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 Post subject: Re: Coming home part 2 - And The Stars Shall Fall
PostPosted: Sun Oct 30, 2016 11:43 pm 
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zampsa19752001 wrote:
Dibs-y Goodness! :banana :applause :bounce

Yay for excellent update-y goodness... I'm glad for the Scoobie pow-pow to get all up to the latest developments and discoveries... I loved the visit to the children's ward... Big lol for Willow's enthusiasm for experimenting on Buffy...


Thanks!

I was particularly pleased with "Mad Scientist Face" :P

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How i Met Your Mother - By Ariel


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 Post subject: Re: Coming home part 2 - And The Stars Shall Fall
PostPosted: Sun Nov 06, 2016 8:28 pm 
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Great chapter. Sorry for not commenting earlier. I got distracted by Halloween and Blizzcon news.

I liked the show and tell scenes.

"Buffy, Tara, Faith, Willow, what did you all bring to class today?"

"My girlfriend's baby pictures!"

"My mother's favorite book."

"Hellboy's hand cannon!"

"This one ring. I don't think it can rule them all, but it is pretty nifty."

"Mine! Give us the precious!"

"Buffy please let go of Willow's engagement ring."

I like where you're going with delving into the secrets behind the Slayers' "there can be only one" rule/curse. All the more reason to justify Buffy leading an army into "heaven" with the soul intent of burning down the pearly gates.

And it's such a Giles thing to not mention "I killed an insane hell god today. It was the best day ever. And then it was the worst day ever." in any of his letters home.

I'm wondering if they'll setup a map or globe and use a Slayer, darts and a blindfold to determine any future hospital visits. Might be fun to have them turn this huge life altering event for the people they help into a bi or tri weekly chore.

"Xander have you seen Willow and Tara?"

"Well it's that time of the month. Aren't they on their..."

"Really Xander? A period joke?"

"Visit to a children's hospital. Buffy in the ten years you've known me when have I ever told a period joke? Hell, Faith told me five really horrible ones last night and I can't even imagine repeating them."

"Actually those were mine."

"Dawn you are way too young to be telling my baby mama any period jokes."

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 Post subject: Re: Coming home part 2 - And The Stars Shall Fall
PostPosted: Sun Nov 13, 2016 1:15 am 
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and now, for the mad science :)

Short chapter this time.
Technically speaking, it's part of the previous chapter, but that was already crazy long.

P.S: naw, sorry, the mad science happens off camera. It's a thing. I like to talk about stuff that happened off camera, and let your brain fill in the details.
Google: 'Noodle incident.' Or the Nuremberg Pudding Incident.
Anyhoo, here you go:

P.P.S: next chapter is all about our favourite couple, and is called 'Tara's New Job.'



Revelations of Darkness


“Are you a complete idiot?!” Brie shouted.

Giles simply looked pained.

“This is why you came back to England, isn’t it!” she stated.


“Would it make you feel better if I said yes?”


“Not really. And that business about the children needing to stand on their own?”


Giles sighed. “True. Mostly. At least, that’s how I rationalized it at the time.”


“So the time you spent with the Devonshire coven?”


Giles shook his head. “Training.”


“Many years ago they helped me with my… magical troubles.”


“Call it what it was. Black magic.”


“Yes, well.”


“Oh Rupert. Why didn’t you come to us?”


“I couldn’t bear it,” he said with sad eyes. “Once I had realized how far I’d fallen… I couldn’t have you see me like that.”


Brie gathered her brother into her arms, and for a moment they were not Watcher and Guardian, but Emily and Rupert.


“Silly bear,” she murmured



Eventually, she let him go with a final squeeze.
“Now tell me about this new situation you’ve gotten into.”


He sighed. “I killed Glory’s mortal host.”


“And Buffy thought she’d done it?”


“Yes. I couldn’t let her compassion be her undoing.”


“Rupert, power doesn’t simply disappear,” she said quietly. “It’s got to go somewhere.”


“There can be only one,” he said with a small smirk.


“Something like that. Rupert, what happened? Did some of that power taint you?”


“You think I may have picked up a touch of the hell-god’s power?”


Brie nodded. “It has to go somewhere. And killing someone forges a very definite connection.”


“I can tell you, I did not take on a portion of Glory’s power.”


“Well that’s a relief, but how do you know-”


“I can tell you that, because I took on all of her power.”


She stared at him in fear. “Oh Rupert.”


“In essence, I AM a Hellgod.”
He sighed again, a tired sound. “The coven had visions of a dark power rising in Sunnydale. Everyone thought it was Willow, them included. In truth, it was me.”


“So this was why you left?”


He nodded. “Yes. I went to the Devonshire coven, both to give myself to breathing room to get my head on straight, and to get some help.”


“And what happened?”


“They helped me in the same way they did before. Talking through things, meditation techniques, honing my control and so forth.”


“And they don’t know?”


He shook his head. “I had a degree of practice by then, and could hide most of the traces. The rest I could pass off as the result of many years living and working above the Hellmouth. Remember, I spent most days and many nights working within five paces of the blasted thing.”


“And did it work?”


“Yes.”


“Really?” Brie said in a disbelieving tone.


“There was power there, and darkness aplenty. But these demons, they have no concept of the darkness that lies in the human heart.”
He looked up. “I can’t say it was easy. But I’ve managed it, and dealt with worse, if you can believe it.”


“Worse?! Worse than the dark essence of a Hellgod floating around inside you? How can anything be worse?”


“Because you have no idea how far I sank, Emmy. No one does, though Ethan suspects. He’s afraid of me, Em. Because he has some inkling of the things I’m capable of.”


“Ethan? Well he’s always been a bit skittish… but yes, I can see what you mean.”


“It’s oddly apropos, but you were right. If I hadn’t fallen so very far, and managed to climb back to a semblance of human life… there is no way I’d be standing here now as your brother. I’d be something else entirely.”


“Well, I’m glad then.”
She thought for a moment. “So when the Doom Bell rang?”


“That was me yes.”


They sat in silence, pondering the import of it all.


“So, what is your plan?”


“Well… I’m saving it as a horrible surprize for someone deserving,” he said with a cold smile.



+++



Buffy staggered into the Scooby lounge and collapsed on the nearest couch, wet, bedraggled and smelling faintly of smoke.
Faith staggered in, looking only slightly less worse-for-wear.


A lab-coated Willow and a slightly guilty looking Tara followed in behind them, Willow reading a clip-board full of notes intently.


“That was a shitty trick Red,” Faith said, scowling.


Willow looked slightly guilty.
“Well, I’m sorry, but I needed an honest reaction.”


“Urgh,” Buffy said from the couch.
Faith sat down on the arm of the couch somewhat awkwardly. There was no hiding the fact that she was pregnant. A lot.


“So, between setting us on fire, stuffing us in the freezer, and zapping B, what did you find?” Faith asked.


“A lot. I’ve got a lot of information. But I’m not a doctor. I’ll need to look some stuff up first to compare, if you want anything useful.”


“And I felt really bad about screaming ‘Faith!’” Tara said guiltily.


“I forgive you,” Buffy said. “Try not to do it again.”


Tara bobbed her head hurriedly.


“On the plus side, you can take the monitor thingy off,” Willow said.


Buffy groaned. Rolled over and rummaged in her shirt, making a yucky face at the sogginess.
With a peeling sound, a small blue electronics package appeared.
“What was all the beeping?” she asked, curious despite her general ickness.


Willow chuckled. “Well, it’s calibrated for ordinary humans. It thought you were having a heart attack.”


“Uh?”


“The human heart tops out at two hundred beat per minute. You went waaay past that.”


“Really? Because I feel really tired and gross, but other than that, fine. How far past?”


Willow fiddled with the device and made some notes.
“Four hundred beats per minute. Five hundred when we had Faith pretend to collapse.”


“Ya mean when ya zapped me with a sleep spell,” Faith said.


Tara looked guilty.


“That was my idea,” Willow said. “So glare at me if you have to. It was the only way we could get an honest response out of Buffy. And Tara is way better at spells like that, which is why I had her cast it.”


Faith sighed. “Naw. It’s ok. It needed to be done. It’s just that when I woke up, I could feel how freaked B was.”


“And that’s why we had to do it like that,” Willow said. “You can sense each other, and speak to each other, can’t you?”


Buffy nodded.


“Which is why it had to come as a surprize. The thing is, your heart was beating twice as fast an Olympic athlete when you really pushed it. That’s completely super human. But when Faith hit the ground, it spiked even higher! Twenty percent higher!”


“That means something right?” Faith asked.


Willow nodded eagerly. “It means scientific confirmation of things we always suspected, but never knew for sure.”


Buffy smiled tiredly at her friend bouncing excitedly in her seat. Finding out new things always did this to Willow.

“Ok Will. Clue us in.”


“You have more power than you knew, and your emotional state ties in to how you can access it.”


“It’s the same with magic,” Tara said. “There are instincts not to go too far. Like with your muscles. But if you get really wound up, you can overcome those limits, and do some amazing things. Then you get nosebleeds and headaches.”


“Which would explain the mountain,” Faith said.


“And the tank you flipped,” Tara responded.


“Also a point,” Faith conceded.


“So… what now?” Buffy asked.


Willow waved her clipboard.
“You two go have a shower, get changed and get some food. By then we should have had a chance to compare some of this to typical human numbers, and give some idea of a scale to all this.”


“And I will go and stare at some Slayers for a while,” Tara said mildly. “To get some kind of base line reading for Slayer auras to compare to.”


“Oh good,” Buffy said tiredly. She peeled herself out of the couch, with an expression of distaste. “”Come on Faith. Hot showers await.”


“Hot damn.”



+++



Two hours of intense research later…


“Ok, so the Slayers are clean, fed and watered,” Buffy said, as she and Faith sat down on the library couch. “Now could you tell us important things please? Things worth being frozen and set on fire for?”


“I must admit to a degree of curiosity myself,” Giles said.
He put his book away, and fished out a ledger and pen.


“Okie dokie,” Willow said. “Some of this is still a bit preliminary, but we can definitely tell you stuff.”
She rifled through her notes.
“So, courtesy of the old FBI training rooms, we discovered that Buffy and Faith react about the same to extremes of heat and cold, as regular person-”


“I could have told you that,” Buffy muttered.


“Until you distract them,” Willow finished. “Or you lie to them.”


“Wuh?” Buffy said.


Willow looked a little guilty. “Um sorry Buff, but my original suspicion was borne out by the testing. In order to get an honest response out of you, I had to tell some fibs.”


Buffy didn’t look happy.


“What happened?” Giles asked, trying to divert any ire.


“I sat Buffy and Faith in the deep freeze with only light clothing. And I told them it was set to be a bit cold, but nothing major.”


“And?”


“I cranked it all the way up. It was minus 25 celcius in there, and once they got distracted they didn’t even notice. They should have had hypothermia.”


Buffy’s eyes widened in alarm. “What?! Faith’s pregnant!”


“Buffy, that’s why I had you both wearing those monitor doohikies. If you’d actually started to lose any real body heat, an alarm would have gone off,” Willow said with no trace of guilt.


“They put out so much heat, some of the ice was melting when we… interrupted them,” Tara said with a slight smirk.


Xander’s good eye bugged out. “Great googly-moogly! You got frisky in an ice box?”


Buffy blushed.

Faith shrugged. “We were locked in a box with nothing to do for an hour. What would you do?”


Xander shrugged. “Yeah. True.”


“Same for heat. We used the old training building the FBI used to train in. It’s designed to simulate fires, so we cranked that up and had them do some sparring. Same result. Complaints that went away once they got distracted, and they were full-on sparring in temperatures well over a hundred Celsius. Another insane temperature. Other than being sweaty and annoyed, they were fine.”


Buffy blinked in surprize. She looked at Faith. Faith shrugged, and pointed back to Willow.


“We also got quite a bit of information from the monitors. Instead of passing out from heat stroke, and having to be pulled out by people in rescue gear, their body temperatures didn’t vary at all, as far as I can tell.”


“So Slayers are heat-proof?” Xander asked.


“Well, they are. If they don’t know how cold or hot it’s supposed to be, hence the little white lies,” Willow finished. “Still don’t know about the mini-Slayers yet.”


“You said something about heart attacks,” Buffy said.


“Yeah. The monitors thought you were having a heart attack. You weren’t.”
She turned to Giles. “When they were sparring, their heart rates hit two hundred beats per minute. Which is about the same as an Olympic sprinter going across the line.”


“Good lord,” Giles said.


“It gets better. When we really pushed them on the assault course, and got them doing weights and stuff, they hit four hundred. Which is just crazy.”

Giles said nothing.

“And then when Buffy really pushed, it hit five hundred. Um, I kinda had to trick her to get that.”


“My lovely cuz knocked me out,” Faith muttered.


Tara looked appropriately sorry. “I said I was sorry. If it’s any consolation, it was really hard to do.”


“Which brings me to my next point,” Willow said, ticking something off her clipboard.


Xander leaned over to have a look, and Willow hid the board against her chest. “Naughty Xander. No. My science, my story.”


He pouted.


“Slayers are really magic resistant too,” Tara continued. “I had to push really hard to knock her out. It took about as much effort to get the sleep spell to affect her, as it would have to knock out about five people at the same time.”


“And they are not bothered by lightning either,” Willow said.


“Yeah, I think we saw that in Bohemia,” Dawn said.


“The thing is,” Willow said. “The heart thing gives them greater strength, stamina and speed.”


“But,” Tara continued. “It’s not enough to account for all their stamina and strength. The rest is mystical, from what I can tell.”

“The mystical energies inside a Slayer get stronger as they age. But training seems to speed it up.”


All eyes turned to Tara.
“I compared the auras of some of the trainee Slayers with Buffy and Faith’s. I also compared the regular trainees with the Guardians of the Flame Slayers and with Faith’s Valkyries.”


“What did you find?” Buffy asked.


“The energy flowing through you and Faith is vastly higher than the energy flowing through the newer Slayers,” Tara said. “But the energies of the Guardian of the Flame and the Valkyries, is noticeably higher than the new Slayers, even if it’s nowhere near you two. And in our guardian trainees, it’s a little bit lower than average.”


“What about Tamara?” Buffy asked. “I mean she kinda did it her own way.”


“Tamara is about the same as the Guardians of the Flame Slayers and the Valkyries, which puts her a bit ahead of most in terms of Slayer power level. I think.”


“It looks like the more they train and fight, the faster they grow into their powers,” Willow added.


“And those mystical powers go way beyond what the human body is capable of,” Tara said, watching everyone’s heads flicking back and forth between them, like spectators at a tennis match.
“Having a heart rate like that gives enormously more oxygen to the muscles, and clears away toxins, so they could fight much harder, for much longer.”


Everyone was nodding along.

“But Buffy can lift an insane amount of weight,” Willow said. “And she’s so little.” She grinned teasingly.
Buffy squinted comically at her.


“How insane are we talking,” Xander said.


Willow chuckled. “The world record for women for the clean and jerk, no I don’t know why it’s called that, is about one-forty to one-fifty kilos. The men’s record is a bit higher, two fifty or so.”


“Ok. Hit me. How much could Buffy lift?” Xander said.


“More than two tons,” Willow said.


Silence followed.

“We ran out of things to lift a about that point,” Willow said quietly.


“I got a sore back,” Buffy muttered.
Faith rubbed her lower back and Buffy sighed in relief.


“Wow,” Xander said. “That’s a whole lot of weight.”


“Yeah. I figure if I wasn’t knocked up, I could lift more, but... yeah,” she said, patting her protruding belly.
Buffy returned the favour, and rubbed her tummy. Faith sighed happily.


“Good muscles and a high heart rate can’t do that,” Willow said. “The rest is magic.”


The gang pondered this for a while.


“So what does this mean?” Xander asked.


“It means that Slayer’s strength and fighting ability is tied to their emotional state. More than we imagined,” Giles said. “The same is true for everyone else, but more so for a Slayer. And that their powers are still growing.”


“Plus we know that if Buffy can stop stressing about the cold, she won’t feel it,” Willow said chirpily.


Buffy glared at her. “You enjoyed that way too much, Rosenberg.”


Willow grinned back. “Just be glad Tara talked me out of the ice bath and the firehose.”


Buffy’s eyes widened.


“She joking Buffy,” Tara said reassuringly.

Buffy shot her look of relief.

“That was my idea. But Willow talked me out of it.”


Buffy shot her a look. “You’re mean.”


“Well we were going to poke you with pins and sharp sticks, but we figured you’d had enough by then,” Willow said mildly.


“I used to have nightmares about giant marsh mallows and the Master. Now my nightmares are going to be filled with Willow in a lab coat, grinning madly,” Buffy grumbled.


On cue, Willow grinned madly. She was still wearing her lab coat.
Buffy shivered.


Giles cleared his throat. “Do you have any idea what all these changes might be leading to?”


Tara and Willow conferred quietly for a moment.
“We don’t think you’re changing, Buffy. We think you are changing back.”


“You’re becoming what you were always meant to be,” Tara said. “Breaking the chains that held you back.”


Buffy shot her a questioning look.


“Well, that’s the idea. And before you ask, no, we have nothing to confirm this, it’s just a hunch.


“Well, I’m hoping I don’t go all scaly. Moisturising scales seems like a pain,” Buffy said.


“Probably not. So that’s about all we got, which I think is pretty good going for a couple of hours work,” Willow said.
“Donations of chocolate or cookies will be gratefully accepted.”


Xander rummaged in his bag and tossed over a giant bar of chocolate.


“Yes!” Willow said triumphantly, and started breaking it up to share.


“That is so unfair!” Buffy protested. “You were freezing us, zapping us and generally being weird, and you get the chocolate?”


Xander passed over a big bag of cookies.


“Ooo! Cookies!” Buffy said, cheering immediately.


Willow traded chocolate for cookies, and then passed them around.
For the next little while, the only noises were the contented sounds of cookies and chocolate being devoured.



+++



“So, what’s next?” Buffy asked.


“Dinner?” Xander said. “The cookies and chocolate won’t go far.”


“No, silly. I meant what’s next in the grand scheme of living happily ever after?”


“Oh. Er, well we have a couple more hospitals to ‘miracle’ and the Scooby palace to build. Along with some more stuff for our first overseas branch.”


“Anything on the poopy-heads upstairs?”


“I have, amongst my many other things, been researching the Powers That Be,” Giles said.


“Tell me we can kill them,” Faith said.


“Anything that lives can die,” Giles said. “But I have yet to find much of anything about the Powers That Be. There is very little information on them of any kind, or how to kill them in specific.”


“Which is why I have been reading through the big white book,” Dawn said.


“Anything?”


“Yes and no,” Dawn replied. “Nothing specific at all. But they go on and on about the Key. I think if we are going to have any chance of stopping them, I’m going to need to be there.”


Buffy didn’t look happy, but she didn’t complain. The two sisters shared a look.


“Alright,” Buffy said.


Dawn nodded in silent understanding.



+++

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


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 Post subject: Re: Coming home part 2 - And The Stars Shall Fall
PostPosted: Sun Nov 13, 2016 11:38 am 
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Yay for excellent update-y goodness... Giles absorbing the essence of a hellgod and visiting heaven definitely explains the apocalypse bells ringing... I'm glad that they figured out some of the limits of Buffy's & Faith's powers despite Willow's slightly dubious methods...

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 Post subject: Re: Coming home part 2 - And The Stars Shall Fall
PostPosted: Mon Nov 21, 2016 11:57 pm 
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Nice bit of hashing things out between characters. Also Willow's mad science postmortem was fun.

Buffy: My nipples are hard. Are your nipples hard?

Faith: Hell yeah they're... oh, you mean 'cuz it's cold in this meat locker. When do you think they'll let us out?

Buffy: Will? Willow? Are we done?

Willow: For Science!

Buffy: It's gonna be another hour.

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 Post subject: Re: Coming home part 2 - And The Stars Shall Fall
PostPosted: Mon Dec 05, 2016 1:51 am 
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Hi Zampsa, hi Citanul!
Sorry about the lateness.
Nothing major, just badly organized :(

Yep you guesses and assumptions are correct, that's pretty much how it played out. :)

One of the things that always bothered me was Glory.
They put her in a human... why?
Her god-like power went where when she died?
So i figured it had to go somewhere :)

Anyway, more fun stuff.
Enjoy today's episode :P




Tara’s new job.[/b]s


“I feel so official,” Tara said.


“Well, you have your name on the door,” Willow said.


“I have an office. I never thought I’d have an office,” Tara said.


“And you have this,” Willow said, taking something out of her bag.
She handed it over to Tara. It was a polished wooded plaque with “Tara Giles-Rosenberg: Counsellor” engraved into it. Xander had hedged his bets, and only put ‘Counsellor Tara’ on the door, just in case they decided to go with ‘Rosenberg-Giles’.


Tara put the nameplate on the polished wood of the desk.
“This desk is huge!”


Willow smirked. “And here I was, thinking size didn’t matter.”


Tara smirked back. “Saucy.”


She leaned across the mirror-polished desk and kissed Willow.
As she broke away she whispered. “Just use more fingers.”


Willow giggled. “Now who’s being saucy?”
She looked at the beautiful dark wood of the desk. “Wanna christen your new office?”


Tara smiled. “Uh-huh. But I’m not going to.”


Willow pouted. “Aww.”


“Sweetie, it’s not that I don’t want to. It’s just that everyone is going to be popping in to see how I’m liking my new office. And you remember how the kitchen table… incident turned out.”


Willow blushed. “The worst part of that was being interrupted. I was on a roll!”


“Yes you were. We’ll have to make up for that later.”


“Neat!”


“But not now. Instead, you might like to help me lay out my shiny new office.”


“Yay,” Willow said without enthusiasm.


“You don’t want to help me?”


“Well sure. But it really doesn’t compare. Not even on the same continent, let alone ball-park.”


“Smoochies later. Office now.”


“Okay,” Willow said with faux sadness.
Tara could tell she wasn’t particularly upset. There was always time for smoochies later. Many smoochies.


Willow predictably headed for the boxes of books, and started picking through them.
“Hey, what was with Cordelia’s books?”


Tara slid across the small stack of text books for Willow to look at.

“Military psychology? Post Traumatic Stress? Wow.”


Tara nodded. “Oh yeah. I’ve been reading a little already. Do you realize, that by military standards, the Scoobies have been in constant combat operations for seven years?”


“Er, yes? Is that bad?” Willow said.


“Sweetie, the limit is measured in months. After a few months, people start to break down. Seven years is a little bit over.”


“Whoa. Are you sure? I don’t think we were fighting that long.”


“Sweetie, I haven’t read all of this yet. But the military has a strong line between warzones and safe zones. And we were fighting monsters several times a week. And we never had any safe areas, we could be attacked at any time. And often were.”


“Ooo. That doesn’t sound good.”


“No. It really isn’t. Frankly for a bunch of untrained kids, we did astonishingly well.”


“I like that you said ‘we. And wow. I’m feeling a little swell-headed,” Willow said with a smirk.


“Yes, well that’s the only ‘head’ we’re having in here.”


“Are you sure? Because I’ve got this idea…”



+++



There was a brisk knock on the door, and Buffy popped her head in.
She found Tara seated behind her big polished desk, reading a book.
“Hey Tara! Enjoying the new digs?”


Tara nodded her head and cleared her throat. “Oh yes!” she said a little breathlessly.


Buffy grinned. “Great! I figured you’d like the desk, given all the furniture you picked out.” Buffy said. “I saw all the dark wood…”
She frowned and sniffed the air.

Her eyes widened. “Um! Er. Sooo, I can see how busy you are, so I’ll just leave you to it!”
She backed out rapidly and closed the door.


Tara fell back in her chair. ‘You are sooo bad!’[i] she sent silently.
Willow responded.

Tara’s eyes widened. “Ooh!”


[i]‘I think you meant to say ‘so good.’’



“And you’re reading your book upside down!” Buffy shouted from outside the door.


“We are so busted,” Tara murmured.


’Well, I might as we finish what I’m doing then,’ Willow sent.


Tara gasped and clenched the arms of her chair in a white-knuckled grip. “Goddess!”



+++



In an almost perfect mirror of their ‘Scooby Story Hour’ pose, Tara was lying full-length on the big comfy couch, her head pillowed in Willow’s lap. Willow was reading from her journal
“And it took two weeks for the smell to go. Buffy said she could always smell it a little, even after that,” Willow said brightly.


“I see now why Dawn called it ‘the day the kitchen got angry.”


“Olive oil and chilli? It was like tear gas,” Willow said. “She’s gotten a lot better though. Especially since she met Faith. Can you believe it, Faith is a calming influence on Buffy?”


“Well, Faith is a Slayer too. She knows about the ins and outs. And it’s so much easier to see things in others, than yourself,” Tara said.


She smiled fondly up at her fiancé. “What else is in that journal?”


Willow grinned. “Well, Buffy did spill the beans about the ginger beer incident, one night when we stayed up late.”

Tara raised one eyebrow in question.

“Ok, so Buffy has this mad uncle who lives on a farm, right?”


“Sweetie, every family has someone like that. I think my parents were that for the rest of our family.”


“Well, her uncle Steve is a bit of a hippy. He lives off the grid, he’s into solar, wind, and grows his own food.”


“With you so far,” Tara said. She stretched luxuriously, and deranged Willow’s thought processes for a moment.


When the spacey smile faded from Willow’s, she continued. “Ahem. Well he brewed his own ginger beer.”


“My mom did that too.”


“Yep. Well, what’s the difference between store bought ginger beer, and home brewed?”


“Oh.” Tara smiled. “Alcohol.”


“Yep. And you know how Buffy is with alcohol? Well that’s not new. And you know her sweet tooth.”


Tara chuckled. “I think I see where this is going.”


Willow chuckled. “You have no idea. So she gets into the ginger beer in uncle Steve’s barn. And even, then she could really pack it away when she wanted to. Add that to how tiny she is, and the fact that she’s a lightweight even for her size, and you have a recipe for something amazing.”


Tara frowned. “Ginger beer can be nearly as strong as wine. I’d have thought she’d have passed out.”


“Yeah. But there’s also a lot of sugar.”


“Oh my.”


“Yep. So you have drunk, sugar-rushing Buffy running around on a hot sunny day, insisting she can fly like Tinkerbelle, talk to animals like doctor Doolittle, and that she can turn invisible.”


“Oh dear. I hope she didn’t hurt herself.”


“No, luckily. Terminal damage to her dignity though. Buffy insists that there was logic behind not wearing any clothes. Something about being lighter so she could fly, or turn really invisible.”


Tara laughed. “So Buffy spent the day running around naked, talking to animals and jumping off things?”


“Yup. But that’s only part of the reason she was so weird about it. Like by the time Joyce figured out she wasn’t upstairs napping and came looking, she found her having an in-depth conversation with ‘mister horsie’ and insisted she was going to marry him, because he was ‘so big and strong!’ That was pretty embarrassing. But what really sealed it was when she tried to prove she could fly by jumping off the roof.”


“Well you said she didn’t get hurt, what happened?”


“What do farms have lots of?”


“Hay? Rusty tractors? Feed?... oh.”


“Yep. Manure. So Buffy didn’t get hurt jumping off the barn roof. But only because she landed in a huge pile of poop that unca Steve was intending to grow his ‘special plants’ with.”


Tara tried to restrain a laugh, and failed. “Oh dear. That sounds terrible,” she said between giggles.


“Apparently Buffy screamed a lot, once she realized what she’d landed in. Then she threw up on unca steve, and passed out.”


“Wow. I can see why she’d want to keep that quiet.”


Willow grinned. “Yup. She only told me that when we had a sleepover, and we got talking late one night.”


“You can still have sleepovers sweetie. Just because I’m back, doesn’t mean you have to stop doing things with Buffy.”


“Best fiancé ever,” Willow said with a smile. “Thanks baby, but there’s really no need. We held each other at night sometimes. Because we care, and we’re best friends. But she has Faith, and I have you. And neither of us is all poopy and sad anymore.”

She looked thoughtful for a moment. “Still, a slumber party kinda thing would be cool. When things get less crazy.”


“I don’t think I’ve ever been to a proper slumber party,” Tara said. “It sounds like it might be fun.”

She smiled up at Willow. “What else is in your Tara-book?”


Willow grinned knowingly. “Did you want to hear about Dawn’s reaction to Harriet the spy? Or when Faith posed as her own Spanish cousin for a date with Buffy?”

Spoiler:
Image


“…!”


+++

A small aside…

“You can’t levitate things anymore?”

Tara shook her head. “I’ve been doing more structured spells for so long, I don’t think I can do straight levitation.”


“You used to be able to levitate things.”


“Yeah, well B? You used to be able to do ballet.”


Buffy leaned down to touch her toes and slowly and smoothly did a handstand, with one hand.


“Show off.”


“No,” Buffy said evenly. “This is showing off.”

She reached out wide and pointed both legs in the opposite direction. Then she tucked one leg slowly behind her head, the other pointed far out, to keep balance.


“A’right. I’m impressed,” Faith said.


“I can do ballet,” Buffy said.


“Ballet’s cool, but I can think of a better use for that flexibility.” Faith said.


“Faith!” Buffy protested from her upside-down contorted position. She unfolded and righted herself, her face pink.


Faith frowned. “What? Fighting is a dirty word now?”


“Uh, I thought you meant… a different word.”


The frown changed to a grin. “Fucking?”

“Faith!” Buffy protested.

Faith chuckled. “I like that I can still make you blush, despite all the naughty things I know you like to do.”



+++



Walking through the rear courtyard, nodding to some of the Slayers, Buffy’s phone buzzed.
She pulled it out of her pocket without even thinking.
“Hi, this is Buffy!”


“Buffy! You’re ok?” a male voice said.


“Riley?! Ohmigod, I’m so sorry!”


“Sorry? What happened? I haven’t spoken to you in a couple of months.”


“Oh my god. Sooo much has happened, I don’t know where to start.”


Riley chuckled. “Well, let’s start with the basics, how are you doing?”


“Oh! Er, good! Really good. Faith is starting to show and she’s all grouchy about it, but she’s so cute when she pouts,” Buffy said happily, defaulting to her favourite subject: Faith being pregnant.


“Er, slow down there a second Buffy. Starting to show? Faith is pregnant? When did that happen? Did she settle down with Robin?”


“Ooooh crap,” Buffy said. “Uh, sorry. I forget that everyone in the world doesn’t know.”

She sat down on the wall in the shade of Dawn’s tree.

“Are you sitting down?” she asked with a hint of teasing in her voice.


“Sitting down? No, I’m in the comms tent. The only chair here is the comms officer’s and he’s busy.”


Faint laughter could be heard in the background. The words ‘dear john’ were audible to Slayer ears.
A slightly less faint ‘ow’ could be heard.

“Don’t kick the radio guy Riley. It’s not his fault.”


“Freaky how you do that. So I’m braced. Gimme the sitrep.”


‘Think of this as a dry run on angel,’ Faith sent. The faint sounds of laughter flowed along with the communication.


‘You, shoo!’ Buffy sent back.

A sense of laughter followed.


“Ok. I can do this,” she said out loud.


“I’m starting to get worried here,” Riley said. “If this is a delicate situation, I can get Sam?”


“God no! I know you better than her and this is really wiggy already.”


“Well, I’ve got plenty of radio time saved up, so take all day if you have to.”


Buffy took a deep breath.
“Faith’s not with Robin. They’re friends and everything, but Robin wanted more than she could give, so they broke up. A while ago actually.”


“He still ought to do the right thing,” Riley interjected.


“The baby isn’t his,” Buffy said. “She’s… she’s mine.”


There was silence on the other end of the line, broken only by a faint electronic buzz.

“I think there’s an issue with the line here Buffy. Say again?”


“Faith’s baby is mine. I got her in the family way.”

More silence.

“Well, at least I didn’t hear a thump,” Buffy said with a smirk.


“Uh, yeah. Think on your feet and all that. It’s a special forces thing.”

Buffy heard the sound of Riley scratching his head.

“Lemme take a run at this,” Riley said. “The baby is yours?”


“Yep.”


“And Faith’s having it.”


“Yep.”


“Is this a surrogate parent deal, or some kind of magic thing?”


“Magic.”


“Magic,” he said flatly. “There are days when I hate that stuff.”


“Yep.”


“So… I guess congratulations are in order?”


“Yep. I’m gonna be a mom. Or a daddy, we haven’t quite worked that one out.”


“From what I remember of Faith, you’re gonna be the mom.”


“Yeah. She said I get to change the diapers and make her eat broccoli.”


“You’re taking this very well. And not meaning to be too personal, but how did this happen?”


“Ha! You say that now. You wouldn’t say that if you were here when I found out!”


“Well, it’s not the sort of thing you tend to expect,” Riley replied.


“Tell me about it. I figured at least one bonus to being a lesbian was not having to worry about getting pregnant. Yeah, that one’s a myth.”


More silence followed.

“This is what happens when I’m out of the loop,” Riley complained.


“Your ex-girlfriends go around knocking up other women?” Buffy said disbelievingly. “Does this happen often to you?”


“No, I hear too much in one go, and I can’t process. So. Lesbian huh?”


“Yeah. Me and Faith. It sorta lead to the whole ‘knocked up’ part.”


“Ok. I’m kinda surprised. I’d say you never really gave any hints, but then a lot of people don’t even realize.”


“Is this where you tell me about cuddling with Graham?” Buffy teased.


“No it isn’t,” he said. “I like him plenty, but not like that. I thought you and Faith didn’t get on?”


Buffy cleared her throat. “Yeah, that was mostly insecurity. And repressed sexual tension.”


There was a long pause on the other end of the line. “You’ve been talking to someone about this, I can tell.”


Buffy chuckled. “Yeah. I’ve talked to just about everyone at some point. Tara was probably the most helpful about it though. She’s good that way.”


“Tara? Who’s Tara?”


“Willow’s Tara.”


“I thought she was… dead?” Riley said hesitantly.


Buffy groaned. “This is going to be a looong conversation.”


“Well, there was a reason I called. And not just to say hello.”


+++


Buffy barged into Giles’ study.

“Giles, we have a problem.”


“Hello Buffy,” he said mildly, long used to such sudden appearances. “Do come in.”

Buffy closed the door and sat down.

“What’s wrong?”


“I spoke to Riley,” she said simply.


“Oh? How is he?”


“He’s fine. It’s what he had to say that’s the problem.”


“Go on.”


“He said they’ve been dealing with some demons and seers. Apparently it’s kinda same-old same-old for them in south America. But lots of those seers have been having loads of apocalypse-y visions about some kind of end of the world thing, starring yours truly.”


“What?” Giles asked.


“Yep. Apparently me and Faith are front and centre.”


Giles nibbled the stem of his glasses thoughtfully.

“This is not unexpected.”


