Disclaimer: Power Rangers Lost Galaxy and all related indicia belongs to Saban, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer belongs to Joss Whedon and Mutant Enemy Productions. The lyrics quoted are from "Solidify," by Sheryl Crow.
This is the sequel to "Wherever You Are," written way back in 1999 and finally posted here because I cannot get the Christmas story in this series to work and have been putting this off too long. The story has not been edited since its original posting - except for one date change - so forgive the Season 3 mindset. (Harmony's last name was an unknown when I wrote this.) Any and all mythological errors are a) intentional for plot purposes or b) a six-year-old mistake that I probably know about by now. :)
Timeline - for PRLG, right after "Quasar Quest, part 2." For BtVS, it's season 3, shortly before "Lover's Walk." The prologue, incidentally, occurs during "Wherever You Are."
Thanks go out to: miko, for clarifying some of the Gingaman plotline ahead of schedule; AleXander Thompson, for his wonderful Buffy transcripts that kept my continuity straight; Spartacus and Catherine Lee for looking over the first draft of this; Cynthia, for the original character I (unintentionally) got the idea for Frank from; and the folks on a.f.p-r for their discussions on how to explain around the PRLG plotholes. I tried.
by Mandi Ohlin
"So what's the big deal?" the smaller of the two boys crouched in the bushes muttered to his partner. "We've been sitting here for half an hour and I don't see nothing."
"Trust me, Max," his companion assured him. "It's almost eleven-thirty. She's been coming out here every night this week."
Max rubbed absently at his neck. "She better be. You sure we're not sitting in poison ivy? Cause if I break out again, Benny, I swear--"
"Shh!" Benny elbowed him, pointing. "Here she comes!"
The tall redhead strode towards the water's edge calmly, confidently, her movements as smooth and mercurial as the rippling surface of the lake. She walked like a model striding down the runway, almost as if she was perfectly aware she was being spied on. As she reached the lake, she kicked off her sandals, dipping a toe into the water as if to test it.
"Yeah, yeah, the water's fine, honey," Benny muttered from his vantage point in the bushes. "Go ahead, take a swim. Nobody's gonna see you."
She decided it was sufficient, and after a quick glance about, began to shed her clothes. Instead of hastily shuffling out of her jacket, tank top, and shorts, she took her time, letting each garment drop to the ground. With the last of her clothing discarded on the grass, she dived into the dark water, going under for a moment before resurfacing, her red hair glistening water-slicked against her skull. She treaded water for a few moments, humming some unknown tune before stopping and squinting. If Max didn't know better, he could have sworn she was staring right at them. Almost as if she heard his thoughts, she smiled, her green eyes fixating right on them.
"You two can either watch," she called, "or you can join me."
Both boys froze at that invitation. "No way," Max whispered. "She can't."
"I can see you just fine," she purred, leaning back a bit in the water to give them a better look. Her red hair floated about her in the water like a cloud as she gave them a teasing smile. "Are you two men going to get in here, or am I going to have to swim all by myself?"
Max sat back on his heels, confused. Benny was already stripping off his shirt, murmuring, "Thank you, God, thank you, thank you, thank you..."
"What are you doing?" Max hissed as Benny stood up, stripping down to his boxers. "Isn't this a little too weird?"
Benny glanced over at the woman again, who was floating on her back in the water. "Too weird? There's a naked woman who wants us to go skinny-dipping with her, and all you can say is 'too weird?' Maxie, you can go back and hide under your bed, but I'm not going to pass this up because it's 'too weird.'" He started off, but paused. "You coming?"
Max thought about it. As he did, the woman began to hum again, an odd, eerie melody that she seemed to be making up as she went along. The music seemed to wrap around his brain, smothering the small part of him that was telling him it was wrong. Desire flamed in him all of a sudden, and he began pulling off his shirt.
They thundered into the water at the same time, swimming out towards her. "That's more like it," she commented, letting a slight Germanic accent slip into her voice. As they reached her, the smile on her face became sharklike. "Catch me if you can!" With that, she dived beneath the surface.
"Hey!" Benny cried. "Where the hell'd she go?"
"Probably gonna steal our clothes," Max snapped, treading water and casting about for any sign of the beauty. "I told you this was a bad idea."
"Yeah, well--" Benny stopped, an odd expression on his face. "Whoa! Man, was that you?"
"What are you talking about?" Max cried as something smooth brushed against his legs.
Benny was chuckling. "Guess she's not gonna steal our clothes, huh?"
She surfaced between them, this time only up to her chin. "Believe me, boys, it's not your clothes I want." As Benny and Max grinned, her eyes suddenly flared crimson. "I'd much prefer your lives."
With that, a huge webbed claw punched through the surface of the water, grabbing Benny's head and yanking him under. Max screamed, but he was cut short as a tentacle lashed out of nowhere and coiled around his neck. The woman and the two boys disappeared beneath the surface in a churning, frothing whirlpool of scales and blood. Within a few moments, the struggles subsided and the bubbles faded. It was all over.
Several feet away, up the hill, an old van was parked on the shoulder of the turnpike. The man leaning against the van watched the carnage from afar with jaded disinterest. He lit a cigarette, taking a long drag before blowing out a cloud of blue smoke. "Any time now," he murmured, checking his watch.
As if on cue, the surface rippled, and she rose up from the lake, the water cascading over her hair and shoulders as she stepped onto the shore and gathered up her things, nonchalantly striding towards the van with her clothes in her arms and a satisfied smile on her face. "Have a good swim?" he asked, his voice muffled by the cigarette between his teeth.
She ignored the jibe, her manner all business. "Satisfying." With that, she opened the door and climbed in.
He paused, eyeing the clouds that had suddenly appeared out of nowhere. "Storm be brewing, people," he annnounced as he flicked the cigarette away and opened the driver side door. "Let's move out."
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