Oo, this one has a bit of strangeness with a fridge. Explanation at the end.
And... I am no scientist. I am making this all up. I freely admit that my imagination is over active and isn't interested in scientific fact as far as HelLex is concerned. It's not real. This universe is my creation, therefore whatever I say goes as far as the fabric of said universe is concerned. Please don't hate me :)
You know how there are days when the world seems to crash down around you?
Well today is one of those days.
Metropolis. End of Summer 2002. The Daily Planet building.
The alarm clock broke overnight and I'm running late for my first official day and then when I get to the office I have to fight my way through a crowd of paparazzi who want to know how I snagged Dick Grayson, heir to the Wayne fortune. Good news travels fast.
It's just over a week since we announced out engagement to our friends and I have no idea how these jerks found out.
Well maybe I have one.
"LOIS!!" I bellowed as I come into the office from the lift, sounding more like Perry than myself. "Did you tell *anyone* about my engagement?"
"I'm really, *really* sorry Buffy."
"People!" Perry's voice interrupts her and everyone gathers to hear what our editor-in-chief has to say so early on a Monday morning before we've all had enough coffee to be coherent or mild-mannered. "I'd like to take this opportunity to welcome Buffy Summers as a full-time member of the Daily Planets staff..." I must admit that I phase out after a little while. I need more coffee and definitely need to chill out for a few minutes. Fighting off paparazzi is worse than a horde of vampires. I'm not allowed to injury paparazzi let alone kill them. I'd rather face zombies than photo vampires.
I phase in as the smell of the cup of fresh coffee Clark is handing me reaches my nose. And then in the middle of Perry's big speech about the importance of deadlines I got a Titans call and had to beg to go. What a way to start my full-time career! Fortunately he didn't notice Clark disappear and return as Superman to take me with him. Apparently the JLA got the same call we did. It's kinda cool having a public secret identity. Like Roy most people don't actually recognise me, though women always fawn over Roy and if I wasn't with Dick I probably would too. So off to New York we went at super speed, pun intended, and straight to the assembly co-ordinates, which turn out to be Kyle's apartment.
We flew in through a window someone had thoughtfully left open though they had left the curtains drawn against the slightly over-cast weather. In the apartment my heart broke.
All of them were standing around staring at Kyle while he spoke, crouching on the floor with his back to them. I fought my way further into the apartment and felt a hand on my shoulder. I gave a shakey smile to Nightwing and the Flash and stepped closer to Kyle. Willow was cowering in the corner. "Who did this?" I demanded in a voice I knew too well that the others would recognise. It was the quietly controlled voice of extreme anger. The 'Bat voice'. Willow left Sunnydale for New York to get away from the habitual fear and the causes of that fear.
Kyle looked over his shoulder. I followed the gaze. Another Flash, this one is near the door and guarded by the Martian Manhunter and Diana. Trapped in some sort of bubble, a creation of Kyle's ring that he is maintaining through his sorrow. "Wally. I want you over there." I pointed to the green thing. "Stay there and if you speak before I ask you anything I will hurt you."
"Buffy?" Willow asked quietly.
"Here Wills. I'm here." She was in my arms for a hug before I knew it.
"Kyle did everything he could but why weren't you here! You promised me that I wouldn't get hurt, that this would never happen again."
"Wally's a vampire. He brought my vampire self and others with him... I killed her but..." she started to sob.
"Kyle? What's going on?" I asked, completely confused by Willow's behaviour. She hadn't come to me for help since she found out about Kyle being the Green Lantern.
He looked sad and hurt. "I don't know. She's been babbling in incomplete sentences and won't let me near her. She screamed when J'onn came close."
"She doesn't mean to hurt you like this," I said quietly to both of the men. "When I say, release the vampire. Wally move away but stay where I can see you." I handed Willow to Kyle and adopted a fighting stance opposite the vampire. "Ok Kyle."
The green retreated into Kyle's ring and just as I expected it to the vampire attacked me. There wasn't much room in the small apartment so I high kicked the loser and knocked him out.
"Obviously the speedforce doesn't like vampires," Wally commented.
