale Cinema. Children chased and laughed their way across the street. Perhaps most startling of all was the elderly bald man standing in the doorway of the Magic Box with a cheerful smile plastered across his face.

“Well hello there Ms. Summers.” He greeted the Slayer with a bow and a bright smile. As Buffy stood there staring in confusion the man stepped out onto the sidewalk in front of his store. “Is everything okay? You didn’t just come from a fight, did you? You and your partner have been keeping things so quiet lately I’d almost forgotten we’re on a hellmouth.”

“What?” Buffy tried to ask only to come up short once more. “I don’t know what… This isn’t right. This part of town has been deserted ever since Willow...”

“Ah, Ms. Rosenberg and Ms. Maclay.” The shopkeeper’s demeanor brightened even further at the mention of the two young women. “Their usual shipment isn’t in quite yet. I’ll be sure to call Mrs. Maclay when it comes in.”

“Maclay?” Buffy only muttered in bewilderment.

“Right, of course. Jennifer hates being called by her ex’s name.” The man said as one of his hands found its way to his forehead. “How foolish of me.” He paused as he saw someone approach from behind the Slayer. “Sorry, Ms. Summers but one of my regulars is here.” He said in a hushed tone before raising his voice and greeting the newcomer. “Ms. Trevally! What a pleasant surprise.”

“Greetings Mr. Bogarty.” The middle-aged witch said to the shopkeeper before turning to the still confused Slayer with a bow. “Good evening Slayer. I hope you and your partner enjoy good hunting this night.”

“Hunting?” Buffy could only whisper while realizing that the witch and the shopkeeper both knew her secret. Before a denial could spring forth Ms. Trevally all but cringed at her own casual slip of the tongue.

“Ah, my apologies.” The witch said as she caught a chagrined look from Mr. Bogarty. “You ladies prefer the term patrol. Far be it for me to besmirch your fine work.”

“Um, thank you?” Buffy said with a small, unsteady wave as the witch was ushered into the shop by its keeper. “Patrol... Oh no! If something happened to Willow then the demons might come back.” The Slayer sprang into action, turning and bolting in the direction of the nearest graveyard. She raced into the night, oblivious to the fact that at least one out of every ten of the people she raced past knew her mission. Knew all to well that they owed their lives to the tireless efforts of another girl who looked exactly like the petite blonde Slayer.

**********

It had taken the better part of the day trudging through sewers and beating information out of unsuspecting demons and vampires, but the cursed vampire had finally made it. He stood before the massive sliding doors of one rundown warehouse. The partly abandoned industrial district made the perfect location for all manner of illicit gatherings. From underground demon fight clubs to rallies of angry and hungry vampires, to the semi-weekly lodge meetings of cultists plotting the end of days. Before, the vampire would have been eager to shut down any one of those gatherings. With the Slayer and her crew at his side, he held little doubt of their success.

But things had changed. He stood, alone, glaring at the heavy metal door of the warehouse. His recent training would be his only backup tonight. If the snitch’s words could be trusted then there were at least a dozen demons waiting for a fight on the other side of this door. He would give them what they waited for.

The cursed vampire reached up and threw open the door. Scarred, horned and scaled heads turned to face the new arrival. They had been promised the chance to fight and kill in the name of the two female vampires making their presence known all over town. Little did they realize that the fight they were promised had come to them far earlier than advertised.

Without so much as a word Angel closed the door behind him. He stepped forward, dropping the open duffle bag full weapons to the floor at his side. The dozens of metal blades within clanged and clattered before coming to rest. His cold, humorless glare swept over the demons that had heeded Darla’s call. He twirled the axe in his hand before straightening it with a much firmer grip. A few low growls and hisses came from the crowded demons before him. One dull gray demon with two rows of spikes trailing up and over his head took a step forward. The cursed vampire charged, weapon raised. He knew he’d be the last one standing when his sire arrived.

**********

The Slayer moved through the darkening cemetery with practiced ease. Though it had been the better part of a year since her last Slay, Buffy knew she would find something amiss in this world that hadn’t felt Willow’s power. A rustling from the nearby bushes drew the Slayer’s attention. She drew herself up, awaiting her prey.

A hunched figure backed out of the shrubbery, unaware of the petite blonde. He stood, revealing a bald head covered in pale skin and two floppy ears that sagged at odd angles. The figure was muttering to himself about things Buffy never imagined a bloodthirsty demon would find the time for.

“Shoot. If I don’t make it back to the crypt in time I’m gonna miss Passions.” Clem mumbled as he turned around to face the Slayer. As their eyes met the loose-skinned demon let out a terrified shriek before falling backwards. “Oh my Goddess, Buffy! Don’t scare me like that! It’s bad enough you Slayers jumped me last night. I can’t take my life flashing before my eyes so often.” He looked up at the stunned Slayer and smiled. Buffy took in the sight of his countless loose, wrinkly folds of skin and shuddered. She couldn’t recall facing such a fiend, but she knew she would win against the timid demon. “I’m actually a lot older than I look so it takes a while for my whole life to flash by.” Clem finished.

“How do you know my name?” Buffy asked as she loomed over the demon. To her surprise, the loose skinned man simply gave her a confused look and then began to laugh.

“That’s a good one Slayer.” Clem chuckled as he looked up at the young woman. “Did Faith put you up to this?”

“Who’s Faith?” Buffy asked.

“Wait,” Clem began only to stop as her words registered. “That’s not funny Buffy. You know how much she cares about you.”

“Alright, that’s it!” Buffy snapped as she lunged forward with fists raised. Clem saw her attack coming and instinct took over. He let out a panicked scream just as his wrinkly skin let out dozens of tiny silvery snakelike tendrils. Buffy’s eyes widened in shock followed by horror and disgust as the faux snakes sank their fangs into her skin.

“Oh my god oh my god oh my god oh my god oh my god oh my god.” Clem murmured as panic set in. The Slayer’s body stiffened atop his and the loose-skinned demon knew his days were numbered. “Oh Goddess, Buffy I am so, so, so sorry. This never happens to me. I just saw you coming and panicked.”

The petite blonde could do nothing but glare as she failed to move her paralyzed body. Clem saw the look and decided to take immediate action. “Okay, this isn’t so bad. You’re a Slayer so the toxin will wear off in about five minutes.” He spoke in a fast paced ramble as he took the Slayer who had fallen on top of him and gently moved her to one side. “I mean you’ll be good as new before... oh, but this is a cemetery. How has patrol been going with Faith the last few weeks?” The Slayer only glared at the nervous demon. “Even if you guys wiped them all out more always come.” Clem went on talking to himself and the Slayer as he rolled her over and propped her body against one oversized tombstone. “I can’t just leave you like this. Anyone could… Oh, idea!”

Buffy watched as Clem repositioned her arms and legs so she wouldn’t end up falling over onto her face. “Sorry about this, I’m sure yours is better but you can’t be too careful,” Clem spoke as he opened one of Buffy’s hands and curled her fingers. To the Slayer’s surprise, the demon slipped a wooden stake into her claw-like grip. “There, now you’re armed. What were you doing out on patrol without a stake anyway? And where’s Faith?” Buffy’s glare stopped his questions dead in their tracks. “On second thought I should be going. Take care of yourself, Buffy. Please let Faith know I’m incredibly sorry.”

The Slayer regained just enough motor control to clench her fist all the more tightly around the wooden stake. She watched as Clem stood up and ran away. He vanished around a crypt just as Buffy regained the ability to hurl insults.

“Damn it demon! Come back here and fight me!” Buffy roared as she just barely broke free of the paralyzing toxin. It was another few minutes before she regained full sensation in her legs. With the last of the toxins wearing off Buffy felt she had patrolled enough for one night. The Slayer climbed to her feet, brushed off the dirt from her jacket, and slowly began to walk in the direction of Rovello Drive.

**********

“For the last time Brat, it ain’t like that.” Faith moaned as she stood in the middle of the Summers’ kitchen awaiting the return of her watcher, her girl, and the woman she hoped would be her future mother in law. The Slayers had decided to cut their earliest patrol and go on a slightly longer sweep after dining with their family. Or at least the petite blonde’s family. Not that there was still any distinction between the Summers and Rosenberg-Maclay clans within their greater Scooby Gang family. “I can’t read B’s mind like some sicko mind walker.”

“But you guys share your dreams.” Dawn protested as if one display of their connection obviously led to the other. “And not in like a, “you tell each other everything ‘cuz you’re totes besties” kind of way. You walk around inside each others’ dreams.”

“That’s just the big doom and gloom prophesy dreams.” Faith dismissed the girl’s point before showing a slight frown. “Mostly.”

“But you always know what she’s doing!” Dawn complained. “You and my doofus sister, and Willow and Tara. Your relationships are built on psychic connections. Aren’t they?”

“Oh Goddess no you twerp, they’re built on love!” Faith laughed as she refused to let the younger girl’s assumption lead to any darker conclusions about the connections shared by the most important women in her life. “I don’t need to shove my mind dick in your sister’s head space to know she’s the one for me. I ain’t perfect but I’m not that much of a possessive, controlling, bitch.”

“You always say Goddess instead of god.” Dawn gave another speculative look to the Slayer she refused to admit was babysitting her. “Just like Willow, and Tara, and Jennifer. Why is that?”

“You know what my life was like before coming here Lil’ D.” Faith whispered before forcing down her older, more personal demons. “You’re smart enough to figure out the gist of it anyway. I don’t got much reason to bend a knee to any of the dress wearin’ dandy boys handin’ out empty promises every Sunday. The first people I ever met in my fucked up little life that I wanted to call family showed me a better path. Red and Blondie shared their kick ass Goddess with me. I ain’t exactly praying to her every morning to refill my mana points or spell slots or whatever, but I got more reasons to pray now than I ever did in Boston. At least here I know that She’s listening.”

“Faith.” Dawn tried to offer some comfort as she walked up to her sister’s girlfriend and her own personal role model for all things youthful rebellion. Before any such comfort could be given the Slayer schooled her emotions and put her battle tested and tragedy hardened defenses back in place.

“It’s stupid ain’t it?” Faith refused to cry in front of the child and began to pull plates and silverware out of cupboards and drawers to distract herself. “With my name… All this bitchin’ and moanin’ about prayer and imaginary friends who live up in the clouds. I should know we’re on our own in this hellhole. I shouldn’t let myself get soft thinkin’ about higher powers that act like deadbeat dads.”

“It’s not stupid Faith,” Dawn assured with more conviction in her words than she realized she possessed. “Finally finding the thing in your life that you were named after isn’t stupid or soft. It’s something you’ve needed.”

There was a long pause as both girls refused to shed any tears. As the moment veered towards an awkward lull an amused grin came over the younger brunette. “If anything it’s ironic,” Dawn said before her amusement turned to confusion. “Or maybe it’s just coincidental? I can never tell what counts as ironic, with the pop song and what my English teacher said in class a few months ago. That whole day was seriously confusing. She spent the first half of the class smiling to herself and then told us the definition was “that unexpected twist in the story that takes you by surprise.” But then I’m like “what if I see the twist coming from all the way back in the first chapter?” Is it still ironic if it’s obvious? What if it’s only unexpected for half the audience? What if some of them don’t get “the joke” that ties the twist into the plot of the story? Is irony then like Schrodinger’s Cat? Is a situation both ironic and unironic until it’s observed by a third party?”

“D… You have got to be like the weirdest kid.” Faith said once Dawn’s stream of questions, both metaphorical and metaphysical, tapered off. “So anyway… What were we talking about again?”

“You and Buffy don’t have a psychic connection.” Dawn pouted as the Slayer took on an even more confused look.

“What?” Faith shot back in surprise. “Nah, we totally got that whole “psychic love” thing down. All part of being Slayers.”

“But you just said you can’t read her mind.” Dawn protested as her sister’s girlfriend failed to hold back a blatant smirk.

“What we got is way better than mind readin’ or any of that other comic book shit you’re thinkin’ about.” Faith assured with a playful smile. “We feel each other.”

“Huh?” Dawn was lost for a long moment. “What does that even mean and how is it better than mind reading?”

“It’s the best D!” Faith gushed with more enthusiasm and joy than Dawn had ever seen from the Slayer. “No matter where she goes or what’s comin’ at her I know when she’s okay and when she needs me. Our Slayer senses are fused. We can pick each other out of any horde of demons. Nothing can hide her from me. I feel her in my soul.”

“But it’s not mind reading like Willow and Tara?” Dawn asked.

“They don’t read each others’ minds D.” Faith said with grim certainty. “If they can they just don’t. You ain’t heard the way Red rants about mind walkers. My first week here, I thought it was like a racial thing, but then I figured out she and Blondie got burned by some psychic mojo way back at the very beginning. They won’t touch the stuff and they won’t let anyone who does mess with all that crap hang around their family. Our family.”

Sensing the topic could only grow more unnerving, the younger brunette decided to shift to the safer matters at hand. “So if you always feel my sister then you can tell when Buffy, Mom, and Giles will be back with dinner?” Dawn asked with a playful smirk.

“She’s on her way back. Be here any minute...” Faith answered only to pause as the back door opened and the petite blonde in question stumbled inside. “...now?”

The petite blonde looked up as soon as she heard the stunned gasps from both brunettes. Her eyes widened before narrowing in a way that set Dawn’s nerves on edge. No matter what her eyes told her Dawn Summers knew that the petite blonde before them was not quite the sister she knew and tolerated. Something wasn’t right about the petite blonde. Something was out of place.

“B?” Faith asked as she set aside the stack of plates she had begun to pull out for dinner. “You’re back. Where’s Mrs. S and the G man?” The brunette was across the kitchen in a few joyful strides.

“Mom? Giles?” Buffy asked in a slightly confused tone. Before the Slayer could ask one of the dozen more questions that came to her mind the taller brunette had slipped her arms around slender hips and pulled their bodies flush against one another. Buffy looked up, confused, just in time to feel soft pouty lips capture her own. For one brief moment, the Slayer was tempted to lose herself in the strange girl. That moment did not last.

Faith wondered why her girl stiffened in her arms. She couldn’t understand why the love of her life began to struggle against the routine greeting they had adopted within days of their reunion. Nor could the brunette grasp just why she found herself flying across the kitchen.

Dawn watched in horror as Buffy cast Faith off with one mighty shove. The Slayer’s flight came to a crashing halt as her back and the majority of her skull slammed into the refrigerator door. Dawn’s eyes shot back and forth between the two Slayers. The girl who couldn’t be her sister only glared in return.

“Damn it, Buffy! What the hell was that? I thought we were done with the “you pushing me away” bullshit!” Faith snapped as she rubbed the sore spot at the back of her head.

“Buffy, how could you treat Faith like that after everything she’s done for you?” Dawn shouted at the figure wearing her sister’s face.

While Faith took her time climbing back to her feet the petite blonde wasted none.“Who the hell are you people and what the hell are you doing in my house?” Buffy shouted at the top of her lungs.

“What is that supposed to mean?” Faith muttered as she climbed back up. “Seriously B what’s with the mood swings? We ain’t fought like this since that mess with the haunted Sadie Hawkins dance. What gives?”

“Well excuse me for not wanting some random skank to come up and shove her tongue down my throat!” Buffy shot back. “Now what are you freaks doing in my kitchen?”

“Okay, seriously Buffy. What the fuck crawled up your ass?” Faith shouted at the petite blonde she thought belonged to her. “You always save this bitch attitude for patrol. What could I have possibly...” Faith trailed off as she stared at Buffy for several long moments. Once she finally realized what was bothering her most the brunette couldn’t help but ask. “Why don’t I feel you?” Faith asked in a horrified whisper.

“Faith,” Dawn said as she too felt something different about the other Slayer. The petite blonde standing before them had radiated a sense of wrongness unlike any Dawn had ever felt before.

“What are you even talking about?” Buffy asked before shaking her head. “You know what? No! I don’t care. Both of you freaks need to get out of my house before I throw you out!”

“Why can’t I feel you on my Slay-dar B?” Faith asked again as she tensed up. “It’s like you’re not even here.”

“Faith, keep away from her,” Dawn whispered as she stood and backed away from the kitchen island. She was certain that the petite blonde before them did not belong to their family. “That’s not Buffy.”

“What?” Both Slayers nearly shouted at the slender young brunette.

“That isn’t my sister,” Dawn said as she fixed the Not-Buffy with a glare. None of them noticed the sound of the front door opening and closing.

“What did you do to the real B?” Faith snapped as she turned back to the petite blonde. “So help me if you hurt my girl!” She took a menacing step forward.

“You wanna go bitch?” Not-Buffy asked as she prepared to fight the outraged brunette.

“What’s going on in here?” Giles called out as he and Joyce came into the room.

“And why all the shouting?” Joyce added. “We were only gone for a few…” The watcher and the art gallery owner froze as they saw the petite blonde standing by the back door of their house. “Buffy?”

“Mom! Giles!” Not-Buffy shouted in relief. “Who are these people? Make them leave!”

“But that’s not possible,” Joyce muttered as she just stared at the girl who looked exactly like her eldest daughter. “You were just with us in…”

“Okay, guys I got the last bag of food,” Buffy said as she walked into the kitchen behind her mother and watcher. She set the bags in her hands down on the nearest counter space before coming around Giles and looking up. When she did she noticed just who exactly had everyone else on edge.

Hazel eyes locked with hazel eyes and the world seemed to stand still for a moment that stretched on far too long.

The Slayer and the Slayer thrust accusing fingers at their likeness. “Doppelganger!” Buffy and Buffy shouted in unison. Shock gave way to furious glares as both petite blondes decided on their next move.

