Author's note: There will be a sequel. Suggestions for possible works to crossover with -- stipulating the location, Manhattan, and that the CSIs, Monk, Harry Potter and Marvel Universes have been ruled out.
It's been fun, writing this, getting back in the game.
THREE HOURS LATER
"Buffy, I can hack the records if you want me to. Or, or, I can hypnotize them so that they think you're still around. Or--"
Willowbabble at its finest. "No, Willow. Really. Don't. I'm okay."
"But you'll be stuck here for six months! What if there's an apocalypse in Zimbabwe?"
"Are you telling me that all the time I was in Rome not a single crisis happened anywhere in the world?" Buffy asked gently. "'cause I'm thinking the world looks like it's still here. And anyway, let's say there is an apocalypse in Zimbabwe. Or, hell, in Buffalo. Are you guys just going to stand around wringing your hands saying 'Where's Buffy?'"
"I know I'm not," Kennedy said with a grin.
Buffy turned. "You say that like it's a joke. But it's not. You've come a long way, 'brat.' You did a hell of a job today. You managed things without me, and most of the time even without Willow. I've been in Rome most of the last year. Yeah, I've killed a couple of vampires and demons, and helped the shade of an ancient Roman detective find some peace, but mostly, I've been off."
"Would you have dropped everything for an apocalypse?" Willow asked.
"You don't even need to ask," Buffy said. "Of course. But I'm not a security blanket, Will. So you guys can't get me to fly out to deepest darkest Africa on the spur because some ancient spider God's trying to make his comeback. You guys can handle it. It's not like Faith and me are the only experienced Slayers anymore. I took out the Master with less experience than Kennedy has right now."
"But -- after everything you did --" Willow said. "It just seems ungrateful, that's all."
"If Mr. McCoy was ungrateful, everyone connected with the Slayers up here but Vickie, Kestrel and maybe you would probably have been arrested, honey," Kennedy said. "The combined weight we would have had to throw around to get clear, or mostly clear, would have left the entire NYPD and DA's office suspicious and trying to figure out who the hell we were. This way, we're just recruiters and alumni for a school who happened to get tangled up in Jenny's murders, and anyone who gives us a second look probably won't give us a third. Yes, Buffy's punishment is unfair. But she's taking the hit for all of us. It's the way it has to be" After a second, she added, "Unless you want to start tossing around memory spells, that is."
"That was a low blow," Willow said.
"You weren't responding to anything else," Kennedy said.
"Besides," Buffy said. "It's not like there's nothing to do in Manhattan."
"Yeah," Kennedy said. "We could probably set up an official branch office here."
"Good idea," Buffy said. "But I was talking about the shopping."
FOUR WEEKS LATER
Nina Cassady walked back to her apartment. Yesterday had been her final day at the 17 -- it hadn't been her choice. She'd finally sent Anita Van Buren past the breaking point when she went overboard in the interrogation room. She was allowed to finish out the case, and then Van Buren had had what she'd wanted all along: A veteran detective to partner with Ed Green. She'd had to throw some weight around, but she'd gotten her way.
Nina had fought it, but her heart really hadn't been in the fight. She had screwed up; and while Green had at least come to respect her abilities as a detective, she'd never really fit in there.
Truth be told, she didn't completely blame them. It would've been nice if they'd welcomed her with open arms, but they were never going to do that, not the way she was shoehorned into the position. She'd wanted to be a homicide cop; she'd always wanted that. But she'd wanted to earn the role.
And now, the NYPD brass faced the question of what to do next with "Detective Beauty Queen." With her second high-profile takedown, killing Jenny Brandt in her attempt to strangle EADA Jack McCoy, Nina had been told she could have pretty much any position she wanted.
But the grapevine wasn't so sure. The gossips had her pegged as a short-tempered bitch who couldn't get along with her fellow cops or her commanders. They said that other commanders of high-profile units were getting ready to throw their weight around as well, if necessary.
Nina didn't know how much of it was true. She would have been surprised if all of it was -- she'd end up doing fraud in Staten Island if that was the case -- but she’d have been equally surprised if it was all lies.
Sometimes, she wished she'd gone to another beauty salon that morning, one minus two armed robbers set to come in and shoot up the place.
Damn it. No, she didn't. Then everyone in that store would likely be dead. And she wouldn't have wanted that for them, just to save herself a little trouble.
So, for the moment, she was on sabbatical. She had three weeks of vacation and she was going to take at least a week to think about what she was going to do next.
She got a surprise when she entered her apartment: a message on her answering machine from Buffy Summers.
"Detective," Summers said. "Good to hear from you."
"You too," Cassady said. "What's up? You said you wanted to meet me."
"Yeah. Remember back in interrogation when I showed you about magic?"
"Yeah. I've kept your secret," Cassady said.
"I know," Buffy said. "Would you like to see the rest of it?"
"The rest -- of it?"
"Yeah. You figured out something about the Unbroken Academy. We think you're ready to hear the rest of it. Interested?'
What the hell. It wasn't like she was doing anything else for at least a week. "Sure. Why not?"
"Good. Meet me at the Starbucks at the end of the block. Wear walking shoes and clothing you can move around in. And if you're religious, now would be the time to show proof."
Okay. This definitely sounded interesting . . .