Part 41 – Into Darkness:

-Sunnydale High – Pool : T = +10 minutes

Xander and Timothy do a fish impression for a moment. Under less obnoxious circumstances I'd probably find watching Xander's face as his mind reboots hilarious.

"...hey! Why am I evil Spock? You're the one-"

"No!"

"No?"

"You're not Spock." I point at Theodore. "He is." Turning back to Xander, I smile. "You're obviously Kirk."

"Does that make you McCoy?"

I blink. "Don't be ridiculous. I just survived being lit on fire while transitioning timelines and then inhaling Sunnydale High's pool water, I'm clearly Khan." I pat Xander on the shoulder, and hand him back his towel, as I step around him and make my way back out towards the parking lot. He obvious needs more time to process recent events and I don't feel like waiting, or even really care about fake Batso's conclusions.

Digging out my wallet I sigh. Maybe I should have insisted on Amy fireproofing everything rather than just the essentials. Oh hindsight, and I guess Amy's point about time constraints still stands. Having the contents of my wallet is nice though, even if it's all a bit soggy.

I should also try to remember to thank my Amy specifically for fireproofing my ring's cover. I still can't believe I didn't even notice it had burnt away in the monastery until she whacked me upside the head on the fight home.

I snort, "Oh right, I accidentally set myself on fire earlier today. Oops?" was apparently not the answer she was looking for when she asked me what happened.

...

Pushing open the door, and looking out at the still mostly empty parking lot it occurs to me that Amy is most likely already here at school somewhere or will be soon. But... she wouldn't be my Amy, would she? Or my Faith. Hell, even if I spent another month working on her, I'm not even really sure how I made my version of Harmony the first time.

Nope. I don't think I like this time/dimension travel nonsense any more than I do magic.

I should probably sort out my clothing situation so I don't draw the interest and ire of every local I meet. Then, hopefully, I just need to hunt down Cordelia and bludgeon some sense into her so I can go home. I think I'm just going to steadfastly ignore any other possibility for as long as possible.

"...Hey! Where are you going?"

"Clothing store." I wave briefly to the swim team before stepping out the door and making my way to-

Oh. Right. Sheila isn't my truck in this world either.

-Sunnydale – Downtown : T = +1 hour

I flee the mall in my new outfit. Gods Damn It, kiosk people. No, I do not want to try your fucking soaps! Harmony always managed to make them go away.

Safely outside, I chuckle. Speaking of Harmony... she would be so proud of me, I managed to find 'acceptable' clothing all on my own. Granted walking in and demanding that the first sales girl I met find me new ones while pointing to my current clothing may have cheating.

Ah well. It's not like I left the clerk in any condition to tattle on me to the universe's nonexistent referee. Or even to Harmony for that matter, not that the Harmony of this world would know who I am to care about how I dress.

Right. Homewards I go. Winding Cordelia's hair around my pendant I set out back towards-

...

Err- The fuck? That is not the direction of the high school.

I've got a bad feeling about this.

-Sunnydale - Warehouse District : T = +2 hours-

My pendant tells me Cordelia is in an abandoned warehouse.

My inexplicable sense of family awareness tells me there's a pair of... female... cousins maybe? inside with her.

Ungh.

Now I need to save my ride home before she gets herself eaten. Joygasm. Well, I guess she's not technically my ride home so much as an easy way to confirm if this is Anyanka's doing. I'd rather not get a millennia old reality warping demon who is mostly famous for hating my gender involved in this if she isn't already.

I walk in the door to the warehouse.

...

What the shit is this?

The inside of the warehouse is done up to look like a high school classroom. With a few rows of student desks, a blackboard, and... everything really.

Well, I suppose I can discount any notion of Willow being the one that did this. Behind the teacher's desk is Vamp Willow, complete with hookerwear outfit, and a slow languid smile.

The pervasive scent of female arousal. Willow's eyes rolling back in her head as her back arches and the muscles in her arms tense. Arms which are reaching below the desk where my family-radar is telling me the other cousin is. It all paints a fascinating picture of what's going on here. Especially with the pendant pointing right at the two of them.

