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Scions of Sunnydale

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Summary: It seems that the Scoobies family histories are more complicated than they had believed ...

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Games > FantasyGladiusFR181053,410159528,1828 Aug 1218 Jan 13No

Part 6

Disclaimer: Surprisingly, neither the characters of BtVS or the
themes of 'Scion' belong to me. Instead, they seem to belong to Joss
Wheadon and White Wolf, which seems very unfair to me.

Rating: MA15+(mostly for violence, language and occasional sex)

Spoilers: Beginning of Season Three for BtVS, just background info
for 'Scion'



Willow was not having fun. She was moving faster than she ever had before, racing back and forth intercepting thralls who were just as desperate to get past her guard and behind her. Despite the murderous intent of her foes, almost two decades of immersion in Californian, Jewish and psychoanalytical culture held her back from matching them. The hilt of her rapier was coated in blood and scraps of skin from where she had struck at her attackers, but the blade was still pristine.

But she wasn’t a fool. Due to their supernatural enhancements, the thralls kept getting up, and even her stamina was not limitless. Sooner or later, one or more would slip past her, and attack Cordelia and Harmony.

Willow didn’t have so many friends that she could stand to loose any, even if the were Cordelia and Harmony.

The Latino punk slipped in, and faster than she thought he could move, thrust a twelve-inch knife at her. She was out of position, kicking a skinny thug with lots of tattoos in the gut. There wasn’t anything she could do …

Until a blond blur jumped forwards and slammed a wooden baseball bat into the side of his skull.

Willow paused a moment to be amazed as Harmony Kendal struck again and again at the thrall, grunting in effort as she swung the bat that she recognised as belonging to the first thug she had hurled back. “Harm?”

“What?” gasped the Cordette, “I was in the t-ball team in junior,” she broke off to strike another thrall in the stomach with impressive force, then spin to hit another in the knee with the backswing, “high until Daddy said it wasn’t,” she grunted as she hit the bent-over thrall in the jaw, sending blood and teeth flying, “Ugh! Ladylike!”

“I can’t imagine why,” murmured Willow, before turning back to her own battles. Even as she stepped forwards to intercept another thrall, she could see Cordelia spraying a can of mace into the eyes of a vacant-eyed thug, and following it up with a strike from the claw hammer Willow was almost certain she actually pulled out of her purse.

Damn, they’re as vicious with weapons as they are with words, mused the Scion. The three girls stood firm, spread out enough so as not to get in each other’s way, and making sure that none of the thralls got past them. We could actually win this, she thought, purposefully ignoring the battle going on behind them.

She trusted Xander. He wouldn’t let them down.

*** *** ***

Xander coughed droplets of blood splattered the concrete under his face as the mocking laughter of the frost giant echoed in his ears. He hurt everywhere, his face throbbed in time to his pulse, and he was having trouble opening one eye. He knew he had to get up. He knew he had to keep fighting. He knew that he had to save his girls.

It was just that the concrete was just so comfortable …

NO! Grunting in effort, Xander slapped a palm onto the ground next to his head, and with a soft moan of pain, rolled himself onto his back, his arms splayed out. As he lay there gasping, he forced himself to focus. Come on! I can’t give up now! What would Buffy say if I let this circus freak beat me, eh? I need … I need …

I need to be in better shape,
he realised, and with that realisation another aspect of his new reality fell into place.

He reached down inside himself, and touched the well of power that his mother had Awakened. He teased out a measure of that power, and infused his body with it. As he drew more and more of that energy, he felt his body healing itself. Strength returned to his limbs, his eye reopened and the throbbing heat that had covered his face receded. Plus, the pretty birds stopped circling his head, which he counted as a good thing.

Suddenly feeling a lot better, he managed to stand up with little effort, and snarled as he realised that the giant’s long strides had taken him almost within reach of the girls! Curling his fingers into fists, Xander launched himself into action, speeding forwards with a speed no human could match.

“Hey, Frosty! We aint done yet!” he cried, causing the giant to halt and turn just as he leapt into the air. With his momentum and gravity adding to the power of the blow, he slammed his fight fist into the giant’s face, rocking the titanspawn back a pace.

Landing nimbly, Xander quickly straightened up and, projecting force starting with his left foot, leg and through the trunk, launched into a swift left uppercut that collided again with his opponent’s jaw, eliciting a crack like an explosion as the giant’s ice cube-like teeth were smashed together.

