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

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 Post subject: Re: RC 2018: 2019-2: A Fine Line Pt II
PostPosted: Sun Nov 21, 2004 8:05 pm 
:sheep



Sheridan...WOW



I love this story, and tonight you gave so much :bow . I'm so glad to finally have some interaction between LJ and Sabrina. Willow and Tara having to deal with a daughter getting older and falling in love... the difference in the way that Tara handles everything compared to Willow, rings true based on how we know the characters to behave.



This story piqued my interest from the beginning... and with no signs of letting up :D .



:clap :clap :clap :clap :clap :clap



behindhereyes

Kim

"To the world, you may be one person; but to one person, you may be the world"



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 Post subject: Re: RC 2018: 2019-2: A Fine Line Pt IV
PostPosted: Mon Nov 22, 2004 2:10 am 
i was so stoked to see this update! i've been following this story for forever, just recently decided to get feedbacky (always got sidetracked at step 1: pick a name).

rosenburg squared is absolutely one of my alltime favorite fanfics, and the places you've taken them from there-wow-what a journey. i'm especially enjoying your take on the older, wiser, and occasionally more mature willow and tara. i love the tension they have between trying to have a normal family life while have this extraordinary otherness to their lives. (i mean, how could you effectively ground a child who can teleport, that's not in any parenting book).

I enjoyed how this update had an intrguing stand-alone story, while also advancing many of your ongoing storylines (no more just teasing us with sabrina-she's here). tara pointing out to willow that lj looks at sabrina like tara first saw willow-very nice, and there's a country song in there somewhere.

also got a big kick out of your aquatic array of demons. highly amusing, with a side of "ick". i was half looking for spike's loan shark to show up, but it's not really his type of gig.

thank you so much for continuing this story for so long, i'm in awe of how far you've taken them. I get giddy whenever you update, i know i'm always in for a solid read-mary

here and now is all that counts,here and now in large amounts,uh-huh
adam ant



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 Post subject: Re: RC 2018: 2019-2: A Fine Line Pt II
PostPosted: Mon Nov 22, 2004 8:18 am 
Quote:
This story piqued my interest from the beginning... and with no signs of letting up


Glad you're enjoying it Behindhereyes, there are two more stories in the current Sabrina/Athenai arc, after which Sabrina will move from 'recurring' to 'regular' status:) .



Quote:
i was so stoked to see this update! i've been following this story for forever, just recently decided to get feedbacky (always got sidetracked at step 1: pick a name).

rosenburg squared is absolutely one of my alltime favorite fanfics, and the places you've taken them from there-wow-what a journey.


Always nice to here from someone for the first time Meretricious, and there are a lot more stories to come; plans at the moment are for 14, some of which will be two parters, so keep checking back. :)

Willow: ...I have to tell you....

Tara: No, I understand you have to be with the person you l-love

Willow: I am

Edited by: Sheridan at: 11/22/04 8:32 am


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 Post subject: Re: RC 2018: 2019-2: A Fine Line
PostPosted: Fri Nov 26, 2004 5:15 pm 
I always look forwards to your updates, and this was certainly no disappointment. You write the older Willow and Tara so well that when I'm reading your fic I have trouble picturing them younger.



Sabrina and LJ finally met! Well its about time :) And their first kiss :luv2 (and LJs delight in describing it to Willow)



So at the beginning, was the second talking to the water sprite, or someone else?



14 more fics? I can't wait...



The world is quiet here



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 Post subject: Re: RC 2018: 2019-2: A Fine Line
PostPosted: Sun Nov 28, 2004 5:30 am 
Quote:
So at the beginning, was the second talking to the water sprite, or someone else?


Chronic it was indeed the sprite and the second wasn't just trying to be nice, remember where Willow and Tara saw her for the first time...

Willow: ...I have to tell you....

Tara: No, I understand you have to be with the person you l-love

Willow: I am



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 Post subject: Re: RC 2018: 2019-2: A Fine Line Pt V
PostPosted: Thu Dec 02, 2004 4:45 am 
LJ and Sabrina interacting more. I'm sure there are many headaches ahead for LJ's folks! I think they could complement each other though. LJ, despite her youth, has inherited Tara's calm nature. Sabrina, I see as someone who reacts first, and asks questions later, sort of like Faith. Interesting that LJ felt comfortable enough with Sabrina to tell her the truth about the Demon Hunter books. Or was she, perhaps, showing off? ;)



I can't help but dislike the D'Angleo's. Maybe because of their history of flippant use of magic, despite the fact that it has been their trade for so long; they really should have known better. Of course, Kristina's reaction to our girls didn't help their cause any!


You stay the course, you hold the line, you keep it all together.

You're the one true thing I know I can believe in
- Sarah McLachlan



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 Post subject: Re: RC 2018: 2019-2: A Fine Line Pt V
PostPosted: Fri Dec 03, 2004 2:31 am 
Quote:
I can't help but dislike the D'Angleo's.


Ah Mollyig if you thought the DeAngelo's were bad wait until you see who the Athenai get mixed up with next...:devil

Willow: ...I have to tell you....

Tara: No, I understand you have to be with the person you l-love

Willow: I am



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 Post subject: Re: RC 2018: 2019-2: A Fine Line Pt I
PostPosted: Wed Jan 05, 2005 2:27 pm 
Another brilliant story :applause



Quote:
LJ thought about that and felt a little sympathy for the poor technicians, doomed to search for a nonexistent fault. Still, "I think I'll leave my phone at home in future, just in case."




Somehow I doubt that that'll help. Given the fact that probably everything she's wearing contains RFID tags, I'd say the only way she's not going to be untraceable by a system like this is if she always covers herself in tin foil when leaving the house.



I just hope that Sabrina doesn't get too badly punished for failing to get the pact. After all the Athenai don't seem to look on failure too kindly.



My only complaint with this story was you promised an update on Maggie's condition. Unless I missed it, there didn't seem to be one.

--

Homer Simpson: When will people learn, democracy just doesn't work.

Edited by: justin at: 1/5/05 2:28 pm


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 Post subject: Re: RC 2018: 2019-2: A Fine Line Pt I
PostPosted: Thu Jan 06, 2005 4:40 am 
Quote:
My only complaint with this story was you promised an update on Maggie's condition. Unless I missed it, there didn't seem to be one.


Sorry about that Justin it got cut in the final version because it just didn't fit the flow of the story. Basically the application of a little magic and a lot of therapy helped pull Maggie through. The next story is about 75% done now. There's one more in this Athenai/Sabrina arc after that and then its what my notes call the '2020' stories, which I'll post a preview of nearer the time.

Willow: ...I have to tell you....

Tara: No, I understand you have to be with the person you l-love

Willow: I am



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 Post subject: Next story finished
PostPosted: Thu Jan 20, 2005 3:14 am 
Well as it says above 'Justice' is finished, just needs editing and should be up Sunday/Monday.

Willow: ...I have to tell you....

Tara: No, I understand you have to be with the person you l-love

Willow: I am



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 Post subject: RC 2018: 2019-3: Justice Pt I
PostPosted: Sun Jan 23, 2005 2:21 pm 
Title: Justice

Author: Mike Mullen

Rating: NC-17/18 because of violence, and adult themes, and a little gore on this occassion.

Spoilers: None what so ever

Disclaimer: All the original BTVS characters belong to Joss Whedon and ME. Everyone else in the stories are my personal slaves.

Summary: Willow, Tara, and LJ are forced to help out an old enemy.

Authors notes: Moving towards the Climax of the Athenai arc.

Feedback: Just add your comments at the end of the story.







Justice




Prologue




Kinsey watched Lawrence squirm in his seat while the man worked his way through the dossier the Lawyer had handed him. Finally Lawrence dropped it on his lap and gave the lawyer a nervous look, "Are you sure this is the best approach Kinsey? Wouldn't it just be better to buy Torrance off; or make him disappear?"

        Kinsey shook his head, "Mister Lawrence with your reputation a witness who vanishes or changes their story is just going to look suspicious, and the prosecutor will have a field day with it. On the other hand if we can create the impression that it's the DA whose suborned perjury, well the whole case will collapse."

        Despite Kinsey's air of assurance Lawrence wasn't wholly convinced. Still given the strength of the states case against him he had little choice but to entrust his fate to this lawyer and his associates, that didn’t mean he had to admit it, "Fine, just make sure it works."

        Kinsey ignored the implied threat and simply showed Lawrence to the door; if his client thought the threat had cowed Kinsey so much the better. If the plan failed it would be necessary to lay the blame on Lawrence and that would be easier if the man thought the lawyer was afraid of him.

        With his evening's work done Kinsey got up and reached for the briefcase parked next to his desk. His fingers only brushed the handle before the case flew across the room and exploded against the wall sending papers fluttering across the office. Rather than settling to the floor they continued to float around as if buoyed up by an air current. "This isn't fucking funny." Kinsey growled, and was answered by a paperweight on his desk flying across the room and smashing a diploma hanging on the wall, adding glass shards to the swirling mass of paper. Kinsey ducked behind the desk as the remaining pictures and diplomas were pulled into the vortex and disintegrated; adding to the orbiting melee.

        Even as he tried to take cover the window behind him blew out and sent a shower of glass flying into the night sky. Kinsey turned and stared and then began to scream as he suddenly found himself on the other side of the ragged frame. From ten storeys up the lawyer had just enough time to comprehend his demise, and its likely aftermath, before his body slammed into the slab of carved granite that bore the company logo.

        Thin trickles of blood ran into the engraved letters; tracing out the words 'Wolfram & Hart'.



1. "Shock and Awe"




Ally had been hoping that taking LJ out for an afternoon's shopping would lighten her mood. Her boyfriend had been understanding, he didn't really want to go on a shopping expedition and besides he had confessed that LJ unnerved him. Ally hadn’t held that against him; odd things did seem to happen around LJ and there were times when she made even Ally nervous

        Events in the weeks since LJ's birthday party had been even more of a roller coaster than usual. Firstly for several days after the party LJ had more or less disappeared, not that unusual these days. What was unusual was the happy, almost blissful, air that had surrounded LJ for the better part of a week. That though had gradually faded to be replaced by a jittery anxiety. From personal experience Ally could guess the explanation but she had been hoping that LJ would broach the subject first. Since it was clear that wasn't going to happen any time soon Ally decided she would have to take her life in her hands. They were sat in a cafe working on a couple of sodas when she worked up the nerve, "So any luck with your love life?" she asked brightly.

        LJ eyed her suspiciously, "What makes you think anything has changed?"

        Ally sidestepped that, "So you're saying nothing's changed?"

        LJ was sorely tempted to say no but since she wasn't sure she could do it convincingly, and she realized she did want to talk to someone non-parental about the situation, "Alright, alright, her name is Sabrina, I like her, she likes me."

        "So how come you're hanging out with me instead of her?"

        LJ toyed with her glass for a moment, "It's complicated." To put it mildly. Since they had parted on the island Sabrina had managed to contact her precisely once. An untraceable message containing the single word 'GROUNDED' with a lipstick imprint to one side and crossed swords to the other appearing on LJ’s tablet one evening, "I don't think her, guardians, would be to pleased if they knew about us, and they're keeping her on a pretty short leash at the moment. Add in the fact that my parents don't like Sabrina's guardians, that I don't like them, and it all gets pretty complicated like I said."

        "So you could always find someone else." Ally suggested.

        "No I couldn't." LJ snapped.

        Ally wasn't upset, she had rather expected it, "You're serious about her."

        LJ nodded, "Totally."

        "Then I guess you'll have to find a way to uncomplicate things." Ally suggested cheerfully.

        LJ was going to snap again but instead she frowned as she thought about it, "I guess I will won’t I?"



        The bar Willow walked into wasn't the most salubrious she had ever visited, which was saying something when she usually only visited the demonic kind. Her only significant alcohol consumption was a glass of wine or two when she visited a restaurant and one best forgotten party in college when she completely failed to appreciate the power of several glasses of Rum punch. She had tried to dress down as best she could for this visit but she still drew some attention from the patrons as she walked in and headed for a corner booth.

        The other party sitting there had blended in a lot better. Willow slid into the seat opposite, "Hey Angel, how are you?"

        "Pretty good," the vampire replied in his usual deadpan manner, "Buffy sends her regards."

        That threw Willow for a moment until she realized which one he was talking about, and then she felt awkward, "You know I meant to do some research on the curse see if it could be modified, avoid the, um, side effects."

        Angel couldn't help smiling at her embarrassment, even after all this time somethings about Willow hadn't changed, "Don't worry about it, Fred and Wesley have been doing a little digging, and Buffy and me are taking things slow."

        "Wesley and Fred?" Willow knew they had been visiting one another but not the outcome.

        "Apparently Wesley is planning to relocate to the US, once he clears up the mess with the Watchers. How are things at home? How's LJ doing?" Angel knew he sounded a little desperate but even after all this time small talk still didn't come easy.

        "They're good, mostly, but there is one thing causing some problems." Willow admitted,

        "The Athenai." Angel was on much firmer ground now.

        Willow nodded, "Right, I got everything the Watchers archives had but I can't be sure how reliable that was, the Athenai may have gotten someone on the inside before it all came apart. Then I thought they've been around a long time,"

        "And I've been around a long time." Angel continued for her.

        "And I thought maybe you might have run into them somewhere along the line." Willow concluded.

        To Willow's relief Angel nodded, "I've come across them a few times, or Angelus did, I've only met them once."

        Willow understood the distinction, "when did you meet them?"

        "Back in the forties," he shook his head, "they offered to lift the curse if I was prepared to help them out first."

        "They were willing to unleash Angelus?" Willow knew the Athenai could be ruthless but not reckless.

        Angel shrugged, "They offered, I don't know whether they could or would have done it."

        "What did they offer Angelus?" Willow wondered.

        Angel looked embarrassed, "Lots of things, and in exchange all he had to do was stir up some trouble, which the Athenai would then come along and fix."

        "Wonderful," Willow muttered.

        "I take you've crossed paths with them as well; if you need some help…" Angel let the offer hang in the air.

        Willow shook her head dismissively, "Nothing that we haven't been able to handle."

        "Then why are you so interested in them?" Angel had already begun to suspect that Willow's interest in the Athenai was other than 'professional'.

        Willow realized that her cover was blown, "LJ's met someone, and they're with the Athenai," she saw the dubious look that attracted, "LJ swears she's a good person, and Tara backs that up."

        "But you're not so sure."

        Willow chewed her lip, then decided the chance to explain herself to someone outside the family was something she couldn't pass up, "It's just that if she is a good person what is she doing with the Athenai?"

        Angel thought that over, "There is another possibility, what if she is a good person and the Athenai figure it out?"

        That wasn't a possibility that Willow had even considered; if Sabrina's first loyalty was to LJ now the Athenai wouldn't take that news well, and she knew what the organization did to people who upset them. If something did happen to Sabrina then what would LJ do? A shiver ran through as a memory rose unbidden; a silent world, a dorm room covered in bloody runes, a summoning for the angel of death to spread its wings and take everyone.

        Angel let Willow brood for a few moments, "Didn't mean to add to your problems."

        Willow mustered a weak smile, "Don't worry about it, I did sort of ask for it." The assurance was even weaker than the smile.



        Tara opened the dishwasher and began to transfer the plates back to the cupboard. The Rosenberg-Maclay family theoretically earned enough to hire someone to tidy up after them but even leaving aside the thorny issues of magic and slaying Tara had never been comfortable with the notion of someone picking up after her, she always felt she was the one who should take care of her home, probably the only legacy her father had left her; though he had never envisaged the sort of home she made for herself. There was also something relaxing about these domestic tasks, their mundanity acting as an antidote to the adrenaline pumping adventure that the rest of her life had become.

        As she finished unloading the dishwasher Tara reached out to turn on the coffee maker. Hanging around a Slayer again had rehoned Tara's sense of danger, which was why she instinctually drew her hand back from the switch without knowing why. An explanation came as what looked like an electric spider erupted from the machine. The thing flickered and wavered on the work surface before leaping towards Tara in a shower of sparks. Tara stretched out her hand and the thing was thrown back. It landed back on the counter; scorching the surface as it did so. It seemed to weaken and fade but one of its 'legs' jammed itself into a socket and it brightened.

        Guessing its next move Tara moved to her left and this time when the thing came at her she sent it flying into the sink. It appeared to have as much trouble crawling out as its organic counterpart and unlike a real spider Tara had no qualms about drowning it. The water hissed and boiled as it struck the thing. Tara waved away the cloud of steam and shook her head at the scratched and scorched stainless steel. She reached out with her mind, dears I think you need to get back; we've had a slight crisis in the kitchen.



2. "Pursued"




Willow chafed at being restricted to the study, even with Tara for company. LJ though had been adamant; she was the one with the superhuman reflexes and the extra strength magic so she was the one who was going to check the house for anymore little surprises. "That young lady is getting too big for her boots." Willow muttered.

        "Just working off some frustration I think honey." Tara commented.

        Willow stopped pacing and frowned, "By frustration you mean…"

        "Frustration." Tara emphasized.

        Willow looked suitably unsettled by Tara's confirmation; who admired the blush that came to Willow's cheeks for a moment before letting her off the hook, "What did Angel have to say?"

        If anything Willow looked more flustered, "He pretty much confirmed what we knew, and that the Athenai will invent a problem if one doesn't exist to get something they want," she hesitated for a moment before describing the rest of the conversation, "he also brought up something else. Baby if something bad happened to Sabrina what do you think LJ would do?" She saw the look that was getting from Tara, "I mean something bad happening because of the Athenai, or something done by the Athenai, what would she do?"

        Tara thought it over; she knew what Willow had in mind, "However badly she was hurt, whatever she might think of doing the two of us would be there to stop her but I don't think we should dwell on that; we should focus on getting the Athenai out of the equation without Sabrina or LJ getting hurt in the process."

        That didn’t make Willow any happier, "So we're going to have to play bodyguard for the Harrington girl, great."

        Tara smiled, "I'm sure LJ will volunteer for that job."

        Willow's tart response was cut off as the study door slid open and LJ appeared, "Ok the coast is clear, looks like you only had the one uninvited guest mom," she looked from Willow to Tara wondering if they were going to tell her what they had been talking about.

        Instead Willow just nodded, "Thank you dear, now perhaps we can figure out where it came from."



        LJ had left the 'crime scene' undisturbed as she checked for any further booby traps. She saw Willow looking unhappily at the damage, "Could have been worse."

        "Yes it could have," Tara agreed, "in fact I'm wondering why it wasn't."

        LJ looked relieved, "Actually I didn't want to offend you mom but the traces this thing left say it wasn’t exactly a major threat."

        "Well thank you dear but that wasn't what I had in mind. It obviously didn't need me to touch the coffee machine to pounce, so why didn't it attack when my back was turned?"

        "Almost as if it wasn't serious about doing any damage." Willow mused.

        "Or it was set up by someone who didn’t know what they were doing." LJ offered as a counterpoint.

        Willow was looking at the socket the coffee machine was plugged into, "Well I know who we can ask about it."

        That got Tara and LJ's full attention, "I didn't pick up anything like that," LJ sounded about equal parts dubious and worried about her failure to spot whatever it was.

        Willow opened a drawer by the coffee machine and produced a business card. Tara took it from her; and suppressed a very bad word as she read it:



Blundell Electronic

Household Electrical

& Electronic Repairs




        "That problem with the fuses last week, this was the company you called in." It had been such a trivial thing really but Willow had insisted on getting the wiring checked.

        Willow looked grim, "And I let the electrician wander around the house checking all the sockets."

        LJ was still dubious, "But why the heck would some contractor plant some magical booby trap in the house? If he didn't like you he could just have padded the bill."

        Willow shrugged, "As I said, I know who we can go ask about it."



        The offices of Blundell Electronic were surprisingly clean and orderly, not the kind of grimy, sinister, place Willow had been anticipating. Everyone was clad in corporate overalls with a first name stenciled over the left breast pocket. Doesn't exactly come across as a den of evil, LJ commented silently.

        Willow didn't respond as she had to agree. Despite wracking her brains she still couldn't imagine any reason for a bunch of contractors to target her family, and a computer search hadn't revealed anything out of place about the company a part from a few minor lawsuits; which didn't make them different from any number of other contractors in San Diego.

        The words 'accident' and 'bad wiring' soon had the owner and the electrician who had worked at the house stood in front of the trio, both looking very worried, "Ladies, I understand you've got a complaint."

        Willow gave the owner, who had Benny B stitched on his uniform, her best stern glare, "We certainly have, in connection with an electrical problem in our kitchen after your technician came and checked the wiring."

        Tara was scanning both men, and although the owner was uneasy there was nothing hostile or guilty about him, the technician though; he's kind of odd.

        Willow looked at the technician, whose name she remembered as Tony without needing to look at his name tag, "You do remember visiting my home don't you?"

        Tony wasn't fazed by the question, "I remember, straight forward check, no problems, just a minor repair on the fuse box."

        Is he telling the truth? Willow sent the silent question to Tara.

        Yes and no, was her less than helpful answer, when he answered you his aura, well it went flat is the only way I can describe it. I think he's telling what he's been made to remember.

        Somebody put him under a spell and used him to plant that thing in our home
, Willow actually felt a little relieved; it made some sense of events that one or other of the individuals or groups that they had crossed swords with had simply taken advantage of the electrician's visit. And I have a shrewd idea who.

        LJ had been quietly plugged into the interplay but now she felt compelled to interrupt, you don't know it was them, and definitely not that it was her. She didn't wait for her parents to respond, instead she turned her attention to Benny and Tony, "Have you had anyone weird hanging around here? Besides us I mean."

        Willow and Tara looked suitably mortified but Tony and Benny looked thoughtful, before Tony finally commented to Benny, "That lawyer creeped me out."

        "What lawyer?" Willow demanded.

        Benny looked uncomfortable, "Some high priced shark from LA, talking about a class action suit, interrogating everyone in the office, then just ran back to Los Angeles and we didn't here another word."

        Willow had a sinking feeling in the pit of her stomach, "I suppose you got the name of his firm?"

        Benny nodded emphatically, "You bet I did, Wolfram and Hart."



        Ross Lambert's home was elegant and refined; filled with the kind of artworks his social circle believed he made his money from. LAPD and the FBI would have offered those associates a quite different view of Lambert; if any of them cared to know that is. The reality the people who drank his champagne and ate his canapés avoided was that Lambert's money came from smuggling. Guns, drugs or people, Lambert arranged their import into California for a substantial 'shipping fee' and often in the same containers.

        Just recently the aura of confidence around Lambert had taken something of a knock when one of his business associates had been caught red handed and happily accepted a deal to inform on his former colleagues. In desperation Lambert had turned to the best legal representation money could buy, the firm of Wolfram and Hart. Lambert had been told that they could work near miracles but even so he couldn't wholly believe that they had engineered the schizophrenia that had rendered the informant useless; nonetheless he hadn't argued when they presented him with their bill.

        It was the tinkling of the bottles on top of the bar that broke Lambert's train of thought. The glasses and the bottles were vibrating as if shaken by a passing train or low flying plane; the house though was far from any tracks or flight paths. As Lambert watched the vibration grew worse and he had uneasy visions of an earthquake but nothing else in the room seemed affected. Lambert walked towards the bar to solve the puzzle but when he was two steps away every glass and bottle shattered. He shielded his eyes, and then lowered them again slowly when the expected shower of glass didn't come. He looked at the bar in blank astonishment; shards of glass were hanging in the air, jagged fragments all pointing in one direction.