Unfortunately it also makes me strongly suspect my life just got significantly more complicated. Fan-fucking-tastic.

Willow is her expected vampiric wishverse self. But... instead of being her other half, Xander is back at school attending a practice for a swim team that doesn't seem to have turned into a bunch fish demons. His role appears to have been replaced by Cordelia? I am apparently in a wishverse..? Maybe..? Just... not in that one.

Either way, this is not my world, or at least not my timeline. That amounts to the same thing right? Not knowing how temporal folds work... or, honestly, if that's even what this was... I don't know which is true. Does it matter? If you rewind time to before someone is born, and then that someone is conceived and born anew in the second timeline... are they the same person?

I'm still standing there trying to figure out what the hell happened when Willow's eyes start to come back into focus. "Hey... You're back early."

...

What the actual fuck? Is father or another me running around somewhere in this bizarro world?

Willow turns to me and her expression goes slack for a quick instant. "Oh. You're not-" Oh thank the gods, she wasn't actually expecting me. "...hi there." And Willow has gone from confused to sultry in .5 seconds, that's new. She stands up, dragging Cordelia up from under the desk roughly by the hair. Yup, she's the other cousin. There goes what little remaining hope I had that this would be as easily solved as it was in canon.

...

Apparently Vamp Willow doesn't take very good care of her toys. Cordelia's back is littered with scratch marks, some of them fresh, some obviously not. That she gives no reaction to Willow's treatment of her beyond faint whimpering is... interesting. Somebody's been well and truly broken in. Judging by the smell, she's even learned to enjoy being broken.

I'm still admiring her work when Vamp Willow licks her lips and leans towards me. "Care to join us? I'll let you play with my puppy..." She trails off as her hand trails down Cordelia's side, disappearing behind the desk with a solid smacking noise.

Did Willow just- Oh, what the hell... What's alternate timeline pseudo-family for if not to make you feel better after a confusing and painful morning?

Kicking the door closed and stepping forward as I start unbuttoning my shirt, I grin back halfheartedly. "Always looking for that onemoresome- ...Red?" Only remembering at the last moment that I probably shouldn't know her name already.

"Of course I am..." She breathes out seductively, licking her lips before her eyes suddenly widen as I get closer. "You're a vampire!?"

...

"Seriously?" I ask as Willow starts looking from me to the door and back. She didn't know? "You mean... you did that whole fucking routine just to get food delivered to you from 20 feet away?" Fucking. Moronic. Fledges.

"But you were outside in the Sun!"

Well, why fix what isn't broken? I make a show of glancing back at the door. "Yeah... so what? I've never had any trouble with the Sun in this world."

-Sunnydale - Warehouse District : T = +5 hours-

For the third time in as many hours my apparently Great Grand Aunt Willow tries to drag more information out of me while I return the favor.

So far... I think I'm winning, but do suppose I have an unfair advantage given that I'm both better practiced at twisting Willow's trains of thoughts sideways and abusing the truth with enthusiasm. Not to say that Willow and Cordelia haven't proven remarkably skilled at distracting my own trains of thought right back.

"Mmmm... I think I like you." Willow whispers breathily into my ear as she spoons against my side. I roll my eyes as she drags a finger nail down my chest. At least she's gotten over throwing a tantrum whenever my body heals immediately rather than scarring. "We haven't been able to make her cry like that in ages." There's that 'we' again.

"You know... you keep mentioning this other playmate of yours, Red. But you're rather scarce on the details." About all I know about him is that he's a guy and a vampire. I initially found that rather comforting considering we're currently laying in a bed that I'm fairly certain used to belong to Buffy and I had no interest in having her walk in on this. Now that I've found out Heinrich killed Buffy in the caves over a year ago in this world I'm somewhat less enthused by the idea. I rather strongly suspect Heinrich turned Willow as a replacement for Great Grandmother who is, sadly, still dust here in bizarro world.