“Die Face Stealer!” Buffy and Buffy shouted as they charged. Slayer met Slayer in fierce combat at the heart of the Summers kitchen. The fight might have gotten off to a better start if each Slayer hadn’t thrown an identical right hook directly into her opponent’s jaw. Buffy and Buffy staggered back, briefly rubbing bruised chins before diving forward again. They each delivered perfectly synchronous high kicks that met in mid-air.

“Ow!” Buffy and Buffy cried out as they each clutched bruised shins. “Your perfectly symmetrical violence isn’t going to stop me Queen Doppelpopolis!” The Buffys shouted before throwing left hooks that clashed in mid-air. “Ow! Stop doing that!” They snapped while shaking out bruised knuckles.

“Girls?” Joyce tried to interrupt the perfectly symmetrical violence only to be snapped at by both Buffy and Buffy.

“Not now Mom!” Buffy and Buffy cried out before turning back to glare at one another. “Don’t you dare talk to my mother like that you face stealing whore!” Matching kicks and punches were dished out again, each proving more pointless than the last. “Stop doing that!”

“Oh dear lord,” Giles muttered as it became clear there would be no victor in this particular battle. “Girls, if you would just calm down for a moment. There has to be an explanation for this.”

“Is one of them a demon?” Joyce asked only to embolden both Buffy and Buffy as they dueled.

“Hah!” Buffy and Buffy shouted in triumph. “Hear that you stupid demon? You can’t fool my Mom with that crappy disguise! You don’t even look like me!”

“Actually.” Dawn began to say only to halt when Joyce gave her a stern glare.

“Dawn perhaps you could run next door and fetch Willow and Tara,” Giles said in a hushed tone that did little to hide his concern.

The young brunette was quick to scurry out of the kitchen. In her wake, the Slayer and the Slayer continued their furious standoff. “Get out of my Face!” They roared as each of their punches and kicks were blocked mid swing by an identical punch or kick.

Faith leaned back against the door of the refrigerator as her hands came up to cover her mouth. “I can’t believe I kissed it.” She let out in a whisper that was easily picked up by Slayer hearing.

“You kissed her?” Buffy shouted in disgust as one of Not-Buffy’s punches finally got through. “Ow! You kissed my girlfriend?” The outraged Slayer shouted at her doppelganger.

“You have a girlfriend?” Not-Buffy asked with slightly more horror and disgust than she had used while shouting about demons and doppelgangers. “You’re a dyke?”

“Okay, that’s enough of that,” Willow shouted as she, Tara, Xander, and Jennifer appeared in the larger archway that opened up one side of the kitchen to the main hallway. “Stop this now!”

“Willow, Tara!” Buffy shouted as the other Buffy looked at the redhead and honey blonde in utter confusion. “Help me kill this face stealing demon before it tries to steal my girlfriend.”

“I would never…” Not-Buffy shouted, horrified as she looked around the room. “I’m not a… I’m not like that you freak.”

“Buffy, please calm down.” Tara tried to break the tension only to draw the outraged glare of the Slayer.

“You!” Not-Buffy shouted as she raised an accusing finger to the honey blonde. “You did this! The town was safe before you came along and ruined everything! Willow scared off all the demons months ago! I don’t know how you stole Willow’s powers but I’m going to stop you…” The Slayer tried to take a step in Tara’s direction only to find herself floating a foot off the ground. She saw Willow’s raised hand flick to one side just before her entire body was slammed into the back wall of the kitchen.

“Do! Not! Look! At Her! Like that!” Willow shouted at the Slayer she held fast to the wall. “I don’t care if you are my best friend Buffy. I won’t let you or anyone hurt my Tara!”

“Yeah! Go, Wills!” Buffy cheered at Willow’s side. “Now how do we slay it? I don’t like looking at a cheap demonic knock off of my face.”

“Willow please,” Not-Buffy whispered as she struggled against the witch’s hold on her. “She did something to you. You’re confused. You need help.”

“Yeah, that’s not gonna work,” Dawn muttered as she leaned against the section of kitchen counter where Xander had settled. “It’s like she’s never seen a gay couple before.”

“I know. Weird right?” Xander agreed.

“Seriously how do we kill it?” Buffy asked again.

“We don’t kill her Buffy,” Tara said as she came up to put a soothing hand on the Slayer’s shoulder. “She’s you.”

“No, she’s not!” Buffy and Buffy shouted in disgust. “She’s Queen Doppelpopolis. Queen of the doppelgangers and she’s come here to steal my life and kill all of us.” The entire room could only stare in disbelief at the convoluted conclusion both versions of Buffy had leapt to.

“Okay, seriously Buffy,” Willow said as she looked back and for the between both blondes. “Where the frilly heck are you getting this from?”

“She’s not a face stealing doppelganger?” The Buffy at Willow’s side asked.

“No dumbass!” Willow all but shouted at her best friend. “We talked about this, remember? She’s obviously a copy of you from a parallel dimension!”

“What?” Buffy and Buffy shouted before looking back to each other. “No, she’s not!”

“Yes, she is Sweetie,” Tara assured.

“No, she has to be a demon!” Buffy and Buffy protested as they both looked to Willow and Tara. “She can’t be me!”

“I’m not a dyke!” Not-Buffy shouted as Buffy cried out, “I’m not a bitch!”

“Oh my god this is going to take all night,” Dawn muttered in disgust.

**********

“I want to make this quick alright?” Darla said as she and Drusilla strolled up to the abandoned warehouse. “Get in there, weed out the losers, then get out. I’ve got precious little patience left.” Her words seemed to fall on deaf ears as Drusilla took in the sight of the warehouse.

“Ah. Oh, it’s beautiful.” The deranged vampire said as they walked closer to the massive loading doors of the warehouse. “Dank and dark. It reeks of death.”

With an amused smirk, Darla rolled her eyes at her minion. “That’s motor oil Dru.”

“Can we buy it?” Drusilla asked with the beginnings of an adorable, if absent-minded, pout forming on her pale features. “It could be our castle.”

“There’s no view.” Darla vetoed the notion as they continued towards the doors. “Plus we’re broke. Though I suppose Ethan could help out if we ever bother to track down him and Jenny.”

“I like the gypsy,” Drusilla whispered to her sire. “She has just enough power to play her little tricks. The things I could teach her.” She let out an aroused growl as she thought of the other raven haired woman.

“They’re sweet kids,” Darla replied before pausing to reconsider. “Well, she’s sweet. The sorcerer is just flamboyant enough to be fun once in a while and just shy of being so annoying that I’d open the conversation by ripping his throat out. Still, they’re not as naive as the watchers were. I doubt those three fools knew just how many forces have their sights set on Angel.”

“The witches play their games of war. The old one puts its own pieces on the board.” Drusilla muttered as she began to sway back and forth to sights and sounds only she could perceive. “She knows how their game will end. Her champion will be the one who takes the stage. The King will swoop in and upturn the board just as the players make their opening moves.”

“So long as they do it far away from us they can play any games they want.” Darla dismissed Drusilla’s ramblings with careless ease.

They reached the door, pausing as Drusilla placed a pale hand on the handle. The slender raven-haired vampire stared off into space as she let the energy of the place flow into her. She felt death, both old and new in the warehouse. The desolate aura tracked in by their demon soldiers was music to her ears alone. “Ten little soldiers, all in a line. A shot rings out!” She clapped her hands loudly enough to draw an amused grin from Darla. “Down to nine.”

“Ten?” Darla asked with more than a little skepticism. “I’d be happy if we could find three who can hack it.”

Darla threw open the warehouse loading door and the pair strolled inside. They had expected to see dozens of demons ready to fight and prove their worth. Rows of potential warriors waiting to follow Darla’s each and every command. Instead, their gaze only found death and destruction. Bodies of demons and more than a few small piles of ass covered the floor of the warehouse. Severed limbs lay haphazardly, several yards from the nearest body with matching skin or scales.

“Dead already?” Drusilla asked as she looked over the scattered carcasses. “Bad soldiers!” She chastised the corpses.

Darla’s gaze slowly trailed across the carnage, eventually falling on a lone figure leaning against the front fender of an abandoned car. Smoke trailed upwards from the lit cigarette in the cursed vampire’s hand.

“I should have known,” Darla said as she took in the sight of Angel.

Drusilla just shook her head in fear and confusion as Angel remained silent on the far side of the room. “A shadow.” She whispered, ignored by her two sires.

“Why so far away, my love?” Darla taunted the silent vampire. “Why don’t you come over here and stake me?”

Angel remained silent. Uncaring. He gave no sign that Darla’s presence affected him in the slightest. Faint bruising and the crimson glimmer around his split lip were the only evidence that her boy had been a part of the massacre. The only sign that he even registered Darla’s existence was the cold glare he sent her way.

“Angel?” Darla asked as the quiet brooding began to unnerve. “Angelus?”

Without so much as a whisper of reply, Angel flicked the lit cigarette towards Darla and Drusilla. It landed in a dark puddle on the floor halfway between them. Flames erupted in an instant, racing towards both female vampires. The shallow pool of diesel fuel where they stood burst into a sudden conflagration. Darla and Drusilla screamed as they ran outside. Fire scourged undead flesh for several horrific moments. Darla barely had the presence of mind to grab a discarded sledgehammer and bash open the nearest fire hydrant. Water shot into the night sky before falling back onto the vampires. Flames were eventually quelled, leaving two whimpering, broken creatures shivering in the night.

“That wasn’t Angel,” Darla said as Drusilla moaned and cried in sheer agony. “It wasn’t Angelus either.” She realized as horror set in. After untold years of torment, guilt, recriminations and suffering the cursed vampire had finally snapped. “Who was that?”

Seeing his work for that evening complete, Angel stood up from the hood of the car gathered his duffle bag and walked out the rear entrance of the warehouse. He had delivered his message.

**********

“I still say she looks nothing like me,” Buffy muttered as she all but clung to Faith’s side.

“Come on B.” Faith moaned as she listened to her girl’s protests. “You got to admit there’s a resemblance. Especially in the...” The brunette Slayer trailed off as her hand vaguely gestured to the petite blonde’s entire body.

“Hey!” Buffy let out an affronted pout before glaring at her girl. “I am nothing like that, that...”

“Copy of you?” Faith asked. At first, Buffy continued to scowl, but as the moment passed a far more apprehensive look filled hazel eyes.

“I’m serious Faith,” Buffy said in a more subdued tone. “I’m not like her. I don’t want you to ever think I look at you like… like that.”

“Relax B. I know.” Faith assured her girl as she wrapped her arms around slender hips and pulled Buffy flush against her body. The brunette spared one glance across the kitchen to where Willow and Tara were in the middle of a tense conversation with Buffy’s doppelganger. The Slayers could hear every disgusted utterance that left the other petite blonde’s mouth. What had been only slightly amusing at first soon proved far more vexing than either young woman could have imagined.

“I’m not like that,” Buffy swore once more before all but burying her face in long brunette locks. “I don’t want you to ever think our love grosses me out like that. I can’t even...”

“I get it, Buffy.” Faith drew her girl’s attention with a firm tone. “I know you’re mine. I know you can’t get enough of what I got goin’ on.” With Buffy’s mildly amused eye roll Faith knew she was getting through to her girl. “Go ahead. Ask me how I know.”

Buffy looked up with a hesitant frown before asking the question. “How do you know?”

“Cause there ain’t no way a girl who can’t stand the taste of pussy would let me come in her mouth as many times as you have.” Faith deadpanned. At Buffy’s mortified grimace Faith could only smirk in triumph. “Seriously B, how many times have you gone down on me? How many times have you grabbed me by the hips, lifted me up in the air, and plopped my sopping wet cunt down on your face? How many times have you made me scream your name and then had me lick my own cum off your face? It don’t matter how straight that other girl who isn’t you says she is. You are the biggest dyke in this room, and that’s saying something with Red standin’ over there.”

“I keep meaning to check,” Buffy said as she ignored just how crude her girl had phrased her affirmations of love and devotion. “Is dyke one of the words we’re not supposed to use all the time? Or is it only okay if we say it?”

“Don’t matter that much to me B.” Faith said with a smug grin. “I’ll be your dyke if you’ll be mine. We’ll dyke out together and all that good stuff.”

“It’ll be dyketastic!” Xander cheered, drawing shocked and confused looks from both Slayers.

“Xander! When did you walk in here?” Buffy snapped at the grinning young man standing at the kitchen counter beside them.

“Like ten minutes ago,” Xander said as he put a few bags of sliced deli meats and cheese back in the fridge. He then picked up a sandwich from the plate on the counter and took a bite. “I made a sandwich while you guys were processing.” He said as he chewed. “That’s what it’s called right? That thing you ladies do where you talk about your feelings? I wouldn’t know since I’m such a manly man, and we don’t got those.”

“Very funny Xand.” Buffy deadpanned with a minor glare sent the young man’s way. He grinned as she turned back to her girl. “Do you still trust me, Honey? You know I’m not some huge gay bashing bigot?”

“Of course I trust ya B.” Faith promised. “Your shadow over there ain’t you. She’s your road not taken, and I’m the road you took.”

A smirk grew on the brunette’s face as she held her girl. “Besides, you eat pussy way to good to be half as straight as that chick thinks she is.” Faith quipped, earning a pained moan from her girl and far too much laughter from the young man they both loved as a brother. “Seriously though B, that purdy mouth of yours would be wasted on guys.”

**********

“I still can’t believe this,” Not-Buffy complained as she heard every lurid and heartfelt endearment the two Slayers across the room gave to each other. The two witches had tried to calm her down to no avail. “How could you let that...”

“Watch it, Slayer.” Willow snapped, drawing Not-Buffy’s complaints to a close. “That’s a member of our family you’re badmouthing. I don’t care how messed up your home dimension was. You don’t get to question Faith’s commitment to our Buffy. Not after everything they’ve given up for each other.”

“Willow how can you stand by and let them do… that?” The Slayer gestured vaguely at the moderate public display of affection going on across the Summers kitchen. “Even if this is another dimension thingy or whatever, someone has to make them stop. How is your Buffy ever going to find someone to date with that butch...”

“Watch it.” Tara chimed in.

“Weirdo shoving her tongue down my throat?” Buffy finished her protest, ignoring the glares from the honey blonde and the redhead. “It’s not normal. She needs help. You all need help.”

“You are really barking up the wrong tree with that stuff Buff,” Willow said as she tried her hardest to ignore just how hurtful and insulting her best friend was being. The only benefit she had was the fact that this was not the first time she had been forced to weather the condemnation of an overtly closeted Buffy Summers. “Listen, I’m gonna send you back to where you came from as soon as I run next door and get the ingredients for the spell. Until then please try not to ruin the first bit of happiness my family has ever found. Can you do that? For me? Please.”

“What about all the demons and vampires?” Not-Buffy asked, drawing more confused looks from both witches.

“Buffy and Faith will go on patrol as soon as we clear up all this drama,” Tara assured the distraught Slayer.

“That’s not what I meant witch!” Buffy snapped at Tara, only to feel the force of Willow’s glare bear down upon her.

“Do. Not.” Was all Willow had to say to force Not-Buffy’s cooperation.

“I just meant in my world there were no demons or vampires on the hellmouth.” Not-Buffy went on once Willow relented. “You chased them all off about a year ago Will. You came into your power almost overnight. Whatever happened to all your power, we have to undo it. I’m not saying I miss the black hair and black eyes and the whole veiny face thing you had going on, but why aren’t you running this town from the old magic shop like you are in my world. And how come the shop guy and the witch he was talking to knew I was the Slayer?”

“Okay wow.” Willow let out a huff as she connected the dots left by Not-Buffy’s questions. “First of all nothing happened to my power. With Tara at my side, I have become more powerful than you could possibly imagine.”

“Ha!” Xander laughed as he came over and took another bite of his sandwich. “Nice Star Wars reference, Will.”

“Thank you, Xander,” Willow said before turning back to Not-Buffy. “And from what you just said it sounds like your version of me has overdosed on dark magic. Is she floating around town just randomly frying demons and vampires with bolts of lightning?”

“She also had this dark cloud thingy that comes off her body,” Not-Buffy admitted as she tried to wrap her head around what the witch was telling her.

“Then she’s already gone off the deep end.” Willow was resigned as she clutched Tara’s hand. She turned to the honey blonde with an almost sad smile. “See Baby? It’s like I’m always telling you. I’m nothing without you. Just some worthless junkie whose closest friends can’t even tell when she’s literally killing herself.”

“You are brilliant Willow. You are beautiful. You are kind, and loving, and gentle, and so wonderful in ways you refuse to see.” Tara said as she tightened her grip on Willow’s hand and wrapped her free arm around slender shoulders that bore the weight of the world. “You are an amazing young woman and I love you with all my heart. I cherish every part of you.”

“Even my addictive personality?” Willow asked in a piteous tone.

“Especially your addictive personality,” Tara assured. “How else would I ever have gotten you addicted to me?”

“Well duh. That’s easy.” Willow replied as if Tara’s own internally directed recriminations were insane. “You’re like the most amazing person in the world. Even your flaws are adorable. It’s all I can do to keep from dropping to my knees and thanking the Goddess for bringing you into my life.”

“I can think of a few other things you could do on your knees,” Tara said with a playful little smirk.

“And that ladies and gentlemen, is why I’m a lesbian,” Willow announced to the members of her family who had remained in the kitchen. They laughed at the playful teasing mixed in with heartfelt reassurances. The Slayer at Willow’s side could only stare in morbid confusion at the abundant happiness the couple displayed.

