Disclaimer: Buffy the Vampire Slayer is the intellectual property of Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy, et al; Gundam Wing is the intellectual property of Sunrise, Kodansha, et al; and Naruto is the intellectual property of Masashi Kishimoto, Shueisha, and VIZ Media. No money is being made from this story and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.

Author's Note: In late August of 2005, a meme went around livejournal in which you listed 12 characters and then answered various questions about them. The trick was that you couldn't look at the questions first. One of my questions was whether Sasuke would do better paired with Faith or with Duo Maxwell. "Obviously," I said, "they should have a threesome."

Beware of making jokes. Sometimes they come back to bite you.

Summary: An unfortunate accident with a demonic portal dumps Faith, Duo Maxwell, and Uchiha Sasuke into a hell dimension. Knowing these three, things can only get worse from there...

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Part XIX: In which the author wastes time with magic and world-building
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Faith half expected a flash of light as a pre-loaded spell went off, but all the rock did was leave a reddish smudge on Duo's skin, like colored chalk on a blackboard. The blue demons' shaman clicked to itself as it drew a symbol on Duo's forehead - sort of a squiggle inside a circle inside a pound sign.

Duo rolled his eyes upward as if trying to see his own forehead. "That tickles," he said quietly.

"Shut up. It's dangerous to interrupt magic," Faith muttered back. Duo pouted, but stayed silent for once.

The shaman crouched and drew a circle around Duo's feet, leaving both an indentation and a scattering of red chalk-like residue to pin him in place. Then it stood, handed the red rock to Duo - he held it awkwardly in one hand, like a shitty Christmas present he didn't know what to do with - and began to whistle and click.

Willow's occasional instant dye jobs aside, magic didn't usually look like much until a spell caught hold. That didn't mean it was subtle. Invisible energy built and crackled, like the circle was a bare wire shedding sparks, until the shaman clapped all four of its hands together and something intangible snapped like the crack of a phantom whip.

Duo blinked and shook his head. "Gah. Did that actually change the air pressure, or is it just me?" He swallowed rapidly, working his jaw.

"Beats me," Faith said. "You already understand me and Sasuke. Try talking to our nice new friends and see what happens."

The shaman was already whistling and clicking away before she finished. Duo frowned, blinked again, knocked his fist against the side of his head - incidentally getting red rock dust in his hair - and then grinned like the lunatic he was. "Hey! Slow down, lady, one thing at a time! Yeah, I read you loud and clear, and no, I don't feel like my head's going to explode. Thanks for the warning on that, by the way. How about you do up my friends before we get into any more explanations?"

Faith frowned at the mention of exploding heads, because seriously, couldn't anyone invent spells that didn't have that kind of weird-ass potential side effect? Still, if it hadn't killed Duo, she was pretty sure it wouldn't kill her or Sasuke either, and she was sick of not understanding people. "Me first," she said, taking the red rock from Duo's hand. "You translate for Sasuke."

She gave the rock back to the shaman and held herself very still as the blue demon drew on her head. When it pulled back, Faith gestured toward the circle in the ground and lifted her right foot. The shaman spread all four of its arms and waved its pincer hands, scuffing out the circle with its foot, whistling and clicking urgently.

"She says the circle tunes the spell to the person getting the mojo shoved in their head," Duo said. "Trying to use somebody else's brain pattern is apparently a bad idea. And by bad idea, I mean head go boom."

"I hate magic," Faith grumbled, but she stood still and let the shaman draw a circle around her feet. She held the rock in her left hand and tried not to sneeze as the magic built and crackled around her.

Then half the universe tried to jam itself into her head.

Faith found herself out of the circle with one hand wrapped around the shaman's right upper arm, twisting the demon down and sideways so the knife in her other hand had easy access to its faceted eyes. Then she paused, held back the strike. Something was wrong. Or rather, something was right. She wasn't actually in pain. And the blue demon wasn't fighting back, just whistling and clicking in what Faith suddenly knew was a gentle, worried tone of voice, like an adult trying to calm a child.

"-takes some people that way," the shaman said, "but if you stop and let air pass through your chambers for a minute, you'll feel less disoriented. I promise the magic was clean, nothing venom-twisted or rot-snapped. Ah good, there you are - I see reason in your stance. Can you understand me, stranger from another world?"