“Oh,” Buffy said. “Really?”


Giles nodded. “We are attempting to overthrow the existing order. And the Powers That Be are typically the ones that organize many of the visions that seers get. It is logical that they would be sending visions to seers, warning that we are going to cause trouble.”


“You know, it’s oddly reassuring that you’re expecting this sort of thing.”


Giles chuckled. “Actually, that was something that Ethan mentioned. Bomber added something about psy-ops and misinformation, but it all boils down to the same thing.”


“They’re trying to make us the bad guys?”


“Indeed.”


“Crap. This means we might end up fighting other good guys.”


“It’s not as bad as you think, Buffy. The Watcher’s Council is gone. The Guardians of the Flame are firmly in our camp, and it is unlikely that the Witches Council will move against us directly. They at least have the habit of trying to talk, if possible. It may in fact be possible to bring them over to our side.”


“Oh. Suddenly I’m a happy Buffy.”


“And while we may have some trouble with individual ah, heroes, we are very well defended.”

He tossed his glasses on the table and rubbed the bridge of his nose tiredly. “Where I suspect our main problem is going to lie, are our more traditional enemies, and whatever agents the Powers That Be send our way.”


“And what’s that likely to be?”


“I don’t know,” Giles said. “We were visited by some kind of spirit a little while back, and while I was able to deal with it, I did ask Tara to look into shielding us.”


Buffy blinked. “You dealt with it? How?”


Giles smiled wanly. “One small bonus of my misspent youth. You remember Eyghon?”

Buffy nodded.

“He typically attacks through dreams. And so over the years, I learned techniques to combat such threats.”


“Oh. Cool. Um, thanks.


“Don’t mention it. I have also organized increased security on our campus.”


“Yeah, I saw that. Good call. So we’re going to get more baddies?”


“That seems likely. Which is more or less what we were expecting now that summer is leaving.”


“Well, at least we get summers off, mostly.”


“Though springtime is troublesome,” Giles responded.


“Tell me about it. So, what’s next?”


Giles glanced at his notebook. “I have asked Willow and Tara to accelerate their plans for our new buildings and fortifications. I have also asked them to pick up the pace on their misdirection attempts. If the news is anything to go by, it seems to be working.”


“Oh?” Buffy said. “I really haven’t been following the news.”


Giles tossed over a paper. ‘Rash of miracles’ was clearly visible on top.

“Ok. So, they got people’s attention then.”


“Quite.”


“Um, any idea if it worked?” Buffy asked.


“I should say so, if the news articles I’ve read are anything to go by. People are flocking to hospitals that have yet to be visited, mainly to the north of the three that have been visited so far.”


“You want them to do more?”


“Yes. But not for a while yet. I don’t want anyone getting used to any kind of schedule. What happens if Willow and Tara are busy?”
He sighed. “And at some point we are going to have to deal with the Witches Council.”


“Who are they? I mean besides witches, duh.”


“You recall when Travers paid us a visit? And he asked Willow and Tara what level they were?”


Buffy nodded.


“Well the Witches Council are the ones who assign the levels and grades.”


“It that like karate belts? Because both those two would totally get black belts in witch-fu.”


“Actually no. Level is a measure of your training and general proficiency. Your grade is the level of demonstrated power. I imagine when the Council actually catches up to us, there’s going to be trouble.”


“What? Why?”


“Because neither Tara nor Willow have undergone any Council official training, and they are extremely powerful. In fact I would say they are probably two of the most powerful spell casters of this age. Having people like that walking around without any Council oversight is going to make them very nervous. Especially when magic is an area that they traditionally consider ‘theirs.’”


“How bad are they?”


“Theirs is an ancient organization steeped in tradition.”


“Crap. You mean they’re a bunch of stuffy idiots?”


“Yes. You’ve seen the Potter movies?”


Buffy grinned. “Recently. I didn’t see you there.”


Giles cleared his throat. “Yes. Well, I went earlier in the week.”


Buffy’s grin widened. “Xander got some robes from you. Did you go in costume?”


Giles looked embarrassed. “Well, er. It’s three dollars cheaper if you go in costume. And it’s not as though I don’t have experience as a teacher.”


Buffy giggled helplessly. “Next time you are soo coming with us.”


“Perish the thought.”


“Willow was seriously considering robes as a uniform for the witches.”


“Why am I not surprised?”


“So tell me about the Witches council.”


“Well, they’ve been around a very long time, which to some gives them a tremendous moral authority.”


“Yeah, but the Watchers thought that too.”


“Indeed. I would have to say that while they are known to be inflexible on occasion, the organization is somewhat closer to its roots than the Watchers ever were.”


“Translation into English?”


Giles sighed. “That was English. However in American terms, they are less concerned with controlling witches, and somewhat more concerned with their image.”


“Oh. Well that sounds ok.”


“Well, there’s more than one witch, which makes a substantial difference. Most of the Council of Watchers was concerned with maintaining power and wealth. They could have dropped the Slayer program altogether and scarcely noticed.”


“That explains a whole bunch,” Buffy grumbled.


“Quite right.”


“However, the Witches Council are going to have some of the same problems with Willow and Tara that Travers had with you and Faith.”


“Why? Don’t they trust them?”


“Less that, than fear of the unknown. Let me see if I can describe it in a way that makes sense.”
He nibbled on the stem of his glasses as he thought.
“Think of it like this. You’re about to become a mother. Would you trust your child to a stranger?”


“Hell no.”


“And if that stranger brings a very large dog with them, would you leave your child alone with the dog?


“Like hell!”


“And if the stranger tells you that the dog is very well trained, and has never killed a baby in his entire life, would you be persuaded even slightly?”


“Giles, you know the answer! Quit being clever.”


“Would you feel safer perhaps, if it was your dog? A dog you had raised and trained, since it was a puppy specifically to protect your family?”


Buffy thought for a while. “A little yeah. I’m not saying I’d do it, but that sounds a little less scary.”


“This is my point. The Witches Council thinks of themselves as the parent, society as the baby, and untrained witches as the dog. From their point of view, the potential for disaster is tremendous. Now, imagine the dog in question is in fact a pair of immensely powerful creatures like dragons, and you have some idea how the Council is likely to feel.”


“How are Willow and Tara like dragons?!” Buffy shrieked, outraged.


“I seem to recall a mountain coming off second best in a disagreement with Willow,” he said dryly.


“Well, yeah. But she’s Willow! You know, cute, lovable slightly spazzy Willow!”


“Yes she is,” Giles replied. “She is also highly intelligent, driven and incredibly powerful. As you well know.”
He met Buffy’s incredulous look with his own steady gaze. “Can you imagine Willow stopping at anything to recue Tara? Can you think of a single thing she would not do?”


Buffy slumped. “Not very many. Killing one of us would probably be too much. But just about anything else, yeah.”


He put a gentle, consoling hand on her shoulder. “I’m not maligning Willow’s character, Buffy. I’m simply pointing out that you know her. You love and trust her, as I do, because she has earned that love and that trust. The Witches Council don’t know her. Or Tara either. To them, they are simply extremely powerful strangers, who were very nearly the cause of the apocalypse.”


“Ok, fine. I get it. So what do we do?” Buffy said.


“We talk,” Giles said simply. “We reach out to them and show them that we understand their concerns, and let them interact with the pair, and see for themselves that they are unlikely to cause trouble.”


“And if they want them to go to witch camp?”


“Well, I would encourage them to go. More knowledge and more training is always useful.”


“And if they want to take their witchy powers or some other thing?”


“Then we tell them to bugger off.”


Buffy laughed. “So very British.



+++



“So how do we do this?” Willow asked.


Willow and Tara were seated on a thick rug in the sanctuary.
Carefully painted sigils and runes covered the walls, warding out every form of hostile magic.


“Um, not completely sure. I guess I cast the aura seeing spell on you, after we join our minds. And then you look at my aura and I try to tell you what to look for, and try to see what you see.”


“Okie dokie. Sounds easy.”


Tara raised an eyebrow. “Not sure about the easy part, but I think we can do this.”


“For us? Pish, this is beneath us,” Willow said with a smirk.


“Well I’m glad you’re confident. At least some parts of this will be fairly easy.”
She took Willow’s hand.
“Let’s get started. See as I see,” she said, the sparkles of blue and white light flowed across her body, down her arms, and up to Willow’s eyes.


Willow giggled. “Faith is right. Your magic tickles.”


“Shush. Now we really have to get in sync if I’m going to see through your eyes, rather than getting the odd glimpse.”


And despite Willow’s dancing smile, they flowed together with the ease of long familiarity. ’In perfect love, and perfect trust.’ Willow echoed.


‘So that’s what that means,’ Tara teased.


‘Yep, it really does.’


Together they joined their minds, much more closely than they usually were, until they were almost one being, with two connected bodies.

’Now we must examine ourself,’ Willow/Tara said to herselves.


’What are we looking for?’


’Look down. Look for our womb. There will be a knot of energy there.’


The part of their mind that was Willow looked through the streamers of energy that made up Tara’s life force.
’We see it. What do we search for now?’


’We are looking for a shell, within the knot. This would be our daughter’s growing life-force.’


The combined being looked very closely.

’There is no shell. We are not pregnant.’


A strange sense of loss reverberated through their link, and they began to separate.
They sat in silence for a while.


“We’re… I’m not pregnant,” Tara said sadly.


“Yeah,” Willow said, similarly subdued.


“It would have been awkward to be pregnant in the middle of our latest crisis,” Tara said.


“Yeah,” Willow said quietly.


“And really bad timing,” Tara said.


Willow nodded. “Yeah.”


Outside, the faint sounds of Slayers training could be heard over the bird chirps, and general hubbub of a busy campus.


“And now I’m wishing that we had seen a little life.”


Willow looked up, hopeful. “You mean?”


Tara nodded happily. “I mean.”


Willow pounced, mauling her girl with an ecstatic hug.

“Here’s a question straight people don’t get to ask,” she said when the hug had died down to manageable levels. “Who’s having the baby?”



+++


[i]Later that day


’Willow?’


Willow blinked and looked up from the array of computer screens in the Command Centre. ‘Hey baby! I told you I could do it! See, I’ve been working for a couple of hours, and you’ve been in town, and I haven’t stressed out once!’


Tara was oddly silent. A faint mix of worry/embarrassment leaked across the link.


‘Baby?’


‘Promise you won’t panic?’


‘What?! No! I promise I will panic! People only ever say that when there is something to panic about!’



A sigh echoed across the link. ‘That’s true.’


‘Baby, what’s wrong? You went into town with Dawn and Heather, how could that go wrong?’



Another sigh echoed down the link. ‘Sweetie, we kind of need rescuing.’


‘Rescuing?! What happened?’


‘We’re in jail.’


‘…!’




+++

_________________
“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: Coming home part 2 - And The Stars Shall Fall
PostPosted: Mon Dec 05, 2016 6:56 am 
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Dibs-y Goodness! :applause :banana :dumbo :bounce

Yay for excellent update-y goodness... Oh crap, how the heck Tara got herself in the jail.... I seriously hope that the Witches Council joins the Scooby Army without too much trouble or heads bashed in...

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 Post subject: Re: Coming home part 2 - And The Stars Shall Fall
PostPosted: Sat Dec 10, 2016 9:32 am 
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Nice breather sessions for the girls before Riley's news and whatever issue the local cops had comes out. I can just imagine Tara talking Willow down from razing the police station to the ground. "Sweetie we just need bail. Please don't bring half the Slayer army down on Sheriff McBumpkin."

The way I've always interpreted the "What's you level?" interview scene is that the Watchers Council had a registry and a grading system for witches they come across. It didn't actually mean anything but it would have been a good way to scare random minor practitioners into signing up with the Council and potentially paying annual dues. Because if you're not registered with the Council there really is no way for the big bad Slayer to know if you're planning the next apocalypse of not.

This also meant that the levels and registration are just another meaningless ploy the Council did to grasp for more power. Most moderate to truly powerful witches would be part of an established coven and never give the Council's rating system the time of day. Of course the ones with evil plans would just kill any nosy watchers on sight.

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 Post subject: Re: Coming home part 2 - And The Stars Shall Fall
PostPosted: Sun Dec 11, 2016 12:57 am 
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Hello boys and girls!

Yep, Tara's in jail, for beating someone up, if you can believe it.
You won't have long to wait to find out what's going on :)

As to the level business, i figured i should populate the world a little more. And as in real life, monolithic agencies aren't really the way things work.
So the Council of Watchers don't run their show.

I figure the sensible way to deal with people who can kill with a wave of their hand, if they go bad, is to band together. Esp with the whole witch-burning thing back in the day.
So: Witch's Council.

Here you go, 3 small eps together :)


The very Secret Service



Detective Sykes rubbed his temple in irritation. This was not his job.
“Damn rookies,” he muttered.


He looked over the paperwork.
Somehow he knew this situation was going to be a bigger headache than it already was.

One overly enthusiastic rookie, and a lieutenant out of town, meant that this mess was his problem.

Three girls and one guy in the cells, a lot of shouting, and a stack of weapons violations.
Normally this sort of thing would never have gotten even remotely this far. But one easily stressed rookie involved in an emotionally charged situation, compounded by one of the kids pulling a gun, made for a goddamn mess. Right on his desk.


He read through the report.
Say what you want about the kid, he wrote a very clean and easy to read report.
Fresh out of the academy.


He looked through the paperwork. The photo of the guy showed a man that looked like he’d been hit by a truck, and none of the women had any marks on them.
And the state of Colorado didn’t issue concealed carry permits to people below the age of 21. And the girl with the guns was no way in hell 21. Though somehow the rookie managed to describe her as ‘intimidating’.

He chuckled. Cute, yes. Intimidating, no.


With weapons drawn, blood on the floor and tempers high, the kid had just arrested everyone and dropped all of this on Sykes’ desk.

His eyebrows rose as he looked over the collection of weapons that had been removed from the three girls. Two match-grade Beretta’s threaded for silencers, two knives and two sharp wooden stakes. And that was just the one girl. The other had two knives and a pair of stakes. The third at least had been unarmed, other than a basic pocket knife.


“Jesus, what a mess,” he muttered to himself.
Someone was going to be filing assault charges, and the fresh-faced attractiveness of the three young women was going to make it a nightmare for anyone to prosecute them.
Especially as they were claiming self defence.


And it wasn’t helping their case that their supposed attacker looked like he went 5 rounds with Mike Tyson. The doctor had already had a look at him and pronounced him ‘badly battered, but suffering no permanent damage.’
He’s also privately expressed the opinion that none of the women had the kind of strength to do that sort of damage. At least without using a sledgehammer.
Sykes had glanced at them on the way past. All three looked to be in good shape. But not powerful enough to do that kind of damage. And without a scuffed knuckle amongst them.

He was just about to go and straighten it all out, when the office door slammed open, and a hard looking man with an eyepatch strode in.



+++



“I’m sorry I got us thrown in jail,” Heather mumbled.


Dawn put her arm around her girlfriend. “You didn’t. I did. I’m pretty sure punching someone would get you in trouble, but nowhere near as bad as pulling a gun on the guy. It’s my fault for freaking out like that.”


“Well, he was being a dickhead and calling us all sorts of things. I couldn’t let him yell at you and call you names like that.”


Tara cleared her throat. “I think we’re all to blame. At least a little bit. It probably wouldn’t have looked so bad if I hadn’t knocked him out. When the police officer found us, I was standing over his body. But don’t worry too much, help is on the way,” she said reassuringly.


“Crap,” Dawn said. “Buffy’s going to lose it completely. She’ll never let me off campus again.”


Tara sighed. “And this was meant to be the first time Willow and I spent a good part of the day apart.”


Dawn grinned a little. “Yep. She is going to want you to wear a bell.”


“We’ll survive I’m sure,” Tara said. “I’m just hoping Buffy stops her from… overreacting.”


+++


Sykes looked him over, taking in the cautious stance, black body armour and weapons. He saw the way the man’s dark eye swept the room for threats. It was a look he’d seen in his army days. The veteran look.
The man met his eyes and nodded.


Before Sykes could say anything, a small woman in an expensive black business suit swept in with an inexorable sense of purpose.
Under other circumstances, he would have thought she was quite pretty. Not now though.

Currently she strode towards him with a brisk measured tread, and her expression was anything but soft.
He had no idea how someone so small could dominate a room so totally, when she had not said a word.


“Detective Sykes?” she said in a calm tone, almost friendly.
Sykes nodded. He wasn’t fooled.


She reached into her suit jacket and pulled out a wallet ID. “Summers, NSA. I understand you have some of my people?”


He looked over the ID. The NSA was not something your average small-town detective ever encountered.
“Wait, your people? Plural?”


She nodded. “One woman, two girls. Tara, Dawn and Heather. Blonde and brunette respectively. I understand there was an altercation?”


Sykes nodded and gestured to his visitors seat. “Coffee?”


“No coffee, thanks,” she said, taking a seat. “What happened?”


He poured himself a cup of coffee, and glanced at the hard-looking man by the door. He thought about asking about the armed guard, but squashed the impulse. Whoever these people were, they didn’t mess around.
“Yeah. Dan Granger. Bit of a local bully boy. I literally just sat down to go through the report. But if I had to give you my first impression, I’d say it was FNG syndrome.”


Buffy silently sent her thanks to Xander for his occasional lapses into military lingo. “New guy?”


Sykes nodded, adding cream and sugar. “Yeah. He’s a good kid, and I think he’ll make a decent cop. But he’s fresh from the academy, and he’s watched way too much TV.”


“Gung ho? We have a few like that.”


“Nah. More worried that someone’s going to pull out an assault rifle. And then when uh,” he looked at the report. “Dawn pulled out a gun, he kinda freaked a bit.”
‘Fuck,’ he thought. ‘The NSA. This day just couldn’t get any better.’


Buffy nodded. “Well detective, this is the part where I ask you a favour.”


“Dave, please. What’s the favour agent Summers?”


Buffy nodded politely. “Buffy. The girl by the name of Dawn is a VIP. I can’t go into detail, but she’s been the result of numerous kidnapping attempts, more than a few death threats, and recently one attempted rape,” Buffy said, her face hardening.


“Damn,” Sykes.


“That’s why she has a concealed carry permit. Heather is one of our trainees, And Tara is one of our instructors.”


“I’m guessing she teaches unarmed combat? Because Granger looked like he’d been thrown under a train.”


The ghost of a smile softened Buffy’s expression slightly. “No. Tara can handle herself, but if she’d dealt with him, there wouldn’t be a mark on him. No, Heather is one of our trainees. More than likely, she dealt with him.”

Sykes whistled quietly. What were they teaching those girls?

“As you can imagine, if this shows up on our books, there will be a huge mess. I’d much prefer to deal with this matter internally. More training definitely seems needed.”


Sykes nodded and flipped through the report, for once glad of the rookie’s overzealous attention to detail.
It looked like his first guess had been right. Just a new guy and too much weird shit all happening at once. He could imagine his expression when they’d tried to tell him about being with the NSA.

“Sure. Take em’ home. Did you want anything pressed on Granger?”


“What did he do exactly?”


“From what I can tell, he got a little verbally abusive towards the girls or your instructor. Looks like he tried to grab or slap one of them, and got put down fairly hard.”


Buffy nodded. “Pressing charges would only complicate matters. I’m happy to not press charges if you are?”


Sykes shrugged. “Sure. Anything I can do to help out.”


“Thank you Detective Sykes… Dave.”


“No problem. Give me a few minutes to take care of the paperwork, and we can go spring your people.”

Buffy waited politely while he finished up the report, writing brief notes.
It seemed any organization required huge amounts of paperwork, Slayers or law enforcement.

“Right. Let’s go get your people.”


“Thanks Dave. I appreciate this. I’d also appreciate a moment or two to have a word with mister Granger.”


“Sure. Maybe you’ll have some effect on him. Nothing else has so far.”


They moved through the offices to the cells, the detective leading the way.
When they unlocked the various secure doors and entered the antiseptically-clean cell-block, Tara stood up quickly.
“Agent Summers. Good to see you so soon.”


“Agent Giles. The explanation can wait until later. If you’d be so kind as to meet agent Harris out front, I want to have a few words with mister Granger here.”

Tara nodded and guided the subdued teens out.

Buffy turned to the detective. “It’s ok, you can stay. I’m not going to beat him up, so relax.”


Sykes nodded. “Good.”
He looked surprised when he got a better look at Dan Granger. There was dried blood in his hair and across his face, and more down the front of his shirt. But there was no sign of any swelling or bruising.

“Hello mister Granger. I’m Agent Summers of the National Security Agency,” Buffy said, holding up her ID.


“What do you want?” he said sullenly.


“The young lady you had a disagreement with is a VIP, under the specific protection of my agency.”

He said nothing, but he looked noticeably more worried.

“Mister Granger,” Buffy said, her voice dropping in temperature. He jerked a little more upright.
“The penalties for assaulting someone under the protection of the US government are severe. I also understand from detective Sykes here, that you have a habit of this sort of thing?”

He said nothing, but he glared sullenly at the impassive Sykes.

“Mister Granger. I have a number of agents and trainees around the town. We will know if anything like this happens again. Anything.”
Her voice was cold, but her eyes were like a furnace. “And if it does? You will simply disappear, forever.”

He couldn’t meet her gaze.

“Do you believe me mister Granger?” she said coldly.

He nodded silently.

“Good. I look forward to never seeing you again.”


She turned to the detective, smiling brightly. “Thank you detective.”


He nodded. “I’ll see you out.”
“Then I’ll release you,” he said to his prisoner.


“No hurry,” came the muttered reply.



As they re-entered the bull pen Buffy turned to detective Sykes.
“Thank you Dave, you made my day a lot easier.”


“Not a problem. Say did you want to get dinner later?”


Buffy smirked. “Did you know a nice place?”


He nodded enthusiastically. “Do I ever! An old buddy of mine runs a sweet Italian place in Pine Ridge. Best Italian food you ever ate!”


Buffy grinned. “That sounds great! I feel like I barely know this place, despite having been here for months. One question though, do we have room for one more?”


Dave frowned. “One more?”


Buffy held up her hand and wiggled her engagement ring with her thumb. “My fiancé might like to come along too.”


Dave sighed. “Ah nuts. Sure bring him along.”
He smiled resignedly. “They say the best ones are married. Or gay.”


Buffy smiled back radiantly. “In this case, both. I should warn you, Faith eats like a linebacker.”


Dave laughed, defeated. “Sure, I’ll let Tony know. Eight thirty?”


“That sounds great. We’ll pick you up.”


“Do you know where I live?”


“We’re the NSA.”


“Silly me.”


+++


“Alright. What the frilly heck happened!?” Willow said after she clamped Tara in a huge hug.
The girls were in the black of the black SUV Xander had arrived in.

“Actually, scratch that. I just want to lock you in our room where nothing can happen to you ever again.”


Tara sighed. “That seems fair. You get to feed me and do all the laundry though.”


Willow nodded. “Deal.”


“Alright,” Buffy said. “I think I’ve shown remarkable patience for someone who unexpectedly had to impersonate a federal agent. What the hell happened? And Will? NSA? What’s wrong with the FBI?”


“No one knows anything about the NSA,” Willow’s muffled voice replied from the region of Tara’s chest. “And they’re heavily compartmentalized. They’re used to having secret stuff, and not confirming or denying anything. The FBI work closely with the police. Hacking them is easy. Having them not notice almost immediately is hard.”


“We were shopping,” Tara said. “I was just going to drop the girls off, but we were headed the same way, so we made a day of it.”


“Lots of shopping,” Heather said. “Good job Tara’s got major trunkage. We fit a lot of junk in that trunk.”


“It was great,” Dawn said. “Until this guy started yelling all kinds of crap. It was weird. Like when the crazy people kept going on about ‘shiny’ and ‘green light.’”


“Uh I dunno about that,” Heather said. “But he went from giving us sideways glances, to full-on raving in like, a few seconds. It really came out of nowhere.”


Dawn nodded her agreement as did Tara.


“That fit what I saw. I was right there, window shopping. By the time I heard raised voices, he was already moving.”


Dawn’s look was almost worshipful. “She just stepped between us, and took the hit.”


“Then Heather responded with a lot of punching,” Tara said ruefully.


“I didn’t even see it,” Heather said. “He took a swing at somebody, and then I reacted. I don’t even know if he was trying to punch me or slap them.”


“Baby he hit you? Are you ok?” Willow said, immediately checking for injuries.


Tara squeaked and jumped as Willow probed her ribs with her surprisingly strong fingers, looking for injuries.
“Willow, I’m fine. I’m a healer remember? As soon as he was down, I healed myself.”


“Well. Good. I don’t like the idea of you being hurt.”


“And before I could do anything about him, the police officer arrived.”


“And I had kinda freaked and pulled out my pistol,” Dawn said a little shamefully.


Buffy looked closely at her sister. “Relax Dawn. I wasn’t happy when Xander got you the guns. But I’m glad you have them. And being attacked by a crazy person? That’s justification. Good justification even.”


“Who was he goin’ after?” Faith asked. “And what did he say?”


“DawnTaraHeather!” came the simultaneous response.


“Great. That narrows it down,” she grumbled. “Wanna vague it up some?”


“I think he was after Dawn,” Heather said. “I didn’t see anything. I literally hit him before I realized I was even moving. But it felt like he was after Dawn.”


“I really thought he was after Tara,” Dawn said. “I mean he hit her and everything.”


Tara held up her hand for silence, and closed her eyes.

“Baby?” Willow said.

‘Shh,’ Tara silently whispered. ‘I have a memory spell. Well more of an exercise, but I learned it at wizard school.’

She concentrated on the ingrained mantra, and fell easily into a relaxed, detached state. She wound her memory back, as Willow mentally looked on, totally impressed.

And she saw the scene as her eyes saw it, without the filter of her thoughts and perceptions.

Her eyes popped open. “It was me. He was going after me.”


“What!?” Willow shrieked. “I knew it! You are never leaving this campus, ever again!”


“Will? Chill,” Buffy responded.


“I think you’re overreacting just a little, dearest,” Tara said in response.


“What was he saying? Not stuff about green lights I hope, because I’m so over that phase of my life.”


“Homophobic BS,” Heather muttered.


“Slut, whore, dyke,” Dawn said casually. “The usual crap you see on TV.”


“Oh for fuck’s sake,” Faith muttered. “Can we ever get away from this crap? Why does anyone else care who some stranger is fucking? What the fuck does it have to do with them?”


“I don’t know.”


Buffy huffed. “Well Giles said that he thinks things are going to start heating up. I think this might be part of that.”


Tara nodded. “I think you might be right. I had a little while to look him over while we were waiting for you, and his aura definitely looked a bit off.”


“Off? How?” Willow asked.


“I don’t know exactly. It looked… blurred, I guess. It definitely looked like it had been tampered with in some way.”


“Right,” Buffy said firmly. “We tell Giles, and we make sure none of us goes anywhere off-campus, alone.”


“Aww man,” Faith grumbled, sounding suspiciously close to a whine.


“What? Faith, you’re pregnant. Very pregnant,” Buffy said, poking Faith in her protruding belly.


“Heeheehee,” Faith giggled.

Tara grinned, and Willow raised an eyebrow in question.

“Hormones,” Faith said.


“Sure. Which proves my point. Pregnant. Very.”


“This is so unfair,” Faith said sulkily. “I spend, like a month not even realizing I’m knocked up, another month looking like I just ate a lot of cheesburgers, and now, boom! It’s like I swallowed a blimp or some shit.”


“Well, your pregnancy is moving faster than normal,” Tara said. “That’s bound to make things a little more tricky.”


“And I’m stuck wearing track pants.”


“Ok, yeah, I get that it’s awkward. But how is this unfair?” Buffy said.


“Well, how am I supposed to go slaying if I can’t leave base?”


“Well that’s easy,” Buffy said. “You don’t.”


She poked Faith in the tummy again, producing another giggle. “You are not just pregnant, you’re a lot pregnant.”


“But B!” Faith whined. “I need to go slaying. I’m going crazy here! Pleeeease?”
She made puppy eyes at Buffy.


“You can quit making sad puppy eyes at me. It’s not going to work.”


Faith’s eyes brimmed with tears, and her bottom lip trembled.



+++



The Trap



“Jules? Got a minute?” Buffy asked.

Jules looked up in surprize. She, Dawn and Heather were reading comics, the codex and a textbook respectively.
“Uh, sure,” she said uncertainly. She disentangled herself from her two friends and followed Buffy out of the lounge.
Buffy lead her downstairs to the armoury without a word.


They strode past racks of swords, axes and stacks of armour, and the squad on maintenance detail, cleaning and polishing.
Buffy stopped at the big vault door marked ‘Restricted’ in huge red letters.


She put her hand flat on the door and waited.
After a second or two, the door shimmered slightly and she punched in a code on the pad.
With a heavy ‘clunk’ sound the vault unlocked, and she spun the big wheel.
The door opened with a faint hiss.


“Come in,” Buffy said seriously.


Worried now, Jules followed her inside.
Inside were gleaming weapons arrayed on the walls. The Scythe, a giant hammer, Faith’s huge axe, a shining sword and many others.


“I guess you’re wondering why I asked you down here?”


“Er yeah. Really hoping it’s not to kill me.”


Buffy rolled her eyes. “Why the heck would I want to kill you?”


“Er, um. Because I have a huge crush on Faith?”


Buffy huffed. “If I killed everyone who had a crush on Faith, it would almost empty this place. And I’d have to start with my stupid sister.”
Her expression sobered. “But that is sort of why I asked you here.”
She gestured around her. “These are magical weapons. Super powerful stuff we don’t want the bad guys getting their hands on.”


Jules nodded. “Right.”


Buffy took down the giant hammer. It was a brutal weapon. Closer inspection showed it was carved with faintly glowing runes.
“This is a troll-god’s hammer. I used it to beat a god to death with. Well, mostly to death.”


“Er, yeah. I remember the story.”


“I want you to have it.”


“Wuh?!”


“Faith trusts you. She loves you too. She couldn’t be more proud of you if you were her own daughter.”


Jules shook. “Uh, I don’t know what to say.”


“I know you care for Faith, and I’m hoping the crush will fade, and you’ll have a wonderful mentor-student relationship. But right now I don’t care.”

She held out the giant hammer. “So what I’m asking you is, will you protect her? Will you protect our daughter?”


Jules just stared.


“I have more to live for than ever before, and I have no intention of dying. But if anyone hurts my wife and my daughter, it’s going to be because I already died defending them.”

“Will you take up this weapon and defend her? With your life if need be?”


Jules stared, her mind locked in thought.
She didn’t want to die either.

But if she had to?
Defending Buffy and Faith’s daughter was probably the best way to go.
And death didn’t seem so scary these days, what with all the folks coming back from the dead.

She reached out and took the hammer. “Yeah. With my life, if need be.”


Buffy nodded solemnly, the look of one professional to another. “Thank you Jules. That means more to me than you know.”


Then impulsively, she crushed Jules tight in a hug.



+++



Jules walked slowly back into the Scooby lounge, carrying her oversized hammer.
“What was that all about?” Dawn asked, concerned.


“Uh, she gave me a hug. And a hammer.”


Dawn blinked owlishly. “Ok. Not expecting… any of that.”


“That is a big hammer,” Heather said.


“Oh wow! That’s the troll-hammer!” Dawn squeaked. “I’d say that you were wrong about her not liking you.”


“Yeah. And the hug. That was really unexpected.”


Heather nodded. “I heard that.”


“And she didn’t give you a hard time about your monster crush?” Dawn asked.


Jules shook her head. “No. She knew about it, but she didn’t care. She said she’d have to kill half the campus if she got pissed about all the people who have a crush on Faith.”


“Heh. Yeah,” Dawn said. “I had the biggest crush on her in Sunnydale. It really annoyed Buffy.”


“Uh, why’d she give you the hammer?” Heather asked.


“To fight. She wants me to protect Faith. In case something happens to her.”


“Whoa.” Dawn said. “That’s… Yeah, that’s about as high an honour as Buffy can give. If she wants you fighting for Faith, and her daughter, she really trusts you. And you’ve impressed her. Like, a lot.”


“Yeah. I feel that.”


“So… Ya wanna try it out?”


“Yep. Let’s go.”



+++



“I can’t believe that worked,” Willow said.


“I can,” Xander said. “I’m pretty sure that if Faith turned that sad face on me, I’d do whatever she wanted. And I’m not marrying her.”


“I know I’m impressed,” Willow said. “Who knew she had it in her.”


“I’m not gonna argue. She might do it to me. And I might cry,” he said.


“Yep.”



He looked around. “Just like old times.”


Willow looked out at the night, much darker in Pine Ridge than Diamond Falls.
They were in Pine Ridge for Faith’s patrol, as there was nothing evil still alive in the Slayer Academy’s home town.


Up ahead, Faith and Buffy were talking and laughing, Faith waving her arms around excitedly.
Behind them was a mighty forest of pine trees that gave the town its name.
She looked down at her hand, held in Tara’s, and back up to Tara’s soft smile.
“Not quite the same,” she said.
She nudged Xander’s armoured shoulder, with her own.


“Ok, the armour is good. Also guns, magic weapons, magic. But still,” he gestured at the night. “Just like old times. Here we are, on patrol, in the night. Buffy up there with the stake, giggling and playing silly with Faith. It reminds me of the good times, back in Sunnydale.”


“Aww Xander, you big softie.”


“True. I’m man enough to wear that.”
He fiddled with his protective bracelet. “I wonder if I’ll get to use this?”


“I hope not. That’s a pretty heavy protective spell. I’m hoping tonight will be nice and easy.”


“Now you’ve done it.”



+++



Rick crouched in the darkness of an alley on top a dumpster.
He marvelled at the new strength coursing through his limbs. He marvelled that he could crouch on the dumpster like a predator, ready to pounce, for hours on end, without cramp or tiring.

He soaked up the sounds of the night, each voice clear as crystal, no hubbub of the crowd. Each engine on the road, each burger hissing on the grill he could hear in perfect clarity.
And though he remembered the flavour of a juicy burger, it held no interest for him now.
No, he had a new thirst to slake.

He smiled in the dark. Happy at last.
Gone were all his worries, all his fears. Driven away by the cold strength in his limbs.
No more worrying about his boss, no more rejection by pretty girls.
No. With his new strength he could simply take what he wanted.

He grinned. Getting dragged into that one dark alley was the best thing that had ever happened to him.
And now he wanted to return the favour.

He slipped noiselessly off the dumpster, leaving behind the rich taste of decay, and crouched by the entrance to the alleyway.
He was the ultimate predator. A prince of the night. He was the lord of-

Everything became light.

And his body vanished in a flare of fire.



“Ooo, nice one Will! You’re getting really good at the fire thing,” Buffy said.