        Lambert was still staring when a word popped into his head, loud clear and unmistakable. He was still trying to make sense of that when the shards leapt towards him, which was why he didn't even have time to scream before the ragged glass knives struck home.

Willow: ...I have to tell you....

Tara: No, I understand you have to be with the person you l-love

Willow: I am

Edited by: Sheridan at: 1/23/05 2:23 pm


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 Post subject: RC 2018: 2019-3: Justice Pt II
PostPosted: Sun Jan 23, 2005 3:24 pm 
3. "Return to Sender"




The three witches could have simply teleported straight home but Willow felt like a walk, a chance to clear her head and make some sense of their discoveries, assuming there was any. Neither Tara nor LJ were inclined to argue and the trio strolled along in a puzzled silence. The quiet was finally broken by LJ, "Ok I give up, I admit it, I have no idea what's going on." Neither of her parents responded so LJ plunged on, "Wolfram and Hart run this elaborate scheme to sneak a booby trap into our home and it's totally lame. Plus they weren't exactly subtle about setting it up. Maybe the bad guys really were badder in the old days," she concluded gloomily.

        Willow took pity on her daughter and smiled, "Actually dear I think they're just as bad but this time they just weren't trying too hard."

        "They knew we would deal with that thing in the kitchen, and find out who sent it." Tara added.

        LJ accepted that but still wasn't satisfied, "So it was meant as a message, but what was the message?"

        "Now there you've got me." Willow owned up, "The last time we ran into them was when were searching for Angel."

        Tara was struck by a thought, "Could it be something to do with you going to see him?" Only after the question was out did she realize her blunder.

        "You went to see Angel? LJ sounded suspicious.

        "I just needed to ask him some questions," Willow explained airily and did her best to get back to the matter in hand, "I don't think there's a connection; the way Wolfram and Hart set this up they started before I even got in touch with Angel."

        Tara nodded and looked to LJ, "You haven't run into anything unusual on patrol?"

        "Most every time," LJ pointed out, "but just the usual kind of unusual, maybe we're just causing to much damage, or maybe they've decided they looked like wimps when they backed down before."

        Willow sighed, "We have plenty of maybes but none of them particularly compelling."

        "Well we could always just go ask them." LJ suggested; accompanied by a tensing that suggested she was ready for a fight.

        Willow placed a hand on her shoulder, "I don't think we want to face those sharks without some idea of what they're up to."

        "Which means it's time to go home and do some digging." Tara concluded.

        Clearly outnumbered LJ conceded and relaxed her posture; she would have to wait for the opportunity to work off her frustration.



        At home Willow cautiously turned on the coffee machine. To her relief all that came out of it was fresh coffee. "Is it safe?" Tara called out.

        Willow turned as Tara walked in, "Kind of brimstony, but it's ok."

        "I'll just add a lot of sugar." Tara picked up a cup and looked at Willow, "You know honey you don't seem very keen on the research, I usually have to pry you away from the computer."

        "I don't know, I just can't help thinking that this a distraction, a diversion, keeping us away from something bigger and more important." Willow sounded fretful as she explained.

        "As you said before there are a lot of possibilities, trying to think about all of them will, as we psychiatrists say, make you nuts."

        Willow looked at her askance, "Is that the technical term?"

        "Absolutely." Tara declared positively with a smile, "Seriously honey we need to focus on what we do know; that Wolfram and Hart are up to something and we need to find out what it is."

        Willow sipped her coffee and smiled, "Am I going to be charged for the advice?"

        "I take payment in kind." Tara reassured her.

        Before Willow could ask what kind they were interrupted by the sound of the front door bell.



        LJ didn't quite beat her parents to the door and stayed a few paces back as they opened it to a brightly dressed courier cradling a package, "One of you ladies Professor Rosenberg?"

        Willow eyed the young man suspiciously, "That would be me."

        The courier extended the parcel towards her, "Express delivery professor, made it in under two hours."

        As Willow reached out for the package time stood still for LJ, literally as it happened. It was pure instinct that caused her to invoke the magic to stretch time, an overwhelming sense of wrongness about the package that didn't allow the opportunity for yelling or discussion. She raced past the frozen figures of her parents and snatched the package from the courier, she glanced from Tara to Willow, "Later moms."

        Teleporting with time slowed down was an interesting experience for LJ. It was usually a blink of an eye affair, on this occasion she had the chance to appreciate the very bizarre sensation of the world melting away and then remolding itself into a new shape. The empty field didn't hold LJ's attention; it was just a meadow her class had been dragged to on a biology field trip. Throwing herself away from the package she left it hanging in the air before letting time snap back to normal.

        The Slayer's fears proved well founded as before gravity could haul the box to the ground it crumpled and imploded; leaving a point of darkness that expanded into a miniature tornado, a tornado that ate the daylight as it advanced on LJ. She let fly with a n eye searing bolt of energy and was far from surprised when it simply vanished into the inky surface, ok Slayer now what do we do? She demanded of herself. The twister seemed to absorb whatever it touched and it was snaking towards LJ in a very determined fashion, pity it won't just eat itself. That facetious thought turned into an idea; turn the thing's power back on itself. LJ stood her ground and concentrated. When the tornado was ruffling her hair she threw up a barrier, a wall that wrapped itself around the twister.

        LJ held her breath, it was entirely possible the twister would just pull in the barrier but if she had gotten it right... The twister slammed around inside the barrier and began to oscillate, pulling in tighter and tighter until it was just a wavering black line that suddenly vanished and sent LJ flying backwards as a blast of energy shattered the barrier.

        Climbing to her feet LJ brushed herself down and stared at the scorched spot where the twister had been, "Ok so I think we're past the whole warning shot stage, which is fine by me."



        Willow and Tara had been left bemused by what happened, one moment Willow was reaching out for the package, the next her hands were passing through empty air. If Willow was surprised the courier was practically paralyzed with shock, the printed receipt for the package slid from his fingers and fell on the hallway carpet. Tara stepped forward and picked it up, "Do you need a signature for that?"

        The courier nodded numbly and extended a small tablet towards her. Tara took it and scrawled with a stylus in the marked box. The courier took it back and stuck it in his belt before stumbling back to his van. Tara had been counting on routine to override his shock and was relieved it had worked.

        As the door slammed shut Willow recovered her senses, "What just happened?"

        "Wolfram and Hart tried to kill you, kill all of us." LJ growled as she rematerialized.

        Willow and Tara turned to their daughter; to see her face burning with anger.

        "What was it exactly?" Tara asked carefully.

        "Something vicious, something that woke up the moment you touched that box. It was going to kill you before you could even move." Rage punctuated LJ's every word.

        "You're sure" Willow felt a knot forming in her stomach, she didn't really disbelieve but she had to ask.

        "They want us dead, period." LJ replied flatly.       

        "Assuming they sent it." Tara didn't really have any doubts but she needed an excuse to slow things down, cool them off.

        Willow was thinking along the same lines. She grabbed the dropped receipt, "I can find out where the package came from using this."

        "And when you find out it was them?" LJ demanded.

        "Then dear you can ask them why, in your best Slayer manner." Willow assured her, hoping that she would just ask.



        The office building that housed the law firm of Wolfram and Hart looked rather different from the witch’s previous visit, owing to the scaffolding that had sprouted up the side of the structure and the workmen reconstructing a section of wall on the tenth floor, "Maybe someone didn't think their office was big enough." Willow commented.

        "They're going to need more than a little remodeling after we're done." LJ promised.

        Tara frowned, despite her best efforts she hadn't been able to do much to rein in her daughter's temper. She might have had more luck of course if she wasn't so angry herself. Tara might be doing a better job of maintaining a calm exterior but she was inwardly seething at what the lawyers had done. Still the last thing they needed was to let LJ get wound any tighter than she already was, "Dear try to remember the concept of innocent bystanders."

        LJ frowned, before a nasty smile replaced it, "How about them, do they look like innocent bystanders?"

        Willow looked where LJ was pointing and saw a purposeful quartet advancing on them. She got ready for a fight until Tara's thought popped into her head, honey I think somebody else needs to work off their tension more than you do.       

        Willow looked at LJ, "No they don't dear, just try not to make too much mess."

        LJ made no promises; she just marched up to the approaching group; who hesitated as they saw her grim determination. A blond haired man apparently leading the group decided to stamp his authority on the situation, "I think you should just turn around and teleport out of here miss, anyone trying any witchcraft around here is going to get into serious trouble."

        LJ stared at him, "You know you are so right."

        Some basic survival instinct had the blond man trying to conjure something to defend himself with but LJ dropped down and swept her leg round, buckling the man's knees and pitching him forward on to his face. LJ followed up by rolling forward and springing to her feet. That put her behind the remaining three with her back to them. Slayer reflexes meant they never had a chance to even turn around. The woman on her left had gotten closest to facing her so LJ grabbed her and executed a judo throw that sent the woman crashing into the man on her right; they landed on the pavement in a tangled heap.

        The last of the four tried to back away from LJ, and promptly fell over the blond man who had struggled to his knees. He flapped his arms but tumbled over nonetheless. LJ leant over the blond man, "I hope you appreciate I didn't use any magic to kick your ass," she gave him a shove and he was spared hitting the pavement again by falling onto the stomach of the man who had tripped over him.       

        With the quartet out of action LJ headed for the front door of Wolfram and Hart. Willow and Tara hastened to catch up but Willow dropped a step behind as she saw something flash on the woman's lapel. Without drawing attention from her family Willow dipped down and grabbed it. She took a quick look to confirm what she had thought she saw before stuffing it in a pocket; she wasn't inclined to mention it to her daughter or partner right now, things are bad enough already.



4. "Close Quarters"




The front doors of Wolfram and Hart slid wide open as Willow and Tara approached and they saw LJ standing in an otherwise empty atrium. "It was like this when I got here," she announced defensively.

        "I believe you dear." Tara assured her calmly.

        "They probably remember what happened the last time." Willow added.

        LJ thought about that, "They did sort of wimp out then."

        Footsteps echoing in the empty reception drew the trio's attention and they saw a familiar face, "Mister Grauman, you're still alive?" Willow packed a lot of incredulity into the question and was rewarded by the lawyer going pale.

        "I've been asked to invite you to meet with you, to discuss terms." Form his manner it was clear that he hadn’t exactly volunteered.

        The witches were taken aback, "Terms?"

        "For a ceasefire, assuming you are willing to stop your assaults and talk." Grauman's words were meant to be defiant but they came across as barely contained panic.

        Willow looked at Tara and LJ, if this is another trick it's a good one, because I have no idea what he's talking about.

        Well if they are all willing to get together in one room it will make them much easier to pound on
, LJ suggested.

        Tara couldn't help smiling a little, on the other hand we might get them to talk, find out what's going on, then you can pound them dear.

        Willow was watching the increasingly fretful expression on the lawyer's face, "Alright mister Grauman, we'll discuss, do I need to tell you what will happen if this is a trick?"

        Grauman nodded, "I've seen you're handiwork, I have no desire to wind up as fresh hamburger." That left the family even more baffled but they did their best to conceal it from Grauman.



        The lawyer led the trio into a familiar conference room, this time it was occupied by half a dozen somewhat greyer figures than last time, it was clear the discussion had been kicked to a more senior level; especially as Grauman beat a hasty retreat as soon as he showed them in. A sleekly unpleasant silver haired man sat at the head of the table, "I am Trevor Wellesley ladies, a partner here at Wolfram and Hart."

        "I don't much care who you are," LJ announced dismissively, "I just want to know why you tried to kill my parents before I start taking this place apart."

        Wellesley remained unruffled, "As childish as it sounds you started it."

        That stung Willow "How exactly do you figure that?"

        Wellesley looked at her gravely, "Very well if you insist on this pretence; you noticed the damage to the building. That occurred when something powerful tore a tenth floor office apart and launched one of our associates out of the building."

        "And you think that was us?" Tara was disgusted by the notion.

        "To do such a thing required both power and finesse to evade our magical defenses, the list of potential suspects wasn't a long one. We decided to narrow it further by seeking to provoke a reaction from the culprit."

        "That thing you planted in our kitchen." Willow concluded.

        "Among others," Wellesley agreed, "Interestingly within an hour of the provocation aimed at you being triggered there was another attack on one of our clients. We drew the logical conclusion and responded accordingly."

        The cold-blooded admission left Willow and Tara speechless; LJ had no such problem, "You decided to kill us because we [Iimight[/i] have attacked you? Tell me why I don't just tear you apart right now you son of a bitch."

        "You certainly could do so but even if you kill all of us the firm will go on and we would have absolutely no doubt who our opponent was. We would then devote all our resources against you. Even you might find that too much to handle" Wellesley explained evenly.

        LJ matched him “Maybe it's still an experiment worth trying, and maybe your successor will think twice about screwing with us again."

        Her daughter's choice of language stirred Tara to respond, "Lydia I think you've made your point," she turned her attention to Wellesley, "You have made a terrible mistake here, we had nothing to do with the attacks on you, until now."

        "And of course I should simply accept your word and wait for the next attack." Wellesley didn't bother to hide his sarcasm.

        "And you have an alternative suggestion?" Willow sounded deeply dubious.

        Wellesley shrugged, "You could do what you do well and unmask the real culprit, if you are innocent."

        Willow snorted in disgust, "I knew it, sorry but there's no way we're going to help you."

        Tara added, "If you are looking for a suspect I suggest you look around you, it sounds like an inside job to me."

        Wellesley looked scornful, "We'll take your advice under consideration. Now if there is nothing else?"

        "Just one thing," LJ spoke up, "we might just find out who is going after you; and join up with them, then who’s going to find it too much to handle?" she turned and flounced out of the room.

        Willow and Tara just smiled and followed her through the door.



        Out on the street Tara looked to LJ, "I take it you were just playing with Wellesley, you don't really plan to track down the culprit?"

        LJ shook her head, "No, if it's a big bad I figure we should just let them fight it out. If it's a good guy we could just wind up leading the sharks to them. I just don't see an upside to intervening."

        Since that was her reasoning too Tara nodded but she couldn't help noticing how silent Willow was, or how troubled her aura, "Don't you agree Willow?"

        "Absolutely," Willow answered wearily, "but we're still going to get involved," responding to the puzzled expressions she reached into her pocket and showed them the item she had pulled from the woman. "I took this from one of the goons earlier."

        "You're stealing jewelry now?" LJ asked, before noticing the look of comprehension and concern that crossed Tara's face. She looked again at the brooch Willow was holding, "It's supposed to be an owl right?"

        The teacher in Willow was a little exasperated, "Yes dear, and owls are supposed to be wise, because the goddess Athena had one as a pet."

        Now LJ understood, "Those four were Athenai."

        "I think Wolfram and Hart have brought in some extra help, bodies to put between them and whatever's after them." Willow didn't want to explain this but the consequences if she didn't; well LJ had been on the brink of tearing the lawyers apart before and her talk with Angel kept nagging at Willow.

        LJ took the owl from Willow, "Ok, you're right I've changed my mind I can't stay out of this," she looked at her parents, "sorry but I can't." Not until I know she's safe.



        Willow kicked off her shoes and swung her legs up on the sofa, this had been a very long day and it was far from over. She was still thinking that over when she felt fingers stroking her neck, working out the knots. She sighed, "Thank you baby."

        Tara added a small kiss to the massage, "You definitely needed it," she carried on rubbing for a moment before going, "though you're handling this pretty well, and I don't mean Wolfram and Hart."

        Willow sighed, partly pleasure and partly a release of tension, "Wasn't really much of a choice, I couldn't exactly tell LJ we don't go throwing ourselves in harms way just to protect girlfriends. She would have stormed out as soon as she stopped laughing."

        "So you accept Sabrina as LJ's girlfriend?" Tara wondered, letting her fingers wander across Willow's shoulders.

        Willow hedged, "I accept that you and LJ are right, she's a good person. I'm just not so sure she's good for LJ. As long as our daughter thinks differently though; well we just have to deal with the situation."

        Tara decided that was as much as Willow could give at the moment, perhaps when she got to know Sabrina better things would improve; or maybe not. She decided to change the subject, "So how do we look into this without going back to Wolfram and Hart? If it's an inside job we won't get very far, and if it isn't we still can't trust anything they tell us."

        Willow thought about, trying to ignore the distracting way Tara's fingers were working their way over her skin, "They said something about an attack on a client, and even Wolfram and Hart have to file reports with the police when bodies get thrown out of a tenth floor window."

        "I bet they do." Tara agreed, "Do you want to go do some checking?"

        Willow shook her head and began to unbutton her blouse, "Actually I think I need about another ten minutes here, and then it's your turn."



        Phoebe resisted the temptation to bang her head against the table, "They just walked away, and they know we're involved?"

        Nigel replied carefully, "Unless Professor Rosenberg is a kleptomaniac then the answer is yes; she recognized the significance of the emblem."

        "Of course and given their propensity for interfering in our business we can assume they will be nosing around." Phoebe couldn't help clenching her fists.

        Nigel had his own theories about why the Slayer and her family seemed to be drawn to the Athenai but he knew Phoebe wasn't interested in 'speculation', "It's just one more reason to distance ourselves from our current associates."

        Phoebe was dismissive, "And tell them what? That we're afraid of three witches?"

        Well yes actually, again Nigel didn't articulate his true thoughts, "What is your solution?"

        "A maximum effort, utilizing all our resources." Phoebe stated with finality.

        "All our resources?" Nigel had a sinking feeling.

        "All of them," Phoebe stated firmly, "I will not see the Athenai humiliated again."

        You better close your eyes then, Nigel concluded silently.

Willow: ...I have to tell you....

Tara: No, I understand you have to be with the person you l-love

Willow: I am



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 Post subject: RC 2018: 2019-3: Justice Pt III
PostPosted: Sun Jan 23, 2005 3:27 pm 
5. "Drawn"




When Willow and Tara finally finished their 'relaxation' it didn't take long to track down a report on the fate of the late mister Lambert, and the identity of his former law firm. The report was so fresh in fact that when the trio arrived at the beachfront property there were still police personnel milling around checking the site and sealing it off.

        "We could just persuade them that we belong here." LJ suggested.

        "I don't want to become to dependent on the familiarity glamour, and its less reliable than the concealment glamour." That last was certainly true but Willow mostly wanted to discourage her daughter from using that particular piece of magic, it had too many enticements to abuse.

        Tara went along with Willow’s view, "And it's a little busy for concealment, so I guess we just wait for things to quiet down."

        They found a quiet spot to wait and when her parents seemed content to settle into a comfortable silence LJ felt compelled to break, "I just wanted to say thanks, you know for going along with me on this."

        Willow looked embarrassed, "Well dear we knew you weren't going to listen if we said no, so it's not really that generous, we're just keeping an eye on you."

        Under other circumstances that admission might have annoyed LJ, right now it seemed warm and sweet; not that she was going to admit it, "Well the main thing is your here." she insisted gruffly.

        "Of course dear." Tara conceded cheerfully with a smile that had LJ intently studying a nearby patch of grass.

        Fortunately for LJ she didn't have to squirm for long as the last of the police presence packed up and departed without leaving anything in the way of security behind them; apparently they weren't making Lambert's death a high priority. Given what Willow had found out about Lambert LJ couldn't really blame them, he made most of the demons she had fought look cuddly by comparison.

        As they made their way towards the house Willow let her daughter take point while she hung back with Tara. She turned to have a word with her partner and saw a pained expression on Tara’s face, "What's wrong baby?"

        "There’s an aura or something like one and it's hurting my eyes, it's like a strobe light." Tara explained, turning away from the house.

        Willow put an arm around her, "Is the thing still there?"

        Tara shook her head gingerly, "I don’t think so the image is static; it's just an imprint, the sheer power of the attack marked the place."

        LJ had come back to join her parents, "You can't block it out?" she asked worriedly.

        "Not so far." Tara looked unsteady as she spoke.

        "Alright you're going home." Willow stated firmly.

        Tara shook her head, "I was ok back down the hill, I'll go there and try to block this out. You two go check out the house, I'll join you if I can."

        "If you're sure." LJ conceded reluctantly.

        Tara waved her daughter and partner away, "I'm sure, I'll join you soon."

        Reluctantly Willow and LJ walked away. Willow looked towards the house, which now seemed gloomy and forbidding despite the bright sunshine.



        Once they made their way into the house LJ wished they had stayed with Tara. The phrase blood soaked was barely adequate for the living room of the late mister Lambert. There were sprays of blood over the walls, the furniture, and the smashed and battered looking bar. LJ had a powerful desire to levitate as there didn't seem to be blood free patch of carpet to stand on.

        Willow felt a little queasy as well but she found an escape in analyzing the situation, "The police must have gone crazy trying to figure this place out, no footprints, no voids."

        "Voids?" LJ found her curiosity engaged despite herself.

        "When blood starts flying around there are sort of shadows, spots where people were standing that leave gaps in the pattern." Willow explained.

        "So no footprints, no voids, means no one else was here, guess the police would go kind of nuts," LJ thought for a moment before adding, "if they really care who killed Lambert."

        Willow knew that was true but, "They may not but Wolfram and Hart do, and they won't have any problems figuring out a solution; that someone with a lot of magic reached in here and tore Lambert to shreds. Someone incredibly powerful."

        LJ realized that Willow was looking straight at her, "I just can't believe they really think I could do something like this, that I could kill someone so coldly, so brutally, that any of us could do that."

Willow was glad LJ was too distracted by her own thoughts to see the momentary look of discomfort that crossed her face. It had just occurred to Willow that the lawyers might have dug into the past and found out about some of the things she did under the influence of the Fire; and that might make LJ a much more believable suspect.

        She was spared getting into that discussion by a knocking on the glass door that led out to the beach; when Willow saw who it was she almost wished she could have the conversation instead.

        LJ's reaction was the direct opposite, "Sabrina!"

        The dark haired witch opened the door and fixed LJ with her most dazzling smile, which rapidly faded as she saw the state of the room and the stern expression on Willow's face, "You're not going to try and pummel me again are you?"

        "No," Willow assured her unconvincingly, "not right now."

        "Not at all." LJ stated emphatically. She had resisted the urge to throw her arms around Sabrina to avoid antagonizing her mother but it only went so far.

        Willow remained somewhat tetchy, "Alright not all," she looked at Sabrina trying to divorce the girl before her from the Athenai and future encounters. Sabrina was attractive, with a look in her eyes that the well disposed might call 'lively' and the less well-disposed 'wild'. Sabrina also had a well put together figure but was showing rather too much of it in a short skirt and a tight t-shirt for Willow's taste, though I don't think LJ would agree.

        LJ was indeed appreciating Sabrina's legs and other assets, she did manage however to remember the business at hand, "I guess I know why you're here, we know the Athenai are working for Wolfram and Hart."

        Sabrina smiled broadly, "Yes they are but I'm here strictly to see you. Could we go have a word in private?"

        LJ could practically see the no forming on her mother's lips; LJ got in first, "Mom why don't you carry on looking around here while we go out front and talk."

