Training Blues Series: Sutho Man ‘U’s, The Immortal Man
Written by Charlie Schone. email@example.com
Summary: Set in the early days of the Slayerette’s training with Steve and the gang, two members of the team are forced to reconcile their past differences…
Buffy the Vampire Slayer: All rights and properties belong to Joss Whedon, Fox Studios and Mutant Enemy, etc.
Highlander: All rights and properties belong to Rysher Entertainment.
The Legendary Adventures of Hercules/Xena-Warrior Princess: All rights and properties belong to Renaissance and Flat Earth Productions.
Any characters, whose names and descriptions are used, are the property of their original owners, and no copyright infringement is intended or meant. No money can be made from this story. It may be distributed freely so long as it is kept in its entirety, with all notices and copyright information remaining intact.
Comments and criticisms are welcome, please give me feedback (just try to keep it somewhat constructive, :P ), as this definitely helps everyone out, the author and the readers.
Special thanks to NorJC, for helping co-author and provide immensely valuable advice for this story and for my writing in general.
Also special thanks of course to Steve, for letting us play in the “Wandererverse”, as well as the creators of these characters we’ve grown to love, not least among them Joss Whedon (Hey, killing off Jenny wasn’t cool, but still…) Now, on with the show…
Summary: Set in the early days of the Slayerette’s training with Steve and the gang, two members of the team are forced to reconcile their past differences…
Comments and criticisms are welcome, please give me feedback (just try to keep it somewhat constructive, :P ), as this definitely helps everyone out, the author and the readers.
Special thanks to NorJC, for helping co-author and provide immensely valuable advice for this story and for my writing in general.
Also special thanks of course to Steve, for letting us play in the “Wandererverse”, as well as the creators of these characters we’ve grown to love, not least among them Joss Whedon (Hey, killing off Jenny wasn’t cool, but still…) Now, on with the show…
Sunnydale High School Library
Giles narrowed his eyes at his stubborn Slayer. “I don't care what the books say. I defy prophecy and I am going! There's nothing you can say that will change my mind.”
Buffy smiled sadly at her Watcher. “I know.”
At first the Slayer pretended to turn to go, but then she threw a hard punch to Giles’ face, knocking him out on his feet. The Watcher fell softly to the floor while Ms. Calendar scrambled to his aid. The computer teacher then lifted Giles' head in her hands and gently placed it on her knees. Then she looked up at Buffy who’d found the chain that held her silver cross on the library table and had just placed it around her youthful neck.
The Slayer wistfully studied the gentle face of her fallen Watcher for a moment before she addressed the computer teacher. “When he wakes up tell him... I don't know. Think of something cool. Tell him I said it.”
"You fight the Master and you'll die.”
Buffy cocked an eyebrow at Ms. Calendar. “Maybe,” she said as she picked up her crossbow. “Maybe I'll take him with me.”
Sutho Man ‘U’s: The Immortal Man
317 Brandt Terrace
Residence of Steven St. Wolf
March 26, 1998
6:05 p.m. PST
Their hands firmly gripped their wooden kendo sticks, as the two combatants faced each other quietly, eyes scanning, just before they attacked…
At St. Wolf’s command, Buffy Summers, the Immortal Vampire Slayer, and Jenny Calendar, the gypsy Technopagan and one of Artemis’s newly Chosen, whirled and clashed their kendo sticks together, the sharp report of the striking wood filling the dojo located inside St. Wolf’s home. While the other Slayerettes were paired off in different groups training in various martial and hand-to-hand techniques, St. Wolf had decided to pair these two for some melee practice and perhaps work out some tension he felt existed between them….which, from what he’d been told, wasn’t entirely unwarranted on either party’s part.
Buffy, using her enhanced Slayer strength and reflexes, sharply parried Jenny’s downward stroke with her stick and launched a kick into her side, throwing the elder woman off balance and giving her an opening to strike Jenny’s shoulder with her weapon. Jenny winced in pain and gritted her teeth, but said nothing as Steve called out “Point!”.
A little smirk flashed across Buffy’s pretty face. “Hey, Ms. Calendar—did you forget to eat your Wheaties this morning?”
Jenny simply glared at the Slayer and the two reentered their fighting stances. As St. Wolf called out to them to begin again, Jenny narrowed her eyes and focused solely on Buffy’s defenses, looking for an opening as the two parried again. This time, using her Amazon strength and speed, granted to her by the Greek goddess Artemis, she deftly blocked Buffy’s blows, spied an opening in the Slayer’s defenses, and slammed her stick into Buffy’s leg, tripping her, and enabling her to launch a mock downward thrust to her neck, halting the stick mere inches from Buffy’s throat.
This time, Jenny smirked. “I wouldn’t get cocky, if I were you, Buffy. You never know, your opponent could have all sorts of surprises up her sleeve.” At that moment, Jenny gasped as she realized what she’d just said to the tiny blonde. Paling slightly, she offered her hand to assist Buffy as a reconciliatory gesture. However, the Slayer angrily batted the gypsy’s hand aside and sprang up onto her feet. The Immortal Slayer whipped her kendo stick back into a defensive position and glared at the computer teacher in silent challenge. The look in her eyes told Jenny that the Slayer didn’t plan on holding back this time.
“All right then, Calendar…why don’t you just bring it?” the Slayer growled.
St. Wolf studied the two women, silently debating if it was wise to let them continue at this point. Against his better judgment, he snapped, “Ready….BEGIN,” unaware that the other Slayerettes had stopped practicing and were watching the pair with interest.
“Five bucks says Buffy is gonna whup Jenny’s very shapely butt into next week.” Xander Harris quipped.
Oz regarded him with a slight quizzical expression on his bland face. Although he would never let it show, Oz was stunned by Xander’s comment on Jenny’s attributes in front of the man who used to toy with demons during his days as the Ripper. “You know, Xander…you’re a complicated man.”
Xander acted like he hadn’t even heard the musician. “Well, what do you say, Oz?”
The werewolf shrugged slightly as his huskie-like eyes studied the computer teacher and the former cheerleader. “I’ll take some of that action,” replied Oz wryly.
Cordelia Chase, one of the quartet of Amazon sisters, just glared at the two men and snapped, “I can’t believe you guys,” while her fellow Amazon sisters, the blonde witch Amy Madison and the redheaded Wicca, Willow Rosenberg, just sighed and rolled their eyes simultaneously. Rupert Giles, the Immortal Slayer’s Watcher, shot Xander an extremely annoyed look before returning his attention to the two women
Buffy and Jenny continued to parry and clash with their kendo sticks, but it was obvious to Jenny this time that Buffy indeed was pouring all her strength and speed into her attacks. Sweat sprinkled her brow as she tried to block Buffy’s moves, but ultimately failed, as Buffy’s stick connected with her ribs, hard. However, before Jenny could concede, Buffy continued to press her attack even as Steven called out “Point!” The Slayer continued to slash at Jenny time and again, relentlessly and without pause. It soon became obvious to everyone that Jenny was fighting for her life against the enraged Slayer.
“What the hell is she doing?!”
“She’s gonna kill her!”
Although the kendo stick is normally non-lethal, in the hands of an angry Slayer, the weapon is an instrument of death. As Jenny fought for her life, the gypsy was painfully aware of this fact. With each overhead chop by the Slayer that she blocked, Jenny felt her strength ebbing away. Her defenses all but gone and desperately battling to fend off the Slayer’s relentless attack, Jenny instinctively called upon the power that was her birthright. As the Slayer swung her stick around in a killing arc aimed at Jenny’s neck, the gypsy witch shouted an ancient and powerful incantation.
Suddenly, wisps of darkness, appearing out of nowhere, seemed to envelop the Slayer. Buffy glanced at the ebony tentacles with fearful eyes and snapped, “What the hell?” Then before she could take another step, the dark wisps streaked into both of Buffy’s nostrils and her open mouth. A heartbeat later, the Slayer froze, her eyes opened wide, and she fell to the ground, dead.
“BUFFY!” Steven cried out as he hurried over to the fallen Slayer’s side with Xander and Willow close behind. As the three examined the tiny blonde woman’s still form, a visibly shaken Giles rushed over to Jenny. “Jenny, what happened? W-What did you do?”
“It…I…” she stammered, then drew a deep breath and sighed. “I cast a Romani death spell, Rupert,” she whispered as she stared at Buffy’s prone form. A few minutes later, Buffy’s body suddenly lurched and a wheezing breath escaped the blonde girl’s lips. Jenny looked directly into Giles’ concerned green eyes and quietly continued. “I had to. I don’t know what came over her….okay, maybe I do, but the point is she was going into full Slayer mode and...” Jenny’s voice trailed off, her shoulders sagging. “Unfortunately, I’m not an Immortal like her.”
When Jenny winced and rubbed her left shoulder, Giles saw the welts and cuts on her arm. “W-well, let’s take care of your wounds, shall we? Come, um, let’s have you seated over here,” he said gently as he guided her over to a chair. Giles went and got a cup of water from a cooler and gave it to Jenny to drink, and then pulled out some dry ice, bandages, and ointment from a nearby chest and started to tend Jenny’s wounds. The gypsy Amazon hissed as Giles dabbed a nasty bruise with ointment, causing the Watcher to mumble an apology.
“Jenny, I-I understand the situation may have gotten out of hand….but….”
“But what, England?”
“Was it really necessary to use something as dangerous as a-a Romani death spell?” Giles asked, the fear in his eyes beginning to give way to a hint of anger in his voice. “For god’s sake, Jenny, there’s no telling what might’ve happened to Buffy! She may be Immortal, but that doesn’t lessen the danger, especially when using a powerful spell like that!”