“Thanks Buff!”


“Yeah, it’s impressive. Now can we leave some for me to kill?” Faith grumbled.

“Sorry Faith. Um, I’ll leave the next one for you?”


“Now all you need to do is work on a spell that doesn’t light up everything for miles,” Buffy said.


“Could be worse,” Faith said, twirling a stake in one hand. “Coulda been Glinda’s sun-zap spell. That leaves me seeing purple lines for ages.”


“Sorry. It’s the only spell I know that’s really effective on vampires,” Tara said sheepishly, fiddling with the purple flying harness strapped on over her gleaming armour. “Sometimes I forget how it affects everyone else.”


Faith looked down the alleyway and sniffed. “Uh, feel free to zap any of ‘em that are hiding in stinky places. Bein’ knocked up is playing hell with my sense of smell.”


Buffy looked down the alleyway and sniffed. “I’ll second that. I’m perfectly happy with you not coming home smelling like that.”


“Are there any more?” Willow asked.


Buffy nodded. “Yeah. My spidey senses are tingling. Just a couple of newbies.”


“Over there,” Faith said, waving at the old sawmill.


“Let me have a little look around,” Tara said.


Faith gave her a funny look. “Uh, sure. I’m all for bein’ safe and shit, but are you sure you wanna go in there by ya self?”


Tara smiled. “Yes. I very definitely don’t want to go in there by myself.”
She closed her eyes, and began to sparkle faintly as she prepared a spell. “But I don’t have to.”
She sparkle settled on her eyes, and she held on to Willow’s hand for balance.

“I’d say you’re right,” she said. “Two badly dressed vampires. They’re upstairs, to the left as we look at the building. One girl, one boy. She’s got a knife, so you might want to be careful of that one.”


Faith patted the armoured plate that had been strapped to her protruding tummy with a convenient harness. “I’m good. Between this stove I’m wearing and your protection spell, I’m prettywell bulletproof.”


“Try not to fall out of a window,” Tara said. “The spell won’t stop you hitting the ground.”


“Don’t fall out a window, check.”


“Come on… uh,” Buffy said. She gently thumped her head with the heel of her hand. “Sweetie?”


Faith shook her head. “Nope. That’s theirs.”


Tara giggled. “It’s not like we have a copyright on it. You can call her sweetie if you like. Everyone said it where I grew up.”


“Come on muffin. Let’s go slay some vampires.”


“Okay honeybun, lead on.”


Xander, Willow and Tara watched the two Slayers almost skip off to slay vampires.

Xander was grinning madly. “That is so cute.”


Willow laughed. “Yeah. A pregnant Slayer off to kill monsters. I think she’s really missed the slaying thing.”


They watched the two approach the disused sawmill, Faith moving somewhat more awkwardly, her balance thrown off by her protruding tummy.

“Wow. She’s really showing now.”


“Well little Hope is growing extra fast,” Willow said.


“This looks like a good place to make out in peace, pumpkin,” Buffy said in a loud clear voice.


“You know I love dark spooky places, muffin. Especially now that I’m pregnant. It makes it so much harder to run away from any bad-guys,” Faith said just a loudly.



Willow and Tara shared a look, and had to muffle their giggles.

“Wow, they are so bad,” Xander wheezed.


“I know,” Willow gasped. “Buffy told me about his but I never…”


“Ooo baby, give me a hickey, right here on my neck.”


Willow leaned against a tree, red-faced as she tried not to give the game away.

“Mmm, that’s some luscious neck right there,” Faith said, grinning at the giggling trio.


At that point, the first vampire dove through the open window at Faith.
Despite being thoroughly pregnant, she was still quite quick on her feet, and she stepped aside to let the vampire faceplant into the dirt.
“Looks like you get the chick, B.”


“Finally. I was worried we were going to be out here all night with these two.”


A pale hand reached out of the darkness, a knife glinting in the limited moonlight.
Buffy’s hand clamped onto the pale wrist. “Excuse me, we were being witty here.”
She twisted the wrist hard and kicked out, her heel making contact with a crunch.

The hand spasmed open, dropping the knife, and Buffy flipped her out onto the hard-packed dirt.
Picked up the blade, a razor-sharp skinning knife. It wasn’t clean.
“Nasty. I’m gonna stake you now, ‘kay?”

She tossed the knife into the trees, and flipped the scythe around, brandishing the stake end.


The female vampire glared at her. She glanced around, seeing Faith battering her partner, and the trio standing nearby watchfully.
She turned and ran.

Only to be skewered by the scythe, hurled with terrible force.
She crumbled to dust with a sigh, as Buffy stepped over to retrieve her weapon.


“You know, whatever powers this thing has, I think the best one is the whole part where it doesn’t vanish when they go all dusty.”

She re-joined her friends, who were watching Faith fight.
Faith was really getting into it.
Although with her big armoured belly, she couldn’t do much in the way of high kicking, she was having no trouble punching the un-living daylights out of the vampire, and even essaying the occasional short kick.


“Did you ever find out if it had any powers?” Willow asked.


Buffy shrugged. “It kills things that are hard to kill, and it’ll cut anything. Can’t break it either. But beyond that, I’ve no idea. And before you ask, no it won’t let me fly.”


“I’m going to have to make you a flying doohickey, aren’t I?” Willow said.


“Yep. And not a broom, either.”


“Sure.”


They watched Faith kick out the vampires knee. He swore as his knee bent backwards and he collapsed.

“Aw crap. Sorry dude. I didn’t think I’d hit you that hard.”


The vampire clutched his leg in pain, and looked up in disbelief. “Sorry?”


Faith shrugged. “Yeah. I was gonna beat on you a bit longer before I staked you, but with a busted leg there’s not gonna be much fight in you.”

He growled. “Let me get to my feet. I’ll give you a fight.”
He pushed himself up using a nearby tree. And hopped towards her, snarling aggressively.
And Faith casually shoved a stake into his chest and he crumbled away with a hiss.

“Not really.” She ran her free hand through her hair. “Aww. Now I’m all revved up and got nowhere to go.”


“Poor baby,” Buffy said. “We might be able to find some more?”


“Naw. Regular patrols have got ‘em down to almost nothing. We’d be hunting for days to find any more, and I can’t be fucked roaming around all night.”


“Ooo! I forgot,” Buffy said. “We have a dinner date later.”


“We do? Cool. Where we going?”


“That nice detective guy is taking us to this nice Italian place.”


“Italian? Sweet!” Faith frowned. “Wait, why are we going to dinner with this guy?”


“Well, he asked me out, and I figured we could find out about a nice place to eat. Plus I think we need to feel him out and see if we can bring him onboard.”


“We’re going on a date with this guy? What the hell?”


Buffy rolled her eyes. “No. He asked me out on a date, and I shot him down. But he seems like a nice guy, and we need to get know him better. In a non-gross way.”


“Not a date?”


“Eew! No. Complicated relationships are not for me. I have enough with you and our baby. More than enough, a heart full to bursting.”


“Ok. I forgive you,” Faith said.


“Yay! It’s all you can eat too.”


“Wicked.”


Tara frowned. “Um, guys?” she concentrated on her vision for a moment. “I think there’s something out there.”


“You getting something on your witchy radar?” Xander asked.


“I think so. It’s hard to make out. Almost like smoke.”
Her eyes popped open. “It’s a cloaking spell. They’re all around us.”


“That’s gonna make things interesting,” Faith said.


“Depends on how you define interesting,” Buffy said.


“Oh god oh god, we’re all going to die?” Faith said deadpan.


“Aww man,” Xander whined. “I don’t wanna be dead. If we get dead, this is all your fault,” he said to Buffy.


“Me? Why is this my fault?”


Xander unslung his assault rifle and flicked off the safety. “It just is. I gotta blame someone, and I can’t blame the pregnant lady, she might slightly kill me. You’re safe.”

“Any chance of a spell so we can see in the dark? Not all of us are Slayers. Or have both eyes.”
He bashed the heel of his hand against the polished stone on his bracelet, briefly shimmering as the protection spell took hold.


“See as I see,” Tara whispered. She touched Xander and Willow.


“Whoa. Ok, that’s different,” Xander said. “But yeah, I think I see them. Maybe.”
He drew a bead on something in the dark and fired off a tight burst, his rifle roaring. A hiss erupted, sounding for all the world like a pot boiling over on the stove.
“Yep. That ain’t human.”


“There’s a lot of them,” Buffy said. “Two dozen at least. Tara, I need you to get Faith out of here.”


Tara nodded. She glowed as she pulled her magic into her body and unfurled her wings.
She kissed Willow fiercely. “Come home to me sweetie.”


“Yes ma’am,” Willow said.


“Faith, hold on.”
She grabbed Faith in a tight grip, connecting her harness to Faith’s and hooking her fingers into the thick belt she had slung low around her hips.
“This isn’t going to be very comfortable I’m afraid.”


“Do Whatcha gotta do Blondie. See ya back at the ranch B. And Red? Take the gloves off ok? I wanna see you back home too.”


“Go!” Buffy shouted.


Tara raised her wings up high. She and Faith both jumped as she snapped her wings down, and with a blast of leaves and dirt, they were airborne.


Xander followed them with the scope on his rifle, until he was sure they were not going to be attacked by any fliers.

“Gosh. Looks like we walked into an ambush,” he said calmly.


“Yep. Whatever will we do?” Buffy said lightly.


“Now?” Willow said, a hint of pleading in her voice.


Buffy nodded. “Yep.”


Xander clicked the switch on his throat mike. “Now.”


“Moving,” came the clipped response.


“They’re on their way,” Xander said. “All we have to do is stay alive for a bit.”


“Yay?” Willow said. “Do we know if the baddies are immune to anything?”


“Nope,” Xander said. He backed up to a tree, the two women joining him, back to back against the tree.

“I don’t even know what they are. Just zap ‘em, Will.”

He fit actions to words, and fired a short burst into a shadowy figure. It hissed like a bursting boiler. Xander grunted and fired another burst. It hissed again, but it fell.
“They’re pretty tough, but bullets seem to work. Sort of.”


“I’ll deal with the ones who get close. Will, can you thin them out a bit?” Buffy said.


“I’ll try. Let’s see if they’re immune to fire.”
She clenched her fists hard, drawing power to herself. She opened her eyes and her hands, an inferno blazing in both. “Burn!”
And a wall of fire erupted amongst the trees.
Tall spindly figures were outlined by the fire, writhing in the flames.


“Whoa! Spikey!” Buffy said. “I think they were hoping we couldn’t see them.”


Xander fired off another burst, drawing more outraged hissing screams.

“I’m shooting away from the fire,” Xander muttered into his throat mike.


“Roger. Ten seconds,” came the reply.

Buffy stepped forward and slashed quickly with the scythe. One of the spindly monsters fell.
She sniffed cautiously, a smile breaking across her face.
“Finally!” She said. “It’s only been like seven years, but I’ve finally found a demon that doesn’t smell like a dumpster!”


“Lemon fresh?”


“Sort of fruity. Bubblegum maybe?”


“Bet that’s why they’re rare,” Xander said, shooting another shadowy figure with an extended burst.


Willow gasped as lightning shot from her hand, illuminating the forest I actinic light, and incinerating two of the creatures.


“Go Will! Didn’t know you could do that!”


“Me either. Trying out something new. I’m quite chipper about the results!”


“Well, here comes the cavalry,” Xander said.


Buffy just grunted as she dealt with a pair of the shadowy figures, slashing one and kicking another onto a broken tree branch.
The first gurgled, and fell to the ground in a fruity heap. The other figure screamed like a steam whistle as it was skewered on the blunt broken branch.


A chorus of hisses broke out, sounding as though someone had just dumped a bucket of water on a hot barbeque.

Willow saw someone jump over the sheet of fire and bring down a big hammer with a disturbingly meaty thwack. The near invisible figure dropped instantly.

“Woohoo! This thing kicks ass!”
Another swing ended in a thunk, a crack and a flying creature.
“Fan out ladies. We don’t wanna miss any of them.”

Willow summoned her magic and zapped another spindly creature with a lightning-bolt, wrinkling her nose at the horrible smell of burnt flesh and bubblegum.



Between the fire, bullets and various weapons, the spindly creatures fell rapidly. In maybe a dozen seconds, the last of the creatures lay gurgling on the ground.

“Wow these things are hard to see. What are they?” Jules asked.


“No idea,” Willow said. “Some kind of demon probably. But that doesn’t really narrow it down.”



The last few water-on-the-barbeque noises trailed off, and the Valkyries called in. “Got ‘em all boss.”


“Nice work ladies. Police up all the bodies. Giles is going to want a count, and I want to make sure they’re actually dead.”


“On it.”


In around a minute, they had the bodies laid out, their near-invisible forms partially concealing the dirt floor.

“These the type that turn to goo or something?” Jules asked Willow.


Willow held up her hands. “No idea. I’ve never seen these before.”


Buffy shone a bright flashlight at one of them, examining one’s face closely. “Eew. Ugly. Like a cross between a bug and a rock.”


“They’re starting to be easier to see,” Jules said. “Get some more light on it, and I’ll take some photos.”
She rummaged in her small pack and took out a compact adventure camera.
She snapped off a whole bunch of shots.



‘Baby? How are you doing?’ Willow sent silently.


‘We’re fine sweetie. We’ll be back home before you are, I think.’


‘No flying baddies?’


‘Not so far. We’re keeping an eye out though.’


‘Faith’s ok?’


‘Not very comfortable, but she likes flying.’


‘Who doesn’t like flying?’


‘Well, we’re over the forest and should be home soon.’


‘Okie dokie. Well, enjoy your flight.’




+++



“This flying is fucking awesome!” Faith shouted over the wind.


Tara laughed. “Well, you didn’t get much of a fight tonight, but maybe the flight can make up for it?”


“Fuck yeah! Wishing I’d talked you into this before I got all knocked-up.”


“Are you ok?”


“Uh, this kid o’ mine is pushing on my spleen I think. But other than that, yeah.”


They flew over the forest at about double the height of the trees, Tara’s magic fuelled wings taking big scoops out of the air.

“I’m startin’ to see why B went all goo-goo over the flyin’ thing.”


“Well she has been pestering Willow to make a magical flying amulet or something.”


“Red does that, B’s never gonna come down.”


“Ah. So I should keep quiet about this little spell that I have?” Tara teased.


“Spell? C’mon Glinda, spill the beans.”


“I’m not sure I should say, if Buffy is that obsessed with flying.”


“You can make B fly?”


“Can you keep a secret?” Tara said over the wind.


“From B? Not really. I can try I guess.”


‘Hey B? All good?’ she sent on their private line.


‘Yep. We tidied up twenty three bad guys, and they started to evaporate, so we’re strolling back now,’ Buffy replied.


‘Ok. Well the flying blonde here has a wicked surprize she wants to tell me about. So I’m hanging up the phone, ‘kay?’


‘Gaaah! I hate that. I really want to know now!’


‘Poor baby. You’ll find out eventually. No peeking!’



And with that she slowly closed down the link they shared, Buffy’s mild grumbling fading out with one last ‘Willow is smirking at me!’


“Ok, Blondie,” Faith said over the wind. “I’ve shut down the Buffy phone for a bit, so hit me.”


“Well, I haven’t tried it yet, but I have a spell that lets a person gift part of their essence to another person.”


“Funky. Ya forgotten I’m not a witch? I don’t know what that means.”


“It means that I can gift some of my talents to someone for an hour or two. I might be able to ‘lend’ her my wings for an afternoon. Maybe.”


“Really? Damn, B’s gonna go nuts!”


“Well, I know the spell works,” Tara said. “You can use it to lend your strength or musical talents to someone. I think I might be able to lend her my wings too. But I haven’t tested it.”


“Whoa. Bad ass.”


“I’m saving it for a birthday, or maybe Christmas… Hanumastice?”


“Wicked. I wanna see that. B will pee herself.”


“Well, I’ll make sure to bring an umbrella.”


Faith laughed. “Oh you crack me up blondie.”


“Thanks.”


“Glad I got you dropping me off. I wanna see what clothes I’ve got that still fit for dinner.”


“Well, at this speed, we should be home in a few minutes.”


“Sweet!”



+++


“How did it go?” Giles asked.


“Like clockwork. Gotta give my girls mad props. They were wicked good.”


They were sitting in Giles’ suite, while Faith put on her makeup.
She had dressed in a white layered dress that contrasted with her tanned skin beautifully.
And while it didn’t conceal her baby-bump, and did flow nicely, and minimized the obviousness of it all.
She finished her lipstick. “How do I look G-man?”


Giles glanced over and smiled. “You look lovely. I take it that you’re going out to celebrate?”


“Sort of. Buffy roped us into this dinner date thing with one of the local cops. All I can say is the Italian food better be fucking amazing.”


“Ah?” Giles inquired.


“B’s idea. Wants to bring one of the local cops on board to what we do. Given that this ain’t Sunny Dee an’ all. Can’t say it’s a bad idea, but it sucks that she sprung it on me like some freaky double date.”


Giles raised an eyebrow. “I very much doubt that Buffy is thinking of a double date. She’s utterly devoted to you. To you both.”


Faith shrugged. “I know. Just caught me by surprise is all. And after a week of bein’ Ma to a bunch of hyperactive tots, I was a bit on edge.”


Giles smiled sheepishly. “Well I thought you did very well.”


“And you were a tearaway.”
She smiled at the somewhat embarrassed Giles.
“You little rascal.”


“Ah, yes well. Um.”


“Oh relax big guy. Ya weren’t that bad.”


“Well. If we could pretend that none of that ever happened, I would be very grateful.”


Faith just grinned.

Giles sighed.
“So. The battle then. How did it go?”


“Yeah. They ambushed us. Right after we staked a couple of vamps in Pine-ridge’s old sawmill. Tall spindly types all covered in spikes and near invisible.”


“Hmm. There are a large number of invisible and near invisible creatures. Faerie creatures especially.”


“Fairies are real?”


“Most legends have some basis in fact. But yes, fairies are real.”


“Cool. What are they like?”


“Opinions vary, but most generally agree that they don’t see the world the way we do. And this has given them a well-deserved reputation for unpredictability.”


Faith chuckled. “You’re cute when you get all professor-like.”


Giles looked awkward. “Ah. Any idea when the others will be back?”


“Relax G-man. B’s on her way up now to recue you now.”


And right on cue, Buffy popped her head through the door. “Hey cutie. Ready to go?”


“Lookin’ good B. Nice dress,” Faith said admiringly.


Buffy beamed and gave a little twirl, showing off her off-the-shoulder black dress, the knee length skirt flaring out a little.

“You look pretty good yourself.”


“Good enough to eat?”


“Well, later maybe. But for now, good enough to eat with.”


Giles sighed.

“Hey Giles!” Buffy said brightly.


“Faith told me a little about the battle. And I was just telling her about the dalliance I had with your mother, on that police car.”


“Giles!” Buffy protested.


“Yes?” he said mildly.


Buffy didn’t know what to say, and just stared at him.


“He got you fair and square, B.”


Giles tried his best to look innocent. It didn’t work.


“Right. We’re off. Feed me B.”


“Have a good time,” Giles said. “If you get back at a reasonable hour, could you drop in and finish debriefing about tonight’s encounter?”


“Sure. Ask Xan about it though. He caught it all. An’ Jules took photos, so grab her and the Valkyries.”
She looked expectantly at Buffy.


Buffy rolled her eyes. “Yes dear. You get credit for not making a joke about ‘debriefing.’ Can we go to dinner now?”


“Yep. See ya G-man.”


“Enjoy your dinner. And please let me know how it goes with our detective.”



+++

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 Post subject: Re: Coming home part 2 - And The Stars Shall Fall
PostPosted: Sun Dec 11, 2016 2:55 am 
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Dibs-y Goodness! :applause :banana :dumbo

Yay for excellent update-y goodness... I guess the creep that attacked Tara and those nearly invisible thingies were PTB's minions... I hope the Buffy-Faith "double-date" thingy with local cops goes without too much trouble...

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 Post subject: Re: Coming home part 2 - And The Stars Shall Fall
PostPosted: Sun Dec 11, 2016 9:44 pm 
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Heya Zampsa!

A dinner-date with no drama? How likely is that :P

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 Post subject: Re: Coming home part 2 - And The Stars Shall Fall
PostPosted: Mon Dec 12, 2016 5:45 am 
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I said without TOO MUCH drama/trouble :-p ... I already assume there will be some....

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 Post subject: Re: Coming home part 2 - And The Stars Shall Fall
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So I am only one chapter in and stuff like this is why I am super glad I came back. I was worried that everyone would have run off (like I did) and no more epic stories were being spun. Glad I was wrong.

I'm sure I'll reply more specifics later, mostly posting so it will show on my participated on tapatalk, making it easier to find and come back to.

Unless someone knows how to book mark this thing, I'll merely have to remember what page I'm on.

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 Post subject: Re: Coming home part 2 - And The Stars Shall Fall
PostPosted: Tue Dec 13, 2016 6:35 pm 
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@dtbubanek Welcome!

If you click on the title at the head of each post, the link to that point will appear in the address bar.
Stash that link some place.

Done!

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 Post subject: Re: Coming home part 2 - And The Stars Shall Fall
PostPosted: Thu Dec 15, 2016 12:57 pm 
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Gotta love how Detective Sykes tried to salvage the mess the rookie made by asking the lead NSA agent to dinner. I'm looking forward to his reaction when he first sees the tiny blonde powerhouse agent's very pregnant wife.

And traps within traps are fun, although I was half expecting Dawn, Heather and Jules to test out the troll hammer by smashing cinder blocks or wrecked junk yard cars. Maybe later.

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 Post subject: Re: Coming home part 2 - And The Stars Shall Fall
PostPosted: Wed Dec 28, 2016 8:10 pm 
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Hi All!

I could claim that this weeks episode was held up due to Christmas, but the truth is i'm just disorganised :P

Heya Citanul! Yeah, i find that often, the scenes that are hinted at, turn out better than the ones that are actually written.
'Off Camera' if you will.
Couldn't really think of anything other than 'This thing is awesome!' and they break rocks. Or old cars.

Anyway, here's the dinner scene, then we get back tour favourite girls :)
(Hard hats may be involved)


Dinner. And nothing else happens at all.


Faith pulled the Slayer-mobile over, the engine idling to a throaty rumble.

She eyed the dark-haired man in the nice suit, that just had to be waiting for them.
“That him?” she asked.


“Yep,” Buffy replied.


“You ready to go?” Buffy said, leaning out the window.


“Holy crap, is that your car?”


“Nope. Mine’s a little blue jeep. This belongs to Faith. Uh, you might wanna drive your own car. Despite the car’s massive bigness, it’s awkward to get in the back.”


“Big trunk though,” Faith muttered.


“Yes, it has a great big trunk. And two doors . Anyway, did you want to lead the way?”


“Er sure. Hi Faith, I’m Dave.”


“Hey Dave. Ya got good taste in women. Don’t get any ideas.”


“Ah yeah, sorry about that.”


“No worries man. I’m impressed that ya had the stones to make a pass at an NSA agent.”


“To be fair, he only asked me out to dinner. Not really making a pass.”


He shrugged. “Life is short. It was worth a go.”


“Well, get your wheels man, I’m starved,” Faith said, revving the engine slightly. The Mustang snarled with power.


“Tell me we’re not racing. Because if we are, I’ll just admit defeat now,” Dave said.
None the less he hopped in his car and lead off.


“We should have taken my jeep. It might not be as fancy, but it has more than two doors.”


Faith looked a little sulky. “But this car is cooler.”



+++



“Your name is Tony?” Faith said in disbelief.


“Si bella!” the rotund and muscular man said. Dark curly hair and a huge moustache completed the perfect stereotype of an Italian chef.


Faith raised an eyebrow. “Questo è un accento merda, Tony.”


“Tu parli italiano?”


Faith grinned.


“Damn. Figured I was safe in Colorado,” Tony said in a more normal accent.


“Do ya actually speak Italian?” she asked.


“A little bit. Got it from my mom.”


“’Tony’ seems a little too perfect.”


He shrugged and grinned. “Well ‘Andrew’ doesn’t sound very Italian, does it?”


“True dat. So Dave sez this is the best Italian place?”


“Of course he does. He brings all his dates here,” Tony/Andrew said to a blushing Dave.
“Though never two at once.”


Dave coughed as both women glared at him.
“Not a date Tony. These two ladies work for the government.”

He frowned. “Or should I call you Andrew?”


Tony held up his hands. "Colpa mia. This way ladies.”


He showed them to a comfortable booth, and provided them with menus.
“I recommend the lasagne tonight, it is especially good.”


“Wicked. Hit me with a big-ass plate of lasagne Tony, I’m eatin’ for two,” Faith said, patting her protruding tummy.


“Presto si avrà un bambino sveglio, sì?”


“Yeah. Not tonight hopefully.”


“Soon, yes?”


“I guess.”

“Well, tonight’s meal is on the house, in honour of your new bambino.”


“Thanks Tony. But we’re loaded, so it’s no stress to pay.”


“It shall be as you say. But I shall bring you a bottle of my best wine, I insist!”


“Sweet.”


Faith tucked herself into the booth, with Buffy’s ever attendant help.


Buffy took a seat opposite her, Dave sitting on the end.

“Ooo! Chicken Parmesan with Polenta, please,” Buffy said within seconds of picking up the menu. “And extra cheese!”


Faith chuckled at Buffy’s happy expression. As Dave ordered Alfredo and meatballs, she gestured Tony over and whispered in his ear.

He grinned. “Surely.” And bustled away to organise their dinner.


“Congrats,” Dave said. “Have you been trying for long?”


Faith and Buffy shared a glance.
Faith shrugged. “Shit B, we’re gonna tell him the rest, we might as well tell him this too.”


“Ok.”


She cleared her throat. “Uh, right. So the reason we’re here tonight, besides the food. We want to bring you into the fold, as Giles says.”


“I like being a cop. It’s pretty cool to be asked, but I’m not sure I want to join the NSA.”


Faith snorted. “Yeah, relax. The NSA thing is just a cover.”


“Wha?! Who uses the NSA as a cover? They usually pretend to be FBI.”


“Willow was in a hurry,” Buffy said. “Basically what we do is secret, and we need a contact in the police force, for help when things go wrong.”


“Huh. Ok, I’m listening. Good NSA act by the way. I totally over looked the fact that you were young, blonde and cute.”


“Not that much,” Faith said. “Ya still asked her out.”


Dave shrugged. “You only live once. What the hell, right?”


“Heh. Sure. Go on B.”


“We’re not the NSA.”


“So who are you?”


“We’re the Council,” Buffy said. “We fight monsters.”


He stared hard at her. “My bullshit detector isn’t going off. But you’re going to have to explain that some.”


“Good call,” Faith interjected.


“Should have brought Giles, he likes giving this speech,” Buffy muttered.


“It’s in the book. Y’know ‘the world is older than you know’ yadda yadda.”


Buffy nodded. “Right. The world is older than you know… uh, I can’t remember the rest. Look, Dave. Have you ever had any weird cases? Cases where someone dies, without any trace of why? Wild animal attacks, weird things going on, that sort of thing.”


Dave nodded. “Yeah. Guy got his throat torn out in Denver. Coroner said it looked like a trained dog attack. Didn’t sound right though.”


“Werewolf?” Faith murmured to Buffy.


Buffy shrugged. “Maybe. Or a messy vampire, who knows.”


She turned back to Dave. “Most of the things that go bump in the night are just bumps. But some of those things you just knew were real when you were a kid? Some of those things really are real. Magic, vampires, werewolves, evil witches, annoying English sorcerers, all real.”


“You’ll understand if I’m a little sceptical of all this right? It’s a cop thing.”


“Sure,” Faith said. She pulled a compact military radio out of her purse. “Hey purple-pants, how goes the hunt?”


“On it boss. It’s taking a while, but we should be there for desert, over,” came Jules’ terse reply.


“Roger that. Out.”


Faith grinned at the detective. “Blame Giles. He’s been bugging us to learn proper radio-speak.”


“Got a ways to go yet. What was that all about?”


“After we’ve enjoyed a lovely meal, we are going to show you,” Buffy said. “Then you can decide if you want to come on board.”


“Not looking for a career change, Buffy.”


“We’re not asking you to. What we need are contacts.”


She met his gaze seriously. “Dave, every night our girls go out and put their lives on the line. So that the nasty things in the dark don’t eat anyone, drink their blood or suck out their souls. Just an hour ago this evening, me and my friends were ambushed by more than twenty demons. Those same girls came to the rescue, and saved our tushies.”


“What we need is information and help,” Faith said. “Someone who knows what the hell is goin’ on, and help when rookie cops pull girls up for carrying weapons.”


“And let us know about any suspicious deaths,” Buffy added. “Also, if you want to moonlight, we could use an instructor on police procedures, practical law and that sort of thing.”


“Moonlighting?”


“Sure. All legal-beagle and everything,” Buffy said. “We’ll write you up and pay you as a consultant. I’ll get Willow to think of something. Self defence maybe?”


“If your instructors are anything to go by, I don’t think they need it.”


“That was Heather. He was quite badly broken, but Tara patched him up.”


“How? She had no medical equipment when we pulled her in. She had nothing on her more significant than a pocket knife, unlike the hardware we took off the other two.”


Buffy smirked. “Tara doesn’t need a knife. She’s a healer, among other things. Which means that if they hadn’t been surprised while shopping, there wouldn’t be a mark on him.”


“Magic, Dave,” Faith said. “Tara’s a witch.”


“Huh,” he said. “You two sure don’t believe in baby steps, that’s for sure.”


“Rip the bandaid off quick, that’s us,” Buffy said brightly.



Conversation stilled for a moment, as ‘Tony’ appeared. “For the lady, in honour of the new Bambina!” tony handed over a cool bottle.


Dave whistled. “Wheew, Tony. That’s the good stuff alright.”


“Ya know booze and pregnant chicks don’t mix, right?”


“Of course. This is to celebrate your new bambino, when you have him. This is for tonight,” he said presenting a large bottle of chilled sparkling grape juice. “Shall I pour?”


“Ok Tone, hit it,” Faith said, holding out her glass.


He expertly poured three glasses of the champagne-like grape-juice. “I’ll go hurry the meal along, you look hungry,” he said with a smile.


“Ain’t that the damn truth. I swear B, we do this again, you are carrying the little bun.”
She shifted uncomfortably. “Make that a great big bun.”
She looked down at her belly. “Stop kicking junior. Food is coming.”
She looked surprised. “That actually worked. She stopped kicking. How weird is that?”


Buffy giggled. “The look on your face.”


“Seriously B, this pregnancy shit is just weird. I’ve got an actual person inside me. How the hell do people get used to this shit?”


“Mom said the second one’s easier,” Buffy said, a soft smile on her face.


“Yeah. It will be, ‘cos you’re having her, no arguments.”


“Deal. But next time, you get diaper duty. And foot rub duty. And midnight snack duty.”


“A’ight. I can handle that.”


Dave cleared his throat. “So… you’re engaged?”


Buffy giggled at him. “Smooth Dave, very smooth.”


He shrugged. “Yeah well. Gotta save the crazy stuff for later, otherwise I’m never going to survive the meal, even if Tony hurries it right along.”


“I figure babies and marriage are about as normal as it gets.” His brow furrowed in thought. “Uh not to sound like an ass, but I didn’t think you could get married if you were gay?”


Faith bristled. “Yeah? Well we’ll just see about that.”


Dave held up his hands. “Whoa, peace. I’m not saying it’s wrong or anything, I was thinking legally. Because cops do that.”


“Sorry,” Faith said. “Hormones.”


Buffy rolled her eyes, but wisely said nothing.


“Er… baby? Is that safe topic?” Dave asked cautiously.


Faith stared at him for the space of a couple of seconds, before bursting out laughing.
Buffy couldn’t help but chuckle.

“Safe. Yes. Sane? No so much,” Buffy put in over Faith’s guffaws.


“Tell him who the baby-daddy is, B,” Faith said, grinning manically.


“That would be me,” Buffy said, pointing to herself.


Dave raised his eyebrows, clearly wishing he had the ability to raise one questioning eyebrow.


Buffy held up her hands. “Hey, who knew lesbians had to use protection? I really thought we were safe.”


Dave coughed, and was prevented from saying anything more by the arrival of tony.

He expertly laid out the plates with a big smile. “E 'bene, godere!”


“Grazie Tone. Uh, questo potrebbe sembrare pazzesco, ma come sta la mia Itallian?"


“Better than mine. Though with a Boston accent? Sounds really… interesting,” he said with a grin.


“Damn. Can’t ever escape Boston huh?”


“Boston’s good. Enjoy your meal, and if you need anything, just ask.”


“Wicked.”


After Tony left, Dave picked up the tattered shreds of the conversation again. “Are you two going to say anything tonight that makes any kind of sense?”


Faith made a disturbingly happy noise as she got a mouthful of her lasagne.


“Probably not,” Buffy said, answering for her.


“B, eat. This is crazy good,” Faith said around a mouthful of cheesy, meaty goodness.


Buffy made a happy noise as she saw the generous cheese sprinkled on the chicken, and the thick slices of camembert wedged between the crisp chicken pieces.


“Thank you Faith,” she said with a broad smile. “Just so you know, I love you more than cheese.”


“That was random,” Dave said.


“Not if you knew how much B loves cheese.”


He glanced over at Buffy’s rapturous expression. “A lot, I’m guessing.”


“Mmm-hmm!” Faith said around a mouthful of lasagne.


Dave laughed. “Good to see women who enjoy their food. I think Tony might be in love.”


“Mmmm,” Buffy said.


“So, you were making my brain explode?” Dave said.


Faith chuckled around a delicious mouthful of Italian goodness.


“Yep. I’m Faith’s baby daddy. Mommy. Whatever.”


“How?” Dave said, a look of confusion and exasperation on his face.


Buffy shrugged. “Magic, basically.”


“Magic…” Dave said slowly. “You can do magic.”


“Nope. Apparently I’ve got magic in me, and if I study for years, I might be able to use it,” Buffy said.


“But study ain’t our thing,” Faith finished.


“But you said magic?”


“Yep. Not mine. My sister probably. She’s studying to be a witch, and she has family issues.”


“Hard to blame her really,” Faith said between mouthfuls.


Buffy nodded. “So many have died. Jesse, Angel, mom, me, Tara.”


“You died?”


“Ugh. I swear, next time we do this, we’re not. Giles can do it,” Buffy said to Faith.
She turned back to the confused detective.
“Yes, I died. Twice. Once for about five minutes, and once for around two months.”


“Sorry Dave” Faith said, taking a short break from eating like a starving wolf. “We’re not deliberately trying to break ya head. It’s just when you’re on the other side, this stuff gets to be kinda ordinary.”


