Okay. Let me explain, since this one is undeniably my fault (and believe me, I've tried denying it!). I came up with a brilliant idea for the annual door contest at MediaWest*Con 18 -- my roomies and I would write a round robin at the con, posting each part to the door as it was finished. And, just to make things more interesting, we'd fill up an envelops with characters from every fandom we could think of, and draw one at random before beginning each new part.
Theoretically, we pulled it off -- the last part of the story went up at midnight the day before the con ended. And we did get to spend a lot of time staring through the peepholes at the people who stopped to giggle at our ouvre. And my roomies got to giggle at me as I abused my somewhat, um, quirky, StyleWriter into submission. We also lost sleep and con time and large amounts of our sanity! The results follows. Enjoy! -- Perri
Giles' shout echoed off the walls of the library. Buffy sat bolt upright, Angel fanged out instinctively, Willow 'eep!'ed, and Xander, who'd been balancing his chair on two legs, fell over backwards with a loud clatter. Giles tried not to look satisfied at that result, but failed.
Buffy recovered first. "Giles, what did you find, and why was it so necessary to give us heart attacks announcing it?"
"Sorry," he apologized, not looking all that sorry. He hustled out of the stacks and down the stairs, slamming a dusty book to the table in front of Willow. "but I may have finally found it!"
"Found what?" Angel leaned over Giles's shoulder to look.
"Well, you see-- Ah!" Giles turned to look at Angel and shouted at finding the vampire's fangs a few inches from his face. He stumbled backwards into the table, and the other four people in the room tried not to look too satisfied at the result. They failed, too.
"D-do you mind?" Giles finally managed to stammer.
Angel looked innocent, but his face slipped back to its normal human facade. "Sorry."
"Yes, well...." Giles attempted to gather his dignity back around him, straightening his glasses and fussing with his sleeves. "At any rate, I may have found the answer to all of our problems at last."
He started to regain his enthusiasm as he opened the book and flipped through it, sending up piles of dust. The Slayerettes clustered around him after Xander managed to pick himself up from the floor, waiting more or less patiently for Giles to get to the point.
Which he didn't seem in any hurry to do, babbling on about 'interdimensional portals,' 'transference of energies could halted, or even stopped,' 'convergence of spiritual planes,' 'confluence of powers,' et cetera, until even Willow looked ready to hit him with his own book.
"Yo, Giles!" Xander finally yelled, holding his hands up in the 'time-out' gesture. "Um, could you slow down and try talking in a language that the rest of us Earthlings can understand?"
Giles blinked, pulled out of research mode, and attempted to refocus on his audience. "Well, that's what I've been doing."
"No, you haven't," everyone, including Angel, informed him.
"Words of three syllables or less, Giles," Buffy told him, "and nothing out of any New Age spiritual guide, 'kay?"
Giles looked perilously close to a pout, but regrouped. "Well, I may have discovered.... That is, I've been looking... Well, I don't want to raise any false hopes..."
The chorus of annoyed voices finally seemed to have some effect. Giles pushed his glasses up one more time, then said, quite clearly, "I may have discovered the way to close the Hellmouth.
He waited for the response, but didn't get one -- since the other four were staring at him, open-mouthed.
A silver bowl etched with scenes of Mt. Olympus flew across the sumptuously appointed room, narrowly missing four harem girls, three fawning gang leaders, two obnoxious nephews and a griffin in a large olive tree. It hit the walls and fell to the floor with a musically ringing crash.
"Damn them to the lowest level of Tartarus! Better yet, I'll send them there myself!" The God of War was not happy -- not an unusual occurance, but always something to be wary of. "*Every* time I get a good thing going, do-gooders like these damn Slayers and their damn Watchers have to come along and screw it up! That's *my* Hellmouth! How am I supposed to have any fun if they're going to go wandering around closing up all of my doors to hell?"
"Um, Uncle Ares?" Strife tentatively raised his hand. "You know, the Hellmouths have been around longer than we have, it's not technically yours...."
Ares whirled on his, black eyes flashing. "If I say it's mine," he said, cutting off every word, "it's mine."
Strife gulped, and tried to become invisible. It didn't work very well, but if he was good at that kind of thing, he wouldn't be stuck following his uncle around as a henchman. Life sucks that way.
Ares went back to ignoring him, stalking around his rooms, occasionally punching out at random objects and bystanders. "I've got to put a stop to this infernal assault on my Hellmouth!" he snarled to himself, since there was no one else in the room worth talking to.
"You could just kill them," No One Worth Talking To offered from his strategic hiding place behind three of the harem girls.
"But that would screw up all of the plans I've got for them," Ares dismissed with digust. He thought for a minute, then an evil grin began to spread over his face. (Actually, he didn't have any other kind of grins, but this one was even more evil than usual, which was always a Bad Thing. Well, for the good guys.)
"I've got a better idea. One that should discourage the little do-gooding Slayerettes from ever messing with a portal again. I'm going to take them on a little trip."
He started laughing, and the evil sound echoed through the rooms.
"Invectum obscurus aldarus!"
Giles' voice rolled through the library, as candles flickered at the five points of the pentagram. Angel picked up the next line, intoning the Latin with an ease that had Xander and Buffy making faces at him. Xanders tumbled through his line and handed it off to Buffy, who had her eyes closed in concentration, but managed to finish her part. Willow breezed through the next as winds began to pick up around them, and then it was Giles's turn again.
"Gaudiamus igature iuvanes dum sumas!"
His shout was almost drowned out by the winds that suddenly howled around them. If they had been able to pay more attention, they might have heard the echo of a certain War God's laugh in the wind, but they were too busy looking startled and worried.
The floor broke open beneath them and they jumped back in anticipation of another Hellhound. "Giles!" Buffy yelled. "Is this what is supposed to happen?"
Before the librarian could answer, lights flared around them. When the lights cleared, so had the library. And they were standing... somewhere else.
'Somewhere else' turned out to be dark, silent and very empty.
The Slayerettes found themselves standing in a place eerily reminiscent of the Bronze. The Bronze vacated for one of its frequent 'Bug Eradication Nights'. Like the Bronze, only....
"O-kay," Cordy offered from the back (where she had remained entirely unnoticed until now), "Who had the Goth attack?"
Xander, seriously eyeing the seductive portrait over the bar, didn't answer. He did however back absently into a row of hanging chains, startling him into a turning, twisting, tangling, set of contortions worthy of one of his more elaborate 'dance routines'.
Giles' brow furrowed and lips pursed in annoyance.
At more or less generally the same moment, Angel, Buffy, and Willow all turned towards a dark, open doorway to the far side of the bar-- Willow wide-eyed, Buffy aggressively defensive, and Angel curious and knowing.
"May I help you?"
The low, heavily sarcastic voice quickly caught the attention of the rest of the Slayerettes, and Xander's eyes quickly found a much more... lively target of appreciation.
Buffy stepped forward, automatically placing herself between her friends and the unknown. She and the woman faced each other-- eyeing each other, evaluating the situation, neither of them recognizing the striking contrast between the small, blonde, psyched teen and the cool, elegant, seductive stranger with the raven-black hair.
"She's a vampire," Angel offered, earning himself an annoyed look from both women.