        Willow had enough common sense to abandon her objection, "Fine, I shouldn't be too long here."

        LJ hastily shuffled Sabrina towards the door; she guessed she had ten minutes, tops.



        The instant the front door closed behind them Sabrina grabbed LJ and pressed her against the wall, kissing her hard, "I owed you that for the island." Sabrina panted when she broke off.

        LJ gulped down a breath, "If I remember right I claimed that one because I won our competition."

        Sabrina looked thoughtful, "You're right but you can claim it back tonight."

        "Tonight?"

        "If you agree to go on a date with me." Sabrina explained while running her fingers through LJ's hair.

        LJ was puzzled, "Weren't you in the dog house with the Athenai?"

        "Yes."

        "And you only just got loose again?"

        "Yes."

        "So don't you think going on a date with me your first night is sort of pushing your luck?"

        Sabrina laughed, "Not when it was their idea in the first place."

        LJ frowned, "Ok you're going to have to explain that before I have to kick your ass again."

        "Well if you spanked it that might be fun," Sabrina sounded thoughtful, "but getting it kicked would just be painful so I'll explain."

        There was a small wall next to the house and LJ parked herself on it next to Sabrina, "Alright, explain away."

        "Basically the higher ups in the Athenai figured that it might be a case of like mother like daughter and that the best way to get information out of you would be to sic some femme fatale on you and seduce you into cooperation."

        LJ looked askance, "And you volunteered?"

        "I was hand picked actually." Sabrina corrected her.

        "So you were supposed to track me down, flutter your eyelashes at me and get me to talk." L was finding this turn of events a little mind boggling.

        "More like suggest that if you agree to meet me I might be willing to tell you something useful; then try and get what I can out of you. Of course if we just end up flirting, dancing and smooching that's hardly my fault is it?" Sabrina sounded very pleased with herself.

        LJ found the feeling was infectious, "So you have somewhere in mind; someplace nice, I don't sell out cheap you know."

        Sabrina produced a little brightly printed card from her pocket, "Here, about eight?"

        "Eight sounds good to me," LJ agreed, "but there's nothing stopping you getting on with the seducing right now." LJ slid an arm around Sabrina and she willingly let the Slayer pull her close.

        The pair were so involved with each other that they didn't hear the footfalls on the steps, until a polite cough had them springing apart. Tara couldn't keep a smile off her face, "Hello dear, I'm feeling much better now, and so are you apparently."



6. "Dancing Around"




Sabrina sprang up off the wall like she had been given an electric shock. Tara wasn't hostile like Willow but the unnerving way she seemed to look right into Sabrina's soul made the girl every bit as uneasy, "Hi doctor Maclay, we were just talking."

        "About going on a date tonight." LJ added, to Sabrina's astonishment. LJ looked at her, "Sorry but trying to be evasive with her is pretty futile, she can tell what you're feeling."

        "Oh, right." Was all the response Sabrina could muster.

        LJ decided to get her off the hook, "You should probably go; I'll see you later."

        Sabrina took the hint, "Ok, eight o'clock."

        "Eight o'clock." LJ repeated reassuringly.

        Tara waited until Sabrina was safely out of earshot, "Are you sure that's a good idea?"

        "I was worried too but it's ok." LJ laid out the situation for Tara.

        At the end of it Tara was still concerned, "I'm sorry dear it still seems risky to me."

        That irritated LJ, "You think she's actually trying to pump me for information? Come on mom I thought you believed in Sabrina, that you were on our side."

        Tara shook her head in a long suffering manner, "Lydia Joyce I thought you were smarter than this; I'm not worried about Sabrina, I'm worried for her."

        That grabbed LJ's attention, "What do you mean?"

        "I mean that it's a huge stroke of luck that they send Sabrina to do the one thing she wants to do anyway. Unless of course they have doubts about her and suspicions about the two of you, in which case its not you the Athenai is checking out." Tara watched the dawning comprehension on LJ's face; she might have been letting her hormones get the better of her earlier she was stone cold sober now.

        "She's probably used that talisman thing to zap herself back to Athenai home base by now, and if I try to contact her there they might pick up on it," LJ mused, "I suppose I could just not show tonight; that would put them off."

        "But you don't want to do that." Tara surmised.

        "But I don't want to do that," LJ agreed, "If I do go then at least I can warn her."

        "And still get to enjoy the pleasure of her company." Tara observed wryly.

        LJ didn't bother to deny it, "It's our first date, and I’m not canceling just because of the Athenai."

        Tara nodded, "Well that's one obstacle I'm sure you can deal with, now all you have to do is tell Willow."

        LJ visibly flinched, then shot Tara a desperate look, "Can I stand behind you while I do it? That way she can't zap me with out hitting you."



        Willow clomped around the bedroom aware that Tara was watching her and that her behaviour was less than dignified but as far as she was concerned she was being severely put upon. Getting used to Sabrina and LJ should be like a diver ascending from the depths; you come up in small steps and adapt to the change in pressure before rising further. Willow felt like she had gone whooshing up to the surface without a chance to catch her breath. The pair seemed to be charging forwards at breakneck speed and she certainly didn't approve of tonight's plan; especially with her partner's suspicions about the Athenai's motives. "We could just go along quietly, keep an eye out, for the Athenai."

        "I did think of that but the risk of matricide makes it impractical." Tara pointed out.

        "There is that," Willow agreed, "but what if the Athenai are planning something more than just a loyalty test?"

        Tara was unmoved, "LJ can handle anything they can up with."

        Willow arched an eyebrow, "Maybe that's what worries me."

        "Sorry but I still think it's a very bad idea."

        In truth Willow agreed with her partner, she just needed to vent, "Oh well, at least LJ didn't argue about her outfit, nothing to short with the skirt, nothing plunging at all with the top."

        Tara suddenly looked worried, "Ah."

        Willow could feel her last hope draining away, "Where is she?"

        "She did say something about going to the mall when she went out." Tara hadn't thought to ask why when her daughter left, now she had a shrewd suspicion what her daughter was shopping for, "Look on the bright side honey we'll get to see it before she leaves."

        "You better believe it." Willow replied resolutely.



        LJ could see the appalled expression on Willow's face and took a certain satisfaction in it. It wasn't that she wanted to upset her mother; it was just that her reaction told LJ she had achieved the effect she was going for. She had obeyed Willow's instructions; the outfit was pale blue with a long skirt, which granted had a slit in it but not a huge one. The top had full-length sleeves and a simple round neck. The only slight problem her mother might have with it was that the top stopped just below the bust line and the skirt didn't start until her waist.

        In truth Willow wasn't quite as taken aback as she appeared. The outfit fell far short of her worst imaginings but she wasn't about to let LJ know that, "Are you sure that's really a suitable choice dear? I mean you can't even carry a weapon."

        "I'll take a purse." LJ responded sardonically.

        "A baseball bat might be more useful," Tara observed, "that is going to get you attention from more than just your intended target."

        That did raise a small blush from LJ, "I'm sure I can deal with it."

        Willow shook her head, "Alright go, just try to be careful." LJ and Tara looked at her askance, well I can hope can't I?



        At the door of the club LJ had expected to encounter some trouble getting in, she was used to having to flash ID before on getting past the bouncers. This time she was waved through without hesitation by a doorman whose attention wasn’t on her face. The inside was laid out in an oval shape, the front half had booths with tables wrapped around the walls and a circular bar in the middle. The back half was a dance floor, currently only sparsely populated.

        LJ stopped inside the entrance and scanned the crowd, until her gaze settled on a girl with long dark hair and a short black dress sitting on a stool at the bar. As LJ watched her Sabrina seemed to sense it and turned; a broad smile forming on her face before she hopped off the stool and strode towards LJ. LJ's instinct was to meet her halfway but she maintained a cool expression and held her ground. That began to wipe the smile off Sabrina's face and her pace slowed. LJ reached out telepathically, I'm sorry but my moms came up with a way to spoil the moment. She quickly filled Sabrina in on Tara's theory.

        As she finished LJ walked over to Sabrina, do you think my mom is right?

        Sabrina did her best to maintain a calm demeanor; yeah it could be true, especially as they decided to give me some 'bodyguards'.

        Two guys and a girl, I picked them out as soon as I walked in
. LJ observed.

        So what are we going to do? Sabrina's thought was anxious.

        Well I didn't get all dressed up just to turn around and go home. "So you've got me here, what exactly do you want?" LJ did her best to sound cool.

        From the sparkle in LJ's eyes Sabrina knew the Slayer was playing to the audience, and she was ready to do the same, "Well right now I think I want to buy you a drink, then we’ll see what we can find to talk about."

        LJ nodded and added silently, you look great by the way.

        You're not so bad yourself
, Sabrina wasn't nearly so used to the intimate connection of telepathy but it came easily with LJ.

        I don't think my moms agree. LJ observed wryly.

        Not a problem I have, Sabrina's response was cheery but LJ picked up something behind it, something wistful and sad.

        Since Sabrina had easily gotten the bartenders attention and a couple of fruit juices LJ decided it wasn't a good time to bring it up. LJ gestured towards an empty booth and the pair slid into seats that placed them opposite each other but still in close proximity. LJ laid her hands on the table, "So do you want to start or shall I?"

        Sabrina reached out and let her fingers rest on LJ's, "I'm prepared to let you lead."

        "How much do you actually know about Wolfram and Hart?" LJ asked.

        Sabrina was taken aback; she had expected LJ to play to their audience by asking some pointed questions about the Athenai. Seeing that the Slayer was serious she responded, "Lawyers, specialize in a clientele with magical and supernatural connections.

        LJ shook her head, "They specialize in corruption and plain old fashioned old evil; the senior partners are something unspeakable from the worst corner of the demon dimensions."

        Sabrina could tell that LJ was being deadly serious but she had to give the sort of answer Phoebe would be expecting, "Is that why you're after them?

        "It's not us who’s attacking them. Whatever is it's powerful and mean and if you get in the middle of this it's going to roll right over you, and Wolfram and Hart probably already know that." To listening ears LJ's 'you' just meant the Athenai, Sabrina knew it was far more personal.

        Silently Sabrina reassured her, I'm not planning on getting caught in the middle of anything.

        No one ever does
, LJ retorted, but it happens.

        It was Sabrina's turn to sense something behind the thought; something apocalyptic. She decided to distract LJ, "So Slayer I've listened to what you had to say about the lawyers, what were you planning to offer me to talk about the Athenai?" Sabrina put a coquettish purr into question.

        "That hardly seems fair, I didn't ask for anything for my information." LJ pointed out.

        Sabrina raised her glass and clinked the ice, "I bought the drinks."

        LJ leaned back in her seat, "So what did you have in mind?"

        "Dance with me," Sabrina breathed.

        LJ continued to look cool, "Don't we need a slow number for that?"

        Sabrina had been hoping for that very question; she waved in the direction of the booth where the music was being controlled and suddenly the hammering dance beat was replaced by something altogether more sedate. Sabrina held her hand out to LJ, "Shall we?"

        Out on the dance floor Sabrina slid her hands around LJ's waist, and silently asked, what do you need to know?

        Basically whatever the lawyers have passed to the Athenai
.

        Sabrina had no problem with that, especially as LJ allowed herself to be drawn closer, they did think it was some sort of inside job at first, they even had a couple of Athenai double checking but they're pretty sure it's someone whose got it in for them.

        Which would be a long list
, LJ observed, but not many with that kind of power.

        And that's what's got the lawyers freaking out, they don't know who or why, or how to stop it
, Sabrina offered up. She realized they had been silent for a little too long, "This isn't bad Slayer, not enough to make me sell out though."

        LJ took the hint, "What more do you want?"

        "Well as it happens I thought we could discuss things further, at my hotel room." I really do have one, and if you want... She let the thought trail off.

        LJ was distinctly tempted but one thing held her back, I'd like to sweetheart but I really don't want an audience for my first time. Only when she finished did LJ realize what she had admitted to.

        Sabrina managed to keep her face straight; just. She skipped right past the stupid questions, you're right if their suspicious they probably will be watching my room. So what do we do?

        LJ had an easy answer for that we dance.

Willow: ...I have to tell you....

Tara: No, I understand you have to be with the person you l-love

Willow: I am



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 Post subject: RC 2018: 2019-3: Justice Pt IV
PostPosted: Sun Jan 23, 2005 3:29 pm 
7. "Containment"




Willow tried to be surreptitious about checking the clock and Tara was going along with the fiction but Willow knew she was as transparent as glass. The digits flipped over to eleven and Willow remained stoic, I am not going to be the one to suggest we call her, I, am, not.

        Willow's diminishing patience hadn’t quite expired when LJ materialized in the middle of the living room two minutes later; looking very pleased with herself, "Hey moms."

        Willow hadn't really expected LJ to be surprised they were waiting, she had expected her daughter to pay them some attention, not stand there looking dazed, "Did you have a good evening dear?"

        LJ looked at Willow with a very silly grin on her face, "It was great." The look that got from Willow jolted LJ back into some semblance of normality, "We talked, we danced, Sabrina dances really well, it was a good night."

        As much as Willow had her doubts about Sabrina Harrington she couldn't deny that Tara had been right; the girl did have the power to make LJ happy, "I'm glad dear," she announced, and meant it.

        That left LJ a little embarrassed, which she covered by turning to Tara, "The only thing that stopped it being perfect was that you were right, it looks as if the Athenai had their suspicions about Sabrina."

        "And did you find a way to allay those suspicions?" Tara's question had a distinctly amused undertone.

        "Well I doubt they think I hate her exactly but they’re probably pretty confused right about now." LJ's smile was getting broader again.

        Willow decided it was quite wide enough, "Did Sabrina give you any insights into what Wolfram and Hart are up to?"

        LJ's smile slipped a little and she sat down on the sofa, "They really did think it was someone on the inside at first, they brought in the Athenai to spy and snoop. Now they're sure it's someone with a grudge against the lawyers and they've got the Athenai running security and doing some checking on, well people like us."

        "Which isn't exactly a safe course of action." Willow concluded, it was obvious why LJ was looking so concerned.

        "And I did my best to make that clear, to Sabrina and anyone else who was listening, not that I think they'll pay any attention." LJ sounded grim.

        Tara adopted her best reassuring tone, "They may not but I'm certain Sabrina listened to every word you said."



        "The Slayer was pretty clear, our new friends have their head office in some corner of hell." Sabrina wasn't pulling any punches.

        Phoebe remained unmoved by her vehemence, "I hardly think Miss Maclay is an impartial source, and I don't believe she has our best interests at heart."

        "Perhaps she's prepared to make an exception for certain Athenai." Nigel suggested archly.

        He was taken aback by Sabrina's reaction, "Why don't you just stop with the insinuations Nigel? You think I have the hots for the Slayer. Well guess what? I'm gay, she's gay, and yeah she is hot. So what? I bet the watchdogs you had on me tonight couldn't take their eyes off us."

        In truth Nigel had gotten extremely detailed reports from the Athenai set to observe Sabrina's behaviour, which he now didn't see anyway to raise, "I simply have concerns..."

        Again Sabrina cut him off, "You sent me after the Slayer because of my sexuality, don't criticize me for using it."

        Phoebe decided she had listened to enough, "We have no time for this, we have to maintain a united front."

        Both Nigel and Sabrina knew that meant shutting up and letting Phoebe do the talking. Nigel looked as though he had bit into a lemon but Sabrina was happy enough to comply this time. If Nigel thought he could prove Sabrina was siding with the Slayer he wouldn't have been shut up so easily, and her upfront defence had undermined his stream of insinuation and innuendo. Overall Sabrina felt good about her evening; LJ clearly planned on there being a second date and Nigel was on the back foot for now.

        Even the sight of a group of Wolfram and Hart lawyers seated at a conference table and looking stern didn't dent Sabrina’s mood. LJ had been concerned about the lawyers but Sabrina suspected they were somewhat scared of the Slayer and she drew confidence from that. The Athenai seated themselves with Phoebe in the middle before Wellesley spoke, "It's very late so I won't beat about the bush, what progress have you made?"

        "We made contact with the Slayer, she continues to deny any involvement but even if that is true she's certainly involved herself in the situation. Either way I believe we can find out everything she does."

        Fat chance, was Sabrina's unspoken comment on Phoebe's assurances.

        Wellesley wasn't any more impressed, "I'm expecting rather more from you than simply sniffing around the Slayer."

        "And we're doing more, we have..." Phoebe's response was cut short by a faint beeping from the other side of the table.

        One of the lawyers hastily fished an electronic car key from his pocket, "I'll be back in a moment," he announced before hastily leaving the conference room.

        Wellesley looked after the man disapprovingly but it didn't distract him from pressing Phoebe, "We need a name, a means of defence, an end to this, it's very bad for business and the senior partners are far from pleased."

        Sabrina saw Phoebe go a little pale, apparently she was already aware of the nature of the lawyers bosses, or maybe masters was a better word. Phoebe was still framing a response when another noise interrupted her, and there was nothing faint about the agonized scream that came from somewhere outside.

        The conference room emptied out almost by instinct and lawyers and witches alike poured into the car park. It was full of tastefully expensive automobiles; and one cube of compressed metal and plastic leaking fluids all over the concrete. It wasn't until a trickle ran into the illumination of a security light that anyone could see the liquid was red, blood red.

        Wellesley turned to the Athenai, his usual self control was gone and Sabrina and the others got a glimpse of his true face, "This stops now, regardless of who or how, it will be stopped now."



        Willow was studying a scrying ritual in one of the older and more fragile volumes of magic she had accumulated before carrying on. She turned the pages carefully and slowly, searching for a spell that she missed in the previous six volumes she had gone through. The underlying problem with most of the spells was that they needed a focus, some part of what they were looking for, or at least some clear image to focus on. Those she had found that didn't involved invoking things that Willow felt would be better left uninvoked, besides if they would work Wolfram and Hart would already have done it.

        Resisting the temptation to slam it shut Willow closed the book and put it to one side. "Still nothing."

        Tara had taken a separate stack of books and nodded at Willow's comment, "I think we need more information about what we're dealing with before we try and track it down."

        LJ had changed into a pair of pyjamas and was sat on the sofa flicking through various demonic types on her tablet, "Which we can't get, even those lowlife lawyers don't have a clue."

        Tara had been thinking over an idea, she knew it wasn't going to go over well but it was the only thing she had come up with, "There is the imprint at the beach house, if I could read that then we might have something to work on."

        LJ jumped in with a reply first, "Mom you couldn't even go near the house until you screened it out, if you go inside; I just think it would be a lousy idea."

        Willow had been trying to come up with a more cogent reason to reject the idea but couldn't think of anything better than her daughter, "It could hurt you baby, and there's no guarantee it'll give us anything useful."

        "Which is why I didn't mention it earlier but if I have someone there to anchor me, and teleport me out if things get too bad then I think we have to try." Tara didn't sound wholly convinced by her own argument.

        Willow was in an awkward and unnatural position; totally disagreeing with Tara, "No, it could be too late by then, I just don't think the rewards justify the risk."

        With LJ nodding along with Willow's statement that would probably have been the end of the matter, if the doorbell hadn't rung. Willow rose from her chair, "Whose that at this time of night?" she was practically knocked down as LJ jumped up and raced past her.

        "I think I can guess who it might be honey." Tara had seen the expression on LJ's face before she leapt from the sofa.

        Even with Tara's oblique warning Willow's heart sank as the door opened to reveal Sabrina Harrington, it didn't help that the young woman hadn't changed from her night out at the club. LJ practically dragged her through the door, "What are you doing here? This is a great way to undo everything we tried to do tonight."

        "That's not important, you're in trouble," she became aware that Willow and Tara were staring at her, "You all are."

        As Sabrina hastily recounted events at the meeting with Wolfram and Hart the trio listened grimly, Willow couldn't work up a lot of sympathy for the deceased lawyer but the aftermath worried her deeply, "Any idea exactly what their going to do?"

        Sabrina shook her head, "Just that it's going to be a major move. I figure you've got a day or two at most while they put it together."

        "They'll go after everyone on their suspect list," LJ concluded, "maybe we can hold them off but we don't even know who the others are."

        "I can think of one name on the list, Angel." Tara suggested.

        "Which means Buffy as well, maybe even both Buffy's." Willow added.

        Sabrina bit back the obvious question. Her confusion pulled LJ's attention back to her, "Look sweetheart," she realized what she had said but pressed on, "Maybe you should stay here, you could stay in the spare room," she heard Willow mutter something, "what mom?"

        "I believe she was saying something about history repeating itself dear." Tara was smiling despite the situation, it wasn't as if they could lock LJ in her room and at some point in the night she would go to 'talk' to Sabrina; after that it really would be the past repeating itself.

        To Willow and Tara's surprise it was Sabrina who vetoed the idea, "If I go missing it won't take long for them to figure out where I am, then you'll go straight back to the top of the suspect list; you'll be lucky if you get an hour let alone a day. If I sneak back then you have time, which is the whole point of me coming here," she sounded unhappy but firm.

        Willow was equally unhappy but felt she had to say something, "Going could be dangerous for you."

        "I'm pretty good at sneaking around, I'll be fine." There was more than a touch of bravado in Sabrina's reply.

        "Well a little insurance wouldn't hurt." Tara decided, and gestured towards Sabrina. A ghostly flicker of light touched the girl.

        Sabrina frowned, "What was that?"

        "A tracking spell," Willow explained, "so we can find you if we need to." The way she said it wasn't wholly reassuring.

        Sabrina though chose to see it in a positive light, "Ok, that's cool, a little back up is good." She looked at LJ, "I really should go now."

        Tara put her hand on Willow's shoulder, "Come on honey there's something we have to do in the kitchen."

        "What exactly?" Willow wondered.

        I'll think of something when we get there, Tara explained.

        Left alone LJ walked over to the front door with Sabrina, whose gaze was fixed on her, "You know if you really want to protect me you could come with, we could have a pyjama party."

        LJ arched an eyebrow, "Do you even own pyjamas?"

        "No but in principle..." LJ silenced her with a kiss.

        "Let's keep that as a surprise for another night," she murmured.



        In the kitchen Willow was leaning against the counter and trying not to look like she was listening for any sound from the living room. Tara was making coffee and commented over her shoulder, "I don't think you need to listen so hard dear, if she takes after a certain parent we could hear a mile away if they were up to anything."

        Willow blushed a little, "I am not that loud."

        "Of course you're not honey." Tara agreed unconvincingly.

        Willow knew she wasn't going to win this one so she decided to turn to the other topic they had to talk about, "So what are we going to do about the news Sabrina brought us?"

        Tara shrugged fatalistically, "We go with the one idea we have, which means you and I are going to head back to that house in the morning."

        Again Willow knew she was facing a losing argument, all she could do was nod and try to figure out a way to make this less fraught with risk, and keep the bad guys off their back long enough to finish it.



8. "Black and White"




LJ slipped her jacket on and checked the inside pockets; the knife was tucked in its sheath and the telescopic baton was safely locked. The latter was supposed to be for law enforcement only but Elias Carter knew some people who could lay their hands on one and had thought it might come in handy. Looking to her parents she couldn't help feeling they weren't nearly as prepared for their part of this scheme as she was. "You know I've got plenty of spare weapons, just in case."

        Willow shook her head, "Not going to a weapons sort of situation dear," at least I hope not.