Roaring in pain, the giant smashed its hands down, grabbing Xander by his shoulders, but the young Scion thrust his arms up and out to break his grip, and responded with a right-left-right combination to the breadbasket that knocked the wind out of the titanspawn.

As the giant doubled up in pain, Xander took a step back so he could launch into a spinning kick that had his heel colliding with the side of the giant’s head. A crack like a gunshot filled the parking station as the giant spun about in place, before landing face down, head pointed away from Xander.

“Dumbass, you do not“ THUD “threaten my girls,” stated Xander firmly, kicking Frosty in the side before stepping over to where Fafnir had been knocked. Picking up his sword, Xander moved back to the fallen giant, and took a firm grip on his hair. Pulling up, he lifted the groaning giant’s head and upper torso off the ground, and guided Fafnir under his left arm and up, so he had a clear arc. “Not in my freaking town!”

Now that sounded badass,he thought in a self-satisfied fashion, and sliced his sword down and forwards.

*** *** ***

The other battle wasn’t going as well. Despite being heartened by the sound of continued fighting behind them, and the surprising weapons skills of the Cordettes, the girls were simply outnumbered. Blocking with his own bat, one thrall knocked aside Harmony’s club and grappled, managing to wrap his arms around the blond. She shrieked and kicked wildly as he hoisted her up and began to move backwards.

Seeing Harmony’s predicament, Willow stepped and lunged, skewering the bald thug through the shoulder, prompting him to bellow in pain and drop Harmony. A sidekick to the belly drove him back, and she reached down and hauled Harmony to her feet by her arm.

Come on, Xander, where are you? We can’t hold out much -

Something large and roughly spherical flew through the air to land on the concrete behind the thralls. One of them paused to look at it as it rolled about, and let out a shriek of despair. His distress drew the attention of the others, and the thralls pulled back to huddle about what Willow realised with chilling certainty was the frost giant’s severed head.

Yay! And, eww!

Xander stepped up beside her, breathing heavily, with a few splashed of blood on his face, but grinning nevertheless. Cordelia flew into his arms, and barley managed to avoid hitting him with the hammer in her hand. Even Harmony pushed past Willow to clutch onto his upper arm.

“Hey, I’m all right, Cor,” he insisted, reaching up to caress Cordelia’s face with the hand not clutching his bloody sword, then nimbly swapped the hilt to his other hand and patted Harmony’s fingers where they clutched to him. “You okay, Harm?”

“Um, guys?” asked Willow, who hadn’t taken her eyes off the thralls, who were calming down, and now starting to form up to charge, rage and fury etched on their faces.

A rushing sound filled the parking station, and a long spear flew through the air past Xander’s ear, and impaled the leading thug. The long metal blade sank deep into his chest, and the force of the impact not only checked his advance, but threw him backwards into three more thralls behind him.

Before the four could react, three more forms passed them and set themselves between the Sunnydalers and the thralls just as the latter began to howl and throw themselves forwards. All three were very tall, very fit and very female. Each wore jeans, boots and short-sleaved shirts, and kept their hair long and loose. Somewhat incongruous was the sword belt wrapped around each set of shapely hips. As the blond and brunette on either side raised their long-bladed spears in readiness, the redhead in the middle half-turned back and winked at Xander. “Get them out of here,” she ordered, before drawing her broadsword and raised a shrill battle cry that sounded vaguely Scandinavian.

Reacting to the order, Xander picked up a Cordette in each arm and bounded over to the corvette, dumping them in the backseat and leaping into the driver’s seat. Thanking Sif that Cordelia had given him the keys earlier (so he could drive her home while she relaxed in the back seat), he started up the powerful engine as he felt Willow settling into the seat next to him.

The sound of yells, screams, the thudding of flesh and shrieks of pain was drowned out by the roar of the engine, and Xander leaned heavily on the gas pedal as he manoeuvred the car around the giant’s headless corpse and the van, before peeling rubber for the exit. As he sped past the van, he glanced at the rear-view mirror, and winced: another body lay slumped against the van: another thrall, judging by the filthy clothes and the Uzi submachine gun lying next to his body. The spreading red stain flowing down his dirty-grey shirt made Xander shudder slightly, and he focused on getting them out of there as quickly as inhumanly possible, if not quicker.

Please, Odin, don’t let any of the girls have looked back, he prayed fervently.