"I knew that," Buffy hissed back in an irritated manner that suggested she hadn't.
"So are you," Janette observed calmly, with the air of one who hopes to be the dignified cause of a highly undignified scene.
Disappointingly, none of the mortals batted an eye. Giles however, managed to step forward. "My name is Giles and we appear to be... uh... um...," he paused for a second of thought, then settled for, "'Lost'. Is this your... um... establishment."
Janette made a point of acknowledging his mannered approach with an appreciative-- if amused-- head gesture. "You may call me Janette, Mr. Giles," she purred, moving slowly forward, her expression that of a cobra facing a small furry snack-sized rodent. "And yes, this is my modest little club."
"I like..." Xander said, trying to fill in the awkward silence and create an opening for him to oogle the picture again. "Is that, you?"
Janette said nothing, noting quickly that the young boy was far too immature for her. Young blood was good, she mused, immature was not. She sighed and looked toward Giles. "Is there any reason why you have broken into my club?"
"We didn't break in --" Willow started defensively.
Buffy shushed Willow. She didn't know this new vamp, what she did know was that she didn't like what was going on... Which wasn't too unusual.
But before she could respond, a white light appeared to her right. Buffy turned quickly only to see a man in the tackiest outfit she had ever seen. "What the Hell is going on here?!?" Buffy shouted at no one in particular.
"That is what I am trying to find to find out," Janette hissed.
Al Calavicci didn't have an answer for the Slayer, but he had many answers for the knockout in black lace... especially one that involved a kitchen sink and dish soap. It took him a few minutes to realize that Sam was nowhere to be found.
"Sam? Oh, Sam..." Al called while peeking under tables and through the walls. "Sam..." He poked his head through the curtained back room. "You're not Sam. Oh! Ohhhhh..." He wasn't sure what this place was, but he knew he liked it.
Janette's temper was quickly turning to bloodlust. "Excuse me! You were not invited in here. And most especially back there!" She growled as she reached to pull the strange little man from the curtain.
"Oh!" She exclaimed as her hand slid through his body.
"Ummm, but we didn't even start to go back there!" Willow said helpfully.
"She's not talking about you, Will," Buffy reminded her.
"Then who is she talking to?" She asked.
"You don't see him?" Buffy looked at all of her friends before heading toward the curtain.
"Nooo..." Xander answered for all of the Scooby Gang.
"But! He's right here!"
Meanwhile, in the universe across the hall...
Divia swung her foot idly, enjoying the flutter of cloth. She enjoyed hanging with Ares' crew; they were all stuck in the Ancient World as far as attitudes went. The loose gown she wore was similar to her favorite one at her mother's house in Pompeii. Since her father/son/whatever had beheaded and locked her into a Egyptian tomb shortly after the Empire rose, she was grateful that there was a place she felt at home.
She just wished that she had been more reverent when she had been alive. Not that Mars... Ares, by Jove, remember to call him Ares... cared that much.
Speak of the God of War... Himself appeared in full leather garb in front of her and she perked up. Since he had saved her -- she wasn't sure how, but she thought it involved humiliating her beloved Lucius, which she was all for -- he'd promised that she'd get a chance to wreak havoc.
"Is it havoc time?" she demanded.
Ares grinned. "Go forth, my child, and destroy."
Back at the Raven, the chains rattled with the arguments going on inside. Buffy was trying to figure out who, what, and WHY Al was, and convince the other Slayerettes that no, she wasn't crazy, an endeavor not helped by the fact that Janette -- the only other one who could see Al was ignoring him, due to the fact that he had made some injudicious advances. Janette was muttering under her breath and wishing that the not-invisible man was solid enough for her to get a bite in. Giles was caught between trying to figure out where the spell went wrong, trying to figure out how they got from the Hellmouth to... wherever they were, trying to figure out what to do about the fact that they had apparently landed in the lair of another vampire, and trying to figure out what mystical significance the visitor had, since only two of them could see him. He was turning in a little circle, randomly spitting out fragments of ideas and possibilities. Willow discovered that he generally went through the problems in order, and if she assembled his fragments he actually made sense. Angel and Xander, left without leadership from either Buffy, Giles, or Willow, were attempting to work out their own escape plan. It involved parachutes and pigs. You don't want to know.
"Is anyone there?" a small voice drifted into the room. "Help me?"
Xander turned towards the sound and saw a young blonde girl entering the room. Since everyone else seemed to be engaged in arguing (and Angel wasn't going for his fireworks idea), he stepped over there. "Hey, are you lost?"
The girl nodded, her chin trembling. She looked about twelve, but her mannerisms were of a much younger child. "I got lost, and I can't find my way, and I just want to go home." Her voice rose to a wail on the last word, and she started sniffling piteously.
Xander fell for it. "We'll find your way home," he promised, forgetting that he and his friends were lost and pretty much helpless at the moment. He reached out to pull the girl into his arms to comfort her. She snuggled with a relieved sigh and relaxed.
Three seconds later he felt his head yanked to one side and fangs touching his neck. Before he could scream, she did as Angel caught her by the hair and yanked her away. "She's a vampire, too," Angel said, dangling her above the ground by her hair.
Xander rubbed his neck, checking for blood. "Now you tell me."
Little Miss Pointy Teeth had reverted to Little Girl Lost and began squealing for help, attracting the attention of the rest of the room. "Help, help, make him put me down, help!"
Angel obligingly dropped her into a heap on the floor. "She's a vampire, and she tried to bite Xander." he informed everyone.
"V-vampire?" the little girl said, eyes wide. "What do you mean?"
Buffy pulled out a stake and approached her. "Don't even try it, honey. I've *done* the little, blonde and helpless routine. It's just so not going to work on me."
Obviously, the girl didn't take well to being dissed. "My name is Divia, and it is my very great pleasure to kill you today." She snarled, her eyes going yellow and her fangs extending. Buffy didn't flinch, not even when Angel snarled back two feet from her ear. Shrugging at the tot-vampire (whose mouth was hanging unattractively open in complete shock) she said, "His game face is better than your game face."
Confronted with two growling vampires, Al stumbled back, clonked his head on... well, something, and fell into a heap on the ground.
"OK." A stake suddenly appeared in Buffy's hand. Xander and Angel each grabbed one of Divia's arms and held on tight. "One child-sized vampire go poof."
She was a bit less confident when her stake splintered against the chest of a tall, dark-haired man who looked like he had been watching Mad Max a few too many times. Divia peered out from the crook of his elbow. "Ah-ah-ah," he said, wagging his finger. "You can't kill my toys."
"I am not a toy," Divia hissed, attempting to claw at Buffy from her safe spot behind the Jerk Guy.
"I can't? Step aside and watch me." Buffy looked like this might be a fun trip after all.
The dark-haired guy grinned. "Talk to you later," he said cheerfully.
Then in a flash of blue light, he and Divia disappeared.
The assembled Slayerettes, vampires and holograms (well, he would have been staring if he hadn't been unconscious) stared at the space where the tall leather fetishist had been. "O-kay," Xander finally said. "That was... weird. Who was that?"
