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

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 Post subject: Re: Time and Time Again
PostPosted: Wed Jul 30, 2014 4:21 pm 
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8. Vixen
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Dibs!!!

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 Post subject: Re: Time and Time Again
PostPosted: Wed Jul 30, 2014 5:00 pm 
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9. Gay Now
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Woohoo! dibs!

(Nope, poo.)

Also, i saw what you did there, playing the pronoun game.

'Them."

Heh.

I'm really hoping that Buffy and Faith get together.
I mean, it's a story about Willow and Tara, and it's good.
But a little Buffy and Faith is just icing on the cake.

And a little angst as they figure it out is always good. :)

Roll on Citanul :bounce

R :flower

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Last edited by Azirahael on Tue Jul 28, 2015 1:42 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Time and Time Again
PostPosted: Wed Jul 30, 2014 6:18 pm 
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8. Vixen
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I really enjoyed this chapter.

There was a lot going on, lots of action but it was interesting and entertaining all the way through. You are judicious with your "scooby-isms" and I enjoy your dialogue.

Well done. :flower

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 Post subject: Re: Time and Time Again
PostPosted: Sat Aug 02, 2014 7:56 pm 
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3. Flaming O
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Catching up on providing feedback as it has been awhile for me. I thoroughly enjoyed the fact that you are playing in both the DC and Marvel universes and find the image of Willow as Harley Quinn and Tara as Poison Ivy quite interesting. The hair color threw me for a short loop but I caught up quickly. Of course Batman being suspicious of them can lead to some interesting challenges.
The latest chapter with Gunn's crew was a good read as well overall. I don't see many evil demons surviving well in any universe these two women inhabit as they have the knowledge, power, willingness, and resources to kick ass on a very large scale.
I get the technique you were implementing with the repetition in the behaviors and story with how they brought Gunn in and then Doyle but was more distracted by the repetition than anything else. That's just a personal opinion on that one writing technique. I have very much, overall, been enjoying reading this story even if my feedback is sometimes lax.

On a tangential note there have been some recent changes in the Marvel universe with a female Thor and Captain America having serious health issues and passing on his title to the Falcon. In acting news did you catch the rumors about Katee Sackoff? There is some talk about her joining the Marvel universe in some capacity. Not a Buffy actress but one of my favorites from other SciFi shows (Starbuck in the rebooted Battlestar Galactica to be specific). Okay, end of tangent.
Looking forward to the next chapter.-H.

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 Post subject: Re: Time and Time Again
PostPosted: Sat Aug 02, 2014 11:41 pm 
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Azirahael thank you for the enthusiastic feedback. Yes the pronoun game can be fun but rest assured when the girls really get to work on Buffy's relationship status the results will be worth the wait.

Vampyregurl73 I'm glad all the plot points I packed into this chapter didn't turn into an overblown mess. I've also come to see picking the right Scoobyisms as half the battle. Thanks for the encouragement.

Loislane1 welcome back and thanks for the support. Yes the hair reversal can be a tripping point. But as that story progresses I think the less obvious similarities Willow shares with Harley and Tara shares with Ivy will more than make up for it. Batman, being Batman, is always a challenge. Because Batman.

Yes the girls have the ability to completely reshape the battlefield in the war on evil. The next few chapters will show them doing just that and at the same time point out a few things they can't do.

The blatant repetition may have been a tad gratuitous but I like to think it illustrated just how much Gunn and Doyle have in common and just how deeply confused both men can become. Also the imagery of the giant wheel of fortune and giant torture wheel doing the exact same thing tickles me for some reason.

All feedback is appreciated and yours has been great.

As to tangential comic news, yes I've heard many of those. Thor's hammer being taken up by a woman could be one of the more amazing things to happen in comics since forever and a day. The downside is it could be undone in a year or so. Part of me is still expecting DC's next big event to be Crisis 52. Wherein the new 52 lineup and all the fallout from Flashpoint gets dumped into an alternate universe named Earth 52. Or would it be Earth -52? The same, both good and bad, goes for Falcon taking up the mantel of Captain America.

The Katee Sackoff bit is news to me but if the fan art if found with a google search is anything to go by then she would make a great Ms. Marvel / Captain Marvel. Honestly the marvel Captain Marvel always seemed lackluster to me. The DC Captain Marvel was only mildly better due to how creative his secret identity is.

Case in point.

Ms. Marvel always seemed like a much better character that the company unfortunately had no idea what to do with until recently. Having her portrayed by Starbuck would make for a great film that we are unfortunately at least 3 years away from. Her base power (absorbing energy and turning it into superpowers) always struck me as a mutant ability, and her strong ties to Mystique and Rogue would seem to back that. Unfortunately Fox is holding onto the X-Men movie rights for dear life. So best case scenario is Guardians of the Galaxy 2 or Avengers 3 introduces her in the post credits tease and downplays her mutant ties.

A more interesting twist is the Marvel Now! thing they are doing. For instance the picture at the top of this article gave away some interesting ideas for what they are doing next with either the main Avengers team or several different teams.

The four harder to ID characters in the pic convey interesting possibilities. On the far left the woman in purple with "big" red hair is Medusa, the queen of the Inhumans. Next to her, with the sword, chainmail bikini and orange hair is Angela. She used to be the primary female character in the Spawn franchise and for some reason Marvel snatched her up and made her one of Thor's Valkyries. Next to Captain Falcon America is a fire guy the article says is another Inhuman.

But next to him is the most interesting character. That's Deathlok, portrayed by J. August "Charles Gunn" Richards on the show "Joss Whedon presents Marvel presents Marvel's Agents of Shield." Plus he has a redesign to make him look more like the TV character and less like the older comic character. Which could mean that the lineup in the comics may be used as a general guideline for some of the movies to come. In any case there are a lot of possibilities.

Edit: Just took a minute to look at that picture closer. Does the Silver Iron Man in the center of the picture look more feminine to anyone else? Like maybe there's a woman in there? Or maybe I'm just looking at the hips too closely.

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 Post subject: Re: Time and Time Again
PostPosted: Tue Aug 05, 2014 10:21 am 
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Hi there! I've been reading and doing a pretty good job of keeping track of who's who, and find it all very interesting. I really liked this last chapter, so much going on, and combining the Buffy and Angel stuff into one big ball of goodness. I love seeing how they're stopping all the badness that happened previously and making such a difference for them all. Well done. :clap

Can't wait to see what's coming next.

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 Post subject: Re: Time and Time Again
PostPosted: Tue Aug 05, 2014 5:49 pm 
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*giggles*
I love love love what you're doing with this story - it's so completely different. Sometimes the different appearences and names do confuse me, but I eventually figure it out.
Probably my favourite part so far is when Willow and Tara talk loudly about the mummy case and the whole crisis is averted before anything even happens. Keep up the good work :)

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 Post subject: Re: Time and Time Again
PostPosted: Wed Aug 06, 2014 3:28 am 
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Wimpy0729 welcome to the party and thank you for the words of encouragement. I believe many will find what's coming up satisfying.

YellowQuirkyTeacup welcome and thanks for the support. One of the things I've noticed in feedback is that the "standin" characters may not be as readily recognizable. Especially later on when we're several chapters deep in each of the side stories and the one update a week schedule I'm keeping to means readers will go about a month before they have to remember whose second and third name is whose. So going forward on the two nameswap stories I'll have a primer in the notes with a list of "standin" characters I've already introduced.

As for averting the mummy one of the fun aspects of this has been an extra excuse to rewatch the series on Netflix. Keeping a critical eye for tiny details in each episode it surprised me when I was viewing Inca Mummy Girl and noticed that the thousand year old mummy didn't have a barrier protecting it from teenagers, or even all the increased decay that would set in by exposing a mummy to the open air. What was even funnier was recalling how some of the deaths that took place in the beginning of the earlier episodes were eerily reminiscent of Darwin award recipients.

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 Post subject: Re: Time and Time Again
PostPosted: Wed Aug 06, 2014 3:41 am 
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Time and Time Again.

Author: Citanul

Feedback: Be kind, rewind?

Spoilers: Just about all of them. Go watch the show.

Rating: NC-17 There is a pretty steamy sex scene towards the end right after the hot tub scene. You've been warned.

Pairings: W/T, B/F

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: Wonderful news everyone. We've come around to the first update that is a second entry in one of the side stories. We're out of the proof of concept phase of whatever it is I'm doing. I'd just like to thank everyone who has been faithfully reading my ramblings. Thank you all and please enjoy.



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

Dark Age Chronicles: Of Caravans and Mine Shafts.

Thin wisps of smoke rose from the hastily established campsite in the valley surrounded by forests. The men of the caravan were getting breakfast underway. They would eat a hearty meal from the rations in the supply wagon. Once the caravan master and his men were seen to then they would tend to the needs of their beasts. The horses that pulled the wagons and the dogs that guarded the perimeter at all times. Once the animals were tended to the cargo would get whatever scraps were left. Such was the fate of slaves in the caravan of Parker Abrams.

Yes, Parker was a cruel and vindictive wretch when it came to the treatment of his “property”. Even more so if the merchandise that came into his possession happened to be female. Unfortunately for the young slaver he was under strict orders from this land’s masters to keep to a schedule. So Parker had no time for his usual indulgences with the ladies lining the cage carts of his wagon train. No he had places to be. In fact stopping last night had put him dangerously close to missing his deadlines. And missing the deadlines of the Mad Queen was never a wise endeavor.

What was even more unfortunate for Parker Abrams and the men under his employ was the fact that they were followed. They were watched. They were in for a big surprise.

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

On the hill overlooking the valley the slavers had camped in were two men in dark armor. They stood, shrouded by the trees, unnoticed by any living creature in the valley below. They monitored the camp and its inhabitants and as the prize they had been ordered to reclaim came in sight the light skinned man with dark hair tuned to his dark skinned companion with the clean shaven head.

“Looks like the ravens did their job eh Chuck?” He asked.

“Of course the big dawg’s birds did the job.” Gunn said with a laugh. “Shoot Xand, have you ever seen the boss’s magic birds fail?”

“Ha, nope I have yet to see her birds miss a target.” Xander chuckled.

They had known each other for years. The two longtime friends had been through just about every campaign the Witch King’s forces had been in. They were among the first slaves the warlord had liberated and used to start an army, and the few who Tara had placed complete faith in. Xander and Gunn had trusted each other with their lives ever since the day Xander deliberately took a beating the slavers had intended to give Gunn’s sister.

Ever since the day the mysterious figure in gleaming black armor showed up at the head of the slave caravan taking them across the kingdom the two men had been a part of the Witch King’s personal honor guard. The bald man’s sister was given a similar position of trust and placed in special classes Tara only put select young women in. There Alonna flourished like never before.

What had given the forces of the benevolent Witch King even more cause to celebrate was fact that in the scant few days since Tara had claimed the Rosenberg Library, and taken the young redhead there back to her citadel, life across all their territories had improved as if over night. In the year since Tara had first freed Xander, Gunn and Alonna the three had enjoyed a standard of living they never knew existed. In the half a week since Willow and Tara had been united the residents of their castle and the surrounding town had experienced a previously unknown revolution in their lives.

The streets were cleaner. New massive construction projects were underway, providing jobs and building luxuries none had dared dream of. It was even speculated that once the new wells and aqueducts were finished every home in the city would have running water and they would expand the bounds of the town outward to a new circular wall that was being built a mile out from the citadel.

It was truly a time of change in the dominion of the Witch King. Xander and Gunn couldn’t wait to be a part of it. But first they had to liberate this slave caravan.

As if on cue the air behind them thickened, swirled and parted. Out stepped the Witch King in her fully armored glory. “Hello boys.” Tara said in the normal feminine voice she reserved for her closest and most trusted friends. “Did we find them?”

“Sure thing boss.” Xander said. “Just down there in the valley. They look like they’ll start feeding the horses soon.”

“Good we can take them by surprise.” Tara smirked.

Matching grins spread across Gunn and Xander’s faces. “This should be fun.” Gunn whispered to his cohort.

Xander reached into the knapsack he and Gunn always took out in the field and drew out a pouch. From the pouch he took a series of crystals. Half he handed to Gunn as they arranged them in a circle around a clearing well behind the tree line.

Tara stood at the edge of the crystal circle and began a low chant in Sumerian. As she worked the spell the air within the crystal circle swirled and formed a shimmering curtain. Out of the circle strode fifty of the Witch King’s men ready for battle.

Tara wasted no time in issuing battle strategy and deployment assignments to her men in the magically augmented voice her armor allowed her to project. This would be a short fight.

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

As his men prepared to break camp Parker Abrams took the opportunity to inspect his merchandise. He had gotten most of these slaves from his normal ties to the Southern Claw Guild. Two however, he acquired from his old ally and former competitor Warren. The older couple did nothing for him but they were earmarked for the Mad Queen’s personal use. So it mattered not.

Some of his other acquisitions however were right up his alley. Among the most interesting was a pair of red haired twins. They were a little older than his taste normally leaned towards but twins were twins. Another beacon in this dreary journey was a brunette with expressive brown eyes and pouty lips. Once they had gotten rid of the spoken for cargo Parker intended to make special use of that one. She had a fiery temper he couldn’t wait to break.

As he approached the cages his property was locked in the slaver noticed a raven perched on the cage the old couple was in. Taking up a nearby goad he rapped against the cage to scare off the stray bird. The people inside the cage flinched as the goad rattled their prison. Parker sneered. He always loved enforcing discipline.

As Abrams turned away he heard a fluttering of feathers and a flapping of tiny wings. Glancing back at the cages he was startled to see somewhere around thirty ravens alight on the train of slave wagons.

Parker stood there wondering what to do. He walked up and repeated his method of rapping the nearest cage with the torture device. The birds merely took to the air briefly then landed on the cages again almost immediately. Parker was growing enraged by the insolent conspiracy of ravens.

Trying yet again to remove the avian pests the slaver grasped the goad in both hands and readied his strongest blow against the cage that housed the old couple. A deafening clang resounded throughout the valley, but the birds had not moved from the cage. As Parker stood to regain his composure one of the black birds turned to look directly at him.

“Hey, asshole!” The bird said in an angry accent one might find among city dwellers. “Knock it the fuck off! We’re doing bird stuff over here.”

Parker froze with fear. He had never encountered talking animals before. The province he hailed from was such a backwater that magic, demons and the like were virtually nonexistent. Either he had stumbled upon a rarity of unprecedented worth or a mage was toying with him before going in for the kill.

As that thought traipsed through his mind the slaver was called back to reality. A roar of commotion brought his attention to the fact he was in far greater trouble than he suspected. Looking back to the rest of the caravan Parker saw dozens of soldiers in dark armor had surrounded the camp. His men were all either dead or dying.

A rather imposing figure covered in gleaming black plate armor stood within a few yards of the slaver and caravan master. The figure’s hands rested on the pommel of a massive broadsword with its end buried in the ground. As the dark figure spoke Parker lost all sense of composure and fell to his knees.

“Well I was expecting more of a fight.” The Witch King intoned in a deep resonant voice. “But I really can’t be surprised when slaver trash just rolls over at the drop of a hat.” With a sigh the Witch King raised one arm and with a slight wave the locks on all the cages melted away. As the people Parker used to own looked around Gunn and Xander stepped forward to reassure them.

“Ladies and gentlemen, everything is going to be okay.” Xander said in a calm soothing voice.

“We are going to help you.” Gunn followed. Both men had been where these people were before and had helped transition many freed slaves into new lives. Either under Tara’s employ or on the first steps of their long journey back to whatever home they once had. “If you’ll come out here you can let us know if you need help finding anyone you lost or if you just want a ride home.”

As Gunn’s words sank in the newly free left the cages and gathered around the two men and a handful of other soldiers. They began to answer questions about where they came from and what they lost.

Realizing he was loosing his livelihood Parker stood up with a shot. “Now see here!” He called out.

It was a mistake.

The slaver found himself hoisted into the air by his throat. The Witch King had no patience for his profession, and no qualms about manhandling his kind. As he struggled to breathe Parker Abrams was flung backwards into a now empty cage. The door slammed shut and the bolt slid into place. Before he could even voice his complaint terror seized his heart.

The ravens swarmed the cage and blocked out all light. A deep bone chilling cold swept over the now caged slaver. Parker managed one scream before consciousness slipped away and he fell to the floor of the wagon.

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

As the crowd of former slaves saw the Witch King lift their tormentor up into the air and throw him into the cage hope sprang forth in many of their hearts. This was a dream come true. As the ravens covered the wagon they wondered what was to happen next. They were completely shocked to see the birds slowly disperse, and leave behind no trace of the wagon or its occupant. Parker Abrams had vanished into thin air.

Xander called out to his leader. “You send him to the mines boss?”

“Yeah, he deserves far worse but I’ve got no time to deal with him anymore.” The Witch King said. Tara knew the matter was well taken care of and that Parker would never harm another human. “Now let’s see about our new friends.”

Tara and Xander walked back over to Gunn and the crowd of people who had fallen prey to Southern Claw. “Hello everyone.” She greeted the group. “I am the Witch King, and I intend to help each of you. If you lost family to slave traders or need help locating something or someone in this region please tell one of my men here. “

The Witch King let the ones desperate for help go to Xander and Gunn. “If you have no where to go and no one to find please consider coming with us. There is plenty of work to go around rebuilding my kingdom and I promise all who aid us will be paid a more than fair wage. If you want nothing to do with us I will personally give you a horse and rations. You can be off on your way in no time but please consider our offer. There are no slaves in my kingdom and everyone that wishes to live in peace gets that opportunity.” At this statement all but a handful went over to the soldiers for processing.

Among those remaining were the twins and the brunette who had caught Parker’s eye and the Rosenbergs. They all looked wary. Tara reached into a pouch at her side and pulled out a stone. Holding it up, she approached the three young women. They watched her motions carefully and the twins let out a gasp when the stone began to glow with swirls of white and black moving at its center.

“Excellent, I had a feeling about you three.” Tara said in her deep artificial voice. “You each hold great potential and I ask that you please return with us to my citadel.”

“What if we don’t want to?” The brunette said with disdain. “You gonna drag us back I chains?”

Tara smiled at the familiar face she knew would cause her a great deal of grief. If she and Willow could reach this girl it would be more than worth it. “No chains. Please come with me to the castle. My bride and I have met several young women who all have something in common with you. They all take special classes to learn skills that I know will one day save their lives. We teach them how to read and write but also how to fight and defend themselves. Above all these girls learn how to win.”

The dark haired girl seemed to ponder that answer for a long moment. “Okay big guy. I’m interested enough to see your setup. Don’t double cross me.”

The twins looked at each other and then back to the imposing armored figure. “Our parents were killed in front of us and our home burned.” One said.

“We have no where to go and would like to learn to read.” Said the other.

“Wonderful!” Tara exclaimed. “Please tell me your names.”

“Justine and Julia Cooper.” The twins spoke in unison.

The angry brunette paused for a moment. She looked around at the men going through what was left of the slave caravan. Soon nothing of value would be left in this valley. Turning back to the armored figure claiming to be a King the girl spoke in guarded tones.

“Faith.” She said almost under her breath.

“It is an honor to meet the three of you.” Tara said with all sincerity. She turned and waved to a figure in the distance. As the signal was received a large black carriage was brought up right behind her. “Please have a seat inside. I doubt there is anything you care for in the slaver’s wagons.”

As the three young women got in the opulent carriage Tara turned to the last two people she had freed from captivity. “Lord and Lady Rosenberg.” The Witch King said with reverence as she bowed to the older couple. “I am deeply humbled to stand before you. I have a great many things to tell you.”

Ira looked to the armored figure and then to his wife. The man was so very afraid of saying something to ruin this turn of good luck but had to ask for help from this stranger. His daughter’s life may have depended on it.

“Witch King we are already indebted to you for rescuing us from that dreadful man, but we must ask you to help us further.” Ira said expecting to be rebuked.

“Please!” Sheila begged. “It’s our daughter. We don’t even know if she’s alive.”

“Rest assured my friends, Willow is just fine.” Tara said to the distraught couple. “My forces have been looking for the famed Rosenberg Library for some time. Imagine my surprise when earlier this week I arrived there to find a petty thug named Warren and a warlord named Adam the Scarred were bickering over it.” The Rosenbergs were shocked at this turn of events.

“You see Ira and Sheila.” Tara paused. “May I call you Ira and Sheila?” She enquired.

They could only nod open mouthed. “Good!” Tara went on. “You see when I arrived half of the contents of the library were piled in the courtyard awaiting the flame, and it looked like the servant staff was off to the side awaiting a similar fate.”

A look of pure horror spread across the faces of Willow’s parents. “Now seeing such a treasure at risk spurred me to action.” Tara assured them. “I slew Adam and Warren in less time than it took my men to slaughter their forces.”

“Unfortunately, I suspect killing them has instigated a war between myself and the Mad Queen.” Tara continued. “Now since your library is at a key location on the border it is sure to be targeted by her forces. So I brought Willow, your servants and everything in your home that wasn’t nailed down back to my citadel.”

“You what?” Sheila asked stunned.

“She’s safe.” Tara assured. “No harm will befall her or you so long as I live.”

“What of our home?” Ira whispered.

“I stationed a garrison in your manor to protect the buildings and surrounding countryside.” The Witch King said calmly. “P-please come back to my citadel and s-see the wonderful things your brilliant daughter has done in the last few days.”

Ira Rosenberg stood before the Witch King and tried to wrap his mind around what the armored figure was telling him. Did he really have a choice? He had to see his daughter at least one more time. “Okay we’ll go with you.”

“Yay!” Tara squealed. “Please join the girls in the carriage. We’ll be at the citadel before you know it.”

The Rosenbergs walked hand in hand over to the waiting carriage and joined the three young women inside. Tara smiled at how wonderfully things had gone. Not only did they save Willow’s parents but they also found Faith and the Cooper twins. She and Willow had heard of Justine a long time ago while hearing the abridged version of the Holtz story.

With the Angel of this dimension being in no condition to help anyone, and no way of knowing if Holtz would ever show up, the duty of training the twins went unclaimed. Hopefully Tara and Willow would outclass the men who had taken up that role in other dimensions. Helping Faith was more than worth the effort. The two lovers had found that out long ago.

With the main priorities settled Tara turned her attention back to the remaining dozen or so people they had saved. Two of the men looked surprisingly familiar and it took her a moment to place the family resemblances. Walking over to Xander and Gunn she readied herself for the part of her job as “warlord” she liked most. Meeting new people, and bettering their lives. “What do we got?” Tara asked Xander.

“It actually looks pretty promising.” The young man told his benevolent leader. “Three blacksmiths who want a fresh start and more than their share of the work were offering. Six farmers who promise to work tirelessly in your fields if you find their missing loved ones, half of which we already have living in town. One out of work architect who’s got nothing better to do, and six strongmen. Two of them are veteran dockworkers, three are skilled masons and the last has spent his life digging holes.”

Gunn let out a laugh. “Whatever Southern Claw is doing they are wasting a lot of raw talent on slave auctions.”

Tara couldn’t help but smile at his words. “Yet another reason to destroy their organization. Let’s get them on horses and back to base. Leave nothing of value in this valley.”

“Sure thing boss.” Gunn said with a grin as he and Xander returned to work. Men were given orders. Refugees were put on horses and escorted back to the citadel. The caravan was ransacked. Startled horses and loose dogs were rounded up and readied for transport. Tools gathered, weapons confiscated, supplies inventoried, wagons repurposed. Not a scrap of metal was to be left behind in the valley.

With that taken care of Tara returned to the carriage. Signaling to the driver she entered the cabin that held the five passengers and they were off. “Sorry about all that. Just needed to give orders to the men.”

“No problamo big guy.” Faith mocked. “We’ve all been there.”

Everyone froze. They couldn’t believe the brunette could be so insolent. Not after seeing the Witch King grasp Parker by the throat and hurl him like a ragdoll.

A light chuckle broke the silence. “That’s a good one Faith.” Tara said with a laugh. “Once you get settled in I’m sure you, Xander and Gunn will get right along. To be honest they need someone to help come up with new one liners.”

Faith had no idea how to respond to this strange figure’s comment. The warlord in dark armor had laughed off a comment that just about any other person who claimed the title would have flown into a rage over.

As the carriage continued towards their destination Tara decided some light conversation was in order. If nothing else it would distract the passengers from the distance shortening magics the vehicle was working at that very moment. “So Ira, Sheila why don’t you tell us how you met.”

A befuddled look crossed the couple’s faces. “Oh, well, um.” Ira stammered.

“Oh don’t be so bashful dear.” Sheila admonished her husband. “We met at the university we both attended.” She spoke with an almost wistful sigh. “We were so young back then. I was studying the effects of various childhood traumas on the mind and came upon a project that required a research partner. Ira here was studying a similar field and it seemed like our work was more than compatible for long term collusions.”

Tara marveled at how her lover’s mother managed to suck all the romance out of the story of meeting her lifelong mate. “Fascinating, do go on.”

“So we were studying in the school’s library one night and Ira had been giving me small gifts each time we met leading up to that night. A flower here. A box of candies there. As we were reading two different texts we reached for the same document sitting between us. As our hands touched we looked up and our eyes met. Before I knew it he was kissing me and telling me he loved me with all his heart. I had thought he was cute enough at the time but never planned on putting myself out there and here he was proclaiming his undying love for me and saying he would go to the ends of the Earth to marry me. Well I knew then I had found something I was always missing.”

“Woo! Way to go Ira.” Faith chortled with a hoot.

“What a romantic story.” Tara hoped her voice sounded sincere.

“Plus the sex on that library table was amazing.” Sheila deadpanned. “He’s enormous.”

Ira began to blush at his wife’s assessment of his physique. His skin matched the exact shade of red found in his daughter’s hair. The only sound heard in the carriage after that bomb drop was the unending cackling of the young brunette.

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

As the black carriage drove past the many buildings under construction Tara couldn’t help but feel relieved that they were finally home. Faith had taken to seeing what other dreadfully embarrassing things Sheila could be prompted to tell the group. While this was highly amusing at first it soon became rather disturbing. Especially for Tara since the topic was her future in-laws and their robust sex life.

As they came to a stop inside the gates of the castle Tara exited to carriage and called for a servant to fetch Alonna. “If everyone would follow me.” She said in her normal voice while reaching up and removing her helmet. “We can get things settled.”

The three young women and the older couple let out a gasp as long honey blonde hair cascaded down armor clad shoulders. The revelation of the Witch King’s gender was a shock to say the least.

Just as the truth sank in a group of four young girls came running up to Tara with wide smiles. “Tara! You’re back so soon!” The lanky girl with light brown hair said to the warlord. “Did everything go okay?”

“It’s good to see you too Dawnie.” Tara said with a smirk. “How about my four favorite squires help me out of this armor while I introduce our new friends.”

Dawn and the three other girls quickly set to work unburdening the Witch King of her signature black armor. The girls had a great deal of practice with this task. Truth be told it was just about the only thing Tara ever had them do. Their ruler had strong feelings about taking Dawn and her friends with her into battle, and had been so self-sufficient in just about every aspect of her life that being waited on by others always bothered her. The happy medium to keep the girls feeling busy was to simply have them welcome her home and strip her armor as she came in the door.

Once each piece of plate armor and the chainmail Tara wore beneath was stored in a chest and taken with her sword to the armory by other servants she stood there in the padded jerkin which protected skin from metal. The blonde began introductions. “This is Faith Lehane.” Tara said gesturing to the brunette. “The Cooper twins, Julia and Justine.” A wave towards the redheads. “They’ll join Alonna and the others in training.”

“Why exactly can’t we train with Alonna?” The darker haired brunette of the four said.

“When the time comes Willow and I will tell you.” Tara said ominously before putting on another smile. “Back to the big news. These are the Rosenbergs. Lord Ira and Lady Sheila.”

“Oh my god, you found them!” Dawn shrieked. “Oh my god, oh my god, oh my god!”

“Willow is going to flip.” The blonde said.

Turning back to the people she had just shared a carriage with Tara continued introductions. “Here are my squires. Janice.” Tara said pointing to the girl with dark brown hair. “Lisa.” Waving to the girl with ebony skin and hair. “Cassie.” A gesture to the blonde of the group. “And Dawn.” Tara finished by putting an arm over the tall girl’s shoulders.

“A pleasure.” Sheila said as Ira gave a polite nod.

“Janice, Lisa great news.” Tara continued. “We found your fathers in the same caravan. They’ll be coming in as soon as Gunn and Xander return with the rest of the group.”

Tears began to swim in both girls eyes as they immediately hugged their honey blonde ruler with all their might. “Thank you so much your highness.” Lisa said.

“It was an honor to save them girls.” She replied. “And Lisa, what did I say about calling me Tara?”

“Sorry Tara.” The girl amended.

“It’s alright. Go wait for the troops. They’ll be in soon and your dads will love to be greeted with familiar faces.” Tara watched the group of teen girls run off towards the gates. Soon another ebony skinned young woman with light brown, almost blonde, hair came up to her. “Alonna, you’re here, good. This is Faith Justine and Julia. Show them around and introduce them to the girls. They’ll be joining the classes.”

Faith took a moment to thank the Rosenbergs for the wonderful trip. “Sheila it was great meeting you.” The tall brunette said with a laugh then turned to Ira and playfully nudged him in the ribs with an elbow. “You too, ‘Big Guy’!” She said before turning back to her would be class mate.

A smile crept over Alonna’s face. “Always good to meet fresh faces.” The young woman said as she escorted her three new classmates away. “So you guys just got rescued from some nasty slavers? I’ve been there. You met Gunn and Xander right?” Alonna asked.

“Yeah, they were there for the Q&A part of the rescue.” Faith replied. “It looked like your girl Tara did most of the heavy lifting.”

The dark skinned girl froze. “Please don’t call Tara my girl. She belongs to someone else you’ll meet soon enough, and well.” Alonna paused. “Let’s just say she’s the jealous type.”

A moment passed as the three newcomers tried to piece together different things they had learned over the last hour. Justine spoke up first. “You mean the Witch King and the daughter of the Rosenbergs are together? Like together together?”

Alonna smiled at how quick these girls seemed. “Yes, in every sense of the word. So anyway Gunn, Xander and I were in the very first slave caravan Tara ever attacked. She conjured a distraction and in the blink of an eye killed two dozen men with her sword.”

“So she’s tough enough to handle herself solo then, not just when she has fifty guys backing her.” Faith assessed.

“More than tough enough.” Alonna replied. “Ever since that day we have been at her side for just about everything.”

The group stopped as they came to a large set of double doors. Alonna stepped up and opened them. Turning she addressed the three newest girls. “This is where we all spend most of our time.”

As the four women walked though the doorway Faith, Julia and Justine were floored by what they saw. The massive chamber had a roof dominated by skylights that flooded the room with natural light all day long and allowed the girls a great view of the massive tower being erected at the heart of the compound. It seemed to be built right atop the original castle.

The center of the room held a large sparring ring for fighters to square off. Various bags and dummies were hung around for practicing hand to hand combat. A series of balance beams and uneven bars seemed to form an obstacle course. Racks of training and real weapons lined the walls and a clustering of tables off to the side faced a podium which seemed the obvious choice for instructors to teach various subjects.

“What the hell is this place?” Faith asked open mouthed.

“Tara and Willow call it the Slayer Academy.” The ebony girl tried to sound reassuring. “No idea why they picked that name but they keep saying it will make sense soon enough.” Turning towards the grand room Alonna let out a call to the many girls practicing all over the room. “Everyone, new recruits are in!” She shouted. “Come introduce yourselves!”

The young women all over the training hall stopped what they were doing, in many cases mid punch, and came over.

“Hi.” A girl who matched Alonna’s complexion but had a head full of long dark dreadlocks said. “I’m Rona.”

“Shannon.” A pale girl with long brown hair stated.

“Violet.” The slender redhead beamed. “But everyone call me Vi.”

“Eve.” A girl with long blonde hair offered.

“Amanda.” The brunette with the worried expression said quietly.

“Annabelle.” Said a girl with dark red hair and a proper sounding British accent.

“Molly.” Followed a girl with brown curls and a less proper British lilt.

“Chao-ahn.” Proclaimed the one Asian girl in the group. Faith got the distinct impression there was a language barrier for this poor girl.

“Chloe.” Said a nervous looking girl with a slightly darker complexion and short brown locks.

“Colleen.” Stated a pale girl with long black hair.

“Caridad.” Offered the girl with slightly stronger Latin features and whose light brown hair was pulled up in a messy bun.

The Cooper twins followed quickly with their own introductions. “I’m Julia.” Started one as “and I’m Justine.” came from the other.

Faith looked around and wondered just what kind of mess she had gotten into. “Faith.” She simply stated.

“Great.” Alonna cheered. “Now let’s get you guys caught up. We just had an instructor come in and show off a series of fighting styles. See if you recognize any as we practice and maybe join in when you’re ready.”

A wide, uncompromising smile came over faith as the young women she estimated to be only slightly younger than herself all began routines she felt were second nature to her. As she joined in she couldn’t help but feel like she had found something missing in her life. Something precious.

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

As Tara watched Alonna guide the potentials out of the courtyard and off to the Academy she couldn’t help but let hope swell in her heart. She had found almost her whole family. The only notable exceptions being her poor mother, buried beneath a small shrine in her garden to the rear of the citadel, and of course the Slayer. When she found Joyce and Dawn in her second or third slaver raid her heart sank at the thought they had been separated from Buffy in this cruel world. Since they had no idea what became of the poor blonde Tara had begun to lose hope. Now that hope was given a faint lifeline. Faith was alive and uncalled. That could mean any number of things but if they ever managed to find Kendra their hopes or fears would be confirmed. Buffy could still be alive and slaying out there. Willow would be overjoyed.

“Okay, let’s go see your daughter.” Tara said to the stunned older couple.

“Yes, please take us to her.” Ira almost begged.

As Tara led them through her castle she began a speech she had been dreading. “I want you both to know that you are always welcome here.” She stated cautiously. “I want you to feel like this is your home.”

“Your highness…” Ira began before Tara cut him off.

“Please Ira, Sheila call me Tara.” She requested. “I never want you to feel like you need to walk on eggshells around me. This will make more sense soon but we’re going to be together for a long time, and I want you to feel comfortable with me.”

“Tara.” Ira corrected. “I couldn’t help but notice all the construction but isn’t this the site of the Dread Warlord Maclay’s fortress?”

“I-it is.” Tara answered with a nervous hitch.

“What happened to him?” Sheila asked.

“I killed him weeks ago and took back everything he ever denied me because I wasn’t the child he always wanted.” Tara said in a dull flat tone.

“The butcher is dead?” Ira asked before noticing something. “Wait! You’re his daughter?” He almost shrieked in fear and disbelief.

Tara stopped dead in her tracks and looked down. “Please don’t h-hold that m-m-monster’s actions against me.” She said as a single tear rolled down her cheek.

Ira and Sheila couldn’t believe what they were seeing. Before them stood the spawn of the most feared man in their corner of the world, on the brink of tears asking for their acceptance. Sheila, in a rare moment of maternal kindness reached over and put her arms around the blonde. “Dear, you have already been so kind to us that we could never hold his faults against you.”

“Had you not mentioned it we would never believe you were related. Even if anyone else told us you are still too kind to be compared to him.” Ira said to calm the young woman.

“You have no idea how much those words mean coming from the two of you.” Tara said with a smile. A moment passed as she held onto the hope that once the truth was revealed these two would still accept her. “Let’s go find Willow.”

The trio progressed down one corridor after another. The eventually came to a massive set of double doors. As Tara opened it the sights and sounds almost overwhelmed Ira and Sheila. They stood at the entrance to the largest most impressive library Ira had ever seen. He could have fit his entire library in the central chamber of the grand room. Shelves full of books stood ten feet high. They radiated outward from the open center of the room. A wide hole in the ceiling revealed the shelves took up no less than four floors of the large central tower this room formed the base of. Large glass windows allowed light to pour in from all directions.

At the very heart of this repository of knowledge stood a lithe redhead at a large table surrounded by various tradesmen. Her voice issued orders to craftsmen of all trades. “I need the smithies to focus on processing the ore that comes in from the mines. We need a great deal of copper and iron, but more importantly we need large quantities of the new alloy’s I’ve shown many of you how to make. Steel and ultra light aluminium are the cornerstones of the wonders the Witch King’s empire will bring to the world. The steel and iron can be forged into ingots in the regular molds, but it is crucial that you craft the aluminium and half the copper into thin sheets. That will allow the metal workers to craft the pipes and tubes we’ll need for all our special projects. The other half of all copper produced needs to be forged into spools of thin wire. Excavation crews will need to focus well digging operations at these locations throughout the city.” She gestured to several points on a detailed map spread across the table. “Construction crews are ahead of schedule in two thirds of the city’s districts. Keep up the good work. Masonry teams how is the wall progressing?”

“More than half done Lady Willow.” A burly man with a slight coating of dried concrete specks on his smock said. “The boys are using the new mix you showed us and the work is flying by.”

“Good.” Willow confirmed. “What about the aqueduct?”

“Teams almost all the way up the mountains reported in yesterday.” He replied. “Just about all the bases are set and one tenth of the pillars are up. We’ll be ready to connect the buttressing archways within a few weeks and then we can lay the track to hold the water pipes. Within a few months all the water we could ever need will flow down from the mountains and into the city.”

“Excellent.” Willow beamed before addressing yet another craftsman. “For the last mile of aqueduct before the water reaches the city pipes I’ve drawn up a series of water wheels to be built into the structure. They will each be tied to devices called generators.” As she said this the redhead spread another roll of parchment across the table. It had detailed drawings of what appeared to be a series of metal plates affixed to a spinning bar that would rotate the plates inside of a dense series of coiled metal wires. “They use the motion of the water wheel to spin a group of magnetically charged plates inside of these coils which will be wired to stations all over the city.”

“Lady Willow?” One confused man held up his hand. “What exactly do those things do?”

A smile spread over Willow’s face. “They allow the flowing water to generate electricity which we can use to power various machines throughout the city we’re building.”

“What is electricity?” Another man asked.

“Simply put it’s the energy lightning bolts are made of.” She answered.

Stunned silence reigned over the library. A long moment passed as the men thought about what that actually meant. One man finally spoke up. “Is that safe? I mean isn’t lightning a powerful force only meant for the gods?”

“Safety is a serious concern.” Willow said to reassure them. “Which is why you’ll notice all the external wires leaving the devices are coated with the rubber substance I showed you all how to make yesterday. I’ll give you all a lesson about insulation and grounding current before the generators are up and running but rest assured there is a matter of scale here you should understand. The amount of energy these generators will be able to produce is very small. Comparing it to the power found in a real lightning bolt is like comparing a single candle to a raging forest fire. It’s enough to power some lights we’re going to setup across the city so the streets and homes are well lit at night.” She paused her babble to make sure they understood her next point. “But never forget that the tiniest spark can burn down the world. Even though the energy output is small it can still be harmful or even fatal if it’s mishandled or abused. This invention will change the lives of all our citizens but must be handled with care. Accidents that lead to deaths must be prevented.”

At this moment Tara decided to step in and call the meeting to a halt. “Sorry to interrupt sweetie but I have a surprise for you.”

Turning to look at her love Willow stopped the moment she saw the two people with Tara. “Mom? Dad?” She whispered.

“Bubula?” Ira whispered.

“Willow, honey?” Sheila couldn’t believe what she saw.

With a rush Willow and her parents ran towards each other. Meeting halfway they crashed into desperate and relieved hugs. Tara walked slowly to stand beside them and issue orders to the tradesmen assembled.

“I believe you all know more than enough to proceed with the plans Willow has laid out for our kingdom.” She said living up to her role as leader. “A new group of workers and craftsmen were liberated today. When the troops bring them in get them settled and up to speed. We’re going to change this world for the better and we can’t do it without your hard work.”

Hearing that the Witch King had saved more lives, and skilled workers such as themselves no less, brought smiles and no small amount of cheer to the men’s faces. They had each sworn loyalty to this woman, and if only half of what her strange redhead said was possible, they would indeed be creating a new world. The craftsmen all took their leave with a chorus of “As you wish Lady Tara.” and “Thank you Lady Tara.”

Making their way out of the grand library many muttered “Congratulations Lady Willow.” to the crying mass of the Rosenberg family. The astoundingly clever girl had made her presence in the kingdom known in surprisingly short order. Each of the tradesmen she worked with held her ideas and decisions in the highest regard.

Once they had some privacy in the grand chamber Willow slowly detached herself from her parents. “I missed you guys so much.” The young redhead told them before turning to her love. “Thank you baby, thank you so much.” Was all Willow could get out before she had her arms around Tara and kissed the blonde with all the love in her heart.

Sheila and Ira were once again stunned by what they were seeing. After a long moment Ira cleared his throat. Tara froze at the sound but it took Willow a moment to recall their audience. “Oh.” She whispered into Tara’s lips. Pulling back slightly Willow turned in Tara’s arms and faced her parents as the blonde rested her chin on the redheads shoulder.

“Mom, Dad I met someone.” The scarlet haired witch said meekly. “Surprise.”

Sheila seemed about ready to say something but Ira placed a hand on her shoulder. “Seeing as how she saved all of our lives I don’t think we can fault your taste in women.” He smiled at his daughter’s girlfriend. “Besides she appears to keep an excellent library.”

“Oh, it’s actually in terrible disarray sir.” Tara said self-deprecatingly. “I had hoped to find a skilled librarian to manage the collection but things have been busy here.”

“You said you had our library brought here?” Ira asked.

“Yes.” Tara replied. “Most of it still needs to be unpacked and sorted.” A nervous look crossed the young warlord’s face. “Please, I want you both to come to see this place as your home. I saved the books and artifacts from your estates for many reasons, but the true treasure of the Rosenberg library is in my arms. She stole my heart and I have no intention of ever letting her go.”

“I don’t ever want you to let me go baby.” Willow said while nuzzling her lover’s hair with her nose. A thought struck the young woman and she turned to her parents. “Oh, guys you have to see this.” Willow told her confused parents.

Taking Tara by the hand Willow lead her family to a corridor on the far side of the library and down a hall to another set of doors. As she opened them Willow revealed a sight that almost brought tears to her father’s eyes. A massive room lay before them. In it were row after row of printing presses each being tended to by a handful workers.

“We’ll be ready to start mass producing books by the weeks end.” Willow said. “Think about it dad. Dozens of textbooks on every subject in every schoolhouse. Each citizen in the kingdom will be able to enjoy their own small private collections. The works of iconic authors and revered classics preserved in so many multitudes they could never be lost. The kingdom’s primary export could actually be knowledge.”

Tara chose that moment to speak up. “Ira, Sheila I need librarians to not only manage the library but to tend to this endeavor. To decide which books need to be spread first and how to best get knowledge to the masses. Your guidance would be a true blessing.”

Ira looked at his wife, who could only nod, before turning his gaze to the two young women. “It would be my honor to work towards that enlightenment.”

“Wonderful!” Tara exclaimed while she called a servant over. “I believe you know Marcie. She’ll show you to the new chambers we’ve set aside for you. You must both be exhausted after everything to happen today and in the last few weeks. Rest up, take a bath, enjoy a meal. Whatever you wish. This is your home.”

Sheila let a slight smile cross her lips. “A nice hot bath would be lovely right about now.”

“I’ll draw one right away Lady Sheila.” Marcie said to the older redhead. As the servant girl lead the Rosenbergs away Tara and Willow both caught one last statement from her. “It’s so wonderful to have you both back safe.”

Turning to Willow Tara let out a mournful sigh. “What do you think sweetie? Do they h-hate me?”

“If they do they won’t say anything about it for a while.” Willow replied while wrapping her arms around Tara. “Not until the shock of being rescued by the dark hero wears off. Besides, we’re together no matter what anyone thinks.”

“Am I laying the whole Witch King persona on too thick?” Tara queried. “I really think it helps with the shock and awe tactics I’ve been trying so far.”

“Oh keep up the secret identity thing for as long as possible baby. It definitely disrupts enemy mindsets and reaction times.” Willow paused for a moment. “Plus it’s incredibly sexy.” She whispered.

“Ooh sweetie.” Tara whispered into the redhead’s ear. “Keep putting ideas like that in my head and I’ll do something about it.” The blonde ran her hands down Willow’s sides to the top of her leather work trousers. A gasp escaped the inventor’s lips as the Witch King’s hands firmly cupped her ass.

“Baby.” Willow whimpered. “As much as I want you to take me right here in this corridor the troops will be back soon, and someone is going to interrupt us long before you finish me off, and I’ll probably have to wait all day to return the favor.”

Tara brought the adorable babble to an end with here preferred method. She captured Willow’s lips with hers and traced the redhead’s teeth with her tongue. Willow obliged the probing organ, allowing it to thoroughly explore her mouth and wrestle with her own tongue for dominance.

A battle Willow was all too happy to lose.

The sound of trumpets blaring in the distance brought the peace the lovers found in each other’s embrace to an abrupt end. The young women broke their kiss. Resting their foreheads against one another they struggled to catch their breath.

“No rest for the wicked.” Willow sighed.

“Let’s go greet them.” Tara said as a smile spread across her face. “Oh sweetie, great news. Janice and Lisa’s fathers were in the caravan.”

“You saved their dads?” Willow yelled. “Baby, that’s fantastic! Let’s go greet them.”

Tara and Willow placed an arm around the other’s waist then casually strolled out to the castle entrance. The young girl they saw as a surrogate daughter of their own would be overjoyed that her friend’s were getting their families back.

They arrived in time to see Xander and Gunn talking with Alonna and a number of girls from the Academy. Different tradesmen from the earlier meeting were conversing with the new arrivals they shared professions with. Dawn and Cassie were standing by Joyce Summers as they watched the tearful reunion of Janice, Lisa and their fathers.

All in all it had been a very good day.

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

Ira and Sheila Rosenberg relaxed in the lavish bathtub they were surprised to find in their private quarters. Neither had expected to be shown to a suite of rooms as grand as these. To think Tara had put so much thought into their living arrangements before having even met the couple. They had no idea what to make of their daughters new love interest.

“Ira dear, what are we going to do?” Willow’s mother asked her husband.

“I don’t think there is anything we can do my love.” Ira replied. “Honestly, I don’t think there’s anything we should do.”

“What?” Sheila cried out. “Are you telling me you’re okay with our only child doing lord knows what with the daughter of the most feared butcher in the kingdom?”

“Sheila please, did you not here the tremor in Tara’s voice when she spoke of her father as a monster?” Ira rebutted. “She had as bad an opinion of the man as we did. Look at what she’s done for us. All our most cherished possessions have been moved here. Our library is safe in this citadel. Most importantly our daughter is safe and happy.” The man paused for a moment. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen her as happy as she was with Tara’s arms around her.”

“What if this is all a trick?” Sheila pleaded. “What happens if she is just toying with us?”

