[Warning: no Who characters in sight for this one.]
Kari, Ayna and Xeffy made their way down the road from school, Kari wobbling
"...Oooh..." he moaned. "I need a bath..."
"Oh, is poor widdle Kari tired after nasty PE?" Xeffy teased.
"That's not a lesson, that's torture." Kari said. "I should know. But we never -
_never_ - came up with anything like _that_."
Xeffy blinked. "What? It's from the Things Beyond?"
"...I think it's one of those human things." Kari said. "Humans _do_ manage
them, you know..." He wobbled again. "I think I've lost all feeling in my
"We'll run you a bath when we get home, okay?" Ayna told him.
"Thanks." Kari said gratefully.
Xeffy made retching motions.
"Aballon?" a woman's voice said.
Kari jumped, startled.
"Aballon! It _is_ you!"
Xeffy and Ayna _gawked_.
The gorgeous blonde in front of them looked as if she'd stepped whole and
breathing from the pages of a romance novel. She had a body that would put a
fashion model's to shame, and the dress to show it off. Delicate eyelashes, soft
blue eyes, and full, pouting lips adorned a perfect heart-shaped face, in turn
framed by a cascade of long golden hair.
In short, she had the sort of body that sends women round the bend, and sends
men into a drooling stupor.
Kari started going very, _very_ red. "Um. Mephiahna. Um."
"I must say," Mephiahna went on, looking Kari up and down, "I _love_ this
youthful look of yours, Abi. I never would have thought you had it in you."
Somehow, Kari managed to rediscover his voice. "...Um, hi?"
"...Kari, do you _know_ her?" Ayna's voice had a distinctly /cutting/ edge to
Mephiahna rewarded her with a disdainful look. "Abi and I go _way_ back...
_little girl_. So why don't the pair of you run along while we get...
She batted her eyelids at Kari, prompting his face to approach the colour of a
He still did his best to head off the imminent explosion, though.
"Er, Ayna, Mephiahna, let's-"
He failed, of course.
"Why don't _you_ get your chest out of his face?" Xeffy shot back.
Mephiahna eyed her. "Well, let's be honest, shall we? Compared to what he's had
to put up with so far, I think he needs a reminder of what a _real_ woman can be
Xeffy and Ayna *twitched*.
"Real?" Ayna retorted, jabbing a finger at Mephiana's cleavage. "No _way_ is
"Oh, I assure you, this _is_ real." Mephiahna said. "Or as close to my real body
as possible. Now, why don't you push off, and leave the grownups to more
"Like what?" Ayna said. "Wiggling your butt at him?"
Mephiahna raised an eyebrow. "At least I _have_ a butt to wiggle."
Ayna growled, readying her wing for a Mephiahna-fwapping.
"_ENOUGH!!_" Kari roared. "STOP THIS, ALL OF YOU!!"
"...Kari?" Ayna said.
"...Abi?" Mephiahna said.
Kari's face had changed shade - from the bright red of incipient hormones to the
deep red of pure outrage.
"Enough of this." he repeated. "What are you doing here, Mephiahna?"
"I'm... I'm the Guild's representative in the realm." Mephiahna stammered.
"And... um, well, when I heard you were in the area, I thought..."
"I _see_." Kari said, barely controlled rage belying his level tone. "Tell me,
do you remember what the Sirens could do?"
"The Sirens can enchant anyone who hears them sing..." Mephiahna's eyes
narrowed. "I _see_."
"Including the ability to evoke any emotion." Kari said. "I'm sure you can work
your way with _me_... but it would be interesting to see what Xeffy and Ayna
could evoke from _you_, don't you think?"
"Say the word, Kari." Ayna offered, eyes never leaving Mephiahna.
"You'll side with them over me?" Mephiahna asked. "With two little girls?"
"Yes, Meffy." Kari said quietly. "That's _exactly_ what I'm doing."
Mephiahna looked down her perfect nose at Xeffy and Ayna. "And since when did
_you_ get a taste for baby-wings?"
Kari laughed hollowly. "'Baby-wings'? It's more than that, Meffy. A lot more.
Having your world-view turned upside down can do that for you."
