The next morning both Willow and Tara were startled -as they got dressed- by a scream, running out of the room they met up with Buffy and Faith. Entering the bridge they found Dawn happily jumping up and down, tightly hugging Mizu who at that moment looked out of breath. Pulling out of Dawn's grip she stumbled to her seat and took a deep breath before sighing.
"What's going on?" Buffy asked through a yawn and was pulled into a hug by Dawn.
"She's happy. Xander just called. Anya's had her baby."
"Really!?" Buffy asked excitedly and pushed Dawn into the pilot's seat. "Hurry! Let's go see them!"
Dawn nodded and flew off toward Besaid at breakneck speed, sending everyone sliding to the back. Willow grabbed Tara and strapped them into a seat, and watched Faith do the same, right before Dawn did a loop in the air. Tara laughed and tightly held Willow as Dawn barrel-rolled the ship. Shinra screamed when his papers went flying all over the bridge.
Fifteen minutes later the ship sat down outside the village gate. Faith and Willow staggered out of the ship looking green, much to the amusement of the villagers. Dawn, Buffy, and Tara ran passed them and through the village gate, laughing all the way.
"You know... I thought I would be used to her flying by now. But nooo! That last roll and flip did me in!" Willow complained as she and Faith finally made it through the gate.
"Don't remind me." Faith muttered and smiled when she heard Buffy shout.
"Ur, cra ec cu lida!" (Oh, she is so cute!) Buffy said looking at the baby girl in Anya's arms.
"Look at her hands! They're so tiny!" Tara gently held the baby's hand and smiled when she wrapped her little fingers around hers.
Anya glanced over at Dawn and smiled. "You want to hold her?"
"Yes." Anya said handing the baby to Dawn.
Xander grinned. "What do you think? She's cute, ya?" he said laughing then scratched the back of his head. "Good thing she don't look like me."
"What're you talking about? She's got your ears." Willow said as Dawn handed her the baby.
"You think so?"
"What's her name?" Faith asked playing with the baby's hand.
Anya laughed. "I think the Calm will end before Xander decides."
"Then you'd better decide soon." Tara laughed as Willow handed her the baby.
"No rushing, ya? Naming my daughter is the first important decision as a parent. So I need time to prepare, ya?"
"And just how long are you planning on preparing?" Buffy giggled.
"Until they're done."
"I wanted to name her Alex. But, Xander here, didn't want that."
"Yes, Alex is a good name, but... I have something else in mind." Xander said and frowned when he saw Beclem walking out of the village gate. "He must be leaving."
Turning they saw Beclem stop and turn around, "Tara I would like to speak with you, please." He shouted and waited outside of the gate.
Handing the baby girl back to Anya, Tara turned and headed toward the gate with the others following. Beclem was leaning against a tree when they stepped on the path; Tara caught a sphere just as he threw it toward them.
"Please, give that to Xander. And tell him to hurry up and name his girl. Can't just keep calling her ‘the baby' all the time." Beclem said and began walking up the hill, and stopped. "I also wanted to apologize for what I said to you. Goodbye." He said and left.
"What'd he want?" Xander asked approaching.
"He said to give you this." Tara said and handed him the sphere.
Xander looked down at the sphere, "I wonder what it is?" he asked and pressed the button.
A young girl with red hair appeared looking into the sphere with Xander praying to the statue behind her.
"Hey, Xander. If you've been given this sphere then it means I'm dead. I'm sorry, but I decided to help keep Sin away from the island... and my family. Tell Anya, Tara and Faith: I love them; they were like the sisters I never had. I also wanted to tell ya... Nah, you prob'ly forgot. You remember when I told you I found a sphere showin' mom and dad? I lied. There is no such sphere. I got so sick of you lecturing me no matter what I did. That's why I made up that story."
"If you got time to take pictures, you got time to pray! Especially since you're joining the Crusaders." Xander said in the background causing Hikari to turn and look at him.
"Enough with the preaching already!"
"Someone has to keep you in line, with our parents not around."
"Knock it off with the surrogate parenting and give us both a break, I just need you to be my big brother."
"Just her brother..." Xander sighed shaking his head. "Don't know why she just didn't come out and say it. Anyways, you guys stay in the village till nightfall." Xander said and walked back toward his hut with the others following.
Later that night around the campfire...
Tara was sitting in Willow's lap laughing at something Anya was telling, as Buffy and Faith were eating oranges and apples. Reaching over Willow nabbed one of the apples before Buffy or Faith could catch her, and took a bite. With a smile she quickly laid it down near Buffy's hand, and grinned when she grabbed it.
"Ewww! Who took a bite outta this!?" Buffy shrieked, then glared as Willow burst out laughing. "Nice, Will, real nice." She said and threw the apple at Willow who caught it and took another bite out of it.