“Rupert,” she whispered, a note of pain evident in her voice, and to Giles it didn’t seem to come from her wounds. “I didn’t have a choice. What else was I supposed to do?” She took another sip of water from her cup and winced again.
The anger that had momentarily crept into Giles’ voice faded away as he continued to nurse Jenny’s wounds. “Jenny, I’m sorry, it’s just that w-well…thank goodness Buffy didn’t hurt you any more than she could have. I mean, if she had, if the police had become involved…” Giles’ voice trailed off as he saw a mixture of confusion and hurt in Jenny’s dark gypsy eyes.
‘Oh bloody Hell,’ he thought, inwardly wincing from his insensitivity toward the woman he loved.
Meanwhile, Buffy wasn’t exactly enjoying a “welcome back to the land of the living” treatment as an extremely upset St. Wolf berated her.
“Buffy, what the hell did you think you were doing?! You were completely out of line to go off on Jenny like that!”
Buffy silently huffed and mumbled, “I didn’t mean to, Steve, I just lost control for a sec and…okay…I sorta meant to, but I wasn’t going to kill her! She just….”
“That’s not the point, Buffy!” Willow angrily snapped, her witch-green eyes flashing with a rare display of anger. Willow shoved aside the Wanderer and got in the Slayer’s face, causing Buffy to gulp as she listened to the red-haired Amazon witch’s rant. “I…I thought you two were gonna get past this! I know you have problems trusting her, but…”
“Will…” Buffy whispered, “How am I supposed to move past this? After the secrets Jenny kept from all of us?!” Buffy was unaware that she was shouting as she shot an evil glare at Ms. Calendar. “How do you think I feel, going to bed every night, dreaming about watching the man I loved turn into a monster that killed people that I cared about, all the while she knew…”
“When will you get it through your head that she didn’t know, Buffy!” Willow shouted. “Okay, so, she knew about Angel, she knew about the curse. But she didn’t know that he was gonna go back to being a vampiric Ted Bundy and all when you two…two….” Her voice terminated abruptly as she looked at the unshed tears forming in her blonde friend’s eyes.
"Hey, Little-Miss-Likes-To-Fight…” This time it was Cordelia who stepped up to the Slayer. “Although I hate to admit it, Netgirl’s right…Ms. Calendar didn’t know what would happen if you and Angel got groiny...and neither did you.”
“Don’t help me!”
With tear-filled eyes, Buffy shouted, “Okay! I get it, all right? I went too far. I’m sorry, okay? Then she shuddered once and squeezed her eyes shut, closing off the discussion. “Look…I can’t deal with this right now.”
“Okay, everyone just stop.” The Slayerettes turned to look at St. Wolf. “Look, we’re all upset, we’re all tired; let’s just go home and get some rest, okay? No more practice for tonight. Go home everybody.”
The Slayerettes quietly gathered their things and began to file out, until Buffy, Steve, Jenny, and Giles were the only ones who remained. Willow was the last to leave and she cast a lingering glance at the quartet, her pixie-like face showing a mix of frustration and sadness, before she slipped out the door. Buffy looked at Steve and whispered “I…I’ll see you tomorrow, okay?”
St. Wolf sighed deeply. “Buffy…don’t. Just go home, get some rest.”
Buffy nodded sullenly and left. Giles looked at Jenny and asked “Do you want me to take you home?”
“I beg your pardon?”
“No, England. I’m sorry, it’s just that…” Jenny glanced down momentarily then looked back up, her own dark eyes meeting the Watcher’s gentle eyes. “I need to be by myself and think things over, okay?”
Giles looked as if he was going to ask Jenny to reconsider. Then he quietly said, “I’ll see you tomorrow then.”
After the last members of the gang were gone, Steve looked around the gym and spied the shrine of Artemis in the far corner. The Wanderer sighed and muttered “Artemis, if you’re up there, I could really use some advice right about now….”
Apartment of Jennifer Calendar
6:35 p.m. PST
Jenny limped up to the door leading to her apartment, wincing in pain yet again as she fished the keys from her purse. She hated that things were like this. She certainly wasn’t proud of the fact that she’d kept secrets from the Slayerettes. Willow and Cordelia had been right, she didn’t know that Buffy’s “moment of happiness” would have resulted in Angel’s transformation back to the old Angelus, but still….Jenny sighed. Buffy, it seemed, would never forgive her, and Giles…
Her train of thought was interrupted when she noticed that the door was unlocked. Immediately alert, she reached for the Glock 30 pistol that was hidden in her purse. She was still getting used to carrying a firearm, but had done so at St. Wolf’s insistence. Drawing the pistol and murmuring a defensive enchantment in case anything tried to hurl something nasty her way, she slowly opened the door and panned the room with her pistol. Suddenly she noticed a dark shape standing in the shadows cast by the light from her table lamp. Jenny aimed her pistol at the intruder and shouted, “Come out where I can see you, NOW!”
“Now, now, jel ‘enedra, is that any way to greet your cousin?”
Jenny froze. “Alexi?” she whispered. The figure stepped fully into the lamplight, revealing a powerful yet noble-looking man with a complexion similar to Jenny’s, except a shade darker. His raven hair was pulled back in a short ponytail down his back. His eyes twinkled with amusement as a smile crept onto his face.
“Hello, Janna. It has been a long time, no?”
Janna lowered the pistol then walked over to the figure and embraced him in a strong hug. She remembered him from when she was just a little girl, of how she’d always sit on his lap and listen to his stories of the heroes of her clan, the Kalderash, heroes that he’d had the honor of knowing. For Alexi Gregof was no ordinary gypsy, he too, like Buffy, was an Immortal, those who had walked the earth for centuries if not longer. But most of all, Jenny remembered him as something almost akin to a father-figure, a man who’d always treated her more kindly than anyone else in the clan.
Alexi stepped back and looked Jenny up and down momentarily. “My, how you’ve grown,” he spoke with pride, “and how beautiful you’ve become.” He smiled again. “No longer the little girl of the vitsani, eh Janna?”
Janna blushed. “I suppose so, Alexi. People change…but it’s good to see you haven’t.” She smiled then teased, “You still have the strangest way of saying ‘hello.’ Didn’t you know that breaking and entering is against the law?”
Alexi chuckled. “Now, now, Janna, you should know we gypsies all have our own, unique definition of ‘property.’ Besides,” he drawled, “you should do a better job keeping your door more secure.” He glanced at the gun in Jenny’s hand. “I see you’ve grown more cautious. That is good. From what I’ve been told the Hellmouth can be quite a dangerous place. I suppose the Wanderer has been teaching you many things, eh?”
“I suppose you could say that.” Janna replied sheepishly, holstering the pistol in her purse and setting it down on a counter. “Would you like some coffee, Alexi?”
“That would be splendid, Janna.” Alexi replied warmly, watching as Janna prepared some coffee in an instant coffee maker. He noticed the bruises on her arms and asked, “Janna…you’ve been hurt. What happened? Did someone attack you?”
“Something like that.” Janna sighed, waiting for the coffee to steep. She poured two cups and put milk and sugar in both, handing a steaming mug to Alexi. “I was training with St. Wolf and the rest of the team, and….Buffy and myself….we sparred and things got a little….out of hand.”
“Buffy?” Alexi asked, his eyes narrowing. “Ah, the Immortal Slayer, Elizabeth Anne Summers, no?”
Janna’s looked at Alexi in surprise. “Well, yes, she….” Her voice trailed off and she narrowed her eyes at Alexi. “Alexi…something tells me you’re not here for a social call.”
Alexi sighed and placed his coffee mug on her counter. “That is true, little sister. I came here to remind you, first and foremost, of your duty to the vitsani. Do you remember the stories I told you when you were young, stories of those who sacrificed many things; their dreams, sometimes even their lives, for the honor of the clan?”
Janna nodded silently.
“Well, that still holds true today, especially now.” Alexi looked at her intensely and continued. “You of all people should know how important honor, duty, and family are to the vitsani. Our ways are not necessarily the way of others, the giorgio, those who are not gypsy. The ones you now call friends, Janna, they can never truly understand or comprehend that. It is unfortunate my dear, and sad, but true. I would not speak otherwise if it were not. Look,” he continued softly, his fingers brushing lightly against the bruise on Jenny’s arm. “They did this to you, did they not?”
“It was an accident…”
“I do not think so, Janna,” he retorted sharply. She saw the seriousness in his eyes. “I see how you speak, how you carry yourself. You felt you were bruised this way as punishment, for being who you are, a gypsy, one of us, Janna. These others, they can never truly understand why you are devoted to the clan. You have not forgotten why you came here, have you, little sister?”
She pursed her lips slightly in thought, considering Alexi’s words. They almost made sense. They didn’t understand that she had never known about the true nature of the curse, that Jenny’s first and foremost duty had always been to her clan, which she held close to her heart, almost as close as her stuttering, fuddy-duddy Englishman. But even HE seemed more concerned about the welfare of his Slayer, than about his girlfriend’s demise at the hands of his charge. No, she chided herself inwardly. That wasn’t true. He loved them both.
“And that is why I am here, Janna.” Alexi’s voice snapped Janna back to the present. His face darkened, and he spoke in a more direct tone. “I am here, by right of the Kalderash clan, to exact vengeance on the one who is responsible for breaking the curse so rightfully bestowed on that….mulo….that gods-be-damned vampire Angelus who terrorized our clan so long ago, that vampire who has murdered, tortured, and raped men and women everywhere. I speak of the woman who has mistreated YOU, Janna. I speak of the one known as Buffy Summers!”