"Yeah," Faith said, letting go of the blue demon's arm. "Yeah, I really can."

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Duo ambled over to Faith's side as the shaman began drawing on Sasuke's forehead. "Nice moves, chica, but what set you off like that? Did enlightenment hurt?"

Faith grinned. "You're talking Spanish and I understood you. Wicked awesome."

"God's own truth," Duo agreed, and waited.

After a moment, Faith shrugged. "The magic that makes Slayers into Slayers doesn't always play nice with other magic trying to get into our heads. I think it's mostly to make sure we don't rise as vampires no matter what they do to try turning us, but nobody knows exactly what kinds of crap can pull the trigger. And Slayers are hunters. It's not just what we do; it's what we are. If something hits, we're gonna hit back. When that spell shoved shit into my brain, it wasn't me running the show for a couple seconds."

Now that was interesting, and also something Duo would have liked to know before the issue came up in practice. Instinctive reactions were an important tactical consideration. No harm done this time, but good luck was fickle and not to be trusted.

The spell went off a third time - it still felt like a sudden change in air pressure, even when not aimed at him. Sasuke blinked and shook his head, a strangely unguarded reaction, before he clamped back down to his usual attempt at blank distance.

"Like genjutsu but not," he murmured.

"Definitely not an illusion," Faith said. "So hey, now that we can talk directly instead of through Duo, I just wanna say that of all the people I could've gotten stuck in a hell dimension with, you are way far from the worst option."

"You aren't the worst option either," Sasuke conceded. "We should continue as allies until we return to our own worlds."

Faith smiled. "Sounds like a plan."

Duo knocked the heel of his hand against his temple, trying to shake loose the sensation of dust bunnies in his brain. "Man, that is seriously weird. I'm hearing you guys and understanding both of you 'cause I speak both your languages, but the spell is trying to translate anyway 'cause you're not speaking the same language. I keep getting this sort of corner-of-the-eye flicker of, I dunno, bad dubbing or subtitles or something. Makes my brain itch."

"The spell takes many-tongued people that way sometimes," the blue mantis shaman said, her whistles and clicks morphing into something eerily reminiscent of Sister Helen's calm teacher-voice. "Most find they can ignore the mirage-ripples with a pinch of practice. If you can't, tell me and I will unravel the spell."

"Will do, thanks," Duo said. He looked from the shaman to the chief demon, who was still lurking nearby on its - his? her? - scarab with its obsidian-tipped spear held in a deceptively relaxed grip. This lady seemed friendly, but it would be beyond stupid to forget he was in a foreign world among potentially hostile aliens.

He flicked sideways glances at Faith and Sasuke, then took a half step toward the shaman and her waiting boss. His partners slid to flank him as if they'd practiced the maneuver a thousand times. Damn, he liked working with people who knew the game.

"So, hey, we never got to introduce ourselves. I'm Duo, this is Faith, and that's Sasuke. We're sorry for startling you and grateful for your help. The thing is, now that we can talk instead of playing drunk charades, we'd appreciate if you explained a bit more about the Sarguls and your intentions toward us and them. You seem like reasonable people and I'd hate for our relationship to turn sour when it's only just begun."

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The chief demon laid its spear crosswise over the neck of its steed, as if Sasuke and his companions were no longer a threat. That was either insulting or naïve.

"Our intentions are to avoid more disruption of the trade route. Corpses will only attract trouble, like the claw-mouth whose remains you left behind. The details of your feud with the net-mouth people are none of our concern, but if you wish, West-Running Stream will explain the strand of their history that is woven into our world," the demon said, gesturing toward the sage with the pierced wings. "We leave in a sixth of a twelfth of a day-night cycle. Be ready or be left behind."

The clicks and whistles still came clearly to Sasuke's ears, but at the same time his brain insisted he'd heard a baritone human voice speaking perfectly comprehensible words. He could feel the delicate lattice-work of the translation jutsu wrapped in and around his head like a crown. Or a blindfold.

"Kai," he whispered as the chief demon rode away, but the construct didn't dissipate like genjutsu would.