Various mouths opened and closed with no answers appearing. But they only had a few seconds to think before another bright light flashed. When it faded, the Goth bar had disappeared, and they were standing in a very small office. So small, in fact, that Buffy found herself sitting on Angel's lap, Cordelia on Xander's lap, and Janette on Giles's lap. The first two pairs had no real objection. Giles , on the other hand, finding himself with a lap full of seductive female vampiress, turned bright red and found himself possessed of a burning need to clean his glasses. A lot.
Fortunately for his sanity, Janette flew off of his lap almost instantly. "Where have you taken us?" she yelled, stalking elegantly around the small office, past the two desks shoehorned together, in front of the UFO poster reading 'I Want To Believe', and through the holographic legs sticking out from one of the desks. By that time she was back where she started, which wasn't any good for her pacing or Giles's blush.
"Take a chill," Buffy ordered Janette impatiently. Being addressed in that tone was enough to freeze Janette in mid-stalk. She lifted one deadly eyebrow at the Slayer, who ignored her.
"Giles, where are we?" Buffy asked her Watcher. "And who was that guy -- do you think he did this?"
Giles, regaining his composure slightly, answered, "I don't know, I have no earthly idea, and one would assume."
Buffy blinked at him, mentally lining up answers with questions, then nodded. "Okay, so we're one for three. We're gonna have to do better than that if we want to get home."
"Home?" Janette snarled. "What about my club? I have a business to run, how dare you drag me into your little journey around the world!"
"We didn't drag you," Angel informed her testily, around the Slayer who was still sitting on his lap because there really wasn't anywhere else to go in the tiny office. "You just got dragged with us."
Janette didn't look happy about the whole thing, but she did look less likely to rip out the throat of everyone in her vicinity. Xander and Giles, the two closest people, looked very relieved "Someone will pay for this," she hissed, standing in one place so she could fume without having to watch where she was going.
"You'll have to stand in line," Buffy tossed off. "So, anyone got any ideas why Tall, Dark and Cute-Yet-Psycho is messing around with us?"
"Could it have been the spell?" Willow asked hesitantly. "I mean, maybe instead of closing the Hellmouth we, um, did something else?"
"Well, that's pretty much a big 'duh'," Cordelia said, rolling her eyes. "Like any of our spells ever work right."
Xander turned to glare at her. "Where's this 'our' stuff coming from? Like you're ever such a big help!"
Cordelia glared back. "Hey, nobody asked for my help, it was like I wasn't even there! And if I had--"
"If we could hold off on adolescent bickering for a moment," Giles interrupted before the two of them could really get going, "there are more important issues here." Xander and Cordy subsided and Giles got up to start pacing. He was not noticably more successful at it than Janette had been, but he didn't seem to notice. "Now, the spell as we cast it was a variation on that used by the Master orginally to open the Hellmouth. It should have closed the portal permanently."
"I think we can write that one off as a failure," Buffy said. "So, who was Leather Boy?"
"It does appear to come back to that question," Janette said, sitting gracefully on the edge of the table, her evening gown draping beautifully around her. Giles, Xander and Angel stared until Xander and Angel got swatted by their respective girlfriends. Willow looked tempted to swat Giles, but didn't. If Janette noticed the byplay, it didn't show on her face, except that her faint smile got a little more smug. "He was not a vampire, I can assure you of that."
"Um, excuse me?" Willow raised her hand from where she was jammed into a corner. "Do we have to stay in here to figure this out? Or can we go somewhere where it might be bigger?"
"Yes!" Xander said, jumping to his feet and almost dumping Cordelia.
"No," Giles said at the same time. "If, in fact, it is our spell shifting us around, it would behoove us to remain wherever the portal, or whatever this phenomenon is, delivers us, that being the most likely place for it to open again."
It took them a few seconds to detangle the sentance again, then they nodded in reluctant agreement. "Well, we'd better hope whoever owns this office doesn't come back any time soon," Buffy sighed.
On cue, the door clattered, then opened. Everyone sent accusatory glares towards Buffy, who hung her head.
"Way to go, Buff," Xander muttered, as the door slammed into the back of his chair.
A redhaired woman in a business suit started through the door, then stopped and stared at them. "Who the hell are you and how did you get here?" she demanded.
As one, the Slayerettes turned to look at Giles. Stuck as exposition, he stammered and shoved up his glasses, "Ah, well, that is indeed the question of the hour, Ms... ah..."
"Agent," she supplied evenly. "Special Agent Dana Scully."
Xaander gulped. "Um... Agent? Like... FBI?"
Agent Scully nodded, crossing her arms and looking sternly at them. "That's generally who works in the FBI building. Now that we've established who I am, I still want to know who the hell you are."
Giles took a deep breath. "Agent Scully... Do you believe in magic?"
"You're some of Mulder's little friends, aren't you?" Scully asked, exasperation clear on her face.
"Uh.... 'Mulder'?" Giles looked puzzled, every gear in his well-stocked brain obviously whirring away in an attempt to place the reference. "I'm sorry, but I can't seem to... uh... I mean... that is...."
Willow leaned half-way across one desk and slapped him helpfully on the back.
"Mulder the eighteenth-century Watcher, or Mulder the lesser demon of the Kobayshi Maru?" His eyes widened suddenly as he realized exactly how little tact he'd managed to employ, and he made a mental note to glare quite sternly at Willow. Later.
In an attempt to remedy the look of... well... he wasn't even sure what that was on Agent Scully's face... Giles hurried on. "Because, you know, I am always confusing the two, and given the differences in transliteration between Romanian and mid-archaic Anglo-Slovenian...."
Luckily the Watcher was saved from his rapid decent into mortification-induced babble Hell, not by quick action on the part of the Slayerettes, nor even from the ever-more-stunned Agent Scully, but by the reaction of Buffy to yet another blinding flash of blue light that he, mercifully, could not see.
Awakened from his stupor by the Leap, Al reflexively sat up, through the desk... through Janette's skirts... through her elegantly crossed legs, truth be told. And as those elegant legs framed his blearily leering face, he noticed....
Janette was a guy.
Fully regaining his feet in an instant, Al spun wildly around, narrowly missing putting the handlink through Willow's head and up Xander's nose. (Well the miss was actually less-than-narrow. In fact, they both pretty much owed the retention of their facial features in their current arrangement to the fact that Al was only a hologram in this dimension. They, of course, realized none of this, only frowning as Buffy started and choked slightly at the bit of air between them.)
Completing his revolution, Al found himself face-to-face with Sam. Sam sitting on the edge of the desk. Sam sitting elegantly on the edge of the desk in a tightly cut, red-and-black sheath with a black velvet choker around his throat.
"Ugh," was Al's profound remark.
"Wha...?" Sam Beckett-- quantum physicist, do-gooder, lost-in-space time traveler, putter right of what once went wrong, and inadvertent body-snatcher extraordinaire-- could tell by the expression on his hologrammic friend's face that something in this leap was seriously out-of-order. And considering the kind of situations they were *used* to, that was really saying something.
One quick glance down at his new 'self' and he could see Al's point, however, his attention was quickly distracted by the realization that he was trapped in a tiny, cramped office with no windows and way too many people. Most of them now looking at him. Several of them at least as dismayed by the sight as Al.