“I don’t understand how any of this is okay,” Not-Buffy grumbled to herself. The mild condemnation drew Willow’s focus back to the version of her friend that refused to see the light.

“I’ll send you home Buffy,” Willow promised. “You don’t belong here.”

“Thanks, Will,” Not-Buffy said as she fought off the notion that her world view needed to change. Willow and Tara left the kitchen to retrieve the needed spell components. In their wake, the displaced Slayer was left to watch her double fall deeper into the taller, more curvy Slayer’s embrace. Once more she wondered if she could ever be anything like the other petite blonde.

**********

“You know it can’t last.” The Slayer told her double.

“What can’t last doppelganger?” Buffy asked. There was no emotion in her voice as uncaring hazel eyes locked with matching orbs full of condemnation and spite.

“This thing you have with that...” Not-Buffy began only to falter at the glare her double cast her way. “That girl.”

Buffy actually laughed in her double’s face, though the Slayer’s chuckling was devoid of humor. “Like I’m gonna take the word of a shadow over the promises my girl has made every day since pretty much the week we met.”

“Shadow?” Not-Buffy said before Buffy went on.

“You don’t know anything doppelganger,” Buffy said with far less emotion and care than she conveyed during their fight. “Not about me, and certainly not about my Faith. You can’t even begin to understand what my family has been through. What they’ve all done for me.”

“I went on patrol before I got here. I know your town is still full of demons! My Willow wiped out all the demons!” Not-Buffy shot back only to have Buffy rush into her personal space.

“And just what did that cost her?” Buffy challenged the Slayer. “Her home? Her happiness? Her soul? She isn’t the Slayer you stupid bitch. You are! How dare you let her drown herself in your destiny!”

“She never said...” Not-Buffy whispered before Buffy cut her off.

“And you never asked!” Buffy was livid. For a brief moment, it looked as if the Slayers would come to blows once more. Then the petite blonde let out another sigh and another humorless chuckle. “It’s not like it even matters. It’s not like you’re a real person.”

“Of course I’m real!” Not-Buffy protested only to be dismissed with a glare.

“You’re not, though,” Buffy went on. “Willow and Tara already told me. Your world is a mess because of some stupid wish granted by a vengeance demon. Some spoiled brat saw how great my life is with Faith in it and they begged a demon to take her from me. You don’t matter because your world is a mistake created by evil creatures using weak people to ruin everything that’s good in my world.”

“I am not a mistake,” Not-Buffy whispered as she fought back the surge of emotion Buffy’s words had caused.

“I pity you. You know?” Buffy went on, unconcerned with the toll her words had on her double. “Your life must be so empty. No demons to fight and take you mind off the urge to patrol. No Willow at your side to brighten your day and give you advice. No Tara to make Willow the happiest person on the planet. Do you even have a Xander?”

“Of course I have a Xander!” Not-Buffy shouted.

“But no Faith,” Buffy smirked as she looked her double over once again. “Your Willow never picked her up and brought her into your life, did she? I couldn’t imagine how much my life would suck without her to share it with. I just feel so sorry for you and your sad little shadow of my life.”

“Well, at least I’m not a freak,” Not-Buffy muttered to herself. For her part, Buffy could only turn and walk away. As the Slayer came to the doorway that led into the hall she gave her doppelganger one last look. The smile on her lips was anything but pleasant.

“No, you’re worse than a freak. You’re alone.” And then the Slayer walk out of the kitchen, leaving her road not taken to fend for herself.

Not-Buffy fought back tears for several moments before she was joined by yet another face she wished she could trust in this strange world. “Okay, we’re ready to get you home,” Willow said as she came back into the kitchen. “This will be real quick Buff. I just need to smear this ointment on your cheeks and then say the words.”

“No ritual or anything?” Not-Buffy asked as she brushed away the first remnants of tears.

“Nope,” Willow answered as she pulled a small clay pot out and dipped a finger inside. “This is basic Unsummoning. Same spell to send back any kind of creature that’s called into our world by a magic ritual. You don’t belong here, you belong there. I’m just plucking you out of our world and letting your own natural dimensional frequency carry you home.”

“Wow,” Not-Buffy said as she tried to follow the redhead’s babble. “I’d have thought you’d need more hands to get the mojo flowing.”

“And you say I’m the one with the dirty mind.” Willow chuckled as she let Buffy’s phrasing slide. With one finger covered in sacred oils, the witch drew small runes on the cheeks of the displaced Slayer. “This is basic dimension magic. It’s all old hat for me.”

“You’ve been to other dimensions before?” Not-Buffy asked as it became clear what Willow was getting at. “I don’t think my Willow has even tried that.”

“She’d probably surprise you,” Willow said while she closed the jar and set it aside. “If we’re right about your dimension being a wish based spin off of this one then she’s been to over a thousand different dimensions just like me.”

“A thousand?” Not-Buffy stared in surprise at the doppelganger of her best friend. “How? When did she find the time? She’s only been showing off the magic for the last year.”

“It’s a past lives thing, Buffy,” Willow explained. “I’ve spent over a thousand lifetimes loving Tara. That has given me an edge in the magic department. So long as I have her at my side nothing can stop us.”

Not-Buffy just stared as the witch before her. She couldn’t believe what she was hearing. Willow couldn’t possibly have made such a commitment to some random blonde girl. It defied everything she knew about her best friend.

“Revocare Devoco!” Willow chanted in a deep but hollow voice. The Slayer’s vision blurred green for an instant as the kitchen faded away. From Willow’s perspective, the shadow of her friend simply unraveled where she stood. As if some invisible force tugged on a stray thread, drawing out molecule after molecule from the Slayer’s physical form until the fabric of her very being dissolved. When all that remained of the alternate Slayer was a faint green glow standing in the place she had occupied the witch let out a sigh of relief.

Though rare they had met other wishverse doppelgangers of the various Scooby Gang members aside from vampire Willow. Even in those rare meetings, none had been so confrontational as the homophobic version of Buffy she just excised. Though her words had stung far more than any of them let on Willow was hopeful. She walked out of the kitchen and soon found herself in the living room, watching Buffy unnecessarily reassure Faith that she was still her girl. Buffy and Faith had been given a rare glimpse at a gross over exaggeration of the worst aspects of Buffy’s personality. The Slayers had stared into Buffy’s fears, doubts and denials written large across her soul to smother all that was light and hopeful in the Slayer’s heart. They had looked into the abyss that filled that lost reflection’s heart without blinking. What was even more impressive was the fact that Buffy’s final parting words seemed to have forced that abyss of hopelessness itself to blink. As Tara rejoined her always both witches knew their family had weathered this storm. They had more than enough hope that they would similarly weather all the storms to follow.

**********

“Huh?” Buffy asked as she looked up to find Willow and the strange honey blonde glaring at their captured trio of demons. The Slayer watched as light and darkness poured from the couple. Searing light scouring a demonic hell dimension and its master from existence. Dark tendrils shackling two disfigured women and holding their two necklaces in a bubble that momentarily held back the rewriting of reality. The shredded remains of one head cheerleader discarded and forgotten on the ground nearby.

The Slayer felt reality resettle itself as she tried to hear Willow’s final taunts to the demons in her clutches. For a brief moment, Buffy realized just how lost her Willow truly was. The bright, bubbly girl was long gone. In her place was a cold, gaunt figure, drowning in her own suffering. Enough suffering it seemed to drown the entire world.

For the second time in mere moments, Buffy felt existence melt away. She knew there would be no spell to send her home this time. Nothing could fix what had happened to her world. Nothing could make things right again.

“Well that was a trip wasn’t it?” A familiar voice asked the Slayer. Buffy’s eyes shot open and she found herself floating in a dull, featureless void. She spun to face the voice and once more found herself staring into a twisted mirror.

The young woman speaking to her was dressed in an unmistakably eye-catching fashion. All black leather and fishnets. A large silver cross with a hoop instead of the traditional spire above the slightly flared out arms and lower shaft. Skin the color of unblemished porcelain and driven snow. Long spiky hair as black as the void between the stars. A strange but familiar symbol drawn in black around one eye. Buffy swore that Giles had tried to teach her what the symbol and the altered cross meant one day when they spoke about ancient cultures in general and the pyramids in particular. Yet under all the trappings and stylistic excess, Buffy recognized the figure. She knew her own face when she saw it staring back at her.

“Doppelganger!” Buffy shouted, raising yet another accusatory finger towards her double.

“Of for fuck’s sake.” Death of the Endless let out as she brought the palm of her hand up to her forehead with a dull slap. “We’re not doing that bit again little girl.”

“Who are you calling little?” Buffy shot back, more than ready to fight another twisted mirror image of herself.

“They don’t pay me enough for this.” Death muttered before snapping her fingers and shifting both herself and her guest to more accommodating surroundings. Buffy blinked as she found herself and her captor in a mid-sized apartment that wasn’t too run-down or cluttered but was by no means the lap of luxury. “Relax Slayer.” Death said before turning and walking to the fridge to grab some drinks. “I figured we should talk. I mean you’d get the talk before being sent where you’re going anyway, but you and me have things to talk about on account of us being doppelgangers and all that nonsense.”

“So you’re not Queen Doppelpopolis then?” Buffy asked.

“Ha! You wish.” Death said as she handed Buffy a drink. “Try not to worry about things too much Buffy. After we’re done here you’ll be on your way to a much happier place. Plus, there’ll be plenty of honeys to enjoy once you get there. Hot slabs of man meat and more than a few delicate little flowers to wet your appetite. Whatever floats your boat.”

“What the hell is that supposed to mean?” Buffy shouted at the eternal embodiment of the cycle of life and death.

“Oh Honey.” Death just chuckled as she put an arm around Buffy’s shoulders. “Trust me. Don’t worry so much about the whole label thing. It just screws us over time and time again.”

**********

“No, like for real, though.” Buffy went on as if she still needed to prove herself. “I’ve seen the light Honey. I’m like a total lesbian. No penis for me.”

“You and me both sister!” Xander cheered right along with Buffy’s proclamation.

“I get it B. It ain’t like any of us are drivin’ stick anymore. I know you’re my girl.” Faith accepted her girl’s continued and unnecessary assurances before turning to the witches. “So she’s back where she belongs then?”

“Yup,” Willow replied as she sat in Tara’s lap. “Back in her own little, altered dimension.”

“Which collapsed as soon as the wish that made it was undone.” Dawn chimed in from the far end of the couch.

“What! No Dawn. Why would you even think that?” Buffy chastised her sister only to look up in concern once she felt Faith cringe in her arms. The Slayer saw her girl exchanging knowing looks with both witches and knew that Dawn was right. “So we killed her then?”

“No Buffy,” Tara said in as soothing a tone as she could. “We returned her to her ri-rightful place in creation. She got to rejoin the people she loved, on the world she knew. It w-would have been cruel to keep her here.”

“And impractical,” Willow added as she rushed to reassure both Slayers. “Having multiples of one person in one dimension tends to get really screwy really fast. She would have eventually unraveled on her own, or caused a singularity, or just lost the will to… Anyway, it’s over now. Everyone is back where they belong and no one has to question how weird it is that Buffy suddenly has a crazy judgmental twin sister.”

“Okay Will,” Buffy said as she let the redhead babble on. The Slayer knew she had been harsh to her double. Then again her double had been more than harsh about her love life. All things considered, Buffy was relieved to be a unique being once more.

“But what about what she said?” Dawn asked, drawing concerned looks from the others. “I mean I get why she wouldn’t know Faith and Tara if Willow never introduced them, but why didn’t she recognize me?”

Dawn, Buffy, and Faith shared concerned looks before turning to the witches for answers. They immediately noticed the look of mild panic on Willow’s face. They watched as Tara took one of Willow’s hands and stilled the nervous redhead. Willow looked to Tara and nodded, remaining uncharacteristically silent. When she spoke the honey blonde looked directly into Dawn’s eyes. The young brunette found only love and concern in those sapphire orbs.

“We can’t know for sure just what created her world Dawnie.” Tara began in a somber tone. “What we do know is that, whatever they may have wanted, the world they got had a Willow who lost herself in darkness and a Buffy who was incapable of finding or even feeling the love our Buffy has with Faith.”

“See B?” Faith asked the girl perched in her lap. “Not every Buffy can recognize a good thing when it comes up and offers to eat her out. Far as I’m concerned that puts you and me ahead of the curve.”

“Faith.” Buffy moaned in embarrassment as she clung to her girl.

“That other Buffy didn’t have our family Dawnie.” Tara went on, speaking only to Dawn as if the girl was the most important thing in her world. Though Dawn knew she could only be the second most important thing in Tara’s world she still believed the sincerity of the honey blonde’s each and every word. “She didn’t ha-have love. Maybe for them to harden her heart so much they had to take something she loved just as much out of her life.”

“So you think they took me out of Buffy’s life because without me my doofus sister wouldn’t have any game with chicks like Faith?” Dawn asked, brightening considerably at the notion that she was single-handedly responsible for the Slayer’s romantic success.

“Hey! I totally have game!” Buffy shouted before cringing and looking to her girl. “Not that I ever need to use said game ever again now that I have you, Honey.”

“Oh, you can totally use your game on me anytime ya like B.” Faith husked into Buffy’s neck with a lurid smirk.

“Aww, aren’t they just the cutest thing you ever did see?” Xander asked before turning to Dawn with a smug grin. “All the more reason to be thankful she has you Dawnie.”

The young brunette looked between the older boy and the four young women she loved. The idea that, on some level, she was responsible for the happiness they all enjoyed filled her heart with glee. Though she suspected there was more to the story than Tara or Willow let on Dawn was too happy with their explanation. Dawn’s pleased smile relieved the two witches that had helped bring her into the world. Though they knew the question would inevitably rise again, they couldn’t help but hope that day was still many years off.

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 Post subject: Re: Time and Time Again
PostPosted: Sun Mar 12, 2017 6:40 am 
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Dibs-y Goodness! :applause :banana :bounce :dumbo

Yay for excellent update-y goodness... Nice twist on the Dobbelgangland story...

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 Post subject: Re: Time and Time Again
PostPosted: Sun Mar 26, 2017 12:34 pm 
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Huh.
Well, i was expecting !Vamp Willow, but !Jerk Buffy was an interesting surprise.

I'm a little bit disappointed that !Nice Buffy didn't sit her down and explain 'You really aren't as straight as you thought you were. Deal with it. Also, you're a cow.'

I hope the Wonder Twins are understanding with Amy. I think they will be, they knew what was likely to happen.

Anyway, good episode. Looking forward to the next one :)

R :flower

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 Post subject: Re: Time and Time Again
PostPosted: Sat Apr 22, 2017 6:54 pm 
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Hi Zampsa, hi Azirahael. Yup, had to change up Doppelgangland in accordance with the changes made to Wish. !NiceBuffy could have sat her doppelganger down and had a polite chat, but given her reaction to the Buffybot walking around with her face, and how Willow and Tara explained that the other world was from a wish gone wrong, it seemed like she'd be more hostile to face stealing mistakes that barge into her home and attack her loved ones.

Amy will probably be fine. Willow and Tara aren't too up front about it but they have been working to make Amy an asset rather than a threat for a long while now. Also if they can forgive Anya for Xander's sake they can probably forgive Amy being deceived.

Sirens is next up. Though maybe not a for a little bit. My sisters and I are heading to Chicago for a few days to see a play. Also my writers block is not being helped by the disappointing turns happening on season 2 of Supergirl. What's worse is the comic book fans seem to be in denial of the Sword of Damocles hanging over the Maggie Sawyer character. There seems to be this belief that she has plot armor since she's a fan favorite in the comics that no one is reading. Given that we're talking about a TV show, and that 29 bi/lesbian characters died on shows that aired in the 2015-2016 season, and that so far in the 2016-2017 season 13 more lesbian characters have been killed off, and last but not least the fate of the characters this site is dedicated to I think we all know not to get too attached.

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 Post subject: Re: Time and Time Again
PostPosted: Sun Apr 23, 2017 12:47 pm 
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On the one hand i'm like OMG! Dead Lesbian cliche still exists?!?!?

But on the other hand, i wonder how many dead straight people happened in that same span?

The key here is not how many dead lesbians there are, but are they disproportionately represented?
Like if 5000 het characters died in that span, it's probably ok.
But if 20 het characters died in that span, then, no.

I might need to go look up some stats.

Anyway, looking forward to the next update, whenever it happens :) :kiss1

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 Post subject: Re: Time and Time Again
PostPosted: Wed Apr 26, 2017 1:43 pm 
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Oh it's way worse than that Aziarahael. While I was wasting time arguing with Mon-El fans on youtube aftershow/review comments I found a few other sources detailing the numbers.

Here is the problem in Infographic form.

Here is a more comprehensive list dating from the 1976 to 2016.

And here is an article that breaks down the disproportionate death toll numbers in what they listed as the second part of the overall problem.

The short answer is that in the 2015-2016 TV season gay women made up 2% of TV characters and 10% of on screen deaths.

Though part of me still wants to give Joss Whedon the benefit of the doubt and say that Tara counts more as an example of "Women in Refrigerators" than the regular Dead Lesbian cliché, another part of me can't overlook that fact that far too many hack writers have mindlessly copy and pasted the cliffnotes of Buffy season 6.

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 Post subject: Re: Time and Time Again
PostPosted: Wed Apr 26, 2017 3:46 pm 
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Well, When you compare the numbers, at first glance it looks terrible.=

Then at second glance, when you compare the numbers vs deaths of straight characters, it doesn't seem so bad.

around 12% of all character deaths were some form of queer, which is only 2% higher than average, right?