As he drove out of the station and onto the road, he slowed down slightly, but was still breathing hard. A hand rested itself on his shoulder and he could feel Cordelia leaning forward, her lips near his ear. “What the hell was all that, and who were those skanks?” she demanded over the engine and the rush of the wind.

“Frost giant, plus friends,” offered Willow, finally finding her seatbelt. “He probably would have raped us to death, ate our flesh, and used body parts for trophies,” she said in the matter-of-fact tone that said that she was more than slightly in shock. “Possibly not in that order,” she admitted.

“Right. Could have done without the details,” continued Cordy. “And the friends?”

“Thralls,” said Xander, keeping his eyes on the road, but finding that his ability to sense people’s health was not limited to touch or even line of sight: even as he drove, he noted that all three girls were exhausted, that Harmony had bruised ribs, and Cordelia’s arm bore a narrow slice that she was binding with a handkerchief. Dammit, I wish I could actually heal other people the way I patched myself up, he thought. Instead I’m stuck knowing that people are hurt or sick, but I can’t do anything about it!

“They’re basically people, fed a giant’s magic blood, it’s eitr. It does funky things to a person’s brain, makes them dumb, but pumps them up physically and makes them totally devoted to the giant. Instant muscle-bound slave, just add giant’s blood.”

“And I thought vampires were creepy,” gasped Harmony, getting her breath back and exhausted from coming off the adrenaline high. “And what about the Charlie’s Angels look-alikes?” She still gripped the baseball bat in her hands, ignoring the blood and hair sticking to the polished wood.

“Don’t know,” said Willow, but saw Xander flinch. “What?”

“Hang on,” he barked, as he whipped the car around a tight corner. They were out of Sunnydale proper, and headed for Cordy’s place.

“Alight, I recognised them,” he admitted, lowering the car’s speed to somewhere near the legal limit. “When Mom Visited me, she took me … somewhere, so she could give me my Birthrights. I saw the redhead there, all dressed up in chain mail, winged helmets, the works. Mom didn’t spell it out, but I think they were Valkyries.”

Harmony, not getting the reference, just nodded. Cordy, on the other hand, tapped Xander on the shoulder. “And when exactly were you going to tell me about your super-powered playmates?”

“Hey,” he shot back, half-turning in the seat, “I didn’t exactly expect to see them popping up in Sunnydale anytime soon! Besides, I was still wigged out by the whole ‘son of a goddess’ thing! Plus -”

“Truck,” warned Willow, and Xander snapped his attention back to the road, and swerved just in time to avoid colliding with a semi coming the other way.

“Woah,” he yelled, almost drowned out by the truck’s horn. Taking a deep breath, he squared his shoulders and settled back into the seat. “Okay, I’ll admit it, that was my fault.”

*** *** ***

Following Valerie’s informative lecture, Buffy had taken advantage of the villa’s facilities, including a few hundred laps in the heated underground swimming pool, followed by a luxurious bubble bath. Once dry, Buffy had dressed in some of the clothes that Valerie had provided, and availed herself to the much more substantial lunch.

Apparently, the Amazon villa was much larger than she had thought, actually cutting into the mountain for a fair distance. “We have several more traditional enclaves outside the city,” admitted the Matriarch, leading Buffy on a tour, “Including a lovely property just a few hours away, where we do much of our field training and can spend time away from the modern world for a time.

“You should visit it some time,” insisted Valerie, but noted Buffy’s expression. “But you feel your time here is short.”

Buffy blushed. “I mean, I totally appreciate what you’ve done for me - I can never repay you for -”

“Oh tosh,” dismissed the older woman. “Even if Lady Artemis hadn’t asked, I would have insisted. Even as the Slayer, you fought the enemies of our patrons valiantly, and saved the World at what I understand was a fairly significant personal cost.” She raised a hand. “No, the Lady provided no details, but she did say that your heart needed time to heal. I had hoped that you would avail yourself to our hospitality for a longer period, so that we would be able to help heal your pain, but -”

“But I have to go home,” stated Buffy firmly. “I appreciate the offer, and the sentiment, I really do. But I left thing in kinda a lurch when I left Sunnydale - my mom … we both said stuff. Bad stuff. And my friends … I have to go back.”

The Matriarch nodded. “I understand. I would ask that you stay a short while longer,” she added, smiling. “I know Patricia wanted to introduce you to a few of the more relevant advances in combat technology that the - Watchers? - yes, the Watchers seem to be ignoring. Our traditions date back to the bronze age, not our methods.

