Author's Notes I: A very big THANK YOU to darknesslost for helping me with my German.


Stephen spun round and stopped dead in his tracks. The man that stepped through the gateway had to be over six and a half feet tall and built like a brick wall. It was obvious that he hadn't showered or shaved that day and the jeans and grungy white t-shirt looked to have been slept in. With skin a bit darker than the Brandon's or Morgan's, hair that was almost midnight black and stormy gray eyes, there was no doubt that this man was the twin's father.

The man took a less than steady step toward the bed and Brandon immediately covered his mother's body with his own.

"No!" the father cried.

He crossed the room in one stride and grabbed his son. Stephen started to create a magic whip when he was nearly knocked off of his feet. The sorcerer was stunned when the Cloak wrapped itself around the attacking man's head.

"Cloak, no!" Ari ordered. "Hold!"

To Stephen's surprise and, if the look on her face was anything to go by, Ari's as well, the Cloak obeyed. The relic flipped itself over and cocooned the man from mouth to ankle. The man's shouts were muffled by the magical object as he struggled to break free.

"Brandon, please get off," Ari requested, pushing at her son. "Oh, calm down, Ronald. You're making spectacle of yourself."

Stephen could see Morgan just on the other side of the portal, clearly upset. Brandon didn't appear to be doing any better than his twin as he straightened up. Their mother looked like she was really to spit tacks.

"Morgan, are you done packing?" Ari asked while she carefully got out of the bed.

"Almost," Morgan answered, sounding lost and confused.

"Then please finish," Ari instructed as she took a careful step toward her ex.

The Cloak moved closer to its master and the woman stopped, leaning against the bed. She stared at the man floating with his bare feet barely off of the ground. Stephen caught a whiff of the unwashed man and something else.

"I smell alcohol," the sorcerer stated.

"Probably single malt Scotch," Ari grumbled as she glared at Ronald. "I certainly hope you didn't waste the good stuff on this drunken foolishness."

"Dad doesn't get drunk," Brandon scoffed, though he sounded a bit unsure. "He might have a drink every once and a while, but he never gets drunk."

"Only because I promised to push him into another dimension if he did it while you or your sister were around," Ari told him.

"Seems rather excessive," Stephen said.

"He's a mean drunk," Ari replied as she crossed her arms over her chest and glared at the immobilized man. "Even falling down and having less coordination than a newborn foal, he's not someone you want to be near when he's on a bender."

Ronald matched her gaze as he continued to try and break free. Stephen moved closer to Ari and those gray eyes were turned toward him. Ronald grunted something and Ari smirked.

"Dr. Stephen Strange, meet my ex-husband, Ronald Post," the woman said as she waved from one man to the other. "Ronald, meed Dr. Strange. The man who saved my life last night. Twice, no thanks to you."

Ronald made a strange sound as he stopped wiggling. The man looked around, taking in his surroundings. His eyes got rather large when he recognized where they were.

"Good, you're not so far into your cups that you can't understand," Ari stated, still sounding rather pissed off. "You knew this day would come, Ronald. I made no secret about it. You had thirteen years to get ready for this. You had every opportunity to tell them yourself. You have no one else to blame but yourself."

Ronald let out a muffled bellow as he started to struggle again. It did him no good as the Cloak had no interest in letting the man go. Stephen turned to Ari to ask her something when a high pitched squeal stopped him.

"Ronny!" a woman shrieked as she ran through the gateway. "What did this horrid woman do to you!?"

Stephen wasn't sure what was worse: the woman's god awful fashion sense, the perfume that should have been peeling the paint off of the walls, the makeup that looked to have been applied by a nine year old, the head of bright over teased bleached blond hair or the voice that sounded like finger nails down a chalk board.

"Bunny!" Morgan shouted in surprise as she came up behind the woman.

"Buffy!" Brandon yelled, equally shocked by the woman's sudden appearance.

"Betty," Ari corrected, sounding about excited as having a hernia.

"Becky!" the woman squealed in indignation. "My name is Becky!"

"Whatever," the other three muttered with identical eye rolls.

"I've got everything," Morgan told her mother as she brought in a couple large, rolling pieces of luggage.

"Is there anything left in your room?" Brandon asked.

"I didn't have time to coordinate my outfits or decide what makeup or hair stuff to bring," the girl huffed. "Besides, Mom promised to take me shopping. I need to be able to carry it back in something."

"Enough, you two," Ari tiredly warned her offspring.

"So, now what?" Stephen asked, watching with amusement as Bunny-Buffy-Betty-Becky tried to free Ronald from the Cloak.

"Good question," Ari replied and then she got a look on her face as she chuckled low in her throat.

"Uh oh," Brandon nervously started.

