Chapter Five

Some forty minutes after the end of their spar, after a brief shower, a briefer phone call to South America, and a quick summary of the relevant points for General Landry's benefit, Buffy and Kendra stood in front of each other once more. The blue glow of the open wormhole cast blue highlights in Kendra's still-damp hair; without her makeup, she looked just as young as she did in Buffy's memories of the Kendra from her own universe.

"So," Buffy said, smiling at the other Slayer. "Do you still not do hugs?"

"Still?" Kendra replied, curiously. "Did my counterpart in dis world tell you dat?"

Buffy laughed a little, making a face at her faux pas. "She did, actually. Right before I sent her back to the airport with orders to use the ticket Giles paid for instead of sneaking into the cargo hold again."

It was Kendra's turn to make an embarrassed face at that. "Yes, I was very concerned wit secrecy and self-sufficiency den," she said. "But dat was many years ago." She opened her arms then and reached out for a cautious hug; oddly pleased, Buffy reached back, wrapping her arms briefly around the taller Slayer.

"It was good to see you," Buffy said, as they stepped back from each other. "Remember, my Willow will be checking the amulet I gave you every day at noon; if you need to come back, just break it and get your things together by that hour. She'll bring you right to us."

"I remember," Kendra said. "I hope I don't need to, but I expect I'll be seeing you soon."

"Sorry to interrupt-- again," the alternate Mitchell said, giving Buffy a respectful nod. "But we're holding up the line."

Buffy sighed. "All right," she said. "Good luck, guys. Willow-- it was nice to see you, too. Give Oz and your little one hugs from me!"

"I will!" Willow said, waving cheerily as she walked up the ramp.

One by one, the team all disappeared into the wormhole's embrace; Kendra was the last, throwing one last wave in Buffy's direction as she too disappeared with a slurping sound.

Buffy fingered the cross necklace in her pocket, the identifying item Kendra had left with her for the summoning spell, then sighed and headed back up the stairs to the control room where her SG-1 stood watching all the duplicate teams depart. Daniel and Mitchell had left a space between them; Buffy slotted right into it, staring down through the glass at the next team queuing up to leave.

"You really think she'll come back?" Mitchell asked, glancing down at her as she stepped up beside him.

"I sure hope so," Buffy replied, ruefully. "I was this close to telling her not to risk it, and just stay-- you have no idea."

"You're that sure her being here would allow you to gate off-world?" Daniel put in, frowning.

Buffy nodded. "I mentioned the theory to Willow while I had her on the phone. She wasn't sure, either, until I told her about the Scythe. But if it thinks we're the same, then she's pretty sure the spell will, too. One of us will still have to always be on Earth, but the other one will be able to gate off-world like any other Slayer."

"I'm sure we could work out some kind of schedule," General Landry said, from the other side of Daniel. "She won't want to be stuck here any more than you do, but from what you've both said she's about as experienced as you are; I'll probably assign the pair of you to SG-1 and rotate you out every other mission. That should give Colonel Carter some relief from having to choose her abilities as a warrior over her skills as a scientist, especially since Teal'c can't always be with the team these days."

"That would be appreciated, sir," Sam replied. "But I think I'll wait to get my hopes up until she returns. I'm not all that convinced she will; there were a lot of assumptions involved her reasoning for wanting to stay here in the first place."

"She'll be back," Buffy said again, wrapping her arms around herself for reassurance. "I'm sure she will."

Another SG-1 departed below them; there were only a few more behind them yet to go. Buffy fell silent as the final teams made their way back to their own universes, then made her way down the stairs with a sigh, heading back toward her room. The adrenaline from her brief spar with Kendra was long gone, and the exhaustion factor of the day's events was catching up with her. Not to mention, the indefinable sense of relief she'd felt after awakening in the infirmary had disappeared; the burden of the Slayer line was all hers again to bear. She was seriously in need of a snack and a good night's sleep.

A clattering on the stairs behind her announced that she was being followed. Buffy didn't slow her pace, but she wasn't walking particularly quickly either, and her long-legged pursuer soon caught up with her.

"Hey, can I talk to you for a second?" Mitchell asked, with a careful touch to her elbow.

Buffy did stop at that, turning to take in the strangely serious look on his face. "Sure," she said. "Your office?"

He grimaced. "Better not," he said. "Besides, Jackson's lab is closer; he won't be using it tonight, and he has better coffee anyway."

Better not? Buffy was puzzled by his choice of words, but nodded her consent and trailed him down the hall, curious what he could have to say to her that he wouldn't want associated with his official position at the SGC.

He waited to say anything more until they were seated next to each other in front of Daniel's worktable. He'd poured two cups of coffee, but he was just fidgeting with his; finally, he took a deep breath and looked up at her.

"I wasn't going to say anything," he said. "Especially so soon after-- well, you know what happened on Galar."

Buffy knew. She'd heard all about Dr. Reya Varrick; he'd been accused of sleeping with the scientist and then killing her, and though the murder had turned out to be a frame-up assisted by the Galarans' creepy memory-implanting device, the rest of it had been true. Hearing about it had made her stomach churn a little, unpleasantly; she'd ignored that at the time, telling herself she had no business being jealous of anyone so soon after she'd broken up with Evan.

She'd let herself forget that, today. Flirting with him over lunch, teasing him in the exercise room-- did he think she meant something by it? Had he meant something by it? "Mitchell--" she began to say.

"Please," he said, cutting her off with a wince. "Call me Cam."

"Okay," Buffy said. "Cam. Why-- why weren't you going to say it?" She'd meant to ask what he meant to say, but she wasn't sure she actually wanted to know-- the why would tell her whether she did or not.

One corner of his mouth curved up in a smile. He uncurled one hand from around his cup, and reached up between them, stroking the back of his hand over her cheek. "You have no idea how untouchable you seem most of the time, do you?" he asked, an unaccustomed warmth in his tone.

Buffy's breath caught at the touch. Yes, he'd definitely meant something by it. And from the way her blood raced at his nearness, she was pretty sure she wasn't exactly opposed to the idea. Damn. And she'd been repressing it so well, too.

"Why now?" she whispered, slipping one of her hands into his, holding it close against her face.

"When they put you on my team, it'll be too late," he said, simply. "I know there are people here that don't observe the frat regs-- but I'm still pretty new, and I'd rather not paint a target on my back. And I'd rather know for sure than always wonder."

She swallowed hard, then nodded slowly. "Okay."

"Okay?" he replied, uncertainly, lowering his arm and shifting his grip so that their hands were clasped between them, resting on Daniel's worktable.

Buffy nodded. "Just promise me if doesn't work out, you're not going to get weird on me," she said. "I don't exactly have the best track record when it comes to guys."

"No weirdness," he promised, then heaved a sigh of relief and broke out in a brilliant grin. "So. What are you doing in-- oh, say sixteen hours?"

"Dinner tomorrow?" she asked, computing hours in her head. "I am totally without plans. Completely plan-free."

"Not anymore," he said, the corners of his eyes crinkling up with the magnitude of his smile.

"It's a plan," she nodded, feeling her mouth stretch wide in a brilliant smile of her own.

Maybe this wasn't the best time to be starting anything-- but Kendra's arrival had opened up a hunger in her that she'd been tamping down for a very long time. She was sick and tired of being all alone at the top-- and the problem had started long before she'd ever been given the mantle of Queen Slayer. She'd tried to escape it with Evan for a while, but he had his own destiny, and it was far away from hers.

Maybe this time, it would work out. Maybe she'd finally get to experience the power of two in both aspects of her life, instead of the loneliness of one.