The very short, very blonde teenager with the surprisingly in-charge attitude was making a face that made him feel like something disgusting she'd found underneath the edge of a school desk. The three men, two young, one older, were all looking at him with what was quite clearly barely-disguised lust. The two brunette teen girls were looking at them with barely-repressed annoyance.
The last person his eyes fell upon was the attractive late-twenties redhead in the business suit standing in the doorway-- a very unattractively realistic gun now in her hand. The gun was focused on Sam as she spoke.
"'For the last time, what are you," her gun and gaze moved together to cover the whole room, "--*any* of you-- doing in my office?" She focused back dead center. "Let's start with you, Miss........?"
"Oh boy!" said 'Janette'.
Sadly though, Scully was just not going to find out what was going on in her own little slice of Hell. Seconds after Janette rather undaintily uncrossed her legs and rose off the table, hitching up her nylons, a scratching noise was heard at the door. Scully sighed, wondering if the aliens were finally here to take her away. Opening the door she saw something that for this day didn't surprise her in the least.
Diefenbaker grinned up at her, his lolling to one side. "Woof!"
"Oh! A doggie!" Willow exclaimed as she squeezed through the packed office space.
Immediately sensing someone who probably would give doggie treats, Diefenbaker bounded toward the redheaded girl. Unfortunately, when he bounded, he knocked Scully on the floor and a bookcase over which caused all of Murder's XX-File videos to cascade to the floor in front of Angel.
Without thinking, Angel bent down and picked up "Vampire Vixens from Venus" and exclaimed, "Oooh! I haven't seen this one yet!" The glare Buffy shot him was enough to kill large elephants. "Uh, well... you see... I watch these things to see how people think of us as vampires -- and... uh...."
"You're busted, man," Xander said, trying to hide his glee.
Buffy's only response was, "We'll talk later."
Trying to change the subject quickly, in Male Defensive Strategy #3, Xander turned to Diefenbaker and said, "What is it, Lassie? Did Timmy fall into the Hellmouth?"
Diefenbaker just turned his head and looked at Xander, not quite understanding how a human could be that stupid. He looked back at the friend he knew would feed him-- sooner or later-- and woofed, trying to pull her out the door.
"I think he wants us to follow him," Willow said, always the bright one in the group.
"Gee, what gave you that idea?" Al said.
Definitely using up her stare quotient for the day, Buffy glowered at Al, and replied, "Well at least she's being more helpful than you are."
Before anyone could discuss it further, Diefenbaker trotted out of the room that was packed like sardines and wagged his tail as if encouraging the stupid humans to follow him.
"Well, I guess this is 'Good-bye'," Willow said.
"But, before we go: Where did you buy that suit?" Cordelia said.
"Cordelia!" the whole room seemed to shout.
"Why is everybody always shouting my name?" Cordelia stormed out of the room, muttering about damned dogs, and how unfair her life was, and that she could be getting a bikini wax right now.
They headed further into the bowels of the FBI basement, only to hear, "But you can't go that way!"
Unfortunately for them, the bowels of the FBI basement greatly resembled a blinding flash -- and another strange place.
"Oh, great, not again," Buffy moaned. They seemed to be in the hallway of a mansion. The carpet was rich red and thick, the paintings on the wall looked like real Monets or Picassos, or Whevers-they-were-supposed-to-be, and the furniture gleamed as though it had been spit polished. (Note to reader: don't try to figure out what place this is. I made it up. Deal.)
"OK," Willow said. "I don't see any windows or anything, so we can't tell where we are."
"No windows," Buffy mused, "I wonder if a vamp- AAAAAAAAAH!" She had turned to ask Angel if he knew of any mega-rich vamps, and found that the guy who five seconds before had been wearing Janette's dress was now standing there wearing Angel's clothes. "What the *hell* is going on here?"
"What's the matter, Buffy?" Giles asked. Everyone cut him a glare. "Well, aside from the obvious."
Buffy lifted an accusing finger and pointed. "He's not Angel. He's that GUY. Where is that other guy?" Whipping her head around, she found Al trying to cower behind Diefenbaker. "You... you..." Buffy advanced on him, fists clenched. "What have you done with my boyfriend?"
"He's fine," Al said, not rising from his position behind Dief. He knew he was a hologram, but he wasn't entirely sure anyone had told this girl yet. "Ah, it's sort of complicated."
Buffy folded her arms and tapped her foot. "I'm waiting."
Janette, in the meanwhile, back in her own body, was admiring the work in the hallway. "Beautiful, beautiful," she murmured, touching the frame of a Titian with faintly covetous fingers.
Before the argument behind her could escalate into ear-piercingly high shrieks of rage, a small circle of glass fell from the skylight above them and landed on the carpet in the middle of the group. As one, they looked down at it, and then looked up. (There was too a skylight there all along!) It was too dark to see anything, so they ignored it in favor of the argument.
Until someone lowered herself down a rope into the hallway.
She stopped halfway down, staring at the group in blank shock. "Who the hell are you and what are you doing here?"
"That's the $64,000 question," Xander moaned.
"Amanda," Janette said, sounding warmer than the group had ever heard her.
Rapidly completing her decent, the brunette expertly detached herself from the rope and crossed to Janette. They brushed cheeks Parisian fashion and smiled at each other. "I thought Duncan told you to give up stealing?" Janette said.
Amanda shrugged. "I missed it too much. But I'm not really stealing."
"Oh?" Janette arched an eyebrow in question.
"I don't keep anything. It all goes to charity."
"Robin Hood?" Janette chuckled.
Amanda rolled her eyes. "Hardly. Robin Hood was a greasy, smelly man who kept everything for himself. Believe me. There was this time that he and his not-so Merry Men stopped us in Nottingham and he shoved his hand down my bodice to get at the ring I'd hidden there..." Slowly, Amanda became aware of the eyes of five humans and one wolf, all fixed on her. Turning back to Janette, she asked, "So, what *are* you doing here?"
Janette sighed in frustration. "It's a long story. I was in the Raven, when all of a sudden this rabble appears. They have no clue how they got there. Then this... this..."
"This weirdo guy in black leather shows up, just when I was about to stake Shirley Temple," Buffy picked up the story when Janette seemed to be going into fits over the crassness of their next visitor. "He um, disappeared."
"Disappeared?" Amanda asked.
"Into a shimmer of blue light," Willow added helpfully.
Amanda's face cleared and she smiled. "Oh, now I understand."
"You do?" Xander said plaintively. "Because I'd really like it if you explained it to me."
Amanda shook her head and clucked her tongue. "Pissing off the gods, while highly amusing, isn't exactly the smartest thing to do. How did you manage to get Ares' attention, hmmm?"
"Ares? Yes, of course! I should have seen it!" Giles began pacing, muttering to himself again.
"How would you know about pissing off Ares?" Buffy wanted to know.
Amanda smiled. Slowly. Like a cat that has drunk all the cream and is now going after the Brie. "Because, my dear, gods are like mortal men in many ways, not the least of which is that they don't take the word 'no' very well. That was amusing," she said, her eyes distant in memory. Seeing the warning signs, Janette leaned over and snapped her fingers in Amanda's face. The glazed look cleared and Amanda refocused on the group in the hallway. "Thanks."
