Rating: Mature/Adults for violence and language.
Disclaimer: None of the characters that you see or who are mentioned belong to me. Deal with it. I have.
Time Frame: Set approximately a year and a half after my earlier story, “Post-Graduate Work.”
Spoilers: Possible minor spoilers for my previous story, “Post-Graduate Work.”
Character Bashing: None.
Feedback: Of course!
Archiving: If you want to archive this, just let me know where, please.
Author’s Notes 1: Many thanks to Bill Haden, Tim Joy and Drake the Archr for beta-ing this for me.
Author’s Notes 2: This story is part of a larger crossover collaboration that is currently in progress with several other authors called “Lines of Convergence,” but this aspect of the story will be able to be read completely independent of the overall story. If you’re interested in reading that story, you can find it at http://linesofconvergence.bigheadsbr.com/.
Dimension Kinari Minor Mark Four One Two
He really should have known better.
Really. He was normally smarter than that.
It was one of the first things he’d learned after he accidentally stumbled over the existence of the Slayer and the things she fought in the night, when he’d decided to dedicate himself to that selfsame battle that had previously been fought by conscripted young girls forced to fight alone against the nightmares that preyed on the unsuspecting masses of humanity.
And yet he’d gone ahead and jinxed himself by calling down the attention of what was probably an entire pantheon of malign and mean-spirited bastards who just sat around and waited for fools like himself to stand up and yell, “Hey, Idiot Jeb here! Come on down and shit all over me!”
The day had started normally enough, with Faith, Buffy and Willow all fussing over Joy and Jesse as they got them ready for their semi-annual checkups with Tom Wells and his gang of semi-certifiable lab rats over at the Base.
Someone who didn’t know who he was would probably have immediately identified Tom as the kids’ grandfather the way he doted on the two of them, Xander had to admit with a smile. Considering the way his little darling ran rampant through the lab and charmed everyone she encountered with those expressive big brown eyes of hers, something she’d inherited from Faith, it was no wonder that Jesse came in a close second behind her in popularity, since all he could really do at the moment was gurgle, smile up at whoever was holding him and blink those incredible blue-green eyes he’d gotten from Buffy.
Tom had been just as pleased as they all were when all the reports came back stating that Joy was a completely normal, totally adorable three year old girl and Jesse the textbook picture of a three month old boy.
Of course, he was just as glad that neither Joy nor Jesse showed any signs of being anything other than completely normal, considering the way the two of them seemed to run four adults ragged. And he really didn’t want to even try to imagine the pandemonium that awaited them all when Willow finally delivered the twins five and a half months from now…
After they’d ferried the kids home, he’d kissed all four of his girls and Jesse, too, and headed down to San Francisco for an inspection of the new facilities, where’d he’d run into Dru and Forrest, agreed to a sparring match with the two of them after the review, and actually come very close to having them kick his ass. Man, if they had actually beaten him, none of the girls would ever have let him live that down.
The girls managing to finally restore her sanity had allowed the once-insane, semi-undead Seer to once again walk in the sunlight and, with her prescient senses and the augmentation she’d received after joining the Initiative, she was very nearly a match for Willow now, although the other two enhanced Slayers could still consistently kick her ass in their semi-weekly training sessions.
After a brisk workout and showers afterwards, he’d been telling his two fellow Initiative agents about the kids’ checkups and it was then that he’d made his mistake, saying, “And Tom says that the twins and Wills are all doing great, too. Everything’s terrific, guys. I really couldn’t ask for anything else – my life’s pretty near perfect now!”
It was, of course, a moment later that he’d felt the call, the feeling as though he could hear someone calling out to him from some unimaginable distance.
< Please. Help us. >
He’d managed to gasp, “Will?” before things began swirling around him and then the world seemed to simply vanish.
“What do you mean, he just disappeared? People don’t just disappear! Especially not Xander! He promised to stop disappearing after he came back with Glory's body!”
Willow was half-screaming as she questioned the last two people to talk to her husband before he had vanished from the Initiative’s main base, in full sight of a dozen other people.
“Will, you need to calm down,” Buffy advised as she put her arm around her semi-hysterical spouse and led her over to the couch, coaxing her to sit down as she did so. The redhead was already normally inclined to over-react to stressful situations, and the mood swings she’d been experiencing during the past two months of her pregnancy hadn’t improved that aspect of her character in the least.
“Sorry, Willow, but that’s all I can tell you, ‘cause that’s all I know,” Forrest told her, as he anxiously glanced over at the blonde Slayer trying to calm her wife.
“That is exactly what happened, Little Tree,” Drusilla Macintyre answered Willow’s question, her dark-eyed gaze steadfast as she returned the redhead’s unwavering stare with one of her own.
Just because she’d had her sanity returned didn’t mean the tall brunette didn’t still have some – quirks – Buffy reflected as she watched the two of them lock eyes.
While none of them had any doubts about the former Master vampiress’ loyalties – not after what had happened last year in San Francisco – hearing her continue to refer to them by the names she’d used back when she was still an undead head-job could be the least bit disconcerting.
“Our Tiger-Wolf was speaking of the joy he held in life because of you all, his Shamrock and your kittens, when he suddenly paled, said your name, and then vanished into the ether,” Dru said, shaking her head in commiseration.
“And at that same moment as he spoke, I could see your face before me in many different aspects, my friend, but none of them were truly yours,” she continued, her eyes seeming to blank slightly, as she again reviewed her memories of that brief instant . “They belonged to others, reflections of you as you might have been had you chosen differently. That is all I can say with certainty at this moment. I am sorry I cannot tell you more.”
“You say, you saw *my* face?” Willow asked, her eyes wide with surprise at that revelation.