A slight smile crossed Ira’s lips. “Dear, I believe that if this was some trick for her amusement she would have hit us with the punch line by now. I doubt we would have made it to this bathtub if this were all some sick game to her.”

As that realization hit her Sheila paused to think about just how much they were being offered. “Do you really think she loves our Willow?”

“I have no doubt about that my dear.” Ira laughed. “If Tara didn’t at least care for our daughter I can’t imagine why she would leave Willow in charge of ordering the construction crews around while “The Witch King” was off gallivanting.”

Sheila mulled that thought over for a moment. “Our daughter was left in charge of the rebuilding of the entire city wasn’t she? She was explaining complex machinery those men had never heard of before like she was a school teacher and they were her eager students.”

“Exactly!” Ira beamed. “Our baby girl has grown into her own practically over night. The way she handled a dozen or so skilled tradesmen. The way they treated her with respect and reverence. Whatever else might be going on the fact is Tara has brought out a side of Willow that she never showed before. A side that I couldn’t be more proud of.”

“So we should be happy about all this.” Sheila said cautiously.

“Yes.” Ira replied. “We should be happy that our daughter has found happiness. With, I might add, someone who values her love so much she would track down the slavers who took her in-laws.” The man’s face grew another grin. “At her age would you have hunted down and killed my parent’s captors?”

Sheila let out a bark of laughter at the very idea. “Oh heavens no. I’m too much of a coward.” That thought sobered the woman up quickly. “She saved us. She tracked us down over a week after slavers dragged us from our home and she saved us.”

Ira looked at the woman perched on his lap in the extravagant bathtub and couldn’t help but fall deeper in love with her even after all these years. “And all she’s asking in return is for our daughter to hold onto her heart. To be a part of our family. I say we welcome her with open arms.”

“Well when you put it like that.” Sheila said meekly.

“Besides,” Ira added. “Willow marrying a woman her own age is a blessing compared to what could have happened. She could have been forced into marrying a ruthless dictator my age or older.”

“Oh god you’re right.” Shock was palpable in Sheila’s voice.

“We’ll figure this all out and have a talk with Willow, but I think we should give Tara the benefit of the doubt.” He said with sincerity.

“Alright dear.” Sheila replied as they continued to lounge in the impressive tub.

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

Some time after the troops had been welcomed home and the busy castle had settled down for the night Willow and Tara finally found the chance to continue their earlier exploits.

“Will sweetie?” Tara called from their bed. “Are you going to join me for snuggles or am I gonna be lonely all night?” The warlord lay in their bed wearing the thin cotton shorts and matching tank top she favored.

“Oh baby you’re not gonna be lonely at all.” Willow said in a seductive voice. Poking her head around the edge of the doorway she made eye contact with her love. “You ready for your surprise baby?” Willow asked with a coy grin.

“Oh yes.” The blonde said in a husky voice.

Willow stepped out of the doorway to their closet and strolled across the room to stand at the foot of their bed. She was clad in a thin flimsy black lace gown that hung from shoelace thin shoulder straps and ended at the top of her thighs. Sheer black stockings covered from her toes to half way up her thighs. A garter belt hugging the top of her smooth hips anchored thin straps pulling the stockings high as the redhead sauntered around their bed chamber.

Tara’s voice caught in her throat as she took in her love’s attire and her eyes roved over the sight of what Willow was deliberately not wearing. Seeing the small patch of fiery red curls at the apex of her legs rendered the honey blonde speechless. The effect her appearance had on Tara was certainly not lost on Willow

After a long moment Tara was finally able to drag her eyes away from the crimson paradise. Her vision slowly crawled up the lithe woman’s body, taking in the view of Willow’s tiny belly button. Dancing over her flat stomach. Gradually moving up her ribs to rest on her pert breasts. Allowing her gaze to linger on perfect rosy nipples.

“Guh.” Was all Tara could manage.

“See something you like?” Willow asked.

A smile broke out on Tara’s face. “Yes ma’am.”

Willow began to slowly crawl up the bed towards her girl. “Because if there’s anything on this bed you feel you just can’t do without then you should say something about it.” A smile graced the redhead’s lips as she moved to straddle the blonde’s thighs. “Otherwise how is a girl to know if she’s earning her keep around here?” With that Willow placed her hands under the hem of Tara’s tank top. The inventor slowly worked her fingers under the fabric and they began to ascend the blonde’s stomach working ever closer to her heaving chest.

“Sweetie you’ve already earned your keep but if you keep touching me like that I’ll never let you leave.” Tara said while almost panting at the torturous pace her love was setting.

“Promise?” Willow asked as her fingers caressed the blonde’s voluptuous breasts. Using her palms to massage the underside of Tara’s breasts Willow caught the warlord’s nipples between her fore and middle fingers. The Witch King tried to scream out in pleasure but her lips were captured by the redhead’s and her cries were likewise swallowed by the lithe woman tormenting her.

Her world devolved into burst of sensation as Willow alternated between light pinching of her nipples and firm kneading of her breasts. Tara couldn’t help but reach out and firmly grasp Willow’s ass cheeks with both hands. As she began her own kneading the redhead let out a series of low sighs.

Breaking the sensual kiss they shared Willow pulled back and whipped off Tara’s top. Quickly following suit Tara removed Willow’s nighty. Tara leaned down to capture one of the lovely pink buds in her mouth as Willow continued her ministrations on Tara’s chest. Having her nipples kissed by her soulmate had always been one of Willow’s greatest weaknesses. The so much more than kissing that was going on below the redhead’s clavicle was a recipe for disaster.

“Yes.” Willow moaned. “Oh baby the things you do to me.”

With a loud pop Tara drew her lips from the redhead’s breast and looked directly into her eyes. “Sweetie we’ve only just begun.” The warlord said as one hand traced the garter belt around to the lithe woman’s stomach then slowly descended.

Willow gasped as she felt fingers grace her already slick red curls. The finger tips, ending in well trimmed nails, began to slowly trace the outer lips of her already aching center. The inventor sighed as the love of her life continued at a maddeningly torturous pace.

The sigh turned into a yelp and shudder as Tara’s middle finger grazed and began to circle the tiny bundle of nerves at the peak of the brainy girl’s center. The gentle coaxing of the sensitive bud brought Willow’s head crashing down to Tara’s shoulder as her hands still clutched desperately at the blonde’s chest.

“No fair.” The slim girl moaned into her lover’s collar bone. “Need… touching… you too.” With that her hands slid down Tara’s abdomen and grasped at the waist of her thin shorts. Trying to hold back the building tension Tara’s hand movements were coiling in her stomach Willow struggled with the nightwear until it was far enough down the blonde’s legs to be kicked off. The redhead then drove greedy fingers through dark blonde curls just as slick with lust as her own. She wrapped one hand up around the curvaceous woman’s shoulder and felt the arm not working on her molten core snake tightly around her waist.

Both women began slowly circling the entrance of their love’s center with one finger. Tenderly massaging the inner lips quivering with anticipation. Gathering already abundant wetness for the task at hand.

“Together?” The Witch King asked in a pleading voice.

“Always.” Willow said.

With a look of love, longing and desperate need in their locked eyes each women drove her middle finger into her love’s depths. They cried out in unison at the warmth, and love, and fulfillment the simple yet powerful act brought. As they began to move, slowly tracing the contours of their love’s inner walls they shared a deep sensual kiss.

Tara shuddered as Willow’s finger danced over the soft, spongy bump nestled along her front wall. The reaction rippling through the blonde’s body caused her redheaded love to smirk with delight.

Willow slowly withdrew her finger until just the barest trace of its tip remained in her love. She once again captured Tara’s lips with her own and as the blonde began to deepen their kiss Willow brought her ring finger up along side her middle. The inventor smiled into the warlord’s lips as she drove both fingers home. Tara let out a cry of pure, undiluted pleasure. As Willow curved her fingers to meet the sensitive bundle within Tara she began circling and stroking the tender patch with a steady yet merciless pace.

Tara felt the end coming far too soon. Perhaps some other time she would try to delay the rapture Willow always knew how to induce in her. This time however she mirrored her lithe mate’s movement and decided to take things one step further. As her own fingers stroked the critical spot deep within the redhead Tara ground the palm of her hand into the tiny bud at the apex of Willow’s soaking entrance. The effect was almost instantaneous. Tremors shook the slim woman’s form. Willow’s breathing became even more labored as the oncoming storm gathered to a crescendo within her.

As her body shook in Tara’s arms her head shot back and she let out a scream that threatened to shake loose the massive stone bricks which made up the castle walls.

“Tara… TARA… TAARRAAAAAA!”

Willow’s convulsions and overwhelming pleasure were all the blonde needed. She quickly joined her love as they tumbled over the brink of ecstasy together.

“WiiillllooOOOOOOWW!” Tara screamed as spasms wracked both of the lovers’ bodies.

Quakes of rapture continued to ripple through both women as they rode wave after wave of pleasure while holding on to one another for dear life. Once both were well past the point of exhaustion the couple collapsed onto the massive bed.

“I love you, I love you, I love you.” Willow continuously muttered into Tara’s breasts while still held tightly in the blonde’s grasp.

Once Tara regained the power of speech she replied with a soft “I love you.” of her own.

Both young women lay there, holding each other with one arm while still nestled within one another’s soft velvety folds. Tara slowly extracted herself from the paradise shrouded in soft red curls. Willow groaned as the wonderful extremities worked their way out of her center. The loss caused her to whimper piteously. Looking into her love’s eyes Willow’s breath caught in her throat as Tara took the digits that had resided within the redhead and licked them clean.

As the realization that she was still inside of Tara hit, Willow slowly removed her own fingers from the blonde. Bringing her hand up to her face Willow took the entirety of both fingers into her mouth. The taste of her love’s sweet nectar nearly made her climax again.

The duo remained like that, holding each other, lightly kissing, content until sleep finally claimed them. No words were needed to express the love radiating throughout their bed chambers. Both young women knew the depths of their partner’s emotions and their own.

They shared a love that surpassed time and space.

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

Parker Abrams awoke to a strange sight. The conspiracy of ravens that swarmed his cage was blinking out of existence with a series of tiny pops. The last raven turned to him and in that same accent gave one final rebuke.

“Rise and shine douchebag!” The bird mocked before vanishing.

As Parker looked around he saw he had been moved what had to be a great distance. It was cold here. The tree line was dominated by pines. There was what looked like a cave entrance. No, it had tracks for a mine cart leading inside. This was a mine. The Witch King expected Parker to work in his mine? What was that huge pig pen doing right next to the entrance? Why would mine workers need ready access to such a large number of pigs? Nothing made sense. As he looked around some more he noticed what had to be barracks and a garrison over by a gate just down the slope.

The slope. His eyes widened as he took in the massive panoramic view. This mine was three quarters of the way up a massive mountain. Looking back down hill he saw that this camp could overlook what might be the Witch Kings entire nation. That thought was dismissed quickly though. He had been no where near the lands of any Witch King and still had been taken. Whoever he was this new player was rapidly expanding his empire.

As these thoughts came to Parker’s mind a short bald man with a grin and a small metal cross hanging around his neck came up to his cage. Opening it quickly he looked around as if afraid the guards would stop him.

“Come on, quickly. We don’t have much time left.” The little man said.

“Who are you?” Parker asked.

An exasperated look crossed the little man’s face. “I’m your only friend up here. Now hurry before the guards punish you for slacking on the job.”

It was already too late. A large imposing figure in dark armor adorned with a large cross upon the chestplate appeared behind the small man, and held the slaver with a look of contempt.

“Looks like the new meat doesn’t know its place just yet.” Chuckled the man. “Pig farmer why don’t you show him the ropes before I have both your hides whipped.”

“Yes Sir Larry.” The little man groveled. “At once sir.” Turning to the cage the small man called out in a more commanding tone than he had used before. “Come on new meat! It’s the mines for you.” He said with a wink.

Parker caught on to the game and followed quickly. Once Larry was well out of earshot the pig farmer’s demeanor changed again. “I have a plan to flee this place but I’ll need your help or else we’ll both be stuck here forever.” He whispered. “Just inside the mine is a tool rack. Behind it is a panel with instructions I made. You’ll need to follow the steps inside the mine while I’ll take care of things out here.”

As they entered the mine parker’s eyes adjusted to the dim light. The tunnel at the entrance sloped downwards slightly, but soon opened up into a grand entrance chamber. About one third of the way into the cavernous room Parker noticed a thick solid line of metal was engraved into the floor, walls and ceiling of the chamber. It formed an unbroken circle through which the tracks for mine carts passed. Looking up parker saw the tools his new ally had mentioned.

“You sure we’ll be able to get away from here?” The slaver asked the pig farmer.

“Oh I’m sure.” The small man said with a smile.

With that parker strode alone, across the room towards the tools and promised plans for his salvation.

He never made it.

The second Parker had one limb across the metallic line pale arms reached from the darkness and grasped him with unholy strength. Parker screamed and struggled helplessly against the sneering yellow eyed monsters that held him. A man with short hair bleached of all natural color grasped his throat.

“That’ll be enough of that now.” He said in a British accent.

“For once I agree with Spike.” A short female monster with long blonde hair added with a laugh.

“But Miss Edith wanted music for her party.” Replied a woman with black hair and a distinctly vacant look in her eyes.

As the three vampires began to drain the doomed slaver a fourth stood at the edge of the barrier. In a resonant Irish brogue he spoke directly to the short pig farmer.

“Now are ye sure that’s such a wise idea Snyder?” The tall dark figure asked. “We could be doin’ just about anything with these humans ye be feeding us.”

“Ha!” Barked Snyder derisively as he kept well clear of the thick metal line worked into the stone. “Good one vampire.” Sobering quickly the small man looked the monster in the face. “You know the rules Angelus. Turn as many slavers as you want. It won’t raise the number of pigs we throw down here. I’ll let you enjoy that little treat courtesy of the Witch King’s infinite kindness.” Turning he strode away from the seething vampire, but called out one warning before exiting the cavern. “And keep this mine pumping out minerals or else we’ll seal it up with you lot inside and move camp to another mountain.”

As Snyder exited the mine he found Larry waiting for his return. “Everything go smoothly in there Snyder?” The big man asked with a grin.

“Perfectly my boy.” Snyder replied with cheer. “You played your part exceptionally well. One less piece of slaver trash and one more snack to mollify the workers of the Witch King’s mine.”

“Good to hear it.” Larry said with a smile. “The boys are just about ready with lunch. Swing by the barracks in a bit if you like.” With that the ranking military official of the mining operation walked casually back to the garrison.

Snyder smiled as he took in all he surveyed. In a few short months he had gone from slave to ranking civilian official in charge of the Witch King’s primary mining facility. Regardless of what the work actually entailed he was a man who loved the authority his position afforded.

His duty, clear. His role in the kingdom’s prosperity, blatantly obvious. His authority over his charges, unquestioned. For the first time in his life Snyder was genuinely happy.

“All hail the Witch King.” The little man beamed.

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Time and Time Again


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 Post subject: Re: Time and Time Again
PostPosted: Wed Aug 06, 2014 1:01 pm 
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Dibs!

Very nicely done!

Can't wait for more.

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 Post subject: Re: Time and Time Again
PostPosted: Wed Aug 06, 2014 2:37 pm 
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Nice to see them building a new and prosperous world out of the mess.

Still gives me the wiggins to see Tara chopping people up with a broadsword though.

I can't help but think the vampires are going to be a problem at some point. They may not be able to cross the threshold, but they do have all these mining tools. And they can dig.

I find myself wondering about Buffy in this world.
I mean, if she's the Slayer, wouldn't she have fought her way to the top of the pile somewhere?
And be a warlord or something?

But yes, the family is almost complete :)

I look forward to seeing them all together.

Roll on the next chapter :bounce

R :flower

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 Post subject: Re: Time and Time Again
PostPosted: Thu Aug 07, 2014 12:27 pm 
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Wow, you're still bringing all kinds of old faces into this interesting story. Snyder will forever be a little weasel to me, but I was glad to see stinky Parker-man get fed to the vamps. I actually liked the crows, cause anything calling Parker a douchebag is good in my book.

Glad to see Ira and Sheila back safe in the castle, and that was some interesting information Sheila was sharing. I'd have been laughing like Faith at that stuff, but I'm sure Tara could've done without hearing it. lol I'm glad Ira approves of the girls and likes Tara and it's nice seeing even Sheila accepting them.

It's really amazing what Willow and her crew have already accomplished in such a short time, with lots more to come. Very exciting. Can't wait to see what you have in store for us next.

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 Post subject: Re: Time and Time Again
PostPosted: Thu Aug 07, 2014 3:04 pm 
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Vampyregurl73 as always thanks for the support.

Wimpy0729 thank you for the kind words. Rest assured Snyder is still a weasel and a troll. But just like in the show he is also loyal. To Power. He didn't once question the Mayor until the man turned into a giant snake in front of him and started eating people. In this world Tara has demonstrated the most power he has ever seen.

I was worried for a moment the pace of reconstruction would seem too fast. But then again Tara has had a few weeks or so since she offed her dad and took over. Likewise Willow's influence in the last week kicked everything into high gear.

Azirahael thanks for the encouragement. Once again you've asked all the right questions for me to dance around spoilers. The first thing I would have to say is that there are reasons why this side story is titled Dark Age Chronicles aside from the fact that the tech level is barely into the iron age. Among those reasons is one that indicates why this Tara's behavior is so different.

In fact going forward I think everyone will find that of the four versions of Tara I'm writing the Dark Age one is the most different from, let's call her "Tara Prime." And don't forget she was raised by an even worse version of Mr. Maclay. The past life memories and inherent goodness are always life altering and a huge driving force. But they still work through the filter that is the person born into that world. The Tara of this world doesn't like a great many things she is forced to do but the alternatives from inaction in the face of such vile adversaries are unthinkable.

Also call me a bigot but slave traders don't count as people.

On a similar note there are more bars on the mine shaft prison than I have let on. But again 'spoilers'.

Rest assured Buffy is coming, and when she does you'll see that this world has just as many forces that act against and hinder the Slayer as the primary Buffyverse does.

More to come. Thank you all for reading and commenting.

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Time and Time Again


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 Post subject: Re: Time and Time Again
PostPosted: Wed Aug 13, 2014 4:21 am 
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Time and Time Again.

Author: Citanul

Feedback: Be kind, rewind?

Spoilers: Just about all of them. Go watch the show.

Rating: NC-17

Pairings: W/T, B/F

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 there may be a few shocks in the beginning of this one, and I may have done a small amount of shark jumping. But that's for you guys reading to decide. All in all this is a busy week for the Scoobies and the Hyperion crew.


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

Chapter 5: The Law Firm

The day the world changed began just like any other ordinary day. The sun rose in the morning. People went about their lives. Demons plotted death and destruction. Business as usual. It was just another ordinary Monday.

Such was the case right up until every alarm in the LA branch of The Law Offices of Wolfram & Hart went off at once.

Security forces were dispatched with haste once it was determined an unregistered vampire and demon had entered the building from a rear service entrance. What took the guards completely by surprise was the fact that a well armed and trained strike force was accompanying the inhuman intruders.

To add insult to injury this group’s entry allowed four young women to waltz through the front door and right over the unconscious bodies of the few remaining guards that tried to stop them. The fights on both fronts were quick and decisive. The run of the mill security personnel the firm employed didn’t last long. Before the special operations teams the firm had on call could respond the four young women were in the elevator heading up.

One barely conscious security guard witnessed the lights displaying which floor the elevator was going to vanish. Before he passed out he wondered what the intruders could possibly want in the “White Room.”

As reserve security forces and wet works operatives arrived in the front lobby they were stunned to find the battle over and the odd intruders out of their reach. Similar troops sent to the rear of the building found it likewise vacated. Realizing there was nothing they could do they stood down and awaited whatever outcome emerged from the “White Room.”

Little did they know it was already too late.

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

Across the Earth, in every Wolfram & Hart building, the elevators stopped. The secret buttons that transported passengers to the various White Rooms and their conduits appeared. The smooth white circles glowed for one brief moment. Then each and every button cracked and the light faded never to return.

Ten seconds after the White Rooms ceased to be the Circle of the Black Thorn found itself in trouble.

Izzerial, the red skinned demon whose horns, tail and distinctive goatee made him a dead ringer for the classic depiction of the Devil, found his heart ripped from his chest.

Cyvus Vail staggered as his magic drained away, his body utterly destroyed as his withered form crumbled to dust.

The demon wearing the corpse of a human woman to masquerade as Senator Helen Brucker found itself ripped back to its hell dimension with such force its skull was shattered on a brimstone cliff face. The legion of vampires it employed as security burst into clouds of ash where they stood.

Ed, the Grande Potentate of the Fell Brethren, managed to blink once before his head rolled off his shoulders and hit the floor. The heads of all other members of his cult soon followed his example.

The Sahrvin Clan all suffered the fate of their leader. Few people knew that certain breeds of demon melted into puddles of goo if their pineal glands ruptured.

The few remaining Black Thorn members died quickly with the exception of one. Arguably the most powerful member and one of the greatest military forces among demonic circles Archduke Sebassis was a force to be reckoned with. That reckoning came in the form of a blinding white light that incinerated not only himself but every demon in his aristocracy, each member of his forty legions and in fact every single demon to ever bend a knee to the tyrant.

A minute later the top board members of each branch fell to their knees, grasping at their chests. They all hit the floor, dead. Holland Manners managed to squeeze out a strangled “Why?” before he shuffled off his mortal coil.

Thirty seconds after the top brass went down they were followed by the countless murderers, assassins and butchers that made up the wet works teams each branch employed. Many of them suddenly felt the different mystical modifications the firm had granted them over the course of their service fade away. Unable to cope with the strain losing such enhancements put on their bodies, their hearts gave out. The rest simply fell to the ground, just as dead as the top executives.

Five minutes later every vampire to ever cross paths with the infamous law firm found themselves crumbling to ash where they stood. Dusted, as surely as if a stake had pierced their heart.

Fifteen seconds after the vampires were purged demons who had served the firm or just been under its protection found themselves mortally wounded. It varied from species to species but most felt a slight twinge before mystical forces snapped their necks. Many species were decapitated and the few for whom decapitation wasn’t a problem found themselves ripped to shreds.

Twenty five seconds later every lawyer and ancillary employee working for the firm felt a shadow pass over them. As the feeling passed so did eighty five percent of the employees. All that remained were a minority of the youngest recruits to the firm in each branch. The ones that hadn’t quite sold their souls just yet. Both figuratively and literally.

Thirty seconds passed before each and every human criminal, politician, necromancer, sorcerer, warlock, wizard, corporate president or board member, millionaire, billionaire and monster to ever call on the firm for legal assistance found his world ending. The powers and gifts they received from Wolfram & Hart were stripped. The magicks they wielded drained away. The money and influence they had garnered over the years disappeared. Convictions once overturned were dredged up. New evidence against each of them showed up on the desks of prosecutors the world over. Many of them committed suicide before the day was over.

Twelve seconds after the client list was cleared the ghost of Matthias Pavayne and the remnants of each specter he had fed on cried out one last time before the forces holding them to the world of the living were severed and they moved on to whatever lay in store for them in the hereafter.

Ten minutes after the four young women hit the elevator the world had been irrevocably changed.

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

What no one noticed yet was that the Earth wasn’t the only world changed. Cabals and brotherhoods of demons across countless dimensions found themselves the victims of similar purges. In what felt like no time at all the power and influence The Wolf, The Ram and The Hart had accumulated over centuries was wiped away.

The three Senior Partners were gone.

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

The casual observer on the street would be hard pressed to see the changes taking place at that moment. In fact no one even blinked as the law firm’s sign out front changed on its own.

The only people to notice were an older British librarian and the large group of teenagers with him. Most of them gaped, open mouthed as the letters on the sign shifted to form new words on their own. With a smile the Watcher led his group through the front doors of the LA branch of “The Law Offices of Rosenberg & Maclay.”

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

Lindsey McDonald was completely surprised when he showed up at the office. He had hoped to find answers for why the vampires that made up his client list turned to dust. Some of them right before his eyes.

Walking up to the familiar building he was stopped dead in his tracks at the sight out front. The letters on the firm’s sign had changed. The old senior partner names were gone and in their place stood Rosenberg & Maclay. How on Earth could this have happened? He had been told time and again how powerful the senior partners were. Who could have the audacity to take their names off the building?

As he stood there a tall brunette woman walked up beside him. “So you noticed it too?” Lilah Morgan asked with a smirk.

“All my vampire clients dusted this morning. How could I not notice?” Lindsey replied. Turning to look at the woman he hardly knew the country boy asked her the question burning in his mind. “Lilah what happened?”

“Beats me.” She answered. “I’ve been on the phone for the last hour. Apparently all of our bosses are MIA, the special projects assault teams are gone, no one at the firm with more experience than you or me is reporting in.” She paused for effect. “Oh and to top it all off every single client is either dead or about to be indicted for crimes against humanity.”

Lindsey paused for a long moment. None of this made sense. The empire he had just started working for was gone. This was his chance to crawl out of the gutter once and for all. Looking back up at Lilah a frightening thought struck him.

“So why are we still alive?” He asked the hardnosed female lawyer.

For the first time in a long time a look of terror crossed Lilah’s face. “Oh god, I have no idea.”

A smirk spread across Lindsey’s face. “Well it looks like there’s just one way to find out.”

With that he strode towards the front doors of the law firm. Lilah was quick to catch up and match his stride. As the pair entered the building they walked towards the elevators. The security guards at the front desk stopped them.

“Ms. Morgan, Mr. McDonald.” A guard called out to the lawyers. “Glad to see you’ve returned. The new bosses wanted you to show up at their office the moment you got back. Top floor.” He said with a grin.

The lawyers looked at the man then at each other before continuing to the elevators. “This day just keeps getting weirder.” Lindsey said under his breath.

“Just be thankful they want to see us with our skin still intact.” Lilah shot back. “We know nothing about these new bosses but if they were strong enough to kill the senior partners they must be unbelievably powerful.”

As they entered the elevator they looked at the buttons and were surprised to see a large silver pentacle on an oversized button materialize out of nowhere at the top of the panel. Lindsey looked to his colleague for a moment. “Well it was fun while it lasted.” He said as he pressed the button with the silver five point star and circle.

The lawyers rode the elevator all the way to the uppermost floor. About half way up Lindsey suddenly noticed a change. “Did they change the elevator music from generic muzak to classic rock?”

Lilah looked to her coworker as she realized what she was listening to. “I always loved Blue Öyster Cult.” She said with a wistful smile.

“Really?” Lindsey said with a wide grin. “I don’t know why but I always figured you for a Pat Benatar gal.”

As the novelty of that statement struck her from out of left field the woman actually let out a chuckle. “Don’t think you can get away with teasing me just because we’ll be dead soon McDonald.”

“Wouldn’t dream of it babe.” Lindsey said with a wry grin.

As Lilah was about to fire back with her own retort the elevator stopped and the doors opened with a chime. On the other side stood a tall dark haired vampire in full game face and a long black leather coat and a shorter black haired demon with green skin covered in tiny blue spikes wearing a lighter shabbier looking jacket.

“Well, well, well.” The vampire leered as he put a hand over the gap the elevator door slid from. “Looks like the fresh meat the bosses ordered is finally here. What do you think Doyle? My money says the guys a screamer.”

“Oh I don’t know about that laddy.” The demon chuckled. “I’m more interested in seeing if the fair lass is up for a go.”

“That’s enough fun you two.” Called out a young woman’s voice from behind the pair of demons. “Ms. Morgan and Mr. McDonald if you would be so kind as to join us.”

The pair of lawyers looked confused as the demons blocking their paths started to laugh and shift into their human looking appearances. They turned and walked towards a large set of double doors on the far left side of the large open chamber. Lindsey and Lilah followed them inside the doorway. As they entered the room they were surprised to see a large number of teenagers of varying ethnicities sitting on chairs and couches around the office, an older man wearing glasses and a tweed blazer looming off to one side of the room and a pair of young men standing behind them who closed the doors they just came through.

The vampire strode over to the large windows that flooded the room with light and basked in the glow the Necro-tempered glass safely afforded him. The widest smile the group had ever seen him sport took up residence on his face as he felt the suns warmth for the first time in centuries.

“Excellent.” Said a young, slim redhead sitting behind the large desk on which a curvy blonde girl was perched. “Now that you’re both here we can get the business of your loyalties and careers taken care of.”

“Don’t take this the wrong way.” Lilah said with grim determination, still expecting to be killed at any moment. “But who exactly are you people?”

The red head smiled at the lawyer. “That’s a very good question Lilah. I’m Willow Rosenberg and this is Tara Maclay.” Willow said with a gesture to the blonde perched on her desk.

“Hi.” Tara said with a wave. “N-nice to meet you. We’re the new senior partners.”

Lindsey was shocked at that statement. “How exactly did you get rid of the old senior partners?”

Willow beamed at the question. “Another great question. We simply walked into the White Room and while our friends dealt with the conduit we sealed off the demon dimension that The Wolf, The Ram and The Hart reside in.”

“They are gone from this and every other dimension they once infected.” Tara added with a grin.

The lawyers stood there shocked. What they were hearing was unbelievable. How could two girls do something so devastating to such old and powerful demons. Lindsey had no idea how to respond to any of this. Lilah was only slightly quicker to react.

“You look human.” She said cautiously. “But how can you have the kind of power to pull something like that off?”

“Witches.” Willow replied. “Plus there’s this whole past lives trick we have going on. Don’t worry about it. What you should be worrying about is what we have planned for the two of you.”

“Why are we still alive?” Lindsey asked the couple. “So many of the staff are dead and all our clients either followed them or are watching their lives fall apart.”

“When their dimension was sealed off.” Tara began. “Anyone who was depending on their power to live or sustain their own evil schemes was destroyed. Armies loyal to them were slaughtered. Magic users who drew power from them were stripped of their own power. People who were kept from facing justice by their trickery were exposed for what they truly were. Any of their worshipers or employees who signed contracts with a perpetuity clause died.”

“You’re both lucky you hadn’t signed those yet.” Willow chipped in. “Now if we are done looking to the past we can start talking about your futures as employees of the Law Firm of Rosenberg & Maclay.”

Tara giggled. “I love when you talk shop sweetie.”

The redhead smiled brightly. “And I love you baby.” Willow whispered as she leaned in close to her honey blonde love.

Tara ran her hands through the fiery red locks and cupped the back of the lithe young woman’s head. She leaned her head down and captured Willow’s lips with her own. The redhead melted into the contact she and her love luxuriated in. Tara clutched long red tresses in her hand as she deepened the explorations her tongue made. Willow was all too eager to support this endeavor.

The lawyers and half the teens in the room were caught in varying stages of open mouthed shock. Doyle had a slight smile on his face as he leaned over to Angel and whispered. “I know I’m the new guy and everything but do they realize we’re all still in the room?”

Angel let a smirk cross his face. “Oh they know.” He told his new half demon friend. “Now if you asked me whether or not they care I have no clue.”

Giles, who was vigorously polishing his glasses, gave a slight clearing of the throat in the hopes that things could be moved along. Buffy and Alonna just looked at the stunned faces of all the young guys in the room and then met eyes with Lilah who had conducted a similar survey. All three started to laugh at the glazed over look most of the men in the room had.

Xander having been witness to these displays the longest of the young men present was the first to recover from the sojourn his mind took. “Um, Will, buddy? Anytime you want to come up for air would be swell.”

Tara pulled Willow’s head back and a small pop was heard as their lips disconnected. Willow whimpered at the loss of contact and Tara leaned in close to whisper to her love. “Later sweetie.”

The redhead sighed with resignation and looked back to the two lawyers with steel in her gaze. “There are going to be many changes around here. For starters Internment Acquisitions is gone. No more grave robbing. No more getting mass murderers and evil demons and all around horrible monsters off with technicalities or underhanded intimidation tactics. No more holding fundraisers and keeping ninety five percent of the proceeds. You’ll take a twenty percent cut at the very most, and the expenses to cover the event will come out of your piece of the pie. The amount of pro bono work the firm does will increase dramatically. The Practical Science Division will act with a moral compass from now on. No more super plagues without prioritizing cures for the problems the world already faces. No more sending rapists and abusive fathers to mess with young women who happen to be developing telekinetic powers.”

“In short, no more evil.” Tara intoned for the lawyers.

“There are a great many other things to go over but I’m sure you both get the idea by now.” Willow added. “The two of you are being promoted to CEO and COO. You can decide who gets which title, it doesn’t matter. In reality we are putting both of you in charge of the LA branch and having all other firms come to us through you. You’ll get significant pay raises and huge offices taking up most of the floor right below this one, and we will be putting you in charge of a number of special tasks we need personally handled.”

“Why us?” Lindsey asked when it seemed Willow was pausing to consider her next words.

A slight smile graced both women’s faces. “We know a lot about both of you.” Willow answered. “We know that even though you have given yourselves over to evil you both still have the capacity for good in you.” Another pause. “At least that is our hope.”

Tara looked them both over for a moment. “If either of you can’t abide by the new moral guidelines we’re instituting the door is right there. You can still walk out now and no harm will come to you.”

“If you choose to stay then know that we won’t tolerate betrayal.” Willow warned. “Try to turn this firm back to the dark side behind our backs or overthrow us and you’ll die just as quickly as the lawyers who signed perpetuity contracts.”

“If you think you can handle these terms we’ll go into specifics of what we need from you.” Tara said solemnly. “If w-what we’re asking is too hard to live by then it w-was nice meeting you and good luck.”

The room was silent. All eyes were on Lindsey and Lilah. The pair took a moment to consider everything that had been spelled out for them so far. Lindsey who had only joined this firm as a means to escape the poverty he grew up in was more than happy to give being one of the good guys a shot if it still paid well and let him meet or exceed his ambitions. Lilah thought about how hard she had worked to get so far in a company run by downright evil men. Perhaps the glass ceiling that had spited the brunette all her life would be done away with if she worked for two young women who held such idealistic and “progressive” views. If nothing else the pay raise would keep her mother well looked after.

“I’m in.” They both said in unison before looking at each other shocked.

“Perfect.” Willow said as she reached to open a drawer in the desk. The redhead pulled out a small vial of medicine with a cap that indicated its contents were meant to be injected. She then pulled out a small round amulet. Placing both on the table she looked at Lilah. “Ms. Morgan if you give your mother five cc’s of this drug a day for the next 2 weeks and make her wear this amulet at all times she will remember who you are.”

Lilah was shocked to her very core. They had found the one thing they could use to force her to do anything they wanted and they waited until after she had made up her own mind to reveal it. As the lawyer slowly crept towards the two young women at the desk tears slowly trickled from her eyes. Picking up the vial of medicine and the amulet the brunette looked to the redhead and blonde once more.

“This really will help her?” Lilah almost pleaded. “She’ll remember her life?”

“It’ll fight the symptoms of her condition.” Willow said. “It won’t buy her more time or take away from what she has left but it will improve the quality of however many years you can still have with her.” A look of scorn crossed her face. “They had it Lilah. They had this here the whole time, and they never even bothered to tell you what it could do for your mother.”

The eyes of the young lawyer widened before a matching scowl crossed her face, only to be replaced by gratitude once she realized how much better her new employers were than the old.

Turning to look at Lindsey, Tara spoke again. “We could have made a similar offer regarding your estranged family Lindsey but I figured with your new position with the company you’d like to handle that on your own.”

That sentiment struck the man harder than he ever thought it could. Sure he didn’t much care for his parents but with the authority and freedom these two girls were offering him he could improve the lives of his remaining siblings by leaps and bounds. A quiet “Thank you.” was all the man could say.

“Now.” Willow said in a no nonsense tone while putting on her resolve face. “We need to discuss your duties to us going forward.” A smile crossed her face as she turned towards the peanut gallery that had been sitting there. “Most of our group you see here is stationed out of the Hyperion Hotel in this city. They are a small private demon fighting force lead by Alonna and Charles Gunn.” At this the siblings stepped forward. “Legally speaking the Gunn siblings are co owners of the hotel with the two of us. On paper it is an outreach center and halfway home for disenfranchised youth. In reality it is a training ground for the forces of good. Lindsey your primary job will be to ensure that the people living and working there are never forced to spend a night in jail should law enforcement ever interfere with their activities. Don’t arrange prison breaks or murders. I’m sure most of the time a high priced lawyer showing up out of no where to aid an otherwise unassuming street kid will shock the police just long enough to let you get the charges dropped.”

“You’ll also set up a few other real outreach centers, shelters and halfway homes to hide the Hyperion and its mission.” Tara added brightly.

“You’ll no doubt be able to hold an almost endless string of fundraising balls to pay off the whole thing.” The hacker stated. “Back to the Hyperion, the Gunns and many of the teens here are formerly homeless. The vampire is named Angel and he has a Gypsy curse afflicting him with his human soul. He will be stationed there to help train them in various fighting methods and provide a strong front line fighter for the instances when human muscle just isn’t feasible. At least one of the rooms in the hotel will need to be fitted with Necro-tempered glass for his personal use. Doyle, the half Brachen demon you met earlier will also be stationed there. Though he is a decent enough fighter his main purpose will be to act as an oracle and conduit for the powers that be.”

At the mention of the powers both lawyers head’s shot up. “You’re backed by the powers?” Lilah managed to ask.

“No we are not.” Willow told the stunned room. “We fight the forces of evil and protect this world which puts us on the same side as those self proclaimed higher beings. But we are not working for or with them. More than a few of them have a plan for this world that we are vehemently opposed to for obvious reasons. I mean seriously if you knew the crap they tried to pull in some dimensions you’d be shocked to find out it was them pulling the strings behind that apocalypse and not the trio of demons who ran this place last week.”

“Sweetie.” Tara interrupted with a stern yet worried look. “Spoilers.”

The redhead stopped suddenly. “Crap that was close.” She sighed. “There are things we can’t tell most of you but please believe me when I say we are looking out for you guys. Some of the stuff we’ve seen will only help if we tell you at the right time and some will only ruin the lives of anyone we tell.”

The shocked faces all around the room told the pair of witches that what just slipped out was tantamount to tossing a live grenade on the floor. No one who knew what the powers that be were had a response to that slip of the tongue, and those that didn’t know what was going on need only look towards the shocked faces dotting the room to see something major was afoot.

“But back to the matter at hand.” Willow said definitively. “Doyle gets visions from the powers.”

“Which is to say great splitting migraines that come with pictures.” The man in question remarked. “A name… a face.”

“Thank you Doyle.” Willow said sweetly. “He relays the information to a champion the powers have hand picked, usually Angel, and the team rolls out. Demons are slain, innocents are saved, the world keeps on turning.”

“Doyle’s other roll at the Hotel will be as teacher and tutor.” Tara informed the lawyers and some of the others who had yet to be briefed. “He was a school teacher until recently and many of the people here need a G.E.D.”

“Facilitating the legal aspect of that is part of your job Lindsey.” Willow informed the southerner. “You can delegate some of the work out to other lawyers if personally handling each kid here becomes too much along with the duties of running this place alongside Lilah. Just be sure to pick lawyers good at their job and who can work with Gunn’s crew without holding up their nose.”

“That won’t be a problem boss.” Lindsey replied. “A few forms and a small bribe or two and I could probably get Mr. Doyle here a state accreditation. If he’s had his license revoked it may take up a few days but I’ll work around it. Shouldn’t take more than a week or two at the most.”

“Perfect.” Willow said with a relieved look. “For future reference, we’re not naive kids. We know some of what we’ll ask you to do isn’t on the moral up and up just because of the way the system is structured. We have no problem with bribes or anything just about every other high power law firm does to win cases. All we are stipulating is that you do nothing to permanently harm or ruin the good people of this world and be more selective with your client base.”

The lawyer smiled at his new bosses and the so far ridiculously easy list of rules and duties they had laid out before him. “Understood, I have no objections to the new way we are going to play the game. It actually sounds like a fun new change.”

“Lilah.” Tara said to the other lawyer who was still staring at the medicine and amulet clutched in her hands. Her head shot up with a wide eyed look that was quickly replaced with calm determination and detachment.

“Yes Ms. Maclay, whatever it is I’ll take care of it.” She said with the patently false smile she always reserved for the higher ups.

“Good to hear you’re on board.” Tara said with a smile. “S-some of us are not going to be living here in LA. Willow, Buffy, Xander, Mr. Giles and I live in Sunnydale. We are stationed there because it’s Willow and Xander’s hometown and the current active hellmouth.”

At the mention of the infamous dimensional breach both lawyers visibly stiffened like they were expecting to be physically struck. Doyle gasped and began to panic. “The hellmouth? You lot live on top of the bloody hellmouth! Of all the rotten arseways setups for me to fall arse backwards into.”

“Doyle it’s alright!” Willow called. “We aren’t dragging you back there okay? Remember, we told you to stay in the hotel and relay visions to Angel and the crew so they can handle the evil in this city.” The redhead wanted no confusion on who would be facing which dangers in the system she and Tara were setting up. “You aren’t part of the hellmouth team and we are scouting new talent to stage there after our business in LA is done. That reminds me, we’ll need the private jet fueled and ready to go in the next few days.”

Gunn, Alonna and the rest of their crew were stunned. The very mention of this hellmouth had completely stopped the two rich white lawyers who were supposed to be part of team evil. How bad was the thing under the small town if even the soon to be reformed bad guys were afraid of it?

What was even more shocking was how the news absolutely terrified the half demon they were going to be working side by side with. Gunn and Alonna now saw a new light cast on Tara and Willow’s claim of some demons being normal people just trying to get by.

Even Rondell and Chain, as well as some of the more suspicious holdouts of the group, took a fresh look at the “half blood” they were supposed to trust and learn from. Doyle didn’t know it but the look of sheer, pants crapping terror on his face and the deep breaths he was taking to keep from hyperventilating were working wonders to humanize him in the eyes of the young demon hunters.

Doyle was also unaware of the fact that since he barely registered on both Buffy and Alonna’s demon radar, and didn’t show up at all when they tried to sense evil, the Slayers had already both agreed to give him the benefit of the doubt. This little outburst just cemented their view of the man as harmless.

“As you can p-probably tell.” Tara said to regain the conversation. “Dealing with the hellmouth is going to take up the majority of our time. It’s a tougher fix than sealing three demons in a prison of their own making.”

“Which is why we are leaving both of you to manage our law firm.” Willow added. “We need someone to screen the other branches access to us and hand out our marching orders. You will also be handling the legal needs of the tech company we just started. Pentacle is going to completely change the level of technology the people of this world enjoy.”

“Right.” Tara agreed. “Those are duties the two of you w-will need to handle for the firm as a whole, and we already told Lindsey his job with the Hyperion Hotel crew.” She paused for a long moment before looking directly at Lilah.

“Lilah what we need from you is to be our lawyer when personal issues come up.” Tara said to the lawyer who couldn’t fathom a situation the witches who defeated the senior partners and slaughtered their forces couldn’t handle on their own.

“The two of you just defeated the demons behind the most powerful law firm on the planet and took over everything of value their empire once held.” Lilah said with no small amount of awe. “What could you possibly need my help with in or out of court?”

Tara stood up from the desk and looked around the room. She decided that her secrets would come out to the rest of this group sooner or later so now was as good a time as any. “My father is an abusive sociopath.” Tara spoke as the room grew silent. “Every day of my life he told me that I was evil. That the women of my family are evil. That the magic we can use naturally is the work of the devil.” She paused, locking eyes with Lilah. “That the women of my family have demon in them, and on my twentieth birthday that demon will emerge and go on a killing spree. I was raised to believe the only way I could make up for the sin of being allowed to live and suppress the demon is to waste my life on backbreaking manual labor, and submit to horrific domestic abuse every other day.”

Lilah couldn’t believe what she was hearing. One of her hands was covering her mouth of its own accord. The level of abuse this girl must have shouldered was staggering.

Lindsey was in a similar state of shock. He had a rough home life but at least his deadbeat parents didn’t call him monster and demon to his face every day.

Doyle didn’t know what to say. He could feel immense power pouring off both the witches who had orchestrated the rescue of the Brachen demons just days ago. What he didn’t even get a trace of was demon. The very idea that such a bright soul could be as tainted with demon as he was ignited a fire in his soul. A fire he didn’t know he still had. “The lying tool!” Doyle shouted to the silent room. “I’ve been around a bit, and not only is that story the biggest load of shite I ever heard, but there are no half breeds that work like that.”

As Doyle’s outburst stunned the entire room into silence a smile spread across Tara’s face. “Thank you for that Doyle.” The blonde witch sighed. “Yes, in addition to being a lousy good for nothing abusive bible thumper my father is also a liar. We actually checked a bunch of different times trying to convince my mother of his lies. She and I didn’t show up as evil on the Slayer’s radar, a watcher was unable to find any demon that matched our tale and Angel was even kind enough to smell blood drawn from pin pricks on our fingers.”

“So you’re not going to go on a killing spree?” Asked one of the guys in Gunn’s crew.

“Joey man, what the hell?” Gunn yelled at the member of his crew he was beginning to suspect had brain damage.

Light hearted laughter filled the chamber. The large audience turned from Gunn and his oaf to stare at Willow and Tara engaged in heartfelt mirth. The two lovers continued to laugh at a joke only they saw. As the seconds wore on the laughter subsided to light, jovial chuckles.

“Oh wow.” Willow said to a stunned crowd. “That was good Joey. We honestly didn’t think the atrocities we committed today would slip anyone’s notice. No this hostile takeover was the only killing spree we had planned. I really hope it won’t turn into a weekly or even annual event.”

“Will, what do you mean atrocities?” Buffy asked wide eyed. “All we did today was seal a demon dimension. Sure a few people who signed away their souls died but they were evil right?”

“Buffy we didn’t seal anything.” Willow told her best friend. “The boys distracted the guards. You and Alonna fought a particularly nasty immortal. Tara and I sealed the demon dimension of the senior partners. It is very important that you understand just who is responsible for what. The deaths that happened today are not on you or your conscience. They are on Tara and me. No one else here is to blame for our actions today.”

“But all we did was fight one demon law firm.” The Slayer protested. “How is that an atrocity?”

“Buffy please.” Giles asked his Slayer for her attention. “The Wolf, The Ram and The Hart are demons almost as old as the old ones and perhaps older than vampires. They wielded incredible power across countless dimensions.”

Lilah spoke up. “There are thirty branches of this law firm in countries and cities across the planet.”

“One of the demons who held a seat in the cabal that was the senior partner’s hands on this plane was an Archduke of demons who ruled over forty legions.” Tara added.

Lindsey couldn’t help but add in a tidbit or two. “Every board member, wet works team and about eighty something percent of the regular employees at each firm are dead. All our non human clients are dust and the human ones are now either struggling to hide from their enemies or taking their own lives.”

“Buffy.” Willow said while staring directly into the Slayer’s eyes. “When Tara and I cast that spell we condemned millions upon millions of lives to death. That is on us. As of ten minutes after the four of us entered that elevator, and pressed that white button, Tara and I rank among the most successful mass murderers in all of time and space.”