"So what do we do to thwart Ares' power?" Giles turned to Amanda and asked.
"Well..." she began -- but the group in front of her disappeared. Just vanished. Poof. "Ares, old boy, you never did take rejection well," she sighed. Then she heard the wails of sirens in the distance. Her planned theft completely ruined, she shimmied up the rope and got out of there.
The light faded again, and Cordelia and Buffy moaned in unison. "This is getting so old," Cordelia sighed. "Where are we this time?"
"An interrogation room," Xander and Janette said in unison. Everyone looked at them and Xander blinked. "Hey, I watch Homicide. What's her excuse?" Janette merely sniffed and declined to answer.
Buffy pulled out one of the chairs at the interrogation table and sat down with a sigh. Angel leaned his hip on the table next to her; she blinked up at him, realizing that Angel was Angel again -- the strange man had gone away again. "Angel!" she shouted happily, throwing her arms around the vampire's neck. Xander looked disgusted and Willow grinned, sinking crosslegged to the floor next to Dief and started petting him.
"So, what does Scooby Doo have to say about this?" Buffy asked, after she managed to seperate her lips from Angel's.
Willow shrugged, scratching Dief's ears. "I don't know. He seems pretty happy just to sit here."
"That would be because you're petting him," Xander pointed out. Diefenbaker (and how the hell did everyone know his name anyway? Xander filed the question away for future reference) gave Xander and infitnitely superior 'well, of course' look and tilted his head to give Willow better access.
"Well, what should we do now?" Buffy asked. "I don't think the cops are going to be too happy to find us here. Giles? Any ideas, since Wolfie isn't doing the guide thing?"
She turned to look at her Watcher as she spoke and almost fell out of her chair realizing that the strange man hadn't left, he'd just switched bodies again, and was now staring at her from above Giles's tweed jacket. "Giles!"
Everyone turned to follow her high-pitched squeak. "What?" Cordelia asked, confused as usual.
Buffy ignored her, marching over to 'Giles' and poking her finger into his chest. "Okay, I've had enough! Who are you and what the hell is going on? Where's Giles?"
"Um, Buffy," Xander offered hesitantly, "that is Giles."
"No, it's not," Buffy said without looking away. "Who are you?"
'Giles' winced. "That's getting less and less clear every second. Al?"
Mr. I'm Not Really Here sighed and played with something that looked like DayGlo Legos in his hands. "I have no clue, Sam. All I know is that there are people around here growing fangs and you're jumping bodies faster than a hyperactive necrophiliac."
Buffy shuddered. "I could have lived without that comparison. Explanations. Give."
Al exchanged a look with 'Giles', and started talking.
"So you jump around from life to life, making things right?" Buffy was frowning deeply at Sam and Al, who shrugged more or less in unison.
"It makes about as much sense as vampires," Al pointed out.
Buffy grimaced. "Good point. Okay, so, why are you playing musical bodies with my friends? And, um, bystanders," she added, with a sideways glance at Janette, who looked amused.
Another simultaneous shrug. "I have no idea," Al said, looking at his 'handlink' again. "I can't even get in touch with Ziggy."
Everyone else in the room had somehow managed to follow the one-sided conversation (except Dief, who was having his stomach scratched and couldn't have cared less about the whole thing). "So, when do we get Giles back?" Xander asked.
"Probably the next time we do the place-switch-thing," Al said with disgust. "Why are we doing the place-switch thing? Who's this Ares guy?"
"The God of War," Willow and Sam supplied together. They caught each other's eyes and grinned, and Sam gestured. "After you."
Willow blushed faintly, but continued, "Ares was the Greek god of war. He was, um, not a nice man."
"Is not, my dear," Janette corrected with a faint smile. "Ares is, unfortunately, still very much with us. And he has a rather twisted sense of whom which, I fear, we are currently the butt of."
"Great," Buffy groaned. "Ancient gods screwing around with us, strange vampires, and time travellers. All we need now is Principal Snyder or a couple of cops to make things perfect."
On cue, the door opened. Buffy sighed and hid her head. Silently and solemnly, Xander balled up paper from the table and passed it out. Silently and solemnly, everyone pelted the loud-mouthed Slayer.
The young blonde police office who'd opened the door watched the scene in mild surprise. "Um, I don't think the school tour groups are supposed to be in these rooms..." she started, before her eyes landed on Janette. "Oh, hey, you're Nick's friend. From the Raven. What are you doing here?"
"Detective Vetter?" Janette asked through narrowed eyes. "How fortunate. I would seem to be back where I belong." She stood gracefully and trailed towards the door. "It has been an extremely unpleasant experience, I hope to never see any of you again. Detective Vetter, is it daytime or nighttime."
The detective blinked. "Um, nighttime."
"Excellent. Au 'voir."
"Wait!" Buffy raced forward. "You talk like you knew this ancient dude, Ares. How can we beat him, get this over with?"
"I would suggest that you discover whatever it is you did to upset him and remedy the matter." Janette shrugged. "Or find a way to annoy him sufficiently that he decides you're not worth the effort. Bon chance." With that, she swept out of the room and was gone.
At the same time, Diefenbaker stood up, shook and padded over to Sam-in-Giles, poking his nose into his hand. Sam looked startled, but petted. Detective Vetter leaned against the door and looked fairly calmly at everyone. "Okay, what's going on?"
"Haven't we heard that somewhere before?" Angel muttered.
"It's.. a little weird," Willow started.
Detective Vetter lifted one eyebrow. "I hang out with vampires. Try me for weird."
"Well, you see..." They were saved from yet another round of exposition by a flash of bright light.
They disappeared, leaving the room empty. Tracy Vetter blinked several times, resembling her undead boyfriend more than a bit, then shook her head and left the room, closing the door behind her.
There was no way she was filing a report on this. Not on a bet.
With a repetitiveness born of really short writing deadlines, the assembled... uh... whatevers arrived at their next destination in-- yes, you guessed it-- another blinding blue flash.
This time their surroundings consisted of what was fairly clearly a large hotel conference room filled with loaded tables and milling people. The table loads were... um... 'interesting', and the people were... well... uh... 'unique'.
Fortunately our gang o' misfits arrived in a somewhat uncrowded corner, next to two tables that had been covered with tablecloths and perky little "Back soon!" notes.
"This is... well... more of the same, actually," Xander observed, as Willow knelt down next to the wolf-she-thought-was-a-dog, gave him a hug intended mostly to reassure herself, and then continued the petting and head-scritchies where they had left off.
Buffy was immediately distracted by the appearance of Al, stepping in through what was apparently his own private door in and out of reality. "Where were you?" she demanded, ignoring the rather stunned expression on his face as he looked past her to the rest of the group.
She continued her rant unabated as her gaze slowly followed his. "I mean if you can get out of this mess, you might want to let the rest of us know your little secret. I mean, after all, we're in this together and my God, Willow, what are you *doing* with that naked guy?"
At this loud announcement-- Buffy had obviously been practicing speaking from the diaphragm-- everyone turned to stare at Willow. Everyone. Like, everyone within 20 feet. This included quite a few people, actually.
Willow looked up in confusion, looked at Dief in confusion, then looked at Buffy in confusion. With the precision synchronicity of a tennis game audience, everyone turned gazes of confusion at Buffy.