Then at third glance it ain't. Because the statistics vary depending on where you get them, the politics of the people who make them, and how they define them.

Numbers vary, but it's between 3% and 7% in most western countries.
so that makes it 2-3 times higher death rate for any non-straight character.
And women made up 65% of that chunk.
So queer women are dying at twice the rate that queer men are.

And that's just the characters that died.
Actual queer female characters make up 2.1% of all characters based on the stats provided.
And are dying at the rate of 9%. or 12% depending on source.

So yeah, queer women are getting killed at 4-6 times the rate of 'average' characters.

That ain't good.

Lingering fear of empowered women, plus fear of competition?
Maybe?


P.S: I'm trying out 'Queer' or 'Q' instead, as 'LGBTQIA+' just keeps getting longer and less wieldy. If someone has a better/nicer shorthand, let me know. :)

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PostPosted: Wed Apr 26, 2017 5:42 pm 
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The simplest explanation is lazy writers' rooms. It helps a show seem more "progressive" if they have gay characters. Too many of the target "18 to 34 male" demographic hate gay dudes but can't get enough of lesbians. Therefore shows give larger roles to token characters that are lesbians than they do for gay men. When sweeps comes around those same writer's rooms have to decide who they'll kill off to up the drama and it almost always ends up being the token character none of the people in the room feel strongly about and don't know how to write well.

That being said context in the show is important. But when 90% of these deaths are done just to push the character development of straight and or male characters the arguments supporting killing off these characters fall flat.

There's one example from the 2015-2016 list I loved and believe is a great example of how to kill off a gay character without it being lazy or a direct slap in the face of the gay community. Spoilers for Jessica Jones. Go watch that show before reading this.

Spoiler:
The one lesbian character they killed on Jessica Jones was the wife of the main lawyer on the show. The B plot for most of season 1 was a classic "Businessman cheats on wife with his secretary, and then one of them ends up dead." storyline. The basics of the story have been done to death in countless other shows, movies, and novels. What set this sub plot apart was that the Businessman was a Businesswoman and partner at a law firm, the wife was a Doctor with her own practice, and the secretary was a younger blonde woman that worked as the lawyer's receptionist. We've all seen this story played out before, but the difference this time is they took a tired cliché and turned it on its head by making a traditionally male role female and casting a traditionally straight love triangle storyline with three lesbians.

The story doesn't rely on flawed narrative contrivances to justify killing off a gay character because they made the long running B plot into a meta-narrative satire of the old cliché that always used straight people.

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"The official report stated he suffered a Barbecue related accident while being attacked by one of the many local PCP gangs." Precious, absolutely precious!!! I just started reading this fic and I LOVE it!! Please keep up the good work!!

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Greetings MotherD, welcome to the party. There's plenty of funny bits in the many chapters ahead, although I think I keep veering off on wild tangents every now and then. I hope you enjoy the side stories/worlds as much as you have the main one so far.

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PostPosted: Mon May 29, 2017 12:39 am 
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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: Okay so I'll be the first to admit this one got away from me. I had a rough idea and then things got added as the writing went on and before I knew it this chapter was a sprawling 73 page behemoth that breathed lightning and ate the hopes and dreams of small children. Maybe I shouldn't be writing this intro at 4am.

In any case I can already tell the chapter exceeds the character limit. So I'm posting the first part now and I'll get the conclusion up in a few days. On a lighter note this Sirens entry delves deep into the ecology of a certain alien creature dreamed up by a young Kevin Smith.

Origins of the Thanagarian Snare Beast
Part 1: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wo2KB1dEDdk&t=2s
Part 2: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=53hMYw8LX60

I also may have added a few too many jokes about Australian slang and folk lore.

*****
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: Buffy

Flickering torchlight wavered against the darkness that filled the stone audience chamber. A half dozen figures cloaked in ebon robes stood at attention on either side of the large stone dais. An old man sat on the throne at the heart of the raised dais. He looked out over the hand picked fighters he had gathered for a most important mission. Twenty men kneeled before the throne. Each dressed in armor of dark leathers and silk that matched the guards standing around their leader. At the head of the kneeling strike force were two women in only slightly more detailed garb than the men behind them. They knelt, heads bowed to the man on the throne, both hoping for him to show some small sign of approval. Though they knew no such praise would come.

The man on the throne sighed once as he stroked the hairless rat sitting in his hands. “The enemies of the Demon’s Head roam free my daughters!” He said in a commanding voice as the hairless rat squirmed in his hands. “Go forth, bring their heads and their hearts to me.”

“It will be done, Father.” The two women spoke in unison before raising their heads just enough to glare at each other.

Ra’s al Ghul waved one hand at them dismissively. In an instant, his daughters and the twenty assassins behind them rose to their feet and raced out of the throne room. They knew their destination. It would only be a matter of hours before their targets met their fate and two rings moved on to new hosts.

*****

“Decadent wing beats propel young Hawkpersons through the air in a boisterous flurry of profane motion. With each flap of their feathered appendages, they are brought one step closer to death.”

The couple curled into each other on their couch as the dispassionate voice described the images dancing across their large crystal viewscreen. A group of what looked like teenagers with large, feathered, bird wings flew circles around each other as they soared high above a seemingly endless expanse of green that made up the forest canopy. “Sweetie, is there a reason the narrator sounds like Werner Herzog?” Ivy whispered to her Love.

“Such is the harmony of overwhelming and collective murder found in the wilds of the planet of Thanagar.”

Harley placed a single piece of popcorn in her mouth as here eyes remained stuck on the screen. “I think the rings are pulling the idea of what a documentary is from our subconscious minds Baby. Remember how it took a few minutes before anything popped up on the screen?”

“One young Hawkperson separates from the pack.” The narrator went on as the crystal surface showed the adolescent aliens flitting across the sky. “He is brash in his youth, though that has proven his undoing. The forest canopy beckons the reckless youth into its waiting maw.”

“Oh, that doesn’t sound good,” Ivy whispered as she cuddled closer to Harley.

“All Hawkpersons know not to drift below the canopy. From early childhood, they are taught of the orgy of carnage that awaits them beneath the emerald blanket.” The young Hawkperson on screen flapped his wings and dove downwards. His friends watched in shock. A moment later they all flew off. “Full of the arrogance of youth and the audacity of pride the young Hawkperson soars between the treetops. Little does he know death awaits him on every branch and every trunk in the twilight realm where he trespasses.”

“Oh, that’s not good,” Harley whispers as her eyes remained glued to the screen.

“Suddenly, the young Hawkperson is caught, set upon by the grim specter of his own demise.” The young alien on screen flew into a wall of white strands that looked vaguely familiar to the earth couple. “His arrogance has proven his undoing. The young Hawkperson has fallen into the clutches of the dreaded Thanagarian Snare Beast.”

The couple watched as a massive form descended from above and began to wrap the young Hawkperson in a silk cocoon. Harley was the first to fully realize what they were seeing. “Oh, Goddess Baby! That’s a giant spider! Thanagar has giant spiders!”

“Wow,” Ivy whispered as they watched the young alien’s body vanish under layer after layer of webbing. “That poor boy.”

“As death approaches him, the youth is gripped with terror. The beast’s fangs prepare to add one more victim to the orgy of carnage happening throughout the darkened forest.” They watched the Snare Beast bring the cocoon closer and closer to its mouth. Mandibles poised to sink venomous fangs into Hawkperson flesh. “Suddenly the Thanagarian Snare Beast finds its meal interrupted. For it too has wandered into the territory of its one natural predator.”

“Giant Spiders on alien planets have natural predators?” Ivy asked as they heard the Snare Beast let out a pained shriek. Dozens of sharp wooden spears slammed into the bulbous abdomen of the Snare Beast. The cocoon was dropped to a lower branch as the beast spun to face the threat.

“Death comes from above, far more swiftly than if came for the young Hawkperson. For he and the beast have both wandered into the territory of the most dangerous predator on Thanagar. The dreaded Thanagarian Drop Bear.”

“Drop Bear?” Ivy asked in confusion.

“Drop Bear?” Harley repeated.

“The Drop Bear,” The narrator confirmed as dozens of tiny furry creatures fell from the canopy above. Harley and Ivy marveled as the tiny monsters swarmed the Snare Beast. “An orgy of violent atrocity erupts as the beast is ripped limb from limb. The lead Drop Bear has taken up another spear. He approaches the crippled snare beast, weapon raised, and thrusts the sharpened shaft into the weak seam of the carapace.”

“Those are koalas,” Ivy and Harley whispered in unison. “Oh, my Goddess! Baby! Thanagar has koalas!” Harley cried out in excitement.

“What are they doing to the spider?” Ivy asked as she watched the lead Drop Bear work the shaft of the spear it had rammed into the Snare Beast’s head. The Drop Bear jumped up while gripping the shaft of the spear, swinging his entire body wildly back and forth until a snap and a sickening crunch filled the air.

“The Drop Bear engages in the ultimate articulation of the inherent vileness and obscenity of life beneath the forest canopy.” As the Narrator went on Harley and Ivy watched in stunned yet fascinated horror as the lead Drop Bear tore a chunk of exoskeleton from the Snare Beast’s face, holding the slab of chitin aloft for all his brethren to see. The Drop Bear then took the chitin that still held the Snare Beast’s eight vacant black eyes and fixed it into the headband he wore. “His trophy on full display, the Drop Bear will have first pick of the females at the tribal orgy to be held later in the evening.”

“Good for him,” Harley said in an unironic tone that drew a laugh from her Love. “No really. He really showed that spider. Alien koala chicks dig that sort of thing… I think.”

Ivy’s laughter slowed as she smiled back at her Love. “I can see the appeal.” Before the emerald redhead could lean in for a kiss a stray worry crossed her mind. “What do you think is going to happen to the Hawkboy?”

“The Drop Bears, effulgent in their victory, descend on the cocoon and its unwitting victim. Using their crude daggers forged from bits of obsidian, the Drop Bear tribe frees the young Hawkperson.”

“Oh that’s nice of them,” Harley almost cheered as she turned to her Love. “See Baby? Everything worked out.”

“The terrified youth has no idea what horrors await him as he is bound in Snare Beast silk by the hands, feet, and wings. He is carried on the backs of several Drop Bears as they make their way up the massive tree trunks towards their village. The young Hawkperson may soon come to wish that the Snare Beast remained victorious.”

Harley frowned as the Narrator went on about the young alien’s fate. “Spoke too soon.”

“Wait. They have a tribe and a village?” Ivy spoke up as the screen displayed the koala-like creatures and the winged humanoid in their journey upwards. “I thought they were just wild koala creatures? How smart are they? Do they have a language and culture of their own?”

Harley pondered her response for a long moment before looking up to her Love with a clueless shrug. “That’s a really good question.”

“Though primitive and relentless in their aggression, the Drops Bears of Thanagar have managed to build a thriving culture in the shadows beneath the much more advanced Hawkpeople society. One need only look to their sprawling treehouse communities to find evidence of close-knit families toiling away in the face of a cruel and hostile world.” As the Narrator spoke the Drop Bears and their prisoner climbed onto a platform sticking out of the side of the massive tree. The small furry beings scrambled over the edge, coming to a stop only once they stood atop on the elevated platform. The screen panned out over dozens of platforms and catwalks littered with huts, long houses, and more than a few fire circles. Harley and Ivy gasped as they took in the sight of the Drop Bear village.

“Oh Goddess, they live in the Ewok’s treehouse city!” Harley shouted as she let out a laugh. “Thanagar has koalas that live like Ewoks! Baby, isn’t that the most amazing thing you’ve ever heard?”

“I don’t know what to say,” Ivy whispered as she watched the Thanagarian Drop Bears carry their prisoner towards one of the larger huts on a central platform that was connected to several of the larger trees. “This is unusual even by our standards.”

“I know right!” Harley cheered as her eyes shot back to the crystal viewscreen.

“The youthful Hawkperson is brought before the Drop Bear chieftain. Once convinced he is an outsider from the world above the forest canopy the chieftain will do with him what the Drop Bears do with all Hawkpeople who stray into their domain.”

“Oh, that does not sound good.” Harley was on the edge of her seat as she and her Love waited to hear the fate of the young alien.

“The adolescent Hawkperson will be taken into the tribe as though he were a Drop Bear himself. After he has spent enough time in the village for a Drop Bear to reach maturity he will be tested.” The documentary quickly moved from displaying the inside of the chieftain’s hut into a montage of the young Hawkperson hunting and scavenging with the other members of his new tribe. “After two weeks with the tribe, the youth is considered mature enough to undergo the trials of adulthood.”

“Two weeks!” Ivy nearly shouted. “They’re adults after just two weeks?”

“I guess they have a fast childhood?” Harley pondered as she grabbed another piece of popcorn. “Most four-legged mammals and stuff are ready to get up and go a few minutes after birth. Maybe if they’re marsupials like our koalas they might do all the early childhood stuff in the pouch.”

“After two weeks the newest member of the tribe is old enough to undertake the Cruciamentum.”

The blonde psychiatrist pouted as she heard the name of the trial the young Hawkperson would be expected to take. “Okay, the rings definitely pulled that word from our minds.”

“If he fails the Cruciamentum he will never be seen as anything more than a lost child, unfit to remain with the tribe. Should he survive the trials and win he will be inducted into Drop Bear society as a full-fledged adult. There will be feasting and celebration for several days after the Cruciamentum. Once the orgy of revelry and decadent savagery dies down he will have an opportunity to quietly flee the Drop Bear village. Upon exiting the forest canopy he will then finally be able to return home to Hawk City, forever shamed for having been betrothed to the daughter of the Drop Bear chieftain.”

Harley and Ivy both sat in stunned silence as they watched the young Hawkperson stand at the entrance to a cave near the base of the massive trees that supported the Drop Bear village. “Okay, that just sounds insane.”

Before Harley could respond to her Love they were interrupted by a knocking on their lair door. “Someone’s knocking on our lair door.” She and her emerald toned Love both turned their heads to face the warehouse door that lay on the other side of the lab and work area across the main floor of the warehouse.

Ivy smirked as she sent a mischievous glance Harley’s way. “Who could be knocking on our lair door?”

“The dreaded Thanagarian Drop Bears let out howls of exultant revelry as we leave their violent, and tumultuous kingdom. Before we are left to ponder the obscenity and vileness of their harsh existence in the jungles of Thanagar, our focus is drawn to the being knocking on the lair door. Who could be knocking on this particular lair door? A lair door nestled in a harsh and unforgiving jungle of a very different variety.”

“So we’re full on Doctor Seuss now?” Harley asked as she let the derailed documentary fade from their crystal viewscreen. “Shall we?” She asked as she offered her Love a hand.

Ivy was intrigued as she took her Love’s hand. They rose from the couch in an orb of soft pink light. “We shall.”

The Star Sapphires floated across the open, plant filled, chamber towards the only visible door in their warehouse lair. The seemingly average steel door gave access to anyone seeking entrance from the paved roadway that connected their lair and all the other dockside warehouses along the Opal City port. The larger loading bay doors had been permanently sealed and reinforced. The lower hatch and ramp that led down to their isolated stretch of loading dock had also been fortified, though it would still open in case they needed to entertain their Atlantean allies. The only other visible access point left seemingly open was the sliding door they installed between their upstairs bedroom and the massive rooftop garden they had grown. Though it looked for all intents and purposes to be a simple pair of glass doors, that entry point was warded against any seeking to harm the couple.

The knocking came to a stop as the couple reached the door. They gave each other one last reassuring look before preparing for the worst. Ivy reached forward and opened the door just as Harley readied their mystical defenses. The being awaiting them on the other side was the last thing they expected to see. Long blonde hair, tanned skin, and a hauntingly familiar perky smile took the couple’s breath away. The all too familiar face turned to Harley and Ivy, its smile doubling in intensity from the instant the being saw the couple.

“Hey, guys!” Buffy cheered and bounced just a little too enthusiastically where she stood on the front porch of their warehouse lair. “Betcha’ didn’t see this coming, did ya?”

“Buffy?” Harley was floored at the sight of her old friend until she recalled their recent run-ins with the being that sported a pale, colorless version of the Slayer’s face. “No, no... No! You can’t just show up like this and take her from me!”

Buffy’s hands flew up in surrender as she felt energy building within the irate blonde. “Whoa! Hey, no! It’s nothing like that! I swear I’m not here to do any grim reaping.”

“Why are you here Death?” Ivy asked in a cold but neutral tone.

“Okay, it’s kind of a longish story.” The blonde on their lair doorstep fidgeted for a moment before looking to the couple with an almost fearful look in her eyes. “I don’t know how much is safe to just come out and say, but… um. It’s kind of my day off?”

“Death takes days off?” Harley was so stunned by the admission that she released all but a slim trace of the mystical power she had been gathering. The energy dissipated safely into the nearby earth and a wide swath of the harbor water their lair was raised over. The pair of Star Sapphires stood in shock as the ageless personification skipped into their home.

“Yeah, it’s like this whole thing...” Buffy vaguely gestured with her hands as she looked over the various plant creatures ambling around the lab and workshop area of the warehouse lair. “Like this really long time ago I was doing my job, guiding souls across the river, and the mortal whose time was up just wouldn’t deal. They dragged the whole thing out for hours, and I’m the bad guy just because I “don’t know what it’s like to be mortal and have an expiration date!” So I’m all like, “Okay! Fine! I’ll spend one day every century or so going through the whole mortal coil thing! But you’re still coming with me!”