“And,” she said, stopping outside a door, “there’s someone who would like to at least say hello, and thankyou.” Opening the door, she stepped aside.

“Buffy!” cried Lilly, leaping off the bed and rushing over to the doorway. Buffy smiled weakly as the taller blond virtually leapt into her arms, bemused and a little embarrassed by the enthusiasm.

“Hey, Lilly,” she said, patting her on the back and squeezing back, careful to keep it within human norms.

“It’s so great - Matriarch Valerie says -” she broke off, and pulled back, noticing Valerie. “Oh, Matriarch -”

“And I’ll be going,” stated Valerie, patting both girls on the shoulder in a motherly fashion. “Buffy, I think Patricia wanted to see you in the main gym in an hour - you know where that is? Good. I think she’d like to show you something. Anyway, don’t let her distract you totally - dinner on the patio at six, perhaps a little more formal than this morning, mmm?” she said, before gliding away.

“Now that is an impressive woman,” murmured Buffy.

“Oh, yes, the Matriarch is wonderful,” gushed Lilly, before hesitating. “Although, I said the same thing about the Glorious Leader. And that didn’t end up so good …” She was lost in thought for a moment, then brightened. “But she is! And she said that I could stay!”

“Really?” Buffy could feel the enthusiasm radiating off the girl, and despite some lingering reservations, found herself happy for the fragile young woman.

“Oh, yes. I mean, I know I’m no Amazon, but she said that not all who follow Artemis are. Last night, she took me to see the shrine - have you seen it? It’s the most beautiful thing I’ve seen, and … never mind,” she broke off, grabbing Buffy’s hand and hauling her down the corridor. “Come on, I’ll show you,” she yelled, and Buffy found she could only laugh and run after her.

*** *** ***

Harmony made it to the shower before the shakes hit.

After Xander had driven the group back to Cordy’s place, all four agreed that they needed to clean up before they did anything else. Fortunately, the mansion had enough bathrooms to accommodate them all, and Harmony had relished the opportunity to strip off her dress and, without bothering to remove her bra or panties, step under a stream of steaming hot water.

Standing with her eyes closed, sheets of water cascading over her, she didn’t realise at first that she was crying. Then the sobbs started, violent gasps for breath that wracked her body. Leaning heavily against the pristine tile wall of the shower, Harmony slowly slid down to the floor, wrapping her arms about her knees as she wept, water still pouring down from above.

She had almost been killed, or worse, by a monster and it’s minions - again! She had fought back, yes, and hard, but the terror of what was happening had been hidden by the rush of adrenaline: now that the chemicals were fading from her blood, the fear hit her like a truck, and she couldn’t stop shaking.

She had no idea how long she sat there, but she was vaguely aware of someone entering the bathroom, walking over to the shower and turning off the taps. As the sounds of falling water faded, she opened her eyes as Willow, dressed in a fluffy white robe and with a towel wrapped around her hair, knelt down next to her.

All out of tears, Harmony just sat there as the redhead wrapped an arm around her shoulders. Another day, she might have felt embarrassed, or angry, to have Willow Rosenberg, chief nerd of Sunnydale, witness her breakdown. But then, at that moment, she was grateful for the simple comfort of being held. Still shivering, she rested her head on the other girl’s shoulder. “I thought I wasn’t gonna be scared anymore,” she whispered. “But I was so scared! I don’t wanna be scared.”

*** *** ***

Buffy’s first though was, When did it become night?

One minute Lilly had been leading her through the Amazon compound, and the next she was through a door, and suddenly in a wooded glade, with a dark sky full of stars and a full, shining moon that looked far larger than Buffy remembered.

“The Matriarch said that the shrine is sorta like a pocket world,” said Lilly, clearly enjoying the expression of amazement on Buffy’s face. “Its always night here, with the full moon. The whole grove is the shrine to Lady Artemis, and the Matriarch says that it goes on, like, forever. You could run for days through these woods, and never see a moonless sky, and never find an edge. And, hey,” she said, her voice suddenly soft as she tugged at Buffy’s sleave.

The scion turned to look where Lilly was indicating and couldn’t help but sigh. A large shape moved slowly through the trees, treading confidently on all four hooves. Clad in pure white fur, the majestic stag somehow managed to avoid tangling it’s many-pointed horns in the branches, and only stopped when it caught a glimpse of the two blonds.