        "Frankly dear she's more likely to use it to hold me hostage here." Tara wasn't entirely joking, she knew Willow was far from convinced by this scheme.

        LJ also knew that, and decided not to dwell on it, "Ok then, just give me fifteen minutes to get their full attention and then you go in; and you yell loud and clear if anything goes wrong."

        "You won't even need telepathy." Willow promised.

        LJ believed that and teleported out with a firm nod of agreement.



        After she was gone Tara released the comment she had bitten back moments before, "Something is bound to go wrong with this, it's a matter of fixing it when it does."

        Willow squared her shoulders, "So lets do this before I decide to sit on you and put a stop to it right here and now."

        The house looked no different from a distance than the last time they had visited it. The police tape was still intact and no one seemed inclined to go into the charnel house, except a couple of crazy witches, Tara reminded herself. They had returned to the same spot so Tara could screen out the effects of the imprint, she wasn't going to expose herself to the effect of the thing until they were inside.

        The walk up the hill seemed interminable to Willow, even at this last moment she was trying to come up with some better scheme. Since none occurred to her by the time they reached the front door she opened it and let Tara lead the way inside.

        Tara had been hoping that the extra days would weaken the imprint enough to make it manageable, the sudden 'brightness' of it dispelled that hope, or perhaps this was it weakened. It didn't really matter; she had made her plan and she was going to see it through, "It's still here, I'll try and let in bit by bit."

        "Uhuh." Willow couldn't avoid sounding dubious.

        Tara stroked her face and kissed her gently, "Trust me, this thing isn't stronger than us, I'll find out what it is, and what it wants."

        Almost against her will the resolution in Tara's voice made Willow feel more positive, "Damn straight," she affirmed and squeezed Tara's hand.

        Tara returned the grip and slowly released the barrier she had raised, it was like trying to gently let in a tidal wave. The imprint was demanding, insistent, and Tara suddenly understood why, it wasn't simply an echo of something that had passed through here; it was a message. As the realization formed the imprint washed over her, determined that this time it would be heard.

        Willow felt Tara's hand slipping out of hers and reached out telepathically. She was shocked to feel Tara push the connection away before she slid into unconsciousness. Willow moved quickly to support her and lower her onto the nearby sofa. Willow had been confused by Tara rebuffing her and she could only think of one good reason, Tara thought she had found something and had to pursue it, I just hope it's worth it baby.



        Tara could still see the room she had been standing in but the absence of Willow or any sign of the violence that scarred the place told her it was nothing more than a vision, "Ok I'm listening to you, what do you have to say?"

        The room dimmed and a swirl of colour washed over the furniture. Tara recognized the pattern of it, disappointment, "You're disappointed, with what?" Tara was talking to herself rather the intruder in her mind, and after a few moments of muttering she had an idea, "Disappointed because I'm not the one this message is for," from that it didn't take a lot to guess who it had been intended for, "Wolfram and Hart, you expected them to listen. Sorry but I think you're out of luck, you'll have to make do with me."

        There was no apparent response, until the glass door leading to the beach slid open. Tara didn't hesitate, she walked over and stepped through. Instead of walking on the sand she found herself in a dimly lit chamber. She was stood at one end and there was a horseshoe shaped table carved out of solid rock at the other with what she decided were chairs arrayed behind it; though what could have sat on them Tara didn't like to imagine. Again Tara pondered out loud, uncomfortably aware that this was all in her head, "Not a boardroom," she noticed that all the chairs were oriented on the spot she was she was standing, "A tribunal?" That brought a pale positive flicker of aura, "More than that, a court room."

        That produced a very bright positive response, which concentrated itself around a chair on the right hand side, "You were part of it but who were the others?" Tara had a sudden wild notion as she said it, "The senior partners, I mean their involved in the law."

        The response was ambivalent, not exactly saying she was wrong but not agreeing, "The others, they are the senior partners of Wolfram and Hart?" That drew a more positive response, "This was before that though wasn't it?" A very positive response.

        Tara chewed that over, "Ok so something changed, they changed, got above themselves maybe, enjoyed the power too much." That didn't require a huge leap of imagination for anyone familiar with Wolfram and Hart.

        The imprint seemed satisfied with her conclusion and the chamber cracked apart, the roof and walls disappeared and fissures ran across the floor, reducing it to a patchwork of stone slabs separated by rivulets of lava. Looking around Tara saw this crazy paving stretching out to the horizon; it made the chamber look cozy by comparison. The imprint was still with her, though now it looked weak and fragmented to her senses, more like part of something bigger than the whole, "They tried to destroy you, and nearly did. You hid here." The more time she spent with the imprint the easier it became to read, which probably wasn't a good thing.

        Tara became aware the vision was changing again. The glowing lava slowly faded and the imprint brightened, "Ok I get it, it took a long to recover and you want to get even with the senior partners but what happens to the innocent people their going to go after in the meantime, what about them?"

        The reaction to that question was pure bewilderment, "You don't even understand the concept do you?" Tara couldn't even begin to explain the notion to this thing, there was only one way to put an end to it, and when the imprint sensed it the swirl of colour took on an enthusiastic tone.



        Willow had been sat next to Tara for the last couple of minutes. She had watched the way Tara's eyes flicked back and forth under their lids; a classis sign of someone in a dream state. Given that her partner was showing no other sign of activity Willow had to guess that she wasn't in distress but since the guess fell a long way short of certainty it didn't do a lot to make her feel less anxious.

        Although she had always admired Tara's ability to read auras, and sometimes wondered what it would be like Willow had never really coveted it, except for moments like this, she would have given anything to be able know how Tara was feeling right now.

        She might not be able to sense Tara's feelings but she was sensing something, a vibration that was running through the room but centered on the ruined bar. Willow tensed herself for a fresh attack, preparing to wrap both of them in a force field. It didn't prove necessary as she saw something waver and flicker in the air and then disperse; taking an air of gloom off the place that Willow hadn't even realized was there.

        That didn't hold Willow's attention for long as she felt Tara stir beside her, "Baby? Baby are you ok?"

        Tara's eyes opened slowly, and she looked distinctly relieved when she saw Willow sat beside her, "How long was I...?"

        "Just a couple of minutes." Willow reassured her, brushing a strand of hair from her partners face, "I'll get you home and then,"

        Tara cut her off, "No, I have to tell you what I saw, in case it fades."

        Willow wasn't inclined to argue, she was happy to listen to Tara talk; especially after all the awful outcomes she had been fretting about earlier, "Ok baby, did you find the answers?"

        "More answers than we wanted." Tara told her, and then recounted everything she had experienced in the vision.

Willow: ...I have to tell you....

Tara: No, I understand you have to be with the person you l-love

Willow: I am



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 Post subject: RC 2018: 2019-3: Justice Pt V
PostPosted: Sun Jan 23, 2005 3:31 pm 
9. "Stormfront"




When she left her parents LJ had also reappeared well away from her target, in the alley behind the nearby coffee shop. Around the front she went inside and ordered a hot chocolate. She stood sipping it and surveying the scene outside. There was foot traffic on the street but it seemed to be observing some sort of exclusion zone around the Wolfram and Hart building, even the workmen appeared to have taken the day off, maybe they're expecting trouble, be a shame to disappoint them.

        Taking her drink with her LJ strolled towards the office block, her only real concern was that someone might wonder why she was being so obvious and suspect a trap. As it was she needn't have concerned herself on that score; her targets were far too on edge to consider any nuances of the situation. The Athenai had learned something from their last encounter; the dozen or so figures that emerged to surround her maintained a respectable distance. LJ did a quick three sixty and it took all of her self control not to curse out loud; standing about as far back as she could without actually leaving was Sabrina Harrington.

        LJ had vainly hoped that her girlfriend would find a way to avoid getting pulled in to this situation but the Athenai had apparently not been in the mood to accept any excuses. Sabrina looked tense and unhappy, which luckily didn't make her standout as all the Athenai looked worried.

        Apart from Sabrina there was one other familiar face, almost the first Athenai she had ever met. "Miss Maclay, I wish I could say it was a pleasure to see you again." Nigel still made it sound like a polite greeting.

        LJ shrugged dismissively, "Sorry not really in the bantering mood but tell you what to be polite I'll let you have the first move, if you're smart it'll be in the opposite direction as fast as possible."

        The Slayer didn't really expect the advice to be taken and was faintly impressed as the group launched a simultaneous attack. With anyone else it would have been a decisive strike, even with LJ's ability to read an enemies move she should have been overwhelmed by the speed of it. The thing that LJ could have explained to them had she been so inclined was that speed was purely relative because speed was distance divided by time. LJ let the moment stretch out and surveyed the situation. She dismissed the bolt of energy coming from Sabrina, it was just a shell meant to look good, the others though had done their level best to take her out. There were a couple of other quite genuine fire bolts and a prickling in the air that spoke of impending lightning. LJ decided to let those take care of one another; deflecting the magics towards one another.

        There were also a couple of glamours in the mix designed to confuse and distract LJ; she just brushed them aside. Of more concern was the sudden mushiness of the concrete beneath her feet. LJ whispered a quick incantation and the concrete returned to solidity; she decided to give the Athenai who had cast it a taste of their own medicine and just on general principles she hoisted the lead Athenai into the air and set him spinning.

        From the Athenai perspective it was an impossible blur of action; lightning and fire bolts exploded in the air one of their number sank up to her knees in concrete while Nigel started doing a helicopter impersonation before slamming into a gawping colleague. Sabrina managed to suppress a fit of laughter and was glad that her own pathetic contribution to the attack had been lost in the confusion.

        LJ had no reason not hold back her laughter; normally she would have tried to avoid provoking them but she wanted to keep their attention on her and not wondering where her parents might be. The plan was working because the remaining Athenai looked mad and were preparing another round of attacks; until one of them crumpled up, not in the sense falling over, more in the way someone would crush a soda can.

        Sabrina heard an awful cracking of bones, the Athenai didn't even scream, just collapsed in a misshapen heap on the ground. That was when she felt it; something oppressive in the air, something powerful and violent closing down on top of them. It only took her a moment to realize that the power that had been stalking the lawyers had returned. That moment though was enough for a manhole cover to be ripped up and sent spinning through the air. Sabrina wanted to look away but found her eyes fixed on the sight of her erstwhile comrade being sliced in two. Later she would feel guilty about her reaction; horror over the fate of the other Athenai was drowned in terror at the realization she was next in line; death was coming for her, please not now, was the only thought that ran through her head.

        DON'T YOU TOUCH HER!!! The psychic shriek was painfully loud in the minds of all the Athenai but it was sweet to Sabrina, there might be a demon out to kill her but there was a goddess protecting her.

        Nigel had been too dazed to appreciate what was going on but the telepathic yell acted like a splash of cold water. He looked towards the Slayer and was utterly astonished by what he saw. He had known she was powerful, more than any other witch he had ever heard of. As he saw the glow of magic in her eyes and the power flowing around her he finally had an inkling of the true magnitude of her potential, and was devoutly grateful that he had never done anything to make the Slayer take a personal interest in him, I think in future Miss Harrington's private life should remain wholly private. He tried to move away, which was when he ran into the barrier and understood why the thing that had attacked hadn't claimed them all.

        LJ was inclined to just scoop up Sabrina and carry her away but as much as she disliked the Athenai she couldn't just leave them to their fate. She walked over to where Sabrina was standing and shot her a smile before reaching out and touching the barrier. It seemed to be rock solid but she could feel something pressing against it, something whispering. Seeing the expression on Sabrina’s face LJ realized she wasn’t the only one who could hear it.

        The power was pouring out a litany of crimes committed by Wolfram and Hart, dirty deals, murder, and worse than murder. Sabrina tried not to listen but the whispering didn't go away, the power was determined that they all know the truth, and know why they had to be punished. Sabrina remembered a piece of legalese she had heard on some crime drama, accessories after the fact.

        LJ didn't even try to block out the voice, she had a very clear answer for it, I know what they've done, and I don't care right now. You can't have these people and that's that, so leave, or else.

        Whether the thing took the threat seriously or simply concluded it couldn't break the barrier didn't really matter, what did was that the roll call of crimes stopped and LJ felt the pressure on the barrier lift; the thing had gone. With that threat lifted LJ became aware she was being watched from behind.

        The survivors of the Athenai had gathered together in the centre of the force field, with the exception of Sabrina who was still beside LJ. The witch realized how conspicuous she looked and sheepishly walked back over to her alleged comrades, not so accidentally brushing her hand against LJ's as she went. LJ looked at the group, "Well people are you really looking for round two? Haven't you sacrificed enough for those blood suckers?" She gestured with her thumb towards the office building.

        Nigel looked past her, "I think we will settle for collecting our fallen and leaving Miss Maclay, we have had quite enough I think," he was momentarily tempted to offer to leave Sabrina behind. What had previously been suspicion was now fact to Nigel's mind; the Slayer wouldn't have allowed the Athenai to be slaughtered out of hand but her anger and that telepathic shriek came from something far more; intimate. What held his mouth shut was the image of how Phoebe would respond to such an action on his part. He settled for gathering his troops and considering how he was going to collect up the dead, and what he was going to tell Phoebe.

        Cautiously releasing the barrier LJ waited to see if the thing was trying to be clever but it wasn't that subtle, it had given up; for now at least. She turned her attention to the Athenai, they had apparently decided that they couldn't remove the corpses of their comrades themselves, the leader of the group was on a phone calling for professional assistance with the rest of the survivors watching him. Sabrina took advantage of the distraction to look over her shoulder and blow LJ a kiss. LJ gave her a smile and was going to respond when Willow's voice popped into her head, we got what we needed dear, we may even have a way of fixing this, you can call off the diversion.

        It's a little late mom, I'll explain in a minute
. Out loud LJ said, "I'm afraid I have to go, urgent family business." Most of the Athenai ignored her but Sabrina understood the message.

        "Good luck with that." She called out in what she hoped was a convincingly sarcastic tone. LJ just kept smiling as she teleported away.



10. "Blind Justice"




When everyone had converged back at home Willow found herself deafened by the silence. Tara was sat nursing a cup of herbal tea and staring into its faintly rippling surface. LJ had busied herself returning her weaponry to their proper places and making a meal out of putting her jacket away without saying a word.

        Willow was inclined to give them time to reflect on things but the circumstances didn't seem allow it, "I'm sorry it's been a rotten day but if we're going to stop tomorrow being worse we need to talk, and we need to have a plan."

        LJ and Tara looked at one another, by unspoken consent LJ went first, "The thing was quick and I froze, it wasn't until it went for Sabrina that I reacted; by then two of the Athenai were dead."

        "But you protected the others, not just her." It wasn't a question coming from Willow.

        "Yeah but it was a little late by then." LJ wasn't going to let go of the self-recrimination that swiftly.

        "You did warn them via Sabrina what sort of people they were dealing with, it's not your fault or hers that they didn't listen." Willow insisted.

        That was something LJ had forgotten in the process of blaming herself, "I suppose so, actually it told them the same thing, in a lot more detail."

        That drew Tara's attention, "It spoke to you?"

        "Not to me, just seemed general babbling," LJ explained, " A whole long list of crimes our lawyer friends committed that it pushed right through the barrier."

        "Justifying the sentences it had handed out," Tara saw the continuation of the themes in the vision, "The Athenai were guilty by association, and this thing only has one punishment regardless of the crime," she laid out the details of her vision for LJ.

        LJ digested it all; she didn't doubt her mother's word but there was one obvious problem with it, "How come Wolfram and Hart are still running trying to take out anyone who ever looked at them funny?"

        The question had occurred to Tara, "It could be that the senior partners just haven't recognized it, they nearly succeeded in destroying it before, what it is now is something completely different."

        "Or the senior partners know exactly what's going on," Willow's suggestion startled her partner and daughter and she explained quickly, "This thing, this judge, knows where the senior partners come from, it may know lots of dark little secrets that they don't want their minions to know."

        That made sense to LJ; if you were a bunch of cold-blooded supernatural fiends that is, "And they would rather see Wolfram and Hart wiped out than risk that."

        "Or they think someone will find a way to take out their enemy for them." Willow pointed out.

        LJ made a face, "Great so we either let this thing just slaughter everyone it thinks is guilty or we do the senior partners dirty work for them."

        "Oh no dear," Tara smiled, "there is another alternative, we give the thing what it really wants; we arrange a reunion with its old friends."

        LJ thought about that for a second, and then returned her mothers smile, "I don't think I'd lose a lot of sleep over that, how exactly are we going to do it?"

        "Ah, well, that's the part we haven't quite worked out yet." Willow admitted sheepishly.

        "In fact dear we thought this might be a Slayer sort of thing." Willow suggested lightly.

        LJ wasn't fooled, "You mean you think this needs brute force rather than finesse."

        Willow did her best to look hurt, "Dear we would never suggest you lack finesse."

        "Not out loud." LJ added the unspoken conclusion that neither of her parents had the nerve to deny. Nonetheless she was determined to prove she was capable of being subtle, well maybe not subtle but lets try to avoid kicking in any doors.



        Trevor Wellesley was sat staring at the bottle of Scotch on his table. He had already consumed his usual evening ration and still felt the need for more. His wife had recognized his foul mood and had gone out to some gallery opening, doubtless to spend more of his money on some piece of nonsense by an artist with more in the way of looks than creative talent.

        Wellesley actually envied her, he wished that his problems could be resolved with a little retail therapy. The leader of the Athenai had made all the right noises about carrying on and getting even but the two in his office had been closer to the truth he suspected. The girl had been openly hostile and the man's attempts to restrain her hadn't even qualified as half hearted. Whatever Phoebe might say her troops clearly had no appetite to continue the fight, it was a matter of time before they packed up and went home.

        He was reaching for the bottle to refill his glass when he felt the presence behind him. The lawyer turned very slowly in his chair, it wasn't a great surprise to see Lydia Joyce Maclay stood in front of the door to his study, "So is it my turn now Slayer?"

        "I told you before I'm not the one whose after you but I know who is and why. I'm here to offer you a chance to save your skin." LJ kept a smile on her face but it didn't reach her eyes, they held a cold, dangerous gaze.

        Wellesley thought about calling for help, and then realized how futile that would be; "I find it rather hard to believe you're offering to do me a favour."

        "And you would be right," LJ agreed, "there's a price to pay, and please don't insult me by suggesting I'm looking for a bribe."

        "I wouldn't dream of it," Wellesley replied smoothly, "you want something that will balance things out. You're saving the 'bad guys' in your rather naive world view so you want something for the 'good guys'."

        LJ nodded, "More or less but without the sarcasm."

        "So what is it you want?" Wellesley was considering exactly what he could offer up in exchange.

        Nowhere in his calculations did the lawyer imagine what LJ would ask for, "I want the senior partners."

        Wellesley all but fell from his chair, "You're insane."

        "Maybe but that's all the more reason to listen very carefully to me." LJ had a very nasty grin on her face.

        The lawyer did listen as LJ explained everything they had learned about the being attacking him and his colleagues, he looked increasingly unhappy but he couldn't shake the belief that the young woman was being truthful, "I could simply share this information with my superiors, they would doubtless find a way to use it."

        "And hand your head as a reward," LJ suggested amiably, "besides unless we make a deal you won't even remember this conversation. If we do make a deal I'll put a spell on you that will guarantee you won't double-cross me."

        "I'm still not convinced that the reward justifies the risk." Wellesley was being cagey but had moved into negotiation mode.

        LJ could see that and decided to play what she hoped was her trump card, "Think of the risk if you turn me down. This thing has a pretty wide definition of guilt. It'll go after you, your clients, then your family, your butler, your pet dog for all I know. How long before it gets to something that is worth the risk?"

        Wellesley had always regarded Slayers as an anachronism; a leftover of an earlier age fighting a pointless and short-lived battle. He had however heard rumours that this incarnation was something different, something more. Something in the girl's eyes made him believe it wasn't just rumours, "Alright Miss Maclay, I'll deliver, but for both our sakes you better keep your side of the bargain."

        "Hey I'm not the professional backstabber here," LJ reminded him, "I always deliver." Well 99% of the time anyway.



        Left behind when LJ went for her head to head Willow paced and frowned, and nearly bumped into Tara. Usually she managed at least an air of calm but on this occasion her composure had deserted her, "We should have been able to come up with something less..."

        "Muddy?" Willow offered the adjective that was at the forefront of her mind.

        Tara nodded; 'muddy' fitted perfectly, "We said we wouldn't make deals with Wolfram and Hart."

        "And we aren't." LJ had materialized just in time to hear Tara's comment, "We're tearing the heart out of the whole rotten organization."

        As laudable a goal as that might be Willow didn't like the way LJ said it, "But we're still dealing with someone like Wellesley and making him keep his promises, that worries me."

        LJ knew what was really troubling her mother. She went over and placed a hand on Willow's shoulder, "Mom I haven't gone off the deep end. Yes I'm worried about Sabrina being targeted again but the truth is sooner or later we would have to stop this creature; it's who we are. This way we get to do some good in the process. If there is anyone in the universe who deserves the creatures attentions it's the senior partners."

        Willow couldn't deny that, and LJ's tone did more to reassure her than the words, "Alright then, I suggest we get an early night, we're going to have a very busy day tomorrow."



11. "Final Justice"




Watching Wellesley entering the meeting room the other partners had expressions ranging from polite puzzlement to open irritation depending on their seniority. Wellesley had summoned them all to this meeting without a word of explanation but no one had dared refuse the invitation. The meeting table was a long thin oval with chairs arrayed along both sides and at one end. The other end lacked a seat; instead it faced a pair of large wooden doors with inset panels and runic symbols carved into them.

        If anyone were to find their way into the basement and open those doors they would find a suite of offices, plush but unoccupied. If the correct rituals were performed however then they opened to somewhere other; the offices of the senior partners.

        Most of the attendees had their focus on those doors until Wellsley's voice grabbed their attention, "I think we can dispense with the formalities, we all know the nature of the crisis facing us. I have called you here because I now know the nature and origin of that threat."

        That got the total attention of the others around the table, "May I ask how you've acquired this knowledge?" Several of the lawyers asked the same question practically at the same time.

The tone of Wellsley's reply was affable; "I had a visit from the Slayer last night."

        That brought a torrent of accusations, only slowly stilled by Wellsley's raised hand, "She came to offer me a deal in exchange for the information, and I left her believing that she had secured that deal. Given that she is not a total fool it is only a matter of time before she realizes I have reneged. We must discuss this knowledge at the highest level, I ask that we call on them."

        The others around the table shared glances but there was no discussion, there was no point. The notion that they shouldn't share this information with their ultimate superiors wasn't one they could entertain unless they were feeling suicidal. One by one they placed their right hand on the table palm down and offered a silent invocation.

        Wellsley's hand was the last to touch the table and as it did the great doors opened onto a darkness in which only the vaguest glimpses of terrible shapes beyond could be seen, "Thanks people, couldn't have done it without you."

        The decidedly feminine and young voice startled the lawyers; even more so when they realized it was coming from Wellesley. The explanation became apparent moments later when the figure of Wellesley was replaced by Lydia Joyce Maclay. She couldn't help adding one thing to her previous comment, "Suckers." Time to rock and roll moms.