“It’s true. In the last few months, the stuff we’ve run into is just crazy. And to be honest, it’s not even that out of the ordinary.”


“Ya should been in SunnyDee back in the day. That was a crazy place.”


“Vampires, demons, apocalypses, werewolves and werewolf hunters, ghosts, possession, people turning into their Halloween costumes, magic beer, magic chocolate (that was especially bad. It almost put me off chocolate!) virgin-eating mantis-women, evil eggs, and evil witches possessing their daughters to go cheerleading, of all things,” Buffy said, rattling off a list.


“An that’s just the highlights,” Faith added.


“The world is weird Dave. It really is,” Buffy put in.


“Compared to the shit we’ve seen, a girl knocking up a girl, with another girl’s help, is like day-time TV reruns. Not even.”


Dave thumped his head on the table, though he took enough time to move his excellent meal first.


“Too much?” Buffy stage-whispered to Faith.


“Nah, he’ll be alright. Figure he’ll have a bit of a freak when he sees a vampire though.”


“I bet,” Dave muttered into the table.


“This is why we need a guy on the inside. Because fuck having to explain all this to every single person who trips over it.”


“I’m really starting to appreciate the mayor more and more,” Buffy said. “He might have been an evil politician with delusions of snake-hood, but at least he made it easy to operate.”


“Do I want to know?” Dave asked.


“Three hundred year old immortal politician. He built Sunnydale for monsters. Made it easy to fight ‘em too.”


“Giles said he built Sunnydale with Geo-something-or-other.”


“Geomancy,” Faith said. “He told me about it.”


“Earth magic,” she explained to the curious Dave.


“Right.”


“Hey, he was evil, but he knew how to run a town.”


“Anyhoo, the geo wotsit made everybody kind of… docile I guess. Oblivious. More so than is typical around a Hellmouth.”


Dave’s eye climbed a fraction higher. “Er… I know I don’t know anything about all this, but the term Hellmouth doesn’t sound good.”


“Ya remember that so-cal town that fell down a hole a few months ago?” Faith asked.


Dave nodded. “Yeah. I heard about that I think. Some kind of disaster?”


“That was Sunnydale,” Buffy said.


“You’re going to tell me it was something to do with you, aren’t you?”


“Yep. We sank Sunnydale. There was a Hellmouth under the town. When we eventually closed it, it sank the whole town.”


“And a Hellmouth is?”


“Exactly what it sounds like. It’s a gateway to another dimension. Usually a hell dimension.”


“Uh. Shit. That sounds bad.”


“Oh yeah. And there’s three around here. Not as big, but more of them.”


“Yep. The Sunnydale one was the biggest in the world. There’s another big one in Cleveland. Also Ireland, Wales, and London if Giles is to be believed.”


“Three?”


“Yep. That’s why we parked our training campus here. That and the vacated training facility was a big incentive.”


“Training campus? Where?”


“Up the big hill in Diamond Falls.”


“Nothing really happens up there,” he said automatically.


“Yeah. Thank Willow for that. Cloaking spell.”


“Jesus.”


“No. Willow. Little red-headed jewish witch about yay high,” Faith said, gesturing.


Dave sighed. “Every answer comes with more questions.”


“Yeah. Sorry,” Faith said. She grinned around another mouthful of delicious food.


“So there’s three of these Hellmouth things around here?”


“Yeah. Somewhere near the falls in Diamond Falls, in the caves under Pine Ridge, and somewhere near Blue Rock. We haven’t quite nailed that one down yet.”


“Not as active though.”


“Don’t stress too much. B was able to keep a lid on Sunny-D all by her lonesome. There might be three hellmouths here, but there’s entire squads of Slayers patrolling the area.”


“Slayers? Oh god, what now?”


Buffy grimaced. “Uh, right. This could take a while.”



+++



“Valkyrie one to Slayer two, do you copy?” Jules said over the radio.

She and the rest of her team were sitting in the darkness under the densely packed trees. In the distance, she could see the back of the restaurant.


“Hey Purple Pants, what’s up?” came Faith’s cheery voice over the radio.


That got a chuckle from the rest of the squad.

“Boss, we brought our party favours. Two of. We’re out back, twenty meters from the dumpster, over.”


“Sweet. We can do this, and get back in for desert. Give us a few, and we’ll be out. Uh, out.”


“Wilco. Out.”


She turned to the rest of her team. “Well, she’s getting better at it.”


“Repetition, repetition, repetition,” Moia said.


“I’m just impressed we managed to find two vamps on such short notice. The last sweep went through here last night.”


“Eh, out of towners. You’d think word would have gotten around by now, but no, the dumb shits are drawn to the hellmouths from every state nearby,” Tilly said.


“It’s what makes the one-percenters so dangerous,” Jules said, remembering Buffy’s most recent lecture.
“You get sloppy form, fighting morons all the time. Then you get a vamp with a brain, and he does something you’re not expecting, and Bam! You’re dead.”


“True dat,” Tilly said, her voice muffled very slightly by the dark mesh mask that covered her face.


“Tilly, take the damn mask off. It makes you sound like spongebob,” Jules said.


“Hell no. I fucking glow in the dark.”


“No, Tara glows in the dark. You’re just really white.”


“Fine,” she muttered and pulled the mask up. While she didn’t actually glow, she was very pale, with pale blonde hair and eyebrows to match, around pale blue eyes.


“You’re too pretty to cover up, sweetie. You’re a young Tilda Swinton,” Moia said.


“This from the Hawaiian chick. Bet you never have to wear sunblock on a cloudy day.”


“Nope,” Moia said with a grin. “But the tan lines are a killer.”


“You don’t have to wear sunblock either,” Jules put in. “Not now you’re a Slayer.”


“Try it some time,” Tilly said. “Slayer healing’s all good, but have you ever had sunburn vanish in like five minutes? That shit is fucking itchy.”


“I’ll have to take your word for it,” Moia said. “I only ever got sunburn once, and that was when I was a kid. Once you darken up, it stops happening.”


Tilly made a disgusted noise. “Well that doesn’t happen when your parents are from Norway.”


“Have you tried-”


“Shh! Here they come,” Jules said. “Game faces girls.”


Tilly pulled down her mask, and the others checked their weapons.


Buffy and Faith strolled around the side of the building, hand in hand, followed warily by the detective.


“Damn it’s dark back here. I don’t know what you’ve got planned, but unless there’s a light somewhere, it’s not going to be much good to me.”


Jules clicked her flashlight twice.


“Well, you probably can’t see them, but there’s a bunch of girls in black under those trees. You saw the light, right?”


“Yeah. Might need more than a little light, unless you want this to be all like the Blair Witch movie.”


“Dave? Chill. We got the light under control. Geez you cops always this nervous?”


“Yes. It comes from dealing with bad guys with guns. That and what you told me over dinner. Forgive me if I’m a little off balance.”


“Well if you liked that, you’re gonna love this,” Jules said.


Dave jumped slightly.


“Hey Boss.”


“Hey Jules. Party favours?”


“Got ‘em stashed in a gas station, over the fence. Figured he’d need some light.”


“That’s my girl, always thinking,” Faith said proudly.


“Thanks boss. Got Abby babysitting the baddies. Let’s get this show on the road.”

She lead the way to the back of the overgrown lot and hopped over the fence, along with her team.


Dave stopped. “So. Four girls just casually jumped over a twelve foot high chain-link fence.”


“Yep,” Faith said. “You need a hand getting over?”


He raised an eyebrow and looked at Faith’s somewhat protruding belly.


Faith turned away and gathered herself. With a grunt, she jumped over, easily clearing the fence.
She landed with another louder grunt on the other side.


Buffy urgently hopped over and was very solicitous. “Baby, are you ok? I was going you carry you over.”


“Yeah. Well, you know me. All independent and shit.”
She groaned. “Next time, you carry me. I really need to pee. Again.”


“There’s toilets in the gas station,” Jules murmured.


“Sweet.”


They waited as Dave climbed the fence and hopped over the other side.


“Not bad. No doughnuts at the station?”


Dave shook his head. “Lots of heart disease in my family. So no smoking, drinking or fried stuff for me. Makes the fitness requirements to stay a detective a lot easier, I can tell you.”


He looked at the girls, who all looked back at him. “So, I was going to ask about the ‘my girls’ comment over dinner. But somehow my brain got derailed.”


“Right. My bad,” Faith said. “Meet the Valkyries. My heavy hitter squad.”


“This is Jules, squad leader.”


“Hey.”


“Moia, Tilly, Shona, and Abby is baby-sitting our surprise,” Faith said.


The girls nodded, smiled and said ‘Hey.’


“Pleased to meet you. So… super powers? Can you fly?”


Faith doubled over laughing as Buffy pouted. “Don’t! Don’t make me laugh! Gah!”


Jules raised her hand and pointed to the bathroom. Faith took off at an awkward high speed waddle.


Buffy glared at Dave. “No. We can’t fly.”


“Er… sorry? Seems like I hit a nerve. Or something.”


“Tara can fly,” Jules put in helpfully.


“And Willow,” Tilly added


“And it really bugs Buffy,” Jules said.


“Hey, flying would be awesome!” Buffy said. “It would be great if that was part of the Slayer package.”


“Yeah. We’ve seen Willow flying with Tara, and it’s wicked cool,” Jules said.


Dave sighed. “Willow and Tara can fly? And what’s a Slayer?”


Buffy blinked. “Crap. You know, there’s more to this explaining thing than I thought. I guess there’s a reason we normally leave this stuff to Giles. Willow is a witch, and she can fly with magic. Tara is also a witch, but she has wings, so it’s a bit easier for her.”


“I need a drink. And Slayers?”


“Me! I’m a Slayer, so is Faith and the girls here.”


“Hello,” Jules said with a wave.


“We fight evil stuff. Mostly vampires, but demons, evil witches and all sorts of other nasties.”


“Right. Why?”


“Because we can,” Jules said simply. “Someone’s got to, and we’re good at it.”


“Kinda cool too,” Tilly said with a little smile, hidden behind her mask.


“Tru dat,” Faith said, reappearing. “Oh man, I can’t wait till this little bun is out of the oven, and I don’t have to pee every ten damn minutes.”


“How long do you have?” Tilly asked.


“Fuck knows. Buffybot reckons no more than a month.”


Dave sighed.


Faith ran her hands through her hair. “Uh. Sorry Dave. Yeah, we have a robot. Just file that one for later. Just remember, if you bump into a sugar high version of B here, wearing purple, it ain’t B, it’s her… sister I guess.”


“I keep accumulating family members. It’s a thing,” Buffy said with a hint of annoyance.


“Let’s just focus on the simple stuff,” Faith said. “The world is a whole lot weirder that you thought, and nastier too. Even for a cop. And monsters are real, which we are going to show you, right now. So put all the other stuff aside till later, yeah?”


“Yeah. Sorry, it’s just a lot to take in all at once.”


“Ladies? Ya wanna pop this guy’s vampire cherry?”


“Sure. C’mon Dave, follow me,” Jules said, and lead the way to the gas station.


“Valkyrie actual to three, we’re coming in, over.”


“Copy. Waiting on you boss.”



+++



Inside the station, they found a slender redhead leaning against a wall with a drawn short sword, and two thoroughly cuffed pale types attached to a huge steel beam. A single desk lamp lit the scene with harsh shadows.


“Hey boss! This the cop?”


“Uh-huh. Say hello to Detective Dave.”


“Hello. How’re you holding up?”


“My brain hurts. But I’ll live. What’s happening here?” he said, concerned by the two battered looking gang types cuffed hand and feet.


“Abby? You wanna do the show and tell thing?” Faith said, sitting herself on a clean box.


Abby grinned. “Sure. Ok Dave, these are vampires. Not regular folks.”


“Uh-huh. Because they look like two punks to me.”


“Sure. Punk vampires. Here,” she said, and handed him a makeup compact and a simple wooden cross.


“Touch me with the cross, on my cheek. Then yourself.”

He did so, and predictably, nothing happened.

“Now, look at yourself in the makeup mirror.”


He popped open the compact, and looked in the mirror.

“Right. No tricks there. Now turn around and look at these dudes through the mirror.”


Dave did as he was asked and frowned. He saw Abby waving at him, but no cuffed punks. He looked back, and there they were. He took out his detective’s shield and stared at the reflection in that. A Distorted Abby was barely visible, as was the upright metal support they were cuffed to, but no punks.


“How the hell does that work?!”


“Yeah, we don’t know. Something magical I guess?” Buffy said.


“Red said something about it once, but it was a really complicated way of saying ‘we don’t know’,” Faith added.


“Now for the next trick,” Abby said. “Touch the cross to his cheek.”

The vampires jerked at the words, and shied away as Dave waved the cross uncertainly in his direction.
He examined the cross closely under the small light. It was simple, roughly carved wood, and looked to have been carved with a knife, out of a pallet section.

He reached out with the cross to touch the nearest cuffed pale young man.


“No man, you don’t gotta do that,” the man protested.


“It’s just wood, I checked. Looks to be made out of an old pallet.”


“It’s soaked in acid!”

Dave looked thoughtfully at the crude cross. “So why is it not burning me?”


Before the pale young man could think of a response, Dave touched the rough wooden cross to his cheek.

He recoiled with a shriek, his face changing to a vampire’s rough, craggy game face.


Dave jumped back in shock, the crucifix trailing faint smoke from the red cross on the vampire’s face.
“Fuck!”


“Yeah. Gets people like that the first time,” Faith said.


“I pee’d my pants,” Jules said.


“I’m getting that urge.”


“So Dave. That’s a vampire,” Faith said.


“What the fuck is it?!”


“Pretty much like the movies,” Buffy put in. “What you are looking at is a corpse possessed by a demon. The soul is gone, but the body and the memories remain. So it knows what the person knew in life, but its whole outlook has changed.”


“And almost all of them think with their teeth,” Faith added.


“And just like in the movies, they drink blood.”


“But not all sexy. More like a fucking monster,” Faith said.


“And we kill monsters,” Abby said. Smoothly, almost casually she slammed a stake into the vampire’s chest, pulling it back out in the same motion.
The young vamp had just enough time to open his mouth in a silent scream before he collapsed into dust with a hiss.


Dave just stared.


Abby handed him the stake. “Your turn.”


Dave recoiled. “You just fucking killed him!”


“No, I slayed him. Big difference,” Abby said. “You can’t kill something that’s already dead, you can only destroy it.”


“Dave,” Faith said softly. “You don’t reason with a rabid dog, and ya don’t reason with vampires, for the same reason.”
She touched him gently on the shoulder.
“They aren’t people, Dave. You can educate a person, you can redeem a person, give them a second chance. But if you do that with a vampire, someone will die because of that choice.”


He looked at her, searching her face for any sign of an agenda. He saw only naked honesty.
“It would seem kinda merciful to give them a chance to go straight huh?”

Dave nodded slowly.

“But they are a disease Dave. You don’t give cancer a second chance, because it’ll kill someone. Vamps are the same. They drink blood to live. They don’t have to kill to do it, but they almost always do. Because they can. Because they like it.”


“They’re soulless monsters, in every sense of the word,” Buffy said. “And I’m not talking about propaganda like, ‘Nazi’s are soulless monsters.’ I mean what you are looking at here is a thing that is as conscience and responsibility free as a rabid dog, or the AIDS virus. They’ll kill you because they can. Because they like it. And if they have the chance, they’ll torture you and kill your family. For the same reasons.”


“An’ this is what’s out there Dave, waiting for folks walking home late, or drunk or whatever,” Faith said. She strolled a little closer and waved a cross in front of the vampire’s face.

The vampire recoiled, his fangs and yellow eyes showing. “It’ll just reach out and kill them. So what’s it gonna be? Dead vamp, or dead human?”


He looked at the vampire. It looked scared, though not as scared as most would be in his place, especially having just seen his companion killed in front of him.
He looked down at the stake in his hand.


He handed it to Faith. “Sorry, but I can’t just kill someone in cold blood. Even if they’re evil. We have laws for a reason.”


Faith shrugged and staked the vampire with casual ease.

“They kill people Dave. They kill children. And old ladies. And you cannot rehabilitate them. They don’t even have a soul to rehabilitate. And when you see them torture someone to death, and then turn them, and laugh while the new vamp eats everyone who ever loved them, then you’ll get it.”


He nodded. “I imagine you’re right. But I haven’t seen that. What I have is you telling me about it. And you seem like an honest person, and I believe you that there are vampires and things that go bump in the night. But I only have your say-so that they are evil and irredeemable. And that’s just not good enough to make me start killing people in cold blood.”


“Huh. Good point. Wasn’t expecting that,” Faith said.


“Dave,” Buffy said softly. “These things are soulless monsters that need exterminating wherever they’re found. What do you need to see to understand that?”


He gave her a sharp look.

She raised her hand in defence. “I’m not criticising, I’m asking. What do you need?”


Dave thought for a moment. “History. Evidence. I’m a cop, it’s how we work.”


Buffy grinned and said one word. “Giles.”



+++



“Ah, there you are,” Giles said as Buffy came in the door. “How did it go?”


Buffy opened the door a little wider, revealing Dave and Faith.

“Fairly well. We showed him vampires, but he needs to know some history, to know what vampires are like.”


“Really?” Giles replied, clearly both surprised and pleased. “Well, you’ve come to the right place.”


Dave looked around in a daze. “This place is… wow.”


“Don’t worry ah, Dave. Most of that will pass in an hour or so. It is largely the result of being dragged through our wards. Something I would have warned you about, had I known you were coming,” he said eyeing Buffy and Faith.


“Sorry G. Not really up on all this spell stuff.”


“Yes, well. No harm done. Our first job is to key him to the wards, otherwise he’s not going to remember much.”


“That powerful, huh?”


Giles nodded. “The wards here are some of the most powerful the world has ever seen. Willow and I worked on them for some time, and powered them with all three Hellmouths. Tara added her own wrinkles.”

He eyed Dave. “We should go now. Before something untoward happens to him.”


“Is that likely?” Buffy asked guiltily.


“I don’t know. The wards are focussed on magical defence, given that we have two armies on the grounds. I have no idea what the long term effects of dragging someone through those defences and keeping them here might be.”


“Oops.”



+++



“Fuck.”


It was two hours later and detective Dave was as white as a sheet.
Giles had taken cheerfully to his task of showing the good detective the horrors of the demon world, with a special focus on vampires.


He’d been altogether too happy. Almost gleeful in the horrors he’d dug up for the shaken detective.

“Jesus this shit is bad,” he said, pushing the book away. It contained yet another lurid description of massacre and depravity by the Scourge of Europe.


“It takes a lot of people that way,” Giles said mildly.


“I think that giant wasp-thing was the worst.”


“Ah, the ikhneúmōn. I understand there’s a natural insect with similar grisly habits. Thankfully they are exceedingly rare, and none have been seen in over a hundred years. It is thought that in their natural habitat they parasitize pregnant humanoid creatures. But when they drift over to our world…” he shrugged.


Dave looked sick. Giles had thoughtfully provided a bucket, which was close at hand.


“How… how do you stand it?”


“Because I must. If I don’t, innocent people die. Some will die anyway, but thanks to our efforts, far fewer die.”


He sat down nearby and spoke, not ungently. “Once it was one girl in all the world, fighting the darkness, aided only by her watcher. Nowadays, things are a little different. There are many slayers, and they go out in teams, aided by our organization, their friends, and whatever support we can give them.”


“Why girls? And how come no-one knows about this?”


Giles nodded. They were sensible questions. “The girls are no ordinary girls, as you might have surmised.”


“They jumped a twelve foot fence without even a run up.”


“Quite. Well, those girls are part of a proud lineage that traces far back into the mists of time. They are warriors gifted with the strength to fight the evil that stalks the night.”


He closed the books and put them neatly back on the shelves.
“As to why no one knows about any of this,” he shrugged. “Ancient pacts, spells, arrogance and complacency.”


He eyed the shaken detective. “David, you deal with the rougher side of humanity on a regular basis. But even the nastiest of criminals does not consider his fellow man to be food. You can imagine how that concept jars the human illusion of being at the top of the food chain.”

The detective nodded.

“Denial is a powerful thing,” Giles added.


The detective was silent for a long time.

“Now what?”


“What you have always done. Protect the innocent, and serve the public good. Only now, you do it with your eyes open.”


He looked a little relieved at that. “Oh good. I was worried you were going to make me murder some tied up vampires.”


“Ah, no,” Giles replied. “That comes later. First comes some training, and some equipment.”


“You’re serious?”


“Deadly. Vampires are stronger than you, faster than you and can take significantly more punishment than you. You should avoid fighting them if at all possible. But if you are going to fight them, you will need to know how.”


“I’m not going to like this, am i?”


“No,” Giles said, not unkindly.



+++



“Stupid Ethan,” Willow muttered, sounding a lot like Buffy in her annoyance.


“You did say ‘not blonde,’” Tara said. “Well, you’re not blonde.”


Willow muttered darkly. “What am I going to wear? Seriously, I have no clothes that go with blue hair!”


“Blue and purple,” Tara murmured.


Spoiler:
Image



“Not helping!”


“Sorry sweetie. If it helps, you look very nice.”


Willow grumbled, but seemed at least partly mollified.
“But what’s with the shaved head?”


“It’s an undercut sweetie. It’s not something I’d ever choose for myself, but it’s fun to try it out for a few hours.”


“Well at least you’re blonde. Well, blonde-ish.”


“I’m glad it’s just a glamour. If my head was really like this, I think it would be cold.”


Spoiler:
Image



Willow sighed.
“I’m going to have to figure out how this spell works, if only to stop Ethan using us as his dress-up dolls.”


“That might be good. Though a little adventure is also good, once in a while,” Tara said with a cheeky smile.


“And if in revenge, a certain annoying English person, who shall remain nameless, ends up with hot pink hair. I think that’s only fair.”


“I don’t think it would really bother him sweetie.”


Willow sighed. “Poo. Probably not.”


“Shall we go?”


“Yep. Let’s go get our tiny pink bodyguard, and go do some good.”


“I can’t help but wonder if we’re going to start a new craze,” Tara said.


“Random healing miracles?”


“No. though that would be nice. No, every time we do this, at least one of us has some very obvious hair, and colour.”


“Purple, blue, white, pink and let’s not forget red.”


“Well, the world could use more colour.”


“And it’s apparently getting it.”



+++



With a blaze of fire, Willow, Tara and their cute, heavily armed bodyguard reappeared in the rear courtyard, one hour later.


“Oops. I was aiming for the new spot,” Willow said.


“When we’ve used it a few times, it should get easier,” Tara replied.


“Which is why we’re sitting here,” Dawn said. “How’d it go?”


Willow looked over to where she was sprawled out on a rug with the White Codex. Sprawled next to her were Heather and Jules, typing on a laptop and reading a book respectively. Dawn had her ankles intertwined with Heathers.

They strolled over to join the girls.


“Very… odd,” Tara said. She frowned, clearly put off by her experiences, her wings feathering outward in her confusion.


“Tara has a new follower,” Chrissie said with a grin.


“I don’t,” she protested.


“Yeah you do. Seriously, the guy was practically blown off his feet.”


Tara sighed. “This happened in Sharn as well.”


Willow gave her a hug. “It’s not every day you run into an angel, baby. Especially a super pretty one.”


“You’re biased,” Tara said with a small smile.


“Yep. Still true though.”


“Ok. What happened?” Dawn asked.


“Well everything went fairly well. We healed some kids, and played with them for a little while, which was fun,” Willow said.


“Then we visited the geriatric ward,” Tara said.


“Not like, intensive care or whatever?”


“Too much security, too many doctors.” Chrissie put in.


“So you healed the old people?”


Tara nodded. “When you are in a healing trance, things like heart disease, arthritis and infections are very simple to deal with.”


“Also there’s a few less people suffering Alzheimer’s, which really ought to up the ‘miracle’ stakes,” Willow said. “It’s great for getting attention away from here, but I worry that we are painting ourselves into a corner.”


“What went wrong?” Jules asked, having put down her comic.


“Not wrong… exactly,” Willow said.


“We ran into a nurse,” Tara said slowly.


“An atheist nurse,” Willow added.


Former atheist nurse,” Chrissie put in.


“Ooo. Awkward.”


“Yep. It was all I could do to keep him from kneeling,” Willow said.


“So he figured you were an angel of the lord huh?” Jules said.


“Yep,” Willow said. “I set him straight, told him about the Goddess in thirty seconds, and gave him a Wiccan website to look at. If he remembers what the little card is for.”


“Which I think he will,” Tara said.


“I thought you had a spell for that?” Jules said.


“Magic’s not perfect,” Dawn said. “There’s always an exception, a loophole, a leak somewhere. Right?” she said.


Tara nodded. “Yes. And I think in this case, he’s going to remember. Willow’s spell is good. Really good. But seeing me kinda tore down his walls.”


“So what happens now?” Jules asked.


“I don’t know,” Tara said. “I think we should take a little break from the ‘miracles’ for a little while though.”


“Yeah,” Willow said. “I think we might be pushing our luck with the whole miracle thing. It might be time to take a break before something goes wrong.”


“Wrong-er” Chrissie put in grinning. “You could start a whole new religion.”


Tara groaned. “I hope not.”


“Could put a new spin on the ‘crazy people who talk to angels,’” Tara said.


She and Willow sat down on the big blanket, and Willow began to gently groom Tara’s snow white wings.

“They’re so pretty” Heather said.


Willow grinned and nodded cheerfully. “I know.”


Tara smiled tiredly. “It’s ok to touch them, I don’t mind.”


Hesitantly, Heather touched Tara’s snow white wings. “Ooo,” she cooed. “So soft. And warm.”


“Just don’t stroke the wrong way,” Willow said. “Tara says it feels icky.”


Heather nodded. “Same as my cat.”


Tara grinned at Willow. “Meow.”


“Later darling, later.”


Tara pouted in a way that Willow thought was adorable.


Willow waggled her eyebrows suggestively, before turning back to the girls.
“What’s been happening, while we’ve been away?”


“Buffy and Faith went out to dinner with the detective,” Dawn said.


“And Faith swore to get her money’s worth out of dinner, so I don’t think they’ll be back until they’ve eaten everything in the whole place, and left teeth-marks on the table” Jules said, grinning.


“Oh. Weren’t you going to do something to show him about the things that go bump in the night?”


Jules shrugged. “Sure. We did a sweep and got some vamps that had rolled in from out of town. We caught him taking a bite out of this nice truck-driving lady. We took him over so Buffy could stake him and do the whole ‘vampires are real’ bit. Then they went back inside for desert. I think he needed some sugar.”


She kicked her feet. “The whole place is pretty dead monster-wise, so we did a quick sweep, and left the rest for the next patrol.”


“If this keeps up, we’re going to need more monsters.”


“Well, there are around two thousand Slayers covering the area. It’s bound to be a bit quieter than Sunnydale,” Willow said.
“Aha!” she crowed as she pulled loose a feather.


Tara sighed. “Ah, that’s better.”

Jules just stared.

“They’re sort of itchy when they’re coming out,” Tara explained.


“There’s a conversation I never thought I’d be part of,” Jules said, shaking her head.


Tara chuckled. “Yep.”


“Oh, Xander got the furniture in! And the girls cleared the grounds, so the palace is ready to go up,” Dawn said excitedly.
“I’m looking forward to seeing it go up.”


“Tomorrow. Lunchtime maybe,” Willow said. “We’ve definitely earned a lie in.”


“Yes we have.”


“Well, don’t start without me,” Dawn said. “Remember, I’m your apprentice.”

She smirked, “Or maybe I should be your acolyte.”


“Stick with ‘apprentice’” Willow said, looking grumpy.


“Acolyte has a nice ring to it,” Jules said.


“Initiate?” Heather suggested, looking up from her laptop.


“You’re all very clever,” Willow said. “Now it’s not that late, but it’s been a long day for us, so we’re off to bed. And we’ll see you all, and the apprentice tomorrow.”


“Night!” Dawn called, grinning irrepressibly.


Tara stood up, and pulled Willow to her feet. “Come on sweetie, bed time.”


“Suddenly, I’m less tired.”


Dawn leaned over and whispered something in Heather’s ear, finishing with a gentle nibble.
“Yeah, so suddenly I’m tired,” Heather said. “Guess we’d better get to bed.”


“You’re really not fooling anyone,” Jules said, without even looking up from her comic. “Just head off. I’ll bring all this in.”


Dawn smooched her on the cheek. “Thanks Jules. You’re a pal.”


“I know. Now go have fun.”



+++



“Now, the first thing ya gotta remember, is that vamps ain’t people,” Faith said. “They look like regular folks when they want to, but so does a statue.”

“Why do I have to beat up the nice detective?” Chrissy whined.

She, Detective Dave, Faith, Buffy and two other Stars were standing in a grassy field with the distant lights of Slayer central forming a backdrop. Nearby, two gagged vampires were chained to a tree.

The grass was marked with tyre tracks and flat spots from recently housing a thousand Guardians. Though they and their transport were stowed below ground, the field still bore the marks of heavy training.

“You have to beat him up, because there’s no way he’s gonna believe how outclassed he is. Telling him ain’t gonna cut it.”

“It will, really,” Dave protested.

“Bullshit. You’re a cop. You think you can handle yourself. You need to feel this,” Faith said.

She turned back to Chrissie, who looked harmless and tiny in jeans and a soft, stripy sweater, her pink hair in two ponytails. “Don’t break anything. Take him down.”

Chrissie rolled her eyes, but sized up the compact detective. Clearly he took his fitness seriously, and he had the physique of a runner or a swimmer.

She jumped, clearing the others easily.
As dramatic as it was, being in the air did give the detective a chance to get out of the way.

When she landed, she spun low and kicked Dave’s feet out from under him.
Before he even hit the ground, she was on him, her legs locked around his midsection.

“Ah! Get off me!”

“Nope!” she said brightly and buried her face in his neck.

Straining with all his might. Dave forced her back, only to see her grinning at him. She grabbed him by the shoulders and slowly pulled herself back to his neck, against all his strength.

She made contact with is neck, and they suddenly sprang apart with a yelp.

“You bit me!” Dave complained.

Chrissie was rubbing her chest with a pained expression. “You gave me a purple nurple! How could you?!”

Faith snorted in amusement. “Ok, so we’ve all learned a valuable lesson. You just learned that your strength and speed don’t count for shit when dealing with vamps,” she said pointing at Dave, who was rubbing his neck.

“And you just learned that a titty twister works on anyone. I dunno if a vamp is ever gonna think of that, but you never know.”

“And that’s why we have breastplates,” Minnie said with a smirk.

Chrissie shot her an unamused look.
Minnie just rapped the black front of the aforementioned plate in response.

Faith pulled Dave’s hand away and looked at his neck. “Nice hickey dude. Don’t try that titty twister with a vamp. They don’t feel a whole lot of pain, so you’ll just piss em off.”

“Hey, can we deal with the fact that a cop just got to second base with me?” Chrissie complained, still adjusting her sweater uncomfortably.

“And ya gave him a hickey,” Faith replied. “Did I tell you to do that?”

Chrissie blushed and looked at her feet. “No,” she muttered.

“Um sorry about the twister… thing,” dave said helplessly. “I sort of panicked.”

“Right,” Faith said, attempting to get things under control again. “The point of that was for you understand on a gut level why ya don’t tangle with vamps. If you get a smart one, and that’s rare but it does happen, they’ll just break your arm or leg and take their time with you.”

She smirked. “And no more getting fresh with the jailbait.”

Dave looked annoyed. “I wasn’t.”

Faith ignored him. “Anyhoo, if ya run into a vamp-“

“Run away?” Dave interjected.

Faith shook her head. “Nah. Stand and fight. They are crazy fast and can track you by smell. They will catch you. But, they’re also dumb as a bag of hammers, so if ya look terrified, you might be able to get a good splash of holy water on them. Or if you shove a cross in their face, that usually gets rid of them.”

“Uh, does it have to be a cross?”

“Jewish?” Faith asked.

Dave shrugged. “Not really anything. Just wondered.”

Faith nodded. “Anything will work. Cross, star of david, pentacle, crescent I guess. Crosses are easier to come by though.”

“Anything?”

Faith smirked. “Well, any holy shtick. Don’t think you can hold off a vampire with the golden arches or mickey mouse, but any of that other stuff should work.”

“Ok, I’ll remember that. Uh, how come?”

Faith shrugged. “No idea. Something holy I guess. As long as it works, I don’t care.”

She looked him over. He looked shaken. “Ok, that whole thing did not turn out how I expected, but I think you get the point. You going mano o mano with a vamp is like a kid going up against Hulk Hogan. So if you have to, be sneaky, and go all out from the get go. But, like I said, nearly all vamps are as dumb as rocks, so they’ll fall for shit that a kid could spot.”

She steered him over to the tree with the tied vamps. “Which is why these guys are here.”

“I’m going to trick them?” he said disbelievingly.

Faith chuckled. “Nah. There aren’t many things going for you in a fight with a vamp, but they are really predictable. They are lazy, overconfident and stupid. Most of them like watching you squirm and panic, so they do the fang thing and then wait while ya piss yourself. If you don’t hesitate, you can get the first shot in, most times.”

“Stake?”

Faith shook her head. “Not unless you can bench press a truck. You might get lucky, but ramming a chunk of wood through someone’s ribcage? Not easy.”

He looked down at the stake in his hand. “So why do I have this?”

“Same reason you fought her,” Faith said with a nod to Chrissie. “So you feel it.”

“So what do I do?” Dave asked looking more than a little lost.

“Cut out the cancer,” Minnie said.

“She’s right,” Buffy said, breaking her silence. “Look at this thing,” she said pointing to the chained vampire. “Look at the thing that killed a young man, and so many others. And put an end to it. End the killing.”

Dave looked at the terrified and gagged man. ’Boy really’ he thought to himself. ’Barely nineteen.’
He flinched when Buffy waved a large wooden cross near his face, and his features shifted into the craggy, yellow-eyed form of a vampire.

And he saw the hunger, the mockery of life in the creature’s eyes, and truly felt the vampire for the first time.
This was not a young man. This was a thing. a thing that preyed on the people he’d sworn to protect.

He struck.



And Faith was right. Shoving a sharpened bit of wood through someone’s chest was a lot harder than he’d even thought.

The vampire writhed as he dug the sharpened wood into its chest, a little left of centre,
Try as he might, he couldn’t get the stake to penetrate.

Faith handed him a mallet.

And with three angry hits he drove the stake home, to the all familiar whoosh of a disintegrating vampire.
He coughed at the graveyard stench and dry dust that was all that remained.

“Nice. Popped your vamp cherry.”

He staggered to his feet, brushing the dust off himself.
“Why do they do that?” he asked.

“B? Wanna field that one?”

Buffy nodded. “Magic.”