"Upside down?" Mephiahna inquired. "More like turned inside-out."
"If that's the way you want to put it." Kari said.
"...Very well." Mephiahna said. "If that's the way it is.."
She took in Xeffy and Ayna again, sniffed, and stalked off.
Kari sagged, the strength draining from him.
"...Kari?" Ayna asked, worried. "Is there anything we can do?"
"...You can get me to the toilet..." Kari managed to get out.
Some while after, in the 'Round, once Kari had paid a quick visit to the
"...Who _was_ that?" Xeffy asked.
"That was..." Kari took a deep breath. "That was Mephiahna, former
representative for the Guild of Succubi at the Court of Aballon."
"Succubi?" Ayna echoed. "I knew it!"
"Um..." Kari took a deep breath. "Um, actually, Ayna... she, er, she, um, really
_does_ look like that. Um, when she's, er, in her true body, anyway."
"...When you say that..." Xeffy said, "are you implying what I _think_ you're
Kari's cheeks flushed red. "Um... you mean naked Meffy? Um, yes."
"..._Eeeewwww_." Xeffy said.
Ayna looked ill. "You mean... you and she... did it?"
Kari twitched. "Yes." Mentioning how _many_ times they'd done it would not, he
felt, be good for his health.
"_Eeeuurgh..._" Ayna's grey face had turned a distinctly unhealthy shade of
"That was _before_ I became Kari, of course." Kari said hurriedly. "A good while
"Mmph." Ayna said, her tone indicating definite wariness.
"Lemme guess." Xeffy said. "Her showing up _now_ isn't a coincidence."
Kari shook his head. "No. I know it, she knows it... she's just keeping a polite
face on it. She's got contacts in Divine and Personal Rolls... so if she wanted
to keep an eye out for me..." He sighed. "It'd be easy enough for her to pull a
few strings, get herself assigned here - she's high-rank enough she can do
"...For you?" Ayna said, a tremble in her voice.
Kari hesitated, before finally nodding. "For me."
"So why'd you blow up at her?" Xeffy said, raising an eyebrow. "I thought you
would've been happy seeing her again."
"Because..." Kari looked at Ayna, who was looking at the table, and sighed. "I
didn't want it here, Xeffy. Not now. I didn't..." He shook his head, fingers
flexing nervously. "I didn't... I didn't want to have to deal with her. Not
Ayna lifted her head. "Really?"
Kari let out another heavy sigh. "It's... complicated."
The slits in Ayna's eyes narrowed. "_How_ complicated?"
"Very complicated." Kari said, wincing. "Five hundred and seventy-eight years of
"_Five hundred and seventy-eight?!_" Ayna screeched. "You kept _count?!_"
Kari winced again. "I... er... well, I _am_ three thousand years old... it's,
Ayna was rapidly approaching Defcon One. "Say _what?_"
"Three thousand." Kari repeated. "Um..."
Fortunately for Kari, Xeffy chose this moment to break in and head off Ayna's
detonation. "So you've got history with her."
"...You _might_ say that..." Kari said. "Then again, you might say politicians
are corrupt. It's true, but it doesn't go nearly far enough." He took a deep
breath. "Look... if I'm honest here... I can at least think straight enough
"That what?" Ayna said.
"That explaining just _what_ we were would only make things worse right now."
Kari said. "I may have the body of a teenage boy, but I _do_ have _some_ kind of
"So what you're telling me is it was serious enough you don't want to tell me."
Ayna said, folding her arms.
"Yes." Kari said finally.
"And it's serious enough she'd keep an eye out in case you showed up again."
"I _see_." Somehow, Ayna didn't need to say anything else. Her tone said it all
Kari opened his mouth to say 'It's not like that', before the self-preservation
part of his brain took over and just as quickly closed it again.
"A _succubus?_" Xeffy inquired.
Kari sighed. "Yes, I _know_ the succubi's reputation, Xeffy. However, it's part
of the Demon Lord reputation - part of the tradition - to have succubi in
residence, usually to mess with the mortals.
"And Aballon was nothing if not traditional.
"'Mephiahna'?" Ayna said acidly. "What happened to 'Meffy' all of a sudden?"