“The only consolation is that everyone they killed was objectively evil to at least some extent.” Giles said in a far too passive tone.

“Incredibly evil.” Lilah said to the stunned Slayer. “There were plans on the books to bring about at least one apocalypse. One of those dead clients Lindsey mentioned owns the patent on cancer. He’s been holding back cure research for decades. I’m actually surprised they let me live.”

“Willow I can’t.” Buffy started but stopped almost immediately. “This is so much bigger than you let on before.”

“I know.” The hacker confirmed. “What we did is beyond what most people can understand. The only bright side is that we didn’t do it to take over a law firm. We did it to make the world safer. And it is Buffy. We saved so many lives today by doing what we did.”

“Who?” Buffy shot back. “Who did you save?”

“If this law firm had remained a powerful source of evil in the world it would have led to the deaths of many of the people Doyle’s visions tell Angel he has to save.” Willow replied. “As a result of Angel’s assaults on their more evil clients Lilah and Lindsey would have been ordered to try to turn Angel evil for the apocalypse the partners wanted. After fighting Angel for years both of them would eventually die by other people’s hands.”

“But none of that is going to happen now right?” Lindsey asked his new boss with a pleading tone.

“Umm, Buffy is it?” Lilah asked the blonde Slayer with a slightly hesitant voice. “I can tell you that under the previous regime this law firm specialized in making sure mass murderers, criminals responsible for ruining countless lives and all around monsters got away with all of their crimes and never stopped hurting people. Some of them even ate babies. What your friends did today counts as a good thing.”

The Slayer looked at the taller woman with a mixture of anger and befuddlement. “Why the hell would you work for such monsters?” She demanded.

A cocky smile spread across Lilah’s face. "Survival.” She answered while crossing her arms. “I made a lot of devil's bargains and I stuck to them. As a result I live somewhat dangerously and quite comfortably. And my mother, who no longer recognizes me, has the best room in the clinic. I get up every morning, put on my game face and do what I have to." Holding up the bauble and vial in her hand an even bigger smile surfaced. “And now that’s all paid off. Every sacrifice I had to make put me here in this room. Now I’m being offered a chance to run a huge company for a young lesbian couple with bigger fish to fry, and holding the key to my mother’s health in my hand.”

Buffy was impressed. “As far as “I’m evil so deal with it!” speeches go that was one of the better ones I’ve heard so far.”

“Thank you.” Lilah replied. Turning to face the power couple who now ran her life with a velvet glove the lawyer asked a question she felt was only half answered. “Ms. Maclay, I believe you were only half way through telling me your legal needs.”

“Oh right.” Tara jumped, almost forgetting the point due to the number of detours that this meeting had taken. “Eventually my father will s-show up in Sunnydale. We aren’t hiding enough for h-him to never catch on if he hires a detective or s-something. You’ll need to come to Sunnydale at some point and h-help my mother with the divorce process. He can keep everything on the farm. All that we have in this state is in Willow’s name.”

“I’m sensing a large caveat to this plan.” Lilah said to the blonde she would be representing.

“That depends on his tactics.” Willow answered the lawyer. “If he tries to drag them back to the farm by force we will deal with him directly in a non fatal way. Your roll will be to cover up what happens as far as the law is concerned. If he tries to sue for custody or fight the divorce then you will be asked to crucify him in open court. If possible bankrupt him. I’m sure you’ve done far more with far less.”

“That sounds like it will be the easiest assignment I’ve ever been given.” A thought struck the brunette. “What about your parents Ms. Rosenberg? Do they pose any problems or are they bastions of love and support?” Lilah’s question trailed off with a mildly sarcastic drawl.

Xander actually let out a bark of laughter at that thought. “Sorry. I couldn’t help it.” He said to the shocked faces around the room.

Willow frowned at her oldest friend and answered the question posed. “I have been left to raise myself for the better part of the last decade. I love my parents. They just aren’t a part of my day to day life. If they realize I own a law firm and a tech company and react to my being gay in the absolute worst possible way, all before I turn eighteen, then I’ll need you to protect my assets and properties, and help with the emancipated minor process. If they treat Tara with respect and kindness when they finally meet her then I won’t need any help dealing with them.

Lilah couldn’t help but smile at how simple the work would be even in the worst case scenarios her new bosses laid out. “All of that sounds simple enough. I can arrange a few things so that when these concerns come up we’ll be more than ready.”

“Excellent.” Willow said with a reluctant grin. “Okay that is everything we needed to go over. Lilah and Lindsey it was great meeting you and setting out our plans for the firm. Next item on the agenda is getting the word out to all the other branches and telling them of the new power structure. Both of you should handle the messaging and tell them that the most senior staff that is left should take over leadership of different divisions. Then meet us in the vault. We need to run a minor inventory. The possessions of most of the demons and more evil clients were confiscated upon their deaths. Plus there are a few items we’ll need to move to the hellmouth for regular use.” A serious look crossed her face. “Remember, you two are now the representatives for the entities that defeated and replaced the senior partners. Aside from the new focus the entire firm will be taking they don’t need to know more about us.”

“Understood Ms. Rosenberg.” Lilah said with a smile. “We’ll take care of that right away and meet you on the vault level.” The lawyer turned and walked over to the doors.

Lindsey let a grin cross his face as he looked around to the young people he would be working closely with. “Well, it’s been a pleasure. Mr. Gunn is it?” He asked the young leader of the crew. “I’ll swing by the Hyperion to have a sit down to meet each member of your team and cover any legal needs they might have. Mr. Doyle we can go over your accreditation status then and I’ll have a work crew install that special glass in as much of the building as the pet vampire likes.” With that he joined Lilah as she exited the office of the new senior partners.

As they quickly crossed the lobby space between the main office and the elevators Lilah turned to Lindsey and smiled. “So it looks like we’re going to be working side by side from now on.”

Lindsey gave the woman a matching smile. “I can think of worse fates than sharing the spotlight and work load with someone as clever and skilled as you Lilah.” A look of concentration furrowed his brow. “We should do something for the new bosses. A show of loyalty to prove we aren’t as evil as the corpses they piled up today.”

“Legislation.” Lilah said with a wide grin. “There’s a bill going through the state senate right now. Something about changing gay couple’s tax rights. Or maybe it was about cohabitation? We’ll pull some strings and crush it before it even hits the news feeds. This is good. Once they trust us we can really get underway with rebuilding the firm. Following their rules will be easy enough but we can’t keep this firm running with the level of influence it once had if we don’t start hiring to replace today’s lost workers.”

“We’ll get it done Lilah.” Lindsey assured. “This is our chance, our big break.” The lawyer had a spring in his step and a previously unknown cheer in his voice as they entered the elevator.

“This is going to be fun.” Lilah said as the doors of the elevator closed on the pair of young lawyers.

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

As the group watched the lawyers leave the spacious office all heads turned to the witches. They had been told people would die if Willow and Tara’s plan today succeeded. They had also been told that a great many more innocents would die if they did nothing. The reality of how many humans and demons died as a result of their actions was still staggering.

“I know none of you fully grasped the enormity of what sealing the senior partners would mean for this and many other worlds when we set out this morning.” Willow told the silent room. “Tara and I have a lot of blood on our hands now. If what we did is too much now is probably the last chance to walk out.”

“Walk out?” Gunn yelled in shock. “You walked into evil white people Mecca and burned it to the ground.” The young man smiled at the witches. “Girl with that kind of street cred you can more than get away with keeping details to yourself.”

“Will, the way I hear it all the people who died were as bad, or worse than the vamps we dust left and right back home.” Xander added. “Yeah a bunch of them were human but they each made a choice at one point or another. They chose evil. Probably more than once. If you hadn’t ended them today half of them would have been eaten by their demon or human bosses.”

“And the demons who died would have all been as bad as that army of scourge demons you lot dealt with.” Doyle mentioned. “The world’s a better place without all that evil runnin’ amok.”

As all these justifications came out Willow and Buffy never took their eyes off each other. Willow knew it wasn’t any of the boys that she had to win over. “Guys why don’t all of you head down to the vault and wait for us? The Slayers and witches need to have a chat.”

Confused looks crossed many faces as Gunn, Angel, Giles, Xander and Doyle began to funnel the members of Gunn’s crew out the doors. Only a few of them had any idea why there was so much tension in room. Some of them had taken a liking to Doyle and were starting to come around to Angel but all of them saw the situation in terms of humans verses demons. Any humans that died sided with demons against humanity. They weren’t worth worrying over.

As the doors closed and the four women were left alone the witches readied themselves for a fight they didn’t want. “Buffy please talk to me.” Willow pleaded.

“What is there to talk about Will?” The Slayer said in a cold, detached voice. “My best friend just admitted to killing millions. Why would that bother me?”

“You don’t think this bothers me?” Willow shot back. “You think I wanted to be a killer when I started down this path? Do you have any idea how much it hurts when you look at me like I’m just another monster you need to slay?”

“Then why go through with this?” Buffy demanded. “If you didn’t care about this law firm why kill all those people to take it?”

“If I could have done this without causing so much bloodshed I would have.” Willow rebutted. “Do you honestly think Tara is okay with all these deaths? If there was any other way to break the senior partners’ hold on this world we would have done it, but there isn’t. We looked. The people who died were tied to those demons on a level that meant they could no longer survive without their power and presence. I blocked that presence when I severed their dimension. The deaths today are on my soul not yours and that’s the way it has to be.”

“I’m the slayer Willow.” Buffy countered while raising her voice for the first time. “I slay the demons so you don’t have to put yourself through crap like this.”

Willow almost laughed in her friends face. “And if you could have won in a fight with these demons I would have opened a portal to their dimension myself.” A smile crossed her face. “But you have a shitty track record with fighting deposed gods in this dimension and an even worse one with fighting fully powered ones in places where they control the physics.”

That statement stopped the Slayer’s train of thought. “What gods?”

Tara couldn’t stand watching her love and her friend tear each other apart. “You’re a hero like the world has never seen before Buffy. You st-stop the apocalypse s-so many times. You even face a minor hell god but th-that battle takes so much from you.”

“We’re going to take a small number of those fights off your hands.” Willow said. “But of the dozens of times you save the world only a handful can be stopped by anyone but you.”

“Willow what do you mean?” The Slayer asked dumbfounded. “You and Tara are so much more powerful than me. How can you not handle any of the things I’m forced to fight?”

“They mean you’re the hero of the story Buffy.” Alonna proclaimed boldly. “I’ve only known you a few days and I can already tell you’re more than just a Slayer or some girl with superpowers. You’re the champion who will stop at nothing to save the world.”

“I’m not a hero Buffy.” Willow admitted. “I never have been. Not in all the lives I lived. Tara was a few times, but not me.” The hacker couldn’t take her eyes off the floor. “I try to do the right things. I fight the good fight. I risk my life time and time again to save lives. Especially if it’s Tara’s life on the line. But I’m not the hero of my life’s story. That’s always been you. You are going to save the whole world over two dozen times, and trust me when I say you have to be the one to save it. Tara and I have tried to take some of them off your plate and it only works for a handful of threats.”

As this babble continued to weigh down the redhead Tara wrapped her arms around the woman she loved. “You were always my hero sweetie.” She whispered into the lithe girl’s ear.

“Thanks baby.” Willow replied with a smirk. It soon faded as she looked up into the hazel eyes of the Slayer. “Buffy, I can’t claim to be a good person. Not after all the mistakes I’ve made. But please don’t ever question the fact that I’m on your side.”

“That doesn’t make any sense.” Buffy said. “You slaughtered entire armies today with one spell.”

“That one spell didn’t kill them Buffy.” Tara replied with a serious look in her eyes. “We don’t cast spells that kill mortals outright. It goes against every tenet of the Goddess.”

“The spell severed one dimension from the multiverse.” The hacker explained. “The deaths were backlash caused by the previous actions of the demons which lived in that dimension. We could cast that spell a hundred times and it would never have the same death toll as it did today.”

The Slayer thought about this for a moment before looking at her friends with a warning glare. “That’s a very fine line you didn’t cross.”

Willow matched her friend’s piercing gaze. “Yes it is.”

“Is that why you guys were good to go right after casting it but were completely wiped when you unlocked me?” Alonna asked as she was genuinely curious about the different after effects she had witnessed so far. “Today seemed like it was a walk in the park for you as far as spell casting went.”

“Yeah that’s right.” Buffy added. “You guys almost passed out when you killed the tesla ark piranha demon and you did pass out after making Alonna a Slayer. What gives?”

It took Willow a full minute to realize her friend meant to say Thesulac Paranoia demon. “We could take an hour explaining different schools of magic to you guys but it’s just as simple to say the different ways to use magic have different costs and we can’t use some of the easier methods.”

“To kill the demon in the hotel required a magic lightning bolt or rewiring all the buildings power.” Tara said. “You could do what we did with no physical cost to the magic user but it would have been weaker and used dark magic.”

“I’m never using dark magic again Buffy.” Willow said quickly. “It cost me everything that was good in my life.”

Both Slayers took in the grave tone in the slim girl’s voice. “So you used light magic?” Buffy asked.

“Yes.” Tara said. “Light magic isn’t meant to cause things like lightning though so we also invoked several divine powers to aid us. It takes a lot more preparation and work but the spells are stronger and they don’t warp the user.”

“Unlocking a potential is another issue.” Willow said. “The spell you saw us use on Alonna is something we developed over the course of several past lives because the simpler method of activating potentials requires hard to find tools and tends to bite us in the ass after a while.”

“So we made a simpler spell that only affects one potential and doesn’t need a magic doomsday device to power it.” Tara informed the Slayers. “But the safety and easy to find components meant we have to call on just about every god and focus everything we have on the ritual.”

“So those spells were really hard compared to what you did today?” Buffy asked as comprehension started too bloom.

“Tremendously.” Willow said. “The main reason we took out the hotel demon that way was to awe Alonna’s men folk.”

“I knew it.” The ebony girl yelled. “Well you awed a few of them a little too well.”

“Yeah seems so.” Tara smirked.

“We needed you guys to see a display of overwhelming power to get an idea of what’s out there.” Willow said testily. “The spell we cast today however was a dimensional breaching slash sealing spell.”

“Are those always easier to cast?” Buffy asked.

“Never.” Both witches replied in unison.

Tara was a bit reluctant to reply further. “They are one of the hardest forms of magic to master.”

“That school takes years of practice and dedication to gain even the slightest amount of accuracy or reliability in the most basic spells.” Willow added. “Dimensional magic is impossible for anyone who isn’t incredibly powerful and an unreliable mess for anyone who isn’t a specialist.”

“But you guys licked it?” Buffy asked feeling she already knew the answer.

“We kinda had to for this reincarnation thing we have going to work.” Willow answered shyly. “The first spell I cast to find Tara took years of study towards the end of my first life to accomplish. I had to take every scrap of power I had earned over my entire life to get it to work and it was still just barely enough to get by. But I found her.” The redhead looked into the blonde’s eyes and felt the overwhelming love pouring into her through their connection. “It took us decades after that but we reworked the spell to bind us together for every life cycle to come. That level of study in dimensional magicks has given us an edge in the field that no one else can claim. Had any other spell caster tried to do what we did today the ritual to sever the demon dimension would have taken a weeks worth of chanting while sitting inside an open portal to their realm. It would have been impossible for you guys to protect us during that.”

“So how many apocalypses did we stop today?” Buffy asked her friends with a smile.

“None.” The witches replied in unison again.”

“What?” Buffy shouted in complete bewilderment.

“Wolfram & Hart were dummies when it came to their plans for the apocalypse.” Willow said. “They found a prophecy for one and were backing it as a long term project, but eventually would have found out it had no place for them in it so they would have abandoned the whole thing and this dimension at some point. In the years it would have taken them to figure it out countless people would have died horribly. We just expedited that but we have yet to actually stop the apocalypse. With them out of the way the lives of all our friends become dramatically simpler.”

“So this was what?” Buffy asked incredulously. “Just one part of some master plan you’re not telling me yet?”

“This was us removing the biggest threat in LA that Angel and Alonna would have had to face on a daily basis.” Willow answered. “This was us removing evil from the world and saving countless lives in the process.”

“Okay.” Buffy relented. “That actually sounds important.”

“It also put us on the map in this dimension.” Willow said. “When we contact the watchers council they will have to listen to us when we tell them no more Cruciamentums.”

“What’s that?” Alonna asked, curious as to why they didn’t want the council to send her a version of Giles of her very own.

“If a Slayer lives past her eighteenth birthday they lock her in an abandoned building with no weapons and a deranged vampire.” Willow said coldly. “Oh and they order the girl’s watcher to drug her so that she is too weak to fight back.”

“Fuck that!” Alonna said with all the warmth of a snake ready to strike. “I’ll take Buffy’s vampire as my watcher before I let them pull that shit on me.”

“That was one of the options we considered.” Tara replied with a grin.

“The watcher we have in mind for you can be a good man once the world knocks him on his ass a bit and he unlearns all the bad habits the council drilled into him.” Willow assured. “Tara and I just have to show up at their office with a set list of demands and a big enough show of force.” The girl grinned. “And having our names stamped on what is left of the most powerful and evil organization on the planet is one of the biggest shows of force we could muster.”

“So you’ve met him before?” Buffy asked.

“He was sent to Sunnydale after they fired Giles but ended up in LA working for Angel soon after anyway.” Willow informed the Slayers. “We’re just skipping a few steps.”

“Wait!” Buffy knew she had just heard something that the witches might not have meant to let slip. “You mean Angel was going to end up in LA anyway? Then why the big show of getting him here now?”

“So you wouldn’t be forced to fight and kill Angelus.” Tara admitted to the petite blonde. “Keeping him in Sunnydale for another year and a h-half would cause so many problems for so many people that we c-couldn’t take that chance.”

“If he’s here taking marching orders from the powers that be and helping keep Alonna and Gunn’s team safe then he doesn’t go on a killing spree.” Willow confirmed.

A smile spread across the face of the newest Slayer. “So he’s not babysitting us. I’m babysitting him?” She asked the witches who changed her life so thoroughly.

“Exactly!” Willow responded with cheer. “Alonna, having superpowers will only get you so far. What separates great Slayers from the ones who don’t last a week is critical thinking skills like that.” The redhead smiled brightly. “Something that the Council simply doesn’t understand.”

“Some Slayers don’t last a week?” That bit of information rattled Alonna more than just about anything else she had seen.

“Roughly half of all Slayers die within two weeks of first being called.” Willow said dryly.

“And you’re only telling me this now why?” Alonna fired back.

“Sweetie it’s okay.” Tara soothed. “Those girls didn’t have h-half the life experience you do. Y-you already know the rules and dangers. You already live with the threat of vampires hanging over you every day of your life.”

“Relax Alonna.” Willow admonished. “You’re not one of those girls who’ll only last a week. You and Buffy will be slaying for decades if we have anything to say about it.”

Being told that the witches were focused on their survivability did more to reassure the Slayers than just about anything they had heard thus far. It lifted their spirits in a way neither girl had ever before felt. Both girls shared a look before turning to the witches with smiles.

“Okay Will and Tara, you’ve convinced us.” Buffy admitted. “We should probably join the boys down in the vault. They can’t be too happy you kicked them out of your new office.”

Alonna smirked. “Boys are so fragile.”

Willow’s eyes suddenly widened. “Oh Goddess, I kicked them out without even thinking about it didn’t I?” The redhead was suddenly panicking over her own casual disregard for her friends. “I’m already one of those horrible office space dictators everyone hates.”

A slight giggle interrupted the babble. “Sweetie It’s okay.” Tara assured her love. “You are the kindest boss any of our friends have ever known.”

The redhead looked up into the blue eyes that always calmed her soul. “I’m not a monster?”

“Never.” Tara declared.

“But you will come off as rude if you guys start making out again and keep the boys waiting.” Buffy chimed in.

“Watch it Slayer.” Willow shot back with a grin.

“Let’s head downstairs sweetie.” Tara said. “We still have stuff to do today.”

“Right, how could I forget?” Willow chastised herself. “So much to get through today.”

As the witches and Slayers left the office and made their way towards the vault level of the building a thought occurred to Buffy. “So what’s the what with this vault?”

“It’s big and holds artifacts the law firm has been hoarding forever.” Willow replied. “Plus it now has lots of stuff taken from all the baddies we wiped out today.”

The elevator carrying the four women came to a halt and opened to reveal a large room that held all the men who had been following their orders of late, plus the two lawyers that had been inducted into the organization. On the far side of the chamber was a gate made of heavy metal bars and equipped with multiple security sensors.

Willow and Tara strode across the room with confidence. Nearing the door garnered surprising results. Apparently being the senior partners caused the buildings security systems to acknowledge their presence. Without even lifting a finger or speaking a word the gate sealing the vault slid open and a computerized voice from the speakers greeted them fondly.

“Welcome to the LA branch vault Ms. Rosenberg and Ms. Maclay. Please enjoy your visit.” Proclaimed the electronic doorman.

“Nifty.” Willow said.

As the group filed into the vault they took in many wondrous sights. Just inside the first room was a wide table containing multiple stacks of books with no identifying marks on the covers or binding. A marble wall to the side held displays filled with weapons from many various cultures. At the base of this wall was a small wooden pedestal with an ornate bronze scroll case. On the other side of the stone chamber was the opening of a long hallway leading downwards. Along the back wall was a series of wall mounted lock boxes and sealed cabinets.

Willow smiled to her friends and acquaintances. “Okay, everyone gets to pick out one thing. Consider it a bonus for following us this far or a promotion gift for those just joining us. The hall down there leads to a Scrooge McDuck style treasure hoard. The stuff in here probably isn’t cursed but if you feel compelled to pick something up ask before you touch it. Locked in those cases along the back wall are magic artifacts of tremendous power. Best to leave them alone for now.”

The vast majority of the demon hunting crew quickly made their way down the hall to pick through the shinnies. “Be sure to pick something nice out for the people who stayed back at the hotel.” Tara called.

As the chamber cleared all that remained were the Scoobies, the Gunns, the two lawyers, the vampire and the half demon. As the growing inner circle of Willow and Tara’s personal cabal looked around at the artifacts they all noticed Angel walk right up to the small cylinder and stare at it almost longingly.

“Go ahead and take it Angel.” The hacker said with a smile.

“It feels like it’s calling to me.” The vampire said without taking his eyes off the metal tube.

“It’s the Scrolls of Aberjian.” Tara informed the group.

Giles gasped. “Those prophecies were thought lost for centuries. They were written over the course of four thousand years in dozens of different languages.” The librarian said.

“Are they the prophecy you mentioned?” The vampire asked the red haired witch.

“Yes.” Willow replied. “They foretell of the vampire with a soul who will play a pivotal roll in the apocalypse.”

The room fell silent as Angel reached out and claimed the scroll case. As he held the precious artifact in his hands a smile came to the vampire’s face.

Willow and Tara looked towards each other and then over to the large stacks of books on the center table the Englishman had been eyeing. “Giles this will interest you most.” Willow stated. “These are called source books.”

The Englishman walked over to the table and picked one up. Looking it over carefully the man opened it slowly. “It’s blank.” He said with mild shock.

“Say the name of any text and a language you want to read it in.” Willow told her mentor.

Giles took a moment to think before he spoke. “Tiberius Manifesto in the language of origin.” The watcher felt something strange. He then opened the book once more to find the pages filled with writings so ancient even he had trouble deciphering them. “How is this possible? This text was lost centuries ago.”

“Any book, scroll or text that has ever been in the firm’s possession can be called up using those source books.” Willow told the Brit. “I’m thinking we take six of the spare copies back to Sunnydale for research parties. Angel and Doyle should grab a few for the hotel as well.”

“Keep them locked up when not in use.” Buffy warned Alonna. “In the wrong hands all that knowledge can really screw us.”

“Yes quite.” Giles said as his lecture voice returned. “I can’t tell you how many times a vampire has broken into my library to steal one of the more dangerous texts.”

As the group’s attention drifted towards racks of weapons and shelves bearing iconic and ancient statues and totems from various cultures each person drifted towards a different object adorning the marble walls of the vault. None of them could say why those particular objects seemed to reach out to them. All they knew was that the artifacts felt right in their hands.

Perhaps not surprisingly the Slayers found themselves holding weapons whose design mirrored the young women holding them. Buffy held a longsword. The double edged blade, though clean and shiny as the day it was forged, appeared to have come directly from the middle ages. The Hilt fit comfortably in her hands. The pommel formed a thick round disc with a pentacle engraved on either side. The blade was long and straight. Possibly the most interesting feature was a large translucent multicolored stone mounted in the thick cross shaped guard. The shoulder and tang of the blade curved around the stone rather than piercing its core.

Upon noticing the odd feature of the sword Xander couldn’t resist the reference that danced on the tip of his tongue. “Hey look guys! Buffy found the Sword of Omens! Now all we need is some cat suits and we’re in business.”

“Careful Xand.” Willow cautioned. “If we started mapping out people in this room to those characters I’m pretty sure you’d end up Snarf.”

“And here I was hoping for Panthro.” He said wistfully.

“Nope.” Willow replied. “Gunn gets Panthro, Alonna gets either Willa or Pumyra, Tara is Cheetara and I’m Tigra.” A moment passed before she grinned. “Doyle and Angel get to choose between Lynx-O and Bengali. Lindsey and Lilah can be Kit and Kat.”

“What about Giles and me?” Buffy chimed in only half getting the reference.

“You’d be the main character Lion-O and he’d be your mentor Jaga.” Lilah said.

Lindsey was lost. “How do you know that reference?”

“Had an older brother growing up.” She replied.

Alonna had shown a similar pull towards the weapons lining the room. The object she held aloft however was an elegant and slightly curved Dao broadsword. The young woman tested the weapon’s balance, gracefully twirling the blade in arcs and swirls around her body.

Pulling his eyes away from the graceful movements of the newest Slayer Xander took notice that his hands had picked up an old pair of archaic spectacles. As he turned them over and over the young man was stunned to see them change in his grasp. The ancient looking eyewear began to shift as its form took on a much more modern appearance. What had once been outdated brass wires holding two scratched but clear glass disks was replaced by sleek black metal frames encircling tinted purple lenses.

Gunn likewise found himself holding an object he had no clue as to the significance of. His hands found their way to the long wooden stand supporting an antique globe that looked like it could freely spin in any direction. As the young man turned the sphere in its freely moving cradle he was surprised to see small lights appear and disappear across its surface.

Doyle had a good laugh at that. “Careful lad. You never know when a game of where’s Waldo might turn sour on ye.” As he looked to his own hand he found a simple yet elegant silver Ankh suspended from a light chain. He pulled the chain over his head and let the amulet fall to his sternum. As it came to rest a sense of clarity soothed the Irishman.

Lilah was watching all this quietly before coming to the realization that a beautiful charm bracelet was already wrapped around her wrist. Looking at each bauble adorning the band brought feelings of ease and safety to her mind.

Lindsey was similarly unaware of the claim his hands made as he turned to see a positively ancient jar with a thick stopper plugging the hole in the top in one palm and a delicate paint brush used for fine line work in the other. Though having never tried to cultivate artistic talents he did have an old sketchbook in his office he kept for sentimental reasons. Strangely enough a few odd symbols began to traipse through his mind.

Upon seeing that just about everyone had made their choice, or had it made for them, Tara and Willow walked calmly over to a cluster of blades adorning one wall. Tara picked up a pair of short, sturdy looking butterfly swords. The wide flat blades, curved back at the tip, sprang from a hilt protected by a full half circle finger guard. The length of guard on the back side of the swords curved up and away in the distinctive style that characterized the weapons. The two weapons made a striking impression to the group as Tara put them through their paces.

Willow also chose a sword. What was surprising was the fact that she picked up a short yet truly ancient looking weapon with a wickedly curved edge. So great were the curves half way up the length of the blade that it almost formed a question mark in her hand. “Do you think she’ll like the khopesh baby?” The redhead asked Tara in a thoughtful tone.

“Hmm, hard to say.” Tara replied. “I think so sweetie. Once we “train” her I think she’ll love it.”

“I agree.” Willow confirmed. “Great choice with the butterfly swords by the way. They just scream her.” The redhead beamed at her love.

“I know, right?” Tara smiled back. “She’s just so easy to shop for.”

A thought struck Buffy. “Are those for other Slayers you guys are gonna make?” She asked wide eyed.

“Yes and no.” Was all Willow was going to say.

As the Scoobies pondered that answer the rank and file of the LA crew started to make their way back towards the vault entrance. Each of them carried one or two objects of immeasurable worth. All together there was one piece of treasure for each teen currently living in the Hyperion Hotel. Some were ornate statues fit for a millionaire’s mantel. Other bits of loot were ostentatious articles of jewel encrusted finery. Necklaces, bracelets and the like.

As Willow and Tara looked the group over approvingly they decided their business for the day was concluded. Tara placed the dual blades she had claimed in their accompanying sheaths. Both Slayer followed suit. Willow’s khopesh, not being shaped in any way conducive to allow being drawn from a sheath, came instead with a simple clasp she placed on her belt. Everyone else stowed their prizes and helped Giles carry the spare source books out of the vault.

As the group exited the vaults the lawyers broke off to continue putting the new company wide directives in place. They would be busy for quite some time. The Scoobies and Hyperion crew made their way to the main lobby. As they passed another elevator a thought occurred to Willow.

“Angel, Doyle.” The hacker called to two of the three members of the group she knew had driver’s licenses. “This elevator leads to the executive motor pool. Each of them has Necro-tempered glass. How about you guys go down and pick out two of the prettier sports cars to take back to the hotel. Giles can drive just about everyone back in the bus.”

Doyle pepped up at the thought of sports cars. “Sure thing boss.”

Angel tried to hold back a smile but couldn’t. “You know just how to treat a guy Willow.”

The two men made their way down to the garage and left mildly jealous looks on Gunn and a few of his teammates. Tara noticed this and decided to reassure them. “Once you guys get the G.E.D.’s out of the way and everyone has a license we’ll buy a bunch of cars and set up a matching motor pool in the Hotel’s underground parking structure.”

“A couple of you guys may want to get degrees in auto mechanics just to keep running it in house.” Willow added.

Gunn was beside himself. “Fair ‘nuff red.” He said with a wide grin.

The witches and Slayers shared a look. “Boys.” Buffy and Alonna said in unison.

The group continued towards the buildings main entrance. Upon their arrival at the lobby they were greeted by the firm’s security personnel. Whatever magic or systems were in place to make the buildings systems recognize the witches as the new senior partners had also apparently gotten word to the men guarding the lobby. Each man who had only hours earlier tried to stop the Slayers and witches from entering the elevator and several men who had been in far removed parts of the building turned towards the witches and bowed. The string of “Good afternoon Ms. Rosenberg and Ms. Maclay.” that each man repeated did wonders to show the few remaining lawyers hanging around the lobby who was in charge and who had the power. No one questioned them as the large group of teens and the older librarian followed the honey blonde and redhead out the doors.

As the sign in front of the building came into view Willow began to laugh lightly to herself. Tara noticed this and raised one eyebrow in a questioning fashion. “Sweetie?”

“Oh sorry.” Willow replied having been caught daydreaming. “I was just thinking that if we decide to hyphenate the sign would say Law offices of Rosenberg-Maclay & Rosenberg-Maclay.” A light smile spread across her face as Tara began to laugh with her at the sentiment.

“I love you sweetie.” Tara beamed.

They made their way down the steps and a man with a briefcase stepped towards the witches. “Ms. Rosenberg, Ms.Maclay here are the items you requested. The town car is right this way.”

“Will?” Xander asked. “What town car?”

“Oh, everyone don’t worry.” Willow replied. “Tara and I just need to make one stop and cast a spell before the day is over. We’ll meet everyone back at the Hyperion for dinner. This won’t take a minute.”

“Sure you don’t need backup Willow?” Buffy cautioned.

“Yep.” The hacker replied with a smile. “This threat isn’t even setup yet. One spell and we cross his whole operation off the list.”

“Okay see you guys later.” The Slayer replied as the rest of the group continued down the corner towards where they had left the bus.

“You sure sweetie?” Tara asked.

“No, but Once we deal with him we save countless lives.” Willow answered. “It’s simple enough. We’ve already cast that spell once today.”

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

In a demon dimension laid out like a steel mill a mass of demons were beginning to put their plans for their demon war into place. The leader stepped forth to address the hideous masses.

“Minions!” He called out. “Once we open the portal I Shall step through disguised as a mortal. I shall then gather the wayward and lost of the mortal realm to be our slaves.”

Cheers rang throughout the factories of the small dimension. As the leader donned his false face the portal workers began a chant. The demonic spell work built to a crescendo and the entire horde reveled in the knowledge that soon they would have the slave force needed to wage their war.

As the finale of the spellwork began a blinding light enveloped the casters and the leader. Two feminine voices could be heard by all residents of the dimension. They spoke only two words before all the magic drained from the demonic mages and a quiet suffused the small realm.

“Be Sealed!”

The demon leader looked up and could not believe his plans had been brought down before they even began. As he turned to face his followers’ angry glares he realized he was in trouble.

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

In an abandoned building in one of Los Angeles’s many poorer neighborhoods a blonde and a redhead walked towards the town car and driver they had told to wait for them.

“Goodbye Ken.” Willow declared.

“We should head back sweetie.” Tara said with a light laugh at her love’s parting words to the demon they wouldn’t see again this life. “Tomorrow is a big day.”

“I know baby.” Willow replied with a devilish grin. “I can’t wait.”

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Time and Time Again


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 Post subject: Re: Time and Time Again
PostPosted: Fri Aug 15, 2014 10:56 am 
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8. Vixen
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Dibs-y goodness for me!!!

Talk about action packed!!! :bounce :bounce

The level of attention to detail for a story that has so many threads going on really is an art form when it's done well, and you're doing it well.

Can't wait for the next installment. :flower

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Last edited by vampyregurl73 on Fri Aug 15, 2014 7:30 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Time and Time Again
PostPosted: Fri Aug 15, 2014 2:37 pm 
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You know, in a fic where Willow and Tara are being reincarnated in different dimensions including ones where they are superheroes or villains, having the girls literally take out all of Wolfram & Hart really didn't strike me as jumping the shark. This whole fic came out with loud blaring trumpets and neon multimedia billboards announcing, "Citanul's Wild Ride! Must be this high to enter! If you have preconceived notions and are fans of only a narrow form of fan fic than beware of entering! This fiction will jump tanks of sharks, stretch your mind, and introduce you to wonderous and different worlds like you may have never seen so keep your arms and legs inside the car and please hold on for your safety. Enjoy Citanul's Wild Ride!"

With all that being said I think the biggest difficulty I am having is the girl's reaction to killing millions. Yes they are interdimensional souls at this point with many lifetimes of memories and yes in the words of Arnold S. character in True Lies, "they were all bad," however, they just killed millions of people. Bad, soulless, evil people but people nonetheless. So for me I was expecting a little more angst around that decision or possibly a little more reflective angst around that choice at some point. This is by no means a deal breaker or anything but rather something that crossed my mind as I read the destruction and aftermath.

To the rest of the story I love the image of Angel standing in front of the window feeling the sun for the first time in so very long. He'll have to be careful he doesn't enjoy too much (Gypsy curse and happiness do not mix) but it was a really nice image to see him happy for a moment in such a simple, taken-for-granted pleasure. The rest of the story was interesting as always. I look forward to see where you are going with the vague hinting references to the her who will like the items the girls chose from the vault. The mention Willow makes of her parents having no clue she owns companies and so much money sets up the potential for an interesting confrontation/conversation. "Mom, Dad, This is Tara my girlfriend from the past 1000+ lives. I can definitively say this is not a phase. Oh and by the way, I'm emancipated now, own a couple of companies, and have set up a trust fund to take care of both of you...."

As always, a pleasure.

-H.

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Sometimes it feels like we are running headlong through the woods on a dark cloudy night from monsters we can't see towards a destination we don't know.


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 Post subject: Re: Time and Time Again
PostPosted: Mon Aug 18, 2014 12:22 am 
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9. Gay Now
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Holy crap!

What are you going to do for an encore?

I mean wow, yeah, burn it all down!

But what next for this group of scoobies?

Well whatever it is, I look forward to seeing it.

Right, going inside now. I only get internet access outside on the deck, and it's cold and dark.
(i'm in the middle of BF nowhere.)
Brr.

Anyway, Bravo!

Roll on the forces of light! :bounce

R :flower

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 Post subject: Re: Time and Time Again
PostPosted: Wed Aug 20, 2014 1:16 am 
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Vampyregurl73 thanks again for the support. One of the fun little mental exercises involved in this has been counting off the number of threats Angel dealt with that probably lived in LA before Buffy moved out. That and watching old episodes and coming across scenes with rooms full of multiple named bad guys in need of picking off.

Loislane1 thank you for the feedback and I suppose it is a fairly wild ride as far as genre conventions go. In the spirit of full disclosure I must admit the level of angst in this last chapter was something I wrestled with. The reactions to what the girls did are polarizing and fairly different among the various people in the office scene.

Of course the evil lawyers aren't crying over the fact they survived. Giles as a member of a secret organization opposed to the law firm isn't inclined to care much at all. Gunn's followers don't see any victims. They can't look past labels like "Demon" and "Evil Rich White Guy".

Buffy has a serious problem with what's happened but her reaction is tempered by the fact she can't fully grasp the enormity of the situation. I liken her reaction to something along the lines of the man with the sword in this comic.

Somewhat similar situation that happened way back in strips number 626through 642 and the full ramifications only just became apparent to the character in red in strips 841, 842 and 843. But the point is Buffy and the guy in that comic see things from the point of view of a hammer. All problems look like nails and what their spellcasters did is something they just can't wrap that view around.

Rest assured you have yet to see Willow and Tara's full reaction. The ramifications of this last chapter are big and widespread and the angst gift that keeps on giving.

Azirahael thanks for the encouragement and my condolences on being trapped in BF nowhere. I'm sad to say I think I've spent far too much of the last few decades living 2 counties over from BF nowhere. We have slightly better Internet reception but all our physical goods have to be shipped in via badgers with frogs riding on their backs and dangling jerky from a fishing line in front of their face.

What's next is a hasty wrapping up of events in LA before the Scoobies head back to the hellmouth and face dangers they can't magic away. Plus a few more main and secondary characters need to make appearances.

Once again thank you all for reading and commenting.

_________________
Time and Time Again


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 Post subject: Re: Time and Time Again
PostPosted: Wed Aug 20, 2014 1:33 am 
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6. Sassy Eggs
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Time and Time Again.

Author: Citanul

Feedback: Be kind, rewind?

Spoilers: Just about all of them. Go watch the show.

Rating: NC-17

Pairings: W/T, B/F

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: Greetings all. We're back to the Marvel universe and all the funky name swaps and trying to guess who I'm channeling into who. Lucky for you guys there is now going to be a handy primer at the top of my Marvels and Sirens entries. As we go on to meet new characters the ones with familiar faces will be added after I give everyone a fair chance to guess who is who. Though now that I think about it not many more names are left to be added.

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Primer: Marvels

Willow = Wanda Maximoff = Scarlet Witch

Tara = Carol Danvers = Ms. Marvel

Buffy = Jennifer Walters = She-Hulk

Xander = Pietro Maximoff = Quicksilver

Anya = Jessica Drew = Spider-Woman

Spoilers = Spoilers = Spoilers Spoilers

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Marvels: Team Dynamics

Pepper Potts strolled out of the elevator and into the main living space shared by the Earth’s preeminent super hero team. It took the redheaded captain of industry a moment before the distinct sounds of laughter and faint music guided her to the main dining room just off the hall way leading to several bedrooms. As she turned the corner Pepper was surprised to see an unfamiliar face sitting with Jessica, Jennifer, Tony and Natasha. The man with short silver hair and a tight blue suit with lightning bolts emblazoned across the chest was in the middle of heartfelt laughter as she walked into the room. The man Pepper could only assume was a new recruit looked up in her direction and with a dizzying blur of motion was by her side before she could blink.

“Hi, I’m Pietro.” The silver haired blur said with a grin. “Let me guess. You’re Pepper right. The nice lady Tony needs to prove he’s serious about before some stud with a cape swoops in.”

Tony had just taken a gulp of water from his glass and proceeded to spray half of it across the table in a fine mist while he almost choked on the rest. The Three women around the table took one look across the room at Pepper then back at Tony and broke out in loud fits of laughter.

“Oh god!” Jennifer cried. “Tony the look on your face right now.”

“I know right!” Natasha laughed. “Oh, that was good Pietro.”

“Not cool Maximoff.” Tony squeezed out between gasps and coughs.

“Oh lighten up Stark.” Pietro said with a chuckle before turning to the stunned CEO. “Ms. Potts why don’t you join us for lunch? I’m sure we’ll all enjoy making your boy squirm under the pressure.”

“Yeah Pepper.” Natasha added. “It’s been so long since we had a chance to catch up.”

“Sounds wonderful.” Pepper agreed. “So Jessica how have you been since the last time we met?”

“Oh, I’ve been great.” She said while leering appreciatively at Pietro. “How is your money by the way? Did you get those stock tips I emailed you?”

“Yes I got your emails and I will remind you again that a CEO engaging in insider trading is still a felony.” Pepper sighed. “Jennifer what’s new with you? Still turning into an enormous green rage monster?” A smirk spread across Tony’s face as his girlfriend asked She-Hulk the question he always loved asking the girl’s cousin.

“Yup, I see Tony is still getting you to jump in on his bad jokes.” Jennifer replied cheerily.

“I know I shouldn’t encourage him.” The redhead replied. “But he gets so out of sorts when he pouts.”

Jennifer smiled at that. “Boys are so fragile.”

Natasha grinned at the playful back and forth between her teammates and one of the few of her teammates’ girlfriends who just clicked with the group. Pepper always knew just how to roll with it and fit in with whatever hijinks the girls on the team got into. So many women the boys dragged in had no interest in anything other than nailing a guy with super strength. To be honest the Russian woman was beginning to see the appeal. If the glow Wanda sported the few times she slipped out of Carol’s room since moving into the tower were any indication then super strength enhanced sex was an experience well worth the effort. Then again she knew better than to compare a few one night stands and whatever Thor was doing with that physicist to the love that everyone felt pouring off of the blonde and the redhead whenever they were in arms reach of each other.

“So Pepper, what’s the what?” Jennifer asked as she quirked her head to the side.

“Just stopped by to make sure this one didn’t get my company into anymore trouble.” Pepper replied cheerily while gesturing at Tony. “What’s this about new tech I need to look at honey?” She asked the dark haired inventor.

“Oh you are gonna love this.” Tony beamed. “It took me the better part of a week to parse through all of her upgrades but what I’ve found is amazing. Pietro’s sister is a genius programmer.”

Hearing Tony praise someone else’s programming skills was a truly rare experience. Anyone, male or female, who could get this kind of reaction out of the blatant narcissist was more than worth a look.

“I don’t think I’ve ever heard you talk about another person’s skills that way.” Pepper said after a pause. “So Pietro what is your sister like?”

“Oh I wouldn’t want to ruin the surprise.” The speedster smirked. “You should be able to see her the next time they come up for air. Any minute now.”

“Air?” Pepper asked as she heard the faint sounds of music stop. A Door just down the hall opened up just wide enough to allow a curvy blonde in a tight tank top and boxers to slip out. She closed the door quickly behind her and hastily skipped towards the kitchen.

“Hi guys.” Carol beamed as she passed the table and sauntered over to the fridge. She took out a tray and piled it high with fruits, sandwich meats, bread, a few jars of dips and spreads, a pack of Gatorade bottles and a sizeable bunch of bananas. Carol quickly made her way back to her bedroom issuing a cheery “Bye guys.” as she passed the stunned audience at the table and slipped down the hall and into the room. The door shut closed and the faint sounds of music started up again.

“Hmm.” Natasha said with a light smile. “I never thought Carol was a Marvin Gaye fan.”

“Oh yeah, big time.” Jennifer replied as the smooth beats of “Let’s Get It On” wafted down the hallway.

Pepper was stunned. “Carol’s back?” She couldn’t believe it. “Why didn’t anyone tell me Carol was back?” The distraught redhead looked around the table before glaring at her partner and former employer. “Why didn’t you tell me Carol was back?” She cried while slapping Tony on the arm.

“To be fair that is the longest we have seen her in days.” Pietro said with a grin as he watched the couple squabble in the most adorable fashion.

“What was that just now? Why did she run back to her room?” Pepper was still in a state of shock.

Tony smirked before the look Pepper gave him made the brief glimmer of glee flee in terror. He coughed once then timidly spoke. “It looked an awful lot like carbo-loading to me.”

Jessica chose that moment to chime in. “Yeah her new gal pal is keeping her real busy.”

“Carol met someone?” Pepper shouted. “Tony we agreed when I took over your company so you could tilt windmills that you’d keep me in the loop about our friends.” She was clearly hurt by being left out of the news and any welcome back party for Carol that she would have gladly set meaningless work schedules aside to attend.

“Sweetie I know but it’s okay.” Tony tried to reassure his girlfriend. “The day Carol came back we responded to a call before any proper welcome could be set up. On that mission we met Pietro and his sister and well.” The man trailed off.

“And they hit it off.” Pietro finished for the struggling billionaire.

“Really hit it off.” Natasha added with a smirk.

“So well we haven’t wanted to set up a party just yet since we don’t know if they’ll ever leave that room long enough to show.” Jennifer finished.

“So Carol came back and immediately fell for Pietro’s sister?” Pepper asked with a distracted look.

“Seems that way.” Pietro said with a forlorn look at the bottom of his glass. “Apparently it’s one of those “love at first sight” deals. The term soulmates was thrown around quite a lot during the explanation. I’d say either my sister or Carol put a spell on each other but I have never known Wanda’s game to be anywhere near this good.”

Pepper took in the white haired man’s words for a moment. “So what’s you sister like Pietro?” She finally asked before smiling. “Another white haired speed runner?”

“No actually.” Natasha smirked. “She’s a whip thin redhead in skin tight red leather pants and a red corset that really shows off her girls.”

“Goes by the code name Scarlet Witch.” Jennifer added.

“I call her Wanda or sis.” Pietro finished.

Suddenly some stray gossip clicked in Pepper’s mind. “Oh god, you mean the trashy attack story the Bugle has been running the last few days is about Carol?”

“Yup.” Jessica said with mild delight. “We were gonna tell them about it once they came up for air but the last few days have only seen a few brief appearances like that one.”

“Wait!” Pepper pleaded. “Tony said Pietro’s sister is the programming genius he called me up here to meet? But she’s also Carol’s new honey and a tabloid sensation as of last week?”

“Pretty much.” Tony said with an impish grin. He knew he would be in trouble for leaving his girlfriend out in the cold on this turn of events.