“Yep,” Faith said.

“That doesn’t explain much,” Dave grumbled.

“We don’t really know,” Faith said. “Most people who fight things like this don’t have time for in-depth research. They’re just happy that they don’t leave any bodies around.”

“Willow and Giles think that it’s because they’re held here by magic, and when you stake them, the magic goes poof and they go with it. But we’ve never had the time to really figure it out.”

“A lot of demons do something similar, melt, evaporate or whatever,” Faith said. “Hey Stars, name three demons that clean up after themselves.”

“Anara,” Chrissie said quickly.

“Níðhöggr,” Minnie added.

“Um… Fyarl,” Abaigeal said. “Though they turn to goo, the goo stays.”

“What the hell is a Nid-hog?” Faith asked Minnie.

“Those invisible types that ambushed you. Giles says they’re not technically demons, but they’re close enough.”

“If they’re not demons, what are they?” Buffy interrupted.

“Evil Faeries. Sometimes called Edimmu in the middle east. The Unseelie Court use them as grunts sometimes, according to Giles,” Minnie explained. “Oh, and Giles say they always travel in twos, so there’s a pissed off Níðhöggr out there somewhere.”

Buffy sighed. “Of course there is. Well, I’ll be sure and keep an eye out for any invisible bad guys.”

“Right. So, a lot of demons clean up after themselves, some don’t and leave you with a body to dump.”
She looked at the girls again. “Ladies?”

“Werewolves!” Chrissie said quickly.

“Not a demon, but it’ll do,” Faith said.

“Zombie!” yelled Minnie.

“Seriously not a demon. But yeah.”

All eyes turned to Abaigeal.
“Uh,” she thumped her head with the heel of her hand. “Ah! luźne skórki!”

“Ya can’t just make up demons,” Faith grumbled.

“No, they’re loose-skinned demons. First recorded in Poland.”

Faith shared a look with Buffy.
“Clem,” she said.

“Oh right. My bad,” Faith said. “No extra research duty for you then.”

“Yay!” Chrissie said happily.

“So… what do we do with him?” Dave asked, looking at the last vampire.

“You wanna?” Faith said, indicating his stake.

He looked down. “Not really.”

Faith grinned. “Let’s show you what a Slayer can do.”


+++


“I was expecting less giggling. And less violence,” Dave muttered.

“Yeah well, it’s Chrissie, waddaya gonna do?”


+++


One day later, after lunch.


“This your work?” Faith asked.

“Um, no?” Willow said.

She and Faith were chatting at the construction site.

In the distance, the various Scoobies, and the Executive branch of the Daughters of the Flame were strolling leisurely up the hill towards the construction site.

The site itself was carefully marked out with spray-painted stakes and yellow tape. A huge hole had been dug into the earth down to the rock, by energetic Slayers. The rich brown soil formed a half-moon bank behind the building site.

The major change to the area, and the one that had drawn Faith’s attention, was the masses of buttercups growing on every inch of flat ground. The field was an almost solid carpet of yellow.

“This is not the spell we used. That was a generalised fertility spell. It made everything grow. This is just buttercups.”

“Well, what the hell?”

“I don’t know!”

At about that point, Tara arrived, and pulled Willow into her arms.

“It’s very pretty.”

“Yup. Glad I don’t get hayfever. Do you know where it came from?”

“Not really, but I have an idea.”

“Oh? Share?”

“I’ll tell you in a minute sweetie.”

The rest of Scoobies arrived.

Tara focussed on Dawn, holding hands with her girlfriend. She looked very relaxed and confident. A small smile just wouldn’t leave her face.

’Just play along with me sweetie,’ she sent on their private channel.

‘Um, ok?’ Willow sent back, her face frowning slightly in confusion.

“What’s with all the flowers?” Buffy asked, as soon as all the rest of the gang arrived.

“Ah. I have, er, an explanation,” Tara said. “If you’re filled with magic and you, um, get intimate? Sometimes it leaks out in various ways. This is one of the ways.”

“Oh? Wow, that’s a nice side effect I guess. Does it happen often?”

Tara was starting to blush slightly so Willow took over. “Only on extra special days. And um, you have to be pretty well topped off. Um, magic-wise.”

Dawn shot them an embarrassed but grateful smile. Tara turned her head slightly so Buffy couldn’t see, and winked.

“Well done Red!” Faith said. “Got enough mojo left to do the deed today?”

“Yes. To both questions,” she said with a cheeky smile.

“I see the girls have been busy,” Giles said gesturing to the cleared area, and attempting to steer the conversation towards safer matters.

Buffy coughed, and Faith patted her resurringly.

“Yep,” Willow said cheerfully. “Slayers plus spades is an effective combo.”

“Ya let ‘em off patrol or something?”

“Silly Faith. Slayers like patrol. Every squad that helped, got pushed up the patrol rotation,” she said with a happy smile.

Giles cleared his throat.

“Sorry Giles, every team that helped.”

“Any luck with that?” Faith asked.

“Nope. Everyone’s seen too many war movies, so it’s all ‘squad’ this and ‘recon element’ that.”
She smiled sheepishly at Giles. “Sorry Giles, I don’t think we can keep the military jargon down. It kinda sorta took off when you gave everyone lessons in radio procedure.”

Giles sighed. “Blast. I was hoping to avoid some of that.”

“Eh, it works,” Faith said. “So Red, Blondie, or should I call you ’Blue?’ What’s happening?”

Willow frowned. “You’ll cleverly note that the spell has worn off. I don’t have blue hair, and Tara’s back to white.”
“Stupid Ethan,” she muttered.

Giles sighed. “He always did have a talent for doing things in the most annoying way possible. Some things never change, it seems.”

While they were chatting, Dawn picked a big handful of buttercups, and started weaving them into Heather’s hair.

“So, today we’re going to raise the Scooby house. We’re going to use earth magic to do it, which is going to be slightly tricky. It’s pretty much the same spell that we used to carve out the tunnels under our feet. And it’s the same spell we’ll be using to tunnel through to the Hellmouths.”

“And under town,” Buffy added.

“Sure. Under town too. But it’s tricky. I’m not very good at earth magic,” Willow said.

“And I used to be,” Tara said. “But I’m not any more. Now I’m strongly connected to the sky and the sun, and that kinda clashes with earth magic.”

“So Tara’s going to help, we’ll be doing it together, but most of it’s on me, and earth is not really my thing.”

“What is your thing?” Faith said.

“Fire. And air.”

“That explains the lightning then,” Buffy said.

“Well, I needed to try it out, and I figured if I over-did it, well they’d be extra blown up. Sometimes fire isn’t the best, and I need the practice.”

“Spiffy. So how long is it going to take to build this place?” Buffy asked.

“About an hour. There’s a lot less to do than digging out ten levels of underground base.”

“So what’s it going to be made of?” Faith said.

“Marble. We haven’t decided what colour, but marble is good for buildings. And pretty too!”

“Why marble?”

“Why not? To the earth, it’s all the same. Granite, marble… diamond.”

“Ooo!” Buffy said. “Can we have a diamond building?”

Willow laughed. “How did I know you were going to say that?”

“Well can we?”

“Yes Buffy. We could have a diamond building. But it’s brittle and cold. Marble is better.”

“Oh poo.”

“Well maybe we can have one shiny bit. For you.”

“Yay Willow! Have I told you I love you lately?”

“Not since last week,” Willow said with a smile.

“Well I love you Will. You’re my favourite Willow-shaped friend.”

“Thanks Buff. Ok, everybody just relax for a bit. Tara and I have been over the plans a lot last night and this morning, but I want to look them over one last time before we do the spell.”

Xander grinned. “Is this going to be another giggle-kiss spell?”

“Sure. Like I need an excuse to kiss Tara,” Willow said. She fit actions to words and leaned over to place a soft kiss on Tara’s lips.
Tara kissed back.
When they came up for air, Xander was grinning. Anya looked bored, and Giles was looking intently at his notebook.

“Finished?” Buffy said.

“Nope,” Tara replied, and swept Willow into a deep dip. She pressed another kiss to Willow’s lips, and they kissed with gentle passion.

“Can we get on with this?” Anya said, sounding annoyed.

Willow waved blindly at her, but didn’t break the kiss.

“Now have you finished?”

“Yes, but I’m likely to do it again. What’s up with you?” Willow said with a frown.

“Nothing,” Anya said curtly.

“Ahn?” Xander said. “What’s wrong?”

“What’s wrong?! How can you ask that?” Anya said, her voice rising in pitch. “We’re at war with heaven, what do you think is wrong?”

“Yeah, but we’ve been at this war thing for a while now. So what’s both wrong and new?” Xander asked gently.

Anya made a frustrated noise. “When did you get so perceptive?”

“Well, there was this eye thing,” Xander said with a faint smile. “Seriously Ahn, what’s up? I thought being dead took all the stress out of life? Heh.”

“My time is up,” she said simply.

“Uh?” Buffy said.

“Very eloquent Buffy,” Anya said with an irritated huff. “We have passed the time the Powers That Be gave me to kill Faith. They will assume that I’ve failed, and start their own plans.”

“Oh that. Chill,” Faith said. “They already did that and failed. Like last night.”

Anya looked exasperated. “I know about that. That’s why I hid. If the Powers That Be were orchestrating the attack, they may have put in the effort required to observe it, even that close to the Hellmouth. And I’m trying to stay off the radar.”

She paced angrily along the edge of the big hole. “That’s not the problem. The problem is that my next course of action is clear. And I don’t like it.”

“Uh, Ahn? What course of action?”

Anya sighed. “To go and convince them that I need more time. I might be able to pull it off. But if I don’t manage it, I’ll end up in limbo for eternity, the most boring place in all creation.”

“Anya relax,” Buffy said. “You don’t have to go anywhere. It’s nice that you’re offering to buy us more time, but at this point it’s not worth it. And it’s definitely not worth losing you.”

Anya looked surprised. “But it’s the right thing to do!”

Faith snorted. “It’s the stupid thing to do.”

“Well yes. It’s easy to spot the ‘good’ things, because they are usually the same as the stupid things,” Anya said.

“Naw, don’t worry about it,” Faith said. “We don’t want to give ‘em any more time to plan stuff. Better to let ‘em get the ball rolling. At least then we’ll have some idea what’s coming.”

“And the time you might get us isn’t worth the risk,” Buffy said.

“You mean it?” Anya said hopefully. “I don’t have to be self-sacrificing?”

Buffy laughed a little. “No. No self sacrifice needed.”

Anya visibly relaxed. “Oh good. Because last time I tried that, I died. This hero business is unpleasant.”

“It is,” Buffy said. “And you’ve already done plenty Anya. So just relax and help where you can.”

“Yeah, keepin’ that smile on Xan-man’s face has to be a full time job,” Faith said with a smirk that could only be described as ‘dirty’.

“Not really. He’s great, but he has to sleep. I don’t, so I do the books at night while he’s sleeping.”

She smiled brightly. “I missed capitalism. I am enjoying doing the council’s books and building the new magic box. I’m thinking about buying a company too!”

“Uh, which company?” Willow said worriedly.

“Apple.”

Willow coughed. “Why not buy Microsoft while you’re at it.”

Anya shook her head. “No. That would look too suspicious. And apple is really taking off, now that they’re more into consumer products. That’s where the real money is.”

“Apple is worth… a lot!” Buffy protested.

“Billions. Yes.”

“Why?”

“Because they’ll be worth more billions,” Anya explained as if to a child. “More billions is good.”

“Um, weren’t we going to do a spell?” Dawn asked. “Before we got all capitalistic?”

“Yep. We were going to build ourselves a new place,” Willow said.

“Make it happen Will. Build us a home,” Buffy said with a soft smile.

“Shall we make a home baby?” Willow asked.

Tara smiled. “Let’s make a home sweetie.”

Willow looked over at the eager faces. “This isn’t a dangerous spell, but it does take a lot of concentration, so be quiet unless you want your rooms to be all wonky.”

Buffy mined zipping her lips, though she was smiling.

Willow joined hands with her love. ‘Ready?’

‘Uh-huh. I have the pattern.’

‘Here goes. One Scooby home coming right up.’

From the outside all everyone saw was the pair holding hands and chanting quietly for a half minute.
Then their joined hands flared with light. Green and gold flames spread across their forms, turning white and blue as it spread across Tara.
After a few seconds the flames concentrated in their free hand, green and gold on one side, white and blue on the other.

With a sense of drama, they said together. “Arise,” in a voice that echoed oddly.

With hands outstretched, the ground shook, and a shape slowly formed and rose out of the rock.
The pale shape displaced the dirt and slowly rose, inch by inch.

“Whoa,” Faith said.

The rock flowed like a candle melting in reverse, pale stone flowing like a thick, slightly lumpy liquid, against the force of gravity.

The Scoobies sat amazed mong the grass and buttercups, as their new home rose slowly out of the earth.

It took around two hours to fully form.
The basic shape formed relatively quickly, a series of hemispherical stone shapes in a ring around a larger dome. The central building was about the size of a school assembly hall, and the other buildings were each about the size of a house.

Once the walls and roof formed, windows appeared, and doorways, along with walkways on the roof, and other details.
Decorations appeared, vines, roses and trees engraved around the doorways and window sills along with walkways and other complications appeared slowly on the roof.

Around two hours later the pair opened their eyes and smiled together. “Done!”



The other Scoobies were sitting on the grass talking quietly, braiding hair, or playing with Faith’s protruding tummy and giggling.

“Done? Sweet! Uh, B, D? ya wanna get off me now?”

Dawn pouted, her hair once again done in dozens of braids. “Aww, but I haven’t finished telling my favourite niece all my funny stories.”

“She’ll live. Now get off me or be pee’d on.”

Dawn hastily got up.

“Ya wanna help me up? I’m feeling like a beached whale here.”


Buffy hauled Faith easily to her feet. “You’re not a whale, pumpkin. You’re beautiful.”

“I’m a pumpkin now?”

“You’re my little pumpkin belly,” Buffy teased, and tickled Faith’s tummy.

Faith giggled uncharacteristically.

Dawn gave her a disbelieving look.

“Hormones,” Faith, Buffy and Dawn all said in unison.

Faith blinked. “Huh.”

“Soon you won’t be able to use that line anymore,” Dawn said, grinning.

Faith smirked back. “BB?”

“Post partum hormonal alterations can last up to twelve months,” Buffybot said. “Though with a Slayer’s metabolism, I predict much less time for post partum hormonal levels to return to normal.”

“Oh for-” Buffy said.

“Heeheehee,” Faith said.

“Well laugh it up. Eventually it’s not going to work.”

“Heeheehee.”

“Um, how long do you have?” Dawn asked. “Before she’s born, I mean?”

“I can answer that!” Buffybot said brightly.

“Go nuts,” Faith said.

“Nuts are not my favourite food,” Buffybot replied brightly. “But I understood your colloquial response, thank you.”

“The foetus’s growth rate is not constant, and is hard to map to existing models. Additionally, the foetus is not maturing in the same way as a typical foetus. I therefore predict between seven to twenty eight days until she is born, based on the hormone levels in Faith’s blood.”

“Whoa. That’s pretty soon. Also, is anyone freaked out by a Buffy doing the Spock thing again?”

“Spock is the name of a very smart fictional character, and a paediatrician,” Buffybot said. “Thank you for the favourable comparison!”

“Also, my superior linguistic skills set me apart from Buffy 1.0,” she said with a teasing smile.

“Hey! I’m good with words!” Buffy said.

“De alguna manera lo dudo,” Buffybot smirked.

“I am not a dude!”

“BB, no seas una perra,” Faith said.

“Ok!” Buffybot said brightly.

“Well, I’ve always liked your special take on language, Buffy,” Willow said helpfully.

“Thanks Will. Hey, what do you mean ‘special?’”

“Oh hey look, our new home. We should look at it, and not be angry with anyone,” Willow said.
With that, she scurried off into the new building, Tara following closely behind.

“Great. Now I ride the short bus to school.”

“Relax B. Nobody’s good at everything.”

“Yeah, but you’re good at languages!”

Faith shrugged. “Yeah, but I suck at school. G’mon B, let’s check out the new digs.”
And Faith dragged Buffy into the new building.

“Not a thing you see every day,” Oz commented, looking around.

“Yeah, but consider the things we do see every day,” Xander said.

“Point.”

“Well I think it’s very impressive,” Giles said. “Shall we?”

“Come Xander. I want to look around our new house,” Anya said. “It is larger and more impressive than one we would have bought for ourselves.”

“That much marble would have cost millions,” he said as he entered the house.


+++


“-and over here is where the kitchen’s going to go,” Willow said enthusiastically. “We did all the channels and everything, so they can put it in in record time.”

The interior of the main part of the building reminded Dawn of the pictures she’s seen of the library of congress, a beautiful polished dome, with many narrow windows to let the light in. around a third of the way up was a mezzanine floor, made of a slightly lighter shade of marble.

“We’re sharing a kitchen?” Dawn said.

“Nope!” Willow said brightly. “Each house has its own small kitchen. This one is larger, for entertaining or feeding the troops over a big research session. And don’t forget, we can get ‘take-out’ from the campus.”

“Neat! Which house is mine?”

“Well, the upstairs area is Giles’ suite. And this one over here is mine and Tara’s. Other than that, pick one,” Willow said, almost bouncing with excitement.

“And this is going to be the library for all those books you brought home with you,” Buffy said to Dawn.


“And over here is our lounge, for when we just want to hang out and watch movies and things,” Willow said.


“And downstairs is our command center,” Xander said. “And Willow’s magic room, transporter pad and other stuff.”


“It’s really pretty,” Dawn said looking around. “And it’s also like, the gayest fortress in the world.”


Xander just stared blankly.


“Nothing gets past you does it?” Willow said, grinning.


“Uh, could someone explain, for the hard of thinking?” Xander said. “Not that I mind, but huh?”


“Well, the fortress part is easy,” Dawn explained. “There’s lots of windows, but they are all really narrow, and the walls are really thick. So human sized demons and vamps can’t get in.”


“Also we built it on a leyline, and shaped the whole building to channel wards,” Tara said.


“By the end of the week, this place is going to be tougher than Hogwarts,” Willow said brightly.


Buffy frowned. “Because bad things never got in there.”


“Hence the tougher part.”


“Well good then. And the gay part?”


“Well, we couldn’t really decide what colour to go for. So we ended up with white, with little bits of every other colour running through it.”


“It’s a veritable rainbow,” Tara said.


“I like the purple streaks,” Dawn said.


“I’m surprised you didn’t go for the green,” Buffy said.


“I like green, but it’s not my whole life,” Dawn said, eyes rolling. “Well, if we get to pick, I get dibs on this one,” she said, pointing. “I think it would be great to have Willow and Tara as neighbours.”


Giles cleared his throat. “You realize we are all going to be neighbours?”


“Sure. But I get to have Tara and Willow as extra neighbours. I can wave at them through the kitchen window and stuff.”


“And then we put up curtains,” Willow said. “I’m envisioning entire weekends that don’t involve clothes at all. So it looks like we are getting curtains.”


“Good point. Curtains all around,” Buffy said.


“Already on it,” Xander said. “I have a catalogue for everyone to look through, for stuff like that.”


“This is gonna be so sweet!” Faith said. “I ain’t ever had a place to call my own. Not really. Closest I ever came was a place that the mayor got for me.”


She turned to Buffy. “We got a place, B! We got a place we can call our own!”


Buffy’s smile was radiant. “Somebody’s happy.”


“Are you kidding me? I’ve never had it so good! I’m getting married, having a baby, and moving into this beautiful new place, with all my friends. And this place doesn’t just look pretty, it’s also a frikkin’ fortress. How could I not be happy?”

Willow’s smile was almost as broad. Faith’s enthusiasm for anything tended to be infectious.


“So, Xander, how long is it going to take before we can live here,” Buffy asked.


“Not long. I already have the hardware for the wiring, central heating, aircon and internet. And the FBI were smart enough to plan ahead for expansion buildings, so connecting them up shouldn’t take long at all.”


He grinned. “Plus with what we are paying the local contractors, we will have it done in record time.”


“We also have some basic furniture,” Dawn said. “So we’ll all be able to live here while we decorate or buy our own furniture.”


“We can have this place liveable inside of maybe three days,” Xander said. “Seriously, compared to the materials costs, paying the contractors double time, or even triple time to work through the night, is nothing compared to what it would cost to put up a building like this. This is like, a thousand tons of polished marble. You don’t want to know how much that would cost to buy.”


“Wow. We’re paying them that much?” Buffy said.


“Sure. I already got most of the hardware, carpet and other stuff, so they won’t be working for long.”


“And downstairs I’m going to set up a sort of communications hub,” Willow said.


Xander grinned. “Command centre?”


“And that’s just one reason I did this while Andrew was away.”


“There are only so many superhero and comic references one can take,” Giles said dryly.


“And if he makes another Scooby-doo reference or calls me Supergirl one more time, I’m likely to stuff him in a sack and lose him in the basement,” Buffy said.


“I think you’ll be safe for the near future. I have accelerated our backup plans for a stronghold in Europe. Given our current troubles, it seemed prudent, so we shan’t be seeing him for a while.”


“Ugh, I forgot to ask with all the drama we’ve been having. How is that going?” Buffy asked.


“Quite well. We now own a castle. I think that Andrew took me rather too literally when I told him to get somewhere… defensible. Other than that, things are going swimmingly. We have most of a duplicate library now, and have made contact with a number of watcher families. In the event of a terrible catastrophe, our work will carry on.”


“So relax everyone, it’s safe to get killed,” Xander said cheerfully.


“Yay?” Dawn said uncertainly.


“Yes well, let’s try to avoid that fate for as long as possible, shall we?”


“Gets my vote. So B? where do ya wanna shack up?”


“On the other side of the building from Willow and Tara,” Buffy replied.


Willow looked a little upset. “Hey, c’mon Buff, we’re not that noisy.”


“Huh?” Buffy said, confused.

She shook her head.
“No, not that Will. It’s just that you’re perfectly placed to catch the morning sun. We’re up till all hours, and that would really be annoying. I want the evening sun. Not because I want to be away from you guys. Besides, it’s only a few meters difference.”


“Oh right. Sorry,” Willow said.


“Besides, with stone walls this thick, we can make all the noise we like, and no one’s going to hear anything.”


“And I shall be upstairs,” Giles said. “Even further away. Thankfully.”


“No walk of shame for you huh, G-man?”


“I rather think not,” he said with a faint frown.
A slow smirk spread across his face, “Joyce can orb after all.”


“Giles!” Buffy protested.


“Yes dear?”

Buffy just glared.


“Well, I think I’m going to have a place on the side, to get the afternoon sun,” Dawn said.


Buffy looked ready to object, but after a moment she relaxed.

“You know, I was going to object,” she said. “But I realized, it’s just habit. You’re grown up now. It’s time you left the nest.”


Dawn rolled her eyes, though she smiled slightly. “Because I haven’t had my own room for years. And we are still in the same building.”


“Plus I don’t want to live with you, which is the only alternative,” Buffy replied with a faint smile.


“Hey, I plan on having naked weekends too. Having you two around would really cramp my style.

Buffy just sighed.


“Tá a fhios agat, is maith liom Pussy freisin. A lán, go raibh maith agat," Dawn said.

Tara coughed.


Giles just sighed. “Then I imagine we’ll be seeing a good deal of your two offsiders?”


Dawn grinned. “Well, more of Heather than Jules, but yeah.”


Tara shot Dawn an admonishing look. “Well, we should turn one of the buildings into a guest house. It would be nice to have somewhere a little less dorm-like for Oz and Devon when they visit.”


Oz nodded. “Cool. Thanks.”


“And for other friends to stay too.”


“This is gonna be great!” Xander said.



+++

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How i Met Your Mother - By Ariel


My Story: Coming Home


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 Post subject: Re: Coming home part 2 - And The Stars Shall Fall
PostPosted: Thu Dec 29, 2016 12:45 am 
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Dibs-y Goodness! :applause :banana :bounce

Yay for excellent update-y goodness... I'm glad that the Detective Dave's introduction to Slayer World went as well as it did... Big yay for Slayer Castle...

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 Post subject: Re: Coming home part 2 - And The Stars Shall Fall
PostPosted: Wed Jan 04, 2017 9:52 am 
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Sorry for not responding earlier. I just went back a read through this story again. I loved all the bits with Detective Dave in this one. Especially when the first vampire was actually trying to convince him that vampires don't exist.

"Nah man! That stick in your bare hand is just covered in acid! Sure I got a reflection, look again. What fangs? This is what happens when you go to an uncertified dentist. What do you men my eyes changed color? This is just hay fever!"

I also liked Dave's emergency fallback plan B. Jumped by a randy teenager with super strength? When in doubt, Titty Twister.

So little baby Hope is due in a week and a half or so. Damn Buffy works fast. Wondering if the Powers will ramp up their attacks before then. The gang just might have to take Anya's advice and bunker up until Faith pops.

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 Post subject: Re: Coming home part 2 - And The Stars Shall Fall
PostPosted: Thu Jan 19, 2017 3:10 pm 
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Howdy!

Well, this is quite the epic tale you are spinning - gotta say, color me impressed.

I really enjoyed the "prequel" story - as a fan of D&D, Diablo, Dragon Age and Fable I really got into them. Takarn was a delightful "big brother" for Tara, and my imagination muscles got a healthy and happy workout imagining his wings, his sheer size and his many terrifying grins. I liked the other party members too, of course, but he was my fave :grin

Now the massive storyline you've got running with W/T, F/B and the rest of the Scoobs (past and present).... WOWSA... that is a lot of plot to keep track of.

So, here are my reactions in brief:

on F/B, so damn cute together. Possibly even more saccharine than W/T... I may get cavities. Adorable cavities.

on W/T not being pregnant... yet... GOOD CALL. You're (handily) juggling enough with this story as it is. As wonderful as a baby Rosenberg-Giles would be... too much for right now.

on the whole prophecy thing.... Seriously intense. I have my own little theories about what the "end of the third age" (third age? or second age?...now I have to go back and check...) Anyway, end of whatever age it is currently plus end of the world... I have a feeling it's not the end of the world per se... more the end of the world as we know it, This doesn't necessarily mean everyone is dead in a massive fireball of badness... It could just mean the world is changed somehow. Like... no more shrimp... or nothing but shrimp... or the end of patriarchally driven cultures... or something... I dunno... we shall see as you enlighten us oh Scribe.

Anyway... I have been thoroughly enjoying this sweeping tale and I look forward to more!

Cheers
DW

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 Post subject: Re: Coming home part 2 - And The Stars Shall Fall
PostPosted: Sat Jan 28, 2017 12:01 am 
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Hey DW!

Uh, wow. Glad you're enjoying it, and high praise.
I'll try to make sure that i keep to a high standard.
Or as high as i can manage :P

Hard to imagine that this started out as a one or two chapter thing.
Really. This was just to wrap up some back story for a character i was playing... Yeah something happened there.


Hey Zampsa! Congrats on the dibs. Again :)
Hoped you liked the Dave bit :P


Heya Citanul!
Yeah, it was pretty stupid, but when you're tied up, waddaya gonna do?
Not so much a horny teenager, just a teen trying to prove a point.
She IS older than she looks, but she is still a little young for all that.

But yeah, i've had a a titty twister or two. Got my attention.

As to Hope, she's coming faster than normal, but i tried to leave it vague as to how long exactly.
Something a little less than half the gestation time.

But don't stress, the Scoobies have a plan :P

Next episode coming soon :)

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How i Met Your Mother - By Ariel


My Story: Coming Home


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 Post subject: Re: Coming home part 2 - And The Stars Shall Fall
PostPosted: Sat Jan 28, 2017 12:52 pm 
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Oh, the pitter-patter of tiny feet.
Very Tiny.


“Whoa! Will, what is this?” Xander said.

He was standing in a relatively small room that circled a giant polished grey pillar, several stories below ground.
The part of the room Willow was working in was lit by a little blue fairy.
As he watched, Willow looked to be drawing on the side of the shiny pillar with her finger.


She didn’t look up. “Hey Xander. Just doing some spell stuff.”


“And the cute Tara pixie?”


“Is Tarabelle. I’m showing her around, and this is a spot that she can stay if she likes. There should be enough magical leakage to keep her happy, even if it’s not as fun as her field.”


“Uh, Tara’s a pixie now?”


Willow chuckled. “There’s a Willowbelle as well. Gimme a sec to finish this off, and I’ll explain.”


He looked cautiously over the edge and saw that the pillar went up a few meters, but went down further than his torch would show.

“Don’t wander off, Tarabelle. I need you to stay here just a little longer while I finish this.”

Tarabelle stopped drifting towards Xander and took her place by Willow again.

“Done!” Willow said, straightening up a minute or so later.


“What is this?” Xander said wonderingly. “And who is your little friend? And why does she look like Tara?”


“Ok, this is something Tara gave me the idea for. It’s a monolith, or it will be when we separate it from the earth. Think of it as a big magical battery.”
She touched it with her hand. “We put it in while the spell was running. Figured it was worth a go. I wanted to make it out of jade, but it turns out that summoned stone is no good for holding magic. So we carved this out of the local rock.”


“With all the magic we’re doing, it made sense to have some way to recharge quickly after we run out of mojo.”


“Ok. Makes sense. And your little, mostly naked friend?”


“Xander, meet Tarabelle. Tarabelle, meet my best friend Xander.”


Tarabelle fluttered over and curtsied mid-air, with a tiny giggle.

Xander smiled bemusedly and held out his hand. “Pleased to meet you.”

She shook hands with his little finger and giggled again.

“You’re very cute, and very very tiny,” said. “Will? Where did she come from?”


Willow smiled. Once, her smile would have been tinged with sadness. Now it was as bright as a summer day.
“I made her ages ago. She was part of my magical rehabilitation, and my grieving process. Originally she was just a more detailed version of the teeny tinkerbelle spell that I made. But the more she was around, the more like a person she became. Tara made a Willowbelle for her, and they live in the big flowery field over the back hill.”


“Uh, why? And what field?”


Willow looked guilty. “Uh, um. Sorry. I didn’t mean to leave you out of the loop. Again.”


“It happens. Relax.”


“Ok, you know when I had my naked flying lesson?”

Xander nodded, grinning.

“Stop it you. Well the splash from my spell left enough energy behind that they were still around, even though we’d forgotten about them. So we used a spell Tara knows, to cast a fertility spell on the field. There’s no crops, so we got masses of wild flowers instead. These two feed off the energy there, and live in the very pretty field. And once we get this thing charging, they will be able to live here too. If they want.”


“Uh, Will? Did you just accidentally create a new form of life? Again?”


Willow blinked in surprise. “Um, I don’t think so?”
She frowned. “And what do you mean ‘again?’”


“Buffybot. She’s alive right? And you built her?”


“Ok. Point there. Um, maybe? I mean the Tinkerbelle spell was never meant to do what I ended up doing with it. And I put all my thoughts and memories of Tara into her, as part of my grieving process. Um, not that I told anyone about that, because they were all so big on the ‘don’t cast spells’ thing.”

She tickled the tiny blue Tara under the chin, to the tune of high pitched giggles.
“Maybe I put too much into her?”


“Uh, Will? What did you put into her?”


Willow sighed sadly. “All my love of Tara, all my happy thoughts, everything she said or did, all the good and bad things we did together.”


“Uh, Will? Not that I’m suddenly an expert on magic, but that sounds like a lot. Believe me, I know better than anyone how much you love Tara. I was there at the bad time, remember?”


Willow shuddered. “Even now, it hurts.”

She stood on tippy toes, and kissed Xander on his slightly stubbly cheek. “Genuine Xander. Accept no substitutes.”


“Aww shucks,” Xander said, blushing slightly.


“Well, I was saving it for a surprise, but I think you deserve to know first. Um, lemme check.”


‘Baby?’ she sent.


‘Willow? I felt a lot of sadness, and then a lot of happiness just now.’


’Yup. Talking with Xander about the bad times. Um, Tara is it ok if I tell him our news?’


A sensation of Tara’s soft smile came down the link. ’I don’t mind, but you’d better tell him to keep quiet, unless you want a very put-out Dawn on your hands.’


‘Oh, poo. I’d forgotten about that. Um, she can tell everyone else. I’m telling Xander. He’s my… Xander, y’know?’



Tinkling laughter flowed down the link. ’Don’t let Anya hear you say that.’


“Um, ok, I just got the okie dokie from Tara to tell you the news.”


“Ok Will, what’s the what?”


“We’re having a baby,” she said with a soft smile.


Xander stared blankly at her for half a second before his face cracked into a smile. “That’s awesome Will!”


He hugged her tight and spun her around laughing. “I’m gonna be an uncle!”

Willow laughed right back at him and flung her arms out as she spun round and round.

“This is awesome news!” he said when he finally put her down. “Uh, Will? This is gonna sound kinda odd, but-”


“Who’s having the baby?” Willow said with a smirk.

He nodded.

Willow smirked. “Try not to laugh, but we haven’t decided yet.”


“Oh, so you’re not… y’know?”


“Pregnant? No not yet. We can do the spell any time. It’s pretty easy. Sacred oils, some chanting, a ritual bath, and a whole lotta sex. Takes about half an hour, plus the sex. So any afternoon will do,” she said with a smirk.


“Wow. Uh, is it hard?”

Willow raised an eyebrow.

“The spell I mean,” he said, blushing.


“Not really. Any competent witch could handle it. Plus the more love there is floating around, the easier it is, so…” she grinned.


“Heh. Yeah.”


“Just one thing though?”


“Anything.”


“Don’t tell anyone. I promised Dawn she could tell everyone when it was time. But you’re my best friend, so I wanted to share with you first. Plus we still haven’t figured out who’s going to carry the little munchkin.”


“A girl? Same as Buffy and Faith?”


Willow nodded. “Yep. No Y chromosomes here. So she’ll be a little girl.”


“This is just the coolest!” he said, his huge grin still plastered across his face.


Willow cleared her throat and looked slightly guilty.

“What?” he asked.


“Um, we had kind of a falling out over it,” Willow said.


His good eye went wide. “You guys had a fight?!”


She shook her head vigorously. “No. Not a fight. We had a strong disagreement, so we went our separate ways to think about stuff. We’re doing the ‘being apart and thinking’ bit before we have a big fight, instead of after.”


“Will? What did you fight about?”


Willow sighed. “It’s stupid really.”


“Will?”


“I said that she’d be a great mom. Y’know, because she’s… Tara, y’know?”


“Sure.”


“And she said I’d make a great mom too… and I went a little spazzy.”


“Uh? Spazzy I’m used to, but why would you freak over being told you’d make a great mom?”


Willow looked surprized. “Xander! Look at me! I’m tiny. If I get pregnant, it’s gonna be like that Aliens movie!”