Janna’s eyes opened wide at his revelation. Goddess, she thought, he can’t be serious! “Alexi, what do you mean by…vengeance?”
“There can be only one, Janna,” he replied calmly.
“Alexi, are you insane?!” Janna almost shouted that at him as the panic rose in her voice.
“Why do you say that, Janna?” he asked, apparently surprised by her outburst.
“She is the Slayer, the one girl chosen in all the world to destroy the mulo that threaten humanity. Although you may be a fine warrior, she’s a living weapon, Alexi! Besides that, she is under the protection of the Wanderer, and you know how we are equally-honor bound to him. He saved several children of our clan from a demon, no less. How can you even consider—”
“Listen to me, jel ‘enedra,” he snapped, his voice taking on a harsher tone, “you do know that Angelus had the curse bestowed upon him for murdering a woman of our clan, correct?”
“What you may not know is that she was my fiancée, Patrina,” he whispered, his eyes suddenly clouding over with pain and grief. “Patrina was like few other women of our clan, little sister. In many ways she was like you. Beautiful, strong, caring, and most importantly, compassionate.” Alexi’s eyes brimmed with tears before he shut them and stared at Janna again, this time the tears replaced by a dark, cold fury. “Patrina was my beloved, my soul-mate. She was to be my shebari, until she was defiled and murdered by that bastard, Angelus! And now that the curse is broken and Angelus’ suffering has ended, the blame rests solely upon the shoulders of that foolish, selfish, little blonde bitch, Buffy Summers! Mark my words, Janna, I will see that she pays for meddling in the affairs of our clan!”
“Alexi,” Janna spoke softly, “I beg you, please reconsider. Buffy had no knowledge that the curse would be broken. How could she? And after losing Uncle Enyos, I….” She fought back her own tears then continued. “I don’t want to lose Buffy, but I don’t want to lose you either. And…and I don’t just mean your life, cousin.”
Alexi paused as if to consider her words, then he spoke. “I will consider what you have said Janna, but remember this: We are Romani. We are bound to our clan by oath, loyalty, honor, and blood. This applies to me…just as it applies to you.” With that said, Alexi quietly walked out, leaving her to stare at his chair long after he had gone.
Sunnydale High School
March 27, 1998
9:05 a.m. PST
Normally, Fridays were for unwinding from the prior weekdays and prepping for the coming weekend. Yet, on this particular Friday, the mood amongst the Scooby gang was down in the dumps. Willow was still not speaking to Buffy following last night’s events. Cordelia had huffily ignored Xander after he’d unwisely opined that maybe Buffy was just trying to blow off a little steam and didn’t mean to go so far. To make matters worse, Amy simply avoided Buffy altogether and Oz, being Oz, said nothing about the whole affair, although, if possible, he did seem more sullen than usual.
Giles, unfortunately was stranded in the ‘no-man’s land’ in the middle of the lines drawn between Jenny and Buffy. Although he loved Jenny deeply, he also cared just as much for his Slayer, thus he hid in the library, reluctant to speak with either woman. At least, until both women received notes that morning asking them to meet the Watcher in the library during lunch.
In the library, sitting at a well-worn wooden oak table, Giles continued to read and reread through one of his old volumes, this one on gypsy curses, charms, spells and enchantments. As he gently and lovingly turned each page of the book, his mind wandered back to what he’d said to Jenny the other night, cursing his shortsightedness toward her. She was probably the one thing he loved more than life itself, other than his dear Slayer. That was what made it so damn frustrating for him. Combing his hand through his curly hair for the hundredth time, he continued to reread the book to see if there had been anything he’d missed. Something about the instantaneous and deadly effectiveness of the spell Jenny had cast last night bothered him. Following his instincts, he had done his usual research and discovered that indeed such a spell would not have been so effective against someone such as the Slayer, or, at least, would have taken much longer to take effect. Giles’s quiet meditation on the subject was interrupted when a husky, yet powerful sounding female voice spoke behind him.
“I believe I can answer your question, Mr. Giles.”
Rupert turned around and yelped, nearly falling out of his chair when he came face to face with none other than Artemis, Greek Goddess of the Hunt and Moon and Patron to the New Amazons.
“Bloody hell,” Giles stammered, seeking to regain his composure, “don’t sneak up on me like that! Er, no offense, Lady Artemis.”
“No offense taken, Mr. Giles,” Artemis replied smoothly. “And I do apologize. I simply wished to speak with you in regards to your research concerning the spell Jennifer Calendar cast last night.”
“I see. Um, what exactly can you tell me?”
The Goddess of the Hunt paused momentarily, as if silently debating with herself, then nodded and looked Giles squarely in the eyes. Giles shuddered inwardly as he met her gaze, staring into orbs that held untold eons of history and power locked in their depths. “You are most perceptive, Mr. Giles. Jennifer’s spell would not have affected the Slayer quite so quickly or effectively under normal circumstances. The truth is…I petitioned my sister, Hecate, to give Jennifer’s magicks a momentary “boost,” if you will, just enough so Jennifer could defend herself from the Slayer’s assault so that she could—“
“You bloody well did WHAT??!!!!” Giles roared. His Oxford manner immediately exited the building, leaving a stunned goddess face to face with… the Ripper. Leaping forward, his hand almost throttled Artemis’ throat before the Goddess was able to barely intercept the Watcher’s hand by grasping his wrist in an iron grip.
Inwardly shuddering in the face of the mortal’s almost god-like rage, Artemis projected a false sense of calm as she continued her discussion with the Watcher. “Giles, as I was saying, you must understand this was necessary—”
“Are you bleedin’ daft?!” Giles continued to snap, refusing to back down from the Greek Goddess, even though a small part of his mind told him he was insane to challenge a divine being so boldly. “You had no right to interfere! My God, if something had happened to Buffy—”
“What if something had happened to Jenny, you fool!” Artemis boomed, cutting off the mortal. “What if the woman you claim to love had died by the Slayer’s hand; what would you have done then?”
Giles froze as he considered this, his hand growing limp in Artemis’s grip, as the Greek Goddess continued. “Rupert Giles, you have shown without fear or hesitation that you care deeply for your Slayer. However, it seems you hesitate to show that same love and devotion for Jenny Calendar. Why is that, Giles?” The Goddess’s eyes narrowed dangerously and the Watcher could almost see the fire in them. “Why do you send mixed signals toward the woman you profess to love more than life itself?”
The Watcher’s own eyes filled with rage as he glared at the Goddess. “Sod off, you bitch!” he hissed. “You have no right whatsoever to judge me. You’re supposedly omniscient—you tell me how I’m supposed to honor them both! What in God’s name am I supposed to do?” Giles’s chin began to quiver slightly. “So help me, I love them both. You think I like seeing them at each other’s throats like this?!”
“No,” Artemis replied softly, “But the fact remains that Jenny is suffering, Giles, and part of that blame rests squarely on your shoulders. Do you remember when she came to offer you her help when you and Buffy were about to face the Judge? She knew that it was wrong to hide things from you, and she felt sorry for that. She didn’t want the children and you to face such a horrible creature without her. She wanted to be at your side, Giles…and you turned her away. You told her to leave.” The Goddess waited a moment for those words to sink in before continuing. “If you only knew the pain in her heart, you would not have been so quick to shun her.”
As Artemis’s words reverberated through the Watcher’s mind, tears began to form in his eyes. “Damn it all to hell, do you think I wanted to turn her away? It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my whole, miserable life. But I had to, Artemis. Buffy needed her Watcher. She needed me. She was forced into a situation where she had to find the strength to do something no one should ever face…to kill the one she loved. No child should ever have to face something like that, but she did. She needed to draw off of everyone’s strength, including mine. At that moment, having Jenny around would only have complicated things. I wish and pray to God that there had been another way…but there wasn’t.” The tears that had been brimming in his eyes finally ran down his cheeks as he shuddered and tried to regain his composure, hastily wiping his face.
Artemis’s expression softened as she regarded Giles and witnessed the depth of the Watcher’s pain. She laid a hand gently on his left shoulder in a maternal gesture. “Giles, I’m sorry for the suffering you’ve all endured. I… think I understand your position now, and I apologize if I was too harsh in my defense of Jenny.” The Goddess leaned in closer and whispered softly, “But now you see why it is important that Buffy and Jenny resolve their differences and learn to work together, to try and heal their wounds.” Artemis smiled when Giles gave her a confused expression. “I know your heart, Giles, as I know what lies in the heart of each of your charges. Your devotion to each other speaks volumes about your characters. That is why this dispute between Buffy and Jenny must come to an end. There is too much that hangs in the balance for this to continue, for you, your charges, Buffy….and especially Jenny.’
“Jenny?” Giles’s face registered alarm and suspicion. “What about her?”
Artemis paused for a moment. “I will not hide this from you, Giles. I must confess that I have a…very personal interest in Jenny, not simply as one of my daughters, but as something…more. You are all destined for greatness…particularly her. Artemis flashed a Mona-Lisa-smile at the Watcher. “I cannot reveal any more at the moment; however, rest assured I shall when the time is right. Until then, I only ask that you be willing to trust me and not mention this to Jenny. Will you do that?”
Giles glanced toward the stacks for several moments, then looked back at Artemis and nodded reluctantly. “As you wish…Lady Artemis.”