"Please don't do that," the sage said, an eerie mimic of his mother's voice shadowing her actual vocalizations. "Your magic is strange and I don't know if it will interweave safely with mine. I'd hate to be the cause of unintentional pain or death."

"Yeah, Sasuke, leave the mystical brain implant alone. Bad ninja, no dessert," Faith said. It was less jarring to hear her through the jutsu since the doubled voice was also her own, but the effect was still strange. Her translated words lacked Duo's distinctive accent, but the slight slurring and the occasional lost ending syllables seemed to carry over from her actual English words.

"What is dessert?" he said, keeping his face carefully straight.

Faith gaped at him for a moment before her eyes narrowed. "Wait a sec. That was a joke, wasn't it?"

Sasuke tilted his head and stared at her blankly. "What is a joke?"

"Oh my god, you little-"

"As entertaining as this is," Duo interrupted, "and as much as I hate to be a spoilsport, I have to point out we're getting off topic. Which would be the Sarguls, and anything our lovely hosts know about who they are, what they're doing in this world, and when they might spring their next attempt to kill us."

He was right, damn it all; that was the most annoying thing. Sasuke couldn't remember when he'd last been this easily distractible. Not for years, certainly. Focus was a necessity of life under Orochimaru's thumb, in Kabuto's vicinity. In some backhanded ways this entire disaster was almost like a vacation.

But enough. Sasuke turned back to the demon sage and did his best to express polite interest with his body language as well as his face. He doubted fine details translated across species, but the Sarguls' movements had been human enough and clearly these demons were at least passingly familiar with the ones who had tripped the first wire on this trap.

The sage sighed, a dual-toned thready whisper, and folded her upper arms across her thorax, settling back on her reverse-jointed legs until she had lowered herself to Faith's and Duo's height. "Our world is a meeting place where many realities cross threads and intertwine," she said, gesturing with her smaller, lower arms. "It has always been so. Some six-cubed-year-spans ago, the net-mouth people came to the edge of the great desert and pled for sanctuary. They had been cast from their own world because they followed a dark power. In the ordinary flow of things our ancestors would have cast them out once more, but the currents of our world are tangled in a way that prevents their god from touching this reality. So our ancestors let the net-mouth people stay and build a home."

"Little more trusting than I'm inclined to be, but fair enough," Duo said. "What went wrong?"

The sage clicked in a bubbly pattern that the jutsu translated to breathy laughter. "For us, nothing! For you, who knows?"

"I'd say we're what's going to go wrong for the Sarguls," Faith said. "But c'mon, keep talking. Every time I skip the history lecture it comes back to bite me."

The sage blinked her faceted eyes, then the two tiny black eyespots above her nose - perhaps the equivalent of a nod or a shrug. "Many of the net-mouth people turned to other gods, ones who can touch our world and repay their followers' belief. But some continued to skip between the threads of reality in search of a world they could sacrifice to their dark god. I don't know why the dark-touched-dreamers drew you here or why you objected, but we'll escort you to Bitter Run and send notice for them to meet you in mediated court. That will be tidier for everyone."

"What if we refuse?" Sasuke asked.

This time the sage blinked her eyespots and then her main eyes, the reverse of her previous gesture. "Then we'll continue our journey and leave you to your fates. There are many six-cubeds of the dark-touched-dreamers. They only need to be lucky thrice. And should you by some twist destroy them all instead, why, what is that to our people but a gift?"

She bobbed her triangular head and clicked in soft laughter. "I leave you to your choice."

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AN: Thanks for reading, and please review! I'm particularly interested in knowing what parts of the story worked for you, what parts didn't, and why. Also, please tell me if I'm not giving enough background for any of the three series in this crossover. I'm trying to be clear without resorting to exposition dumps, but if I'm leaving stuff out, I'd like to know so I can fix it! (Conversely, if I am infodumping, please tell me that too.)

Further Note: I have retroactively edited Duo's POV section of chapter 17 to add a bit more description of the blue mantis demons, so you might want to reread that to refresh your memory.

(Also, yes, I know: I fail beyond belief at timely updates. In other unexpected news, water is wet. *sigh* That doesn't mean I'm not sorry, but, you know, don't hold your breath for the next chapter.)