        The silent announcement was the only warning Willow and Tara got before they were yanked into the chamber. Willow was rendered a little dizzy by the experience; with normal teleportation you could at least brace yourself, when someone else was doing it for you it was a different matter. She quickly shook the feeling off, the lawyers were recovering from their shock and the doors were slowly closing; LJ was going to be too busy to deal with them.

        With her mothers at her back LJ concentrated on the doors. She stretched out her hands and threads of energy flew from her fingers and formed a web holding the doors to the chamber open.

        One of the lawyers saw LJ's move and grabbed up a chair to throw it at the Slayer. That was as far as the woman got because she was thrown against the wall chair and all at a gesture from Willow. There was a ping behind her that signaled the arrival of the elevator. The door slid open to reveal two of the firm's wizardly types. Not being one to pass up a good idea Willow sent the abandoned chair hurtling into the elevator car knocking them backwards. She followed the chair with a couple of convenient lawyers before the door closed and carried the tangled heap back to the ground floor.

        While Willow was focused on the lawyers Tara had a different task. LJ had been able to bypass the wards round the room to bring her parents in but the other guest the trio hoped to invite would need an opening. Somewhat gingerly Tara extracted three slender knives from the bag she was carrying. Sensing the wards woven into the walls Tara focused on one and a knife leapt towards it. The blade buried itself in the wall with a solid thud and began to glow. She rapidly launched the remaining blades and she felt the wards waver and falter, we have what you want but you have to come now. Tara was simply sending the message out into the ether but a response wasn't long in coming.

        A breeze ruffling her hair was the first sign that Tara's summons had been answered, a breeze that carried a faint whisper that grew quickly to become a shout. The things thoughts tumbled one over the other so fast that they were incomprehensible, the only things Tara could pick out was equal measures of rage and satisfaction, "I Think we should go, now!"

        LJ released the web and grabbed an unsuspecting lawyer by the hand, "I'm right behind you."'

        A fiery glow was illuminating the chamber beyond the doors and the remaining lawyers didn't need any urging to grab hold of the witches before they teleported out.



        The appearance of the party in the middle of the atrium set off Wolfram and Hart's magical alarms. That was rapidly drowned out by a hideous shrieking and rumbling that could be felt even through the earthquake proof concrete walls. LJ didn't hesitate, she gestured towards a fire alarm on the wall and the glass shattered adding a shrill siren to the mayhem.

        It did have the desired effect as office doors spilled open and people headed for the fire exits. Willow stood her ground beside her daughter hastening people through the doors while keeping an eye on the fine cracks that were spreading across the floor, "Please hurry up, I have no intention of winding up back in the basement."

        Willow's comment didn't make a lot of sense to the staff but her tone of urgency hustled them towards the door. She was so intent on the rescue that she didn't notice her own danger until LJ grabbed her and practically threw her at the doors just before the chunk of floor she was standing on gave way.

        On the pavement outside Willow practically fell into Tara's arms. Held there she looked back at the building. Through the glass doors she saw smoke rising through the cracked and crumbling floor, "They aren't going to put that back together again."

        "And it won't be easy to fix the building either." Tara added.

        Willow put on a mock scowl, "That was my punchline."

        Tara just shrugged and smiled innocently.



        The hotel reception was quiet when LJ walked in, which suited her just fine. She was prepared to stage a confrontation if necessary but she would rather avoid it if she could, "Excuse me, I believe Sabrina Harrington is staying here." LJ wasn't usually so diffident but she couldn't contain her nerves on this occasion.

        The receptionist’s smile was guarded, "I'll just check for you Miss."

        After a moment of scanning the computer screen the receptionist looked up, "Would you be Miss Maclay?"

        "That's me, Lydia Maclay."

        The receptionist turned and checked the pigeonholes. She pulled out an envelope embossed with the hotel logo and handed it to LJ, "She left this for you."

        LJ mumbled a thank you and walked away from the counter before tearing the envelope open.



'Lydia, I was planning to be here waiting for you bags packed, ready to go wherever you wanted to. After the plaza though I heard a lot of anger and dissatisfaction, I think the others are planning to take a stand and I realized that if I walk away now Phoebe will make this all about me. Maybe I'm being stupid but if there's a chance to rescue something good from the Athenai I have to give it a shot, because I'm sure it's what you would do. Next time though...'




        LJ read the note twice, she hated what it said but couldn't fault the sentiment behind it, but next time…



        Willow and Tara literally had their feet up when LJ returned; slumped on the sofa with their legs stretched out on the coffee table. Willow saw the look of grim resolution on her face, "What's the matter dear?"

        "Nothing bad, well nothing I think is bad," LJ's reassurance wasn't especially reassuring so she ploughed on, "Sabrina went back with the Athenai, she had a good reason but when I see her again, when she comes back, I won't let her go again. Even if I have to fight the whole of the Athenai, she's staying." Seeing that her parents didn't have an immediate response LJ turned on her heels and headed for her room.

        After a moment Tara turned to Willow, "I suppose we better make up the guest room."

        Willow nodded reluctantly, "And we better get some good tactical spells ready."

        "To use on who?" Tara asked.

        "I'll decide that later." Willow answered, only half joking.

Willow: ...I have to tell you....

Tara: No, I understand you have to be with the person you l-love

Willow: I am



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 Post subject: Re: RC 2018: 2019-3: Justice Pt II
PostPosted: Mon Jan 24, 2005 9:09 am 
Oh, goody. I was kinda hoping you would take out W&H once and for all. Talk about a McGuffun that outlived its usefulness...



I love the fact that Willow seems to have forgotten that she was once young and curious. Heh. Love how 'shy' Tara is dealing with LJ's attraction to Sabrina far better than her partner.



Nice to see an update after all this time. Good stuff!

_________________



"Many such journeys are possible. Let me be your gateway."



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 Post subject: Re: RC 2018: 2019-3: Justice Pt II
PostPosted: Tue Jan 25, 2005 3:49 am 
Quote:
I love the fact that Willow seems to have forgotten that she was once young and curious. Heh. Love how 'shy' Tara is dealing with LJ's attraction to Sabrina far better than her partner.



Nice to see an update after all this time. Good stuff!


Well CaptMurdock with Willow I always feel that after growing up with absentee parents she's prone to overcompensation whereas Tara having grown up under the burden of Jefferson Maclay as a father is inclined to be more relaxed and give LJ room. Glad you enjoyed the story and of course with these minor villains being swept away soon we can bring on the serious bad guys...:devil

Willow: ...I have to tell you....

Tara: No, I understand you have to be with the person you l-love

Willow: I am



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 Post subject: Re: RC 2018: 2019-3: Justice Pt V
PostPosted: Tue Jan 25, 2005 3:18 pm 
That was a great story :applause



Wolfram and Hart's tactics were... interesting. They knew there was someone after them so they made a list of any suspects and began harrassing the people on the list.



Didn't they think that, maybe, this would piss off anyone on the list who wasn't behind the attacks? So that rather than having one enemy they'd have several. Given the fact that one of the criteria for being on the list was "very powerful" this doesn't seem like the most sensible of plans.



After Angel said about the Athenai sometimes causing problems so they could come in and save the day, I did wonder if they were behind the attacks. Your answer was a lot more interesting :)



About Athenai, Sabrina's comments about some of them planning to make a stand makes me think that their rank and file might actually be good (or at least reasonably good) people and that it's just the leaders who are corrupt and who will do anything to get power. OMG :shock , they're a magical version of Microsoft.



I'm looking forward to :read more



Seems there's trouble a brewing :)

--

Homer Simpson: When will people learn, democracy just doesn't work.



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 Post subject: Re: RC 2018: 2019-3: Justice Pt V
PostPosted: Wed Jan 26, 2005 4:54 am 
Quote:
Didn't they think that, maybe, this would piss off anyone on the list who wasn't behind the attacks?


Well the key was that the people on the list were pretty much of the good persuasion and the provocations were intended to be irrititating rather than dangerous, in effect they were counting on their goodness to restrain them. Some of the Athenai are planning to make a stand, and I'm sure Phoebe will invite them to come into her office for a little chat, just like Cassandra in 'Cold Hearted'...:thud

Willow: ...I have to tell you....

Tara: No, I understand you have to be with the person you l-love

Willow: I am



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 Post subject: Re: RC 2018: 2019-3: Justice Pt II
PostPosted: Tue Feb 01, 2005 11:12 am 
Heh heh, some poetic justice in Wolfram and Hart's demise. I liked that rather than trying to stop/kill the Judge, W/T/LJ simply set it on the ones who deserved its attention.



Reforming the Athenai? I think Sabrina is being optimistic, I can't see Phoebe and others like her giving up their power easily. Is Phoebe the leader of the Athenai, or does she have superiors?



Are we going to find out more about Sabrina, like where her family are, how she came to be in the Athenai, how old is she etc?



So the next part is the "season finale"? Looking forward to it...



The world is quiet here



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 Post subject: Re: RC 2018: 2019-3: Justice Pt II
PostPosted: Wed Feb 02, 2005 4:26 pm 
Quote:
Is Phoebe the leader of the Athenai, or does she have superiors?


Hi Chronic, Phoebe is the top dog in the Athenai, though I'm a little disapointed no one ever asked if she had a couple of sisters...:)

Quote:
Are we going to find out more about Sabrina, like where her family are, how she came to be in the Athenai, how old is she etc?


Actually that will be at the core of the story, as Willow and Tara, Oh alright Willow, decide to dig into Sabrina's history.

Quote:
So the next part is the "season finale"? Looking forward to it...


Well I hope you will enjoy it, after that it's 'Season 3' and the road to Armaggedon, both the final battle type AND the Bruce Willis sort...

Willow: ...I have to tell you....

Tara: No, I understand you have to be with the person you l-love

Willow: I am



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 Post subject: Re: RC 2018: 2019-3: Justice Pt V
PostPosted: Thu Feb 03, 2005 4:41 pm 
Sorry about being slow to reply, but I had to print it so that I could re-read and digest. Let me start with... you have raised the bar !! The details, and the smooth movement of each and every thread inside this story was awe inspiring :bow . A person would have to look far and wide to find a story that could come close to matching the level you've attained with this one :clap :clap . Rather than go over every detail that called out to me, I'm just going to tell you how over the top impressed I am. In this very large group, that made up this last update this went from being a story to something much more in line with an epic, and I'm using the " surpassing the usual or ordinary in scope, impressive in quality, extra amperage of special moments " definition :D .



:bow :bow



behindhereyes

Kim

"To the world, you may be one person; but to one person, you may be the world"

Edited by: behindhereyes at: 2/3/05 6:21 pm


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 Post subject: Re: RC 2018: 2019-3: Justice Pt V
PostPosted: Sat Feb 05, 2005 12:04 pm 
Well behindhereyesI don't know what to say except thanks...:blush

Willow: ...I have to tell you....

Tara: No, I understand you have to be with the person you l-love

Willow: I am



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 Post subject: Re: RC 2018: 2019-3: Justice Pt II
PostPosted: Fri Mar 11, 2005 9:35 am 
Another compelling episode in the Chronicles. Willow may not be over-enamoured with Sabrina, but when Angel brought to her attention the danger Sabrina might be in, it made her realise how much she means to LJ. This didn't stop her frustration at their date though. When Willow suggested tagging along Tara's line "I did think of that but the risk of matricide makes it impractical." was funny.



I'm sure it was quite torturous for Willow to watch over Tara in her dreamstate, for lack of a better expression.



W&H's demise was well written, apt that their deeds and actions were ultimately the cause of it.




You stay the course, you hold the line, you keep it all together.

You're the one true thing I know I can believe in
- Sarah McLachlan



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 Post subject: Re: RC 2018: 2019-3: Justice Pt II
PostPosted: Sun Mar 13, 2005 2:12 pm 
Quote:
Another compelling episode in the Chronicles


Thanks mollyig i'm about two chapters away from completing the next story, work, birthdays, and another writign project has slowed things down but keep watching this space.:)

Willow: ...I have to tell you....

Tara: No, I understand you have to be with the person you l-love

Willow: I am



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 Post subject: Next story
PostPosted: Mon Mar 28, 2005 10:45 am 
Ok folks 'Perfect Day' is finished, just needs editing. I know updates are getting slower and in the interests of full disclosure I have to admit that I have another writing project going on, and since it may actually make some money, which I so need, I'm afraid its getting a bit of priority. Once that's running smoothly I should get the time more balanced out.

Willow: ...I have to tell you....

Tara: No, I understand you have to be with the person you l-love

Willow: I am



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 Post subject: RC 2018: 2019-4: Perfect Day PtI
PostPosted: Sat Apr 02, 2005 4:07 pm 
Title: Perfect Day

Author: Mike Mullen

Rating: NC-17/18 because of violence, adult themes, and sex.

Spoilers: None what so ever

Disclaimer: All the original BTVS characters belong to Joss Whedon and ME. Everyone else in the stories are my personal slaves.

Summary: Willow, Tara and LJ are pushed into a showdown with the Athenai as some ugly secrets are uncovered.

Authors notes: The conclusion of the Athenai arc, and then trouble really starts…

Feedback: Just add your comments at the end of the story.





Perfect Day




Prologue




"What exactly do you want?" Phoebe asked coolly, letting her gaze wander between the three members of the delegation in the office, "My resignation perhaps? With you three replacing me as some sort of junta?"

        The trio was standing in a roughly triangular grouping and the woman at the apex snorted and shook her head, "Oh spare us, we’re not here on some power trip, that’s your game.” She paused for a moment, “What do we want? How about a simple apology?"

        That took Phoebe by surprise, "An apology?"

        "A simple apology for involving us with Wolfram and Hart, an admission that mistakes were made, it would at least be a starting point." The woman explained.

        "That situation was complex, and the potential rewards justified a high risk," Phoebe's defence was cut off in midstream as one of the men stepped in front of the woman.

        "Oh for god's sake stop it! A bunch of lawyers lied to you and you didn't see it coming, just admit you screwed up, that you bear some responsibility for what happened."

        The supposed leader of the trio tried to calm things, "There has to be an acceptance that there were errors in judgment, including this ongoing feud with the Slayer and her parents. We have to stop, take stock, see what changes we need to make."

        Phoebe looked pensive for a moment and then nodded, "Actually I have been thinking about some necessary changes," she gestured and the runes in the floor began to glow, "personnel changes for a start," she concluded to the now empty room.



1. "Partnership"




Willow Rosenberg didn't enjoy panting for breath, actually that wasn't strictly true, she enjoyed it just fine in bed, or in the bathtub, or on the odd occasion on the dining room table. What she didn't enjoy was standing on a street corner with her hands on her knees desperately trying to suck down a breath of air, it was undignified and worse it made her feel old.

        It's your own fault, Willow reminded herself glumly. When LJ had announced she was going on patrol Willow had volunteered to tag along, Tara had been dragged into some evening therapy session and keeping her patrolling skills honed seemed like a good idea to Willow. She should have paid more attention to LJ's grim manner however, her daughter wasn't just out to terrorize the demons of San Diego; she was apparently planning to work her way through the entire supernatural population of North America in one night.

        From San Diego they had gone to LA, Frisco, diverted east to Phoenix and Vegas before working their way up the west coast to Seattle. Even with teleportation that meant a lot of legwork and Willow was running on empty; until she heard an eerie clicking sound and pounding feet; then she found her second wind.

        The thing that appeared around the corner was kind of like a spider but six of the limbs were distinctly arms and it stood on two legs. The body and head were sort of human but the mouth was distorted by a pair of mandibles that protruded from the lips. Willow had just about gotten over the grossness when a figure smashed into back of the creature and slammed it into the concrete.

        LJ was on her feet in an instant and an iridescent blade shimmered in the darkness, leaving the demons head rolled along the pavement. Willow waited for a quip but LJ remained silent, so she offered one up herself, "A rolled up newspaper would probably have done the trick dear."

        "Wouldn't have felt as good." LJ replied grimly.

        Willow sighed, nothing seemed to get through to LJ this past couple of weeks, and I know why but if I bring it up she might just break apart, "Alright dear but I think it's time to go home now."

        Why don't you just... a spasm of horror cut off LJ's thought. Her mom wasn't responsible for this situation; "Ok there's always more where that came from." And how many of them do I have to kill before I get a break?



        Tara's therapy session had broken up almost two hours before and she had begun to reach the point of being seriously worried before Willow and LJ turned up, "I think that's a new record honey." Tara commented as Willow joined her in the kitchen, LJ had just stomped off upstairs as soon as she teleported in.

        "I was beginning to wonder if she was actually going to come home." Willow admitted.

        Tara wasn't surprised by the comment, indeed similar thoughts had distracted her right through therapy group and given her an idea; one she was certain Willow wasn't going to like, "I was talking with doctor Morris after the group broke up, she has some spaces in her calendar."

        It seemed like a non-sequitir to Willow, until she caught up with Tara's train of thought, "You want to send LJ to see her?"

        "I wouldn't use the word 'want' Willow," Tara amended, "I just think we should offer her the option."

        "She'll never go for it, and if she did how much could she really share?" Willow realized she was getting heated and tried to calm down.

        Tara took advantage of the pause, "Well if you have a better idea..."

        "There's only one thing that's going to make her feel better and you know it." Willow responded resolutely, and then saw the trap she had stumbled into.

        "So what are we going to do about it?" Tara asked coolly.

        Willow had done some thinking about that over the weeks since LJ had made it clear she wouldn't let Sabrina go again. Granted a lack of information made any effort to rescue Sabrina from the Athenai problematic but Willow was honest enough to admit her ambivalence to the girl meant she hadn't given it one hundred percent, "So we get our daughter that one thing, regardless of how we may feel about it."

        "But we don't tell her about it yet," Tara suggested, "she's too on edge and we can't make a move until we know what we're going to do."

        "Right, in which case…" Willow stopped talking as she heard LJ coming back down the stairs.

        LJ stuck her head round the door, "I'm just going for a walk."

        Willow's feet throbbed at the mere thought of another whirlwind tour of the USA, "Are you sure, I thought we decided it was time to call it a night?"

        "I mean really just a walk, I just need to unwind." LJ didn't sound like someone planning to unwind.

        Tara decided it would be best just to take the comment at face value, "Alright dear, just don't be too late."

        "I'll try." Was LJ's noncommittal response before she headed for the door.

        Willow leant against the kitchen counter, "Whatever we do we better do it quick, because if LJ keeps up the attitude much longer she's going to be grounded," she waved away Tara's obvious reply, "Yeah I know it'll be a lot easier to liberate Sabrina."



        As LJ walked along the street she felt a sense of relief, and then a whole bunch of guilt at being relieved. She knew that she been acting like a sullen child around her parents, and most everyone else in truth. LJ did want to apologize to her moms but then she would have to spill everything, including why they were helping to drive her insane.

        When she was growing up the one thing LJ had always been able to count on; that there would never be a day when she came home and her parents came out with that, we still love you but we want to live apart, crap so many of her friends had been through. She was always safe in the knowledge of her parent's togetherness. It had always been a comfort, now it was a form of torture.

        When her parents met Willow had the benefit of future knowledge but Tara had to trust her feelings, go with her instinct that Willow was the person she was supposed to be with and leave everything behind to be with her. LJ was convinced that she had felt that same sort of bond with Sabrina, but I didn't go with her or make her stay with me so I could protect her.

        Now every time LJ looked at her parents it was like a rebuke, an illustration of the way she was failing to be there for Sabrina. The more she turned that over in her mind the more she felt like just going after Sabrina, and then another image came to mind, the ruined form of Mary Case, killed out of little more than spite by the Athenai. LJ knew that even if she shredded the Athenai they might decide to deny LJ her goal just for the hell of it. It was those two opposing thought that were making the Slayer impossible to live with.

        It was the sight of the small drugstore that snapped LJ out of her brooding as she realized that her little stroll had turned into a two mile hike. Her parents had obviously decided to be forbearing since they hadn't called to find out where she was, or maybe they've got me on satellite tracking.

        Turning on her heels to head back LJ something flickering in the darkness, flitting from streetlight to streetlight and heading towards her. A firefly, LJ thought until she considered how unlikely it was to run across one of those in urban San Diego. Besides as it approached it became clear that the source was too bright and definitely not an insect. Cursing silently LJ prepared to fight but when it got within a foot or so the light just orbited around her; until she took a step towards home and the light moved aggressively in front of her.

        Experimentally LJ turned around and started walking in the opposite direction, now the light seemed content to just float along beside her shoulder. Stopping again LJ considered her options. She could easily swat the thing if she really wanted to. On the other hand the light was obviously intended as some sort of invitation and guide, and LJ was curious what it might guide her too. After the havoc she had wrought on the demons tonight perhaps they had set up an ambush, and there probably wouldn't be a lot of volunteers to be the bait to lure me in.

        The thought of a bunch of demons waiting to even the score with the Slayer didn't trouble LJ; she had told her parents she was just going for a walk but it was hardly her fault if the demons thought otherwise. With that in mind she gestured to the light, "Ok Sparky lead on but don't think you're off the hook."



2. "Bonds"




LJ was expecting to be led towards some abandoned building or rundown junkyard, maybe even a dank basement. What was not on her list of possibilities was a brightly lit twenty-four hour mini mall. She gave the light a hard look, "Are you sure you know where you're going?"

        The light didn't respond in any obvious way, ok talking to a floating light bulb could we look any crazier? Even as the thought passed through her mind it occurred to LJ that yes she could if she was simply imagining the light, just how long should she follow it before deciding to book a session on the couch in her mom's office?

        The light worked its way down the outside of the mini mall, until it suddenly zipped in front of her to block her way again. LJ turned around but the light simply swung around and blocked that direction too. Since there was only a car park to her left LJ checked to her right and saw they were stopped outside an all night diner, "Oh great, we come all this way because you want coffee and donuts."

        LJ looked inside, there wasn't anything obviously a trap about the place, "Fine but you're paying." As she opened the door the little light wavered and vanished, "Cheapskate," she muttered.

        The diner was sparsely populated and the other customers were people in the middle of going somewhere else, a few truckers and a couple of business suited types, none of whom were paying the least bit of attention to LJ; at least until LJ walked in and felt a hand squeezing her ass, "You know that isn't polite and it is going to get your ass kicked all the way back to my front door."

        "I told you before, spanking is fine, but I'm not keen on the kicking."

        LJ didn't turn round, she didn't dare. It might be a trick, a spell, maybe just a plain old delusion; she just couldn't take the risk. Instead LJ just stood there frozen until the hand was removed and the owner walked round in front of her. Sabrina was clad in a red blouse and a long black skirt wit her hair loose and flowing down her back. Even now LJ couldn't quite accept it, until Sabrina spoke up again, "So did you miss me?"

        That broke the spell for LJ; she threw her arms around Sabrina and lifted her off the floor, "Oh my god where have you been? Why didn't you call me?"

        Sabrina found herself fighting for breath, "I can't answer with collapsed lungs."

        LJ put her down, and became aware that the other customers were staring at them, "Girlfriend, haven't seen her in weeks, and yes I may start kissing her soon so deal with it."

        With the other customers having decided to turn their attention back to eating LJ pulled Sabrina over to a table. As they sat opposite one another an electronic menu popped up from the middle of it. LJ was going to cram it down when it suddenly occurred to her that she was hungry; she hadn't eaten after her Slaying marathon and only now had it occurred to her. She punched out a few selections before sliding it back into the table.