Kari could _see_ impending doom headed his way, no matter what he did, so he
opted for the truth. "Old habit. Mephiahna likes - liked - probably still
likes - people to use her full name.
"If you're close to her - and yes, I _was_" - here, he glanced at Ayna, who
wouldn't look at him -"then she'll let you use pet names.
"If you're not, you can reasonably expect to be torn to shreds."
His voice softened momentarily. "There's something else, too.
"Like I said, we had six hundred years of history.
"However, most succubi don't get the meaning of the word 'commitment'. Or
'love'. They're demons of lust and desire.
"But if a succubus actually, _truly_ desires you - not just a spur of the
moment, but _really_ desires you - desires you enough to spend six hundred years
with you - then there's virtually no way you're ever going to be free - or even
_want_ to be free - until you're dead.
"So yes, this _is_ serious."
Ayna still couldn't meet Kari's eyes.
"..._That_ serious?" Xeffy said finally.
"Yes, Xeffy." Kari said quietly. "We were _that_ serious. We _had_ to be, to put
up with each other for six hundred years. She will not give up now."
He leaned forward. "There's another thing.
"Succubi don't appreciate feeling thwarted, even nominally - and believe me,
what happened back there _was_ nominal. They take it personally.
"And they tend to take it out on the people who thwarted them.
"Since I sided with you two in this, I imagine that probably means she's going
to take it out on you."
"...Do you _want_ her to give up?" Ayna said abruptly.
"...I don't know, Ayna." Kari said quietly. "I can't make my history go away
that easily. _Yes_, I still feel for her. Yes, she still matters to me.
"But it was never love. Never like that."
"Apart from the fact I'm a hormonal adolescent who gets a boner just _seeing_
her?" Kari said sourly. "We _enjoyed_ each other, Ayna - and in demonic circles,
that's not as common as you'd think. She was intelligent, witty, fun-loving,
manipulative, cunning, devious, vicious... she could play people like a
virtuoso. The power behind my throne. And _yes_, that's a double-entendre."
"And you still want her round." Xeffy said. "Uh-huh."
Kari sighed. "I want her... I want us to be _friends_, Xeffy. _Yes_, it's
something completely foreign to her, _yes_, I don't stand a chance in any Hell,
but I have this foolish hope that this _won't_ blow up in my face! Like I said -
we had six hundred years together. I can't pretend it didn't happen, I can't
flush it down the drain... what do you _suggest_ I do?"
Ayna opened her mouth to reply... and then closed it again.
"...I'm sorry, Ayna." Kari said, calmer now. "If there was anything else I could
do, believe me, I would. But succubi do what _they_ want, and to the Hells with
anyone else, Mephiahna especially.
"In the event she couldn't have me, she wouldn't let me go. She would destroy
me. Not quickly, no... she'd draw it out over a century or so... but she would
"Kari-" Ayna began.
"I'm sorry, Ayna." Kari said again. "I wish I could tell you what you want to
hear. But it's the truth... no matter what you want to believe."
"Anything _else_ you'd like to bring up while we're at it?" Xeffy inquired
sardonically. "Like, can we expect any other ex-girlfriends to show up?
Ex-boyfriends? People with inexplicable grudges?"
"Yes." Kari said quietly. "No Demon Lord survives any length of time without
making enemies. If Meff-" - he glanced at Ayna again - "If _Mephiahna_ can find
me, so can _they_."
"...What sort of enemies are we talking about?" Ayna said, her voice small and
quiet, almost unnoticeable.
Kari rested his hands on the table. "Disgruntled ex-minions, fellow Demon Lords,
Demon Princes, Archangels... like I said, you tend to make enemies when you're a
Demon Lord." He took a deep breath. "And as I am now - no power, no realm, no
minions - it's the metaphysical equivalent of painting a target on my front and
handing them the gun."
"...These enemies..." Xeffy said slowly. "Big believers in the concept of
"Demon Lords, Demon Princes, ex-minions..." Kari said. "Do I have to go on?"
"Archangels don't, though." Xeffy said hopefully..