"Guess not. Willow, did the others say where they were going?"
When no answer came I turned around and saw her face. She had an arm wrapped around Kyles throat and held his arm behind him. He was crouched to accommodate her shorter stature and looked surprised. She'd been turned, or had she? Kyle managed to gain control of his sense long enough to use the ring to stun her then shove her into the wall. I told Batman and Superman to watch her. "I want to know how this happened and I want to know now. That's not your Willow," I said to Kyle. "If she'd been turned recently she wouldn't have had that much control which means our Willow is around here somewhere. Batman, if I come back and she's dust..." I threatened. Roy chuckled then stopped abruptly when The Glare was turned toward him from two directions.
"You'd better go back to the island. There may be more of the imposters and they may have made it to the island overnight or something. The weather would allow them some limited travel, as would blankets and any other thick coverings they can get. Lian won't know and may invite them in..." Roy was already out the door. "Jesse, go with him. You too Flash. Kyle, help me look for Willow. The rest of you... I don't know. I don't want to do all of this again," I heard myself sigh as I walked around the gathered superheroes and into the bedroom. I searched anywhere large enough to hide her and some that weren't just in case.
"Uh... Buffy? No Kyle. Stay there." I followed my honey's voice into the kitchen where I saw him holding the 'fridge door open. Willow was staring at us in wide-eyed fear. We helped her out of the space that had been cleared to fit her. "I think they didn't expect us to find her in time."
"They didn't expect you to find me at all," Willow said as soon the gag was off her mouth. "Kyle? Honey, where are you?"
"Yeah. No fangs on this face," she tried to joke, but the bear hug was too tight. "The Tower..." Willow began to say.
"She's going to need to breathe at some point Kyle," I interrupted when she gasped for breath over Kyle's shoulder.
Sheepishly he released her and began a tactile check of all her limbs, her head and her neck.
"I really want to hear your story Wills but we need to get to the island. Yay extreme bad weather huh? Don't kill these two. I have a plan for them."
"It's too late Buffy," Superman said.
"What? Batman..." I began with a warning.
"They drove the stakes into themselves Buffy," the Big Bad Bat, Scourge of Gothams nightlife defended himself.
I surveyed the dusty scene with sceptical eyes. "That was too easy." Superman picked me up and took me to the Tower as I berated him yet again about not warning me and grumbled about dry-cleaning bills. The security system seemed intact and we went inside. Oracle's voice crackled at my ear. "Entertainment room."
I arrived to see Roy dust a vampire version of himself, Jesse had rounded the others up and they sat tied up on the floor. Vampiric Titans. "This is too weird," Jesse commented.
"There's no vampiric NightStalker," Roy commented.
"NightStalker is the Slayer. Why would she be turned? You are obviously stupid in all incarnations." Roy shot a trick arrow at the vampire Nightwings feet and blinded all of us with the bright flash.
"Warn me next time please?"
I blinked a few times and looked over at where the vampires were... or where they should have been. "Should that have dusted them? And I thought you'd given those cliched things up."
"Huh? I was just a mini explosion. Meant to temporarily blind, minimal heat."
"Yo Wingster? Man, you don't think I'm stupid do you?" Roy asked as Nightwing joined us and the dust.
"No man. I've known you way too long to think you're stupid. It's all a facade. You're too clever to really be that stupid," Nightwing grinned and ducked a hacky sack Roy threw at him.
"Traced the origins Buffy," Dawn said as she wandered into the room followed by a timid looking Lian who then happily launched herself at her daddy. "They arrived from what looks like a random pocket entrance between our realities."
"But it wasn't random?"
"I don't think anything that brings vampire versions of your friends to somewhere you frequent is random but if they were sent here to stop you or just as a warning... we don't know."
"And unless another one turns up--we won't know."
"Not a bad thing all things considered," Dawn pointed out.
"I guess not," I agreed.
"Willow and Babs are looking into it on the net. Giles has dragged Anya and Xander in to help him search the tomes." As if that were the code for 'We're all done. You can go home now' the room cleared leaving Dawn and I in front of the TV and Roy in the kitchenette area. I could hear Dick in the corridor letting the JLA know that it was all clear and they could go back to whatever they were doing before they got the call.