        "A little peckish?" Sabrina wondered.

        "Just got my appetite back," LJ explained, "haven't felt much like eating lately."

        That made Sabrina feel distinctly guilty, "I'm so sorry I didn't get back here sooner but when I went back some of the others did want to make changes. When I asked how I could help they told me to keep my head down and stay quiet, guess I hadn't made many friends there the last year or two."

        "Well from what I saw of the Athenai I don't think that was a great loss," LJ offered consolingly.

        Sabrina smiled, "Maybe not but I decided to play along, which meant no sneaking off to fool around with the Slayer."

        "And did your sacrifice get any results?" LJ suspected she already knew the answer; she understood Sabrina's motives in trying to bring something good out of the Athenai but LJ had thought Sabrina was being hopelessly optimistic, which just made her all the sweeter to the Slayer.

        Sabrina's next words confirmed LJ's suspicions, "No good ones Lydia. They tried to be reasonable, negotiate; compromise. It even looked like it was working; until the leaders of the group went missing and the others fell out, then just to cap it off Phoebe came up with this notion that they had planning to split the Athenai. After that things got really ugly."

        LJ took Sabrina's hands, "I'm sorry sweetheart, I wish it had worked out."

        "Well there was some good news, in all the confusion it was pretty easy for me to make my getaway." Sabrina sounded determinedly cheery, brushing aside her obvious disappointment.

        LJ couldn't help bringing up one point, "You know if you had called I would have come and got you."

        Sabrina shook her head, "I figured if I did that your parents would get involved straight away, and I wanted some time alone with you before I faced them."

        "Their not that scary." LJ had to defend her parents even if she wasn't very convincing.

        Sabrina didn't argue it, "Well I did figure that if I got you on your own I could make one last lame attempt to lure you back to my hotel room," she meant it as a joke and was taken aback to see LJ frown.

        The Slayer leaned forward and kissed her, "Consider me lured."

        Now it was Sabrina's turn to wonder if she was imagining things. LJ looked her straight in the eyes, "I've been thinking about LA every day since I got home, and if we do go to my parents house we will not get a moment to ourselves, so yes I want to go be alone with you in your hotel room."



        Later Sabrina had no idea whether they had teleported to the hotel or walked, it was just a blur until she found herself fumbling with the keycard outside her room. As they stumbled into the room LJ pulled her close and kissed her. Sabrina managed to find the edge of the door and slam it shut. The sound of it made LJ stop and look nervous, "You know what I said in LA, about my first time."

        Sabrina put a finger to LJ's lips, "Tell you what, if I don't care about you being inexperienced you don't mind that I'm not, ok?"

        LJ nodded enthusiastically, "Ok."

        LJ allowed herself to be drawn into the bedroom before Sabrina let her go and began to unbutton her blouse. LJ was still in her usual slaying combo of jeans and a sweater and she hastily began to pull them off. As she pulled the sweater up over her eyes she saw Sabrina's bra fall to the floor and stopped to take in the view. Sabrina realized LJ was staring and walked over, "You're not playing fair," she whispered and since LJ's bra had a front catch she let her fingers slide into it, popping it open, "Now that's fair, pretty spectacular actually," her fingers traced out the curve of LJ's round, firm, breasts.

        LJ shivered but managed to work the button on her jeans and began to wiggle out of them, taking down her panties at the same time.

        Sabrina hastily peeled off the remainder of her own clothes and the pair stood there naked, close enough to feel the heat of each others skin. Sabrina reached out and cupped LJ's face, "The first time I saw you I wanted to be here with you, on whatever terms you wanted, just so long as you were here."

        "I've only got one condition," LJ leaned in close to whisper in Sabrina's ear, "don't leave me ever again."

        "Not a problem." Sabrina murmured and pulled LJ into her arms.

        LJ had imagined what it would be like to feel another naked body pressed against hers but imagination had fallen short as far as the sheer sensual pleasure of embracing Sabrina went. She was still getting used to that when Sabrina pulled her towards the bed and they both tumbled onto the sheets.

        As they hit the bed Sabrina couldn't hold back any more, her mouth moved over LJ's body, kissing her neck, her breasts, her belly, finally her lips found their way between her thighs and her tongue began to tease LJ's clit.

        LJ dug her fingers into the bedclothes and let out a low moan. She gulped a breath of air, "You know if you slide on top I could try and do the same for you."

        Luckily Sabrina's position meant that LJ couldn't see the look of astonishment on her face. If she had doubted LJ was a virgin she didn't now. Instead of pointing out that LJ's suggestion had a long and pleasurable history she said, "That's a wonderful idea."

        As Sabrina pressed her hips into LJ's face the Slayer tentatively probed her tongue into her girlfriends pussy, not quite sure if she was doing it right, until she felt Sabrina wiggle and writhe. Her hands slid along Sabrina's back until they came to her butt. She recalled Sabrina's earlier comment and lightly slapped her hand against Sabrina's cheeks. That sent Sabrina's tongue probing deeper inside LJ.

        You do like that don't you? The thought that filtered in Sabrina's brain provoked a spasm of embarrassment. It's ok sweetheart, whatever make you feel good makes me feel good.

        Sabrina could feel it was true, feel the pleasure in LJ's mind and let her own flow back along the telepathic link. Individual needs and desire flowed into one another. Sabrina might have had experience of the physical act of lovemaking but this was totally new to her, and the sheer intensity brought her towards a climax faster than she had imagined possible. As the sensation exploded in her head a single word joined it, goddess!

        LJ ran her fingertips along Sabrina's sex almost lazily; there was no hurry now they could take their time. There was one thing she did feel the need to ask, "You know what you called me," she hesitated to say the word.

        Sabrina supplied the word, "Goddess," she squeezed LJ's left breast as she said it.

        "Yeah, I mean, I'm not you know."

        Sabrina kissed her, "You're my goddess."

        Since LJ was both embarrassed and pleased by that she didn't say anything about, instead she shifted her gaze to the clock beside the bed. Sabrina followed the gaze, "Time to go?"

        LJ looked back at Sabrina and took in the curves of her body, "Not yet," she pulled Sabrina close and time stood still.

Willow: ...I have to tell you....

Tara: No, I understand you have to be with the person you l-love

Willow: I am



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 Post subject: RC 2018: 2019-4: Perfect Day PtII
PostPosted: Sat Apr 02, 2005 4:09 pm 
3. "Lovestruck"




After running around with her daughter Willow had felt like an early night and Tara had been happy to oblige. Saturday morning found her yawning and pulling on a robe while Tara lazed in bed. When she reached the kitchen Willow was surprised to find it empty, LJ usually beat them downstairs at the weekend, still even the Slayer can sleep in after all that chasing around, maybe a good nights sleep will improve her mood.

        Willow knocked gently on LJ's door before opening it, "I'm making breakfast..." she didn't get any further as she realized the room was empty, indeed there was no obvious sign of it being occupied since LJ went for her walk the night before. Willow wasn't too concerned by that, the way LJ had been behaving recently it was possible she had just woken early, tidied up, and left without saying anything.

        The one thing Willow was fairly sure of was that her daughter wouldn't have gone out without having a shower, so it was only when Willow checked the bathroom and saw the same stack of towels from the night before completely undisturbed that she came to the logical conclusion; her daughter gone out the previous night and not come back. Another parent would have worried about what might have happened to their daughter, Willow was worried about what her daughter might have done to someone else.

        All of Willow's padding around the hallway had roused Tara from her doze and as she came up behind Willow she instantly guessed what had happened, "She stayed out all night."

        Willow nodded with a grim expression on her face, "I don't care how impossible it is, that young lady is grounded," she reached out telepathically to give LJ a piece of her mind, and almost jumped into Tara's arms.

        "Honey what's the matter? Is she hurt?" Tara demanded frantically.

        Willow shook her head to clear it, "Hurt? No she's not hurt, not yet anyway." About thirty seconds having elapsed Willow decided it was safe to try again, Lydia Joyce Maclay you have ten minutes to get yourself home, and you better bring her with you!

        This time she shared the telepathic communication with Tara who thought it over for a few seconds and pieced together what Willow had psychically walked in on.

        When she reacted out loud Willow looked wounded, "Stop laughing, it isn't funny!"



        LJ looked damp but not very contrite. Sabrina was sat next to her also looking damp and varying between frowning and smiling depending on whether she was looking towards Willow or LJ.

        Tara was also having a hard time deciding on her attitude. On the one hand her instinct was to back up Willow's stern parental disapproval of LJ's irresponsible behaviour. On the other hand she could see the change in LJ; her daughter's aura had been darkened with guilt and anxiety these past few weeks. Now it was bright and warm once more; LJ was happy and it was very hard to argue with that.

        Willow had no problem knowing how she felt, frustrated and annoyed. She was trying her level best to accept Sabrina Harrington as part of LJ's life but every time she took a step forward LJ and Sabrina seemed to take ten, "Would you care to explain what happened last night? When you left here last night you said you were going for a walk."

        "I was telling the truth, I just wound going a lot further than I intended," LJ realized how that sounded about five seconds too late and hurried on to explain about the light and the meeting at the diner, "And then I suggested going to hotel so we could be alone." LJ was emphatic about that 'I', she wasn't going to have her parents thinking Sabrina had somehow taken advantage of her.

        Willow had been thinking along those lines but hustled the conversation along, "And then?"

        "We fell asleep and when we woke up we decided to grab a shower before heading home," LJ caught the look on Willow's face and suddenly didn't feel like dancing around the issue, "Alright we were in the shower making love when you tried to call me, and yes that's why we slept in so late as well. I know you think I should have called you last night but if I did you would have insisted I come home." LJ looked from Willow to Tara and took Sabrina's hand, "If you two had been kept apart the way we have don't tell me you would have done differently because I won't believe you!" Realizing she had begun to shout LJ stopped. She felt a little dizzied by her outburst and was convinced she had completely blown her chances of persuading her mothers to let Sabrina stay.

        As it happened Willow wasn't upset by the outburst. As LJ made her defiant stand Willow had found herself hearing another voice, another young woman telling her parents that she was in love and if they didn't like the person she wanted to be with then they could go to hell, and that worked out pretty well, she thought as she looked fondly at Tara.

        As she turned her attention back to LJ Willow saw her daughter brace herself for the onslaught and couldn't resist leaving her in suspense for a few seconds longer, and enjoying the way LJ's jaw hit the floor when she did speak, "I suppose I would have done the same, in fact I sort of did once upon a time."

        That left LJ speechless so Sabrina tried to fill in, "It's good of you to say that, I never meant to cause trouble, I just wanted to be with Lydia."

        Tara nodded, "We do understand, its just things are moving very fast. LJ did you do any talking last night? I mean did you tell her any of our little family secrets?"

        LJ had recovered enough from Willow's change of heart enough so that she understood what Tara was getting at, "Uh no I didn't."

        "Well then this might be good time for you two to take a walk and share some of them, tell her about the first time we saw you." Tara suggested.

        That left Sabrina looking confused and LJ decided to go along with the notion, "Let's go sweetheart, I'll explain some stuff, and then you'll be really confused."

        As LJ led Sabrina towards the door Willow called after them, "Try to remember the way home this time dear."

        As soon as the front door closed behind them Tara slid down beside Willow and gave her a long lingering kiss, "I'm proud of you honey, that meant a lot to LJ even if she won't admit it."

        Willow was embarrassed, "I just realized I was in danger of turning into my father, blaming you for somehow seducing his nice straight daughter."

        Tara giggled, "I don't think you're in any danger of that, you have too much hair for one thing."

        "Well there is that." Willow conceded.

        "And he did come round eventually, especially after we gave him a grand child."

        Willow raised an eyebrow at that reminder, "Well let's hope LJ doesn't try that approach with us."

        "I think we're more likely to give her a sister before she makes us grandparents." Tara ran her fingers through Willow's hair as she spoke.

        "You know between Sabrina and the Athenai I haven't even thought about checking Clelland's research." Willow admitted.

        "Do you want to?" Tara asked softly.

        Willow didn't need to think about the answer, "Yeah, I do, maybe not today but sometime soon we need to make time for ourselves."

        "Absolutely." Tara agreed and kissed her again.

        When they finally broke away Willow reluctantly returned to the situation at hand, "Since LJ is telling Sabrina all about us I think it's only fair we learn everything about her, including her involvement with the Athenai."



        Nigel looked at Phoebe with a weary expression, "Is it really worth it? I mean several other members have departed recently, why pursue Sabrina above them?" he was being deliberately obtuse of course, Nigel was quite certain those other members were less departed than deceased. He had always known that Phoebe was capable of ruthlessness but her recent actions had begun to make him seriously question how far she would go.

        Phoebe wasn't of course going to admit that the actions of the others was no longer an issue, "None of the others are spilling their secrets to the Slayer, and yes Nigel you told me so and I didn't give you credit."

        Nigel wasn't going to be put off by cheap flattery, "That simply makes my point, she has undoubtedly already spilled all the secrets she knows while sneaking around behind our backs."

        "I don't think so, there are things she probably doesn't even realize she knows, things that the Slayer and her parents will extract from her given time." Phoebe insisted.

        Nigel stood his ground; he wasn't going to simply concede to Phoebe without at least trying to head off this act of stupidity, "I don't think the Slayer is planning on administering the third degree, or allowing anyone else to do so for that matter."

        Phoebe fixed him with a steely gaze, "We cannot simply let Sabrina go, find her and make that clear to her."

        Nigel sighed and left the office. Phoebe leaned back in her chair, she knew her authority was draining away, probably irreparably but she had a duty to her eventual successor to ensure there was some sort of organization to hand. Doing that meant that some secrets had to be kept, at any cost.



4. "Relationships"




"So you met your parents back in the year two thousand?" Sabrina was having a hard time trying to get her head around the concept that time travel was possible, never mind the notion that she was dating someone who had actually done it.

        "Well from my perspective it hasn't happened yet but yeah basically that's what happened." LJ assured her, and couldn't resist adding, "They met you about a year later."

        Sabrina came to a halt in the street, "What?"

        "They ran into you back then, in a place, in a place that's too complicated to explain right now." LJ was enjoying the expression of confusion of on Sabrina's face, it was sort of cute.

        "Complicated, right, wouldn't want to get into anything complicated." Sabrina was wondering what she had gotten herself into, then looked at LJ and decided whatever it was she liked it.

        LJ slid an arm around her waist, "I know how weird this is, I didn't even find about it until after I became a Slayer, and it freaked me out."

        That made Sabrina feel better, as did that arm which was pulling her close. What didn't make her feel better was the sight of the man walking towards them, "Nigel."

        LJ also recognized the Athenai and immediately stepped in front of Sabrina, "Just stay right where you are."

        Nigel stopped obediently, "I haven't come here to pick a fight Miss Maclay," he stopped and thought that over for a second, "Actually that may not be wholly true, I've been sent to tell Sabrina that we want her to come back."

        That comment set Sabrina off, "So 'we' want me to come back? Including you Nigel? Go on tell me you want me to come back."

        The provocation broke through Nigel's cool exterior, especially as he had been forced to swallow so much recently, "No I don't want you to come back, I've known for months you weren't really one of us, before you ever met Lydia Joyce Maclay."

        Sabrina wasn't intimidated by his outburst, “Then why don't you just tell Phoebe that? Tell her that I'm not worth getting back?"

        "Even if she was willing to go with you I'd tie her up and carry her back to the house." LJ added firmly.

        Sabrina suddenly looked less hostile and more intrigued, "Really? What exactly did you have in mind?"

        LJ shook her head, "It was meant to be a threat sweetheart," she reminded Sabrina.

        The interplay between the two did more to persuade Nigel to give up and go than all Sabrina's defiance, "Alright stay if you wish but Phoebe will not accept it and there are others who will see your actions as a betrayal, and they will take steps."

        LJ's gaze was hard as it met Nigel's, "If they do I'll be ready to take some action myself, tell your buddies that."

        Nigel didn't have a reply to that, he just nodded and walked away, resisting the urge to look back and make sure there wasn't a fireball following him.



        Willow and Tara were both sat on the sofa when LJ and Sabrina walked in and LJ braced herself for more trouble. Willow caught the expression, "Did something happen out there?"

        "We ran into Nigel," Sabrina explained, "It seems the Athenai can't bear to live with out me."

        "I made it clear that they better learn to." LJ added casually.

        Willow wasn't taken in, "I don't imagine they're just going to take that advice, which makes our decision all the more relevant."

        Now LJ was on edge again, "What decision?"

        Willow gestured for Tara to explain; “We’ve decided to let Sabrina have the guest room, if she wants it."

        LJ stared at her parents and her mouth worked soundlessly.

        Sabrina managed to answer but she sounded bewildered, maybe even a little scared, "Are you sure? I mean it's generous of you."

        Willow waved away the protest, "Its not generous, we figured if your staying here then we don't have to wonder where our daughter is sneaking off to at night. Also now you've cut yourself off from the Athenai how are you going to support yourself? Can you afford to live in hotels or rent an apartment?"

        Tara had been nodding along as Willow spoke, "And with what you just told us, don't you think you'll be safer with three more witches watching your back; especially LJ?"

        That definitely swayed Sabrina, "Probably a good idea, I don't exactly have a huge bank account anyway."

        LJ reached out telepathically to Sabrina, this smells like a trap, they’re going to mother you to death.

        Sabrina didn't seem bothered by that, there are worse things.

        Seeing that she wasn't going to get any support LJ gave in, "Ok, I guess it makes a sort of sense."

        Tara smiled and before LJ could say anything else she gestured to Sabrina, "Good I'll show you the guest room Sabrina."



        LJ waited until Sabrina was out of earshot before she started quizzing Willow, "What exactly do you get out of this mom? Do you think that if she's living here I'll be too embarrassed to fool around with her? Because if that's the plan you're the one who’s going to be embarrassed."

        Willow stayed calm, "Well you should remember that could be a two way street," she smiled as LJ blushed, "but seriously if Sabrina was staying somewhere else how long would it be before you were packing a bag to be with her? And since we wouldn't let you wind up on the streets that would leave us picking up the bills."

        That was logical but LJ pushed the notion, "We could make it work, get jobs or something."

        Willow shook her head, "Leaving aside the fact that I would kill you if you dropped out of school what exactly would Sabrina do? Maybe she wants to go to college, have you asked her?"

        Once more her mother had left LJ speechless. She knew how she felt about Sabrina, and vice versa, as far as mundane facts and information went she was still a little light.

        Willow saw LJ was getting the idea, "If you two are both here then you can get to know one another, and if you're right then it will just be a start for you. If you're wrong, well Tara and me will be here for you."

        "And what exactly are you expecting?" LJ asked quietly.

        Willow shook her head, "I'm afraid Sabrina Harrington will be around to annoy me for a while yet."

        When LJ finally realized what Willow had said she pulled her mother out of the chair and hugged her.



        There was no warm welcome waiting for Nigel as he walked down the corridors of the Athenai headquarters. He could recall a time when he had enjoyed just walking through this place; there had been a sense of purpose and belonging. That was long gone however. Perhaps if he had been willing to fight for the leadership when the post fell open he could have prevented that loss, but that was then and this is now. He could sense the rot was too far gone and he had compromised too many times to take any sort of lead. As he thought back to his encounter with Sabrina and the Maclay girl, he couldn't erase the suspicion that Harrington might have made the smart move, finding somewhere new she could belong.

        That wasn't a notion he was planning to share with Phoebe. The leader of the Athenai was sat behind her desk with a dark brooding look on her face, "You weren't terribly persuasive then."

        Nigel suddenly felt very tired and drained, "Of course not, she's been smitten by the Slayer for months and now their clearly on more intimate terms. She has the power of the Slayer and her parents to put between her and us. What on earth do you imagine I could do to make her come back with me?"

        Phoebe was taken aback by Nigel's bluntness but it didn't dent her determination, "Perhaps nothing but that doesn't change the fact that we need her back."

        That was too much for Nigel and he erupted, "What on earth for!?"

        Phoebe toyed with the edge of her desk, it would be very easy to be rid of the man and she was sure Nigel was undercutting her authority with the others, still he has uses, "Very well I'll explain, it is not to go beyond this room you understand."

        "As you say." Surprise at Phoebe's concession made him compliant.

        Phoebe composed herself, "Since before I took this office we've tried to scry the future, learn something of what's to come. It's rarely very successful since the future is a fluid thing, one fact though has remained unshakeable; there is a global catastrophe looming," she paused to appraise Nigel's expression, content she went on, "the forces involved are of such a magnitude and the sequence of events so confused that the best seers the Athenai have couldn't untangle it. One of the few things that was clearly discernable was that Sabrina would be in the thick of it."

        "Harrington?" It was sufficiently bizarre to Nigel that he felt the need to check.

        Phoebe nodded, "Yes that Sabrina. She's our only lead, the one chance we have to find a way to unravel this tangled futurescape. We have pursued other avenues of course, hence our aggressive strategy recently," she decided that was quite enough to content Nigel, enough that he wouldn't wonder if there was more at least.

        Nigel mulled it over. It did make some sense of otherwise questionable decisions but one point did occur to him, " What make you sure that it isn't leaving us for the Slayer that puts her at the centre of this cataclysm?"

        Whatever smugness Nigel might have felt at leaving Phoebe speechless was more than offset by the concern at the realization that the possibility really had never occurred to her.



5. "Mothers & Daughters"




The guest bedroom seemed perfectly nice to Sabrina and not at all trap like, just not very exciting in itself. The bathroom was another matter. It was huge and had this big sunken tub set in the middle of it. Sabrina was going to joke about it being big enough for two but when she turned to Tara a little voice in the back of her mind spoke up, why exactly do you think they have it? She fell back on bland pleasantries, "You have a really nice home."

        Tara smiled, "Thank you dear," and now the grilling begins. She felt a little bad about interrogating the girl but Willow did have a point about how little they really knew about Sabrina Harrington and this wasn't exactly the third degree. "I was just wondering, is there anyone you need to let know where you are?" Sabrina didn't quite seem to understand the question, "I mean friends, family."

        At that last word Tara could swear Sabrina actually flinched, "I don't really have any family to speak of." Tara didn't respond, just watched Sabrina sympathetically.

        Sabrina walked into the bathroom and leant against the sink, "My parents died when I was six, a car accident. They left me with an aunt for the day, just so they could get some time alone I guess. I yelled and screamed about it told them I hoped I never saw them again, and I didn't."

        Tara went over to her and placed a comforting hand on Sabrina's shoulder, "I'm so sorry."

        Sabrina did her best to pass it off lightly, "It was a long time ago. Anyway it turned out no one else in my family was either willing or able to take care of me. Went from foster home to foster home. Then when I was thirteen I moved in with a couple who were hooked up with the Athenai and the rest was history."

        "Thirteen," Tara was taken aback, "How old are you now?"

        Sabrina was glad for a less emotive question, "I turned eighteen two months ago."

        "Really? What date?" LJ's voice startled both Sabrina and Tara.

        Sabrina turned to her girlfriend, "The seventeenth."

        That prompted a look of astonishment from LJ, "You're kidding me, that's my birthday too!"

        As the pair started to chatter excitedly Tara decided this would be an excellent time to slip back downstairs, before LJ realized what she had been up to.