Except Dief. Dief gave a two-syllable bark of apparent distress and cowered into a huddled ball on the floor. When Willow automatically attempted to comfort him, he merely curled tighter and whimpered slightly.
The rest of the crowd by this time had simply moved on with what they were doing, evincing no particular surprise at the scene.
Well, at the scene they could see, anyway.
"Oho, Sam," Al groaned in sympathetic distress, "I was afraid of something like this. The you in the Waiting Room was making some really weird noises and crawling around on all fours." He corrected himself after a second's thought. "Well that's actually not that unusual a reaction, but he did seem awfully furry."
The look Sam gave him from nearly-ground-level was priceless. Buffy, however, didn't agree.
"Willow, Sam's jumped into Diefenbaker. You're petting a naked guy in a dog collar."
With an "*Eeeep*!" that was nearly too high to be heard by anyone except the wolf, Willow effectively levitated several feet away in a scurry of feet and elbows and flying hair.
As she blushed a brilliant shade of red, Giles chivalrously stepped forward, pondered the quite-normal-looking wolf for a moment, then removed his tweed jacket. With an embarrassed eye towards any passers-by, he draped the jacket over the wolf and did his best to settle it securely.
When the wolf clawed it down to more-effectively cover its lower half, Giles blushed a bit himself.
'Dief' pretty much remained huddled on the floor.
Oddly enough, no one else in the vicinity gave the group a second glance.
Well, one person apparently did. Before things could get anymore awkward, a tall man with short-cropped dark hair approached them.
"Hello," he offered to no one in particular. "I couldn't help but notice you all appear over in this corner, and I was wondering if you'd mind explaining to me how you do that?"
No One In Particular-- who was just going by 'Al' these days-- responded, "Believe me, if we could...." Everyone, as usual, ignored him.
The newcomer might have been something of an inconvenience (although, at this point, who could tell?), but at least he did come conveniently pre-identified with a little nametag that read "Jarod." This was quite helpful.
The rest of the badge-- "MediaWest*Con 18"-- was rather less enlightening to those present.
Always the first to come up with a smart alec remark, Xander replied, "Well, first you take the jacket off, and then you lay it over the dog."
The gang didn't even bother to shoot him the normal "die Xander" look... The day had already been way too long. Fortunately, they didn't even need to. Seconds after he had said it he continued with, "I know, I know... Shut up Xander."
"Yes, but how did you get here?"
"It's a rather long story, umm..." Giles said as he re-examined the newcomer's name badge, "Jarod?"
"Ohh, stories! I like stories!" A petite woman with way too much fluffy hair exclaimed as she passed by the gaggle of travelers.
Her two friends just sighed. "Come on Amoebalette..." The tallest one said in a tone of voice that intimated she had said it many times already this weekend.
"I don't get to have any fun!" the tiny one whined as she was dragged away by her redheaded friend named Yeller to gaze at pictures of Michael Garibaldi.
"That was strange," Buffy said. "Even after today. That was weird."
"Are they from a group home or something?" Cordy asked.
"That was MediaWest at its most normal," Jarod said as he shuffled the stack of zines he was carrying.
"MediaWest?" the gaggle asked in unison, most ardently hoping this would cause Jarod to forget their entrance.
"Yes. It's a fascinating event held every year on Memorial Day weekend to celebrate something called 'fandom'. There's fan fiction, videos, and people who pretend they are characters from television shows."
Willow began bouncing like a bunny on steroids. "Oh! I've heard of this! My friend, Oy, was about to come, but her classes were too time consuming."
"Okay. And you're pretending to be...?" Buffy said, hoping to move the conversation along.
"I'm Jarod," the virile man said and smiled.
Buffy sat on the floor shaking her head. "I give up! First we get zapped all over creation, then my best friend is stroking a naked man, and now we're stuck talking to redundant man."
Before anyone could try to coax the Slayer back up a pink cloud of smoke filled with pretty bright shiny sparkles appeared near them and a rather voluptuous woman clad in really not much of anything appeared.
Looking over the Scooby Gang plus additions, Aphrodite bounced in glee as only a female can when she sees a naked man in bondage (the dog collar) cowering on the floor. "Well, this really looks promising!" She grinned as she slipped one arm around Angel's arm and the other around Xander's.
Forgetting for a moment her anger at being pulled all over creation, Buffy, joined quickly by Cordelia, grabbed her guy and all but hissed at Aphrodite.
"Excuse me. But WHO are you?" Buffy seethed.
"Who am I? Tch! Don't you know a goddess, "Aphrodite said as she flipped her hair, "when you see one?"
"Goddess?" Willow said slowly to let it all set in. "Venus?"
"Hello! No! I never approved of that name. It sounds so... phallic." The negligee wearing blonde shivered seductively. "Call me Aphrodite."
Giles cleared his throat for the 998th time that day. "That means you can help us."
Aphrodite slid up to the bookishly handsome man and began stroking his arm. "Only if I feel like you really deserve it."
"Well, Rupert, I never would have thought that your taste in women would run to the... obvious."
Typically, Jenny Calendar was not visibly astonished by the appearance of the Slayerettes (plus entourage). The same could not be said of Giles, who jumped (also for the 998th time that day). "Miss... Miss... Miss Calendar!" He blinked, focused on Jenny, and coughed. He probably had no idea who she was representing in the clinging white dress with the low neckline and long trailing train. The coil of dark hair that spilled halfway down her back in a braid made the gown regal rather than revealing. "What are you doing here?"
"Me? I told you, I was going to Michigan to go to a convention. I think the question is, what are you doing here? All of you," she added, a raised eyebrow including everyone in their little group.
"It's a really, really long story," Buffy began.
"Actually, it's so short." Aphrodite raised her hands and flopped them back and forth with every word. "Hellmouth. Spell. Ares. Pissed. Kill." Aphrodite put her hands on her hips. "Doesn't all that seem like a really big duh?"
"What you're saying is that the God of War is angry that we were attempting to close the Hellmouth?" Giles said slowly.
"Oh, I just love a man who gets things on the first try." Giggling, Aphrodite twined her arms around Giles' neck.
Forcibly, Jenny removed her. "Look, don't touch."
Pouting, Aphrodite flounced back and folded her arms. "See if I answer your next love spell."
"If you don't mess this up, I won't need one."
It probably wasn't possible for Giles' face to go any redder without a coronary. "If it helps, I know CPR," Jarod offered.
"Are you a doctor?" Xander asked.
"I can be," Jarod shrugged.
Aphrodite was still regarding Jenny, Giles, and considering the possibilities. "You know, I love that movie," she said, fingering Jenny's dress, "but I like this outfit better." With a flick of her wrist, white silk disappeared into gold lamé. Little of it. The shackles were an interesting touch.
"Um, Jarod?" Willow said weakly. "About that CPR..."
Spluttering, Giles whipped the coat off of Sam-in-the-Wolf, and used it to cover Jenny, who looked like at the very least she was pissed and at the very most she was cold. "I spent three months on that dress," she hissed.
The minute that Giles removed the jacket, the wolf curled into a tighter ball and Buffy hid her face in Angel's chest.