Xander shook his head and stood up holding the baby girl in his arms. "Well you all probably know why I called everyone here, huh? I'd like to introduce the newest member of Besaid Village."
"Everyone's already met her!" Faith grinned.
"You picked a name yet?" Buffy asked around a mouth-full of orange.
"Ya, don't tell us this is a brainstorming session!" Willow laughed.
"I wouldn't do something like that! And yes, I have chose a name." Xander smiled and glanced at the villagers, before turning to Tara. "I'd like you all to meet Mythe. He said as Tara put her hand over her mouth in surprise.
"We hope you don't mind." Anya said and looked at the ground. "We were down at the beach when her boat sailed in, and someone shouted the Lady Summoner was here. Xander, and myself hurried over to meet her, but with the villagers all around her, we couldn't get within ten-foot of her. So, we bowed our heads and walked off, and sat down in the sand. A few minutes later she walked over and asked us to escort her to the temple. She held our hands as we walked back here, to the village. She even let us walk her back to the boat the next morning. So in honor of her, we wanted to give our baby her name."
"Thank you, Anya." Tara said embracing the black mage, before standing and doing the same to Xander. "I don't mind, and I know my mother wouldn't."
"All right! Everyone take good care of her." Xander said when Tara stepped back.
Watching Tara, Buffy, and Faith help Anya up and walk around the fire, Xander sat down next to Willow and smiled when she hit his arm.
"Thanks." Xander nodded then sighed. "You know, I always try to cram myself into some kinda mold. A blitzer, or a guardian, or a follower of Yevon... And now, a father. I always get so wound up about what I should be. But you know, in then end I'm just me. I can't keep coming up with new Xanders all the time, ya? So it looks like I'll just have to start doing things my way. That's the way I'm going to write our story."
"Just hang in there, Dad." Willow giggled
Xander laughed. "You know, Sin was nothin' compared to diaper changing."
"I bet." Willow laughed and stood up when Anya walked over with Tara by her side.
"We'll be back soon. Later guys." Buffy said approaching and hugged Anya, kissed the baby, and squeezed Xander's shoulder.
Anya sat down next to her husband as the girls walked toward the gate.
"Sorry it took so long to name her."
"It's all right. I knew it would be worth the wait, and it was. I'm glad you brought up Mythe. I had faith."
"You? Had faith in me?"
"We're in this together, Xander. Whether you see it or not, I really do rely on you."
"Guess I'd better not drop the ball, ya?"
"You won't." Anya said and laid her head on Xander's shoulder.
[At the gate]
Willow, Tara, Buffy, and Faith were kneeling down using the cover of darkness and watched the new parents with smiles.
"They're in their own little world." Buffy giggled watching Anya kiss Xander's cheek.
"Come on." Faith said pulling Buffy up and quietly walking toward the ship.
"Yeah," Tara nodded. "Let's not bother them." She said taking Willow's hand and following Faith's lead.
Dawn was snoozing away in the pilots seat, Mizu was snoring loudly with her head hanging over the back of her chair, and Shinra was face down on his consol mumbling something about killer chocobos, when the girls entered.
Laughing quietly Buffy walked over and picked Dawn up, and took her to her room. Faith shook Mizu half awake and helped her to her room. Willow picked Shinra up and carried him to his room, then met Tara in their room.
After turning the lights out Willow crawled in bed, wrapped her arms around Tara, and fell into a restless sleep.
Willow, Faith, and Buffy were running down a dark corridor carrying their weapons, and cutting down fiends left and right. A six-foot tall fiend with green scaly skin, red glowing eyes, and spikes covering its body stepped in front of them. Growling Willow swung her sword around burring it in the fiends' chest, and pulled it out just as quick. The fiend took a step back, and touched the wound causing it to heal.
Faith grabbed Willow's right arm, as Buffy grabbed her left, and began pulling her down another corridor. They ran into the room at the end of the long corridor and gaped. Bodies of men and women were lying on the floor, chained to the wall, and hanging from the ceiling.
Willow cried out when she looked to their left and saw Tara topless and chained down to an alter unconscious. Running over she tried to cut the chains with her sword and only found the chains solid. She turned when Buffy cried out and saw her being thrown across the room.
Faith was fighting against three of those green scaly fiends only to be knocked back into the wall. Buffy was fighting against two more of the fiends and losing, as she was chained to the wall, and her top was ripped off. Faith stood and ran at the fiends, only to have them disappear and get knocked back by something unseen. Willow was lifted into the air and thrown across the room into the wall; the last thing she saw was a sword racing toward Faith.
Willow shot up in bed breathing hard, and her body covered in sweat. She looked down at Tara and saw blue eyes looking back.
"What's wrong, sweetie?" She asked sitting up and wrapping her arms around Willow's sweat covered body.