Pietro leaned over and quietly whispered to Jessica. “Does Tony get himself in the doghouse this badly as often as it looks?”

Jessica snickered. “At least once every other week.”

“Though this looks like a bad one.” Natasha added with a wink.

“Pepper this surprised us all.” Jennifer said trying to soothe her friends temper. “I mean we haven’t even told the half of the team that spent the last week in Wakanda.”

“Carbo-loading?” Pepper said while fixing Tony with another glare.

Tony raised his hands in a defensive posture. “In my defense it did look like she left all her electrolytes in Pietro’s sister.”

Jessica and Natasha both let out loud peals of laughter as Pietro groaned at the terrible joke.

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

Carol slipped back into her bedroom and closed the door behind her so no one could see her beautiful naked redhead sprawled out on their bed in a nearly catatonic mixture of exhaustion and post coital bliss. Wanda barely managed to moan out the blonde’s pet name as her eyes fluttered slightly open. Carol turned on the stereo by her door then set the food down and went to her spent lover.

“I think we’ve had enough fun for now Sweetie.” Carol whispered into the redhead’s ear. “You need to eat something and then we can dress and make an appearance.” She kissed Wanda’s head near her temple. “I think Tony invited someone special for you to meet.”

“Baby… love… ooh.” Wanda wheezed out as Carol tenderly cradled the naked woman in her strong arms. “Mmmh.” She moaned as she nuzzled into the blonde’s chest.

“None of that now Sweetie.” Carol calmly chastised. “Rest my love. Once you’re ready we’ll go see the team.”

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

An hour later a casually dressed and very satisfied looking redhead and blonde slipped out of their bedroom door and made their way towards the common area Carol had breezed past earlier. They found the group from earlier had been joined by a large number of costumed personalities.

Tony and Pepper were standing to the side of the room talking with a man of African descent. Natasha had been joined by Janet and the two women were beside the main computer terminal as a man in a yellow and black suit and another man covered in blue fur went through the computer archives. A man in a pitch black cat suit with the mask pulled back to reveal handsome African features, and a tall beautiful ebony woman with snow white hair were off to the other side of the room staring at the confrontation in the center.

Jennifer was in her jolly green pinup form glaring down at a short hairy man with a dour scowl and six short swords protruding from his knuckles. Jessica had her arms wrapped around Pietro and was standing with a decidedly defensive posture between Wanda’s brother and some of the newcomers.

“Well there’s something you don’t see everyday.” Wanda said as half the heads in the room turned in her and Carol’s direction.

“They’re both here?” Cried the diminutive blade wielder. “What the hell is going on? We’re gone for one mission and you let Magneto’s spawn crawl all over the place?”

“Logan.” Said the tall white haired woman. “There is more to this turn of events than it would appear. Perhaps we should hear their side before resorting to violence.”

“Listen to the nice weather girl short stack.” She-Hulk seethed. “She has a good head on her shoulders.”

The blue furred man spoke up. “Logan you really should let them have their say. If what I’m looking at is accurate then Wanda has displayed a level of programming skill she has never shown before. From what we knew of her she was about as proficient with technology as you. These subroutines she wrote are beyond what even Stark and Pym are capable of.”

“So she’s done some trick. That just proves she’s more dangerous than we knew.” Logan sneered. “I need more reason than some fancy dos file to let them spring a trap on us.”

“Guys it really isn’t a big deal.” Wanda spoke up. “We haven’t done anything wrong. Please, I don’t want to fight over this.”

“Too bad witch.” Logan snarled. “You think you can walk in here and brainwash this team without a fight? I got your fight right here.”

Carol had heard enough. “Hey!” She yelled as she walked up and stood right in front of Logan. “You’re gonna back off. She said no and that’s it. You’re not gonna make her do something that she doesn’t want to.” The blonde paused crossing her arms over her chest. “And if you try you’re gonna have to go through me first. Understood?”

Logan brandished his claws in his usual fighting stance. “Step aside Blondie.”

“No.” Carol said softly.

Logan took one step forward and managed to raise his claws a few inches before he found himself hoisted into the air by his throat. Carol’s iron hard grip was locked on his windpipe. The angry little man’s claws brushed harmlessly against the blonde holding him two feet off the ground with one hand. No matter how hard he punched the adamantium blades couldn’t pierce her skin.

After fifteen seconds of stunned silence Carol nonchalantly asked the room a question. “How strong is his healing factor again?”

“Twelve minutes before oxygen deprivation causes permanent brain damage.” Tony said drawing even more shocked gasps from the room. “I personally wouldn’t go past another full minute.”

At the thirty second mark Steve, Thor and Clint walked in the room and came to an abrupt halt at the scene playing out. Steve was worried about the damage to both the team and the building if what he saw escalated.

“Um, Carol?” Clint asked. “What’cha doin’?”

“Logan and I are having a spirited debate about our team hiring practices and criminal reform rates.” Carol said with a casual air. “I think he’s struggling with the finer points of my rebuttal.”

At the fifty five second mark Logan’s claws retracted into his arms and Carol completely released her grasp on his throat. The short bundle of fury fell in a heap at her feet as he gasped desperately for air. Looking down at the man she gave him a slight smile before speaking.

“I want you to think about this one fact long and hard.” She spoke loud enough for the entire room to hear, especially the man with heightened senses at her feet. “The soul sucker who stole my powers and a year of my life is on your other team. I’ve known about her for weeks and I never even considered flying up to that mind walker’s school and turning it into a warzone while hunting her out of some petty need for revenge. My girlfriend and her brother deserve the same courtesy.”

With that Carol turned and walked back to Wanda who wrapped her arms around the blonde. The redhead escorted her blonde lover back to their room to change out of the shirt Logan had shredded.

Silence fell over the room. After the momentary shock wore off Logan’s coughs broke the calm. Several Avengers started moving around the room. Pietro and Jessica slowly backed away from the collapsed man. Jennifer stood vigil between him and the hall her friend had retreated down. Tony was showing Hank Pym, Hank McCoy, Pepper and Rhodey all of the system upgrades Wanda had written. Natasha was standing by Steve, Thor and Clint filling them in on what they had walked in on.

T’Challa and his wife Ororo stood by watching Logan pick himself up. As he came to his feet wheezing Logan glared at Ororo. “A little help next time Storm?”

“What would you have me do Logan?” The white haired Nubian queen asked. “Should I have struck her down with lightning while your metal bits were touching her least vulnerable spots?”

Laughter cut down the harsh rebuttal Logan was about to make. “I would love to see the look on your faces after you hit Carol with lightning.” Jennifer chuckled.

“Dear.” T’Challa said to his love. “You should know that Carol’s main power is absorbing energy directed at her and turning it into the superpowers she just displayed.”

“Yes, please don’t hit Ms. Marvel with lightning.” Steve said pleadingly as he came up to the group. “Stark seems to think if she absorbs too much power she’ll go nuclear. Getting hit with Kree energy weapons put her in a coma for a day and when she came to she was as strong and tough as Thor. Now what was the problem here?”

“I can’t believe you’re falling for this Rogers.” Logan fired back. “Magneto is always plotting crap for his race war and you letting his kids crash here is part of something that will bite all of us in the ass.”

“You didn’t see the look on his face when Wanda turned his doomsday device into a pile of squirrels.” Jennifer yelled. “She and Pietro have been nothing but wonderful the entire week they’ve been here. Whatever magnet boy is planning they aren’t a part of it.”

“And just what have they been doing to dupe you into siding with them?” Logan challenged.

“Well to be honest Pietro took like eighty percent of the jobs on the chore wheel and buzzed through them in ten minutes.” Clint said.

Logan paused at the sheer domesticity of the archer’s statement. “Well what has the witch done?”

“You mean aside from Carol?” Jessica asked with wide eyed sincerity.

Jennifer was done humoring the tiny brawler’s foul mood. “Wanda has put the smile back on my friend’s face. For the first time in over a year Carol is happy. For the first time in a year Carol is herself again. Every time I visited her during the coma it felt like she was dying slowly right in front of me. Even during her recovery it felt like she was already dead inside. And now all that’s over. Thanks to that witch I have me friend back.” As a single tear rolled down her green cheek Jennifer locked eyes with Logan and spoke with grim determination. “If Wanda being here is such a problem for you then the door is right there.”

Logan couldn’t believe what he was hearing. “Fine! I’ll let this slide for now. But the second they betray us I’m taking them down.”

As he turned and stormed off the team let the shock of the day’s confrontation sink in.

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

As the door to their bedroom closed behind them Wanda turned to Carol with tears in her eyes. “Baby I’m so sorry. I never wanted to cause you problems or drag you into fights you don’t need. I’m so, so sorry. This is all my fault.”

“Sweetie, don’t blame yourself for what anyone else does.” Carol reassured her love. “I love you. You’re my everything. No matter what anyone else thinks we belong together. Anyone who can’t handle that isn’t part of our life.”

Carol took the crying redhead in her arms and captured her lips with her own. The blonde tried to convey every ounce of the love they shared with that kiss. What started out as a desperate, needful yearning for connection quickly turned to a sensual affirmation of life, love and the boundless expanse of time they shared with one another.

No squabble among teammates could tear them apart.

Wanda pulled away for a moment to look into Carol’s eyes. As she did a stray memory surfaced. “Baby, I have an idea.”

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

The teammates that had been in Wakanda were filled in on the events that brought Pietro and Wanda into the fold. The Hanks went over the new system upgrades with Tony and Pepper. Rhodey, Clint, Thor and Pietro occupied themselves with one of the pool tables in the lounge. Jennifer, having shed her green form, sat on the bar shoulder to shoulder with Jessica and Janet watching the boys circle the table. T’Challa and Ororo convened with Steve and Natasha over the events that had come to pass.

“You’re saying Carol actually used magic in front of you only hours after meeting Wanda?” Ororo asked stunned.

“She spoke in Sumerian and made a little floaty ball of light orbit her head.” Natasha affirmed. “Granted it was nothing her regular powers can’t do, but those lights tend to end with explosions.”

Steve looked to T’Challa. “Pietro seems like a nice enough guy. He’s mostly been making himself useful around the tower and pretending he doesn’t notice Jessica staring at his ass all day long.” He paused as a grin crossed his lips. “Wanda has been keeping Carol busy.”

“Pretty much around the clock.” Natasha added.

The African king took this in. “So the oddest thing they mentioned has to do with memories recovered from past lives, and the arrival of these siblings has resulted in one of our strongest allies gaining magical powers.” T’Challa mulled that over for a moment. “My kingdom is home to many different magical traditions and schools. Many are peaceful and pose no threat to the world. Some hold great power and could bring about terrible consequences should their laws and tenets be ignored or broken.”

“Have you sought the aid of one of the local heroes with mystic ties?” Ororo asked. “Just to have a more experienced party verify their story.”

Steve looked puzzled for a moment but then a concerned look furrowed his brow. “Do you think we should call in someone like Dr. Strange?”

“Please don’t call him to the tower on our account.” Wanda said from the doorway closest to Steve’s group. “We don’t have anything to hide but if the Sorcerer Supreme gets it into his head that our brand of immortality violates his idea of the natural order then he might try to break the spell we can’t afford to loose. I really don’t want to cause anymore strife but having other casters tinker with our reincarnation cycle isn’t something we can allow.”

Everyone froze as they heard Wanda speak about a subject they had next to no understanding of. Some of the team members looked nervous. Jennifer hopped off the bar and walked over to Carol. “What exactly do you guys mean by immortal?” The short blonde inquired.

Carol and Wanda gave each other a look. “We have a spell in place that allows us to live countless lives together.” Wanda said to the entire room. “We grow up in a world. We get clues and flashes of memory that lead us to one another. We find each other and remember everything from our past lives together. We grow old together and die. Once that happens our souls move on to versions of us in a parallel dimension. We find each other, rinse, repeat.”

“You have no idea how many cults of magic users took one look at our setup and decided we offended their dogma.” Carol said in a tired tone. “These were usually nice people who wouldn’t hurt a fly. But the second we pop up they mobilize for all out war.”

“So you guys have all this experience from other worlds?” Clint asked.

“Am I rich and handsome in every world you’ve been to?” Tony smirked.

“Actually this world is something of a rare anomaly.” Wanda replied. “Some of you pop up in most of our lives. Others well, this is our first time meeting you. But in just about every dimension we go to the number of humans with superpowers can be counted on one hand. A few dozen at the most.” She let that statement sink in for a moment. “Obviously this world is an outlier.”

“Most of the time we end up as two young witches who go around fighting demons.” Carol said with a smirk.

“So you’re not really immortal then? You just have a better grasp of your reincarnation cycle than the Dalai Lama.” Pepper stated.

“That’s what I said and the cults still go out of their way to mess with us.” Wanda said with exasperated hand gestures.

As a few heads turned towards Pietro he looked around and panicked. “Well don’t look at me. This is the first I’m hearing about any of this stuff too.”

“Sorry about that Bro.” Wanda said as Carol wrapped her arms around the redhead from behind.

“Sweetie, we were gonna bring up that thing.” Carol whispered into Wanda’s ear.

“Oh right.” Wanda perked up as the blonde holding her brought the plan they had concocted based on a faint memory from a story their friend had read in another life. “Is Logan still around? There’s this mission we wanted to get to work on and we need his cooperation for the first step.”

“You guys sure he’ll cooperate after that scuffle earlier?” Rhodey asked.

“Yeah.” Jennifer added. “Not to be a downer but you thrashed him pretty good Carol.”

“Oh, he’ll want to be in on this mission.” Wanda said.

“And just why is that witch?” Logan asked from the entrance on the far side of the room.

“Because what you learn will change your life.” Carol answered.

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

The team had reconvened in the war room a level below the common area and living spaces. The massive shielded chamber had walls covered with monitors and displays relaying all manner of information. The center of the room was dominated by a massive round table with an impressive array of holographic projectors.

Everyone was present. Sam, Bruce and Bobbi were even called in for the big show the blonde and redhead promised. Logan was growing impatient. He had no idea why they wanted Beast to draw a vial of his blood. ‘This had better not be some trick.’ He thought.

Wanda and Carol had been mixing herbs in bowls for a good fifteen minutes before they signaled the start of the proceedings. Both women took their supplies and climbed up on the central table. Sitting cross legged facing each other they began low chanting. Spreading a bowl of the herbal mixture around them in a circle they took hold of each others hands and the chanting rose in volume.

“Goddess Muma, we call out to you.” They spoke in unison. “A child is lost. A family is shattered. A life hangs in the balance. Hear our plea. Grant your wisdom. Guide us to the one we seek!”

As their voices rose the table they sat upon projected a massive holographic globe. The herbs around them vanished and the bowl of Logan’s blood in the middle of the table boiled. As it emptied the steam rising from it coalesced around the globe and two bright red points of light emerged. One in Japan and one in Canada.

Looking up at the globe Wanda smiled. “We have the location we need. Nifty.”

Carol giggled at her love before turning to the assembled teammates. “This is a rescue mission.” She said with determination. “Wanda and I need to find the girl and break whatever hold they have put on her mind.”

“Who has the girl and what’s her name?” Steve asked going into his full leadership mode.

“She might not have a name.” Wanda said getting only blank stares in return. “It’s a long story.”

“The who is Hydra.” Carol said only to have her statement greeted by thunderous quiet. “The coordinates in Canada are a secret Hydra base. We need to go in and take everything they are hiding there. Information on other bases, test subjects, hostages. You name it.”

“What about this second location?” Natasha asked.

“Not a Hydra base or relevant to the girl so far as we know.” Wanda said. “The way that spell works is it showed us the locations of all possible targets that meet certain criteria. But the target we know we need to help is on this continent. The other point of light may need checking up on someday once we know more but that may not be up to us.”

“Why did you need my blood for this?” Logan demanded.

Wanda and Carol shared a look. “We can’t say just yet but you’ll find out as soon as this mission succeeds.” The redhead stated.

“Okay people. We have a mission to get done and a Hydra base to wipe out.” Steve said while taking control of the operation. “Black Panther, Wasp and Yellow Jacket are on point. Infiltrate and ID enemy targets within, locate the girl and disable base security systems. Falcon and Storm are on aerial lookout until the fighting starts. Ironman hacks their systems and jams any signals before we go in. Black Widow, Hawkeye and Mockingbird take out perimeter guards and security without raising alarms. Quicksilver mop up any off base troops in the surrounding area.”

Steve continued on to the phase that would require less stealth. “Bruce, Beast, She-Hulk, Spider-Woman and Wolverine are the ground entry team. When we light up the base go in and try to salvage as much intel as you can. If we can’t save any let the Hulk bring the base down after we clear hostages.”

“After hard entry is achieved Thor, Ironman, Storm, War Machine, Quicksilver and Falcon are containment. No one gets out. No transports leave the base.” He added.

“Stealth teams are to isolate any priorities the ground entry team can’t get to. Scarlet Witch, Ms. Marvel and myself will make initial contact with the girl. Once she is safe I and any teammates who can be spared will take out any ranking Hydra agents on site.” Captain America finished.

Ironman coughed while tilting his head in Pepper’s direction. Captain America at first didn’t understand the gesture but soon caught on. “Pepper would you like to fly the stealth quinjet during the raid?”

Before she could respond Ironman stood up. “Actually, I have something to give you. I’ve been working on it for a while now and this seems like the best chance to show it off. Jarvis, if you’d be so kind as to bring out the Mark 1616 armor.”

A large pod descended from the ceiling and a door panel slid open in front of Pepper. “Oh god Tony. I don’t know what to say.”

“Say yes Sweetie.” The eccentric billionaire whispered.

“Yes!” She cried out with a laugh.

“Great, you’re on containment team Ms. Potts.” The man bedecked in the American flag paused. “You have until we deploy in the field to come up with a code name.”

As the assignments were doled out the team put their game faces on. It was time to go to work.

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

Over a hundred miles away from the nearest sign of civilization, deep in the Canadian wilderness, lay an isolated fortress. Menacing concrete walls rose to challenge the surrounding tree line. Sentry towers with machine gun turrets guarded the perimeter. A hanger within the walls housed a dozen aerial transports designed for vertical takeoff and long range stealth flight. A bunker concealed the main entrance to the vast subterranean facility. Holographic projectors arrayed around the valley concealed the base from any prying eyes. Both on the ground and high in the sky. Hydra held some of their darkest secrets within the facility. It was protected from just about any threat the terrorist organization could conceive.

They were about to face the inconceivable.

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

Captain America was standing in the large stealth quinjet with Ms. Marvel, Scarlet Witch, and most of the aerial containment team. The Stealth teams had been deployed and had already begun their tasks. Only two guards remained on the surface. The ground infiltration team had been dropped off and moved into position.

Storm and Falcon Reported in that the hologram shroud was down. Ironman gave a thumbs up. The base communications systems were jammed. Yellow Jacket called in. Base security systems were offline and the power was cut. Pressing a button caused the bay door to the rear of the jet to open. Now was the time to move.

“Avengers Assemble!” Captain America called into the microphone.

Taking a running leap the star spangled man plunged through the air. He dove shield first towards the Hydra Base like a comet. Behind him the flyers and heavy hitters poured out of the jet. Last out was Ms. Marvel who held a grinning Scarlet Witch in her arms.

“Ready Sweetie?” The blonde soldier in the tight black costume asked.

“You bet Baby!” The corset wearing redhead called out as they plunged through the air.

All around the chaos broke out. Lightning struck the one aircraft that managed to exit the hanger before bomb blasts turned the doors and part of the hanger’s front wall into a mangled wreck of twisted metal. Arrows struck the sentry towers and were soon followed by devastating explosions. The trio of armored figures soared above the base and blasted away all the anti air weapons that only managed to emerge from hidden panels half way. A massive hole was smashed through the outer walls as She-Hulk let loose. A silver blur bobbed and weaved through the valley destroying automated machine guns and hidden sniper nests in record time.

Halfway down Captain America deployed his parachute and began a controlled glide to the bunker Wolverine and She-Hulk had already cracked open. At a height of thirty feet he cut the chute and landed shield first on a heavily armored Hydra agent trying to flee.

Ms. Marvel and Scarlet Witch landed beside him. “Ladies!” He said cheerfully with a gentlemanly bow. “Shall we?”

“But of course dear Captain.” Scarlet Witch said with a matching bow.

“You take me to the nicest places Sweetie.” Ms. Marvel said with a laugh as the trio entered the base and made directly for the lab Black Panther had set off the beacon within. He had found the primary target in surprisingly short order.

As they proceeded into the depths of the base they broke off from the path of destruction left by the ground team. The few minor Hydra foot soldiers they encountered posed no threat whatsoever. Teams started to report in that no hostages or test subjects were present. Yellow Jacket had downloaded the entirety of the facility’s database from the terminal he accessed. He and Wasp were on their way to rendezvous with the ground team in the armory and vault.

Bruce reported no live test subjects in the records he could find. What worried him were files on projects labeled X-1 through X-22. Each file was stamped with an unambiguous terminated. Beast called in saying the base had the usual list of stolen tech found in just about every Hydra base. Black Widow relayed that the base self destruct had been neutralized and they could take their time.

Black Panther had yet to call in since deploying the beacon. Captain America couldn’t help but worry at the man’s radio silence. The trio doubled their pace.

Turning a corner they came to a large, open chamber filled with various machines and devices around a control throne on a raised dais in the center. On that dais Black Panther was barely holding his own against a young woman with dark brown hair and an older woman with dark green hair.

What was most surprising were the two daggers protruding from either of the brunette’s knuckles and the matching single blade jutting from between her toes on each foot. She was dressed in bandages and hospital scrubs but still moved with a grace and savagery the Captain had never witnessed.

Ms. Marvel and Scarlet Witch however had seen it countless times. “Cap! Help Panther with the green bitch.” Scarlet Witch cried out. “The girl is the target. We’ll talk her down.”

“Got it!” Captain America replied. “Wolverine, Widow, Hawkeye and anyone else who is free converge on my location.” He called into the mic. “Madame Hydra is here. Air team; no one leaves this base.”

With those orders given the Captain dove into the fray. Ms. Marvel let out a blast of blindingly bright energy that knocked the brunette through a wall. The blonde and redhead followed.

“This is it for you Viper.” Captain America said menacingly as the tables turned on the green haired woman.

Viper managed to lunge at him with her sword. He blocked the blow which glanced off his shield. Before she could ready another strike an arrow came out of nowhere and hit the blade half way down the length. It stuck there due to a sticky goo coating the arrowhead. Captain America raised his shield and positioned himself in front of Black Panther. Viper’s eyes widened as she took a closer look at the arrow. She didn’t even have time to drop the weapon before the explosion knocked her across the chamber and against a wall.

Before she could even touch the backup sidearm Black Panther hadn’t managed to take from her the arm reaching for it was seized in pain. Looking up while screaming in pain she saw Wolverine standing over her with three of his claws punched through her shoulder.

The leader of Hydra was pinned down.

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

As Ms. Marvel and Scarlet Witch passed through the hole the young woman had made they scanned the lab for any trace of her. The horrors they saw were unspeakable. Glass cylinders atop machines around the room held horribly disfigured creatures. Each had reached a different stage of gestation before going terribly awry. Each had a designation on the case displaying the number of failed attempts prior. Each had anywhere from light tufts of brown hair to long flowing locks that covered a twisted visage. All had claws. All were dead.

“I guess these would be the failures.” Scarlet Witch whispered.

“This is horrible.” Ms. Marvel whispered in a mixture of shock and outrage. “How could they do this?”

“Our friends are beating the hell out of the monster that ordered this done Baby.” The redhead replied. “They won’t get away with it.”

Their brief conversation was interrupted by an ear piercing scream. The couple rushed towards the sound. As they came around the cluster of cylinders they saw the young brunette kneeling before the final two glass containers. The last was empty and labeled with the designation number X-23.

The girl with long brown hair and pale creamy skin was doubled over as sobs wracked her emaciated frame. Looking up they noticed the creature in the container labeled “X-22” was almost a perfect copy of the young woman. The only deformity seemed to be the masses of metallic spikes piercing her skin from the inside out. After having met her “father” they could already tell how far that clone had gotten before dying.

“She’s the first to survive the adamantium bonding.” Scarlet Witch said. “X-23.”

At the mention of her designation the young woman looked up at the two women that had followed her. She growled and lunged with her claws out and ready to kill. Ms. Marvel snatched the enraged clone out of the air and pinned her to the ground. Scarlet Witch walked around to the girl’s head and leaned down to brush her hair aside.

“Caer Ibormeith grant this lost child peace. Somnus!” The redhead intoned. The struggling brunette ceased all movement and fell into a deep sleep. “What are we gonna do Baby?”

“We’re going to help her.” Ms. Marvel said without hesitation. “I know you recognize her soul just as much as I do. We have to save her.”

“I know that.” Scarlet Witch replied. “It’s killing me to see her like this, but I have no idea how to help her. We need to rip out all the conditioning and programming they put in her head but we can’t just rewire her memories with lies.” Looking up into the blonde’s blue eyes a tear rolled down her cheek. “You know how I feel about memory spells.”

“I know, and I forgave you a long time ago Sweetie.” The blonde replied. “This is different. We need to go in and give her everything that makes a person a person.”

“The link.” Scarlet Witch said quietly.

“Our link?” Ms. Marvel asked confused. “W-we c-can’t just pull h-her into our link. It m-might kill her or us or dump our memories into h-her.”

“What? No! Baby!” The redhead babbled. “Of course not our link. I mean her link. The link that binds her soul to its doubles across the multiverse.”

“Could that work?” The blonde asked. “Wouldn’t it just dump memories of her painful childhood in all those other worlds into her mind?”

“We’ll filter it as much as we can. It’ll be risky. We can’t fill in episodic memories but we can let emotions and her strongest personality traits color and overwrite what was done to her here. Anything would be better than this. Wouldn’t it?” Scarlet Witch asked her love.

“Let’s do it.” Ms. Marvel said with conviction.

Just as they placed themselves on either side of X-23 they heard a noise. Looking up they saw Captain American, Black Panther and Wolverine staring at them in shock.

“What the hell were they doing here?” Wolverine asked while staring at the metal spike skewered creature in the container marked X-22.

“They cloned you 23 times.” The redhead whispered. “Please destroy all the files they had on Weapon X and on X-1 through X-23. I won’t blame you for killing any scientists we captured today. No good can come of this experiment being tried again.”

“What about the girl.” Captain America asked.

“We’re going to help her.” Both women said in unison.

“She’ll need all the help she can get.” Black Panther said ominously. “During our fight she responded to commands like she was a machine. Except for the times she broke down or lashed out.”

“Good.” Scarlet Witch replied. “That means her programming is incomplete. Less to tear out.”

“We need complete concentration for this to work.” Ms. Marvel added. “No interruptions.”

The three men nodded solemnly before giving the women room to work. As various teammates came into the room through the hole and stopped to gasp at the specimen containers the Captain and Panther gestured for them to stay quiet and not interrupt.

The chanting went on for a solid hour. Growing in volume the voices soon became strained as both women struggled with the delicate procedure and the energies that could destroy the young woman utterly if misused.

“Goddess hear our plea.” Both women said loudly in unison. “Walk with us through this troubled mind. Guide our hand so that this lost daughter may know peace and serenity. Make what is broken whole again. Grant her your grace to temper her strength.”

Light blossomed throughout the chamber as monstrosities burst into flames and their glass coffins shattered. Avengers around the room ducked or dove away from the horrors that burned away to nothing. Just about all of them returned to the control chamber and awaited the outcome.

As the light faded the witches looked to the girl they had tried to save. At first there was no sign of life from her. Then she let out a soft groan as mental wounds deeper than any physical pain began to heal. A few minutes passed before X-23 slowly opened her eyes to reveal deeply expressive brown pools that captivated at least one Avenger that had stayed close by.

Looking around at the handful of worried faces the brunette quirked her pouty lips for a second before asking an important question.

“Where am I?” X-23 whispered.

“S-surrounded by friends who want to help you.” Ms. Marvel said.

“Okay, not much with the specifics far as answers go.” She smirked as she slowly lifted her head and shoulders to prop herself up on her elbows. “Better question. Who am I?’

“I don’t think the bad people who put you here gave you a name.” Scarlet Witch answered.

“Great, more with the cryptic.” She paused before looking around again. “I remember a chick with green hair. Kind of a bitch.”

The blonde and redhead giggled at that assessment. “She is.”

Wolverine stepped forward. “Don’t worry about her. We kicked her ass for you.”

“Great! Looks like my day is starting to improve.” She looked around the room again and her eyes stayed on the tall green woman with wide expanses of rippling muscle throughout her body for a moment longer than they had lingered on anyone or anything else. Shaking a brief flight of fancy off the young woman continued. “That name thing is gonna bug the hell out of me though.”

Scarlet Witch gently placed a hand on the girl’s shoulder. “They gave you a number but if you don’t mind we might have a suggestion for your name.”

“Lay it on me Red.” The brunette teased.

Smiles broke out on both witch’s faces at the familiar nickname. “You are so much like this person we used to know a very long time ago. If you don’t mind you could use her name for a while. Until you come up with something better that is.”

“Well out with it guys.” X-23 replied getting a little anxious.

“Her n-name was Faith.” Ms. Marvel said quietly.

“Faith?” The brunette mulled it over for a minute. Looking around the room at the concerned faces that made a stark contrast with the destruction that had rained down on the lab equipment all around she came to a decision.

“I like it.” Faith said. “It fits me.”

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

The team went through the remains of the hydra base as thoroughly as they could. There was next to nothing left. Weapons had mostly been destroyed in the raid. No more lab subjects or ranking agents were found. Wolverine, Black Widow, Mockingbird and Hawkeye had killed the majority of the foot soldiers the base had on hand. What few remained were cuffed and bound on the surface awaiting transport. Yellow Jacket had downloaded the base files to a drive that Scarlet Witch immediately took from him.

“The experiments they conducted here can’t ever see the light of day.” She said flatly to his protestation. “I’ll give it back after I delete anything that could be used to hurt my new friend and after I make sure Arnim Zola didn’t backup his brain to the server here.”

At the mention of the old foe’s name Captain America shuddered. “Can’t let him be copied to another system if we can stop him here.”

“Right.” Ms. Marvel agreed.

“X-23 I order you to kill these intruders!” Viper cried out for what had to be the tenth time since the group had returned to the control room she was left trussed up in.

“Bitch, ain’t no one taking orders from your skank ass no more.” Faith shot back. “Now are you gonna keep quiet or do I have to put matching holes in your throat?” She threatened while brandishing the metal claws on one hand in front of Viper’s face.

“Cap we got company up here.” Ironman said over the radio.

“We’re coming up.” The Captain replied. “Setting charges now. Everyone pull out.”

Black Widow and Mockingbird smiled as they rigged the base self destruct to blow up the subterranean labs and just about everything else below the surface. The Avengers made a quick exit with their new ally and the captured enemy leader.

What awaited them on the surface was completely unexpected. A new, previously unknown helicarrier was hanging in the air over the Canadian wilderness. The Hydra agents had been carted off by Shield agents. Most shocking of all was the bald, ebony skinned man with a long black trench coat and an infamous eye patch.

“Well Cap it looks like you did my job for me.” The man said with a smile.

“Fury.” Captain America called out with cheer. “So you finally managed to rebuild some of Shield. Took you long enough.”

“Well you know what they say. Beggars and choosers and such.” Nick Fury replied. “I’ll be taking those prisoners now.”

“Only got the one high profile prisoner Nick. You’re welcome to her of course.” Captain America said as Black Widow and Hawkeye walked forward dragging Viper towards the men behind Fury.

“And the girl?” The dour director asked as the smile faded from his face.

“She’s with us.” Ms. Marvel said clearly.

“New recruit.” Said Ironman as he came in to land beside Captain America.

“You seem to be in the middle of a recruitment drive.” Fury said blandly.

As Cap mulled that sentence over War Machine and Pepper in her new armor she had dubbed Rescue came in to land behind X-23. Ms. Marvel and Scarlet Witch remained on either side of the young brunette. Thor came in to land beside Cap opposite Ironman. Lastly She-Hulk, Quicksilver and Wolverine stood side by side in front of X-23 and the witches. As the rest of the team came out of the bunker or landed around the small group they sent a very clear message to the already nervous Shield agents Fury had brought in.

“Well she is a legacy you know.” Captain America said with a wink towards Wolverine. “Her dad is such a great asset to the team that we just couldn’t wait to bring her into the fold. That won’t be a problem for you now will it?”

“No, I guess that won’t be a problem.” Fury said with sigh. “I don’t suppose you’ll be handing over the data from the base computers either.”

Cap looked over his shoulder to the redhead who nodded enthusiastically. “Swing by the tower in a few days. Our new tech expert wants to make sure the files we took aren’t hiding a super virus or a Nazi scientist’s ghost.” As Captain America said this Ironman had Jarvis bring the quinjet in for a landing and the Avengers loaded into the vehicle quickly.

“It was good seeing you Steve.” Fury said with a genuine smile.

“Likewise Nick.” Cap replied. “Now order your men to pull back. The base self destruct will go off in five minutes.”

Fury’s eye widened before he broke out laughing. “All units pull back. Full withdraw.” He said into a communicator while still chuckling. “You sure know how to make an exit old man.”

“Same to you General.” Captain America called as the back hatch of the quinjet closed and the Avengers took to the sky.

As they took to the air and left the exploding secret base far behind them Faith looked around the cabin. “Red White and Blue said my dad was on this team?” She asked.

As the question lingered in the air the team grew silent until Logan pulled back his mask and stepped up. “Sorry kid.” He said while extending the claws on the hand he held over his chest for her inspection. “For what its worth I’m your dad.”

“Neat.” Faith said with casual disregard. “You’re not gonna give me a curfew or nothin’ are ya?” She asked with a grin.

A smile spread across Logan’s face. “Maybe a little one. Nothin’ worse than the kids at the school have to deal with.”

“School huh?” She said skeptically. “Don’t know how I feel about that.”

“It’s a great place.” Blue Hank said with tentative hope. “All the students have unique gifts like you do.”

“And they learn what they need to survive in the world and make it a better place.” Ororo added with a tranquil voice.

“Sweetie.” Carol said while placing a hand on Faith’s shoulder. “At least go th-there until you learn enough to f-fill in the blanks Hydra left.”

“Okay.” The brunette said reluctantly. She didn’t know why but she trusted the blonde. “I’ll give the school thing a shot.”

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

The return trip to Stark tower went quicker than anyone thought it would. Faith was introduced to everyone and got along surprisingly well with the Avengers who had a history with Shield or black ops field work in general. Blue Hank took to filling the young woman’s head with tales of Xavier’s Institute and the less well known features.

“This danger room sounds pretty boss.” Faith said after a brief description. “At least I know this school’s got a sick gym.”

“It’s the best kid.” Logan said from the far side of the cabin loud enough for his girl to hear. Sitting across the cabin from the daughter he never even thought he could have the man was in a sate of shock for most of the trip. Steve, Tony and T’Challa took to sitting next to him.

“I have no idea what you’re going through.” Tony whispered. “I mean Pepper and I haven’t even talked about the possibility of kids and here you are, single guy, no prospects in sight that aren’t dating a guy you’re friends with and a fully grown girl in her late teens drops into your lap.”

“Tony.” Steve said flatly. “You’re terrible at this pep talk thing.”

“Yes Stark.” T’Challa added. “Perhaps you’d better return to flying the plane.”

“Okay, okay I get it.” The billionaire said as he went to join Rhodey in the cockpit.

“What am I gonna do.” Logan mumbled to himself. “I’d make a terrible parent. How am I supposed to help her find her place in the world?”

“If you haven’t noticed just yet you may want to take a closer look.” Steve told the distraught father. “Carol and Wanda have done nothing but make a place in the world for her since the moment they took that blood sample from you.”

Logan looked up at the blue eyed man in shock. He couldn’t believe the two women he had such a nasty first encounter with could have done something so profoundly kind for his daughter. Even stranger to him was the kindness they had been showing him all along.

T’Challa let a smile cross his face. “Those girls have all but forced us to accept her onto this team.” The African king said calmly. “My wife and our furry friend have likewise made it clear she has a place on that other team you share with them. For someone of her background she is certainly not lacking places in this world open to her.”

“Logan.” Steve stated. “No one is expecting you to be some kind of perfect stay at home dad who dotes on her like a mother hen. Hell that would probably end up just pissing both of you off. All you have to do is make sure she knows you are there for her no matter what. The rest is up to her.”

As the quinjet pulled into the docking bay atop Stark tower the team readied to leave. Faith sidled up along side Jennifer. “Hey Babe!” She whispered coyly. “You gonna give me the grand tour?”

The petite blonde looked at the young woman at her side and once again all but lost herself in those expressive brown eyes and pouty lips. “Sure.” She replied with a bright smile after catching her breath. “Sounds fun.”

As the Avengers disassembled Logan caught Carol and Wanda’s attention. He waited for the jet to all but empty and give them some privacy. “I owe you girls an apology.” He said quietly. “What you’ve done for that girl, my daughter, I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to repay.” He paused for a moment. “I’m sorry.”

“You’re forgiven so long as you let her swing by the tower whenever she has her schoolwork finished or a long weekend free.” Wanda said with a grin.

“Deal.” Logan said with a slight smile.

“Go easy on her Logan.” Carol added. “This family and normal life st-stuff is new to her.”

A thought suddenly came to him as he stood there with the witches. “What about the other location the spell showed you?” He asked.

“That would be your long lost son.” Wanda said timidly. “We looked him up before hand with a computer search. He’s fine for the most part. Maybe some abandonment issues, but he isn’t being held against his will or brainwashed. You may want to check up on him soon, but it wouldn’t help to have the whole team bust into his home without warning.”

Logan couldn’t believe what he was hearing. The son he thought died with his wife survived. To say he was once again shocked was an understatement. “Thank you.” The diminutive man said as he turned and walked away.

As soon as the man was out of earshot a voice from behind the witches startled them. “So Logan has a son too. Is he another hydra clone? Maybe a tiny bundle of joy his ex has been hiding for months?”

“Tony don’t eaves drop on us like that.” Wanda cried. “And just so you know Logan is something like a hundred and fifty years old. He was on Steve’s elite strike force during world war two. He’s known and lost love more times than most people could handle.”

“His son is a grown man with a chip on his shoulder by now.” Carol added.

As the shocking news hit home the billionaire found himself at a loss for words. The number of world war two veterans he knew who looked younger than him and more physically fit than he had ever been was staggering. He briefly wondered if anyone else had to face these kinds of coworker conundrums.

As the witches turned and left the cabin of the jet Rhodey came up behind his friend. “Man Tony, you just keep stepping in it don’t you?” The Air Force officer said.

“Seems that way.” Tony said with a smile. “Speaking of which I better go see how Pepper liked her new suit.”

The armored duo left the jet and went about their evening plans as had the rest of the Avengers. Few of them truly understood the changes that would come to pass due to this day’s events.

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

“And here is the living room common area thingy.” Jennifer said as she and Faith passed through the tour of the tower. “Kitchen is that way, quarters are down that hall.”

“You got a room here Babe?” Faith asked the petite blonde.

“Yeah, rent in the city is so high and the building’s perks just can’t be beat.” Jennifer said before something the brunette said registered. “Why do you keep calling me babe?”

Faith leaned in close to the blonde and whispered seductively. “Cuz you look like a babe to me Babe.” She winked at the startled lawyer before pulling away and looking towards the hall to the living quarters. “Which room is yours? I might need tips on decorating.”

“Aren’t you going to be boarding at that school with Ororo and Hank and your dad?” Jennifer asked with a hesitant tone.

“Could be, could be.” Faith replied. “But I like it here. Might need a place to crash when I’m in the city. Maybe a buddy to bunk with.” She winked again.

“That makes sense I guess.” Jennifer said. “My room’s this way.” The blonde walked down the hall and turned a corner.

“Five by five.” Faith said as she followed the slim blonde.

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

“What about Sally from accounting?” Natasha asked as she sat on the washing machine idly flipping through a magazine.

“No.” Steve replied firmly while folding his laundry that had just come out of the dryer. “Talked to her for five minutes once and she came off a little born again-y.”

“Carol from that firm on the fifth floor?” Natasha added.

“Got star struck and ran off.” The old soldier confirmed.

“What about that new blonde on the security team at the building’s entrance?” The redhead ventured.

“I don’t know, maybe. I could try chatting her up and see how it goes.” Steve said meekly.

“There you go buddy.” Natasha smiled brightly at the man whose love life she had made into her own personal downtime project. “You never know, she might surprise you.”

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

Pietro came out of the shower in his private bathroom and grabbed the towel on his sink. He quickly dried himself before wrapping it around his waist. Heading through the door into his room he was greeted with a fairly big surprise.

“So where is our relationship going?” Jessica said while sitting on the edge of Pietro’s bed.

“Our what? Our who?” The stunned man mumbled.

“Relationship. What kind do we have and what is it progressing towards?” She stated matter of factly.

“I…uh…We have a relationship?” Pietro was still struggling with the crux of the situation.

“We went to Canada together.” Jessica replied.

“Yeah, on our one and only mission.” He deadpanned.

“I can’t stop thinking about you.” Jessica continued while walking up to Pietro. “Sometimes in my dreams you’re all naked.”

“Really.” He chuckled. “You know if I’m in the checkout line at the Walmart I’ve had that same one.”

“So I can assume a standing Friday night date and a mutual recognition of today as our dating anniversary?” The raven haired woman said with a hopeful grin.

“Jessica.” Pietro said firmly. “Slow down. In fact come to a screeching halt.” He paused while trying to grasp some part of the conversation he was sure had eluded him. “See, these things kinda have to develop on their own.”

“Okay. How?” She queried.

“I don’t know.” Pietro answered. “It just.” Another pause, this time accompanied by a gesture showing how perplexed the man was. “Happens.”

A distraught look came over Jessica’s face. “Can we talk some more?”

“Yeah I suppose.” Pietro answered. “Would you care for something? I have Cranapple.”

“Alright.” She whispered.

He smiled and walked over to his minifridge. “You know, it is customary to call before you show up.” Grabbing the drink box he turned back towards his guest. “Not that…” He stopped, completely still. All higher functions ceased as he took in the sight of the gorgeous naked woman standing before him. Perhaps the juice squirting out of the box his hand involuntarily crushed was a sign his fight or flight response was on the fritz.

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

In another part of the tower lay the suite Tony kept for those rare occasions when he wasn’t sleeping in one of his mansions. Pepper was about to bed down for the night when she heard a noise behind her. Turning she saw Tony, wearing a bowtie, Speedos with a tuxedo design on the front and not much else.

“Hey there sweet thang.” The billionaire said as he awkwardly dance his way towards the bed the other half of his longest standing relationship ever was sitting on. “Come here often?”

Pepper took in the sight of the man she loved, gyrating in a ridiculous outfit, and she couldn’t help but laugh wholeheartedly as she doubled over in her night gown.

Forging ahead, Tony hopped up on the bed and kneeled beside her. “So be honest, this doing anything for you?”

Pepper stopped laughing for one brief moment as she looked to the man in her life. Tony waggled his eyebrows profusely and brought on another round of giggles from the redhead.

Finally relenting with a smile, Pepper took Tony in her arms and kissed him passionately.

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

In a sparsely furnished room, decorated with tribal artifacts from a lesser known yet powerful African kingdom, Ororo and T’Challa lit dozens of candles. The married couple had grown fond of their own private ritual. Staring into each other’s eyes they knew this evening would be magical.

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

Several floors below the living area Clint was going through his evening work out in the training room. After a moment he sensed eyes on him. Looking up his gaze met with that of his blonde fellow Shield agent.

“Are you ever going to forgive me?” Bobbi said with all the strength of a half starved stray.

Before Clint could shoot back with the hard no he wanted to say he took in the sight of the woman standing before him. Looking back on the events of the last week he suddenly felt all the pent up hostilities and stubbornly held grudges melt away. He could now move past the lies and split loyalties that had ruined something good in his life.

“Maybe.” Clint said after several long moments passed by.

Bobbi walked up to the man who held her heart and gave him a light kiss on the cheek before turning and wandering off to bed.

The Archer let go of the breath he didn’t realize he had been holding during the entire encounter.

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

“At which point the matter is brought to a conclusion with both parties satisfied and able to move on with their separate lives and interests.” Jessica stated while still completely naked. “To sum up, I think it’s a workable plan.”

“So.” Pietro said still struggling. “The crux of this plan is…”

“Sexual intercourse.” Jessica frowned at her prospective partner. “I’ve said it like a dozen times.”

“Uh-huh.” The man responded. “Just working through a little hysterical deafness here.”

“I think it’s the secret to getting you out of my mind. Putting you behind me.” She paused before going on. “Behind me figuratively. I’m thinking face to face for the event itself.”

“Ahh! Right.” Pietro agreed. “It’s just we hardly know each other. I mean I like you.” He said grasping at straws as the naked beauty advanced towards him. “And you have a certain directness that I admire but sexual interc…” He choked and blinked several times. “What you’re talking about, well, and I’m actually turning into a woman as I say this, but it’s about expressing something and accepting consequences.”

“Oh I have condoms.” Jessica replied. “Some are black.”

“That’s!” More grasping for words. “That’s very considerate.”

“I like you.” She said honestly. “You’re funny and you’re nicely shaped and frankly it’s ludicrous to have these interlocking bodies and not interlock.” Jessica stepped right up to Pietro’s exposed chest. “Please remove your towel now.”

“And the amazing thing.” Pietro said as the towel around his hips fell to the floor. “Still more romantic than any other date I’ve had.”

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

“This is it.” Jennifer said while entering the bedroom she had claimed upon joining the team a few years ago. “Welcome to Casa De She-Hulk.”

“Sweet digs.” Faith said as she sliped into the room and closed the door behind her.

“I know right.” Jennifer smiled at the place she had turned into a home. “Almost as big as a mid sized loft and look at that view.”

“Nope.” Faith replied while staring at the blonde’s tone, athletic figure. “Can’t beat that view.”

“I love this time of day.” Jennifer said quietly. “Just before sunset, the city starts to come alive with light and life you can’t find anywhere else.”

“I can see what you mean.” Faith replied as she slowly removed her top and came to stand just behind Jennifer. The young brunette gently wrapped her arms around the blonde. Pressing her breasts into Jennifer’s back as her mouth descended on the exposed neck that taunted her mercilessly.

“Faith!” Jennifer whispered after almost flinching at the sudden contact. “What are you doing?”

“I know you can feel this too Babe.” Faith proclaimed while firmly cupping Jennifer’s left breast with her right hand. “You’re the most beautiful woman I’ve ever met. We could be something amazing.”

“This is so fast.” Jennifer said trying to come up with a reason to stop the girl’s ministrations on her already aching form. “Aren’t I too old for you?” It was a desperate gamble. They couldn’t have been more than six years apart.