Aphrodite took pity on the small huddled mass yearning to be free of humiliation. "OK, fine." With a flick of her wrist, they all disappeared -- and reappeared in a small, thankfully people-free room.
With a Stormtrooper added. He wrestled off the helmet to reveal a sweaty teenage boy with adolescent skin. To everyone except Buffy, who jumped. "OK, stop doing that!"
"Sam!" Al (who had hitherto been too busy drooling over the goddess) sighed with relief when Sam was out of the dog (OK, wolf, for the anally inclined) and into a human again. "I think I've finally hailed Gushy. There's a 84.3% chance that our job here is to help these people get home."
"Which people? We've been getting and losing people at a scary rate."
"Who are you talking to?" Angel wanted to know.
"Him," Buffy, Aphrodite and Sam said (Sam being sufficiently distracted enough to not remember that no one -- well, usually no one -- could see Al).
"That was helpful."
"The guy that no one can see said that it's his and Tin Can here's job to get us home," Buffy informed them.
"Like, how? They can't find their own way home," Aphrodite sniffed.
"Any input at all would, of course, be appreciated. However, I do believe that, with, ah, the goddess' help, we might stand a better chance than..."
"I think that we need all the help we can get. This particular god is not exactly know for her constancy." Jenny cut off Giles' stammer and folded her arms. Unfortunately, this caused the tweed coat to part and the golf lamé bra to show to best effect. Giles was promptly reduced to spluttering again and became useless.
"There's no time to discuss this in committee," Jarod observed lazily.
Willow and Xander cracked up and leaned on each other, giggling. Jenny leveled a glare. "Thank you so much, Han Solo," she said, balling her fists and putting them on her hips. This did even more interesting things to her lack-of-costume, and Giles became even more useless.
"OK, before Giles needs that CPR. You," she pointed at Stormtrooper. "Talk. You," she pointed at Aphrodite, "no more quick changes OK? You," she pointed at Dief, "sit." Dief gave her a disgusted look. "You," she pointed at Jarod, "what are you doing here?"
"Apparently, I'm the comic relief," Jarod grinned.
"Actually, between him, me, and Quantum boys, we just might get you out of this mess." Aphrodite perched on the edge of a table. "You see, he's a Pretender, Sam is a Leaper, and I" -- she smiled beatifically -- "am your new best friend."
"OK, we're doomed," Buffy sighed.
"Oh, now that's gratitude," Aphrodite complained, crossing her arms, which did interesting things to her cleavage that the guys (including Angel, who got glared at, and excluding Giles, who was still stuck back on Jenny's) appreciated.
Buffy rolled her eyes. "Yeah, fine, whatever. Considering the general state of our love lives, the worship thing isn't going to happen, okay? Deal."
Aphrodite pouted. "What did I ever do to you?"
Buffy gave a very pointed look at Angel. "Vampire? Slayer? What the hell were you on?"
Aphrodite had the grace to look slightly embarrassed. "Yeah, okay, I kinda missed the whole subtext thing. He was cute, you were cute -- it seemed like a good idea at the time."
"Thanks a lot," Angel said wryly, but put his arm around Buffy anyway.
"If we could get back to the point?" Sam inserted gently. Everyone turned to look at him and he shifted awkwardly. "Miss... ah, Aphrodite? If you are, in fact, a goddess, could you just kind of -- reverse the spell, send everyone home?"
The goddess shrugged, actually looking semi-apologetic. "Sorry, sweetcheeks, no can do. Without knowing what Ares did, I can't fix it."
"Which would seem to be where I come in," Jarod inserted. Eyes shifted to him, which didn't seem to bother him in the slightest.
"How can you help?" Giles asked, finally tearing his gaze off Jenny (perhaps aided by the fact that she'd gotten tired of torturing him and closed the coat).
"I told you," Jarod shrugged easily. "I can be Ares. I can simulate what he did to your spell, which should allow Aphrodite to reverse it."
They blinked at him. Aphrodite, though, smiled. "I need to hang out with this group more," she said, wriggling over to hang on Jarod's arm. "All of these guys with brains and bods. Gotta love it."
Jarod didn't appear to mind the attention, but he also didn't seem particularly affected by it, to Jenny and Buffy's ill-concealed glee. "I'm glad you approve," he said politely. "If we could recreate your original spell, we might be able to get you home."
"W-well, we'd need certain spell components," Giles flustered.
Jenny patted him on the arm. "Boy, are you in the right place."
Two strategic raids on the Dealer's Room and a trip to the incredible store known as Meijers later, they were back in the tiny room and working their way through the spell again. Giles carefully left out the last word of the spell, to keep from multiplying the problem, and the Slayerettes could almost feel the built-up energy vibrating around them. No one particularly enjoyed it.
Jarod's face had gone very still and very cold, with a smart-ass smile quirked on his lips. That smile widened about two-thirds of the way through the spell, then faded. By the time they finished, his expression was back to the peaceful, almost child-like look of before. "I think I've got it. Aphrodite, this is what you need to do...."
"So, all I have to do is twist the spell right there," Aphrodite said, "and everyone'll go home? Bitchin'. I can handle that."
"Well, there is one problem," Jarod clarified. "I'm not precisely sure where home is. What, ah, Ares appears to have done is set your spell to, instead of close one portal, open others at random places and intervals. I have no idea which portal, or possible portal, is the one that return you to where you started."
"Oh." Willow's face, sunny and hopeful a moment ago, fell. "Oh no. That's a problem."
"So how do we find the right place?" Buffy asked.
Xander shrugged. "Well, didn't you guys call Wolfie here our guide earlier? Ask him."
All eyes turned to Dief, who looked simultaneously innocent and all knowing. He woofed softly in Xander's direction, then nuzzled Willow's cheek. She flinched, still not quite over her recent 'naked' trauma, but smiled bravely.
"Diefenbaker can show us the right way," she confirmed.
"Then all we need is to cast the spell," Angel said confidently.
"So it would appear," Giles agreed, taking a deep breath.
"See, Sam, this is great!" Al celebrated. "They cast the spell, we Leap, and we don't have to do anything!"
Sam looked dubious. "I hope it's that easy."
"So do I," Buffy muttered, taking her place in the spell setting. "Okay, once more, with feeling."
"No problem," Aphrodite smiled with total confidence. "Ares is toast."
"I did do it right; Ares blocked the rotten portal closed! This is so not fair!"
Aphrodite's wail blasted through the room, almost overcoming Willow's quiet sobs. Xander patted her back from one side, Dief nuzzled her from the other, and Angel and Buffy hovered helplessly above.
Jarod looked frustrated. "I'm sure that was what was needed," he said. "You should have rolled right home."
"Well, so much for magic," Cordelia sighed. "Maybe we should just catch a cab."
There was a collective rolling of eyes, then Sam stopped in mid-expression. "Wait. Cab. Roll. That might be it!"
Multiple eyes focused on him. "Huh?" Al asked succinctly and eloquently.
Sam ignored him, speaking to Giles, Jenny, Jarod and Aphrodite instead. "If I've got this right, magic is similar to physics -- you need energy and you need to direct it, right?"
Aphrodite shrugged. "Close enough. Hey, maybe we'll make a magic dude out of you yet!"