“Thank you, Giles. Indeed Jenny and Buffy are both equally blessed to have one such as you by their side.” Giles blushed at the sincerity in the Goddess’s voice. “I shall see you here again with St. Wolf when Jenny and Buffy arrive.” With that the Goddess vanished, leaving Giles to ponder her words.
Later that day, inside the library, Giles was keeping himself busy classifying some ancient texts when St. Wolf strolled through the swinging doors. Giles looked up and noticed the man looked a bit drawn and disheveled. “Oh, um, hello…Mr. St. Wolf.”
“Hello, Giles,” Steven said with a friendly yet tired smile. He looked like he hadn’t slept the previous night. “Hitting the books, I take it?”
“Er, yes. I received your message this morning and passed it along to both Jenny and Buffy. They should be here soon, Mr. St. Wolf. ”
“It’s Steve, Rupert. No need to be so formal all the time, remember?” St. Wolf sighed inwardly. Although he liked the man, no small part due to the fact that he was regarded fondly by the rest of the Slayerettes, especially Buffy and Jenny, his British stuffiness reminded him a little too much of the stiff-upper-lipped English military officers he’d worked with during his Army career.
“Ah, yes, of course, Mr….ahem…Steven,” Giles proffered. “A-are you alright? You do seem rather fatigued….”
“I’m fine, Rupert. I was just up late last night thinking about the plan I mentioned to you and….well, okay, I admit,” He shifted uncomfortably for a minute before continuing. “I had a few shots of…Jack.”
“Sorry….Jack Daniels.” St. Wolf didn’t want to admit it, but he felt somewhat guilty for the altercation last night. No, he told himself, Buffy and Jenny still had trust issues that needed to be worked out between them, and it was time to come face-to-face with the problem. But still….St. Wolf mentally shook his head and went back to the conversation, noticing the perturbed look on Giles’ face. He didn’t want to hide things from him, considering he seemed almost like a surrogate father to Buffy, but he certainly hoped Giles wouldn’t have a panic attack over him having a few shots of whiskey.
“Oh….I see….well, ahm, I must admit I am somewhat partial to Glen Feddich myself,” Giles admitted, drawing a raised eyebrow from the Wanderer. At that, the noon lunch bell rang.
“Well,” Giles observed, “they should be here any minute now.”
“Uh huh,” St. Wolf muttered.
Giles swallowed a lump in his throat. “You’re not worried about the outcome, are you?”
“Scared shitless. And you?”
“Terrified beyond belief,” the Englishman noted.
Both men sighed deeply as they waited for the two women to arrive, fervently hoping that this meeting would be somewhat less violent than what had transpired yesterday…
From one end of the school hallway, a smartly dressed Jenny Calendar strode with false confidence toward the library entrance. The Slayerettes attending her computer class that day had been tight-lipped to say the least. Other than going over a gypsy spell to create a crystal ball to read a person’s dreams that Amy and Willow had wanted to do as their magick lesson for the week, none of the gang seemed eager to discuss anything with Jenny. In fact, they even looked relieved when she dismissed the class a few minutes early, thus earning Snyder’s ire. Jenny sighed. Not a good way to start the day.
From the other end of the hallway a conservatively dressed Buffy Summers strolled briskly toward the library, eager to get into Giles’ good graces. Today had been such a lousy day. No, scratch that. Actually, so far the day had sucked beyond belief. It seemed almost all her friends were shunning her after what had happened yesterday and she really couldn’t blame them. It was just that Jenny…. Bad Slayer! Buffy scolded herself and shoved the angry thought from her mind as she continued walking toward the entrance, hoping to find shelter at Port Giles from her internal storm. At that idle thought, the Slayer sighed. “I’m reduced to sucking up to my Watcher to get out of the dog house,” she muttered under her breath and pouted. “What a crappy way to start the day.”
When the Slayer and the gypsy noticed each other approaching the library’s entrance, each woman froze and regarded the other coolly.
“Hello, Buffy,” Jenny said in a neutral tone.
“Hello, Ms. Calendar,” Buffy said in a matching neutral tone.
A few seconds passed while the two women quietly glared at each other.
“So,” Jenny began, deciding to break the silence, “How are you?”
“Peachy,” Buffy muttered, her expression conveying the exact opposite. “And you?”
“No complaints,” Jenny murmured, expressing the same insincerity as Buffy had.
The Amazon witch and the Immortal Slayer stared at the double doors for a moment before glancing at each other. Buffy gestured toward the door. “After you.”
“No, I insist, after you.”
Both women glared at each other for another second then shared a sigh. Simultaneously, Buffy shoved open the left door while Jenny shouldered through the other. Then both women entered the “demilitarized zone” known as the Sunnydale High School Library.
As the two women strode into the library while keeping a healthy distance between them, they immediately noticed the presence of the two men that stood waiting for them near one of the long tables. Both of their faces lined with worry when they noticed the fatigued expressions on Giles’ and St. Wolf’s faces.
“Hello Buffy…Jenny.” St. Wolf spoke in a professional, carefully neutral tone. It seemed the tension in the room had just notched upward several ticks. “Thank you for coming on such short notice.”
Uh oh, Buffy thought. The way Steve was acting, Buffy knew that Jenny and she were screwed. “Sure, no prob,” she replied in a false chipper voice.
“Likewise,” Jenny muttered.
St. Wolf took a deep breath and decided to throw down his cards. “Ladies, I’ll get right to the point of this meeting. What happened last night between you was inexcusable. You both need to understand that it wasn’t good for either one of you, it wasn’t good for the team, for me, and especially not for Giles.” He threw a meaningful glance at the Watcher, who gave the Wanderer a look of surprise, then silently nodded. The two women appeared to be shamed by St. Wolf’s words. “Therefore, after some….consultation…I’ve decided to put you together on a field training exercise.” The Wanderer quietly waited for their response.
“Are you out of your freaking mind?” Jenny screeched, anger creeping into her voice. “Steve, please don’t misunderstand me, but you want us to train together after what happened last night—”
“Hold the phone!” Buffy snapped, interrupting the gypsy Technopagan. “What exactly do you mean by a ‘field training exercise,’ buster?” The Slayer mouthed the term like it was alien to her. “Is that like, boot camp, crawling under wires, Rambos-on-steroids-with-really-big-guns-shooting-over-our-heads sorta thing?”
St. Wolf sighed inwardly and growled, “Ladies, if I may be allowed to continue?” Both women grew sullen. “Jenny, Buffy…you’ll be dropped off at an undisclosed location in the Sunnydale National Forest. You will be provided with limited provisions, in this case a canteen of water each, along with a sword and dagger for defense, nothing more. There’s a cabin in the woods that I’ve rented for this exercise. It’s stocked with plenty of food, water, and other supplies. Your mission is to find this cabin using the map that will be provided to Jenny and the compass that shall be provided to Buffy. It is imperative that the two of you must work together to successfully complete the first stage of your mission. You will share the cabin overnight, then you’ll both use the map and compass to rendezvous with us tomorrow morning. Oh, and by that, I mean that the exercise will start today.”
Buffy blinked. “Today? As in, right after school, it’s ‘hi-ho, hi-ho, it’s off to the woods we go’?” She glared at Jenny with a frosty glint in her eyes. Ms. Calendar was SO not the hottie she’d planned to cuddle up with tonight.
Jenny returned Buffy’s glare with an impressive one of her own before she glanced at St. Wolf. Secretly, Jenny hoped for an unforeseen nasty accident that would send her to the hospital this afternoon rather than face the prospect of traipsing through the woods with a hormonal Slayer. Another not so nice thought penetrated her mind: bugs. The forest meant being surrounded by lots and lots of creepy crawly, nasty, icky, BUGS. Jenny shuddered at the images that haunted her before she shoved them aside in her mind. She regarded St. Wolf with her beautiful chocolate eyes and asked, “Was this your bright idea, Steve?”
The Wanderer coughed. “Uh, no, not exactly…”
“The idea was mine, actually, Jennifer,” a strong, familiar female voice replied. Both women turned to find Artemis standing before them.
Jenny straightened up before bowing reverently. “Welcome, Lady Goddess.”
Artemis nodded regally and smiled.
Buffy made an awkward bow of her own. “Uh, hello, your Majesty, er, Highness…I mean…Lady,” The Slayer fumbled her words as she tried to be respectful to the Goddess. While Buffy had never been the religious type, she was actually beginning to find herself sort of liking this “divine chick”, or deity (as Giles liked to call her) who seemed to show a motherly affection for her “daughters”. She actually had considered sending a prayer or two her way, as crazy and loony an idea that seemed…
Artemis smiled gently at Buffy. “Actually, that is not a ‘crazy’ or ‘loony’ idea at all, Elizabeth. I look forward to hearing from you.”
At first the Slayer cringed at the sound of her despised birth name. Then her mouth gaped open when she realized that the Goddess had heard her thoughts. As everyone else looked at her with a quizzical expression, Buffy silently mouthed the word “later”, her face turning an attractive shade of crimson.
The Goddess regarded both women and her expression grew serious. “Buffy, Jenny, this plan that St. Wolf explained to you was my idea. It is imperative that you put these past grievances aside. The animosity between the two of you simply cannot be allowed to continue.”
Jenny groaned, “Don’t you think I’ve tried, Lady Goddess?” She held out her hands in an “I surrender” gesture. “Okay, look, I admit, Buffy…probably has a valid reason to be hesitant about trusting me…”
“Probably?!” Buffy almost screamed. “PROBABLY?! I trusted you, Ms. Calendar! We all did! And you betrayed us! If I’d have known what could have happened if…when Angel and I…” Buffy growled, unable to say the words that described the spoiled act of love between herself and the vampire. She shook her head in frustration, and snapped, “I would’ve—“
“ENOUGH!!” Artemis’s voice boomed throughout the library, startling the occupants. The Goddess stepped within a few inches of both women and glared at both of them, fire dancing in her eyes. Jenny gulped as she witnessed Artemis’s fury, plain for all to see, while Buffy mentally kicked herself for engaging in yet another temper tantrum. Nice going, Summers, she thought. Way to go and piss off a Greek Goddess.