A deep throaty laugh was Faith’s first response to that complaint as she took the hand that was massaging Jennifer’s taut stomach and slowly descended to her belly button and below. “Babe I can’t let age be an issue for me. I’m a clone grown in a glass tube. I “hatched” like six months ago. Do you really expect me to wait over a decade and a half before I get my play on?”

‘No.” Jennifer replied wearily. “I suppose.” A gasp escaped Jennifer’s throat as the hand travelling south undid her shorts. “I suppose I couldn’t wait that long either.”

“Especially not with a hottie like you struttin’ around in these tight stretchy outfits you keep teasing me with.” Faith admonished. “Goddess I wanted you from the moment I saw you in that shitty lab. A mountain of green muscle I could spend my life climbing up and down. Exploring every outcrop and crevice.”

“You sweet talker you.” Jennifer chuckled.

“What can I say but.” Faith turned Jennifer around and threw her backwards onto the bed. “Want.”

The blonde’s breath caught in her throat as the brunette crawled up her thighs and ripped her top off. “Take.”

Pressing gently on Jennifer’s shoulders Faith laid the lawyer flat on her back. Jennifer’s breasts heaved as she stared up at the half naked warrior moving ever closer to her. Pressing their bodies together in ways that excited and terrified. “Have.”

With that final word Faith captured Jennifer’s lips in a searing kiss that drove all hesitation from her mind. The brunette’s hands began a merciless exploration of the blonde that took on a torturous pace.

On some level Jennifer knew that she could stop things at any moment. With a simple act of will she could transform into a creature Faith could never outmatch physically. On an even deeper level she knew that was the last thing she wanted. The thrill of giving up control to someone she could trust, even if only for a moment, made the blonde feel truly alive for the first time in a very long time.

As the night progressed both women came to realize they had finally found something in each other’s embrace that they desperately needed. Love.

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

“You think everyone else is having sex right now?” Wanda asked, cradled in the arms of her love as they lay in the bed they shared.

“Goddess I hope so.” Carol answered. “It just might distract them from us for a change.”

“I think they were all waiting for the other shoe to drop with us Baby.” The redhead said timidly.

“That’ll n-never happen Sweetie.” The blonde promised.

“I know Baby.” Wanda affirmed. “Goddess I love you so much.” She said pleadingly as she embraced her lover.

“And I love you.” Carol replied before capturing the redhead’s lips with her own and delving head first into the depths of passion and lust and love they shared. Hands and lips journeyed to and fro in an eternal dance that neither woman tired from.

Life in the Avenger’s tower was looking up.

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Time and Time Again


Last edited by Citanul on Sun Nov 02, 2014 9:05 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Time and Time Again
PostPosted: Wed Aug 20, 2014 12:25 pm 
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Calling dibs quite happily. I have read, enjoyed, and am formulating more substantial comments. For now I am off to see Tori Amos live so more tomorrow.

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 Post subject: Re: Time and Time Again
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Hi there! Firstly, seeing them take down Wolfram and Hart was awesome. As for them feeling bad about it, I hope they know that anyone and anything associated with that firm was evil in some way, shape or form and what they did was a necessity.

And now you have nicely added Faith to this superhero group. The power of this team is incredible and I can't wait to see what's in store for all of them. It would be so fun to actually see this in an actual movie. I liked how you weaved the canon lines into this and made them fit so appropriately. The way you've brought all this together and can keep everything straight is mind-boggling. Can't wait to see what's next.

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"There was plenty of magic." ~~ Tara


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 Post subject: Re: Time and Time Again
PostPosted: Wed Aug 27, 2014 7:17 am 
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Loislane1 thank for checking in and I'm looking forward to your input and word of how Tori Amos went.

Wimpy0729 thank you for the feedback. One of the points I think I may have glossed over is the fact that there will be a variety of reactions to the take down of the Wolf, the Ram and the Hart. Obviously it was a "good" thing in the grand scheme but some characters are going to struggle with coming to terms with the deed itself.

As to the power of this version of Marvel's main team it is exceedingly overpowered. That is somewhat intentional. This last chapter was them showing up in full force at a base that couldn't hope to stop a third of them during a much more poorly planned raid. They won't always be able to field the entire team each and every road trip. Especially not the spouses, dating partners and sidekicks of all the A and B listers on the team. Some of them have day jobs.

It was also a good excuse to get everyone's meet and greet out of the way.

Canon lines were something I looked at carefully. At first I started reading X-23's wiki page and about a third of the way through it the nature of comics' more convoluted writing styles used up all my give a damn. So I went with adapting her origin directly from the X-Men Evolution cartoon, her first actual appearance, and stole the room full of failed clones scene from Alien: Resurrection.

All in all I think it turned out well. Rest assured what's next will be more streamlined as the spotlight drifts to the characters I'm focusing on and their ties to the primary couple. I can't drag thirty different characters, each of which has two or three names, through every chapter or this will quickly unravel into a mess. Or I'll fall into the trap of having forty people in the room while only five do the talking.

Though I still have more than a few twists yet to reveal.

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Time and Time Again


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 Post subject: Re: Time and Time Again
PostPosted: Wed Aug 27, 2014 7:51 am 
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Time and Time Again.

Author: Citanul

Feedback: Be kind, rewind?

Spoilers: Just about all of them. Go watch the show.

Rating: NC-17

Pairings: W/T, B/F

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 good news. Our time in LA is rapidly approaching a middle. Some stuff still needs to be seen to but i think you'll all enjoy what's to come.

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

Chapter 6: Karaoke Tuesday

“So does this seem weird to anyone else but me?” Rondell said as he, Gunn and Xander pushed a cart down the isle of the massive hardware store.

“Hey man, what we’re getting more than makes up for being asked to do a little shopping.” Gunn replied. The fact that a third of the guys in his crew were still questioning the witches was starting to wear on his nerves. Was he really the only one who saw all the benefits working with the Scoobies had to offer?

Alonna was more than getting along with Buffy, and the fact they both had the “Slayer thing” in common was only a small part of it. Why couldn’t the others see this was them finally doing more than just walking the line between surviving and starving? They were stepping up to the big leagues. Taking up a cause. This was about the mission.

“I know all that, and I’m grateful for what they’re giving us.” Rondell said. “But doesn’t this still seem odd? I mean they send us to a hardware store with the Slayers to pickup scrap wood, spare knives and sharpening stones for stakes, two crowbars, two sledge hammers, and a dozen pairs of work gloves. What the hell are they planning?”

“Ron I know some things they’ve said and done may seem pretty out there.” Xander replied. “But I’ve known Willow all my life and believe me when I say she knows what she’s doing.”

Rondell thought about that statement and decided he should take Gunn’s lead. No more questioning the random stuff the two young witches asked of them.

Gunn looked at his friend and hoped the young man was finally getting it. This time last week they couldn’t even hope to afford enough food to feed the group. Let alone trips to the hardware store to stock up on weapons. Whatever the girls wanted with crowbars and sledge hammers they would find out soon enough.

“Hey boys.” Buffy and Alonna said as they came up to the three young men with a loaded cart of their own. “You guys get the stuff on your list?” Alonna asked.

“Just need the gloves.” Gunn said to his sister.

“Good.” Buffy replied with a smile. “Let’s check out and head over to the address Willow and Tara gave us.”

As the gang finished up and made for the checkout they drew more than a few puzzled looks from the store employees. They drew even more confused looks when Xander paid for the transaction by peeling twenties off a surprisingly large roll he pulled out of his pocket.

The teens left the store and met Doyle in the parking waiting by their van. “Everything go alright at the boogedy boogedy store Irish?” Gunn asked.

“Yeah, I’d say things went okay.” Doyle answered. “Could do with a bit more bile, but the girls seemed to imply they wouldn’t need to do much for this job.”

“Do we actually know anything about this job?” Rondell asked drawing a warning look from Gunn.

“We’re off to do a wee bit of ghost bustin’.” Doyle replied with a grin.

The half demon’s bravado did little for the teen’s mood. Loading the supplies everyone had purchased into the van they quickly made their way across town. Doyle at first had trouble finding the place but Buffy recognized the surrounding neighborhood from years before.

“Hey I know this part of town.” The Slayer beamed. Her smile quickly faded as she recalled why this area was familiar. “Oh, god I had a middle school teacher who lived here.”

“Was she cool?” Xander asked. “Maybe we could swing by after.”

“She hung herself in her own apartment.” The blonde said with a mournful tremor.

No one knew how to respond to that. The silence in the van was finally broken as Doyle pulled to a stop in front of a large upscale apartment complex.

“Pearson Arms apartment complex.” He said to the teens. “This is the place.”

While getting out of the van everyone grabbed work gloves. Alonna and Buffy grabbed the sledge hammers. The boys divvied up the crowbar and the ingredients Doyle had bought. Heading to the apartment number written on the directions they were greeted by loud noises.

The door flew open and a broken chair was flung outside. Coming from inside was the distinctive voice of the redheaded witch. Willow was apparently engaged in a vigorous debate with someone.

“Get your ugly ectoplasmic ass out here skank!” She yelled.

As the gang ran inside they saw Willow standing in the middle of the room deflecting telekinetically thrown objects away from the living occupants. Giles and Angel were standing off to one side looking through books. Tara was chanting quietly to herself. Household objects large and small were swirling through the air as an old woman’s voice could be heard screeching at the defiant redhead.

“Get out of my house you cheap small town tramp.” The ghost cried. “You’re not good enough for my boy. This will never be your home.”

“It may not be my home but it’s my building Maude.” Willow taunted. “Bought the whole complex today, and when my friends get here you’re out.”

“You don’t have friends.” The ghost mocked. “Why would anyone care about you? Nobody really cares. You don’t deserve to live here.” With a hissing sound the floating furniture dropped to the floor and the ghost let out a whisper before seeming to go dormant. “You don’t deserve anything.”

Willow turned to the doorway and saw her reinforcements. “Guys you’re here!”

“Finally!” Angel exclaimed.

“Yes, quite.” Giles said.

“Buffy and Alonna stand on either side of that wall with the hammers.” Willow said while gesturing towards the dividing wall separating dining room from living room. “When I point bust it open.”

As the Slayers took their positions Tara walked to a chair Willow put in the center of the living room and sat down. Willow straddled her honey blonde love’s thighs and put an arm around the curvy girl’s shoulders. She then tilted her head back and let out a final taunt.

“Hey Maude!” Willow yelled. “Just so we’re clear I don’t need Dennis!” She then leaned in and soundly shoved her tongue into Tara’s mouth.

As the kiss deepened and seemed to go on and on the ghost reemerged. The furniture and small objects once again started flying haphazardly as the remnant of the old woman screeched at the young couple.

“Get out of my home you cheap jezebel whores!” Maude Pearson hollered.

As the ghost became less and less coherent Willow pointed to the wall. The Slayers both began to lay down blow after resounding blow. A second after they began a slab of bricks broke loose revealing a nearly mummified corpse tied to a post within the wall.

The ghost of the old woman manifested across the room from the hole and screamed in anguish. Everyone except for the witches stared in shock as the corpse of Maude’s son Dennis began to glow with tendrils of bright white light. As more light began to fill the apartment the tendrils snaked out towards the old woman’s ghost.

“Dennis I presume.” Doyle remarked. “And probably not too happy with his mom.”

“Dennis, it was for your own good.” She pleaded. “I had to do it. She would have made your life miserable. I’m sorry.”

The rough image of a skull emerged from the hole, and although no features could be made out, all who witnessed the visage could easily make out the raw fury and hatred it held for the other ghost. As Dennis let all his rage bore down on his murderous mother a wide beam of light poured out of his corpse and into the old woman’s specter.

“Please, please.” She called out before an ear piercing wail tore through the room. The light intensified and in its wake the shadow of Maude Pearson was utterly obliterated.

Quiet reigned throughout the apartment. Gradually all heads turned towards the pair of young witches still caught up in the passionate kiss. Willow’s hands ran through locks of honey blonde hair as Tara grasped the lithe redhead by the waist.

As it became apparent to the rest of the group that their friends were lost in their own little world again Buffy decided to take over the situation. Looking around at the aftermath this exorcism left in its wake gave the Slayer pause as she once again mourned this aspect of her job.

“Okay everyone we have jobs to do.” Buffy called out. “Giles get the spell ready to exercise the other ghost. After he’s gone we’ll break down the rest of this wall and call the cops to get the body and close his missing persons report.”

That statement brought the witches out of their moment of mildly public intimacy. “No!” They both called.

Willow slowly stood up to address her friends. “We don’t need to worry about Dennis.” She stated. “He is probably the kindest ghost any of us will ever meet.”

“H-he really is a Sweetie you guys.” Tara chimed in.

“So we’re what?” Buffy asked. “Just going to leave him for the next unsuspecting renter?”

“Buffy we bought this whole apartment complex.” Willow replied. “No one is going to rent this specific apartment without Tara and myself saying so. We’re thinking the Hyperion Crew can use it for stuff where they need an off site place until we give it to the person who always seems to get along best with Dennis.”

Buffy took that string of explanations in and sighed. “Okay Giles call the cops to have the body taken away and IDed. Alonna we should finish breaking down the wall before they get here. Will I’m going to assume you’re paying for this funeral too.”

“Yup.” The redhead beamed. “Judy and Dennis both deserve a proper send off.”

Buffy looked at her friend for a long moment then back to the remains of poor Dennis. With a sigh she and Alonna cleared the rest of the alcove so his body could be easily removed and given the care and respect he had been denied.

The boys went about clearing evidence of spell work from the apartment before the police showed up. Doyle took all the books and spell components out to the van then came back. The teens, vampire, and half demon retreated to the kitchen to give Giles room to handle the police. A knock came from the door and Giles went to answer quickly.

“Hello officer, thank you for coming.” The librarian said opening the door wide for the lone policewoman to enter.

“Mr. Giles is it?” The blonde detective said with a slightly skeptical tone. “I’m detective Lockley. A forensics team is on the way. I’ve been told this is the second dead body you’ve found this week and it’s only Tuesday.”

“Ah yes, that poor woman in the hotel.” Giles replied with a practiced show of grief. “Imagine my surprise when the youth outreach program I’m helping set up stumbled across her in the abandoned building we chose as our first center. What she must have been going through in her final days.” He took his glasses off and began to polish them. “No one should have to suffer that kind of solitude.”

“Be that as it may.” The young detective said coldly. “You can see how calling in a second body so soon may arouse suspicions.”

“Quite right.” Giles replied while trying to convey innocence. “Some of the gifted young people I work with started a history club. They were looking through the public records of some buildings around the city and saw the hotel and this particular apartment had something in common. Suspicious deaths and disappearances.”

“So you and your kids took it upon yourselves to check them out on your own?” She asked disbelievingly.

“Through odd events we came into a recent windfall. Looking at options for outreach and halfway housing we couldn’t think of a better place than an old hotel to fit our needs.” The Brit answered. “This apartment complex was recommended to us by a friend and while doing background on it we came across a story of the original builder’s wife and son having a falling out.” As Giles was talking he led the woman around to stand in front of the recently uncovered alcove. “I believe this unfortunate young man was blamed for his mother’s death after she sealed him inside this wall.”

Kate Lockley stood there stunned. The nearly mummified body was a sight that took her by complete surprise. She had been called in to check if this Englishman was going around killing transients or guilty of some other crime. She never suspected this call to bring her face to face with a decades old dead body hidden in a wall.

“Oh god.” Kate whispered.

“We didn’t want to disturb the body too much after uncovering him.” Giles told the woman. “The group of young people in the other room came to the conclusion that this space would work better with this wall removed and after the first few hammer blows uncovered him we decided to clear just enough to allow the body to be safely removed and wait for the authorities.”

“I have to call this in.” She replied quietly.

“Yes, quite.” Giles said as Kate left the apartment to make the call. As he walked into the kitchen he saw that all eyes were once again on the witches. Willow and Tara were looking at each other with nervous expressions as if trying to come to a decision.

“Sweetie what should we do about h-her?” Tara finally asked.

“Nothing for now.” Willow said after a long moment. “Her father still has two years before retiring. Without the evil law firm working against her she might never know about what really goes on in the world. When it sets up shop in this town we’ll have Alonna, Gunn and Angel kill the demon and vamps that would kill her dad.”

“Will what are you talking about?” Buffy asked with a perplexed look. “If she can help us wouldn’t having a cop in our corner be a huge help?”

“Buffy, Kate s-s-sees the world in black and white a-absolutes.” Tara said quietly.

“She’s a good cop but she always takes the existence of demons badly.” Willow added. “If we brought her onto the team there’s like a sixty percent chance it will ruin her career and life. We need to wait and see. If it’ll save her life then yes, bring her up to speed. If she gets it in her head that the Hyperion crew is up to no good then we may need to show here what real evil looks like.”

“Alonna you’ll n-need to watch her.” Tara finished.

Gunn had a worried look at this turn of events. “You think this cop will bring a swat team down on the hotel or lock all of us up if she knew?”

“It’s doubtful.” The redhead answered. “But there’s no telling how much trouble she can cause us if she finds out the truth in a bad way. She could go either way as far as friend or foe goes.”

The sound of the front door opening alerted Giles who went back to check on their guests. Turning the corner he saw a team of forensics specialists and a medical examiner coming through the door with detective Lockley.

“Ah detective.” The librarian called out. “The primary donor of our youth program wished me to ask that they be allowed to pay for the poor young man’s funeral arrangements. Should I take my students elsewhere while you see to things here?”

“I’m gonna need to speak with them first.” She replied curtly.

“Of course.” Giles sighed. “This way please.”

Giles led the cop into the kitchen and made a round of introductions for all those present. Gunn and Rondell stiffened as the woman wrote down names and details. Doyle smiled politely, trying to convey a harmless façade. Angel nodded curtly and avoided looking at the cross on her neck.

“So what made you decide to go poking around this apartment?” Kate asked the group.

“Buffy had a teacher who lived here a few years back.” Willow said. “I looked this place up after she said the poor woman hung herself. There was a string of suicides and incident reports dating back to the time of the Pearson family’s residency. It seemed like a good topic for a group social studies project.”

“Why did you wreck that wall?” The detective questioned.

“It wasn’t on the original blueprints.” The redhead replied.

“Who is funding this afterschool special you kids have going on?” The blonde asked with an edge in her voice.

“We are.” Tara and Willow said in unison.

“You are?” Kate asked with a bewildered expression. “How?” She was not expecting that answer.

“Detective I recently sold a comprehensive suite of groundbreaking software to a large tech company.” Willow said in a casual manner. “With that seed money Tara and I started our own company and are currently diversifying our portfolio.”

“How are you diversifying?” The cop was still stunned.

“Pentacle, our company, has purchased this apartment complex, an abandoned hotel we are converting into a home for disenfranchised youth, and just yesterday we completed the hostile takeover of a law firm.” The young witch rattled off. “There are a few other things we have to see to in this city before we look into east coast locations but all in all it has been a very busy week.”

“So you’re the donor that Mr. Giles here said is covering the funerals?” Kate asked as she pieced together the news.

“Yes.” Willow answered.

“Why?” The detective wanted to know where this altruism was coming from. “Why pay to bury strangers?”

As Kate was asking this, the rest of the people in the room noticed objects on the table behind her start to shake slightly. Willow took this in and said what she knew Dennis needed to hear.

“Nothing in the world is the way it ought to be detective.” She said with a world weary sigh. “It's harsh, and cruel. People lose their way and end up backed into corners they never wanted. Others fall victim to those that make a conscious choice to ruin the lives of others. Helping those poor souls is just about the most important thing we can do.”

“To live as though the world were as it should be, to show it what it can be.” Tara added. “A better place.”

“That’s actually kind of beautiful.” Kate said with a slight smile. “Okay that’s all the questions I had. If you could leave the premises for the duration of this investigation we’ll take care of the body and see if we can actually verify that it was Mr. Pearson sealed up in that wall.” With that she turned and walked down the hall.

“We’ll be back later Dennis.” Willow quietly told the room. “Gunn, Alonna, Angel and Doyle will stop by and check up on you. In time we’ll introduce you to a friend of ours. She may live here with you one day.”

With that reassurance to the ghost the group left the apartment. Angel was careful to stick to the shadows as he climbed in the back of the van. “Guys, meet back at the hotel.” Willow said as she, Tara and Giles got into the car they had driven directly to the apartment.

The drive back to the Hyperion was uneventful. It did however give the group in the van a few moments to talk. The topic at hand seemed to be the two ghosts they had just encountered.

“So what did you guys think of Dennis?” Buffy asked the group.

“The phantom of the apartment complex?” Doyle questioned back. “He seemed like a nice enough bloke. Especially considering what his mum was like.”

“Yeah the hag set the bar really low for Dennis.” Alonna added. “I don’t think he’ll be a problem. He seemed eager to pull chairs out for each of us in the kitchen.”

“Yeah his mom was a real piece of work.” Xander said quietly.

“I can’t believe the crazy bat actually pulled a Cask of Amontillado on her own son.” Gunn remarked.

Heads around the van turned in his direction. He looked up for a moment and a puzzled look came to his face. “What?” Gunn asked.

“Look at you rockin’ the nineteenth century lit knowledge.” Buffy said with a smile.

“Every now and then he surprises us.” Alonna smirked at her brother.

“Very funny sis.” The young ebony man replied.

“One thing’s for sure.” Angel said ominously. “Whoever Willow and Tara get to live there will need a very open mind about roommates.”

The vampire’s statement received nods from all of the van’s other occupants. As Doyle drove the vehicle into the underground parking structure they were surprised to find a welcoming committee waiting for them. Several of the younger members of the Crew were waiting for Gunn, Alonna and the Scoobies to return. Doyle parked and the passengers quickly exited.

Rondell went to the kids the crew had taken in and started retelling the tale of the haunted apartment complex and the surprisingly polite poltergeist. Xander and Gunn backed him up with sound effects and pantomime of the play by play.

Once they had finished up the fight between Dennis and Maude Giles pulled into the garage with the witches. Willow and Tara went to watch the performance with the Slayers and joined in on the laughter towards the end of the exaggerated story.

“That was wonderful guys.” Tara said with a bright smile.

“I especially liked the part with the fire breathing dragon spirits.” Willow said with a coy smirk.

“I don’t know.” Buffy remarked. “The howler monkeys in act three gave a really strong performance.”

“Laugh it up you guys.” Xander said with a frown that slowly turned to a grin. “So is anyone else hungry?”

“Starving, I ordered a truck load of sandwiches on the drive back here.” Willow replied. “How about you guys gather everyone in the dining hall while we head out front to wait for the delivery guy?”

“Sounds like a plan boss.” Gunn said with a slightly sarcastic salute.

The three young men headed inside with the waiting kids to spread the news about lunch. While that was going on Giles, Angel and Doyle went about unloading the exorcism supplies from the van and headed off to the hotel’s front office that was soon becoming the command center.

That left the four young women to their own devices as they awaited the food truck. Buffy turned to her redheaded friend and asked the question that had been stewing since they left the apartment complex.

“So Will.” The Slayer began cautiously. “We’re letting ghosts join the team, but none of the Wolfram & Hart demons could be reformed?”

“Dennis isn’t a team member Buffy.” Willow stated with a shaky voice. “He’s a victim. He was a victim of his crazy mother his whole life and continued to be her victim throughout his afterlife until today.” As a tear rolled down Willow’s pale, lightly freckled cheek Tara walked up behind her and wrapped the redhead in her arms.

Tara looked Buffy in the eyes and sighed. “Buffy we know w-what we did yesterday didn’t sit well with you. The only justification we h-have is we didn’t have any control over who the Senior Partners dragged down with them. W-whether they w-were signed by d-demons or humans, if we could have undone the p-perpetuity clauses we would have.”

“It might have been less of a shock if you guys didn’t laugh about it.” Buffy said in a guarded tone.

“Buffy did you see how the guys took it?” Willow asked. “None of them could care less about us offing a few lawyers.” The redhead faltered for a moment. “There are still things we have to get Gunn’s boys to do that they’ll fight us on. If I had broken down crying in front of them it would have ruined half the work we’ve done.”

“She’s right Buffy.” The ebony girl affirmed. “They don’t respond well to real human emotions. I don’t know how I got along before when I was surrounded by so many boys.” Alonna said to the group.

“I kind of get what you mean.” Tara said only to draw puzzled looks from Willow and Buffy. “What? O-okay don’t get me w-wrong. Xander is a Sweetie, but could you imagine if there w-were twenty of him following us around?”

“Seriously.” Alonna cried while smiling. “What am I gonna do when you three head back to Mayberry in a few days? How do I keep them all in line?”

“You’re gonna do great Alonna.” Buffy said to her young ebony counterpart. “Gunn already had them in line before we got here. You may not see it but you’re every bit the leader he is. Being the Slayer will help too.” The blonde added with a smirk.

“Plus you won’t be the only girl here for long Alonna.” Willow stated.

“That’s right.” Tara chipped in. “W-w-we’re all going out tonight to meet the man who’ll help us f-find a friend.”

“Getting Chain and Rondell to go along with accepting this person’s help is going to be our biggest problem.” Willow said meekly.

“He’s another demon isn’t he?” Alonna said with a weary sigh. “I’m actually really surprised you got them to allow Doyle to join us.”

Buffy looked at her newest friend with a worried expression. “They wouldn’t do anything to hurt him would they?”

“I think they’re okay with him now but they were giving him some nasty looks the night we met him.” Alonna replied. “I’m actually more worried about keeping them off Angel’s back after you guys leave.”

“Angel is stronger than he lets on.” Willow stated. “Plus he goes out of his way to avoid harming humans.”

Before the conversation could take an even more worrying turn for the blonde Slayer the delivery van pulled up. Willow paid the guy and the four girls took the dozen or so bags of grinders into the hotel. As they entered the large banquet hall the Gunns had decided would make a great gathering place for meals and strategy meetings they were surprised to find many of the young men in the room gathered around Doyle listening to some wildly exaggerated and highly inappropriate story from the half demon’s few years as a vagrant and conman.

“So the kid says ‘I thought all Brachen demons had a good sense of direction.’ To which I reply. ‘Yeah, we're all pretty good at basketball, too.” Doyle said as the crowd of teens around him broke out in laughter.

As the heartfelt laughter trailed off Alonna called out to the gang. “Lunch is here.”

The teens of the Hyperion Crew quickly tore into the bags of sandwiches the witches and Slayers placed on the tables. The group the two witches had assembled sat around the banquet hall exchanging smiles and camaraderie as they enjoyed yet another meal that provided more calories than many of them had consumed in the entire month before meeting the Scoobies.

After everyone had their fill Jason and Poe went about gathering the trash. When a lull in the general conversation presented itself Willow stood and cleared her throat. All heads turned towards the redhead. They all had the same thought. Whatever the next mission was it would certainly be a new experience.

“Okay guys.” Willow began. “Tonight we’re going to a place some of you may have a problem with. Before I go any further I want you to understand that it’s vital you obey the rules when it comes to this place. It serves an important function that will help us all down the road.”

Chain was first to reply to that odd warning. “Okay boss, you got our attention. Is this some holy place?”

A slight smile spread across Tara and Willow’s faces. “For some it is more sacred than any other place in this city.” Tara answered.

“I’ll have Buffy tell you what she gets out of the Hellmouth equivalent first.” Willow said. “Buff could you please tell them about ‘Willy’s Place?”

“Oh god.” Buffy said with a disappointed grunt. “You’re taking them to a place like that? This city has a dive that bad?”

“No Buff.” The redhead replied. “The closest equivalent in LA is actually a nice place. But they need to hear why you let the dive in Sunnydale stay in business.”

The blonde Slayer looked between Tara and Willow for a moment before shrugging. “Okay.” She sighed before turning to the audience. “So there’s this demon bar on the hellmouth run by a guy named Willy. Every now and then I go there and threaten to smack him around for information. Half the time I actually start smacking after he gives it to me.”

Rondell was shocked. “So you know where demons go to party and you haven’t killed them yet. Why are you called the Slayer again?”

Willow and Tara knew it would only get worse from here. Buffy looked at Rondell and narrowed her eyes. “I allow them to have a place to blow off steam so that when an even more dangerous demon with plans on opening the Hellmouth rolls through town they go to one place to complain about it and potentially pass the info on the threat to me.”

“That strategy has saved the world and prevented the apocalypse countless times.” Willow said. “Having a relatively safe hangout in town for run of the mill demons to go and relax keeps the world enders at bay. It provides information to our cause and allows us to keep tabs on many more threats than if we were just to go out each night and look through the sewers for random lairs.”

“So by letting the ones like Doyle and fangs here have an inch you can easily kill the ones that try to burn down the whole town.” Gunn said.

“Whoa now.” Angel called out a little testily. “Let’s just get one thing straight here.” He paused for a long moment to make sure he had everyone’s attention. “I would never be caught dead in Willy’s grimy hole.”

As the double entendre in that statement sunk in many of the teens around the room started to laugh. Even the so called adults in the room cracked a slight smile. As the laughter died down Chain and Rondell exchanged looks.

“So.” Rondell said with an easier tone in his voice than before. “You are going to point out a place where Alonna can rough some guys up for information every now and then but you don’t want us to go in guns a blazing.”

“Absolutely not!” Tara and Willow both said.

At the confused looks around the room Willow sighed and knew she had to explain in more detail. The long term viability of this group as a fighting force hinged on their ability to look past species and focus on actual threats.

“The place we are going to tonight is nothing like Willy’s.” Willow said.

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

As two stretch limos Willow and Tara had rented to move the majority of their gang across town pulled up to the curve the witches took one final look around at the faces present. “Everyone is clear on the rules?” Willow asked.

“Absolutely no violence.” Gunn said. “The ten minute warning about the anti violence spell got the point across Red.”

“Guys this is serious.” Willow stated. “The host of this bar is a devout pacifist. If you behave and treat him with respect he will become one of our strongest allies in this city.”

“He’s a good person.” Tara added.

Though some members of the Hyperion Crew had misgivings about her use of the word person they all had more than caught on to the fact that the witches wanted this guys on the team for the long term. They could easily make nice with one demon that went out of his way to make nice if that was what their new bosses wanted.

The teams slowly exited the limo. The witches and Slayers leading the way to the door with one bouncer sitting on a stool to the side. Slipping the man a handful of hundred dollar bills Willow boldly proclaimed, “They’re all with me.”

The bouncer took a look at the four young women at the head of the group then smiled. “Welcome to Caritas.” He said as the doors opened.

As the large group made their way through the doors and down the steps to the metal detector the strumming of an acoustic guitar greeted their ears.

“Well look who’s here.” Tara said with a smile.

Pretty girl on every corner
Sunshine turns the sky to gold
Warm warm, it's always warm here
And I can't take the cold


The large group of demon fighters all stopped and looked beyond the mixed crowd of demons and humans lounging around the place and locked eyes on the man perched on a stool playing the guitar on the main stage.

Streets littered with diamonds
Everyone's glistening
This whole world shines so brightly
I can't see a thing

She's pretty as a picture
She is like a golden dream
Circles me with love and laughter
And I can't feel a thing


“Isn’t he fabulous?” An emerald skinned demon said as he walked up to two witches. The jovial night club host had red horns and eyes. He chose to dress in an almost neon colored suit designed to draw the gaze of every onlooker in the bar. “One of our regulars. Comes in here all the time.”

The sky's gonna open
People gonna pray and crawl
It's gonna rain down fire
It's gonna burn us all

The sky's gonna open
People gonna pray and sing
Oh, I can't feel a thing


Alonna was stunned. “Wow he’s good.”

She's pretty as a picture
She is like a golden dream
Circles me with love and laughter
And I-I I can't feel a thing


Gunn was similarly impressed. “Lawyer’s got some pipes.”

The sky's gonna open
People gonna pray and crawl
It's gonna rain down fire
It's gonna burn us all

The sky's gonna open
People gonna pray and sing
I can't feel a thing
No, I can't feel


Lindsey finished to resounding applause from the entire bar. As the man slowly left the stage he happened to glance up. The sight of his new bosses and all of their muscle caused him to freeze in place. Lilah still sitting at their table and applauding looked at him with a puzzled expression. She slowly followed his gaze and shared his reaction as realization hit home.

Deciding that showing fear now, in the middle of the sanctuary the Host of Caritas had built, was not an option he boldly walked towards the group. Forcing a smile he walked to stand beside the green man and nodded slightly to the witches.

“Ladies.” He said politely.

“Hi.” Alonna said stepping up to the man. “You probably don’t remember me but that was amazing.”

“That was kinda tight.” Gunn added.

“Terrific really.” Giles said with a smile.

“Is everyone drunk?” Angel asked feeling more than a little embarrassed about his own singing abilities.

“Be nice Angel.” Buffy admonished.

“Say Lindsey, we’re getting a few tables.” Willow told the man. “Why don’t you and Lilah join us after your reading?”

“My pleasure boss.” The lawyer said with a playful smirk.

As the large group went off to one side of the bar towards a cluster of larger tables and sofas Lindsey turned to the demon who ran the karaoke bar. “Well what do you think?” He asked the green lounge singer.

“I think those kids are all kinds of trouble.” Lorne said with a smile. “Your path is clear though.”

“Really?” Lindsey asked with a hopeful tone.

“Yup, it’s clear as day.” The host repeated. “Your path clearly runs through them.”

“I figured as much.” The southerner said with a sigh. “Good talking to you Lorne.”

“Always a pleasure Sweetie.” The demon said with an upbeat laugh.

Lilah looked up as Lindsey came back to the table. “How bad is it?”

“They might just be here for the entertainment.” Lindsey said before his tone took a dour turn. “But our luck can’t be that good. Come on, they invited us to join their tables.”

As the next performer took the stage the lawyers went over to join the Hyperion Crew and the Scoobies at the cluster of tables the group claimed for the night. A playful thought struck Lindsey and he decided to go ahead with it.

“So what brings our newest clients slash bosses out this evening?” He asked as he strolled up to Willow and Tara’s table.

“Tara and I are going to sing!” Willow said with a thousand watt smile as literally every head at the tables turned to look at her.

Xander was first to offer an assessment of that sentence. “Will, buddy. You don’t sing. Ever!”

“That was the old me.” She replied to her life long friend. “Tara’s always using each new lifetime to get me out of my shell little by little.”

Tara blushed at that assessment and intertwined her fingers with her love. “Sweetie, your shell wore off a few hundred worlds ago.”

Buffy’s eyes widened at that piece of information. She couldn’t recall if the pair had pinned a specific number to the life they were on presently. If they had been running this setup for several hundred lives it was no wonder they had things down after all the worlds that might happen to share features and milestones with this one.

A more sobering thought struck the Slayer. How many times had they killed the majority of Wolfram & Hart employees and how many times had they suffered because they didn’t or couldn’t. Buffy knew Willow would never choose mass murder as her first option. Something in their distant past must have hurt them so badly it permanently fixed that decision in place for the couple.

Willow and Tara were keeping something from the Slayer. She could tell. From the moment the library filled with light she knew her bright babbling redhead was holding back some detail that affected them all. If it was a pain or tragedy so great it made killing tens of thousands of humans and countless demons the clearly better option in their minds then Buffy wasn’t sure she wanted to know anymore. She trusted her friends. If she had nothing else she still had that certainty. Willow, Xander and Giles wouldn’t betray her willingly. Whatever the secret was Willow would tell her when she was ready.

“This I gotta see!” Buffy called out.

“It’s always a treat when first timers take the mic.” Lorne said as he strolled up to the Table.

“Say Lorne why don’t you sit with us during my song?” Willow asked as she hopped up and trotted towards the stage.

“Sit here Lorne.” Tara advised offering the vacant seat at her side. “You might want to brace yourself for this reading.”

Willow went to the screen to select her song and quickly punched in her choice. “This is for anyone who has ever lost someone.” She whispered into the mic as the music started.

You took my hand
You showed me how
You promised me you'd be around
Uh huh
That's right

I took your words
And I believed
In everything
You said to me
Yeah huh
That's right


The crowd seemed to be nodding along with the song easy enough. Willow didn’t have anywhere near Lindsey’s singing ability but those that knew her best were outright shocked she had voluntarily gone up there at all. Perhaps the most surprising reaction was that of Lorne and Tara. The green skinned demon was openly weeping. Not just stray tears but torrents of salt water were flowing steadily down the man’s emerald cheeks. Tara was rubbing slow soothing circles into his back as the emotions she remembered feeling all too clearly overcame him.

If someone said three years from now
You'd be long gone
I'd stand up and punch them out
Cause they're all wrong
I know better
Cause you said forever
And ever
Who knew


“Oh goddess.” Lorne whispered.

Remember when we were such fools
And so convinced and just too cool
Oh no
No no
I wish I could touch you again
I wish I could still call you friend
I'd give anything


“It’s okay Sweetie.” Tara assured the host.

When someone said count your blessings now
'fore they're long gone
I guess I just didn't know how
I was all wrong
They knew better
Still you said forever
And ever
Who knew

Yeah yeah
I'll keep you locked in my head
Until we meet again
Until we
Until we meet again
And I won't forget you my friend
What happened

If someone said three years from now
You'd be long gone
I'd stand up and punch them out
Cause they're all wrong and
That last kiss
I'll cherish
Until we meet again
And time makes
It harder
I wish I could remember
But I keep
Your memory
You visit me in my sleep
My darling
Who knew
My darling
My darling
Who knew
My darling
I miss you
My darling
Who knew
Who knew


As the song drew to a close Willow closed her eyes. “Thank you.” She whispered softly to the crowd that was offering encouraging yet light hearted applause. At the same time Tara felt all the emotions conveyed in the song intensify through their connection. Chief among them was the ever present and overwhelming love as always, yet one stray twinge of fear and sorrow still tainted the moment.

Several people at the table were looking back and forth between Willow and Lorne. While the hacker wasn’t tone deaf or incredibly talented the green man’s intense reaction seemed completely out of left field.

“What just happened?” Buffy said as Tara got up from her seat.

A stern look crossed the honey blonde’s face. “She still blames herself for my death.” As about half the table looked around confused at that ominous statement Tara asked Lindsey a favor. “Lindsey could you explain Lorne’s empathic gift to the group? Lilah could you order him another Sea Breeze?”

“Sure.” Both lawyers said quietly as Tara strode across the floor and took the redhead into her arms halfway between the stage and tables.

“I love you Willow.” Tara said as she kissed her love firmly on the lips. “That’s all that matters. You need to forgive yourself for mistakes some other version of you made so long ago that they no longer affect us.”

“I’m sorry I’m such a frightened dummy Baby.” Willow whispered as tears began to form in the corners of her eyes.

“Hey!” Tara whispered sternly. “You are the bravest and smartest person I have ever met. Everyone makes mistakes. We both screwed up back then. What matters is we learned from all of our mistakes. Our love transcends all that. It’s all we have and all we need.”

As the two young women kissed once again in the middle of the bar an inspiration took hold in Tara’s mind. “Go back to the table Sweetie. Sit with Lorne while I serenade you my love.”

Willow smiled and nodded before heading back to their friends. She almost had a skip in her step. As she rejoined the table she turned to the Host and placed a hand on his shoulder. “You okay Lorne?” She asked softly.

“I’m sorry for falling apart like that it’s just…” He couldn’t go on. “There aren’t words for what you two have. It’s amazing and scary and until this moment I thought I was capable of love but now that I’ve seen the real thing I don’t know anymore.”

Willow smiled at the man with one of the gentlest hearts she had ever known. “It’s okay I get it. It scares every psychic we come across.” Her smile brightened. “Tara’s about to sing. You’ll get a better grasp once her half gives you the full picture.”

“I don’t know if my heart can hold out Sugar.” Lorne replied with a sigh as Tara took the stage.

The honey blonde smiled to the audience. Foregoing the karaoke machine Tara went straight for the grand piano and sat upon the bench. After adjusting the microphone she addressed the bar. “This is for my everything and always. I love you Willow.” Tara said with all the love in her heart as a soft melody of piano keys started.

What would I do without your smart mouth?
Drawing me in, and you kicking me out
You've got my head spinning, no kidding, I can't pin you down
What's going on in that beautiful mind
I'm on your magical mystery ride
And I'm so dizzy, don't know what hit me, but I'll be alright


Everyone in the room with the exception of Willow was floored by the angelic voice that came from the shy girl. The entire Hyperion Crew was stunned to hear the truth behind the woman they had only seen as an attachment at the redhead’s side. To think the stutterer that always seemed to let the babbler do her talking for her was concealing this from them. It was truly a surprise.

My head's under water
But I'm breathing fine
You're crazy and I'm out of my mind


The Scooby gang was fairing slightly better. They had heard Willow go on and on about her love’s heavenly voice back in Sunnydale, but this was the first time any had heard it. Needless to say Lorne was beside himself as he was once again overcome. This time not only with the tremendous depth and weight of the emotions pouring off the two young lovers, but also with beauty of the voice that equaled if not completely outclassed his own.

'Cause all of me
Loves all of you
Love your curves and all your edges
All your perfect imperfections
Give your all to me
I'll give my all to you
You're my end and my beginning
Even when I lose I'm winning
'Cause I give you all of me
And you give me all of you, ohoh

How many times do I have to tell you
Even when you're crying you're beautiful too
The world is beating you down, I'm around through every mood
You're my downfall, you're my muse
My worst distraction, my rhythm and blues
I can't stop singing, it's ringing, in my head for you

My head's under water
But I'm breathing fine
You're crazy and I'm out of my mind

'Cause all of me
Loves all of you
Love your curves and all your edges
All your perfect imperfections
Give your all to me
I'll give my all to you
You're my end and my beginning
Even when I lose I'm winning
'Cause I give you all of me
And you give me all of you, ohoh

Give me all of you
Cards on the table, we're both showing hearts
Risking it all, though it's hard

'Cause all of me
Loves all of you
Love your curves and all your edges
All your perfect imperfections
Give your all to me
I'll give my all to you
You're my end and my beginning
Even when I lose I'm winning
'Cause I give you all of me
And you give me all of you

I give you all of me
And you give me all of you, ohoh


As the piano music died down Tara gave a soft “Thank you.” A weight seemed to disappear from the hearts of those present as the young woman’s performance ended. As if on cue the entirety of the karaoke bar stood and applauded Tara with thunderous joy.

Several catcalls and cheers could be heard from the Hyperion Crew and Scoobies. The most vocal applause seemed to stem from the Slayers. Though Xander, Giles, Doyle, Angel and Gunn gave them a run for their money.

Tara strolled back to their cluster of tables and got a surprising number of polite bows along the way. As she neared the table the Hyperion Crew welcomed her back with smiles and applause. “Th-thanks you guys.” She said quietly as a blush spread across her cheek.

“That was amazing baby.” Willow said as she wrapped her arms around her curvy love and sat down in the honey blonde’s lap. “You have the most beautiful voice.”

“You bring it out in me sweetie.” Tara replied.

“That was…” Lorne began. “I don’t…” The man struggled for words to grasp the enormity of what his empathic abilities were feeding into his mind. “Thank you both for sharing that with me.” Was all he could manage.

“It was our pleasure.” The girls said in unison.

“So you’ve really lived that many lives?” Lorne asked as he dried his tears and tried to put up the image of the kind oracle and soothsayer he loved to present to customers.

“Yes.” Willow replied. “Though we haven’t told our friends the exact number just yet.”

“It’s a lot to take in.” Lorne admitted. “You may want to let them figure it out on their own.”

“Thank you Lorne.” Tara said. “W-we had come to that decision.”

“I’m sorry, you both clearly have plans in place and you already know your path.” The green man was slightly flustered still but tried valiantly to provide the service his club had become known for. “Was there something specific you wanted from me?” He finally asked.

“There are a few things Lorne.” Tara said shyly.

“Lindsey and Lilah may have told you what we did yesterday.” Willow ventured.

“What happened yesterday sent earthquakes throughout the entire supernatural community.” The Host stated coldly. “If I hadn’t just felt the full truth behind what you did and why I don’t think I’d be sitting here and talking to you after learning it was you two behind it all.”

That harsh assessment set alarms off around the table. No one had spoken to the new senior partners like that yet. The gang Willow and Tara had gathered was wondering just what the reaction of the witches would be.

Willow sighed and looked directly into Lorne’s red eyes. “Lorne we know how you feel about violence.” She started. “If there was any way to prevent all that death we would have. But that demon triumvirate had their claws too deep in too many people. What we could do and will do in the future is limited.”

Lorne thought about those words for a moment before asking the main question. “So what really brought you to my club tonight?”

“One big thing and a bunch of little things.” Willow said with a smile. “Our main small goal tonight was to get Gunn and Alonna’s crew to understand that there are a bunch of demons in the city that are either harmless or working for the forces of good. We can’t leave them to fight the forces of darkness in this city if the can’t tell the difference between someone like you and say the Scourge or the Sisterhood of Jhe. Introducing them to the positive aspects of this club and its rules is a tremendous help.”

“W-we really mean that Lorne.” Tara interjected. “What you’ve built here is a miracle. Sacred places like this don’t get the r-respect they deserve anymore.”

“Thank you for that Sugar.” The demon said with a renewed smile. If these two could honestly say that about his club and his work then they just might be more than what his reading and the local gossip had given him.

“Another small detail of our visit is that we want to open up a tab.” Willow added before nodding to Xander. The young man pulled up a briefcase he had been holding since they left the limo and place it on the table. It opened in front of the green lounge singer and took the man’s breath away.

“There’s a hundred thousand dollars in there.” Willow continued as she closed the case. “We are opening a tab for the Hyperion Hotel and any of its residents and associates. The bills of the people we brought here tonight and any clients or future allies they bring in the years to come are covered by us. Lindsey and Lilah as well. They’ll be providing our people with legal advice and this is just one more perk we wanted to grant them.”

“Wow.” The Host was once again floored. “That’s a nice benefits package you’ve got.” He said as a slow smile crept across his face.

Noticing that the stage had gone empty for several minutes Willow and Tara exchanged a look. “Gunn?” Tara asked. “Why don’t y-you ask the boys if they w-want to give signing a go?”

“Sure thing.” Gunn smiled at his new friends and went to tell Rondell and Chain to get the gang up on stage.

About eight guys went up to the stage and began going through the hip hop selection of the karaoke machine. They settled on a few of the Wu Tang Clans greatest hits.

“We’ll let you get back to reading the performers Lorne.” Willow said quietly. “Feel our group out and do what you do best. Before we leave tonight we’ll tell you the big request we have and offer whatever assurances you’ll need before helping us.”

Lorne looked at the slim redhead and smiled once again. “Okay Sweet Pea, that sounds fair.” He said as he gathered up the briefcase and took it across the bar and down a hallway that held his office and safe.

Gunn came back to the table and sat beside his sister. “So do you guys think he’s on board?”

Willow smiled at the former gang leader turned “Hotel” manager. “I think just about all of us are going to need to sing for him tonight before he trusts us completely.”

