Disclaimer: I own neither Buffy the Vampire Slayer nor Merry Gentry and her assorted beautiful boys *sigh* mores the pity, oh well. Read and tell me what you think, make my day :)
Buffy ran through the woods surrounding the faerie mounds, determined to catch the creature racing ahead of her. It was fast but, despite being heavily pregnant, Buffy was still a Slayer. Putting on an extra burst of speed, the blonde pounced, scooping the squealing child into her arms and spinning around several times.
"Aunt Buffy!" Rose complained. "You not post ta catch me yet!"
"I'm not?" the blonde asked, feigning confusion.
The dark haired child in her arms crossed her own and shook her head solemnly.
"Huh," Buffy said and quickly flipped the girl upside down, eliciting a shriek at a decibel that only little girls can produce. Well, little girls and jet engines.
"Well, now that I've got you," the Slayer continued, swinging the giggling girl from side to side. "What should I do with you?"
"Aunt Buffy! Put me down!"
Buffy paused to consider the demand, a devilish twinkle in her tri-colored eyes.
"No, I don't think I wanna do that."
The Slayer started pacing, seemingly lost in thought, then reached down and tickled Rose, making her scream again. She wiggled frantically and Buffy had to stop and adjust her grip on the three-year-old before she fell on her head, then tickled her again.
"No fair!" Rose shouted. "Sissy, help!"
Buffy glanced up and caught sight of Rose's twin, Mary, peering at them from behind a tree, obviously torn between remaining free or attempting to help her sister and maybe getting her own turn with Buffy the Tickle Monster. The choice was soon taken from her, however, as her mother snuck up behind her and pulled the child into her arms, making the normally quiet girl let out a shriek to rival those of her sister.
"Mommy!" Rose cried happily.
A quick glance down showed Buffy that Rose's face was turning as red as her namesake and the blonde quickly righted the toddler, setting her on her feet.
"You sure you're ready for one of your own, B?" Faith asked, coming toward them, Mary wrapped around her neck.
Buffy shrugged, a hand on her rounded belly.
"Eh. They're not so bad."
Faith grinned and gave Rose a kiss on her forehead, then did the same to Mary.
"So how's my girls? You guys havin' fun with your Aunt Buffy?"
"She catcheded me too fast," Rose complained.
Faith grinned at her sister Slayer.
"Yeah, she does that a lot," the dark haired woman said.
"What's that?" Mary suddenly asked.
"What's what, baby?" Faith asked.
Mary was silent then pointed into the trees.
"That. That noise."
Frowning, the two Slayers were silent, straining their supernatural hearing to discover what the little girl had heard. Then, they heard it, too. It was far off, something thrashing in the underbrush and bellowing. Not a predator sound, something with hooves.
"What do you think, B?" Faith asked. "A deer, maybe?"
"Dunno, but it sounds like it's caught somewhere."
"Can we help it, Mommy?" Rose asked.
"I don't know, Rosie," she said. If it was just her and Buffy, she'd already be halfway there, but they had her babies with them and hooves could injure just as easily as claws and fangs.
"Please, Mommy," Mary added her plea. "Can we please help it?"
Faith looked from one pitiful face to the other, then sighed.
The girls immediately cheered up.
"But," Faith cut into their excitement. "You do exactly what me and your Aunt Buffy say and you stay back from it. Deal?"
"Deal," Rose immediately agreed and held out a hand to shake on it.
"Uh-huh," Mary mumbled and buried her face in Faith's shoulder.
The animal wasn't as far away as they had first thought. They had gone thirty feet at the most when suddenly, there it was. A white stag, its impressive antlers caught in a thorny bush, unable to tear its way out. The creature's struggling had only succeeded in catching its shaggy coat in the brambles and it was well and truly stuck. It paused, panting, one blue eye trained on the newcomers, assessing the threat as it rested. The twins watched it with wide eyes.
"Help it, Mommy," Rose whispered.
The two girls were set on their feet, with strict instructions to stay behind the large tree, before the two Slayers cautiously made their way to the stag's side. The creature was eerily still, even allowing Faith to lay her hand on its back. Buffy paused with her right hand hovering over its back, her tri-colored eyes wide.
"What's wrong, B?" Faith asked.
"This isn't an animal," she said.
Faith immediately backed away, putting herself between the stag and her girls and dropping into a defensive crouch. She called her hand of power, deep purple and blue flames flickered over her left hand, and the twins ducked behind the tree at the show of power. Buffy still stood by the stag, her hand hovering over its back, as it silently regarded her.
Almost in a trance, the blonde slayer lowered her right hand, the one that held the Hand of Truths, and stroked the stag's back. Time seemed to slow, like nature took a sudden breath, then it rushed into fast forward. The stag reared back, tearing itself free of the brambles, then began to... Well, quiver was the best description Faith could come up with. Its silky white fur shimmered as waves spread out from Buffy's hand, like ripples in a pond. The stag began to change and Faith turned to scoop up her girls when Mary pointed behind the dark haired slayer.
"Faith," Buffy called at the same time.
There, where the stag had stood, was a man. A very tall, very naked, very unconscious man. Something niggled at the back of her mind, something telling her that she should know this man, but she had never seen him before. After telling Rose and Mary to stay put, Faith joined Buffy at the his side.
"Who is that, Mommy?" Mary asked.
Faith suddenly gasped, the pieces clicking into place. It was the hair that clinched it for Faith, the long, silver hair, like Christmas tree tinsel. This was the Missing Father, the Lost King. This was...