I looked at the dust then at Dawn and we sighed. I retrieved the broom and dustpan, Dawn got the dustbuster. I noticed the time on the VCR and sighed again. Too late to go back to work and actually accomplish anything. I decided to call Perry after cleaning up the dust on the lino part of the floor while Dawn finished with the carpet. I finished and made the call to Perry from my room. He decided my punishment, and to earn the money he's paying me, would be to write an additional article on doppelgangers with 'real scientific articles' for reference as well as my usual obscure, unique and untraceable tomes. He also suggested I do some official studies in paranormal science and maybe something in normal science at university part-time but it didn't sound like he thought that really was a very good idea.
I returned to the 'Disaster Room' and began to meditate, my thoughts too jumbled to really notice Dawn and Roy in the kitchen until I heard Roy say, "Dawn you don't owe me anything." I cracked an eye open a little and saw my sister start cleaning up his mess in the kitchen.
"I know. But you need to understand that you are a hero and not just because of your impressive reputation with women, which is kinda disgusting in this enlightened day and age by the way. You saved my life--twice and I just want you to see that I'm grateful."
He blinked. "I'm not a..."
"You are Roy. You... you were an addict and you came through it and became a better person for it. Lian knows better than any of us just how terrific a person you really are. Would you doubt me if I were Lian saying these things?"
Roy smiled proudly around a bite of his enormous sandwich. "She's my little girl. She's supposed to say those things," he said, mouth full of bread, sauce, crisps, something salad like and I think I caught a glimpse of peanut butter holding some bread to the roof of his mouth. How he ever achieved studly status is beyond me.
"She's your little girl. She's going to see all of your flaws and imperfections. Look, I'm an underage female who dotes on you. Just accept it for the hero-worship it is."
A wicked glint entered Roy's eyes as he innocently put down half his sandwich, appearing to consider Dawn's words. "I've heard that the hero you worship is Robin."
I saw Dawn blush. "I'm gonna electrocute him..."
"Robin?" Roy asked around another mouthful of food, surprised.
"Lobo or Superboy... which ever one it was."
"Actually it was Nightwing and I saw you two at the barbeque anyway. But you do don't you?"
"That's not really a secret Roy. I've had a crush on Robin since the first time his alter-ego walked into Giles' magic shop."
"But it's not a crush anymore is it?"
"Not like it was," Dawn admitted looking straight into Roy's eyes. "But I'm not sure that all his help and kindness and companionship and all that during these last months hasn't just been because of Buffy or because he feels some sort of obligation..."
"A person who feels an obligation doesn't seek out a person they barely know and confess a fear for a friend that could potentially damage the relationship." He paused a moment and looked a bit confused as he reflected on what he'd just said. Dawn giggled a little in response to the expression on his face. He smiled then said seriously, "Dawn, he cares for you."
"As a friend. Don't like that," she scowled.
Roy chuckled and patted her companionably on the back. "I know how you feel. I've loved Donna--well it feels like forever but we're just friends now. But there's still hope for you and Tim. You aren't 16 yet Dawn. Take it from me. You don't wanna rush through your life."
"But everything seems to be taking so long..." she whined and I had to fight with all of my powers of self-control--and they aren't that strong--to maintain my meditation position and not laugh. I know how she feels.
"That's because you're expecting things or wanting things sooner than the greater cosmos is prepared to have these things happen. Chill. Wait it out. You've had a lot happen in the last few months little Seer. Let at least one thing in your life take it's natural course."
Dawn smiled. "Thanks Roy. Lian is so lucky to have you as a dad. You're the coolest." Dawn hugged him. "Now, where has your little ankle biter gotten to? I promised to show her how to hack into a government database today..."
"I'm not hearing this," Roy groaned, picked up the remaining half of his sandwich sans plate and followed my sister out of the room.
"You can stop pretending to meditate now Buffy," Dawn called from the hallway. I scowled at the doorway then smiled and stood up.