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

As Lorne returned to the floor of his bar he was graced with the dulcet tones of the Wu Tang Clan song C.R.E.A.M. He had enough time to read all of the young men on stage and though he saw troubling undercurrents from each he also saw that they were at a turning point. With the slightest bit of encouragement and the continued work of the two witches these boys would do great things. Getting ready to do what he did best Lorne walked up on stage and joined the young men as the song finished.

“Wasn’t that great ladies and gentlemen?” The demon said with cheer as the young men looked at him nervously. “Now how about I have a word with these fine gents while you all welcome our next performer?”

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

All in all the night was going along smoothly. Most of the audience received the multiple performances of the young men who followed Gunn with cheer and encouragement. Willow and Tara had convinced just about all of the Scoobies and the key players they setup at the Hotel to sing their hearts out.

Even though Angel’s forced performance of “Mandy” was truly cringe worthy the audience gave him a small token round of applause before Lorne walked him off stage to have a heart to heart about his destiny and where it would take him.

When the vampire made it back to the table he was slightly surprised to see that Gunn was waiting for him. “That took a lot to go up and put yourself out there like that.” The young man said. “I think I’m starting to get where the witches are coming from when it comes to you.”

Angel smiled at the young man who was starting to open up to him. “Glad to hear it.” He replied.

Buffy turned to Alonna. “Come on Al, let’s show them what team Slayer can do.” The blonde said as she dragged the ebony girl off.

“Buffy are you sure about this?” Alonna asked as Buffy pointed out the song they would sing.

“It’ll be funny.” Buffy remarked. “Cause, you know.” She said before pointing a finger back and forth between the two of them. “Heroes!”

With a slight smile Alonna agreed. They took the stage and as the music started began to belt out their pick.

Where have all the good men gone
And where are all the gods?
Where's the streetwise Hercules
To fight the rising odds?
Isn't there a white knight
Upon a fiery steed?
Late at night I toss and I turn
And I dream of what I need.
I need a hero.
I'm holding out for a hero 'til the end of the night.
He's gotta be strong
And he's gotta be fast
And he's gotta be fresh from the fight.

I need a hero.
I'm holding out for a hero 'til the morning light
He's gotta be sure
And it's gotta be soon
And he's gotta be larger than life!
Larger than life.

Somewhere after midnight
In my wildest fantasy
Somewhere just beyond my reach
There's someone reaching back for me.

Racing on the thunder and rising with the heat
It's gonna take a superman
To sweep me off my feet.

I need a hero.
I'm holding out for a hero 'til the end of the night
He's gotta be strong
And he's gotta be fast
And he's gotta be fresh from the fight.

I need a hero.
I'm holding out for a hero 'til the morning light
He's gotta be sure
And it's gotta be soon
And he's gotta be larger than life.

I need a hero.
I'm holding out for a hero 'til the end of the night.

Up where the mountains meet the heavens above
Out where the lightning splits the sea
I could swear there is someone
Somewhere watching me
Through the wind
And the chill
And the rain
And the storm
And the flood
I can feel his approach like a fire in my blood.

I need a hero.
I'm holding out for a hero 'til the end of the night.
He's gotta be strong and he's gotta be fast
And he's gotta be fresh from the fight.

I need a hero.
I'm holding out for a hero 'til the morning light.
He's gotta be sure
And it's gotta be soon
And he's gotta be larger than life.

I need a hero.
I'm holding out for a hero 'til the end of the night.
He's gotta be strong and he's gotta be fast
And he's gotta be fresh from the fight.

I need a hero.
I'm holding out for a hero 'til the morning light.
He's gotta be sure
And it's gotta be soon
And he's gotta be larger than life.

I need a hero.
I'm holding out for a hero 'til the end of the night.


As they finished both were laughing and the crowd was cheering. Leaving the stage with bright smiles the duo made their way back to their tables. On the way Lorne joined them for the almost perfunctory reading.

“Ladies, what a lovely choice. You’re both on the paths you need to be on.” The demon said with cheer.

“Thanks Lorne.” Buffy said with a smile before the urge to ask the question plaguing her took over. “So what brought you to this city and why the karaoke bar?”

“Oh Sugar, now that is a tale.” He replied as the Slayers listened in earnest. “I grew up in this nasty hell dimension. Never felt like I fit in, until one day I fell backwards through what must have been a portal. I woke up in an abandoned building and went to see what this world had in store for me.”

A smile spread across his face. “That was the first time I ever heard music. You see it just doesn’t exist in the world I came from. There’s still some truly dreadful dancing but no music whatsoever.” He sighed before looking up to the two Slayers and finishing his tale. “I built this club and that stage on the very spot I first awoke in this wonderful town.”

“That’s kind of beautiful.” Buffy said as the story came to a close.

“Very.” Alonna agreed.

With a smile Lorne led the slayers back to their table. Surprisingly enough they found Doyle had already gone up to the stage while Lorne was talking to the two young women. “Well this should be a treat.” Lorne said.

“Hello everyone.” Doyle said with slight grin. “This is a song my grandparents used to sing a long time ago. Join in if you know the words.” As a jaunty Irish folk tune started up the half demon began to sing.

Oh then, tell me Seán O'Farrell
Tell me why you hurry so?
Hush a bhuachaill, hush and listen
And his cheeks were all aglow
I bear orders from the captain
Get you ready quick and soon
For the pikes must be together
By the rising of the moon!

By the rising of the moon
By the rising of the moon
For the pikes must be together
By the rising of the moon!

And come tell me Seán O'Farrell
Where the gath'rin is to be?
In the old spot by the river
Right well known to you and me
One more word for signal token
Whistle out the marchin' tune
With your pike upon your shoulder
By the rising of the moon!


To the surprise of the Hyperion Crew and the Scoobies about a dozen voices, both human and demon, scattered throughout the bar joined Doyle in singing the chorus.

By the rising of the moon
By the rising of the moon
With your pike upon your shoulder
By the rising of the moon!

Out from many a mud wall cabin eyes
Were watching through the night
Many a manly chest was throbbing
For the blessed morning light
Murmurs ran along the valleys
Like the banshee's lonely croon
And a thousand pikes were flashing
At the rising of the moon!

At the rising of the moon
At the rising of the moon
And a thousand pikes were flashing
By the rising of the moon!

There beside the singing river
That black mass of men was seen
High above their shining weapons
Flew their own beloved green
Death to every foe and traitor!
Forward strike the marching tune
And hurrah my boys for freedom
Tis the rising of the moon!

Tis the rising of the moon
Tis the rising of the moon
And hurrah my boys for freedom
Tis the rising of the moon!

Well they fought for poor old Ireland
And full bitter was their fate
Oh what glorious pride and sorrow
Fills the name of ninety-eight!
Yet, thank God, e'en still are beating hearts
In manhood burning noon
Who would follow in their footsteps
At the risin' of the moon!

At the rising of the moon
At the rising of the moon
Who would follow in their footsteps
At the risin' of the moon!


As the tune came to a close the crowd cheered the Irishman. Doyle took a bow and headed back to his new friends’ table. To several people’s surprise Gunn got up and greeted Doyle with open arms.

“Damn Irish!” Gunn proclaimed. “You should have said your pipes were as smooth as the Lawyer Boy’s.”

“Well I’m not one to brag.” The half demon admitted as he felt the young leader of the street toughs he would be charged with educating accept him as a part of their group.

Willow and Tara smiled as they felt the team they went to such efforts to assemble finally take form. A sudden inspiration hit the redhead as she looked around the table at all the smiling faces.

“Lindsey.” She said with a grin. “Can I ask you for a favor?”

“Maybe?” Lindsey said cautiously.

“Great.” Willow continued. “Someone seems to have neglected to bring his guitar on this trip. Can Giles borrow yours for a song?”

Turning to look at the watcher Lindsey let out a slight laugh. “You play old man?”

“Old man?” Normally being forced into a performance would have put the librarian out of sorts. However the mild insult from the country singer pushed right past that and made his inner Ripper stand up to the challenge. “Hand it over boy.”

Grasping the guitar, Giles strode purposefully to the vacant stage. He sat down on the stool by the mic and checked to see if the guitar was still in tune. After a brief moment the watcher began to strum the chords of a song that had always moved him.

No one knows what it's like
To be the bad man
To be the sad man
Behind blue eyes!

No one knows what it's like
To be hated
To be fated
To telling only lies

But my dreams
They aren't as empty
As my conscience seems to be

I have hours, only lonely
My love is vengeance
That's never free

No one knows what it's like
To feel these feelings
Like I do
And I blame you

No one bites back as hard
On their anger
None of my pain and woe
Can show through

But my dreams
They aren't as empty
As my conscience seems to be

I have hours, only lonely
My love is vengeance
That's never free


The tune suddenly picked up speed and the song took on a harder edge. Everyone in the Caritas was completely engrossed by the watcher’s performance.

When my fist clenches, crack it open
Before I use it and lose my cool
When I smile, tell me some bad news
Before I laugh and act like a fool

And if I swallow anything evil
Put your finger down my throat
And if I shiver, please give me a blanket
Keep me warm, let me wear your coat

No one knows what it's like
To be the bad man
To be the sad man
Behind blue eyes


The crowded bar that had sat in rapt silence broke out in cheers as the song came to an end. Giles smiled and bowed to the audience. “Thank you all.” He said as he went to take the guitar back to its owner.

Lorne greeted the man half way and walked back with him. “That was quite the show Mr. Giles. Or should I say Ripper?”

“Oh please don’t.” Giles replied with a twinge. “That part of me may not be as long gone as I prefer but it is not who I am.”

“I can see that.” Lorne said with a smile. “I’ll say this though. You may have doubts about where things are going but your aura is clear. Your path is with those kids. Not with the council.”

Giles was shocked at the depths the demons empathic gift was able to delve. “Thank you.” He finally said with a smile. “I had been dwelling on that for weeks but I think deep down I already knew the answer.” Another thought crossed the librarian’s mind. “Forgive me if this seems crass but I don’t think I’ve ever encountered a demon of your species before.” He said with a grin.

“Think nothing of it Cinnamon Buns.” Lorne replied. “I’m something of a black sheep from the Deathwok Clan out of Pylea.”

“Facinating!” The watcher said with a bemused smile. As the pair of men returned to the table Giles handed the guitar back to its stunned owner. “How was that Lindsey? Old man indeed.”

Willow and Tara both had wide smiles at the watcher’s hidden talents they learned about long ago. Xander was in a state of complete shock. Buffy had the most confused look on her face. Alonna was mildly surprised at their reactions.

“So I take it he doesn’t do that often?” The ebony Slayer asked.

“Sure.” Xander smirked. “Every day the earth rotates backwards and the sky turns orange.”

“Never.” Buffy remarked.

“Well, he is pretty good.” Tara added with a smile.

“Oh come on.” Willow replied with a playful smirk. “It is kinda sexy.”

“I’m fighting total mental breakdown here Will.” Xander said quietly. “No more fuel on the fire please.”

“Yes well, don’t get used to it.” Giles admonished.

“Aww don’t be like that big dawg.” Gunn replied with wide grin. “I think we got just enough peeps with tight skills to form our own band.”

“Now there’s an idea.” Lorne said with a smile.

“Yes certainly.” Giles scoffed. “We’ll all travel around in a bus and stop the apocalypse in between gigs.” The librarian said while polishing his glasses.

As the group began to laugh Xander had an idea. He walked around to Gunn and whispered something in the young man’s ear. At first Gunn had a worried expression but then he smiled and the two of them walked up to the stage and started to scroll through the karaoke machines song selection.

Almost in unison both Slayers whispered the same line. “What are they doing?” Startled they turned to look at each other. “Jinx!” They both said before laughing again.

Up on stage Xander and Gunn stood side by side and began to sing along to the opening bars of “Ebony & Ivory.”

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

Hours later the patrons of Caritas had all but completely cleared out. The bartender was giving the counter surface one final wipe down as the last server was mixing Lorne’s last Sea Breeze of the night.

She walked over to the large group that had been monopolizing her boss all night. As they parted to let her pass she saw the group’s leaders sitting around a table exchanging stories with Lorne. The waitress was truly surprised to see Lindsey pulled into the group.

What was almost as surprising was the range of vocal talent the group exhibited. From a tuneless Vampire to a young honey blonde with a voice almost as good as her boss, the group ran the gamut.

Lorne saw her coming and smiled brightly. “Sugar you are a blessing from the goddess.” He called out as she brought him his favorite cocktail.

“It’s past closing time boss. Are you going to be okay if we head home?” She asked trying not to draw attention from the group around her boss.

“Oh sweetie, don’t worry about me.” Lorne said with a grin. “You head home and be safe.”

“It’s getting really late.” Willow agreed. “We should probably wrap this up. Rondell and Chain. Could you and the rest of the guys head back to the Hotel in the first limo?”

“You not coming with us Red?” Rondell asked.

“We have one last question to ask Lorne before we call it a night and the subject may be a little personal for so many ears to be standing by.” Willow answered.

That statement seemed to pacify the crowd of young men. As they turned and left with the waitress and bartender the club was empty save for the witches, the Slayers, the watcher, the half demon, the cursed vampire, the gang leader, the jester, the lawyers and the Host.

No one made a sound as the tension in the room seemed to rise. As Lorne sipped from his drink he smiled once more at the two witches. “So you ladies had some bigger reasons for coming here tonight.” He said finally.

“Two more.” Willow said as she and Tara looked directly at the green man. “For starters we want to beef up the anti violence spell you have on this place.”

That got the attention of the group. When was the protection the spell provided ever in question? What did the witches have in mind? Lorne’s interest was piqued.

“That magic is a fairly powerful piece of spellwork performed by the Transuding Furies.” Lorne said. At the mention of those specific Furies Angel, Giles and Doyle looked up in shock at what that meant for the place they had been enjoying themselves all night.

“You’re looking at two powerful witches.” Willow replied. “But whether you have us do it or the Furies the spell needs to be replaced.”

“What’s wrong with it exactly?” Lorne asked.

“It doesn’t prevent human violence.” Tara said plainly.

That was a shock. Lorne had never even considered that as a problem. Then again Two human witches had walked in here tonight with a massive primarily human fighting force. Whether the spell would have prevented Slayer violence or not was also an unknown factor. One Slayer in his club was a scary enough prospect but there were two sitting within arms reach of him.

Looking around the table Lorne was suddenly quite worried. What was even more troubling was the angry look on Gunn’s face.

“Why did you tell us the club was shielded from all violence then?” Gunn asked with a slight edge to his voice.

“Because we still don’t know if we can trust your boys to let Angel and Doyle live the second we leave this town.” Willow said while her full resolve face was trained on Gunn. “Gunn each and every one of them needs to understand that it isn’t about killing random demons. In the worlds where they can’t or won’t realize that fact they end up causing us nothing but grief.”

“So you’ve been testing us this whole time?” Alonna asked.

“You and your brother h-have proven time and again th-that you can be trusted.” Tara said. “Rondell, Chain and a f-few others have been less reliable.”

“Gunn we committed mass murder yesterday and your crew didn’t even bat an eye.” Willow said harshly. “I told them we killed millions and they all looked at me like I was a big damned hero. It was all I could do to keep from breaking down.”

“So then why did you do it?” Lorne asked.

“To keep places like this from being destroyed in the crossfire of their war.” Willow rebuked.

“We s-sealed the old senior partner’s r-realm from all other dimensions Lorne.” Tara said. “The casualties h-happened because they h-had their claws in a lot of people, not directly from our actions.”

“We’re just indirectly responsible for the deaths of millions.” Willow sighed. “Gunn, I’m also thankful a few certain scumbags haven’t weaseled their way into your ranks.” The redhead said. “The few times they took over the crew it turned into a complete nightmare we had to fix.”

Gunn had no idea how to respond to that. The actions of his people had put him at odds with these incredibly powerful witches in lives he had no idea he had even lived. Or was it other dimensions? They hadn’t fully explained anything beyond the fact they were incredibly powerful and needed his help.

“Okay I get the need for tests if that is how bad things played out in the past.” Gunn relented. “But if we’re gonna follow your marching orders you can’t lie to us or keep the details secret until after the fact.”

“The main reason we came here tonight is the last test your boys will have to pass Gunn.” After that it will be completely up to you to keep them in line. Especially when it comes to protecting innocent demons from them.” Willow added.

Gunn nodded to that compromise. He could abide by the rules these girls had set and it was probably a smart move on their part to test his Crew before letting them loose on the world with all they had promised. Turning back to Lorne Willow began retelling the last and most crucial goal they had come here for.

“Lorne the main reason we came to you tonight is simple.” Willow remarked. “We need to open a portal to Pylea.”


____________________________

Addendum: In case anyone wanted a soundtrack.

Lindsey

Willow

Tara

Buffy&Alonna

Doyle

Giles

_________________
Time and Time Again


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 Post subject: Re: Time and Time Again
PostPosted: Fri Aug 29, 2014 9:57 pm 
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9. Gay Now
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Joined: Sat Sep 24, 2011 7:45 pm
Posts: 950
Topics: 15
Location: Beyond the orbit of Mars and accelerating...
Yay, i'm back from the land of no internet!

Good to see the girls acknowledging the carnage and dealing with it realisically.
I mean, they aren't brushing it off, but they've done it before, and they're not agonizing over it.

Good.

Also, i'm liking that Faith is starting to appear.
I'm wondering how it's going to go in timeline Prime when she and Buffy meet. :bounce
Everything is better with more girlie lovin' :)

And wow, cleanup is happening fast!
I guess that happens when you know where the bodies are buried. literally.

I look forward to the next instalment.

R

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


My Story: Coming Home


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 Post subject: Re: Time and Time Again
PostPosted: Wed Sep 03, 2014 8:09 am 
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Azirahael welcome back. Yes they are acknowledging the more grim aspects of their actions while at the same time their friends have yet to see the full impact.

The Faith~Buffy dynamic is something that I'm proud to say will play out differently across the different worlds. Willow and Tara's love is a constant unwavering force in this series while the Slayers' relationship may not always go as smoothly as we all want it to. They'll face obstacles not even our two favorite witches can magic away.

Cleaning up LA with prior knowledge of all the crap that kept Angel from helping the helpless is indeed moving along quickly. The flip side of that is that the Scoobies are going back to the Hellmouth very soon. Setting up the shop and skipping town while Alonna, Angel and Gunn run their own show is half the battle.

The other half is the day to day grind of Doyle gets vision, team goes out to fight monster, lather, rinse, repeat. Willow and Tara won't need to be present for most of that.

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Time and Time Again


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 Post subject: Re: Time and Time Again
PostPosted: Wed Sep 03, 2014 8:17 am 
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Time and Time Again.

Author: Citanul

Feedback: Be kind, rewind?

Spoilers: Just about all of them. Go watch the show.

Rating: NC-17

Pairings: W/T, B/F

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 girls are about to take their first steps out of the Asylum and into a much larger world. Some new and old faces will be greeting them along the way.

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

Primer: Sirens

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

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

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

Sirens: The Bat

Today was the day.

Harley awoke in her small apartment with a wide smile stretching across her face. Not even the dreary overcast Gotham City skies could darken her mood. Today was the day Ivy would be released from Arkham.

Yes the great minds at Arkham Asylum had convened. They gave the green woman a thorough once over and deemed her mentally stable. A remarkable rate of recovery considering just weeks ago they had classified her with textbook examples of narcissistic rage, antisocial personality disorder and to top it all off they labeled her with an extra large helping of erotomania.

Oh Harley could attest to her love’s more amorous predilections. Though no one else in this dimension could even begin to comprehend how deep those tastes ran. Tastes which revolved exclusively around a certain petite blonde psychiatrist.

All the psychiatrist had to do now was show up for one more day of work and sign her love out of the Asylum’s custody. The doors would open and the two of them would finally be free of that awful place. Harley would take Ivy home today where they could finally get started on building their life together.

First item on the agenda was the antitoxin. Harley wanted nothing more than to be with her love. She knew however that Ivy’s physiology would be the end of her without protection from the various chemicals, enzymes, pheromones and toxins the plant woman’s body constantly produced. Harley had taken a small fraction of the fortune Wayne had given her and used it to buy all the equipment and supplies her love would need. Ivy would make the serum for Harley. They would finally be together.

Maybe if they limited their contact they could do without for a time. But Harley knew there was no such thing as just a little lovin’ when it came to what they felt for each other. Harley knew she couldn’t help herself when it came to the woman who owned her so completely. Heart, mind, body and soul. It all belonged to the emerald redhead.

Hope swelled and joy blossomed in the hacker’s heart. The thin trickle of memories from past lives had driven her to the brink of madness with anticipation for the moment they would finally embrace. Finally reunite as one. She had remembered so much in the weeks since they met, and yet Harley knew there was so much more waiting for the two of them.

With that first kiss they could finally be everything they were meant to be. Once that happened nothing would ever be able to separate them. The love they shared would guide Harley and Ivy beyond the petty crimes, pains and expectations from the lives they had lived in this world.

Harley was beside herself.

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

Today was the day.

Ivy awoke in her cramped cell in Arkham just as the first rays of light illuminated the far wall. As she moved into position a bright uncompromising smile spread across her face. She was getting out today.

The meaningless questions at the review board had ranged from insufferable to insulting. Yet she grinned and bore it anyway. Getting a clean slate and the chance to build a life with her love was more than worth any indignity.

Ivy had never trusted psychiatrists or the profession they chose. Thanks to the opinions of men that died over a century ago they seemed to instantly take an ill view of any approach to a healthy sex life. She had no sex life at all and they had still labeled her an erotomaniac due to the handful of times she used a sprits of pheromones to dupe a dimwitted man into following simple instructions. Avoiding people for a brief time after the ones Ivy trusted most betrayed her had caused the doctors to label the plant woman as some sort of antisocial nut.

Worst of all, after being an unremarkable introvert for all her life she had decided the changes her body went through should be embraced. She did everything in her power to build up a positive self image of her own body. For the sin of finally being happy about her ample hips and more pronounced curves she had been deemed a narcissist. No, Ivy had never experienced a positive encounter with psychiatrists.

Of course that was all before Harley. The woman she shared eternity with. The other half of her soul. The girl who knew her body better than she knew it herself. The brilliant mind that danced circles around entire rooms of intellectuals. Her heart. Regardless of any psychiatry doctorate Harley was the emerald woman’s everything. Harley was Ivy’s heart.

Now, thanks to that doctorate, Harley and Ivy could be together again. Thanks to Harley’s knowledge and skill Ivy passed the psychological review with flying colors. Thanks to Ivy’s pronounced change in behavior every guard and orderly that dealt with her was left wondering why she was here in the first place. Even the other doctors had come to notice the perfect model of sanity Ivy had transformed into seemingly overnight.

It was all thanks to Harley. The love they shared. The bond they felt at the very core of their being. The joy and happiness Ivy had never known until gazing into those beautiful blue eyes. Harley was the single most important driving force in Ivy’s life.

And in a few short hours they would be free and together. Ivy would make the serum for Harley’s gene therapy. Her genius hacker would never fall victim to the lethal side effects of Ivy’s physiology. With the added twists Ivy had just figured out how to add to the serum it was possible Harley would never fall victim to anything ever again.

Being released from Arkham, then synthesizing the formula for the serum already planned out in her mind were the last steps to beginning life anew for the couple. As Ivy stretched out under the narrow beam of sunlight in her cell she smiled at what lay ahead.

The green woman had never felt such happiness before.

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

Today was the day.

Batman sat in the cushioned chair before the Bat Computer. The complete profile on Dr. Harleen Quinzel was arrayed on the massive screen. Academic, criminal, psychological and employment records laid bare for the vigilante to peruse.

The records for all of her patients were also open to him. What worried him most was the fact she only had one current patient. A woman whose criminal career may have been in its infancy but was trouble none the less.

Poison Ivy.

The records of the chief of doctors at Arkham Asylum revealed she was initially offered the Joker’s case. The crime fighter shuddered at a particularly dark thought. All records stated this doctor had shown remarkable success with the plant hybrid practically over night.

The signs Batman saw pointed to something more going on behind the scenes. If Ivy had somehow tuned her pheromones to the point where she could seduce women then this doctor was proving to be the perfect patsy.

If on the other hand the good doctor was merely unstable and easily manipulated then there were even worse outcomes than simply being seduced by Ivy. Batman remarked that if that was the case with Dr. Quinzel then they were all lucky she wasn’t seduced by the Joker. Her brilliant mind being twisted to his psychotic purposes was a truly frightening concept.

No. If she was being turned to a life of crime better it be at the hands of Poison Ivy than the Joker. He would watch them tonight. From the moment of Ivy’s release to the point they went to sleep.

He had a suspicion Harleen would take the plant woman back to her residence. A large number of odd purchases had been shipped to that building in the weeks since he had bought her software. Though nothing nefarious was found in the files she handed over Batman was still certain he had handed over the seed money Ivy would use for her next plot.

The Dark Knight was in for a long round of surveillance this night. Nightwing, Robin and Batgirl were indisposed with a Titans mission. Fortunately enough for him he knew Selina was itching to go on a round of patrols with him. Catwoman was proving to be a remarkable asset in the field. Though he lamented her relentless efforts to mix his business with her pleasure he couldn’t deny the fact that he was all too often a more than willing participant.

They had already progressed past the stage of their relationship where Dick and Tim no longer gave Selina a second look when she strolled into the kitchen first thing in the morning wearing little more than one of Bruce’s button down shirts. The blonde had joined them for breakfast so often that even Tim had grown tired of his own mild joke about not calling her mom.

Even her kleptomania was starting to fall by the wayside. The caped crusader had no doubt in his mind that the woman he shared a bead with was well on her way to a new and better life without crime.

As these thought came to brighten his otherwise formidable brooding session a pair of slender arms draped themselves around his shoulders, and a pair of perfectly shaped breasts pressed into his shoulder.

“Bruce, you aren’t looking at other women behind my back are you?” Selina whispered into his ear.

“Of course not Sweetie.” Bruce Wayne replied as he pulled his leather cat suit clad girlfriend into his lap. “I’m thinking you and I need to do some surveillance tonight.”

Looking up at the screen Selina paused as she recognized a familiar face. “What did Pammy get herself into now?” She asked with mild detachment as she turned to nuzzle her face into the billionaire’s neck.

“I can’t be sure yet but she may have tricked her doctor into helping free her from Arkham and procuring millions of dollars in seed money.” Bruce replied.

“Where would her psychiatrist get millions from without a crime spree of her own?” Selina asked still puzzled.

“She sold Wayne Enterprises twenty million dollars worth of cutting edge software.” The man replied quietly.

Selina stopped her ministrations and sat back to look her wealthy boyfriend in the eyes. “You gave her twenty million dollars for computer files?” She exclaimed with shock and maybe a small amount of outrage.

“Lucius and his top tech experts went through them and said that the programs would get her a great deal more if she went to Lexcorp with them.” The vigilante said meekly as his girlfriend glared at him. “Since she sold them to us it looks like we may be able to dominate a few markets where Luthor has been beating us. We might even be able to crush his company one day soon if we play it right.”

“So why are you worried this woman is up to no good if she sold you something that will help you crush your League buddy’s main foe?” Selina ventured with mild curiosity.

“She has a doctorate in psychiatry but no record of ever learning or using the programming skills needed to write that software.” Bruce answered. “Plus she just started treating Poison Ivy a few weeks ago and has already gotten the Asylum’s review board to release her later today. Something strange is going on.”

“So are we going to spend the night on the neighboring rooftop listening to them?” The cat burglar asked with a coy smile.

“That was the plan.” Bruce said while trying to refocus on the data onscreen.

“And are you gonna let me fool around with you when it turns out to be nothing to worry about?” The blonde asked with a mischievous grin as her hands started to wander south of the utility belt.

The billionaire gasped as the woman he couldn’t help but love began to work her way through the process of removing his Batpants. A process the blonde had memorized long ago.

As they both worked to divest each other of costumes and body armor their lips met for a long sensual kiss. The Bat and the Cat had long ago found each other’s embrace to be the best remedy for old wounds of the heart and mind.

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

Harley packed the last of her personal effects into her bag. She had slowly spent the last week clearing out her office at Arkham Asylum. The only things left in the room were the furniture and two boxes sitting on her desk filled with her old case files. Her entire work history up to the morning she met Ivy was in those boxes. Any doctor they got to replace her would find them invaluable.

The thought of her replacement idly sifting through her old files trying to find the ones detailing her success with the illustrious Poison Ivy put a smile on her face. Let them look as hard as they might. She had made a decision the second she was handed Ivy’s case history. She would never write up such a callous report on the woman she loved. Furthermore she would do her best to erase the disparaging files that came before. After today the staff would be hard pressed to find anything in their records on a Dr. Pamela Isley or a Poison Ivy aside from the basic fact she was admitted and then cleared for discharge.

As she went to the door Harley took one last look at the office she had spent the early days of her psychiatry career toiling away within. A smile graced her lips as she suddenly knew with certainty she would never return. With that brief reverie she stepped out into the hall and closed the door behind her.

As the office door closed the door to the rest of her life opened. With a spring in her step she waltzed down the hall towards the maximum security wing and the discharge station where she would sign her love out of this nightmarish institution.

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

As the morning slowly slipped away Ivy made one last check of her cell. Why she bothered she had no idea. Nothing she valued lay within the cramped stone room. None of the possession they confiscated upon her admittance even held any significance. The only thing that mattered was her love.

Checking that her clothes were relatively neat she sat on her bunk and waited for the guards to come. After minutes that dragged on for an eternity she finally heard the familiar click and slide of the door being unlocked and slowly opened. Outside stood two guards. One had a slight smile. The other frowned as if he still expected her to try something.

“Time to go Isley.” The chipper guard stated. “The Doc and Warden are waiting by the discharge station.”

“Sounds lovely.” The emerald skinned woman said as she slowly approached the guards. Stepping out into the hall Ivy fell into the well practiced formation the guards had used to escort her around the facility.

As they came to the end of the maximum security wing three people came into view. The Warden, the Chief of Doctors, and Ivy’s soulmate. It took everything both women had not to break out in huge smiles and blow what little cover they still had.

The guards led Ivy to a desk where her personal effects were presented to her and checked out of the Asylum’s storage vault. She was shown to a private room where she changed out of the orange Arkham jumpsuit and back into her “Street Clothes.”

“Street Clothes” may have been a bit of an overstatement. The few garments she deemed to wear in public amounted to pale green tights and dark forest green lingerie. After changing clothes Ivy went about rearranging the leaves that sprouted from her body. Once complete she gave herself a final once over. Everything was covered just enough to put on a show of modesty while still being exceedingly provocative in the eyes of just about every beholder.

After gathering her resolve one more time Ivy strolled out of the changing room and into the sparsely furnished office space used to discharge patients. Walking up to the desk her love and the two administrators stood behind the emerald woman presented the perfect mix of calm and decorum for their inspection.

The Warden started a well rehearsed and rarely used speech that Ivy couldn’t bring herself to care about one bit. As he drew to a close she turned to him and offered a token reply.

“I want to thank you and your staff for everything this wonderful institution has done for me.” She never knew she could lie that well. Memories of skills learned long ago seemed to surface the exact moment she needed them. They made the constant bluffing to the guards and other doctors easier by leaps and bounds.

As the Chief of Doctors began a rudimentary congratulations for her speedy recovery both Ivy and Harley sighed internally at the slightly pompous attitude they both knew was completely undeserved.

After the men had their self congratulatory say another member of the Asylum’s staff produced a form. The Warden singed first followed by the Chief. Then Harley wrote the moniker she would soon leave behind forever. Last was Ivy. As they had discussed in private sessions she signed with the name she abandoned the day of her transformation. With that final act of contrition Ivy was officially sane. With one last look to Harley she turned and strode out the far doors that lead to the building’s main entrance.

She was finally free.

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

Harley could barely contain herself. Standing idly by as the two clueless men in charge of Arkham Asylum congratulated themselves with long winded speeches. If nothing else Ivy was handling their bravado phenomenally well.

With the paperwork signed and filed away Ivy gave her one last look of longing and walked out of the building a free woman. Watching her go and not running after her soulmate was one of the hardest things Harley had ever done. But she still had some acting to do. Appearances needed to be upheld at least until Ivy was off the grounds and safely hidden in the city.

“Well gentlemen.” The young psychiatrist said turning towards the Warden and Chief of Doctors. “I would love to stay but I have an appointment to get to.”

“Oh my.” The Chief gasped. “Is everything alright Dr. Quinzel.”

“Oh it’s nothing to worry over.” Harley said with barely concealed glee. “Just a regular check up for feminine medical stuff.”

Both men paled suddenly. The Warden managed a brief reply after a coughing fit nearly took him over. “Say no more Doctor. Take all the time you need.”

“Thank you sir.” Harley said with a smile. The hacker quickly turned to leave the building before they could stop. She left her old life behind her, never to return.

Skipping across the staff parking lot to her car, Harley could no longer contain the joy in her heart. Hopping in the driver’s seat of her clunker of a hatchback she quickly turned the ignition and pulled out onto the driveway leading to the front gates. As she passed through the gates a beautiful sight came into view.

Ivy was slowly strolling down the road leading back to town. Her arms were outstretched; face tilted to the sky, her glorious emerald skin and each leaf on her body was basking in the golden rays of sunlight that filled the countryside on this unusually bright, sunny afternoon.

Harley pulled up beside the love of her life and rolled down the passenger side window. “Hey there sexy.” She hollered lasciviously. “Need a lift into town?”

Ivy turned to take in the sight of her love waggling her eyebrows suggestively and giggled as a wide smile broke out on her face. “Why fair stranger.” The emerald woman grinned. “You wouldn’t be trying to abscond with my fragile person would you?”

“You bet your sweet ass I am Baby.” Harley replied with even more eyebrow waggling as Ivy climbed in the passenger seat. As soon as the door closed and the botanist fished out her seatbelt the hacker sped off.

They made good time as they drove off towards their new life together.

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

Bruce Wayne rolled up the window of the limo he was sitting in. Turning to his coconspirator he gave the woman a meaningful look.

“See?” He asked. “Ivy figured out a way to seduce her female doctor.”

“Or Quinzel just doesn’t care for the fellas.” Selina replied in a bored drawl. “Pammy does have certain assets that a lot of people would find appealing.”

“No, they’re plotting something alright.” The vigilante reaffirmed. “It’s just a matter of time before they reveal their plan.”

“Sweetie, are you sure you aren’t just fixating on this?” The thief asked with a skeptical tone.

The billionaire frowned before turning to his trusted butler in the driver’s seat of the car. “Alfred, follow them. We’ll find out what they’re up to.” Bruce commanded.

“Of course Master Bruce.” The old man replied before pulling onto the road and pursuing the doctor’s car.

Selina sighed wearily. Today was going to last far too long and turn out nowhere near interesting enough for the trouble it had in store.

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

As Harley pulled into her parking space behind the apartment building she turned to her love and smiled once again. “Home sweet safe house we’re crashing at before we leave town Baby.”

“You take me to the nicest places Sweetie.” Ivy replied with a matching smile.

The duo quickly exited the hatchback and made their way inside the building. As they turned a corner Harley’s landlord came into view. “Doc, the rent is due by the end of the, oh shit!” The man turned and fled in terror at the first sight of Ivy.

“Boys are so fragile.” Harley smirked at the annoying man’s reaction to her love.

“I’ll say.” Ivy concurred.

The two women continued down the hall to Harley’s apartment. As the hacker opened the door she turned to her love and invited her inside. “Welcome home Baby.” The blonde said with a bright smile.

As Ivy stepped inside she quickly noticed the large amount of lab equipment lining the small apartment’s living room. “Oh Sweetie, you got everything I asked for!” The redhead cried out in joy.

“Of course Baby.” Harley replied. “Getting your work up and running is the most important step to building our life together.”

As Ivy gazed into her love’s blue eyes she was once again overcome with emotion. Before tears could begin to trail down her emerald cheeks the botanist decided they had waited far too long. “I’m getting to work on that serum.” She said with determination. “We need to catch up on all the love making we put off the last few weeks.”

Harley grinned at her love’s take charge attitude. She always loved when her everything laid down the law. As Ivy went to work firing up machines and sorting samples of various plants the hacker beamed at the images her mind conjured for just what all that catching up would entail. She closed the door too her apartment and went to the kitchen to prepare their lunch. The grin never left her face.

Things were finally falling into place.

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

In a secluded alley by Harley’s apartment building a limo idled. The elderly driver turned to his long time friend and employer to ask the question the man’s girlfriend had asked at least a dozen times.

“Master Bruce, are you certain those ladies are indeed up to something?” Alfred asked.

“Well okay they might not try anything in Quinzel’s apartment but we still have to watch them to find out how they’ll strike.” Bruce replied.

“Well let’s at least head back to the manor and change before we spend anymore time watching their apartment.” Selina pleaded.

“That’s a great idea Sweetie.” Bruce said. “We’ll suit up and come back with long range listening equipment.”

Selina sighed and Alfred rolled his eyes at the eccentric billionaire’s one track mind. As the butler started the limo and pulled out into traffic each had wildly different feelings about this mission.

Alfred was starting to worry about the preemptive nature of this surveillance. Bruce had never gone out of his way to follow a potential criminal before. What’s more to the best of his knowledge Alfred was unaware of Poison Ivy ever posing enough of a threat to warrant this level of concern.

Selina knew Ivy personally. They had met up one night in the Iceberg Lounge and spent the night laughing at the other rogues and their inane posturing. A few had tried their luck with pickup lines on the women and only received unwelcome sneers at best and severe debilitating reactions to Ivy’s pollen at worst. It had been a fun night and Selina honestly couldn’t see Ivy as the threat to the city Bruce did. Sure the plant woman came off as a little stuck on herself and kind of bitchy but so were most women the cat burglar met.

Bruce knew something was afoot. The blonde programmer’s odd behavior in his office was unsettling at times and bewildering throughout. Ivy may have been one of the least active criminals he had to face regularly but if she was stepping up her eco-terrorism efforts then he would be there to stop her.

On the way to Wayne Manor a thought occurred to Selina. “What do we do if the doctor is the one pulling Ivy’s strings?”

Neither man had an answer for that scenario.

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

Hours passed in the small apartment. Ivy toiled away tirelessly synthesizing the serum for her love. So focused on her work was the emerald woman that she practically flew from one machine to the next. Examining samples, cross referencing gene markers, mixing chemicals, and running simulations. So driven by the promise of the life that lay ahead that the smile never left her face.

The only time she tore herself away from the important work was when Harley forced her to come eat something. Lunch had been simple enough. The hacker made them sandwiches from the cold cuts she had in the fridge. She then spent the better part of the afternoon preparing a lavish dinner. Harley chopped up chicken breasts, bell peppers and onions. She lightly grilled the chicken before adding it to the vegetables to stir fry on simmer. Then diced and lightly seasoned potatoes in a baking dish before putting them in the oven to roast. Once the potatoes were seen to she set about slicing carrots to caramelize on the stove top.

Harley also filled a small bucket with ice and set a bottle of wine in it to chill. She had bought her love’s favorite vintage the day after they met. She had more than enough cause to celebrate. Tonight was going to be so very special for both of them. Once dinner was all but finished Harley set the table for two. She placed a small pot of live roses in the center of the table and lit candles for ambiance.

Getting the food out of the oven and off the stove took no time at all. Once everything was poured into serving dishes she arrayed them on the table. Harley then spooned out helpings for the two of them. As the steam rose from the plates she turned go fetch Ivy.

As the hacker walked to the archway separating kitchen from living room turned improvised lab she caught sight of her love running about excitedly. Several machines were in the middle of processing data and churning out results. A smile crossed her lips as her heart was once again overcome with joy.

“Dinner’s ready Baby.” The psychiatrist called as the busy botanist slowed her pace.

As the busy scientist whipped her head around to see her love watching her work long red locks swirled through the air and cascaded down green shoulders. A wide, uncompromising smile broke out on Ivy’s face as she skipped up to Harley and enveloped her in a hug.

“Sweetie, wonderful news. I’m almost finished.” Ivy whispered into the blonde’s ear. “After we eat it’ll only be another hour or so before everything is perfect for you.”

“That’s fantastic Baby.” Harley cried out in delight. “I can’t wait to celebrate with you later tonight.” She added with a suggestive tone.

Both women giggled as they strolled over to the dinner table. Harley pulled out a seat for her love and pushed it in as she sat. Taking up the opposite seat they both began to eat while staring longingly into each other’s eyes.

It seemed as though nothing could ruin this evening.

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

On the rooftop across the alleyway from the living room windows of the doctor’s apartment two figures held eerie vigil. Cloaked in darkness and gaudy black costumes the man and woman listened to the speaker hooked up to the audio surveillance dish mounted on the ledge.

“So she bought all this lab stuff so Ivy could mix her something?” Catwoman asked mildly interested now that she had witnessed Ivy hard at work on something.

“See!” Batman replied almost petulantly. “They are planning something. Once we know for sure what kind of trouble they’re mixing up with all that tech we can stop them.”

“I still think you should stay open to the chance they just want a fresh start.” Catwoman said a little testily. “That is after all exactly what Quinzel said she wanted your money for.”

“The baddies who got their start in a vat of chemicals almost never want to reform.” Batman said with an exasperated sigh. “They all can’t be the half finished success story you are.”

“Hey!” The mostly reformed burglar shot back. “I’ll have you know I’m now a model citizen.”

“Is that why I have to check your purse for cat statues every time we stop a museum heist?” The billionaire asked with a wry smile.

“I was going to return those.” Catwoman muttered in reply. “I don’t know why you keep making a federal case out of every little thing.”

“Because stealing little things from national museums is a federal offense.” Batman smirked.

As the couple on the rooftop continued to multitask between arguing and eavesdropping the couple in the apartment ate and exchanged looks of longing and affection. Though each relationship was drastically different the one thing both had in common was love. Genuine, heartfelt love.

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

“This food is fantastic Sweetie.” Ivy said before taking another bite.

“I know it’s taken a long time but I think some of your cooking skills are starting to rub off on me.” Harley replied with a smile.

The botanist grinned. “That won’t be the only thing rubbing off on you.”

“I...” The hacker started before gasping. “You… We…”

As the petite blonde’s mind struggled to find the words to respond to the curvy redhead’s filthy innuendo she came to notice the green woman was sporting a wicked smile. Putting on a mischievous grin of her own Harley looked her love in the eye.

“No matter how used to it I get your dirty sense of humor always takes me by surprise.” Harley stated.

“Oh Sweetie.” Ivy replied coyly. “That won’t be the only thing that takes you after I finish the serum.”

“Baby! Don’t tease me like that.” The lithe psychiatrist pleaded as she began to squirm in her seat. “It’s so unfair that I can’t jump across this table and be kissing you right now.”

“Soon Sweetie.” The emerald woman promised. “I swear our waiting is almost over. I love you more than anything and I promise I’ll make up for all I’ve put you through.” Tears began to pool in the corners of shining green eyes. Before they could threaten to roll down verdant cheeks a hand reached across the table and wrapped around Ivy’s trembling green fingers.

“You already have Baby.” Harley whispered. “You’re my everything. My always. You have given my life meaning it never had before. No matter how long we have to wait or what we have to go through to be together it is so much more than worth it. Because I love you.”

Ivy couldn’t help but smile through the tears as her love once again said exactly what she needed to hear. “I love you so much.” She whispered back. As the tender moment dragged on Ivy came to a decision. “I need to finish that serum Sweetie. We’ve both waited far too long.”

The botanist slowly stood and gave her love one final smile before turning back towards the living room turned laboratory. With a skip in her step she returned to work. Harley smiled at the renewed vigor her love displayed.

The hacker went about putting leftovers away then pulled out her laptop. There were a few e-mails and price checks she needed to make before the evening was done. She had a few big surprises in store for her curvaceous green love.

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

“Whatever this serum she’s mixing is for they both seem to have big plans for it.” Batman remarked dryly.

“I don’t think we need to worry about it Honey.” Catwoman said with a bored sigh. “It sounds like they just want something that will let them screw without Quinzel getting a rash.” She paused to consider the stakes for a moment. “Or severe poisoning from having her mouth on Ivy for hours on end.”

Batman’s head shot up as the full picture his partner painted came into view. “Huh.” The facts he knew about Poison Ivy’s altered physiology replayed in his mind. The men who crossed her path didn’t fair well. The lucky ones got away with a hefty dose of mind altering pheromones. The unfortunate ended up with dangerous levels of various plant based toxins flooding their systems. If the woman held genuine feelings for her psychiatrist then it would stand to reason she wouldn’t risk taking their relationship to the next level until some kind of inoculation could be made.

“I’m very stupid aren’t I?” He asked in a defeated tone.

“Oh Honey.” The cat burglar said softly. “A little, yeah.”

“We’ll stay just long enough to make sure Ivy isn’t trying some elaborate scheme to poison Quinzel and then we’ll give them some privacy.” The vigilante sighed.

Catwoman gently pat her boyfriend on the shoulder. He always got so out of sorts when he missed simple explanations while looking for criminal conspiracies.

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

Over an hour passed in the small apartment. Harley had found exactly what she needed to get the next part of their life together off to an amazing start. Tomorrow she would take Ivy around town and show her the key to their plans.

As she powered down the laptop a cry came from the living room. “Sweetie! I did it! I did it!” The hacker was up like a shot and ran to her love.

“Baby?” Harley cried with a mix of fright and excitement. “Is the serum ready? Did it go okay?” She asked excitedly as she ran into the living room.

“Yes! It’s ready! I just finished it!” Ivy exclaimed with a wide uncompromising smile. “Let me ready an injector and we’re in business.”

As the emerald woman hurried around readying the injection for her love both women couldn’t help but let the sheer joy play across their faces. This moment was a long time in coming. Ivy placed the vial of precious serum within the barrel of an injection gun and slid the action closed. She then pulled out a cotton swab and disinfectant wipe and went to Harley.

The psychiatrist was practically vibrating with joy. Her shirt was already off of her body and her arm was out and facing her love. The botanist took out the wipe and cleaned a spot on the lithe woman’s upper arm. Green eyes locked with blue as the injector came into place and slid the needle into the waiting vein.

Harley gasped at the slight pinch. As Ivy pulled the spent injector away and set it aside she took the cotton swab to the spot that seeped a tiny drop of blood. Holding it in place with a thumb the emerald woman took her other hand and cupped the slender woman’s quivering cheek.

Emotions beyond words passed between the two lovers as they gazed into each other’s eyes. The love they shared was palpable in the air. Almost nothing could spoil this moment.

Which made it all the more shocking when the moment was spoiled by Harley’s eyes rolling back in her head and all the strength leaving her legs. Ivy Caught the slim woman in her arms and struggled to lay her down on the couch.

“Sweetie? Stay with me. Please Harley, Sweetie.” The emerald woman began to panic as tears streamed down her face. “I love you! Fight through this! Please, I need you Baby!”

A slight smile crept over Harley’s face. “I love when you call me that Baby.” The lithe woman shuddered for a long moment and passed out.