Xander gave her a funny look. “Will, plenty of women smaller than you have babies. What about Buffy?”


Willow slumped. “Yeah, you’re right. Just psyching myself up I guess.”


Xander gave her a puzzled look. “Psyching? Why?”


“Because I’m thinking we should have one each.”


“Oh. Yeah. That’s a little different.”


“We talked, and both of us wanted to be the doting partner to the pregnant wife. Um.”


“That’s gonna be fun with both of you knocked up,” Xander said with a grin.


“Yeah, well we can take turns helping each other with the morning sickness.”
She frowned. “Ooo, I hope we don’t both get sick at the same time. That would really be un-fun.”


“Uh, Will?” Xander said awkwardly. “Um, not meaning to rain on your parade but… can Tara even… um.”


“What?”


“Get pregnant?” Xander finished awkwardly.


“We’ve got magic, so yes.”


“I mean with her being an angel, is what I meant.”


Willow blinked. “Uh. I never thought of that. Phooey.”
She brightened. “Actually, I’m pretty confidant. Tara used me to look at her aura, and she didn’t see anything that would stop her.”

She grinned at Xander. “Looks like you’re gonna be an uncle Xander. A double uncle even!”


“Triple. Don’t forget little Hope.”


‘Baby?’ Willow sent silently.


’Willow?


Willow chuckled. ’Who else is it likely to be?’


Tara’s mental voice laughed. ’How’s Xander?’ she asked.


’Oddly helpful. I’ve got a little proposal for you…’



+++



“Gate two to academy Actual,” came the voice over the radio.


Giles glanced at the radio sitting on his desk in the circular communications hub.
Despite his best efforts, everyone had ended up calling it the command centre, despite the sign he’d put up saying ‘Watch Centre’.


Willow and Xander were working away, connecting cables, hooking up servers and displays, aided by Heather, Dawn and Danni.

At the next desk over, Tara was reading a book, and taking notes on a shiny new laptop, working hard on her new role as campus counsellor, magical instructor and general mother hen to the Scoobies.

Though communications were the last step to actually be completed, basic radio relays had been set up so their walky-talky system could work from the underground command centre. They were nearly fifty meters below ground, and when they’d finished working on the wards, NORAD was going to look as secure as a day-care centre by comparison.


Years of military life, working in the British museum, and more importantly, guarding the Hellmouth from the middle of a busy school, had gifted him with the ability to work in the middle of a lot of noise.
Though truth be told, the spacious and airy command centre was busy, but not particularly noisy.


‘Blast,’ Giles thought to himself. ‘Now they’ve got me doing it.’

Which was why, with him being the ranking Scooby on-site, Willow had handed him the radio to babysit, while he did his paperwork.

“Academy Actual responding, go ahead.”


“Ah, Actual, we’ve got a problem here at the gate, might need a heavy hitter and one of the witch squad. Over.”


At this, Willow and Tara both looked up curiously.

Giles pointed in the direction of the gate. They both nodded and hurried out of the room.


“Help is on the way. What is happening? Over.”


“Ah this is embarrassing, but I’m not actually sure. There’s a car parked a ways down the road with two people in it. They are just staring hard at the buildings and it’s wigging me out. I don’t know what they are doing, but they’re giving off a really strong vibe of ‘I’m up to something.’ Over.”


Giles nodded to himself. Guard duty was hard.
It took a lot of self-confidence and experience to judge the difference between the important and the trivial while protecting a place.

“You’ve done well. Better to be safe than sorry. The Red witch and the White should be there shortly. Over.”


“Awesome. Uh, we are going to have to get those two codenames at some point. Over.”


“Quite. Call if anything significant happens, but for now, just observe and collect as many details as possible. Over.”


“Copy that Actual. Gate two out.”



At that point Faith wandered in.

“Hey G, what up? I just saw Red and Snow-White running down the corridor on my way in.”


“Guests,” Giles said simply. “Possibly of the unwelcome kind.”

Faith lowered herself carefully to a comfy seat nearby. “B went with them. I’ll keep an eye on the Buffy-cam and let you know what’s up.”


“Good, thank you. I’ve been meaning to ask, how has that been going?”


Faith grinned. “Fucking sweet! I’d have lost my nut by now if it wasn’t for this.”

Giles raised an inquiring eyebrow.

“B won’t let me go slaying, or going hand to hand with any of the mini-me’s, which sucks.”
She raised a hand to forestall the inevitable explanation.
“And I get it. But you know me G-man, I go stir-crazy real easy.”


“And your link?”


“Let’s me go on patrol with B. If I get comfy and really get into the meditation that Red showed me, I can ride along with B. I see what she sees, feel what she feels. Pretty fucking cool I can tell you.”

She closed her eyes and got comfy. “Lemme chill for a bit, and I’ll pass on what she sees.”

She took a few deep breaths. ’Hey B! Ready for a passenger?’ she sent along the link they shared.


Buffy’s chuckle flowed back. ’Sure, come on over.



Faith was never sure how to describe the next part.

It was something she’d sort of fallen into, in her frustration at being unable to go patrolling.
As the weeks flew by, and she became more and more obviously pregnant, Buffy and Giles had become more and more reluctant to have her patrolling.
Until one day, Buffy put her foot down and flatly forbade it.

She was all set to have a massive fight over it. Right up until she felt how absolutely terrified Buffy was.
That she’d get hurt. That she’d lose their child. That she’d leave Buffy all alone with that loss.

At that, the fight just went out of her. She’d hugged Buffy close and whispered “You’re right. I’m an ass.”


But that didn’t help when Buffy was taking out the mini-me’s, or taking her girls for special training, and Faith couldn’t come.
So she’d paid close attention to the flashes she got while Buffy was out and about.


Normally, it wasn’t an issue, as only intense emotions and sensations slipped past accidentally. And that usually happened when they were together.
But with Faith sidelined, and nothing to do but listen, and fret (not that she’d ever admit it), she had started to notice that it was easier and easier to listen in, and even talk.
And then, one night, Buffy had missed something, and Faith hadn’t.

A vamp with a gun.

And without even thinking, she’d thrown the knife that Buffy kept strapped to her breastplate.


To say it was a surprize, was an understatement.

The girls were all super-impressed that Buffy had spotted the vamp, and tossed a dagger into his forehead without even thinking.


And after that, Faith had ridden along most nights Buffy was out and about.

Buffy had described the feeling as a full-body hug, and said she felt more alive than she usually did, so she wasn’t averse to Faith tagging along.

And the more they did it, the more they were able to work together, blending their fighting styles together into something altogether more effective.

Faith could barely wait till Hope was born. She wanted to get in shape, and spar like mad with Buffy. She wanted to see if any skills had gone back the other way.



So she jumped in.

Buffy described it as a whole-body hug.
Faith felt like she was riding around piggy-back.
Either way, it was the coolest thing ever, in Faith’s opinion.

And now she was surrounded by Buffy, as she moved at a brisk jog towards the side gate of Slayer central.


She could feel Buffy’s pleased smile that Willow was keeping up the pace easily. Though she had grumbled and complained a lot, she was a natural runner, and it hadn’t taken long before she could keep up with Tara.


‘Nice ass,’ Faith sent.


‘Quit using my eyes to check out my best friend’s butt,’ Buffy replied. ‘That is soo wrong!’

Faith just laughed.

‘What are we packing?’


‘Not much. I was getting lunch, so all I have is a dagger and a stake I grabbed off one of the girls on the way out.’


‘Eh. We’ll be fine. I mean, you’re still bulletproof, and we have the destroyer of mountains, and the angel that dug a hole to the centre of the earth with us.’


‘Has Giles said anything yet, about who this might be?’


“Uh-uh. You know what I know. All I got was ‘unwelcome guests.’


‘We’re here,’
Buffy sent as she slowed up.
The three-and-a-half women waited for a moment, out of sight behind the campus’s wall of greenery to catch their breath, before strolling casually around to where the girls were standing guard.

Though, at Slayer central ‘standing guard’ had a whole different meaning.


Currently two of the girls on guard duty were sprawled out on a big blanket, keeping up with their school work, and the third was reclining with a book on a deck chair.


They looked like the least guard-y people on the planet.

Until you noticed that they were positioned to keep an eye on every approach to the campus, without even moving their heads.
And the girl in the deck chair only looked like she was reading. She was watching the car through the narrow gap between her book and the brim of the hat she was wearing.


They flopped down on the grass next to the girls, looking for all the world like friends visiting the picnickers.

“Anything?” Buffy said, idly playing with a flower.


“No change,” said the girl with the hat. Buffy only recognized her in the vaguest way. Two thousand students was a lot to keep track of.


“I’m getting a weird vibe from the one in the passenger seat,” one of the girls taking notes said.


Willow glanced over as if checking her work, and noticed that she’d sketched both people, and taken the make and licence of the car. “Ooo, nice work! Can I borrow that?”


“Sure.”


“Buff, you wanna have Faith pass this to Giles? Danni might be able to trace the licence plate.”


Buffy took the sketch book and stared intently at it, giving Faith the chance to pass the make and model to Giles.

‘Thanks B. G-man says he has your squad gearing up, just in case.’


‘Good, thanks. The girls are right, I’m getting a sort of tickle on my slaydar.’


‘Yeah, I feel it. What is that?’



“Anything?” she asked Willow and Tara in turn.


“Magic,” Willow said.


Tara nodded her agreement. “I could find out more, but if they’re witches and we start casting, they’ll know.”


“And if they’re demons of the magic-y persuasion, they’ll know too,” Willow added.


“Er, guys? I think they’re paying more attention now,” came a quiet voice from the blanket.


“Right. I’m going to go sneak up on them, so they don’t make a run for it. Will, Tara if you can do something Hogwarts-y to help, go nuts. When I’m in position, I want one of you girls to go over to the car to pester them. You have till I get in position to figure out who’s going. I want to listen to how they react, and see if they give anything away.”

And with that, Buffy got up and wandered casually away.



“Sleep spell?” Willow suggested.


Tara shook her head. “Too unreliable. Any witch worth the name won’t be affected by it. Unless they’re trainees, in which case they’ll be more vulnerable to it.”


“And if they’re just newbies, Buffy isn’t really going to need help,” Willow pointed out.


“Um, tires?” Tara said.


Willow nodded. “Good idea. I’ll take the driver’s side, you take the other?”


Tara nodded her agreement. “I feel so much like a spy right now.”


“Witch spy?” Willow said with a smirk.


Tara chuckled at the horrible pun. “Any really cute one.”


Willow settled down against the tree and appeared to be snoozing. Tara could feel her going over a spell in her mind. A spell to expand air suddenly.

Her own chosen spell was equally straightforward: a simple lance of sunlight aimed at the tire. One melted tire and one exploded, should make it impossible for their guests to escape by simply driving away.


‘How’s the spell sweetie?’


‘Pretty good. Things get a lot simpler when you just stick to elements, and then swap them in and out as you need them.’


‘You can guess what they’d call you in Sharn.’


‘An elementalist?’


‘Mmm-hmm. Not the most imaginative title, but yes.’


‘Oh! What about you?’


‘That depends who you ask. Most people were happy to call me a seer, but I looked it up once. Someone with my particular talents was called a Mystic, or a Hierophant, depending on which area I specialized in.’


‘Oh that sounds very fancy,’
Willow sent brightly.


‘Even in a world of magic, spirits, souls and healing were not understood all that well.’


Willow cracked an eye and looked at the innocuous car that had taken on such hidden meaning.
‘I feel like I’m in one of those submarine movies. Where everyone’s sneaking around blind, wishing they knew where the baddies were.’


‘How do you get from magic to submarines, baby?’


‘Sonar!’



Tara raised an eyebrow.


‘Because all the captain had to do to find the baddies was switch on his sonar and go ‘Poing!’ But if he did that, they’d know where he was. Like these two in the car. We could easily find out all sorts of stuff about them, but if we do, they’ll know we’re on to them.’


‘Your mind works in interesting ways, sweetie,’
Tara said with a chuckle.


‘It’s perfectly logical,’ Willow sent with an imaginary sniff.


‘I think I see Buffy.’


Sure enough they saw her small form moving in a crouch behind the car.
She knelt behind the car, clearly listening.



+++



“Anything yet?”


The man shook his head. “Nothing. I’ve never seen wards like this before, not even in the London chantry.”


He sighed and fell back against the seat, pinching the bridge of his nose tiredly. “It’s all I can do to even tell that there’s something there to look at. Whoever put those wards up, knew what they were doing. There’s not even a hole there, just seamless normality.”


“Then this has to be the place,” the woman said. “I mean it’s a hell of a coincidence that there’s this massive ward in the same town that the surge came from.”


“Faulty spell my ass,” the man muttered. “No way some spell going wrong unleashed that kind of power. There’d be a crater where this whole valley used to be.


“God, the power of this thing is just staggering. I can’t even look at it. It’s like my brain is just won’t register it. Whoever the hell is behind all this is terrifyingly powerful, and there’s no trace of them on our books. The council was right to be worried.”


At this, revelation, Buffy signalled to her people.
One of them got up and started walking over with clear intent.


“Uh-oh. We’ve been spotted. We’d best get out of here.”


“What?! How?!”


That was enough for Buffy, and she stood up at the driver’s side door.

“Hi!” she said brightly. She reached in and pulled the keys out of the ignition. “We’d like a word with you, if you don’t mind.”


“Somnius!” the man shouted and gestured at her.

Nothing noticeable happened.


Buffy drummed her fingers on the door. “Yeah, that won’t work. So, are you coming, or do I have to carry you?”

The man hurriedly pulled out a pistol, only to have Buffy yank it out of his hand, and shove it in her pocket.

“Anything else?” she said dryly. “Only, if you have more guns and things, you should pull them now. If you point one at Tara, we’ll be mailing you home in a matchbox.”


“I don’t know what you are talking about. Now please give us our keys back, so that we can leave,” he said primly.


“Hey buddy, you pull a gun again, and you’ll be looking for your head,” Buffy said, in an oddly accented voice.


“So we’re going to go over there to that building that’s being renovated,” she said in a more normal voice, pointing to the partially refurbished Magic Box mk2.


“And then we are going to talk about who you are, and what you are doing outside our campus with guns and spells.”


“We’re not here to cause trouble.” The woman said.


“Great!” Buffy said brightly. “I don’t want trouble either. So are you coming, and getting a coffee? Or am I tearing the door off the car, and dragging you both there?”


“Coffee?” the woman said.


“Good choice. Rental companies get grumpy when you come back with no door,” Buffy said, opening the door in the more usual fashion.


Reluctantly, the two got out of the car and followed Buffy to the new magic box, with one of the Slayers, Willow and Tara following along behind.

Inside they found the terrible trio dressed in overalls, working hard under Anya's direction, along with a couple of harried-looking contractors.


“We need to use the break room,” Buffy said.


Anya frowned. “It’s full of stock, so don’t break anything. You break it, you bought it,” she said scowling at the two visitors.



With six people and a huge stack of boxes and crates, there wasn’t a great deal of room.

“So, I just bet you have a cover story. Let’s hear it,” Buffy said matter-of-factly.


“We are private investigators,” the man said. “Our client has concerns about this school, and hired us to investigate it.”


Buffy nodded. “Solid, believable, with just enough embarrassment factor for you to want to keep it quiet.”

Her expression changed completely, becoming cold, and subtly terrifying. “Now tell me who you really are.”


“I told you, we-”


“Don’t! Lie. To me.” She hissed. “I heard you talking. You tried to use a spell on me, and we know you’re witches.”


“And while we don’t have a problem with witches,” Willow said. “We don’t like it when witches are sneaky, right outside our home.”


The woman sighed. “We work for the council-”


“Rebecca, no!”


“Steve, we’re busted. We might as well come clean.”

Steve just glared.

“We work for the Council of Witches, Familiars, and Magical Practitioners.”


“Aka, the Witches Council,” Willow added.

Rebecca nodded. Steve just groaned and sat on a nearby crate.


“We really are private investigators, but most of our work comes through the council.”


“What do you investigate?” Tara asked.


Rebecca shrugged. “All sorts of things, usually magical related. Our bread and butter is tracking down ‘Flares’ or spontaneous magical breakthroughs, and convincing them to join the council.”


“They don’t get a choice?” Tara said.


“No,” Steve finally said. “Magic is dangerous in untrained hands. And while the council doesn’t particularly interfere with people’s lives, if you have talent, you must be trained. Even if you don’t want anything to do with magic, you have to know how to use it, even to not use it.”


“Or it uses you,” Rebecca finished.

Tara nodded her agreement.


“There’s a lot of people in the world,” Buffy said. “How do you handle it all?”


Rebecca shrugged. “It’s not really a problem. Significant magical talent is pretty rare. Usually it runs in families, so once one person is registered, the rest of the family gets tested and they go on the books as familiars, and they check in when the family situation changes.”


“We’re not the witch secret police, ok?” Steve said. “We’re more like the rotary club, or the masons. Most folks are members because of their family.”


“Sounds nice. So why are you here?” Buffy said, with an edge in her voice.


“Preliminary investigation,” Rebecca said. “There was a magical surge of immense power recently, and we were sent to investigate it.”


“About ten weeks ago.”


Buffy gave Willow a significant look. Willow nodded back.

“That’s a long time to wait. Why now?”


Rebecca shrugged again. “I don’t know. I guess they got some new information or something. All I know is that they wanted us to have a look around and report back.”


“They did give us a couple of dossiers. Rupert Giles and Willow Rosenberg,” she said, looking at Willow.


“Yep, that’s me. Um, why?”


“Rupert is registered, you’re not. They gave us the dossiers as a place to start looking.”


“We were supposed to make contact eventually,” Steve said. “After we’d gotten the lay of the land.”


“Instead we got caught,” Rebecca said. “How did you catch us by the way?”


Buffy looked at Willow. Willow held up her hands and shrugged in confusion.

“What do you mean? You were sitting right outside our gate, staring and generally being vibe-y. Not much of a stretch to guess that you’re up to something,” Buffy said.


Steve and Rebecca exchanged a glance. “We had a spell going. You shouldn’t have even noticed us.”


“A perception filter?” Willow asked.


“Yeah. It’s got a few different names, but we call it ‘someone else’s problem’.”


Willow smirked. “Yep. The spell just tells the brain ‘hey brain, nothing to see here.’ Like a giant mental blind spot.”


“Yeah. It’s always worked before.”


“Did you ever try it in the fringe of a giant S.E.P field, powered by three Hellmouths?”


“Uh, no?”


“That’s probably why it didn’t work. That, and everybody here is keyed into our field, so it doesn’t affect them,” Willow explained.


“Ah. Good to know.”


“Um, do you know what explanation Giles gave?”


Steve shook his head. “No, they never said.”


’Faith, can you-”


‘I’ll ask. Gimme a sec,’
Faith replied.


With her eyes still closed, Faith spoke to Giles. “Hey G-man, what did you tell all the magic-types about Glinda coming home?”


“Ah… what?” he said, clearly confused.


“Ya said ya got a lot of calls about her and Willow. What did you tell them?”


“Ah, I see. I told everyone who asked, that we had foiled a nearly successful attempt to open the nearest Hellmouth. Why?”


’Ya get that B?’


‘Yep. Thanks puddin’’


‘No. Ya sound too much like Harley Quinn.’


‘Right. Who? Nevermind, tell me later. Scratch another from the list then.



Buffy turned back to the investigators. “Apparently Giles told your Council about the local big-bad opening the Hellmouth. I guess that’s what your people felt.”


Willow picked up on Buffy’s ruse with nothing more than a glance. “I guess your bosses wanted to make sure we won. Or that the Hellmouth was actually closed.”

“They told us it was a failed spell,” Rebecca said.


Willow blinked in surprise. “To do what? Blow a hole in the world?”


“I don’t know,” Steve said. “And it didn’t really matter, because all they wanted us to do was gather intel. When we were done we were just going to call for instructions.”


Buffy glanced at Tara and Willow. “Can I have a word in private?”

They nodded and opened the door.


“If they do anything sneaky, feel free to beat the stuffing out of them,” Buffy said to the junior slayer.


“Will do,” she said with a grin.

The two investigators looked worried, when she casually bent a length of heavy steel piping into a literal pretzel shape.



“How much do you want to tell them?” Buffy asked when they got outside.


“Tell them about what?” Anya said, butting in. “Who are those two anyway?”


“They’re investigators from the Witches Council,” Willow said.


“What are they investigating? It better not be about taxes.”


Buffy just gave her a confused look. “Why would they be- never mind,” she said, interrupting herself.


“Do you know anything about the council?”


Anya looked inordinately pleased with herself. “You remembered! I had to die, but at least you remembered that I know things.”


“Anya, the council?” Buffy said testily.


“No need to get all butch, Buffy.”

Buffy glared.
It had no more effect than usual.

“The Witches Council is no fun at all. They used to be all about selective breeding, power and control. These days they’ve mellowed a lot and don’t do the fun stuff anymore.”


“Well that’s a relief,” Willow said.


“But-”


“But-but? There’s a but? Why is there a but?” Willow said worriedly.


“But,” Anya said, “They are really uptight about registering people, and by people violating the statute of secrecy.”


“Oh yay,” Willow said. “And I was getting worried.”


“How uptight is uptight?” Buffy asked.


“Very,” Anya said. “They’ve been known to kidnap people. And they are famous for wiping people’s memories.


Willow cringed. “Yeesh, my least favourite topic.”


“Which is why I wanted to know, how much you guys want to tell them,” Buffy said to Tara and Willow.


Willow and Tara shared a look.

“I think we should be open with them,” Tara said. “If it goes wrong, I suppose we can add them to the list of people that don’t like us.”


Buffy looked surprised. “I’m… surprised to hear you say that Tara.”


Tara looked sheepish. “Well, someone has always disliked me, wherever I go. It’s not a new thing.”


Willow gave her a very thorough cuddle. “Well some people are very clearly poop-heads.”


“Yep. So we’re going to be honest-y, sure. How much did you want to tell them?”


“Um, well we know they’ve got a dossier on me,” Willow said. “So they probably know about Tara.”


“And they might know I died,” Tara said.


“Did we want to make up a ‘fake your own death’ story?” Buffy asked.


Tara shook her head. “I’d say not. Keeping the story straight could be a problem. Let’s just tell them the truth if they ask.”


“But don’t, y’know go out and tell them,” Willow added.


“Sure. Ok girls, over to you. Just know, we’ll back anything you say, ok?”


“Thanks Buff,” Willow said warmly.


Tara just touched Buffy on the shoulder and smiled softly.


“Let’s do this,” Willow said. She might have been trying for her ‘resolve face’ but she missed it by quite a large margin. Instead she had ‘brave little toaster’ face.



Back inside the somewhat cramped room, Willow spoke.

“Um, the magic surge that got you sent down here? That was us,” Willow said, gesturing to herself and Tara.


“Uh, ok?” Steve said. “That was enough to be felt around the world. What were you doing?”


“We opened a portal to another dimension. Without a Hellmouth.”


“Uh, is that even possible?”


“Yep.”


“Also, we’re happy to register,” Tara said.


“That’s great, but that’s not our job,” Rebecca said. “We’re private investigators, not testers. We only came for a look around, seriously.”


“Oh,” Tara said. “How do we do that, then?”


“Oh, that’s easy enough. I can call someone,” Rebecca said, waving her cell phone.


“Um, we’ve got a lot going on,” Willow said. “How long does this take?”


“A couple of hours for me,” Steve said. “Mind you, I’m from a family of Familiars, so the paperwork was done by my parents. All they had to do was test me and ask me some questions.”


“Mine took all evening,” Rebecca said. “I was a wilding, and I had a little bit of seer talent, which takes ages to test for.”


“Whew,” Willow said. “I was worried it was going to take, y’know, weeks or something.”


“‘Familiars’ sounds a bit creepy. What’s that about?” Buffy interrupted, eyes narrowing ever so slightly.


Steve blinked. “It does? How?”


“Vampires, familiars, witches,” Buffy said.


“Familiar is exactly what it sounds like,” Rebecca said mildly. “Anyone who is familiar with the magical world. So, family members of witches that also know about magic, people who are in the know, and traditional familiars, like people or pets who help with spell casting. Not like the movie Blade,” she said dryly.


“My bad,” Buffy said.


“Well I was a little bit y’know, massively afraid that it was going to be a month long trial, involving whips, body paint and frogs,” Willow said. “But if it’s just for an afternoon, let’s just call someone and get it over with.”


“Whips, body paint and frogs?” Buffy said incredulously. “Do I even want to know?”


“Well does any of that sound like fun?” Willow said.


“Point.”


“Well, I can call our supervisor and get them to organize a test.” Steve said.


“Somewhere away from a Hellmouth,” Rebecca added with a shudder.


“Is it that bad?” Willow asked.


“Feels… creepy,” Rebecca said.


“How come this had to happen now,” Buffy asked. “How come this didn’t happen back in Sunnydale?”


Rebecca looked at Buffy as though she had suddenly started quoting Shakespeare. “In Sunnydale? Are you mad?! The most dangerously active Hellmouth on earth? Guarded by an immortal sorcerer, and swarming with every kind of evil in the world? That Hellmouth?”


“Yeah,” Willow said slowly. “It was frighteningly easy to open. Every few years there was some kind of alignment or magic macguffin or evil holiday to just let it pop open.”


“And now the other Hellmouths are becoming more active,” Tara said softly.


“What?” Steve said sharply, looking up.


“Hellmouths are like the mouth of a river, or a pressure valve. They let the energies of the different dimensions flow and even out. With the biggest one closed, more of the flow will have to go through the others,” Tara said.


Buffy looked at her curiously.

“Druids,” Tara explained.


“Right. That explains it,” Buffy said teasingly.


“It was a thing I had to learn.”


“Oh crap! Why didn’t you tell someone?” Rebecca asked.


Buffy shot Willow and Tara a questioning look.

Willow shrugged.

“I only know this because I spent time in another dimension. Where they studied interdimensional rifts,” Tara said. “Probably no-one here knows.”


“Ok, now I really have to contact head office,” Steve said.
Rebecca nodded her agreement, all the while staring at Tara and her admission of extra dimensional activities.


Buffy gestured. “Sure, go ahead.”


Rebecca pulled out her phone, and hit speed dial.

After about a half dozen rings. Buffy could hear the other end of the line pick up.
“Historical Society,” came the tiny voice.


“I was looking for a brochure on Salem?” Rebecca asked.


“I’ll put you through.”



While Rebecca dealt with her superiors, Buffy turned to Willow and Tara. “You ok?”


Willow nodded and Tara smiled a little.
“I feel a little like you must have done when the Watchers Council showed up on your doorstep,” Tara said.


“Wasn’t that the funnest thing ever?” Buffy said dryly.


“That was when we first heard about levels and grades and things,” Willow said. “I really should have asked about it, but we had the whole Glory thing,” Willow said, shrugging helplessly.


“My mom mentioned some kind of organization,” Tara said. “But we were off the beaten path for so many things. It really didn’t seem particularly strange that we were overlooked.”


“The world is a big place,” Steve said. “Magic is very useful, but it can’t do everything. And there’s no way of telling whether the magical trace you just noticed is a wildling, or a fully paid up member.”


“Couldn’t you tag the members with a spell or something?” Willow asked.


Steve’s eyebrows raised questioningly. “Tag everyone in the magical world, with a spell to make tracking them easier? Can you imagine how popular that idea would be? Even if it could be done?”


“Ok, I’ll just shut up now,” Willow said, embarrassed.


“It’s not the first time it’s been brought up,” he said with a faint smile.


“How does this grade thingy work?” Buffy said.


“It’s not complicated. Power is levelled on a scale of one to five. One’s are pretty common, that’s anyone who can do, see or sense magic, but that’s about it. Most practicing witches are level two. Five is Merlin or Sauron. Skill is graded the same way. Zero being people with no training, one is most witches who’ve been trained enough to get by. Teachers are usually grade three, and grade four and five are usually researchers, elders and council members.”


“What’s it like?” Willow asked.


Steve shrugged. “I don’t have much to do with the Council, beyond work. Like a rotary club I guess. There’s politics and stuff, I just have no interest in all that crap.”


“So… not all controlling and evil?” Willow said.


Steve snorted. “Hardly.”


Rebecca shot him a worried look.

“Um, I saw that,” Willow said.


“Um,” Rebecca looked worried as she snapped her phone shut.


“Um?” Buffy said. “What ‘um’?”


“Um… sort of.”


“Sort of… not controlling and evil?” Willow asked, eyebrow raised.


“Um, yeah.”


“Tell us? Please?” Tara asked.


“What?” Steve said. “The Council is a bunch of cosmopolitan club members.”


“Mostly,” Rebecca replied. “But there’s different groups within the Council. And in the old days they used to do some bad things. Arranged marriages, gentling troublesome witches, mind wipes and so on.”


“How ‘old’ are the old days?” Buffy asked, noticing Willow wincing at the ‘mind wipe’ comment.


“Ages ago. Like, in your mom’s day,” Rebecca said.


“Oh,” Tara said sadly. “I was hoping you meant hundreds of years ago.”


“Well, you can talk to the tester when they arrive, and talk to them about it. We don’t know that much. We’re not really that connected to the Council really.”


“When are they supposed to get here?” Willow asked.


“In a couple of weeks.”


“Oh,” Tara said.


“That’s going to be right in the middle of our… busy period,” Buffy said, looking significantly at Willow and Tara.


Willow nodded. “Yep. I’m sorry, but I don’t think we are going to be available. Now if they showed up today, we could probably spare the time.”


“We are in the middle of something very[/] important,” Tara said.


“Could you go to them?” Buffy asked.


“Sure!” Willow said brightly. “But not if we are trying to not scare them. I’m pretty sure if we just teleport in to their headquarters, they are going to freak out.”


Steve goggled at them. “You can do that?”


“Yep!” Willow said. “It was pretty rough the first couple of times, but the more we do it, the smoother it gets.”


“Um, is that not common?” Tara asked.


Rebecca shook her head slowly. “No. Not at all. I’ve heard that a few really powerful witches can do things like that, but not many, and not easily.”


“I don’t think that we are level one sweetie,” Tara said with a small smirk.


“I guess,” Willow said. “So, you think that just appearing in the main headquarters would look bad, huh?”


Rebecca nodded. “Very. Also there are wards.”
She glanced in the direction of slayer central. “Though, maybe not enough to bother someone who can put up wards like that.”
She shook her head. “Jesus, I’ve never even heard of power like that.”


“Oh!” Willow said. “Don’t be too impressed. I didn’t do it all myself, and it’s not a spell I’m maintaining. We just tied it to the local Hellmouths. [i]They
keep it running.”


Rebecca looked as if her hair was trying to stand on end. “You can do that?!” she almost shrieked.


Faith laughed in Buffy’s mind. ‘B. G-man says not to give too much away.’


’Right. I’ll pass that on.’


“The Council is almost certain to want it taken down,” Rebecca said, clearly worried. “They take a dim view of really huge spells like that, and messing with Hellmouths, let alone multiple ones.”


Buffy shot Willow a look. “Uh, Will? Considering who we’re up against, is there any way you can protect us with a smaller spell?”


Willow shook her head slowly. “Sorry Buffy. There’s plenty of wards that would hold off bad guys. But for those bad guys we need that level of power, and the murky dimensional energies of the Hellmouths.”


Rebecca’s look grew even more incredulous. “Gods, who are you fighting?!”


“It’s… a long story,” Tara said, a little helplessly.


“The worst people in the entire universe to get into a fight with,” Willow said.


“Well, maybe not that long,” Tara admitted ruefully.


“Believe me, you don’t want to know,” Buffy said. “But the wards have to stay up. No arguments.”


Rebecca held up her hands in surrender. “Look, I’m not in charge, I don’t make the rules, it’s not me you need to convince. But if you guys have a coven with that kind of power, and they haven’t seen you till now, they are going to freak.”


Willow blinked. “I wouldn’t call us a coven exactly.”


“Well, we have around thirty some trainees,” Tara said. “But I still wouldn’t call them a coven.”


Steve hissed. “Ooo, that’s not good. They aren’t going to like that.”


“What?” Buffy said. “Why?”


Steve looked at her. “How would you feel if you found a strange group training a bunch of slayers?”


“You know we’re Slayers?” Buffy said, at the same time that Steve blurted out “No coven?”


Rebecca frowned. “Of course we know you’re Slayers. Our council contacted yours, remember?”


“Ah, right.” Buffy said. “I’ll just shut up now.”


Steve waved his hands frustrated, as though he was trying to clear smoke. “I wouldn’t have thought that even a coven of thirty witches could have put up that ward. And now you’re telling me that your coven isn’t thirty strong? Who did put up the ward?”


Willow waved her hand. “Hi.”


Tara waved also. “We had help from mister Giles too. He’s not a strong spell caster, but he knows a lot about this sort of stuff.”


Steve goggled. “Three people did that?”


Willow nodded. “Um, yup.”


“Wow,” he said blankly. “I’m frightened.”


“This is way over our heads,” Rebecca said. “We’re just investigators. We deal with angsty teens, sceptical parents and ghosts. Not… Hogwarts.”


Buffy giggled. “Has anyone not read those books?”


“Books? I saw the movies,” Rebecca said. “This would be a lot simpler if we had a real Hogwarts, but we don’t.”
“To be honest, the ‘investigation’ part of things is screwed, so we might as well ask you ladies some simple questions, and head on home.”


“Shoot,” Willow said. “Only, not really shoot, because that would be bad, and Buffy’s still got your gun.”


“You can have it back when you finish school for the day,” Buffy said with a smirk.


Rebecca got out a small notebook and scribbled for a while.

“So. You said the wards were tied into the Hellmouth?”


Willow bobbed her head. “Yep! Actually, there’s three small Hellmouths around the area. One’s behind the waterfall that gives this town its name, one’s under the town of Pine Ridge, and the third is somewhere in a network of caves in the national Park. We’re still not exactly sure where those two are, but we got close enough to put some monitoring spells on them, and to tie them in to the wards.”


Rebecca shook her head. “Jesus. It’s like talking to someone, and they casually mention that they have a tamed star in the basement.”


“Um,” Willow said uncertainly.


“Don’t tell me,” Rebecca groaned.


“Not a star exactly,” Willow said. “Though we did think of that.”


Rebecca groaned. “This is going to be the most terrifying interview ever.”



+++

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“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: Coming home part 2 - And The Stars Shall Fall
PostPosted: Sat Jan 28, 2017 4:54 pm 
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Location: Kaskinen, Finland. Citizen of Kitopia
Dibs-y Goodness! :applause :banana :bounce

Yay for excellent update-y goodness... I guess Willow & Tara are going to get some interesting visitors in the near future... I seriously hope that the Witches Council is not going to shit their collective pants and freak out and do something stupid...