Willow shook her head, and moved closer to Tara. "Nothing. Just...just a bad dream." <More like a nightmare. But I can't tell her that.>
"Yeah." Willow nodded trying her best to smile reassuringly, and laid back down taking Tara with her. With Tara's head on her chest she felt safe enough to go back to sleep, hoping against all hope that she wouldn't dream again.
The next morning Faith quietly slipped into their room and shook Willow awake. Sitting up she rubbed the sleep from her eyes and yawned, and looked at Faith. "What's up?" she asked and yawned again looking at the clock. She shook her head when she saw in was only seven thirty.
"Jenny left a message saying she knows what happened to the machina, and she would like for us to be there at eight. Dawn is getting ready to take off, and I just wanted to let you know."
"Thanks. We'll be down in a little bit." Willow yawned again and watched Faith leave the room. Leaning over she kissed Tara and waited for her eyes to open, and smiled. "Hey, baby, Jenny wants to see us." She said as the ship took off.
"Okay." Tara said crawling out of bed.
Willow stretched when she and the others stepped out of the ship, and saw Jenny and a few others standing on the hill in front of her shop.
"I'm glad you all are here." Jenny said as they approached. "We finally know what happened to the machina. And we also caught a baby Chocobo Eater." She pointed to a wagon with the young fiend in it.
"First, let's discuss the hover crash. We found marks along the Newroad that seem to indicate something fell from the road into the ravine below. The injured man we found near the crash was the hovers pilot. Now, the runaway machina. The machina can only be configured for operation through a control panel behind the Agency. Naturally, I thought someone might have tampered with it. But something else could have caused the machina to malfunction. Perhaps you have a thought, Lady Tara?"
Tara closed her eyes in thought before looking up. "Maybe a strong impact?"
"Correct." Jenny nodded. "An impact, were it strong enough, could also be enough to cause any machina to malfunction. Such an impact would not require beastly strength either. Someone weak could deal a forceful enough blow-with a little help from nature. Suppose for example, someone were to jump down from a great height, that would do it."
Buffy nodded knowing enough about machina to agree.
"I have already talked to the people along the Highroad, and heard their testimony. The hover lost its balance and overturned while attempting to avoid a passerby. But who could it be? We found footprints on one of the malfunctioning machina. So, let me ask you all: Has anyone recently been to the ruins at the Highroad's south end?"
Tara, Willow, and Buffy all raised their hands.
"And does anyone recall jumping down from a great height?"
Only Buffy raised her hand causing Jenny to look at her.
"What? No one else?" Buffy asked lowering her hand.
"One final question: Who among you passed a hover on the Newroad the other day?"
Tara and Willow raised their hands.
"We were together." Willow said turning to Buffy. "Remember, we were going to rescue Calli."
"I don't remember."
Jenny sighed. "Please try to recall what happened, Buffy."
Buffy nodded and thought back.
"But there isn't enough time!"
"Hyaa!" William shouted and sent four chocobos to distract the fiend. "We'll buy you some time! Lady Tara, please hurry!"
With them running down the road the hover fell into the ravine avoiding Buffy who was running with her head down, getting her mixes ready for the fight.
"It was me!" Buffy shouted
"Yes, the hover crashed while trying to avoid hitting you. And you caused the machina to malfunction when you landed on it. So, you, Buffy, are the one who caused those two incidents to occur."
"No! I feel like crying!" Buffy said kneeling.
"I'm sure you meant no harm, but your carelessness invited disaster. And I have already determined your sentence."
"Sentence? What sentence!?"
"Follow me and you will see."
Two hours later Willow, Tara, and Faith are waiting at the Highroad's entrance to Luca. Faith was leaning against the concrete fence, smirking as she watched the Highroad. Willow was sitting on the ground next to Tara, and laughing her ass off having forgotten about her dream for the time being. Tara could hear Dawn over the receiver also laughing.
"Didn't expect trash duty." Faith said walking over as Buffy approached.
"Phew!" Buffy bent over putting her hands on her knees. "Glad that's over!"
"You must be tired." Tara smiled.
"E's nayto du tnub!" (I'm ready to drop!) Buffy said as Jenny approached riding a chocobo with three other birds behind her.
"Why the chocobos?" Tara asked confused.
"They were being used to power a ferryboat, so I bought them."
"That's nice, and all, but can I go home now? I picked up all the trash."
"All of the trash?" Jenny asked turning the chocobo around.
"Yes! Look!" Buffy said and turned. "Hu fyo!" (No way!) She shouted seeing chocobo feathers littering the ground.
Willow and Faith burst out laughing, as Tara's shoulders shook.
"I thank you for your hard work." Jenny said grinning and took off toward the shop.
"Well? Get plucking!" Faith said causing Tara to join her and Willow in laughing.
"This sucks! Feathers aren't trash!" Buffy complained beginning to pick the feathers up.