All Ivy could do was clutch her love tighter as the tears refused to stop.

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

On the nearby rooftop the vigilante and cat burglar were startled into action. Batman was up and ready to strike in a moment. Catwoman was close behind him. Firing his zip line at the arch above one of the living room windows, the caped crusader flew into action.

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

Harley lay unmoving, wrapped in Ivy’s arms. Tears streamed down green cheeks and pale skin as the redhead buried her face in the blonde’s shoulder. “Please don’t leave me.” Ivy moaned weakly. She was taken by complete surprise as a hand pulled her head up and she felt lips press against her own.

Light filled the room.

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

Batman began to glide along the line reaching across the alley. The last sensation to hit him before her burst through the window of Dr. Harleen Quinzel’s apartment was a blinding flash of light. He was so shocked by the light he landed wrong after bursting through the window and barrel rolled clear across the room until he hit the far wall upside down with a thud.

Catwoman was close behind him but landed gracefully on her feet just inside the window. “You okay sweetie?” She asked snidely.

“I’m Alive.” He replied with a groan. “I can tell, ‘cause of the pain.”

As the light slowly faded from the room it revealed the two doctors were still wrapped up in each other’s arms sharing a deep sensual kiss. The sight stopped Catwoman in her tracks and gave Batman pause.

Moments passed before Ivy pulled away from Harley. Their lips came apart with a pop. Harley looked confused for a moment before the sight of the Bat picking himself off the floor caused her to frown.

“We have guests Sweetie.” Ivy said with a sigh before turning to glare at Batman. After a moment she noticed Catwoman standing across the room. “Selina! Great to see you. How’s your money?”

“Very good thank you.” The mostly reformed burglar replied with a smile. “How are your plants?” She asked after a moment.

“They’re good thanks.” The emerald toned woman replied then turned back to Harley. “You okay now Sweetie?”

“Actually.” Harley said with a long pause. “I feel kinda amazing right now. Strong, like really strong.” The psychiatrist said while standing up and flexing her muscles as if she just discovered half of them. “This is weird.”

“I added some extra traits to the serum.” Ivy admitted when Harley gave her a look. “You should have enhanced strength, agility, coordination, stamina, senses and healing.”

Catwoman and Batman both gave each other confused looks at that list of traits. “How much did you boost her with that serum you mixed up?” Batman asked is a harsh tone.

“Oh I’d say more than what you’re capable of with all your training but nowhere near what that alien boy scout in Metropolis can pull off.” As that statement sunk in Ivy turned to Harley with a smile. “Now that our memories are back I realize what my instincts were telling me. You now have all the physical strengths of a Slayer Sweetie.”

As Harley listened to her love a wide smile broke out on her face. “Aww Baby, you shouldn’t have.” Turning to the two new comers the smile faded. “And you shouldn’t have destroyed my window. And how long have you two been watching us? Just what the frilly heck did you think you were doing?”

“Doctor Quinzel please understand. We thought Poison Ivy might have manipulated you.” Batman began.

“No, you understand! My name is Harley Quinn now and I am in love with this woman.” Harley challenged the vigilante. “We are soulmates, and now that we have our memories back we’re also incredibly powerful witches.” She paused to look at Ivy for confirmation. “We also remember more than a few secrets about this world.”

Harley paused before turning to look directly at Batman. As she took in the sight of the man she recalled the brother she never had yet could always depend on. What she was about to say was a serious risk but Harley knew she had to put her foot down now before things escalated.

“We are leaving this city in a week or so.” The hacker said with resolve clear on her face. “Our life together in this world is just starting out. I don’t expect you to understand and I won’t allow you to interfere with our fresh start.”

“Alright Harley.” Batman replied. “I’ll let this attempt to reform your girlfriend play out. But I’ll be watching you both.”

Harley turned to Selina with a bewildered expression. “Is he this dense all the time? This isn’t a rehab attempt. We’re both through with crime and Gotham and letting idiots stand between us.”

Catwoman spoke up at that statement. “But didn’t Ivy have some issues that would have taken a long time to work through?”

A light chuckling arose from the emerald woman. “Oh Selina. I now have memories of a crazy hell god boring her fingers into my skull to drain my mind and leave me a gibbering husk.” A wicked smile spread across her face as she continued. “Next to that a mild case of narcissistic bitch syndrome is a piece of cake to get over.”

“Besides batman doesn’t even believe one of his costumed rogues can reform.” Harley added with a smirk.

“That’s not true!” Catwoman cried angrily.

“It’s true enough.” The hacker mocked. “If he really believed you could be trusted he would have gotten you a spot on that precious League of his.”

“I can’t do anything they can’t already do.” The reformed burglar protested. “Can I?”

“Selina, you and Batman have the same superpowers.” Ivy said quietly. “Hand to hand combat and breaking and entering. If they can’t find a place for you on missions then they really can’t make use of him.”

Catwoman looked between the two women and her boyfriend. The normally stoic man was starting to look slightly nervous. Which was only made more obvious by Harley’s next statement.

“I bet he hasn’t even taken you up to the Watchtower yet.” The hacker smirked.

Silence reigned over the small apartment. The Vigilante had no idea how things had gone sideways so quickly. The Thief was beginning to see aspects of their relationship she honestly couldn’t fathom having missed before. The Dryad was looking around the room nervously, wondering if the Bat would still try to drag her away. The Harlequin however stood confidently. She knew this confrontation was already settled.

“Listen this has been fun and all.” Harley said dryly. “But get the hell out of my home.” As the hacker stared down the Bat time seemed to stand still. After a long moment Batman turned and swept over to the shattered window by Selina. Harley decided to drop one last bomb before the pair left entirely.

“And don’t come back Bruce.” She said with far too much cheer.

Everyone froze. The blonde’s statement hung in the air like a storm cloud. Batman perhaps made his wisest decision of the night. He remained silent and exited through the window. Catwoman looked to Ivy for a moment.

“It was nice to see you again Pammy.” The thief said before following the Bat.

Once Harley and Ivy were truly alone the emerald woman turned to her love. “I like her more than most people in this world but I can’t stand it when she calls me Pammy.”

“I know Baby.” Harley replied as she scanned the damage Batman’s entry inflicted on her apartment. “We’ll have to hurry our plans to leave if he tries anything else.”

“Sweetie is it odd that we’ve taken the form of fictional characters from our other lives?” Ivy asked while looking at her hands. “I mean this has never happened to us before.”

“No Baby.” Harley assured with a curious smirk. “I mean in an infinite multiverse containing infinitely diverse dimensions it shouldn’t be surprising that some works of fiction in one world mirror the way things are in another. But this world is straight out of a comic or cartoon. I think some of the physics might be tweaked to allow some of the tougher heroes and rogues powers to work.”

“I c-can’t believe th-this is real.” Ivy stammered.

“Me neither.” Harley said while strolling across the room and putting her arms up. “I mean aside from the hair color swap this is a strange turn for us.” As she completed that sentence Harley began a series of cartwheels and flips that brought her to the other side of the room in no time. “Gotta say these Slayer powers are gonna be fun.”

Ivy still had trouble grasping the situation. “Bruce Wayne is Batman.” She thought that statement over for a long moment. “I know that Bruce Wayne is Batman. I know it on a deep almost spiritual level. Yet still I have no memories from this life explaining just why I know that fact so well.”

“Guess we owe my “brother” a thank you for all those comic book plot points.” Harley said while flexing her arms and eyeing heavy objects around the room.

“Oh goddess he h-hates us doesn’t he?” Ivy whispered meekly.

“Maybe, but he has his girl in this world.” Harley replied. “Plus she’s not a thousand year old demon here. Oh and his parents left him rich and he works through his abandonment issues by collecting troubled kids.” The hacker smiled.

“Goddess w-what are w-we gonna do?” Ivy almost pleaded. “If he brings that gang of aliens and demigods down on us we’re in trouble.”

“Not really Baby.” Harley assured her love with a smile. “They all have weaknesses to exploit and more than half of them are susceptible to magic. Dr. Fate and that Zatanna chick might be trouble but we can face anything together.”

“And if Ma and Pa Kent’s boy decides to melt our heads from space with his laser beam eyes?” Ivy asked.

Harley laughed as she crossed over to Ivy’s side and began to run her fingers through gorgeous locks of long red hair. “That just isn’t his style. Which is sad when you realize it’s the perfect way to take out the few enemies he has that are made out of one of his weaknesses.”

The blonde leaned down to kiss her verdant lover. After a moment she pulled away. “And I’ll remind you that magic is one of his biggest weaknesses.”

Ivy melted in Harley’s firm grasp. The botanist let out a yelp as the hacker picked her up and wrapped long curvy green thighs around slender hips. Harley began to mercilessly kiss and suck at the pulse point just below Ivy’s ear and jawline. Ivy gasped as she felt her back pressed hard against the nearest wall. A thin yet deceptively strong thigh worked its way up to support most of the redhead’s weight by pressing against her most compromising spot. A moan escaped green lips as strong hands gripped Ivy’s ass cheeks and the thigh supporting her weight ground even harder into quivering emerald flesh.

Finally able to give in to pent-up desires after weeks of denial and longing, the couple spent the rest of the evening and most of the next morning reconnecting.

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

Bruce was growing more worried by the minute. They had gotten back to Wayne manor in record time and Selina spent the last hour ranting about his trust issues and where their relationship was going. The billionaire was desperate for something to appease the woman. The prospect of fully inducting Catwoman into the League was mildly nerve wracking but the very thought of losing Selina after all they had been through terrified him.

“Selina, Sweetie please come up to the Watchtower with me tomorrow.” Bruce said as the reformed thief paused to collect her thoughts for another offensive.

“What?” She exclaimed.

“Harley made a lot of sense today.” He added. “Your skills at stealthy infiltration are on par with mine and there are more than enough missions the League faces where having you and I sneak around multiple places would be crucial.”

Selina was almost overjoyed by this turn of events. Yet she knew it was probably too good to be true. “What’s the catch?” She asked.

“Keep working on those minor kleptomania tendencies and earn the respect of the rest of the team.” Bruce answered with a nervous smile. “I know it sounds big but half of them have been asking me about you recently anyway. Apparently the kids spread the word on us to the rest of the Titans and it spread out to the League.”

“So where does that leave me?” Selina demanded with a slight edge. “They all think I’m just some piece of ass you keep around your cave? How am I supposed to face that?”

“They won’t think that.” Bruce replied firmly before loosing some of his certainty. “Okay maybe Black Canary will think that but pretty much everyone thinks that about her and Green Arrow. So you’ll have something to bond over, maybe.”

The cat burglar fixed her boyfriend with a withering glare but then softened her demeanor and took on a more hopeful tone. “You’re really going to introduce me to the team?” Selina asked plaintively.

“Yes Sweetie, I am.” Bruce said with a smile. “I should have done it weeks ago.”

Selina let out a cry of pure joy and jumped into Bruce’s arms. As she leaned in to kiss him he met her half way and they both felt a rush of relief. It was as if their relationship had just turned a corner and became all the stronger for it.

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

The sun rose over Gotham city bringing in a new day. In the small apartment Harley Quinn used to call home a beam of light spread across the bed. As warm rays of gentle light came to cover the two women sleeping in a tender embrace Ivy reflexively stretched out so that her nude form could soak up as much of the sun’s energy as possible. Harley merely nuzzled deeper into her emerald love’s shaded side. After several minutes Ivy rolled in her sleep to face Harley, letting her back soak up more light as her arms wrapped around the lithe woman.

A few hours passed before the botanist and psychiatrist awoke in each other’s arms. Ivy stirred first as she felt soft mumbling being muffled by her breasts. Looking down she saw her blonde love’s face buried in green cleavage. Pulling away slightly she allowed the muttering to be heard more clearly.

“No, frogs on the march.” Harley said while dozing. Ivy giggled at the cute dream babble and the blonde head shot up. “Don’t warn the tadpoles!” She yelped.

Ivy smiled brightly at the panicked look on her love’s face. “Everything’s okay Sweetie.” She said soothingly.

Harley looked around before meeting Ivy’s gaze. Once blue met green the panic on her face melted away as love and joy took its place. Both women smiled as Harley slithered her way up her emerald lover’s body and captured her lips in a searing kiss.

Ivy moaned into the kiss as shivers of ecstasy ran through her curvaceous frame. Harley grinned and let out a light chuckle as she felt the reaction she invoked in her love.

“Harl Sweetie, please don’t get me started.” Ivy begged after halfheartedly struggling out of the kiss. “I’m still recovering from last night. You wore me out.”

“Ooh Baby.” Harley smirked proudly. “You just wait till I get the hang of these pseudo-Slayer powers you gave me. You ain’t seen nothing yet.”

Ivy couldn’t help but grin with anticipation as the lithe woman in her arms waggled her eyebrows. A myriad of lewd and ribald images danced through the emerald woman’s mind. “I love you so much Sweetie.”

“And I love you.” Harley said with devout sincerity. Several minutes filled with heartfelt gazes and tender murmurs of love passed before the hacker spoke again. “We should take a shower Baby. I had errands to run and something big to show you today.”

Ivy gave her love a surprised look. “Sweetie what do you have planned?”

“It’s a surprise Baby.” Harley said as climbed on top of Ivy and gave her another sensual kiss. “Now come join me in the shower.” With that the blonde hopped off of her green love and skipped over to the bedroom door. While standing naked in the doorframe she turned to smirk once more at her love giving the stunned woman a clear view of her naked backside. Harley gave the awestruck woman a lurid wiggle and slapped her own ass cheek before ducking into the hallway and running to the bathroom.

After a long moment passed Ivy picked her jaw up off the bedroom floor and leapt to her feet. As she gave chase to the slender woman yet another bright smile spread across her face. If this was what her life would be like from now on then she had no complaints.

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

The morning passed in a state of bliss and harmony. Ivy and Harley continued to revel in their newly restored intimacy. After making breakfast they taped a plastic sheet over the shattered window and got rid of the glass strewn across the living room. All the while stealing kisses, caresses and declarations of love from one another.

As noon approached they filled a cooler with drinks, fruit and sandwiches for lunch. Ivy couldn’t help but wonder at their destination as she helped prepare. Harley just smiled as they locked up the apartment and went down to the car with the cooler they packed, a backpack Harley said was full of supplies for planning and a pair of folding chairs.

“Sweetie were exactly is this surprise?” Ivy asked as she hopped in the passenger’s seat.

“Don’t worry Baby.” Harley replied as she started the engine and pulled out of the parking lot. “It’s just across town.”

They drove through the streets of Gotham City. Harley had one hand on the wheel and another interlaced with Ivy’s. As they continued the pleasant drive it struck Ivy as somewhat odd that they were moving through the city’s industrial district. Harley pulled up to a large gate and Ivy was even more confused by their apparent destination.

“Sweetie, what are we doing at the docks?” Ivy asked with a perplexed furrow of her brow.

“You’ll see Baby.” Harley cheerily replied as she drove past the harbormaster’s office and towards a cluster of docks with Wayne Shipping signs plastered on every other surface. “Oh I think this is the place.”

Pulling the car to a stop in front of a trailer set up as the on site offices for Wayne Shipping Harley killed the engine and both women got out. Harley grabbed her backpack before closing the door. Walking up the steps to the front door Harley reached up to knock as the door opened revealing a middle aged man of African descent.

“Dr. Quinzel! So lovely to see you again.” Smiled Lucius Fox. “What brings you to this branch of Wayne Enterprises?”

“Oh we just had a meeting with one of your administrators about buying some old property your company is trying to unload.” Harley returned the smile.

“Ah, it seems I’ll be the one showing you around today.” Lucius replied. “The foreman here called in sick this morning and it just so happened to coincide with my quarterly review of this branch.” A small smile crossed his face. “That won’t be a problem will it?”

“Of course not Mr. Fox.” Harley assured. “Say have you met my fiancé?” She asked while turning slightly to reveal the emerald redhead standing just behind her.

Lucius made a surprisingly good show of restraint as his eyes widened only slightly. “Why no I don’t believe I have had the pleasure.” He smiled and reached out a hand towards the green woman. “Dr. Isley it’s so nice to meet you. I’m Lucius Fox.”

Ivy smile and shook the man’s hand easily. “Please call me Ivy.”

“Only if the two of you will call me Lucius.” He grinned.

“And I’ll be Harley.” The psychiatrist beamed. “Now that everyone knows everyone we should probably take a look around.”

“Of course.” Lucius said. “If you’ll follow me.” He took the couple to a golf cart parked off to the side of the office. The three of them piled in and drove off towards the far end of the docks. They passed over a dozen massive container ships along the way.

“Now these are from the newer line that Wayne Yards has been producing for the last year.” Lucius remarked as they drove along. “Most are capable of holding over five thousand TEU or twenty foot equivalent units. Though we have a half dozen in the pipe that can hold over ten thousand units.”

“Fascinating.” Harley said. “So you’ve been ramping up operations for a while now?”

“Why yes we have.” He smirked. “Mr. Wayne has a very unique take on diversifying his portfolio.”

“I’ll bet.” Ivy remarked.

“Ah here we are.” Lucius said as they came to a dock with a significantly smaller, yet still huge, ship anchored in place. He drove the cart up a heavy duty ramp coming out of the boat’s side near the stern. “Now this is one of our older models being phased out. Something in the range of a thousand unit storage capacity.”

As the cart came into the ship the women looked around. The area they drove into was laid out similarly to the levels in a parking garage. As they came around to a low wall they caught a glimpse of the cavernous interior of the front section of the hold. Lights running along the edge of the roof dimly illuminated the expansive area within. Lucius pulled up to a stair well that ran from the bottom level of the hold up to the deck. As they exited the cart and climbed the stairs Lucius began to rattle off more details.

“The three quarters of the hold towards the bow are open space and all of the deck above, except for a ten foot wide walkway around the edges, is comprised of hatches that can be easily removed.” The business man stated. “The overall length is just over five hundred feet. A hundred feet wide, and the walls of the hull are fifty feet tall. Of course thirty feet of that is under the waterline. The bridge tower is another hundred feet up and unlike most ships this series has expanded deck space on the stern behind the tower. There are also two large cranes on the port side.”

As they came out of a hatch onto the deck of the ship Ivy continued to look around with a confused expression. “Sweetie what exactly are we doing here?” The emerald skinned beauty asked.

“Lucius, can you give us a minute to look around?” Harley asked.

“Of course.” He replied. “Take all the time you need.”

“Thank you.” Harley said as she led Ivy away. “So Baby, What do you think?”

“Think about what?” Ivy was beyond confused. “Why are we here? Sweetie please tell me what’s going on in that beautiful head of yours.”

“Where shopping for a new home.” Harley said with a smile. “Think about it Baby. We’ll travel the world, visit every jungle, discover new plants, maybe find a few cures for different diseases. What did I say? Why are you looking at me like I’m crazy?”

“Sweetie! Why on the Goddess’s Earth would we want to sail around in this massive iron wreck?” Ivy asked pleadingly.

“Baby trust me.” Harley pleaded. “It’ll be beautiful. We can take out the hatches and guides for the cargo containers and fill the front three hundred feet of hold with twenty feet of potting soil. We’ll plant our own little rain forest and sail away. We can buy a jeep for the ports where we don’t want to drive my car. I’m also thinking a helicopter and maybe an old coast guard boat or something to keep our short range travel options open.”

Ivy was stunned. She couldn’t believe what she was hearing. Her girl had come up with the most amazing plan for their life. They could easily travel the world in comfort and further their research in several different fields with this ship as their platform.

“I-I don’t know w-what to say.” Ivy whispered.

“I love you sounds good to me.” Harley replied with hopeful eyes.

“I love you with all of my heart.” The emerald skinned woman said, her voice heavy with devotion. Ivy wrapped her arms around her lithe lover and they shared a tender kiss that affirmed all the love, devotion and affection they held for one another.

After several long moments the kiss slowed to a gentle brushing of lips. Harley pulled away to looked Ivy in the eyes. “I love you Baby.” She promised before turning slightly and guiding her love back to the waiting Wayne Enterprises official. “So Lucius, tell me when this ship was last checked out in drydock?”

“About a month ago.” He replied. “It’s routine when we begin the review process on older ships in the fleet. Everything checked out and there were no signs of damage to the hull or keel. The engines need some maintenance but the propeller and rudder mechanisms are in excellent condition.”

“Great!” Harley exclaimed. “There are a few things we’ll need to change but I believe this will suit our needs. The hatches will all need to be removed and the forward interior hold needs hollowed out and reinforced to contain a massive quantity of soil. The section of deck right in front of the tower needs to be replaced with Polycarbonate Lexan skylights. The storage deck right below fitted with rooms for multiple laboratories and green houses. We’ll need to walk through and draw up some floor plans. The tower will also need to be covered in solar panels and wind turbines. I’m thinking two helicopter landing pads and a set of cranes for raising and lowering a twenty to thirty foot boat need to be added to the stern behind the tower. We’ll probably have to handle several of those upgrades ourselves but if Wayne Yards can be contracted for some of the work I’m more than willing to add their bill to the sale price.”

Lucius looked at the woman with an almost bewildered expression before he smiled. “I’m sure the company will be more than capable of retrofitting this ship to your needs. Due to recent turns in the market vessels this size have been selling for around five million dollars. That list of add-ons and a fresh coat of paint may cost several hundred thousand but I don’t think it will eat up too much of your nest egg.” Lucius finished with a grin.

Harley let another smile spread across her face. “That sounds perfect. Why don’t I start looking around and drawing up plans while you take Ivy back to the office and she can drive our car back up here.” The blonde psychiatrist then proceeded to pull out a large piece of chalk and a flashlight before handing Ivy her car keys and skipping off to the nearest hatch and disappearing below deck.

The ebony man and emerald woman were left alone to mull over the lithe blonde’s plans and words. They both shared nervous glances and brief grins.

“Sorry if this seems intrusive.” Lucius said with a curious lilt. “But based on the way this meeting has gone I take it that you are the fiancé she mentioned a few weeks ago?”

Ivy smiled brighter than she had since getting out of the car. “Yes, we’re together. My life started the moment she walked into it. She’s my everything.”

“You make a lovely couple.” He said with genuine sincerity. “She caused quite the stir at the office with the programs she sold us.” A slight smile spread across his face as Lucius broached a sensitive subject. “A few of the more crass programmers are under the impression that since Dr. Quinzel had no history of computer programming your pheromones rewrote her brain. One or two have been trying to figure out how to get, I believe the term they used was sprayed.”

The redhead looked at the older man for a long moment before she was overtaken by a fit of snorts and laughter. “Never gonna happen.” Ivy said between giggles. “And to be clear, Harley is a genius programmer all on her own. I may not understand half of what she’s capable of but I know what she sold you is nothing compared to what she can do.”

The almost smug honesty of that statement gave Lucius pause. The green woman before him clearly believed what she was saying. The thought that there were programs even more sophisticated than the groundbreaking ones he had been going over for weeks boggled his mind. No wonder his boss was so interested in the plans these women might have.

“All the more reason to make sure our ship yard fixes this freighter to your liking.” He said after a moment. “Shall I drive you back?”

“Yes please.” Ivy replied.

The plant crusader and inventor turned corporate executive made their way back to the golf cart below deck. Along the way they noticed countless notations and diagrams for improvements scrawled on the walls and floor. In the distance they heard cheery, out of tune singing echoing down steel corridors. As they walked Lucius couldn’t help but notice the tremendous smile spreading over Ivy’s face. For the barest traces of the programmer’s voice to have such a dramatic impact on the infamous eco-terrorist proved the genuine depth of the emotions the two women shared. Lucius no longer doubted whether or not the criminal cared for the strange programmer. The uncompromising love playing across her face was all the proof he needed.

The drive back to the office was short and pleasant. As they both exited the golf cart Lucius gave Ivy his assurances the work on their ship would commence shortly. The list of changes could be easily handled by different branches.

“I’ll put in the request to have Wayne Yards start work on your ship.” Lucius stated. “Just about everything Harley asked for can be handled by them and some of the upgrades like the solar panels and wind turbines can be handled with a simple purchase order from Wayne Industries.”

“Thank you Lucius.” Ivy replied. “It was so nice to meet you.”

“Likewise.” He said with a smile.

Ivy got into her car and drove off towards the freighter her love just agreed to purchase. As he watched her go Lucius felt his earlier trepidations drift away. This meeting had gone by far more smoothly than Mr. Wayne had implied. The way Bruce said the previous night went Lucius half expected to be hit with pheromones the moment he showed his face.

The CEO of Wayne Enterprises smiled as he decided to report in to the company’s president. He turned and walked past the trailer that served as the on site office for Wayne Shipping. He continued around the corner of the mobile home until he stood in front of an unassuming shipping container. He entered the security code into the number pad built into the door and slipped inside. Once the door closed behind him lights came on and revealed a massive device taking up most of the containers interior. The machine had a computer terminal on the front and a massive cylindrical cavity in the middle.

“Time to head upstairs.” Lucius murmured to himself as he entered coordinates into the terminal and stepped inside the open space in the machine. The synthesized voice of the machine’s AI greeted him with a dull monotone.

“Recognized - Lucius Fox - A Zero Five.” The computerized voice sighed. Lights inside the machine’s opening came on and large metal turbines to the rear began to spin.

The man smiled as a wave of energy enveloped his body. He disappeared in a flash of light and the shipping container was once again plunged into darkness.

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

As Ivy pulled Harley’s hatchback up the ramp and into the ship’s hold she noticed the chalk scribblings and diagrams had expanded. Getting out of the car and grabbing the cooler Ivy looked over the rail out into the open hull space and saw that a thick line had been drawn on the outer wall some twenty feet above the floor of the cavernous chamber. Above the line she noticed at least two spots with the words “fill with dirt and top soil” scrawled in chalk.

The emerald woman continued up the stairs and found her love toiling away with chalk drawing floor plans on the uppermost storage deck. “Harl Sweetie, I’m back.” Ivy called out.

The lithe woman’s head shot up at the sound of her love’s voice. Harley swirled around and caught sight of Ivy coming towards her with the cooler. She couldn’t hold back the smile at the sight of the woman she loved more than life itself. Jumping up and running into her crimson haired love’s arms Harley immediately captured Ivy’s lips in a searing kiss.

After several long moments the lithe blonde pulled away from her love’s lips with an audible pop. “Ooh Baby. I missed you.” Harley moaned. “Before we eat come look at this floor plan I drew.” Pulling the redhead over to the lines drawn on the floor the blonde began to babble.

“This parking deck level is a hundred by ninety feet. I marked off an eighty by fifty foot area on the deck above where the skylight will go in and I drew a fifty foot wide circle on the floor here centered on that skylight.” Harley continued. “I’m thinking your greenhouse can go in the circle and we’ll have lab equipment setup in a dozen or so compartments circling the green house. I’m thinking glass walls to allow more light in and an open walkway around it to make going from lab to lab easier. Oh, and the open hull area in front of this layered section is about the size of a football field. It’ll be perfect. We’ll fill it with soil and grow trees and vines and anything else that won’t fit in the greenhouse.”

“I love it Sweetie.” Ivy beamed. “I love it all. You always make me feel special. How do you do that?”

Harley smiled brightly. She loved answering that question. “Magic.”

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

Lucius Fox materialized in another cylindrical opening, in another machine, in another place. As he took his first step forward he was heralded by that same bored computerized voice.

“Recognized - Lucius Fox - A Zero Five.” The AI droned.

“I can’t be the only one who finds that AI voice unnerving.” Lucius muttered to himself as he stepped out of the tube and into the open bridge of the Watchtower. Looking around he marveled at the view of the Earth from orbit. He was joined by a large slab of muscle decked in blue and red.

“Now that you mention it Mr. Fox I have to admit I never cared for it myself.” Superman said as he floated down to land beside the older man. Upon touching down the man of steel reached out an arm in friendship. “It’s good to see you again.”

“Always a pleasure.” Lucius replied while taking the Kryptonian’s hand. “You wouldn’t happen to know where my boss is would you?”

“Oh you’re in for a treat.” Superman answered. “He’s been showing that girl of his around up here all day and it’s been one laugh after another.”

A slight smile creeped up on Lucius as he followed the hero of Metropolis out of the control room and towards the dining area. Passing through the bridge he took in the sight of the rough hewn stone structure of the satellite juxtaposed with the sleek holographic displays and computer terminals. Moving down a stone spiral staircase, Lucius gazed once more out the massive clear dome covering the bridge and biosphere of the Watchtower. Birds chirped as the sight of the void of space inspired awe. The lush vegetation the two men moved though gave the otherwise sterile stonework an atmosphere of warmth and life.

Rounding a corner Lucius caught sight of his employer and the man’s reformed cat burglar girlfriend sharing a brief moment of intimacy. She looked up and saw the two men approaching.

“Lucius, what are you doing up here?” She asked with slight panic. “Oh no, is something wrong with Bruce’s money?”

Lucius rolled his eyes as the man of steel almost doubled over with deep hearty laughter. “No miss Kyle. Mr. Wayne’s money is just fine.” The ebony man replied with a sigh. “I’m actually here to report about today’s sales meeting.” Lucius went on to relay the day’s events and his honest impressions of the two women.

“They honestly seemed to genuinely care for one another.” He added. “And Harley had a list of minor changes she wanted done to the ship but nothing outlandish or dangerous. Mostly reinforcing the hull, clearing out the hold, some skylights, some new rooms. They wanted the tower covered in solar panels and wind turbines.”

“What would they want all that for?” Catwoman asked.

“It sounded like they were going to fill it with dirt and plant a rainforest the size of a football field in it.” Lucius replied. “I told them Wayne Yards and Wayne Industries could easily handle the work order.”

Batman had sat there silent for the majority of the conversation. “Go forward with the changes they asked for. We’ll still need to watch them but based on our encounter last night I want to see their next move first.” The Dark Knight said with grim resignation.

“How bad could the spy work you mentioned have gone?” Superman asked with a curious tone.

“The first time they kissed it filled the apartment with light and Harley called me Bruce.” Batman answered.

Superman paused at the shocking statement. “Oh.”

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

Two weeks passed by quickly as crews from Wayne Yards went through the retired freighter and saw to all the changes Harley had scribbled in chalk and written up in a full report. Teams from Wayne industries went through and not only added the alternate energy sources to the tower but fitted the lab spaces with equipment that complemented the machines Harley and Ivy brought over from the apartment.

Harley herself went through the ship’s engines and spent three whole days tearing them down and rebuilding them from the ground up with more than a few modifications. Ivy was overjoyed to see her love thriving. The lithe woman excelled at working through these kinds of problems.

Perhaps the most unusual sight on the docks was the arrival of the dirt. Over a dozen dump trucks pulled into the docks. Each filled to the brim with brown earth. A quarter of them held the rich black soil that would nourish the multitudes of plant life the couple would grow.

Even more fascinating was what happened next. Once the last truck’s load was poured into the ship and raked into a flat, even surface the crews took their lunch break. The last man out witnessed Ivy and Harley sitting across from each other, hands clasped together and lightly chanting in the middle of the dirt filled cargo hold.

Upon their return the work crews looked into the hold and marveled at the already thick, lush and verdant undergrowth that now covered the ship’s interior. The men stared in wonder as the two women strolled out of the green and up to the deck.

A decommissioned army helicopter and twenty five foot coast guard boat were added to the collection as soon as the cranes and landing pads were added to the stern. Harley made short work of repairing them for their use. She also bought an older jeep to park next to her hatchback. Harley swore she’d have it ready by the time the pulled into another dock.

Lucius Fox even showed up on the last day with a surprise. Harley and Ivy found him standing on the deck section between the skylight covered greenhouse and the railing overlooking the greenery filled hold.

“Ah ladies.” Lucius beamed while standing beside a large box shaped object beneath a sheet. “I have a gift for you two. These come complimentary whenever anyone spends seven million dollars at several of our corporate branches.” He then pulled the canvas tarp aside to reveal a very large and luxurious looking Jacuzzi.

“We love it.” Harley smiled. “Thank you so much.”

“Thank you ladies for your business.” He replied before leaving them to enjoy the hot tub.

All in all it was a truly impressive sight when the newly renamed freighter left Gotham Harbor. “Love’s Bitch” began a new journey on the open seas. The blonde and redhead at her helm smiled as they set sail into their new life together.

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Time and Time Again


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 Post subject: Re: Time and Time Again
PostPosted: Wed Sep 03, 2014 3:40 pm 
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Dibs!!!

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 Post subject: Re: Time and Time Again
PostPosted: Wed Sep 03, 2014 7:56 pm 
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Woohoo!

Nice to see things working out for the girls, and in a different way from the other timelines.
I mean, building a huge floating greenhouse and taking it tripping around the world?
Magic.


Can't help wonder who Buffy and Faith are in this world though.
Sorry if i missed one of your 'this is who everyone is' primers earlier.


Awesome chapter, as always, leaving we waiting for more.

And i still can't wait to see Buffy prime meet Faith prime :)

Should be good.
Possibly with some amusing antics as our girls set them up, and deal with Buffy's inevitable meltdown. She does that a lot.


"Please sir, can i have some more?" :bounce

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 Post subject: Re: Time and Time Again
PostPosted: Wed Sep 10, 2014 3:33 am 
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Azirahael as always thanks for the support. One of the best parts about what I have planned for their life as "reformed Batman villains" is that christening the S.S.Holy Shit There's A Rainforest Sailing Towards Us! is just the beginning.

As a side note the Watchtower I was trying to describe in this story is heavily reminiscent of and drawn from the one in the Young Justice cartoon. Looks less like a man made satellite and more like an asteroid with the back arch of a cathedral sticking out of one side. With a tiny glass domed command center at the very top.

Same goes for the teleporters / "Zeta Tubes". Lucius Fox being the fifth non teammate they registered on their security system seemed to make sense. I figure the guys at one through four are the Star Labs scientists who built it for the league in the first place.

I haven't posted a primer for the DC characters yet but I'll stick to adding names to the list of standin characters in the entry after I pretty blatantly reveal who is who. It wouldn't do for me to reveal who Giles is in either world something like eight chapters/months before his character makes an appearance.

For instance the next Marvels entry will have Faith's name on the Primer list at the top and the next Sirens one will have Anya and Xander.

Rest assured the point where Faith comes into the Buffyverse story is coming. Soon. The first meeting will be good. And the meltdown both Buffy and Faith have will be building from the very start.

I may have completely undone the way seasons two and three play out in these first few chapters but some key plot points still happen at the same time they did in the series. Though who they happen to may surprise you.

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 Post subject: Re: Time and Time Again
PostPosted: Wed Sep 10, 2014 3:44 am 
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Time and Time Again.

Author: Citanul

Feedback: Be kind, rewind?

Spoilers: Just about all of them. Go watch the show.

Rating: NC-17

Pairings: W/T, B/F

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: My what a journey it has been. I'm proud to say this is the last chapter taking place during what was the week of the Inca Mummy Girl. Their alloted time in LA is drawing to a close. Yet there is one more life they have to save.

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

Chapter 7: Pylea

The sun rose high over the city of Los Angeles. Most dwellers of the sprawling urban environment went about their mornings as usual. Though the inhabitants of one refurbished hotel were engaged in activities that were anything but usual.

“Okay people you heard the witches!” Gunn called out to the members of his crew. “Be ready for a fight. This mission is important and they have a special job for each of us.”

The young men who had willingly followed Gunn into battle all gathered up the weapons they were most practiced with. The witches said to be prepared for anything and none of the formerly homeless youth wanted to be caught off guard.

In the office of the Hotel Willow and Tara were busy gathering spell components. The work they had planned this day would require all they had. Once everything was prepared they walked out into the lobby to find the Slayers fixing their new sword sheaths to the waists. Buffy’s longsword glistened and the jewel in its crossguard flashed with light as she sheathed the blade. Similarly the blade of Alonna’s Chinese broadsword sparkled before the sheath concealed it from sight.

Xander fiddled with his new glasses once more. He had no idea what they did but Willow told him to keep them on hand. He felt certain he would find out about them soon.

Doyle absentmindedly stroked the Ankh that hung from his neck. He hadn’t taken it off since the moment he picked it up. He didn’t know a thing about the object but he was well aware that starting from the moment he donned the amulet his headaches had all but disappeared. The visions still brought him pain, but so much less while the Ankh was on his person. He still felt the pain at the moment a vision filled his brain. Now however it was less like a railroad spike being driven into his skull and more like a child gently flicking his forehead with one finger.

Gunn casually ran his hand across the surface of the antique globe that had been his souvenir. As his hand turned the sphere he suddenly felt certainty about the locations of people he had met and cared about. It came as no surprise that almost everyone was in the Hyperion Hotel. What was more startling was the fact that Gunn also sensed the presence of Lorne in Caritas. The young man knew exactly where the demon lounge singer was and knew the green man’s emotional state. Lorne was terrified.

“Guys when we get to the karaoke bar go easy on Lorne.” Gunn told the room only to draw confused stares. “He’s afraid of something.”

“So that’s what the globe does.” Willow said with a smile. “I was wondering when we’d find that out.”

Buffy perked up. “Does it only work on him or can you sense other demons?”

“Actually I don’t think it has anything to do with demons.” Gunn replied. “It’s mostly telling me just about everyone I know is in this hotel and feeling anxious but fine.”

“So it’s a leadership aid.” Tara said to the surprise of everyone. “The globe tells you w-where the people you care about are and how group morale is doing.”

Gunn smiled at the honey blonde’s statement. The feeling didn’t last long however as the young ebony man noticed Chain and Rondell giving each other nervous looks. They still had far to go before they would trust their teammates that were something other than vanilla human.

Once everyone was ready the large group of demon fighters made their way out to the bus. Almost everyone got in while Angel and Doyle went to one of the larger cars Willow had bought since taking over the law firm. The drive across town was short and uneventful. Upon pulling up to the curve in front of Caritas the Hyperion Crew and Scoobies quickly exited the bus and made their way inside. What they found was less than encouraging.

Lorne was standing at the bar shaking uncontrollably. He was barely able to lift the glass to his lips. At the sight of the witches the green man let out a yelp and almost fell over.

“I can’t go back there.” Lorne cried out. “Please, I don’t belong there.”

“Lorne relax.” Willow admonished. “No matter what anyone says you don’t ever need to go back there. You aren’t going with us.”

“We just n-n-need your help with the portal.” Tara added.

“You’ll be staying in this bar the entire time we’re gone.” Willow declared as the rest of the gang filed into the bar. “We’ll open the portal using the hotspot on the stage and your presence will stabilize it so everyone who goes through arrives together on the other side.”

As the explanation went on Buffy took on a confused look. “Willow something’s been bugging me since last night.” The blonde Slayer said. “If you can open portals to other dimensions so easily what keeps you from running into the ones you and Tara already lived in? Or stops you bumping into yourselves?”

Slight smiles spread across both Willow and Tara’s faces. Explaining the more complicated dimensional travel rules always flew over a few of their friends’ heads. And yet Tara and Willow always took the time to try.

“We can’t go to the parallel dimensions and alternate earths we’ve lived on before.” Willow told the room. “Demon dimensions like Pylea are literally pressing right up against this one. They number in the millions and can be travelled between fairly easily.” The redhead paused before going on. “The dimensions Tara and I reincarnate into are different. They’re all different versions of Earth. Some are just like this world and others are so different they might as well be just another hell dimension. But the thing they all have in common is that they’re very far apart. If it was just a matter of space then the shortest distance between two earths is still several orders of magnitude farther than the distance between our world and Pylea. It’s like comparing the distance from the Earth to the Moon to the distance between the Earth and the Eagle Nebula.”

All around the room there were stunned and confused faces. Xander was first to recover. “So how do you travel that far?” The young man asked.

“V-very old and powerful s-secrets.” Tara replied.

“Secrets we can’t share.” Willow added. “But let’s just say those secrets only travel one way. No backtracking.”

“That seems odd.” Giles said quietly. “There are many tales written in the libraries of the Watchers Council that detail travel to other versions of earth.”

“Giles trust me on this.” Willow replied almost sighing. “I studied every single one of those stories a long time ago. They’re all either dead ends or outright lies. Most are not naturally occurring dimensions but rather the result of reality alteration. Either through time travel, wish granting demons or an old one showing up and willing changes to just happen those worlds tend to be twisted imitations or “What if?” scenarios that spiraled out of control. Many are demon dimensions where the head demon running the show decided he wanted his realm to be just like ours.”

“So they’re pressing up against whatever reality they spun off from?” Buffy asked.

“Yes Buffy that’s exactly right.” Willow replied. “They’re also unstable and tend to vanish or merge back with the world they came from after a while. Our setup skips those dimensions entirely.”

“This is all fascinating Sugar, but can we get back to the matter of this portal you’re opening to the hell hole I escaped from?” Lorne said with a slight tremor in his voice.

“We should h-hurry this along Sweetie.” Tara added.

“Right.” Willow agreed before turning to the assembled people in the bar. “This is what’s going to happen. Tara and I will do a few prep spells then we’ll have Lorne sit in a circle while we open the portal. Normally you’d need to travel in some kind of metal enclosure so the group lands in the same place on the other side but we’re using a slightly stronger set of spells to stabilize the portal. Once it’s open the Slayers, Tara, Angel, Doyle, Xander, Gunn, Giles and I will go through. Lorne we need you to stay in this building to act as our anchor. It’ll make reopening the portal on the other side so much easier. You don’t have to do anything out of the ordinary just stick around physically. You might want to make some calls and close the bar for the night.”

A nervous rustle went through the crowd that hadn’t been mentioned. After a moment Rondell stood up and looked at the redhead with a puzzled expression.

“What about the rest of us?” The young man asked. “Aren’t we going?”

“This is a demon dimension.” Willow answered. “Eighty percent of the sentient population and most of the wildlife are demons. Roughly half the people are Deathwok Clan like Lorne here. A third are a paler species called the Gathwok Clan. About ten percent are enslaved or rebelling humans.” At the mention of an enslaved human populace everyone stiffened.

Tara was quick offset those concerns with a simple statement. “Well, they were slaves last week anyway.” Looks of confusion overtook most of the faces present.

Willow continued. “The point is anyone else going through the portal is voluntary. Anyone who doesn’t want to go needs to stay here and protect Lorne. Make sure he is comfortable. Maybe get to know him better since he will be offering anyone of you who sings for him guidance in the future.”

“If any harm comes to Lorne it won’t strand us in Pylea permanently.” Tara said tightly. “But it will make returning harder. We may not get back for weeks and we all have jobs to do here.”

“Guys I’m going to be terribly honest with you.” Willow said gathering the attention of the Hyperion Crew. “What we need to do in Pylea is important. A life depends on it. This is the last test you need to pass before we can trust you with our mission in this city.”

“Won’t the anti-violence spell protect him?” Chain asked.

“Until I call the Furies to expand it the spell doesn’t protect against human violence.” Lorne said with a sigh. He was still nervous this group of teens would turn on him but he went along with the young witches plan.

“Guys this is where you prove to us you can look past the fact that someone is a demon and find out who they are on the inside.” Willow said with a neutral tone. “We need to be able to trust that you won’t go out of your way to kill harmless pacifists like Lorne and about a third of the other demons in this town.”

Sudden curiosity struck Rondell. He had a question he thought he should have asked days ago when they first said he and the crew would need to save demons. Looking the redhead directly in the eyes he asked her what they had been dancing around up to this point.

“Why have you been so worried we’d go off and kill these so called harmless demons?” He asked with a calm tone.

“Because it has happened before.” Tara replied with an edge.

“Things don’t always go this smoothly in other worlds.” Willow continued in the harshest tone they had heard from her so far. “I can’t even begin to tell you how many times some of you guys have turned on us over the policy of not killing all demons on sight. Even worse, in the worlds where we didn’t get involved in LA Gunn tends to end up kicked out of your group and replaced. Some prick that got his crew in Miami killed decides to set up shop here and has the half of you that survive up to that point try to burn this bar to the ground.”

The revelation shocked just about everyone in the bar. No one knew how to answer charges for actions they had yet to even dream of but had apparently committed often enough that they were a serious concern.

The redheaded witch went on in a softer voice. “This is it guys. We are offering you a whole new world. Food, shelter, more money than you could dream of if you went out and got any number of regular day jobs. But for this whole thing to work you have to stick to the mission. Spare the demons that would never willingly harm a human. Focus exclusively on the people eaters and the world enders. Give aid and comfort to people like Lorne who are doing legitimate good in the world. If that really is too much for us to ask of you then you’re free to leave at any time.”

A hush fell over the room. The young members of the Hyperion Crew were at a loss. The most powerful demon fighters they had ever come across just laid out the final ultimatum they were going to receive. Get on board with the mission as the witches just explained it or leave. Looking around at the other teens he had relied upon Rondell’s eyes finally met Chain’s. A moment passed as the two young men seemed to ponder what course the other would take. Without looking away from Chain Rondell made a decision.

“Poe, Jason.” Rondell called out. “You guys still remember what you read in that guide to bartending book you found awhile back?”

“Yeah, sure.” Poe said while looking back and forth between the Willow and Rondell almost frantically. He didn’t want to be dragged into the middle of this. Especially since he had decided the terms were fair and the option to leave was only there to thin out the idiots.

“Mix Lorne up a fresh drink.” Rondell said with a smile.

“Pretty sure he was drinking Sea Breezes last night.” Chain added.

“Sounds like a great idea.” Jason said as he hastily dragged Poe over to the bar.

With that show of good will towards the demon the tension in the room vanished. Willow and Tara began to prepare spells ingredients and ritual items they pulled from bags they and Xander had carried. The Slayers gave each other concerned looks over the stand off that just took place but quickly set about preparing for the fight that lay ahead. Giles busied himself with getting Lorne to describe as much information about Pylea as he could. Rondell and several members of the crew gathered around the green man as he began to retell stories of how horrible his homeland was.

“It’s truly awful. Think the dark ages but all the humans are treated like cattle and forced to wear electro shock slave collars. Try to take them off and your head explodes.” Lorne elaborated. “And the dancing. Don’t let anyone dance for you. Just don’t put yourself through that.”

“What kind of government or leadership do they have?” Giles asked with sincere interest.

“Oh that’s the worst part.” Lorne cried out. “The whole dimension is run by these demon priests who call themselves the Covenant of Trombli. There’s a royal throne but it’s been empty for centuries awaiting some chosen one the priests will hand pick to manipulate the masses.”

“Don’t worry about the priests too much.” Tara said as she and Willow walked back into the main room of the bar.

Before Giles or Lorne could ask what the young woman meant by that her love came up behind her with a bright smile. Wrapping her arms around the honey blonde, the redhead turned to the men and gave them a cryptic reassurance.

“Lets just say they have bigger problems right now.” Willow added. “Now let’s get ready. Everyone who is going stand behind the row of tables closest to the stage.” She and Tara went over to the stage and used a large bag of salt to draw a circle wide enough to stand in. “Lorne if you could please stand in this circle and clear your mind we’ll get started.”