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 Post subject: Re: Coming home part 2 - And The Stars Shall Fall
PostPosted: Mon Jan 30, 2017 3:50 pm 
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6. Sassy Eggs
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I'm getting the impression that the good guys will have one more enemy as soon as this new council shows up and finds two self taught level 5's running things in Slayer central. That and when they say "training/education" I hear "indoctrination." Seriously though, did the witch council not notice when Willow tried to burn out the world and then unlocked a few thousand potential slayers a year later? Are they just now getting a heads up from the Powers? You'd think they'd "send a delegation" the second Willow left the Sunnydale crater.

The again they use "Familiar" as a catch all term for non witches instead of calling any extended family member a Squib to their face. Might not be all bad.

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 Post subject: Re: Coming home part 2 - And The Stars Shall Fall
PostPosted: Sun Feb 05, 2017 1:24 am 
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9. Gay Now
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Hi guys!

Keep in mind, i have a tendency to lay down potential plotlines for the future.
It's a roleplaying thing.

However much you might like it if one thing happened at a time, real life isn't like that.
And neither is story telling with anything approaching depth.

What i'm saying is: While i will wrap up all the major plot lines, not everything that comes up is going to be resolved.

Some stuff is just flavour, or scene setting :)

and yep, the Witches Council not doing things, when Darth Willow made an appearance IS part of the story.
Win a virtual Cookie if you can figure out why :P

New chapter below.
Enjoy!


Do it!
Enjoy.
Now!
Enjoy harder!



Burn Heaven to the ground


“Fuck,” Faith said flatly.
She had been reclining on the lazy-boy chair in Giles’ office, when Bomber dropped in. And dropped the bomb.


“Quite,” Giles replied.


“I think we’ll be seeing more of this sort of thing as time goes by,” Bomber added.


“Great. As if we didn’t have enough to do,” Faith muttered.
She had been taking on more and more of the administrative side of things, since she was sharply limited in the amount of hands-on-training Buffy was allowing her to do.

And while she grumbled constantly that Giles was doing more training than she was, she couldn’t help but smile as Buffy alternated between fussing over her and banning her from doing things.
It was cute, even if it was kinda annoying.


And this was how she ended up in conference with Giles when some bad news came in.

The Saudi government had rounded up a bunch of girls and put them in some sort of military prison facility.
And Faith had been positively horrified when Bomber had described his experiences in Saudi Arabia, and its attitude towards women.

“How likely is it they’re Slayers?” she asked.


“Very,” Bomber said simply. “I have contacts in the middle east, and they’ve been telling me about strange goings on for a while now. It didn’t seem particularly important until this came in,” he said, tapping the report on the table, “And I came here.”

Faith looked pissed. Not particularly at Bomber, (who didn’t seem the least bit happy himself) but at the world in general.


“I had a word with a contact in-country as soon as I heard,” he said grimly. “It seems that the poster girl for all this, was arrested for beating her husband nearly to death for forcing himself on her.”


“Giles, it looks like we’re opening the shelter early,” Faith said.


Giles looked very surprised. “How… ah of course. We can teleport now.”


“We can feed a few extra mouths, can’t we?”


Giles nodded. “Easily. Either here, or with the Guardians. What do you propose?”


Faith grinned savagely. “We jump in, beat ‘em all senseless, and jump out with the girls.”


“And by ‘we’ you mean…?”


“My girls, Buffy’s Stars and the Guardian’s best Slayer squad,” Faith said looking annoyed.
“Any more than that and Red and Blondie might have trouble. Also, more girls on the ground means more chance of someone taking a bullet or something.”
At the word ‘bullet’ she looked down to her somewhat protruding belly and smiled softly.
“Sucks that I can’t lead the charge myself, but hey, it’s worth it.”


“Indeed. And Buffy?”


“Ain’t going either. If I can’t go, neither can she. We said a while back, where one goes, so does the other. So she can’t hare off to Arabia, any more than I can.”


“I see,” Giles said. “And while it will make some things rather awkward, I do understand.”


Faith nodded. “Hand me the bat-phone G-man. Not much I can do sat on my ass, but I can yell ar folks pretty good.”


Giles pushed over the old-style phone that took absolute priority over any other line to the communications centre. It was the first line they’d put in, and was protected against anything that Willow could think of.
It was red.


Faith picked up the phone and waited until the surprised supervisor picked up. It took only a second.

“Danni? Good. Get the Valkyries, the Stars, and whoever the Guardian chicks have at the top of their list, and send ‘em to the armoury pronto. We’ve got an emergency and I’ll meet ‘em there to explain. Also, track down Tara and Willow, same story.”

She hung up the phone, and got up, somewhat awkwardly. “You coming?”


Giles nodded. “Absolutely.”


This was not the first active operation they’d been involved in, nor was it the first to do with their particular apocalypse.
But it was the first combat mission they’d sent out into a foreign country, and there was no way he was missing the send-off.


Minutes later, the girls were gearing up for battle, assisted by a trio of heavily armed and armoured Guardians of the Flame, garbed in dark green.

“So, I’ll go over all this in one of the conference rooms,” Faith said. “But I can give you the rundown now, because we don’t have much to go on.”


“So we’re on the clock?” Jules asked.


“Not really, I guess I just jumped the gun. My bad.”


“Did I miss anything?” Buffy said as she skidded into the long room.


“Nah,” Faith said as Buffy skidded into the room. “Just looked like a real shitty deal, and I didn’t want those girls stuck in that military prison a second longer than they had to be. Lemme explain.”
Faith sat on a nearby chest full of weapons. She patted her lap and Buffy sat down, slightly awkwardly, given Faith’s protruding tummy.

“Been talkin’ to Giles’ buddy Bomber. Saudi Arabia is a real shit hole, if you are a woman. Ya not allowed to drive, have a job, be in public without a man, own stuff, or be in charge of any fuckin’ thing. Oh, and if a woman gets raped there, they jail her for adultery. And the guys often just walk.”


“Jesus,” Jules said. “Why aren’t we invading these pricks?”


“Oil. Or so Bomber said. Which brings me to you lot. Turns out there’s a few extra strong Saudi women who don’t like being shoved around and told they don’t matter.”


“Slayers,” one of the guardians said flatly.


“Yep. And it turns out the military has rounded ‘em up and put ‘em in a military compound. You are going to go in and rescue ‘em, before the Saudi’s start doing super-villain shit with them.”


Jules froze. “We’re invading Saudi Arabia?”


“Just a little bit of it,” Faith said, holding up her finger and thumb just a tiny bit apart.
“You’re going to go in, beat up anyone who gets in your way, grab the women and book it. Those that want to join us and be Slayers can, those that want a new life can have it. And anyone who wants to be dropped off, well they can have that too.”


The three green-clad slayers took out assault rifles and checked them.
“Uh, Buffy? The bad guys are going to have guns. Is this armour going to stop bullets?” Jules asked.


“It’s Kevlar, so yes,” Buffy replied. “But, it’s designed with close combat in mind, so it’s not perfect.”


She stood and put her hands on Jules’ shoulders. “Jules, Faith and I can’t go. But this group is the best there is, and those girls need rescuing a whole lot. That’s why we’re sending our best. You. I wish we’d had time to do a proper graduation ceremony, but this is it. It’s not one lone girl against the vampires any more. It’s teams of slayers against any evil in the world. So this is your Cruciamentum.”


“Wow.”


“Sorry to drop this on you out of nowhere, but we only just found out ourselves.”


“You’ve been training and fighting for months,” Faith said. “All of you, the Valkyries especially. Nothing new. The only difference is, the bad guys have guns, and no super powers.”


The sound of running feet pounding down the corridor was heard, and Willow skidded past the doorway, followed by Tara.
When they reappeared, they were breathing hard, and red-faced.


“We –gasp!- really need to put something on the floor to make it less slippy,” Willow gasped.


“What’s going on?” Tara said. She was breathing hard, but was significantly less put out than Willow.


“Ya know our special project? Well we’re starting early.”


Tara’s brow furrowed in thought. “Um, which one? We’ve got a lot on the go right now. Our most recent project involves analysing the spells on my armour to see if we can duplicate the enchantments for the slayers armour.”


“The shelter.”


“Oh. Oh!” Tara said, as the light dawned.


“Yep. Also we’re invading Saudi Arabia. You up for that?”


Tara and Willow shared a glance and a nod. “We’re in. What do you need? And Saudi Arabia? What?”


“We’re rescuing Slayers from a military facility. I’ll go over what we’ve got in a minute. What can you do to help out?”


They shared another look. “Well, between us we can cast protection spells, language spells, so you can talk to the locals, open doors and find passwords. You have no idea how handy that last one is. Oh! And heal people, don’t forget that!”


“And transport,” Buffy added.


“How long are we going to be there?” Willow asked.


“Not long. A few minutes ideally.”


“Ah. Then we can help a little more,” Willow said. “A gate spell is more effort than a translocation spell, but less than two. Plus it will give you a… fall… thing?”


“Fallback position,” Tara filled in.


Willow grinned. “Heehee. You cool monster fighter you.”


Tara smiled and blushed a little.


“What’s a gate spell?” Buffy asked.


“Ever seen Stargate?”


Buffy frowned. “The movie or the series?”


“Either. The spell is like the gate from the show, except it works both ways. So we can use it to escape. We don’t have to cast another spell or anything, we just keep it open.”


“Handy. Ok, do that then.”


The sound of running feet was heard getting rapidly closer.
Moments later, Xander and Tamara skidded into view.

“Hey! I heard there was a thing?” Xander said, breathing hard.


“Yep. We’re off to Saudi Arabia,” Buffy replied from Faith’s lap.


“What she means,” Faith said, “Is that they’re going.” She pointed at the heavily armed women.


“Everybody who’s gonna be a mommy, is staying right here.”


Tamara looked around the armoury. “Nice. You have some cool toys. What’s with the brit guns?”


“Giles,” Xander said. “Or probably his mad pal with the jet. Funny thing, but customs really aren’t expecting anyone to ship weapons in from England. Also they’re shorter and a bit quieter than ours, which is handy for what we do.”


“Load up,” Buffy said.


“You want me going?” Tamara said. “I just got here.”


“Naw,” Faith added. “You haven’t trained much with a team yet. But it looks like we could use a hand holding down the fort at this end, so grab your gear.”


“Right,” She said, and turned and ran from the room.


“I don’t mind if she’s on my squad,” Jules said with a smirk.


“You and everybody else,” Buffy muttered.

Faith snickered.

“Yeah yeah,” Buffy sighed. “Tamara’s hot, in a leather-clad, butch kinda way. Now let’s move along shall we?”


“Looks like I might have to mark my territory,” Faith said, smirking.


“No, you don’t. So on with the mission. If we’re going to have a gate-y thing going on, we should probably get all the shooty people loaded up with shooty things. That way the baddies don’t get in.”


“Just thinking about Tammy,” Faith said.


Buffy raised an eyebrow and turned to look at Faith. “Do I have to mark my territory? Again?”


Faith just rolled her eyes. “No doofus. I meant because Tammy’s all military and shit. It might be handy to set up another specialised squad. This one with all the rootin’ shootin’ types in it. Ya know, for when we have a sitch that involves… well, this shit springs to mind.”


“Good plan. We can put Tamara in charge, once she’s calmed down a bit.”


Faith chuckled. “Just don’t tell anyone Tammy’s leading it. Otherwise you’ll have three quarters of the girls pestering you to join her squad.”


“And we’ll need someone to train them. Tammy’s more military than me, but she’s a pilot with a thing for shooting, not a green beret or whatever.”


And at this point she looked up to see Giles strolling in the door. “Hey Giles! Come to see what all the fuss is about?”


He nodded. “Quite.”


“You must be the only one who didn’t skid getting here,” Xander said, getting geared up himself.


“Yes, well. I remember people complaining that the floor was too smooth.”


“I’ve got some high-grip floor stuff on order. It’ll get fixed,” Xander said. “Eventually.”
“Aww man, who put my helmet up there?” he complained, looking up to a high shelf.


“You did, ya dope. On account of never using it.”


“Yeah, well, vampires aren’t much for bullets, so I’ve not really needed it. Plus it’s really annoying.”


“Good point. Helmets for everyone,” Buffy said.


“Crap. Thanks Xander,” Jules complained, punching him gently in the shoulder.


“Come back alive, and Tara can fix you up,” Buffy said. “But you have to have a head for that to work. So take your stupid helmet.”


She turned to Willow and Tara. “Speaking of, you’d best get your gear. Including helmets.”


“Wait, I have a helmet?” Willow said.


“Yep,” Xander said. “It’s part of your armour, but no one ever wears them. Yours is here somewhere. Go get your other stuff, and I’ll dig it up.”


He eyed the tightly packed rows of helmets around eight shelves up. “It’s going to be in that pile up there somewhere.”



+++



After a thirty minute briefing session in the war-room, the Scoobies had gone over all the intel (not much).
And the political situation (bad).
And now they were all waiting tensely in one of the largest underground rooms as Willow and Tara worked on their scrying spell. The floor was marked out with complicated lines and magical symbols, and the smell of sage smoke filled the air.


“I think we have it,” Tara said, her voice echoing with the now characteristic harmonics.



“Fourteen… no, fifteen mini Slayers locked in cells with really heavy doors,” Willow said, her own voice echoing oddly.


Tara gestured with her free hand, and a large sphere appeared in the air above them. The sphere glowed very faintly, and showed a night-time picture of a military compound, familiar to anyone who’d ever seen news stories about the middle east. Barbed wire and concrete were present in abundance.
Like an invisible bird, the viewpoint took a slow spiralling path around the compound, giving everyone a good view of the area.


Bomber and Giles murmured as they took note of the defences and scribbled notes on a clip-board.
Tara guided the view inwards to the main building. They passed through offices and mess halls, gymnasiums and training areas, until they reached the cells.
Heavy steel doors and thick concrete walls confined each woman to a bare concrete room, with only a primitive toilet and an uncomfortable-looking bed.
The girls did not look to be happy, and most of were sitting miserably on their uncomfortable bunks in their shapeless robes, getting all the warmth they could in the cold night.


One was not.


One woman in her twenties was in her cell, her robes cast aside as she paced like an angry tigress in pyjama pants.

“That’s our girl, bet you fifty bucks,” Faith said.


Buffy nodded. “Hopefully we can get there before she figures out she can smash down the door, and get herself shot.”


“That likely?” Tamara asked.


Faith nodded. “Yeah. We’re only just figuring out that some of the shtick about Slayers getting stronger as they age, is forgetting that you’re a girl, and learning just how strong you really are. If she just lets go, that cell won’t hold her for long.”


“Oh dear,” Giles said.


The view had moved on, to another room, with a distinctly antiseptic and sinister bent.
It also contained a naked girl strapped to a table, and two men in gowns preparing surgical equipment.
A soldier looked on with unhealthy levels of interest.


“Fuck,” Jules said. “We are running out of time.”


“What’s the plan?” Buffy said, giving Jules a significant look.


Jules took a deep breath as she tied her purple bandana in place and jammed her helmet on.
“Tight spaces. Lots of close in work.”

She thought for a moment. “Here’s what I wanna do, so check my working, boss,” she said with a nod to her mentor.

Faith nodded back.


“We’ve got three teams who know their shit, but haven’t worked together. So I wanna keep them separate. I want the guardians to cover all the approaches, and keep the assholes off our backs. I want the Stars to pull the girls out, and help the Guardians when they’re done. Me and the Valkyries are going to go and explain a few things to those guys. I swear to god, anything they do to her, I’m doing to them. And if we have time after we rescue the girls, I’m gonna burn the place to the ground.”


Faith nodded, and looked at Giles.


He nodded his agreement. “I agree. Any more people, and we are going to get in each other’s way.”
He checked the safety, and snapped a magazine in place in his stubby British assault rifle.

“Xander, Tamara and I will defend the gate, and ensure no harm comes to Willow or Tara. Jules? If you intend to destroy the facilities, you might want to take these.”

He handed her a bandolier of incendiary grenades. “Do be careful with these. They’re a little less unpredictable than fragmentation grenades, but they are extremely dangerous. Note that the bottom two are thermite, which you will use to incinerate or destroy any machinery or biological evidence.”


“And we will stay well out of the way,” Buffy said. “And totally not pout about not helping,” she said, with a visible pout.


“Yep,” Faith said. “But just so’s ya know, right after the little sprog is born, I am leading the next mission. While B feeds the little punk and changes the diapers.”


“Hey!” Buffy protested.


“B, like ya keep sayin’, I ain’t gonna be knocked up forever. And as soon as I’m back in shape, I’m gonna work off some frustration.”

Buffy narrowed her eyes.

“Pumpkin, you know I gotta. I’m doin’ my best with the whole ‘mom’ thing, but I gotta slay. And once she’s out, I can.”

Her face softened into a smile. “Relax B. I ain’t gonna go every night and shit. Just once in a while, I promise.”


Buffy nodded. “I get it. And I promise not to be the nagging wife,” she said with a grin.


Willow giggled.

“Laugh it up Rosenberg. Your turn will come.”


Willow tried to whistle innocently. It turned out to be a lot harder than she’d imagined. “Um. Yeah.”


Tara smirked slightly. “I promise not to be the nagging wife,” she said, absolutely straight faced.


“Me? But I thought you… right sorry, my bad.”


“If we could all focus on the rescue mission for just a little bit longer,” Giles said dryly.
He checked the radios, and handed them out, everyone clipping them in place, and connecting the mics and earpieces.


“Radio check,” Dawn said.


“Loud and clear,” Giles said.


“Five by five,” Jules said.


Various other sounds of acknowledgement came through.



Tara got up and joined them. “Everyone gather round,” she said, her eyes starting to glow, and her voice echoing strangely.

Everyone gathered around, looking like a group of footballers about to start a game.

Tara closed her eyes and murmured a chant under her breath for quite a while, eventually finishing with a loud “Protect!”

Some of the light flowed from her and spread to everyone in their little huddle, coating them in the by now familiar barely visible bluish light.

“There. A little protection for everyone. You’re not invulnerable, but it should help. Now for the translation spell.”

More seconds passed as she chanted, and again, sparkles of light flowed from her to everyone’s head.

“There. Now you can talk to anyone and understand them.”


“Let’s get this show on the road,” Jules said. “I don’t like the idea of rushing into anything, but the girl on the table didn’t look like she had a lot of time.”


“Are you ready sweetie?” Tara said, her voice still echoing oddly, more so as she put on her metal helmet.


“Yep,” Willow said brightly. “I have the target, and I’m ready with the bridge when you are, baby.”


“When we cast the spell, the gate will open,” Tara said absently, already concentrating on the spell. “Once it’s open, I will go through and anchor it at the other end, which will make it a lot easier to keep the gate stable. As soon as I’m out of the way, you can go.”


“And remember,” Buffy said seriously, “Bring everyone home. As long as they’re even slightly alive, Tara can patch them up good as new, so don’t leave anyone behind.”


Jules nodded seriously. “Good to know.”
She turned to the assembled teams. “Game faces girls, it’s go-time.”


She pointed at each group in turn. “Guardians, then Stars. Deploy and get good angles of fire for when the Stars go get the girls. When you’re in position, we’ll go through at a dead run. If we move fast enough, they won’t know what hit ‘em,” she said, patting her hammer.


The dark green clad guardians nodded silently. The only sound they made, being the metallic sounds of rounds being chambered.


Willow and Tara joined hands and began chanting. After several minutes, there was a bright flare of light, which expanded almost instantly into a ring of bluish light, outlining darkness.
The change in air pressure across the gate hit like the hot blast of a jet engine, and dragged in a huge cloud of dusty air.

The far side of the gate had come out on target, in a dark spot between two concrete buildings.


With a final squeeze of her hand, Tara let Willow go and strode into the darkness, her armour gleaming. She stepped to the side, her armour visible in the light from the gate, and gestured for the others to come through.


“Guardians, go!” Jules said crisply.


Moving with practiced silence, the rifle armed warriors moved through the gate, and fanned out, each taking position in the darkness.
“In position,” came the terse response.


“Stars, go get those girls. As soon as you start to make some noise, we’ll make our run and draw them towards us.”


Chrissie nodded solemnly, leading her diminutive team through the gate, every bit as silently as the Guardians.


“Ready boss?” Tilly said.


“Fuck no. But this shit needs doing, so it’s gonna be us that does it. Give em a couple more seconds, then we go.”


“In position,” came Chrissie’s quiet voice. “Get ready with that distraction, because I have no idea where the keys are, and we’re gonna have to make some noise.”


“Roger. Give us thirty seconds, then get started. I guarantee we’ll make more noise.”

She turned to her squad. “Show time. Don’t nobody break a leg.”

And with that she turned and sprinted into the gate, her girls close on her heels.



+++



Jules sprinted down the corridor, her girls hard on her heels.

She saw the heavy metal door ahead of her and shouted into her mic. “Gettin’ noisy!”
She poured on extra speed, and slammed into the heavy security door with all the force she could muster.


And a magic hammer.
A magic troll hammer.

Trolls are a strong and brutal people, valuing strength, and generally being famously unsubtle.
Their weapons fit with that motif.
And what enchantments they bothered to put on weapons, tend to be of a similar nature

So the hammer was enchanted to be unbreakable. And to hit hard.
And now it was wielded by an angry and stressed out Slayer. With a good run-up.


With an almighty boom, and the sound of tearing metal, the door tore partly out of the concrete wall, enough for the Valkyries to squeeze past.

Long practiced at moving together in close quarters, they slipped through the narrow gap with barely a whisper. And they sprinted down the hallway to the one area with lights on at this time of night.

Using the hammer like a battering ram, she slammed into the heavy theatre door and smashed it into pieces, her girls fanning out behind her.


The room inside was brightly lit, and a sterile white, clearly an operating room.
Though most operating rooms lacked the heavy stainless steel tables and heavy clamps that this one did.
They also usually lacked armed soldiers in scrubs, to say nothing of the gagged, naked and barely conscious girl on the table.


Jules blood ran with a strange combination of cold detachment, and burning hot rage.
“She’s coming with us. You can be alive when this happens, or dead. Your choice.”


The soldier instinctively lifted his weapon, only to fall with a wet coconut sound, as Tilly’s dagger appeared in his forehead.


Jules blazing eyes tracked to the two terrified surgeons. “I’m supposed to let you live, but right now, I can’t think why that is.”


“We’re not soldiers!” one of them stammered.


“Why do you think that matters?” Jules said in a voice dripping acid. “You were just about to vivisect a young girl, while she was still awake!”


“We were following orders!” the other shouted.


“That didn’t work for the Nazis,” Jules said coldly. “Girls, get her loose, and back to the others. I’ll be along in a sec, once I’ve had a little chat with these guys.”


“On it,” Tilly said.


Moving swiftly, they un-cuffed the barely conscious woman and wrapped her in a blanket. For ease of travel, given that she could only barely stand, they lowered her gently to a handy stretcher, and carried her out, Tilly in the lead, and Shona covering the rear.


Jules retrieved Tilly’s bloody knife from the dead soldier’s head. “Here’s where I explain why this was a bad idea,” she said with deceptive calm.



+++



The four Valkyries sprinted down the corridor, Tilly and Abby in the lead, and Moia and Shona carrying the stretcher between them.

“This is Valkyrie two to Guardians,” she panted as they ran. “Headed back from the north. Please don’t shoot us.”


“Roger that Valkyrie two. Garden gate is open, come on home.”


Running at full tilt, it didn’t take long for the four Slayers to get back to the gate.

Without even stopping, they ran through the howling gate, past a concentrating Willow and into the staging room. They skidded to a halt just shy of the wall.


Abby and the others swallowed frantically as their ears popped.
“Damn that’s trippy.”

Another Slayer passed Tilly another blanket to wrap the barely conscious girl in.
Carefully, she removed the gag, and wrapped the girl in the woollen blanket.


“Can you take care of her for me?” she asked the other Slayer. “She’s kinda drugged up. And they were about to cut her open, so don’t put anything pointy near her, yeah?”

The girl nodded.


Tilly turned to the rest of the Valkyries. “Well, it’s been fairly-”


“Contact,” one of the Guardians said.

The quiet word was followed by two sharp cracks, and the more distant chatter of automatic weapons fire.


Instinctively everyone ducked, though wherever the bullets went, they came nowhere near the gate.

“Boss! You there?” Tilly shouted into her mic.


“Coming back now. Meet me near the Stars, and we’ll cover them.”


Tilly gestured to the girls. “Moving now.”


“Fuck, I’m glad vamps don’t bother with guns,” Moia muttered.


“I heard that,” Abby muttered in agreement.


In the distance, bright flames licked the medical building.




They sprinted over to where Buffy’s girls were herding the slightly dazed and shellshocked girls out of their cells.

“How goes it?” Tilly asked the leader of the Stars as Jules arrived.


“Good. Got three more to go, then we leave as a group.”


She eyed Jules heavy hammer. “You wanna go get ‘em out while we get these girls ready to move?”


Jules nodded. “Yeah we can do that.”
She absently handed Tilly a bloodstained knife. “You left this behind.”


Tilly took the weapon with obvious distaste. “Uh, thanks. Anyone got a cloth?”


Abby picked up a rag and handed it over. Tilly began cleaning in a hurry.



Three brutal hits with an enchanted hammer, and the door was smashed in.
“Hey! Wanna get out of here?” Jules said to the surprised woman inside.


“Most assuredly,” the woman said. “You’re a girl?”


Jules smirked. “Most assuredly. Most of us are. Join the rest of them, then we’ll make a move for the exit.”


“Where are you taking us?”


“I don’t have time to explain. Men with guns are shooting at us. But you’re going somewhere safe. After that you can decide what you want to do with your life.”


It didn’t take a great deal of thought. “It cannot be worse than what they had planned for us here,” she said.
She gathered her robes and joined the others crouched by the end of the hall.


Chrissie was talking to everyone in cheerful upbeat tones, telling everyone over and over that they were going somewhere nice, and that they should stay down, but soon they were going to move quickly and quietly to the exit.
And she did this over the sounds of sharp crack-crack noises of gunfire and the rattling sounds of return fire.


“We have most of them boxed in to the barracks building,” came the voice of the Guardian commander, over the radio. “But it’s not going to be long before they try something desperate. How long?”


Jules smashed the next door in. “Not long. Can you give us thirty seconds?”


“Probably, but not much more,” came the calm reply. “Not unless you want us to throw some grenades in there and blow them all the fuck up.”


“Get the grenades ready. If it looks like they are going to get out and cause trouble, blow them to hell.”


“Roger,” came the calm reply.


“Heya! Wanna get out of here?”

The woman nodded, and silently joined the others.


Jules started pounding on the last door.
Two mighty hits and it was down.

And a blur of dark and light slammed into her.
“Ow shit! Somebody get this bitch offa me!”


Abby and Tilly dove on the shape, which was revealed to be an angry Arabic woman in a tank top and loose pants.
“Calm the fuck down! We’re here to get you out, ok?”


The girl growled and punched Jules hard in the stomach, with Slayer strength.

Jules skidded back with the force of the blow and smirked. “Yeah that armour ain’t just for show. Now you can either calm down and be rescued, or we can knock you out, recue you, and patch you up later.”

The girl tried to strangle her. Though the Kevlar reinforced high collar was designed to deal with snack happy vampires and throat-cutting knives, it did a creditable job of dealing with attempted strangulation.


“Unconscious it is,” Jules calmly said, and smacked her hard across the back of her head with the handle of her hammer.

It wasn’t enough to knock her out, but even an enraged Slayer didn’t handle sharp blows to the back of the head well. Especially when delivered by another Slayer.


And dazed, she was easily dealt with by her girls. Tilly unhesitatingly jammed a stungun in the back of her neck, and she went down twitching.

“Jesus woman! Why do you even have that thing?” Jules shouted.


Tilly pointed at the now unconscious Slayer. “That. Unconscious is safer than kicking and punching the whole way.”


Jules looked at her, her expression confused. “I’m not sure whether to give you a raise, or send you for counselling.”


“Those are both questions that can be answered, in some place that is not here,” Moia said. “Bad men with guns? Ring any bells?”


“Smartass,” Jules muttered. “A’right. Tilly, you zapped her, you carry her. The rest of you, cover her, and don’t be afraid to hurt the bad guys. Believe me, they have it coming.”


After a short furtive run, they re-joined the Stars. Jules gave Chrissie the nod.


“Alright, everybody up! We are going to run that way until we find our exit,” she said pointing towards the gate. “Look for a big tunnel lit up with light. Some of our people are guarding it, and they are good people, so don’t worry about the guns they are carrying!”

The assembled girls and women got up and ready to run, shooting worried looks in all directions, but happy enough to have the chance for any kind of freedom.

They linked hands as Chrissie had shown them, and she lead them off at a brisk trot towards the gate.


The chattering sounds of automatic weapons fire suddenly intensified, and a curse was heard over the radio in a heavy brogue.
The guardians switched to full auto and returned fire with deadly accuracy.
The dull thump-thump of a pair of grenades heralded a sudden return of silence.

If anything, the women ran faster, and The Valkyries definitely were on high alert.


“That should keep their heads down,” came the same calm voice of the Guardian’s leader. “There’s a few unaccounted for, so keep your eyes peeled.”


Everything seemed to be going without a hitch, when Jules saw movement in the dark.
With a sound like an escaping pigeon, Tilly’s knife vanished into the darkness.
A thud was heard, followed by the sound of a falling body.


Just as she was about to open her mouth to congratulate Tilly on her knife-throwing skills, she saw Giles stand and open fire at her with three controlled shots.

Before her brain could even process why Giles of all people would suddenly start shooting at her, her brain finally registered the sound of a body hitting the ground behind her.

A quick glance over her shoulder, spared as she ran, showed her a dark-skinned man dressed in a white undershirt and camouflage pants, face down in the dust.

She ran.


The rest of her girls and the Buffy’s Stars herded the former captives through the gate without giving them time to wonder about the nature of the shimmering circle.

“We’re home,” she said through her mic. “Start pulling back now.”


“Roger. Coming back now,” came the familiar voice.


“Check your targets,” Giles murmured quietly from behind his barricade. “Let’s not spoil a successful operation by shooting our own people.”


“Giles, you wound me,” Xander said lightly. “I’ve got my good eye open and everything.”

Tamara just snorted in amusement.


Three pairs of boots thudded into the dusty concrete as the Guardians decamped from the roof, and sprinted for the gate.

As soon as they were through, Tara backed through the gate and made a cutting gesture.
The gate vanished.


“Is everyone alright?” Giles asked, as he flicked the safety on his weapon. “Please safe your weapons everyone.”

A number of small clicks and murmurs of ‘I’m fine’ rippled around the room.


One of Buffy’s girls rolled her shoulder and complained. “I think I’ve got a bit of stone under my armour. Really stings.”

One of the Guardians eyes rolled back in her head and she collapsed on the dusty ground.


“Giles! Tara!” Buffy shouted as she dove over to the dark green clad woman.

Giles and Tara hurried over, the rest of the guardians looking on anxiously as their leader lay prostrate.


“Oh crap!” Buffy said. She held up her hand, covered in blood.


Tara crouched down next to the fallen woman, her eyes already sparkling with her diagnostic magic. “Buffy, Can you get her helmet off please?”

Nodding silently, she unsnapped the clip and pulled off both the helmet and the balaclava underneath.
Her face was pale and sweaty, but she was still breathing.

Tara placed her hand on her forehead, closed her eyes and concentrated.


“The bullet entered her shoulder from above,” Tara said in her dreamy voice, as she concentrated on her magic. “It nicked the humeral artery and glanced off her ribs.”


“Is she going to be ok?” Buffy asked.


“She’ll be fine Buffy,” Tara replied. “She’s lost a lot of blood, but the injury is easily repaired.”

With nothing more than a gesture, light flowed from Tara’s hands into the woman’s shoulder and side.

“All done.” She opened her eyes and looked at the other Guardians. “You might want to clean her up and get some fluids into her. She’ll be out for a little while, but after that she’s going to need to replace a lot of blood.”


“Lots of steak,” their new leader said. “And thank you.”


Tara dipped her head in acknowledgement. “Thank you for helping.”


One of the Stars whimpered as she looked at her own bloodstained hand.

“Tara?” Buffy said, moving over to the frightened girl.

Tara hurried over to the girls, who were efficiently stripping the armour off of their companion.

Already charged up with diagnostic and healing magic, Tara simply touched the girl and smiled.

“All done. It wasn’t a stone, it was a bit of metal. Shrapnel maybe?”


The girl blinked and looked surprised. “Wow. Suddenly I feel a whole lot better.”


“The fragment passed right through. Mostly it was a deep scratch. You’ll be fine.”


The girl returned her smile, star-struck. “Thank you miss Tara.”


“Day-um,” Faith said shaking her head. “Add another one to Glinda’s fan-club.”


Buffy absently elbowed her in the ribs.

“You know, fighting is going to be a lot less stressful if we can get patched up this quickly,” she said.


Tara frowned. “Well, as much as I don’t want people to be permanently hurt, please don’t get careless.”


“Remember that ‘alive’ thing that I mentioned?” Buffy said to the girls. “Well Tara can’t heal you if you’re dead. So don’t get careless. And dead.

She looked around to pin the most effective (and reckless) fighter they had with her withering glare.
And found no one.

“Where’s Jules?”


Everyone looked around in puzzlement.


“She was here a minute ago,” Abby said.


Tilly nodded. “Yeah, she definitely came home.”


Faith ran her hand through her hair.
“I got an idea. Lemme up, B.”



+++



Faith found Jules in the grove, lying full-length on the lush grass.

“Figured you’d be here,” Faith said.


Jules raised a hand, middle finger upright. Faith smirked.
“Need more fingers than that. An’ you ain’t my type.”

She sat down crosslegged, moving easily despite her large tummy.


The pair sat without speaking for a while.

Eventually, Faith broke the silence.
“I’m guessing you had to kill some dudes?”


Jules shook her head. “Nope. That was Tilly. Jammed a dagger into a dude’s forehead. Took down another one the same way.”


“She seems ok,” Faith added.


Jules grunted. “Yeah. She’s tough.”


Faith grunted back. “Huh. What’s up then?”


Jules was silent for a long while.
“Got angry. Fucked some dudes up.”


Faith nodded. “It was a shitty situation. People died. It ain’t your fault.”


“I held a guy down, and sawed his hand off with a short sword. Then I did it to his buddy.”


Faith was silent for a long time.
“Well shit. I wasn’t expecting that.”


“Yeah. Seemed like a good idea at the time.”


“Wanna add some more details?”


“Not really.”


“Well fuck. Help me out here Jules, what the fuck happened?”