Buffy held her breath. She couldn’t help it: the creature was simply beautiful, the sort of thing a Valley-Girl just didn’t see outside of cable. This was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and she focused on committing every minute detail to memory.

The stag’s nose twitched, and Buffy’s heart jumped to her throat as it made it’s decision: it leapt away, moving with a grace and power that she suddenly felt that even she, with all her gifts, could never match.

And then it was gone, vanished into the night, with barely a rustle of leaves to testify to it’s existence.

“Pretty cool, right?” asked Lilly breathlessly.

Buffy let out her own breath explosively. “That was … amazing! That happen often?”

Lilly shrugged. “Well, I was only here the once, a few hours ago, so I can’t say. But I mean, you can feel it here, all around you. I can feel …” she broke off, and closed her eyes, breathing deep. “I know this sounds hokey, but so damned connected! It’s so alive here, you know? Like out there in the World is … washed out, like old jeans. And I can feel her,” she said, touching her chest softly. “She’s here, watching us, making sure we’re alright. And I know that she can see us anywhere, and if I call to her, she’ll hear. But here, I can feel her.”

She opened her eyes, and beamed at Buffy. “Pretty cool, right?” she asked again, and all Buffy could do was nod, her own grin growing. Lilly’s enthusiasm was infectious, and for the first time since Buffy met the waif, she seemed genuinely, totally happy. At peace.

It gave her hope that someday, she’d find a way to feel the same way.

*** *** ***

Cordelia hissed as Xander pulled the cloth away from the gash on her arm. “Oookay, looks worse than it is, Cor,” he reassured her. He shifted his seat next to her on the edge of her bed to get a better view of her injury.

“Yeah, right,” she retorted. Her whole arm was throbbing with waves emanating from the cut. “That thug could’ve taken my whole arm off, after all!”

“His aim, I’m sure, was put off by your sparkling personality,” he rejoined, smiling at the venom in her eyes as she just glared at him. Oh, Cordy, I pray to Odin that fire never leaves you, because the World would be a far poorer place.

Moving his attention back to her wound, he inwardly cringed at the sight. While not as deep as he had feared, it was still oozing blood at a rate that frankly scared him. Two years of semi-Scooby status, and she’s only suffered the occasional bruise or sprain. First time she runs into one of Mom’s Rogue’s Gallery, and this happens.

Damn, I wish I could just …


He frowned as he touched the skin above the gash. There was … something … before he knew what exactly he was doing, he lay the palm of his hand over the cut and closed his eyes.

“Hey, don’t freak out on me now, Xan! Like, do we need to go to the ER or -” She broke off as the throbbing in her arm stopped.

Completely.

It wasn’t unlike the sensation he had felt when healing his own injuries in the parking station. It was like there was a pool of power within him, and he siphoned a portion of the energy within. Concentrating, he took this power and poured it into Cordelia’s arm, forcing her flesh to knit itself back together by sheer force of will.

After a few seconds that lasted hours, Xander tiredly opened his eyes, exhausted physically and metaphysically. But his eyes lit up as he removed his hand, and discovered unmarked skin beneath. If her arm and top hadn’t been drenched in blood, he would never have believed that she had been injured in the first place.

*** *** ***

Cordelia looked down at her healed arm, and then up at her boyfriend. Did he just … oh my effing god - er, gods? - he just laid his freaking hands on me and healed me! Like total Sunday school stuff … or not.

Cordelia Chase had seen vampires. She had seen demons. She had seen people with superpowers. She had even seen magic.

Official miracles were new.

“Did you … I mean, how did you - ?” Oh great, genius, talk about stupid questions! I mean, how do you think he did it?

Ignorant of her internal snarking, he shook his head, seemingly a little shocked himself. “Er, jury’s still out on that one. I mean, I know that Mom gave me access to some kinda healing mojo through this,” he tapped the leather bracer on his left arm, “And that’s how I found about … er, your arm, and Harmony’s ribs,” he sidestepped. If she hadn’t been a little wigged out, she would have demanded to know what he was about to say, but was a little preoccupied. “So I knew I had the diagnosis stuff down, and I kinda fixed a whole bunch of my own injuries from fighting frosty -”

“Wait, injuries? You’re hurt?” she forgot about her own injury and grabbed at his shirt.

“Woah, not that I don’t appreciate you trying to take my shirt off - and I don’t,” he insisted, waggling his eyebrows suggestively, and grinned at her inevitable snort, “But like I said, they’re all fixed now. Seems I’m Wolverine when I need to be.”