“I will hear no more of this! Perhaps you are unaware that your senseless bickering has caused tremendous pain for all your friends, especially your loved ones. Look at Giles, look at St. Wolf,” she gestured at the two men. “Do you see how the hostility between the two of you is causing them much suffering?” Both women quietly choked up when they saw the conflicting emotions playing over the faces of their beloveds.
“J-Jenny…Buffy,” Giles finally spoke, “Artemis is right, this…this conflict between the both of you has to end, now. I…” The Watcher’s voice trailed off momentarily as he stared at both women. They were indeed closer to his heart than they would ever know, and the very thought of that threatened to bring tears to his eyes again. Part of him wanted so desperately to tell them how much he loved them, but now was not the time. Struggling to control his emotions, Giles continued. “I care too much for you both to allow this to continue. I insist that you need to do what Steven and Artemis say; put this damned issue behind you and be done with it.” Giles looked as if he wanted to say more, but instead he quietly excused himself and strode across the room and into his office, shutting the door behind him.
The Immortal Slayer and the gypsy Amazon both turned as if to go after him, but they were stopped by the Greek Goddess who laid a hand on each of their shoulders and squeezed gently yet firmly. “No,” she spoke, “he needs time to compose himself. Have the scales fallen away from your eyes now so that you can see why this is so important?” Both women reluctantly nodded. “Good. Then I believe there are no more questions then?” Both women shook their heads. “Very well. St. Wolf will pick you up after you have gone home and made suitable arrangements.” Artemis leaned in closer and whispered, “Please, my daughters, this must be done, especially for Giles’ sake.” At the mention of the word ‘daughters’ Buffy gave Artemis a questioning look, which the Goddess returned with a gentle smile. “Yes…Buffy, I said ‘daughters’. I would like to consider you as much a daughter as my Amazons. That however, is up to you.” Buffy’s chin began to quiver as her eyes moistened slightly when she felt the sincerity in the Goddess’s words in her very soul. Artemis then gave Jenny a firm hug and whispered something in her ear, to which the gypsy nodded. After that the Greek Goddess disappeared, leaving both women alone with St. Wolf.
“Well, ladies, that’ll be all. Be sure to change into appropriate clothing when you get home. Be ready to go at five o’clock.” With nothing more to be said, the two women trudged out of the library.
“So much for the Bronze,” Buffy muttered under her breath.
“So much for that monster truck rally,” Jenny sighed quietly to herself.
After both women were gone, St. Wolf let out a sigh of relief. Well, this time, there hadn’t been any violence, he mused. Then, the Wanderer combed the fingers of his right hand through his sandy brown hair as he walked over to Giles’ office to check on the man who was both Buffy’s Watcher and Jenny’s England.
Sunnydale National Forest
5:46 p.m. PST
“I really hate bugs.”
The Slayer gritted her teeth and suppressed a growl. How many fricking times was Ms. Calendar going to complain about the insects that inhabited the Sunnydale National Forest?
The pair stood in a small grassy clearing surrounded by tall pine trees deep in the woods. The trip up to the forest had been less than entertaining, to say the least. Both women had been blindfolded, driven to the location, and dropped off in the middle of what appeared to be…nowhere. The Slayer turned slowly to get her bearings. The forest was actually quite beautiful and serene, and might have helped cheer their moods under different circumstances. Birds fluttered and chirped through the pine branches as a slight breeze sighed through the trees, carrying with it the sweet scent of pine and other vegetation. The sun had begun to set and cast ever-lengthening shadows over the treetops and craggy rock formations…which unfortunately meant that they’d need to hurry if they were to find the cabin.
Buffy shifted impatiently from foot to foot, her petite and shapely figure garbed in hiking boots, jeans, a t-shirt and jacket with a sword and small pack (containing a change of clothes) on her back, along with a dagger and water canteen attached to her utility belt. She watched Jenny as she, clad in similar garb, scanned the map she had laid out before her. Or at least, that was what she was supposed to do. In reality, the computer teacher appeared to be more focused on swatting away the insects that buzzed about her head.
“Aww, what’s the matter, Calendar, afraid of a few creepy-crawlies?” Buffy taunted the teacher by using her last name without the respectful title of ‘Ms.’, before she grimaced and swatted a mosquito that had landed on her neck.
“You should worry more about yourself, Summers,” Jenny snorted, apparently aware of Buffy’s bitchy attitude toward her. “Those mosquitoes seem to have mistaken you for a Happy Meal.”
The bottle-blonde Chosen One swatted another insect that tried to put the bite on her neck. Must be the Slayer blood, she mused. Geez, I guess vamps and mosquitoes DO have a lot in common.
“Summers, would you give me that compass so I can check these map coordinates?”
The Immortal Slayer snickered. “Hold up a sec there, Ranger Girl. Maybe you ought to give me the map. That way, I’ll plot the course for us while you act as the official bug zapper.”
Jenny’s chocolate eyes narrowed dangerously. “I’ve got a better idea; why don’t you give me the compass and I’ll plot the course for us, considering that, unlike you, I’m not a galleria groupie.”
This time Buffy’s aquamarine eyes narrowed as she regarded the gypsy Technopagan. “Was that supposed to be a “blonde” joke, shine-a-flashlight-in-my-ear sorta thing? If so, I gotta tell you that was SO lame.”
A small smirk tugged at Jenny’s lips. “Of course not, considering you’re not a real blonde to begin with.”
Buffy looked around the forest momentarily before turning back to the raven-haired Amazon. “Y’know Calendar, it’s pretty remote out here….no one to hear you scream if I decided to kick your ass into the next millennium,” she purred dangerously.
Jenny growled, “Anxious for Round Two, Blondie?”
Both women tensed as they regarded each other, each daring the other to attack…and then shared a collective sigh.
“This isn’t…,” Buffy began, uncertain as to what exactly she wanted to say.
“Helping anything?” Jenny offered, her tone softer than before.
Buffy shook her head in resignation. “Okay, right. We…we promised the guys….especially Steve, Artemis, and Giles that we’d try to work together.” Especially Giles, she thought.
Jenny nodded. England definitely wants us to get past this, she thought. “Yeah…we both did. Okay,” she straightened out the crinkled map and studied it again. “Bring that compass over here and let’s see if we can find Grandmama’s house.”
Buffy took out the Swiss Army compass and laid it on the map. After determining which way was north, the two plotted a course according to the map’s instructions. After taking a sip of water from their canteens, the two women started their hike.
“Just hope the Big Bad Wolf doesn’t show up…of course, with everything else that’s happened, that wouldn’t surprise me a bit,” Jenny sighed.
“You’re right,” the Slayer chirped. “Although this forest, as Smokey-the-Bear-ish charming and peaceful as it looks, kinda reminds me of this horror flick Xander had us sit through one time, about these nasty bugs that come out of the ground and…”
An hour or so later, just as it was beginning to get dark, the two women found the cabin, a charming yet nondescript one-story log building with a small patio and windows. Both women somewhat disgustedly noticed the jeep trail leading to it snaking from the opposite side from where they had come. “Too bad this place isn’t made out of gingerbread,” Buffy quipped as they entered the building and took a look around. A small main room served as the dining room and kitchen with a table, chairs, a wood stove and sink. Thankfully just as St. Wolf had promised, it was stocked with food, water, and other supplies (although Jenny quietly hoped there might be some chocolate stashed away somewhere). There was also a bathroom with a gravity water pump, propane heater, tub and toilet. And, most important of all to the ladies, two separate rooms with beds. This discovery led to a massive sigh of relief from both as they unbuckled their weapons and got situated in the cabin.
“Well,” Buffy chirped, “that was quite a hike. And seeing that the coast is clear and all…I think I’ll call first dibs on using that nice looking hot tub.” Her stroll toward the bathroom was stopped by a firm hand from Jenny on her left shoulder.
“Hold on, Blondie, how come you get to call first dibs?”
Buffy shrugged. “I don’t know. I just…do.”
Jenny cocked an eyebrow. “Now, now, let’s be fair here, Summers. Tell you what,” She drew a quarter from her pocket. “We’ll flip for it. Heads for me, tails for you. Deal?”
The Slayer regarded the gypsy warily for a moment then shrugged. “Okay…deal.”
Jenny flipped the coin, caught it easily with her hand, and slammed it down on a nearby table. She grinned and showed the coin triumphantly to Buffy. “Heads, I win.”
“No way! That…that was some sort of sleight-of-hand gypsy trick, wasn’t it?!”
“Maybe,” she smirked, “But deal’s a deal, Buffy. See if you can get that wood stove working while I go freshen up.”
With that, she strode into the bathroom, humming a little tune and shut the door, leaving a pouting Slayer to mutter sarcastically, “Yes, mistress.”
After Jenny had bathed, the gypsy relinquished the bathroom to the Slayer. Soon, Buffy was naked in the shower, trying to wash the sweat and grime from her tired body. Her eyes were closed as the warm water streamed over her blonde tresses. As she reached up to adjust the shower head, she felt cold, hard steel encircle her wrists.