“We bust in there, and she was strapped to a table naked. They were gonna cut her open. I wanted those nazi-wannabe fucks to know that doing shit like that has consequences. I didn’t wanna kill ‘em, but I remembered that over there, they like to cut people’s hands off for stealing. And this was way worse than stealing.”


“Fuck. I know I’m meant to be all wise and yoda-like here, but all I can do is agree with ya,” Faith said.
She shifted her seat, finding a more comfy spot for her tummy, and ran her hand through her hair as she tried to think.


“Pretty sure that you’re not supposed to do that,” Jules said.


“Yeah well, there’s a reason I’m not the guidance counsellor for this place. Gotta say, having your hand cut off has gotta suck, but not as bad as being dead. And stayin’ that way.”


“Funny. They don’t court-martial soldiers for shooting people, but they do for torturing them.”


“Don’t ask me why,” Faith said. “I don’t wanna be tortured, but it’s still gotta be better than death.”


“I think it’s ‘cos it fucks you up when you do it. Feeling pretty fucked up.”


“Not surprised. Maybe they did deserve it. Maybe they didn’t. But you’re a good person, Jules. So it’s gotta be eating at you.”


Jules nodded and buried her face in her hands. “Jesus Faith, what have I done?"


“Same thing a few of us have. The right thing at the time, which turned out to suck.”

Faith eyed her distraught protégé.

“You need Tara, ‘cos this is outa my league.”


Jules gave her a disbelieving look. “Tara? I mean she’s nice an’ all, but seriously, if I tell her this stuff she’s gonna bust into tears.”


Faith just shook her head sadly. “I thought I taught you better than that. Yeah, Glinda the Good Witch is a softie, no doubt. But she’s fucking titanium on the inside.”


“That’s Buffybot.”


“Shaddup smartass. I mean she’s strong. She can deal with a lot of crap even if she’s a soft touch.”

Jules didn’t look convinced.

“Trust me on this. And seriously, she can kick some major ass if you piss her off. So don’t.”


Jules frowned. “Uh. Having trouble picturing Tara pissed off.”


Faith nodded. “Yeah. Takes a lot to get her going. Threaten Red or lil’ D and you’ll see a whole ‘nother side of her. But I hear ya.”


Faith got to her feet. Not exactly gracefully, but far more smoothly than anyone as obviously pregnant should have.
“C’mon. Time to talk to the Angel.”



+++



“I don’t know what to do,” Tara said worriedly.
She sipped her tea and looked to Giles for help.


Giles sipped his tea thoughtfully.

He cleared his throat. “How is she doing emotionally?”


Tara thought for a moment. “Fairly well. She feels a great deal of guilt over what she’s done. Though she still feels it was a deserved punishment for what those men had done, and were planning to do.”


Giles nodded. “Agreed. If I was there, chances are high that I would simply have shot them.”

Tara looked shocked.

“My dear, they had done unforgivable things to those young women, and were intending far worse.”

His face hardened. “Such things cannot go unanswered.”
His face softened again. “But we were talking about one of our own. A remarkable young woman, by anyone’s measure.”


“This is a long way out of my comfort zone mister Giles,” Tara said, still worried. “I can counsel her and help her deal with what she’s done. But the rest… I have no experience with.”


“I do,” Giles said calmly. “And while I sympathize and even agree with her actions. She must be punished.”

Tara frowned. But before she could object, Giles continued.

“I do not have your talents as a counsellor, Tara. But I do have some experience commanding fighting men. If there is not some form of visible punishment, it will send the very clear message that we approve of this behaviour. And more such incidences will occur. And worse.”

His face softened. “And it will be good for Jules. Once she has served her punishment, she will likely give herself a measure of forgiveness.”


Tara nodded thoughtfully. “That makes sense. I’m still working through those military psych books, but they mention things like that.”


“The military have to deal with the fallout of things, which civilians never consider,” Giles said. “Although it pains me to militarize our operation any further, there are some things we will have to adopt. Discipline being a primary example.”

He sipped his tea. “Leave it with me. I will come up with an appropriate punishment, and check in with you.”
He smiled a little. “Don’t forget, we are a team. Each of us has their roles. Let me take the role of the stern disciplinarian.”


Tara looked a little relieved. “I’m glad. It’s not something I am at all comfortable with.”


Giles sighed. “Nor am I, though I do have slightly more practice.”

He thought for a little longer. “A public announcement perhaps. And a temporary removal from command, and the patrol roster. It will also give me a chance to ensure that some of the others are aware that this sort of thing is not condoned, no matter how justified we may feel at the time.”

He smirked a little. “And some enforced counselling, of course. No matter how delicate your touch, I can’t imagine anyone with the temperament of your average Slayer, actually relishes being sent to counselling.”


Tara sighed. “I’m not sure that’s the right message to send about counselling.”


“I am not sure anyone is greatly enamoured with the idea, no matter how necessary it might be, or how helpful.”
He patted her reassuringly on the hand. “I think that message was already in place in this country, long before you arrived. But I shall do my best to ensure that the message is that the counselling is to help Jules, and not part of her punishment.”

“I might also have a chat with her, leader to leader as it were.”


Tara nodded, and finished off her tea. “I think that would be good, thank you mister Giles.”


Giles smiled. “Please, think nothing of it.”


“I’d also suggest you involve Faith.”


Giles nodded. “I was planning to. And give her a chance to speak on her behalf, if necessary.”



+++


“Please, come in,” Giles said politely, gesturing to the couch that Buffy had installed into his office, by the simple expedient of carrying one in, and rearranging his office while he was out.


“Uh, thanks G-man,” Faith said as she lead the way to the couch.

She settled herself comfortably, Jules sitting nervously on the edge of her seat.


Giles sighed. “Jules, please do try to relax. I am not going to shout at you. I called you here to talk to you, one adult to another.”


“Uh, yay?” Jules said, clearly not particularly reassured.


Giles smiled, a little sadly. “Jules, I have been where you are now, believe it or not.”

She looked at him in surprise.

“I doubt it had much impact to people in the states, but there was this little disagreement we had with the Argentines,” Giles said ruefully.


“You were in that?” Jules said.


Giles nodded. “Yes. One of the last things I did in the army.”

He gaze softened. “And like you, I did things that seemed right at the time, but in hindsight… not the best.”


“You cut two guys hands off?” Jules said acidly.


“No. I shot three men dead. In cold blood,” he said simply.

Silence reigned.

“I was a soldier. It was my job to achieve objectives, and to kill in pursuit of those objectives, if necessary, as it is yours.”

hE gave her a gentle look. “It seems strange, does it not, that it’s considered okay to kill, but not to deliberately injure?”

Jules nodded slowly, Faith staying silent.

“There is a reason for that. And it’s not because governments are all lovey-dovey about enemy soldiers.”


“Uh, why then?” Jules asked, curious despite herself.


“Because of the wider implications,” Giles responded. “It is regrettable, but sometimes people have to die. But, making it a clean and quick as possible, says a lot about us. And the society we come from.”

“Societies who condone or encourage torture, rapidly become corrupt and sloppy, as do the people who carry out those acts.”

He looked her square in the eye. “I am not condoning what you did, Jules. But I will say, if I was in your place, I would likely simply have shot them dead.”


“Whoa,” Faith said.


“Frankly, they had it coming,” Giles said. “But we are not here for them, we are here for Jules. The reason I’m going on about all of this my dear, is that it is bad for you. And bad for the rest of us. However justified it may be to punish those men, doing so hurts you. And if we condone it, however justified we may feel that it is, it will hurt us as an organization.”


“Uh, sure, I guess,” Jules said. “I mean, you know this stuff.”


He looked at her sternly, but not unkindly. “And, as much as it pains me to do so, you must be punished. Both for your own good, and for the good of the others.”


“Oh. Crap.”


“Jules, you are a good person, and I want to help you. But I know from personal experience, that the person hardest on you is going to be yourself. Serving out your punishment can serve as penance, and bring you a measure of peace.”

Jules looked unconvinced.

“I have been down that path, and it is very difficult to come back. Faith can attest to that,” he said.


“Listen to the man, Purple Pants. He knows.”


“So for now you are going to be suspended from fieldwork, and temporarily relived of command of your team,” Giles said.


“That sucks.”


“Yes. It does,” Giles said. “It’s supposed to be unpleasant.”
“However, I do want you to talk to Tara about all this. And Faith as well. When they both give you their blessing, you may return to your position.”


Jules sighed and nodded her head, all trace of her usual bravado gone.
“Just like school counselling,” she said.


“Naw,” Faith replied. “Imagine if your school counsellor was me?”


That got a small smile from Jules. “Probably not good. I most likely get into more trouble, just so I could drop by.”


Faith smirked. “Yeah, I am pretty amazing. Even if I look like I swallowed a whale right now.”


“Nonsence, you’re positively glowing,” Giles retorted. “Now, back to the subject at hand. Jules, you are suspended, and off the patrol roster. I shall make an announcemtn to the team leaders letting them know what is happening and why. You will no doubt be asked questions about what happened. Please be open and honest if you can. If it is too raw for you, please direct any questioners to myself or Faith.”


“Yeah. Got it,” Jules said sombrely.


“And while you are off the patrol roster, please continue the portions of your training that do not include active patrols.”


“I should talk to my girls. Let ‘em know what’s up. Tilly can be in charge while I’m laid up.”


Faith nodded. “Yeah, she’s got a good head on her shoulders.”


“If a tad ruthless,” Giles said. “I am hoping that this will send the right message. While a degree of ruthlessness is necessary in our line of work, it too is something that needs to be kept in check.”


“She’ll be fine,” Jules said, defending her second. “Uh, as long as I’m not off the job too long.”


“Then this will be a valuable learning experience for both of you.”



+++

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 Post subject: Re: Coming home part 2 - And The Stars Shall Fall
PostPosted: Sun Feb 05, 2017 2:33 am 
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Dibs-y Goodness! :applause :banana :bounce :dumbo

Yay for excellent update-y goodness... Big yay for them getting those girls out of Saudi-Arabia... I hope Jules gets all the help she needs to live with what she had done...

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 Post subject: Re: Coming home part 2 - And The Stars Shall Fall
PostPosted: Wed Feb 08, 2017 9:10 am 
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I'm torn between making jokes about Princess Jasmine almost getting her hand chopped off in Act 1 of Disney's Aladdin and questioning the likelihood that the two "scientists" trying to dissect a Slayer actually made it out of the lab building with their bleeding stumps before Jules "done went and blew it up real good."

In Jules' defense, unless you are a wealthy, straight, male oil baron, Saudi Arabia is just about the worst place in the world. This probably wasn't the first "crime against humanity" those two guys committed. I'm also wondering if Tilly's signature "Let me just bury this knife in your skull!" move will come back to bite her later on. Nice use of foreshadowing if so.

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 Post subject: Re: Coming home part 2 - And The Stars Shall Fall
PostPosted: Wed Feb 15, 2017 3:26 pm 
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Hi Gang!

Yeah, Saudi Arabia is a horrible place.
I think i wrote this bit after seeing yet another news article about horrible things happening to women over there.
Something about a foreign visitor being flogged, for the terrible crime of admitting to being a rape victim.


What a lovely bunch of allies.
I live for the day when the world no longer cares about fossil fuels, and we can let the buggers die in a desert.
Well the men, anyway.

And the hypocrisy is that SA is the flat-out gayest country in the world.
With a long history of poems about beautiful sloe-eyed boys.
Often the most homophobic hatred comes from the most repressed people.
And here we have a repressed country.
You're gay, boys. Deal with it.


Anyhoo, this is just an aside. Just the 'monster of the week' that has no major connection to the main story arc.
And a chance for the Scoobies to show off how high level they are compared to some mooks :p

But the epilogue has a bit of fun with SA. and the UN.
Angry Buffy. With an Axe. At the UN.
Putting the 'Axe' in action :)

Ooo, feeling inspired now :D
I'm off to research the US and SA representative to the UN 2002-2003 :)

And don't worry. Tilly will be fine :P

R :flower

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 Post subject: Re: Coming home part 2 - And The Stars Shall Fall
PostPosted: Sun Feb 19, 2017 10:52 pm 
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Warning! Angry IRL making/alarming things in this chapter. Discussion of FGM.


“Pineapple!... uh, what?”



“Baby, have I mentioned how much I love you lately?”


Tara smiled. “Not in the last couple of hours. I was feeling slightly neglected,” she teased.


“Well I love you very much. Lots. Many lots. Tons even.”


The pair were sitting in their bathroom at Slayer central, their shiny new bathroom at the Scooby palace not being quite finished yet.

Tara was sitting on the closed toilet seat, gazing thoughtfully at Willow, who was naked but for a towel, who was vigorously rubbing her legs with balm from a tiny pot. Her legs were entirely purple. Deep, intense purple.


“I can’t believe of all the things you brought home, magical cosmetics was one of the things you carried across the void,” Willow said happily. “You know, there’s no way I’ll ever fail to appreciate this magic. It’s the gift that keeps making you appreciate it.”


Tara laughed. “Sweetie, I forgot I even had it. This whole time it was sitting in the bottom of my pack. It’s not exactly huge.”


“Well, we should try and figure out how to make the stuff,” Willow said. “Ooo, tingly.”


“I can’t say I mind watching you putting it on,” Tara said with an appreciative smile. “Though I’d be worried if I didn’t know for certain that the purple wears off in about half an hour.”


Willow looked down. “Um. I’m tempted to rub this stuff everywhere, but it might sting.”


Tara raised a questioning eyebrow. “If you like. Catherine swears it doesn’t sting, even there.”


“Oh good.”


“But sweetie, if you rub it there, you are never going to grow hair again. I don’t mind if you want to, but I can’t just pop down to the mall to get the reverser. The market is in another universe.”


“Good point.”


“Most women use it to tidy up the bikini line, which I can help you with if you like,” Tara said with a teasing smirk.


Willow giggled. “I just bet you can. Actually you can help me with a spot I can’t reach.”
She stood and turned, dropping the towel, and looking coyly over her shoulder.


Tara stood and smiled. Willow looked very strange with purple legs and a pink bottom.
“No hanky-panky, I promise. At least not until the purple fades.”

Willow pouted.

“The last thing I want is to discover I’ve gone permanently bald, or lost one eyebrow.”

She leaned over and whispered in Willow’s ear. “There can be hanky. And panky. Afterwards, if you like.”


Willow’s eyes were hungry. “I like.”



+++



“How’s it going?” Buffy asked.


Faith swivelled her expensive, super comfy office chair around, her hands steepled like a bond-villain. “Ehhhxcellent,” she said, matching the look.

Though bond villains were rarely so obviously pregnant.


“If you call me ‘Smithers’ it’s all over,” Buffy said.


“I was thinking ‘octopussy.’ So no worries there then.”


“Gah!”


“Anyway, most of the Arab… Saudi? What is the right name anyway? Well the girls we rescued are doing fine. About two thirds of ‘em have already started training and they’re joining the fight. The others are just blown away that they are in America, and they can do whatever the hell they want.”


“Middle-eastern?” Buffy essayed.


Faith shrugged. “Red told me she’s already started on getting them ID’s and citizenship. Dawn’s setting up the few that don’t want to stay with training, college and that stuff.”


“And our favourite new girl?” Buffy asked, her eyebrow raising questioningly.


“Is a frikking maniac,” Faith said. “I dunno how ya coped with me B, ‘cos this girl is permanently angry.”


Buffy smirked a little. “Is she all non-wordy and ‘hulk smash?’”


“Nah. She can talk, it’s just she’s really on a hairtrigger. I mean, I could understand being freaked out by guys or whatever, but she’s like that with everyone. And the girl Jules pulled of the Table? Amber? She’s mostly ok, and she’s got more reason to be freaked than most.”


“Doesn’t sound very arab-y,” Buffy complained.


Faith shrugged. “Dunno. Zahra sounds plenty Arabic, and she’s a frigging psycho.”


“And you’ve tried talking to her?”


Faith nodded. “Yeah. Hell, you were riding along for most of it. I gave her my best stuff too. Told her about how I know it is to have it rough. She didn’t even blink. Just didn’t care at all.”


“Well, honeybunch, don’t forget, your bad stuff happened quite a long time ago. How would you have reacted the week after?”


Faith gave her a funny look. “That one sucks. Yeah, got a point though. What did you do with me when I showed up?”


“Patrol, dancing, cutting class,” Buffy said. “The usual.”


A light went on in Faith’s head, and she grinned.


“What?” Buffy said.


“We get her a girlfriend!”


“What?”


“Well think about it B. I only held on as long as I did, because I wanted to jump your bones.”


Buffy rolled her eyes. “Faith, we don’t even know if she’s even a bit gay. She might be completely straight.”


“So’s spaghetti. Until you get it hot. And wet.”


Buffy rolled her eyes. “I walked right into that one, didn’t i?”


“Yep. But seriously. All she’s known is getting beat down, and crazy religious shit. And her husband was a real prize prick apparently.”


“And your solution to her anger issues… is to get her a girlfriend?”


“Well yeah. Give her something nice in her life. That and train her, and set Glinda the good witch on her. Girl’s got a talent for being nice, but she’s no pushover.”


“Poor Tara. We give her all our hardest cases,” Buffy chuckled.


“Yeah well, it’s what she’s good at.”


“Sure,” Buffy said. “But I’m not sure setting her up with a girlfriend is going to be… not a disaster.”


“Huh. Fair point. Didn’t work when lil’D set me up with Xander.”
She grinned.
“So maybe we just put her with someone, and let nature take its course.”


“Well, there’s no way that could end in disaster.”


“And Purple Pants has been moping, ‘cos all her buds have been hooking up. And now she has all this free time,” Faith said with a triumphant grin.


“I don’t know,” Buffy said uncertainly.


“There’s no way this could go wrong!”


Gah!”



+++



“To those of you that are joining us, welcome,” Tara said with a smile.

She was dressed more conservatively than usual, in a flowing, full-length gown of light and dark blue.
Willow was similarly attired in a long green gown and rust coloured shawl.
Faith was with them, though she was wearing comfy track-pants and a surprisingly fluffy top.


They, and the nineteen rescues were enjoying the sun, outside under the trees.
The rescued women wore headscarves, with one sullen looking exception.
Though, given that there were no men around, many had thrown them back to enjoy the sun on their faces.

“For those of you leaving for a new life, welcome to America,” she said with a smile just as warm.

She turned to Willow. “Sweetie, did anyone ask to go back?”


Willow shook her head cheerfully. “Nope!”


Turning back to the semi-circle of curious faces, and one angry one, she continued. “I’m sure you’ve heard a few things, and are wondering what’s going on, which is why I’m we are here, to explain and to help.”


“And I am way too fucking pregnant to do anything else,” Faith grumbled.

That got a few smiles.


“Let me get a few things out of the way first,” Tara said. “You have not been kidnapped by one group, only to be kidnapped by another. You are all free to go at any time. Also, we are not going to simply dump you in the wilds of America. Anyone who wishes to leave, we will arrange accommodations and education for you, and keep in touch.”


“And if anyone really wants to go home, we can drop you off,” Willow said. “But please don’t do that. You might have heard by now, they were going to cut you open to find out why you’re different.”


One of the girls spoke out, possibly emboldened by the fact that there were only women present. “Why are we different?”


“Lemme field that one,” Faith said.
She stood up with only a trace of awkwardness, and picked up a length of rebar, salvaged from the recent construction project. With a little effort, she tied the rebar in a knot, and tossed it to the woman who spoke up.
She was surprised, but she caught it.
“You are part of an ancient lineage of women warriors, going back to the dawn of time,” Faith said. “You are Slayers. Up until recently there was a spell that kept us under control, except for one girl, who got the power.”

She nodded at Willow. “Red here broke the spell, and gave the power back to all the people who were supposed to have it.”


“Well most of them, anyway,” Willow murmured.


“An’ that’s why y’all suddenly got strong and tough,” Faith finished off.


“Magic is real?” one veiled woman said, incredulous.


Willow gestured, and a handful of dandelions lifted off from the grass, and spun gently in a circle.
Tara gestured, and between her hands formed a ball of golden light.

“Yep,” Faith replied.


“Witchcraft!” one woman said venomously.
The other women looked stricken, and a hubbub of worried conversation broke out.


Faith put her fingers to her lips and whistled loudly. “Hey! Calm down!”

They quietened somewhat.

“Yeah, it’s witchcraft. But get it through your head, it ain’t evil. I don’t know much about magic, but it’s a tool. And like a tool, it can do a job, or it can be used to hurt people.”


“It is of the devil!” the same woman said passionately.


“No it isn’t,” Tara said firmly. “Magic is a part of the natural world, and our magic does not come from dark sources.”


“You lie!” the same woman spat, covering her face with her veil.


‘Do your thing Baby,’ Willow sent silently.

Tara unfurled her wings with a snap. “I do not lie to you,” she said solemnly.


Awed gasps followed.


Faith chuckled. “Yeah, that shut ‘em up.”

She paced. “Yeah, she’s an angel. Yeah, she’s a witch. No she’s not evil. In all honesty chica’s, she’s the least evil person in the world.”


Tara folded her wings neatly across her back and took Willow’s hand.

“These two are the reason you bunch of idiots are free now. They found you, they sent in the troops, and they got you out. Because I asked ‘em to,” she said, letting a touch of anger show. “So be frikkin’ nice to them!”


“God sent you?” the woman quietly asked.


Tara shook her head. “Not the god you are thinking of. Willow and I work with many forces of the natural world, some of which are Gods and Goddesses. And while I was brought up a Christian, I am not a servant of the god of Abraham.”


At her confused look, Faith jumped in. “Look, ya gotta understand. The world is not what you thought it was. Partly because the menfolk in your life lied to you. Partly because you don’t know. And partly because the world is way crazier than anyone knew. I’m not trying ta bust your chops, but a lot of shit you ‘know’ is just plain wrong.”


“Most people don’t react well to the discovery of the supernatural,” Willow said. “And I bet good information was hard to come by in your country, so you are going to have a lot of catching up to do.”


“But now, you are free,” Tara said with a happy smile. “You may keep the traditions you are comfortable with, and cast off anything that you no longer want to keep.” She smiled brightly at Zahra who had never even bothered with a veil.


“But what if a strange man sees our face?” one woman asked.


“What if a strange woman sees your face?” Faith asked in return.


“What of it?” the woman said. “Women do not look on other women with lust in their hearts.”


Faith burst out laughing.
When she recovered she looked at Willow and Tara. “Who wants to explain the birds and the birds to these chicks?”



Willow blushed, and Tara hid her face in her hands. “This is going to be a long day,” she muttered.



+++



“Ohmigod! What’s wrong?” Buffy said.

She had been dropping by her new, partly furnished ‘house’ to pick up something for Faith.
And she found Willow and Tara crying on the couch.


Tara looked stricken. Willow barely looked better, but her sadness was tinged with anger.

She hurried over and sat next to her best friend, showing as much concern as she ever had.
“I-it’s awful Buffy,” Tara stammered between sobs. “W-what they did to those girls.”


Buffy looked worried and confused. “I thought we rescued them before they got all mad-science-y?”


Willow shook her head, her face pale. Buffy had only seen that look once before. Horror with absolute fury growing beneath it.
In the past it had heralded vast devastation.
“That’s not what she means,” Willow said. “How could they?” she sobbed.


‘Faith! Get up here!’ Buffy sent silently. ’Willow and Tara are having some kind of freak out!’
‘What? Uh, be there in a sec,’ Faith sent back.


Willow looked closely at Buffy’s suddenly slightly vacant expression. “Did you call Faith?”

Buffy nodded.

“No! Tell her to stay away!”


“What? Why?”


“Because it’s the kind of thing that will drive her wild! I’m barely holding it together!” Willow said.
“Bastards! This sort of thing should have lead to an invasion,” she muttered fiercely.


‘Uh, Faith? Could you hang back a little? They want some space to think’


’Ok,’ she sent uncertainly. ’Gonna wanna know what’s going on though.’


’I’ll tell you as soon as I can, Buffy replied.


“Will, please. What’s going on?”


“Some of the girls came to us, after our talk,” Tara said quietly. “They wanted to talk about some changes they were going through.”


Buffy’s brow furrowed. She remembered having more energy, and needing less sleep after she was called, but other than that was a little lost.


“It took a long time, because it was a very private thing, and I was a foreigner,” Tara said. “But eventually they told me.”

Tara stopped talking.
The silence grew.


“Um, Tara?” Buffy said. “I know it’s bad, but if you don’t tell me, I can’t help.”


Tara’s sad face grimaced, as if she’d smelled something foul. “I never really knew much about muslims. Utah isn’t very multicultural. Or at least the part I grew up in wasn’t.”

“But apparently they don’t like their women to enjoy sex too much. They like to keep them ‘pure’,” she said with a look of disgust.


“Uh?”


“So they cut off their genitals,” she said tonelessly.


“What?!” Buffy shouted, somewhere between shocked and outraged.


“Oh yeah,” Willow said. “You know how you grew another tooth, when it got knocked out that time?”

Buffy nodded, confused.

“Well they came to Tara to ask about that. Only not teeth.”


“So they…”


“Were healing, yes. Regenerating slowly.”


“That’s not even the horrifying part, Buffy,” Willow said tiredly.


“How in hell is that not the horrifying part?”


“The horrifying part is when they asked Tara, if she knew someone who could make them ‘pure’ again. Or if she could do it.”


“Jesus. That’s… that’s… I don’t have words for how horrible that is.”


“They really wanted it Buffy. They didn’t feel ‘clean’ with all the parts down there,” Tara said, revolted.


Buffy just shook her head slowly. “Jesus.”


“And the reason for that is simple,” Willow said. “Men. Men came up with this idea. And the women go along with it, buy into it even. Because if they don’t, then no-one will marry their daughters.”


“And I am not going to do it,” Tara said. “I don’t care how much someone wants their clitoris cut off. If they’ve been culturally conditioned to want it, I’m… I’m not going to be party to it.”


“It goes against the rede,” Willow said softly. “Informed consent is important in wicca. And someone like this is not informed.”


“I’m so sorry Tara. I knew we were dumping some stuff on you, but I had no idea it was this bad. How many?”


“Three. It’s apparently not a big thing in Saudi Arabia. It’s about the only bad thing they don’t do to women. But some of these girls are from neighbouring countries, where all women are treated like this.”


“How are we not invading these people?” Buffy asked. “I mean we invaded the Germans and stopped them killing jews, why does this stuff still go on?”


“Oil, politics, money,” Willow said. “Take your pick.”


“Ugh. This is why I never paid attention to politics,” Buffy grumbled.


She looked at the two woebegone witches. “Um, did you want me to listen while you offload, or did you want me to put on my ‘General Buffy’ hat, and deal with it?”


Willow and Tara shared a look. “General Buffy please,” Willow eventually said.
Tara nodded. A lot.


“Sorry, it’s just that I’m working on being less oblivious about things, so I thought I’d better ask.

She thought for a moment and nodded with her decision. “Ok, here’s what ‘General Buffy’ has to say. We can’t do anything about it now, however much it sucks. We just don’t have the time.”

She held up her hand to forestall the inevitable protests. “But! When we get back, from saving our daughter, it goes right at the top of the list. We spend money, apply political pressure, or even invade. Whatever it takes to stop this. Does that sound like the right thing to do?”

Willow and Tara nodded.

“There have to be organisations fighting this already,” Buffy continued. “We make sure they get lots of money to help. Maybe some Slayers hidden amongst the helpers to make sure the locals don’t attack anyone, lots of education. I’d like to just even the score by chopping some boy-parts off to even the score, but I get the feeling that won’t help.”


Tara shook her head. “You can’t heal pain by causing more pain, Buffy.”


Buffy sighed. “I know. But some days it’s just tempting to try.”
She looked uncertain.
“Is it safe to call Faith? I think I need a hug?”


Willow smiled through her drying tears. “Sure Buff. And we’ll hug you till she gets here.”


When Faith arrived, she found three women on the couch hugging, looking various degrees of sad, weepy and angry.
“Why do I have the feeling I’m gonna be real upset, real soon?”


Arms were held out for her.



+++



“Not a sausage,” Ethan said dryly.


“Blast,” Giles replied. He ran his hand through his hair in frustration. “I was really hoping that your… less than shining contacts would be able to help.”


Ethan smirked from the couch, where he sprawled with casual elegance. “Rupert, really. I told you that if anyone dark knew how to bring down the Powers That Be, they’d have done it already. And I don’t deal with the truly dark. That sort of thing is terribly dull.”


Bomber harrumphed, but he nodded. Ethan was notoriously shady and careless. But evil? No.
“Sorry chaps. You can have any and all help I can give, but this sort of thing is right out of my league.”


He tapped his cheek thoughtfully. “Though some of the usual things still apply. Have you thought about asking the other side?”


Giles raised an eyebrow. “I rather thought we were.”


“The other other side. Ask the good guys.”


“Didn’t we do that already?” Ethan asked. “I distinctly remember a daring raid on the vaults of heaven. Was that not it? And I don’t think the Powers That Be are going to tell us how to destroy themselves.”


Bomber shook his head. “No. And don’t think I’ve forgiven you for leaving me to hold down the fort while you lot got to play hero.”
He shot both of them a look.
“We got intel. Valuable intel. To my understanding, that book contains vast information. What it doesn’t have is an explanation as to how to do what we need to do.”


“Quite.”


“Are there not sources of information on the ah, good guys side, that might help? Where do all these prophesies and visions come from? Can we get help there?”


There was silence for a time.

“Bloody hell,” Giles said.


“Quite,” Ethan said with a mocking smirk.


Giles took off his glasses and nibbled the stem thoughtfully. “Visions and prophesies can come from a number of higher powers. Sometimes even The Powers That Be. It’s just possible that if we are looking for information on powerful immortal beings, other powerful immortal beings might have the answer.”


Bomber raised his eyebrows. “Interesting. And how does one go about arranging a prophesy or vision?”


“I’m… not sure,” Giles said. “I know a ritual for a Slayer to go on a vision quest. I’m not sure where the vision comes from though. The First Slayer, or possibly the Powers That Be.”


“Is there any way to make sure you get a vision or prophesy from the right source?” Bomber enquired.


“Yes,” Ethan said. “You have a word with someone who has been marked by a power, and only has truck with that power.”
He smirked. “A priest in other words.”


“Or priestess,” Giles said with a faint smile.


“Emmy,” Bomber said as he clicked. “Is her goddess likely to help?”


“I’d say our chances are good,” Giles replied. “She seems to like Dawn, and seems to have some kind of special connection with Slayers. Of which, we have so very many.”


“I’ll call Emmy,” Bomber said, reaching for the phone.



+++



The group that Ethan persisted in calling ‘The Band,’ Giles, Ethan Emily/Brie and Bomber were sitting in Giles’ office.

“What do you think?” Ethan said.


“Goddesses are not known for producing visions on demand,” Brie said. “But it’s not likely to hurt. Have you thought how you’re going to ask?”


“It will have to be couched in the most circumspect terms possible,” Giles said.


“Why?” Bomber asked. “Remember, I’m not up on all this voodoo stuff.”


“Because prophesies are usually picked up by more than one person,” Ethan explained. “They’re not exactly secure. So those sending them, usually try to phrase it in such a way that it only makes sense to the right people, at the right time.”


“So how are we going to do this?” Bomber asked, curious, despite himself.


“The how is simple. I’ll simply conduct a little ceremony, pray to Brighid, and we’ll ask the question. Normally, only the High Priestess could expect a reliable answer, but given my ‘Chosen One’ status, it’s likely I’ll get some form of answer.”


“Now we need a question,” Giles said. “Get some coffee. This may take a while.


“Bugger the coffee,” Bomber said. “Break out the scotch.”



Two only very slightly inebriated hours later, the ‘Band’ barely looked as though they’d moved.



“I like it, but I have this horrible feeling it’s too easy,” Ethan complained.


“We’re relying on shaky intel too much,” Bomber said. “I can promise you, I don’t like it.”


“I can promise you, anything the Goddess chooses to tell you, it’s rock solid,” Brie said, looking a little ticked off. “If she doesn’t know, she won’t say anything.”


“Simplicity is key,” Giles said, pouring himself another finger of scotch. “Anyone listening in will get nothing, and we are giving nothing away.”


“I’ll get the others,” Brie said tiredly.


“No,” Giles said softly. “We keep this to ourselves until we have something. Then we tell everybody.”


At Brie’s irked look he explained. “No sense getting everybody wound up without good reason.”


Brie capitulated. “Alright. Just so long as you know, Fiona is going to find out at bed time.”



+++



The room was dark, save for a flickering light.
In the middle of a large stone bowl filled with water, candle light burned, illuminating Brie’s face only slightly.
Her eyes gleamed as she cleared her mind in preparation for the question. The most important question, that might give hope to their hopeless endeavour.


She had recited the thirteen prayers to Brighid in ancient Irish, and ritually cleansed herself.
Not because it was necessary, but because it showed respect.

And now came the question, which hopefully the Fiery Arrow, The Goddess Brighid herself, would answer.


“Goddess, hear my prayer. We embark on a mission. A battle in war, in your name. To protect one innocent and pure. And in her name, and the names of all those who follow you I ask, can it be done?


For maybe half a second nothing happened, then the simple flame flared blue and spread across the water, illuminating the whole room in strange blue light.

Darkness fell as the flame went out.


“Right, well I’d say you got your answer,” Brie said dryly in the darkness.


“I take it that’s a yes?” Ethan enquired smoothly.


“Very definitely a yes,” Brie replied. “Fire in water is Brighid’s sign. Get the lights would you?”
Bomber flicked the lights on, turning the ritual space back into a conference room.


Giles had an almost serene look on his face. “Now we tell the others. Now we start planning our attack.”


“This is the single strangest intel briefing I’ve ever had,” Bomber said. “And given some of the places I’ve ended up, that’s saying something.”


“Well, we may be as light on details as we were ten minutes ago, but now we have a goddesses’ word that we can succeed, as well as her backing,” Giles said with a Nod to Emily/Brie.


“Oh yes,” she said with a smile. “Yes indeed.”



+++

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


My Story: Coming Home


Last edited by Azirahael on Mon Feb 20, 2017 9:43 am, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Coming home part 2 - And The Stars Shall Fall
PostPosted: Mon Feb 20, 2017 6:43 am 
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8. Vixen
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Dibs-y Goodness! :applause :banana :bounce :dumbo

Yay for excellent update-y goodness... I really really hope Tara is able to convince those 3 misguided girls about the errors in their beliefs... Big yay for getting Brighid's blessing for the mission...

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 Post subject: Re: Coming home part 2 - And The Stars Shall Fall
PostPosted: Mon Feb 20, 2017 9:31 am 
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9. Gay Now
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@Zampsa Er sorry about that. I forgot about the ICK warning on the chapter. I'll go add it now :(

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“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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