"That's not a good look," Morgan continued worriedly.

"That's never a good look," Brandon agreed.

"Mom, what are you planning?" Morgan finished.

Stephen could only describe the look on Ari's face as delightfully evil. He wouldn't have been surprised if she started to laugh manically as she rubbed her hands together.

"Kids, why don't we show Dr. Strange your father's prize winning garden?" Ari sweetly suggested with a grin that would have made a shark swim away in fear.

"What?" the twins responded.

"Huh?" Stephen questioned.

"Trust me, his garden is amazing," the woman assured the doctor.

"All right," the sorcerer muttered.

"May I borrow your Sling Ring, Stephen?" Ari inquired.

"Why?" Stephen demanded.

"Because it would be easier to open a gateway into the yard then trying to get down the stairs," the sorceress explained.

"Okay," he hesitantly agreed as he handed her the small item.

It took her only a few moments to close one gateway and then open another one. Ronald started yelling, not that it did him any good while the Cloak continued to keep him muzzled. The strange woman squeaked in surprise before hiding behind Ronald.

Stephen had to admit, the garden they stepped into was amazing. The flower beds lining the path were all in bloom, not a weed in sight. The hedges were perfectly trimmed with not so much as a twig out of place. The lawn was so green and perfectly mowed that Stephen half expected it to be fake. Even the weather was perfect. The fact that this was the side yard made the doctor wonder how big the back area was.

"Ok, Mom, why are we here?" Brandon asked as his mother held onto his left arm.

"It's a really nice garden, but I have to agree with Brandon," Stephen stated.

"This is only a part of it," Ari told the doctor. "Wait until you see what's in the back."

Stephen, Ari and the twins slowly continued down the flagstone path. Stephen glanced back at the gateway and saw the Cloak was following them. Bunny-Buffy-Betty-Becky-whatever was pulling on the relic and just getting dragged along for her troubles.

Once everyone was through, the gateway closed. Ari handed the Sling Ring back to its owner and continued to shuffle along.

"I trust you can get us back to my room when it's time to go," the woman said.

"I think I can manage," Stephen agreed, still wondering what she was up to.

"Mom, what's the big deal about showing Dr. Strange..." Morgan started.

"Tut, tut!" Ari interrupted. "No spoiling the surprise."

"If I didn't think she was the queen of weird before..." Morgan mumbled and Ari grinned at her daughter, obviously amused.

As they slowly approached a break in the hedge, Stephen heard growling.

"Uh oh," Brandon mumbled.

"The dogs are out," Morgan quietly stated.

"Dad's gonna be pissed," Brandon continued softly.

Stephen turned to look back as muffled yelling filled the air. Ronald was struggling like never before and trying to shout something. The fashion disaster that had been trying to free the man was now climbing up the Cloak and screaming bloody murder.

"Babies!" Ari squealed happily as she carefully dropped to her knees and Brandon took a few steps back.

A second later, a pair of Doberman Pinschers came barreling around the hedge. They gleefully ran up to the woman's outstretched arms. Stephen watched in confusion as the animals that had been growling a few moments before were now acting like over excited puppies.

"Dad spent over ten grand on those dogs," Brandon explained while the canines excitedly bounded around the woman.

"Had them shipped all the way from Germany," Morgan continued as Ari got a thorough face washing while the woman talked nonsensical baby talk to the animals.

"Specially trained guard dogs," Brandon told the sorcerer.

"Turned into a couple of ninety pound puppies the instant they met Mom," Morgan finished.

Stephen watched as the dogs were now on their backs enjoying a good belly rub by Ari. He could see faint traces of magic on the dogs and knew that Ari was responsible. Stephen stepped toward the woman and the dogs were immediately on their feet, flanking her.

"Put your hand out so they can smell you," Ari instructed and the doctor hesitated. "It's okay, they won't hurt you."

"Uh huh," Stephen muttered uncertainly.

The dogs were staring at him intently and he wasn't sure if he wanted to put his already damaged hand near those powerful looking jaws.

"Stephen," Ari softly called to the man. "You've saved my life twice. I won't let them hurt you. I promise."

"Okay then," Stephen sighed as he put his left hand out.

"Freund," Ari commanded to the dogs.

"Excuse me?" Stephen asked a bit worriedly.

"I told them you're a friend," she explained as the dogs started to stiff the sorcerer's hand. "They were trained in German."

"You speak German?" Stephen questioned as one of the dogs licked his fingers. "They're not taste testing me, are they?"

"Please don't make me laugh," Ari replied after a snort and a short hiss of pain. "They like you, that's why they're licking you. I only speak enough German so they understand me."

"We really need to hurry up and get back," he stated as he held out his hands to her. "Someone's likely to notice we're missing."