"No." Kari said. "However, the more militant Archangels tend to be fans of the
concept of 'Divine Justice' - which means, I'd imagine, that in the absence of
anything _else_ they could do to me, they'll probably settle for a death
"So..." Ayna said finally, "they either try to kill you, or kill you and anyone
around you." She attempted something that might have been a rueful grin. "Sounds
"I am _never_ visiting Otherside." Xeffy announced.
"Believe me, you never want to." Ayna said quietly, eyes not leaving Kari. "So
what're you going to do?"
"Die, probably." Kari said, voice flat. "No Demon Lord ever dies of old age,
"...Saying you're not a Demon Lord any more matters precisely _zip_, doesn't
it?" Xeffy said heavily.
"It matters," Kari said, "only in that it tells my enemies they can slaughter me
"So what are you going to do?" Ayna said.
"Do I have a choice?" Kari said.
"Yes." Ayna said softly. "Yes, you have a choice.
"You can either _let_ them kill you... or you can fight for every second of life
you've got left. Let them kill you... or keep on fighting, second by second,
until they finally take you down."
"And what if it stops being worth fighting?" Kari said.
"_Then_ you die." Ayna said. "People want _me_ dead - that doesn't mean I'm
about to give them the satisfaction. I still _like_ living, thanks so much."
Xeffy stared at the two of them, wide-eyed.
Finally, she shook her head. "You two terrify me, you know that? You talk about
this like it's so _simple_..."
"It is, Xeph." Ayna said quietly. "It's what we live with. Either lie down and
die, or be ready to fight. It's how I survived, and it's how Kari survived."
She returned cool white eyes to Kari. "Which is it going to be?"
Kari looked into her eyes, into the black slits at their heart.
There was only one answer he could honestly give.
"Life." he said quietly. "I choose life."
Ayna rested her hand on Kari's.
He looked down, surprised.
"Thank you." she said softly.
Kari and Ayna looked up.
Xeffy had the decency to look abashed. "Not to spoil the mood, or anything, but,
um..." She coughed again. "You, um... you don't think maybe we need to fill
people in, do you? I mean, I can't speak for them, but I don't think our
friends're gonna like becoming targets for pissed-off demon hordes..."
"No, neither do I..." Kari said dryly. "Yes, we'll tell them - oh, and we'd
better tell Mr Maxil as well, watch him explode." He put on a 'Maxil' voice. "'I
do _not_ appreciate pupils bringing minature war zones to school.'"
"Well, considering we've got Magnus in, I'm not sure that'd be a problem..."
Xeffy observed. "Not for long, anyway."
"Wonder if this's in his contract?" Ayna mused.
Xeffy raised an eyebrow. "Holding off attacking demon hordes? Wouldn't be
surprised... plus we've got Molly and the Mask on side, too..."
"Yeah!" Ayna suddenly grinned. "We're not going down without a fight!"
Kari looked between them, before shaking his head and smiling ruefully. "...You
know, you almost had me fooled there. I thought we might actually have a chance
for a moment."
"Of course we do!" Ayna hmphed. "I survived Otherside. I can _certainly_ survive
Looking at her, Kari wasn't sure she didn't actually _mean_ that... or that she
might actually stand a chance.
He chuckled to himself. Like he needed another reason to fall for her.
Better make the most of it while he had the chance...
"Yeah." Xeffy said. "Compared to what _we've_ gone through, a demon horde? We
can tackle them."
She made a show of wafting something away. "Not sure about that smell,
"Okay, okay..." Kari chuckled, appreciating Xeffy's attempt to change the
subject. "I can take a hint.
"First one to the bathroom's an Ogron!"
Before the girls quite knew what was happening, he was out of his chair and
bolting for the door.
"No way he's getting away with that, right, Xeph?" Ayna said finally.
"Right, Ai." Xeffy said. "After him!"
Disclaimer: This Time Round was created by Tyler Dion. Everyone is mine, bar
Kari, who got introduced by Paul Andinach.
With many thanks to B. K. Willis, who gave me the inspiration for Mephiahna and
provided much-needed advice on general story direction.
Summary: Kari's ex shows up, and she's _not_ here to throw him a welcoming
Copyright 2003 Imran Inayat