Ivy just stared at the woman with a bewildered look in her eyes. “That’s... people can fight you as you try to take them on to the next… place?”

“Like you would not believe.” A melancholy look overtook Buffy’s face. “Where do you guys think ghosts come from? I’m literally everywhere. No one escapes my notice. Still, the system isn’t perfect. There’s things particularly strong willed mortals can do. Bargains. They can buy time before crossing the river with me, but it’s not worth it. The time spent as a shadow tends to ruin whatever was good about the person in the first place.”

Harley and Ivy both knew the subject needed to change. Neither liked the overwhelming remorse coming off the immortal that had dropped by on a whim. Harley was quick to draw their conversation back to an obvious starting point. “So what does Death of the Endless do on her day off?”

A small smile crept across Buffy’s face. “Oh, I just went club hopping all last night, danced, met a few people, broke a few hearts. The usual. Actually, I wanted to do something different with the rest of my time. Usually, I just spend the daylight out in public waiting for random people to have meltdowns.”

“But not this time...” Ivy’s tone was only slightly hesitant as she realized where Death was going.

“Nope!” Death said with a renewed smile. “This time I wanted to spend a good chunk of the day with the closest thing I have to friends. That is… If you guys aren’t busy or anything.”

“We’d love to spend the day with you!” Harley cheered as she began to bounce in her spot. “We’ll hit up the town, and hang out by the boardwalk, and go shopping just like old times, and then we’ll drop by the park!” Harley’s excited babble ran on until she stopped and turned to her Love. “Right Baby?

“Of course we’ll spend the day with you, Sweetie.” Ivy could only smile reassuringly at the two blondes looking to her with wide, hopeful eyes. “We’re practically family.” The bright smile stretching across Buffy’s face was all the proof Harley and Ivy needed to know that their old friend and the ageless personification standing before them shared more in common than simple appearances.

*****

“I want this done fast.” The heavyset ebony skinned woman leaned back in her office chair as the soldier stood at attention on the far side of her oddly simplistic desk. “Under no circumstances can they be allowed to call in their allies. We won’t stand a chance if the Justice League or the Atlanteans get involved.”

“Understood Ma'am.” The soldier spoke in a gruff voice as he thumbed through the mission dossier in his hands. One odd detail stood out to the man. He looked back up to the dour-faced woman and asked what should have been an obvious question. “If these women are Justice League why exactly is Task Force X going after them? We’ve never directly moved against the League before.”

“Things change Colonel.” The stout woman grumbled as her eyes remained focused on the files scattered across her desk. “Besides, these women aren’t League. They just stop by the Watchtower once or twice a year. Given the criminal history of the one and the fact the other falsified medical documents to break her out of Arkham, they both fall under our jurisdiction. Imagine what the squad could accomplish with those two under your command.”

The soldier was far from eager as he picked out what seemed the greatest threat to the mission. “And do we have a way to neutralize the power rings?”

“I’m sure your girlfriend is more than up to the challenge.” The smirk on her face was far from encouraging to the soldier. “Now go get the squad ready. I want those two in separate cell blocks in Belle Reve by tomorrow.”

“Yes, Director Waller,” The soldier gave a stiff salute before turning on his heel and marching out the office door. For her part, Amanda Waller could only smirk at the thought of bringing the two powerful women under her thumb. They didn’t know it yet, but they would soon be on the frontlines of the ongoing war to safeguard the American people.

*****

“Guys. Guys! Look at these shoes!” Buffy bounced with joy as she raised a pair of black thigh highs up for the couple to see.

“Wow.” Harley couldn’t help but smirk at the familiar habits of the petite blonde. “Those sure are some neat boots. Anyone you wanted to show them off for? Maybe go dancing with?”

“As if.” Buffy dismissed the notion out of hand. “I don’t do the whole relationship thing. Too messy.” before she could explain further her eyes caught sight of another prominently displayed sale rack. “Ooh! Miniskirts!”

“Is it just me or is this a little odd?” Ivy asked as she watched Buffy skip off to the far side of the store. “More so than usual I mean.”

“I know right.” Harley could only agree with her Love as they watched the blonde move through the racks of designer skirts and tops. “I keep expecting her to be all, “I am Death of the Endless and I am here for your mortal soul!” But she’s just so, so… Buffy.” There was a pause before Harley could speak. When she finally did she could barely manage to give voice to the tiny fear eating at the back of her mind. “Should we be worried?”

“I don’t th-think so.” Ivy gave the issue a moment’s thought before reaffirming her hopes. “N-No, she’s just making the most of her day. It didn’t sound like she lets herself enjoy her own life all that often.”

“I can’t even...” Harley began, only to falter for a moment. “Baby, we need to make this special for her. Where do you think we should take her next?”

“Food?” Ivy guessed as she looked into her Love’s hopeful sapphire pools.

“Perfect!” Buffy exclaimed as she came running back up to the couple. “We should pay for these and then I’ll pop them into my apartment. After that, we can all grab some grub. I gotta say, you guys are the best. I haven’t had this much fun on one of my mortal days since forever.”

“We’re just happy we could help,” Harley assured the other blonde. The trio gathered up their purchases and made their way to the checkout counter. Nothing could prepare them for the surprising turn of events that were about to befall Death’s day off.

*****

A clearly agitated woman paced back and forth across the darkened laboratory. She sported short blonde hair and a white lab coat, Her grumbles and mutterings of displeasure echoed off steel examination tables and deactivated monitoring equipment. There was a sense of patient dread in the air as the footfalls of the scientist slowed. She came to a halt beside the large metal examination and dissection table in the middle of the laboratory. With grim resolve, she looked up to the only other living occupant in the room.

“So… Alright. Fine.” The scientist spoke in a quiet tone that did little to hide the furious edge behind each word. “They want a fight we’ll give them one. Won’t we Riley?”

“Yes Ma'am.” The soldier snapped to attention as the withering glare of the scientist fell upon him. His short blond hair shook slightly as he stared straight ahead. Dark green fatigues and rigid stance did little to hide his trepidation at the sheer outrage pouring off of the scientist.

“Assemble a team of your finest.” She ordered the man as her eyes fell back to the steel table. “I want their bodies on my table. Whether those metahumans know it or not they will serve the cause. They’ll pay for what they took from me. Dismissed!”

Without so much as a pause, the soldier turned on his heel and left the dingy laboratory. With her subordinate gone the scientist returned her full attention to the prone figured strapped to the dissection table. Her hands skimmed over the array of bloodstained scalpels, pliers, and other surgical tools on the table at her side.

When she spoke there was conviction in her voice to match the seething rage. “I’ve worked too long. Too long, to let some sub-human bitches threaten this project. Threaten my family. The aliens have no idea who they’re dealing with. Once they’re all gone the humans left on the League will beg to follow me. They’ll come around. It’s for the greater good. They’ll have no choice.”

Her hand came to rest on a dull, gore-caked scalpel. She picked up the crude implement, slowly dragging it through the air over the body before her. “And if they don’t, well, first things first. Remove the complication, and when they least expect it...”

The bloody scalpel descended on the prone form. As the tiny blade began to cut and sever cold flesh maniacal laughter began to fill the air. The woman had no concept of just how well she fell into the well-worn cliché of the mad scientist.

*****

“Okay, I did not expect this.” Harley and Ivy stood in the center of Death’s domain, shocked by what they saw. It was several moments before the psychiatrist spoke again. “It just looks so, so...”

“Normal?” The botanist whispered as she clutched her Love’s hand.

Harley beamed at the helpful suggestion. “Yeah, normal. I was not expecting Death of the Endless to have such a normal apartment.”

“It’s cozy,” Buffy said as she moved around the seemingly typical apartment. “But not in a tiny way like real estate agents mean.” The bags full of her new clothes and shoes were deposited next to a plain looking couch covered in brown fabric. An old television sat atop a long dresser across the room from the couch. Harley’s eyes bulged the instant she saw the two dials jutting out of the frame to one side of the rounded glass screen. Behind the couch and across from the television was the kitchen. Buffy set the last bag on top of the island bar before heading over to a small round table covered in a light cluttering of notes and books. In the middle of the table was a small fishbowl with a single goldfish in it.

“I didn’t take you for a pet person,” Ivy spoke up as she pondered the existence of the tiny fish.

“Oh yeah, that’s Greg...” Buffy began to introduce them to the pet only to pause as the most peculiar look came over her face. “Or maybe his name was Gary… He was a minor pagan god that always got a little too lippy with me. It’s a long story, but now he’s a fish.”

“Okay...” Harley and Ivy shared matching looks of concern and surprise as they appraised the tiny goldfish. Buffy simply reached out for a small bottle of fish food and sprinkled some into the bowl. “So this is like a transitive plane of existence, right? Souls come here right after they die and then they move on to where they are going.”

“Ha! Goddess no!” Buffy scoffed at the very idea. “This is my home. My personal realm. It exists outside of all realities, immune to all forces besides my will. Work stuff happens down by the river.”

“So a pocket dimension customized to your tastes.” Harley let an excited smile slip out as the revelation brought up memories of work she had done in previous lifetimes. “I tried making one of these fifty lives ago. Never got it to stabilize and form anything more than a few cubic feet of raw powdered silicates though.” She spun to meet Ivy’s amused gaze. “You remember that don’t you Baby?”

“Yes, Sweetie,” Ivy assured her love before turning back to the eternal being in the room. “So Buffy, you wanted to do brunch next?”

“Oh yeah. Thanks for reminding me, Ivy. I almost forgot I’m still on the clock,” Buffy smiled as she skipped across the room and over to the seemingly normal door they had entered through.

“I thought you had a full day?” Harley asked as the trio walked out the door and found themselves standing in the middle of a deserted alleyway.

“Oh I do,” Buffy replied as she began to walk towards the mouth of the alley. “You gals weren’t my first stop. I spent the night time hours of my day off with this other friend of mine in Barcelona. We hit up the swankiest of clubs. She’s a real night owl type. Ooh, this is the place!”

The three women turned the corner and found a charming bistro with a small outdoor dining area cordoned off from the rest of the sidewalk by a quaint metal gate. The charm of the small restaurant was only overshadowed by the surprised expressions of the four people just sitting down at the table nearest where Harley, Ivy, and Buffy stood.

“You!” Giles let out a surprised shout as Kyle and Cassie gave matching cries of joy at seeing the couple. “Harls! Ivy! What are you guys doing here?”

“Hi Kyle, Cassie.” Harley greeted the young couple before turning to the older pair. “Joyce, Mr. Giles, it’s good to see all of you again.”

“You guys know my Mom and her boyfriend?” Kyle asked just as Joyce gasped. “Kyle, how do you know these women?”

“Relax Mom, Harley and Ivy are the best,” Kyle said as he pulled out a chair for Cassie. As his fiancé sat down he pushed her chair closer to the table and began to explain the odd meeting to Joyce and Giles. “We met when they first came to Mogo while the Corps was in the middle of rebuilding Oa. You remember the plant people I introduced you guys to right? Harley and Ivy made the crystals that let Mogo’s trees project those Lantern bodies.”

“I say, that’s incredible.” Giles let out another gasp. His previous mixture of shock and mistrust was replaced with sheer astonishment. “I knew you two were fairly powerful witches from the last time we met, but you mystically animated an army of alien trees? Astounding.”

“Not just witches,” Cassie added as Giles finally recalled where they were and pulled out a seat for Joyce.

Kyle let out a chuckle at Joyce and Giles’ confused looks and hurried to explain. “They’re Star Sapphires. Pink Lanterns… I mean Violet… maybe. Which is it again?”

Harley cackled at the young man’s question. Ivy just smiled and shook her head. “It’s really a confusing mess Sweetie. I think the people of Zamaron, the Star Sapphire homeworld, don’t see the colors the way we do.”

“Or maybe they just decided that the one Lantern Corps comprised of only women should be called something more butch than Pink Lanterns,” Harley added before raising her ring finger. “I guess I can maybe understand that, but then again...” She waved her ring around for the group to clearly see its faint pink glow. “Pink.”

“So they’re not on your Lantern team, but they’re still good guys?” Joyce asked her son.

“Well, I wouldn’t go throwing around labels like good,” Ivy smirked as she sent a knowing look Giles’ way.

“We have our moments,” Harley told the older blonde. “Greens and pinks do things differently, just like the rest of the groups in the rainbow coalition, but we get along alright since our glorious leader took over and made the whole group less aggro.”

“Glorious leader?” Giles asked in complete confusion.

“Harley likes to tease since they don’t actually take orders from the human woman who is now in charge of the other Star Sapphires.” Cassie eased the old shadow caster’s mind with a smile and a laugh. “How is Carol? We only spoke the one time at the wedding.”

“Barely keeping her fly boy in line,” Ivy said. “It helps that the Guardians that give orders to him and Kyle want that man keeping Carol happy just to maintain the Lantern truce they started. She deserves to be happy.”

“This is all fascinating,” Joyce said as she looked between the Star Sapphires and her son. “Why don’t you ladies join us? We were just about to have brunch.”

“Brunch sounds delightful, doesn't it Baby?” Harley sported an overly eager grin as she turned to her Love. “Ivy, Buffy, and I were just about to have brunch ourselves.”

“Brunch is the most important meal of the day in some places.” Buffy agreed with the other blonde.

“Awesome!” Kyle cheered as he pulled another small table closer to the one his mother and fiancé were already seated at. “So who’s your friend? She seems familiar.”

Kyle didn’t notice the nervous widening of Giles’ eyes. He did notice the slight throat clearing from his fiancé. Cassie spoke softly as she placed one open palm over her fiancé’s heart and the fingertips of her other hand at his temple. “Babe… Don’t panic.”

A brief emerald glow flickered from behind Kyle’s eyes. In a moment it was gone, replaced by an equal mix of comprehension and confusion on the young man’s face. “Oh… wait… um, huh?”

The tumultuous look was met with resounding laughter from the petite blonde. “Oh, Goddess! That’s so cruel Cass. Don’t mess with your boy toy like that.”

“How are your here?” Kyle began to ask only to falter as Cassie placed a hand on his arm. Giles stiffened as the petite blonde spoke.

“Well considering this is my once in a century day off, and I wanted to spend it with people who could get the joke, this form seemed appropriate.” Buffy chuckled as she sat in the open chair beside Giles. “Don’t worry Kyle. I know what your fiancé just got you up to speed on, but I'm not going to stick around long enough to get all attached.”

Giles chimed in with a slight edge to his voice. “I dare say I’m still a bit hesitant at the prospect of meeting you like this after all these years.”

“I know right. Long time no see Kiddo.” Buffy laughed as she turned to the other immortal at the table. “So you’re going by Giles this decade? And putting down roots no less. I’m proud of you big guy. You’ve come a long way from that English dandy I met in eighteen thirty-something.”

“Eighteen thirty-eight,” Giles muttered before sipping from the tea cup set before him. “I shan’t say I’ll ever forget our meeting, Madam.”

“You two know each other? She’s… is she like you Rupert?” Joyce was positively beside herself with curiosity. Though a part of her truly hoped this was not the way she was going to meet any of her current partner’s former dalliances.

“Oh, not even close Joyce.” Buffy laughed as Giles failed to stifle an incredulous snort.

“So she’s immortal too in this dimension?” Kyle asked.

“I’m the only immortal at this table kiddo.” As Buffy spoke she looked to the members of the Rayner family in turn before looking back to Giles. “Giles, as he likes to be called these days, is one of the rare few mortals who, through some nasty tricks played by my brother Fate, get to have three big sit down meetings with me instead of two.”

“Your brother Fate?” Joyce whispered as the outlandish claim struck her.

“Darling,” Giles whispered as he leaned closer to his girlfriend. “She’s the personification of the balance between life and death. I’d dare say she’s the source of all the folktales of the Grim Reaper, but she hates being called that.”

“Oh don’t even get me started on those knock off, poser, demigods.” Buffy let out a groan before straightening and turning to look directly at Joyce. “I usually go by Death of the Endless, but since I’m doing the whole mortal coil thing today you guys can call me Buffy.”

“Death?” Joyce whispered as Kyle and Cassie shared a look.

“The one and only.” Buffy leaned back with a proud smirk on her face. “But that’s only part of what I do. I’m there when a life ends but I’m also there when each and every one of you mortals begins.” She paused before smirking at Giles. “And in the case of some old fuddy-duddies, I show up once or twice in the middle.”

“She was there the night I became what I am,” Giles told the others seated around the table.

“Oh Giles,” Buffy smiled as she shook her head. “I’m everywhere you living mortals are. I just hung around long enough to chat on account of all the dying you did that night.”

“He died before he became immortal?” Joyce asked while looking back to her boyfriend with evident concern.

“Yeah, dark magic rituals are all with the sucking.” Buffy went on. “He died, then the ritual went sideways on the guy doing the mojo thing, then your boy here came back. Right in the middle of our conversation about what he learned from his time here I might add. You mister, still owe me an answer when we meet up for the last time. I expect it to be a good one too, what with all this extra living you’ve been doing. Maybe a few visual aids.”

“But he’s not dying!” Joyce protested. Buffy finally looked back to the taller blonde sitting on Giles’ other side.

“Joyce, Honey, everyone is dying.” Buffy was neither cheerful nor dour as she stated the plainest truth. Merely resigned and accepting. “Everyone dies, always. What matters is what you do on the way from points A to B. Your boy toy here, and a few other sourpusses, think they’ll be around forever.”

“But everything comes to an end,” Cassie whispered as her eyes looked anywhere but Buffy’s face.