"You're right," Ari agreed as she carefully got to her feet with his help.

"What exactly did you do to your ex-husband's dogs?" he asked as she took his left arm and they continued on their way.

"I just reminded them of the sweet animals they are, not the machines they were trained to be," she replied as the dogs gleefully raced up and down the path, avoiding their master.

The glare that Ronald was leveling at them should have left both sorcerers as piles of ash. The bleached nightmare was clinging to the trapped man and was nearly on top of him. Stephen wondered how much weight the Cloak could take.

"What exactly are we doing here?" Stephen asked as they neared the hedge.

"Teaching my ex a lesson," Ari replied with an evil grin. "And seeing if the Cloak still has it's wicked sense of humor."

"It's a relic, not a person," he reminded her.

"It may be a magical object, but it's very old," she pointed out. "It has a personality and a mind of its own. Haven't you encountered that yet?"

"A bit," he admitted.

"You are in for one incredible ride with the Cloak as your relic," she wistfully told him as they finally went around the hedges and into the next area of the yard.

"Wow," Stephen softly said as he stepped onto a gravel path.

For as neat and well manicured the side yard was, the backyard looked like they had just stepped into a meadow in the forest. A stack of rocks with water bubbling out of the top created a small waterfall that cascaded down into a little creek before feeding into a pond. The too perfect to be real landscaping actually went down into the clear liquid so there were plants growing in the water. They stood at the end of a dock that went out a good ten feet over the water, inviting one and all to run off of it and do a cannon ball. Only the house to one side and the privacy fence beyond a stand of trees broke the illusion.

"He has a pond in his backyard," Stephen stated.

"Actually, it's a custom made pool," Ari corrected. "The plants help keep it clean so it doesn't need chemicals."

Stephen was pushed into Ari as the Cloak went zipping past them. Before the doctor could say anything, the relic was over the water and unwrapped its prisoner. Ronald let out an angry bellow just before he hit the water. With a deft shake, the Cloak rid itself of its other passenger. She let out an ear piercing scream just before she went under.

"OW! OW! OW! OW!" Ari gasped as she tried to suppress her laughter and clutched at her stitches, clinging to Stephen's arm. "Oh, that hurts! That very much hurts. But it was so worth it!"

"You knew it was going to do that, didn't you?" Stephen asked with amusement as he held onto her to keep her from falling.

"I hoped it would," the woman admitted with an ear to ear grin.

"That wasn't nice, Mom," Morgan grumbled.

"Damn funny though," Brandon chuckled and Morgan glared at him. "Admit it, sis. You've wanted to push her in the pool from day one."

"Push her in and hold her under," the girl muttered. "Who taught her to put on makeup? Bozo the clown?"

"With wardrobe by the nineteen eighties rejects collection," the boy added.

"And hair by Fright Wigs R Us," she sarcastically ended.

"YOU WITCH!" Ronald shouted as he hauled himself out of the pool.

The Cloak wasted no time pushing the raging man back into the water. An angry yell proceeded the splash.

"Stephen, you might want to convince the Cloak to behave before it becomes completely sopping wet," Ari suggested as she let go of the man's arm.

"You evil bitch!" Becky shrieked as she climbed out of the far side of the pool.

"Not yet," Ari calmly replied with a wicked smile. "Keep talking."

"How dare you do that to me!" the wet woman screamed as she put her hand over her lower abdomen. "You could have hurt my baby!"

Only the sound of birds chirping, water bubbling into the pool and the dogs playing nearby was heard for several seconds. The twins stood with their jaws hanging open, Ari's eyebrows were about to become one with her hair line and Ronald was stopped half way out of the water and staring at the fashion nightmare. Stephen just watched in confusion as he grabbed the Cloak by the collar and flipped it around his shoulders.

"Called it!" Brandon quietly crowed.

"Damn it!" Morgan mumbled in frustration.

"When did you get your vasectomy reversed?" Ari finally asked her ex.

"I didn't," Ronald growled, glaring at the other woman.

"You might want to get that checked," Ari suggested. "Again."

"You told me you were on birth control," the large man snarled at the other woman as he finished hauling himself out of the water.

"I-I-I-I am," Becky stuttered as she started to back up from the clearly furious man. "I was. It was a happy accident."

"Genghis! Khan!" Ronald yelled and the dogs started to run to their master.

"NEIN!" Ari shouted. "Hierher!"

The dogs scrambled to run over to Ari and flank her. Ronald, dripping water and looking ready to kill, spun around. He took one step toward her and the dogs put their cropped ears back and growled.

"You need to sober up before you do anything stupid," Ari stated, not the least bit intimidated by the man. "Becky, get your things and get out."