“And if I knew what that meant, I’m sure I’d be impressed, but -”

“I can heal fast. Problem is, I’m drained. I’ve got a little left in the tank, but that should be just enough to fix Harm’s ribs. I think. But after that, I’ll be all tapped out. No more healing until I … recharge, I guess. According to the files Will’s dad gave her, my energy levels should refill fairly quickly, faster if I ‘perform heroic deeds, as those out of legend’. Until then, I’m planning to lay off the fancier powers, save ‘em for emergency situations.”

Cordy frowned. “So, to recap, you think you can fix Harmony’s bruises, but won‘t be able to do much after? But you’ll refuel faster if you do heroic stuff?”

He nodded. “Ayup. That’s about it.”

Hesitating a moment, she came to a decision. “Then,” she stated, standing up and pulling him with her using a handful of shirt, “I want you to go heal my best friend’s injuries. Make sure she’s okay. And then,” she pulled him close, standing on her toes and spoke softly, calmly but with complete authority, “I want you to come back here, so I can give you the traditional reward for the heroic, conquering hero.”

He blinked, then grinned that goofy, crooked grin that made her want to tell him to stuff Harmony’s ribs, and just skip to the bedding part. Then he leaned down and kissed her, hard. Her eyes closed as she squeeked in surprise.

And then he was gone.

She stood there a moment, shocked by his sudden vanishing act, then smiled. It’s amazing what a little incentive can achieve. Then she looked down at her bloodied top, and hissed in annoyance. Right. Eww. Shower now, gloat later.

*** *** ***

Harmony winced as Willow gently touched her ribs. “Okay, I’m pretty sure your ribs are okay,” reassured the redhead, “but I think you’re gonna be sore as heck for the next few days.”

After Harmony had calmed down, Willow had helped her dry off and moved her into the bedroom. Harmony had long ago been assigned a room in the Chase mansion due to the frequency of her staying over, so the two were sitting on the edge of her bed. Harmony had changed into a pair of shorts and a green bikini top so that Willow could check out her injuries.

The good news was that there was no permanent damage. The bad news was that Harmony now had a thick band of bruises spreading across her torso from where the thrall’s arms had squeezed her, reaching from the short ribs on one side, up to below her breastbone, and down the other side.

It was painful, made it difficult to breath, and was unsightly. It took little familiarity with Harmony to guess which part bothered her the most.

“To hell with that, just look at me! How the heck can I go out in public like this,” she whined.

Willow sighed. “Well, unfortunately this stuff kinda happens with us,” she admitted. “I mean, I’ve had more than a few bruises working with Buffy over the last few years. Plus the whole mini-coma thing? Not fun. What we do … isn’t exactly the safest job around, you know?:

The blond sighed. “Yeah, I know. Xander pointed that out, totally made a big thing out of it. But it didn’t …”

“Didn’t seem real?” Harmony nodded. “I totally get that. When Xander and I first started helping, it was almost like a game. I mean, it was scary, and it was horrible, but we always seemed to work out how to win, and Buffy would kick some butt, and then we’d Bronze.

“It wasn’t until Miss Calender died that it really sank in: this stuff is serious. People can get hurt, or killed, or worse. So I guess you’re going to have to ask yourself, are you willing to do what it takes? If she hadn’t been the Slayer, Buffy could have been one of the most popular girls in school. Instead, she’s an outcast. What are you willing to sacrifice?”

Harmony took a deep breath, and swallowed a grunt at the pain the action caused. “I … I think I get it. I mean, having the world keep spinning is more important than being popular - and no, I can’t believe I said that, either,” she joked weekly. Wincing, she gingerly touched her bruises herself. “I just wish I didn’t look like a punching bag, that’s all.”

A knock at the bedroom door drew their attention, and it opened slightly. “Ahem,” coughed Xander, from just outside. “I think that’s my cue. It seems the new and improved Xander comes with handy-dandy healing-fingers-feature,” he said, sticking a hand past the door and wiggling his fingers. Then he opened the door a bit more and stuck his head through, eyes pointedly shut. “So howsabout you ladies (who I hope have at least a minimum of clothes on) let me do a little magic on Harmony’s bruises? And can we hurry? Because I’m in a bit of a hurry to get back to my girlfriend and claim the non-specific but highly enticing reward she’s promised!”
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