        Willow was sipping a cup of coffee and feeling distinctly guilty. She had been sincere in her explanation to LJ and her gut was telling her that they wouldn't be seeing the back of Sabrina Harrington any time soon. Still she had felt compelled to snoop and pry. She sighed, you're getting cranky in your old age, Willow decided just to be grateful that Tara hadn't scolded her about her prying and agreed to play along; when she saw the expression on Tara's face she wondered if it had been such a good idea after all, "What happened baby?"

        "I managed to find out a few things about Sabrina." Tara quickly reiterated her conversation with the girl.

        When she had finished Willow felt like a total low life, "And she's been involved with the Athenai since then?"

        "Not so surprising now, a child with no close family being offered a world of magic, in her place I don't think I would have said no," Tara concluded.

        Willow nodded thoughtfully. Thanks to her mother and grandmother Tara had been exposed to witchcraft from the time she was a little child, for Willow on the other hand it had been a sudden revelation; doubly so when she discovered magic was something she had. She could imagine how a girl who was isolated and alone could be drawn to the Athenai.

        The sense that she might have something in common with Sabrina was sufficiently disturbing for Willow to seek any distraction; which was when she noticed Tara fidgeting, "There's something else isn't there?"

        Tara looked glum, she had worked so hard to get Willow to accept Sabrina, and now she might have to wreck it all, "When I was speaking with Sabrina I picked something in her aura, something, off."

        That comment had Willow instantly on edge, "What exactly?"

        "I'm not sure, there was just something else there when she was talking about her past."

        "Was she lying?" Willow demanded.

        "I don't know," Tara had to admit, "It was different, disconnected from what she was saying, I don't really know what it was."

        That didn't make Willow any less edgy, "Well we better find out."

        That tone of grim resolution alarmed Tara, "Are you going to confront her?"

        Willow thought about that but realized it would mean confronting LJ as well, "No but I am going to get to the bottom of it, and if she has the same birthday as LJ then I know where to start."

        "Where?" Tara asked reluctantly.

        Willow's predatory grin wasn't reassuring, "Right back at the beginning."



        Watching Willow working several tablets at a time was usually intriguing to Tara, like watching a juggler or a plate spinner; right now it was more like a knife throwing act, which might become a real one if LJ walks in on us.

        "Ah hah!" Willow stabbed a finger at the screen of a tablet, "I knew there couldn't be many Sabrina Harrington’s in the USA; add in the birthday and its just a matter of having the right search tools."

        "And a total disregard for people's privacy." Tara murmured.

        Willow was too distracted to hear the comment, "Now if I cross reference the parents address with police records..." she stopped and frowned, "there is report of a traffic accident, involving them, and there's a listing for next of kin, a sister of the wife."

        "Which confirms everything Sabrina told me." Tara stated firmly, "Maybe what I picked up was completely innocent."

        Willow had to admit what she was reading made it seem unlikely, still, "These are just computer records, it would be way better to talk to a real person."

        Again Tara couldn't argue the logic, she just wasn’t sure about the morality; however if Sabrina was deceiving LJ that was something the had to know, "The aunt."

        "Seems like the best bet to me." Willow agreed.

        "I can take a read on her." Tara concurred.

        Now Willow shook her head, "No, one of us should be here to run interference, and if it’s me LJ will figure out something's up in about five seconds."

        Tara couldn't argue with that, "Alright but when you meet her be nice honey."

        "I'll do my best," assuming she isn't connected to the Athenai.



        As Willow walked up to the door of the house that was home to Sabrina's aunt she had to concede it hardly looked like an Athenai lair. If anything it resembled her own home, albeit on a smaller scale. Again the sense of familiarity ate away at Willow's resolve but her need to know kept Willow moving forward and she pressed firmly on the door chime.

        When the screen by the door came to life Willow was confronted by a fair-haired woman a few years younger than herself, "Allison Green?"

        "Yes," the woman admitted cautiously, "and you would be?"

        "Willow Rosenberg, I'm not selling anything or trying to convert you to anything, I just need to speak to you about your niece."

        That left Allison looking bewildered, "My niece?"

        "Sabrina Harrington." Willow offered nervously.

        Her unease proved well founded as Allison's face turned stony, "My niece Sabrina? My niece died twelve years ago." Before Willow could process that bombshell the screen went blank.

        Willow stood there for a moment thinking things over and decided there was no alternative, she pressed the chime and kept her finger there.

        The door flew open, "Go away or I'm calling the police!" Allison shouted and made to slam the door; only to find it inexplicably jammed open.

        Willow adopted a serious expression and a conciliatory tone, "Look I have a girl staying in my house calling herself Sabrina Harrington and basically claiming to be your niece. You'll understand if I find what you just told me more than a little disturbing."

        That made Allison hesitate a little, "So what do you want from me?"

        "Really just some details, something to help me confront this girl, she's a, friend, of my daughters and it's going to be pretty tough to convince her that her friends a fraud without some sort of facts." It wasn't exactly what Willow had in mind but there was no point in confusing the woman with all the gory details.       

        Allison stared at Willow long and hard, "Ok, you can have five minutes but the first sign of anything suspicious and you're out that door."

        The feelings mutual, Willow didn't reply, "Thank you," she answered instead and released her telekinetic grip on the door, leaving a baffled Allison to close the door behind her.

Willow: ...I have to tell you....

Tara: No, I understand you have to be with the person you l-love

Willow: I am



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 Post subject: RC 2018: 2019-4: Perfect Day PtIII
PostPosted: Sat Apr 02, 2005 4:12 pm 
6. "Heartfelt"




The inside of the house was nice and well kept if a little old fashioned, perhaps pointing to someone nostalgic for a lost past, leave the psychoanalysis to Tara, Willow told herself firmly. Allison offered her a seat but didn't seem inclined to extend any other hospitality. That was fine with Willow who was finding this increasingly uncomfortable, "Would you mind telling me what happened on that day?" She didn’t think she needed to be any more specific.

        Allison sat down opposite Willow, "Sabrina was supposed to stay with me; Linda and Jack were going to have a day to themselves. It was the tenth anniversary of their first date. It was a silly romantic thing, the sort of stuff Linda always loved. At the last minute though Sabrina pleaded to go along and they gave in." The woman stopped for a moment and ran her fingers through her hair, "If they had stuck to their original plan..."

        "She was in the car with them." Willow could see how much this was upsetting Allison and wanted to cut it short.

        Allison nodded, "And now you say some girl has turned up to impersonate her, why would anyone do that?"

        Lacking a good answer Willow got up to pace. She walked over to the open fireplace and the mantelpiece above it. She was not looking forward to going home and explaining what she had found our and it occurred to Willow that this poor woman might have her irate daughter on the doorstep next. She was considering that appalling prospect while looking at a row of pictures on the mantelpiece; which was when her train of thought came to a screeching halt.

        Willow picked up a picture and held it out to Allison, "Is that you and your sister?"

        Allison nodded, "I know, there isn't much of a resemblance, she took after my father's side of the family while I was a carbon copy of my mother."

        There's a lot of that going around, Willow agreed silently. The woman stood next to Allison in the picture had dark hair and eyes, and the shape of her face was quite familiar to her; the woman simply couldn't be anyone else than Sabrina's mother. Willow looked at Allison and regretted leaving Tara behind. The woman seemed utterly sincere but there had to be a chance she was just an incredibly good actress. Putting the photo back down Willow composed herself, "I want to say thank you, I don't know what's going on with the Sabrina at my home but I promise you I'm going to find out."

        Allison looked grim, "And you'll let me know?"

        Willow barely managed to keep her tone neutral, "I promise, I'll let you know, one way or another."



        Going over the latest psychiatric journals always gave Tara a mixture of deep thoughts and cheap laughs. The latter came from the way some of her professional colleagues tried to build theories to explain away things that Tara knew were perfectly real; she knew that some people really did have, 'inner demons' and weren’t imagining things lurking in the darkness.

        Her studies were interrupted as LJ and Sabrina walked into the kitchen, "Hey mom, on your own?"

        "Willow went for a walk." Tara explained in what she hoped was a suitably distracted tone.

        It was unusual for her mom to go for a walk on her own but LJ realized Willow had stretched pretty far to accommodate the current situation; LJ wasn't going to begrudge her mom a little time to clear her head.

        Sabrina looked curiously at the tablets, "Are you writing a book as well?"

        Tara smiled, "No Willow is the novelist in this family, have you read the Demon Hunter books?"

        "A couple," Sabrina admitted, "most of them actually. One thing puzzles me, how come this Bunny is at the centre of the stories, why aren't they yours and Willow's stories?"

        LJ piped up, "Actually the real one is called Buffy, you'll probably meet them sooner or later."

        "Them?" Sabrina wasn't sure she had heard right.

        "Remember that girl the Athenai tried to snatch from the Watchers? She was a clone of Buffy." LJ explained.

        Sabrina certainly did remember that girl, and she also remembered that LJ had rescued her. Sabrina found that the notion of that little blonde number being ever so 'grateful' to LJ for the rescue entered her mind, and she didn't like it one little bit.

        LJ had indeed entertained exactly that fantasy at one time, which she certainly wasn't going to bring up with her brand new girlfriend, "So, Demon Hunter books."

        Tara took pity on her daughter, "You have to bear in mind that in the early days Buffy was pretty much out in front on her own. Besides Willow felt she was such a great tragic heroic figure with this huge doomed relationship with the love of her life," Tara considered what she had just said, "I assume I can trust you both not to mention this around Buffy or Elias?"

        Tara never got to find out whether they would or they wouldn't because the doorbell rang before she had an answer. She hopped up and went to front door before she could offer up anymore embarrassing secrets.

        As Tara got to the door a disturbing vibe put her on edge and she opened to reveal a pair of men dressed in black suits, white shirts and ties, with close cropped hair, "If you two are Mormons you have really come to the wrong house," she offered sarcastically while leaning casually against the frame.

        The form of one of the men blurred inside his suit and two huge clawed hands lunged towards Tara; and were jerked backwards with howls of pain as they struck an impenetrable wall.

        That unearthly sound brought Sabrina and LJ running into the hall. LJ quickly assessed the situation and held Sabrina back; much to the girl's bemusement, "But she could get hurt."

        LJ smiled, "I really don't think so sweetheart."

        The second demon had dropped back a dozen paces and as it raised its hands they dissolved into a mass of thin sharp spines that exploded towards the open doorway and the figure of Tara stilled framed in it.

        After the twin incidents with Wolfram and Hart the family had decided to substantially reinforce the protecting magics around the house. The newly laid wards weren't simply designed to hold off evil; they would reflect any power thrown against them right back at the source. That was why when the spines reached the line of the doorframe they reversed course and skewered the prickly demon.

        Its partner decided to forgo any further trouble and set off running down the path. Tara wasn't inclined to be cruel but she also wasn't inclined to have demons thinking they could turn up on her doorstep. The demon was jerked off its feet and dragged straight towards the door. It ricocheted off the barrier with a loud crunch and tumbled along the path.

        As it struggled back to its feet Tara strolled up to it, "Pick up the rest of the rubbish and leave, now."

        The demon didn't need a second warning, scooping the skewered form of its companion and limping towards the street.

        Sabrina was watching wide eyed as Tara ordered the demon to leave. LJ grinned, "Now you know where I get it from."



        The witch passed a hand over the bowl of water and the image in it faded. Phoebe dismissed the woman and turned to Nigel, "So we can rule out an attempt on the house."

        Nigel shrugged, "Not surprising really. We could probably overwhelm the defenses but by the time we did it the Slayer would be ready and waiting for us."

        "I said we could rule it out," Phoebe snapped, "there's no need to labor the point."

        Nigel shrugged, "I just wanted to be quite clear."

        Phoebe stared at him coldly, "And I'm quite clear on one thing, we are going to have to resort to more radical measures."

        Nigel he didn't quite dare ask what 'radical measures' might be.



        Willow looked out at the front lawn, "At least they didn't tear up the grass."

        "If they had neither of them would have gotten out of here." From Tara's tone it was hard to say if she was being serious or not.

        "I still can't believe the neighbours haven't come knocking on the door." Sabrina observed. She was perched on a chair arm next to LJ who reached up and rested a hand on her.

        "I told you, if people think they've seen something impossible they usually decide they didn't really see it."

        Willow nodded in agreement, "Well assuming we don't get anymore visitors in the next five minutes I'm going to get a cup of coffee." As she walked into the kitchen Tara followed, LJ and Sabrina didn't seem inclined to move from their current comfortable position; which was just as well since Tara had picked up the turmoil in Willow's aura as soon as she returned from her walk. The aftermath of the attack had prevented Tara from discussing it sooner and she had the feeling Willow was desperate to unburden herself.

        In the kitchen Willow was pouring herself a cup and leaning against the counter, looking suddenly very tired, how bad is it honey?

        Willow sighed; bad I'm just not sure what sort of bad. Willow explained her conversation with Allison, and the picture on the mantelpiece.

        I suppose they could have picked on Linda Harrington because of the resemblance, Tara didn't want to believe that but they had to face up to all the possibilities.

        Much to her relief Willow easily punched a hole in that notion, if you were going to go to that much trouble why leave the aunt out there without doing something to make sure she played along? They couldn't be that smart and that dumb all at the same time.

        Tara was relieved by the logic of Willow's answer, Alright, so what do we do next?

        We dig deeper
, Willow didn't like the notion after the uncomfortable encounter with Allison but didn't see an alternative, we have to check out the accident itself, this time though I think you better come along.

        Well you don't think you're going to leave me behind twice do you
? Tara's thought was warm rather than scolding.

        Willow smiled, her spirits buoyed just by being near Tara, how are we going to explain it to LJ and Sabrina?

        I don't think they'll much attention to explanations if it means they get a couple of hours alone
.



        Tara's guess had been spot on in most respects; LJ didn't question the fact that her parents were going out again so soon. She did come up with one twist though, "Well instead of just hanging around here I think we'll go back to the hotel, to pick up Sabrina's stuff," she hastily concluded.

        Any other time Willow might have been inclined to question the veracity of that statement but this time she was willing to let it go, almost, "Just try not to be too long dear," we might have a lot to talk about.



7. "True"




The police precinct was typically suburban, which was to say it had big windows facing the street, albeit bulletproof ones; it wasn’t the fortress like concrete cubes that had sprouted in a lot of the inner cities. There were also scanners in the door frames but since Willow and Tara's weapons were of a more ethereal variety they were able to walk in without receiving any more attention than a polite nod.

        Willow had dug through the police records to find the officer who had been first on the scene of the accident and it turned out the one time traffic cop was now a senior homicide detective. Even so it hadn't proven too difficult to get an appointment, the detective was apparently intrigued, or suspicious, at having a college professor and a psychiatrist calling her about a twelve year old case.

        Lieutenant Farrell looked from Willow to Tara and back, they seemed perfectly ordinary and sincere, willing to meet her gaze head on, "Well now what can I do for you ladies?"

        Willow took the lead while Tara casually watched the Lieutenant, "I realize it may be asking a lot but we wanted to ask you about an accident investigation, about who was actually involved in it."       

        Farrell nodded, "A car crash involving the Harrington family."

        The casual way she said it set Willow on edge, " You remember the case?"

        "Some stay with you more than others." Farrell stated grimly.

        Willow was about to ask for the gory details when Tara silently spared her, its not true Will, she doesn't really remember the case.

        Is she just out and out lying
? Willow had a nasty suspicion what the answer would be.

        No, it was like her aura froze, when she spoke about it. I'd guess a spell of compulsion, some thing crude and nasty but pretty well embedded. Tara knew that didn't quite describe what she had seen but it was as close as ordinary language could come.

        It's been there for years, Willow was thinking to herself as much as Tara, can you take it out? Without hurting her?

        Tara leant forward, "That sort of incident can be quite traumatic Lieutenant," her tone was so soothing that Farrell didn't pull back as Tara reached across the desk and patted her hand.

        Willow had been holding her breath but the effect wasn't very dramatic; Farrell just looked slightly confused, "I'm sorry what were we talking about?"

        "The Harrington case," Willow prompted.

        Farrell turned to look at her computer display, "Well I did find some old records but it really doesn't ring a bell. I'm afraid that when you've attended a few fatal accidents it can be difficult to separate one from another, to be honest you don't really want to recall too many details."

        Willow was sympathetic, "That's all right Lieutenant, we all have things we would rather not think about."



        On the street outside Willow stopped and took a deep breath, trying very hard not to scream. Tara looked at her with a concerned gaze, "You knew what the detective would say, you know what's going on here."

        "I think I know what's going on." Willow corrected her.

        "But you don't want to share." That was what concerned Tara the most.

        "Because I'm not sure I'm right, and if I'm wrong then Sabrina Harrington is a devious manipulative Athenai plant set on our daughter, which will break LJ's heart." Willow explained grimly.

        That left Tara bewildered and worried, "And if your right?"

        "Then it will be a lot worse." Willow hesitated but realized there wasn't an alternative, "We have to find out one way or another, and there's one more person we have to see; then we'll know."

       

        LJ stared at the two small suitcases in the middle of the hotel room, "Well you certainly travel light."

        Sabrina looked pained, "Not really, this was all I could take when I made my break from the Athenai; I left a whole closet full of stuff behind."

        "Did you rescue that little black dress you wore to the club?" LJ sounded genuinely concerned.

        "First thing I packed." Sabrina assured LJ, and then kissed her, "You know I do have this room booked for one more night."

        LJ considered it but shook her head, "Tempting but if we're more than a hour I'm going to be dating a rodent."

        Sabrina walked towards the bathroom, "No thank you, did that for a couple of hours once spying on a guy, not something I want to repeat in a hurry."

        LJ was intrigued by the comment and was tempted to get the whole story but since it would doubtless involve the Athenai she decided it might stir up some bad memories.

        Sabrina reemerged from the bathroom with a couple of towels tucked under her arm, "I don't suppose you brought those with you as well?"

        "Souvenirs, I wanted something to remember last night by." Sabrina explained.

        LJ arched an eyebrow, "I thought it was pretty memorable."

        "It was, and every time I look at one these I'll remember every little detail." Sabrina practically purred the words.

        LJ was mollified but there was still one thing that concerned her, "I'm not sure my moms will see it that way though."

        Sabrina patted her on the shoulder, "Lydia I'm sure they have their own little souvenirs, I mean they must have gone places and picked stuff up."

        "That's true, me for one thing." LJ observed dryly.

        Sabrina had of course forgotten about LJ's history but covered quickly, "Yeah, wish I could find that professor and tell him he does nice work." As she was speaking she stepped up to LJ and kissed her, "You know just because we can't stay here doesn't mean we have to go straight back to your parent's."

        LJ considered it for a moment, "Well if we go back and no ones home we could leave a note and go out for a while. I could show you what else I do for fun."

        Sabrina gave her a seductive look, "How can I possibly say no?" LJ's next comment dented her ardor.

        "Great, I hope you packed some sensible shoes."



        Phoebe stood in the entrance of the underground chamber giving it the once over. It was a great hemispherical bubble that had been carved from what was originally a ragged and irregular cave and most of the work had been done by hand, a testament to the fanaticism and patience of its creators. Those builders were long gone but the chamber had been reused over the centuries by other groups until it finally fell under the control of the Athenai. Although the organization hadn't had any call to use it in recent times Phoebe had insured it was kept clean and ready; just in case.

        As she stepped into the chamber Phoebe felt a weight settle on her, making movement difficult. Nigel had walked in behind her and felt the same heavy atmosphere, "Is this really wise?" he asked gloomily.

        "I told you we would take measures and given the power of this Slayer what lesser step do you imagine would succeed?" Phoebe demanded sharply.

        That Nigel couldn't answer, the only practical alternative was to let go and he knew now that was the one option Phoebe wouldn't consider, "I suppose if we must go on this is the only choice," he conceded.

        Phoebe didn't bother acknowledging him, she just gestured to the five other members of the Athenai she had brought along and they deployed around the circumference of the chamber, lighting candles as they took their places. Phoebe walked into the centre of the circle they formed and closed her eyes; it wasn't a very elaborate ritual but it was only intended to get the attention not try and control the thing which had once been worshipped here.

        You call on me empty handed and expect to live? The telepathic voice was like a hundred nails screeching down a blackboard.

        Phoebe didn't let her unnerve her, I came bearing an opportunity.

        We cannot consume 'opportunity'.

        This one you can
. Phoebe let her mind conjure up an image of LJ Maclay and tried to keep out the sense of bitterness that went with it, all I want is the other you will find with her left unharmed.

        I am not a servant to be ordered around by the likes of you
.

        Phoebe remained resolute, but you need the likes of me if you want to walk this world again, there aren't eager acolytes waiting to offer up sacrifices to you anymore. You can accept my deal or sit in your little dimension for eternity growing more hollowed out with each passing eon.

        The response was a few seconds in coming and the nails on blackboard was now more like a thousand dentist drills, I will accept your opportunity but if I return empty handed you and yours will suffer.

        Anyone else might have had second thoughts, Phoebe wasn't anyone else, those are terms I can accept, just remember to leave the other alone, she belongs to us.



8. "Synchronicity"




Allison could feel a headache building behind her temples. She had avoided thinking about the death of her sister and niece for years; it was too painful and provoked too much guilt. Now this Willow Rosenberg had turned up and calmly announced there was someone running around using Sabrina's name and there couldn't be any good reasons for someone doing that.

        The sound of the doorbell stirred Allison from her chair and she was far from happy to see who was on her doorstep. It was as if thinking about Willow had summoned her, and this time she had brought some company along. Reluctantly Allison opened the door, "I assume you have some news."

        Willow hesitated for a moment, technically she didn't know much more than the last time she was here but she had to get through the door. She resisted the urge to cross her fingers as she said, "We do have some important news, this is my, this is Tara Maclay."

        "Hello Allison, I know this is all a bit overwhelming but it is vital we talk." Tara didn't have to feign any of the sympathy in her voice. The theory that Willow had outlined for her had been hard to hear, it would be worse for Allison if Willow was right.

        Allison wasn't sure she really wanted to hear what Willow had to say but she found she couldn't turn the pair away, "You had better come in."

        As soon as the door was shut Willow went to the heart of it, there was no point dragging this out, "The day of the accident Sabrina was supposed to stay with you but she went with her parents instead?"

        "Yes I told you that, she went with them and I really don't want to rehash it again." Allison sounded tired and irritated.

        Willow looked to Tara and didn't need a telepathic connection to know what she was thinking, can you fix it?

        I can do it but its not going to be pretty, its very deeply embedded
, Tara sounded very uneasy.

        Willow sympathized; however, it's the only way to get to the truth, and however bad it is its time for that truth to come out.

        Tara took a couple of steps towards Allison who raised a hand to stop her, "What are you doing?"

        Tara closed both her hands around Allison's outstretched one, "I'm sorry about this."

        Allison tried to pull her hand back but found it frozen in place. She looked at Tara, and couldn't look away. Tara felt out the spell laid into Allison's mind, reached out to melt away the rigid shape of the thing away and let the woman's thoughts flow back into their true shape. Even with Tara's best efforts she couldn't control things completely, couldn't hold back a tidal surge as Allison's mind flooded into the hole Tara had created.