“Give the girl a prize.” Buffy cheered as she picked up a menu. “Shade has had a good run. More than most souls could ever dream of, but sooner or later they all find their way back to me. Just ask Vandal Savage. Right, Harley?”

“Hey! He had it coming!” The blonde Lantern protested as her Love placed a reassuring hand on her shoulder.

“Oh don’t I know it.” Buffy agreed readily enough. “That was one “immortal” who wore out his welcome long before he ever tried to cheat his way out of his big meeting with me. You guys know what was really funny? He was tens of thousands of years old and he never figured out what to do with his free time. Giles here is nothing like that. He’s going on two hundred and change and he has never stopped trying out new things. All the other would-be immortals are set in their ways to the point of clinical depression. This guy actually still lives his life enough that I don’t mind the fact he’s slipped under my radar.”

“Ah, oh um...” Giles stammered as the literal embodiment of life and death assessed his existence. “Thank you?”

“No problem Kiddo.” Buffy smiled as she read over the menu still in her hand. “But that’s enough shop talk for today. Time for brunch drinks. I’m thinking mimosas.”

“That sounds lovely,” Joyce replied as she searched through her own menu. “So back to space stuff. How long do you Lanterns think Mogo will stick around?”

“Oh he’ll be in the neighborhood for a while if all the Loraxes hanging around our apartment are anything to go by.” Cassie chimed in with a smirk.

“Kyle you should totally bring Joyce and Giles to meet Mogo,” Harley said as she looked at the young man and his mother.

“Oh, he already has.” Giles chuckled as he eyed his menu. His girlfriend couldn’t hold back the smile as she recited the perks of having family in the Green Lantern Corps.

“We’ve been to Mogo with Kyle and Cassie five time already.” Joyce beamed as she spoke to the two Star Sapphires and their immortal friend. “Isn’t it just the loveliest planet, and the natives, you girls had a hand in bringing all those tree people and Loraxes to life?”

“We provided Mogo with a few key elements,” Ivy admitted as she and Harley leaned into each other to look over the same menu. “He did most of the work.”

“What with the growing billions of trees on all his continents,” Harley smirked at her own little joke. The conversation drifted back to lighter topics as a waiter came up to the two joined tables. Though few passersby noticed the verdant green redhead and the manic blonde on her arm none questioned the friendly atmosphere exhibited by the larger group. None gave the petite blonde and the older looking Englishman a second thought as they began to relax in each other’s company. The only one to notice and smile at the easy acceptance between the two was Cassie. The young seer knew the bond that could exist between Buffy and Giles. Though she knew it couldn’t be in this dimension, a part of her was heartened by the brief glimpse at what could have been.

*****

“We have arrived.” The would-be leader of the nearly two dozen assassins spoke with certainty and no small amount of bitterness. The woman in command wore blackened leather and silk armor similar to those around her. A simple black scarf kept her shoulder-length hair in place. “The prey won’t suspect us to have infiltrated their lair.”

“Talia, sister are you certain of this strategy?” The other woman in the group asked. Though decked in similar light armor, her long raven locks were pinned back in a tightly coiled ponytail. “We have no idea of their true power. Father himself witnessed the mystical forces they were able to bring to bear in mere moments. All we have brought with us are trinkets.”

“These amulets will work!” Talia snapped at her sister. “Nyssa, I won’t have your indecisiveness stand in the way of my mission. I will bring the witches to their knees and I will return their heads to our father.”

“I only remind you to practice caution before charging into battle.” Nyssa leveled an icy glare at her sister as the twenty assassins under their command remained kneeling, silent.

“See that your reminders are not spent foolishly on those who do not need them,” Talia growled as she turned to face the side of the large, plant covered, dockside warehouse. “Follow me. This night the foes of the League of Shadows meet Death.”

With that order, the entirety or the League hit squad moved as one. They slipped through the shadows and up the side of the vine covered walls. Halfway up the wall, they came to a row of massive windows just below the roof. Talia, Nyssa, and each of the men following them moved in perfect silence. Even the old and battered looking windows gave no creaks of protest as the assassins opened them and slipped inside.

The darkened warehouse conveyed an eerie quiet as the stealthy figures made their way along the catwalk suspended above the cavernous room. Vines, shrubs, bushes and small trees covered almost every internal wall and took up much of the divided floor space. From the catwalks the assassins saw a small lab and work area by the main entrance. It was only covered in sparse vegetation compared to the rest of the building, though in this case “sparse” consisted of a veritable greenhouse. The next lower level was a wide open section of cement flooring with arms that encircled the sunken third level of the warehouse floor. The middle level had a few stray pieces of large, disassembled, machinery and equipment scattered among dense clusters of shrubbery and rows of large planter boxes holding all manner of fruit and vegetable bearing crops. The lowest level held an actual forest with foliage so dense one would need a machete to wade through. Off to the side of the dense bush was a small kitchen and dining area set next to a living room setup with a trio of mismatched couches, a large sturdy coffee table, and a massive crystal disk that the couches each faced.

Unbeknownst to the two women at the head of the column, a pair of tendrils slithered out of the dense foliage all around the assassins. The plants moved just as silently as the intruders. In an instant, the last assassin in the column was snatched up and dragged into the bush. He couldn’t even cry out to his comrades.

“Halt!” Talia whispered while bringing a closed fist up into the air at her side. The assassins stopped in their tracks just as more pairs of tendrils absconded with another five men. “What is that noise?”

Nyssa listened carefully as a strange tune came from the kitchen and living area on the lowest level of the warehouse. She crept along the railing until she caught sight of a figure sitting on the large couch in front of the massive screen made of pink crystal. The whip-thin figure with an unnaturally round head swayed back and forth silently as it watched the screen.

Just the good ol' boys,
Never meanin' no harm,
Beats all you've ever saw,
Been in trouble with the law,
Since the day they was born.


The assassins crept quietly across the warehouse floor and down to the lower level. All the while unaware of the vine-like tendrils that slid out of the foliage all around them. One by one the men of the League of Shadows were entwined and dragged into the bush. As Talia and Nyssa came up to the figure on the couch they prepared to spring into action. They leapt from behind the couch only to falter at the sight of the strange figure propped up on the coffee table that sat between couch and screen.

“A sunflower?” Talia let the bewildered utterance slip out just as vines ensnared both her and her sister.

“What the? Men!” Nyssa called out to the assassins only to find there was no one left behind her and her sister. “Where?”

“It’s a trap!” Talia cried out. Her shout finally drew the attention of their odd quarry. The giant sunflower spun to face the assassins. It seemed to slouch in exasperation before lifting back up and slapping two of its large leaves together. Out of the bush came a larger lumbering plant creature. The newcomer stood between both women and held out its massive wooden fists. Clutched in each fist was a dull pink vial.

“What the hell...” Talia muttered as the plant creature crushed both vials right under the faces of both women. Pink mist seeped from wooden paws, flowing up and into the nostrils of both Talia and Nyssa al Ghul. In an instant the daughters of the Demon’s Head were unconscious.

The Sunflower raised one leaf in an oddly half folded way that might have been mistaken for a thumbs up. It then dismissively waved the larger plant creature off before turning back to the screen. The exploits of two southern outlaws were soon replaced with images of the warehouse lair and the surrounding docks. The Sunflower gave an almost amused shake of its many leaves as it watched two more groups closing in on its home. Today was going to be far more interesting than the plant creatures and their mothers could have ever anticipated.

*****

“So Buffy, how many other immortals do you check in on like Rupert?” Joyce’s question drew a heartfelt laugh from the eternal woman and a brief sputtering and coughing fit from her boyfriend.

“Oh don’t even worry about that Joyce.” Buffy’s amusement was far too obvious as she looked from the blonde woman to the Englishman. “There aren’t any other “immortals” like your boy here. You snagged yourself a one of a kind gentleman.”

“Plus the number of uppity immortals has dropped off a bit this year,” Cassie added with a sly look sent Harley’s way.

“The caveman and the cult leader had it coming.” Harley repeated her defense as Ivy nodded along at her side. “And you can’t even count the radioactive sociopath. He was barely in his thirties when the government experimented on him and Captain Atom, and that wasn’t even a full decade ago.”

“I’m not too sure how I feel about you gals trapping that guy in a power plant for the next thousand years,” Buffy remarked as she sipped her mimosa. “Until his juice runs out I’ll have to keep a slot in the schedule open for his meeting if that power plant ever has a meltdown.”

“Major Force had it coming,” Kyle grumbled out as he clutched Cassie’s hand in his.

“Fair enough.” Buffy admitted before looking back to Joyce. “Anyway, there are still a few immortal wannabes on the loose. Plus the occasional supernatural being, but honestly most of those things don’t even know you mortals exist. Each of my siblings are responsible for things you guys do literally every day and I can’t even tell if half of them know this plane and all its people exist. The minor league demigods, outer realm tentacle monsters, and the astral plane’s inconceivable concepts don’t have a chance of interfering.”

“So Mr. Giles doesn't have a secret club of hundred-year-old BFF’s he’s been hiding on us?” Kyle asked the petite blonde immortal.

“Perish the thought,” Giles said a little too quickly.

His hasty dismissal drew a frown from Buffy before her eyes widened in shock that soon melted into amusement. “The club is kind of exclusive.” She went on to explain to the mortals at the table. “The trouble makers that Harls and Ivy put down were all monsters, and that’s not even counting the giant zombie they dusted. Ra’s al Ghul may still be walking around but he’s got a time limit now. I’ve already checked his new entry in Fate’s big dumb book. No getting out of his appointments from now on. Thank the Goddess Giles here isn’t like that cowardly old geezer.”

“Hardly.” The Englishman scoffed in between sips of his tea. “Ra’s is likely to go kicking and screaming all the way to his deathbed like some petulant child. I like to think I have a modicum of restraint more than that old assassin. I’m proud to say the time I’ve been blessed with has been well worth the struggle.” His eyes fell on Joyce as he spoke. A warm smile crossed his lips. “No regrets my dear.”

The tender moment between the mature couple was broken by Buffy’s far too chipper voice. “So Giles, have you introduced Joyce to your daughter yet?”

“What?” Half the table shouted at the outlandish revelation.

“I was hoping you wouldn’t bring her up.” Giles muttered before turning back to his girlfriend. “Darling, please let me explain.”

“Rupert...” Joyce could only stare at the man she had trusted. Before her imagination could run wild to its heart’s content she recalled that the man she loved was far from ordinary. “How old is she?”

“One hundred and sixty three,” Giles answered as quickly as he could. “It was eighteen fifty-four and I was on a ship sailing to Africa when we were set upon in the night by pirates.”

“That doesn’t seem so bad considering they couldn’t have know about your powers.” Kyle ventured a response that was soon cast aside by the Englishman’s sorrowful gaze.

“The pirates were also vampires.” Giles went on to tell the group of the tragic night. “By the time I was roused from sleep they had fed on the crew and all the other passengers save one. A newborn baby girl was in the clutches of one fiend, as its fangs sank into her tiny stomach I flew into a rage. Being a sailing ship of the time there was plenty of wood available.”

“Oh, Rupert,” Joyce whispered as she leaned in to hold the man she adored.

“I held her in my arms and watched as her skin turned gray.” The Englishman went on, holding back the emotion that threatened to choke him. “I don’t know whatever gave me the idea to try but I managed to save her from turning completely. We returned to Spain and stayed in Barcelona. To this day she calls me Father whenever I pay her city a visit.”

“Wait...” Harley couldn’t help but perk up as several disparate facts fell into place. “Barcelona is her City?”

“Quite,” Giles said with a slight smirk sent the Lantern’s way. “You may have heard of her exploits.”

“Your vampire daughter is La Sangre!” Harley all but shouted the name of the infamous vampire.

“Indeed,” Giles said. “Well, half vampire as it were. Around the age of fifteen she stopped aging. Since then she has guarded the city of Barcelona and prevented any deviant or organized criminal element from taking root.”

“How does she keep organized crime out of the city?” Kyle asked.

“Imagine what the criminal element in Gotham City would be like if the Batman ate anyone who killed more than a dozen people, or engaged in human trafficking,” Giles remarked with a grim sigh. “I dare say that is the most damning evidence against the ridiculous urban myth that the man is secretly a vampire. Had he the thirst to contend with then he would never have let monsters like the Joker run free for so many years.”

“So she eats all the criminals in Barcelona?” Joyce asked. There was renewed worry in her voice.

“Heavens no,” Giles assured his beloved. “Not all the criminals. Just the mass murderers, the rapist, the kidnappers that don’t return their victims alive and in one piece, anyone foolish enough to prey on the defenseless in the dead of night.”

“And the police are okay with her doing all this?” Joyce asked, not in a tone that condemned the gruesome hero, but in genuine curiosity.

“She’s been protecting the city for over a hundred years,” Harley said before Giles could elaborate. “It’s not even like the insane levels of hero worship that Superman gets from the people he flies over every day. La Sangre is just a fact of life for the people of her city. None of them are old enough to remember a time before she stalked the night. They’ve all grown up with her looking out for their well-being in her own brutal way. If she ate pickpockets and jaywalkers it would be one thing, but she only drains the worst of the worst criminals. And since there has never been a report of her ever drinking from an innocent or one of the people she saves why would they question her methods?”

“You’ve studied her.” Giles tried to hold back the edge of overprotective concern in his voice. It wasn’t every day he thought of his adopted daughter, but he still would stop at nothing to go to the girl’s aid. The fact that the two Lanterns had already looked her up unsettled him.

“We’ve had bad history with vampires,” Ivy spoke in a tone that did little to hide her own revulsion. “Whenever we get the chance we look into the movements of vampires in the world. This dimension doesn’t have any h-hellmouths attracting them in droves, but it still has plenty of undead.”

Harley was quick to nod along with her Love’s statement. “So imagine our surprise when we noticed that one partially ensouled vampire had taken over a huge swath of territory in a major city in Spain, and gone to the trouble of dusting every other vampire that dared to come within a hundred miles of the outermost city limits.”

“Partially ensouled?” Joyce asked only to watch Harley shake her head in exasperation.

“It’s a thing that keeps popping up.” The Lantern was quick to dissuade the topic. “Some undead still have their human souls. Or parts anyway. Plus there’s this whole gypsy curse thing that keeps causing us headaches. The point is, yeah we looked her up, but we never went to introduce ourselves. Why bother harassing her for what she is if she already has her hero routine down to a science and the mere threat of her keeps the city’s crime rate among the lowest in Europe?”

Before Giles could find a suitable response to the two Lanterns his girlfriend chimed in with the last thing he ever expected to hear. “I want to meet her.”

“What?” Giles was stunned as he looked back to the blonde at his side. “What in heaven’s name for?”

Joyce fixed the man with a withering glare. “She’s your daughter Rupert. She’s part of your life whether you see each other once a day or once a decade, and you are obviously a huge part of her life. If she’s half the hero you all say she is then she deserves to have people in her life she can call family. She deserves to know you’re proud of her,” Joyce leaned in close to whisper one more fact to her seemingly clueless boyfriend, “and she deserves to give any potential step-mothers a once over.”

“Oh… Oh of course.” Giles was quick to agree. He knew waiting so long to reveal such a secret had already cost him. The Englishman had no interest in further risking Joyce’s ire. “We’ll go just as soon as I clear a few things and secure the shop.”

“And I’ll fly us there.” Kyle chimed in just in time to draw shocked looks from both his mother and the Englishman. “What? Barcelona sounds awesome. I owe Cassie at least one romantic Earth vacation, and this hero vamp is family. Also, Barcelona!”

“He does make several good points.” Giles admitted as she shared a look with Joyce.

“Perfect!” Buffy cheered the group as she took another sip from her mimosa. “Ooh, she can show you kids the best parts of the Spanish nightlife. All the clubs she took me to last night were amazing.”

“She did what with you last night?” Giles nearly developed a case of whiplash as he spun his head to glare at the eternal manifestation masquerading as a petite blonde.

“Oh yeah, I totally spent my nighttime hours for this whole twenty-four hour, mortal, thing hitting up the Barcelona club scene with La Sangre. That girl knows how to party.”

The stunned looks from Giles, Joyce, and Kyle were soon overshadowed by uproarious laughter from Harley. Ivy and Cassie were quick to join in the slender blonde’s mirth. A few moments later the rest of the table followed suit. Try as he might Giles could not blame Buffy for enjoying time with his adopted daughter. He was simply glad the girl had carved out a place for herself in the world.

*****

“Yo, Rick, this seem like a trap to you?” The sniper’s whispered voice came from the soldier’s headset.

“It’s the mission Deadshot,” Rick Flag replied over the comm link. “You in position? See either of the targets?”

“There are no heat signatures in the warehouse but there aren’t any good vantage points from the outside either,” Deadshot answered as the rest of the Squad followed behind the soldier. “Need to see if there’s a crow’s nest or catwalk inside the warehouse.”

“Hold position!” Flag ordered before turning to the tall, whip thin blonde woman at his side. “June, you’re up. Go in and scope out the place. See if they left any traps.”

“Rick please...” The woman begged as tears began to form in the corners of her eyes. “You know what she’s like… Please, don’t make me.”

“We need the Enchantress for this mission June.” Flag whispered to the woman as he leaned further into her personal space. “I’m sorry, I’ll talk to Waller after we take the targets in, but right now we need you.”

With tears in her eyes the woman nodded to the man who had made and broken so many promises to her before. Even with his failings she couldn’t help but care for him. None had been able to stare into the darkness consuming her without coming away shaken and terrified. No one else had come close to his devotion. She knew he was trying to help her. If only that help didn’t come attached to strings his superiors were all too eager to pull.