Buffy’s eyes flashed open, revealing the sensuous face of Jenny Calendar before her. Glancing over her head, Buffy found her hands bound by a pair of handcuffs to the shower head stem.
The Slayer tugged on her restraints but her struggles were in vain. At that moment, Jenny cooed, “Buffy, dear, it’s no use struggling. The cuffs are magical and designed to reduce your strength to normal human levels.”
Fear showed plainly in the Slayer’s eyes. “Jenny, what…why?”
Jenny smirked at her. “You didn’t count on Amazon hearing. I overheard you calling me ‘mistress’…and I liked it,” she noted in a deep and throaty voice. When Buffy opened her mouth to say something, Jenny shushed the Chosen One with a finger pressed to her lips. The gypsy smiled gently. “Buffy, do you know how very pretty you are?” The teacher began to softly caress the Slayer’s cheeks with her long fingers. “You’re so little…so cute…so soft…”
It was then Buffy noticed that Ms. Calendar’s body was only garbed in the towel she’d used after her own shower. She began to pant as Jenny’s hands began to stroke her body in a more…intimate manner. Buffy’s eyes opened wide when she noted Jenny’s grin. It wasn’t her typical grin, no sir. It was hot, sexy, and loaded for bear. Then the Slayer moaned as the gypsy pressed her body against her while the Amazon’s lower fingers continued to touch Buffy knowingly.
Buffy surged against Jenny’s body, her rocking matching the gypsy’s own. At first, Jenny’s mouth played havoc with both of the Slayer’s breasts, rocking the tiny blonde’s nervous system with delightful sensations. Minutes later, Jenny slowly trailed her tongue down Buffy’s cleavage, dragging it over the Slayer’s stomach, and dipping it into the squirming girl’s navel in a persistent jabbing motion.
'No!’ the Slayer screamed inwardly. ‘Not there! Lower! Lower!!’
Buffy mewled as she undulated in her chains. Her arms were beginning to cramp from their stretched position but she didn’t care. Finally the witch’s tongue slid over her belly as the teacher knelt between the Slayer’s thighs. Then Buffy lifted her bare legs, wrapped them around Jenny’s neck, and…and…
“ALEXANDER LAVELLE HARRIS!”
317 Brandt Terrace
Residence of Steven St. Wolf
March 27, 1998
7:37 p.m. PST
Willow, both hands protected by rubber gloves, angrily snatched the crystal ball from the teenaged boy’s hand. “Give me that, you idiot!” the little red witch snapped.
Xander was stunned by the sudden loss of the scene that he’d just been witnessing. “Huh? Wha—Ow!”
The loud smack of Cordelia’s hand slapping him upside his head resounded throughout the basement. “Color me NOT surprised! I just knew you still have Slayer on the brain, you jerk! And Jenny, too!” A sickened expression flashed onto the Dark Amazon’s face. “You really are a disgusting horndog, aren’t you?”
Xander rubbed his aching head and winced. “Dammit, Cordy, that really hurt! Ow! OW!” Xander yelled even louder when Willow kicked him in his shin, twice. “What the Hell was that for?!”
Both of her witch-green eyes flashed with rage as she regarded him with both hands balled into fists on her hips. “The first was for touching our crystal ball experiment after Amy told you not to. The second was for giving us a sense-o-rama tour of that cesspool you call a mind! For Artemis’ sake, you perv! Buffy’s my best friend and Jenny is almost like a second mother to me!” Willow shook her head in disgust. “I knew I shouldn’t have told you that they were forced to share a cabin during their training exercise!”
Xander’s frightened eyes darted around the room. “What the Hell was that we just saw, Will?”
“It was a gypsy spell Jenny taught us. Really powerful gypsy mages use it to create crystal balls that fortune tellers have on hand to read a person’s dreams. Normally, they’ll have the person’s eyes closed so they don’t see the images that are projected from the mark’s mind. It helps them gain insight into the person’s life so that they can work the mark better.”
A slight chuckle managed to escape from Oz. “Dude…way to get dead. It’s lucky that Giles didn’t see that, let alone Buffy or Ms. Calendar.”
At that, Xander shuddered. When Oz was right, he was right. Nothing was scarier to the teenaged boy than facing the Ripper in all of his terrible glory. Seeing the way Giles had manhandled Ethan Rayne last semester had made Xander realize that he never, ever wanted to get on the Watcher’s bad side. Then his musings terminated abruptly when he spied the angry female faces in the room. “Would it help if I say I’m really, really sorry, and that I hope you all take pity on me and swear to never mention any of this to Giles, Jenny, or Buffy?”
A blanching Amy grabbed her stomach and raced for the door. “Ewww!!! I feel so dirty after watching that, I’m going upstairs to take a shower!”
A moment later, Cordelia grabbed him by the lapels of his shirt and narrowed her beautiful, deadly eyes at him. “And if there are any thoughts at all about Amy, handcuffs, and water together anywhere in the zip code of your dirty little mind, you’d better pray that Steve has a really good doctor on retainer!”
At her words, a heavily perspiring Xander gulped loudly.
Sunnydale National Forest
7:42 p.m. PST
When Jenny emerged from the bathroom scrubbed and refreshed she was surprised to find Buffy had managed to get the wood stove burning. A big pot of canned vegetable soup was simmering on the stove. As Jenny looked in the pot, Buffy turned the task over to Jenny and entered the bathroom to freshen up. When Buffy returned she found that Jenny had set up two bowls, dishes, water-filled glasses and silverware on the table along with a gas lamp for light. She ladled soup into each bowl and set down a plate heaped with freshly sliced bread, cheese wedges and slices of sausage on it. Then she offered Buffy a seat.
“Wow, Calendar.” The Slayer blinked. “When did you start channeling Martha Stewart?”
“I’m not that domestic, Summers.” Jenny chuckled. “Eat up, soup’s getting cold.”
“Good idea.” With that, the two women proceeded to eat in silence for a time. When there was a small amount of soup left in her bowl, Buffy decided to be brave and break the silence.
“So, waddya think?” Buffy inquired, nibbling on a piece of cheese.
Jenny paused as she raised a spoonful of soup to her mouth. “What do I think of what?”
“Oh, I don’t know…uh….this place, the forest and all. Kinda peaceful, really. I mean, no vamps, smelly demons, or other bad guys around….at least I don’t think so. Except maybe snakes…do you think they have snakes around here? Too bad there’s no TV or radio though, not that there’s really anything to watch on Fridays—I usually go clubbing at the Bronze and—“
The blonde Slayer blinked. “I am?” Then she realized that she was indeed going into “Buffy Babble” mode. “Oh…never mind.”
The dark gypsy couldn’t help but chuckle. “It’s okay, I babble too…sometimes.”
Buffy cocked an eyebrow. “Really?”
“Oh yeah…ever since I started hanging with you guys.” That got a chuckle from both women.
“I just hope the rest of the gang’s gonna be okay without us for the night,” Buffy sighed. “I mean, I wish the Apocalypse would take a break on Fridays, but that never seems to be the case.”
“Don’t worry, Buffy,” Jenny spoke assuredly. “With Steve and Artemis’s help, things are different now. It’s like Steve said; we’re not alone anymore, and…you’re not fighting alone anymore either.” Buffy looked up from the slice of bread she had been munching to see the sincerity in Jenny’s eyes.
“Well…I guess that’s true. I mean, to be honest, I’m still getting used to some of these things, like being Immortal and all that. I mean, it puts a new spin on things, y’know?” she noted softly. Finding herself somewhat anxious to change the subject, she asked, “So, what’s it like being an Amazon? Artemis’s chosen and all that?”
“Well,” Jenny drawled, “I suppose just like it was for you, it’s weird at first, sort of exhilarating, actually. You….or I should say WE, my new sisters and I, we feel like we actually have a purpose in life now, you know? And, it’s nice to have that bond that exists between us.” She added softly, “We really do feel like sisters.”
Buffy gazed at Jenny wistfully. “It must be nice,” she said quietly before going back to her meal.
They wolfed down the simple meal zestfully; apparently their hike had worked up quite an appetite for the two young women. Jenny stood to clean up and wash the dishes, but was surprised when Buffy insisted on taking care of that business instead. “Don’t worry, Mom’s given me plenty of practice,” the Slayer chirped. As she took care of the clean up duties, Jenny made up both of their beds with some linen she found in a closet and lit a candle in each room. Soon, both women prepared to call it a night. Before Jenny was about to retire she heard Buffy call over her shoulder, “Hey, Ms. Calendar?”
“Yes?” She turned and saw Buffy leaning against the doorsill of her room.
“I…I was thinking of…well…everything that’s happened recently and…” The Slayer trailed off, uncertain as to what she wanted to say.
“Well, I…” The Slayer had her eyes downcast, her arms crossed. Then she looked up with her lovely blue-green eyes and shook her blonde head. “Never mind, forget it.”
“Buffy…if there’s something on your mind you that you want to get off your chest…”
“No,” she replied quietly. She walked over to her room. “It’s no big. G’night,” she called out.
Jenny pursed her lips thoughtfully for a moment, then nodded and said, “Goodnight Buffy.” Jenny leaned back in her bed and closed her eyes. Before she drifted off to sleep, she silently uttered a prayer to Artemis, asking her to watch over her Amazon sisters and friends who fought against the darkness, most especially…her fuddy-duddy librarian.
I wonder what he’s doing right now, she thought sadly. She wished she could be with him right now, to hold him close, to feel his warmth, to tell him how sorry she was that she’d kept things from him, and…
Jenny shook off the thought and drifted off to sleep…but not before a tear trickled down her cheek.