As Lorne walked over to the circle and waited for whatever the spell would require of him the rest of the team going through the portal stood by. Willow and Tara climbed onto the stage and placed crystals around themselves in a tight circle. The witches began a low chant.

“Goddess grant us your strength.” They said in unison. “Bring forth the shroud to wreath the body.”

A shadow swirled around Tara’s feet and began to creep up her legs. After a few heartbeats the honey blonde was concealed in shadow from head to toe.

“Bring forth the armor to protect the heart.”

A dark liquid substance seeped out of the darkness at Tara’s feet and ascended her form. As it got higher and higher it crystallized into a distinctive suit of shining black full body plate armor.

“Bring forth the helm to shield the mind.”

A fearsome looking helmet materialized around Tara’s head. The crowd gasped as the intimidating headgear gave the shy woman a truly frightening visage.

“Bring forth the weapon to strike down evil.”

With a crackling boom of thunder and a flash of lightning a massive greatsword appeared at Tara’s side. She reached out a single arm and grasped the handle of the massive blade. With deceptive ease Tara swung the blade almost as long as she was tall around to her back. With a practiced movement that baffled the audience she fastened it in place.

“Perfect.” Willow said with awe in her voice and a smile on her face. “You look just as amazing as the first time I saw you wear this armor.”

“It may be only temporary but it’ll do wonders to intimidate the locals.” Tara replied with a surprisingly masculine voice.

To say the people watching the ritual were stunned was an understatement. None of the men present saw this coming. The Slayers each let a slight smile creep across their faces.

“So Tara’s got a new look.” Buffy said with a grin. “I would have suggested more autumn tones but heavy metal is good too.”

“I didn’t know they actually made buster swords.” Xander muttered.

“Sorry Buff, but the destination seemed like a good excuse to dust off a very old look.” Willow replied. “Some of our past lives called for one of us to play more intimidating roles.”

“So how do I look guys?” Tara boomed in her masculine tone. “How do you think your former home will handle a visit from the Witch King Lorne?”

Lorne looked the woman in jet black armor up and down before smiling. “I think you’ll knock ‘em dead Sugar.”

“Great.” Willow said. “Now everyone get ready while we open the portal.” With that statement the witches clasped their hands together and began another round of chanting. This time however they spoke Sumerian for what had to be five minutes straight. Lorne felt waves of energy pour over and through him as he stood within the circle of salt. Swirls of light coalesced around the two young women as the air above the stage began to shift and harden into a solid veil.

“Goddess guide us on this journey.” Willow and Tara spoke in unison. “Lords and Ladies of the crossroads grant us your protection.”

The veil of solid air hardened and ceased all motion. In the distance a tearing sound could be heard.

“Utu, Cernunnos, Hecate, Janus, Shamash, Odin, Anti, Khonsu. We invoke thee.”

The spatial distortion behind the two witches vibrated violently and the onlookers stared in wonder as it cracked.

“Open!” Tara and Willow screamed. The crack spread out in all directions before the spatial distortion shattered leaving a swirling mass of light and energy on the stage.

Turning away from the gaping maw Willow addressed their team. “Okay guys this is it.” The hacker said before she and Tara strode through the portal. The duo was quickly followed by Buffy, Alonna, Giles, Xander, Gunn, Doyle and Angel.

As the last of the team the witches had chosen stepped through the portal a low groaning sound filled the room and the portal began to close. Within a minute the displacement hovering above the stage was gone. Leaving the Host of Caritas alone with his nervous guards from the Hyperion Crew. No one knew what to say until Chain suddenly spoke up.

“So who didn’t sing last night?” The young man asked while looking between Lorne and his comrades. “Let’s put on a show while they do whatever it is they’re doing.

A smile spread across Lorne’s face at the idea of music filling their time. “Honey, that sounds like wonderful idea.”

With that the formerly homeless teens went about entertaining themselves. Several took time out from the stage to check the building’s exits and make sure nothing caught the Host by surprise.

Poe and Jason turned out to be exceptional bartenders for two very young men who were years away from the drinking age. While half the group was up on stage the two mixed up a fresh Sea Breeze for Lorne. As he sipped it for the first time he smiled.

“Sweeties, this is one of the best drinks I’ve had in a long time.” The green man declared. “When you two are old enough how would you like jobs here?”

Jason and Poe glanced at each other before looking back to Lorne. “That actually sounds great.” Jason replied.

“Yeah, I mean we’re both a few years off from that but it’s something to look forward to.” Poe added.

“Splendid.” Lorne cheered before the men on stage began to sing. Rondell looked across the room to the demon he had been told to protect. This time last week he would have been trying to kill the man on sight. Now though. After hearing the full story of how awful his home dimension was and watching the fairly effeminate, brightly colored guy dance and sing around the night club Rondell was left with a whole new outlook.

He now understood what the witches had been saying since that first night in the hotel. Lorne was just a guy trying to make a better life for himself and in the process he made a place where people of all backgrounds could come and relax while having a good time.

What was more compelling was the fact that everyone who sang for him got honest and straight forward advice they knew they needed. The young ebony man knew some of his friends would come to depend on this green man’s counsel in the future. Suddenly that thought no longer scared him.

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

On a grass covered hill sparsely littered by trees a swirling vortex of energy took shape. The distortion solidified and opened up with a thunderous crack. Out of the anomaly strode a figure deck in the darkest armor any had seen in ages and a spritely young redhead. They were quickly followed by several people who all looked around the surrounding country side and sighed. Relieved they didn’t have a fight waiting the second they set foot on this alien world. The last man to come through the portal practically shrieked in terror as the wormhole closed behind him.

“The Sun the daylight quick someone hand me a blanket hand me a blanket or I’m gonna catch on fire HAND ME A BLANKET! I’M GONNA CATCH ON FIRE!” Angel cried out as he panicked and desperately searched for a means to cover his body from the rays of sunlight. Soon however his motion slowed and he looked around the clearing at the group of travelers and friends. “Why am I not on fire?” He asked with a confused expression.

“Yo that was phat!” Gunn said while surveying their surroundings.

“Well it’s another dimension.” Xander said. “Maybe their sun is all wonky?”

“That would be suns Xander.” Giles said while pointing up. “Lorne wasn’t kidding about that little tidbit he shared.”

“Aye, we’re definitely not in Kansas anymore.” Doyle added.

“So the suns don’t have the same effect on vamps.” Xander said as he reached out and tugged Angel’s ear.

The vampire jumped at the prodding and ceased his skyward gaze. “Hey watch it!” Angel exclaimed. Xander pinched one of Angels pale cheeks causing the vampire to again swat his hand away. “Hey!” He said as he reached out and lightly pinched Xander’s face.

“Fascinating.” Giles said.

“Ya’ll see the stage do that bendy thing?” Gunn asked still amazed by their means od travel.

“I’m not on fire!” Angel cheered.

“And everyone landed together in one piece.” Willow said.

“No horrible Siamese twin snafu.” Tara added.

Gunn spun around. “That was a risk? How come no one told me that was a risk?”

“Can everybody just notice how much fire I’m not on?” Angel said a he spread his arms out to bask in the light.

Buffy looked around at the group and smiled. This might not be as horrible as she thought. Yet she knew they had a job to do. “Okay this is great and all but we came here for a reason.” The Slayer said.

“There might be some clues over in that patch of sun.” Angel said. “I’ll get ‘em.” He added with a goofy grin and ran off.

“Buffy’s right.” Alonna chimed in. “Willow, Tara what exactly are we looking for.”

The group turned to look at the witches but fell silent at the sight of them once again clasping hands and chanting in ancient languages only Giles understood. The air above their heads began to swirl as a dark cloud formed. Then suddenly the mass of shadow took the shape of a massive conspiracy of ravens. So large was the unkindness that it blocked out the sun on the hillside around Willow and Tara. The birds circled awaiting commands.

“Go forth and find the girl from our home dimension lost in this strange world.” Tara and Willow intoned. With a shot the ravens flew off in all directions.

“So it’s a rescue mission?” Buffy asked.

Willow turned to her friend and smiled. “Physicist. A brilliant one too.”

“Her mind intimidated her professor so he left a book with the words needed to send her here in a place she was certain to find it.” Tara elaborated. “She’s been here about a year and a half.”

“Oh dear lord.” Giles gasped.

“Didn’t Lorne say this was a bad place for humans?” Doyle asked.

“That poor girl.” Alonna muttered.

“Do we even know if she’s still alive?” Buffy asked with a harsh edge.

“Ninety something percent of the time she survives here for over five years.” Willow said with a bit of pride in her voice.

“Damn that’s impressive.” Gunn said with a whistle.

“So she’s not as helpless as the average damsel.” Buffy added. “Good.”

“So we take a nice leisurely stroll across this sunny countryside until we find her.” Angel stated. “It’s not like we don’t do that every day.” The goofy grin never left his face.

“Yes Angel, we are all keenly aware of just how much fire you are not on.” Giles sighed.

A concerned look came over Willow’s face. “Angel, don’t pull out your grr face. It works differently here.”

“Noted.” Angel said as he twirled around in the open sunlight.

Tara suddenly looked sharply to the side. She starred off in the distance and then started to sprint. “They found something. We have to hurry.” The armored figure boomed.

The Slayers and the cursed vampire easily caught up to her and while Angel maintained pace with Tara both Buffy and Alonna ran a short distance ahead. Doyle kept slightly better pace but he, Willow, Giles, Xander and Gunn were left to play catch up in no time.

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

In a small village members of the Deathwok Clan and Gathwok Clan grew anxious. Their world had changed dramatically and they had no idea how to fix it. One green skinned demon with long auburn hair stood on the stone circle at the center of town. He had been chosen to lead this sacrifice in the hopes it would bring balance back to his world.

“I, Landokmar of the Deathwok Clan, bring honor to my people by being chosen to swing the crebbil on this day.” He said with bravado and cheer. “Bring forth the rebel cow.”

Two more demons from the Deathwok Clan strode forth dragging an emaciated woman with long brunette hair between them. As they placed her bound form on the raised altar in the center of the stone slab all anyone could hear from her was quiet muttering.

“Make it quick make it quick make it quick. Please make it quick.” She slowly pleaded as the crowd roared and cheered.

Landok stood beside the bound woman. He believed beyond any doubt that the cows had orchestrated the disappearances and deaths in the last few days. This would teach the rebels a lesson. He raised the axe high over his head but before he could bring down the vorpal blade his vision was filled with black feathers.

Countless ravens filled the sky and poured down to cover the prone woman. In an instant they took flight again and the altar was empty. Landok and the rest of the demons gathered searched frantically for the escapee until they all saw her.

At the gate down the road from the central stone disk in the town square stood four figures no one recognized. The intimidating figure in dark armor stepped forth and pointed a truly massive sword at the gathering. On either side of the dark warrior stood women with swords drawn and ready. Both blades seemed to glow with eerie light. Behind them was a pale man dressed in black and holding the escaped cow.

Landok knew he had to act fast. Advancing on the interlopers he made his demands clear. “Strangers, return the cow or face my wrath.”

The dark figure laughed heartily and with a single step appeared in front of Landok. Before anyone but Lorne’s cousin knew what was going on Tara’s blade had severed his head.

The crowd was stunned into silence as the dark figure turned slowly to face each of them in turn. In a loud booming voice Tara bellowed. “Who shall be next to challenge the Witch King?” No one spoke. No one moved.

Looking back towards the village gate Tara saw Willow and the rest of their group had caught up. With bold confidence and calm determination the redhead strolled up to the stone circle. The demons were too shocked to do anything other than move out of her way. With casual disregard Willow stooped down by Landok’s head and began poking him in the temple.

“Wake up wake up wake up.” She said tapping away.

“Ahh, unhand me cow.” Landok’s head cried before being silenced as the massive blade moved close to his face.

“Call my love a cow again and your skull will be made into a candy bowl.” Tara promised. “As for the rest of you I task you with spreading my word throughout the land. Know that I and my love are the ones who slew the priests of the Covenant of Trombli. We are the ones who killed their knights. We destroyed the slave collars used to subjugate humans.”

Willow muttered a short prayer to the goddess and a mass of pixie lights poured from her palms. “From this day forth all are equal. No one shall be enslaved. Those who fail to live by this new order will suffer our wrath.”

As her statement ended the lights spread out to hover over the heads of each demon present. Soft notes began to emit from the tiny lights as they started singing.

Somewhere over the rainbow way up high

As the words to the classic song issued forth each and every demon native to Pylea fell to their knees screaming. They clutched helplessly at their ears as the two witches slowly strolled out of town.

There's a land that I heard of once in a lullaby
Somewhere over the rainbow skies are blue
And the dreams that you dare to dream really do come true

Someday I'll wish upon a star
And wake up where the clouds are far
Behind me
Where troubles melt like lemon drops
Away above the chimney tops
That's where you'll find me

Somewhere over the rainbow bluebirds fly
Birds fly over the rainbow. Why then, oh, why can't I?

If happy little bluebirds fly
Beyond the rainbow why, oh, why can't I?


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

Tara and Willow led the group up into the hills at a brisk pace. They stopped once they came to a clearing just down the hill from a rocky outcropping. Tara turned to Angel and in a more quiet soothing voice gave him a simple request.

“Angel I think you can put her down now.” The Witch King said.

Angel paused and looked down at the frail nervous woman in his arms. “Oh, right.” He said as he gently allowed her feet to touch the ground. “You okay?” He asked the slender brunette.

Fred stood before the vampire still lightly clutching his shirt. She looked up into his eyes and brought a hand up to her head. “Handsome man. Saved me from the monsters.” She whispered. “Bye.” She said before looking around and running off up the hill.

Angel watched her run and cautiously started after her. “Hey wait a minute.” He cried while pursuing her.

The Slayers were about to follow but Willow stepped into their path. “Let them go for now.” The redhead said. “She needs to come to terms with the idea that the life she once knew wasn’t a dream and that she can go back there.”

“And Angel has the best track record at talking her back into the world.” Tara added in her normal voice.

Willow looked up. “Baby your voice is coming back.”

The armored woman let out a slight giggle. “So it seems.” She replied. “Good thing we’re almost done here.”

“What really?” Buffy asked. “That was it? What about the whole slave thing and the evil priests?”

“Buffy we already killed them and all of their soldiers and destroyed the collars they used to enslave the humans here.” Willow answered.

“When?” Buffy asked. “How? When?”

Giles let out a stunned gasp as he suddenly realized the truth. “Oh dear lord. The Senior Partners.” He whispered. “The Covenant of Trombli worshipped the Senior Partners.”

Doyle perked his head up at that statement then let out a long whistle of astonishment and appreciation. “Wow, that sure puts a new light on things. So that bit of mojo you worked at the law firm was more than it seemed.”

“Guys we went over this.” Willow said. “We sealed off their dimension from all others. I said we killed millions and that means several thousand on earth, a few hundred here, maybe several dozen in countless other places we won’t bother going to and armies of thousands in many other dimensions.” The redhead looked around at her friends. “It all adds up. Destroying the control collars is a side effect of their power disappearing.”

“So when you cast that spell you freed all the enslaved humans on this world.” Alonna said with newfound awe.

“Yes.” Tara said as the sword at her back began to shrink slightly. “Come on let’s follow them to Fred’s cave and wait outside.”

“Who’s Fred?” Xander asked. “Is that girl named Fred?”

“Winifred Burkle.” Willow said. “Genius physicist sent to a hell dimension by a jealous and cruel professor that used similar means to get rid of all his most promising students that threatened to outshine him.”

“We h-haven’t decided how we’re going to deal w-with professor Oliver Seidel just yet but the man is scum.” Tara added.

“She prefers to be called Fred.” Willow finished as the group made its way up the hill and through rocky terrain to a cave. “We should stay here and give them time to talk everything out.”

Buffy couldn’t hold back the question any longer. “So Tara, what’s the what with the getup?” She asked. “Where is this whole Witch King bit coming from?”

Tara and Willow gave each other a look as if they were checking to see how much to let out at the moment. Willow sighed. “We should probably tell them the gist of the story.”

“Agreed.” Tara said. “Okay so we told you guys how almost every dimension we come to is different right?” She asked. As slow nods from the group came back in reply Tara continued. “Well a very long time ago this one world we came to was barely coming into the iron age.”

“Total sword and sorcery setting.” Willow added. “In order to get out from under a certain oppressive dictator Tara dreamed up this persona. She used armor that looked just like this to terrorize slave traders and build an army of people she had freed and reunited with their loved ones.”

“And just what did you do on that world Will?” Xander asked. “I can’t imagine you had fun without computers.”

“It wasn’t as fun but it wasn’t all bad.” Willow said defensively. “After my knight in shining armor here saved me I redesigned the fortress she took from this evil warlord. I designed a layout for a large walled city around the citadel. I drew up plans for Roman style aqueducts that went all the way up the nearby mountains. I had work crews build electricity generating water wheels into the aqueducts as they reached the city. Every home had running water and indoor plumbing. The streets had very basic electric lights that people thought were magic. I invented crude flash bang grenades for our army to use. We had a few hundred printing presses pumping out books in every subject you could name. We built schools that taught advanced mathematics and sciences the people of that world had never dreamed of. Let’s see what else? Roads, medicine, some really impressive stuff with ballista fired inventions.”

“You brought about a new age of enlightenment to a world steeped in ignorance.” Giles whispered with awe and newfound respect.

“Well yeah.” Willow said with a grin. “Giles, I knew I couldn’t look you in the eye the next time I met you if we didn’t do all we could for that world.” The redhead added in a more somber tone.

“I don’t think I’ve ever been prouder dear girl.” The Englishman said with a smile.

Doyle wondered about some of the things they mentioned. “You said you had an army and used grenades and ballista weapons.” He stated. “Why?”

“It w-wasn’t a nice place Doyle.” Tara answered. “There were some very bad people th-there who w-wanted to wipe our kingdom off the map. Willow invented amazing weapons that were a lot less lethal than the ones you could find in museums or history books.”

“Is one of those inventions the trick you did with the green guy’s severed head?” Buffy asked still curious about the odd sight of the talking head.

“Oh no.” Willow said with a grin as Tara giggled. “That just happens with Lorne’s people. Decapitation doesn’t kill Deathwok Clan demons. They only die if you mutilate their headless bodies or destroy the head.”

“Fascinating.” Giles said as some of the teens around him got queasy looks.

“Yeah someone has probably already put his head back on his shoulders by now.” Willow said. “By tonight he’ll be good as new.”

“By then we’ll be long gone.” Tara said as the helmet she wore dissolved into wisps of smoke and the sword shrank to the size of a dagger. Long honey blonde locks cascaded down dark metallic pauldrons.

“So that armor doesn’t last long then.” Buffy said as she looked back and forth between Willow and Tara.

“Most of the time it doesn’t have to.” Willow replied while stroking Tara’s exposed cheek with her hand.

“The spell that m-makes it gives a lot of power for a very sh-short time.” Tara replied while staring longingly into emerald eyes. “I n-needed to be that st-strong because we didn’t have Slayers for so long. It t-took time to find friends in that world.”

“You found them Baby.” Willow said with sincerity. “You saved me.” As the redhead reassured her love she leaned in to capture Tara’s lips with her own. The friends that had been listening closely to their tales of past lives suddenly began a frantic search for anything else to pay attention to.

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

Angel followed the fleeing woman into the cave. As the passage opened up to reveal a large cavern the vampire marveled at the primitive furnishings cobbled together from objects the young woman had scavenged. He also took note of the many formulas and equations scrawled on just about every surface of the cave’s walls.

Then he saw her. Perched on the far wall, scribbling more letters and mathematic symbols on the stone surface with a large white chalk like stone. Angel approached her cautiously.

“Hello?” The vampire ventured as the woman continued to write. “Hey, great place. You don’t have to be afraid of me. Really I-I’d never…” He trailed off as he caught sight of his reflection in the surface the pool of water within the cavern. “Hurt you?” He whispered as he continued to marvel at his own reflection.

The young woman turned her head slightly to take another look at the intruder who had saved her life. After a moment Angel looked up and she spun her head back towards the cave walls.

“So um.” Angel tried again. “So you don’t want to talk to me?”

“Ha, yeah.” She replied.

"Why won't you?" He asked.

"Because.” Fred said in a knowing tone. “You're not real.” She paused, growing doubtful. “Or I'm not real.”

“Somebody here isn't real and I suspect it's you!” She exclaimed before going into a babble that grew ever higher in pitch. “So if you're not real, that means that my head came off back there and that I'm dead now. Dead. And with me being dead and you not being real I can hardly be expected to have some big conversation with you at the moment, because it's just a little too much pressure, alright?" She practically shouted the last word.

"Okay. Okay." Angel said trying to placate the poor woman as she turned back to the writing on the walls.

Angel knew he had to get this girl to come around. "What's that you're doing?" He asked, hoping that if they continued to talk he could get her to embrace the idea that her rescue was finally here.

"Um, I think I saw it in a dream." She replied while looking around the cave to her other formulas and notations.

"You've been here a long time." Angel said as he noticed a driver’s license on a barrel by a pile of furs and rags.

"Always.” She answered with a laugh before growing doubtful again. “Not always." A stray memory seemed to play across her face as she turned to face Angel with a smile. "I had a dream. I had a name."

Angel studied the license before saying the woman’s name out loud. "Winifred."

As she saw the strange man playing with her all but useless ID she panicked. Quickly sprinting across the cave she snatched the only proof of her old life out of his hands.

Angel smiled as everything was made clear. "You're the girl Willow and Tara brought us here to find!"

"What?" Winifred asks with a panicked tone.

"You were studying to be a physicist." Angel elaborated.

"That's my dream." Fred said with the barest hint of a smile.

"You disappeared from Los Angeles a year and a half ago." He continued trying to get the fragile young woman back to the life she deserved.

"Stop it." Fred begged.

"It's not a dream, Fred." Angel promised.

"It's not?" She asked with a glimmer of hope.

"No." Angel smiled.

"And my head's still on?" She questioned as long dead hope was given a second chance.

Angel gently pushed her glasses back up onto the bridge of her nose. "Yeah." He answered with a wide grin.

"You're real?" Fred asked him once again as Angel nods.

"No. No, I don't want you to be real." Fred stated as panic set in yet again.

Angel couldn’t help but ask. "Why?"

"Because! You're nice, and you saved me. And bad things will happen to you here.” Fred babbled away as she moved across the cave to crouch by another wall and begin writing anew. “Bad things always happen here."

"No, no, no. Nothing bad's gonna happen.” Angel reassured her. “I-It's gonna be okay. We-we can take you out of here."

"We?" Fred asked with renewed curiosity.

"Yeah. Me and my friends. We can take you back." Angel answered.

"Can't get back. There is no back." Doubt still wracked the poor lost physicist.

"No, there is. We can open the portal." Angel started.

“Tacos!” Fred cried out suddenly. "Sorry. I didn't mean to holler at you. I love tacos. Do they still have them? You know, back..."

"...home? Yeah, they didn't outlaw tacos." Angel assured her with a smile.

"Oh, of course not. I've been trying to make an enchilada out of tree bark." Fred replied.

"Bark enchiladas. Huh. How's that going?" Angel asked slightly skeptical.

Fred paused before answering. "There is work to be done."

Angel looked around the cave once more. He just had to ask about the elephant in the room. “So these words?”

"They're not words.” Fred shot back. “They're consonant representations of a mathematical transfiguration formula."

Angel paused at that statement before deciding the young woman was clearly smarter than him. "Well, obviously."

"I used to think that if you said them out loud and in the right order the quaking and quivering would..." Fred trailed off hopelessly.

"Oh, you mean open a portal.” Angel suddenly realized he was looking at words from the book Willow said had trapped this woman here. “Well, that's how we got here and that's how we'll get back."

"No. I tried. For so long.” Fred dismissed. “Until my tongue was swollen and my head was all kaplooey. It doesn't work on this side."

“You might have just been in the wrong location.” Angel guessed as he moved closer to the crouching woman. “To open portals with just the words you need to be in a place where they happen naturally.”

The physicist looked at the vampire with a confused expression before realizing her mistake. The thought that she had overlooked a simple factor nearly broke her heart.

“Fred please trust me.” Angel said knowing he was close. “Two of my friends are powerful witches. They can open up a portal and take all of us home in no time.”

The brunette looked up at that statement. Fred couldn’t find anything in the dashing man’s eyes that gave her reason to doubt his words. “Okay.” She finally relented. “Let’s go meet your friends.”

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

Outside the cave things had ground to a halt. Willow and Tara continued to hold each other and kiss for what seemed like days. The Slayers got tired of the uncomfortable silence after mere moments and sent all the boys to make sure they hadn’t been followed. Buffy and Alonna setup beside the entrance to the cavern and went to work practicing their Slayer senses.

“I can feel Angel inside.” Alonna said after only a second of practice.

“You’re getting really good at this Alonna.” Buffy congratulated from the other side of the tunnel’s mouth.

“Thanks Buffy.” The ebony Slayer replied. “I think you being nearby for the training helps. It’s like I can almost feel what I should be doing through the link Willow and Tara said we had when they unlocked me.”

“I know right.” Buffy said. “It’s like I can tell exactly where Angel is in the cave. Normally I have to focus harder to get this kind of accuracy.” Both Slayers fell silent as they felt the vampiric presence approach them.

“It’ll be alright.” They heard Angel say. “My friends will get all of us back home safe and sound.”

The tall vampire poked his head out of the cave and looked around to see the four women waiting. “Hi guys.” He said as he slowly stepped outside while holding the hand of the slim brunette. “This is Winifred.” He said tilting his head towards the frightened girl. “Fred these are my friends Buffy, Alonna and over there making out are Willow and Tara.” Angel said while pointing out each woman one by one. “You can tell which witch is Willow because she has the wandering hands.”

The mildly chastising statement caused the redhead perched in the armored blonde’s lap to perk up. Pulling away from Tara, Willow turned and cast the vampire a withering glare.

“Hey, watch it mister!” Willow cried as Tara moaned at the loss felt from their aborted kiss.

Buffy smirked at the exchange before she slowly stepped up to Fred. “Hi Fred.” She greeted. “It’s so great to finally meet you. As soon as we round up the boys we’re going back to LA.” The blonde looked back at Alonna and gave her a meaningful look.

Alonna caught on right away. “We just got set up in a new place there.” She added. “There’s plenty of room if you want to stay with us till you are back on your feet. Whatever you need we can help you find it.”

“Okay.” The rag covered woman replied timidly. “I think I’d like that.”

“Perfect.” Willow said as she and Tara stepped forward. “Let’s go round up the boys.”

The group made their way out of the rocky outcrop in the hillside and found the rest of their party waiting for them under a nearby tree. Introductions were given quickly and the group made their way through the lightly wooded countryside to the nearest dimensional hotspot. Once there Willow and Tara went to work.

Hands clasped as the last of Tara’s armor vanished. The lovers began chanting once more in Sumerian. The group of demon hunters they assembled gave them a space to ready the way home. The chanting only lasted a few seconds before things started to happen. Fred felt waves of energy radiate from the couple as she stood by watching awestruck. Swirls of light coalesced around the two young women as the air around began to shift.

“Goddess guide us home.” Willow and Tara spoke in unison. “Lords and Ladies of the crossroads grant us your protection.”

The veil of solid air hardened and ceased all motion. In the distance a tearing sound could be heard.

“Utu, Cernunnos, Hecate, Janus, Shamash, Odin, Anti, Khonsu. We invoke thee.” The spatial distortion behind the two witches vibrated violently and cracked.

“Open!” Tara and Willow screamed. Cracks spread out in all directions before the spatial distortion shattered leaving a swirling mass of light and energy in the sparsely forested landscape.

“Let’s go home.” Tara said to the group as they started to file through the portal.

As they went Fred had a nervous look on her face. When it got down to just her and the witches Willow put a reassuring hand on the frightened girl’s shoulder. “Everything will be okay Fred. I promise we are going to help you.”

The heartfelt oath did the trick. Fred looked between Willow and Tara’s smiling faces and grinned. She stepped through the portal with renewed hope. The lovers soon followed her, leaving the portal to close behind them. The wilderness of Pylea was once again deserted.

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

The travelers stepped out of the portal onto the stage in Caritas. As they took in their surrounding they were confronted with an unfamiliar sight. The karaoke bar was deserted save for one lone figure. He sat slumped over at a small table near the stage. His hair was long, gray and ragged. As the group cautiously approached him his head slowly came up. The emerald face that greeted them shocked them all.

“You were gone so long.” An ancient looking Lorne said from behind a weathered beard as long and gray as his hair. “So long.”

Willow looked around the seemingly empty room and frowned. She looked at Lorne once more and crossed her arms over her chest.

“Very funny guys, now come on out.” The redhead said testily.

Light snickering could be heard from behind the bar and down the hallway leading to the restrooms and offices. Several heads popped up from behind the bar and the laughter only got worse.

“That was classic.” Chain said while grinning. “Good work Lorne.”

“Yeah, no doubt.” Rondell added. “You guys should see the looks on your faces.”

“Well the wig and beard helped sell the bit.” Lorne said as he removed the costume hair pieces.

“Ha, ha.” Willow said as the confused looks on the faces that just returned from Pylea turned to light grins at the terrible joke.

Tara turned to look at the slightly frightened brunette they had saved. “Fred this is Lorne. W-when you were pulled into Pylea h-he was taken here. He’s a lot nicer than the rest of the demons you had to face there.”

Lorne looked up at the woman in tattered burlap. “Oh Sweetie you must be so glad to be out of that awful place.” He said with sincere concern. “I know I was. Ending up in LA is the best thing to ever happen to me.”

“It’s good to be home.” Fred said quietly.

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

The rest of the evening seemed to fly by. Gunn, Doyle and Xander hung around the bar to retell the tale of their brief sojourn to the rest of the Hyperion Crew. Giles and Lorne once again exchanged stories as they awaited yet another pizza delivery Willow had called in.

Meanwhile the Slayers, witches, Fred and Angel got into the backup car and made their way to the hotel. Once there the girls made sure Fred was at home. Willow and Tara both understood just how wonderful a long hot shower could feel after living in places where such luxuries didn’t exist. Buffy and Alonna both made sure Fred had fresh clean clothing waiting for her in the room they prepared on the hotels second floor. For the first time in over a year Fred Burkle felt like a person.

Setting aside the few minor possessions she had clung to while trapped in Pylea Fred went to the door to her new room. Before she could let latent fears back her into yet another cave she heard a soft knocking at the door.

“Fred?” Came a concerned voice. “It’s Alonna. There’s food downstairs. We’d really like it if you joined us. Willow and Tara got you tacos.”

“Tacos!” Fred cried as she ran to the door. Upon opening it she almost ran into a startled Alonna waiting for a reply.

“Hi there.” The ebony girl said with a smile. “Hungry?”

A nervous smile spread across Fred’s face. Alonna stepped aside to give the slim Texan room to step out into the hall and the pair made their way to hotel’s front office. They got there just as Angel finished reheating a mug of pig’s blood in the small microwave and the three Sunnydale girls were pulling out the several orders of Mexican take out food.

“Fred, good to see you.” Willow cheered.

“Wow, Fred you clean up nice.” Buffy added. “Alonna you’re gonna have to help keep the boys at bay once they get a load of her.”

“Oh that won’t happen.” Fred said meekly.

“Don’t sell yourself short Fred.” Tara admonished.

As the five young women started eating they each exchanged stories of their lives up to that point. Fred learned a great many things about the world that day. She already had more firsthand knowledge of demons than most trained watchers. Now she was filled in on vampires and what it meant to work with and be the Slayer.

“One last thing Fred.” Willow said as the last of the food was cleared away. “Eventually you are going to want to contact your parents or they will come looking for you. No matter what we are here for you. You have friends here that will stand by you.”

“Whenever you decide you’re ready to see them just give the word.” Tara added in a serious yet soft tone.

“Thank you.” Fred whispered.

“With that settled we can get the next big challenge started.” Willow sighed. “We’re heading back to the hellmouth tomorrow. Alonna you’ll be in charge here along with Gunn and Angel. Keep up with the training and watch out for Doyle’s visions. We know you’ll be able to handle the mission.”

“Sure, no pressure right?” Alonna answered.

“You can do it Alonna.” Buffy assured.

“Thanks Buffy.” The ebony girl replied.

Some time later the boys returned to the hotel. Willow and Tara made sure Xander and Giles knew about the travel plans. Buffy and Angel snuck off to bid one another farewell. Just about everyone else went back to cleaning out empty hotel rooms and getting their personal rooms just the way they liked them. Life had returned to the Hyperion Hotel and it was here to stay.

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

The next morning the Crew, Angel and Fred saw the Scoobies off. The goodbyes were heartfelt and came with a solemn promise from the witches that the two groups would reunite very soon. Gunn, Doyle and Alonna rode with them to the airport.

The Scoobies took the van that still held almost everything they had taken from Jenoff’s Casino. They left the Hyperion Crew with another full money cube to go along with the one that had already started to pay for renovations, furnishings, creature comforts and living expenses. Along with the money Angel had pulled out of the rafters in the basement the new residents of the hotel were financially set for a long time to come.

Doyle pulled the cargo van into the private airport hanger maintained by the law firm recently rechristened Rosenberg & Maclay. Lindsey and Lilah were there waiting for them. As the half demon killed the engine the Scoobies and leaders of the Hyperion Crew got out and started to load loot into the plane’s cargo hold.

“Ms. Rosenberg, Ms. Maclay.” Lilah said with her patented business smile. “Your plane is ready to go at a moments notice. The pilot will take you where ever you desire. I’d just like to say it’s been a pleasure getting to know you and I look forward to working with you in the future.”

“Settle down girl.” Lindsey told the other lawyer with casual disregard. “If they wanted a brown nosing lackey they would have probably left more of the higher ups alive.” The man finished with a wry grin.

“Bite me country boy.” Lilah shot back.

“Relax you two.” Willow said as the boys and the Slayers finished emptying money from the van into the plane. “You don’t need to worry about impressing us or out shining each other. We already settled on you both to run the shop while we’re busy elsewhere.”

“Willow is right.” Tara added. “Learn to w-work together as a team and we’ll be more impressed than any amount of backstabbing your old bosses might have encouraged.”

“Well it was great meeting you guys.” Buffy said as she hefted the bag of gold bars onto her back.

“Yeah, if you’re ever near the hellmouth you probably don’t want to stop by.” Xander jokingly grinned as he picked up the bag of gems. “It really is an awful place.”

“No doubt about that.” Doyle replied.

“We’ll still stop by yo. But we’re gonna be stuck holding down the shop here.” Gunn added.

“It was really amazing meeting you Buffy.” Alonna said to her new friend. “And thank you Willow and Tara. Everything you’ve done for us. For me. Thank you.”

“You’ve earned all the help we’ve given and so much more.” Willow said.

“Whether you knew it or not, you’re a hero Alonna.” Tara intoned.

Buffy stepped forward and wrapped her sister Slayer in a tight embrace. “Don’t die on me.” Buffy whispered. “We have a chance now to live longer than any Slayer ever has. Don’t let them take that from us.”

Alonna was shocked by how deeply the blonde cared for her after such a short time. “The same goes double for you Chosen One.” She whispered back. “I need someone to look up to and you’re the first to come along and earn that place.”

With a great many tears and more than a few hugs the residents of Sunnydale got on the private jet and left LA. As the trio from the Hyperion got back into the van Doyle turned to his two young friends.

“Say, you guys don’t mind if we stop by my place and I pack up what little I have do you?” He asked with a nervous hitch to his voice. “I’m starting to think there’s safety in numbers if half of what those girls hinted at comes to pass.”

“Doyle we would love for you to move into the Hyperion with us.” Alonna replied honestly.

“No sweat Irish.” Gunn added. “You’re part of the team.”

They drove off into the city feeling as though a weight had been lifted from each of their shoulders.

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

The plane touched down in Sunnydale and pulled into one of the hangers reserved for temporary private jet travelers. Within a half hour Joyce and Jennifer both pulled up in the largest cars they had access to. Joyce with her jeep and Jennifer with her hatchback. Willow had called during landing to make sure transporting their cargo went smoothly. After a thoroughly heartfelt greeting the odd little extended family unloaded the plane. Willow tipped the pilot with a fistful of hundred dollar bills and told him to get a safe room for the night at one of the nicer hotels and to have the plane ready in the morning. Jennifer and Joyce drove the two heavily loaded vehicles back to 1632 Rovello Drive. They parked in the garage behind the house and closed the doors to unload the treasure in private.

“I still don’t understand how you got all this money.” Joyce said once again as they brought the last of the treasure into the library and command center.

Buffy looked to her friends and then put a hand on her mother’s shoulder. “Mom please keep an open mind.” The Slayer went on to fill in both her mother and Tara’s about the casino run by a soul sucker, the street gang and all the other people they met in LA.

“Those poor children.” Jennifer said in shock after hearing about the hardships faced by the gang and Fred.

“There’s more.” Buffy said while failing to hold back a smile. “The group’s leader, Charles Gunn, has a sister my age named Alonna.”

Joyce let a smile creep across her face. “Oh honey it’s wonderful that you met someone but don’t you think you’re a little young for a long distance relationship?”

Buffy looked at her mother with a bewildered expression before the shocking assumption hit home. Xander broke out laughing at the thought and Giles busied himself polishing his glasses.

“What? Mom no, it’s not like that.” Buffy shot back.

“Then what’s it like?” Joyce asked perplexed.

“She’s a friend but it’s more than that.” Buffy replied. “She was normal and then Willow and Tara did something amazing.”

A worried look came over Jennifer’s face. “What did you girls do to her?” She asked almost afraid of the answer.

“We asked her what she thought of Buffy.” Willow answered calmly. “Then we told her about all the dangers she has to face as the Slayer. We gave her an option to change her life forever. After she said yes we unlocked her potential.”

Joyce was lost but Jennifer seemed to be in a state of equal parts shock and terror. “What does that mean?” The Slayer’s mother asked.

“It means she was a potential.” Buffy jumped in excitedly. “She had it in her to be chosen as the next one girl in all the world if the last girl died at the right moment. Willow and Tara skipped that step with this huge magic ritual and now Alonna is just like me. She’s the Slayer.”

Joyce didn’t know whether to be terrified or ecstatic. “Does this mean you can retire?” She couldn’t help but ask.

“Sadly no.” Willow answered for Buffy. “If Buffy retired now the world would end. Even if we empowered a dozen more potentials right now there are threats only she can face and beat.”

“But this girl can come here to help right?” Joyce almost begged. For a brief moment Joyce entertained the dark thought that if only this orphan could take her daughter’s place as a sacrificial lamb then everything would be alright. That thought died when the sheer callous horror of its consequences hit home. How could she live with herself if she would so willingly throwaway the life of someone her daughter knew and cared about? Luckily for her Willow was already talking about other options.

“She’ll come to town every now and then.” The redhead stated. “But she is needed to run our troops in LA and there are a few other potentials we have our sights on to help out here.”

Joyce mulled that statement over. Her daughter had more help than any other Slayer before her, and more was on the way. They could get through this.

Willow took that opportunity to switch gears. “Buffy, Xander!” She called out while picking up two printed out stacks of paper from her computer desk. “Take these reports and read them before turning them in to Giles.”

“What are they?” The dark haired boy asked.

“Cover story.” Willow stated. “The only way to get all of us out of a few days of classes was to invent a club we’re all in and make Giles our faculty advisor and chaperone. Read them so you know what lie to tell Snyder when he busts your chops.”

“Brilliant idea Willow.” Giles said in an upbeat tone.

“Just remember that the next time they flaunt authority.” Joyce chastised the supposed authority figure of the group.

“Yes, quite.” Giles agreed timidly. “On that auspicious note I believe I’ll head home and get some sleep before returning to the school bright and early tomorrow.”

“I’ll drive you home Rupert.” Joyce said with a slight smile as she took the librarian’s hand and guided him out of the room.

“Should I be worried?” Buffy asked with a frown as she watched her mother and her watcher leave hand in hand.

“Yes.” Tara replied. “But please give th-them time to s-see if the r-relationship goes anywhere. Ms. Calendar m-may not work out when she realizes some things and you c-can’t deny the man loves you Buffy.”

“What? Eww no, Giles doesn’t love me.” Buffy shot back quickly.

“He loves you the way your mother does Sweetie.” Jennifer said. “The same way I love Tara and I’m starting to come around to with Willow.”

“Ah, thanks mom.” Willow chuckled.

“Don’t poke fun dear.” Jennifer replied.

“Anyway Buff.” The redhead said to steer the conversation. “You’re already his daughter in every sense of the word other than biology. More so anyway than your “real father” ever was.” The hacker said with air quotes on the end. “Please think about this with an open mind and heart. Would it really be so bad if some day your mom ended up with Giles?”

“I don’t like it but I see where you’re going.” Buffy replied. “Just promise me you won’t do the whole manipulation thing you’ve been doing and push them into anything.”

Willow and Tara gave each other a look before Tara nodded. “We’ve never had to lift a finger to get your mom to make love to her favorite stevedore.” Willow finally said. “And don’t ask questions because the specifics of that story are a ways off and reveal far too much about what Joyce fantasies in that single suburban gal head of hers.”

“I don’t get it but I feel like I should be saying eww.” Buffy moaned. “That’s the last of the cash and the gold and gems were first inside. Come on Xander I’ll walk you home.”

Jennifer cleared her throat and Tara nodded to her. “Xander can I talk to you for a minute?” The honey blonde teen asked.

“Sure.” The one boy all the girls trusted most replied. Tara took him by the arm and led him out to the living room for a private conversation.

“Give them a minute Buff.” Willow pleaded. “He’ll probably say no but the offer will mean the world to him.” Willow reached down and pulled up a small backpack. “Give this to your mom. Tell her to pay off her mortgage and any bills the house and gallery might have.”

Buffy peeked inside the bag and found it full of thick bundles of hundred dollar bills. “Thanks Will.” The Slayer remarked.

“You’ve more than earned it Buff.” The hacker replied.

“Why don’t you come gather some tea leaves for your mother Sweetie?” Jennifer asked. “I could use a bit of company.”

As the last of her family left the library to get on with unpacking and settling back into life on the hellmouth Willow walked over to a bookshelf in the corner of the room. It was on the wall that should have separated the dojo from the library. The shelf level with her shoulder was full of various copies of books from Douglas Adams Hitchhiker’s Guide series. Willow traced her fingers along the spines until she came to one in particular. She pulled the book out halfway and the bookshelf slid to the side exposing a vault door with a truly intimidating security lock. The redhead entered in the code that happened to be a date still a few years off. She then placed her hand on one scanner and her eye directly in front of another. The door opened with ease.

Inside the long but narrow panic room were a few minor artifacts. A certain cross and particularly powerful gauntlet. Both of which would soon cause far too much trouble. On the walls were mystic symbols only the two witches knew the full effects of.

The wall that bordered the library was dominated by a large white board. It had several colors of marker in the tray and the writing on it was split up into different color coded sections. A red section, a black section and a blue section.

The top of the board held a title with each letter written in a different color of the rainbow. It said “Big Board of Big Bads!”

The red section was decorated with tiny skulls and had a list of names. First and foremost was “Bastard” written in bold and underlined several times. Then came Petting Zoo Pals followed by Skankzilla, Snake Bitch, Sparkles the Body Snatcher, Mr. Here’s My Card, Scraggles the Junkie Collector, Rock Face and lastly Maggot Face.

The Black and Blue sections had fewer names and a few already crossed off in different colors. The black section started with Tricky Dick the Snake Wrangler. The name had a thick red line through it. Next came Patches the Real Boy. It had a blue question mark by it and was followed by Mr. So You Wanna Be A Star, Kool-Aid Man and Casper’s Nagging Mother.

Last was the Blue section. It started with Numero Uno. The name was circled several times in multiple colors. Next came The Nutty Professor, followed by Mr. Fruit Punch Mouth and Mr. Box of Dirt. Mr. Fruit Punch Mouth was already crossed off with a thick blue line.

Willow picked up several markers and went to work. Taking the Green marker she went to the red section and crossed off the Petting Zoo Pals. “Good riddance.” She muttered. Next she went to the Black section and took the same green marker to Kool-Aid Man. She then took the black marker and crossed off Casper’s Nagging Mother.

Tara popped her head into the vault. “Sweetie are we going to move all our loot in here?”

Willow’s head shot up. “I think so, yeah Baby. I mean we’ll start investing it soon but for now let’s move the gold and gems and most of the cash in here. So do we have another roommate?” The hacker asked mildly sure the answer was no.

“He said no he could handle his parents for the time being.” Tara answered. “Then he hugged me and I got a little teary eyed before Buffy came to walk him home.”

“Oh should I have given you two a moment?” Willow asked while waggling her eyebrows.

“Eww, no!” Tara shot back before laughing. “You know you’re the only one for me Sweetie.”

The lovers made short work of moving the goods into the secret vault. Once the casino loot, the Butterfly Swords and the Khopesh were safely stowed and the vault resealed they went out to check on Tara’s mother. The older blonde was once more making tea for herself. They walked up to Jennifer hand in hand.

“Mom?” Tara asked plaintively.

The frail woman spun around. “Yes Sweetie?”

“We have to go on another trip tomorrow.” Tara said with a forlorn expression. “But after we get back there’s a chance some doctors we found in LA will be able to help you.”

“You mean they might have a cure?” Jennifer asked as hope rekindled in her heart.

“They might.” Willow said as she clung to the curvy honey blonde. “They’ll need to run some tests but if anyone has it now it is them. Even if they don’t then we’ll use what we learn and have our company start working on it right away.”

Jennifer was overcome with so many emotions. It was almost as if her prayers had been answered. She nearly collapsed into her daughter’s and future daughter in law’s arms. The newly single mother suddenly had hope again.

That night the Scoobies slept soundly. Things were finally going great for the would be saviors of humanity. In the morning Willow saw Buffy and Xander off to school and gave them some last minute advice about the week ahead before the ladies of the Rosenberg-Maclay house sped off to the airport with a pair of overnight bags, spell components and another backpack stuffed with “walkin’ around money.”

Jennifer hugged both girls goodbye as the pilot loaded their few bags into an alcove in the passenger cabin. Willow and Tara finally pulled away from the woman they both loved and climbed the short steps on the plane’s hatch. Once onboard Willow turned to the pilot. The employee was proving exceptionally loyal for a man who used to work for evil incarnate.

“Take us to Boston, and have a town car waiting for us when we land.” The redhead ordered as politely as she could while still maintaining the aura of mystique the hostile takeover had given both girls.

“Of course Ms. Rosenberg.” He said with a bow. “We’ll be ready to depart within ten minutes. If there is anything I can do please feel free to ask.” Willow nodded and followed Tara to a cozy couch in the luxurious cabin section of the private jet. They spent the time onboard simply holding one another.

The challenges that awaited them in Boston would soon monopolize their time together.

_________________
Time and Time Again


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