June schooled her emotions as best she could. With one final glare into the eyes of her would-be boyfriend she whispered the word that brought her world to an end. “Enchantress.”

Darkness coiled around June’s form as she vanished into the abyss. In the place she once stood the darkness coalesced into a gaunt figure that almost resembled the blonde. Dark dreadlocks and braids fell over emaciated shoulders as beady black eyes traced back and forth. Grime, ritualistic runes, and tribal markings covered every inch of the creature’s skin and its long spindly arms and legs. A frayed skirt and halter top made of beads and woven leather gave the creature some degree of modesty that her slow, languid motions seemed uninterested in keeping.

“Enchantress!” Rick Flag snapped at the creature that had consumed the woman he loved. “Enter that warehouse and take care of any traps the Lanterns may have set. The rest of the Squad needs to be ready when they come home.”

The creature hissed at the soldier before vanishing in a flicker of smoke and shadow. A slowly growing circle of black ooze seeped out of the ground where it once stood. The soldier could only shake his head at the remnant of the horror consuming his love. “That is never going to stop being creepy.”

A man sporting scruffy mutton chops and a distinctive handlebar mustache came up to the Soldier. “Oy, but you’ve got the right wonkiest taste in sheilas, don’t cha mate?”

“Not now Captain Boomerang.” Flag ordered as he turned to face the warehouse. “Let’s move in.”

Inside the warehouse lair, the creature known as the Enchantress took form. It materialized in the bedroom on the upper floor, just inside the large sliding glass doors. As its gaunt body took shape runes covering every square foot of the door, floor, walls, and ceiling of the room began to glow.

“No, it can’t be...” The Enchantress whispered before convulsing in horror.

“Enchantress repeat!” Flag ordered over the comm just as he and most of the Squad came in through the front door of the building. Though the mystical being rarely heeded his call he still had to try. “Do you copy?”

“No, it can’t be...” The Enchantress whispered over the comms before cutting out once more.

“June? Is it a Lantern trap?” Flag asked as he saw Deadshot slip in through one of the upper-level windows overlooking the open warehouse floor. At the same time, he saw the largest member of the Squad slither up through the hatch that no doubt led down to the dock. Before he could give them their orders the mystical creature’s voice called to him once more.

“No, it can’t be...” The Enchantress’ voice was drowned out by the cries of the other Squad members. Rick Flag saw pink vials fly out of the bush and shatter at the feet of his teammates. Pink mist rushed forth and all became darkness.

*****

“So was there a reason for this little trip Bruce?” Selina asked with a knowing smirk as they walked arm in arm down a street riddled with designer stores and boutiques. Her boyfriend could only grin in embarrassment as they turned a corner.

“I owed you a shopping day,” Bruce said with as much of his boyish grin as he could muster.

Selina rolled her eyes at the forced obliviousness in the man’s tone. “And this has nothing to do with two Star Sapphires who happen to have a lair in this town?”

“No, of course not.” He flinched slightly before glancing sideways at his girlfriend. “Did you want to stop by and see what they were up to?”

“I knew it!” Selina shouted in disgust and triumph before continuing with a harsh whisper. “You’re still stalking them.”

“No!” Bruce’s protest only drew further eye rolls from the blonde woman. “I’m not! Not as much as I was anyway.” Selina just glared at her boyfriend before turning and marching toward a high-end clothing store. “I swear, Selina! I’m not stalking them okay. It’s just… it’s been a while since they called to ask Lucius for any favors and since Ms. Rayner is doing better I wanted to check in with them and see if they’ll tell me how they know her.”

“How who knows who?” Bruce and Selina both practically leapt out of their skin as the chipper voice broke into their conversation. They turned to see Harley Quinn grinning at them with almost manic glee. “Hi, Brucie!”

“Harley!” Both Bruce and Selina let out surprised yelps at the sudden appearance of the peculiar blonde. Before they could ask what the woman was doing sneaking up on them they heard a handful of familiar voices coming their way.

Harley glanced in the direction of the voices before spinning back to face the couple. When she spoke she held their gazes with a look that walked a fine line between amusement and paranoia. “Play it cool. Don’t let them in on the joke.”

“The what now?” Bruce asked only to draw a much more satisfied smirk from the former psychiatrist.

“Exactly!” Harley beamed before spinning once more to face the oncoming crowd. “Hey, guys! Look who I found!”

“Selina! Bruce!” Ivy was just as surprised to see the rich couple, only she did a much better job of hiding her shock behind a playful smirk. “What a small, slightly contrived, world we live in.”

“I know right!” Harley was quick to jump in before any of the others could interject. “Selina was just about to drag her bit of man candy into the same shop we were. How about you join us while Brucie helps the boys carry our bags?”

“I’d be delighted.” Selina’s smirk was all too real as she stood up on the tips of her toes to plant a mischievous kiss on Bruce’s cheek. “You owe me for this mister,” she whispered quietly enough to not draw attention, yet harshly enough to strike fear in her man’s heart.

“Perfect!” Harley cheered as she and Ivy each took one of Selina’s arms. “You’ve met Cassie already right, well this is Joyce Rayner and our good friend Buffy. We’ve got lots of shopping still to do! Isn’t that right Baby?”

Ivy easily joined in on her Love’s playful banter. “You know it, Sweetie.” As the cluster of women vanished into a nearby boutique Bruce was left outside on the street with two equally confused men.

The younger of the three men greeted the newcomer amicably, if not a little too formally. “Hey there Mr. Wayne.”

“Hello Kyle,” Bruce smiled as he nodded to the young League member who he was almost certain knew his secret. “Have they been like that all day?”

The young Lantern smiled back. “Only since brunch.”

Bruce could only laugh as he glanced towards the dour looking older gentleman in tweed who stood at Kyle’s side. Before any unnecessary awkwardness could develop he extended a hand to the man. “Hello there, Bruce Wayne.”

“Of course,” the older gentleman said in a polite British accent. “Rupert Giles.”

“Oh yeah, rude,” Kyle scoffed as he slapped a palm to his own head. “This is Mr. Giles. He’s my mom’s new fella. Mr. Giles, this is Mr. Wayne. We uh, um... know each other? Yeah. From a few charity galas that Cassie has worked. Oh, and from that big wedding last month that the girls were all talking about!”

“Well, how interesting.” Giles was ever so polite as he continued to cast speculative glances in the billionaire’s direction. “I must say, Kyle. Your social circle certainly includes the most fascinating of individuals.”

“It certainly does,” Bruce added as he studied the older Englishman. It wasn’t long before he recalled the man’s likeness from a series of archival crime reports dating back several decades. Whether this new player was the descendant of a renowned criminal or just burdened with an unfortunate resemblance he could not yet decipher. “Really fascinating.”

*****

“Report.” The lead soldier ordered as the two men he sent to recon the perimeter returned to his side. Now that the strike team was assembled just outside the warehouse lair he took in the sight of his most coordinated soldiers. All four of them crouched in nearly identical camo pants and matching dark green sweaters. All, save for the lone ebony skinned member of the team had an excessive amount of camo face paint smeared across their faces. The man who sported lighter splotches of gray paint to offset his darker skin tone spoke first.

“Zero contact. The building may be empty.” The leader turned from him to face the other man he had sent to survey the situation.

“Something’s messing with the equipment.” The third man spoke up as he slipped a compact device back into one of the pouches on his belt. “The building is either shielded or completely empty, but judging by all the plants covering the outside there has to be something in there.”

“Graham is right,” The woman who had stayed by the mission leader’s side said as she looked to the dour faces all around. “There has to at least be water systems and gardening equipment in there. The targets have done something.”

The darker complexioned man nodded as he added a complaint he had already voiced several times. “Something that wasn’t in the mission brief.”

“The brief is never going to have every detail Forrest,” Riley dismissed the tiresome complaint. “We need to move forward with the intel we have. Which entry point looked the most promising?”

Both Forrest and Graham gave each other concerned looks before giving matching replies. “The front door.”

“Seriously?” The woman asked.

Forrest gave the woman a withering glare. “Everything else is boarded up, Sam. Unless you want to swim under the docks or climb whatever weird plants Batman’s crazy plant lady covered her home in we only have the one option.”

“Enough!” Riley snapped at his team. Once they settled down he spoke with certainty. “We’ll slip in the front door as quietly as we can. Engage on sight. If you see the targets concentrate your taser fire on them. We’re not here to bother with some crazy plant woman’s pet ficus.”

“What if the ficus is laying down suppressing fire?” Graham asked, only to receive looks from his teammates that ranged from exasperated to patronizing.

“It’s a ficus!” Forrest snapped. “How the hell is a ficus gonna lay down suppressing fire?”

“You don’t know Gotham City crazies like I do.” Graham began to protest only to be silenced by another look from Riley.

Ignoring barely restrained glares from his other two teammates, the leader turned to face the warehouse. Before their concerns could further cloud an otherwise simple mission he stepped out of the shadows and marched towards the lair of their targets. He had no doubt that this mission would be just as successful as each and every single mission where he had led this team. Though they often bickered to no end they each knew their jobs. They would let nothing stand in their way as they protected the world from the threat posed by the hostiles.

The front door of the warehouse began to sway open just as Riley reached a hand towards it. The four soldiers stared in wonder and dread at the gloom beyond the doorway. As the door opened all the way their eyes began to adjust to the darkened chamber within. Riley was first through the door, nervously checking all corners as he proceeded.

“I don’t like this,” Graham grumbled as the strike team readied their weapons.

“Big surprise,” Forrest muttered as he nudged a large potted fern with the business end of his taser rifle.

“Cut the chatter,” Riley whispered as he led them through the deserted lab area and towards the open floor of the warehouse. His eyes widened as he saw a single combat boot sitting on the cement floor just a few feet from the edge of the dense foliage that filled the center of the warehouse. “Something isn’t right here.”

“It’s like someone just plopped a wild, untamed, chunk of the Australian Bush in the middle of this place,” Forrest added as he went to investigate the discarded boot. Upon picking it up he noticed some writing on the inside of the tongue. “Huh...”

“What is it Forrest?” Riley’s eyes kept scanning the surrounding bush for any threat as Graham went up to Forrest to examine the lone boot. “What do we know?”

The ebony soldier smirked as he handed the boot off to Graham. “That the guy who owned this was the type of uptight weirdo who writes his name on the inside of his clothes.”

“Property of Colonel Rick Flag...” Graham sounded out the words that triggered something familiar in the back of his mind. “I know that name.”

“Yeah right.” Forrest scoffed as he walked closer to the edge of the bush. The dense foliage before him rustled as a slight breeze moved through the warehouse. “Weird.”

“Someone left one of those windows near the ceiling open,” Sam said as she pointed the source of the breeze out to Riley.

“Okay, that’s enough sightseeing.” Riley was quickly growing tired of the apparently empty warehouse. “Sam I want you to check upstairs. Find out anything you can from the targets’ personal quarters. Forrest, Graham, I want you two to sweep this room. Don’t let anything slip by you. We don’t know when the targets will be back and we need to have the trap set and waiting for them.”

Graham nodded along as he surveyed the open floor of the massive warehouse. “Right. Let’s scope out the perimeter of the warehouse before we trudge through the mini rainforest. Forrest, take the left side while I take the right and we’ll… meet… Where did Forrest go?”

“What?” Both Riley and Sam’s heads shot up at the question. Failing to immediately find the fourth member of their team they all began a frantic search.

“Forrest!” Riley shouted as he spun around in place to scan the room. “Where did you go?”

Sam was only slightly more level headed as she sought out their ally. “Graham where was the last place you saw hi… Riley! Graham’s missing!”

“This isn’t funny guys!” Riley snapped as he spun back to see the stray boot bouncing off the spot on the floor where Graham must have just dropped it. “Sam, we need to fall back. We need… Sam?”

Riley stood alone at the edge of the dense forest tucked within the dockside warehouse. There was no sign of his teammates. Nor was there any clue who could have taken them. As the soldier spun around with his taser rifle aimed high he failed to notice the rustling of plant life coming from the bush. Before he could call out once more his body was dragged into the dense foliage. Vines muffled his cries as the warehouse was once more left empty, silent.

*****

“Ooh, tapas!”

Buffy smirked as she saw a generic Spanish name emblazoned across the large front windows of a charming restaurant. “Selina makes an excellent point. Tapas.”

“I could go for a late lunch,” Bruce said as he put an arm over Selina’s shoulders and walked into the restaurant with the woman he adored. The rest of the group was quick to follow. They were seated almost immediately once the hostess recognized the billionaire playboy at the head of their group.

“This is nice,” Ivy said as she slid into the large corner booth next to her Love.

“I like the little lights,” Harley smirked as she pointed out the thousands of tiny multicolored light bulbs strung up above their heads. So dense was the overhead mix & match of festive Christmas, butterfly, sombrero, and chili pepper lights that the ceiling gave off an all encompassing glow. “Reminds you of our first place doesn’t it Baby?”

Ivy hummed in contentment as she sank further into her Love’s embrace. “Mmm, it does Sweetie.”

“Oh, I wanted to ask about the both of you something.” Joyce’s voice was all too eager as she addressed the lovesick couple. “Cassie explained it to me once but I don’t think I got all the details. You two are possessed by a pair of mischievous gay leprechauns from another planet?”

At his mother’s mistaken analysis Kyle practically choked on the glass of water he was drinking. “Oh my god Mom! Please! Stop! I’m begging you.”

“No, Joyce.” Harley’s voice was tight and restrained as she spoke to the older blonde. “We are not possessed, by anything.”

“But you have the ghosts of your past lives kicking around in your heads,” Bruce went on, looking around the table for someone to confirm his interpretation. His gaze landed on the other two men only to receive warning glares from Kyle and a confused look from Giles.

The nearly immortal Englishman had the most perplexed look on his face as he leaned back against the cushioned bench of the booth. He smiled as he looked to Buffy for her unique perspective. “This is the first I’m hearing about it, but I must admit it sounds fascinating. They slipped this by your notice?”

“Not my jurisdiction,” Buffy replied with disinterest as she perused the menu and began to order a selection of small plates. The shell-shocked waiter took a moment longer than he should have to realize he was staring at the couple being interrogated. Once the nervous waiter left Buffy looked back to the table and waved off their confusion. “What two consenting souls do in parallel dimensions is their business. I don’t go looking into the day to day work of every grim reaper stand-in in every dimension that isn’t this one. I’m way too busy keeping you mortals coming and going.”

“We are not possessed!” Harley seethed as she spoke again. “We are not body snatchers. We are not aliens, or undead, or religious zealots, or any other creepy thing you guys are thinking about right now. We are Ivy and Harley. We’re in Love. We’ve been together for a hundred and forty-two lifetimes, and when this lifetime is over we’ll give everything we’ve learned to the girls we’ll be reborn as in life number one hundred and forty-three.”

“So it is like demonic possession but different?” Selina speculated. “Less vindictive and evil.”

“It is nothing like demonic possession Selina!” Ivy was livid as she glared at the woman she had known as a fellow minor league Gotham City criminal long before they had met their respective partners.

“I swear we’ve had to explain this more times in this world that we ever had to in others.” Harley shook her head as she began to pick up spoons from all around the table. “Okay!” She held one spoon upright for the others to see. “This is you.” She began to tap the handle end of the spoon along the table to mimic the spoon walking around the surface of the table. “Going about your day when suddenly...” The salt shaker came out of nowhere, colliding with the spoon and sending it careening off the table.

“Hey, my spoon!” Bruce protested, only to falter as Selina placed a warning hand on his thigh.

“Oh no, you’ve been hit by a truck, or eaten by a vampire, or shot through the heart by a worthless, little, misogynist, fuckboy!” Harley’s voice hadn’t raised during her demonstration. Those at the table couldn’t help but remain quiet as she carried on. “This is also you.” She raised a second spoon and proceeded to go about the same motions, leading the spoon to an early demise via salt shaker. “And this is also you.” She explained as a third spoon was picked up and moved around the table. It also fell before the salt shaker’s tyranny. “Each one just as real as the next, each has a world all their own to explore and grow into. And in each world you face struggles. Threats to your life and the lives of the people you care about most. But what if one of the infinite versions of you could get word out to the rest? What if you could learn from your own mistakes before even making them?” The fourth spoon dodged the salt shaker.

As the others watched the spoon shake off a few stray grains of salt Ivy spoke up for the first time in several tense moments. “What if you could save the one person who meant the world to you? What if you could give the gift of life long happiness to a child who would one day make all your mistakes and suffer all of your hardships?”

“What if, at the end of a long and happy life...” As Harley spoke the fourth spoon who survived the salt shaker was placed on an altar of napkins. “After you and the person you are meant to be with have shared everything it’s possible to share in one life, at the very moment you both slip into the darkness for the last time, what if at that moment you could give the gift of everything you leaned, everything you fought and sacrificed for? What if you could pass it all on? To a confused teen version of yourself who doesn’t even know she’s not sexually attracted to boys. What if you could give yourself all that you are and help yourself be the best “you” you could be? Would you guys really let your younger selves walk off the same cliff you jumped from and spent a lifetime trying to climb back up to? Would any of you condemn yourselves to suffer through a life without the one person who gets you, heart and soul?” Harley picked up a fifth spoon, and used it to topple the salt shaker with one decisive blow. She then held it against a fork before having the two utensils walk “hand in hand” across the surface of the table.