"Ah. Ah. That-"

"-Would be telling... so you've said." Repeatedly. "And we can't have that now, can we?" Buffy being dead is also telling in a way. It tells me this is definitely not some variation of the canon wish. Someone must have knocked out one of her support pillars. Time of death makes me think it might have been Xander's life that got edited, though I can't even say if that was on purpose. Willow, of all people, never mentioning him isn't exactly confirm-

Willow's fingernails dig in deeper. "Of course not, not while you still won't tell me how this marvelous amulet of yours let you walk around in the sunshine."

This again? Her persistence on that train of thought was annoying an hour ago, now it's infuriating. "I told you already, my amulet has nothing to do with-"

"Bored now." She smirks at me.

"I believe I warned you what I'd do if you insisted on calling me a liar?"

"You did." She says enthusiastically as she squirms around so she's lying on her stomach. "Just like we did to my puppy, you promised."

Christ on a cracker, that turns her on too? I thought she was just into hurting Cordelia, not pain in general. She's worse than Faith- Err, maybe not Faith... judging by her canon adventures Faith might share the whole autoerotic asphyxiation fetish. But I could buy myself a whole gods damned week without questions from Amy just by mentioning the topic.

...

Still, a promise is a promise, I start reaching around to clamp my hand down on her throat as I roll on top of her.

-Sunnydale - Warehouse District : T = +6 hours-

"Fucking seriously!?"

I shove my cousin Cordelia back with a barked order to, "stay!" Her immediate compliance and obedient nod was both far more impressive and concerning when I thought Willow had found a way to Thrall a fellow vampire. Finding out she'd done all the rewiring before siring her was kind of a letdown. Helpful to know right now though, since it means I don't have to be worried about having the same done to me.

Spinning around I drive my fist directly into Willow's still shocked looking face. Feeling that uniquely satisfying crunch as her nose breaks under my fist, I confirm she's been knocked unconscious before shaking out my hand as the bones in my fingers rapidly un-break themselves.

That done, I go about rediscovering the unpleasant way just how hard it is to try and remove a stake from my own back.

...

"Cordelia! Pull the stake out of my back."

She does. Holding it in her hand and staring back at me with the same vacant expression that's been reminding me of Harmony's early days this whole time. Or maybe not... looking into Cordelia's eyes for the first time today I think it's more fair to say she reminds me of those would be human traffickers in Budapest. Harmony always looked completely and absolutely thrilled to be wherever she was ordered. Cordelia smiles happily the whole time and begs for more... while crying and whimpering a lot. I wonder if Willow did that on purpose? She probably did. I got the distinct feeling this Willow hated Cordelia with a kind of fire I don't know that I've ever truly managed. Truly odd bond to want to make eternal, but there you go.

Taking the stake away from her, I turn back to Willow, who's slowly coming back to consciousness on the ground. A swift kick sets that process back a few more minutes and makes me feel slightly better.

Twirling the stake in my hands I try to decide what to do next.

I still don't know how temporal folds work... so these two could possibly be family even if I doubt it. It's not like a world teeming with cousins would be the worst world I could wind up stuck in. If I have to stay here-

Kneeling on the ground I wait for Mother's emphatic disagreement with that last thought to pass. Shaking my head to clear it I have to concede that that was well put, Mother. If Mother never came to town, she never killed Kendra. Faith might be out there, but not my Sister. Mother never made me here, I don't exist. I'm little more than an echo of a lost world, a figment of Mother's imagination. Figments can't have family, we aren't real.

Right then, I'm leaving. But first... I'm rather sick of people thinking its okay to try and stake me. Hmmm... the punishment ought to fit the crime.

Picking Willow up and dumping her on to the bed I tap Cordelia on the cheek. "Fangs out, babe."

...

Cordelia slides into gameface as ordered, but her fangs are broken off.

Note to self. Willow is fucking messed up in the head. Do not ever let her get turned back home.

Lifting Willow back up I bite down on her neck. The lack of a beating heart induced blood pressure makes the wound ooze out blood rather than spurting.