"You don't tell me what to do," Becky huffed.

"Fine, we'll leave and you can face Ronald and the dogs on your own," Ari replied with a shrug. "However, before you think you've got him over a barrel, you're not the first one to try this, he's drunk and he's angry. Oh, and the dogs hate you."

Becky opened her mouth, but stopped at the look on Ronald's face when he turned to glare at her.

"Get out," the giant man snarled.

"But…" Becky simpered.

"OUT!" Ronald roared.

Becky jumped and squeaked before turning and running for the huge house. The dogs started to get ready to give chase until Ari put a hand on their heads. No one said anything until the soaking wet woman was gone.

"I think it's time we headed back," Ari tiredly stated as she absently scratched the dogs ears. "Stephen, would you mind?"

"Not at all," Stephen replied as he put his on his Sling Ring.

"Why are you in a hospital?" Ronald asked, not looking all that steady on his feet.

"I was attacked last night," Ari answered as she waved Brandon over. "I ended up getting sliced open."

"Then you're not up to camping," he stated, sounding hopeful.

"The guy who came after me, went after the kids," she replied as she took her son's arm. "He could do magic. They're safer with me and Dr. Strange."

The mere mentioning of mystic arts made the large man's face pale. The fear was clearly etched on his face as Stephen opened a gateway.

"Where are they staying?" Ronald demanded, his voice slightly shaking. "Which hospital are you at?"

"I'm not sure what hospital, but the kids are staying with Dr. Strange at one-seventy-seven-A Bleecker Street," Ari calmly responded as she and her son started for the portal, the dogs trailing behind. "I believe you know the place."

"No, not New York," Ronald whispered in horror before getting angry. "How long have you known this guy?"

"Met him last night," Ari told him with a smile.

"WHAT!?" Ronald yelled.

"I know what your thinking," Ari calmly continued as she looked over her shoulder at the large man. "But it wouldn't matter if I had known him a day or a decade, I will always trust the person who protects a Sanctum to take care of our kids."

Ronald let out an incoherent shout just before he started toward them. He fell flat on his face before taking one step. He looked down at his feet and saw glowing bands wrapped around his ankles.

"Bleibt," Ari said to the dogs as she crossed from the California backyard into the New York hospital room. "See you in two weeks!"

"NOOOOOO!" Ronald screamed as the gateway closed.

The last thing they saw were the sad faces of the dogs.

"Well, that was awkward in a new way," Morgan grumbled as she plopped down in the only chair.

"Just be glad your dad wasn't really, really drunk," Ari said, the exhaustion and pain evident in her voice. "It could have been a lot worse.

Stephen turned to the woman and saw she was nearly white as snow.

"Ari," the doctor started.

"I'll be fine, Stephen," the woman assured him as Brandon helped her into bed. "Guess I over did it. Used to recover from these things a lot faster. Of course, that was twenty years ago."

"Is there anything I can do to help?" Stephen asked.

"I just need food and rest," Ari replied. "Preferably in that order."

Stephen started to lift his hand, ready to wave some sustenance into existence when there was a soft knock at the door. An older lady wearing a doctor's coat stood there with a file in her hand.

"May I come in?" the stranger asked.

"Please do," Ari replied as she leaned back against the raised bed.

"I'm Dr. Lisa Combs," the woman started before spotting the brightly dressed man in the room. "Stephen! How are you?"

"I'm well, thank you," Stephen replied. "And you?"

"I'm doing great!" Dr. Combs responded.

"Not to interrupt a happy reunion," Ari started, drawing the attention of the two physicians. "But I'd really like the poking and prodding and asked embarrassing questions being done sooner than later."

"Right," Dr. Combs said as she approached the bed.

"Before we start, I'm allowed to have real food, right?" Ari asked the older woman.

"I don't see anything on your file that says you shouldn't," Dr. Combs answered after quickly going over Ari's file.

"Wonderful," Ari sighed before turning to Stephen. "Stephen, I have been craving a real New York pizza all day. Would you mind taking the kids with you?"

"I'm not hungry," Morgan softly grumbled.

"Me, either," Brandon agreed.

"I think I can find a pizza on my own," Stephen pointed out.

"Yes, I'm sure you can," Ari replied with a smile. "However, in order to save a small fortune on therapy bills, I think it best if the kids weren't here when Dr. Combs started to examine me."

"Suddenly, I'm hungry," Brandon stated as he bolted for the door.

"Me, too!" Morgan exclaimed as she quickly chased after her brother.

"All right," Stephen sighed. "I guess we're getting pizza."

Without another word, the sorcerer followed the teenagers.


Translations:

Freund – friend

Nein – no

Hierher – come here

Bleibt- stay