Buffy tossed and turned in her bed, trying to find a comfortable position in which to sleep. Deciding that sleep was probably going to elude her for a while, she got out of bed and threw on her jacket. With that she lightly tiptoed out of her room and went outside.
She stood on the porch for a moment, peering out into the darkened forest, her Slayer senses detecting the sounds and movements of the nocturnal wildlife. A slight breeze continued to blow, causing the trees to sigh and shake their branches slightly, almost as if they spoke to her. She drew a deep breath and exhaled, enjoying the fresh scent of pine, oak, and maple. Noticing an old creaking wooden swing that hung from chains on the porch, she crossed over to it and sat, allowing it to rock slightly as she gazed up at the moon.
Y’know, I could look at that moon for hours, and I still don’t see a face anywhere, she mused. Then her thoughts drifted back to what she was going to say, or for that matter, what she had wanted to say earlier to Ms. Calendar…that she was…sorry?
“Yeah, right,” she scoffed under her breath, “like I’m the one who should be sorry.” Then she paused, took a deep breath, and whispered, “Okay, actually, I am the one who’s sorry. I hate that I’ve driven a wedge between everyone on the team. I hate that I’ve become the source of grief between Giles and Calendar. I hate that…” She stared at the silvery moon and remembered that Artemis was the Greek Goddess of the Moon. She also recalled what Artemis had said to her in the library. She shuddered as her emotions spilled out. “Okay, Artemis, if you’re up there and you’re listening, I…I need you, or I need someone to tell me what to do. Please,” she whispered, her eyes beginning to mist over. “I mean, if you don’t wanna answer, fine, ‘cause I’d understand. I mean, why bother?” At that she chuckled bitterly. “’Cause face it; I’m the stupid bitch who opened my legs and turned my lover into a monster.”
No, Buffy, you are so much more than that.
Buffy’s eyes shot wide open as she felt a…presence around her, almost as if it was inside her. Something ancient and powerful, yet somehow…warm and assuring.
“Uh, okay,” she stammered, “I’m hearing voices in my head. Guess that means it’s time to go see the local shrink, huh?”
No, my child, it is I.
There was silence.
The Slayer chuckled nervously for a second then became serious. “Artemis?” she whispered.
Yes. You have called to me and I have answered. However, the answer you seek, you already know.
“What do you mean, I already know?” she asked, confused.
Before seeking Jenny’s forgiveness, you must first forgive…yourself.
“Forgive myself?” she asked. She shook her head. “No…I…I can’t,” she choked, the tears in her eyes threatening to spill over.
You can Buffy, you must. You have strength within yourself…more than you could ever know. You must find that strength and apply it…my daughter. With that last word, Buffy felt the presence around her grow even warmer and all-embracing. The tears that had gathered in her eyes finally spilled over her cheeks as she felt the Goddess’s love reach into her very soul. She looked to the moon high in the sky and whispered the name “Artemis” a final time, this time with a sense of reverence she’d never felt before…
A few rays of sunlight streaming in from the nearby window shined onto Buffy’s face, awakening the Slayer from her slumber. She blew a few stray wisps of blond hair out of her face as she rubbed the last crusts of sleep from her eyes. She remembered that she had returned to bed late last night…at first she thought the “conversation” she’d had with Artemis was merely a dream…until the memory came flooding back to her.
Squeezing her eyes shut momentarily to block out the sun, Buffy reluctantly threw back the linen cover and tumbled out of bed. She threw on her clothes, all the while detecting the scent of something sweet and delicious emanating from the kitchen. The smell of food always called to the ravenous girl, so she threw on her boots, strolled out of her bedroom, and into the kitchen, where Jenny was humming a bright tune while she poured batter onto a large buttered pan.
“Morning,” Jenny chirped. “You must’ve been pretty tired. I thought I’d go ahead and get to work on making some pancakes. If you’d like,” she drawled in a tone of voice that sounded to the Slayer suspiciously like a command, “you can make us some orange juice. For some reason Steve didn’t buy any OJ, but there’s some oranges and a juicer over there on the counter.”
Buffy shrugged. “No problem. Slaygal’s on the case!” She took one of the oranges and sliced it in two with a kitchen knife, then shoved the halved orange on the juicer…which, unfortunately, splattered juice everywhere when she momentarily forgot her own Slayer strength. “Oops.”
Jenny stared at the mess on the counter, momentarily forgetting about the pancakes until something hissed and a burning smell derailed her train of thought. “Shit!” she muttered and hastily flipped the pancakes over, grimacing at the blackened charcoal that had formed on them.
“Er, you like your pancakes well done?” Jenny asked sheepishly.
Both women then shared a hearty laugh while they attempted to salvage their breakfast.
After a fulfilling meal, the Slayer and the gypsy cleaned up the cabin, returned to their rooms, and strapped on their gear. Making one last check to make sure everything was in order, the Chosen One and the Amazon witch walked out of the cabin. When they were about fifty feet from the front porch, they halted and took a moment to savor the fresh morning air as they stood upon the grassy clearing.
“Y’know, this wasn’t so bad actually,” Buffy piped up as she checked her compass. “Don’t get me wrong, I’d rather have spent last night with my future boy toy at the Bronze, but at least I didn’t have to deal with any baddies. Maybe we should bring the rest of the gang up here and have a marshmallow roast or something.”
Jenny smiled. “If it means we could also get to do a little off-road four-wheeling, I’m game.”
The blonde cocked an impeccable eyebrow at her brunette companion. “You’ve really got a thing for trucks, don’t ‘cha?” She paused momentarily before looking at Jenny thoughtfully. “Ms. Calendar? Um….y’know, there was actually something I wanted to say to you last night….”
Jenny glanced at the younger woman with a serious yet unguarded expression on her beautiful face. “What did you want to discuss?” she asked softly.
“Well, I guess what I wanted to say…was—OH!” Buffy gasped as a tranquilizer dart slammed home into her thigh. Suddenly, the world seemed to spin crazily around the Slayer before she shuddered once and collapsed in a heap to the ground.
“BUFFY!” Jenny cried as she fell to her knees beside the fallen Slayer. The next moment, Jenny heard a gruff male voice shout, “Grab her! Take her weapons!” Out of hiding rushed two heavily-muscled men with dark features who could have started as linemen for any professional football team. Before she could stand to defend herself, the men grabbed her from behind and held her down on her knees with her arms behind her back. While she struggled to gain some leverage, one of the men quickly stripped her of her sword and dagger. Jenny heard a rustle of movement in the bushes just a short distance away. Staring at the swaying bushes, she saw the familiar form of a tall powerful looking man emerge, walking toward her. He was dressed in hiking clothes, a sword in a scabbard on his belt and a tranquilizer rifle casually balanced in his hands. And she was frightened to see a deadly gleam in his dark eyes…
“Alexi!” Jenny gasped and sputtered. “W-what’s the meanin—” Then it dawned on her exactly what this was all about.
“Hello again, Janna,” the tall man replied solemnly. “I am truly sorry to interrupt your little…sojourn…but there is some unfinished business that must be attended to. Hold her!” he commanded as he set aside the dart rifle and drew out a wicked-looking scimitar. “Now, there shall be no more waiting,” he hissed as he glared at the prone form of the Slayer.
Tears of frustration formed in her eyes. “Alexi! Tell me! What have you done to her?”
The gypsy Immortal smirked. “She’s not dead, Janna, merely paralyzed. It was so nice of you to remind me that she is a living weapon, Janna. Your help was greatly appreciated.”
A cold dread chilled Jenny’s very soul. If she’s paralyzed, the Amazon thought, she can hear everything we’re saying. Ohmigod, the witch realized, he’s making her think I set her up…that I betrayed her again!
A red haze began to cloud her vision. Any love that she’d ever felt for the Immortal of her clan melted away at that very moment. He had violated her trust, made her an accomplice to his unholy vengeance. He had used her to get to the Slayer.
And for that, the Amazon Gypsy decided, he must pay.
Her mind racing, Jenny knew she had to stall for time and give the uncanny combination of Buffy’s Immortal/Slayer constitution a chance to recover. “Alexi! How did you know where to find us?” She silently prayed he’d take the bait.
Alexi Gregof turned his attention from the fallen Slayer and regarded his cousin, a smirk tugging at the corner of his lip. “Come now, jel ‘enedra, we are Romani. How else did you think I could find you? Magicks? Well no, not exactly.” He chuckled. “I have my ways…for instance, the listening devices I planted in the school library. Your friends truly should learn to be a bit more…discrete as to where and how they conduct their business. And of course…,” he paused dramatically for effect, apparently enjoying his day in the sun, “let’s not forget the little ring I gave you not long ago. I do not suppose you ever thought there might be a tracking device planted inside it, eh?” He smiled grimly and shook his head. “You are a smart little girl, Janna, but apparently still not….” His voice trailed off when he saw Janna’s face straining from intense concentration. She almost seemed to be muttering something under her breath…
His eyes grew wide and he was about to shout a warning when a brilliant, blinding flash erupted around the gypsy woman. Alexi covered his eyes just in time to protect himself from the blinding effects of Janna’s spell… but not so for his men, who stumbled away, clawing at their eyes and crying out in pain. “Damned chovihani,” one of his men screamed, “I’m blind!”
Now free of her captors, Janna rolled forward toward Buffy’s still form, grabbed the Slayer’s hand-and-a-half sword from its scabbard and leaped to her feet, taking a defensive position in front of the fallen Slayer.
The witch prayed that the other spell she’d cast to remove the narcotics from Buffy’s system would work a little faster as she stared back at Alexi with a hard, determined look.