“Oh...” Selina was staring at the spoon and fork with an odd look. Bruce noticed the tears begin to form in the corners of her eyes before being blinked away. “Okay, I get it now.” All around the table heads nodded in agreement. Only one person at the table dared to ask the question that burned in their mind, despite the graphic use of silverware.

“But what about free will?” Joyce asked the couple. “What about choice? It’s one thing to offer all the details to help someone else make an informed decision, but at what point does advice become control? When does it that knowledge take away you ability to choose for yourself?”

“There’s always a choice.” Buffy locked eyes with Joyce, and the two blondes held each other’s gaze for what seemed an eternity. “You mortals always have a choice. You may not have a good choice, but you have a choice.”

“I choose her,” Harley answered Joyce as Ivy nodded in agreement. “I will always choose her. No matter what else is going on I choose her.” Harley paused, looked to her Love, let out a relieved breath. For she saw the same unending devotion she felt in her own heart, reflecting back at her from emerald depths. “And I have never once regretted making that choice.”

Ivy nodded before she too faced Joyce. “Joyce, if you woke up tomorrow with memories of a hundred different versions of your life, and in every, single, happy, one of those memories there was this one beautiful, amazing, wonderful, person. If every moment of true happiness revolved around your relationship with this one person, and you knew they felt the same about you, and you saw yourself with them, living happily ever after a hundred times in a row. If you knew your life would be so much better for having this one person in it, would you really waste time trying to find another perfect match through blind dates and singles mixers?”

Joyce’s eyes widened as she took in the green woman and her slender companion. She then looked to her son who gave her a reassuring smile, then her boyfriend who was visibly holding back a surge of unexpected emotion. In the end she couldn’t think of any reason why she wouldn’t want to skip ahead of all the misguided youthful hookups and go straight to the love she shared with Kyle’s father, or to the burgeoning romance she had with the immortal Englishman. Straight to the two relationships that had given her life so much happiness. “I guess I wouldn’t.”

“Love makes you do the wacky. Especially if it’s the good kind. The forever kind.” Buffy was smiling at the pair of Star Sapphires as she spoke. “Once you’ve found it you’ll never want to let it go.”

Joyce smiled at the other blonde. There was something so familiar and yet strangely indecipherable about Buffy. She could only guess at the cause of her déjà vu. “And is there anyone special in your life Buffy.”

“Oh no.” Buffy shook her head several times before letting out a laugh that soon turned sour. “No, nope. No, I don’t do the whole romantic entanglement thing. Too many risks.”

“Risks?” Joyce asked.

“With what I am.” Buffy’s hand waved up and down her own body in a vague gesture. “The whole sword of Damocles thing is a real buzzkill. Best not to get attached.”

“Sword of Damocles?” Joyce and Selina both whispered in confusion. Before Buffy could elaborate the waiter brought out a tray full of small plates and various appetizers. She smiled at the still nervous man pleasantly enough, but when he left she turned back to face the others around the table.

“So this is a long boring story full of the angst and the dramas, but I’ll give you guys the short version.” Buffy dipped a spring roll in one of the many small bowls of dipping sauce around the table. She took a bite, chewed slowly, savoring the taste before continuing. With a sigh, she began her story. “So about two hundred years ago there was this boy. Liam.”

“Oh no,” Harley whispered only to catch herself and apologize. “Sorry.”

“He was the most oversexed drunken lout in his little Irish village.” Buffy went on, ignoring the looks from those around the table. “But he was just so cute. They said he had the face of an angel. I shouldn’t have looked in on him so often. One night he was drunk and stumbling out of his favorite tavern. He never made it past the alleyway. A vampire with a pretty face lured him to his death.”

“That’s awful,” Bruce said only to be met with a resigned head shake from Cassie.

“It gets so much worse,” The young seer told the billionaire.

“Yup,” Buffy went on, growing all the more sullen as her story unfolded. “About a hundred years later I got nostalgic. Weak really. Or maybe just bored. I looked up what was happening with Liam since the whore of Aurelius sired him. I’d been processing his victims all along and after a while I couldn’t ignore it anymore. I watched him for about a week, but when I went to confront him the whore had brought him a present.”

“The gypsy princess?” Cassie muttered as she clung to Kyle’s side.

“Yup,” Buffy admitted as she took another swig of her drink. “Boy did the gypsies not take that well. The next night he was cursed with the return of his human soul. Poor boy couldn’t take it.”

“Angel didn’t go all broody in this dimension?” Harley asked as her eyes refused to leave the petite blonde.

Buffy just shook her head. “He walked into the light that morning. One of the most depraved vampires in history, dust, but do I learn the lesson? No.”

“What else could have happened?” Kyle asked.

The grin Buffy gave them was anything but amused. “About a decade ago there was this girl in Boston.”

“Oh no,” Ivy’s head shot up as she and Harley connected the dots. “Oh Goddess please, not her.”

“You guys would have liked her once you got to know her like I did.” Buffy went on, heedless of the now terrified expressions that had taken hold on the faces of both Star Sapphires. “Faith was incredible. Even with the absolute worst mother and a string of “uncles” that ranged from neglectful to irredeemably evil she still shined brighter than any soul I’d met in a long time. Plus, I could tell she’d grow up to be downright gorgeous. If only her mother hadn’t taken up the exotic, fast-paced life of a crack whore.”

“What happened to her?” Joyce asked. A silent dread hung over the table for several uneasy moments. None could bear to break the tension that oozed up from Buffy’s remorse.

“Same thing that happens to every mortal.” Buffy’s voice was dull. Not even a trace of her earlier bubbly personality remained. “Though in her case it was extra gruesome. I guess Fate wanted to teach me a lesson about getting attached. She was taken in by the foster care system. For a second things seemed okay. Then the new adults in her life turned out to be worse than her birth mother. Foster Mommy Dearest took Faith up to the attic where they kept their vampire son. I cried all through the meeting I had with Faith after that. Poor kid couldn’t understand why I kept apologizing as I took her across the river. It took a week of me constantly checking in on the foster family, but eventually they slipped up and the vampire got loose.”

Buffy sipped her drink yet again as she let the grim details sink in. It was another long, awkward moment before she spoke to the people she had spent the day with. “I don’t do relationships, or the whole romantic love thing. At least I shouldn’t at any rate. I’ll probably screw up and make the same mistakes in another hundred years. Needless to say, I’m not gonna be checking up on you guys all that much after today. Pretty sure only one of you can dodge Fate’s hit list, and I’m in no mood to tempt my uptight brother.”

Kyle was the first to speak up after Buffy’s story wound down. “That’s so sad.”

“That’s my life. Comes with the gig.” Buffy let out a small remorseful laugh as she fiddled with a small black ring on a chain around her neck. It was a separate necklace from the silver strand that held the gleaming Ankh over her sternum. A cheap string of metal beads one might expect to find attached to a pair of military dog tags. The ring caught the eye of several people all at once. “But it’s not all bad. Not when I can play the hero every now and then.”

“That’s a Lantern ring.” Kyle was the first to voice his surprise. “How do you have a Lantern ring? And why is it black? There isn’t a Black Lantern Corps.”

“Oh there was for about a minute.” Buffy smirked as she held the ring up to the light. The distinctive insignia etched into the small circle on the face of the ring let off a dull gleam. Five short black lines emerging from the top of a downward pointed triangle. None recognized the alien symbol from any of their adventures. “Some cheap grim reaper knock off was gonna start his own Corps. I put him down, and destroyed his Lantern battery. Kept this little trinket as a souvenir. No one horns in on my turf.”

“The Black Lanterns were all going to be zombies,” Cassie told the stunned group.

“Worse,” Buffy added. “He actually thought he could steal souls I guided across the river. Put the strongest back in their mortal bodies so they’d be on the frontlines, leading the mindless corpses once the big skeleton started his war on all living beings. I found his breach in the afterlife and used his sorry excuse for a soul to plug the hole.”

“He was going to let people bring others back from the dead?” Bruce was all too interested as Giles and Cassie shared concerned looks.

“Or let the strongest metahumans and enhanced people swim their way back to this side of the river,” Buffy said with a dispassionate huff as she let the ring drop back to rest beside her Ankh. “Trust me, Bruce. Even if they look just like they did before they died, the dead aren’t meant to stay on this side of the river. They always come back wrong.”

Kyle was next to speak. When he did there was an odd certainty in his voice. As if he now knew something the others at the table could not. “So the prophecy of the Blackest Night and Brightest Day isn’t going to happen?”

“Not a chance,” Buffy replied. “I’m Death of the Endless. No bargain bin grim reaper or amorphous white ghost is gonna take my place. This universe is better off without the White and Black Lantern Corps.”

“The what now?” Selina asked as Bruce looked on in confusion.

“Each of the Lantern Corps has their own oath.” Harley chimed in with a simplified explanation. “Most of them have lines that reference the Blackest Night and the Brightest Day. The yellows talk about blackest day and brightest night, but that’s only because their leader wanted to be glib when he wrote it. The Orange guy’s oath is little more than him screaming “Mine!” over and over, and the red oath is something along the lines of “I’m gonna rip off your head and fuck the neck stump!”

Both Kyle and Cassie cringed, letting out the same disgusted response. “Eww!”

Ivy nodded along with her Love. “The blue oath actually references the War of Light. A war that all the Lantern Corps will be drawn into, first fighting each other, then the Black, then the White. Kyle, what did the Guardians tell your guys about the prophecy written in the back of their great big book?”

“Almost nothing.” Kyle had a sly smile as he looked to the Star Sapphires. “I got most of the story from Cassie’s visions. We’ve been preparing for the zombie apocalypse. It’s a lot harder to prep for if all the zombies have the ability to fly and have a power ring that can instantly rip the hearts out of their victims.”

“Nasty stuff.” Buffy agreed with a proud smirk. “Which is why I put my foot down. It’s not my fault if it just so happened to land on the neck of that Black Lantern trouble maker.”

“I’ve got a feeling I should report this to the Guardians,” Kyle said as he looked back to his fiancé for advice. “At the very least I should tell them a creature that would have tried to kick start the prophecy has been killed by a moderately all powerful cosmic entity that doesn’t want all living beings to be killed and raised as zombies.”

“Good luck with that Kiddo.” Buffy laughed as she took another drink. “There’s a few reasons why I don’t report to anyone. Know-it-alls like your bosses are the first half a dozen.”

For the first time since sitting down at the booth the group laughed. A number of gruesome subjects had been revealed and only partially explained. None wanted to drag the conversation back to such dour matters.

*****

“You guys have no idea,” Buffy said as the group gathered around the large fountain in the heart of the Opal City Park. “This has just been the best day. Much better than my last few “mortal days.”

“I still don’t think I get what she’s talking about,” Selina muttered to Bruce. For his part the billionaire feigned ignorance. He was beginning to form a hypothesis regarding the strange blonde. Little did he know the answers would soon be all too apparent.

“So what did you want to do next Buffy?” Harley asked as she, Ivy, Buffy, Joyce, Giles, and Cassie took seats along the stone rim circling the water fountain. The two Star Sapphires shared hopeful looks that were soon dashed by the slight shaking of the petite blonde’s head.

“Oh, sorry.” Buffy’s voice held a resigned yet almost remorseful quality. “Time’s up.”

“Already?” Cassie asked.

“Sorry kiddo.” Buffy said before looking to each of the people who had spent the better part of the day with her. “I guess I spent too much time partying with La Sangre. My twenty four hours of goofing off are up.” Buffy stood up from the fountain’s edge. She looked to each of the people gathered around her and smiled. “This was nice.” She placed one foot on the fountain. “I don’t always get to feel the nicer parts of being mortal. Usually I take what I can get. Hell, I’ve even had a few of the suckier types of days you mortals are known for.” She hopped up so both feet were perched atop the rim of the large city park water fountain. She looked out over the rest of the park before turning to take in the massive fountain statue of a man vaguely dressed like Superman. The heroic stone figure was wearing an odd fin atop his head and a star in the center of his chest.

Buffy smirked at the statue as she put her arms out to either side. “But that’s life, you know? You take the good with the bad, and you hope it will all work out.” Buffy let out one laugh as she raised her head towards the sky. Harley, Ivy, Giles, and Cassie cringed as they realized what was coming. They couldn’t bear to watch. The others never saw it coming.

Buffy smiled as she fell face forward into the water fountain. At first, no one reacted. Moments ticked by as the petite blonde remained face down in the clear water. Bruce was the first to respond. He leapt forward just an instant before Joyce and Selina let out terrified wails. Once the billionaire was at Buffy side Kyle soon joined him. Both men hoisted the limp blonde out of the water. Both checked for signs of life. Bruce with simple fingers pressed to the woman’s throat. Kyle with an over-elaborate scan conducted in silence by his ring. There were no signs of life coming from the body.

“Giles!” Joyce cried out, turning to her unresponsive boyfriend. “Do something!”

The Englishman could only sigh in defeat. “I’m sorry my dear. There’s nothing to be done.”

“She’s already gone,” Cassie whispered as Bruce and Kyle looked away from the limp body in their arms.

“She can’t be...” Kyle’s statement was cut short as he felt an odd emptiness in his wet hands. He and Bruce both looked back to Buffy’s body. There was nothing there. Where once a seemingly dead body hung between the two men now hung an unnatural void. “She’s gone.”

“But not forgotten.” An unwavering cheery voice broke the morbid stillness of the group. All heads spun to face the familiar yet different figure standing a few yards from the edge of the fountain. Death smiled at the group she had spent the day with. “Sorry for the theatrics guys.”

“Buffy?” Kyle asked as tears formed in the eyes of two Star Sapphires.

“Death,” the figure corrected. “Of the Endless. I know I said that before.”

Where there was once dark blonde hair that fell past well tanned shoulders now there was a head of shorter black hair fanning out in a spiky mass. The almost bronzed skin Buffy had sported was gone. Replaced with a flawless expanse of pure uncompromising white. Driven snow and flawless alabaster tones were offset by the tight jet black pants and tank top the woman now wore. A stark contrast to the light summer dress Buffy had worn just moments ago. Black combat boots replaced strappy sandals. Around one eye a stylized Egyptian design was painted in black. The Eye of Ra stood out on a white expanse of cheek and brow. Perhaps most unsettling was the one feature that had remained unchanged. A silver Ankh hung from a matching chain around Death’s neck.

“She’s dead?” Selina asked as Bruce and Kyle exited the water fountain.

“Death.” Death corrected. “There’s a pretty big difference, but don’t worry! You guys are all good for a while. Don’t try to tempt Fate or anything, but I don’t expect to have a meeting with any of you for years.”

“But we won’t see you for a very long time.” Harley’s resigned voice was strained as she fought back tears.

“Yeah, the whole Sword of Damocles thing I said earlier, it’s a pain.” Death smiled at the two women she had met repeatedly. Though pained by the fact she could not be a part of their lives she knew they would make do on their own. So long as they had each other. “I meant what I said. This was one of the best days I’ve ever had. Thank you all.”

The group watched as Death faded from existence before their very eyes. Silence reigned for far too long in the wake of the cheerful woman’s departure. Stunned faces looked to one another, each searching for some semblance of rationality. Kyle and Cassie were the first to react. They sought comfort in each other’s arms. Joyce and Giles, as well as Bruce and Selina, were quick to follow their example. As the couples consoled each other the quiet was shattered a profane chuckle.

“Heh, he, he, ha...” Harley Quinn’s laughter filled the space between the couples. They turned to her with unkind glares that soon faltered at the sight of tears building in the hysterical woman’s eyes. The distraught blonde’s laughter soon flowed into a full cackle as she nearly doubled over. Through it all not a trace of merriment or cheer could be found in the woman’s pained hysteria.

“Sweetie...” Ivy spoke in soft, reassuring tones as she wrapped her arms around her grieving Love.

After far too many moments of hysterical laughter, Harley finally let the rest of the group in on the joke. “Leave it to Buffy to make an exit like that.”

Selina took a step towards the couple. She had come to trust the blonde psychiatrist that had swept her old friend off her feet. Though now the cracks in the other blonde’s fragile psyche were all too easy to see. “Harley?” Selina whispered only to leap back as Harley Quinn leapt to her feet, dragging Poison Ivy with her.

“Well, this was a real hoot and a half, you guys!” Harley’s manic cheer was woefully unconvincing. “It’s been swell. We should all do this again. Later… After the holidays.”

“Harley.” Bruce tried to get the former psychiatrist’s attention only to look to Ivy for help. He found none.

Pink light blossomed forth from Harley’s ring, enveloping her and her Love. “Yeah, we’ll totally do this again.” Harley laughed as the clothes she and Ivy wore were soon replaced with their stylized Lantern uniforms. With tears streaming down her cheeks in torrents the laughing woman and her Love vanished in a brief flash of soft pink light. None of the people left behind could fault their grief.

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Time and Time Again


Last edited by Citanul on Mon May 29, 2017 8:27 am, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Time and Time Again
PostPosted: Mon May 29, 2017 2:30 am 
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9. Gay Now
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Joined: Sat Sep 24, 2011 7:45 pm
Posts: 919
Topics: 14
Location: Beyond the orbit of Mars and accelerating...
Dibs!

Also: Welcome back!
I was just grumbling about the lack of updates, and there you are. :)

Very poignant. And kinda sad at the end.
Curious what the girls are going to do when they find the pile of bodies when they get home.

Looking forward to more :bounce

R :flower

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 Post subject: Re: Time and Time Again
PostPosted: Mon May 29, 2017 6:56 am 
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Yay for excellent update-y goodness... I'm glad that Buffy had a nice time with lantern gang... I guess Harley & Ivy have some house cleaning to do to get rid of all those unwanted houseguests...

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