I hold her out to Cordelia. "Drink up." Cordelia lowers herself down onto Willow and starts sucking at her neck.

Rifling through the night stand drawer for a paper and pen to take note of what happens, I shake my head at Willow's foolishness. This is the problem with turning opponents into mindless minions. You can't trust them not to rebel or get co-opted while you're away or incapacitated. I definitely prefer my policy of only dealing with trusted lieutenants that have enough brain cells to rub together.

I should also make a note that Willow's blood tastes a bit different than the prisoner's and possibly has a slightly higher... mana content? Hard to say given that I don't have any data on the safety of consuming the blood of one's Great Grandaunt and I'm disinclined to use myself as the guinea pig.

Aha! A pen and notebook! I frown briefly at the funny writing inside. It's Willow's so I'd guess it's written in Hebrew? Shrugging and flipping to a blank page at the back, I figure I can try and translate it later if I run out of actually useful projects.

It takes Cordelia a few minutes to completely drain Willow to the point where she dusts. I would guess relying purely on suction due to lack of blood pressure prolongs the process.

...

We were rather rudely interrupted after all... "One more for the road, babe?"

Cordelia stares back at me for a moment with freshly grown fangs on display as she smiles. "...okay."

It's the first time I've heard her speak an actual word today, and it makes me smile. I wonder if Amy has a point about my having a thing for brunettes..? Nah, I think maybe I just have a thing for collecting broken people.

Either way I grab the sides of her head. "Fangs in then, that's a good girl."

-Sunnydale - Warehouse District : T = +7 hours-

Pulling my pants back on I glance back over at the bed when I hear a strange sound.

Cordelia's gone. The stake she left behind is rolling back and forth on the mattress.

I guess that was one more time for the road for both of us.

If there is an afterlife for our demonic souls, I hope she spends it rubbing it into Willow's face that she outlived her and won their little rivalry in the end. Bitch fucking staked me mid go, and in the back no less.

Now if Willow was being truthful about Heinrich still being active here... this world is probably chock fucking full of false cousins and moronic fledges by now. If my family radar had better range I'd likely be overwhelmed by the results.

Willow got cagey whenever the topic of why Heinrich wasn't in charge came up, but I got the impression that this Sunnydale is in the throes of a supernatural civil war.

Since Cordelia didn't wish this world upon us... I guess that makes someone at Wolfram & Hart trying to be clever the next likely option? Fan-fucking-tastic. I only still exist, as me at least, because of my tattoos. How the hell do I get them to undo it? Christ, I'm about to base a plan on a plotline from the comics that father only read about in a fanfic aren't I? That's what I've been reduced to? Fuck everything's life, the only way I know of to get Wolfram & Hart to back the fuck down is to break the world so fucking thoroughly that their endgame apocalypse gets invalidated. Gods damn it, that means finding and killing not-Grandfather while basically ending the world. Err- At least I'm pretty sure that's how Los Angeles got out of hell.

Meh. It's not my world. Who cares? Still, hardly a course of action to undertake on a whim... But, either way, I should probably set about re-arming myself before the sun sets in a few hours. Having the orbs' boost available is nice, but I'd like a weapon more effective than the knife hidden in my boot. Maybe the Glove is still over in the Von Hauptman Crypt in this timeline? That'd be a good start.

-Von Hauptman Crypt : T= +8 Hours-

Walking back out of the crypt as the Glove of Myhnegon latches onto my arm, I hear a familiar voice shouting.

Suddenly sprinting out of the cemetery, I follow the sounds of battle towards what looks like a buggerfucking ogre trying to squish Faith. Faith is forced into a backwards roll by the swing of a hammer even I consider obnoxiously oversized, and I upgrade my previous thought to 'Ogre-Magi' when it gestures and a nearby car is telekinetically flung at Faith's now already prone form.