"Um..." Sam let that pass. "Well, maybe you just need something to get the magic flowing, to open the portal in the first place -- like a jump start or something. That way, you'll get enough of a kick to pop the portal open."
"Well.... it's a theory," Jarod said, looking at Giles.
Giles shrugged, cleaning his glasses. "At this point, no options can be overlooked. What did you have in mind, Dr. Beckett?"
"Well, Leaping could be considered a lot like this portal/Hellmouth thing," Sam said enthusiastically. "If you cast your spell at the same time that we Leap, that might do the trick, set up a chain reaction."
"Not bad," Jenny said thoughtfully. "But can you control your Leap?"
"Well... no," Sam admitted reluctantly. "We have to figure out what to put right first."
"And we thought it was getting you home," Al inserted from the edge of the conversation. "But we can't help you get home until we Leap, and we can't Leap until we help you get home. Nasty twist, huh?"
Sam looked thoughtful. "Maybe not. Al, tell Ziggy to check all of the files we've got on Sunnydale for the next year, and crosscheck it with everyone here."
A file check lead them to an obituary for one Jenny Calendar. Tracing back, given what they knew, and with Jarod filling in a few gaps by Pretending and Jenny a few more with a shame-faced admission that had Giles yelling for a moment, Sam, Al and Giles assembled a pretty good picture of what happened. The teenagers pouted as they were excluded from the whispering mass of adults, and pouted more when Aphrodite was motioned over to join. She listened attentively, then shrugged broadly. "No sweat, I can handle one little curse."
"Are you certain?" Giles asked. "Souls are more precisely the province of Hades, I would imagine..."
Aphrodite smiled at him, setting off his blush reflex once more. "Yeah, gorgeous, but love is mine, and that's definitely the big picture here. You take care of the magic stuff, and let Aphrodite handle the hearts."
Giles stammered. Again. Jenny stopped it by kissing him. Which didn't actually solve the problem, but was fun anyway.
Aphrodite watched with a smug expression, then bent one finger and motioned Angel over. He looked startled, Xander looked jealous, Buffy looked deeply suspicious. Aphrodite blew out her breath. "Look, I'm not gonna jump you, I'm not into dead guys. Well, not usually. Just get over here. You, too, Chosen Chick."
Angel and Buffy came, reluctantly, and Aphrodite waved her hands over them. Pink sparklies cascaded from the air to fall over their shoulders and around their feet. Angel blinked and shook his head, Buffy closed her eyes and tightened her grip on Angel's hand. Then the sparklies faded away.
"Wh-what was that?" Angel asked, dazed.
Aphrodite batted her eyelashes at them both. "Let's just say I gave a new definition to safe sex, 'kay?" Angel and Buffy looked at each other, then looked away quickly, a deep blush staining Buffy's cheeks. Aphrodite laughed in delight, then turned away. "Let's go."
"Do it fast," Al warned, "we could Leap any time."
Everyone assembled, except Jenny, who stood off to the side. Giles looked at her anxiously, and she smiled. "I don't think this is my train," she said gently. "This isn't your universe; you're not my Rupert, and I'm not your Jenny. Besides," she grinned, "I paid for four days of con and I don't want to leave yet."
Giles laughed reluctantly, then sucked it up and kissed her lightly, before shaking Jarod's hand. "Thank you, both of you."
They smiled and stepped out of range, as Giles started chanting, double time. Candles flickered, the kids came in on cue, and as Giles shouted the last, "Gaudiamus igature iuvanes dum sumas!", a sudden blue light flared. But it was flatter and somehow warmer than the portals, and Sam and Al shouted in triumph, as the light spread and the little group disappeared.
Jarod stared at the empty space for a long moment, then turned to speak to Jenny, only to find that space empty as well. He thought for another moment, then nodded and smiled, and headed back out to the con. There was a panel about to start, regarding something called 'Babylon 5'.....
The light flared and died, and they were in the library. None of them had ever been so happy to see the books and shelves (except maybe Giles, but he was strange). Sam and Al were nowhere to be seen.
"It looks like it worked," Angel said slowly.
"Looks like," Buffy agreed. "Everyone's where they should be." Diefenbaker woofed softly, and Buffy winced. "Well, almost everyone."
"What are we going to do about Dief?" Willow asked, worried. "Where's his home?"
Dief nuzzled her cheek, whining, then trotted to the middle of the library. On cue, there was a flash of light and everone automatically braced themselves. But the library stayed the same, and a tall, handsome Mountie in a red jacket appeared instead.
"Ah, yes," he said quickly, straightening his hat, then jacket, and looking down at Diefenbaker. "There you are. I had quite a time tracking you, Diefenbaker; I trust you'll be more careful around strange doorways in the future. Despite your own personal beliefs, others' shrines should be respected, not run carelessly into."
Diefenbaker whined and hid his nose. The Mountie nodded. "Well, then, let's be home." He tipped his hat at the gaping group of Slayerettes. "Thank you kindly for looking after him."
Another flash of light, and they were gone. The Slayerettes blinked at each other, then, by mutual consent, let it go. They were home; the hell with it.
"There, I fixed it. Happy now?"
Ares slumped in his chair, sulking. Strife was hiding on the other side of the room, which had been thoroughly trashed, trying to stay out of the line of fire. A third figure stood over Ares, looking amused.
"It'll do," the figure said in amusement. "Ares, Ares, Ares, you really have to stop playing with other people's toys, much less breaking them. Now, I want your word that you'll never do anything like this to them again."
Dead, stubborn silence. The figure cleared its throat. "Ares....."
"All right, all right!" the god of war finally shouted. "I'll leave them alone!"
"And the Hellmouth?"
"And the Hellmouth?" the figure prompted.
Ares slumped lower and his lower lip stuck out even further. "And the Hellmouth."
"Very good." The figure patted Ares on the head like a child, and turned to leave. "Oh, and Ares?"
"What?" he snarled.
Jenny Calendar smiled sweetly. "Get a life."
The door closed before whatever Ares threw had time to hit her.
WE DID IT!!!!!!!!!
Cast of Characters (in order of appearance)
Giles, Buffy, Angel, Xander, Willow, Cordelia -- Buffy, the Vampire Slayer (*Duh*!)
Ares, God of War (and bumbling nephew Strife) -- Xena, Warrior Princes
Janette DuCharme and The Raven -- Forever Knight
Admiral Al Calavicci -- Quantum Leap
Divia -- Forever Knight
Dr. Sam Beckett -- Quantum Leap
Special Agent Dana Scully -- The X-Files
Diefenbaker -- Due South
Amanda -- Highlander: The Series
Detective Tracy Vetter -- Forever Knight
Jarod -- The Pretender
Aphrodite -- Hercules: The Legendary Journeys
Jenny Calendar -- Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Constable Benton Fraser -- Due South
This is the order we pulled them, swear to gods (with the exception of Jenny and Fraser, both of which were blatent eleventh-hour cheats, since we were gonna write them in anyway). Be grateful -- we did not pull Gary Hobson, Pavel Chekov, Chewbacca, Michael Garibaldi (< pout >), Mary Sue (well, we did, but I begged out of it), Chance Harper or any of the other thousands of fandoms represented in the grab bag!
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