“Janna,” the man noted with a hint of admiration in his voice, “you have the look of a female pretera defending her cub.”
“I’m no longer Janna to you, you bastard!” she snapped. “My name is Jenny. Jenny Calendar.”
Alexi narrowed his eyes at his cousin. “Just what do you think you are doing?” he growled.
“What does it look like I’m doing? You’ve got only one chance, Alexi. Walk away, now,” she told her cousin in a steely voice.
His eyes narrowed as he regarded the chovihani, the mighty gypsy witch, who now stood like a warrior-born between him and his intended prey. “Do not do this, Janna,” he hissed. “You are obligated as a Kalendish to honor the will of the clan, and on behalf of the clan, it is my will that the Summers girl shall die for her part in breaking the curse! You are gypsy, Janna! Your blood is bound to the clan like mine. I do not wish to spill any of it, so I will tell you this only once--stand aside!!” he roared.
Jenny Calendar shook her head. “No Alexi,” she replied in a firm voice, “I may have the blood of the Romani in my veins, but I carry Artemis in my heart. And the Lady has charged me to defy the darkness with my last breath wherever I find it. Tell me, cousin…has darkness consumed your soul so much, you’d dishonor both our clan and yourself by slaughtering a defenseless girl?”
Alexi’s sword wavered slightly, uncertainly as Jenny’s words reverberated in his soul. “I…”
“Alexi, please,” Jenny begged. “Is this what Patrina would have wanted?”
Alexi paused as if to consider, then his eyes stared directly into his cousin’s. “No,” he whispered, causing a faint glimmer of hope to rise in Jenny before it was shattered as Alexi continued, “Patrina would have wanted me to kill this foolish girl long ago so the curse would never have been broken! And if you are not with me, Janna Kalendah…then you are against me!!” And with that, Alexi swung his blade.
Jenny raised her blade just in time to block Alexi’s downward stroke. Steel clashed against steel, the sound ringing through the forest. Soon both of the gypsies were engaged in a terrifying dance of death. Both combatants ducked, blocked, and parried each other’s swords as each warrior tried to land a killing blow on the other. As they continued to battle each other no quarter was given and none was sought. Alexi’s brow beaded with sweat as he tried to slash through Jenny’s defenses, but the gypsy woman refused to retreat and stood in the morning sun, like a battling shield maiden defending her charge. Alexi had to admit it; she was magnificent. Her strength, speed, and stamina were simply incredible!
Alexi gasped in amazement as both of their blades clashed again; this time steel grinding against steel as the warriors crossed their swords and tried to press any advantage. The giant bear of a man was simply stunned by the fact that Jenny seemed just as strong as he, if not even stronger, due to the fact that his sword arm had begun to weaken slightly. “By the Gods, Janna, you fight almost as if you are the Slayer! What….what have you become?!”
Jenny glared at her cousin, before her face filled with sorrow. “More than you could ever hope to comprehend, Alexi,” she whispered. Then she yelled, “Stop this madness, now, Alexi! End your vendetta!”
With that, Alexi growled. “Never!” Suddenly, he shifted his weight, lashed out with his left fist, and surprised Jenny with a backhand punch to her face. The blow caused the Amazon to stumble and curse under her breath. Just as she recovered from the blow, Alexi attempted to run her through with his scimitar. Jenny instinctively parried his thrust, barely deflecting his blade. Spotting an opening, Jenny snapped out a well-placed kick into the back of Alexi’s right knee, causing the warrior to lose his balance and fall forward. As Alexi attempted to rise, he looked up and saw, for him, what would be the last thing he’d ever see on this earthly plane; that of Janna, his beautiful cousin, tears in her eyes, as she cleaved the sword down through his neck…
The headless body of Alexi Gregof hung for a moment, as if uncertain what to do, then thudded to the ground alongside his decapitated head.
Jenny stared numbly at the carnage before her, nearly struck deaf and dumb to all that was around her. She had just murdered one of her own…killed a member of her own clan, her own…family.
The sword dropped from Jenny’s hands, forgotten, while she continued to stare at her cousin’s body, even as the mist that contained blue-white crackling bolts of energy began to form around it…
Buffy’s vision was blurry as her head swam. She groggily rose on her hands and knees as she tried to focus; she’d felt something strike her leg and she’d gone down…a tranquilizer dart of some kind, maybe? She felt the dart sticking out of her thigh and she ripped it out, just as she noticed Jenny standing nearby, staring at a headless body lying just a few feet away. It was then that she noticed a familiar crackling energy beginning to form around the corpse and Buffy knew instantly what it was…
Holy shit, her mind screamed, a Quickening!
Instantly shifting to Super-Slayer mode, Buffy moved like she’d never moved before, the Chosen One’s sole thought to save the life of her valiant defender. The Immortal Slayer vaulted to her feet, flashed across the distance separating her from Jenny, and shoved the raven-haired Amazon, hard. Jenny landed several yards away when the blue-white bolts began to strike and envelope Buffy’s slight body.
And then the memories began to lash at her….
Alexi…Alexi Gregof, Immortal gypsy of the Kalendish clan…his bride-to-be Patrina, defiled and murdered by the vampire Angelus…the same Angelus that had been reborn from the consummation of her lovemaking to the vampire once known as…Angel.
Patrina, Alexi’s beautiful and loving fiancee…lying broken, ravaged, and bloodied…a love forever denied…a love that was never consummated…all of it the result of Angelus.
Buffy held her head in her hands, shutting her eyes close. She fell to her knees, trying to block out the mental images that continued to assault her while she wailed as Alexi’s pain and misery stabbed like a pike into her mind. “Oh God…no…please God, no…”
And then Alexi’s seething hatred toward Angelus, a hatred that would never be quenched…morphed into something white hot and blinding for the woman who had freed Angelus from the Romani’s curse…for her.
It was as if Alexi was standing right in front of her, screaming at her, his bitterness and hatred threatening to tear Buffy’s very soul apart. Mulo’s wench! She heard Alexi’s voice shouting the words inside her, cursing her forever. Look what you’ve done!
“P-please…stop…I didn’t mean to…”
Slattern! You foolish, selfish, disgusting WHORE!!!!
“No…” she cried.
And then somewhere beyond the veil of Buffy’s own private slice of Hell, a voice called to her.
The Slayer continued to cry in agony, until a pair of strong feminine hands grabbed her by the shoulders…
“BUFFY! LOOK AT ME!!”
The Chosen One opened her eyes to find chocolate-brown windows into the compassionate soul of Jenny Calendar, who held her firmly. “What happened…those memories…Angelus did those things, not Angel,” she said gently.
“B-but…Angelus…he was reborn because of, of what we…what I…”
“Buffy,” Jenny told her softly, “You couldn’t have known. No one knew. There…there are some things we can’t foresee or control. No one could have ever guessed that a vampire, even one with a soul, could have found contentment in the arms of a Vampire Slayer. But you must remember that a demon committed those heinous acts, not the man you loved.” Jenny locked her eyes onto the Slayer’s and called upon her Society of Watcher training. “Buffy…listen to me. You must forgive yourself and bury Alexi’s voice, bury it deep inside your soul.”
Buffy stared at her with tear-streaked eyes, a little-girl lost. “I can’t!”
“B-but I can’t forgive myself! I destroyed the man that I loved,” she wailed. “I can’t forgive myself for what Angelus did to your uncle or for ruining your cousin’s life and making him want to kill me! I don’t deserve it!”
Jenny gently stroked the matted hair from Buffy’s face and graced her with a watery smile. “Forgiveness isn’t deserved or earned, sweetie. It’s simply given.” Jenny pulled the Slayer into a loving hug as she murmured, “I forgive you.”
At that, Alexi’s accusations grew silent in Buffy’s mind. Then all the emotions that had been bottled up inside the Slayer poured out as she wept bitterly, her tiny body racked by sobs as she buried her face in Jenny’s welcoming bosom. Jenny tenderly cradled her like a mother soothing a troubled child while healing tears streamed down the gypsy’s cheeks.
After Buffy’s sobs quietly subsided, she gingerly pulled away and looked again at the body of Alexi Gregof. The dead gypsy’s henchmen had regained their vision and were now staring at the body of the fallen Immortal and the pair of weeping women. And then it dawned on Buffy all that Jenny Calendar had truly lost; Jenny’s defiance would be reported to her clan…she’d be banished forever.
Buffy’s tear-filled eyes stared into Jenny’s own, and the words she had meant to say before finally came out in a choked whisper: “Ohmigod…Jenny…I-I’m so sorry.”
Jenny nodded and gave the Immortal Slayer a sad yet tender smile. “I know,” she replied softly. “Perhaps, now…Alexi is with his beloved Patrina in paradise. At least, I’m going to hold on to that thought.” Jenny then wiped the tears from her face and sniffled. “Alexi lied, you know. I didn’t betray you.”
Buffy nodded and flashed a little smile at the gypsy. “I know you wouldn’t. It’s not your style.” At Jenny’s startled look, Buffy’s smile grew brighter and the Slayer pulled the Amazon into a warm hug. “Hey,” Buffy whispered into the delicate shell of Jenny’s ear, “it doesn’t pay for a Slayer to hold a grudge against her Watcher.”
After a long, heartfelt embrace, Jenny released Buffy and turned to quietly make arrangements with her cousin’s gypsy henchmen to take care of Alexi’s remains. With that, the two warriors, hand-in-hand, turned away from the cabin and took the first steps of their long journey home…
Dedicated to the memory of Tim Knight.