Ripping power out of the nearest transformer on my way past and then tagging the huge bastard with a lightning bolt is easy. Fortunately it looks like doing so breaks his concentration, and the car nosedives back down to the ground. It rolls end over end, slowing down just barely enough that Faith is able to roll out of its way.

...unfortunately that seems to be about all I accomplished. Well, no, I definitely made it mad at me. Ah well, nothing for it. "Get the fuck away from my Sister, fucktard!"

The ogre roars. "KILL THEM!" It can speak English!? Errr-

I recognize the voice even before a group of El-Eliminati come pouring into the fight from around a warehouse corner. That thing is fucking Balthazar? He's supposed- Oh. I see, He seems to have found his amulet in this world. And when did the Sun fucking set? It can't be later than 4. Not even my namesake season manages that yet this far South.

As a car comes careening my way, I make note to either figure out how to work that amulet myself or kill it with fire. He is no longer allowed to have it. Gods Damn It, I send another bolt of lightning his way as I move out of the path of another- no, the same car, just reused. "Using a car as a projectile, clichéd much?" Then again I probably shouldn't remind him that telekinesis could be used to pin me in place... can't it? Well... probably not me, thank Eris, but Faith maybe.

Even more fucking sword toting cultists rounding the corner shifts this fight from stupid to suicidal. Faith seems to agree with my assessment because she races past with a shouted, "Time ta go, dude!"

About the only thing going right in this whole cock up is that Balthazar is apparently slower than molasses flowing uphill in the dead of winter. Faith and I quickly gain distance from him as we race down the road.

Not from his psychotic minions though. Gods Damn It all, they must all be older than William given how quickly they're gaining on us. Even without their boss, going 2 vs. a horde with things that are fully capable of decapitating me does not appeal. I fry another few blocks worth of electrical grid pulling in more power and taze the closest cultist as I chase Faith around a cor-.

"Shitfuck. Dead end." Faith yells as I round the building and confirm the same.

"I thought you knew where you were going."

"Yeah, I did. Away from those guys!"

"Well, now what?" I drop another cultist with a lightning bolt as he clears the corner. His buddies seem unconcerned as they block us in.

Instead of Faith, the roar of a car engine answers me as some sort of Chevy plows through the bunched up cultists like a bowling ball.

...

"Now we make this fast and then get in the car." Faith is already in motion, darting forward and driving a stake into a downed cultist.

...The fuck just happened? Not the time. I grab one of the dropped swords and put down a few cultists before any with unbroken legs can climb to their feet.

The Chevy is now parked a short bit away from the alley we were in. A woman I've never seen before is dueling one of the cultists next to the open driver's side door.

Two of the cultists that didn't get pancaked rush at me as I step out of the alleyway. Running is clearly not the only thing they're able to do faster than me. This is going to be Kakistos all over again. I toggle on the orbs and take the first sword strike on my own blade. Sure enough, his buddy's sword whips right around through my amateur defenses and cuts into my arm.

...

I giggle. I love my orbs. The severed limb I expected is instead replaced by the sensation of a sword sawing ineffectively against my... uh... the bones in your forearm? The arm tibia thing. "You gave me a paper cut!" I gleefully inform the closer cultist before abandoning both subtlety and my sword to rush at him.

Wishboning him by the clavicle, I turn to other one who seems to have discovered that stabbing me in the back was also ineffective given that impaling my lungs doesn't do much beyond preventing me from taunting him. I slap him with a lightning bolt before pushing his sword back out and removing his head with it. My ring having already finished closing up my wounds as soon as the swords making them got out of its way.

No longer surrounded by maniac cultists I toggle off the orbs. Surviving the battle only to wind up killing myself via starvation would be embarrassing. As it is I already feel a bit peckish. Maybe I should have- No, eating Willow would have been a stupid risk.

"DOUBLE-D!" Faiths outraged cry pulls me back to reality. I turn around to see her beating the everloving snot out of the remaining cultist with her bare hands. Its sword currently pinning our mystery woman rescuer to her car through the chest.

...

Wait, Double D? As in Diana Dormer? What the actual fuck?