“No, she said she saw faces that looked like yours, honey,” Buffy immediately corrected her wife. “There’s a big difference.”
“Wait a minute,” Forrest broke in, looking at his partner in surprise. “You’re just now mentioning that you saw Willow’s face when Xander disappeared?”
“I said that I saw aspects of Little Tree that she chose not to become,” the Seer calmly informed her associate. “Had I told the Commander of my vision, we both know that he would have insisted on an investigation to ensure she was not responsible, and thus wasted precious time we cannot spare. He has not the strength of belief that River-born possesses in the Tiger-Wolf and the Shamrock nor the trust that the Stone Lord has bestowed upon your heart-father, and he would have dithered and dallied the hours away with heartless and senseless questions. We cannot abide such nattering, my friend.”
As Forrest was attempting to make sure he correctly understood his teammate’s statement, Faith walked in, her face a mask of carefully molded unconcern and calm.
“Sharon says that they haven’t detected any incoming or outgoing traffic on any of the SG sensors anywhere in our system, and that the Asgard told Jack the same thing,” she announced, folding her cellphone as she entered the room.
“So, since it doesn’t look like ET’s responsible, we need to figure out what demon groups or clans are stupid enough to want to screw with us and then go stomp their asses into the ground until they give us Xander back,” the brunette Slayer continued in a dismal attempt at a lighthearted tone of voice.
“It’s not that simple, Faith,” Buffy broke in before anyone else could respond. “Dru said she saw some faces that looked like Willow, but different, at the same time Xand disappeared. Other, unchosen aspects she said.”
“Shit!” the dark-haired Slayer reflexively spat. “Sounds like it might have something to do with an alternate dimension or some kind of parallel world thing, like you talked about when Vamp Willow showed up, back in the day,” Faith said after hearing Buffy’s explanation.
“Okay then, so we go stomp some alternate universe asses into the ground until they give us Xand back,” the brunette shrugged nonchalantly. “Still works for me.”
“You know what? I agree. No one steals our husband and walks away unbroken,” Buffy smiled ferally at her other spouse as she got to her feet. “I’m gonna go get the makings for a locater spell.
“Why don’t you guys go start putting a squad together for backup, okay?” she suggested as she headed towards the pantry for supplies. “And see if the lab boys are finished with the prototypes for those BFGs they were talking about at the last staff meeting, okay? I think they’d be just about perfect for what I intend to do, once we figure out where Xand went to.”
“Who’re we gonna get to watch Joy and Jesse?” Willow asked from her position on the couch.
“You and Giles.” Faith and Buffy’s answer sounded like quadraphonic stereo it was so nearly simultaneous.
“What do you mean, me?” Willow’s outrage was almost palpable, Forrest thought as he quickly headed out the front door, thankful that he didn’t have to face down the redheaded Slayer-witch over that particular point of business.
One thing he was completely sure of - if he did end up getting involved, no matter who won, he’d end up losing.
If Willow didn’t go with the retrieval squad heading out after Xander, he’d be occupying the top five slots on her shit list, and if she did win the argument and manage to accompany the squad, he’d end up at the top of Xander’s, Faith’s and Buffy’s shit lists.
< Oh joy. Lose-lose. Always a winner, > he thought to himself. Once thing he was sure of, though – *he* was going with the retrieval squad. No way was he staying here and risk having to deal with a cranky and pregnant Slayer/witch.
The windows weren’t quite shaking from the vehemence of their arguments as he was leaving, but Forrest figured that it was only a matter of time.
Dimension Prox Nine Ninety Eight
For an instant, it felt as though he were back falling through the portal with Glory, that same sensation of everything being different in a not-really-wrong-but-not-necessarily-right way, and then he was being turned inside out in the most painful manner possible, like something was tap dancing on his testicles but distributing the sensations equally throughout his entire body, while simultaneously marinating him in that super-hot jalapeno sauce that Buffy had liked so much while she carrying Jesse, and then shoving whatever was left down a garbage disposal and mixing it thoroughly with the products of a sewage plant.
After what seemed like forever (but probably wasn’t more than an eon or two), he felt himself falling for the briefest instant, before landing on what was – given the way his luck had been running lately – probably a large pile of semi-petrified Tyrannosaurus shit.
Opening his eyes, he looked around, blinked once to verify that he wasn’t imagining anything, and groaned.
Dozens of them.
“Oh shit,” he groaned. “Not again.”
Shoving himself to his feet, he borrowed Giles’ favorite quote from one of his own favorite movies.
“I’m getting too old for this shit.”
“Something else has just arrived. About ten miles away, in that direction.”
“Great, that‘s just what we need now – more monsters.”
“I don’t think that this one is one of their’s. It – he – feels like a good person. A powerful good person.”
“That’s great in a different way. Someone else for them to look for. Maybe we’ll be able to find a way out of town while these demons are looking for whoever just showed up.”
“That’s cold, Pheebs.”
“Well, tough shit, Paige. You’ll just have to forgive me for not giving a shit about whether some superpowerful newcomer I don’t know or care about gets the shit kicked out of them while we still don’t know if our missing sister and nephew are dead or alive, or whether they’re prisoners of these bastards that have eaten half the people in the city and made slaves out of the other half, and I’m three months pregnant and puking my guts out every other hour, and the last time I saw my husband, he was being overwhelmed by a horde of demons who were trying to kill all of us, and I don’t know whether our baby is even going to get a chance to be born, let alone whether or not he’ll have a father if he does make it through the next six months.”
“You know, you could just say it’s the hormones that're making you bitchy.”
“But then again, you’re like this all the time anymore.”
“I love you, too, Pheebs.”
“Let’s get the hell out of here.”