        As Allison staggered away Willow guided her into a chair, watching the woman's face anxiously as she did. Tara moved to crouch in front of her, "Allison listen to me, focus on my voice. I know your confused but you have to concentrate, you have to do it right now."

        "What happened?" Allison sounded dazed and distant.

        "That's what you have to tell us," Tara's voice was soothing but firm, "you need to remember the day we were talking about, remember the details, remember where Sabrina was."

        "She was with me." Allison blurted it out unthinkingly.

        Willow should have felt triumphant at being right, instead she had a sinking feeling, "She didn't go with her parents?"

        Allison was slowly regaining her composure, "I remember her being here when they came to the door but that doesn't make sense, she died."

        "No, concentrate on the memories that belong to you, not anything else, trust yourself." Tara reassured her.

        Allison nodded slowly, "She was with me when they came to the door, when they came to tell me about the accident, they suggested they should take her outside while we talked," she hesitated as the confusion of contradictory recollections threatened to overwhelm her. Allison looked at Tara and remembered her advice, “I talked with a woman I thought was a social worker and as we talked I, I just forgot about Sabrina, I was sure she was with her parents."

        Tara weighed up how much of the truth to dump on Allison and decide to shade things a little, "You were traumatized and Sabrina might have gone with them, it was a sort of hypnotic suggestion."

        Allison was still bewildered but she was prepared to accept the explanation for now and something more important came to mind, "The girl you've met, she is Sabrina isn't she?

        "Seems most likely." Willow agreed.

        "Well where is she now? Is she ok?"

        "She's with our daughter." Willow explained, how safe that is depends on your point of view.



        Sabrina looked around her, "You just think about where you want go and that's it?"

        "Well it works for me," LJ cautioned, "maybe you better ask the mom's to teach you about teleportation, it works differently for other people. When they first did it they could only go places they had already been the ordinary way."

        Sabrina nodded, though she wasn't exactly thrilled at the prospect of taking lessons from Willow and Tara. She decided to focus on the learning the ropes of patrolling, "So how often does this turn out be just a pleasant evening stroll?"

        "You'd be surprised," LJ slipped an arm around Sabrina's waist as they walked and talked, "I usually pick a place where there's a lot of weird activity and more often than not I find something."

        Sabrina frowned, "You'd think they would get the message, you know stay away from redheads with knives."

        "Demons don't think that way, they always want to prove how big and tough they are by taking down the Slayer." LJ explained casually.

        "I remember that vampire in the Demon Hunter books, 'Bloody Bill', he killed two hunters, was that real?" Sabrina still wasn't sure how much of the books was real and how much was embellishment. At first she had assumed it was a little bit of fact with a lot of imagination to glue it together. The more she was involved with LJ and her family the higher the fact ratio seemed.

        LJ quickly confirmed her view, "He's actually known as Spike and he's still around, kind of a wimp now though," and someone else not to tell about the Buffy clone.

        Sabrina absorbed that information but was distracted by an odd flickering in the air, "Uh do you see..."

        She didn't get to finish the question as a brilliant point of light raced past her and exploded; lighting up the night and the great translucent shape hanging in the sky. It looked like a giant jellyfish, extruding and contracting limbs as it drifted towards LJ and Sabrina.

        LJ had all her senses at full stretch and she felt the attack before she saw it so she had a split second to raise a barrier before several of the limbs snapped towards them with a sound like a whip cracking. As they hit the barrier LJ was startled to see it ripple and spark; signs that it wouldn't last long, a sign that this thing packed some serious punch. Grabbing Sabrina LJ rolled away from the barrier as two more tentacles slammed into it and smashed straight through.

        "Is this usual too?" Sabrina asked as she pulled herself up off the grass.

        "Definitely not," LJ explained emphatically, the thing was moving closer but not attacking again; she wasn't inclined to return the favour. LJ uttered a couple of clipped syllables and gestured. The incantation was answered by lightning arcing from the sky and striking the creature. It's skin darkened and blistered but as soon as the bolt expended itself the ruined skin dissolved and was absorbed back into the beast.

        Braced for retaliation LJ was amazed that nothing happened; at least until she took a few steps forward and tentacles lashed out at her again. This time LJ didn't bother to try and raise a barrier, she just teleported out and reappeared twenty feet away as four tentacles twisted together and ploughed into the dirt.

        Although the thing had no face LJ was certain that the thing's attention was wholly focused on her, ignoring Sabrina. That confirmed a suspicion that had been developing, that this thing hadn't just shown up by accident and who had sent it. Sweetheart I think I know how to beat this thing but I need you to help.

        Sabrina was watching as LJ dodged and twisted, how can I help?

        Let me direct my power through you, it means opening up completely and I've never tried this before, and


        Sabrina cut her off, you don't need to ask, we're in this together.

        LJ felt Sabrina's mind relax, open up, completely exposed. If LJ was so inclined she could ransack Sabrina's mind. Instead she opened her mind just as wide, letting them slide into one another until she felt something that her parents had spoken about in almost mystical terms, synchronicity.

        She was in two places at once, one part of her dodging and twisting, the other calmly approaching the creature, summoning her power to turn against it. The beast might be immune to fire; she would see how it responded to cold.

        The creature was leaving Sabrina alone as agreed; it was no great hardship as it was the other one who radiated so much energy, that one could keep it warm for a very long time. It was drawn to LJ like a moth to the flame and didn't even notice as Sabrina sidled up to it and touched her hands against one of its limbs. It tried to jerk it away but the limb turned stiff and heavy, frozen to a lump of ice and the wave of cold ran through the creature as LJ/Sabrina drained the energy from it, turning it from a jelly to a crystalline mass that began to crash to the earth.

        That was the moment that the connection pulled apart, LJ raced to drag Sabrina away as the creature split apart and collapsed onto the grass, shattering into a million jagged pieces.

        As she looked at the scene of devastation Sabrina knew she should be scared, horrified even. Instead she remembered that moment of connection and turned to LJ, "Whatever happens, wherever you have to go whatever you have to do, promise you'll take me with you, that we'll be together no matter what."

        "Until the end of the world," LJ assured, and the kissed Sabrina, with a little part of her mind wondering why that turn of phrase had popped into her head.

Willow: ...I have to tell you....

Tara: No, I understand you have to be with the person you l-love

Willow: I am



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 Post subject: RC 2018: 2019-4: Perfect Day PtIV
PostPosted: Sat Apr 02, 2005 4:13 pm 
9. "Always"




Arriving home to find her parents waiting LJ hadn't expected a warm reception but she had a plausible explanation and a run in with a major league monster usually counted for a lot. Tonight though her parents were really listening; instead they were watching Sabrina's every move in a way that was starting to irritate her.

        More closely attuned than ever after their earlier experience Sabrina decided to get out of the way and let the trio clear the air, "I think I'm going to go unpack properly, shouldn't take too long," she kissed LJ on the cheek and practically ran for the stairs before anyone could object.

        As soon as Sabrina was out of earshot LJ rounded on her parents, "What is going on here? I thought we had settled this, I thought you understood, I thought you meant what you said."

        LJ's words stung Willow, "We meant it but we've found something out, something..."

        LJ cut her off angrily, "I knew it you wanted her here to pry, find some reason to turn against her."

        Tara looked at Willow, who seemed willing to let this storm break over her and Tara knew why. Willow had gone out expecting to find some deep dark secret about Sabrina and was feeling distinctly guilty right now. Tara was suffering from no such thing, "That will be quite Lydia Joyce, perhaps you might want to listen before you say something you'll regret. We found out something, something that's going to be hard for Sabrina to hear."

        That statement threw ice water on LJ's blazing fury, "What are you talking about?"

        "There was something wrong about Sabrina's story about the death of her parents," Tara raised a hand to forestall LJ, "Not a lie, something manipulated in her memory."

        Now Willow spoke up, "She wasn't the only one, we found other people with the same pattern, and there's only one conclusion that made sense, that the Athenai were responsible for what happened to her parents."

        LJ needed a moment to follow through what her mother was saying, and when she did she was dazed, "The Athenai murdered them."

       

        Willow laid out the details of their meetings with Allison and the police officer, "Maybe the Athenai could have thrown together a kidnapping on two hours notice but I can't really believe it. They knew what was going to happen and I don't think they had a vision either."

        LJ wished she could believe Willow was wrong; the Athenai taking advantage of foreknowledge would be bad but a long way short of cold-blooded murder. The problem was that everything she knew about the Athenai pointed in the opposite direction. Regardless she now knew what she had been misreading in her parent's attitude towards Sabrina earlier, "Sabrina's happy and I'm happy and you're afraid you're going to wreck it."

        "It did occur that you might never forgive me." Willow admitted.

        Now it was LJ's turn to feel like a lowlife, she had gotten carried away and forgotten the cardinal rule for a little while; that her parents loved her and would always look out for her. "You're not going to ruin anything, I'm the one who’s going to do that because I'm the one who’s going to tell her."

        "Dear you don't have to, we'll do it, we've had more experience." Tara's offer was sincere but she knew what her daughter's answer would be.

        LJ shook her head, "No, she should hear it from me, if I want to share stuff with her I have to share this."



        When she had begun her explanation LJ had been expecting hysterics from Sabrina by the time she had finished. A few breakable things broken, cursing, accusations, LJ had been ready for all of that; what she hadn't expected was Sabrina to be sat on the edge of the bed silent and still, her face a blank mask.

        Deciding that couldn't be a good thing LJ sat down beside her and began to run fingers through Sabrina's hair, "Look even my parents can be wrong, we can double check things."

        Sabrina shook her head, "No it's true. The moment you said it I just thought 'well of course they did, it's what they do’." Sabrina looked at LJ and her eyes were beginning to tear up. "The Athenai were the only family I had, even when I realized they were a pretty screwed up and dysfunctional one I still didn't want to see the truth, how basically rotten the whole Athenai were, me included."

        "Don't say that." LJ's voice was kind but insistent.

        Sabrina was insistent however and jumped up from the bed, "Then why didn't I see it, why didn't I face up to it?"

        It was a rhetorical question but LJ had an answer. She got up and put her hands on Sabrina's shoulders, "Because you were alone and you no one to turn to, now you do," she gathered Sabrina into her arms, "what do you want to do now?"

        Sabrina leant her head against LJ's shoulder, "I want her to tell me why."

        That left LJ a little confused, "Who sweetheart?"

        Sabrina raised her head and looked LJ in the eyes, "Phoebe, I want to look her in the eyes like this and make her tell me the truth, tell everyone the truth about what they've done."

        LJ wanted to object but seeing the steely determination in Sabrina's she just nodded.



        Willow was a lot less sanguine about Sabrina's plan when the pair had come back downstairs. Willow and Tara had braced themselves for screaming and hysterics, so the relative calm had been unsettling. Now they had moved onto a whole new level of unease, "Are you sure this is wise? Phoebe seems to have a knack for making problem people disappear."

        "With me there they won't dare." LJ stated firmly.

        Sabrina frowned, "Lydia I have to go in alone."

        LJ exploded to her, "Like hell you are!"

        For once Tara wasn't going to admonish LJ for her language, "It does seem like a risky plan, the Athenai seem to be lacking in patience."

        Sabrina kept her calm and looked at Willow, "What do you think Professor?"

        Willow chose her words carefully, "It is a risk but I think it's a small one, the Athenai don't want you dead."

        LJ turned on her mother, "How did you come to that conclusion?"

        "You told me," Willow responded to LJ's surprise, "when that thing attacked it went after you but ignored Sabrina, which can't be accidental." There was also the matter of the extraordinary, nightmarish, lengths they had gone to in recruiting Sabrina but Willow wasn't going to remind anyone of that right now.

        Sabrina didn't need any reminding, "If I go in alone I'll be safe, more or less. If anyone else goes in with me it will be world war three."

        Willow looked back at LJ, "She's right, if you try and walk in there it will instantly turn into a fight, and that isn't what Sabrina wants; at least to start with," she concluded dryly.

        LJ wasn't completely convinced, "What about after you face Phoebe?"

        Now Sabrina's expression changed; the rage and pain surfacing once more, "Then we make the Athenai pay for what they've done to me, my family, for everyone they've hurt. We make sure they never do it again."

       

        Nigel brushed the shoulders of his jacket, depositing a layer of dust on the floor of Phoebe's office. That attracted a disapproving look, which he didn't much care about right now, "She destroyed it, the Slayer destroyed..." Even knowing the entity was dead Nigel hesitated to say its name.

        "Was anyone hurt when the chamber imploded?" Phoebe asked, not sounding wholly sincere in her concern.

        Nigel gave her a harsh look, “Not physically but having a vortex trying to suck us into the netherworld was more than a little traumatic. I believe the message was clear, we can expect no more aid from that quarter."

        Phoebe was doing her best to maintain her air of calm but inside she was badly shaken. However powerful the Slayer was she was only human against a demigod it should simply have been a matter of how long the girl could last and with her gone Sabrina could have been brought back into the fold, after all alone once more where else could she go? Instead Lydia Maclay had demonstrated a level of power unimagined; or perhaps not, the light of the Earth. The Athenai had known of the old demonic prophecy and tried to decipher it, and now we're face to face with it.

        Nigel interrupted her chain of thought, "If it isn't too much to ask what are your intentions now?"

        Phoebe looked at him and knew however much it galled her there was only one thing to do now, "We withdraw."

        "You're giving up? Letting the girl go?" Nigel wasn't sure he was hearing right.

        He was right to doubt, "Hardly, I am simply conceding that we have to step back for the moment, let the heat of passion cool and see if Sabrina finds suburbia so appealing."

        It sounded like face saving to Nigel but he wasn't going to argue over that. He was prevented from offering his enthusiastic agreement as the door to the chamber opened and an excited looking Athenai stuck her head around it, "Sabrina is here!"

        Phoebe was bemused, "Here?"

        The Athenai nodded, "Outside the building insisting on seeing you, something to do with her parents."

        Nigel was lost as Phoebe and was going to say so until he saw all the colour had drained from the woman's face. He couldn't quite say why but he felt a powerful impulse and decided to go with it, "Let her in, I think we need to hear what she has to say."

        Phoebe was going to countermand him but found her mouth was too dry to speak and a sense of doom was creeping over her. She had wanted Sabrina back and here she was. Only one thought echoed through Phoebe's brain in that moment; be careful what you wish for, you might just get it.



10. "Breaking Up"




The headquarters of the Athenai weren't exactly what Willow had imagined, which was hardly surprising as you weren't likely to find Frankenstein's castle in suburban Chicago. The place actually looked like a small modern office building and according to Sabrina the ground and upper floors served in that capacity, the real hub of the Athenai was in the extensive subbasements that spread out from under it.

        The building Willow was crouching on top of alongside Tara and LJ was several stories taller and the trio had an excellent view as Sabrina walked through the doors. The girl still might not be Willow's idea of a perfect partner for her daughter but there was no questioning her courage, and what exactly would this perfect partner be like? The common sense part of Willow's mind insisted on asking.

        Once again Willow didn't have a good answer so she ignored the question, "There are a lot of wards around that place I'm not sure about how well the tracking spell will work."

        "I can still feel her." LJ's assurance was calm but neither of her parents were fooled, she was barely restraining herself from barging straight in dragging Sabrina out. Only the knowledge of Sabrina would react to that was keeping her in place.

        It did occur to Willow that having a loved one in danger might give LJ a clue to how they felt every time she plunged headlong into battle; though Willow wouldn't have wished that anxiety on her worst enemy let alone her daughter, I promise to stay off your back, for a while at least, Sabrina if you just come out of there in one piece.



        Phoebe had been hoping to make this a one on one encounter with Sabrina, or at least limiting the witnesses to Nigel. Whatever his other failings Nigel was dedicated to the Athenai. Sabrina however might not have brought her support along but she had taken a circuitous route to Phoebe's office, creating as much commotion as possible and drawing a crowd along in her wake. When she reached the office doors Sabrina flung them wide open to allow the others to follow her into the inner sanctum.

        Bearing in mind the audience Phoebe shifted her tactics; there was a nice little confusion spell that could be cast with a few simple gestures. She spread her hands in an apparently placatory gesture, "So Sabrina you've come back to us."

        The spell enveloped Sabrina; and shattered as it encountered the young woman's laser like focus, "You can cut the voice of reason crap, for once we're going to have some straight talking, assuming your capable of it."

        Nigel was somewhat taken aback, he had become used to a Sabrina who was sarcastic in a detached 'whatever' sort of way. This was a very different girl, one positively boiling with indignation, "What exactly are you here for Sabrina?" he asked carefully.

        "Why don't you tell him Phoebe? Why don't you tell him about what the Athenai did to my parents?" Sabrina demanded, "About just how far this organization is prepared to go to get what it wants?"

        Phoebe was in no doubt now that Sabrina had all the details, and by the look on Nigel's face he had to suspect where this was headed. The others in the room were simply bemused, and still looking to her for guidance, which left only one real option, if you're going to lie, lie big, "Why don't we discuss your friend the Slayer? How far her and her family are prepared to go in their efforts to destroy us?"

        Sabrina was too stunned to reply immediately so Phoebe ploughed on, "Face it, since the day you met the Maclay girl things have gone badly. Plans have been disrupted, dissension has increased, does anyone here imagine that is accidental? Coincidental?"

        Sabrina's shock had faded and her anger boiled over, "You murdered my parents! Whatever happens to the Athenai is what it deserves!"

        Phoebe held her nerve, "And who told you that?"

        Again the woman's brazenness left Sabrina speechless, this is not going well.



        LJ stood up on the rooftop, "Things aren't going well in there, I'm going in."

        Willow scrambled to her feet, "Not on you own."

        "Absolutely not." Tara added firmly.

        LJ looked at them, and then extended her hands, "Ok I guess a united front can't hurt but I'm in the driving seat."

        Willow took her hand and nodded, "Of course dear, this time."



        Phoebe couldn't help taking a certain satisfaction in Sabrina's discomfort, after all there was a small kernel of truth in the accusations, things had gone wrong since the day the Athenai made contact with the Slayer. Sabrina was lost; perhaps even Nigel would have to go as his face only to clearly showed whose word he was taking. The others though, they could still be rallied, things could be turned around. That daydream was shattered as a low rumble ran through the room, a subsonic pulse that rattled bones and teeth and froze every other sound in the place.

        The sound faded as Willow, Tara, and LJ appeared in the room. A couple of the Athenai hesitantly raised their hands to shape a spell, until LJ shot them a hard glance, "That would be such a bad idea," she turned to Sabrina, "sorry but I had a feeling there was something wrong."

        Sabrina took her hand, "It seems Phoebe thinks that you've seduced me as part of some devious plan to destroy the Athenai."

        Phoebe had recovered sufficiently to offer a barbed comment, "A theory which is looking better all the time."

        Tara was looking at Phoebe, with a curious, professional gaze "It's amazing, a total disconnect between your actual feelings and this facade you put up. I'd offer my services but I suspect you’re beyond therapy."

        Willow stared at the rest of the Athenai, "Your organization murdered two people to abduct a child, do you all find that impossible to believe?"

        "They wouldn't know the truth if it jumped up and bit them in the; back." Even now Sabrina checked her language.

        Her words gave LJ an idea, not an idea that a well brought up young witch would normally consider but in present company... "How about we test that theory?"

        The comment pulled Phoebe's attention to LJ and the Slayer gave her a nasty grin, "Don't worry, they say the truth will set you free."

        Phoebe had experienced telepathic contact in the past, and done her best to avoid it ever since. Right now she wasn't being given a lot of choice. The telepathic link LJ was establishing drilled past Phoebe's resistance and kept on going, driving into the depths of Phoebe's mind. It was a gross violation of privacy and principles but there was simply no other way, there was a difference between being told the truth and knowing it.

        Nigel felt the mental connection leaping outwards, joining all the Athenai to the mind of their leader, each seeing Phoebe's true vision of them. As Nigel helplessly faced that vision he saw the ways Phoebe had manipulated him, the ways she had him cheated of position, removed anything that might have diluted his loyalty to the Athenai, of how she truly thought of him; of all of them. Progressively the images were smothered by an overwhelming emotion; rage.

        Phoebe could feel the anger, all of it pointed straight at her; a killing rage that threatened to shatter her mind, a rage that vanished unexpectedly. Phoebe blinked and was staring at LJ again, and the suddenly immobile Athenai, "I froze them," LJ explained, "I'm not a murderer like you and if I didn't hold them back you were about to get torn limb from limb."

        Sabrina looked from LJ to Phoebe, part of her would have enjoyed seeing that but like her lover she was no killer, "You can't hold them back forever though."

        LJ shook her head, "I figure fifteen minutes, tops," she turned back to Phoebe, "How far do you think you can get in fifteen minutes?"

        Phoebe regarded her coldly, before rising from her desk and walking calmly into the corridor; she didn't start running until she was out if sight.

        Sabrina sagged against LJ and Willow slipped an arm around Tara, "Dear do you think we could get out if here?"

        LJ didn't need to be asked twice.



        Willow was enjoying a cup of coffee and staring at the text of her new book, it was a thinly disguised version of events at the Initiative; including a certain daughter of hers, "She'll ask for a cut you know." Tara joked.

        "Yeah well I would say she's had her payment in tolerance, I didn't get to sleep until two last night." Willow grumbled.

        "Actually I thought they were fairly discrete," Tara countered, "and we could always retaliate."

        Willow leant back and snuggled up, "Now there's an idea."

        "Can't you two get a room?" LJ's voice broke up her parents canoodling. She and Sabrina had materialized in the middle of the room.

        Willow ignored the question and posed one of her own, "How did things go?"

        Sabrina was hesitant; "My aunt seems nice, though I couldn't tell her the whole story."

        "And Sabrina's rich." LJ blurted out.

        "Not exactly rich, its just my parents set up a trust for me and no one in the family wanted to touch it so its been growing for the last twelve years." Sabrina explained sheepishly.

        Willow and Tara took that in their stride and Willow offered a suggestion, "I know a couple of people who could help you with that."

        Sabrina smiled, "Thanks but I think I need to think about it for a while, if you don't mind I'd like to carry on staying here for a while."

        Willow looked at LJ, "Well unless my daughter has any objections."

        "I can live with that." LJ answered casually.

        Willow sounded equally relaxed, "Well that's settled then." And with any luck things will quiet down for a while.



        The Second of the Circle looked at her chart, so many branches pruned away and yet...

        "Still can't see the outcome?"

        The Second swiveled round to stare at the figure that has appeared behind her, "I wasn't expecting you."

        "I always find it comforting when you say that." The elderly woman commented.

        "Perhaps you shouldn't, it means we can't see every event, every outcome." The Second pointed out.

        "And you find that unsettling because you simply don't have faith." The woman observed.

        "And you do of course."

        "Of course," The woman replied firmly, "you're unhappy that after all you're manipulations everything rests on the shoulders of Willow, Tara, LJ, and Sabrina. We stand or fall with them."

        The Second shook her head, "I think it's less a matter of faith than you imagine you know the outcome."

        "Oh no, you're terrified of the 'dark of the sky', I have faith in the 'light of the earth', my sister never let me down. LJ will save us all, count on it." Rebecca Rosenberg's tone brooked no argument.

Willow: ...I have to tell you....

Tara: No, I understand you have to be with the person you l-love

Willow: I am



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